Miramax sib's foray begins with pricey 'Grimm'

NEW YORK — In a change of course, Bob Weinstein’s Dimension Films has decided to start co-funding films in partnership with major studios.

The Miramax genre division will partner with MGM to co-finance, produce and handle domestic distribution on the $75 million action fantasy “Brothers Grimm,” which figures as the company’s biggest-budget production to date.

Terry Gilliam-helmed pic, with offers out to Robin Williams, Heath Ledger and Matt Damon, is one of four high-profile projects on which Dimension will team with studio partners. The co-financing pacts represent the company’s first ventures into the kind of split-rights deals that have proven a successful formula for its sister division.

Titles also rep projects that would not previously have been considered Dimension material. Along with “Grimm,” company will become a 50-50 partner with Warner and handle all foreign distribution on the film adaptation of ’70s cop series “Starsky and Hutch,” reteaming “Zoolander” catwalk cohorts Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Director Todd Phillips, who has an overall deal with Dimension, co-scripted the action-comedy with Scot Armstrong.

Also in the pipeline is a pact to come aboard as co-producer with Universal and Working Title on the Richard Loncraine-directed romantic comedy “Wimbledon,” starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany and due to shoot in July in the title burg during the legendary tennis tournaments. U will release the pic worldwide, with Dimension taking a one-third stake for a share of the gross.

Final element in Dimension’s flurry of split-rights activity is a co-production deal with Touchstone Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment on “Mr. 3000,” starring Bernie Mac as a retired Detroit Tigers baseball player who returns to the game. Charles Stone, who helmed “Paid in Full” for Dimension, will direct.

Disney will release the film worldwide, with the pic going out as a Touchstone/Dimension release domestically and under a Buena Vista/Dimension banner internationally.

Split decision

“We previously have not gone there, but this is a part of the business; it gives you the opportunity to get involved in another project, and a lot of companies are now trying to share risk,” Dimension co-chairman Bob Weinstein told Daily Variety. “When I see something intriguing out there, even if it’s something developed by another company, it’s a good opportunity.”

Miramax has pacted with studios on a number of hits, including “The Hours,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “40 Days and 40 Nights” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Gilliam is attached to direct “Grimm,” a fictionalized story that casts German fairy tale authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm as traveling spellbusters, claiming to protect Mittel European townsfolk from enchanted creatures and staging fake exorcisms until they come face to face with a real magical curse.

“Bringing (them) on board as our partner to come in and produce this movie is a big plus,” said MGM vice chairman and chief operating officer Chris McGurk. “We have enormous respect for Bob and Harvey’s ability to develop properties, and we’ve talked about a number of things that we could do together out of our library. When we decided that the way to go on this was to partner with another studio, in our mind the first stop in order to find the right partner was Miramax and Dimension.”

Having honed his skills with hit franchises on series such as “Scream,” “Scary Movie” and “Spy Kids,” Weinstein sees the fairy tale fantasy as another potential sequel generator.

“The characters are great, and this is the first adventure of the brothers Grimm, so there’s plenty of potential to make a franchise,” he said. “We’ve been quite successful in the past, so anything like that, if it does pay off with hopefully the good movie that I think it will be, it pays off also down the road.”

Ehren Kruger, who scripted the hit U.S. remake of “The Ring,” as well as a number of Dimension projects including “Scream 3,” penned the original screenplay.

Domestic for Dimension

MGM will have international distribution rights, with Dimension releasing the film in North America and overseeing all aspects of production. The studios will have an equal split in world profits. Mosaic Media Group’s Charles Roven is producing with Daniel Bobker. Dimension co-presidents Andrew Rona and Brad Weston will oversee production for the studio, along with Miramax exec VP of production Jon Gordon.

Weinstein is planning a fall 2004 wide release in the U.S. MGM also is working with Dimension on a remake of “Harvey.”

Big budgets

Weinstein says that “Grimm” will be budgeted in the $75 million range while “Starsky and Hutch” will be done for around $60 million, representing a considerable hike from the studio’s usual budget average of $30 million-$40 million. Budgets for “Wimbledon” and “Mr. 3000″ will be in the $30 million range, which will continue to be Dimension’s standard arena.

“With ‘Starsky and Hutch’ and ‘Brothers Grimm,’ we’re entering into this field,” said Weinstein. “It’s not the steady diet; I’m not going to come out with eight movies like this. I’m still doing the low-budget movies, but I think sometimes a higher-budget movie can be as fiscally responsible as another one and it makes the risk worthwhile.”

Miramax co-president of production Bob Osher negotiated on behalf of Dimension, with Jonathan Bader, exec VP of business affairs, negotiating for MGM.

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