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Lion’s last roar?

MGM locks final slate before merger

MGM has settled on what is likely to be its final four films in its current incarnation.

Following discussions with Sony, the Lion has greenlit the projects in advance of the studio’s buyout by a consortium led by Sony, expected to close this summer.

Pics — the last for the Lion under chairman-CEO Alex Yemenidjian and vice chairman Chris McGurk — were selected from about two dozen development projects at the studio, based largely on how far along they were in development, as well as their commercial viability.

MGM’s remaining projects will fall into Sony’s hands, though at this point Sony has not firmed up a structure for the new merged entity, under which MGM may co-produce pictures.

MGM confirmed that the studio’s top — and presumably last — films as an independent studio are “Breaking Vegas,” which Brett Ratner is attached to direct; “Blood and Chocolate,” a horror film Katja von Garnier is directing; “Yours, Mine and Ours,” a comedy remake starring Dennis Quaid that Raja Gosnell is helming; and the next James Bond pic.

Even with the studio’s backing, however, it is not certain all the films will get made. No pay-or-play deals have been made yet. And “Breaking Vegas” could be put on hold if Ratner does not end up helming that pic.

“Yours, Mine and Ours” and “Blood and Chocolate” are on more firm footing, in part because they’re co-productions, with Paramount and Lakeshore Entertainment, respectively.

As for the Bond pic, Sony will likely produce the film even if it does not come together before the buyout (the new 007 has still not been chosen).

Another film that’s a front-runner at MGM is “Street,” a basketball pic starring Alec Baldwin and directed by Michael Shapiro. But the Lion has put budget constraints on the film that may cause a delay in progress.

There is still something of a firewall between Sony and MGM in terms of hammering out technicalities related to the $5 billion buyout, but as regulatory hurdles have been crossed, there has been more discussion between the two companies.

In early January, the two studios’ creative teams met to discuss MGM’s development pipeline.

The selection of the four films was ultimately not a joint decision, however, but was made by the Lion.

The future of MGM’s 15 production deals is more up in the air. One producer said to be sought by Sony, however, is Robert Simonds, whose event family comedies (“Cheaper by the Dozen”) are in line with Sony’s sensibility. Simonds is the producer of “Yours, Mine and Ours” as well as “The Pink Panther,” an MGM film that Sony will release this fall.

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