Studio shores up talent to keep pix pipeline full

Wrangling production and co-financing deals for Warner Bros.’ hefty release slate is difficult under any circumstance.

But thanks to a series of events largely beyond his control, Warners Entertainment prexy and chief operating officer Alan Horn found himself juggling frantically this month to manage and maintain relationships with key suppliers.

First came the news that Brad Gray was taking the reins at Paramount, and that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were splitting up, casting doubt on the future of their jointly run production shingle, Plan B.

Then came word that George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh were considering dissolving their shingle, Section Eight, after screenwriter Ted Griffin’s failed directorial debut at Warners — a project Section Eight is producing. Soderbergh called the incident “a scarlet letter” on Section Eight.

Last week, multimillionaire Steve Bing, who poured $80 million into “Polar Express,” moved to Sony, after the expiration of his co-financing arrangement with Warners.

Production deals are less stable than they used to be, thanks in part to the proliferation of co-financing deals such as Bing’s, which come with more flexibility than traditional term deals. Consider the case of co-financier Spyglass Entertainment, which recently moved from Disney to DreamWorks to Sony.

Horn has proved adept at navigating these waters, securing co-financing for nearly half the studio’s slate. Warners just inked a deal to co-finance “Zodiac,” a new David Fincher thriller with Paramount, and is rumored to be considering co-financing deals for a number of DreamWorks pics, including Clint Eastwood‘s next project.

Warners has recently sought to shore up its production ranks, inking first-look deals with such talent as Bryan Singer, who ended his production deal with Fox after taking the “Superman” helming gig at Warners.

But the recent upheaval among Warners suppliers reveals just how finicky such deals can be.

Section Eight has reupped for two years but hasn’t committed to the company’s future beyond that.

Contacted by Variety, Clooney had this to say about Section Eight’s future: “We’re renewing our contract for another two years and, as we always have done, we look at where things are following each two-year increment. So check with us in two years.”

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