Singleton gets a high five from U

Reyes' 'Illegal Tender' will be distribbed through pact

John Singleton’s New Deal Prods. has inked a five-picture domestic distribution pact with Universal Pictures, giving him a beachhead at a second major studio.

New Deal will finance all five pics, up to $15 million, while U will pay for P&A on the films’ domestic release.

First in the deal will be Latino crime drama “Illegal Tender,” helmed by Franc Reyes.

Singleton also has two pics left on his deal with Paramount stemming from its purchase of “Hustle & Flow” at Sundance in 2005. That pact remains in effect.

“I’m in business with both Paramount and Universal,” Singleton said, “but the deal with Universal is bigger.”

At Par, Singleton has two $3.5 million puts from the “Hustle” deal, which he has yet to exercise. Deal, however, was conceived for likely straight-to-video titles.

Since then, the filmmaker has made several deals for Par pics:at Par Vantage, Craig Brewer’s “Black Snake Moan,” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci; and “Denim and Diamonds” (aka “Maggie Lynn”), which is still in development at big Par.

For Singleton, whose helming credits include “Boyz N the Hood,” “Four Brothers” and “2 Fast 2 Furious,” the multiple output deals reflect his prolific producing career working with young filmmakers like Reyes, who made his debut on “Empire,” which U released in 2002.

“The bottom line of this is I had a chance at a fairly young age, right after I came out of college, to work with a star and have people nurture me along in my career,” Singleton said. “That’s what I want to give back. It’s good business, but it’s also finding young blood.”

U chair Marc Shmuger has had a long relationship with Singleton since his “Boyz” days.

“When I met John, he was the kind of kid who we’re talking about wanting to get in business with,” Shmuger said.

“As he’s gotten more successful, he’s never gotten out of touch with those same sensibilities, for music, the youth market, for stories that African-American audiences and Hispanic audiences and honestly just young people care about.”

(Anna Marie de la Fuente contributed to this report.)

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