Universal pacts with Mexican trio

Cuaron, del Toro, Inarritu to make five pics

CANNES — Universal Pictures and its specialty arm Focus Features have struck a deal to finance and sell a package of five movies to be made by the new independent production banner that’s a partnership among the three Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu.

Moniker for the new venture is cha cha cha.

The five projects, some in Spanish and some in English, will include directorial efforts from each of the three partners, as well as movies from writer-directors Carlos Cuaron and Rodrigo Garcia. Creative control of the projects will remain with the filmmakers.

Universal will fully finance and co-own the five movies with the slate, which funded its own development of the projects. The combined budget of the slate is around $100 million.

Focus will handle international sales, with North American rights to be sold separately by the company, “as appropriate” for each individual film.

Focus Intl. has started pre-sales in Cannes on the first of these, Carlos Cuaron’s “Rudo y Cursi,” starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. Pic is in pre-production. The other four projects have already been identified, but have yet to be announced.

In a joint statement, Alfonso Cuaron, del Toro and Inarritu said, “We are proud to be not only part of the world cinema community, but also students of it. Universal and Focus are affording us a safe haven to keep doing the work we love as well as nurture other filmmakers.”

Universal chairman Marc Shmuger, co-chairman David Linde and Focus CEO James Schamus said, “These extraordinarily gifted friends and colleagues have made some of the most essential films in recent years. Everyone at Universal is honored to be helping bring these productions to a global audience.”

Films made by the three partners, including their most recent works “Children of Men,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Babel,” have received 24 Oscar nominations and grossed over $1 billion worldwide (although the lion’s share of that figure is accounted for by Cuaron’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”).

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