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MGM wins ‘Zookeeper’ bidding war

Walt Becker attached to direct comedy spec

MGM has won a bidding war for “The Zookeeper,” paying $2 million against $3 million for the comedy spec from the team of Jay Scherick and David Ronn.

Studio’s attached Walt Becker (“Wild Hogs”) to direct and produce with producing partner Jennifer Eatz. Todd Garner will also produce through his Broken Road Prods.

Garner came up with the original idea for “The Zookeeper”: After a lonely zookeeper decides to leave his job because he can’t meet a girl, the animals in his care intervene.

Garner approached Becker to develop. Scherick and Ronn came aboard and took the idea out as a pitch before the WGA strike, then penned the script after the strike ended.

It’s the third major material deal made since Mary Parent took over last month as head of MGM’s worldwide motion picture group. Since then, MGM’s bought Robert Ludlum’s “The Matarese Circle,” with Relativity on board to co-finance and Denzel Washington starring; it’s also purchased Ben Wexler’s comedy spec “Bobism” and set it up at ContraFilm.

“Zookeeper” is also the second deal in a week for Garner, who’s attached to produce Johnny Rosenthal’s action-adventure “Iron Jack” for Sony.

Scherick and Ronn’s credits include “Norbit,” “Guess Who” and “National Security,” and they’re currently writing “Fantasy Island” for Sony.

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