At a time when studios are eliminating development deals to cut cost, the Mouse House’s new regime is moving to keep its most prolific producers on the lot — reupping for two years a first-look deal with David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman’s Mandeville Films and Television.
The duo, who are bringing the Muppets back to the bigscreen, have produced a string of hits for Disney. That included last summer’s romantic comedy “The Proposal,” with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, which grossed $314 million worldwide, as well as “Bringing Down the House,” “Wild Hogs,” “Eight Below” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”
Move by Rich Ross and Sean Bailey to keep Mandeville at the Mouse House is the second time Disney has extended its pact with the shingle.
Mandeville Films, which was initially founded by Hoberman, inked a five-year pact with Disney in 1995. The studio reupped that deal in 2002.
Mandeville’s toppers hadn’t worked with Ross or Bailey before they became chairman and president of production, respectively, at Disney. The shingle’s future at the studio appeared threatened after last year’s sci-fi thriller “Surrogates,” with Bruce Willis, failed to find an audience, and the greenlight for comedies “Wild Hogs 2” and “Wedding Banned” was switched to red by Ross because the films didn’t fit with Disney’s mandate for branded fare that can be exploited across the studio’s various divisions.
But Hoberman and Lieberman were then given the next Muppet movie to produce; it’s being co-written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Segel will also star in the pic that James Bobin (“Flight of the Conchords”) will direct.
Additionally, the duo are producers on a bigscreen version of “Jungle Cruise” and recently boarded “Grandma’s Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast,” based on the upcoming children’s book series.
“It’s in our court to prove that we can service (Disney’s new agenda) and make the movies they’re looking to make,” Hoberman said. “We clearly understand the mandate. It’s a very clear agenda and I’ve made a lot of Disney movies for them as an executive and producer and I’d like to think I now understand the culture and understand what it is they’re looking for.”
Hoberman has been associated with Disney in some way since 1985, having served as president of Disney’s Motion Picture Group, where he was responsible for development and production for all pics under the Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures banners.
Lieberman previously acted as senior VP for international finance and production at Hyde Park Entertainment.
Off the lot, Mandeville and Relativity Media are wrapping up production on the less Disney-fied drama “The Fighter,” which stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams. David O. Russell is helming. Its TV arm recently ended an eight-year run of “Monk” on cabler USA Network. It has the new pilot “187 Detroit” set up at ABC.