Agreement is with Universal to distribute 20 films

Media Rights Capital’s new deal with Universal represents the biggest rent-a-studio pact with a major since Disney joined hands with DreamWorks.

Agreement calls for Universal to distribute 20 MRC pics over five years beginning in 2011. The deal ratchets up the relationship between MRC and U, who first joined forces on “Bruno,” and are next set to collaborate on “The Adjustment Bureau,” set for release Sept. 17.

Previously, MRC has secured distribution on pic-by-pic basis. Warners, for example, distributed Robert Rodriguez’s “Shorts,” and Sony will handle “30 Minutes or Less,” the upcoming comedy from “Zombieland” helmer Ruben Fleischer.

The arrangement gives MRC access to studio distribution at a time when it has become more precious — and this could help MRC entice stars to its productions. The deal does not preclude MRC from preselling pics domestically or worldwide.

U will also benefit from MRC’s ability to sign big stars without having to shoulder the cost for their paydays. MRC will pay the studio a flat distribution fee, as is typically the case for such arrangement.

The scope of the deal is noteworthy. Paramount’s old deal with Marvel, for example, covered five pics.

MRC co-CEO Modi Wiczyk said the arrangement will enable to company to offer its creative partners greater choice and security. “It’s a privilege to get a major studio distribution slot,” he said. “You can count on one hand the names that have done deals like this,” he added, citing Regency and DreamWorks.

U intends to use the deal to expand its slate. It will not cut into the number of pics the studio makes; the studio intends to produce and distribute the same amount of films each year.

U already plans to release the M. Night Shyamalan horror thriller, “Devil” for MRC. The studio also released Ricky Gervais’ “Invention of Lying” internationally for MRC and recently acquired “Ted,” written and directed by Seth MacFarlane.

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