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Trouble for mid-budget pics?

PGA panel says films in $20 to $60 mil range 'endangered'

The mid-budget movie — largely abandoned by the six major Hollywood studios — is becoming increasingly difficult to bring to life for producers.

That was the consensus from panelists at the “Small World: The Challenges of Global Production” panel at the Producers Guild of America’s “Produced By” conference Saturday at Sony Studios.

Hyde Park topper Ashok Amritraj asserted that films with budgets from $20 million to $60 million are “endangered” while noting his banner has produced titles in that range such as “Ghost Rider” and “Shopgirl.”

“If you’re passionate about a film, there’s always a way to get it made,” he added.

Panelist Walter Parkes noted that margins have become so tight that studios that it’s far less likely that they would take a chance on 1999’s “American Beauty,” which DreamWorks financed for $60 million in the wake of soaring home video revenues while Parkes was production chief.

“The business was rolling in dough so we said ‘let’s take a shot,'” he recalled. “If we had that now, we’d have to pre-sell the foreign rights — which doesn’t help a passion project.”

Jon Jashni of Legendary Entertainment said conditions have become so complex that producers need to see each film as unique in terms of financing. “Each project is its own single-purpose company,” he added.

Jashni is a producer on Ed Zwick’s historical drama “The Great Wall,” the first film from the Legendary East banner launched by Thomas Tull and Asian investors, with the goal of producing one or two event films a year. He said the Chinese want such pics involving foreign investment to be exportable or what he termed “China viable” rather than “China centric.”

Graham King stressed to the audience of several hundred that script matters more than any other element — noting that he’s worked multiple times with John Logan (“Hugo”) and William Monahan (“The Departed”).

“If you have a great script, you’ll get your film made,” he added.

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