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Orion Feels The Pinch As It Searches For A Buyer

Several film projects at Orion Pictures have been stymied by a funding shortfall, while negotiations with Universal and Paramount for some of the company’s films are said to be on-again off-again due to price.

At the same time, Orion is attempting to curtail any production on the currently lensing feature “The Addams Family,” the rights for which both Universal and Paramount are vying.

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and produced by Scott Rudin, the film is based on the 1960s tv series and stars Anjelica Huston as Morticia, Raul Julia as Gomez and Christopher Lloyd as Fester. It is the most sought-after title of the handful of films that Orion is trying to sell to major distributors to raise cash.

A source from the production said, “Orion is insisting on a lot of cuts because they don’t have the money” to shoulder additional expenses on the film, which is moving up to $30 million.

While Orion already has expanded the film’s mid-$20 million budget since it began lensing 13 weeks ago, “The Addams Family” has amassed nonapproved overages of $700,000 to $800,000, a source said.

Rudin, who did not return calls last week, reportedly is attempting to stall further cuts until another studio can rescue the picture.

One source said that in an effort to find the film a new home, Rudin told Universal motion picture topper Tom Pollock he would put up his producer’s fee against any overages if Universal would buy the film for Orion’s asking price of $27 million to $30 million.

The main sticking point in the negotiations with Universal and Paramount is said to be that Orion is demanding too much money for domestic rights, apparently to compensate for having undersold the foreign rights to Columbia under a 50-picture foreign distribution deal. The deal allowed Orion to receive $175 million in advances from Col.

One source close to the negotiations said, “In an effort to raise cash, Orion mortgaged the upside of every one of its films,” the problem being that interested domestic buyers are resistant to pay more for the domestic rights than they think they’re worth.

Aside from buyers for its films, Orion has hit a shortfall on suitors to acquire the company as well. Analysts said investors and the market overall were increasingly becoming disenchanted about the studio’s prospects.

Separately, a spokeswoman for majority shareholder John Kluge and his Metromedia Communications Corp. said neither party gave Orion the $12.5 million cash it pulled together at the last minute last week to meet a debt interest payment.

Orion began shopping various films to raise operating capital and money to meet its debt payments.

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