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TriStar lands monster of deal with ‘Godzilla’

TriStar Pictures is back in blockbuster business. After an extended fallow period, the studio has reached agreement with The Toho Co. for the movie rights to “Godzilla” and has producer Laura Ziskin’s “Cartooned” with director Terry Gilliam on the fast-track development path.

Coupled with the previously reported Zoetrope Prods. project “Frankenstein” and domestic distribution rights to Carolco Pictures/Jim Cameron’s “Spiderman,” the studio appears positioned to roll out a healthy series of “tent pole” movies beginning in summer 1994.

TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy acknowledged that TriStar production executives have been scrambling over the last few months to discover the latest franchise. “It is obvious that TriStar has embarked on the strategy of putting its own large pictures into the mix,” he said.

In acquiring “Godzilla,” TriStar ponied up an upfront payment of $ 300,000 to $ 400,000 for the movie rights to the characters used in Tokyo-based Toho’s first 15 installments of the film series.

The deal also includes lucrative production bonuses for Toho, as well as sequel rights for TriStar.

Producers Cary Woods and Rob Fried are inked to pull “Godzilla” through the development process and into production. Fried started negotiations with Toho for “Godzilla” early this year, after seeing a commercial featuring the creature spawned from nuclear waste.

Fried said TriStar plans to develop an original story for its version of “Godzilla,” which is on fast-track development with best-case-scenario production anticipated in late 1993. He said the theme of TriStar’s “Godzilla” will remain true to the original series–cautioning against nuclear weapons and runaway technology. “Godzilla” will go out to screenwriters and directors over the next few months.

The “Godzilla” acquisition has created speculation that TriStar parent Sony Corp. abandoned its hands-off management policy and pushed the studio to acquire the property.

But producer Woods insisted “Godzilla” was “a clear example of the kind of synergy that can exist when American producers and an American studio want to pursue something that is uniquely Japanese. It is an example where something got done with their help, as opposed to their insistence.”

TriStar is high on the acquisition of “Godzilla” because the its tailor-made for update with 1993 special effects. TriStar has recently moved to build its own in-house special effects studio, as a way of bringing down the cost of technology-driven movies.

In sealing the deal, TriStar vice chairman Ken Lemberger traveled to Tokyo to personally handle the “Godzilla” negotiations.

“Frankenstein,””Cartooned,””Spiderman” and producer Gale Anne Hurd’s “Taking Liberty” are among the other known screenplays in development that TriStar has big-budget dreams pinned on.

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