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Berlusconi cuts off PentAmerica

Silvio Berlusconi’s brief and expensive fling with American film production is over, sources said yesterday.

The Italian media baron won’t finance any of the new pictures in development at PentAmerica, the Los Angeles office of the Berlusconi-Cecchi Gori joint venture for U.S. production, according to sources in Milan.

“Berlusconi always considered his financial involvement in U.S. film production as an experiment with a time limit. The time limit’s up,” a Silvio Berlusconi Communications spokesperson in Milan said.

L.A.-based PentAmerica prexy Gianni Nunnari called the statement a “rumor” and said: “I don’t know anything about it. We have no official communication about it.”

Sources in Milan also said any new projects generated at PentAmerica will be bankrolled solely by Vittorio Cecchi Gori and won’t receive any coin from Berlusconi. To date, the partners have invested some $ 60 million in the production of three films and development of several others.

Even if the information turned out to be true, Nunnari told Daily Variety: “It doesn’t change anything for us. We were existing and producing movies before Berlusconi joined us in America. … We will keep producing with our own money. We’re going to keep doing movies for Cecchi Gori or Berlusconi or both.”

The big question now is what will happen to high-profile projects in development at PentAmerica, such as “Ocean Storms,” a Rob Reiner film to star Warren Beatty that was being floated at AFM, reportedly budgeted at $ 50 million , and “Ferrari,” budgeted at $ 65 million.

Sources close to Cecchi Gori in Rome stress that the Italo producer is committed to continuing with his plans to build a viable U.S. production entity.

“Vittorio Cecchi Gori has no problems about going ahead with financing for the PentAmerica films already in development. We’ve been producers for 40 years before Penta even existed, and we certainly won’t stop now,” a Penta exec said.

Berlusconi remains a 50% partner in PentAmerica parent Penta, which is Italy’s largest film production and distribution banner. Berlusconi is neither leaving the partnership nor reducing his share in the Rome-based company. He simply won’t be financing any of the new projects coming out of PentAmerica.

Sources in Milan say Berlusconi always had a “wait-and-see” attitude toward PentAmerica, and that he was discouraged by the lackluster results of the banner’s first three projects, the Jack Nicholson-Ellen Barkin starrer “Man Trouble,” Ted Kotcheff’s “Folks” and “House of Cards” starring Kathleen Turner.

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