NL II Hughses: Whoa!

The directing duo of Allen and Albert Hughes may not be going to Disney so soon, as New Line Cinema emerged Wednesday as a menace II Mickey.

Joe Roth’s Caravan Pictures announced Tuesday that the Hughes brothers have signed a two-picture, three-year deal with the Disney-based company and would make their next film there.

But officials at New Line Cinema, which produced the Hughes brothers’ current “Menace II Society,” are insisting that they have a first-look deal with the filmmakers that is still in effect.

In other words, before the Hughes brothers can make a film at Caravan, it must first be passed on by New Line, officials for the indie contend.

“The commitment which they have with New Line is in full force and effect,” said New Line’s president and chief operating officer Michael Lynne. “It has not been modified, changed or waived by New Line.”

According to Lynne, New Line has right of first refusal on the Hughes brothers’ next feature, which was part of a July 1992 agreement to produce “Menace II Society,” their debut film. The film, which opened in May, has already grossed almost $ 25 million.

While the Hughes brothers re-portedly intend to make “Public Enemy” as their next movie for Caravan, Lynne said there is no way that can happen until New Line has had a chance to review the project.

“Under our first-look arrangement, we believe we have the right to have the ‘Public Enemy’ project submitted to us,” Lynne said. “And we believe we have the opportunity to designate that project as one of our projects that they would direct if we want to produce it. There’s no way they can go to Caravan with ‘Public Enemy’ until it’s submitted to us first.”

Intl. Creative Management’s Jeff Robinov, who represents the Hughes brothers and negotiated both their New Line and Caravan deals, did not return repeated phone calls. Neither Roth nor Hughes brothers press representatives would comment.

Under terms of New Line’s first-look deal with the Hughes brothers — which, according to Lynne, will be in effect for another year — the company is entitled to make every project submitted by the brothers if they so choose.

Once New Line passes on a project, the duo can take it elsewhere.

The signing of the Hughes brothers is the latest in Walt Disney Studios’ bid to become more involved in Hollywood’s burgeoning African-American filmmaking community.

Disney has moved recently to grow its own talent, including a recent deal with “Straight Out of Brooklyn” director Matty Rich to helm the low-budget coming-of-age story “The Inkwell” with Irving Azoff’s Giant Pictures.

Asked if New Line will take legal action, Lynne said the company will wait and decide on their options.

Honor obligations

“I am assuming they will honor their obligations and we will honor ours,” Lynne said. “We have a good relationship with the Hughes brothers. We believe in them as artists and people.”

The potential battle shaping up between New Line and Disney marks the second time in less than a year that the two companies have skirmished over creative talent.

Last August, New Line and Disney fought it out over MTV video personality Pauly Shore and two pictures he had committed to — New Line’s “Totally London” and Hollywood Pictures’ “Son-in-Law.” After a week of intense negotiations, Shore agreed to star in the Hollywood Pictures project (Daily Variety, Aug. 10, 1992).

The dispute over those projects began when Shore signed a two-year, non-exclusive deal with New Line in March 1993. At the same time the agreement was finalized, Disney already had a lock on Shore’s services, but only until Aug. 1, as part of a deal that included his appearance in the studio’s “Encino Man.”

Because Disney was without a script on July 1, nobody expected the studio to get a screenplay into shape by the Aug. 1 deadline.

When the studio did get an approved screenplay Aug. 3, the first business day of the month, the two studios engaged in an intense week of fighting over Shore. Eventually, Shore committed to appear in “Son-in-Law.”

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