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Renfield Prods. courted by Par

Director Joe Dante and producer Mike Finnell, who have moved their Renfield Prods. off the Universal lot and broken off talks to renew their production deal there, are now being wooed by Paramount to set up shop.

While no production deal has yet been made, sources reportthat the duo are in serious talks with Par to do a feature based on the 1930s comic strip “The Phantom.” The project has a script by Jeffrey Boam, who worked with Dante and Finnell on “Innerspace.”

Vintage 1939

Created by Lee Falk, the comics were first published in 1939. “The Phantom” is a boy whose father is killed by pirates off some exotic coast and the son ends up being taken in by island natives.

He comes to worship the natives’ stone god, and his crime-fighting persona — when he eventually moves to New York — takes on the skull features of the native god.

If the project moves forward, it will be produced by Finnell and Robert Evans , who secured the rights to “Phantom.”

Dante had been skedded to direct “The Mummy” for U, a redo of the 1932 Boris Karloff film. U owns the property and had recently brought in John Sayles to do a rewrite.

Budget dispute

Yet when Dante submitted a $ 25 million budget for the thriller, complete with high-tech special effects, studio execs balked and said the budget had to be below $ 20 million, sources said.

That budget dispute came to a head just at the time when Renfield was renegotiating its overall production deal at the studio. Those talks subsequently broke off and, more than a week ago, Renfield packed up its offices and moved off the lot.

U had no comment on the matter and, at this point, the long-stalled “Mummy” does not look to be wrapped up any time soon.

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