Polygram shutters Island Pictures

Co. behind 'Spider Woman, ' Gingerbread Man' will close Dec. 31

Island Pictures, which produced “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Nobody’s Fool” and the upcoming “The Gingerbread Man,” will close Dec. 31 after a troubled year that saw the resignation of founder Chris Blackwell.

Michael Kuhn, president of Polygram Filmed Entertainment, which acquired Island three years ago, said the closure was “a question of allocation of resources and where you think they can best be placed.”

Kuhn told Daily Variety he had believed in Blackwell’s vision for Island. “But as he’s now left,” Kuhn said, “I had to then reassess and decided that we had more urgent priorities than keeping a stand-alone Island Pictures alive.”

Founder ankled

Blackwell quit in August to protest Polygram’s decision to override director Robert Altman’s edit on “Gingerbread Man,” which is based on a John Grisham screenplay and is to be released early next year. Blackwell’s Island Records, which Polygram acquired in 1989, is unaffected by the closure of Island Pictures.

“Michael Kuhn wanted to take Polygram is a certain direction that he didn’t think we fit in with,” said Island president Mark Burg, who has been with the company for 9-1/2 years. “We were here because Chris Blackwell made us part of his old continuing deal to stay with Polygram, and Michael Kuhn should be allowed to do whatever he wants — it’s his company.”

Amicable departure

Burg said he had no animosity toward Kuhn, and complimented him for raising Polygram’s Hollywood profile. Nevertheless, Burg said, “I feel for all the Island employees who will be out of work.” There are 13 staff members in the company’s offices on Sunset Boulevard.

“I’ve made 17 movies here, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done and that we’ve managed to keep Island going this long,” Burg said. “In this town, that’s a pretty long run. A lot of other independents have come and gone.”

Island has about a dozen projects in development, some of which will be taken over by Polygram.

Dawn Bridges, a Polygram spokeswoman in New York, declined to go into the details of the Island closure. “Like any business, you continually reevaluate any part of your business,” she said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, there’s not too much else to say about it.”

Long before Polygram took over the company, the Island banner appeared on numerous pictures, including “City Limits” (1985), “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986), “Down by Law” (1986), “Sweet Lies” (1989), “A Dangerous Woman” (1993) and “The War” (1994). Later, Island was behind “Mandela” (1996) and “Twilight of the Ice Nymphs,” among others.