PHOENIX RISES IN EAST

Medavoy label pacts with Pioneer for distribution in Japan

Sony-based Phoenix Pictures has struck an agreement with a unit of Pioneer Electronic Corp. that gives the Japanese company exclusive distribution rights in Japan to nine of Phoenix’s pictures over a term of 15 years.

The deal, estimated at between $50 million and $75 million for Phoenix, according to sources, gives Pioneer the exclusive Japanese film rights in all areas, including theatrical, video and cable.

Phoenix had long been planning to line up a distribution pact for Japan. Under the conditions of the long-term deal Phoenix made with Sony in 1995, Sony distributes all Phoenix theatrical and homevideo product worldwide except for Japan. Its deal with Phoenix is a mixture of pre-sales and low-fee distrib arrangements.

Arnold Messer, president of Phoenix, and Mike Medavoy, its chairman, said in a joint statement Tuesday that the deal with Pioneer “guarantees an important position for our films in this major international market.”

Rick Noda, president of Pioneer LDC Inc., said in a statement that the “magnitude of this exclusive distribution agreement allows us to further strengthen our distribution in all areas.”

Three other Japanese companies also were in the running, Messer said, although their names were not disclosed.

The deal with Pioneer LDC, the entertainment, film, video and music business arm of Pioneer Electronic Corp., will start with “Amy Foster,” based on Joseph Conrad’s classic romance. That film, directed by Beeban Kidron, will star Vincent Perez, Rachel Weisz, Ian McKellen and Kathy Bates.That will be followed by Oliver Stone’s “U-Turn,” starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez and Nick Nolte. Pic is about an on-the-run gambler who is stranded in a small town in Arizona, and is driven to risk his life for love and money.

Next would be “Apt Pupil,” director Bryan Singer’s adaptation of a Stephen King novella about a young boy who blackmails an escaped Nazi hiding in a small American town.

Also scheduled to be part of the deal will be Terence Malick’s epic war film “The Thin Red Line,” based on James Jones’ novel and slated to start production this summer. Additional titles are in the works.

Phoenix was launched in 1995, financing its own projects. At the time it was formed, Phoenix said it had access to between $500 million and $600 million, and it has since taken on equity partners such as Showtime and the Canadian money-management firm Altamira.

The Phoenix-Pioneer deal was facilitated by IFDC, a Los Angeles-based film acquisitions company headed by Jerome Bliah.

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