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Universal polishes Silver deal

Deal made a year before current contract expires

Universal Pictures chairman Casey Silver has reupped in a multiyear deal with the studio, U announced Tuesday.

Silver will continue as chairman, overseeing all Universal Pictures divisions, including producing, marketing and distribution of feature pics. Other areas in his purview include Universal’s partnerships with United Intl. Pictures (UIP), United Cinemas Intl. (UCI), CIC Video Intl. and domestic distrib activity with the specialty banner October Films.

The deal came with more than a year left on Silver’s former contract.

Universal Studios prexy and chief operating officer Ron Meyer said U wanted to make a statement to the industry that Silver was firmly in place.

“I wanted the community to know he was the guy,” Meyer said. “There’s been a lot of speculation about who’s staying and who’s going. Casey’s not getting his vote of confidence on the production schedule, which is great. He’s getting it because I believe in his ability to head up the very best motion picture division.”

In the last year, Silver has slowly expanded his responsibility, with the addition of the Animation and Visual Effects division and U Family and Home Entertainment Production, which includes U Cartoon Studios.

Silver also oversaw the complete overhaul of the film division with an almost completely new staff headed by president of production Marc Platt and co-president of production Stacey Snider.

Silver also went on record last year with the pledge for U to make more movies per year, at a time most of the other studios are vowing to cut back on production.

“I am excited about the significant opportunities that lie ahead,” Silver said. “We are committed to increasing the volume and diversity of our films — from event films to family and portfolio films, from non-traditional to specialized films and direct to video product.”

Silver added that U will strengthen its worldwide distribution infrastructure. The studio currently partakes internationally in UIP, which handles distrib duties for Universal, Paramount and MGM.

Among the major pics that U will release in 1998 under Silver’s watch are: “Primary Colors” starring John Travolta and Emma Thompson under Mike Nichols helm; “Mercury Rising,” a thriller from Imagine Entertainment starring Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin; “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” starring Johnny Depp; “Out of Sight,” a Jersey Films pic with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez; “One True Thing” starring Meryl Streep and William Hurt; “Babe: Pig in the City,” the sequel to the success-ful “Babe,” helmed by George Miller; “Snow Falling on Cedars,” under Scott Hicks’ direction; “Meet Joe Black” with Brad Pitt; and “Patch Adams” starring Robin Williams, under Tom Shadyac’s direction.

During Silver’s tenure at U, the studio has released such hits as “Babe,” “Apollo 13,” “The Nutty Professor,” “The Boxer,” “Schindler’s List,” “Twelve Monkeys,” “Casper,” “Flintstones,” “In the Name of the Father,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “Liar Liar,” “Scent of a Woman,” “Beethoven,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Cape Fear,” “Backdraft,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Sea of Love,” “Parenthood,” “Field of Dreams” and “Midnight Run.”

Silver was named chairman in November 1995. Before that, he was prexy of Universal Pictures and president of production from 1989-94.