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Kushner locked up

U inks co-prod, distrib deal for up to 9 pix

Universal Pictures has inked a three-year co-production and foreign distribution deal with the Kushner-Locke Co.

The long-simmering agreement, confirmed Wednesday, gives KL first crack at co-financing up to nine pictures budgeted at $35 million or less for which Universal seeks a financial partner, according to KL president Bruce Lilliston.

It also provides KL with a development fund to acquire and develop material for Universal to produce. Those projects may be fully-funded by U or co-financed with KL..

Originally, Kushner-Locke planned to handle foreign sales on the David Zucker-helmed sports comedy “BASEketball.” But the picture, which stars “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, will now be distributed internationally by UIP, the overseas theatrical co-venture of Universal, Paramount and MGM.

According to Lilliston, Zucker was more comfortable with UIP, with whom he has a long-established relationship. Additionally, as negotiations with Universal dragged on, it became impractical for KL to handle the title. “We decided not to push it,” said Lilliston.

As it stands, no projects have been earmarked to go through the deal.

Mutual Film Co., which previously co-produced four pics with Universal, including “The Jackal,” is reportedly in talks with the studio on a new slate of projects.

According to Lilliston, however, that deal would be for higher-budgeted films and would not conflict with the KL deal. “The two deals fit with each other,” said Lilliston, who together with attorney Sam Fischer negotiated the arrangement on behalf of KL.