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Summit to pitch WB pix

Indie Japanese distribs could get crack at high-profile films

Mel Gibson, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro could all be available to independent distributors in Japan.

In a continuance of its new risk-sharing policy, Warner Bros. has asked sales outfit Summit Entertainment (which is partially owned by Artisan Entertainment) to sell Japanese rights on three expensive, high-profile pictures: Brian Helgeland’s actioner “Payback,” starring Gibson; Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday,” starring Pacino; and Harold Ramis’ “Analyze This,” starring De Niro and Billy Crystal.

In the case of “Payback,” it is a rather unexpected initiative, given that rights to the film are already split between Paramount (domestic) and WB (international). Moreover, the film’s producing entity, Icon Prods., has its own international sales division, London-based Icon Entertainment Intl.

Japanese distributors have shown in the past that they are willing to pay good money for star-driven U.S. vehicles. Japan’s Toho Towa and Marubeni are partners in Mutual Film Co., a Paramount-based production and distribution company. Nippon Herald has an output deal with Mandalay Entertainment.

New WB co-financing ventures include Bel Air Entertainment (with European partners Canal Plus, Telepiu and Sogecable) and Australia’s Village Road-show.

Last year Summit almost signed a co-financing venture with WB and Mark Canton’s Canton Co. However, that fell through when Canton opted to settle for a worldwide deal with WB instead.

Neither Summit president and chief executive officer Patrick Wachsberger, nor WB worldwide theatrical business operations president Jim Miller returned calls.