WB, Morgan Creek add to deal

Ink five-year extension to co-produce big-budget pix

Warner Bros. and longtime partner Morgan Creek Prods. have deepened their alliance with a five-year agreement to share financing and distribution on an unspecified number of big-budget motion pictures annually.

The first WB picture to come under the new pact is “Soldier,” a Jerry Weintraub production starring Kurt Russell and Jason Scott Lee, directed by Paul Anderson (“Mortal Kombat”). The two companies have split production costs on the approximately $75 million film.

“This continues the relationship between the two companies that began in 1992 and expands its scope to include co-financing on a selected group of projects,” said James Miller, president of WB’s theatrical business operations.

Under the terms of the agreement, Warners will continue to distribute all Morgan Creek films in the U.S. and Canada and in certain overseas territories. But now, Morgan Creek will also participate as a co-financing entity on some films that Warner Bros. produces, while Warners will in turn co-finance some Morgan Creek films, according to a statement released by WB chairmen and co-CEOs Robert Daly and Terry Semel.

Although the companies did not specify how many films will be involved under the new co-financing agreement, Morgan Creek chairman and CEO James Robinson said the number would range from one to three major pics per year.

Since it has been based at Warner Bros., Morgan Creek has released a few huge hits such as “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman, as well as the Jim Carrey starrers “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.” But a number of the company’s releases have been non-performers at the box office, including the recent “Major League 3: Back to the Minors,” “Diabolique” and “Two if by Sea.”

Morgan Creek’s Robinson has spent the past year revamping the development and production staff, however, with moves that included the hiring back of the company’s former exec Jonathan Zimbert, who’d been prexy of Kennedy-Marshall Co., as president of production. Among Morgan Creek’s upcoming films are the comedy “Wrongfully Accused” and animated feature “The King & I.”

“We are pleased to continue working with Warner Bros., and most enthusiastic about our stepped-up plans for production and the potential they imply for Morgan Creek’s future growth,” said Robinson.

Newer projects going into production include:

  • “Chill Factor,” an action-comedy set to begin lensing this fall under Hugh Johnson, a cinematographer and commercial director, who has just been signed to the project for his feature helming debut;

  • “The In-Between,” a Sid Quashie-scripted supernatural drama set for a winter shooting start;

  • “In Crowd,” a teen thriller set for an early 1999 start by director John Raffo from a screenplay by Mark Gibson and Phil Halperin.