U pumps int’l fund; Miramax signs on

Studio allocates $400 mil for split rights, int'l aquisition

CANNES — As part of an ongoing effort to enlarge its overseas business, Universal Pictures has allocated up to $400 million for split rights deals and international acquisitions, U chairman Casey Silver announced Saturday.

One of the first films to be brought under the auspices of the fund is the $42 million John Madden-helmed romantic comedy “Shakespeare in Love,” currently shooting in London with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck. U and Miramax are co-financing the pic — Miramax will handle domestic and U will oversee international through UIP.

Joe Dante’s “Small Soldiers,” a co-production between U and DreamWorks, is another project for the fund.

“We hope to aggressively acquire and distribute high profile international pictures through UIP,” Silver says. According to Silver, the monies will be sourced from U’s $1.1 billion financing facility from Citibank. In effect, U is substantially jacking up the proportion of that facility that it dedicates to acquisitions and co-productions. (In an interview last year, Silver said that U was spending between $100 million and $150 million a year on foreign co-ventures and split rights deals.)

Silver did not specify a time frame for the spend, but the Citibank facility runs through May 2000.

Among U’s split rights partners are Mutual Film Co., Beacon Communications and Kushner-Locke Co.

(Dan Cox contributed to this report.)