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U shutters N.Y. development

Arnoff, staff homeless

NEW YORK — It was a particularly unlucky Friday the 13th for Universal’s Gotham-based development office.

The Seagram-owned studio pink-slipped longtime production veep Peter Arnoff and his three-person staff: director of development Eric Palma and story editors Jennifer Thom and Melissa Miller.

The closure means that only one Hollywood major has a development office in New York City: Paramount, headed by Patricia Burke.

Late last year, Sony’s Gotham development office, headed by Nan Shipley and Nina Phillips, was closed, followed by Warner Bros.’ New York story department. Meanwhile Susan Lyne, who had headed Disney’s East Coast office, quietly slid over to a similar post at ABC.

Despite the recent cutbacks, the Universal closure comes as a surprise to members of Gotham’s development community. Arnoff had been with the company for well over a decade and was a member of production head Kevin Misher’s six-person team.

Misher delivered the bad news Friday morning and flew back to L.A. Friday afternoon.

“Universal has enjoyed a very long and beneficial relationship with Peter Arnoff,” a Universal rep said. “These kinds of business decisions are never easy, especially when they impact people’s lives. We have the utmost respect for Peter and his staff, and wish them the best in their future endeavors.”

Arnoff could not be reached for comment.

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