MGM-Coppola deal shifts

Helmer going ahead with plans sans insurance financing

American Zoetrope chairman Francis Ford Coppola is going ahead with a $100 million agreement to make films costing under $10 million that would be distributed by MGM, but without the insurance-based financing that was expected to fund the deal. That financial component fell apart Thursday.

The future complexion of MGM/UA was in flux, though, as word came Thursday that a day earlier, the company’s chairman Alex Yemenidjian and vice chairman Chris McGurk met with representative of CAA and ICM Wednesday to talk about the studio’s future.

One agent at the meeting said he felt that Yemenidjian indicated quite clearly that UA “would become a Miramax-like division,” that the focus in the television business would be on off-network films and shows, and the execs “are frankly going to clean house.”

An MGM spokesman confirmed the meetings but declined comment.

As for Coppola’s impending deal, the filmmaker indicated that now the money to make the deal work would be sought from “our foreign partners including Pathe, Canal Plus and Willi Baer.”

Coppola, who is also an MGM board member, said that though he is “close and enthusiastic and in discussions to do things with MGM and UA,” the “deal blew up when the insurance companies disclosed what they wanted out of it. I basically fired the insurance companies.”

Coppola said, “I would just as soon finance the films myself as to load a movie where the insurance companies and bank are going to be making more than the movie will cost.”

An MGM spokesman said a deal with Zoetrope is in the works “pending board approval.”