Five months after settling out of its partnership with now-defunct Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Tom Pollock and Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Picture Co. has re-emerged with a new deal at DreamWorks.
The 1-year-old Santa Barbara-based company is already headed into pre-production on its first two features — one of which Reitman will direct — culled from 18 films developed under the Polygram pact.
While DreamWorks is fully funding the two productions, Montecito is trying to put together a co-financing package that would give the principals an ownership stake in pics it produces.
Early next year, Reitman will helm “Wish,” a big-budget “comedy with songs” which combines live-action, animation and special effects. Scripted by David Stern, the pic will feature actors singing tunes penned by Oscar-winning composer Stephen Schwartz.
Reitman, who was tightlipped about the pic’s storyline, said only that it was set in contemporary New York and that “it makes sense that everybody sings.”
Reitman also will produce the film, along with longtime associates Dan Goldberg and Joe Medjuck.
In October, the company will begin shooting the college campus-based comedy “Road Trip,” the feature directorial debut of documentary and commercial helmer Todd Phillips.
The pic follows the exploits of four students making a 1,000-mile trek to another college.
“I just remember how much fun we had with the road trip sequence in ‘Animal House,’ ” said Reitman, producer of the seminal frat house farce. “I always wondered what it would be like to have a whole movie based on that idea.”
Phillips penned the script along with Scot Armstrong. Goldberg and Medjuck will produce, with Reitman serving as exec producer.
Reitman met Phillips at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, where Phillips’ docu “Frat House” won a jury prize.
Montecito will continue to be headquartered in Santa Barbara, where Reitman and Pollock both live. The company will also maintain its office in Beverly Hills, but Pollock said the company would move that one to DreamWorks’ planned Playa Vista studio whenever it is completed.
Under the Polygram deal, inked in February 1998, Montecito was meant to produce and co-finance three to five films a year using $300 million in bank loans. PFE, which owned a one-third stake in Montecito, was to put up half the budget for each film, with Montecito putting up the other half.
But the arrangement ran into trouble even before it closed when U bought PFE as part of its $10.3 billion Polygram Holdings acquisition. Although U kept funding Montecito’s overhead through the beginning of this year, the studio opted not to follow through on the co-financing part of the deal.
In March, Montecito reached a settlement with the studio under which Reitman and Pollock received a cash settlement as well as PFE’s share of the company and ownership of 16 development projects.
Projects on tap
Montecito used the cash award — estimated at roughly $20 million — to continue developing projects while seeking another financing package, according to Pollock.
“While we’re doing that, two pictures are ready to go,” said Pollock. “Since it’s going to take at least the rest of the year to put together a financing package, we said ‘Let’s make them.’ ”
Pollock said it is not out of the question that the first two films will be folded into an overall co-financing deal with DreamWorks, if one is worked out.
The Montecito principals have long-standing relationships with DreamWorks co-toppers Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Pollock and Spielberg shared a profitable 10-year relationship at Universal pictures, albeit in opposite roles.
Pollock was a honcho at U from 1986 to 1995, when the studio released a string of hits Spielberg produced and/or directed, including Oscar-winner “Schindler’s List” and blockbuster “Jurassic Park.”
Pollock has known Katzenberg for even longer, having served as his lawyer nearly 25 years ago.
Reitman met Katzenberg in the late ’70s when the then-Paramount exec spearheaded Par’s acquisition of Reitman’s independently produced low-budget comedy “Meatballs.”
“I have known both Tom Pollock and Ivan Reitman, personally and professionally, for over 20 years, and it is a thrill to welcome them to DreamWorks,” said Katzenberg in a statement. “Individually and together they possess tremendous talent and energy, as well as experience, and we look forward to working with them on these very different projects.”
In addition to the personal ties, Pollock said the fact that both companies are comedy oriented makes the deal a good fit. “We’re not doing only comedy, but it’s what we’re mostly about. Out of 18 projects, 13 or 14 are comedies.”
As both a producer and a director, Reitman is best known for his comedies. Helming credits include “Ghostbusters” and its sequel, “Twins,” “Dave,” “Stripes,” and last summer’s Harrison Ford starrer “Six Days/Seven Nights.” Production credits include “Space Jam” and the two “Beethoven” films.
Pollock, a former partner in the powerhouse entertainment law firm Pollock, Bloom and Dekom, was made chairman of MCA’s Motion Picture Group in 1986 and was promoted to vice chairman of MCA in 1995.
He ankled the company a year later and in August 1996 was elected chairman of the American Film Institute, a position he still holds.