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Moritz stays at Columbia

Three-year deal includes first dollar gross position on his banner pics

Though he still had a year remaining on his four year-deal at Columbia, prolific producer Neal Moritz has reupped his first-look pact at the studio for an additional three years.

Deal includes a generous discretionary fund and offers Moritz, via his Original Films banner, a first dollar gross position on the pics he makes at the studio.

Moritz had been hotly pursued by a number of studios and foreign shingles, who offered sweet packages that included financing his pics.

“Even though all these other studios wanted us, Sony has been great to me,” said Moritz. “They totally let me do my thing.”

“He’s a very important producer to us,” said Col’s Amy Pascal. “He knows how to get things done. I can rely on him for a couple of movies a year, movies that I know are going to be commercial.”

Teen king

Moritz, who started his Sony deal five years ago under Bob Cooper, has emerged in the past two years as one of the kings of modestly-budgeted, youth-targeted fare that has managed to hit a nerve with wide audiences.

Among the films he has produced are “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and its sequel; “Urban Legend” and its sequel; “Cruel Intentions” and a sequel due on vid; “Blue Streak”; and the recently released “Saving Silverman.” He also produced “Skulls” for Universal.

“It’s not just the volume of films that Neal produces,” said Jeff Blake, prexy of worldwide marketing and distribution for the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. “He really has a great grasp of how to bring those films to market.”

“My dad always used to tell me that AIP wanted to make the poster before they wanted to make the movie. I think that’s truer now than ever,” said Moritz, whose grandfather worked as an exhibitor and whose father ran marketing and distribution for AIP Pictures

On deck for Moritz at Columbia is a sequel to “Blue Streak,” headed into production after the possible strike; “The Glass House,” due to begin lensing in September; and the teen movie send up, “Not a Teen Movie,” due out at Christmas.

The Moritz-produced “Fast and Furious” is due out from Universal on June 22.

Moritz’s TV deal at Columbia Tri-Star television recently yielded a 13-episode commitment for a Fox show called “Greg the Bunny,” to be produced in conjunction with Steve Levitan (TV’s “Just Shoot Me”).

Original’s exec veep is Brad Luff, while Heather Zeegan is the shingle’s senior veep. Stokely Chaffin, formerly an exec veep at the company, recently ankled for New Line. Moritz said she will be replaced shortly.

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