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New U partner packs a punch

Mandalay to own o'seas territories, share front-end risk

Peter Guber’s Mandalay Pictures, producer of such pics as “Sleepy Hollow” and “Donnie Brasco,” has inked a multiyear financing and distribution deal with Universal Pictures.

Mandalay, whose nearly five-year distribution pact with Paramount is coming to a close, will retain a high degree of independence at U. It will own foreign territories on some of its pics while sharing front-end risk with the studio by covering a significant portion of its own overhead and development.

“This partnership provides us with greater flexibility in financing and distribution,” Guber said, “as well as increased interplay with the international market, which has been a significant area of achievement for us over the past 8½ years.”

That distinguishes the Mandalay deal from U’s term pacts with large suppliers like Imagine and Jersey, which are not finance accords. Both shingles grant U global distribution rights on the pics they produce for the studio.

Mandalay will rely on a range of financing options for its pics, Guber told Daily Variety. Some will be wholly financed by the studio; others will be funded from international sources.

Mandalay has an ongoing relationship with Patrick Wachsberger’s Summit Entertainment, which handles various foreign territories, but not all, on its slate.

“Because we’re putting our own capital into our enterprise, we have to be enormously flexible, especially in this climate,” Guber said. “This business is a capital machine. It sucks capital. You have to be swift of foot to stay in it.”

The Mandalay pact marks a reunion of Guber and U Pictures chair Stacey Snider, who rose through the ranks at TriStar while Guber was chief of Sony Pictures.

“It’s wonderful to be working once again with Peter Guber and (Mandalay Pictures vice chair) Paul Schaeffer, two people I’ve known for so long,” Snider said. “Paul and I worked together at TriStar, and Peter has been a mentor to me from the beginning — I started my career working for him, and he was a great teacher. I look forward to continuing our success together here at Universal.”

Projecting success

Guber said Mandalay was in a very active period. “We have a tremendous slate of projects we are confident will achieve critical and box office success, and significant funds towards future acquisitions and development. We are delighted to be working with a partner in Universal that has demonstrated over and over again that they are the best in the business when it comes to producing, distributing and marketing.”

Mandalay and Universal recently optioned the John Hightman novel “Saint of Dragons,” along with producers J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burke. The shingle also is developing “Maneater” from a forthcoming novel by Gigi Levangie Grazer, who also will adapt; “The Jacket,” produced by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh’s Section 8; “End Game,” written by Adi Hasak; and the Nick Quested-directed “Kung Fu Theater” with DreamWorks.

At Par, Mandalay also produced “Serving Sara,” starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley, which is set for a late August release, and “Beyond Borders,” starring Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen and directed by Martin Campbell. Principal photography on “Borders” has just wrapped.

New HQ

Shingle, which also produced “The Score” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” is in the process of moving into new digs at the Mid-Wilshire building that houses other wholly owned, private entities in the Mandalay Entertainment Group: Mandalay Television Pictures, Mandalay Sports Entertainment and Mandalay Branded Entertainment.

Mandalay Pictures execs in addition to Guber and Schaeffer include officers Peter Strauss, Ori Marmur, David Zelon, Darrell Walker and Randy Hermann. Included on the Mandalay Pictures creative team is Mandalay Television Pictures president Elizabeth Stephen.

Mandalay Pictures is majority-owned by Guber and Schaeffer. Lions Gate also owns a 45% minority stake in the shingle. Former Mandalay president Adam Platnick, who exited the shingle 18 months ago, owns a stake in the company.

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