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Sony has ‘T3’ o’seas

Distrib pays $70 mil for nearly all int'l territories

Sony is developing yet another consumer electronics device: the Terminator.

Easily the highest-budgeted film ever greenlit, “Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines” is being financed by Intermedia Films for $170 million, with Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his iconic role for $30 million. Pic’s predecessor, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” grossed $315 million outside North America.

In exchange for Intermedia’s $70 million asking price for international rights, Sony’s Columbia TriStar Film Distributors Intl. is understood to be taking nearly all of the pic’s international territories save Japan and Korea, rights that producers Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna sold to Toho-Towa years ago. (Sony is forgoing some Eastern European territories, including Croatia, Hungary and Romania.)

The producers made the Japanese deal in order to keep the project afloat, after paying $8 million to salvage the property from Carolco’s bankruptcy auction. They also paid a comparable amount to Gale Anne Hurd, who produced and co-wrote the original and had earlier controlled the rights.

Also at that time, Kassar and Vajna made a deal with Datty Ruth’s VCL for rights to the Teutonic B.O. However, those rights are, for now at least, sitting with Sony, absent a costly bid to repurchase the rights by VCL. That’s unlikely, given VCL’s current financially fragile state, and in the event VCL did make a play, insiders say Sony would be protected, and that its $70 million contribution would drop by $10 million-$15 million, to roughly $55 million.

The Sony deal was spearheaded by Jeff Blake, Col’s president of worldwide distribution and marketing, and Ben Feingold, president of business and operations for the Col TriStar Motion Picture Group.

“We’re thrilled to have Germany,” said Feingold, adding, “We know how to hit a long ball there, like we did with ‘Men in Black.’ But either way, we’re protected, and therefore, we’re happy either way.”

“Put me down as a yes for ‘excited’ and ‘believes it’s a great asset to have,’ ” an ebullient Blake laughed, adding, “We’re definitely going to be (releasing) day-and-date worldwide next year,” in an effort to defray marketing costs on the pricey pic.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros., which controls Schwarzenegger’s upcoming actioner “Collateral Damage,” last month acquired domestic distribution rights to “T3,” and studio brass said they will release it over the Fourth of July holiday weekend in 2003. Col, like Warners, has right of first refusal on the financing of any “T4” follow-up.

Produced by Kassar and Vajna, along with Joel Michaels, Hal Lieberman and Colin Wilson, pic will begin lensing in April under the helm of U-based director Jonathan Mostow (“U-571,” “Breakdown”).

“T3” script was originated by Tedi Serafian and rewritten by John Brancato and Michael Ferris. It picks up the story a decade after the sequel, when a twentysomething John Connor reteams with his cyborg protector to battle the TX, an advanced-model “female” terminatrix.