Deal puts Stratus in Focus

Co. plans to make five to seven pix per year

Stratus Films has inked a three-year, first-look co-financing and distribution pact with Universal and its Focus Features division.

Stratus, financed by real estate mogul Bob Yari, will fund 80% of its projects, with U picking up the rest. Since the company launched six months ago, Stratus had been seeking a studio pact to give its banner added clout.

Unlike U’s regular term deals, the studio will not cover Stratus’s overhead and no money will change hands until U decides to join a Stratus project.

In the long-anticipated announcement, Stratus said it plans to make five to seven pics per year with budgets of between $10 million and $60 million.

“After only six months of operation at Stratus, we now see that our original projection of three films a year was shy by half,” Stratus partner Mark Gordon said in a statement. “And now, thanks to this new partnership with Universal and Focus, we have every confidence that we’re in the best possible hands to co-produce and distribute our pictures.” 

U chair Stacey Snider said, “Their ability to package films of real quality has already been proven in several brief months, and we are very happy to be their first-look home.”

Top execs at Stratus are prexy Mark Gill and exec VP Neil Sacker, both former Miramax execs.

Among its current projects are romantic comedy “Laws of Attraction,” starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore; Eric Idle’s spoof of Merchant-Ivory films “The Remains of the Piano”; “Happy Endings,” starring Jennifer Garner and Lisa Kudrow; and dark comedy “Matador,” also starring Brosnan.

Company is also developing period pic “The Painted Veil” with stars Edward Norton and Naomi Watts and “Killing Pablo,” written and to be directed by Joe Carnahan. Latter is based on a book by Mark Bowden (“Black Hawk Down”) about the hunt for Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Yari said of his new partners, “The combination of Universal and Focus is an absolutely ideal fit for us: both labels have deservedly come to be known for smart management, good taste in a wide range of movies, a strong affinity for financial partnerships and exceptional marketing and distribution teams.”

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