Disney deals for ’80 Days’

Pricey Walden pic finds distrib

Disney has acquired North American distribution rights to Walden Media’s “Around the World in 80 Days,” starring Jackie Chan.

Budgeted at north of $110 million, “80 Days” is one of the most expensive pics ever to go into production without a U.S. distributor in place.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed though pic is planned for a summer 2004 release. Disney had signed a two-year, first-look distribution pact with Walden in September 2002, but “80 Days” falls outside that pact, since the pic was in development at Walden for many years before that deal.

Under the 2002 Disney pact, Walden sealed immediate distribution for its first two completed projects: kidpic “Holes” and James Cameron’s 3-D underwater exploration adventure “Ghosts of the Abyss.”

Paramount looked to be the frontrunner to acquire domestic distribution rights and a number of foreign territories to “80 Days” but then broke off talks reportedly over budget and cast.

Project, based on the Jules Verne novel, is set during the Industrial Revolution and emphasizes Chan’s Passepartout character, who, after stealing a valuable jade Buddha, seeks refuge with London inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan).

Patrick Wachsberger’s Summit Entertainment began repping the pic more than two years ago and presold more than 30 foreign territories, with sales to key players like Roadshow in Australia, Nippon Herald in Japan and Pathe in France.

Walden Media is controlled by Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz and is a subsidiary of the Anschutz Co.

“Days” also stars and Owen and Luke Wilson, Kathy Bates, Jim Broadbent, Cecile de France and is directed by Frank Coraci. Pic was produced by Mostow/Lieberman’s Hal Lieberman and “About Schmidt” producer Bill Badalato.