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Funding ball in Par’s Cort

Producer to put at least 50 projects into dev't in 3 years

Paramount Pictures has re-signed Robert Cort (“Save the Last Dance”) to a three-year first-look producing deal.

Under the deal, Par will finance and hold worldwide distribution rights to Cort’s feature projects. Cort also announced his production shingle has closed a partnership with Grant Johnson and Taylor Reinhart, principals of Open Water Entertainment, to provide private equity for script acquisition and development in exchange for sharing in Cort’s producer revenues.

He told Daily Variety the Open Water deal will enable him to put at least 50 projects into development during the next three years.

“Having independent development money allows my company to pursue ideas, projects and writers that appeal to us,” he said. “We can then develop and refine scripts so that the studio is prepared to greenlight our movies on a fast-track basis. Grant and Taylor understand this advantage.”

Open Water is the entertainment affiliate of Johnson’s 5-year-old Benevolent Capital Management, based in Los Angeles.

Cort has producer credit on a wide variety of films, including “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” “Cocktail,” “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” “Jumanji,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “Outrageous Fortune,” “Runaway Bride” and “Three Men and a Baby.” After serving as a marketing and production exec at Col and Fox, he became a partner and prexy of Interscope Communications in 1984; Cort and founding partner Ted Field sold a controlling interest to Polygram eight years later.

Cort has had a deal with Par since 1996, when he and David Madden founded Cort/Madden Co. That partnership dissolved in 2001 after Madden became exec VP at Fox TV Pictures.

“We’ve worked on many projects with Bob,” said John Goldwyn, vice chair of the Motion Picture Group and co-prexy of the studio. “He has a tremendous body of work and a remarkable history of success. We are thrilled he will be staying in the Paramount family.”

Cort’s most recent film, Meg Ryan boxing drama “Against the Ropes,” was scheduled to be released in late April but was pulled at the start of the war against Iraq due to potential difficulties in advertising and marketing the pic. Studio is expected to announce a new release date soon.

Cort has also won an Emmy for the Disney telepic “A Mother’s Courage: The Mary Thomas Story.” Random House recently published Cort’s first novel, “Action!,” set in Hollywood over the past five decades.

“I have the utmost respect and admiration for the team at Paramount,” Cort said. “This exciting partnership is a phenomenal opportunity for me to continue making movies.”

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