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Dunes digs up rich Rogue deal

Platinum inks three-year pact with Focus' genre arm

Platinum Dunes has found a new haunt at Rogue Pictures.

Rogue, the genre arm of Universal-based Focus Features, has made a three-year first-look deal with Platinum’s Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form. The troika will produce fright fare budgeted under $25 million and receive as much as 10% of first-dollar gross — one of the richest producer deals in town.

Platinum, which has already completed production on a Rogue remake of “The Hitcher” for April release, will kick off the deal by remaking “Near Dark,” the 1987 pic about a cowboy wooed into joining a roving band of vampires. Samuel Bayer, helmer of such videos as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” is attached to direct. Matt Venne is writing the script, and Charles Meeker and Amy Kaufman also produce. Production begins early next year.

The producer also will steer a remake of 1987 pic “The Changeling,” which Rogue already had on its development roster. Separately, Platinum Dunes is remaking Hitchcock’s “The Birds” for Universal Pictures.

While the WMA-brokered gross deal seems frighteningly lucrative in the current cutback climate, Rogue actually matched the terms Platinum Dunes received in its previous deal at Dimension Films. Platinum Dunes gets 10% when it brings in a new project. If Rogue assigns Platinum Dunes a project from the U library, the figure is less.

Several studios chased the Platinum Dunes deal because of its profit track record.

New Line today releases Platinum Dunes’ third film, the $16 million “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.” Platinum launched in 2003 with a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” redo that cost $9.5 million and grossed $107 million worldwide. Its second effort, remake “The Amityville Horror,” cost $19 million and grossed $110 million worldwide.

Bay said he started the genre company as a way to break in new directors with low-cost fare. The first two pics grossed more than their negative budgets on opening weekend, which remains a goal with each succeeding film.

“A fun venture has turned into a full-fledged business,” Bay said. “It has grown because it’s a good business model. If you can make these films in the $16 million range, it’s hard to lose.”

Fuller said they chose Rogue partly because of a relationship they developed with co-prexy Andrew Rona and Universal co-chair David Linde.

“When Platinum Dunes was just Michael Bay and his buddies and nobody took us seriously, David raised the money for ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ when he was the co-head of Focus,” Fuller said. “He was the first one to believe in us as producers. I’d met Andrew Rona when he was co-president at Dimension, but when I worked with him at Rogue on ‘The Hitcher,’ he left us alone to make our movie and was there when we needed him.”

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