Universal in talks to sell Rogue

Studio negotiating deal with Relativity Media

The current economic crisis is putting the squeeze on even thriving studios such as Universal Pictures.

The studio is in talks to sell its Rogue Pictures label to Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media for $150 million. The sale would include the banner’s 30-title library, four films set for release in 2009 and its entire development slate. Rogue’s most recent hit, “The Strangers,” took in $53 million this summer, and Rogue was at work on developing a sequel.

Rogue was founded by Focus Features in 2004 as its indie genre label. Universal had already moved the unit over to the parent studio. After Universal sells the subsidiary, which produced such films as “Doomsday,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The Hitcher,” it will agree to distribute any Rogue pictures through 2013. The distribution fee paid by Universal would be slightly less than 10%.

Rival bidders were Spyglass Entertainment, Lakeshore Entertainment and two other major studios. Spyglass’s bid was said to have included a 12.5% distribution fee.

The Relativity negotiation had begun well before talks commenced on the DreamWorks-Universal distribution deal. Under that pact, Universal has committed $150 million to DreamWorks, should the company need it.