You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Skydance to co-finance Paramount pics

David Ellison, studio ink four-year deal

Paramount Pictures has negotiated a four-year deal with David Ellison and his Skydance Prods. to co-finance four to six pictures per year for the studio.

The arrangement with Ellison — the son of Oracle Corp. founder-CEO Larry Ellison — won’t kick off until Skydance completes a round of fundraising expected to be in place by year’s end that will allow Ellison to commit hundreds of millions of dollars in coin to Paramount projects.

Because the funding wasn’t completely closed, Paramount insiders were optimistic but reluctant to comment on the story. Sources said that it is in the advanced stages, far enough along that they have pictures on the table, including the Coen Brothers-directed “True Grit” remake and “Mission: Impossible IV,” and several projects that Skydance is playing an active role as producer.

The desire is to construct an arrangement comparable to the one that Warner Brothers has with Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures, which both co-finances WB pictures and also brings its own product to the table.

If Skydance meets that lofty goal, it would be a boon to Paramount, which currently does not have a slate financing deal in place. Paramount does repeat business with Spyglass, which co-financed “Star Trek,” “G.I. Joe,” and is co-financing the Jay Roach-directed Steve Carell-starrer “Dinner with Schmucks” with Par and DreamWorks.

The studio’s last slate financing arrangement was Melrose 2 and Paramount walked away from a $450 million slate deal with Deutsche Bank in 2008 because it found deal points in an unstable credit market to be unsatisfactory. The credit crunch has made new slate funding deals scarce, which makes Skydance a potentially important partner for Paramount.

Also on the fast track is “License to Steal,” a Shane Salerno-scripted action comedy which Paramount and Ellison bought in a seven-figure upfront pitch deal last summer in the first big buy made by Paramount Film Group president Adam Goodman. Loosely based on a Marc Weingarten Salon.com article, the film focuses on the high-end repo business and agents who travel the world to reclaim play-toys of the wealthy that include private jets and speedboats. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and producing with Ellison and Salerno is exec producer.

Also on the table is the Skydance-developed “Northern Lights,” a Todd Robinson-scripted drama that is “Top Gun” meets” “Fast and the Furious,” about four aspiring acrobatic pilots who form a team and take on a more experienced varsity squad for dominance in the sky.

Who is Ellison? The 27-year old attended USC Film School and is himself an acrobatic pilot who at age 20 became one of the youngest pilots to take part in the Oshkosh Air Show. He formed Skydance in 2004 with the goal to combine his passion for acting, aviation and producing, and found his first outlet for all three with “Flyboys,” the 2006 Tony Bill-directed WWI film that Ellison co-financed and played a role in.

While the experience sparked Ellison’s appetite for more, “Flyboys” never got off the ground at the box office, and the belief is that Ellison lost millions on it. The experience reinforced the importance of backing star-driven films. Sources said that the pictures Skydance co-finances with Paramount will be star-driven. “True Grit” will star Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin and “Mission: Impossible IV” is built around Tom Cruise, who’s producing with JJ Abrams.

Ellison runs Skydance with COO Andrew McKenna and CFO Paul Schwake, and they are directly involved in raising coin for the Paramount venture. McKenna was the co-founder of GoodSigjn Management, a domestic infrastructure investment fund started in 2004 with a dedicated fund. Schwake was formerly at Spyglass and more recently at Level 1 Entertainment, which initially was expected to co-finance “Star Trek” before Spyglass stepped into the deal. The company will not be based on the Par lot. Skydance headquarters are located on a hangar in Santa Monica, right next to a garage that houses three of Ellison’s planes.

More Scene

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have like six of Leslie’s blazers in my closet, so anytime.” “Parks and Recreation” [...]

  • Meredith Walker, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler,

    Inside Amy Poehler's Smart Girls 10th Anniversary Dinner (EXCLUSIVE)

    “I’ve made an observation I’d like to share. I’m the only one that’s eaten my crab cake,” joked Amy Poehler as she addressed the room during the round robin introductions being made at her Smart Girls 10th anniversary dinner on Monday night. The 16 women at the table, who were so enthralled in the conversation [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de

    Alfonso Cuaron Says 'Roma' Is Better in Theaters

    Director Alfonso Cuaron opted to work with Netflix for his latest film “Roma,” but the decorated filmmaker isn’t discounting the importance of a big-screen viewing. “The complete experience of ‘Roma’ is unquestionably in a movie theater,” Cuaron said Monday night at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of “Roma.”  The streaming giant did [...]

  • Dylan O'Brien, Justin Theroux, Angela Bassett,

    Travis Knight on Getting the Call to Direct ‘Bumblebee’: ‘Did You Guys Get The Right Number?’

    “Bumblebee” director Travis Knight admits he couldn’t believe it when Paramount Studios and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura called him two years ago, asking him to helm the upcoming “Transformers” movie. “My initial question was, ‘Did you guys get the right number?'” Knight joked at Sunday’s premiere of “Bumblebee” at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. “You’ve seen [...]

  • Director Peter JacksonWarner Bros. Pictures THEY

    Peter Jackson Talks Transition From 'Hobbit' Movies to World War I Documentary

    Peter Jackson remains a bit astounded at his transition four years ago from the Shire of Middle Earth to the French battlefields of World War I. Jackson introduced his documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” Friday night at the Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood, four weeks after it aired on Armistice Day on the BBC. [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • Children's Defense Fund

    Angela Bassett, Conan O'Brien Honor Young Students at Children's Defense Fund Gala

    Awards season may be right around the corner, but on Thursday, Hollywood took a break from the glitz and glam to celebrate five high school students who have excelled academically despite facing extreme adversity both at home and in the classroom. The 29th annual Beat the Odds Awards ceremony at the Skirball Cultural Center featured [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content