MGM gets 'Zookeeper'

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CORRECTED 12:43 p.m., April 22, 2008
UPDATED 8:03 p.m. PT April 22, 2008

Jay Scherick and David Ronn have just learned that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Because sometimes, you'll get paid $2 million.

MGM, with a strong push from new worldwide motion picture group head Mary Parent, has beaten out several suitors, including Disney and DreamWorks, to buy the duo's script about talking animals. The studio forked over $2 million against $3 million.

Walt Becker is attached to direct the comedy.

The scribes, who have been working steadily on assignments since selling their first spec, "National Security," in 2002, went out with a pitch titled "Zookeeper" in the fall. It didn't sell at first; on the eve of the writers strike, no studio was ready to spend significantly on development, so the pair wrote the script on spec during and after the strike.

Todd Garner, who came up with the idea for the project and initially brought it to the scribes' agent at ICM, is producing via his Broken Road Prods. Becker is also producing along with his partner, Jennifer Eatz.

The story, described as a "Hitch" with animals, revolves around a zoo full of animals that break the code of silence to help a down-on-his-luck zookeeper get the woman of his dreams by introducing the secret mating habits of their species.

MGM executive vp production Cale Boyter and vp production Becky Sloviter will oversee. The deal was reached Monday night.

Garner is shooting the comedy "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," which stars Kevin James. This is Garner's second seven-figure spec project to be set up in less than a week; "Iron Jack," by Johnny Rosenthal, was sold to Columbia for $1.3 million on Thursday.

Becker, whose credits include "Van Wilder" and "Wild Hogs," is repped by CAA and Luber Roklin Entertainment.

Scherick and Ronn, whose credits include "Norbit" and the in-development "Fantasy Island," additionally are repped by attorney Robert Offer.
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