Morgan Creek Co-Chairman Rick Nicita Considers Exit as Deal Winds Down (Exclusive)

11:30 AM PST 12/06/2011 by Daniel Miller
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Rick Nicita

During Nicita's three-year tenure, the company has released only one film -- the disappointing supernatural thriller "Dream House" -- and has had other projects delayed while it deals with the ongoing bankruptcy of its international distribution arm.

When Rick Nicita joined Morgan Creek Productions in August 2008 as co-chairman, CEO James Robinson said the former CAA managing partner would have “a big palette” as his creative head. But the picture hasn’t been pretty for the company behind such early 1990s hits as Robin Hood and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

During Nicita’s tenure, Morgan Creek has released only one film -- the disappointing supernatural thriller Dream House, which opened Sept. 30 -- and has had other projects delayed while the company deals with the ongoing bankruptcy of its international distribution arm.

Now Nicita could be leaving. His contract expires at the end of December, and the company tells The Hollywood Reporter in a statement that “Rick and Jim have not discussed Rick’s contract.” Typically, such a deal is inked well in advance of expiration.

A source with knowledge of the situation said that Nicita is considering his options, including production opportunities and a return to the representation business. During his time at CAA, Nicita ran the careers of Tom Cruise, Al Pacino and Nicole Kidman, among others.

Nicita and Robinson declined to comment.

The future of the once high-flying film company is unclear. Morgan Creek still has a distribution deal with Universal, though the pact is set to expire at the end of 2012. And the company, co-founded in 1988 by Robinson and Joe Roth, had been slated to produce Major League 3, but Robinson said in February that he wouldn't risk working with star Charlie Sheen in the aftermath of Sheen's erratic behavior.

A planned Tupac Shakur biopic remains without a director after talks with John Singleton ended. Singleton would have replaced departed director Antoine Fuqua on the long gestating biopic, titled Tupac.  And in November, Morgan Creek pulled out of co-financing Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes biopic.

Dream House, the thriller that starred Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts, was the first film released by Morgan Creek since Sydney White, which came out in 2007 and underperformed. Dream House grossed $21.3 million domestically, but cost $55 million and required reshoots. (Morgan Creek pre-sold the film internationally, which would have mitigated losses; Dream House made about $4 million overseas.)

But its director, six-time Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan, unsuccessfully petitioned the Directors Guild of America to have his name removed from the project because he was displeased with the finished product, according to an October Los Angeles Times story.

Meanwhile, the company’s international distribution arm, Bermuda-based Inverness Distribution Ltd., filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in May, citing debts of up to $100 million. The company filed for bankruptcy after a sharp drop in royalty payments from the licensing of its films. Inverness holds the rights to such movies as The Last of the Mohicans and Young Guns.

In court filings, Inverness said it was roughly $74 million in debt on a $150 million loan issued by Societe Generale, ING Bank NV and Bank of Ireland, among others. A company spokesman told THR in May that the bankruptcy could result in Morgan Creek losing certain distribution rights in some foreign territories on some of its older films.

Kim Masters contributed to this report.

Email: Daniel.Miller@THR.com

Twitter: @DanielNMiller

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