The State of the Studio Deals: Who's Doing What Where
Overstuffed studio stables mostly perished in the WGA-strike housecleaning. Now, surviving producers fight for stingier deals and fewer film slots in an environment of belt-tightening and cold creative calculation.
Active producer deals 2011: 27
Active producer deals 2003: 32
Sony's stable is wide and deep, with a clutch of strong producers but significant overlap given that the studio will only release 14 films this year. Talent deals with George Clooney's Smoke House, Tobey Maguire's Maguire Entertainment and Kevin Spacey's Trigger Street don't often bear fruit, and James Brooks' Gracie Films hasn't provided a hit since As Good as It Gets and Jerry Maguire in the '90s. Stepping up have been Michael De Luca's Michael De Luca Productions (Moneyball), writer-director Will Gluck's Olive Bridge Entertainment (Friends With Benefits) and Neal Moritz's Original Film, now in production on Total Recall and 21 Jump Street. Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions reliably continue their heavy lifting. Sony's palette also includes deals with Laura Ziskin and the late John Calley, which will run their terms.
Happy Madison Productions: Adam Sandler
Sandler has made most of his starring and producing projects at the studio during the past decade, including two of his biggest hits (Grown Ups, Paul Blart: Mall Cop). Jack and Jill opens in November and I Hate You, Dad in June, both with Sandler starring, and the multihyphenate is teed up to provide Sony with two comedies a year for the foreseeable future.
Overbrook Entertainment: Will Smith
Overbrook, a Sony pillar since 2001, has brought the studio four giant hits, including the 2008 superhero flick Hancock and 2010's The Karate Kid remake with Smith's son Jaden starring. Its current contract runs through 2013, with a remake of Annie, an adaptation of the Hasbro game Risk and a Hancock sequel in the works.
Scott Rudin Productions: Scott Rudin
After stints at Paramount and Disney, Rudin jumped to Sony this summer for a three-year, first-look deal that formalized a relationship that already has produced The Social Network, Moneyball and the soon-to-be-released The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. More Oscar bait will follow, including a potential Cleopatra project.
Matt Tolmach Prodctions: Matt Tolmach
In less than a year since transitioning from president of Columbia Pictures to a hot producer on the lot, Tolmach has been developing a range of projects for film and television. He's producing next summer's The Amazing Spider-Man and is prepping Moonwalking With Einsyein, based on Joshua Foer's book; Jonah Hill's directorial debut The Kitchen Sink; The Slackfi Project written by Howard Overman; and a contemporary version of Frankenstein. For television, he is developing Sleepers for CBS.
Active producer deals 2011: 27
Active producer deals 2003: 27
Of all the studios, Universal is the onlyone that has recently expanded its portfolio of first-look deals. Among the six new shingles are Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers and former Universal co-chairman David Linde's Lava Bear Films. A new three-year distribution and financing pact with Cross Creek Pictures brings another potential big player to the table. While still the home of one of the town's priciest pacts -- Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment -- Universal has bolstered its ranks with three players behind its biggest hit of 2011, Fast Five: director Justin Lin, writer Chris Morgan and star Vin Diesel. Rising star Illumination Entertainment is set to keep it in the animation game, and Peter Berg's Film 44, while not prolific, has the studio's priciest movie in history, Battleship, coming next summer.
Apatow Productions: Judd Apatow
Apatow broke ground again by helping Bridesmaids become a surprise smash this summer (it surpassed the gross of his own Knocked Up for the studio in 2007). And the comedy continues: Wanderlust, The Five-Year Engagement and This Is Forty -- which he also wrote and directed -- hit theaters in 2012.
Illumination Entertainment: Chris Meledandri
Meledandri's operation has putUniversal solidly on the animation map with the 2010 hit Despicable Me and this year's live-action hybrid Hop. Its March release of the Dr. Seuss adaptation The Lorax will precede a Despicable Me sequel scheduled for summer 2013. A host of brand-friendly adaptations (The Addams Family, Curious George, Where's Waldo?) stock its development slate.
Imagine Entertainment: Ron Howard & Brian Grazer
Howard and Grazer have been the boy wonders at Universal for decades, but they're in the midst of a cold streak. The Dilemma and Cowboys & Aliens fizzled, and The Dark Tower had its plug pulled. The ensemble action comedy Tower Heist hits theaters Nov. 4, with the Howard-directed Niki Lauda biopic Rush moving into production.
Active producer deals 2011: 31
Active producer deals 2003: 32
No other studio can boast its level of A-list talent-based shingles: Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way, Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey's Team Downey and Clint Eastwood's Malpaso Productions, which annually shows up with a prestige picture. Zack Snyder's Cruel and Unusual Films provides action and fantasy, and Todd Phillips' Green Hat Films brings the laughs. Financing/producing partners Village Roadshow Pictures and Legendary Pictures (The Dark Knight Rises) share deep pockets and credibility. Alcon Entertainment has proved a reservoir of surprise hits (Dolphin Tale), and Dan Lin's Lin Pictures and Kevin McCormick's Langley Park Productions are run by former studio execs with an eye for good material. Several New Line pacts, including Adam Shankman's Offspring Entertainment (Rock of Ages), remain after the company was folded into WB proper.
Green Hat Films: Todd Phillips
Phillips has turned The Hangover into the biggest comedy franchise of all time while turning himself into a major brand. He is a producer on the low-budget WB comedy Project X, which opens in March, but the writer-director takes his time and his slate remains on the thin side.
Appian Way: Leonardo DiCaprio
His first film for Warners, Red Riding Hood, stumbled, but DiCaprio is a magnet for material -- though much of it sits idle while he remains highly selective with regard to what he pushes. High-profile projects making headway include a long-in-the-works English adaptation of Akira, which just got a green light, and a Twilight Zone movie.
Pearl Street Films: Ben Affleck & Matt Damon
The studio can't get enough of Affleck, whose growing directing career (he's now filming Argo) has him looking like Clint Eastwood's heir. And Damon is clearly prepared to follow: The studio has grabbed several scripts for him to direct, including a drama screenplay the actor co-wrote. The duo also has the Whitey Bulger story in the works.