At MGM, 'Fame' is not fleeting

Remake in works; Merrill Lynch deal wrapping

MGM is backing a remake of the 1980s musical "Fame" with "300" producer Mark Canton and Lakeshore Entertainment, MGM COO Rick Sands said here Tuesday.

Sands also said that Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner's United Artists is "weeks away" from concluding its $500 million film-financing fund with Merrill Lynch that was announced in February.

"We're just finalizing the paperwork," Sands said. Media reports suggested that Merrill Lynch was struggling to deliver a partner to fund the estimated $100 million equity portion of the debt-driven fund, but Sands dismissed that as "just wrong."

The $25 million "Fame" remake is slated to hit theaters in summer 2008 and will be based on the Alan Parker film set at the New York Academy of Performing Arts that starred Irene Cara and Debbie Allen and launched a generation of wannabe performers.

Sands said MGM has hired a writer and director for the project but offered no additional details. Casting has not yet begun. He said the studio plans to retain many of the musical elements of the original movie that also launched a global television hit and international stage show.

"We'll update it, (but) we'll still keep some of the songs. The script is being written right now, but we are keeping it under wraps. There will be a strong musical component, though," Sands said.

Speaking at a lunch at the Riviera-side market, Sands said MGM aims to launch a European version of its movie download deal with Apple's iTunes as soon as year's end but was being held up by music rights clearance hurdles.

Last week, the studio signed a deal for a limited amount of library products to be available on iTunes in the U.S. but said that repeating the deal in Europe will take time.

"The big issue for all studios is getting the music rights cleared for all these movies," Sands said. "We have a really big staff working on rights clearance, but there's still a lot of work to be done."