Par, Uni won't renew major producer deals

Misher Films, Kennedy/Marshall Co. among those affected

Studio cost-cutting is affecting the producer ranks.

In its ongoing effort to trim overhead, Paramount has declined to renew a number of production deals. Included in the group are Kevin Misher and his Misher Films banner, Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg and their Double Feature Films and Scott Aversano.

And Universal isn't renewing its production deal with the producing team of Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. The Kennedy/Marshall Co. has had a long association with the studio, where it has been involved in such movies as "Seabiscuit" and the Bourne trilogy.

But while Kennedy/Marshall has been based at Universal, which began its own round of about 70 layoffs last week, the company also has been active at other studios around town and is represented by "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," a Paramount/Warner Bros. co-production. At Universal, the two producers will continue their involvement in planned sequels "Jurassic Park IV" and the untitled fourth Bourne film.

Paramount has been navigating a highly transitional year. January was filled with exec movements, and the summer saw the company merge several Paramount Vantage departments into the studio proper. Layoffs followed even as the studio enjoyed a successful summer boxoffice.

On Thursday, Paramount laid off another large group of employees as part of corporate parent Viacom's cutting of 7% of its work force. Then Vantage was downsized further with the departure of label president Nick Meyer on Thursday.

The studio will have continuing relationships with all three departing production entities.

Aversano was president of Paramount divisions Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films before he was handed an outside producer deal. He is prepping the "Untitled Kidrobot Project" for the studio's Nick stamp.

Misher's contract runs through the end of 2009, and he has several high-profile projects incubating, including a "Dune" revamp, "The Last Duel" with Martin Scorsese directing and "Case 39," set for release in April.

Sher and Shamberg delivered "World Trade Center" to the studio and have "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" and "The Devil in the White City" in development there.