Universal Pictures International, Hopscotch Ink Two-Year First-Look Deal

Pact to develop and produce one to two Australian flavored films per year


LONDON -- Universal Pictures International has said g'day to a two-year first-look deal with Aussie banner Hopscotch Features.

Universal's London-based overseas strategic arm and the Australian production banner aim to develop and produce Oz projects with international appeal, the parties said Monday.

The pact marks the first English-language distribution and co-production deal that UPI has secured in its bid to extend its tentacles and build presence in various local markets across the globe.

The studio arm already has a similar distribution and co-production pact with Germany's UFA and Italy's indie production banner Cattleya.

UPI and Hopscotch aim to develop and produce one to two Australian flavored films per year that have distinct international appeal using key and international talent.

In exchange, Hopscotch will look to take advantage of UPI's international distribution muscle with all titles being jointly rolled out theatrically by UPI and Hopscotch in Australia.

While the first title to roll is yet to be named, Hopscotch is developing several films with key Australian talent including director and writer Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Rachel Ward (Beautiful Kate), Chris Noonan (Miss Potter), Clayton Jacobson (Kenny) and Ray Lawrence (Lantana).

Script development and story ideas are being overseen by Happy Feet and Master and Commander writer John Collee.

"Hopscotch is a commercially and internationally minded local production company with great talent relationships which makes them a really good partner for UPI," said UPI president of international production and acquisitions Christian Grass. "Australia has delivered some of the most critically and commercially successful movies released internationally in recent years and is clearly an important market for us."

Hopscotch principal Troy Lum said: "This partnership is a fantastic outcome for Hopscotch Features as it gives us international expertise and muscle to make more larger scale local features. It is also a great result for the Australian industry in general as it shows real studio commitment to our cinema landscape and specifically the local talent that makes it happen."

Hopscotch is headed up by Lum, Collee, Frank Cox and producer Andrew Mason (The Matrix).


UPI set up its theatrical biz in Oz four years ago.