So just days after dumping a pic with his one-time producing partner Steven Soderbergh, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Amy Pascal has done a deal with George Clooney and his other producing partner Grant Heslov. My question is: why? Pascal swore off making movies just for the masturbatory sake of winning Oscar nominations after Sony went through hell on All The King’s Men and came up empty. “You need to look no further than Sony’s track record with A-list talent like Adam Sandler and Will Smith to answer your question of why,” a Sony exec tells me. leatherheads8.jpg“Amy, Michael, Matt and Doug will work closely with George and Grant to develop the kind of material we all believe makes sense for Sony and its multilabel distribution strategy. Sony has Columbia, Screen Gems and Classics allowing for different kinds of films for different audiences.” Oh, puh-leeze. Clooney can’t open a film as an actor unless he’s in an ensemble. And as a writer and director and producer, he’s not a moneymaker. (Looking at his films in development, I predict there’s not a $20 million opening weekend among them at a time when the average marketing cost of studio fare is $30M-$50M.) Believe me, if he were generating decent grosses, Warner Bros would have wanted to hang onto him. So Warner’s gain is Sony’s loss.

CULVER CITY, Calif., June 30, 2009 – George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse Pictures are in final negotiations to sign an exclusive two-year theatrical development and production deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment, it was announced today by Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Picture Entertainment and Chairman of the studio’s Motion Picture Group.

Commenting on the announcement, Clooney said, “Warner Bros. has been a great place to work and I’ve felt like part of a family for almost 20 years. So in moving on, I’m leaving a terrific company and a lot of dear friends. They’re a class act. In looking ahead, I’m tremendously excited to be working at Sony Pictures, and we all feel like it’s a perfect match for Smokehouse. Grant Heslov and I hope to deliver the kind of films that will make them proud.”

“We admire and respect George and Grant as filmmakers and producers and we couldn’t be more excited to be in business with them and their talented team at Smokehouse Pictures,” said Pascal. “The broad range of quality projects they have championed and the compelling and sometimes provocative material they support says everything about their company and their creative aspirations. While we have been trimming production deals overall for the last few years, we see real value in opening our doors to producers with their critical and commercial track record and their artistic point of view, and we know they will be a fantastic addition to the Sony Pictures family.”

“My nine year relationship with Warner Bros. was extremely gratifying and now, George and I look forward to Smokehouse being a part of the Sony family,” Heslov said.

The Smokehouse Pictures team includes Senior Vice President of Development Nina Wolarsky, and creative executive Alex Meenehan. The company is currently in development on the following projects with Warner Bros:

THE CHALLENGE
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. An adaptation of Jonathan Mahler’s nonfiction book chronicling the historic Supreme Court case in which two lawyers sued the Bush administration on behalf of accused terrorist Salim Hamdan.
OUR BRAND IS CRISIS
A satirical comedy about American spin doctors competing in the same Presidential election in Bolivia. Based on the documentary by Rachel Boynton, with a script by Peter Straughan (MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS).
FARRAGUT NORTH
An adaptation of Beau Willimon’s critically acclaimed play, set during the Iowa primary of a presidential race.
ESCAPE FROM TEHRAN
The true story of how the CIA used a fake movie project to smuggle hostages out of 1979 Tehran. Chris Terrio is writing the screenplay.
THE TOURIST
A contemporary spy thriller about a spy who risks everything to reveal a conspiracy after he’s accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Based on the bestselling book by Olen Steinhauer. Tony Peckham is writing the screenplay.
THE INNOCENT MAN
Based on the bestselling nonfiction book by John Grisham, the true story of murder and injustice in a small town in Oklahoma. Adapted by David Gordon Green.

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