Mike Fleming

3RD UPDATE: Sony Pictures has now decided to go it alone on Neill Blomkamp’s new scifi pic Elysium for worldwide distribution. So there is no Universal Pictures’ involvement, as the studio declined to take part. MRC put the deal together.

2ND UPDATE: Director Neill Blomkamp issued this statement: “I literally could not be happier.  I have a brilliant relationship with Sony. I loved them during District 9, they 100% get this film and they get me. Elysium is in very good hands.”

1ST UPDATE: EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has won the right to distribute District 9 filmmaker Neill Blomkamp’s next project titled Elysium. The producers are currently in negotiation with Universal Pictures to co-finance the film. Meetings with several other studios were cancelled as this scenario took shape. Matt Damon and Jodie Foster are set already to star along with District 9 star Sharlto Copley. Sony clearly values the relationship it built with Blomkamp after his $30 million low-budget first film became a sleeper hit that was nominated for Best Picture and grossed $210 million worldwide. That, too, was a distribution deal.

At the same time, MRC has signed an overall deal with Blomkamp, and has given a green light to a second movie. Titled Chappie, the film will go into production immediately after Blomkamp completes Elysium, which is now scheduled for a late 2012 release. Like Elysium, Blomkamp wrote Chappie as an original, and that picture is not part of this distribution arrangement.

SPE’s Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton have shown a willingness to make big bets on project packages that fit their release schedule needs. That happened on such projects as Roland Emmerich’s 2012, and The Other Guys. SPE also made an MRC deal for 30 Minutes Or Less, directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride.

PREVIOUS 1:30 PM: District 9 director Neill Blomkamp has been meeting with studios today on Elysium, his futuristic science fiction next film. The pic, which stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley, is being financed by Media Rights Capital. Blomkamp, MRC’s Modi Wiczyk and Simon Kinberg (who’s producing with Bill Block) began the day by going from studio to studio, meeting with high-level decision makers who are reading the script, followed by a  storyboarded presentation by Blomkamp. This is being repeated at every studio but Disney, which won’t make R-rated event films.

I’m told this the movie has the social allegory present in the Sony Pictures Entertainment-directed District 9, but it’s an unabashedly big movie, set 100 years in the future, with all of the obligatory gadgets and technological advances. Blomkamp will have his sets designed by Syd Mead, famous for his work on films like Blade Runner. Mead’s very hard to hire, but he responded because he so liked District 9. The film will prep in April, and start production in July in Vancouver before moving to Mexico City in the fall. The film will be delivered in time for release during the 2012 holidays. It’s a tent pole-sized proposition, but like Chris Nolan’s Inception, it’s a fully realized project that a studio can pencil into its release calendar. I don’t think it’s going to take long to sell.

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