Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Universal Pictures has made a three-year deal to distribute at least six pictures produced and funded by Cross Creek Pictures. The first film in this deal will be Rush, the Ron Howard-directed Formula One drama. Cross Creek, run by president Brian Oliver and CEO Timmy Thompson,  has quickly emerged as a significant film financier. They got started with the Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan and continue with the upcoming George Clooney-directed The Ides of March and Daniel Radcliffe-starrer The Woman in Black, which will be distributed by CBS Films.

The deal was announced by Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley, along with Oliver and Thompson.

Cross Creek is partnered with Exclusive Media Group as co-financier and co-producer of Rush, the Howard-directed drama about the battle between ’70s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt that stars Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth and Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Bruhl. Peter Morgan wrote the script, and Howard and the actors shot some footage during Formula One races held at Nurburgring Race Track in Germany. It was there, in the 70s, that Lauda was almost killed in a fiery accident that is a major part of the drama. The film seems a natural fit for Universal, since Oliver’s fellow producers are Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Both Imagine and Cross Creek have overall deals at the studio.

Aside from pictures that Cross Creek brings into the equation, the company will likely become a financier of existing Universal projects getting close to green lights. The budgets of the films will range from $15 million-$65 million, with the average film costing between $25 million-$35 million. Cross Creek is set up to generate up to four films per year, with Universal to distribute at least two of them with a wide-release commitment.

Cross Creek burst onto the scene backing Black Swan. That film took years to come together and almost fell apart shortly before it started production. Shot for $13 million, the film grossed $392 million worldwide. Cross Creek is developing numerous projects including Black Mass, a fact-based drama about the alliance between the FBI and the Boston mob that’s being scripted by Russell Gewirtz, as well as a James Gray-scripted biopic of actor Steve McQueen. CAA made the deal deal for Cross Creek.