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Franchise-Hungry Millennium Wins Spec Auction For ‘The Civilian’

By | Thursday November 7, 2013 @ 4:28pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In a mid-six-figure deal, Millennium Films has acquired The Civilian, a spec script by Rachel Long and Brian Pittman that the film company hopes will give it another franchise, this one in the vein of The Bourne Identity. It was bought in a competitive situation and will be fast tracked into production.

Millennium already has its Expendables and Olympus Has Fallen franchises, and this could be another. In The Civilian, an American doctor has his identity stolen by a covert operative. The only way he can clear his name is to assume the dangerous mission of the spy who stole it.

Related: AFM: Stars Back For ‘Olympus’ Sequel ‘London Has Fallen’

Millennium president Mark Gill is producing. Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson, John Thompson and Christine Crow are executive producers. Long & Pittman’s original screenplay Dawn Patrol is in post and stars Scott Eastwood, Jeff Fahey and Rita Wilson. On assignment, the married writing team wrote the Korean War epic 1950 for director Rob Cohen; and Codename: Jolanta, the true story of Irena Sendler, a Polish nurse who smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. The scribes are repped by UTA, attorney Ryan Pastorek and manager Scott Carr, the latter of whom developed the script with the writers.

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Avi Lerner Saves His ‘ExpendaBelles’ News For Bulgaria

By | Friday October 25, 2013 @ 9:29am PDT
Mike Fleming

For some reason, Millennium Films chief Avi Lerner likes to drop scoops in the Bulgarian press. That might mean that his revelation to the Standart that he is negotiating with Meryl Streep, Cameron Diaz and Milla Jovovich to be in The ExpendaBelles is news that could be contained within that country, where Lerner intends to shoot the movie. Unless a movie news hound like me finds a secret weapon — someone who speaks Bulgarian. Aside from being the best TV reporter around, my colleague Nellie Andreeva grew up speaking that language and she still reads the newspapers. Translation: Avi, you cannot hide. Lerner also confides he is searching for a female director for the action film that has a script by Legally Blonde scribes Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith. Insiders say they need to find that director before they begin the casting process. All three of those actresses have done well in action including Streep, who did The River Wild. And given the beefcake names he has gotten for his The Expendables romps, why shouldn’t Lerner aim high? I would imagine Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton, Geena Davis and a few others might be getting phone calls. Stay tuned.

Related: Millennium Hires ‘Legally Blonde’ Scribes For ‘ExpendaBelles’ Spinoff

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Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp And Millennium Entertainment Heading To Altar?

By | Saturday October 12, 2013 @ 9:26am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I am hearing that Luc Besson‘s EuropaCorp is the lead horse in the quest to acquire Millennium Entertainment, the distribution arm of Avi Lerner‘s Nu Image/Millennium Films empire that was put on the selling block last April. The division, which is run by Bill Lee, retained Los Angeles-based investment bank Salem Partners in April to broker a deal. Lerner owns 60% of the company, Nigel Sinclair and Guy East’s Exclusive Media has a 20% stake and the hedge fund Prentice Capital owns the other 20%. I’m told that there might be one or more other bidders in the mix, but it looks like the deal is EuroCorp’s for the taking and that they are close. Besides a distribution operation, Millennium owns a film library with 665 titles and, according to the company’s release announcing the sale last April, has strong relationships with big three theater chains AMC, Regal and Landmark as well as retails outlets like Walmart, Target, iTunes, and Netflix, and cable systems for its VOD-centric titles. Recent films on the release schedule include What Maisie Knew, the Michael Shannon-starrer The Iceman, the Shia LaBeouf-starrer Charlie Countryman, the James Franco-directed As I Lay Dying and the Woody Allen-starrer Fading Gigolo, directed by John Turturro.

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Millennium, ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ Team Resurrecting Zombie Flick ‘Day Of The Dead’

By | Wednesday July 10, 2013 @ 9:49pm PDT

As zombies continue to stalk screens both big and small, the third pic in George A. Romero’s original undead trilogy will walk again. Texas Chainsaw 3D producers Lati Grobman and Christa Campbell are teaming with Millennium Films and Taurus Entertainment to revive Day Of The Dead, which originally rose in 1985 and was revived in a straight-to-video version in 2008. “Contrary to other recent zombie remakes, our Day of the Dead will honor Romero’s original vision by reviving the slow, brooding zombie that terrorized so many of our childhoods,” Grobman tells Deadline. “The trend of the fast, agile, ‘sprinting’ zombie creates a lot of great jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but it doesn’t compare to the psychological fear and tension that builds when going up against Romero’s original undead army.” Romero’s film followed his 1968 genre classic Night Of The Living Dead and 1979 sequel Dawn Of The Dead. Day Of The Dead revolved around survivors of the worldwide zombie apocalypse who struggle to survive in fortified enclaves while trying to figure how to reverse the calamity. “Our goal is to reset the genre by finding the perfect balance between nostalgia and modernity,” Grobman says, “all while crafting a story that has both heart and brains — literally.” Read More »

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Millennium On The Block; Salem Partners To Handle Sale Of Distribution Unit

By | Monday April 22, 2013 @ 10:28am PDT

Millennium Entertainment, the distribution arm of Avi Lerner‘s Nu Image, is officially for sale, with investment bank Salem Partners brought in to shop a deal. Nu Image holds 60% of the company, while Nigel Sinclair and Guy East’s Exclusive Media has a 20% stake and hedge fund Prentice Capital has the other 20%. A sale has been in the cards for the past year as Sinclair and East considered buying the part of the company they don’t already own, but a deal did not come to fruition. With the sale now opened to other buyers, Deadline hears there’s been “a lot of activity.” Here’s the official press release:

Millennium Entertainment CEO Bill Lee announced today that Salem Partners, a leading Los Angeles-based investment bank and wealth management firm, has been retained to sell the company.

Millennium Entertainment enjoyed a record year in both revenue and earnings in 2012 propelled by one of 2012’s biggest indie successes, Richard Linklater’s comedy Bernie, which earned Jack Black a Golden Globe nomination.

Read More »

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Not So Fast, Avi Lerner! ‘Chainsaw’ Rights Holder Slices Sequel Plans

By | Wednesday January 9, 2013 @ 4:48pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: What could Avi have been thinking? Last night, after a long day and fueled by quotes from Millennium Films chief Avi Lerner, I broke a story that another Texas Chainsaw Massacre film would move forward later this year in Louisiana. I learned today from the rights holders, producer Carl Mazzocone and executive producer Mark Burg, that the green light wasn’t Avi’s to give and they were surprised because no progress on this sequel has yet been made.

After the seventh film in the splatter series surprised everyone by beating films like The Hobbit, Django Unchained and Les Miserables to win the weekend box office with a $21.7 million gross, you know a sequel is inevitable. But according to Mazzocone, its timing is his to dictate, and he and Burg say nothing will happen until they work out the creative beats with domestic distributor Lionsgate.

“The rights are controlled by Carl and Main Line Pictures, no matter what Millennium says,” Burg told me. “Millennium simply sold the foreign rights and they will not tell us when a sequel is ready to be made. The script was developed by Carl, myself and writer/director John Luessenhop. Millennium and about ten producers came aboard only when we needed their check. Maybe they’re looking for something to sell at Berlin, but they have no right to announce this sequel and if we make another it has to be as good or better than … Read More »

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Avi Lerner’s Millennium Crosses $300 Million Mark With ‘Expendables 2′

By | Friday October 19, 2012 @ 4:26pm PDT
Mike Fleming

It took him 20 years, but Millennium Films’ Avi Lerner has notched his first film to pass the $300 million worldwide gross mark. The Expendables 2 just crossed that threshold. The movie, which the company said has grossed over $53 million in China, has yet to open in Japan so that number will grow higher.

Lerner, with partners Trevor Short and Danny Dimbort, formed the sales company Nu Image in 1992, and then Millennium Films in 1996. They will undoubtedly put together another Expendables installment (will Jeff Speakman finally get a call?), and they are exploring the feminine side of the action game: Millennium just hired Legally Blonde scribes Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith to write ExpendaBelles, Lerner brought in Mark Gill to raise the level of productions–let’s face it, there is some schlock in that library–and it certainly helps the cause when you put up that kind of gross on a $100 million budget.

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Avi Lerner’s Nu Image Sued By ‘Cops’ Producers Over Unpaid Film Revenues

By | Thursday August 9, 2012 @ 6:03pm PDT

The producers of Cops are taking the producers and distributors of Brooklyn’s Finest and Leaves Of Grass to court over money they say they are owed from the films. In an 11-page complaint filed today, (read it here) Langley Films, who make the long running police series, say Avi Lerner’s Nu Image, as well as Leaves of Grass Productions Inc. and Brooklyn’s Finest Distribution Inc., failed to honor an agreement to pay the company “a portion of the revenues” from both the 2010 comedy and the 2009 crime drama. The three companies are cited as defendants with Lerner, Nu Image/Millennium Films’ Trevor Short and former Nu Image/Millennium foreign sales chief Danny Dimbort named as principals who “may have engaged in a scheme to defraud Langley Films.” Millennium/Nu Image are the producers of, among other films, the upcoming The Expendables 2, Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy and the White House thriller Olympus Has Fallen directed by Antoine Fuqua who helmed Brooklyn’s Finest.

RELATED: Lawsuit Filed Over Stuntman’s Death During ‘Expendables 2′

Citing breach of contract and accounting, Langley says in 2008 it gave $3.65 million to pay some development and production costs on the Richard Gere and Don Cheadle-starring Brooklyn’s Finest and $1.5 million for the same for the Edward Norton and Susan Sarandon-starring Leaves of Glass. The complaint alleges that not only has it not received the promised revenue but also that the defendants partially reneged on an August 31, 2011 agreement to pay back the some of the money the Santa Monica-based independent producer had given them. Read More »

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Millennium Films, West Coast Film Partners Enter $100M Co-Finance Pact

By | Saturday May 19, 2012 @ 10:16am PDT

CANNES (May 19, 2012) — Millennium Films has signed a $100 million co-financing/co-production agreement with West Coast Film Partners. The agreement runs for three years and calls for the parties to co-finance two to three wide-release feature films per year.

The first movie West Coast will co-finance and co-produce is “White House Taken,” directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Gerard Butler. It’s an action movie about a U.S. Secret Service agent who has fallen from grace – until the White House is attacked and taken over by a team of North Koreans armed with extraordinary technology. Everything the Pentagon throws at the problem fails. But our hero knows the building like nobody else, and is the last chance we have to save, not only the President, but the entire country.

The deal was put together by Millennium President Mark Gill and West Coast CEO Klay Shroedel.

Read More »

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Antoine Fuqua Offered ‘Olympus Has Fallen’

By | Tuesday April 10, 2012 @ 3:57pm PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING… Antoine Fuqua has been offered Olympus Has Fallen, the White House takeover script by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt that Gerry Butler will star in for Avi Lerner’s Millennium. Fuqua is thinking it over, but he’s mulling numerous other jobs too, including Chicagoland, a crime story for New Line with a script by Peter Morgan. He’ll also be in the mix for the 24 movie when that comes back around on Kiefer Sutherland’s next hiatus. Fuqua’s repped by CAA. There is a reason for Lerner to want to hurry, after Roland Emmerich signed to direct a similar project, White House Down at Sony. Both are Die Hard At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and how many of those can you have?

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Millennium Buying ‘Bernie’ With Jack Black

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: A deal is near for Millennium Entertainment to acquire U.S. distribution rights to the Los Angeles Film Festival opening-night pic Bernie. I’m told that it will be the first significant grab for former Film Department co-head Mark Gill since he took the reins of Avi Lerner’s company (UPDATE: reps for the company claim Gill was not involved, though he released Linklater’s Before Sunrise while running Warner Independent, and those reps said the deal was made by  Millennium Entertainment’s Bill Lee and Vincent Scordino). The minimum guarantee will be around $2 million with a P&A commitment of around $1 million and the deal should be done by Monday.

Inspired by a true story, the film stars Jack Black as the title character, an amiable funeral director who kills a rich widow (Shirley MacLaine) and creates a ruse that she’s still alive. Matthew McConaughey also stars in a film that’s directed by Richard Linklater. He directed Black in School of Rock and McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. Pic’s a coproduction between Mandalay Vision and Wind Dancer. Cinetic’s John Sloss and WME Global’s Graham Taylor are making the deal. Another deal is in the offing for Canada, putting the North American rights in the $3 million range. The deal certainly helps the LAFF as a showcase for acquisitions, which always helps a festival seem viable.

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Scott Eastwood Revs Up ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Scott Eastwood, the youngest son of actor/director Clint Eastwood, has been set for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, the John Luessenhop-directed franchise reboot that starts production this week in Louisiana. Eastwood will play the role of Carl, the male lead, and the deal calls for him to be part of what is envisioned as a trilogy. Lionsgate will distribute the film that’s being produced by Carl Mazzocone and exec produced by Avi Lerner and Mark Burg.

Eastwood has been acting mostly in indies, and recently completed the Charles Burmeister-directed Epic, the Jack Heller-directed Enter Nowhere and the Lawrence Roeck-directed Carmel. He has also played roles in films his father directed, Invictus, Gran Torino and Flags of Our Fathers. He’s repped by UTA and Joanne Horowitz Management.

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Mark Gill New President Of Millennium Films

Exclusive: The Film Department Shutters

LOS ANGELES, CA — Former Miramax Films and Warner Independent president Mark Gill has been named President of Millennium Films. The company plans to produce and finance five to eight star-driven, wide-release films per year with budgets between $20 and $80 million.

Gill will work closely with Nu Image/Millennium Films toppers Avi Lerner and Trevor Short and development head Boaz Davidson, starting in July, with particular focus on development, packaging, production and marketing.

Gill has 25 years of film business experience and a production track record of more than $1 billion at the box office.

Read More »

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Barry Levinson, Al Pacino To Team On Philip Roth’s ‘The Humbling’ Before Gotti Mob Saga

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Before Al Pacino and director Barry Levinson re-team for Gotti: Three Generations, the duo will first reunite on an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel The Humbling, which has been set for a fall start and will be financed by Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films/Nu Image. It is just the latest in a period of extreme productivity for Levinson, some of it directly attributable to the acclaim he got for directing Pacino’s Emmy-winning turn as Jack Kevorkian in HBO’s You Don’t Know Jack.

The Humbling revolves around Simon Axler (Pacino), a famous stage actor in decline who is revived when he retires to his upstate New York farmhouse and takes up with a much younger woman. It has a script by Buck Henry, Michal Zebede and Levinson. Levinson will be looking to quickly cast the young female lead, the actor’s agent, and several other eccentric characters you would expect in a Roth novel. Levinson committed to this movie after completing production on the low-budget eco-horror film The Bay, which he shot on hand-held cameras and which Lionsgate will release. He just spent time at the Cannes Film Festival to help stir interest in the offshore rights of the Gotti movie; and he’s right now in China, heading the jury at the Shanghai Film Festival.

I caught up with Levinson at Cannes, where he was uneasy about the idea of having to hawk a film (Gotti) that he and his Bugsy co-writer James Toback are giving a page one rewrite. He was completely sparked to be shooting a variety of films, from horror to documentaries (he helmed for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series The Band That Wouldn’t Die). But industry players who passed by us in the Majestic Hotel seemed intrigued at his chance to create a major new Mafia movie, and one prominent figure even volunteered to join a preliminary cast that includes John Travolta (Gotti Sr.), Joe Pesci and Pacino, whom Levinson recruited. Read More »

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CANNES: FilmDistrict Buys Gerard Butler Soccer Comedy ‘Playing The Field’

Mike Fleming

FilmDistrict bought U.S. rights to Playing the Field, the Nu Image/Millennium Films Gabriele Muccino-directed comedy that stars Gerard Butler as a retired soccer star. His penchant for scoring off the field ruined his marriage and his relationship with his son. He returns to Virginia to win them back by coaching the kid’s soccer team, but that goal is imperiled by his wandering eye and the beautiful soccer moms that are all over the place. Jessica Biel, Judy Greer, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones also star, with Noah Lomax playing the son. Butler and Alan Siegel produce with Kevin Misher, Jonathan Mostow, Heidi Jo Markel and John Thompson. Robbie Fox wrote the script.

FilmDistrict, run by Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney to launch films that can play in wide release, came right out of the gate with the hit film Insidious.

“We are very pleased to have closed this deal with Peter Schlessel and FilmDistrict for Playing The Field and hope it will be the first of many to come. I am confident they will do a great job bringing this picture to market”, says Avi Lerner, Co-Chairman of Nu Image/Millennium Films.

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Avi Lerner’s Foreign Sales Ace Danny Dimbort Exits With Millennium Execs To Launch Red Granite International

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: In a pre-Cannes foreign sales shakeup bombshell, Millennium/Nu Image partner Danny Dimbort has left and joined forces with Red Granite Pictures. He’s taking the role of president in the foreign sales company Red Granite International, and has taken with him Christian Mercuri, who’ll be co-president, and Joe Gatta, who’ll be president of production. Relations between Dimbort and Avi Lerner have been strained for a long time. In January 2010, I reported as much, when Dimbort was gone for weeks and speculation was high that he would leave because he and Lerner disagreed on the kinds of movies they should be making. At the time, Lerner scoffed at the speculation, saying Dimbort  was “categorically not departing, and whoever is telling you that is just being mean. We’ve been partners for 30 years, he’s my best friend, and I love him to death. You want a problem? It’s that the American government doesn’t give a shit about the piracy of our product that’s taking place around the world. The stuff about Danny is bullshit.”

Relations got even more strained when Dimbort was busted by the Producers Guild for giving a producing credit to his teenage granddaughter. Now, I’d always heard Dimbort did this to make a point, because he was pissed that Lerner was putting girlfriends into producing and other positions where they would receive credit. Last year, I’d heard that Dimbort was bought out of his equity position in the company, but that it didn’t mean he was leaving. Now, he’s gone. Read More »

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Sundance: Anchor Bay Acquires Dito Montiel’s ‘The Son Of No One’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Anchor Bay has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the Dito Montiel-directed cop drama The Son Of No One, which was the 2011 Sundance Film Festival’s final premiere last Friday. I’m told the deal was in the $2 million minimum guarantee range and a P&A commitment for a theatrical release in at least 10 of the top 20 markets. The film stars Channing Tatum, Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta, Juliette Binoche and Al Pacino and is a police thriller about a young cop assigned to the Queens neighborhood where he grew up. He’s forced to confront past troubles. The picture was financed by Millennium Films/Nu Image’s Avi Lerner and his partners Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short and Boaz Davidson. Before its premiere, the film had an early screening for buyers, and was forced to overcome a nasty trade article that claimed an “exodus” of walk outs, a story disputed in Deadline by sales agent and exec producer Cassian Elwes. Elwes had the last laugh as he and WME Global’s Graham Taylor closed what might be the last big sale of a festival full of them. Despite the one bad article, Elwes and Taylor had several bidders circling with offers in the $2 million range but Anchor Bay’s Kevin Kasha has sealed the deal.

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Is Avi Lerner Friend Or Foe To Indieprods?

Two European sales companies — British based Hanway Films (the sales company of British producer Jeremy Thomas) and Paris-based Celluloid Dreams — are calling for Avi Lerner to step down as vice-chair of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. The problem stems from accusations that, at the same time he’s helping run the organization pledged to be the “voice and advocate for independents worldwide”, some companies which Lerner controls are apparently exploiting those same indie filmmakers by allegedly owing them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lerner is co-chairman of Nu Image, which in 2007 bought the U.S. distributor First Look which is being sued by around 20 other film companies. Hanway Films’ head of business affairs Richard Mansell says his firm is owed nearly $500,000 by First Look, and pledges to soon pursue Nu Image through the courts in Los Angeles. Celluloid Dreams has won a court case against First Look for over $720,000 still owing from the U.S. release of Quentin Tarantino-starrer Sukiyaki Western Django, but hasn’t seen a dime yet. CEO Hengameh Panahi, one of Europe’s most respected sales agents, explains: “You can’t exploit somebody’s film and then not pay people.” IFTA would not comment on what it says are legal matters involving its members. Hanway Films’ Mansell says: “How can he represent the interests of an organization which is meant to adjudicate on and penalize wrongdoing by distributors? It makes IFTA itself a joke. If the organization had any … Read More »

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CBS Films To Distribute Millennium Redo ‘The Mechanic’ With Jason Statham

By | Sunday August 8, 2010 @ 6:11pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films has made its first acquisition of a finished film, buying U.S.  distribution rights to The Mechanic, the remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film that stars Jason Staham as a hitman who trains an apprentice who has a connection to one of his mentor’s victims. Simon West directed and Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland also star.

The film was made by Millennium Films, which also financed the $80 million Sly Stallone-directed actioner The Expendables, being released Friday by Lionsgate. That film also has Staham in its action hero ensemble. Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino scripted The Mechanic.

The remake was produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff—who produced the original—along with David Winkler, William Chartoff and Rene Besson. The Millennium team of Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson and Joe Gatta are executive producers.

“The original was a big success, especially overseas where it has had a long life,” Winkler said. “MGM had the rights but nobody really saw it as the character study that we did, until Avi Lerner came in and financed it. A lot of independent companies were interested after we held a test screening, but I worked with CBS’s Amy Baer while she was at Columbia, and we trust each other. CBS needed a film, they held a research screening on their own dime  that did even better than the first time, and … Read More »

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