EXCLUSIVE: Well, that didn’t take long. Six weeks after I scooped the news that Joel Silver and Warner Bros agreed to sever their 25-year relationship by the end of the year, the producer has plans to set up shop as an indie filmmaker. And just as I toldja, he’s landed at Universal. This is by no means the ful-frills first-look producing deal he’s had. I’m told that Universal was never interested in a first-look production deal with Silver. His close pal and travel buddy Ron Meyer’s daughter is an executive at Silver Pictures and, because of those relationships, Uni President/COO Meyer supposedly took himself out of the decision-making process. Instead, Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson with Co-Chairman Donna Langley did the deal. Details are still sketchy, But I hear it calls for five years of domestic distribution of product from a new division of Silver Pictures which is going to be called Silver Pictures Entertainment. The 12-film agreement which will be announced soon calls for Universal to distribute 2 to 3 films annually from Silver Pictures Entertainment across multiple genres. Universal will pay for marketing, with a backstop so that Silver is on the hook if the pics don’t earn out. I understand that Silver will have to find financing though Universal may choose to finance certain films but is under no obligation to do so. The first project under the deal will be action thriller Non-Stop which reteams directed Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson who worked on 2011′s Unknown together for Silver’s Dark Castle where Collet-Serra also helmed Orphan (2009) and House Of Wax (2005). Non-Stop is not yet in production and is slated for a 2013 release.
Speaking of Dark Castle, I’ve learned that Universal is interested in distributing that product. But Dark Castle’s slate of movies remain at Warner Bros for distribution through 2013. And after that Silver can take that banner with him for distribution elsewhere or dump it. (Silver is currently embroiled in a high-profile lawsuit with Goldman Sachs over financing for Dark Castle.) Thus comes the quiet finish to one of the most long-term, big-time, noisy, up and down, and ultimately dysfunctional relationships between a film producer and a movie studio.