EXCLUSIVE: In his latest move at his new Universal home, hitmaking Think Like A Man Too and Ride Along producer Will Packer has acquired spec script Terminal Point from writer Stuart C. Paul. Details are under wraps on the script which Packer and fellow producer David Alpert snagged in a pre-emptive buy. It’s the first spec sale for Paul, who recently wrote and directed short film The Lord of Catan, about a young married couple (Amy Acker and Fran Kranz) whose game night descends into cutthroat competition.
As their No. 1 opener Think Like A Man Too raked in $29.2M last weekend, exec producers and longtime business partners Will Packer and Rob Hardy quietly axed their Rainforest Films banner. “The two of us have been friends for over 20 years and will continue to support each other personally and professionally,” they said in a statement to Deadline. “Our respective personal careers have taken us in different directions, and we have decided it is necessary to dissolve Rainforest Films.”
The pair co-founded Rainforest 20 years ago and put it on the map with erotic thriller Trois, which Hardy directed and Packer produced. The self-distributed indie grossed $1.1M upon release in 2000 and launched a specialty shingle for the duo, who went on to produce 17 more features targeted toward African-American audiences. Some of those Rainforest titles went on to become modest-to-major studio-distributed hits, including specialty pic The Gospel ($15M), Stomp The Yard ($75M worldwide), This Christmas ($49M) Obsessed ($73M), Takers ($69M), and Think Like A Man ($96M).
More recently, Rainforest’s Universal-distributed buddy cop flick Ride Along scored $153M while remake About Last Night took in $49M for Screen Gems. Those will be the final Rainforest productions as Packer segues into the eponymous production banner he launched last year with a three-year first-look deal with Universal.
Universal has tapped Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 co-writer Erica Rivinoja to pen Will Packer‘s untitled Girl’s Trip comedy. Packer, coming off of the Universal hit Ride Along, set this up last month as his first film under his new lucrative stuido deal via Will Packer Productions. He hired Best Man’s Holiday helmer Malcolm D. Lee to direct. Universal is still keeping details of the script under wraps, but production is set to begin this summer in New Orleans. Lee will also executive produce.
In addition to writing Cloudy 2 with John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, Rivinoja on the TV side inked a two-year overall deal with Sony last year and was a co-executive producer on CBS’ Bad Teacher this development cycle. It premieres April 24. She also was a co-exec producer on NBC’s Up All Night. Before that she spent 11 seasons on Comedy Central’s South Park, where she rose from staff writer to producer and shared in the series’ two Emmy wins in 2008 and 2009. She is repped by UTA and attorney Ken Richman.
Universal Pictures announced that it will release the Kevin Hart-Ice Cube buddy comedy Ride Along 2 for the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. It’s a date worked very well for the original Ride Along, which broke box office records this past MLK frame with a whopping $41.5M gross. In fact, the date is kinda known now as the Will Packer/Kevin Hart spot. Next year, Sony is releasing the duo’s The Wedding Ringer on the same holiday weekend. Adam Fields also is producing the comedy. Universal executives and the producers started working on the Ride Along sequel last month. Tim Story will direct Ride Along 2, and Hart and Ice Cube reprising their roles; Hart plays a quick-witted security guard who has his eye on Cube’s sister. The film has grossed more than $140M worldwide. A late-June/early-July start is planned, and all are hard at work finalizing the script, which is expected to have more action. Packer, Matt Alvarez and Larry Brezner will produce with Ice Cube.
‘Ride Along’ Producer Will Packer Sets Up First Film At Universal, Comedy ‘Girls Trip’ With Malcolm Lee Directing; ‘Ride Along 2′ Will Start Shooting This Summer
BREAKING: Will Packer, who produced the $123.1M-to-date grosser Ride Along with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube and currently has two pictures in the box office Top 10 with About Last Night (also a Hart vehicle that has grossed $38M in two weeks), has set up his next film with Universal Pictures via his Will Packer Productions banner. It’s a comedy, Girls Trip, with Best Man’s Holiday helmer Malcolm D. Lee set to direct. It has yet to set a writer. Ride Along 2 will be Packer’s next picture with Tim Story at the helm, it was just confirmed. Ice Cube and Kevin Hart recently closed a deal to reprise their roles as the quick-witted security guard (Hart) who has his eye on his partner’s (Cube’s) sister. The sequel will start shooting a week after Think Like A Man 2 opens on June 20, 2014.
Lee, of course, recently directed Best Man Holiday for Universal which has grossed over $71.6M worldwide. Details of the new project are being kept under wraps. Packer has risen as a formidable producer in recent years, earning him the nickname, Will “Power” Packer. His buddy comedy Ride Along opened to a record $48.6M over the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend this year for Universal. Sony then scheduled his The Wedding Ringer, which he is producing with Adam Fields, for the MLK holiday in 2015. Wedding Ringer is a Jeremy Garelick-written and -directed comedy starring Hart again. The bankable Packer also produced Think Like a Man, which grossed $96M worldwide.
‘Ride Along 2′ Gets Rolling: Tim Story To Direct, Will Packer To Produce With Deals Closing For Kevin Hart and Ice Cube
EXCLUSIVE: It was inevitable after the huge success of Ride Along that Universal Pictures executives would be salivating to get the sequel together. Tim Story will direct Ride Along 2 and Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are closing to reprise their roles as the quick-witted security guard (Hart) who has his eye on his partner’s (Cube’s) sister. The film debuted five weeks ago on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend to bring in a record opening of $41.5M. It has since grossed more than $120M worldwide as of this weekend. The three-day gross on Ride Along dropped only 9% even as they shed 283 screens with $3,460 per screen. Helluva hold.
Will Packer and Cube’s Cube Vision (Ice Cube and Matt Alvarez) are coming back to produce from a script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? A late June/early July start is planned and all are hard at work finalizing the script which is expected to have more action and am hearing that it will be more multi-cultural to expand the demos. Smart move, all, if you want to expand into the lucrative Latin American and European markets. Yes, it’s comedy but it’s also business. Ride Along is in six territories currently with expansions into other markets yet to come, but it is getting 97% of its total box office ($121.2M) from domestic. Likewise, the bankable Think Like a Man also had 95% of its box office coming from the U.S. Universal EVP Production Scott Bernstein will oversee the project for the studio. Larry Brezner is also producing and BenderSpink, executive producing.
Will Packer Productions, coming off the opening-weekend box office success of the producer’s Universal Pictures action comedy Ride Along, has hired UTA motion picture literary agent Barbara Dreyfus as head of motion pictures. She is one of the first key hires for Packer’s new shingle, which launched in October when he inked a three-year, first-look producing deal with the studio and set up operations on the lot. Dreyfus spent the past 13 years at UTA repping writers, directors and producers, and before that was an agent at ICM where she spent eight years in the motion picture literary department. She began her agent career at the InterTalent. “I’m thrilled to have Barbara on my team,” Packer said. “Her impeccable taste in material and great relationships across the creative community will be key assets as we establish and expand our Will Packer Productions brand. Additionally, she shares my passion for quality commercial material.”
As part of the deal, Dreyfus’ clients will remain in the UTA fold repped by their UTA agent teams.
Security guard and avid gamer Ben (Kevin Hart) wants to ask his girlfriend to marry him, but he wants her brother’s blessing first. Oh, the brother? He’s a tough, ill-tempered cop (Ice Cube) who refers to his potential future in-law as a “man Smurf.” So Ben must prove himself worthy by going with the brother on a ride along patrolling the streets of Atlanta. Director Tim Story’s action comedy was written by Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi and co-stars John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Bryan Callen and Tika Sumpter. Here’s the first full trailer for Ride Along, which Universal opens January 17:
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has made a three-year first-look producing deal with Will Packer, who has displayed a golden touch for generating modestly priced urban-flavored comedies that do strong domestic box office business. Packer is forming a new film label, Will Packer Productions, which will be moving to the Universal lot. He will begin staffing up right away and soon will name an exec to head his company. And he will become an active buyer of pitches and specs, not only in comedy but dramas and thrillers. While he built his business with urban-themed fare, Packer will get the chance to broaden those horizons at Universal. All this comes after Packer worked with the studio for the first time on Ride Along, the mismatched-buddy comedy that stars Ice Cube and Kevin Hart which the studio releases January 17. Packer produced the film with Cube, Matt Alvarez and Larry Brezner. Universal is already hard at work on the sequel, and Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley snatched him up.
Packer, whose television company is already at Universal Television in a two-year deal he signed in July, is one of the few non-writing African-American producers to have been set in an overall deal with a major studio. He never had an overall at Screen Gems, but there, Packer produced four films that opened in the top weekend slot in U.S. box office: Stomp The Yard, Takers, Obsessed and Think Like A Man.
Will Packer, who has seen four of his films debut atop the domestic the box office chart, will develop new projects for Universal Television, it was announced today. The Think Like A Man producer has worked mostly in features, and this is his first overall TV deal. Along with Think Like A Man and its upcoming sequel, Packer’s movie credits include Stomp The Yard, Takers and Obsessed. “We have been impressed by his keen eye on the feature side with the several hit movies he’s produced. We are looking forward to bringing his enthusiasm and expertise into television,” said Bela Bajaria, EVP of Universal TV in a statement Tuesday. Packer also produced the Kevin Hart-Ice Cube comedy Ride Along, which Universal Pictures will release next January. The producer is making a habit of working with Hart; the busy actor-comic also stars in the Think Like a Man films along with the remake of About Last Night, which is set to hit theaters on Valentine’s Day. Packer also is producing No Good Deed, the Idris Elba-Taraji P. Henson thriller set for April 2014. He will follow that with Screen Gems’ Wedding Ringers. The producer, who was the subject of the inaugural Sundance Film Festival edition of Academy Conversations, is repped by UTA and attorney Matt Johnson at Ziffren.
Related: Hot Teaser Trailer: ‘Ride Along’
Jen Yamato is a Deadline contributor.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will make its official debut at the Sundance Film Festival with an event featuring new member Will Packer, producer of such films as last year’s Think Like A Man, 2007’s Stomp The Yard and the 2009 Beyonce Knowles starrer Obsessed. Co-presented with The Blackhouse Foundation, an organization that promotes black filmmakers at festivals around the country, the inaugural Sundance edition of “Academy Conversations” will take place at 3:30 PM January 19 at Park City’s Buona Vita. Blackhouse Foundation chairman Brickson Diamond will moderate the discussion. In addition to the aforementioned Sony/Screen Gems movies, Packer’s Rainforest Films produced and self-distributed successful urban titles including 2000’s thriller Trois, which spawned two sequels and launched the feature directing career of Stomp The Yard’s Sylvain White. Saturday’s event will be followed by a reception “addressing such initiatives as Awards qualification rules, filmmaker engagement, educational programs, festival grants and membership” with Academy execs Randy Haberkamp, Patrick Harrison and Torene Svitil in attendance.
EXCLUSIVE: Steve Pink is in talks to direct Sexual Perversity In Chicago, the Screen Gems remake of the 1986 film About Last Night. I’m hearing that the film, scripted by Bachelorette‘s Leslye Headland, is on a fast track for an early fall start. Michael Ealy is starring (in the role originated by Rob Lowe) alongside Kevin Hart (in the Jim Belushi role), and Screen Gems is already looking for a young actress to play the Demi Moore love interest role while Regina Hall has been rumored for the other female lead, played originally by Elizabeth Perkins. The film right now is going by the original title of the David Mamet play about two single guys and their sex lives in the 70s.
The film is being produced by Will Packer and Will Gluck, the hit making producer duo. Packer produced Think Like A Man, the Screen Gems hit comedy that starred Ealy and Hart, and he’s got such films coming up as Ride Along with Hart and Ice Cube and Tim Story directing, and No Good Deed, which stars Idris Elba. Gluck produced/directed Easy A and Friends With Benefits, both of which were hits for Clint Culpepper’s shingle.
Pink, who directed Accepted and Hot Tub Time Machine, is separately in talks to helm the Bad Santa sequel, something that will happen after Sexual Perversity in …
Screen Gems has set the cast to surround Kevin Hart in Think Like A Man, the comedy based on Steve Harvey’s bestselling book. Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Taraji Henson, Romany Malco, Gary Owen and Gabrielle Union have joined the cast. Tim Story is directing a script by Keith Merryman & David A. Newman. Will Packer is producing through his Rainforest Films banner. Harvey is exec producer alongside Rushion McDonald and Rob Hardy. Production will start this summer. Hart plays a relationship expert who is quick to give advice even as his marriage is crashing.
UPDATE: Sony has given the film a wide-release date: April 6, 2012.
PREVIOUS, EXCLUSIVE: Screen Gems has set Tim Story to direct Think Like A Man, the ensemble comedy based on Steve Harvey’s bestselling 2009 book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. Story, who directed the two Fantastic Four films and Barbershop, will start production in July. Kevin Hart stars as a self-professed relationship expert who is quick to give advice to his crew of friends, even as his own marriage heads toward divorce. The comedy’s scripted by Keith Merryman & David A. Newman. Will Packer’s producing through his Rainforest Films banner and Harvey is exec producing with Rushion McDonald and Rob Hardy. The book has sold more than 2 million copies. UTA reps Story.
Kevin Hart will star in Think Like A Man, the Screen Gems comedy based on Steve Harvey’s bestselling 2009 book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. The book is a male-perspective self-help manual for relationships, with topics that included everything from why men cheat, to why men are in the fixing business and not in the talking business, to how to get the wedding ring and why independent women should reconnect with their girlish side to make their men feel necessary. Like I said, it’s from a male perspective. In the film, Hart will play a self-professed relationship expert who is quick to give advice to his crew of friends, even as he watched his own marriage crater and head toward divorce. The comedy’s scripted by Keith Merryman & David A. Newman, and Screen Gems’ Clint Culpepper is out to directors for a July production start. Will Packer’s producing through his Rainforest Films banner and Harvey is exec producing with Rushion McDonald and Rob Hardy.