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. Silver’s tipping point with Warner Bros came during Christmas 2011 when Silver began loudly complaining around Hollywood, and using surrogates to grouse directly to showbiz media, about Warner Bros’ handling of Sherlock Holmes 2‘s release. Movie chief Jeff Robinov felt the Sherlock Holmes 2 blame game orchestrated by Silver was destabilizing the studio. That’s when Robinov became fed up. Once the relationship soured, the issue was how to avoid a bad situation devolving into a bad breakup. Silver has been responsible for billions in ticket sales for Warner Bros over the years — including four Lethal Weapon movies (the first released in 1987), The Matrix films, Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes 2 – and is leaving the studio a legacy of big action hits since he started Silver Pictures in 1985.
Meanwhile, Silver also is vacating one of the most coveted office spaces on the studio’s Burbank lot — once beloning to Frank Sinatra — and has found temporary office digs on the Westside by the beach. But where he really wants to set up shop is Venice. Recently, Silver spoke before the Venice Neighborhood Council attempting to buy the old Venice Post Office. Here is video of Silver speaking during the public comment period and offering to relocate his production companies, save the historic mural inside, and provide a public screening room if the U.S. Postal Service goes ahead with the sale: