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.
Besides Ride Along, which Universal grabbed out of turnaround from New Line, Packer’s upcoming films are About Last Night, the remake that Screen Gems releases Valentine’s Day with Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Regina Hall and Kevin Hart, based on the movie that was adapted from David Mamet’s play Sexual Perversity in Chicago; Think Like A Man Too; and No Good Deed, which stars Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, which Screen Gems releases next fall. Packer just wrapped The Wedding Ringer, which stars Josh Gad and Kevin Hart, which Screen Gems releases February 6, 2015.
“Will is driven by a boundless energy that drives his relationships and permeates his films,” said Langley. “We’ve cherished our experience working with him on Ride Along and cannot wait to collaborate with him on more films in the years to come.”
Packer’s deal was made by UTA and attorney Matt Johnson at Ziffren Brittenham.