Paramount Pictures has staked Neal H. Moritz‘s Original Film to a first-look multi-year deal. Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos announced he’d gotten the prolific producer behind the Fast & Furious films. The deal begins January 1, when Moritz’s pact with Sony ends. This is a major move, partly because Moritz spent over 20 years based at Sony.
Paramount needs franchises, and Moritz has been at the center of a few strong ones and certainly is a steady hand at the care and feeding of them: Aside from the Universal juggernaut street racing pics that show no sign of running out of gas, Moritz also produces the 21 Jump Street series, which long has been expected to meld into the Men In Black franchise at Sony. He hit his stride as producer of youthful dramas and thrillers, including I Know What You Did Last Summer and Cruel Intentions, and his other credits include I Am Legend, Goosebumps, Sweet Home Alabama and Passengers, the latter of which was a pricey miss at Sony last year.
Word was Moritz and Sony chief Tom Rothman clashed on the high budget of that $120 million movie, and when Moritz didn’t want to make it for substantially less, around $80 million, he invoked his right to shop the film. He would have had a buyer in Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8, whose films are released by Sony. Sony proper made the film at that budget, but the studio’s leverage was lost and the relationship strained after that, sources said.
Said Gianopulos: “Neal and I have known each other for many years, and he is one of the greatest storytellers and producers in our industry, building franchises that have a tremendous impact on the worldwide box office. This first-look deal with Neal will help Paramount continue to bolster and diversify our upcoming slate, and I’m thrilled to have him come aboard.”
Said Moritz: “My first producing deal was at Paramount, and I consider this a welcome return to my original home,” Moritz said. “Jim brings a renewed excitement and vision to Paramount, offering filmmakers unique creative opportunities. I am excited to work with the incredibly talented team he has in place at the studio.”
Moritz serves as executive producer for riveting television series such as Prison Break, The Big C, Preacher and the upcoming S.W.A.T. He produced the 2003 Sony film. Moritz’s TV deal remains at Sony.