Under the terms of the deal, the three will maintain creative control over their films, allowing them to develop and produce independently with the benefit of worldwide studio distribution.
Each of the directors will contribute one film to the deal. First to go is Carlos Cuaron's Rudo Y Cursi which will reteam Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna for the first time since Y Tu Mama Tambien, which Carlos Cuaron co-wrote with his brother Alfonso, who directed. The final film will be directed by Rodrigo Garcia, the Colombian film-maker of Nine Lives and Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her.
FFI is starting to sell Rudo Y Cursi here. At least two of the five cha cha cha features are expected to shoot this year. The five will be both English-language and Spanish-language.
Universal will invest in and co-own all cha cha cha features with the film-makers. FFI will handle international sales while North American distribution will be determined as appropriate on each picture. The deal is thought to be worth an estimated $100m, a hefty price tag for the package which also includes returns the distribution rights to the film-makers in a shorter time frame than is usual.
All three of the cha cha cha film-makers have histories with Universal and Focus. Cuaron made Children Of Men at Universal and Y Tu Mama Tambien was sold by Universal co-chairman David Linde while he ran Good Machine International. Del Toro is currently shooting Hellboy 2: The Golden Army in Hungary for Universal, and Linde previously sold The Devil's Backbone at GMI and Mimic at Miramax International. Meanwhile Inarritu made 21 Grams at Focus Features.
The announcement was made by Linde and Universal chairman Marc Shmuger and Focus CEO James Schamus, and continues an aggressive push into international production for the studio. Later this year Christian Grass left Fox to become head of production at Universal Pictures International.
All three directors will be in Cannes this weekend to meet buyers and media on completion of the deal.