In reaction to the increasingly problematic international sales landscape, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) is looking to strike long-term output arrangements in major territories for films from its United Artists specialty label. That means a major restructure at its London-based sales and acquisitions operation London-based United Artists Films (UAF), run by sales veterans Wendy Palmer and Fiona Mitchell, but talking at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, MGM worldwide distribution chief Larry Gleason denied rumours that it would be closed down.
Gleason, who oversees UA with worldwide marketing chief Gerry Rich, said that the studio is looking to existing MGM partners, such as Telemuenchen in Germany, to co-finance a slate of UA pictures and is in talks with international film-makers including Jim Sheridan, Mike Leigh and Michael Winterbottom to make their future films for the label.
Gleason, Rich and MGM studio vice chairman and COO Chris McGurk are currently assessing the future of UAF but Gleason said that it will continue to acquire new product and sell pictures albeit on a reduced level if output arrangements are agreed.
Gleason said that McGurk is talking to Sheridan about moving from his Universal/October deal - put in place by McGurk when he was at Universal - to UA. Mike Leigh, who has also been in serious talks about housing himself at French major Le Studio Canal Plus, is also now talking to UA. Leigh's recent pictures - including Secrets And Lies and Topsy Turvy - were sold by Palmer and Mitchell internationally.
UA is currently co-producing Winterbottom's US-set Kingdom Come but is also looking to house future projects from the prolific director who was previously based at PolyGram Filmed Entertainment.
Meanwhile, Gleason confirmed that Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler's Killer Films is no longer attached to UA. Killer signed a two-year first-look deal with UA, or Goldwyn Films as it was then called, in 1997, but the deal has not been extended. UA rejected Killer's Golden Globe winner Boys Don't Cry which was instead picked up by Fox Searchlight; the sole picture to emerge from the deal was Sundance competition entry Crime And Punishment In Suburbia.
Instead Killer last week signed a new and unusual arrangement with John Wells Productions, the LA-based TV outfit behind ER, a deal which came out of Killer's new agency representation at CAA.