Pandora Pictures, the new Los Angeles incarnation of what was formerly Paris-based Pandora Cinema, has unveiled the first two films to come through its co-financing arrangement with Warner Bros. Both are literary adaptations that represent a significant step up in budgets for the company.
The White Oleander, a $17m female ensemble piece to be adapted from the best-selling novel by Janet Fitch, tells the story of a teenage girl who learns to survive and finds an ersatz parent after her mother is sent to prison for murdering a man using the poison from oleander flowers. Pandora is in talks with Julianne Moore, Winona Ryder, Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan to all co-star.
Second up is A Walk To Remember, a bittersweet 1950s London tale written by Nicholas Sparks, author of Message In A Bottle and produced by Denise Di Novi. Also budgeted at $17m the film revolves around a teenager who refuses to accept the responsibilities of adulthood. He is roped into a Christmas play and falls in love with the lead, despite the teasing of his friends.
"We expect to do four films a year with Warner and to announce the next two quite soon," said Shebnem Askin, Pandora senior vice president worldwide sales. "We are aiming for a slate that is two thirds US and one third European. But the driving force of Pandora, its emphasis on quality, will not change," she added.
Outside of its deal with Warner, Pandora is also readying Paris Underground, a $15m story of a Frenchwoman and an American woman who team up to save the lives of Allied soldiers during WWII. It is in talks with Moore and Ryder to star in that film too.
Naomi Foner, Oscar nominated for Running On Empty, will deliver a screenplay, which is an adaptation of Etta Shibner's novel. Gaylord Films head Hunt Lowry and Gaylord head of production Casey La Scala will produce. Todd Allen and Chris Horten will executive produce.
The move to the US is expected to give Pandora, a division of Gaylord Films, a greater flexibility in the projects it picks and, with studio release guaranteed, help international buyers accept the step up in budget range. "We are first of all a sales company. We can fully finance pictures up to $10m with Gaylord's cash. On films in the $10m-$20m range we see Warner taking North American rights and us handling international. On projects over $20m Warner would take world rights."
Pandora's Los Angeles operation is currently housed in Lowry's office at Disney, but will move to the Warner lot in February. "Ernst Goldschmidt will probably remain attached as a consultant with a production deal, but details are yet to be finalised. Catherine Touati will stay on with Pandora in a marketing role. And we are considering opening a London office."
Among the other films Pandora is selling here, Donnie Darko has proved particularly popular. Deals have been sealed with Prokino for Germany, Key Films for Italy, Dan Films for Scandinavia, Video Vision for South Africa, Noah for Israel, Jaguar for the Middle East and ANS for Turkey.
The film, directed by newcomer Richard Kelly, and which stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Patrick Swayze and Noah Wyle, is the third to flow from Barrymore's Flower Films after Never Been Kissed and Charlie's Angels.