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Hollywood's new movie math

Because of the faltering economy and falling DVD revenue, the studios are cutting the generous financial deals long enjoyed by the most established stars and filmmakers.

January 20, 2009|Claudia Eller

This has been customary on big-budget movies, where studios have hundreds of millions of production and marketing dollars at risk. Walt Disney Studios has invoked a no-first-dollar gross policy on such costly pictures as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series and its planned production of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," a fantasy adventure starring Nicolas Cage.

Now talent involved in moderate-cost movies are also getting pinched.

Sony Pictures was able to make its romantic comedy "Julie & Julia," starring Meryl Streep, written and directed by Nora Ephron, for $35 million because the talent made concessions. The same went for Universal Pictures' "Frost/Nixon," which cost $29 million to produce after everyone involved, including director Ron Howard and his producing partner Brian Grazer, was flexible on compensation.

"The economics of the movie business are challenging right now," said Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures. "We're all trying to be creative about our deal making."


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