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Sony Pictures scratches 'Moneyball' from lineup

The studio had a rift with director Steven Soderbergh over the baseball movie's script. The film was then pitched to Warner Bros. and Paramount, but they balked at its high cost and limited appeal.

June 23, 2009|Claudia Eller and John Horn

At a time when expensive adult dramas keep striking out at the box office, it appears not even Brad Pitt and director Steven Soderbergh can entice a Hollywood studio to spend about $57 million on a baseball movie.

Sony Pictures has stopped production on "Moneyball," an adaptation of Michael Lewis' 2003 bestseller of the same name about the revival of the Oakland A's, which was to be directed by Soderbergh and star Pitt. The highly unusual decision, coming just days before the movie was to begin shooting, underscores how economic forces are driving studios to cut back on films that once would have easily made their way to the big screen.

Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures, which were offered a chance to pick up the project from Sony, have also passed because of concerns about its high budget and limited commercial appeal. "Moneyball" is now back in Sony's hands, where the director will either have to make changes or the project will die and the studio will absorb nearly $10 million it already spent on development and pre-production.

On Friday, as first reported by industry trade paper Daily Variety, Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, canceled production after Soderbergh turned in a rewrite of the script that she found unacceptable.

According to a person close to the situation, Pascal met with Soderbergh to see if he was willing to revise his take, but the two couldn't agree on a vision for the film. They also disagreed over Soderbergh's plan to shoot the film in a more improvisational documentary style. She allowed "Moneyball's" creative team to pitch the movie to Paramount and Warner Bros., where Pitt and Soderbergh have close ties.

But by Monday, Paramount and Warner Bros. had quickly passed. Similarly budgeted dramas aimed at adult audiences like "State of Play," "Duplicity" and "The International" have all fared poorly at the box office this year.

"Moneyball" has the added burden of being about baseball, which would have limited appeal among women and overseas audiences. International receipts from theatrical, television and DVD sales typically account for more than half of a film's total revenue.

"In light of the economic climate, Warner and Paramount said they weren't going to make the movie," said Pitt's manager, Cynthia Pett-Dante.

Soderbergh's manager, Michael Sugar, declined to comment on behalf of the director.

One executive who had considered bringing the project to his studio said the movie would have had to gross more than $100 million at the domestic box office just to break even.

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claudia.eller@latimes.com

john.horn@latimes.com

Times staff writer Ben Fritz contributed to this report.

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