Former Disney chief Michael Eisner returning to films with distribution deal with Universal

By Daniel S Levine,

Michael Eisner, who held the top position at the Walt Disney Company for over 20 years, is heading back into the feature film business. His company, Tornante Company, has struck a distribution deal with Universal Pictures.

According to Deadline, Eisner has signed a multi-year deal with the studio and his company will fully finance its films. He will start building a staff to develop several projects. Of all the studios to work with, Eisner picked Universal simply because he likes the staff.

It’s a good situation for Universal, guaranteeing that it will have additional films on its schedule without the studio needing to search for funding or supervise the projects. Universal will get a distribution fee and will handle the films’ worldwide releases.

“Michael Eisner has been a powerful creative force behind some of the world’s greatest films and we’re confident that with Tornante, he’ll continue that tradition,” Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chair Donna Langley said in a statement. “Our organization is the perfect partner for Tornante and we look forward to bringing quality commercial films to the global marketplace together.”

“I basically am doing this for one reason -- I like making movies, I like creating new content,” Eisner added, notes The LA Times. “It's not an economic journey, though I hope it’s successful. It’s not a journey to continue to be relevant. I enjoy the process.”

Eisner also said that he hopes to produce more original and unique stories, as the major studios continue to focus on big-budget films and more sequels.

Eisner left Disney in 2005 and later created Tornante. While at Disney, he oversaw the creation of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, hits like Armageddon and The Santa Clause and worldwide animated successes like The Lion King.

Prior to Disney, he was president at Paramount, releasing Terms of Endearment, Saturday Night Fever, the Indiana Jones films and more.

The news comes after CNBC had reported that Eisner was hoping to raise $800 million for new entertainment projects and was working with JP Morgan.

Prior to the deal with Universal, Eisner’s Tornante focused on digital media, developing shows for Hulu and AOL.



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