Columbia Pictures Lures Top Producer Away From Fox : Entertainment: James Brooks signed a seven-year deal. He will be developing TV and film projects for his new partner.


Columbia Pictures Entertainment announced Sunday that it has signed highly regarded Hollywood writer-producer-director James L. Brooks to a long-term film and television deal, luring him away from Fox Inc.

In the seven-year joint venture agreement, Columbia will finance and distribute films and TV shows created by Brooks’ Gracie Films. Brooks, whose film credits include “Terms of Endearment” and “Broadcast News” and who now produces “The Tracey Ullman Show” and “The Simpsons” for Fox Television, will be provided with offices and administrative support by Columbia.

“We’re really looking to him for his creative expertise and leadership in writing and producing and directing motion pictures and creating and directing television series,” said Alan Levine, president of the Columbia Pictures film group. “We are going to provide all of our resources to Jim as he needs them. What’s ours is his.” Levine declined to discuss the financial terms of the deal.

Levine said the agreement does not specify how many films or TV shows the Brooks-Columbia partnership must produce. Gracie Films has a commitment to create three television series for ABC. Those will be carried out through the joint venture.


“It’s understood that we will do a movie when there is an imperative,” said Brooks, whose career took off as a writer on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” “Basically, they want us to be self-starters, and I hope we can be.”

Columbia’s co-chairmen, Peter Guber and Jon Peters, who were brought in last year after the studio’s takeover by Sony Corp., had supported efforts to lure Brooks to Columbia, Levine said. The studio had begun preliminary negotiations with Brooks before Guber and Peters joined the company in December.

“This culminates months of pursuit and discussion by our full management group,” Guber said in a statement. “Jim has assembled an excellent creative team, and we felt that CPE should be its logical home.”

The partnership, which will begin June 1, is clearly a blow to Fox and its chairman, Barry Diller, who is a longtime friend of Brooks. While at Fox, Brooks produced the films “Big,” “Say Anything” and “The War of the Roses.” His television shows for Fox have been highly successful for the fledgling network.

Brooks says Fox still has an option to produce a movie he is currently writing and he will continue to work on “The Simpsons.”

Brooks, who has been working with Fox for two years without a contract, said talks with the studio failed over what he described as “arcane” details over future television programs.

“I wanted to stay there,” said Brooks, “and it’s strange because we and Fox each wanted to continue but could not find a way to continue.”

Before joining Fox in 1984, Brooks worked with Diller at Paramount, where Brooks developed the Oscar-winning “Terms of Endearment” and the TV show “Taxi.”

“We are friends,” Brooks said of Diller. “It colors the day a little bit. But it just seemed time to move on.”