'Timeline': Par Can't Put It Down

Category: Timeline News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: October 25, 1999 | Publication: Variety | Author: Claude Brodesser
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Studio wins bid for Crichton tome

Though it may sound more like an lease agreement for a car than what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind book rights deal, Michael Crichtonís "Timeline" has been sold to Paramount Pictures for "nothing down."

In so doing, Paramount beat out competing bids from Warner Bros. and Disney. The latter had purchased the rights to Crichtonís penultimate novel, "Airframe," for $10 million when the AMG-managed scribe was still repped by CAA.

The groundbreaking deal with Paramount will pay 15% of the first-dollar gross of the picture to Crichton, his representative Artists Management Group and attached producer/director Richard Donner until they receive a $3 million producing fee. After that milestone, the payoff becomes tied to the performance of the pic at the B.O. on a sliding scale.

The catch? Paramount agrees keep the pic "in active development," but should Par brass opt not to make the pic, an automatic $1 million deal termination fee will apply.

Less clear is how much of Donnerís directing tab will be covered by the gross participation deal, or whether it will be covered at all. Donner (the four "Lethal Weapon" pics, "Conspiracy Theory") has seen his fee go as high as $10 million against 10% of the gross of previous pics.

Certainly, previous Crichton novels sold in matters of hours or days, and not, in the case of the new rights sale, a month to the day the book was first shopped around. National media pundits piled on to pronounce the Crichton tome DOA at all major studios, including Paramount. An online gossip site wrote that the rights sale had "turned out to be a recipe for disaster for all involved."

Novel, due out in mid-November from Knopf, focuses on an amusement park tycoon who becomes trapped after traveling back to 14th century France.

"Timeline" is expected to begin production as early as next summer, though itís not clear if Crichton himself will pen the screenplay.

Paramount execs could not be reached for comment late Friday.

(Vanessa Torres contributed to this report.)