Movie deal gives author unusual pay: Crichton could get 15% of gross receipts

Category: Timeline News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: October 27, 1999 | Publication: The Ottawa Citizen | Author: Bob Tourtellotte
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LOS ANGELES -- Best-selling author Michael Crichton, the creator of Jurassic Park, has signed a groundbreaking deal for film rights to his new novel Timeline, forgoing a multimillion dollar upfront fee from the studio, a source close to the deal said yesterday.

Crichton will receive as much as 15 per cent of the gross receipts from the movie that will be made by Paramount Pictures, the source said.

Also attached to the film are the husband-wife team of director Richard Donner and producer Lauren Shuler- Donner, who will take their fee from the gross receipts as well. The deal was put together by Hollywood superagent Michael Ovitz and his upstart company Artists Management Group (AMG). While top actors, actresses and directors often forgo their fees for a cut of gross ticket sales, people associated with the agreement said they do not know of a writer who's opted for participation over an outright sale.

''It's not that Michael didn't want to receive any upfront money, but that he wanted to get the movie made,'' said one source who asked to remain anonymous.

The source said the movie, which follows the book's story about time travel, would normally carry a $100 million budget, but with the three moviemakers taking a percentage of ticket sales, the budget could be cut by as much as half.

The source declined to give an exact percentage that Donner and Shuler-Donner would receive.

Timeline tells of an architect who travels back to 14th-century France to learn the history of a piece of real estate he acquired. While back in time, he gets caught in the middle of a war.

For Paramount, the deal makes the movie-making less risky because it removes the huge upfront fees the studio has to pay to get the A-list talent -- which could be lost if the movie flops.

The downside is that it reduces the potential profit from a hit movie, and Crichton has penned many $100-million-plus blockbusters, for example Twister. He is also responsible for creating television's highest-rated show, ER on NBC.

Donner, too, is one of Hollywood's most sought-after talents having directed the Lethal Weapon hits starring Mel Gibson, among others.

Crichton last sold movie rights to his novel Airframe for $8-$10 million U.S., and Donner's fee has risen to more than $10 million, plus a percentage of box office receipts, according to published reports.

Under the deal for Timeline, which was struck Friday, the percentage for Crichton, Donner and Shuler-Donner decrease on a sliding scale as the film's revenues increase.

Knopf is to publish Timeline in November.

Copyright 1999 Southam Inc.