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Cruise production company finds new financing

Signs a two-year deal with Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tom Cruise’s production company, which broke ties with Paramount Pictures last week in an unusually public dispute, has signed a two-year financing deal with an investment partnership headed by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

The deal between Cruise/Wagner Productions and First & Goal LLC covers overhead and development, which will allow Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner to run their company and make deals to produce films, some conceivably starring Cruise.

Financial terms were not disclosed for the pact, which has an option to renew for a longer term.

Cruise/Wagner still must find someone to finance production of those films and a company to distribute them.

Previously, Paramount had the first right to finance and distribute Cruise/Wagner films. In exchange, Paramount paid the producers as much as $10 million per year for salaries, expenses and discretionary spending. Paramount had offered a much lower amount to renew the deal, closer to $2 million annually, before talks broke off.

First & Goal was set up specifically to invest in Cruise/Wagner. Snyder also heads an investment partnership that controls amusement park operator Six Flags Inc., among other companies. Former ESPN executive Mark Shapiro, who heads Six Flags, will oversee the investment in Cruise/Wagner, the companies said Monday.

“This gives us the opportunity to work with all the studios and broadens our base,” Wagner said Monday.

Long-simmering tensions between Cruise/Wagner and Paramount Pictures erupted last week with a public spanking of Cruise by Sumner Redstone, chairman of Paramount parent Viacom Inc.

Redstone broke ties with Cruise through an interview in the Wall Street Journal, saying the actor’s public behavior, including jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s couch, and his aggressive defense of Scientology, alienated moviegoers and cost Paramount money at the box office.

Redstone claimed Cruise’s antics cost Paramount between $100 million and $150 million in ticket sales for the actor’s latest film, “Mission: Impossible III.”

Wagner slammed Redstone last week, calling his comments “surprising” and unbusinesslike. She said last week it was their decision not to renew their 14-year partnership with Paramount, choosing instead to follow a long-standing desire to make smaller, character-driven films on their own.

On Monday, Shapiro brushed off any discussion of Cruise’s behavior or Redstone’s comments, preferring to focus on Cruise’s proven box-office appeal.

“We’re entrepreneurs and we like exploring new opportunities that present an excellent chance for success and innovation,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro and Wagner emphasized that Cruise’s last two films for Paramount, “War of the Worlds,” and “Mission: Impossible III,” grossed about $1 billion worldwide combined.

“We believe that Cruise and Wagner are a terrific investment,” Shapiro said. “The track record speaks for itself.”

The deal was brokered by talent agency CAA, which represents Cruise. Discussions with First & Goal began earlier this month, the companies said.

Last week, Wagner said her company had secured financing from two hedge funds to produce films. She declined to comment on those arrangements Monday.

Monday’s deal does continues to allow Cruise to star in films produced or distributed by any studio, the same terms he had under his deal with Paramount.