Joel Silver Strikes 5-Year Deal With Universal, Opens With Liam Neeson Thriller

Universal will distribute two to three films a year as part of the five-year deal, but the studio will not finance them 

Hollywood megaproducer Joel Silver has made a 12-film deal with Universal Pictures that enlists the studio as Silver’s new distribution partner, the studio announced on Thursday.

It is not a production deal, so Universal is not on the hook to finance any of the movies. They are relying on Silver to go out and find financing and then bring the movies to Universal for the studio to turn a profit. The studio does have the option of financing projects in various ways.

That means Silver, who has been based on the Warner Bros. lot, will not set up shop on Universal turf. Though still on the Warners lot, he will be moving his whole team to temporary offices in western Los Angeles before establishing a new headquarters.

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Silver has worked with Warner Bros. for the past 25 years, but his production deal with the studio lapses at the end of 2012 and it will not be renewed.

The Universal deal is with Silver Pictures Entertainment, a new division of his Silver Pictures production company.

Also Read: Warner Bros., Joel Silver Part Ways After 25 Years (Updated)

Silver felt Universal's marketing and distribution teams would be a perfect match for his films, and he also has a longstanding relationship with Universal President and COO Ron Meyer. 

The five-year deal calls for two to three projects a year, the first of which will be an action thriller called “Non-Stop.” Starring Liam Neeson, it reunites the Oscar-nominated actor with “Unknown” director Jaume Collet-Serra. Silver produced “Unknown,” as well as Collet-Serra’s “Orphan” and “House of Wax.”

“Unknown” was made under the Dark Castle Entertainment banner. That division of Silver’s company still has a deal with Warner Bros through 2013.

That is all that remains of a lengthy and rewarding partnership.

The producer of iconic franchises like “Lethal Weapon” and “The Matrix” founded Silver Pictures in 1985. His specialty has long been the big-budget action flick, a trend that continued with his most recent franchise, the two Robert Downey Jr.-starring “Sherlock Holmes” movies.

However, the brash and bombastic Silver has also racked up a string of recent flops, including “Whiteout,” “Ninja Assassin” and “Speed Racer.” The latter was one of the larger misses in the Warner Bros. history.

Even though a few of Silver’s most recent projects have been hits – “Project X,” “Unknown” and the “Holmes” movies – that was not enough to rescue his deal with the studio. It didn’t help matters that Silver clashed with studio chief Jeff Robinov, or that the age of the super producer is fading.

After word of the end of his relationship with Warner Bros. leaked in late April, there was a great deal of speculation about where he would go.

At the time, the parties would not comment but his attorney Bert Fields hinted Silver would soon make a deal with another studio.

"His contract will be up and creative people change studios all the time," Fields told TheWrap at the time. "Joel has had many good friends at Warner Bros. and has made some outstanding films there. Now its time to move on."

Deadline Hollywood first reported the news of Silver's deal with Universal.