Business as Usual

George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh will no longer produce as Section Eight. But Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban will still work with both filmmakers at their respective production companies.

Yesterday came word that George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh have decided to shutter their production company, Section Eight, which they began in 2000. Clooney will now run his own operation, Smoke House, with pal and collaborator Grant Heslov, with whom Clooney wrote last year's Oscar-nominated Good Night, and Good Luck. Smoke House has a three-year first-look production and development deal with Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Television.; the former has released many of Section Eight's releases, among them Ocean's Eleven and its sequel and Syriana and smaller co-productions such as last year's The Jacket (with Adrian Brody and Keira Knightley) and 2004's The Criminal (starring John C. Reilly and Maggie Gyllenhaal). Section Eight isn't disappearing, nor are Clooney and Soderbergh severing a relationship: The company will still produce Ocean's Thirteen and The Good German, which are both directed by Soderbergh. But as the Internet Movie Database puts it, "Soderbergh has said he would like to focus more on film-making and less on the film development and producing process."

So what does this mean for Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's relationship with Section Eight? Cuban and Wagner's 2929 Productions company has been involved with many Section Eight productions, including Good Night, and Good Luck and Bubble, Soderbergh's high-definition film that marked the debut of Cuban and Wagner's plan to release movies in theaters, screen them on the HDNet Movies channel and offer them as DVDs on the very same day. In fact, Soderbergh has said, it was Wagner who initially approached the filmmaker about signing the six-picture deal with HDNet Films that would allow the director to make the kind of movies he wanted on relatively low budgets of about $2 million apiece. Wagner tells Unfair Park this morning that, essentially, his and Cuban's relationship with Clooney and Soderbergh remains firmly in place. It's just gotten a little bigger, that's all.

"We will continue to work with both Soderbergh and George at their respective production companies," Wagner says in an e-mail. "Nothing has changed, and this has been in the works by them for well over a year." Besides, 2929 doesn't just work with Clooney and Soderbergh: Among the films Cuban and Wagner have in production are We Own the Night, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert Duvall; In Bloom, from the director of House of Sand and Fog; and Barry Levinson's adaptation of producer Art Linson's autobiography What Just Happened?, in which Robert De Niro is to play Linson and Sean Penn, who starred in the Linson-produced Fast Times at Ridgemont High, is to play himself. --Robert Wilonsky


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