March 19th, 2010

light fantastic

Variety: Young lions gain entry to studio dens

Young lions gain entry to studio dens
Warner's deal with Zac Efron is only the latest example
by Justin Kroll

Production deals are getting scarcer and leaner, but even in a tightfisted economic climate some studios are still willing to take a chance on youth -- for the right price.

Warner Bros., notably, last month signed 22-year-old "High School Musical" star Zac Efron to a two-year production deal. The deal comes after Efron's work on "17 Again" where he not only showed off his acting chops but his business savvy to the studio when heavily promoted the pic over several international territories.

And while it's rare for relatively new talent to land such deals, Warners -- perhaps with an eye toward its stable of DC Comics heroes such as the Flash and youth properties like Jonny Quest -- is willing to roll the dice to be in business with a star of proven youth appeal and potential future drawing power.

David Thwaites, co-prexy of production for Phoenix Pictures, says from the studio perspective, pacts like Efron's are all about getting in early on an actor's career, when the costs are lower.

"It would make sense to make these deals now because it wouldn't be as expensive as it would be down the road," Thwaites says. "This would be making a clear investment in the future as well. … Warners is showing that they believe in Zac; with Zac being in the early part of his career, he can still be shaped and molded by them somewhat."

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