It seems like an unlikely pairing on the surface, a hot studio like Miramax partnering up with a stone-cold one like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Sure, MGM's film division, which has missed wildly of late (don't see The Mod Squad or At First Sight), could definitely use some of Miramax's mojo (the studio is still fresh off the multi-Oscar-winning success of Shakespeare in Love).

But the Disney-owned Miramax, perhaps Hollywood's savviest producer and marketer of small films, gets something, too--access to MGM's vast film library to search for projects. That includes 5,000-plus movies and scores of never-produced scripts.

Under the agreement announced late Tuesday, the studios will work together on as many as eight modestly budgeted films (modest being around $25 million), with Miramax handling the development and production of two or three of the movies a year.

They'll split the domestic and international distribution hassles--as well as all costs.

"My sense is MGM is setting out to dramatically enhance its production activity," Industry analyst Jeffrey Logsdon tells the Los Angeles Times. "And the easiest way is through joint ventures."

To start things off, each studio will contribute one film under the deal. MGM's offering will be its adaptation of Charles Frazier's best-selling Civil War novel, Cold Mountain. Doing the adapting and directing will be Anthony Minghella, an Oscar-winner for Miramax's The English Patient.

Miramax will contribute a remake of the 1950 Jimmy Stewart film Harvey, possibly with Tom Hanks in the lead role as the only guy who can see the movie's namesake huge talking rabbit.

The deal was helped by the cozy relationship between Miramax co-heads, brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and MGM's new vice president, Chris McGurk.

McGurk was the head finance guy at Disney when it bought Miramax, and he was also a top suit at Universal when that studio partnered up with Miramax on Shakespeare in Love.

MGM, which is largely under the control of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, will soon release two Pierce Brosnan flicks: a remake of The Thomas Crown Affair and the James Bond installment The World Is Not Enough.

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