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Avi Lerner: producer of the year

Avi Lerner: producer of the year

I love Avi Lerner, and he’s probably having his best year ever. The film producer and principal owner behind Nu Image and First Look Studios, he’s making bigger-than-usual films and making bold decisions. This week alone, he had the hottest trailer premiere with The Expendables, and also made the last-minute decision to sell Leaves of Grass to another company only three days before it was scheduled to open in New York theaters. Next week, Avi’s surprisingly good Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is released on DVD and VOD (disclosure: we’re handling that second part), and soon he has the films Solitary Man (starring Michael Douglas and Susan Sarandon) and Stone (starring Rober De Niro and Edward Norton) coming to cinemas. His crime drama, Brooklyn’s Finest, may be stumbling at the box office but it’s still impressive that he put that project together.

Also on his slate, Avi has: the Conan The Barbarian reboot, a remake of The Mechanic (starring Jason Statham), and Trust (starring Clive Owen). What appeals to me so much about Avi Lerner’s choices is that he captures what people (maybe just my demographic) want to see. You wanna return to the Bad Lieutenant universe? Of course you cast Nicolas Cage. You wanna make a movie with Sylvester Stallone? Of course it becomes much cooler when you add Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and Arnold Schwarzenegger to the cast. Avi has the guts to make these movies as pure entertainment because he knows they can make money (most of it on video and foreign). A colleague of mine recently said, “give Avi Lerner the Irving Thalberg Award.” If we can give Roger Corman an honorary Oscar, I don’t see why Avi won’t receive the same thing one day. I’m serious.

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Barry Ballard

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