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Nikki Finke is reporting an interesting bit of news: George Clooney and Grant Heslov are ending their production partnership with Warner Bros. and heading across town to set up shop with Sony. Coming just a week after Sony famously shitcanned Steven Soderbergh‘s Moneyball, this is a surprising move. At Warner Bros. Clooney was able to make the less commercial movies he’s favored over the last few years, while Sony isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of artistic aspiration.

The Clooney-WB association goes back many years, and during the heyday of Section Eight (the Clooney/Soderbergh production company) quite a few of his produced pictures went through WB or Warner Independent. Section Eight closed shop in ’06, though it trickled out a few pictures that were still in production at that point, like Michael Clayton.

Now Clooney’s Smokehouse Entertainment (his company with Good Night, and Good Luck writer and Men Who Stare at Goats director Grant Heslov) is working out an exclusive two-year deal with Sony. Smokehouse has six films still in development with WB, but as Finke points out, none seem like the sort of films Sony has been making. (The list is below.) So what happens now? Does Smokehouse work on the same sort of adult, noncommercial projects Clooney and Heslov obviously prefer, or do they spend a couple years making one or two bigger, broader movies for Sony? Even the studio’s current fare that skews slightly off center like Salt and Zombieland hardly seems like the sort of film you’d expect to see from Clooney and Heslov. And what’s the money angle? After Sony dodged Moneyball, I’d love to know what the studio agreed to in order to make this deal work.

I’m interested to see how this goes; I’ve loved seeing Clooney take chances (even with less than ideal stuff like The Good German and Leatherheads) and wouldn’t mind seeing his current sensibilities pushed just slightly towards more financially promising projects for a couple years, if only to secure his ability to make less conventional films in years to come.

Here are the movies that Smokehouse currently has in development with WB:

THE CHALLENGE
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. An adaptation of Jonathan Mahler’s nonfiction book chronicling the historic Supreme Court case in which two lawyers sued the Bush administration on behalf of accused terrorist Salim Hamdan.

OUR BRAND IS CRISIS
A satirical comedy about American spin doctors competing in the same Presidential election in Bolivia. Based on the documentary by Rachel Boynton, with a script by Peter Straughan (MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS).

FARRAGUT NORTH
An adaptation of Beau Willimon’s critically acclaimed play, set during the Iowa primary of a presidential race.

ESCAPE FROM TEHRAN
The true story of how the CIA used a fake movie project to smuggle hostages out of 1979 Tehran. Chris Terrio is writing the screenplay.

THE TOURIST
A contemporary spy thriller about a spy who risks everything to reveal a conspiracy after he’s accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Based on the bestselling book by Olen Steinhauer. Tony Peckham is writing the screenplay.

THE INNOCENT MAN
Based on the bestselling nonfiction book by John Grisham, the true story of murder and injustice in a small town in Oklahoma. Adapted by David Gordon Green.

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