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According to Variety, Paramount has officially greenlit Mission: Impossible 3, sticking with a July 18 start for the Tom Cruise tentpole.

The go-ahead from studio chief Brad Grey followed several days of intense negotiations to rein in a budget north of $150 million and a gross payout to Cruise of 30%.

While the first two pics passed $1 billion worldwide, Paramount was willing to shelve the third installment under terms that the previous Par administration had agreed to.

The studio and Cruise, whose Cruise/Wagner Prods. has been housed at Par for more than a decade, reached a compromise Tuesday. Though the studio would not comment on the terms, the budget was trimmed by at least 10%, eliminating plans to shoot in Shanghai and several other exotic locations. Cruise also agreed to modifications on his payday.

Before the revamp, Cruise's Impossible 3 deal had the same formula used in the second pic: Cruise and his C/W production company, in which he's partnered with Paula Wagner, controlled 30% of gross, with the understanding that any other gross players would be paid out of his pot.

On M:I2, Cruise paid director John Woo 7.5%. Cruise made as much as $70 million on that film.

His payday on M:I3 could have surpassed that figure since first-time feature director J.J. Abrams (creator of TV's "Alias" and "Lost") is not a gross participant.

Cruise also holds a state-of-the-art deal on DVD. While most gross players get their percentage on 20¢ of every $1 of DVD/video revenue, Cruise takes his share from as much as 65% of the pot.

The mainstream media (including the N.Y. Times and L.A. Times) have carried breathless stories alleging that Cruise's recent actions had endangered the future of the film. But Hollywood deals are about the bottom line, so it's improbable that his behavior -- his exuberance on "Oprah" and establishing a Scientology booth on the set of War of the Worlds -- was ever a consideration in Paramount's decision.

Studios have been willing to bet on Cruise because he's delivered consistently. The original Mission: Impossible grossed $456 million worldwide, and the second took in $546 million; The Last Samurai grossed $457 million worldwide; while Minority Report raked in $358 million.

Cruise has been busy promoting War of the Worlds, directed by Steven Spielberg and co-financed by Par and DreamWorks; it opens June 29.

The Mission 3 deal gives Grey and new studio prexy Gail Berman a tentpole for the next summer, maintains a strong relationship with Cruise/Wagner and helps maintain the revamped image of a Paramount that's talent-friendly.

Grey's predecessor, Sherry Lansing, agreed late last summer to go ahead with War of the Worlds while placing Mission: Impossible 3 on hold until this summer. War of the Worlds, a complex CGI production, was placed on a fast track, with only 10 weeks of pre-production and a 10-week shoot.

The go-ahead on Worlds came a month after Joe Carnahan ankled as Mission 3 director. David Fincher had been attached before Carnahan was tapped in 2003.