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Deals, Deals & More Sundance Deals…

By | Monday January 22, 2007 @ 5:45pm PST
  • Waitress sold to Peter Rice’s Fox Searchlight. Studio puts price at $4 million worldwide (but I heard $5 mil). Starring Keri Russell, written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelley. Searchlight outbid Miramax, Focus among other distribs for this sweet pic.
  • Fox Searchlight also shelled out $4 mil for worldwide rights to Manhattan-set modern horror story about a well-to-do family from George Ratliff, Joshua.
  • Clubland, called a dramedy, sold to Warner Independent Pictures president for $4 mil for U.S., Canadian, UK and German rights. Stars Brenda Blethyn, directed by Cherie Nowlan and written by Keith Thompson.
  • In the Shadow of the Moon documentary by David Sington sold to ThinkFilm which edged out WIP and others with bid for $2 mil. That includes all North American rights except TV. Doc uses rarely seen NASA footage from Apollo mission and is said to have James Cameron-like cool special effects.
  • Magnolia Pictures coughed up mid-six figures for documentary Crazy Love from PR bigwig Dan Klores (photo, right) for all rights excluding TV. Pic is about a famous acid-throwing incident involving a woman and a spurned lover who then married when he was released from prison. The couple even made a Sundance appearance.
  • There was a rumor that the very violent Weapons from Adam Bhala Lough about a gun-toting youth culture and its brutal senseless killings sold to Sony. But maybe not.
  • Teen horror Teeth, marking Mitchell Lichtenstein’s coming-of-age feature debut about a virgin with labial incisors, sold to Lionsgate and The Weinstein Co. on Sunday for $1 mil.
  • My Kid Could Paint That, a child prodigy documentary, sold
  • Read More »

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    Want Superbowl XLI Tickets? Ask CAA*

    By | Sunday January 21, 2007 @ 8:07pm PST

    *Since CAA’s IMG-acquired sports agents Tom Condon and Ken Kremer rep Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback who’s headed to Miami to play the Chicago Bears. caalogo-thumb.jpgIt was the largest comeback in AFC and NFC championship game history. In terms of endorsement moolah, most of his current deals — including DirecTV, Reebock, Gatorade, MasterCard, Sprint and Sony — pre-date his agents’ April arrival at CAA. So those commissions go to IMG, I’m told. Even though his inability to win “the big games” has haunted his career – he’s been compared to tennis’ Anna Kournikova – his likeability quotient has made him a darling on Madison Avenue. That’s why Manning ranked No. 1 as the most marketable player in today’s NFL, according to a recent survey of 56 sports marketing and media execs conducted by Sports Business Daily. Since the major diss on Peyton is his choker label and lack of a Super Bowl title, if he wins on February 4th, his marketability goes sky-high. Unless he’s over-exposed by then.

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    Sundance Suckering Still The Story

    By | Sunday January 21, 2007 @ 5:11pm PST

    sundancefilmfestival.JPGMy old lalogo.gif column, The Sundance Suckers, is as true today as when I wrote it back in 2003. I don’t get all aflutter at the mere mention of the Park City film festival like some media. That’s because I’m much too cynical. If you accept the premise that the film business is the folly of the filthy rich, then the independent-film business must seem the folly of the stupidly rich. Lore has it that, if a sucker is born every minute, all eventually land in Hollywood — with a detour to Park City during January alongside stars and wannabes (hard to tell them apart beneath those real and fake shearlings). As for financing independent films, it’s a case study in pigeon finding. And, in Sundance, birds of a different feather flock together, but they’re still birdbrains for putting money into the lame-ass indieprod biz which coughs up a financial hit maybe five times a year. The rest is money-losing art and vanity.

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    H’wood Will Never Forget Art Buchwald

    By | Sunday January 21, 2007 @ 4:47pm PST

    Art Buchwald, who passed away Wednesday, will always be remembered in Hollywood because the  columnist / writer helped establish the parameters of what “net” means in the movie business. “Hey, buddy, have you found any more money in Paramount’s books?” the comedian inquired with his trademark impish grin when his celebrated Los Angeles trial attorney in that infamous (and successful) Coming to America case saw him for the last time in a Washington D.C. hospice. O’Donnell describes his reunion with client Buchwald in an upcoming issue of Daily Variety: ”I had rushed down to Washington, D.C. from Wilmington, Delaware, where I was trying a case, because Art had checked himself into the hospice to die—liked he had lived his life—on his own terms,” O’Donnell writes. From 1988-1995, O’Donnell repped Buchwald in that lawsuit against Paramount over the Eddie Murphy comedy. A book came out of the case: Fatal Subtraction: How Hollywood Really Does Business.

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    Link to LA Weekly’s Daily Sundance Blog

    By | Saturday January 20, 2007 @ 12:25pm PST

    I highly recommend the Sundance blog being kept by my LA Weekly colleague, film critic Scott Foundas. Check out his opener stories, and stay tuned for his daily insights. As for me being there, sorry, but I don’t do cold. Unless I’m paid to.

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    Biz Fallout From Roy E. Disney’s Divorce?

    By | Saturday January 20, 2007 @ 12:05pm PST

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    Huge surprise (even to his publicist) about Roy E. Disney, who looks so eeerily like his late uncle Walt, divorcing his wife of 51 years, Patricia. And so sad, like Mickey and Minnie splitting up. All I can say is that, when he worked at the Mouse House, Roy made time to return home every day to have lunch with Patty. (Maybe my pal Hollywood Oscar hostess Dani Janssen’s musing about marriage is correct: she says, “I marry them for better or worse, but never for lunch.”) TMZ has the court papers filed yesterday. The only reason I posted this is because of the possible business consequences: I imagine a lot of Disney Co. stock/cash will change hands when Roy’s $1.2 billion-estimated fortune is divvied up — after all, they were wed just after Disneyland opened –  so it looks like his stake in the corporation could be dramatically reduced. Then again, Roy reportedly sold off chunks of shares in Disney Co. in protest while he and his adviser Stanley Gold were fighting with FrankenEisner. Be sure to check out my LA Weekly columns from that battle about Roy, the roiling in the rathole, the result, and the mouse droppings left behind.

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    Post Golden Globes: #1 ‘Stomp’-ing B.O.; ‘Queen’, ‘Babel’, ‘Dreamgirls’ All Helped

    By | Saturday January 20, 2007 @ 10:12am PST

    goldenglobesbrad.jpgSUNDAY AM ANALYSIS: The Golden Globes broadcast last Monday did exactly what it’s supposed to: help the winning films. While the Hollywood Foreign Press Association behind the show is meaningless, the awards are a powerful marketing tool for the studios. So Dreamworks / Paramount’s Dreamgirls went up 4% after six weeks at the box office, and should pass $100 mil in future weeks, which is exceptional box office for a musical. Also enjoying a small but sassy Golden Globes bounce is Paramount’s Brad Pitt starrer Babel, up 451% after 13 weeks (in 889 theaters, new cume $23.6 mil) and Miramax’s Helen Mirren showcase The Queen, jumped into the Top 10 by expanding its post-Globes release to 1,586 venues after 17 weeks in release (up 213%, new cume $35.6 mil). Also up 310% was Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima, from Dreamworks / Warner Bros after expanding into 360 theaters five weeks in release for a new cume of $2.5 mil. Meanwhile, Screen Gems/Sony’s Stomp The Yard continues to step on rivals as No. 1 its second week out with a new cume of $41.5 million. The Hitcher from Focus Features opened weakly in 4th place. And Picturehouse’s wondrous Pan’s Labyrinth, which is Oscar-touted, upped its theater count to 609 theaters and popped up #7 in its 4th week of release.

    goldenglobesmirren.jpgStomp, playing in 2,051 venues, made $3.7 … Read More »

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    Ross Johnson Exits Freelance For Flackery

    By | Friday January 19, 2007 @ 8:18pm PST

    I’m busy on a project, but I thought I’d pass along this in the meantime: Los Angeles freelance journalist Ross Johnson who now and then covered the Hollywood beat has gone to work for Sitrick & Co. A while ago, he used to work for the Los Angeles Daily Journal legal newspaper, and in recent years he’s done the occasional piece for The New York Times. Last March, he started a blog about the Pellicano scandal and posted intermittently. From what I can tell, his final freelance article, about publisher Wendy McCaw, was for LA Weekly before moving into flackery. In response to my query, Johnson replied by email: “As usual, Nikki’s sources are damn good!” (Hmm, is he suddenly trying to flatter me because he’s now in PR? As if that’s gonna work… )

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    Burkle/Broad: Details of ‘Da Boys’ Bid: They Now Want TV Group + Newspapers; Their Meetings With Both Baquet & Hiller

    By | Thursday January 18, 2007 @ 1:07am PST

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    Wow, was the Tribune Co. punked, or what? That was some lousy auction since none of the bidders offered to pay a premium to swallow the company whole. Broad/Burkle have put in a bid, and so have the Chandler family, who own 20% already. (Supposedly, a third bidder weighed in: a private equity firm just interested in the TV group.) But, first, here’s some behind-the-scenes info. If Los Angeles billionaire bidding pair, Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, are successful in their Trib bid, they now want to keep the TV group as well as the newspapers. (After all, Frank Biondi, the ex-Viacom and ex-Universal mogul, is advising them, and he knows the long-term value of those 23 stations, plus cable channel Superstation WGN, etc.) The pair already have sat down and had a heart-to-heart with the LAT‘s current publisher David Hiller. “The meeting went very well. They found him impressive,” a source told me. broadburkle.jpgMeanwhile, the LAT editor whom Hiller fired, Dean Baquet, is indeed waiting to see who buys the paper. Yes, The New York Times wants him, which executive editor Bill Keller recently confirmed. But so, apparently, do Broad and Burkle who submitted their joint bid just a day after Baquet was forced out of his job and have been talking with him since. ”Everybody liked … Read More »

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    Finke/LA Weekly: Brad’s Boorish Globes

    By | Wednesday January 17, 2007 @ 5:18pm PST

    My latest lalogo.gif column, Brad Grey’s Performance Less Than Golden, examines what people were saying about the Paramount honcho’s behavior at the Globes, and in recent weeks during this awards season, involving Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, table-hopping, the press room, the Dreamgirls‘ premieres, Stacey Snider, the late Steve Ross, and more. As I point out, “it may all sound terribly petty, and make no mistake about it — it is. But all this b.s. is what Hollywood uses as the yardstick to measure the character of its moguls.” Here’s how my column begins:

    bradgoldenglobes.JPG“In front of the cameras, this week’s Golden Globes awards broadcast was its usual sycophantic, self-congratulatory schmooze fest. But behind the scenes at the dinner tables, as the Hollywood insiders cut into their free-range chicken, Alaskan cod and marinated tenderloin of beef in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, the sharpest knives were being reserved for one of their own, studio boss Brad Grey. The Paramount Motion Picture Group chairman/CEO should have emerged the object of envy when not one but two of his studio’s films, DreamWorks’ Dreamgirls and Vantage’s Babel, won. But instead, Grey was an object of scorn. It started with the place cards on the two Paramount tables, both positioned prominently, one populated by Dreamgirls’ talent and executives, the other by Babel’s. Place cards? No one could remember a time when … Read More »

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    The Horror, The Horror, Of CAA’s 424

    By | Wednesday January 17, 2007 @ 10:16am PST

    caalogo-thumb.jpgNow that CAA has finally made the move to its new office digs at 2000 Avenue Of the Stars — known as the “hole” building — in Century City (sorry, but I don’t think I can be funnier about this than my pal Mark Lisanti at Defamer), something horrible has happened: CAA has lost its “310″ area code. Its new phone number is (424)288-2000. What the fuck is “424″? (Actually, I looked it up on the Internet, and Wikipedia says it’s the new area code overlay for the Westside of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, and the first non-mobile area code overlay in Southern California, and became effective on August 26th. Sucks.) You mean to tell me that, with all its supposed power and influence, CAA couldn’t convince anyone to let it keep its “310″ area code? Who’s gonna remember “424″? Turns out (310)288-2000 is a fax line somewhere. But fear not: for at least a while, CAA is still answering the phone at its old (310)288-4545 number. So stop screaming at your assistant.

    caa-bldg.jpgAlso, CAA will still be stuck paying rent to Mike Ovitz/Ron Meyer/Bill Haber on its old I.M Pei digs for some time to come. I hear Ovitz really, really, wants to eventually move back into the building that was his architectural pride and joy in … Read More »

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    Who Is America’s Favorite Movie Star?

    By | Tuesday January 16, 2007 @ 2:20pm PST

    denzeltom.jpgWho woulda thought? Denzel Washington was the No. 1 movie star for 2006, (after dropping off the Top 10 list in 2005), according to the annual Harris Poll which I’ve managed to put my hands on today. The annual survey of 1,147 U.S. adults contacted nationwide online between December 12-18th asked “Who is your favorite movie star” and received unprompted responses. It showed Tom Hanks, despite the success of his The Da Vinci Code, dropped a notch after topping the list three times. The late John Wayne maintained his third-place position from the previous year. And Clint Eastwood rose two spots to No. 4. Will Smith made his debut on the list in 5th place, explaining the success of his The Pursuit of Happyness. He tied with Julia Roberts, who sat out 2006 movie-wise. Pirates of the Caribbean franchise star Johnny Depp was 7th. But the real shocker was that, despite his drunken anti-Semitic rantings this summer, Mel Gibson still managed to tie with Depp for 7th. George Clooney fell a notch to only 9th place. And Harrison Ford, set for another Indiana Jones go-round, was down at #10 after placing third last year. Both Sean Connery and Sandra Bullock didn’t make the Top 10 this year.

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    Pellicano To Re-Marry Kat & Re-Hire Attys

    By | Tuesday January 16, 2007 @ 12:39pm PST

    Make up your mind, Anthony. First, he and Kat Pellicano divorced in 2002 after an 18-year marriage. Now I’m told they’re going to re-marry. When I phoned Kat today, she declined at this time to confirm or deny my report of her pending nuptials. If you recall, Kat Pellicano mixed it up with Vanity Fair over John Connolly’s use of her interviews in his coverage of the Pellicano scandal back in April. She was also looking for a publisher for a book about her ex-husband. The FBI leaned on her to talk about Pellicano’s business and surveillance methods, but she refused. She has been quite vocal with her opposition to Anthony remaining in prison pending his trial (scheduled to begin in August). Meanwhile, Kat, with Pellicano’s other family and friends, essentially staged an “intervention” where they successfully impressed upon the one-time Hollywood P.I. the need for a skilled lawyer at trial, reports Drew Combs in the Los Angeles Daily Journal. So, a week after receiving permission to represent himself against charges of racketeering and wiretapping, Pellicano reversed course and will allow trained counsel to argue his case, the legal newspaper says. San Francisco-based Steven Gruel returns to the defense team and will be joined by Los Angeles attorney Michael H. Artan, according to the report. Both Gruel and Artan are offering their services pro bono. We already know Gruel, but newcomer Artan is described as ”thorough, tenacious and liked by juries. He is everything you want as a criminal defense attorney.”

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    CAA Vultures Circling Basketball Stars

    By | Tuesday January 16, 2007 @ 9:57am PST

    caalogo-thumb.jpgBack in April, I wrote extensively about the vultures at CAA circling the sports management business by hiring some top sports agents repping football and baseball stars. And I also reported how this was CAA prez Richard Lovett’s idea because of his hero worship of the late Mark McCormack and his “100% market share” model for IMG, the famed sports management company. Today, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that “CAA is expected to finalize a deal to acquire the sports representation business of Leon Rose, an attorney and agent now working for a Philadelphia area law firm.” Rose reps NBA superstars LeBron James and Allen Iverson, among others. “The expected pact with Mr. Rose would significantly deepen CAA’s bench of heavy-hitting sports agents and establish a solid foothold in yet another league sport, basketball,” the paper gushes. lebronjames.jpgUnlike the 10% Hollywood commissions, pro sports players unions typically cap agent fees at 5% or less, so money is made on lucrative endorsement contracts — but they’re hard to come by. Look at CAA’s representation so far of USC quarterback star Matt Leinart after they stole him from Leigh Steinberg, the famed Newport Beach sports agent. It’s been a disaster, in many respects. Not only did Leinart only go double-digit in the draft and left millions of dollars off the table by not signing with a high-profile … Read More »

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    Golden Globes: My Running Awards Blog

    By | Monday January 15, 2007 @ 6:10pm PST

    At the 64th annual Golden Globes. First came the surprise arrival of Jack Nicholson, who’d been ill. Then the awards show began and, right now….

    sacha.jpgmurphyglobe.jpg

    …there’s the start of a Dreamgirls near-sweep of the Picture, Musical or Comedy category with both Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy winning Supporting Actor/Actress. And the pic’s producer David Geffen — who took the show from Broadway 25 years later to Hollywood– is getting more thanks than God or mothers.

    Already there’s been a glitch: musician Prince missed his moment to accept for Best Song (“Song Of The Heart” from Happy Feet), so Justin Timberlake did it on his behalf. (Later, Hugh Grant explained that Prince had been stuck in traffic, and then asked him to take a bow – no doubt, because the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBC didn’t want to miss having that celeb face time.)

    meryl2.jpgMeryl Streep of The Devil Wears Prada won her Actress, Musical or Comedy category. Best Animated Film was Cars. Peter Morgan won Movie Screenplay for Disney/Miramax’s The Queen, and reminded in his speech that “You have to believe that public protests count for something. What are we going to have to do it when it’s really important.” Jamie Foxx introduced the Dreamgirls clip by noting the the movie was “only in 800 theaters… you do the math.” Indeed, it was a controversial … Read More »

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    Jack Nicholson Shows For Golden Globes

    By | Monday January 15, 2007 @ 5:51pm PST

    jack.jpgJack Nicholson showed up at the Golden Globes (he’s a 7-time Globe winner, and was nominated again tonight but did not win) despite reports that he’s been sick for months. But his pals “hope the worst is over”, I’m told, and he’s shooting the Bucket List with Morgan Freeman, so he must be all better. Still, he was photographed standing alongside his daughter Lorraine, Miss Golden Globes 2007 so he must be much better. The 69-year-old Nicholson has been very tight-lipped about his illness, even to his friends. Back in mid-September, a news report had him checked into a Los Angeles-area hospital with “an infection.” Since then, he’s cancelled many personal dates and publicity events. He’s nominated by this year’s Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, as well touted as an Oscar nominee, for his role as the gangland paterfamilias in Marty Scorsese’s The Departed. Tonight, at the Golden Globes, he has the best seat at the dinner and is next to Warren Beatty, who receives the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Cecil B. DeMille Award at NBC’s awards show. But Tom Hanks, not best friend Jack, is slated to present the Globe to Warren.

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    Will Broad/Burkle Bid For Tribune Co? Well, Mogul Frank Biondi Is Advising

    By | Monday January 15, 2007 @ 5:18pm PST

    No one still knows anything about the future of the Los Angeles Times. But Hollywood will remember Frank Biondi, the ex-Viacom and Universal mogul who it turns out is helping advise the Broad / Burkle duo. (Biondi’s Big Media bonafides also aided Carl Icahn in his attack on Time Warner.) With Tribune Co. bids due Wednesday and the auction set to end this week, The New York Times publishes tomorrow this front-page piece: ”They seem an unlikely pair: Eli Broad, the straight-talking billionaire whose expansive art collection and philanthropic efforts to revitalize downtown Los Angeles have put him happily in the public eye, and Ron Burkle, the supermarket mogul, Democratic fundraiser and FOB (friend of Bill Clinton) who tries — usually unsuccessfully — to avoid publicity. This week, the two men will decide whether their unlikely partnership should go forward with a serious bid for the Tribune Co.” There’s also a business section story. Says the NYT: “You could make the case that trying to sell now is like selling condos in Miami,” said a Tribune investor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to criticize management. “Nobody wants to bid now because everyone thinks the price will be lower next week.” Broad/Burkle only would bid to return Chicago puppet Los Angeles Times to local ownership. And what about David Geffen’s chances after offering $2 bil just for the LA Times? The NYT bears out my own reporting that “several reporters … Read More »

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    Yes, Network Chiefs Have Favorite Pilots

    By | Monday January 15, 2007 @ 4:47pm PST

    tellem1.jpgNetwork suits may say they love all their shows, but they really do have favorites. I’m told that CBS Paramount Network TV Entertainment Group prez Nancy Tellem’s pet pilot is the one about 1970s suburban swingers. Produced by CBS Paramount Network TV, it fits into the edgier creative direction Tellem wants to take this development season. Swingtown is from writer / executive producer Mike Kelley (The O.C.) and will be directed by Six Feet Under exec producer mcpherson.jpgAlan Poul: it “explores the concept of open marriages and couple-swapping practiced by suburban couples in ’70s.” And I’m told that ABC Entertainment prez Steve McPherson is fondest of what people in the industry are calling his Desperate Husbands — an hour-long corporate soap about CEOs gone wild. This untitled project gone to pilot follows the boardroom and bedroom antics of four dysfunctional but lovable high-powered execs. John Feldman (co-creator, Reunion) is writing and exec producing for Warner Bros TV.

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    ABC Ent Prez McPherson ‘Lost’ His Lunch

    By | Monday January 15, 2007 @ 4:11pm PST

    lost.jpgI love that ABC Entertainment prez Steve McPherson suffered major heartburn when the Lost executive producers announced an end game to the TV Critics Association (TCA). Saying that X Files is their “cautionary tale” of a series that ran too long, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof took on McPherson by announcing a pull-the-plug date of four seasons plus one mini-season. In the hallway after the panel, Lindelof said he’d cap the series at 100 episodes: since it’s now in its 3rd season, that’s 5 total. But is this just a negotiating ploy? The show’s actor contracts continue through the 7th season. There’s been a lot of fan anger this year because Lost keeps coming, and going, and coming, and going, on the ABC schedule. Apparently, McPherson was having lunch when he first heard about the producers’ comments — and admitted he didn’t know they were coming.

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