Wow, those people at Fox sure know how to market a movie. First, Homer Simpson opened American Idol back in May to tease the pic. Now he introduced The Tonight Show this evening before the film’s July 27th release — and the toon did an NBC-bashing, GE-mugging monologue to boot. In the animated intro, Homer quipped that NBC stands for “Never Been Crappier”. Homer also said that “GE makes a lot of other bad things. According to my daughter Lisa, GE fills the air with more dangerous hydrocarbon emissions than Rosie O’Donnell”. After a few jokes, the toon was led out by security guards while a Simpsonized Leno watched. Later, the real Jay took over the show and said, “I want to thank Homer Simpson for filling in. We had Lindsay Lohan but turns out she was already booked.” Then Rob Schneider came out as Lindsay Lohan, with blond wig and ankle bracelet, and stayed in character as Leno’s first guest.
When news warrants, I’ve been trying to file brief updates on the bumpy road that the Murdoch-Dow Jones deal is traveling. Here’s the latest: One Bancroft family member who is a member of the Dow Jones board and staunchly opposes the Murdoch deal, Christopher Bancroft, is wearing a blue fishing cap with the words “Bite Me” embroidered on it. Another key family member who had been ambivalent about the sale and seen as a swing vote inside the clan is now definitely opposed, the Wall Street Journal reports. The family gathered at a Boston Hilton hotel on Monday to official hear Murdoch’s bid, hear a series of presentations and then to deliberate in private. Now Reuters is reporting that the clan doesn’t expect to decide the matter until early next week.
One day, when he’s sick of making documentaries, Sicko filmmaker Michael Moore should start a powerhouse marketing company. Because no one does it better than he does. He’s picked public fights with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, accused the New York Stock Exchange of banning a CNBC interview with him, and milked that federal probe of his trip to Cuba for the movie. And those are just the controversies I remember. As well he should, and all documentary filmmakers should emulate his guerrilla marketing acumen if they want their pics to be seen. Here’s his latest publicity stunt to keep people talking about The Weinstein Co pic, which should pass his Oscar winning Bowling for Columbine in gross domestic receipts in the next few weeks. Moore was appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews yesterday when the filmmaker proposed this:
MATTHEWS: There’s probably a half-million people watching right now at different times today. And I want you to give them advice.
MATTHEWS: If they`re right now having a problem with their HMO, and they’re not getting treatment for something they think is important, is it best to call their congressperson? What do they do to make sure the kind of thing that happened in your movie happens to them?
MOORE: Actually, what I tell people is, if you’re having trouble right now with your insurance company, and they won’t pay for something, go ahead and use my name, just say…
MATTHEWS: Say Michael Moore
… Read More »
I’ve just been emailed the column that Los Angeles Times Hollywood writer Patrick Goldstein wrote for today. But it didn’t run. The paper killed it — actually John Montorio, newly promoted from associate editor to managing editor for features, axed it — then offered the lame excuse that Goldstein was on assignment.
UPDATE: Patrick Goldstein just gave me a statement: “Obviously no columnist is ever very happy about having their column killed. But I’m much more disappointed that the column that was killed was full of ideas about how to help my newspaper. I love working at a newspaper, especially this one, but if we don’t start embracing change in a big way, there won’t be great jobs like the one I have much longer. I’m constantly writing about how all the studios and big media companies are radically reinventing themselves. It’s time we did the same.”
Also, the Times announced today that Montorio was named managing editor for features while John Arthur, presently the paper’s page one editor, will be managing editor for news. I don’t get it: didn’t anyone inform Times editor in chief Jim O’Shea that Montorio is really hated by almost all the Calendar staff? Or is that a prerequisite?
Goldstein argued in favor of the Times aping that British newspaper stunt distributing free Prince Planet Earth CDs and start partnering with other rock stars to give away music. “It’s time we embraced change instead of always worrying … Read More »
A Christian ministry started by a former associate producer of Headliners and Legends with Matt Lauer is calling for people to pray for celebrities instead of boycotting their movies. According to the story about the Hollywood Prayer Network in today’s Orange County Register, members send messages to God for Tom Cruise, Paris Hilton, Seinfeld writer Larry David, actress Drew Barrymore, and, “considering their recent troubles,” Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie. What’s most surprising is that this was started by Karen Covell, a producer of documentaries and TV specials. The network gives away stickers to put on remote controls to remind members “to pray for the people involved in the shows on your screen”. There are also red rubber wristbands embossed with the Hollywood zip code, 90028, to remind members to pray for “America’s culture shapers.” Aw, jeez.
Now that MTV has ruined Laguna Beach, it’s moving up the coast to Newport Harbor for its 4th season of the rich teen reality show called, appropriately, Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County. ”New cast, new beach, new drama,” is the execrable title of the series deputing August 15th at 10:30 p.m. Makes sense since not only was Season 3 of LB the most boring yet but there have been lots of news reports about how the town and people really hated MTV and the show filming in their midst. So Tony DiSanto, EVP of series development and programming for MTV, had to find new suckers to roll. This time, the kids are in their last year of high school. “On the road to their first kiss, the newest couple at school contends with a protective father and a girl that’s used to getting everything she wants. Meanwhile, former best friends compete for the affection of a younger beauty.” Starting today, newportharbor.mtv.com goes live for all the 411. Kill me now, OK?
A few weeks ago, when Brad Grey visited Steven Spielberg in Connecticut where Indiana Jones 4 was shooting on location, the DreamWorks partner put the Paramount boss’s mind at ease. “Steven said to Brad that he intended to be in business with him a long time,” a source tells me. As a result, Grey was flabbergasted when he saw the headline “Paramount & DreamWorks: Splitsville?” from the new issue of Business Week which was reporting how it’s “entirely possible” that Spielberg could want to leave Paramount as soon as late next year. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Grey. Thanks to yet another DreamWorks pic Transformers performing spectacularly at the summer box office, not only had Paramount climbed to No. 1 in studio market share this year but boasted a new movie franchise to exploit. Grey had been celebrating. Now, because of the article, Brad was “bummed out”, a source close to him told me. Also Grey knew that every other Hollywood mogul like him attending Jack Valenti’s memorial service last Thursday had heard about the bombshell. So the Paramount chief needed to know if this was real or not. He spoke to Spielberg right away. This time, the director was on location in Hawaii. “And Steven continued to tell Brad he is ‘very happy’,” an insider tells me.
I, too, was shocked by the article. After all, I’d broken the first story about Brad Grey’s rocky relationship with DreamWorks (Brad’s Boorish Golden Globes), and also Paramount’s … Read More »
A new website HerHollywood aims to provide daily entertainment industry news about women working and aspiring to work in the television and film industry. It was conceived and is published daily by a woman who worked in the TV production industry. Check it out, but do it quickly: the way the current trend in Hollywood is going, there won’t be any women left in positions of power in the movie biz.
Speaking of hilarious videos, a top entertainment lawyer just sent me this one on Jerry Zucker’s online comedy network and incubator website called NationalBanana.com. It stars Cuba Gooding Jr., who should win another Oscar.
This has catchy rap music video and better than average production values. From omovies.com (who did Paris In Jail). Let’s hope the Warner Bros lawyers laugh.
The MPAA has a new crisis on its hands that’s potentially as serious as piracy: censorship by states doling out film production incentives. A just created Moving Image Industry Incentive Program by the state of Texas places content conditions on productions it help bankroll. Besides the bait of a $22 million budget to lure film, TV, advertising and video game filming, the Lone Star State program also demands that filmmakers who receive incentives can’t depict “Texas or Texans in a negative fashion.” So, in effect, script review and approval is involved. There’s also a North Carolina bill under consideration that would limit tax credits to only those films that have “serious artistic merit” and ”general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the citizens of North Carolina.” That amendment was prodded over the North Carolina filming of 2006′s Hounddog, which featured a rape scene involving then 12-year-old Dakota Fanning. In Texas, concern dates back to the 2006 basketball movie Glory Road, which depicted Texas A&M-Commerce back in 1966 when it was known as East Texas State University as racist. The MPAA is warning that not only do these programs violate the First Amendment, they could be challenged in federal court (where taxpayers could end up paying for court costs and attorneys fees). But, really, there’s a long history of money sources putting conditions on their funds. Is this any different than the old-school film financier who expects the moviemakers to hire his … Read More »
I remember when directors and writers only consulted kids about screenplays. (That’s how John Hughes birthed Home Alone). Now the rug rats are writing the scripts themselves. The UCLA Armand Hammer Museum has started a free “Screenwriting Camp” for kids ages 10-14 this month. Here’s the description: ”For three weeks in July, adolescent screenwriters will work with Hollywood professionals to write and produce one monster of a short film. Professional screenwriters will teach the students what makes a screenplay tick; later on, the students will cast professional actors (or act themselves), manage props and set equipment, and then shoot their short yet sweet film. Last, but certainly not least, they’ll screen their film at a small gala in Venice, Ca..” The non-profit organization that sponsors it is “826LA“ dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills. I’m told this summer’s Screenwriting Camp has five kids in attendance.
What an incurable case of myopia. On Meet the Press this morning, Dick Cheney’s official biographer had the nerve to rap Jay Leno for still making jokes about the vice president’s 2006 hunting accident. Stephen Hayes of the right-wing Weekly Standard revealed that Cheney was watching The Tonight Show host’s monologue this past Valentine’s Day and lamented “It never ends. It never goes away…” when Leno made fun of that two-year-old shotgun incident. Well, Earth to Cheney, but Leno is still cutting up former president Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair and that came to light a full nine years ago. So, Mr. VP, you want some cheese with that whine? Hayes is the same conservative tool whom Cheney used to peddle his myths about the connection between Iraq and 9/11. The shill’s official bio of the Veep (more like official apologist for Tricky Dick) is being published on July 24th by — you guessed it — Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins.
SUNDAY AM: A PG-13 spoof about two firefighters posing as gay lovers so they can be friends with benefits tickled U.S. funny bones on Date Night as Universal’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry beat magic and music and became the No. 1 movie in the U.S. and Canada. The pic, which the studio made in consultation with gay rights groups so it didn’t offend, opened to $34.8 mil this weekend at 3,495 dates. The laugher was also the top finisher Friday with $12.6 mil and Saturday with $11.9 mil. With a B+ Cinemascore despite poor reviews, the pic was given 90% A’s or B+’s, skewing higher among younger audiences, both male and female. The studio said both Adam Sandler and Jessica Biel were big draws, but the real reason people went to see Chuck And Larry was the prospect of a light summer comedy. (There just haven’t been enough of them.) Internationally, the film starts releasing next weekend and rolls out through September. After a slow start, Universal now has three comedies in the Top 10, including Evan Almighty and Knocked Up. (For more background, see my previous, Weekend Predictions For Sandler vs Travolta.)
New Line’s heavily and expensively marketed Hairspray, with John Travolta in drag, dropped down to No. 3 after a weaker Saturday ($9.2 mil) than Friday ($11 mil) from 3,121 theaters for what was … Read More »
What an intense weekend with a comedy and a musical going head to head. (And thankfully we’re back to the usual Friday through Sunday release schedule again.) The critics may hate I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry (massive negative reviews, only 14% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), but Universal is loving its gross receipt prospects. My box office gurus are predicting a big $35+ million opening from 3,495 theaters. Universal tries to lower expectations by telling me they’d be thrilled with a $30 mil debut. The thing to remember is that Adam Sandler comedies almost always open. Even for a PG-13 not-so-funny pic that gently spoofs gays (the skittish studio consulted every homosexual rights group imaginable to make sure the script wouldn’t offend), and drools over Jessica Biel’s hot bod, this will be a winner.
On the other hand, New Line’s well-reviewed Hairspray should debut to only $20+ mil from 3,121 runs, my analysts estimate. That’s low, considering the studio fortune spent marketing this musical by taking out TV ads months ahead of time. (Whereas Universal just started commercials for Chuck And Larry only recently). I’m told the downer may well be box office-challenged John Travolta, whose Edna portayal looks creepy. Another is that Hairspray and Chuck And Larry “are taking money away from each other,” one studio exec explained to me. Said another source: “Don’t be surprised if Hairspray does closer to $30 mil than $20 mil. And don’t be surprised if Chuck And Larry does closer to $40 mil.” But both films … Read More »
The Simpsons Movie tracking for its July 27th release is looking very strong, with estimates coming in to me of a $50+ opening weekend. I don’t see a single misstep by Fox when it comes to marketing this toon so far: the plot is still somewhat secret, the bloggers are overheated, the 7-Eleven reverse product placement is epic. And the pic’s appeal, like the TV series, crosses all ages, races, creeds and ethnicities. ”Huge hit” is everyone’s analysis, and the foreign gross receipts will be massive.
Universal is already anticipating a big new Matt Damon The Bourne Ultimatum for August 3rd. And they’re right: my box office analysts are projecting a $40+ million opening for this threequel in the profitable franchise. That’s great for a PG-13 thriller light on CGI these days — and bigger than Bourne #2 (the June 2002 original The Bourne Identity which opened to $27 mil), but not Bourne #1 (the July 2004 sequel The Bourne Supremacy which debuted to $53 mil). The bad news is that a lot of tentpoles will still be going strong in theaters come August, and I hear reshoots made the price of this Bourne creep upwards. With the new pic billed as the last of this Jason Bourne trilogy, it’s a veritable must-see.
Finally, New Line’s Rush Hour 3 came on tracking looking “strong” for August 10th. Too early for numbers. But for weeks and weeks, the trailers have been praised for being especially funny.
My internet and cable are down yet again so posting will occur today but very slowly since I’m on dial-up. Another feeble excuse from incompetent Time Warner Cable which now wants to handle my phone service, too?
No effing way.
Just when you think these Hollywood moguls have a sense of humor about their media portrayals, you find out they don’t. There’s been some Internet buzz that Harvey Weinstein is amused by his doppelganger portrayal on HBO’s Entourage. (Watch a video clip here.) I can tell you that’s bullshit. As everyone knows, actor Maury Chaykin has been playing “Harvey Weingard” in a way to imply that the real Harv is a terrifying tyrant. Well, I just heard from a source close to Weinstein that, at the recent Camp Allen mogulfest in Sun Valley, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes asked the real Harv to do a walk-on for the show. Weinstein replied, ”Fuck you.” Noted the longtime pal, “And it was a serious fuck you.”
UPDATE: I’m reading the court filing now…
Radaronline.com is reporting that Pulitzer prizewinning Los Angeles Times journalist Chuck Philips and the newspaper have been hit with a $10 million defamation lawsuit by film producer Julius Nasso (Narc, Under Siege). Radar says Nasso objects to a June 7 article that identified him as a “reputed Gambino crime family member”. He asked for a retraction, so the Times in the online edition of Philips’s original story substituted the word “associate” for ”member.” But Nasso wasn’t satisfied: “‘Associate,’ ‘member,’ what’s the difference?” he told RadarOnline.com. This guy is kidding, right? As news reports chronicled, Nasso got nabbed in mid-2002 during a federal sting of a Gambino mob plot to extort $3 million from his one-time producing partner Steven Seagal. Nasso for more than year denied he’d been involved, but then agreed in 2003 to a plea deal on the charge and spent time behind prison bars. At the time, Nasso’s attorney said his client “just wants to put this behind him and continue with a fruitful, productive life.” Now, Nasso tells RadarOnline.com, ”I’m going to spend my last nickel fighting Philips and the Times on this thing.” Hey, I’m not wild about Philips’ coverage of some stories (see my previous: LA Times Should Reassign Pellicano Story), but about this lawsuit I say — ugh.