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Attend The Rupert Murdoch Film Festival

By | Wednesday September 26, 2007 @ 6:54pm PDT

This video by Slate’s Jack Shafer is not only entertaining but also rather informative.

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Abu Dhabi Shows Warner Bros The Money

By | Wednesday September 26, 2007 @ 8:38am PDT

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Lore has it that, if a sucker is born every minute, all eventually land in Hollywood. After exhausting the German dentist money, then the American tycoon scion money, then the Greenwich hedge fund money, now Tinseltown is exploiting the Abu Dhabi real estate money. warnerbroslogo-200.jpgWarner Bros announced today a “long-term, multi-faceted strategic alliance” calling for a theme park, hotel, multiplex cinemas and joint fund to finance films, develop video games, and build out the infrastructure for Abu Dhabi’s new media. UPDATE: I’m told this is a multibillion dollar deal, with the film and video game funds alone worth $500 million each. The Warner pact is with Abu Dhabi’s leading real estate developer ALDAR and the newly established Abu Dhabi Media Company. According to the studio’s PR, the deal was unveiled today by Barry Meyer and Alan Horn with Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Chairman and Ronald Barrott, CEO, ALDAR; Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Chairman and Riyad Al Mubarak, CEO, Abu Dhabi Media Co.; and Hunt Lowry, who brought the two parties together and will serve as the CEO of the yet-to-be-named film company formed by this venture. For the hotel and theme park project, Warner Bros. Entertainment will draw on select properties from its live-action and animated libraries to provide themes for the overall project as well as individual attractions. The film production fund, a 50-50 venture, calls for the development and production of broad-appeal films, with Warner Bros. retaining worldwide distribution options/rights. Separate from this arrangement, … Read More »

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Disney Digs Out Of Deep Legal Pooh-Pooh

By | Tuesday September 25, 2007 @ 4:53pm PDT

pooh.jpgBob Iger can breathe a sigh of relief at today’s legal decision. Since the Disney Channel has My Friends Tigger & Pooh, a re-launch of the company’s very profitable Winnie The Pooh franchise. Tens of millions of dollars have been poured into the creation of this new CG TV series, all with the hope of making Pooh & pals more appealing to the SpongeBob generation. And the Mouse House has already lined up dozens of licensees to create My Friends Tigger & Pooh merchandise, which is due to hit store shelves this fall. So it’s great timing that the Walt Disney Co today won a California appeals court ruling in that 16-year battle with the Slesinger family over hundreds of millions of dollars in Pooh royalties. The judge’s panel affirmed a 2004 trial judge’s decision to throw out the Slesingers’ long running lawsuit against Disney after concluding that the Slesinger side had illegally obtained evidence by hiring a private dick to go Disney dumpster diving.

tigger.jpgIn case you’ve forgotten, Stephen Slesinger acquired the rights to the Winnie The Pooh characters in 1930 from author A.A. Milne, and Slesinger’s widow licensed the rights to Disney. Slesinger’s company filed a 1991 lawsuit claiming Disney hadn’t accurately accounted for hundreds of million in unpaid royalties for sales of Pooh merchandise. In turn, Disney has unsuccessfully tried to terminate Slesinger’s rights to the Pooh characters by backing a lawsuit filed by the granddaughters of … Read More »

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Maya Couldn’t, Wouldn’t, Will Rejoin SNL

By | Tuesday September 25, 2007 @ 4:21pm PDT

maya.jpgWhat the hell is going on at Saturday Night Live? First, NBC privately claimed it didn’t ask Maya Rudolph back to SNL for an eighth season “to freshen the cast.” Then NBC reversed itself and said it was her decision not to return. Now I receive this announcement via NBC from Maya: ”It was an agonizing decision, but ultimately, I feel I made the best choice both as a mother and as an actress. I couldn’t be happier to be returning to SNL.” And all of this happened in one day. Huh? “While both the previous reports about Maya Rudolph have been accurate at the time they were reported, Maya has had a change of heart and is returning to the show,” NBC tells me. Not only is this way strange because of the lateness of the decision but also the different reasons. Well, at least SNL won’t be winnowing the women on the show down to just two actresses, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig. Plus, Maya was known for playing a wide range of races and ethnicities from white to Asian to black to Latina and more and doing dead-on impressions of Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Condoleezza Rice, Paris Hilton, Tyra Banks, Liza Minnelli, Whitney Houston, and Donatella Versace.

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Reason No. 789 Why I So Love Hollywood

By | Tuesday September 25, 2007 @ 10:05am PDT

dreamworksanimationsmall.jpgDreamWorks Animation SKG named Tom Freston to its board of directors today. The former Viacom Inc. president and CEO, who OK’ed the deal to bring DreamWorks into Paramount, was axed by old coot Sumner Redstone a year ago. Nothing like having a common enemy to bring Hollywood types closer together. I should also remind you that, within hours of Freston’s firing before his body was even cold, David Geffen called up Redstone and suggested Jeffrey Katzenberg take Tom’s place. But Redstone said fuhgeddaboudit.

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The Dog Ate New Line’s Balance Sheets…

By | Tuesday September 25, 2007 @ 9:32am PDT

new-line.jpgWhat a scumbag studio New Line Cinema is turning out to be. Because of this nugget buried in that legal victory which Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson just won during the discovery phase of his 2005 lawsuit to enforce the audit provision of his contract: Back in October 2006, New Line’s counsel produced only “one third of a box” of audit documents for Jackson’s discovery process and claimed that’s all there was. This, even though Jackson’s side had requested communications and documents from profit participant audits on any New Line property: film, television, sound tracks or video games. peterjackson.jpgBut, in a deposition, New Line auditor Ken Horowitz described five to 10 cabinets filled with audit records. (I haven’t seen discovery this egregious since the Disney vs Slesinger Winnie The Pooh royalty case.) The federal magistrate on September 18th blasted New Line’s “persistent disregard” of not just the U.S. District Court’s discovery orders, but Jackson’s right to documents “that the court has already determined are relevant to the claims and defenses in this action. Without the true facts, there can be no just result.” The magistrate sanctioned New Line $125,000 and ordered the studio to produce all third-party audits, as well as any internal audits of licensees from The Fellowship Of The Ring, the first in the Rings trilogy … Read More »

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Movie Mogul Mayhem: Aviv vs Shmuger

By | Monday September 24, 2007 @ 4:57pm PDT

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Instead of just two movies competing at the box office this Friday, there are two moguls slugging it out. Vying for No. 1 will be The Game Plan from Disney, and The Kingdom from Universal. But the behind the scenes catfight is what’s really interesting because both titles are the first films greenlit by their respective and recently installed (as in 2006) studio chieftains. The Game Plan was part of the trio of films (including Dan in Real Life + National Treasure: Book of Secrets) that Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production Prez Oren Aviv OK’ed for his first slate. At Universal Pictures, The Kingdom was in chairman Marc Shmuger’s first slate as well. So there’s an undeclared war between them and their signature films for bragging rights. Right now, distribution (between 2,700-2,800 theaters) and marketing money (about $30+ mil each) are even steven. But the pics are apples vs oranges: PG-rated family fare featuring The Rock (and a terrible trailer) vs R-rated action drama starring Jamie Foxx (and a kick ass ad campaign). Awareness for The Game Plan is tracking better than for The Kingdom, but the latter movie (appealing mainly to men older than 25) has Oscar buzz and should stick around longer.

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Everyone In Hollywood Is Talking About…

By | Monday September 24, 2007 @ 3:23pm PDT

burnsthe-war.jpg… Ken Burns’ The War which began last night on PBS. Let’s not forget Tinseltown’s small role in this production. Narrated by actor Keith David, the 7-part series also features the first-person voices of Tom Hanks, Josh Lucas, Bobby Cannavale, Samuel L. Jackson, Eli Wallach, Robert Wahlberg, Carolyn McCormack, Adam Arkin, and Kevin Conway. But, sadly, I’m sure there will be no mention of William Morris Agency’ legendary leader, Abe Lastfogel, who reluctantly took over, after much prodding, Hollywood’s USO shows. At first in November 1941 he refused to accept a title (he finally accepted the presidency in December 1942), feeling that he couldn’t afford to spend enough time away from the Morris office to deserve one. usodancer_250.jpgBut Lastfogel soon devoted himself full-time to the war effort and left the running of the agency to the men below him. (Well, at least those who weren’t being drafted, like Johnny Hyde — Norman Brokaw’s uncle — who had a bad ticker.) Lastfogel’s daunting task was to establish order among a number of earnest but bewildered citizens of the entertainment community who were anxious to do their part for every U.S. soldier on every battlefield on every war front. Largely because of Lastfogel, the United States never had to enact Great Britain’s and Russia’s national service laws which made most performers subject to the wishes of their governments. In all, … Read More »

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Pellicano Perp Walk: John McTiernan Sentenced To 4 Months In Prison

By | Monday September 24, 2007 @ 1:50pm PDT

Happened today. He plans to appeal. He had been trying to withdraw his guilty plea from before. (See my previous, Big-Time Movie Director Cops Guilty Plea) MORE

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More Eli Roth Whining About Anti-Torture Porn Media; Disses EW Female Film Critic

By | Monday September 24, 2007 @ 1:24pm PDT

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Disgusting filmmaker Eli Roth sounds increasingly desperate. (Recall when he reacted badly to the failure of his Hostel II)? Here’s the latest from his MySpace:

“And did anyone read that absurd article by Lisa Schwartzbaum in Entertainment Weekly, about how she’d never watch a “Torture Porn” film? I think it’s time for her to hang up her critic’s pen. I mean, seriously, I hate to break it to you Lisa, but there is no such thing as “torture porn.” It’s a made up term, made up by people who don’t understand these movies, who are afraid to even watch them, and who feel some bizarre sense of moral obligation to warn the public about them, despite the fact they don’t watch them and never would. Lisa Schwartzbaum has let others define for her what the films are – she admits that she’s never seen any of the Saw films, and that she never would. Well, why wouldn’t you? Because someone else TOLD you that’s what they were? Are you that weak minded that you couldn’t even decide these things for yourself? What makes me sick is her smug, holier-than-thou attitude, as if to say “I wouldn’t watch these films because I don’t enjoy torture!” Well, no shit lady, nobody does, but maybe these films

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Toldja! NY Friars Club Wins Bicoastal War

By | Monday September 24, 2007 @ 12:32pm PDT

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So now it’s official: the Friars Club of New York did score that legal victory over the Friars of Beverly Hills I reported way back on September 7th. (See my previous, Bicoastal Friars Club War Ends: NY Wins?) The court order was officially signed last week instructing the Friars of Beverly Hills to stop using the Friars’s name. Of course, it took the flacks at Rubenstein 17 days to get back to me on this. Here’s the PR:

THE FRIARS CLUB WINS WITH SUMMARY JUDGMENT AGAINST THE FRIARS OF BEVERLY HILLS: Attorneys from Pryor Cashman Prove the Friars of Beverly Hills Violated Trademark Law in Using the Friars’ Name

Los Angeles, CA – Attorneys for The Friars Club at Pryor Cashman have officially obtained a summary judgment against the Friars of Beverly Hills in a Lanham Act and Anti-Dilution lawsuit, which they filed in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California. The Friars Club, renowned for its legendary Friars “Roasts” and whose members have included entertainment luminaries such as George Burns, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor, claimed that the defendants infringed and diluted The Friars Club’s trademark by operating “Friars of Beverly Hills” and by falsely claiming that it was the successor to the Friars Club of California, a now-defunct former licensee of The Friars Club.

In its decision, the Court found that the name “Friars” was not transferable from

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Oh To Have Been A Fly On The Wall…

By | Monday September 24, 2007 @ 11:34am PDT

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… When Brad Grey and Jeff Bewkes lunched together at Michael’s in NYC on Friday. Discussing David Chase and a Sopranos movie? Or The Departed sequel? Or the Viacom-DreamWorks debacle? Or just two “very old and close friends”? But if both moguls really had something secret going on, it would be at a dive in Chinatown.

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Early Controversy Over Israeli Oscar Entry

By | Sunday September 23, 2007 @ 5:18pm PDT

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The Band’s Visit has just swept Israel’s Ophir Awards (the equivalent to that country’s Oscars) so this means it should be Israel’s submission for the Academy Award’s Best Foreign Language Film. But even with the Kodak Theater ceremony still 5 months away, there’s already controversy in this category. Rivals are claiming that the political movie, about an Egyptian police band that mistakenly ends up stranded overnight in a small Israeli town, has more than 50% English dialogue and therefore must be ruled ineligible for the nomination. bandsvisit781743.jpgIsraeli film critic Yair Raveh has been following the scandal on his blog (alas, in Hebrew) and reports that The Band’s Visit producers, backed by Sony Pictures Classics (who bought the Cannes award winning film’s foreign rights) insist the English dialogue is less than 50%. The Israeli motion picture academy says it’s the producers’ call, not theirs. That has infuriated rivals who are calling on the local academy to check into the matter before the film is officially submitted. Sony Classics may also enter the pic’s Israeli writer and director Eran Kolirin in the Best Original Screenplay category. The Band’s Visit, of course, just had its North American premiere at Telluride and Toronto. “As someone who’s been following Israeli cinema for the past 15 years,” Raveh emails me, “I’ve yet to see a local film getting such glowing international reviews.” If it does become one of Oscar’s Foreign Language nominees this year, it will be the first Israeli film to do so since 1984′s Beyond the Walls. To date, … Read More »

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And Now There Are Three Studios $1+B

By | Sunday September 23, 2007 @ 12:57pm PDT

studiocollagesmall1.jpgWarner Bros was already there. So was Paramount, uh, DreamWorks, uh, Paramount / DreamWorks, uh, whatever. Now Sony has joined the $1 billion plus club for 2007 domestic gross for the 6th year in a row, and only one other studio can make that claim (Warner’s). Disney, Universal and Fox should be there before the end of the year. New Line? No way. MGM? No how. Here’s where everybody stands as far as U.S. box office so far.

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Just When They Thought It Safe To Do PR

By | Sunday September 23, 2007 @ 10:45am PDT

weinsteinlogo.jpgI’m told there are two tough Hollywood business pieces in the works: the Los Angeles Times is looking at The Weinstein Co, and The New York Times is working on an MGM article. Interesting how every weekend MGM gripes not-so-privately about having to distribute Harvey & Bob’s box office crap — except for hits 1408 and Halloween, of course. And also fascinating how Harvey recently chose one of his lap dog media outlets, the New York Post, to keep reassuring Wall Street and Hollywood that his company isn’t in the serious trouble many people think it is. Meanwhile, TWC isn’t helping Harv’s “counter the negativity” campaign mgmlogosmall.jpgby seeming to dump rather than distribute those losers which the indie movie company is contractually on the hook to release on its own. (Examples of this keep coming to me by email… Oy vey.) But eerie how the problems of the two companies are so similar: both releasing way too much bad product, both caught in the credit crunch, both unable to recapture the magic that made them legendary.

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Milla Beats Jessica: ‘Resident Evil III’ Strong; ‘Good Luck Chuck’ Not So Much

By | Saturday September 22, 2007 @ 7:44am PDT

extinction20.jpgSUNDAY AM: It’s been gals, gals, gals galore at the box office this weekend. The third film in Sony/Screen Gems’ franchise, Resident Evil: Extinction, did even better than expected as the highest debuting gross of the franchise, showing that America still loves this R rated scifi series and its star Milla Jovovich. The No. 1 pic opened to $9.6 mil Friday and $8.6 mil Saturday in 2,828 theaters for a $24 mil weekend — more than  the $20 mil my box office gurus were hoping for. This weekend was the battle of the glamour girls. As for Jessica Alba’s Good Luck Chuck, the jury is still out whether she’s a bonafide movie star. (We already know Dane Cook isn’t. Remember his flop, Employee Of The Month?) The No. 2 Lionsgate laugher debuted to $5.1 Friday and $5.2 mil Saturday from 2,612 venues, with its weekend total a softer $13.8 mil. Sometimes the sexy actress whose poster is on every young guy’s wall just can’t make it on the big screen, and that may be Alba’s problem. As well as the fact this was her first comedy. On the other hand, proven leading lady Jodie Foster’s feminist chick flick The Brave One hung on for 3rd place for its 2nd weekend in release, making $7.4 mil from 2,755 dates. That’s a decent drop of 45% and new cume of $25 mil.

chuck.jpgIn 4th place, Lionsgate holdover 3:10 Read More »

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Hildy Gottlieb Rejoins ICM in MP Talent

By | Wednesday September 19, 2007 @ 10:47am PDT

hildy.jpgShe starts October 1st. Gottlieb left ICM to head Alec Baldwin’s production company, El Dorado Pictures, and then develop projects for her husband, director/producer Walter Hill. Of course, most of her former clients scattered: Eddie Murphy, Keanu Reeves, Helen Mirren, Christopher Guest and Bill Paxton. But I’ve always loved the story of how Hildy jump-started Murphy’s film career. The 19 year old Eddie came out of the New York comedy clubs to join SNL’s 1980-1981 season as only a featured player, not even a regular. At the time, Gottlieb had just been hired away from J. Michael Bloom. The youngest of ICM’s film agents, she one day received a phone call from ICM’s personal appearances department asking for her help: the agency had just signed a young black comic who was going to start on SNL but wanted to do movies. With that, Gottlieb officially had her first ICM actor client, though she didn’t even know what Eddie Murphy looked like, or if he were talented. (Of course, when the first SNL finally aired, Gottlieb thought the kid was great.) murphy2.jpgBefore the fall TV season started, she set up meetings for Murphy with a number of producers and studio execs. But no one recognized his potential. Instead they told Gottlieb over and over that, sorry, they couldn’t star a black actor in a movie for white audiences. Only Universal’s Jennings Lang made a deal for Murphy. But when the script … Read More »

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Is Endeavor Playing Into IMG’s Hands?

By | Tuesday September 18, 2007 @ 6:59pm PDT

The story behind the story of the Ari Emanuel-brokered move by the scandal plagued ex-HBO head Chris Albrecht to IMG is that it conceivably puts the Endeavor talent agency in play again. endeavor-ari.JPGA lot of speculation is sizzling around Hollywood that Ari could finally broker a deal for Endeavor to cash out or bulk up now that his big buddy has that big job as head of the global media unit at the sports /fashion /entertainment /media marketing and management giant. (See my Ari Emanuel Defends Fired Chris Albrecht.) No one here has forgotten that, back in 2004, the ink wasn’t even dry on private equity firm Forstmann Little’s $750 mil acquisition of IMG when financier Teddy Forstmann and Emanuel held talks about acquiring or investing in the 12-year-old boutique talent agency. Nor is it a secret that Endeavor for some time has been considering some kind of merger while Forstmann has been scouting a Tinseltown deal. After all, Albrecht will also be a special limited partner in Forstmann Little and he and Teddy will raise a $250 million fund for investments in media and entertainment content. I’m told that after Albrecht was pushed from HBO last May, Emanuel called Forstmann, the chairman of IMG, to set up a meeting inside of a month. imgalbrecht.JPG“They actually had their lunch at Wimbledon,” an insider told me. (IMG … Read More »

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Wesley Snipes Ordered To Pay UTA $1.7M

By | Tuesday September 18, 2007 @ 4:30pm PDT

It’s rare indeed for talent agencies to sue their clients. united-talent.JPGUnless the situation is really egregious, that is. Now Wesley Snipes finds himself on the hook for $1.7 million to United Talent Agency, which may never collect on the debt. The tenpercentery filed suit July 2006 in Los Angeles Superior Court accusing the Blade trilogy star of breaching a verbal agreement dating back to November 2002 to join the agency and pay 10% commissions. snipes1.jpgUTA claims its agents were principally responsible for getting him parts in the movies Chaos, Middle Man, The Shooter as well as negotiating his $13 mil for Blade III. Snipes left the agency in February 2006. After UTA filed its complaint, it was unable to serve the star personally with notice of the lawsuit. Snipes never responded even though a summons was then published in two newspapers. UTA was seeking a default judgment, which Superior Court Judge David Workman just signed and entered against the actor. But Snipes also is facing trial October 22nd in Florida on tax fraud charges and faces up to 16 years in prison. As an insider told me, “UTA worked really hard for the guy. But if he spends 16 years in jail, it might be hard to collect from him.”

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