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Decision Day Fast Approaching For Bob Shaye, Michael Lynne, and New Line

By | Tuesday February 26, 2008 @ 4:10am PST

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Sources tell me that Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne could officially find out as soon as this week what will happen to New Line Cinema and their expiring employment contracts at the movie studio they co-founded 40 years ago. time_warner_logo.jpg“This is the week Bob gets told what the decision from Warner Bros will be,” an insider confirmed to me. BusinessWeek has already urged Time Warner Chief Jeff Bewkes to move New Line into the parent company’s Warner Bros fold. After that, in a conference call with analysts on February 6th, Bewkes specifically mentioned that New Line Cinema is ripe for expense reductions, then noted that changes in the film industry leave less purpose for the studio.

I reported on January 21st that, according to my sources, Shaye’s and Lynne’s contracts wouldn’t be renewed by Bewkes and that the studio would either be folded into Warner Bros (most likely) or sold altogether (least likely). Then I was told that, when Bewkes met with the New Line pair to deliver the bad news, the twosome wanted to put together a reorganization plan that would save the company a lot of money in exchange for a contract extension that leaves them as co-heads of the studio. But Bewkes hasn’t seemed interested in that scenario, insiders tell me. And, this week, he’s supposed to let Shaye and Lynne know his final decision.

The timing is bad since it comes on the heels of the estate of Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien suing New Line Cinema, … Read More »

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And The Best Buttocks Oscar Goes To…

By | Monday February 25, 2008 @ 5:31pm PST

tilda-and-brian.JPGI had to phone Endeavor agent Brian Swardstrom since his buttocks are now world famous because of Tilda Swinton’s hilarious acceptance speech last night. (If you missed it, Swinton admired her Oscar and said, “I have an American agent who is the spitting image of this, the same shaped head and the buttocks. And I’m giving this to him because there’s no way I would ever be in America if it weren’t for him.” Then she mentioned Brian’s name.) Said Swardstrom: “That was very funny. I was there sitting in my seat, and I had no idea she was about to do that. I was just as surprised as everybody. But people don’t know how funny she is. They know her for playing cool characters.” (Actually, Tilda was about to say the word “ass” but then realized that this was American TV, so substituted the word “buttocks”.) Swardstrom is sheepish about the attention. “I’ve been getting harassed,’ he laughed. “I had 120 emails by the time I left the Kodak Theatre.”

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Getty Images Sold To Private Equity Firm

By | Monday February 25, 2008 @ 5:24pm PST

photographers.jpgBecause of our sick obsession with images of celebrities, it’s one of the fastest growing categories in the visual content business. Getty Images, the world’s leading creator and distributor of visual content and other digital media including so many glitzy Hollywood photos, announced today that it has agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman LLC for $2.4 billion. Getty Images stockholders will receive $34 in getty-images-logo.gifcash for each outstanding share of common stock they own, or a premium of 55% over the closing price on January 18. The Board of Directors of Getty Images has approved. Completion of the transaction is subject to shareholder approval. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2008. Interestingly, almost a year ago to the day, Getty Images purchased WireImage, one of the leading creators of entertainment and event imagery, for approximately $200 million in cash.

Getty Images Growing Showbiz Photo Biz

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Whoopi, Steve, Brad, Where Were You?

By | Monday February 25, 2008 @ 4:38pm PST

whoopi2.jpgI’ve put in a call to AMPAS’ Sid Ganis to find out why Sunday night’s video montage of great moments from the Oscars didn’t feature any hosting footage of 4-timer Whoopi Goldberg or Steve Martin when everyone else was shown. Whoopi teared up about it on today’s The View which, like the Oscars, is broadcast by ABC. (Didn’t anyone at the network go, “Huh?”) See the clip hereThe View women found the oversight unforgiveable since Whoopi was the first female host, the first Oscar winner to host, and only the second African-American woman to ever win. “Did you make somebody at the Oscars mad?” Whoopi was asked. “Undoubtedly,” she replied.

bradrenfro2.jpgAlso confounding was why actor Brad Renfro, who made his big film debut opposite Susan Sarandon in 1994’s The Client, was missing from Sunday’s Oscar obits. Veteran actor Roy Scheider was missing, too, but an AMPAS spokesperson just told me that his death was too recent to include in the obit montage and assured, “He’ll definitely be included in next year’s.” About Renfro, whose credits also included Sleepers, Apt Pupil and Ghost World, AMPAS insisted it was an editing decision made only because not everyone could be included. I say that’s incredibly classless.

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UPDATE: Wow, Worst-Rated Oscars Since Nielsen Started Tracking Them in 1974!

By | Monday February 25, 2008 @ 3:18pm PST

cates-gil.jpgIt’s even more horrible than first thought. It’s not just the lousiest Nielsen’s in a decade but the lousiest since at least 1974 and maybe ever! (Honestly, my headline last Friday Best To Expect The Worst Oscars Ever… was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, not psychic.) According to this afternoon’s news reports, the Nielsen’s recorded only a pathetic 32 million people who watched the 80th Academy Awards. And the 56 metered markets averaged a 10.7 rating among adults 18-49. According to Broadcasting & Cable, that was the least viewed Oscarcast since Nielsen started tracking the kudos-fest in 1974. (FYI, the Academy Awards drew just 38.9 million viewers on Jon Stewart’s watch in 2006 — smaller than the 39.9 million drawn by 2007′s Ellen DeGeneres. Compare both to the 55 million who tuned in for Billy Crystal back in 1998. Understand, I’m not saying last night’s debacle was Stewart’s fault. Sadly, my phone is ringing off the hook today about who’s really to blame…)

  • TOLDJA! Really Lousy 80th Oscar Ratings
  • LIVE-BLOGGING THE 80TH OSCARS…
  • Best To Expect The Worst Oscars Ever…
  • Comments 43

    And The Big Media Oscar Goes To…

    By | Monday February 25, 2008 @ 1:54pm PST

    big-media-oscar.JPGI’m terrible at math (so if these figures are wrong, correct me): Viacom and Disney, which distributed Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men, won seven Oscars each last night, the most of the major studios. Films from Universal won five, Time Warner won four and News Corp won two. Sony Corp took home one.

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    TOLDJA! Really Lousy 80th Oscar Ratings

    By | Monday February 25, 2008 @ 1:18pm PST

    stewart-oscars-08.jpgWe won’t know total viewership calculations until later today. But early ratings for the 80th Oscars are showing that this may have been the lowest rated show in a decade, down some 20% compared to last year’s. (See my previous, Best To Expect The Worst Oscars Ever…) But, really, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences only has itself to blame. (Although I’m sure Sid Ganis, Gil Cates, et al will blame the writers. When the real folks to blame are the Hollywood CEOs for petulantly dragging out a strike settlement.) According to news reports, in the overnight metered markets representing approximately 70% of the country, only about 33% of people watching television saw the telecast, down substantially from last year’s 42%, according to the Nielsen’s. Jeez, this is even worse than the Iraqi war Oscars’ 37% back in 2003. Fine for ABC that it easily won the night in the ratings. But really rotten for AMPAS no matter how much it panders to young audiences. I understand that several Hollywood power players on Sunday suggested that AMPAS do everything it can to promote big popular studio movies that people have seen for Best Picture awards. One mogul even seriously recommended that the “smaller movies” be relegated to the IFC Spirit Awards from now on. (No, the bigwig wasn’t joking.) Maybe AMPAS should learn something about audience appeal and aggressive marketing from, say, the MTV Movie … Read More »

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    The 411 About David Letterman & Oscar

    By | Monday February 25, 2008 @ 12:44pm PST

    dave-letterman-oscars.JPGBy the way, the conventional wisdom is that Dave bombed as Oscar host in 1995 because he didn’t take it seriously and has never been asked back. But I heard over the weekend the truth is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences asks Letterman EVERY year since to host the Oscars, and he declines. Heck, he was responsible for one of the single most memorable monologue moments in recent years (“Oprah….Uma. Uma…Oprah. Hmm.”) P.S. Since that line was an homage to a famous Anne Bancroft routine from her early 1970s TV special, see the original here on YouTube.

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    Tom Shales Agreed With Me About Oscars

    By | Monday February 25, 2008 @ 11:02am PST

    I’m running Washington Post Style columnist Tom Shales’ review of the 80th Academy Award broadcast. Because he agreed with me about last night’s show. (And even if you dislike what I wrote, remember that he has won a Pulitzer for his TV criticism…)

    Oscar Viewers Got Clipped, In More Ways Than One

    By Tom Shales
    The Washington Post
    Monday, February 25, 2008; Page C01
    The 80th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, televised live on ABC last night from Los Angeles, went clip-clip-clipping along. This is not a good thing; the show was so overstocked with clips from movies — from this year’s nominees and from Oscar winners going back to 1929 — that it was like a TV show with the hiccups.

    There were hardly any emotional moments from winners on the stage and there was little in the way of drama for viewers who watched, especially those who stayed with the tedious drag all the way past 11:45, when it finally drew to a close. Javier Bardem, who won for Best Supporting Actor in the Best Picture winner, “No Country for Old Men,” did move the crowd when he concluded his speech with a message to his mother in his native Spanish. She was sitting in the audience, surrounded by the usual suspects and celebrities.

    No acting prizes were given out until the second half-hour of the show, a poor piece of showmanship — as was hiding kids’ favorite Miley Cyrus, star of TV’s “Hannah Montana,” backstage until 9:50 p.m., when many of her biggest and youngest fans

    Read More »

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    LIVE-BLOGGING THE 80TH OSCARS…

    By | Sunday February 24, 2008 @ 3:00pm PST

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    SUNDAY 3 PM Pacific Time: Above is a celebrity stand-in during Red Carpet rehearsals for the 80th Academy Awards telecast Sunday (photo by Jonathan Alcorn) followed by the real George Clooney arriving on the real Red Carpet. My preview of the Oscars is here. I hear that ABC dramatically lowered expectations about tonight’s TV ratings to advertisers. It will be interesting to see the Nielsen’s, as the rain-postponed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Auto Club 500 race in Fontana is just about to restart at Lap 20 with a total of 300. After that there is another NASCAR race, the Nationwide series – Stater Bros 300, that is 200 laps. Will America tune out NASCAR to watch the Oscars? Meanwhile, a London source tells me that the BBC radio did a call-in show on the Oscars and no one phoned. Even Hollywood interest in the show is at its lowest point in recent memory. This may be the 80th Academy Awards, but they’re really the 11th hour Oscars — because not only were they almost picketed by the writers strike, and put together with only 13 days of major preparations instead of the usual months and months, but also the endless ceremony always seems like it lasts 11 hours.

    PREDICTIONS: Two things I can forecast already about the show: George Clooney (who’s on Time magazine’s cover as “The Last Movie Star”) will be fawned over and fussed over, just like he was to … Read More »

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    DHD UPDATE: Live-Blogging The Oscars

    By | Sunday February 24, 2008 @ 10:23am PST

    nikkioscarnf.jpgI will be live-blogging the Academy Awards for the 3rd straight year starting with the Red Carpet arrivals at 3 PM Pacific time today and continuing until host Jon Stewart calls it a night. Comments will be welcome. But leave your uninformed opinions elsewhere. This will be an unglamorous view of the Oscars for Industry people who already understand all the inside jokes (and for those who aspire to know). Come for the cynicism. Stay for the subversion.

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    Defending SAG Against A-Lister “Insults”

    By | Sunday February 24, 2008 @ 1:41am PST

    dave-clennon1.jpgsag-2.jpgBack on February 12th, I broke the story A-List Actors Pressure SAG To Start Talks about how a carefully orchestrated campaign by powerful actors George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro and others was getting underway in the trades and mainstream press to pressure SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national executive director Doug Allen to start negotiations early. Now a SAG board member directs me to this open letter from actor and rank-and-filer David Clennon attacking those A-Listers for “insulting” their union leadership when ”loyalty and solidarity and courage” are needed:   

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    ‘SNL’ Comes Back On The Air Post-Strike

    By | Sunday February 24, 2008 @ 12:10am PST

    Saturday Night Live came back on air last night after its enforced writers strike hiatus, and it was way better than I remember. (After all, the scribes on the show had like four months to pen it, right?) If you missed it (YouTube clip is here, the opening skit was a rather trenchant send-up about how biased the media are in favor of Barack Obama, to Hillary Clinton’s frustration. (I’ll to try to find a clip of it online.) fey_writers_strike_110507.jpgThen host Tina Fey did a short but sassy riff on the writers strike. She did apologize to the below-the-line crew for their missing week after week of paychecks  – “No hard feelings!” — but she kept getting hit in the head with the boom mike. Then she told the audience what the writers got for their trouble by way of New Media terms. And, yes, everyone laughed. Steve Martin came onstage and told Tina to think more like an actor than a dull writer (“all slouched, all weak, and young…”). That sounded to me like a perfect segue for a Fey/Martin riff about how the actors might go on strike. But, no. Lorne Michaels, whom emailers told me acted like a prick during the writers strike, probably didn’t want to put ideas in SAG’s head.

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    Live-Blogging IFC’s Indie Spirit Awards…

    By | Saturday February 23, 2008 @ 1:45pm PST

    ifc-2008.JPGJuno won. All the winners below:

    First, some background: this year’s 23 Annual IFC Spirit Awards, hosted by The Office‘s Rainn Wilson who has a small role in Juno, was the first event event to honor independent film exclusively and is the premier awards event for the independent film community. It bills itself as a celebration of the spirited pioneers who bring a unique vision to filmmaking. I know it as Oscar weekends’s most self-consciously cool event. juno_galleryposter.jpgAlong with being a great party, the Spirit Awards ceremony brings together the top talent from independent film and Hollywood inside a beachfront tent in Santa Monica. Film Independent, which puts on the awards as well as the LA Film Festival, is the largest non-profit membership organization for independent filmmakers, nurturing the careers of independent filmmakers, building the audience for independent films, and increasing diversity in the film industry. Film Independent provides its members with more than 250 annual events and screenings, along with professional advice, educational programs, affordable camera and equipment rentals, and discounts to hundreds of industry-related businesses. Film Independent also offers Filmmaker Labs, giving filmmakers the opportunity to develop their projects, and Project:Involve, a mentorship and job placement program that pairs filmmakers from culturally diverse communities with film industry professionals.

    aboutrainpicture.jpgHost Rainn Wilson comes out and does his monologue. He was actually fairly funny.

    He notes that indies … Read More »

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    More Last-Minute Oscar Viewing Parties

    By | Saturday February 23, 2008 @ 12:48pm PST

    Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg, Bob Shaye, Colin Callender, Arnold Kopelson…
    Hollywood Oscar Parties Sked

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    Best To Expect The Worst Oscars Ever…

    By | Friday February 22, 2008 @ 5:51pm PST

    Go to Live-Blogging of the Oscars here beginning at 5 PM Pacific Time.

    SUNDAY 3 PM Pacific Time: Above is a celebrity stand-in during Red Carpet rehearsals for the 80th Academy Awards telecast Sunday (photo by Jonathan Alcorn). Now the real Red Carpet arrivals are starting. I hear that ABC dramatically lowered expectations about tonight’s TV ratings to advertisers. It will be interesting to see the Nielsen’s, as the rain-postponed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Auto Club 550 race in Fontana is just about to restart at Lap 20 with a total of 300. After that there is another NASCAR race, the Nationwide series – Stater Bros 300, that is 200 laps. Will America tune out NASCAR to watch the Oscars? Meanwhile, a London source tells me that the BBC did a call in on the Oscars and no one phoned. Even Hollywood interest in the show is at its lowest point in recent memory. This may be the 80th Academy Awards, but they’re really the 11th hour Oscars — because not only were they almost picketed by the writers strike, and put together with only 13 days of major preparations instead of the usual months and months, but also the endless ceremony always seems like it lasts 11 hours.

    PREDICTIONS: Two things I can forecast already about the show: George Clooney (who’s on Time magazine’s cover as “The Last Movie Star”) will be fawned over and fussed over, just like he was … Read More »

    Comments 387

    Spielberg Delays Start Of ‘Chicago 7′ Due To “Uncertainty Over A SAG Strike”

    By | Friday February 22, 2008 @ 3:35pm PST

    spielberg-chicago-7.jpgEXCLUSIVE: I’ve just been told that the famed director has backed off setting an April start date for his pic The Trial Of The Chicago 7 and won’t finalize a new start date until the Screen Actors Guild and AMPTP agree on a deal. ”It’s a de facto casualty of SAG. He’s still working on it with producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald and still keenly interested. But because of the uncertainty over a SAG strike, he has to push the date,” an insider explains.

    chicago7.jpgEarlier today, one Internet site erroneously claimed Spielberg “has decided to move on and will not be making the movie.” But I know there’s no doubt Speilberg is still as enthused as ever about the pic; he discusses it with showbiz folks and journalists every chance he gets. It’s only that, according to my sources, Spielberg felt he couldn’t push the start date by even a few weeks because SAG’s contract expires in June. ”Knowing that he had to be finished by July left him too much up against it, so he had to make a decision whether to give the pic a firm state date of April which he didn’t feel ready for,” an insider told me.

    cohenabby.jpgOne reason why is because the script, while “great”, still needs more work, and Spielberg will continue meeting with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin every day. Spielberg also has been holding a cast and crew together on the movie and felt the … Read More »

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    How Did Agencies Place In Oscars Race? Endeavor #1, UTA #2, CAA #3

    By | Friday February 22, 2008 @ 1:46pm PST

    the-oscars-logo.JPGLet’s do a count of the Academy Award nominees by looking at the Hollywood talent agency ads in Variety today and breaking them down into the following major categories: Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Original Screenplay, Feature Documentary, and Foreign Film. (FYI, if someone received multiple nominations, those counted as multiple nominations for the agency. For example, the Coens got six nominations between them, so that counted as six nominations for UTA.) So what’s the score? Endeavor had 12, United Talent Agency 11, Creative Artists Agency 10, The Gersh Agency 6, William Morris Agency 5, and International Creative Management 4. This means CAA slid to third place this year, after coming in second to Endeavor the previous two years. And UTA picked up steam. ”CAA has 350 agents. Endeavor and UTA are 1/4 of their size. Bryan Lourd must be in a shvitz,” an insider wisecracked.

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    More On Variety’s (& RBI’s) Sale…

    By | Friday February 22, 2008 @ 1:30pm PST

    I’ve been talking to some very smart folks over the past 24 hours about the just-announced sale of Reed Business Information, including Variety, Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News. Here are some excerpts from conversations:

    “It is what Reed Elsevier says it is. Reed is changing the entire portfolio. reedelsevier_logo.gifIt’s smart what they’re doing. They’ll end up being a company that looks like Thomson Reuters: heavy in data. Reed recently bought ChoicePoint, this insurance data company, in a $3.5 billion deal. That’s the future.”

    Variety is a pimple on an elephant’s ass. It’s small in the scheme of things, a $100 mil company with an unduplicated circulation between daily and weekly of 64,000 compared to Reed Elsevier’s revenues of $10 billion.”

    “I doubt you’re going to see the RBI assets broken up and sold. The transaction costs are massive on a deal like this. Also the time and effort it takes to sell. So you sell it once if you can.”

    “Who are the likely buyers? They fall into two categories: strategic and investment. These are not really long lists, certainly on the strategic side. Thompson Reuters, maybe Pearsons, Informa though it’s way too big a deal for them. No, I don’t think Nielsen.”

    variety-title.jpg“RBI should sell in the $2.5 billion range. It generates between $1.7B and $1.8B of revenue, $250 million EBITDA [Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization], so that’s 10 times EBITDA, less than twice revenue. Reed … Read More »

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