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AFTRA Keeps SAG In Dark For Past Week

On the eve of the restart of negotiations with the AMPTP, SAG prez Alan Rosenberg sent this message to members. Following it is an AFTRA insider’s response to me:

May 27, 2008
Dear SAG Members,

Tomorrow we will resume TV/Theatrical contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).  As you know, the AMPTP suspended our negotiations on May 6 to begin talks with AFTRA for its primetime Exhibit A contract.

Screen Actors Guild observers were present for only 6 of the 18 days that AFTRA has been meeting with the AMPTP.  We were proud to invite AFTRA to attend every day of our bargaining sessions. In the event that our committee met in executive session with only senior staff present, or in sidebar with a handful of staff and members, we reported the discussions and results of the sessions and gave AFTRA every document.  Unfortunately that level of transparency was not reciprocated. Observers were in fact told they could not attend 12 days of confidential sessions. As a result SAG has not had a representative there for the last week. We don’t have any details about the status of the talks except that AFTRA and the AMPTP are continuing to meet today, and we will resume our negotiations at 10 a.m. at the AMPTP tomorrow morning.

Your National Negotiating Committee remains committed to getting the best terms possible for actors. We have spent the entire 2 ½ weeks since talks were suspended reaching out to members around the country. We held Town

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Anatomy Of A Showbiz News Inaccuracy: How Reputable Reporters Screwed Up…

By | Tuesday May 27, 2008 @ 2:07pm PDT

UPDATE: A Fox spokesperson issued a public denial tonight. ”The story about the Studio banning CAA from the Fox lot, is categorically untrue. The exchange, which took place well over a year ago, between a Fox executive and a CAA agent — that supposedly triggered the ‘ban’ — never at any point escalated to the level and language as reported on”

The gossip website Defamer today is running word-for-word with a CAA-Fox story which an anonymous tipster emailed me two weeks ago. But the website failed to do what I did: I checked it out exhaustively, and, even though I’ve come down harder on CAA than any media outlet over the years, I found that the facts weren’t anything like the story which the tipster was passing along. In fact, the truth was not newsworthy. (I’m not linking because the Defamer blogger who wrote it gets paid by the page view. So don’t reward someone for inaccurate info…) That’s also the same gossip website and blogger that recently reported erroneously that Tracey Jacobs was leaving United Talent when she wasn’t. Yes, reporting on Hollywood agents would be so much easier if only pesky facts didn’t get in the way. But here’s what really annoys me: supposedly reputable news outlets and reporters are now picking up erroneous information from gossip websites like Defamer. This is wrong on so many levels that I’m dismayed. Which is why I’ve decided to go behind-the-scenes of one such egregious and recent example of a showbiz reporting inaccuracy:

Back on April 9th, I broke the somewhat stunning news here … Read More »

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R.I.P. Sydney Pollack

By | Monday May 26, 2008 @ 9:27pm PDT


So sad to be gone all Memorial Day and come back to dozens of phone and email messages that Hollywood’s great filmmaker Sydney Pollack has died after a long bout with cancer. I first heard about the seriousness of his illness when he went to Houston to seek powerhouse medical treatment. For the many months since then, every name in Hollywood made a pilgrimage to sit with Sydney at his home. It was wonderful that he saw how many friends and admirers he had within the Industry.

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‘Indy 4′ Reels In $311 Million Global: But Fans Fume Spielberg-Lucas Phoned It In

MONDAY AM: Paramount’s Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull keeps piling up the box office gross domestically and internationally. After a 19-year hiatus, the fourquel mega-hit became the 10th biggest Friday-through-Sunday in the U.S. of all time, the 5th biggest international opening of all time, Steven Spielberg’s biggest opener (passing War Of The Worlds), and George Lucas’s second best opener behind Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith. But there’s been very mixed morning-after watercooler talk about whether the actioner was even worth watching — leading many Indy faithful to complain that Spielberg and Lucas just phoned it in. (However, my sources maintain the filmmaking duo thought they’d made a good pic. Go figure.) Monday’s North American box office gross is expected to be $25M. That makes the total domestic box office gross $151M for the 5-day Memorial Weekend (including Thursday’s opening haul of $25M, Friday’s $31M, Saturday’s $37M, and Sunday’s $33M as well as Monday’s $25M), $126M for the 4-day holiday, and $101M for FSS. The foreign estimate through Monday is expected to be $160 million — shattering the record for the Hollywood studio’s best overseas opening previously held by the opening of Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds ($102M).  So, with North America’s $151M total take through Monday, that’s a $311M worldwide total.

In second place for the 3-day weekend was Disney/Walden’s sequel The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian whose gross fell 58% from a week ago to $23M for FSS from 3,929 venues and $28.6M for the 4-day holiday for a new cume … Read More »

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AFTRA Having Difficulty On AMPTP Deal: Preparing Members For Clips Cave-In?

The message below went out from AFTRA’s leadership to its membership just now. In my opinion, it sure looks as if the union is preparing members for a major cave-in on the clips issue. But I must say that hiding behind a Los Angeles Times opinion piece is ridiculous to the extreme. When it comes to clips and their use and compensation for actors, the issue is not so much the Internet but the fact that the studios and networks want to make free and unfettered use of clips for any purpose, including commercial entertainment compilations for which only their Big Media companies would benefit financially. SAG recognizes that any breach in the wall around clips is a disaster. There is no way actors should cave on this just so retiring AMPTP prez Nick Counter can have a last hurrah at their expense.

May 25, 2008
Dear AFTRA Member:

For more than two weeks, your Primetime Negotiating Committee has been working hard to achieve significant gains in wages and working conditions for AFTRA members who work under our contract covering primetime network dramatic programs (Exhibit A of the AFTRA Network Television Code). Here is where things currently stand.

Our talks with the employers have been both constructive and productive, and your committee remains committed to reaching a fair agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). To that end, I can report that we are prepared to bargain continuously, for as long as

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French Film Wins Cannes #1 Palme D’Or

Robert DeNiro presented top honors today to Laurent Cantet’s French classroom drama Entre Les Murs at the 61st Cannes Film Festival. The winner of the Palme D’Or is a frank tale about classroom life using real students and teachers at a junior high school and is shot in a raw, improvisational style to chronicle the events that unfold over one school year. Some 22 films were vying for top honors, which shut out Changeling, Clint Eastwood’s raved about pic starring Angelina Jolie in the true-life story of a L.A. woman battling corrupt police. But the jury headed by Sean Penn gave a Special Award of this 2008 May 14th-to-25th festival to Eastwood and to the French actress Catherine Deneuve. The Grand Prize was awarded by Roman Polanski to director Matteo Garrone for Gomorra, a study of the criminal underworld in Naples. Best Actor went to Benicio del Toro in Steven Soderbergh’s Che: “I’d like to dedicate this to the man himself, Che Guevara.” Best Actress went to Sandra Corveloni in Linha de Passe.

Following are the winners of the main prizes and a selection of quotes via Reuters:


- Entre Les Murs, directed by Laurent Cantet
“The film we wanted to make had to be a reflection of French society — multiple, many-faceted, complex. Sometimes also with friction that the film does not try to cover up,” Cantet said.

GRAND PRIX (Runner-up prize)
- Gomorra directed by Matteo Garrone

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INDY MEMORIALIZED! Fourquel Reels In $151M Holiday Wkd, $311M Global; But Fans Fume Spielberg-Lucas Phoned It In


MONDAY AM: It’s officially a mega-hit for adventurer Indiana Jones after a 19-year hiatus. The 10th biggest Friday-through-Sunday in the U.S. of all time, the 5th biggest international opening of all time, Steven Spielberg’s biggest opener (passing War Of The Worlds), and George Lucas’s second best opener behind Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith. This tentpole kept going strong all weekend despite the very mixed morning-after watercooler talk about whether the actioner was even worth watching — leading many Indy faithful to complain that Spielberg and Lucas just phoned it in. (But my sources maintain the filmmaking duo thought they’d made a good pic. Go figure.) The North American box office gross on Paramount’s Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull will be $151M for the 5-day Memorial Weekend (Thursday’s $25M, Friday’s $31M, Saturday’s $37M, and Sunday’s $33M as well as Monday’s expected $25M), $26M for the 4-day holiday, and $101M for FSS.

Internationally, Paramount’s Indy 4 is also piling up the box office gross. The foreign estimate through Monday is expected to be $160 million — shattering the record for Paramount’s best overseas opening previously held by the opening of Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds ($102M). So, with North America’s $151M total take through Monday, that’s a $311M worldwide haul.

In second place for the 3-day weekend was Disney/Walden’s successful sequel The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian whose gross fell 58% from a week ago to a big $23M for FSS from 3,929 venues and $28.6M for the 4-day … Read More »

Comments 231

David O. Russell Film Shut Down 3rd Time


Either this indie is horribly cursed, or Capitol Films is completely busted, or both. I’m told that IATSE today ordered its members off the political comedy Nailed because the crew haven’t been paid. There are no plans to resume filming until next Thursday at the earliest. This is the 2nd time IATSE has moved to protect its union members, but only after the Screen Actors Guild first sounded the alarm bell over Capitol Films’ cash crunch and instructed its actors to leave the set earlier this month. ”Many of the crew are pissed-off at the IA for waiting so long to get involved. And, now that shooting is 1/2 completed, the question is why, since the IA refused to get involved sooner, are they flexing their muscles now?” one insider asked. True, it’s been start and stop, start and stop, again and again. Isn’t the saying that after three strikes, you’re out? But people still believe in the pic. Amazingly, both co-stars Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal are hanging in even though these shutdowns are a major pain in the ass for them and Russell and everyone else connected with the movie. I’m told the production is officially one week behind schedule, and this latest debacle will push it back two weeks. What a mess. (That is, unless the Academy Awards or at least the Spirit Awards start a new category for Best Tortured Indie Pic…)

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    Grossman New Broadcasting & Cable Editor; Robichaux To Multichannel News; Steinert-Threlkeld Lost Out To Advertorial

    By | Thursday May 22, 2008 @ 7:46am PDT

    Reed Business may be up for sale, but life goes on at the brands pbroadcastingcablelogo.gifroduced by the media giant. Ben Grossman has been named editor of Broadcasting & Cable, overseeing both digital and print. The announcement was made today by Reed Television & Publishing Group president Jeff DeBalko and Television Group publisher Larry Dunn, who also announced that Mark Robichaux will assume the same position with Multichannel News. Grossman was formerly Los Angeles Bureau Chief for B&C. Robichaux led B&C since August, when he was promoted from executive editor.  He was a 13-year veteran of the Wall Street Journal.

    The company also announced that editorial director Tom Steinert-Threlkeld who was overseeing both Reed Television Group publications is now no longer with the organization. He was at the epicenter of a Black Monday shakeup with layoffs at both publications last August. An insider tells me, multichannelnewslogo.gif“The reason they pushed ‘TST’ out is that he had really fought the sales guy Larry Dunn about giving it all up to advertisers and trying to pass off editorial that was really advertorial. TST is an old school principled guy and said, “You can’t do this.’ ” Also, the moves reduce payroll even further. Both outlets are major trades in the TV business, although their differentiation has long been a mystery to the showbiz … Read More »

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    What’s The Magic Number For ‘Indy 4′?


    THURSDAY AM UPDATE: The line forms for the 12:01 AM Thursday showing of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull at the Vista Theatre in Los Feliz. And it keeps going, and going… (Photos by Jim Stevenson)


    WEDNESDAY: Forget all the hype. What matters is the Memorial Day weekend box office gross for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull which opens at 12:01 AM Thursday in 4,260 theaters in North America and also day and date in 61 territories overseas (but not Japan). Let’s first look at domestic, where this Steven Spielberg/George Lucas tentpole is gonna be mega-hit. (Like, duh.) The only question is how BIG a hit. A record-breaker after 19 years in absentia? Maybe. But there’s some tough competition for that if you play the stats game of splitting hairs. (Which is why, increasingly, box office is becoming like baseball. Oh joy.)

    Indy 4 debuts for a full 5-day holiday weekend, among the best of all circumstances. Which is why informed guesstimates from my box office gurus are ranging from a low of $142 million to a high of $175 million for the well-reviewed PG-13 adventure pic. I think the answer lies somewhere in-between — around $160M. Then again, that’s not taking into account how movie theaters are raising ticket prices by a dollar or two this summer because popcorn is more expensive. (According to news reports, next year’s corn stocks are expected to plunge to … Read More »

    Comments 21

    Time Warner Divorces Time Warner Cable: Guess Who Gets The Better Settlement?

    On yet another day when the stock market is tanking comes this Wall Street play: Time Warner announced that it’s agreed on a plan to separate from Time Warner Cable, the No. 2 U.S. cable TV service provider. The move, which had been expected, is being billed in news reports as a chance for the companies to have more flexibility to compete in their respective fields and give investors a better choice how to allocate their assets. But, c’mon: a fat dividend for TWX and additional debt for TWC? Which side would you like to be on? And to think, it was Gerry Levin’s cable play that got him the top spot at the company in the first place oh those many years ago. Of course, his successor Dick Parsons should have divorced cable but didn’t have the balls. So again it falls to Parsons’ successor TW boss Jeff Bewkes to do all the unpopular heavy lifting: he said today that, among other details of the transaction, Time Warner Cable will declare a dividend of $10.9 billion, of which Time Warner Inc. will receive $9.25 billion. Time Warner will distribute its stake in Time Warner Cable to TWX holders. and Time Warner Cable will have a single class of stock when the deal is done. I think TWC deserved a better divorce lawyer.

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    Hutch Parker Exits Fox For New Regency; Ends Months of Speculation About His Exit

    By | Wednesday May 21, 2008 @ 11:21am PDT

    It was getting to the point that every few weeks I heard another rumor about where Hutch Parker, the vice chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Film Group, would be heading. Because it’s been common knowledge that Parker had one foot out the door. And that he was sought after in the community. In fact, I’d been given a tip two weeks ago that Hutch was exiting for New Regency only to be told by a Fox source that the job was “too small” for him. What a difference a few days make…

    The general concensus is that Parker, who’ll co-chair New Regency with former Fox Filmed Entertainment vice chairman Bob Harper, “really had no job at Twentieth,” a source told me, explaining the move. ”That vice-chairman job is a bit superfluous. Because there are very senior capable execs in charge of each division — except Alex Young. And this way Hutch may have an equity stake in New Regency and some autonomy without having to peddle his wares like a producer. Also, he could make more money.” Here’s the press release:

    LOS ANGELES (May 21, 2008) — Hutch Parker will join Robert Harper as Chairman of New Regency, it was announced today by Harper. The move heralds a major step forward in the growth and expansion of the industry’s largest independent studio.

    The pairing of Parker, currently vice chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Film Group, and Harper, a former Fox Filmed Entertainment vice chairman, will create one of the

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    New York Times Now Programming HBO: Frank Rich Hired As Creative Consultant

    By | Wednesday May 21, 2008 @ 9:56am PDT

    HBO’s Richard Plepler, who rose from top corporate communications officer and exec VP to the company’s programming boss in a promotion that raised creative eyebrows, has decided to get some help from a source very familiar to him: The New York Times. Specifically, from Frank Rich, the NY Times’ weekly Op-Ed columnist and formerly America’s most powerful drama critic, who as of today keeps his day job in journalism but also signs on as HBO’s creative consultant (press release below). Rich, who’s about to turn 59, told me just now “it was not hard” to obtain the newspaper of record’s permission to do the showbiz deal once it was agreed that he would no longer even mention HBO. “I am completely out of covering HBO whatsoever.”

    hbo_logo_240_0011.jpgAs Plepler told me this morning, “I’m a longtime fan of Frank’s, and HBO’s goal is to bring as many interesting voices and points of view to the table as possible. When you look at what Frank has done, and his sui generis talent, and his many relationships in the creative community, he has a very, very good instinct for quality. Because of that, he has a remarkable feel for what we see as a quintessential HBO brand.” The details of Rich’s deal, while confidential, sound typical for showbiz: a consulting fee combined with payments for projects that get made. Plepler made a point of stressing that while Rich will make suggestions, HBO execs … Read More »

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    DHD UPDATE: Still Sick

    By | Tuesday May 20, 2008 @ 10:38am PDT

    I’m going to try posting today on Wednesday. Thanks for your patience.

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    AFTRA Negotiations With AMPTP: “Number Of Challenging Issues… Resolution May Not Be Quick Or Easy”

    This email was sent by AFTRA to members today about the AMPTP talks:

    May 19, 2008
    Dear AFTRA Member:


    As you know, AFTRA has been in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on our contract covering primetime network dramatic programs—also known as Exhibit A—since May 7. Because a press blackout is in effect for these talks, I felt it was important to contact you directly with you a brief update.

    We are confronting a number of challenging issues, and a resolution may not be quick or easy. However, our discussions with the Industry have been professional and businesslike, and we remain focused on continuing negotiations in this vein.
    As expected, there are several significant issues in the area of New Media—including, most notably, how AFTRA members will participate in original New Media productions, and under what circumstances employers can exploit excerpts from traditional TV programs in New Media. The AFTRA Negotiating Committee is engaged in thoughtful and pragmatic discussions about how to ensure that performers are best protected as we consider these thorny issues. We’ve already delivered a strong message that performers will not relinquish consent for excerpts in New Media, which would compromise the integrity of members’ work, their reputations, or their employability in scripted programming. The Negotiating Committee is also mindful of the hard realities affecting the television business today—including audience fragmentation, piracy, and the other complexities arising out of the fast-evolving New Media landscape—and the impact this has on the wages and job

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    Comments 25

    Friendly Kids Franchise Turns Too Fierce: Darker ‘Narnia 2′ Falls $ Short Of Original


    SUNDAY AM: Weekend estimates show that the sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian‘s 3-day opening fell far short of the original despite a No. 1 box office finish  this weekend. The 2005 first installment of the joint Disney/Walden Media fantasy, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was a surprise success with a $65 million weekend debut. But the sequel grossed only $56.6 million for FSS after earning $19.3 million Friday from 3,929 theaters. The pic managed only a modest 5% bump for Saturday, when kiddie matinees usually rule, to take in $20.3 million. With an estimated $17 million Sunday, that’s a total far less than the $80M which box office analysts expected this weekend. The main problem was the sequel’s darker content: the friendly woodland creatures gave way to murder and betrayal and political intrigue as the sequel devolved into what reviewers complained was basically a war movie. That proved bad for domestic box office. Internationally, the sequel did much better: opening day and date in 12 markets, Disney said Sunday that Prince Caspian earned $20.7 million, which represents a 27% improvement over the first Narnia(Above, Saturday matinee for Narnia 2 at El Capitan. Photo by Jim Stevenson)

    Marvel/Paramount’s blockbuster Iron Man came in #2 with $8.7M from 4,154 venues Friday and $13.5M Saturday for a new cume of $222.4M and a $31.2M weekend. Fox’s romantic comedy What Happens in Vegas placed 3rd with $13.8M f(-31%) from 3,255 plays for the weekend for a new … Read More »

    Comments 45

    DHD UPDATE: Light Posting Until Tuesday

    By | Friday May 16, 2008 @ 11:55pm PDT

    I will be posting sparsely for the next two days due to a medical problem. I hope to resume regular posting by Monday Tuesday.  Thank you for understanding.

    Comments 22


    By | Thursday May 15, 2008 @ 11:51am PDT

    2ND UPDATE:  Pellicano Juror Reveals Inner Workings…

    UPDATE: Here is LA Weekly‘s account

    The federal trial of infamous Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano ended today with a jury verdict finding him guilty of all but one of the racketeering and conspiracy criminal counts against him. Reports from inside the courtroom say he sat expressionless while the verdicts for himself and his co-defendants were read. Pellicano had been charged with 77 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, computer fraud, identity theft and wiretapping.
    I need to take another personal day…

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    URGENT! Jake & Jessica Sidelined Again: IATSE Shuts Down David O. Russell Film


    EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that, this time around, it’s IATSE who has put the screws to the Capitol Films indie film Nailed because its crew members weren’t being paid. The pic’s union members had been begging IATSE for weeks to get involved over all the payroll irregularities. Friday was supposed to be the deadline set for the crew to get paid since there was a promise of a loan being made by then. But IATSE apparently lost its patience with all the smoke-and-mirror promises so today the union ordered its crew to walk off the production. (Most have lost three weeks’ worth of pay.) This also means director David O. Russell and stars Jake Gyllenhal and Jessica Biel are sidelined yet again since this is the second shutdown since the pic began shooting April 15th and was halfway through principal photography in Columbia, South Carolina. The first time was when the Screen Actors Guild told the actors to walk off the film because cash-crunched Capitol Films had made insufficient deposits with the thesp union. This also doesn’t bode well for other Capitol Films currently shooting or about to start shooting. What a mess… Since I have to take a personal day today, I will have much more coverage of Capitol Films tomorrow…

  • IS THIS A MELTDOWN? More Big Actors And Directors Caught In Capitol Crunch
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