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‘Sit Down, Shut Up!’ Final Showdown Between IATSE Toon And WGA Writers

By | Tuesday June 24, 2008 @ 3:12pm PDT

I have learned that Sony late last night presented a new financial package to the WGA writers of Sit Down, Shut Up! — but it still keeps the animated series an IATSE show. A Sony insider tells me that if the WGA writers won’t agree to it then “the show won’t go forward”. There have been some other interesting developments since I first broke the news about the turmoil behind-the-scenes of this show scheduled for midseason on Fox in the coveted 8:30 PM time slot between The Simpsons and Family Guy. Remember how I told you that the WGA writers worked without a contract or paycheck based on lies from Sony that Sit Down, Shut Up! would be a Writers Guild show? Well, Sony/IATSE rushed out checks on IATSE time sheets to the writers’ agents hoping to resolve the stand-off through such an all-too-obvious ploy. But rather than deposit the checks, the writers instructed their agents to mark them “Return To Sender”.

Meanwhile, the WGA found what it considers a loophole in the IATSE Local 839 contract that also could have resolved the standoff: a provision that if workers appropriate to the task at hand cannot be found within IATSE then the show can subcontract the work with no penalty as long as the deals made are the same or better than IATSE’s. “It’s a fully legitimate solution which provides Sony a fig leaf by letting them call this an IATSE show even though the … Read More »

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More Hollywood Title Inflation Coming…

By | Tuesday June 24, 2008 @ 2:12pm PDT

I’m told that senior execs in Sony’s marketing / advertising / distribution departments will be rewarded with bigger titles in coming days. It’ll involve “a lot of promotions”. I can confirm, however, that one exec who’s not being upped (but is not being shown the door, either) is Josh Goldstine, the prez of creative advertising who reports directly to Sony Pictures Entertainment vice-chairman Jeff Blake. Goldstine has been at Sony since the Peter Guber era when, according to buzz I’d heard, he was hired in the marketing department fresh out of Harvard in the early 1990s because his father was Sid Ganis’ shrink. But Goldstine became infamous in 2001 when Columbia suspended him and an underling after it was revealed they had created a fictitious film critic to lavish praise on several of the studio’s films. He oversaw some huge campaigns like Spider-Man 1,2,3. He’s now on Hancock. But he wanted a title bump.

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Why Hollywood Is Such A Homewrecker…

How often does this happen? Will Smith was on Letterman last night and noted that his 7-year-old daughter Willow’s film Kit Kittredge: An American Girl opens wide against his Hancock in U.S. theaters on the same day (July 2nd). Said Will, “I told her, ‘Daddy loves you sweetie, but I gots to stomp you at the box office.’ ” Then Dave snarked, “I’ve got a son, but even I know that American Girl thing is very popular.” But Willow was quoted as saying a few days earlier about her Dad, ”He thinks he is going to be beat me, but I think not. I think I am going to beat him.”

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R.I.P. Howard Brandy

By | Monday June 23, 2008 @ 6:57pm PDT

I just heard from a source that showbiz PR man Howard Brandy died last night after a long illness. He was always a gentleman to journalists, with a dry wit and an ability to laugh at his clients’s many antics.

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By | Monday June 23, 2008 @ 12:25pm PDT

I have a major package all about SAG/AFTRA/AMPTP posting later. It is multi-part and contains a lot of new and urgent reporting, commentary and analysis.

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Paramount First To Hit $1 Billion For 2008

HOLLYWOOD, CA (June 23, 2008) – Coming off reaching the billion-dollar mark in international box office sales last weekend, Paramount Pictures Corporation has now also crossed the billion-dollar milestone on its domestic gross sales, making it the first studio to accomplish this feat this calendar year and besting last year’s billion-dollar record by nearly three weeks. 
This marks back-to-back years of firsts for Paramount Pictures and five consecutive weeks of holding the Number One spot in domestic market share.  The studio also set a new first as of this weekend – having the Top Three grossing films of 2008 at mid-year. 
The half-year got off to a strong start with JJ Abrams’ thriller Cloverfield earning $80M.  Paramount was further buoyed by the blockbuster successes of Marvel Entertainment’s Iron Man ($305M), Lucas Films’ and Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($291M) and DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda ($156M – which this weekend surpassed Horton Hears A Who! to become the year’s third top grossing film to this point).
“It has been a wonderful year so far,” said Paramount Chairman Brad Grey. “As we look towards the rest of 2008, and into 2009 — when we will have Transformers II, JJ Abram’s Star Trek, G.I. Joe and NowhereLand starring Eddie Murphy, among others — we are as excited about the future as we are by reaching this milestone.”
Paramount’s forthcoming openings this year include DreamWorks’ Tropic Thunder starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and Jack Black (August 15, 2008), Paramount

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Los Angeles Press Club Awards…

By | Monday June 23, 2008 @ 9:23am PDT


Last year the Los Angeles Times‘ Patrick Goldstein graciously handed off the Los Angeles Press Club’s Entertainment Journalist Of The Year title for print, broadcast or online to me, and now I fittingly hand it off to the L.A. Times‘ John Horn after Saturday’s 2008 awards night. My sincerest congratulations. (I received Honorable Mention this year in that category and, to my surprise, an Honorable Mention in Print Entertainment Hard News behind the Los Angeles Times‘ coverage of the writers strike. I did wind up winning First Place for the Online Entertainment News/Feature/Commentary category.) At the 50th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards, here were the first-place wins for entertainment coverage:

ENTERTAINMENT – Print, Broadcast or Online
1st Place: John Horn, Los Angeles Times

PRINT: DAILY/WEEKLY NEWSPAPERS (Over 100,000 Circulation)
1st Place: Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
Judges’ comments: Rutten’s reviews offered style, wit and insights into both substance and form, drawing readers to books they otherwise might not have considered.
1st Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times, “Hollywood Writers’ Strike”
Judges’ comments: This comprehensive package revealed behind-the-scenes mechanics of the strike, plus its effects on everyone from television-show workers to dog walkers. Well-sourced and tightly written.
1st Place: Judith Lewis, LA Weekly, “The Way He Lives Now”
Judges’ comments: Well written and interesting to the end, this story presented a perfectly hewn subject matter and angle.

PRINT: DAILY/WEEKLY NEWSPAPERS (Under 100,000 Circulation)
1st Place: Luke Y. Thompson, OC Weekly, “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em”
Judges’ comments: An easy, fun read. Thompson brings a knowledge of the genre … Read More »

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R.I.P. George Carlin

By | Sunday June 22, 2008 @ 10:06pm PDT


I’ve just been told by a source that George Carlin died this evening. This is indeed shocking. Last week, it was announced that on November 10th the veteran comic whose infamous “Filthy Words” routine reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court would be the 11th person inducted into the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ pantheon of humor and receive this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. (Past winners include Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin.) Reuters now also has Carlin’s death, reporting that he died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica of heart failure at age 71. Hollywood has long loved Carlin as a gentle and considerate man. But what the funnyman courageously did to fight censorship over the airwaves on radio and television is the legacy he leaves behind for the entertainment and media biz. 

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A Reboot Of DC Comics Before Comic-Con?

With Comic-Con fast approaching (July 24-27) and all the Hollywood studios getting ready, I understand that Warner Bros has been nervously monitoring the deteriorating situation at its subsidiary DC Comics. There could be a major shake-up – especially if Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes keeps cleaning house inside the Big Media corp. There’s a lot of chatter, from comic book circles like to trade media like Publishers Weekly, that DC Comics Senior VP and Executive Editor Dan DiDio, who oversees the DC Universe line of superheroes, is in major trouble. I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of the comic book culture. But my own reporting, and others’ coverage, show the following:

The problem isn’t just that, under DiDio’s leadership, fanboys are disappointed with the directions of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and other characters. (How dopey of DiDio to come out with a new series Decisions this September where the superheroes take political stands timed to the election.) Little wonder that fanboys are selling “Dan DiDio Must Die” t-shirts. But also average sales of the DCU line are down more than 20% from a year ago, and DiDio has lost a big chunk of existing readers in a year while deliberately failing to reach out to new ones.

But the biggest bad news is that DC’s much hyped Summer 2008 release Final Crisis, the 7-issue miniseries, isn’t the huge hit it was supposed to be. Comic Book Resources reviewed, ”This isn’t … Read More »

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David O. Russell Film Shut Down 4th Time


This has truly turned out to be the indie film shoot from hell. The political comedy Nailed, directed and co-written by David O. Russell and starring Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal, was shut down by IATSE on Friday for the same reasons as before: crew not getting paid. I can’t imagine why anyone would do business with David Bergstein’s Capitol Films again because of all the financing turmoil…

  • David Bergstein/ThinkFilm Sued for Fraud
  • Capitol Films Cash Crunch: SAG Demands Meeting With Owner David Bergstein
  • David O. Russell Film Shut Down 3rd Time
  • Jake & Jessica Sidelined Again: IATSE Shuts Down David O. Russell Film
  • IS THIS A MELTDOWN? More Big Actors And Directors Caught In Capitol Crunch
  • 5TH UPDATE: ‘Nailed’ Tip Of The Iceberg: Capitol’s Money Woes On More Films
  • 4TH UPDATE: ‘Nailed’
  • Read More »

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    Dueling Comics: Steve Carell’s ‘Get Smart’ #1, Mike Myers’ ‘Love Guru’ Bombs At #4

    getsmart_galleryposter.jpg  theloveguru_gallerytheatrical.jpg 

    SUNDAY AM: The No. 1 movie was Warner Bros’ mediocre laffer Get Smart, which opened in 3,911 theaters to a better-than-expected $39.1 million weekend. (The studio had been projecting $35M.) Exit polling showed the audience was split evenly male-female and skewed older, with 60% aged 25 or older — no doubt because of the original Mel Brooks-Buck Henry TV series. Many in Hollywood had made a fuss over the fact that this retread starring Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99 was competing head to head for North American box office gross against another even worse comedy, Paramount’s moronic The Love Guru, because the two studios felt they couldn’t find another open date all summer. But it wasn’t a fair fight. The vehicle for Mike Myers’ return to the Big Screen after a long absence was filled with toilet humor, dick jokes and midget gags. It bombed badly, debuting at just No. 4 in 3,012 venues for an embarrassingly low $14 million weekend. (As one studio insider described the situation succinctly, “Ugh.”) But there’s a big difference in the two pics’ negative costs: $100M vs $60M, respectively. I’m also told that Warner Bros vastly outspent Paramount on marketing their comedy, $50M to $35M, which as Get Smart‘s release neared began to be advertised on the back of The Rock’s popularity in order to draw non-Caucasians — a strategy that seems to have worked. As for The Love Guru, it was aiming for a much younger audience aged 12 to 17 — but even they … Read More »

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    William Morris Agency Expands Board To Include Younger Agents And More Music

    By | Friday June 20, 2008 @ 1:49pm PDT

    EXCLUSIVE: In the old days, to be a board member at the William Morris Agency, you had to be an “Elder” with white hair, a slight stoop, Red Buttons as a client, and pants pulled up to the waist. wma.jpgAs of today, the Morris board is much younger, almost hipper, suddenly rockin’. Who’d a thunk it? I’m told that the tenpercentery just added these agents to its 20-member governing body and upped them to the rank of executive vice presidents: Paul Bricault, head of corporate consulting; John Ferriter, head of non-scripted television; Marc Geiger, head of contemporary music; Aaron Kaplan, head of scripted television; Jon Rosen, head of East Coast television; Rick Shipp, co-head of WMA Nashville; David Snyder, head of adult contemporary music.

    To briefly list their clients, Bricault works with MySpace, General Motors, Anheuser-Busch and oversees. Ferriter has Ryan Seacrest Inc, Larry King, Chelsea Handler and also oversees other clients. Geiger co-founded Lalapalooza and reps Nine Inch Nails among other groups. Kalan has Darren Star, Barry Sonenfeld and also oversees. Rosen is Mr. Food Network with clients Rachel Ray, Giada Di Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, etc. Shipp has all those country music acts like Brooks & Dunn, Rascal Flats, etc. Snyder reps Herbie Hancock, Kenny G, Natalie Cole, Julio Inglesias.

    What many don’t realize is that while Morris in the old days was a TV cash cow on the one-time strength of the syndication … Read More »

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    UPDATE: Reality TV Sale Price $500 Mil? Mark Burnett “Seriously” Talking To IMG; Already IMG Execs Fawning All Over Him

    FRIDAY UPDATE: I just heard from a knowledgeable source that the Mark Burnett-IMG deal may be as rich as $500 million — $250M upfront, the rest earned out…

    EXCLUSIVE: I chased a rumor from a month ago that Mark Burnett might be starting his own network. Now I’ve learned what the already rich reality TV czar (Survivor, The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?) is really up to: making even more moolah. An insider tells me Burnett is negotiating to sell his company to the entertainment and sports management and production behemoth IMG and come on board. I understand Burnett is “in very serious conversation” with IMG chairman Teddy Forstmann, whose Wall Street private equity firm Forstmann Little back in 2004 acquired IMG which was founded by his legendary friend Mark McCormack. Forstmann keeps looking for Tinseltown deals so when the LBO prince was spotted having lunch in as public a venue as NYC’s Michael’s a month ago, it sparked that rumor about Burnett starting his own network. Plus, remember that last September Teddy brought HBO’s fired Chris Albrecht to IMG as the president of global media and IMG entertainment, made him a special limited partner in Forstmann Little, and gave him a $250 million fund for showbiz content investments. It’ll be interesting to see how much bigger Burnett’s deal will be. And here’s why IMG considers him so valuable: I’m told that, at a Beverly Hills entertainment conference just … Read More »

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    Uni’s Internal Update On Backlot Fire

    By | Thursday June 19, 2008 @ 7:24pm PDT

    From: Ron Meyer (NBC Universal)
    Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:57 PM
    To: NBC Universal Employee Communications (NBC Universal)
    Subject: Universal Studios Backlot Fire UpdateDear Co-Worker,
    It has already been a few weeks since our June 1 fire that turned into an event of global interest.  Many witnessed the fire first-hand, but if you didn’t, there was no shortage of information on TV, in newspapers and online.  As with most big stories, there are rumors, speculation and misinformation.  I’m sure a number of you have questions, and I’d like to try and clear up any confusion.
    This fire was an unfortunate accident caused by some routine roofing work being performed on a back lot facade on New York Street.  The fire burned most of New York Street, the King Kong attraction, our video vault and some of Courthouse Square.  Due to the quick response and hard work of the firefighters, and to the fact that Station 51 is located right on our back lot, the fire was contained to less than 1% of our property. 
    Although our video vault was destroyed, losing thousands of tapes and hundreds of duplicate film prints that we are now in the process of recreating, the vault in which we store our library of films was untouched. The teams are still assessing what was lost and what may have been salvaged, but we do know there will be minimal long-term impact on what we do, as our company has

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    R.I.P. Joey DeMarco

    By | Thursday June 19, 2008 @ 6:32pm PDT

    The Fox Searchlight exec VP Joey DeMarco died of apparent cardiac arrest. He’d been ill and scheduled for surgery, sources tell me. He was only 48. He’d joined Fox in 1990. This was sent out to employees from Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos: ”We are deeply saddened to inform you that our beloved friend Joey De Marco passed away last night. His loss is immeasurable. I know you join us in extending heartfelt condolences to his family. Any memorial service information will be circulated as soon as it is available. This is a sad day for all of us at Fox and everyone who loved this remarkable man.”

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    New Rules For 81st Academy Awards

    By | Thursday June 19, 2008 @ 1:55pm PDT

    AMPAS just released this news release:

    Beverly Hills, CA –– The governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved the rules for the 81st Academy Awards at their Tuesday evening (6/17) meeting.  The only significant changes were in the Music – Original Song category.  Other modifications of the rules include normal date changes and minor “housekeeping” changes.

    Three items of note were altered in the Original Song rules.  First, while there continues to be no limit on the number of songs from a given film that can be submitted for consideration, no more than two songs from any one film may be nominated for an Academy Award.

    Also, in addition to the annual screening event at which members of the Music Branch view clips featuring the eligible songs as they appear in the films and vote, DVDs of those same clips will be made available to branch members who are unable to attend the screening; ballots will accompany the DVDs and must be returned by mail.

    Music Branch members who have one or more songs in contention for nominations do not vote in that phase of the balloting.  They remain eligible to vote on the final ballot to select the winner.

    The only other category with a notable change is the Foreign Language Film Award and as was the case in 2006, the alteration is a procedural one rather than one in the rules per se.  For the 81st Academy Awards, the two-phase process by which the nominees are selected will

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    All About ‘Grand Theft Auto’ The Movie


    Given that Grand Theft Auto IV blew away the global retail sales record, a day doesn’t go by that I’m not asked about when it’s going to be made into a movie. Of course, that happens with every best-selling video game. But this isn’t a case of the project veering horribly off track like, say, Halo. Nah, this is something altogether different. I’ve learned that Fox Atomic owns the rights to Grand Theft Auto. But to the movie title, not the game. It was, of course, Ron Howard who wrote and directed and starred in the little pic Grand Theft Auto back in 1977 for Roger Corman. So Fox optioned the rights for the Howard/Corman movie title a while back. A studio insider clarifies for me: “Yes, Fox owns the Corman movie. Yes, it has been one of 400 development projects for several years. But they are nowhere on the script. It has certainly not been a front-burner project.” Strangely, the success of the video game hasn’t put any new impetus on the studio to formulate a plan. And it doesn’t matter that a supposed legal settlement over the game/movie/title dictates that Rockstar can’t make a Grand Theft Auto movie or Corman/Howard/Fox a video game out of the title. C’mon, the movie can still shrewdly piggyback off the game’s global branding. Here’s my idea: Fox for old times sake should offer the project to Ron Howard since GTA jump-started his directorial career. Then let him incubate as a producer a new … Read More »

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    Furious Horror Film Fans Target Lionsgate

    I give TV and movie fans a lot of credit: when they get mad, they scare the crap out of the moguls. That’s happening at Lionsgate where the studio’s phones and email accounts are jammed with angry fans for the past week. They’re making a stink because new Lionsgate topper Joe Drake appears to be dumping all of ex-prez Peter Block’s movies. That includes Midnight Meat Train, the adaptation of the Barker short story that’s a fan fave. Supposedly the trailer tested higher than any film in Lionsgate history. But when Drake took over, he promptly bumped Midnight Meat Train from its May 16th release date. The result was that Rogue Pictures’ The Strangers (which was skedded two weekends later) had zero competition in the hard-R category. And guess who was exec producer of The Strangers? Joe Drake.

    Then, the websites, Shock Til You Drop and Fangoria found out Lionsgate is planning only a 100 theater run on August 1st to merely fulfill the contractual obligation with Lakeshore Entertainment. The plan is to release the DVD immediately after. So fans are asking if Drake is such a dummy that he’d intentionally sink what to them is a sure-thing hit. And they want to know if the studio that was built on horror gross (both the gory and cash kinds) is going to bite the hand that’s fed it so well in favor of four Tyler Perry movies a year.

    The result is a lot of anti-Lionsgate blogging in Horrorville by fans, by self-appointed horror flick experts, and also by Barker himself. ”I would passionately encourage everybody who cares about my work … Read More »

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    How Argument About ‘Iron Man’ Led To Bob Shaye’s Marvel Stock Short Debacle


    You know how there’s no fool like an old fool? Well, how about a vengeful fool? So fired New Line founder Bob Shaye told his close pals the following story: Years ago, as everyone knows, New Line had Iron Man in development. But then Shaye and Avi Arad, the longtime chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios, got into an argument over whether Iron Man should fly. (This is what grown men debate in the movie biz…) Bob contended that Iron Man would look goofy soaring in an iron suit. But Avi was adamant that the pic had to stay true to the comic book so the character should take to the sky. Eventually the option ran out, and Marvel announced a deal with Merrill Lynch to self-finance future films. Now, most men would have left the argument there. Not Bob. He told his friends that he was so convinced Marvel would run into trouble on its Iron Man movie that he took out a big short on Marvel stock. But, as we all know, the pic not only made gobs of money, but Marvel shares shot skyward to an all-time high. And then the stock was recently listed on the S&P’s midcap index so it went up another 4%. Now, most men would have given up there and then. Not Bob. He told his friends he was still shorting the stock because he believed Marvel would give it back when The Incredible Hulk failed. That … Read More »

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