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MAJOR MESSY NBC SHAKEUP AHEAD: Network Wants To Fire Teri Weinberg & Hopes Ben Silverman Quits Very Soon

By | Sunday August 31, 2008 @ 2:59pm PDT

teri.JPGEXCLUSIVE: After weeks of checking out rumor after rumor, I’m finally able to pin down details of the long-overdue shakeup that’s ahead for NBC when this fall’s primetime schedule shapes up to be an unmitigated disaster. Someone has to shoulder the responsibility, and both Ben Silverman and the Reveille development exec he brought with him to NBC, Teri Weinberg, now deservedly have big fat targets on their foreheads. Staying in charge will be Marc Graboff and Katherine Pope who both have been trying to keep NBC up and running while Weinberg continually fucks up and Silverman regularly goes AWOL. For instance, last Thursday was Ben’s first day in the office all month after attending the Beijing Olympics and guesting aboard Elisabeth Murdoch’s yacht. (Elisabeth’s Shine Group bought Ben’s Reveille productions which put $60+ million directly into his pocket). But a pressing issue has been Silverman’s partying ways, especially his excessive off-hours drinking and drug-taking, which has not only been visible to but also prompted complaints from Hollywood’s TV community. “When he’s around, he is totally engaged and focused and not in an altered state of consciousness. But that’s when he’s around. Literally, he has not been around from August 1st until August 28th, and you can’t run a network programming group and not be around for the month of August,” an insider tells me. So NBC is faced with two personnel problems simultaneously: Weinberg and Silverman…. Read More »

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‘Dark Knight’: $500M In Record 45 Days

By | Sunday August 31, 2008 @ 11:53am PDT

 

So The Dark Knight posts still another best-ever. Media By Numbers is reporting that Warner Bros’ latest Batman installment crossing the $500 million domestic gross milestone today after only 45 days in release. It’s already the second-highest grossing pic of all time behind only the $600.8 million domestic haul of Titanic which took 91 days to pass $500M. The projected domestic cume for Dark Knight is $502,421,000 after this weekend. Interestingly, Wednesday, August 27th (its 41st day of release) was the first single day that the film earned below $1 million. In all, Dark Knight has set 14 major movie records since its release July 18th:

MEDIA BY NUMBERS: DARK KNIGHT SELECTED RECORDS THUS FAR (IN ORDER OF OCCURRENCE):

1. LARGEST NUMBER OF OPENING THEATRES WITH 4,366 (MORE THAN THE 4,362 DEBUT THEATRES OF PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END IN 2007).

2. BIGGEST MIDNIGHT PREVIEW GROSS WITH $18.489 MILLION IN 3,040 THEATRES (THIS BEATS STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH AT $16.9 MILLION IN 2,915 THEATRES IN 2005).

3. BIGGEST IMAX MIDNIGHT PREVIEWS SET AN NEW RECORD WITH $640,000 (THIS AMOUNT WAS APPROPRIATELY INCLUDED IN THE $18.489 MILLION PREVIEW NUMBER).

4. BIGGEST SINGLE-DAY GROSS IN BOX-OFFICE HISTORY WITH $67,165,092 (THIS BEATS THE $59,841,919 SET BY SPIDER-MAN 3 IN 2007).
 
5. BIGGEST OPENING WEEKEND GROSS IN BOX-OFFICE HISTORY WITH $158,411,483 MILLION (THIS BEATS THE $151,116,516 SET BY SPIDER-MAN 3 IN 2007).
 
6. BIGGEST OPENING WEEKEND GROSS FOR AN IMAX RELEASE IN BOX-OFFICE HISTORY WITH $6,214,061 MILLION IN 94 THEATRES ($66,107 PER-THEATRE!) (THIS BEATS THE $4.7 MILLION SET BY SPIDER-MAN 3 IN 2007) – IMAX SHOWING … Read More »

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UPDATE: AFTRA Set To Negotiate Interactive Contract Separately From SAG

By | Sunday August 31, 2008 @ 10:44am PDT

MONDAY: Now AFTRA has officially weighed in on the Interactive Contract and confirmed what SAG Interactive Committee chair Michael Bell told me — that AFTRA is starting informal negotiations on its own. Wheras in 2005 both AFTRA and SAG bargained the Interactive Contract jointly. See AFTRA’s statement below Bell’s…

SUNDAY: The Chair of the SAG Interactive Committee, Michael Bell, tells me that AFTRA is about to break with SAG on yet another previously jointly negotiated contract — this time the Interactive Contract affecting voice-overs. ”This has been disclosed to me by staff and discussed on Thursday by my committee. This particular email [below] is not SAG endorsed, however SAG will be sending out an email of their own regarding AFTRA’s meetings with the Interactive Producers and their obvious interest in negotiating without SAG. As a result, a notice from the guild will be going out to all its members (albeit targeting the voice-over community that works this contract), alerting them to a voice-over caucus on the subject. All will be welcomed to attend.” I haven’t heard back yet from AFTRA. Here’s the email which Bell has distributed:

ALERT TO THE VOICE-OVER COMMUNITY
“PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO EVERY VOICE-OVER ACTOR YOU KNOW”
 
It has come to the attention of the S.A.G. Interactive Committee, that AFTRA is about to negotiate the Interactive contract without the participation of S.A.G.
 
As you probably know, AFTRA and S.A.G. jointly bargained the Interactive Contract three years ago. Although the joint committees both agreed that RESIDUALS were the number one priority of

Read More »

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LABOR DAY LEADERS: Ben Stiller’s ‘Tropic Thunder’ Ousts Vin Diesel’s ‘Babylon A.D.’ As #1; ‘Dark Knight’ Passes $500M Today

By | Saturday August 30, 2008 @ 8:42am PDT

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MONDAY AM UPDATE: Here is the tentative summer total through today’s holiday – $4.12 billion, compared to Hollywood’s best-ever $4.16 billion for summer 2007 or just 1.3% behind. The summer box office may have run up near-record numbers, but it crawled to a close this Labor Day weekend with some very uneven films. After 20th Century Fox’s Vin Diesel sci-fi starrer Babylon A.D. (3,390 theaters) opened No. 1 Friday with a narrow margin of victory, holdover DreamWorks/Paramount’s moviemaking spoof Tropic Thunder (3,473) finished the 3-day weekend and 4-day holiday on top for the third straight week. The Ben Stiller comedy made $3 million Friday and $4.2 million Saturday for an $11.5M weekend and $14.3M holiday for a $86.6M cume. No. 2 Babylon A.D. took in $3.1M Friday and $3.3M Saturday for a $9.5M weekend and $12M holiday. Coming in 3rd place was Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight (2,750) which on Sunday will pass the $500 million mark domestically in record time. It’s already the second-highest grossing pic of all time behind only Titanic‘s $600.8 million domestically. It took the latest Batman installment only 6 weeks and 3 days, whereas it took Titanic 13 weeks, to hit $500M. Don Cheadle’s star turn in Overture’s political thriller Traitor (2,054) stirred some interest when it debuted Wednesday to $792K from 2,054 venues, but managed to come in only 5th on Friday. Lionsgate’s ill-timed and badly done spoof Disaster Movie (2,642), savaged by New Orleans film critics for … Read More »

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SHOWBIZ LEGAL EAGLE GOES DOWN! Christensen Found Guilty On All Counts; Pellicano Also Convicted For 2nd Time

By | Friday August 29, 2008 @ 11:19am PDT

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UPDATE: Sentencing will take place November 17th.

Maybe Terry Christensen should have hired a real criminal attorney and not his entertainment law partner Patty Glaser who clearly got out of testifying against him by becoming his counsel. Being found guilty on one count of wiretapping and one count of criminal conspiracy means that Christensen could be jailed for as long as 10 years. This verdict is sure to shake up the entertainment legal landscape because Christensen was the managing partner at the powerhouse law firm of Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro.

Of course there’ll be an appeal, especially after the federal judge took the rare step yesterday of dismissing a juror who apparently lied about making biased statements. (Like how the defendants should be allowed to wiretap because the U.S. government does, and ”this case is a joke case” because “no one died.”) The jury foreman had asked that juror No. 7 be replaced because his mind was made up when deliberations began and he refused to take part in them. The juror himself claimed the others were angry with him because he disagreed with the majority.

Christensen and the Hollywood private eye he hired, Anthony Pellicano, were convicted of hatching a plot to intercept the telephone calls of Lisa Bonder, the ex-wife of billionaire Christensen client Kerk Kerkorian when both … Read More »

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Why Do NBC Anchors Love Aaron Sorkin?

By | Friday August 29, 2008 @ 9:08am PDT

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Few people in Hollywood actually like Aaron Sorkin, least of all his fellow Writer’s Guild scribes who recently learned about his attempts to undermine the guild’s solidarity behind the writers strike. But NBC political anchors really really like him. Last night, NBC’s Brian Williams and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann had an on-air bromance over, of all things, Aaron Sorkin’s writing. Both men, twice on the telecast, compared Barack Obama’s Democratic National Convention acceptance speech to a scene in Sorkin’s pic The American President where President Andrew Shepherd rails against his political opponent. (See YouTube below…) Here’s the thing: film reviewers found the weakest part of that Sorkin movie was its naive view of politics. As the Los Angeles Times‘ movie critic Kenny Turan wrote, the pic is filled with ”fantasies [and] pipe dreams about the American political system and where it could theoretically be headed”. I don’t know which is more humiliating for Williams and Olbermann: that they couldn’t compare Obama’s speech to something real, like nomination acceptance speeches from the past … or they tried to praise Obama’s speech and wound up unwittingly dissing it… or that they think Aaron Sorkin is so quotable. 

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Anti-Membership First Flyer Sighted…

By | Thursday August 28, 2008 @ 5:50pm PDT

My photographer Jim Stevenson spotted this anti-Membership First poster visible near a film production in Los Feliz today. Is this savvy or slimey? You be the judge. UPDATE: Opposing slate leader Ned Vaughn emails me: “Unite for Strength had nothing to do with this anti-Membership First flyer and I don’t know who’s behind it.”

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More Bitterness: SAG Hollywood vs NY

By | Thursday August 28, 2008 @ 5:26pm PDT

Anti-Membership First Flyer Sighted… 

It was inevitable in this bitter SAG election between Membership First and Unite For Strength that both slates would find red meat in the just-as-bitter relationship between SAG Hollywood and the NY Division. At issue now are remarks made by SAG national president Alan Rosenberg at two Membership First campaign events — August 23rd (a fundraiser at Nancy Sinatra’s house) and 24th (an informal meet and greet) as reported by Back Stage. (I’ve noted Back Stage has a very obvious anti-SAG leadership bias, not surprising since it’s a sister Nielsen Business Media publication of the equally biased Hollywood Reporter. Nevertheless, I’ll assume Rosenberg was quoted accurately.) 

BACK STAGE: “In his address to the approximately 95 guests at the fundraiser, Rosenberg called the current board elections “the most important elections in the history of the Screen Actors Guild.” He said of UFS’s slate of candidates, “To elect people who have never been near this union, never served on a committee, know nothing about negotiations, and to replace valuable people…it would be absolutely a tragedy.” … “Unite for Strength is a hypocrisy; we all know that,” said Rosenberg, who later referred to the party as “Divide for Weakness.” “These are people who say they want to unite something, then come in and take away people’s right to vote on contracts… They say they want strength, yet they want to merge with a union, AFTRA, which just ratified a contract

Read More »

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Lionsgate, A Studio With No Conscience

By | Thursday August 28, 2008 @ 12:59pm PDT

 

The Pulitzer-prize winning New Orleans local newspaper thinks it’s an outrage that Lionsgate is releasing Disaster Movie on the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The studio that has hawked torture porn for years has now decided to make a buck off the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, and on the eve of another terrible storm about to strike the Gulf states. “Around these Katrina-scarred parts, Aug. 29 is still — and will be for some time — a black-armband kind of day,” criticized Mike Scott, the movie writer for the local newspaper The Times-Picayune. “For Lionsgate studios, however, Aug. 29 isn’t quite as sacred. For them, the third anniversary of the day the levees were breached and New Orleans slipped under is something on the order of perfect timing: a ripped-from-the-headlines release date.” Lionsgate is quick to point out that the pic’s disaster isn’t meteorological; it’s an incoming meteor and claims the opening date is an unfortunate coincidence. “The film does not depict or parody any actual natural disaster, and the release date of ‘Disaster Movie’ is in no way a reference to or joke about the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,” read a studio statement prepared for The Times-Picayune. As the newspaper noted, “That’s a hard line to swallow. Tasteless humor and B-movie comedies have their place. But this confluence of dates isn’t just a cheap laugh. It’s a cheap shot to an entire region still digging out from an all-too-real … Read More »

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URGENT! Actors Guilds And Advertisers Agree To 6-Month Contract Extension

By | Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 2:06pm PDT

I just received the following announcement:

New York and Los Angeles (August 27, 2008) – Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the advertising industry’s ANA/AAAA Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations (JPC) today jointly announced an agreement to extend, through March 31, 2009, the terms of their Commercials Contracts. The extension adds six months to the previous two-year extension the parties agreed to, which covered the period from 2006 to 2008.  That extension was set to expire on October 29, 2008.

The news at least delays whether or not SAG and AFTRA will negotiate the next contract jointly or separately.

More Back & Forth Between SAG/AFTRA

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TOLDJA! Alli Shearmur Joining Lionsgate

By | Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 1:45pm PDT

I was out of the office yesterday but DHD readers already knew what Joe Drake finally announced: that Lionsgate hired Alli Shearmur to head a new production arm as part of the studio’s expansion. See my previous from July 18th: Major Expansion At Lionsgate

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TheDeal.com Also Says MGM Is For Sale…

By | Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 12:04pm PDT

So my sources, BusinessWeek‘s sources, and now TheDeal.com’s sources all report that MGM is for sale despite the studio’s denials. Last night, the well-known financial website (whose articles require a subscription) noted that MGM doesn’t need Goldman Sachs because it already has relationships in place to, quoting from a statement it released Monday, “explore enhancements to MGM’s long-term capital structure.” The website cited in particular existing MGM arrangements with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc. “Veteran film financier John Miller of J.P. Morgan, which with Credit Suisse Group committed $4.25 billion in debt financing for MGM’s acquisition by a consortium in April 2005, was described by one source as the go-to guy should MGM wish ‘to rework the credit facility.’ RBS, meanwhile, has been trying to raise a $500 million credit line for the studio for six months.”

So, asked TheDeal.com, what’s left for Goldman to do? ”Something it does really well, sources speculated, which is investigate M&A opportunities.”

Sources told TheDeal.com that Goldman Sachs may help MGM take on additional equity partners as well as holding a sale of the company.”

TheDeal.com adds more detail to what I’ve noted previously — Goldman Sachs’ long history with selling MGM. Kirk Kerkorian retained the investment bank in the spring of 2004 to co-run its auction of the studio with Latham & Watkins LLP. In addition, Goldman provided the fairness opinion advising MGM’s public shareholders to accept the $12 per share offer that allowed it to go private … Read More »

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Pellicano/Christensen Trial Goes To Jury

By | Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 11:29am PDT

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The conspiracy and wiretapping case against ex-Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano and Terry Christensen, the managing partner of the powerhouse entertainment law firm Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro, will be in the hands of the jury after federal prosecutor Dan Saunders ends his closing argument this morning. Patty Glaser, Christensen’s law partner who’s also defending him, spoke for 3 hours yesterday. According to the Los Angeles legal newspaper Daily Journal‘s Robert Iafolla (the only reporter providing daily coverage of the 5-week-old trial), both closing arguments focused on the contents of Cristensen’s and Pellicano’s 34 recorded conversations. “With each side playing the same tape during closing arguments Tuesday, they again offered jurors radically different interpretations. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel A. Saunders, that first recorded conversation was ‘the birth of a criminal conspiracy’ between two men with ‘an insatiable need to win’ without regards to their methods. In their initial talk they forged a secret pact to wiretap a litigation opponent, a ‘shocking display of greed, corruption and arrogance’ memorialized on more than six hours of recordings, Saunders argued.

“But lead defense attorney Patricia Glaser asserted that first conversation had nothing to do with a wiretapping plot. Instead, Glaser argued Christensen hired Pellicano to discover the paternity of a child born in 1997, not to supply intelligence about litigation … Read More »

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SAG Board Slates To Be Web-Interviewed

By | Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 11:08am PDT

UPDATE: The interviews are archived here.

The two competing slates in the SAG election, Membership First and Unite For Strength, will be interviewed today at 2PM and 4PM via live Internet streaming using a novel technology known as user generated television. It’s U4S leader Ned Vaughn vs MF’s current SAG board members David Jolliffe and Ann-Marie Johnson — but not in a debate format. (I understand MF asked to hold a town hall-type debate early on and U4S declined.) Unfortunately, the host of today’s interviews is Jonathan Handel, the entertainment attorney who likes to portray himself as objective but whose pro-AMPTP/anti-WGA opinions quoted regularly by the mainstream media were nauseatingly anti-guild during the writers strike (which is why he was such a favorite talking head of Variety and the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times). Regarding SAG, Handel has demonstrated he thinks all of Hollywood’s guilds should be nothing but compliant to the demands of the employers.

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IATSE Member Petition Urges Leadership To Stop ‘Corporate Welfare’ For HBO

By | Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 9:13am PDT

I’m told a group of IATSE members are circulating a petition that lobbies IATSE leadership to end what they say is a sweetheart deal enjoyed by HBO at the expense of below-the-line IATSE employees. ”With all the labor management strife in recent months, it is important to call attention to us non-striking IATSE members who are under constant attack from studios that continue to insist on concessions and rollbacks from their least powerful employees,” one of the insiders emailed me. Here’s the petition that advocates the elimination of substandard wages and conditions which are currently part of IATSE’s contract with HBO:

NO MORE CORPORATE WELFARE for HBO
To: Elected Officials of IATSE
Sponsored by: FAIR PAY FOR IATSE

We the undersigned IATSE members petition the IATSE leadership to renegotiate our labor contract with HBO.

The current contract sets wages and overtime pay far below the basic television agreement.  While these concessions may have been necessary to bring a fledgling HBO into the union fold, that is no longer the case. HBO has achieved record profits due in no small part to the sacrifices of our IATSE brothers and sisters. We believe it’s time for this to end.

Presently, most crews on HBO productions work at rates 10% to 30% below scale. DGA, WGA and the Teamsters all work under a basic television agreement with HBO.

Only IATSE has a sub standard contract.

The current agreement calls for double time to be paid after 14 hours, rather than the standard 12. This concession encourages producers to regularly schedule

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Delay Those Flights By At Least A Day…

By | Tuesday August 26, 2008 @ 12:36pm PDT

Labor Day Weekend is usually a big getaway for Hollywood types. But if you’re boarding a commercial plane today – DON’T. An FAA flightplan computer glitch has created a mess at airports nationwide. This is also affecting general aviation.

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Closing Arguments Set For Today In Pellicano/Christensen Trial: End In Sight

By | Tuesday August 26, 2008 @ 12:28pm PDT

Both ex-Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano and Terry Christensen, the managing partner of the showbiz law firm Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro, are charged with wiretapping and conspiracy. Lawyers rested their cases on Friday.

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SAG Warns Agents, Managers, Producers, Casting Directors: Hands Off Our Election!

By | Monday August 25, 2008 @ 11:18pm PDT

This statement from the Screen Actors Guild is on the big actors union’s website. UPDATE: I just found out this is not in response to anything in particular. SAG says it posts this every election cycle:

TO AGENTS, MANAGERS, CASTING AGENTS, AND PRODUCERS
REGARDING RESTRICTIONS ON CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

This statement from the Screen Actors Guild Hollywood and New York Division Elections Committees is to inform you of various obligations imposed on you by federal law in connection with the upcoming SAG internal union elections.

Federal law prohibits any employer including employers who are agents, managers, casting agents or producers from contributing anything of value to candidates for any SAG elected office. In addition, federal law may require that candidates who receive such contributions report them to the Department of Labor.

This prohibition includes indirect, as well as direct, expenditures. The prohibition against the use of employer money includes any costs incurred by an employer, or anything of value contributed by an employer, in order to support the candidacy of the member. The use of an employer’s office equipment without charge has been construed to be an impermissible contribution by an employer.* (* This restriction does not extend to ordinary business practices that might result in a benefit such as a discount on the cost of printing campaign literature made available on the same terms to other customers of the employer. Such discounts must be made known and available to all persons. The discount

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‘Valkyrie’ Nazi Extras Sue Tom’s UA Studio

By | Monday August 25, 2008 @ 11:02pm PDT

There’s more bad news for the movie studio part-owned by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner with MGM. Last summer, 11 extras dressed in Nazi army uniforms fell out of the back of a World War II-era troop carrier truck as it swung around a corner in central in Berlin during the filming of Tom Cruise’s biopic Valkyrie, sending the actors to the hospital with injuries. Now, the actors are suing Cruise’s United Artists for $11 million, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel. It reports that the extras’ lawyer claims United Artists knew the trucks used in the filming were not entirely safe because there was an internal studio memo about the rickety railings.

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