HBO announced today that, beginning September 1, the Cinemax main channel becomes the first and only 24/7 premium channel that’s “True HD”. Unfortunately, it’s 1080i — not 1080p — according to the news release. Maybe the HBO bosses don’t know the difference? This includes Cinemax’s library of movies and documentaries and short-form programming.
MGM issued the following statement today after I and BusinessWeek received tips that Goldman Sachs had been retained to shop MGM. (See Goldman Sachs Shopping MGM — Again.) Back when MGM was last on the block in 2004, Goldman Sachs handled that deal, too. Sony and Comcast and Providence Equity Partners and TPG paid roughly $5 billion in debt and equity to acquire then publicly traded MGM from its majority owner Kirk Kerkorian. But one of my financing sources has this to say about MGM’s denial today: “What utter bullshit double-speak ‘to explore long term enhancements to your capital structure’. What they did is just confirm that they have retained Goldman Sachs.”:
LOS ANGELES, CA (August 25, 2008) — Contrary to recent media reports, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM) is not for sale. There is no “asking price” for the company. MGM’s existing financing arrangements are sufficient to meet its needs. Goldman, Sachs has been retained to explore enhancements to MGM’s long-term capital structure. All of the MGM shareholders, including Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Sony Corp. Of America and Comcast Corp, are pleased with the Company’s current momentum and are committed to the future growth of the studio.
EXCLUSIVE: Because of the writers strike cutting short this past spring’s pilot season, ABC delayed its development so that most of the network’s new primetime scripted series would go midseason. Pilots were shot in July, and today ABC finally started making decisions. None of this has been officially announced:
Better Off Ted — The formerly untitled laugher from Victor Fresco (Andy Richter Controls The Universe) and 20th Century Fox stars Portia de Rossi.
Single With Parents – Starring Alyssa Milano, Annie Potts and Beau Bridges, this sitcom is from ABC Studios and DreamWorks Television and was created by Kristin Newman who’s exec producing with Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey.
The Unusuals — This Sony Pictures Television show was written by Noah Hawley who’s exec producing with Peter Tolan. It stars Amber Tamblyn and Adam Goldberg.
Cupid — The ABC Studios/Sony show was written by Rob Thomas (who remade his 1990s series starring Jeremy Piven) and stars Bobby Cannavale and Sarah Paulson.
Castle — This ABC Studios/Beacon TV show was created by Andrew Marlowe who’s exec producing with Armyan Bernstein and Laurie Zaks. Rob Bowman directed the pilot which stars Nathan Fillion.
(There’s a lot of talk that Prince Of Motor City and Captain Cook’s Extraordinary Atlas are possibles. Prince Of Motor City, from ABC Studios, is the well-received hour-long written by Jessica Goldberg and Hamish Linklater who are also exec producing with Chris Brancato and Bert Salke. Starring Annie MacDowell and Aiden Quinn, it’s had good buzz from the start. And Captain Cook’s Extraordinary Atlas, the Warner Bros TV show, is from writer-exec producer …
Eric Bogosian, an independent candidate for SAG’s New York Division, sent out this statement:
Dear New York SAG members,
It saddens me to see our union divided while we are trying to negotiate a new contract. I honestly don’t understand it. I see names of good friends listed on the anti-leadership slate and I don’t get it. You voted our leadership in to do a job, let them do it. Contract negotiations are never easy. But if we want a new contract, we have to let the two sides work it out. And don’t believe the producers’ argument.
It comes down to this. Either you like residuals or you don’t. Either you like have a union protect you or you don’t. I’ve been in SAG for about 25 years now. I joined not to get work, but because I had been employed on a non-union movie in 1983 and was frightened by the dangerous work conditions, lack of adequate breaks and merciless turnarounds.
Since joining SAG, I have worked hard in a healthy environment. I’ve had the benefit of health care for myself and my wife. Two kids born and raised on SAG health care. I have a pension and I get residuals.
So why do I think those things being threatened? Because whether you like it or not, the internet is the future. And all film and TV will be on the Internet within the decade. And the producers don’t want to pay residuals for that distribution.
That’s all. You want to believe the producers and AFTRA leadership that this is a good deal? It’s your option. But exhibit A is what happened to DVDs. We are still waiting
From AMY BRENNEMAN
Before you vote, consider this:
Membership First is lying; Unite for Strength has the SAME position on members’ voting rights as they do.
In an email from Martin Sheen introduced by JoBeth Williams, Membership First has tried to frighten voters away from Unite for Strength by claiming that we plan to take away members’ voting rights. This is absolutely false – and Membership First knows it.
Early this year, some of us asked the board to consider limiting voting on the TV/Theatrical contract to members who worked an average of one day per year under that contract. Over 1500 members signed a petition of support, and even Membership First candidates Clancy Brown and Jo Beth herself agreed with the idea.
But from the start of our campaign we’ve made it clear that this proposal was not part of Unite for Strength’s platform because we recognized that nothing matters more than bringing our unions together. And to eliminate any doubt, we even made a public pledge that if we’re elected we will take no action to limit the voting rights of any SAG member. We can’t state our position any more clearly than that.
The real choice in this election is whether you want SAG and AFTRA to fight for us together, or continue fighting each other.
Membership First is obsessively focusing on the empty “voting
MF’s Jo Beth Williams has asked me to post this reply to U4S leader Ned Vaughn per my, SAG Election: ‘Unite For Strength’ Slate Releases ‘Membership First’ Emails:
“When the issue of Qualified/Affected Voting was brought to my attention several months ago, I was interested in knowing more about it. I had always been concerned with what I perceive as a conflict of interest when S.A.G. members who make their living as producers, with active production companies, are allowed to vote on S.A.G. contracts. But after taking a considerable amount of time vetting the issue, I came to the conclusion that Qualified/Affected Voting would not be appropriate for S.A.G. members, given the ups and downs of the actor’s life. To disenfranchise so many, just to exclude so few, is not fair and would diminish the strength of our union. This is one of the reasons I fully support Martin Sheen’s August 21st letter to the membership.”
Screen Actors Guild National Board Member
NBC is crowing its Beijing Olympics has been the most watched American TV event of all time. That’s for 16 days on NBC and its cable channels that showed the games. Final figures won’t come in until Monday after tonight’s carnival-themed closing ceremonies, but already the 211 million viewers have surpassed the 209 million from the previously record-setting 1996 Atlanta Games. Here’s the asterisk, though: this statistic doesn’t account for the fact that there are more people and more televisions nowadays. So don’t take it all that seriously even though it sure sounds swell. Meanwhile, think about what a lost promotional opportunity this was for NBC Universal because its fall primetime schedule is a wasteland when it comes to both quantity and quality of new shows and specials. (How pathetic that Christian Slater’s lame “my evil twin is me” series was all that NBC had to market over and over ad nauseum during the games. It’s already clear that Jeff Zucker’s brilliant idea to save money by killing pilot season backfired big-time, and NBC will wind up in 4th place yet again.) Still, at a time when U.S. networks even have trouble attracting dougle-digit Nielsen ratings for shows, the Olympics is a big reminder that eyeballs and not just demographics do matter to advertisers. NBC reached a record $1 billion in ad sales before the start of this Olympics, and pulled in another $25 million after the games began. Which is why next time around NBC …
Ben Stiller’s ‘Tropic Thunder’ Hops Past ‘The House Bunny’ For No. 1; Overall Box Office Equal To 2007 Summer’s Record
SUNDAY: Sony’s low-budget comedy The House Bunny, starring Scary Movie‘s Anna Faris and featuring Hugh Hefner’s trio of Playboy blondes in this blatant rip-off of their TV show Girls Next Door, almost beat out bigger budget movies. But after winning Friday, the $25M sorority spoof hopped back to No. 2 behind last week’s No. 1, DreamWorks / Paramount’s Tropic Thunder, which cost considerably more. The R-rated Ben Stiller-Jack Black-Robert Downey Jr satire about moviemaking regained the top spot Sunday with a $16.1M weekend after taking in $4.8 million Friday and $6.5 million from 3,352 venues for a new cume of $65.6M. It held up well at the box office midweek and was down only 38% this weekend to wind up the third movie this summer to repeat as #1. Overall, this Memorial Day to Labor Day domestic box office is just a few percentage points down from last summer’s record $4.16 billion, to Hollywood’s surprise and amazement. But that’s because the major studios churned out more edgy and original fare than the predictable and tired prequels, sequels and threequels of a year ago. Meanwhile, PG-13 The House Bunny found enough of the girl power audience (the script is written by Legally Blonde masterminds Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith) to earn $5.8 million Friday and $5.2 million Saturday from 2,714 theaters for a $15.1M weekend. It was produced by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison company.
Coming in a close No. 3 was Universal’s Death Race starring British action star …
Barack Obama’s new VP choice Joe Biden has never received much financial support from Hollywood, unlike so many Democratic senators. According to the Center For Responsive Politics, which follows political money, Biden throughout his U.S. Senate career has raised only $390,298 from the TV/Movies/Music sector, including a mere $187,600 from entertainment industry donors in 2008 while he was running for President. I took a look at some of Biden’s biggest Hollywood donors in 2008 — big being a relative term here since individual contributions to the candidates are capped at $2,300 a person — and they included: 2-time MGM/UA owner Kirk Kerkorian, Fox Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Tom Rothman, Westwood One Broadcasting owner Norm Pattiz, Carsey-Werner TV mogul Tom Werner, singer Barry Manilow, Endeavor agency partner Tom Strickler, Warner Bros Pictures Distribution SVP Howard Welinsky, Warner Music chairman/CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr, IAC chairman/CEO Barry Diller, indie filmmaker Sidney Kimmel, and Santa Monica movie producer Bill Benensen and his wife Laurie. For the 2008 Iowa caucus, Biden enlisted The West Wing‘s Richard Schiff (aka Toby Ziegler) to spend the weekend barnstorming across the state with Biden. News reports said Schiff championed the 6-term Delaware senator as an experienced pol who wouldn’t “have to spend two or three years learning how to be president.” Biden dropped out shortly afterward, complaining he couldn’t garner media attention what with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton receiving all the fanfare because, “This is about celebrity.”
But it’s surprising that Biden was never able to raise more …
Yesterday I received a tip from a reliable source in film financing circles telling me that Goldman Sachs had been retained to shop MGM. “It’s doubtful that something will come out of the process. But one never knows,” my insider told me. Well, tonight Business Week‘s Los Angeles Bureau Chief Ron Grover is reporting that the proposed pricetag is a whopping $5.2 billion and the strategic buyers being sought are “other entertainment companies that would likely fold MGM into existing operations”. Grover says already the Indians have passed (i.e. Reliance ADA Group, which is financing DreamWorks 2.0) and a $3 billion offer from two-time owner Kirk Kerkorian has been rejected. Back when MGM was last on the block in 2004, Goldman Sachs handled that deal, too. Sony and Comcast and Providence Equity Partners and TPG paid roughly $5 billion in debt and equity to acquire then publicly traded MGM from its majority owner Kerkorian. Here is Grover’s report and below are my own recent MGM posts:
SAG national executive director Doug Allen responds to DGA president Michael Apted’s membership letter about New Media published in the September issue of Directors Guild’s monthly magazine. The issue really is whether the Hollywood guilds can survive if they keep acquiescing to employer demands encouraging union signatories to produce non-union. Both statements follow:
DOUG ALLEN, SAG
“I think what really stands logic on its head is the idea that the way to organize union work is to encourage signatories to produce non-union under our contracts.
“It is not appropriate to wait until new media reigns supreme to assert jurisdiction. Just as we have done in over 700 promulgated new media agreements covering low budget productions averaging $2,500 per minute, and just as we have covered low budget feature productions for 30 years, Screen Actors Guild has a workable framework for low budget new media production.
“SAG coverage of all new media productions would not result in more non-union production but rather would result in more union production. SAG members will do their part by adhering to Rule 1 and declining non-union work; we have to do our part by making sure work opportunities are covered by a union contract.”
MICHAEL APTED, DGA
“Giving New Media Room to Grow” — Published in September 2008 issue of DGA Monthly
As we move into the third month of our new contract, I wanted to take this opportunity to address the issue of union jurisdiction over new media production – the question of whether all the writers, actors,
More bitter SAG infighting in the runup to the September election. After “Unite For Strength” leader Ned Vaughn issued a statement that his slate has abandoned its Affected Member Voting initiative, he sent this to me yesterday for posting about AMV and two rival “Membership First” candidates, JoBeth Williams and Clancy Brown:
“In light of today’s email from JoBeth Williams to SAG members, which contained Martin Sheen’s letter, I thought the following email – sent by JoBeth to fellow AMV [Affected Member Voting] organizer James Eckhouse – would be of interest to you. Below that is an email from Membership First candidate and AMV petition signer Clancy Brown, which he sent to me after filing his paperwork to become a candidate. By focusing their campaign on this empty claim, Membership First shows how little they have to offer the membership. Everyone understands the biggest problem facing actors right now is that our unions are competing against themselves. If Membership First had a solution for that, we wouldn’t keep hearing about this non-issue. Martin Sheen blasted our slate because some of us supported AMV and claimed we’d continue to pursuit [sic] it despite our public pledge not to. Meanwhile the emails show that two candidates on the slate he’s endorsing – including the one who sent out his letter – previously supported the idea. Is he now going to advise SAG members not to vote for those candidates either?” Here are the two emails Vaughn released to me:
From: Jo Beth Williams
Well, this is bizarre. Fired Los Angeles Times editorial pages editor Andrés Martinez today sued his ex-girlfriend Kelly Mullens of the entertainment PR firm 42West over Grazergate from March 2007. (My thanks to LAObserved‘s Kevin Roderick for alerting me…) Tonight, Mullens’ lawyer told me that Martinez, who now works for a Washington DC think tank, had been threatening this LA Superior Court lawsuit for some time, all the way back to April when Mullens obtained a temporary restraining order against Martinez earlier this year. (See below for why she felt the need for it…)
Martinez in the lawsuit says he and Mullens dated from September 2005 until they broke up in July 2007 after Grazergate, then reconciled, then broke up again in December 2007. But his complaint focuses on Mullens’ insistence on publicizing mega-producer Brian Grazer’s short-lived stint as the guest editor of the Sunday Currents section. Martinez alleges that he asked Mullens not to get involved, and she agreed, because of the seeming impropriety of his selecting one of her clients at the same time they were having a romantic relationship. But Martinez is claiming she went back on her promise to him. A bad situation for him turned even worse when Martinez lost his job at the LA Times. Now folks at Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, which fired 42West because of the embarrassmen to the producer, will probably be deposed. An unhappy insider said this to me about the lawsuit, “Martinez should get a therapist, not a lawyer.”
Even though Martinez has the very prestigious firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp on board, I still feel the …
Different well-known actors in the past 48 hours have written in support for United For Strength or Membership First. Here’s Mike Farrell (supporting U4S) and Martin Sheen (supporting MF). I flipped a coin to determine which opinion I posted first:
From MARTIN SHEEN
To my fellow actors:
If you’re one of the tens of thousands of S.A.G. members who don’t work enough or earn enough as an actor, you’re in danger of losing one of your fundamental rights as a union member. Unless you take the time, right now, to go get your S.A.G. ballot and re-elect MembershipFirst, you could lose your right to vote.
A slate of actors has emerged calling themselves “Unite For Strength”, with an overwhelming majority of their candidates determined to implement “Qualified” or “Affected” voting on all future S.A.G. contracts. Regardless of what they are claiming TODAY, if this group gains control of S.A.G.’s national board, they will start the “qualified/affected” voting policy in motion. Since February 2008, they have dedicated their energies in collecting signatures for their “Qualified Voting Petition.” They’ve proudly and publicly touted their list of supporters, including the names of very high profile actor/producers. They and their supporters have signed a petition that would end democracy in the Screen Actors Guild and create a ‘class system’ between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.
The AMPTP, ( the group that represents our largest employers/producers) have publicly endorsed “Qualified Voting”. In their opinion, too many actors are voting on S.A.G. contracts. Clearly the AMPTP has something to gain if
UPDATE: Universal late today moved the Paul Rudd-Seam William Scott comedy Role Models from November 14th to November 7th because Bond moved from November 7th to November 14.
I usually leave announcements of movies changing dates to the trades. But it’s interesting how the pushback of Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince to 2009 has had such a ping-pong effect on this coming holiday’s North American release schedule. Not only did Summit Entertainment’s Twilight move up into Harry‘s vacated slot of November 21st, but now Sony/MGM’s James Bond No. 22, Quantum Of Solace, has moved back a week. Sony said today: ”We believe November 14th is a great date that allows us to play straight through Thanksgiving and right into Christmas. The Bond films have a long history of entertaining audiences in this holiday corridor going back to Goldeneye in 1995. The studio enjoyed tremendous success opening Casino Royale in North America on November 17, 2006.” Quantum of Solace begins its worldwide roll out on October 31st. Unrelated to Harry, UA’s Valkyrie has moved up from Presidents Weekend 2009 to December 26th (because, when moviegoers think Christmas, they think Nazis…). And Sony moved Will Smith’s Seven Pounds back a week to December 19th, prompting Paramount to slide The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button to Christmas.
I fear this is the kind of news that will push way more talented people off the ledge: Ryan Seacrest Productions has signed a new multiyear deal with Comcast Entertainment Group that expands his TV and New Media production biz across the cable giant’s networks. The agreement gives the cable giant first-look rights to all his company’s projects through August 2011. It also expands Seacrest’s aslready in place deal to provide programming to Comcast’s family of networks. So now, instead of just E! and The Style Network, Seacrest can program for G4, Versus, Golf Channel, exercise TV, FEARnet, Comcast Sportsnet and PBS Kids Sprout. (What, not Shark Week on The Discovery Channel?) The new pact also includes a new advertising relationship between E! and Seacrest’s radio properties, which include the syndicated American Top 40 and the Los Angeles-based On-Air With Ryan Seacrest. The deal follows yesterday’s news that Seacrest’s longtime William Morris agent of 8 1/2 years Adam Sher is leaving to head up Ryan’s production company. How sad is it that Comcast’s Ted Harbert, who used to run ABC Entertainment, calls it “a personal and professional thrill” to be in even bigger business with the Viscount Of Vapidity. Yes, showbiz is very very unfair.
The actress/singer/businesswoman has spent time at every major Hollywood talent agency, sometimes more than once. But I’m told that UTA board member Tracey Jacobs has just signed J-Lo in film and television with the focus on restarting her dormant acting career (after she had twins). J-Lo is prepping to start two films in the fall: one is Love And Other Impossible Pursuits directed by Don Roos that Marc Platt is producing along with Lopez’s production company Nuyorican (with partner Simon Fields). The other is The Governess from the Yari film group and J-Lo’s Nuyorican. In TV, Nuyorican just sold a project to ABC based on J-Lo’s successful pic Maid In Manhattan and is soon starting production on the tween/teen Latina series Amiga Sweet 15 for the Disney Channel. UTA helped start J-Lo in acting by putting her in Selena and Steven Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight. Since then, she’s been at CAA, ICM, Endeavor, and William Morris.
My LA Weekly colleague Steven Mikulan emailed me this about Kirk Kerkorian’s 30-minute testimony today before a packed federal courtroom. Summary: Kerkorian testified that he had no knowledge of any wiretapping.
“The Las Vegas land baron and former MGM/UA owner (twice) put in a long-anticipated appearance this morning at the trial of former private investigator Anthony Pellicano and Kerkorian’s Century City entertainment attorney, Terry Christensen. The 91-year-old Kerkorian entered the courtroom in Los Angeles’ Roybal Federal Building dressed in a blue blazer, gray slacks and black loafers, and seemed to be holding his left hand, which he placed in a pocket during testimony. During his 26 minutes on the witness stand, the unsmiling billionaire admitted he was hard of hearing and not entirely sure of specific dates; at one point he checked himself while referring to the FBI as “the RAF.” (Kerkorian had flown for the Royal Air Force as a contractor during WWII.)
“Those in court expecting TV melodrama were predictably disappointed. Kerkorian had been called as a defense witness by Christensen’s attorneys to declare he had no knowledge of a plan to wiretap his former wife, and, seemingly, to confirm the implied irresponsibility of real estate heir and sometime-Hollywood player Steve Bing. In 2002, DNA obtained by Kerkorian’s security operatives, who