I’ve temporarily abandoned the story of over-leveraged Sumner Redstone’s protracted debt reorganization because at this point it continues to be nothing but speculation. And, frankly, one source’s predictions are no more meaningful than another’s, as I’ve learned from experience on this story. Hey, no one knows what the crazy old coot who controls Viacom, CBS, and National Amusements is really gonna do. Still, it’s downright shocking that The New York Times continues to let its guesser-in-residence Tim Arango (you can’t call him a reporter anymore) pretend to advance the story with all sorts of unconfirmed speculation. At least slug the articles “thumb-suckers”. That this output is from the new-fangled Media Desk doesn’t bode well. As for The Wall Street Journal and New York Post, which also purport to know what’s going on, Rupert Murdoch has long hated Redstone almost as much as he does Ted Turner. Let’s call it: Sumner is increasingly gaga. Someone really needs to take conservatorship over his empire before it all goes permanently to hell.
UPDATE: Lots of insiders have been telling me all week that Eric Mika is out as publisher of The Hollywood Reporter. Or is that just wishful thinking? (Remember, this guy was once described to me as “a prick with all the people skills of a feral pig”.) The word is he’ll be replaced by THR‘s fellow Variety emigre Rose Einstein, and Mica may get shifted by Nielsen to some job in England. Mika’s office would not confirm or deny. By my count, this would be the 5th THR publisher since 2006. Anyway, whoever’s in the job will most likely preside over an online-only trade before too long.
With Will Smith’s Seven Pounds from Sony, Jim Carrey’s Yes Man from Warner Bros, and a heroic mouse’s The Tale of Despereaux from Universal all opening today, it’s somewhat surprising that Fandango big onlineticket seller reports that the rodent is leading weekly ticket sales, apparently due to families making their holiday/weekend plans. Meanwhile, 64% of moviegoers on Fandango say they would see Will Smith in any new movie regardless of the subject matter. MovieTickets.com reports that Sony’s Seven Pounds will be this weekend’s biggest opening. “The latest Will Smith flick is garnering the attention of moviegoers across all demographics; however, the 25- to 34-year-old crowd is showing the most interest in seeing the film over the holiday weekend. More than 55% of moviegoers in that age bracket who are aware of Seven Pounds said they intend to see the movie opening weekend, according to MovieTickets.com. Fox’s Marley & Me is already showing up on the sales chart even though it doesn’t open until Xmas, according to Fandango. Also, MovieTickets.com reports that Lionsgate’s The Spirit which opens Xmas Day is doing well among its core demographic of Under 25s and the 25-34s, as 46% and 48%, respectively, of consumers in those age groups who are aware of the film tell MovieTickets.com they plan to see it opening weekend.
Fandango Five – Weekly Ticket Sales (as of 12/18/08)
The Tale of Despereaux 19%
Seven Pounds 11%
Yes Man 8%
UPDATE: Longtime PMK/HBH publicist Joy Fehily is leaving the flackery after 13 years to start her own PR agency taking clients McG, Seth McFarland, Joel Silver, and other good names. “It’s a bummer but we’re very happy for her,” PMK/HBH CEO Simon Halls told me. “This is exactly what Stephen, Robin, and I did 13 years ago.”
I hear there are layoffs in LA at the two IPG flackeries Weber Shandwick, where sources tell me they have closed the entertainment division and let go the staff, and GolinHarris.
BNC VP publicist Amy Zvi is leaving after 10 years to become a talent manager at Thruline. She already has three clients there – Michael Cera, Jay Baruchel, Jessica Lucas — and has handled the “Just For Laughs” Montreal comedy festival in association with Thruline. I understand that everything is very amicable.
I’m told that laid-off PMK/HBH flack Craig Bankey with his good list of clients has landed at Wolf/Kasteler PR after the first of the year. I feel for the guy going to work for those two bitches…
UPDATE: Jeez, but it’s bewildering why Paramount took out 7 pages of full-page ads in The New York Times today for Revolutionary Road. Talk about overkill. Or why Paramount commissioned a full frills “making of” The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button coffee table book published by Rizzoli and selling for $45 which the studio bigwigs are sending out as Xmas gifts to Hollywood. ”It’s so unbelievably pretentious and self-promoting and self-aggrandizing that I just can’t not comment on it,” one recipient phoned me. But the studio isn’t alone. Oscar campaign spending, which went into reverse when Harvey Weinstein left Miramax, is now back in overdrive.
Even as cutbacks are being announced at the majors and minors, Disney inserted a book on Wall-E — that’s right, a book – into the Los Angeles Times as a promotion I’m told is worth $675,000 — all to reach a few thousand Academy voters since the pic was already out on video. ”So a $675,000 insert is falling out of newspapers sent to 1 in 10 homes in foreclosure. No way that’s going to help the business of Wall-E with consumers. That is just about flattering the ego of John Lassiter, especially when Wall-E is already going to win Best Animated Feature,” an insider complained to me. On the day Viacom announced its bloodletting, Paramount had a color gatefold ad in Variety for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Cost: $250,000, or about 5 assistants’ salaries.
I’m hearing that Focus …
He just paid tribute to his home country in the epic Australia, but director Baz Luhrmann is landing next on Long Island. Yes, it’s true: I can report that Baz Luhrmann’s next project is definitely The Great Gatsby. The Aussie filmmaker recently purchased rights to the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic and my favorite book, which is set primarily on the lush North Shore (aka the Gold Coast) where I grew up in East Egg. Thankfully, Baz should wipe away memories of that 1974 abomination with Robert Redford and the horribly miscast Mia Farrow, or the 1949 laugher with Alan Ladd. (And let’s not forget that Entourage just cast Vincent Chase as Nick in Marty Scorsese’s version.) My insiders confirm that Luhrmann is actively searching for a young actress to portray Daisy, Jay Gatsby’s unrequited love. I think Amy Adams fills the bill (because, mercifully, box office poison Nicole Kidman is too old). Forget my suggestion of Paul Rudd for Nick because he played that part in an A&E version I never saw. As for Gatsby himself, Baz’s Romeo & Juliet leading man Leonardo DiCaprio if he doesn’t break the budget. Or James Marsden on the cheap. Other names?
Santa Clara, Calif. (12/17/2008) — Macrovision Solutions Corporation, a digital entertainment technology leader, today announced it has reached an agreement to sell its TV Guide Network property to Allen Shapiro and One Equity Partners for approximately $255 million in consideration, subject to a working capital adjustment at closing, plus up to an additional $45 million payable through earn-out provisions through 2012. The transaction, expected to close no later than April 1, 2009, includes the TV Guide Online (tvguide.com) business, certain indemnifications and is subject to customary closing conditions.
TV Guide Network is the 19th most distributed network and available in 83 million homes. TV Guide.com is one of the fastest-growing online entertainment destinations with over 15 million monthly unique visitors.
“Today’s announcement further demonstrates our ability to execute against our business plan. We remain committed to delivering leading interactive program guide technology, data solutions and video search capability as key ingredients to the future of the digital home. This divestiture will further streamline our business operations and once again demonstrates our ability to execute on Macrovision’s vision of providing consumers with a uniquely simple home entertainment experience,” said Fred Amoroso, President and CEO of Macrovision. “Furthermore, we continue to make progress towards our goal of divesting TVG Network, our horse racing wagering channel, which we expect to sign in early 2009.”
“I believe the TV Guide Network and tvguide.com are unique properties in the media landscape,” said Allen Shapiro. “These assets and brands are extremely difficult to replicate and create significant opportunities
Miramax’s religious drama Doubt dominated the Screen Actors Guild nominations with five, followed by Milk and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with three each — showing yet again that this year is a wide open awards race with the 5 top films for ensemble casts being Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Benjamin Button:
Screen Actors Guild awards nominations
Richard Jenkins – The Visitor
Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn – Milk
Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler
Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie – Changeling
Melissa Leo – Frozen River
Meryl Streep – Doubt
Kate Winslet – Revolutionary Road
Josh Brolin – Milk
Robert Downey, Jr. – Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Dev Patel – Slumdog Millionaire
Amy Adams – Doubt
Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis – Doubt
Taraji P. Henson – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Kate Winslet – The Reader
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Actor in a television movie or miniseries
Ralph Fiennes – Bernard and Doris
Paul Giamatti – John Adams
Kevin Spacey – Recount
Kiefer Sutherland – 24: Redemption
Tom Wilkinson – John Adams
Actress in a television movie or miniseries
Laura Dern – Recount
Laura Linney – John Adams
Shirley Maclaine – Coco Chanel
Phylicia Rashad – A Raisin in the Sun
Susan Sarandon – Bernard And Doris
Actor in a drama series
SAG STRIKE AUTHORIZATION VOTE: “Yes” And “No” Sides Now Have Dueling Websites, Celeb Lists And Actor Videos
Almost daily now, growing numbers of SAG actors, especially those with well-known names, are taking sides on the Strike Authorization Vote issue. But I don’t have the patience over the next few weeks to keep constantly calculating the star power of both the “Yes” or “No” solidarity signers. Especially when you can do it for yourself:
The “No” side can be monitored at http://www.nosagstrike.com/ by seeing who’s put their name to Danny DeVito’s and Rhea Perlman’s original letter to Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg “voicing clear solidarity to the principles of union [but also laying] out the reasons they believe now is not the time for SAG to pursue a strike authorization”. What was once the signatures of over 130 “highly accomplished and respected members” have now grown to 900 SAG members. High profile actors Russell Crowe, Michael Chiklis, Hilary Duff, Alyssa Milano, Julianne Moore, Robert Redford and Seann William Scott and others have joined George Clooney, Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Pierce Brosnan, Alec Baldwin, and Josh Brolin in signing this missive to SAG Board members saying:
“We feel very strongly that SAG members should not vote to authorize a strike at this time. We don’t think that an authorization can be looked at as merely a bargaining tool. It must be looked at as what it is — agreement to strike if negotiations fail.
We support our union and we support the issues we’re fighting for, but we do not believe in all good conscience that now is the time to be putting people out of work.
None of our friends in
Tonight’s SAG Town Hall: Of the 40 Speakers, 80% “Yes”, 15% “Undecided”, 5% “No” On Strike Authorization Vote
UPDATE: A dozen film industry workers protested outside the Hollywood town hall meeting of the Screen Actors Guild on Wednesday night holding up signs saying “Please No Strike Now — The Crew” in the rain. The group described themselves as location scouts, technicians and camera-equipment vendors. The “No Strike” group greeted some 570 attendees arriving in the downpour and cold to attend tonight’s SAG leadership informational meeting at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. ”There were a lot of new faces,” one attendee told me. Once gain, SAG President Alan Rosenberg and Executive Director and chief negotiator Doug Allen gave their slideshow about the AMPTP’s June 30th “last offer” to the big actors guild and the need for a strike authorization “Yes” vote to give SAG leverage with Big Media.
Overall, the sentiment of the estimated 40 speakers at the microphone was escribed to me by one attendee as “very very positive. They asked good questions. No one said, ‘It’s a good deal: Take it’. Some people were wary of the economic climate. Most were supporting what SAG was doing. Those not supporting said it was based on timing, not the guild.”
Sources said that of the 40 speakers, 80% were pro, 15% undecided, and the remaining 5% con.
Several times there was applause from the audience of SAG members as a “sign of unity” for some of the speakers. The biggest surprise was Rob Schneider who went to the microphone and articulately “told it like it is. …
Los Angeles – The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) on behalf of the major Hollywood movie studios filed lawsuits in federal court in Los Angeles today against campusist.com, movies-on-demand.tv, and sswarez.com – websites that facilitate copyright infringement on the Internet. These sites contribute to and profit from massive copyright infringement by identifying, posting, organizing, and indexing links to infringing content found on the Internet that consumers can then view or download on-demand.
“The people who are operating these sites are profiting from the theft of protected content. We have filed several other similar lawsuits and will continue to do so in order to hold operators accountable for their illegal activities. We have every intention of continuing to shut down these sites, and sites like them, for good,” said John Malcolm, Executive Vice President and Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy Operations for the MPAA.
Sites like campusist.com, movies-on-demand.tv, and sswarez.com rely on advertisers to maintain their operations and profit handsomely from third-party advertising pitches. All three sites combined attract over 54,000 unique visitors per day who view nearly 208,000 pages of content.
The worldwide motion picture industry, including foreign and domestic producers, distributors, theaters, video stores and pay-per-view operators loses approximately $18 billion annually as a result of piracy — over $7 billion of which is attributed to Internet piracy.
I just received this email from inside William Morris: ”WMA, despite losing nearly every client they’ve ever had and despite the cratered economy, has gone ahead and given sweet holiday gifts to all assistants and support staff: Amazon Kindles. Everyone’s overjoyed and quite surprised. It might even outdo the goodwill garnered by the iPod gifting of 2006. (… Last year lumps of coal were passed out as a result of the writer’s strike.)”
Hard to believe Box Office Mojo has been around for 9 years already. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Amazon.com’s subsidiary IMDb.com snapped it up in a deal finalized this week. The go-to website for movie stats sent an email today that it will continue to operate as a stand-alone business and produce analysis and comprehensive box office tracking for free online. Also, its headquarters will remain in the Los Angeles area. “We expect this change to allow us to expand our offering to readers by leveraging IMDb’s comprehensive database of movies and those who make them. IMDb is committed to further developing the Box Office Mojo brand and building upon the success of the past nine years,” said a joint statement by Box Office Mojo’s Brandon Gray and Sean Saulsbury.
I’m hearing there are going to be senior-level cuts at E!, Style, G4 and Fearnet.
I’d been planning to update my DreamWorks financing story from December 4th about how things may come to a head on this fast-breaking news as soon as January. (Look for my post Thursday…) But Variety‘s article just published online is not only late (the trade didn’t match my reporting from two weeks ago) but also wrong on many points. This is what happens when Peter Bart calls around to Hollywood, then feeds one of his reporters who didn’t even do most of the research. Sheesh!