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Former MTV Networks Programming Chief Joins Oprah’s OWN As CEO

By | Thursday January 29, 2009 @ 10:37am PST

Christina Norman’s jump to OWN has been rumored ever since the 17-year-veteran of the Viacom network left MTV Networks almost exactly a year ago “to explore something new”. (She’s the one responsible — or, more truthfully, to blame) for all those icky reality shows like The Hills and A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.) She’ll oversee all business and creative for Oprah Winfrey/Discovery Communications’ cable channel from L.A. as CEO. OWN is supposed to launch in 70 million homes later this year or early next year. Its programming will revolve around health issues.

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‘Harry Potter’ Stunt Double Injured In UK

By | Thursday January 29, 2009 @ 1:28am PST

Warner Bros is confirming that a stuntman was seriously injured in an accident and taken to the local UK hospital by ambulance. It took place at Leavesden Studios where the latest Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final film based on JK Rowling’s novels, is currently in pre-production. British press reports say the 25-year-old stunt double for the film’s star Daniel Radcliffe was performing an aerial sequence with a harness Thursday AM when he fell to the ground following an explosion which was part of the stunt. His name hasn’t been released yet.

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Is DVD Dilemma On Hollywood’s Horizon? Technicolor Owner Thomson Needs Cash

By | Wednesday January 28, 2009 @ 9:47pm PST

UPDATE: My sources were right: media technology group Thomson SA announced in Paris Thursday that it needs a cash infusion to improve its balance sheet and is exploring solutions with creditors and potential equity investors while warning it was ”likely to breach one of its debt covenants”. So here’s the huge problem for Hollywood: the French-headquartered electronics and media giant, since 2001, has owned Technicolor, which is the giant maker of DVDs for the studios. ”I can tell you the rumors have been flying all day as each studio was getting informed from Thomson of the announcement coming tomorrow,” one source told me today. “The studios’ DVD divisions were pretty shook up about the news since there’s not really another DVD maker that can handle the volumes Technicolor does.” Technicolor has long been a highly successful film processing firm that also became involved in DVD manufacturing. At least now the studios know that Thomson is going to stay in the DVD business because the company emphasized Thursday that it will focus ”on providing services to content creators in the movie and media industries”. Meanwhile, sources tell me that Thomson expects to receive help from the French government to continue operating.

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Ammer Exits Marvel Studios After 1 Year

By | Wednesday January 28, 2009 @ 9:16pm PST

EXCLUSIVE: Geoff Ammer is leaving Marvel Studios as prez of worldwide marketing and will restart his company formerly known as G2 Consulting. He’s been at Marvel since only February 2008. Sources tell me he had just a 1-year contract which is up. And, let’s face it, Marvel’s next movie isn’t until 2010′s Iron Man 2.

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By | Wednesday January 28, 2009 @ 7:18pm PST

This joint SAG/AMPTP statement was released just now:

Screen Actors Guild and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to Meet Tuesday

Los Angeles (January 28, 2009) –  Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will meet February 3 and 4, at the AMPTP offices in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

We will have no further comment about the meeting.

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Fox Developing Walden Media’s ‘Narnia 3′

By | Wednesday January 28, 2009 @ 7:01pm PST

My insiders say this is definite. Disney may regret dumping Walden Media’s Narnia 3: The Voyage of the Dawn Trader, especially now that Fox is definitely going ahead with the project. Could be embarrassing to Disney if Fox makes money on it.

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Layoffs At MySpace In Comics Division; No Fox Film Or TV Staff Cuts Coming Yet

By | Wednesday January 28, 2009 @ 5:44pm PST


UPDATE: I’ve confirmed that MySpace has just sacked a bunch of staff from many divisions, including its Comics division. It’s supposed to be comforting that all the layoffs at Fox Interactive Media amount to less than 5% of the overall workforce there in MySpace,, IGN, and PhotoBucket. I’m told the layoffs started a couple weeks ago, today was MySpace’s turn, and more are coming company-wide. FIM also has open positions, so HR will be trying to figure out if any of the laid off employees can fill these jobs elsewhere in the company. Right now, there are no Fox film or TV layoffs anticipated because I’m told that the studio reduced overall operating expenses by $400 million for this fiscal year (July to July) “all with the goal of mitigating company-wide layoffs,” my source says.

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UPDATE: Imagi Couldn’t Make Payroll So Halts ‘Astro Boy’ & Lays Off 80 Animators

By | Wednesday January 28, 2009 @ 4:45pm PST

WRITETHRU, NEW INFO: What happened is that Imagi Animation Studios lost some investor funding in September, got it back in late fall, expected new money sometime in January or February, and then needed a bridge loan to keep up and running, which they claim to have secured but has been late in coming. So the financially squeezed Hong Kong-based studio responsible for TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) realized Friday night that it couldn’t make its Los Angeles payroll, called everyone on Saturday and laid off almost 80 union animators out of the 120 staff in the LA office, and halted production on the upcoming CGI-animated feature film Astro Boy for Summit Entertainment. Behind the scenes, the company is privately assuring Summit that this won’t affect the pic’s release this year. Imagi is expecting the bridge loan to come through on February 3rd. An insider just told me, ”Our No. 1 concern is to finish Astro Boy with this incredible team.” I’m hearing that the fiscal crisis could also affect 2010′s Gatchaman. Just to add more insight, Imagi not only is having financial problems with its production, but it does not have money to release the film. The deal with Summit is a “service deal” meaning that Summit is simply releasing the film and Imagi has to put up all the P&A. Imagi, with the help of WMA, has been going around town trying to raise $30 million of P&A. It’s really an unfortunate mess.

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Endeavor Wins Race For French Director

By | Wednesday January 28, 2009 @ 4:29pm PST

I hear that several major agencies were pursuing helmer Pierre Morel, whose film Taken (produced by Luc Besson and starring Liam Neeson for 20th Century Fox) which has alreade well overseas and looks like the No. 1 pic opening in North America this weekend. (ICM was boasting about this in a staff meeting only to find out two hours later that it had lost Morel to ex-ICMer Robert Newman at Endeavor). Morel came to many’s attention because the opening scenes of his District 13 (aka District B13) were acknowledged to have influenced the opening scenes of the Bond pic Casino Royale. Morel’s next movie is Hunter-Killer for Neal Moritz and Sony.

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Layoffs At Major Hollywood PR Firm

By | Wednesday January 28, 2009 @ 11:36am PST

UPDATE: Yes, my info is correct – BWR public relations made 7 staff cuts today. A total of 5 junior and 2 midlevel flacks were laid off in the corporate area. No senior publicists were let go, and no one from the entertainment area. “After years of strong annual growth, we decided to ‘right-size’ the company based on current economic conditions and the weakness in the hospitality, retail and consumer products sectors,” an insider tells me. The firm is not ID’ing those laid off, which I think is a mistake because it helps them get hired sooner. UPDATE: I am hearing that Heather McGuire (Events) and Alfred Hopton (Sports) were among those let go.

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Ashley Tisdale Leaves Gersh For CAA

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 7:53pm PST

It’s a real loss for Gersh’s Alex Yarosh since, working in 2nd position to her longtime manager Bill Perlman, he helped make Tisdale into a big moneymaker after three High School Musical installments — two for TV, the third as a hit feature film — and a solo singing career and now as a TV show producer. In August 2008, Forbes listed Ashley among Hollywood’s 10 top-paid young entertainers, and in December ranked her #17 among Forbes “High Earners Under 30″. She will star in 20th Century Fox’s new adventure comedy, They Came From Upstairs, this July. And her own production company, Blondie Girl Productions, is working on a Disney Channel series based on her early life as well as with FremantleMedia on a reality show. There is no way anyone can argue he didn’t take her tween stardom and make the most of it. So I can only imagine CAA’s pitch to her.

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IT’S THE END OF A PR ERA: Old School Publicist Pat Kingsley Exiting PMK/HBH

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 7:02pm PST

Funny, Pat was just talking to a friend of mine about how tired of the whole PR scene she was. “She’s worn down. The travelling. The handholding. The awards season. [Tom] Cruise recently called her to apologize for the comment he made about her,” said my pal. And that’s exactly what she told PMK/HBH when she came to the people who now run her flackery at the end of last year and asked for a buy-out. She told them she was winding it down. That she just didn’t want to come into the office anymore. That she’s just done. So, after stepping down as chairman and CEO and becoming a consultant for PMK/HBH, Pat took the money for the two years left on her contract and will run. Insiders at PMK/HBH sound laid back about which clients she might take with her and which may stick around. “It’s Pat. We’re not going to fight with her about anything. She started the company.” Still, I hear PMK/HBH will be hanging on to Jody Foster, Sally Field and Candace Bergen as well as to Will Smith and his production company Overbrook Entertainment. Kingsley isn’t leaving the biz altogether: she wants to get involved in what she calls “social work” which to her means repping clients on charities and causes.

Who can blame Kingsley for wanting to exit at the end of the month? Once upon a time, all she had … Read More »

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SAG Prez Rosenberg’s Email To Members: Changes Made Were “Most Undemocratic”

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 5:27pm PST

My Fellow Screen Actors Guild Members,Yesterday, on January 26th, a slim majority of our National Board voted to fire our National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, Doug Allen. This was not accomplished in a face-to-face Board meeting, where the significant minority would have had an opportunity to voice its opinion and where Mr. Allen would have had a chance to face his accusers and address their concerns. Instead, this drastic action was accomplished by “written assent”, the most undemocratic provision allowed by our Constitution.

As your twice-elected National President, I feel that it is my responsibility to give you my perspective on yesterday’s events, although my ability to do so is somewhat limited. The same majority, 52.52%, that fired Mr. Allen also voted to change our Board policy that designated the National President to be one of the official spokespeople for the Guild. As of yesterday, the only two people who are permitted to officially speak for Screen Actors Guild are our newly appointed interim NED, David White, and John McGuire, our Senior Advisor from New York. The members now have no official voice. I appreciate the fact that Mr. White thinks it is preposterous to silence a duly elected national officer, and so has permitted me this forum, provided I inform you that what I am about to write represents my opinion. However, although I am not writing on behalf of the Guild, I believe I do speak for

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Never A Dull Moment In Trade-Land: Gerry Byrne Gets Bigger Nielsen Gig

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 4:37pm PST

A MESSAGE FROM GREG FARRARFor the past year, we have made a series of strategic moves to better integrate and align our businesses to serve our customers. This included the creation of an Entertainment Group that combined our leading brands in the film, TV, music, theatre and literary industries into one powerful unit.

Effective today, we will expand that group to include our media brands – Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, Editor & Publisher and The CLIO Awards. This is another important step in our continuing strategy to harness more effectively the collective resources and strengths of these leading brands, as well as the products and services across The Nielsen Company. The new Media & Entertainment Group will be led by Gerry Byrne, who has overseen the Entertainment brands for the past year.

I am also pleased to announce that Sabrina Crow, who has been leading the Marketing, Media and Visual Arts Group, will take on a broader role in the organization. Sabrina will now also be responsible for Nielsen Business Media’s corporate planning and development function, including our strategic planning process and M&A activities, as well as our digital products and online corporate sales efforts. Sabrina will also continue to lead the newly-designated Brand Media Group, consisting of the Travel, Training, Photo, Jewelry, Food, and Real Estate brands.

Greg Farrar
Nielsen Business Media

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Already Trouble Inside All-Shook-Up NBC?

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 4:21pm PST

I’m told about angst between Angela Bromstad, the new president of primetime for NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, and her boss Ben Silverman. “Angela and Ben are barely talking already. They’re respectful, but barely speaking,” my insider says. I can’t even begin to count how many people predicted this would happen. Remember, Bromstad was brought in from London in December to replace both Teri Weinberg, the EVP of NBC Entertainment, and Katherine Pope, the Universal Studio Media President.

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Chuck Lorre Zaps Ben Silverman At NATPE

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 3:08pm PST

Not only does Chuck Lorre have a genuinely funny show in The Big Bang Theory. But he’s also got the balls to bash Ben Silverman in public. I, for one, was horrified when I saw that Silverman would be receiving the 6th Annual NATPE Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards last night. Because I knew Brandon. He was a close friend of mine. He used to share his most private thoughts about the television business with me on a daily basis. And he would be turning in his grave at the very idea of Ben receiving the award because of how little Silverman cares about programming. So kudos to Cynthia Littleton’s blog item today about Lorre, who was also receiving the Tartikoff Award, livening up the ceremony by taking Ben to task for insulting the striking writers as “the ugliest, nerdiest, meanest kids in high school” trying to cancel the prom. So last night Lorre ”invited the exec to meet three writers who embodied ‘ugly, mean and nerdy’. Sure enough, three guys at Lorre’s table who would never be mistaken for Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman or Jon Hamm stood up as the aud roared. (It could not be immediately determined if they were in fact WGA members but they sure looked the part.),” according to Littleton’s on-scene account. And I can vouch that Brandon loved writers. Which is why I think he’d also object to Tyler Perry receiving the Tartikoff Award. As for ABC’s Anne Sweeney, who the hell … Read More »

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Academy Makes Exception On Producer Credits For ‘The Reader’: 4, Not 3

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 2:34pm PST

And no Scott Rudin?

Beverly Hills, CA (January 27, 2009) — Producer credits for Academy Award Best Picture nominee The Reader have been determined by the Producers Branch Executive Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The official nominees for the film are Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Donna Gigliotti and Redmond Morris.

Because four producers were listed on the credits form submitted for Oscar consideration and Academy rules allow for only three producers – except in “a rare and extraordinary circumstance” – to be nominated and potentially receive Oscar statuettes, a meeting of the executive committee was necessary. In the end, the committee determined that the circumstances of The Reader – in which the two original producers (Minghella and Pollack) both died partway through the process – met its definition of “rare and extraordinary” and that all four submitted individuals should be named as nominees.

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SAG Interim NED White: “We Will Not Be Successful If We Do Not Work Together”

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 12:56pm PST

A Message from Interim National Executive Director David WhiteDear Screen Actors Guild member,

As I enter my first full day today as your new Interim National Executive Director, I have reflected on a Los Angeles Examiner story from 1937 that once hung on the wall of my Screen Actors Guild office when I served as General Counsel.

The article chronicled the moment when the studios had finally recognized the Guild as the labor representative for actors in the motion picture industry. A grainy photograph captured members celebrating the news together, the joy in their faces richly evident. That moment, and the incredible work that it took Guild members to reach that moment, have served as the foundation for 75 years of history that has followed.

In my previous tenure at the Guild, I worked alongside several elected National Boards, two presidents (current President Rosenberg and former President Melissa Gilbert) and three National Executive Directors. My intention now, as Interim National Executive Director, will be to work with your current National Board to navigate through a period that is brimming with both challenges and opportunities – from completing our TV/Theatrical negotiations; to preparing for and securing a new Commercials contract as well as several other smaller but critically important labor agreements; to repairing relations with our sister unions; and addressing a polarized political system that is perceived by too many of our members as being close to broken. As we confront these efforts

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Principal PR Aligns With Abrams Research To Offer Entertainment & Media Services

By | Tuesday January 27, 2009 @ 11:03am PST

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK, January 27, 2009 — Principal Communications Group (PCG), a strategic corporate communications firm serving the media and entertainment industries, and Abrams Research Group, a new consulting group offering business leaders insights through a worldwide network of freelance media professionals, have formed an alliance combining the benefits of both organizations’ unique capabilities. The announcement was made today by PCG’s managing partners Paul Pflug and Melissa Zukerman and Abrams Research founder and CEO Dan Abrams.Under the new partnership, Pflug and Zukerman will collaborate with Abrams to offer companies in the media and entertainment sectors a robust set of corporate communications research, consulting and tactical services. Principal Communications Group will seek to identify existing and new clients in these and related fields which can best be served by Abrams Research. Conversely, Abrams will enhance the services it offers its entertainment and media clients through its relationship with PCG.

Announced in November 2008, Abrams Research has assembled a vast global network of media insiders including bloggers, current and former TV journalists and magazine and print editors, now available to provide strategic media-related advice to businesses.

Principal Communications Group provides executive communication strategy and consultation for businesses operating in the media content and distribution sectors. Clients include major companies involved in the development, production, financing, marketing and distribution of motion pictures, television, music, videogames and other media content. PCG also represents law firms, investment banks and other corporations with business interests in the entertainment and media industries.

“Paul and Melissa’s industry intelligence, media relationships

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