News reports say three Southern California men were charged with illegally posting on the Internet pirated copies of Hollywood movies, including Oscar nominees Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire and Paramount’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The trio were charged in separate cases and face a maximum 3 years in prison if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. They are accused of posting the films at Web sites like thepiratebay.org, the world’s largest file-sharing site using BitTorrent software which allows users to download and share files in 34 languages for free. The site’s founders face charges in Sweden for contributing to copyright infringement.
Because there’s not enough coarseness in the world already, right?
Well, I’d take $1 billion over a Best Picture Oscar any day. Warner Bros made the announcement late Friday. Helped by its relaunch on January 23rd, the Batman sequel is only the 4th Hollywood movie to do this (not adjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices), behind Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The Dark Knight‘s current grosses break down to $533.1 million domestically and $468 million overseas. (Box Office Mojo says it’s the only movie in the Top 20 of the all time worldwide chart where the domestic gross exceeds the foreign gross, which is a common trait among comic book-based pictures. On the all time domestic chart, The Dark Knight ranks second to Titanic, while it stands at No. 22 on the all time foreign chart.) Warner Bros noted that The Dark Knight‘s box office total includes the highest-grossing two-dimensional re-mastered IMAX release ever at $49.6 million domestic and $15.3 million overseas.
Tyler Perry’s Gun-Totin’ Granny #1: ‘Madea’ On Track For His Biggest Yet; Oscar Favorite ‘Slumdog’ Nears $100M
SATURDAY AM: Cross-dressing Tyler Perry’s alter ego grandma may be reviled by movie critics and those who think Madea represents the worst in racial stereotyping. (“A life sentence…” and “Throw away the key…” were just some of the insulting headlines about the film Friday.) But the public sure loves her. So writer/director/actor/producer Perry is heading for his biggest branded film ever as Lionsgate’s Madea Goes To Jail opened #1 Friday to $14.7 million domestic from 2,032 theaters. Tracking showed really even numbers across the board in awareness and interest, with first choice weighted on the older female side. The PG-13 laffer could come close to $40M for this Oscar weekend. Overall, Hollywood has a lot to celebrate Sunday because of what’s shaping up to be another huge weekend at the North American box office with total grosses around $135M-$140M, up 35% from last year. The only other new film debuting was Screen Gems/Sony’s PG-13 cheerleader comedy Fired Up! which eked out $3 million Friday from 1,810 venues for no more than an $8M weekend. “Don’t know who is ‘fired up’ to see this one beyond knucklehead males and females under 25,” a rival studio exec told me. Meanwhile, Best Picture Oscar shoo-in Slumdog Millionaire from Fox Searchlight could easily cross $100 million this Sunday at the same time it’s picking up its award after starting its 15th week in release.
Friday’s Top 10
1. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes To Jail (Lionsgate) OPENER $14.7M Fri [2,032 Theaters], $40M Wkd
2. Taken (20th Century Fox) $3.4M …
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve confirmed there’s no director hired yet. And the two productions won’t be back-to-back. But that hasn’t stopped Summit Entertainment from newly scheduling its Twilight threequel for release on June 30, 2010, not long after its Twilight sequel New Moon set for November 20th this year now being helmed by Chris Weitz. Summit also officially changed the name of its vampire movie franchise based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling series of novels to The Twilight Saga. Here’s how Summit descibes the plot of the threequel Eclipse:
“As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob — knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death.”
Regarding The Twilight Saga, my sources tell me that director Catherine Hardwick’s claim in her diary that she didn’t want to helm New Moon isn’t accurate because Summit decided not to hire her for New Moon. And I’ve also learned that Summit only had a deal with Stephenie Meyer for the first book, Twilight. So the start-up film studio had to make individual deals for the other books in Meyer’s series, including the new 4th novel Breaking Dawn …
Here are reasons to bypass Graydon Carter’s dumbass Oscar party in West Hollywood on Sunday: sources are telling cityfile.com that Vanity Fair reserved an entire spa during Oscar week just so that advertisers could have access to free treatments. Snarks the blog: “Does it make sense for Si Newhouse to be paying for facials when Condé Nast is closing down magazines and laying off staff? Not really. Then again, it can’t be any worse than Newhouse continuing to pour money into Portfolio.” As for VF‘s Oscar party, Graydon may be hyping it as more “intimate” than in years past, but cityfile.com discovered that VF told the City of West Hollywood in an official “special event” permit that it’s expecting a clusterfuck of 1,000 guests at the downscale Sunset Tower Hotel. What a nasty traffic nightmare awaits you.
First time I’ve started a YouTube viral tease. But I just confirmed this is genuine behind-the-scenes footage of host Hugh Jackman rehearsing for the Oscars. It was taken in New York and on a temporary stage in Hollywood by an assistant working on a short for Hugh’s production partner John Palermo. The Academy is gonna freak (quick, someone revive Sid Ganis)… But I love it.
L.A.-based reporter Matthew Garrahan for the internationally respected Financial Times claims today that I am ”the reigning queen of Hollywood news”. (Aw, I’m just stupid enough to work 24/7.) He goes on: “Ms Finke is the scourge of Hollywood publicists with an unrivalled network of high-level industry contacts. Since launching her Deadline Hollywood Daily site three years ago she has earned a reputation as the best connected reporter in the industry.” The article is online and in the newspaper.
The sad truth is that the new tax breaks agreed to by the California Legislature this week will just be used by the Hollywood studios to play one state off another since now lawmakers in 40 states have enacted some kind of filming incentives. This is driven home by today’s incredibly arrogant press release issued by their trade group, the Motion Picture Association Of America, and timed to the Oscars with the sole purpose of boasting about runaway production. Read it and weep.
ANOTHER BIG WINNER ON OSCAR’S® NIGHT:
THE AMERICAN WORKER
Nominated Films Brought Jobs, Revenue to States
Washington, DC – What do Brad Pitt, Anne Hathaway and Mickey Rourke have in common? Yes, they are all nominated for one of Hollywood’s biggest awards – an Oscar®. But, all three of these actors were also a part of an “on location” film production that helped bring jobs and revenue to several states not necessarily known for red carpet events.
On Sunday night, Americans all across the country will settle into their living rooms to find out who will be going home with the coveted Academy Award®. But, beyond the glitz and glamour, some of the biggest winners already are the workers and small businesses in states where several of the nominated flicks were filmed – from Connecticut to Louisiana and New Jersey to Hawaii.
In the category of “on location” productions, an estimated $225,000 per day is added to the local economy where film production occurs. In Illinois alone, Batman was a hero for Chicago when
Fandango Five – Ticket Sales (as of 10:00 AM PT)
Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail (38%)
Jonas Brothers 3-D Concert Movie (16%) Opens February 26th
Watchmen (7%) Opens March 6
Coraline 3-D (7%)
He’s Just Not That Into You (4%)
3RD UPDATE (keep refreshing… new info below): For months and months, SAG’s previous leadership told members that the AMPTP had not yet offered the actors guild a ”Last Best And Final” offer on the TV/Theatrical Contract — even though opponents of that leadership kept erroneously claiming Big Media had. Now the AMPTP acknowledges tonight that it indeed only offered a “Final Offer” to SAG’s previous administration back on June 30th, meaning a “Last Best And Final” offer was still to come. Interesting what a (mis)education campaign accomplishes when the AMPTP is orchestrating it, and its guild lapdogs are playing along. So the SAG National Majority tonight received exactly what the AMPTP always had every intention of offering the Guild eventually. It took all of 3 days for this sham of a negotiation to end. Because, as I told you last night, it doesn’t take long to Xerox the AFTRA deal with a few bones thrown in for motion picture players.
Indeed, if you read tonight’s AMPTP statement (see below) and look at its “Last Best And Final” offer, the arrogant tone and lousier-than-even-expected terms make clear that the SAG National Majority is now the AMPTP’s new bitch:
February 19, 2009 – The AMPTP has offered SAG a Last, Best and Final Offer that contains important enhancements to the Final Offer – a Final Offer that already represented a $250 million increase over SAG’s now-expired contract. The AMPTP made these enhancements in an effort to conclude the AMPTP’s sixth major labor agreement in the past
The big get bigger. Reality programming giant FremantleMedia has just clinched a deal to acquire a controlling interest in Original Productions, the U.S. production company formed and led by Thom Beers. Original is known for developing male-oriented television, with shows like Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, and America’s Toughest Jobs. Both FMNA’s and Original’s broadcaster relationships will remain unchanged. So why is FremantleMedia interested in Beers’ company? “The guy is a hackadoodle. But it’s all about cash flow,” one of my reality TV insiders says.
(Photos by Mark Schwartz)
The “SAY NO TO 400 HOURS!” ad hoc group of members protesting the proposed IATSE-AMPTP contract is planning a rally this Saturday in Santa Monica starting at 10 AM timed to the live television and other media coverage of Film Independent’s Spirit Awards. “We will unite and we will fight! No on 400 hours — save our healthcare,” the group says. Protesters are to meet at Pacific Ave and Ocean (Just South of the Pier) and are asked to make signs and wear red.
Variety has a new publisher, Brian Gott, tapped by Variety Group president Neil Stiles who relinquishes the publisher title to “focus more of my attention on longer-term planning”. The announcement says Gott in his new role will handle day-to-day management of such areas as licensing, strategic partnerships, brand extension, and new product development. He was most recently VP-associate publisher. Linda Buckley-Bruno has been upped to publishing director for the Variety Group. She’ll run global sales operations for Daily Variety, weekly Variety and Variety.com, in addition to the Home Entertainment Group for parent company Reed Business.
Ron Grover at BusinessWeek does a swell job today looking at News Corp No. 2 Peter Chernin’s pretty sweet retirement deal waiting for him if he chooses to leave when his 5-year contract expires June 30th. (Based on conversations, I’d say Hollywood is putting 4-to-1 odds that he walks. I think it’s 50-50.) Grover reports that the 57-year-old’s package of goodies starts with the $28.8 million he earned last year in salary, stock, and other awards. He’s got nearly $27 million in deferred compensation, along with another $11 million in various pension funds, going back to when he ran the Fox film studio and TV network before moving up to the presidency, according to News Corp.’s proxy filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Chernin also has the right, according the filing, to “require” the company to enter into a 6-year deal to buy films or TV shows from him. “This isn’t any window-dressing, either. Chernin, a literature major from the University of California, Berkeley who got his show business start making movies of the week, has written into his deal that Fox would be required to buy ‘at least’ two movies a year from him, paying a fee ‘at least as favorable as the most favorable agreement’ the studio had with a producer in 2004, when he signed the agreement,” writes Grover. “That means big bucks, especially since back then Fox was making hefty pictures like X2: …
Maybe, just maybe, if you all behave, the Big Media corporate cartel will give you paychecks. Granted, those checks will be small and you’ll have to start working two jobs while the Hollywood moguls collect tens of millions each just for waking up and driving to the office. Now, Sony Pictures Entertainment boss Michael Lynton is saying Hollywood studios may change the way they pay actors, directors and producers, requiring creative talent to share risk as DVD sales decline. Yet Lynton is the first to boast to the media how much profit his studio is making at the box office these days. And Sony Pictures is infamous around town for overpaying their stable of stars like Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Will Ferrell, while at the same time lavishing money on their lame-ass vanity projects that never earn out. (I bet any moment Amy Pascal will greenlight Kevin James performing Chekhov just to get him to do Mall Cop 2.)
Yet Lynton told Bloomberg TV today that falling DVD sales have made studios reluctant to pay out millions in salary before recouping costs. Studios can no longer count on DVD sales, even when a movie is a hit, Lynton said. “It’s not so much cutting salaries but making sure our partners, the actors and the directors and the producers, share in the risk,” Lynton said. Did you know you were Big Media’s partners? Then why are partners screwing partners? Oh, right, this is Hollywood.