EXCLUSIVE: As I have been reporting all along, Steve Rabineau is on his way from William Morris to UTA where he will become a partner and senior agent in the motion picture literary department. The deal is in its final stages of being worked out, I’m told, but is far enough along for Rabineau to have visited UTA this afternoon where Board members Jeremy Zimmer and David Kramer introduced Rabineau to the other agents in the department. Rabineau is expected to bring all his clients to UTA, including Alfonso Cuaron, Phillip Noyce, Don Roos, Craig Gillespie, Todd Graff, John Amiel, Sergei Bodrov, Eric Brevig and others. In 2004, Rabineau, along with David Lonner, famously departed Endeavor and headed to William Morris. It’s still unclear where Lonner will end up, although it’s known that UTA is eager for him to settle there as well.
Now I’m hearing that CAA just wants Mark Itkin from the William Morris Agency’s reality TV department — and can’t agree on salary.
The VP of Drama Programming for NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios died last night after fainting on the set of NBC’s pilot Parenthood up in Berkeley and being rushed to Marin General Hospital. Reports say the cause of death was a brain aneurism. She was only 44. Here’s the NBC Universal statement: “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of our beloved colleague Nora, who was respected and cherished by so many people in the entertainment community. She’ll truly be missed by all of us.” O’Brien came to Universal Media Studios from the SCI FI Channel, where she was VP of Original Programming. She’d been in her current job since January 2008 and acted as both a development and a current executive for scripted series. Some of her projects include Kings and The Philanthropist (the upcoming NBC summer series).
MultiChannel News reports that the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers has released a report on the requirements for standards for the creation of 3-D stereoscopic content viewable on television sets and other home-entertainment displays. A SMPTE task force was set up last August to do this, and over 200 people from 13 nations were involved representing movie studios, broadcasters, cable operators, satellite-TV providers. What’s being set is the “3-D Home Master” for the various distribution platforms like Blu-ray, game consoles, cable systems, broadcasters, broadband, mobile and other technologies that might deliver 3-D content to the home starting in 2010. According to MultiChannel News, the report calls for the 3-D Home Master standard to use the 1080p format at 60 frames per second, the highest level of image formatting currently available. It also specifies that the 3-D Home Master be compatible with a variety of other products, including Blu-ray discs, and requires that these home masters work with earlier formats and displays so that 3-D content can be displayed on existing two-dimensional TVs and other displays.
Tonight, ABC’s Nightline looks at the recession and viewership woes of Daytime TV. Of course, the show is an advertorial for All My Children and its veteran star Susan Lucci. But there does seem to be some journalism in the aftermath of pulling the plug on Guiding Light , the veteran CBS soap, or firing senior actors off NBC’s Days Of Our Lives. Even La Lucci had to take a pay cut. Julie Hanan Carruthers, All My Children‘s exec producer, says the recession is hitting the folks behind Pine Valley. “So far, the tough economic times haven’t actually worked their way into the soaps’ ever-evolving plot lines. But behind the scenes, daytime shows face tighter budgets, shrunken ad revenues and competition for viewer attention from new media,” Nightline says. Luke and Laura’s wedding on General Hospital pulled in 30 million viewers in 1981. These days, soaps are lucky to pull in 3 million. Soaps increasingly use paid product placements. All My Children story lines have been built around Campbell’s Soup. “One of the things that I love is actually using real products, because it validates and authenticates our fictitious Pine Valley,” said Carruthers. And this past year, the soap used CGI technology to create a giant tornado. “In a bad economy, that’s when the audience really wants to watch something that really helps,” Lucci told Nightline. “The escape is in some ways instructive, and is also really hopeful, exciting and fun.”
Turns out the South Park guys were right to blame Canada. Because a new federal government report released today on Copyright Piracy Abroad that shows several countries, including America’s Northern pal, are failing to enforce legal protections for copyrighted works and thus harming U.S. creative industries and the economy as a whole. According to a news release from his office, Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Our country and our trading partners depend on investments in intellectual property to drive our economies. But incentives and profits for engaging in copyright piracy are high, while the risks of being caught and brought to justice are low in many countries around the world. These problematic places have been identified, and now we must focus on enforcement.” The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual “Special 301” Report reviewing the global state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement. As in past reports, rampant illicit copying of CDs, online file-sharing of films and music, and other IPR violations in China, Russia, Spain and Thailand were noted. Canada was a new addition this year to the report’s Priority Watch List. Berman has contacted the office of the Canadian ambassador to the United States and begun work on a list of IPR concerns to be raised at the May 15-18 Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group meeting. He is also preparing legislation to provide additional resources to combat intellectual property theft.
I hear it’s in the works and all her idea. So let me get this straight: Liz Mahoney was at UTA, then became an ID publicist, then returned to UTA as an agent, and is planning to return to ID as a publicist again.
First, 20th Century Fox delayed the debut of X-Men Origins: Wolverine from May 14th in Mexico because of the flu crisis there. Now Sony has delayed two films for the same reason. “We have been closely monitoring the situation in Mexico all week and we continue to be extremely concerned about this health crisis and its impact on the people who live there, and especially those who have been affected by the flu,” the Hollywood studio said. “While our hope is that the outbreak will be contained as quickly as possible, given the unfolding events we are rescheduling Angels & Demons from May 15 to June 12, and we are also moving Terminator Salvation to July 31. It was previously scheduled for release on June 5.”
I checked and it appears to be on the level. Magnamedia Casting Agency — based in New York, Beverly Hills, and London — announced today the addition of a new and specialised division called Senior Stars for “mature, name talent” for films, television, legitimate theatre, commercials, PSAs, infomercials, print, and personal appearances. According to Magnamedia’s Casting Executive Peter Hyde Sr, the group represented are all seasoned and known performers and entertainment industry professionals above age 55. “We fill that niche with great talent — names and faces you knew back when; personalities who filled casting needs extremely well but whose current agents don’t expend the effort required to keep those actor-clients on the money trail.” The news release suggested that senior A and B listers or their agents can sign in with Magnamedia, let it do the work of submission, reading appointments, and calls, and then if an offer is made, the original agency can negotiate and book.
I wish every Hollywood guild member could spend time this morning listening to CNBC and its anti-union ranting over the Chrysler-is-saved announcemet by President Obama. The anchors and guests are accusing the White House of “demonizing” Wall Street instead of the ”real enemy” which is the UAW. Let’s not forget that CNBC is owned by NBC Universal (in turn owned by GE) which depends on unions to get its content made. Sheesh!
Viacom’s Philippe Dauman is claiming that the ad market has stabilized. “We are not seeing any further deterioration.” Viacom beat the street even though net income was down by 34% on 7% lower revenue because of weak advertising.
It was just a question of when, not if. Disney will buy 27% of Hulu for less than $35 million to put full ABC episodes on the site — about what NBC and Fox have. (Providence Equity Partners also is an investor.) Disney will get 3 seats on Hulu’s board for Bob Iger, Kevin Mayer and Anne Sweeney. Disney and its ABC unit will provide current and older programming, including Scrubs, Private Practice, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Hulu will also carry shows from ABC Family and SOAPnet and older feature films from Walt Disney Studios. What I don’t understand is how these supposed Big Media competitors are allowed to form this New Media cartel?
SAG TV/Theatrical Referendum Ballot Schedule
Tuesday, May 19
Tuesday, June 9, 5:00 PM PT
Deadline for receipt of voted ballot.
This requires some setup: Because ABC agreed to provide free air time to President Obama tonight, the season finale of ABC comedy Better Off Ted is no longer airing this evening and being rescheduled for a later date. In response, series creator Victor Fresco made this commercial parody. (FYI, the sitcom is set at a morally bankrupt megacorporation called Veridian Dynamics.) Interestingly, the show comes from Twentieth Century Fox TV, whose sister company FBN became the only broadcast network to turn down Obama’s news conference in order to run Lie To Me.
United Talent and its motion picture lit agent Adam Weinstein are parting company. I don’t get it: this kid was Jeremy Zimmer’s assistant and is a junior agent who has been intensely loyal to the UTA mo-pic chief. Disappointing.
No pre-midnight screenings of X-Men Origins: Wolverine are scheduled on Thursday. About 1,500 theatres will run shows starting at 12:01 AM Friday. Twentieth Century Fox will be releasing the pic on 9,000+ prints in 101 markets internationally (excluding Mexico, India, and Japan. Let the summer movie season begin!
Goldman Sachs has just issued a “Buy” (from “Neutral”) on DreamWorks Animation and expects the stock price to hit $27. Meanwhile, the company’s share price rose today to $23.93 after beating the street estimates with its best 1st-Quarter performance and more than doubled profits. Better-than-expected theatrical and home video sales from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa were cited as the principal reason. The good news for the company follows Jeffrey Katzenberg’s announcement that he’s renewed his contract to stick around as topper through 2013. He will continue to draw an annual salary of $1 but now gets 2 sets of stock options with a combined value of $14M.
UPDATE: Some agents have been given “the nod” that they are safe. Some people have been told nothing. I hear that, during this waiting period for state and federal approvals, no one can be fired officially.
I’m hearing much of the TV reality department led by Mark Itkin have decided to stay together and leave en masse to CAA. This apparently includes John Ferriter and Colin Reno.
Insiders tell me most of the TV lit department — but not Cori Wellins and Lauren Whitney – is out.
Talent agent Dana Sims was just escorted out of WMA today. I hear she asked to be relieved from her contract. Her TV and movie clients include 50 Cent, Ludacris, Common, Nelly, Ciara, Rihanna, Jill Scott, Nas, Young Jeezy, Fabolous, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, Keyshia Cole, Keri Hilson. (Obviously, these are repped by the music department, too.) An insider tells me, “Dana Sims was just announced that today was her last day. This has been the worst kept secret in the agency, as we all knew that she has been trying to break her contract for months now.”
(This is breaking news so I’ll clarify as the situation warrants…)
Time Warner Buries Bad Film Financing News Inside 2008 Annual Report: Also 1st-Q Movie Division Revenue Falls 7.3%; AOL Spinoff Planned
Matthew Garrahan, the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for the Financial Times, has a great scoop that just went online today: “Time Warner has been forced to absorb the cost of four films released in 2008 by its Warner Brothers subsidiary after one of the studio’s key financing partners failed to contribute its 50% share.” It seems that Village Roadshow Pictures, the Australian group that has financed dozens of movies with Warner Bros including the Matrix trilogy, was unable to provide the funds as scheduled, which Time Warner said was approximately $120M. ”The company’s failure to secure the 3rd-party financing illustrates the difficulties facing Hollywood studios as they wait for a thaw in frozen credit markets. They are being forced to carry more of their production costs on their balance sheets as co-financing partners struggle to raise cash,” Garrahan analyzes. In its 2008 annual report, which was recently sent to shareholders, Time Warner said it was “unsure” whether its co-financing partner “would ultimately secure the funding for amounts due on these four 2008 productions or the funding it had committed for films slated for release in 2009”.
Garrahan writes that Warner Bros and Village Roadshow were supposed to co-finance several films in 2008 including Get Smart, Yes Man, Nights in Rodanthe and Gran Torino. “With Village Roadshow unable to provide its share, Time Warner subsequently had to account for the films as if they were wholly owned by the group.” This year, the two companies are due to co-finance Where the Wild Things …