With the Lionsgate TV series Mad Men set to make its Season 3 bow in August on AMC, I’m told there’s a big fight leading up to the premiere over, of all things, ads. AMC has told the show’s producers to make allowances for another commercial break each hour — so that’ll be two minutes less of actual programming. That might not sound like such a big deal, but it’s galling given how well the show has done, how carefully it’s put together, and how much money it’s already making AMC and parent company Cablevision which recently announced a $20M 1st-quarter profit, while subsidiary Rainbow Media cited a 7.6% increase in ad sales. Naturally, the suits are blaming the bad economy and saying the show simply doesn’t bring in enough revenue. Producers are raising a big stink, but it looks like AMC isn’t budging. At a time when networks are cutting back on commercial breaks, you’ve got to wonder why AMC is screwing its golden goose. How can Mad Men compete with premium cable when basic cable is squeezing it for every penny?
The group “Keep SAG Relevant” today unveiled another video, this one from Rob Schneider “who wanted very badly to be in a ‘Vote NO’ video but was working out of town. So, he shot one himself and sent it to us”:
Also, “Lumpy” and “Eddie” from the cast of Leave It To Beaver, Frank Bank and Ken Osmond, have made their own video explaining why the tentative SAG TV/Theatrical Contract with the AMPTP is bad for pre-1974 actors:
NEW YORK, NY – May 28, 2009 – In a major strategic initiative that will strengthen its presence within the Hollywood creative community and expand its output of original television programming, RHI Entertainment has opened a Los Angeles based programming office and named Tom Patricia, Executive Vice President, Movies and Miniseries and Elizabeth Stephen, Executive Vice President, Series. The announcement was made today by Robert Halmi Jr., President and CEO, RHI Entertainment.
The new office will be responsible for production and development as well as co-financing opportunities. Patricia and Stephen will work closely with RHI’s New York creative team, including company founder and head creative executive Robert Halmi, Sr. and Senior Vice President, Development Lynn Holst.
“While RHI has always had a high profile in Hollywood, this new programming arm will enable us to ramp up our West Coast development and production efforts even further,” said Halmi, Jr. “Tom and Elizabeth are extremely talented executives who have the key relationships and know how to get projects greenlit and produced. They will have an immediate and far reaching impact on RHI’s creative output.”
Tom Patricia, an Emmy-nominated and Christopher Award-winning producer, most recently has had an exclusive producing deal with Lionsgate Television for TV series, movies, miniseries, and non-fiction programs. Patricia served as Senior Vice President for Michael Ovitz’s Artists Television Group, where he was head of the Television Movie and Miniseries Department. He also headed up Peter Guber’s Television Movie and Miniseries Department as President, Television Pictures,
NEW YORK, May 28, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Time Warner Inc. today announced that its Board of Directors has authorized management to proceed with plans for the complete legal and structural separation of AOL from Time Warner. Following the proposed transaction, AOL would be an independent, publicly traded company.
Time Warner Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said: “We believe that a separation will be the best outcome for both Time Warner and AOL. The separation will be another critical step in the reshaping of Time Warner that we started at the beginning of last year, enabling us to focus to an even greater degree on our core content businesses. The separation will also provide both companies with greater operational and strategic flexibility. We believe AOL will then have a better opportunity to achieve its full potential as a leading independent Internet company.”
After the proposed separation is complete, AOL will compete as a standalone company – focused on growing its Web brands and services, which currently reach more than 107 million domestic unique visitors a month, as well as its advertising business, which operates the leading online display network that reaches more than 91% of the domestic online audience. AOL will also continue to operate one of the largest Internet access subscription services in the U.S.
AOL Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong said: “This will be a great opportunity for AOL, our employees and our partners. Becoming a standalone public company positions AOL to strengthen its core businesses,
SANTA MONICA, CA, and VANCOUVER, BC, May 28, 2009 — Lionsgate announced today that One Equity Partners (OEP), the global private equity investment arm of JPMorgan Chase, will become a 49% equity partner in Lionsgate’s TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com. One Equity Partners will pay approximately $123 million in cash for a 49% stake in the network and the TV Guide.com online business. OEP retains the option of buying another 1% of TV Guide Network and TV Guide.com under certain circumstances. Allen Shapiro, a leading media investor, has also joined the partnership and will play an important role in the channel’s growth as Chairman of the joint venture, partnering with Lionsgate Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer to lead the channel’s Executive Committee, supported by Lionsgate’s television management team.Lionsgate acquired TV Guide Network, which reaches approximately 83 million homes and is one of the 30 most widely-distributed cable networks, and leading online navigation site TV Guide.com on February 28, 2009 for approximately $250 million.
“We are delighted to welcome both One Equity Partners and Allen Shapiro as partners in TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com,” said Feltheimer. “Given their longstanding interest in the channel and the alignment of our interests, they are the ideal partners. OEP is a distinguished and well-capitalized firm that shares our vision of building a dynamic entertainment channel driven by Lionsgate-branded content that will prove to be a major force within our industry.”
“I believe that TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com are unique assets which are difficult to
GLENDALE, Calif., May 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) announced today its plans to release five feature films every two years, adding an additional film every other year to its existing two picture a year release schedule on a going-forward basis. The Company also announced its upcoming slate of animated feature film releases through 2012.
The Company’s slate through 2012 now includes eight feature films from DreamWorks Animation’s talented and seasoned creative leadership team, including five original films and three sequels based on the Company’s existing blockbuster franchises, Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. As has been previously announced, all DreamWorks Animation feature films are now being produced in 3D.
“Our exceptionally talented and highly experienced creative team is bringing to DreamWorks Animation a significant number of imaginative, original and cutting-edge ideas today,” said Bill Damaschke, Co-President of Production and President of Live Theatrical. “Having achieved a high level of success and consistency in our creative process and having in our development pipeline more great story concepts than ever before, we are very confident in our ability to add one original film every other year.”
The upcoming animated films on the Company’s future theatrical release schedule are currently planned as follows: How to Train Your Dragon, which is based on the book of the same name by Cressida Cowell, will be released on March 26, 2010. Shrek Forever After will be released on May 21, 2010. Oobermind (formerly titled Master Mind) will be released on November 5, 2010. Kung
UPDATE: First IATSE organized a morning protest against Larry Levinson Productions. Then a confab was held this afternoon at WGA West headquarters with guild staff and writers to discuss the union’s next move against LLP as well as RHI Entertainment. Dozens of WGA members who’ve worked on both companies’ TV movies allege that LLP and RHI are withholding residuals and/or failing to report residuals, so the guild is investigating. LLP already has angered IATSE’s Hollywood locals for replacing the union workers with scabs.
Who’s fooling who? Jim Wiatt was sitting at one end of those coveted Endeavor seats adjacent to the Lakers bench at tonight’s game with Patrich Whitesell at the other end (next to Les Moonves). Ari Emanuel was across town at that fundraising dinner with President Obama attended by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen.
About 50 IATSE Hollywood guild workers gathered for an informal picket in front of the Hallmark Channel offices on Ventura Blvd this morning to protest the cable network’s continuing contract for TV movies from Larry Levinson Productions (LLP). Most of the protesters are former Levinson production employees who have been replaced with non-union workers. The IATSE workers organizing the protests say they have brought their cause to the attention of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s District Office. IATSE organized a series of protests in Simi Valley where LLP was shooting Mega Storm for NBC. Now LLP is already employing scabs on its production A Soldiers Love Story for Hallmark. (Photos By Jim Stevenson)
MovieTickets.com says holdover Night at the Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonianis selling 36% of all its online tickets vs UP which is selling 11%, Angels & Demons 10%, Star Trek 9%, Terminator Salvation 5%.
I’ve learned that Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson, the co-heads of the William Morris Agency’s independent film division, are exiting the company before the merger. Taking over the department will be Endeavor’s Graham Taylor.
The SAG member also expresses outrage over the guild’s smear campaign of those voting against the tentative TV/Theatrical contract with the AMPTP. The “Vote Yes” contingent, whose video is here and on the SAG website, also is robocalling SAG members with 100s of automated phone calls featuring a pre-recorded message from National Board member Adam Arkin. The “Vote No’ ccampaign does not have equal access to the official SAG membership list of telephone numbers.
I wonder if they’ll use that old line, “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m under pressure to trim my list.” Or perhaps, “You’ll be better off at a smaller agency, I promise…” In any case, get anxious if you’re an Endeavor or William Morris actor or writer, and you get a call from your agent this week or next that starts with a long sigh. Because chances are likely you’re about to get cut from the newly merged WME Entertainment. It’s not a surprise that clients who are not working or deemed not right for the new company will be laid off. Cuz you can’t fire 100 people and keep the same number of clients. The purging is part of WME’s philisophy that it only wants to represent the “Top 2%” of Hollywood talent. So if you survive, congrats. You’ve officially made it in Hollywood.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the California Youth Advocacy Network, and the American Medical Association Alliance (the AMA’s volunteer arm made up of doctors and spouses) is partnering for an “Anti-Smoking In Movies” campaign launching today. Mobile billboards will drive around Los Angeles, and stop by the major studios, today and tomorrow showing a young girl asking, “Which movie studios will cause me to smoke this summer?” Using Facebook and Twitter, a scorecard will regularly tally the number of tobacco impressions in this summer’s youth-rated blockbusters. A letter-writing and petition drive across the country will commence during the blockbuster season. And, at the end of September, billboard will be strategically placed near the studio with the worst summer record for encouraging smoking in its summer films.
“The blockbuster season’s first example of smoking in a youth-rated film is 20th Century Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It has numerous scenes of the main star, actor Hugh Jackman, with a cigar. Another PG-13 blockbuster, Angels & Demons by Sony Pictures, includes tobacco imagery,” the campaign said today.
Howver, Angels & Demons is an adult-aimed film. And a Fox insider defends the studio by noting that Wolverine, whose stogie-smoking was a defining trait in the comic books, never actually lights up the cigar in the two scenes it’s in. And he says “Clean living,” when it gets shot out of his mouth. “So that we know he doesn’t endorse it. We are acknowledged by that very group to …
Even though he didn’t make this video, the president of the Association of Entertainment Marketing Agencies is sending it around to trailer houses. That’s because it’s especially apt given that Hollywood studios right now are slashing prices on trailers and posters but wanting the same or better quality and more volume. (Even though 2009′s year-to-date box office revenue is half a billion ahead of last year’s…)
It’s been long in the works. But now the executive shuffling and pinkslipping may be finally coming down this week – as soon as Thursday? — as Steve McPherson consolidates his power as head of ABC Entertainment Group overseeing both ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios. Here’s what sources are telling me: Channing Dungey is leaving ABC Studios as SVP of drama development, to head drama at ABC Entertainment. She’ll replace Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs, who currently is EVP of drama development at ABC Entertainment and is being elevated to No 2 under Steve McPherson to oversee comedy and drama. Josh Barry, who’s VP of drama at the network under Patmore, will move to ABC Studios to run drama. Kevin Plunkett, who runs comedy at the studio, probably goes to the network to run comedy and replaces Samie Falvey, SVP of comedy development for ABC Entertainment. And Barry Jossen, who was elevated to No. 2 under Mark Pedowitz at ABC Studios (replacing Julia Franz) as EVP of creative, now becomes the head of ABC Studios. I’m also told to expect layoffs in business affairs, legal, casting, publicity, etc. Of course, given Steve McPherson’s unpredictable personality (some would call it bat-shit crazy), he may do all of this or none of this in the time frame I’ve been given. Have you seen the profanity-laced emails he sends out threatening people, followed by his emails asking the same people for a favor minutes …
Starting June 1, Hollywood’s newest talent agency will hold a series of staff meetings, interdepartmental meetings, and operational meetings to combine its two tenpercenteries. WMA and Endeavor will start officially sharing office space. There’s even a confab and cocktail party planned at the home of Ari Emanuel, WME’s co-CEO along with Patrick Whitesell and Dave Wirtschafter. Speaking of Dave, I’ve been assured that he is staying with the newly merged agency, and in fact is actively involved. On the other hand, as I previously reported, Irv Weintraub will not be making it to the merger, according to my insiders. As for Jim Wiatt, who’s been politely eased out with an Emeritus title (see my previous, William Morris CEO Jim Wiatt Is Exiting New WME Agency Before It Starts) he’ll be given an office in the old WMA headquarters for the next six months, and then he’s gone. By the way, I’ve pinned down the timing of when Wiatt found out he was history. On May 15, when his close pals, entertainment lawyer Skip Brittenham and former Viacom mogul Tom Freston, warned, “You have to resign, or you’re going to be fired.” Wiatt’s first reaction was anger, and then grief. And then it was, “What am I going to get in return?” Around $25 million. Also, as I previously reported, WMA unscripted czar Mark …
Lost in the “how-much-money-did-it-make this weekend” discussion of Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian is the fact that Shawn Levy has now directed 6 straight No. 1 or No. 2 movies in a row: Big Fat Liar, Just Married, Cheaper By The Dozen, The Pink Panther, Night At The Museum, and Night At The Museum 2. I’m not sure it’s a record, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another helmer who’s had so much opening weekend success from their first movie to their last. Which just goes to show: never underestimate the drawing power of a family film.