Earlier this month, I posted about all the rumors surrounding GE and its 80% ownership of NBC Universal now that the Vivendi put is coming due. (The conventional wisdom, as yet unconfirmed, is that Vivendi may decide to sell its 20% of NBCU this year since the French company is more interested in expanding into telcom than hanging onto a non-core asset like media.) So a “what if” scenario is developing between GE and interested companies which include media giants. I’ve learned that GE for the past two months has talked to at least half a dozen tire-kickers for either an investment in or acquisition of Vivendi’s 20% of NBCU or more of the media company. Sources say Comcast, for instance, might be interested in a 50% stake in NBCU. But Comcast tonight is denying an Internet blog’s bullshit that a “deal was done” (and the blog has already backtracked from that very inaccurate claim). The truth, deep Comcast sources are telling reporters, is that there’s “nothing imminent” and “no price yet” while looking in the general direction of NBCU. Why now? Because, every November, Vivendi can trigger a right to sell its 20% stake in NBCU, either in the market or to NBCU’s parent General Electric which has the right to sell the stake to a 3rd party.
On September 16th, I posted that one of the “saner” rumors “that seems within the realm of possibility” surrounding NBC Universal was that Comcast and GE were cooking … Read More »
I’m told between 30 and 40 staffers are being let go in this bloodletting.
Why does everytime the Los Angeles Times makes an entertainment coverage personnel move, the positions always sound identical? The newspaper today announced Lisa Fung as Online Arts & Entertainment Editor to oversee multimedia coverage of all arts and entertainment, including Calendar, The Envelope and Company Town, as well as more than a dozen latimes.com blogs. In addition, Fung is supposed to develop new online properties. Fung has been with the LAT for more than 21 years and has overseen arts and culture coverage for the past nine years, including theater, architecture, classical music, dance and opera. Staffers tell me she’s humorless.
Tomorrow, GLAAD’s 14th annual “Where We Are on TV” report, which measures the quantity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people on primetime and cable television for the the 2009-2010 TV season. I’ve learned some of the key stats will show:
– Quantity of gay and lesbian characters on primetime broadcast is up for the second year in a row. GLAAD counted the total number as well as the percentage compared to the total number of series regulars. Last year characters made up 2.6% of series regulars.
– There is only one lesbian and very few gay people of color among series regular characters.
–While the quantity is up, the storylines are also “becoming more realistic,” GLAAD says. “Americans now see teens coming out on Fox’s Glee, couples getting married on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters and gay couples adopting on ABC’s Modern Family.”
– The number of gay characters on cable is down.
More as I get it…
I’ve been sent Bill Mechanic’s keynote speech about the future of indies from this morning’s Independent Film & Television Production Conference. The former chairman/CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment from 1994 to 2000, is now an indie producer (Coraline) and owner of Pandemonium LLC. Mechanic has always been one of the more pensive and articulate execs in Hollywood:
“I was asked to address you this morning with my observations on the present as well as the future state of Independent Production.
But before I begin, I have to relate the story of a close friend of mine, who’s a leading heart surgeon.
He said he’d recently been involved in a very trying and emotional six hour piece of open heart surgery where he and a team of people fought valiantly but unsuccessfully to save a patient.
Afterwards, my friend entered the Doctor’s locker room where one of his colleagues was staring absently into the void, clearly spent from the ordeal. He tried to cheer him up but the colleague turned to him and asked why he was not more distraught.
My friend answered with a smile:
At least we weren’t asked to save Independent Production.
Well, the truth be told, we may not be heart patients but we aren’t that far away. We have too many insignificant movies clogging our distribution channels. Tightening economic conditions are sending sharp pains through our systems. Our blood supply from heretofore vibrant markets such as DVD and TV seemingly have
… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained the email which is going out tonight imploring Hollywood and world moviemakers to add their names to a petition protesting Roman Polanski’s Swiss jailing and possible extradition to Los Angeles.
Thierry Fremaux told me the shocking news of Roman’s arrest in Zurich, which by now the whole world is attuned to. We are all incredibly distressed and disappointed by this turn of events, particularly as Roman was en route to receive an award, for his career in film, in a country where he often visited and even had a home.
In Marina Zenovich’s documentary “ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED”, it clearly showed that a plea bargain was made with the judge; the District Attorney and Polanski’s lawyers too acknowledged that a deal had been made. Roman however got a tip that the judge had recanted his decision and planned to double cross him, causing him to leave the US to which he has not since returned.
While he is not above the law, Polanski received his punishment and served his time, and the deal is not being honored. The idea of Roman Polanski incarcerated is an anathema and a situation that we, who have the privilege of making movies, cannot tolerate. We must lobby against any move to bring him back to the US where he could face jail time. Unfortunately, some believe that a man, considered
… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: So here’s what happened: the script only came in Friday, and it was the first draft that Dimension Films had seen. And The Weinstein Co was rushing to get the film into production for a November start date because it has to be done by January when director Patrick Lussier starts a film for Avi Lerner. A release for Summer 2010 was planned. Sure, the rumor mill claims TWC is out of money amid all those layoffs, and TWC couldn’t agree on a $2.5M budget battle with Lussier, and TWC had key crew ready to fly to Shreveport. But I understand that Bob Weinstein shut down H3D pre-production “because Bob just felt it was rushing too fast.” Now Dimension plans to start the film after My Bloody Valentine 3D helmer Lussier is free. (After all, the film editor got his directing start making Dracula 2000 for the Weinsteins.) But I know what you’re thinking: Rob Zombie’s reboot sequel Halloween II did lousy at the box office so perhaps TWC wants to cut its losses. “We make those pics for very little money and tight marketing dollars so anything north of $25M is a huge success for us,” an insider tells me. Meanwhile, HII, whose domestic total is now $32M, will get a re-release on Halloween in selected theaters for midnight showings.
These WGAE signings are especially important as they are the first signings under the union’s Writers Guild 2.0 initiative — and the first real foothold in the digital media realm, which is the future of showbiz:
NEW YORK CITY –The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) has signed 11 new companies creating content for digital media. These new signatories have produced more than 12 web series currently available online and have additional series in development. The writers at these companies will become WGAE members. The organizing of these projects and writers is part of the WGAE’s Writers Guild 2.0 initiative and demonstrate that writers working in digital media are interested in joining the Writers Guild.
The new WGA signatories are:
– Dinosaur Diorama TV, LLC – producers of many web series, including The Burg (www.TheBurg.tv), All’s Faire (www.AllsFaire.tv), The All for Nots (www.AllForNots.com), and Greg and Donny (www.youtube.com/GregAndDonny)
– Concierge: The Series – an original web series about the day-to-day operations of a down-on-its-luck hotel aspiring to greatness, featuring an ensemble cast of New York city comedians, improvisers, and actors (www.ConciergeTheSeries.com)
– Kapri Productions, LLC – producer of Elena Moscat’s web series Life After Lisa, which is about college life in the mid 1980s (www.filmfest.com)
– New Jill Productions, LLC – its web series Jack & Jill is a comedic look at a trashy romance novelist’s struggle to get through her first book reading after a stint in rehab (www.newjilltv.com)
– Super Heroic Pictures – … Read More »
The following memo just went out to Summit Entertainment employees from bosses Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger about what the fledgling studio plans to do with all its Twilight franchise cash. I hear the company is looking mostly for libraries to acquire:
You may have already read or heard about a piece in today’s NY Post that Summit is close to putting Morgan Stanley on retainer to help the studio grow its business and advise on possible transactions designed to take our company to the next level. While the Board and Senior Management are in discussions with the investment bank, no formal plans have been made as to how we would expand Summit and its platform. We have all built a great company over the past two years and we feel fortunate to be in the position to now look beyond the initial goals we have achieved and plan the next chapter in the studio’s journey.
Rob and Patrick
Yet another media company has been forced to restructure. Halcyon Holding Group, which owns the Terminator franchise and which filed for Chapter 11 protection last month, has hired FTI Capital Advisors to evaluate strategic alternatives for the company. Halcyon is in a dispute with Pacificor, the Santa Barbara-based hedge fund that financed Halcyon’s purchase of the Terminator franchise. FTI Capital Advisors will work with Halcyon’s management and bankruptcy counsel to help the company negotiate the Chapter 11 process and maximize the value of its assets, which in addition to the Terminator franchise also include first-look rights to the works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. “Based on our extensive due diligence, we believe the value of the Terminator franchise alone is substantially greater than the $30 million Halcyon paid for it in 2007,” Kevin W. Shultz, Senior Managing Director of FTI Capital Advisors, said in statement today. “In our view, Halcyon enjoys a wide variety of strategic options and we intend to explore them all.”
Great line from last night’s Entourage, and it’s going on my tombstone.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that Sony Pictures and Sony Music were smart to purchase that rehearsal footage of Michael Jackson preparing for his concerts before his untimely death — even if the pricetag started at $50M. Not only does the trailer clearly show this is an intriguing motion picture, but those who’ve seen the actual movie tell me it’s riveting. (And they don’t even like Michael Jackson or his music…) So it should come as no surprise that Sony is boasting this morning that sales around the world for the pic, which supposedly has a 2-week release (and which we all know will be extended) are humongous. “I’ve never seen anything like it in the 25 years I have been film buying,” says a UK exhibitor quoted by Sony. Here’s the press release:
CULVER CITY, Calif., September 28, 2009 – Sony Pictures Entertainment, in conjunction with Sony Music Entertainment, today announced that the first 24-hours of pre-sales activity for Michael Jackson’s This Is It has resulted in record-breaking sales throughout the world as fans secure the first tickets to the two-week, limited engagement of the highly-anticipated motion picture.
With reports still coming in from nations around the world, it is believed no movie in history has generated so many ticket sales so far
… Read More »
If you, like me, think Big Media will eventually just consist of Disney, Time Warner, and News Corp as MGM, Viacom/Paramount, and NBC Universal get gobbled up because of consolidation, here’s more evidence: Time Warner Inc, already flush with extra cable cash, will eventually sell the Time Inc magazine unit and could use the bigger bounty to buy holdings in its core entertainment category. That’s according to Gordy Crawford, the managing director of its largest shareholder, The Capital Group. Crawford said at a presentation September 24 at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication about media. “Time Warner just spun off their cable division, they are going to sell their print division, they are going to spin off AOL and they’re just going to be Warner Brothers, HBO and the Turner Networks. “Now, they will make acquisitions … but they’re probably going to buy just stuff in their wheel house of those businesses. They’re not going to, I don’t think, go very far afield from their core competency.” While Crawford did not name specific acquisition targets, he did say there would be a “winnowing process” during which weaker companies in the sector would be gobbled up. I’ve already reported about rumors that Time Warner and GE are in talks about NBCU. Meanwhile, former News Corp No. 2 Peter Chernin said at the conference he expected there to be a “great consolidation” down the road, as the weaker companies among the larger players decide to sell rather than continue to lose market share. “The ones that will … Read More »
SUNDAY AM: Analysis coming…
1. Meatballs (Sony) Week 2, Wkd $24.6M (-19%), [3,119] Cume $60M
2. Surrogates (Disney) NEW, Wkd $15M [2,951]
3. Fame (MGM) NEW, Wkd $10M [3,096]
4. The Informant (WB) Week 2, Wkd $6.9M (-34%) [2,505] Cume $20.9M
5. I Can Do Bad All By Myself (LG) Week 3, Wkd $4.7M [2,120] Cume $44.5M
6. Pandorum (Overture) NEW, Wkd $4.4M [2,506]
7. Love Happens (Universal) Week 2, Wkd $4.3M (-46%) [1,898] Cume $14.M
8. Jennifer’s Body (Fox), Week 2, Wkd $3.5M (-49%) [2,738] Cume $12.3M
9. 9 (Focus), Week 3, Wkd $2.8M [2,025] Cume $27.1M
10. Inglourious Basterds (Wein/Uni) Week 6, Wkd $2.7M [1,960] Cume $114.4M
UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times reported this morning that LA prosecutors planned Roman Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland after learning he would be accepting a film festival award in Zurich. Prosecutors sent a provisional arrest warrant to the U.S. Justice department which presented it Swiss authorities.
News outlets report that Roman Polanski was arrested by police in Switzerland today on a 31-year-old international warrant as he arrived at the Zurich airport to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival. (The organizers expressed “great consternation and shock”.) The Swiss Federal Justice Department was holding the 76-year-old Oscar-winning director in provisional detention while preparations were made to possibly extradite him to Los Angeles to face that 1978 arrest warrant following his conviction of drugging and having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old minor in the home of Jack Nicholson. Facing a prison term, Polanski fled the United States just before his sentencing. But in the ensuing time, the girl, Samantha Geimer, has publicly forgiven him, and, with Hollywood’s backing, lawyers have tried over the years to get the case dismissed as recently as last year, arguing among other things that he was psychologically shattered after his wife Sharon Tate was killed by the Manson family. Also cited has been a documentary called Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired showing what Polanski’s attorneys have said was “a pattern of misconduct and improper communications” among Los Angeles officials regarding the case. In Paris, where Polanski fled … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The company and Tom Ortenberg say he asked to leave TWC for “personal reasons”. This news comes against a backdrop of financial drama at TWC including a new round of layoffs to get the company down to 90 people. But the president of theatrical films just told me, “I asked for and was granted a release from my contract with The Weinstein Co. My last day with the company will be September 30th. I want to thank Bob and Harvey fo the terrific opportunity they gave me this past year, and I am particularly proud of my collaboration with them and the incomparable Quentin Tarantino on Inglourious Basterds which has truly been one of the highlights of my career. I will have an announcement about my plans in the near future.”
Ortenberg came to TWC in January after he left Lionsgate as the president of theatrical films. He’d been Lionsgate’s first employee in Los Angeles, opening an office in Santa Monica in 1996 staffed only by himself and a part-time assistant. Based in LA, Ortenberg was in charge of TWC’s theatrical, marketing, distribution, the whole gamut, and reported directly to Harvey and Bob.
After just 2 airings, CW shut down production today. “I think we’ve earned the dubious distinction of the first cancellation of the season,” an insider said. It begain airing Sepember 16th at Wednesday at 9 PM. Only 1.4M saw the first outing, and only 1M the second.
I’ve collected several knowledgeable accounts of what happened during yesterday’s multi-hour contentious MGM conference call with bondholders who were “very loud and very upset”. Here’s why:
The call was for the benefit of the lenders, and MGM management made the presentation along with Stephen F Cooper, that Zolfo Cooper restructure specialist. MGM made a desperate plea for money because the studio had missed its numbers and was going to be out of funds very soon. “The implication was that it’s teetering on bankruptcy,” one source told me. MGM said it needed $20M in short-term cash flow to cover overhead, and an additional $150 million to get through the end of year and continue funding its projects, and to start Peter Jackson’s Hobbit.
Some say the call lasted 6 1/2 hours. Others said it lasted 2 1/2 hours with lenders, and then the lenders themselves had a conference call that lasted another 2 hours. After the MGM presentation, several bondholders spoke, “and they were irate”, an insider tells me. True, this regularly happens on bad news calls like this. But in this case the creditors who hold MGM’s term loan debt blame Harry Sloan for MGM overpromising and then missing its numbers, which was discussed during the summer and why he was removed as CEO. “They’re not happy that Sloan let the company go in this direction but they understand what’s going on. It’s unfortunate, but they get it that the company is in a distressed situation, and they have to figure … Read More »
Refresh for breaking news…
5th UPDATE: One interesting note which both sides have pointed out to me tonight. If the SAG presidency race had just consisted of Unite For Strength’s Ken Howard and Membership First’s Anne-Marie Johnson (without spoiler Seymour Cassell whose positions were extremely hardline), then Johnson would have won the popular vote. More on this in a SAG/WGA election analysis I’m writing tonight.
4TH UPDATE: Here’s the official SAG announcement, finally:
KEN HOWARD ELECTED AS SCREEN ACTORS GUILD PRESIDENT;
AMY AQUINO ELECTED AS SECRETARY-TREASURER
Guild Also Announces Results of National Board Elections
Los Angeles (September 24, 2009)—Screen Actors Guild today announced results of elections for its top two elected positions. Ken Howard will serve as Screen Actors Guild president and Amy Aquino will serve as secretary-treasurer. Both will serve two-year terms beginning September 25.
Ballots were mailed to 99,485 paid-up SAG members on August 25, and 27,295 were tabulated today, for a return of 27.44 percent. Presidential candidates Ken Howard received 12,895 votes, with Anne-Marie Johnson coming in second with 8,906 votes, Seymour Cassel got 4,838 votes, and Asmar Muhammad received 402 votes.
“I’d like to be among the first to extend my heartfelt congratulations to our newly elected Screen Actors Guild national leadership. I look forward to working closely with our new president, Ken Howard, and new secretary-treasurer, Amy Aquino, as we focus on the wide range of critical issues facing our members in the coming year,” said SAG Interim National Executive Director David White. “I also extend my thanks, and the gratitude of SAG
… Read More »