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Ashley Tisdale Broadway-Bound As Sharpay In ‘High School Musical’ Spinoff

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 11:28pm PDT

ashley-tisdale-alright-prevI’m surprised that Ashley Tisdale is coming back to The Disney Channel in a High School Musical spinoff when all the news reports about her kept saying she was done playing Sharpay Evans and looking to go edgy as a pop star. But here she is, starring in the Disney Channel original movie slated for a 2011 premiere, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, according to today’s announcement. Granted, Ashley will exec produce as well as star in the bound-for-Broadway tale (who arrived in Midtown Manhattan as a recent winner of So You Think You’re America’s Most Talented Performing Idol). Written by Robert Horn (producer of Broadway’s 13 and writer/producer of Designing Women), the pic has Barry Rosenbush and Bill Borden (both of the High School Musical movies) also exec producing. Filming starts this summer.

ashleytisdalehsmAshley won an MTV Movie Award and a Nickelodeon UK Kids’ Choice Awards for her portrayal of Sharpay. A Warner Bros. Records recording artist, Tisdale’s second solo album, “Guilty Pleasure,” is certified gold. High School Musical has reached more than 290 million viewers, in 24 languages. Its sequel, High School Musical 2, ranked as the #1 basic cable telecast of all time (18.6 million viewers) and has been seen by nearly 300 million total viewers, in over 27 languages. High School Musical 3: Senior Year in 2008 grossed more than $250 million at the worldwide box office.

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Assoc Of Media Composers & Lyricists Exit

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 9:19pm PDT

I just received official notification that, on April 1st, Alan Elliott is resigning from the Organizing Committee of the Association of Media Composers and Lyricists “after four years of dedicated service in advancing our unionization efforts” with Teamsters Local 399. “The Organizing Committee, in recognition of his many contributions in helping to bring composers and lyricists together with the Teamsters, thanks Alan for his devoted service. Signed, Bruce Broughton, Ray Colcord, Alf Clausen, James DiPasquale, Richard Gibbs, Christopher Klatman, Vivek Maddala, Mike Post.”

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Stone, DiCaprio on ‘Deep Blue Goodbye’?

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 4:28pm PDT
Mike Fleming

0449223833.01.LZZZZZZZWhile Leonardo DiCaprio is likely to next star in the Clint Eastwood’-directed Hoover, he’s also eyeing another A-list filmmaker for a different screen vehicle. DiCaprio’s having early talks with Oliver Stone to direct The Deep Blue Good-By, an adaptation of the John D. MacDonald mystery novel series. DiCaprio and his Appian Way’ cohort  Jennifer Davisson-Killoran are producing with Amy Robinson and Peter Chernin. Dana Stevens and Kario Salem wrote the script. The project is set up at 20th Century Fox, and DiCaprio has long wanted to play Travis McGee, a beach bum who lives on the houseboat The Busted Flush. When he needs money,  McGee takes “salvage consultant” jobs, recovering property for clients, taking a big percentage, and getting into misadventures along the way. The book was originally published in 1964, the first of a 21-volume series. No commitment from Stone yet, but it looks promising. Stone’s tentatively planning to follow Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps with Savages, an adaptation of an upcoming novel by Don Winslow that Stone is scripting with the author.

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Miramax Bids Deadline Delayed To April 5; But Who’s Out, Still In, And Why…

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 2:57pm PDT

miramax_logo_blackUPDATED: The deadline had been March 31st and then April 1st and now April 5th. So here’s the latest: Disney just a few months ago may have hoped for $700+ million, but it’s not going to happen after the past few weeks of due diligence by potential bidders. Fact is that sources tell me the Miramax auction process is turning into a bust.  People who initially looked at the asset (among them Lionsgate, Summit, Qualia, and Media Rights Capital) came to the conclusion that the specialty division was not worth more than $375M-$500M. So Disney is now asking $650 million cash. Everybody was told there would be firm deadlines for submitting bids and then closing. Well, all that has fallen by the wayside. As people have dropped out, Disney has opted to let stragglers opt in. Sources tell me that, when new parties inquire as to the availability of the library, they are told that they’re welcome to the due diligence information but ”you have to act quickly”. This has been going on for over 5 weeks.

The Mouse House is hoping that somebody will chase the cheese and write a check. But, right now, the auction is going about as well as the MGM auction — which is badly with the same delays and lowball offers. But, while MGM needs money for its survival, Disney doesn’t have to sell.

So who’s left in it? Tire kicker Tom Gores’ Platinum Equity historically looks at everything and then does nothing. I know Harvey and Bob Weinstein claim they’re still in it, but my sources don’t believe they have the capital to support a bid without a lot of well-heeled partners they’ll have to answer to (and whose names they’re keeping secret, for now).

Speaking of the Weinsteins, it’s unbelievable how much bullshit that one Weinstein Co exec in particular is feeding to gullible media about this sale and Harv’s and Bob’s chances. Look at this ridiculousness which one website just wrote: “Some observers believe that Weinstein will be able to offer more money for the company, because Miramax founders Harvey and Bob know the library well, and have the ability to exploit the assets in it better than just about anyone.” Jeez, that doesn’t even make sense — and it shouldn’t to the Weinstein’s partners on the bid.

The exec even used the auction as leverage during the Oscars, making unholy deals to deliver insider news on the bidding process if the media agreed to run stories about how TWC’s Inglourious Bastards could win Best Picture — a mathematical impossibility since IB clearly ran behind Avatar and The Hurt Locker. I, for one, said no thanks. But a lot of news outlets agreed. Read More »

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THUMBS DOWN: CBS Affiliates Chairman Circulates Anti-Comcast/NBCU Letter

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 2:56pm PDT

UPDATES: ABC/CBS/Fox Affiliates Demand Meeting With Comcast About NBCU Deal

CBS eyeWith the deadline looming for the FCC to receive comments by May 3rd and reply comments by June 17th, expect to see more opposition surface to the Comcast/NBCU deal. Here’s the letter which Tim Busch, the head of CBS affiliates, just circulated to his stations:

March 29, 2010

Dear CBS Affiliate:

Your Association is carefully monitoring the proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. We are concerned that the proposed merger would competitively disadvantage CBS affiliates by reposing an unprecedented level of media market power in a single, vertically integrated cable/television broadcast network company. Our specific concern is that Comcast/NBCU would have incentives to competitively disadvantage and discriminate against non-NBC affiliated stations in terms of Comcast’s cable carriage, retransmission consent negotiations, and advertising and promotion practices.

To that end, upon the direction of your Board, I have conferred with the FOX and ABC Affiliate Associations, along with legal counsel, for the purpose of communicating our concerns to the FCC. We are in the process at the moment of arranging a meeting with Comcast in the hope that Comcast will voluntarily agree to have certain regulatory conditions incorporated in any FCC approval of the merger to assure non-discriminatory and fair treatment of CBS-affiliated stations following the merger.

The FCC has announced a deadline of May 3 for comments and June 17 for reply

Read More »

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ABC/CBS/Fox Affiliates Demand Meeting With Comcast About NBCU Deal; Letter Worries About “Competitive Disadvantage”

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 2:19pm PDT


CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, whose media outlet is privy to private info surrounding the deal, breaks the news today that independent affiliates of ABC, CBS, and Fox ”are raising concerns” about Comcast’s acquisition of rival network NBC Universal. They’re looking to ensure that the Comcast buy won’t hurt their negotiating power with the largest U.S. cable carrier on retransmission consent, advertising and promotions, even the placement of affiliates. The three networks’ independent affiliates sent a letter to Comcast to set up a meeting to discuss their concerns that the deal substantially increases Comcast’s market power when it owns NBC TV stations and the NBC network, not to mention cable channels and a movie studio..

The head of Fox Affiliates Association Brian Grady told Boorstin “we’re concerned about being at a competitive disadvantage and we want to have a conversation.”  Tim Busch, head of CBS Affiliates Group circulated a letter to his stations saying, “We hope that Comcast will voluntarily agree to have certain regulatory conditions incorporated in any FCC approval of the merger to assure non-discriminatory and fair treatment of CBS-affiliated stations following the merger.” (See entire letter at THUMBS DOWN: CBS Affiliates Chairman Circulates Anti-Comcast/NBCU Letter)

Boorstin noted that the letter to Comcast does not come from the ABC, CBS, or Fox parent companies, but from these affiliates who are independently owned by Gannett or Nexstar or others. Comcast issued a statement in response acknowledging that it is in discussions with affiliates,  saying: “It … Read More »

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Brillstein Adds Stern In Gotham Expansion

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 2:18pm PDT
Mike Fleming

get-attachment.aspxBrillstein Entertainment Partners has hired former New York-based William Morris agent Brian Stern to become a manager in the company’s Gotham headquarters in Tribeca. BEP opened its New York outpost last fall, setting veteran manager Stacy O’Neil to head it. Stern’s clients include The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee, Saturday Night Live writer Bryan Tucker, playwright Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone), Amy Landecker (A Serious Man) and Dan Milano, creator of the MTV series Warren the Ape.

“Bryan has worked closely with many of our colleagues in Los Angeles and has proven himself to be incredible effective,” O’Neil said.

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MPAA Organizes Entertainment Community Opposition To Movie Futures Exchange

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 1:38pm PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATES Is Betting On Box Office Good For Films?
WORST IDEA EVER? Wall Street Plans Futures Exchange Tied To Box Office

motion-picture-association-of-americaWashington, DC (March 31, 2010) – A growing coalition of entertainment industry workers, creators, independent producers and distributors, business organizations and theater owners today announced opposition to two proposals to establish online wagering services based on speculation over box office receipts for motion pictures.

In a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA), the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its member companies, and the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) also jointly asked the Commission to postpone action now scheduled for April 2 on an application by Media Derivatives, Inc. (MDEX) to create a designated contract market for film futures.

The groups said that the proposal by MDEX and a separate plan by Cantor Futures Exchange, L.P. “are based on faulty understanding of the film industry and create a risk of rampant speculation and financial irresponsibility at a time when the nation is still seeking to recover from an economic meltdown of the financial markets.”

“With Congress and the President working on reforming the financial markets to help curb the abusive practices that triggered our nation’s economic crisis, now is not the time to

Read More »

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Leonardo DiCaprio Eyes J. Edgar Hoover Role In Biopic For Eastwood and Grazer

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 12:06pm PDT
Mike Fleming

leonardo_aviatorEXCLUSIVE: Leonardo DiCaprio is in early talks to play FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in Hoover, an epic drama that Clint Eastwood will direct and that he and Brian Grazer will produce with Rob Lorenz through Imagine and Malpaso. Talks with Leo are just getting underway, but I’m told that DiCaprio will play the lead role in the film written by Dustin Lance Black, with production to begin later this year. The project began at Universal, where Imagine is based, but is mobilizing at Warners, where Eastwood’s Malpaso has long called home, and where Eastwood is in post production on Hereafter, the film that stars Matt Damon.

52060692_166039dSources tell me that Imagine had been developing “the story of the beginning of the FBI” for a year when it finally showed the script to Universal, where the reaction was negative. “This is exactly what we don’t want to make,” Uni execs reacted. “It’s period, and we have lost enough money with these things.” But then Grazer got the screenplay to pal Clint (they did The Changeling and have had a personal relationship ever since), the two men met about it in mid-February, and suddenly Universal has a tough decision to make since. As a Uni exec admits, “Clint is an amazing director with an extraordinary trach record, and you can’t possibly dismiss anything he gets excited about. The first question now to ask is how much will it … Read More »

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R.I.P. David Mills

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 11:17am PDT

david millsThe Treme staff writer and co-executive producer died of a brain aneurism yesterday. He was only 48. HBO just issued this statement: “HBO is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our dear friend and colleague David Mills. He was a gracious and humble man, and will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved him, as well as those who were aware of his immense talent. David has left us too soon but his brilliant work will live on.”

A former newspaper feature writer, Mills wrote for some of TV’s finest dramas, including Homicide: Life on the Street, NYPD Blue, ER and The Wire, and won two Emmys for his HBO miniseries The Corner. He also created and exec produced the NBC miniseries Kingpin. Mills recently told the New Orleans Times Picayune that his contribution to the writing of the series Treme was as an outsider attempting to help the local scribes interpret the show’s themes – Hurricane Katrina recovery as expressed through the city’s musical and culinary subcultures – for audiences beyond New Orleans. It is truly tragic he won’t be there for Treme’s debut April 11th.

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Hot Trailer: Tom Cruise In ‘Knight And Day’

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 11:05am PDT
Mike Fleming

Before Tom Cruise chose Knight and Day as his follow-up to Valkyrie, he had every studio custom-tailoring as Cruise vehicles films that included the DreamWorks action film Motorcade, The Tourist (which rebounded as a Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie vehicle), a teaming with Denzel Washington in the Robert Ludlum novel adaptation The Matarese Circle, the Suzanne Bier-directed romantic comedy Lost for Words, and the Warner Bros action film The 28th Amendment. Before Cruise and Cameron Diaz circled Knight and Day, I read a draft of the script when the producers were after Chris Tucker and Eva Mendes to play the leads and the film went by the titles Wichita and Trouble Man. I have to admit, the script back then had plot holes, that maybe got patched. Trailers never tell the whole story, but it looks like Cruise chose well. And with another Mission: Impossible film in the offing, will Cruise recapture his star standing?

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No Sex Please, I’m Neal McDonough…

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 10:53am PDT

neal mcdonoughNeal McDonough is a marvelous actor who elevates every role he plays, whether it’s in Band of Brothers or Desperate Housewives. So when he was suddenly replaced with David James Elliott 3 days into the filming on ABC’s new series Scoundrels earlier this week, there had to be a story behind the story. The move was officially explained as a casting change. But, in fact, McDonough was sacked because of his refusal to do some heated love scenes with babelicious star (and Botox pitchwoman) Virginia Madsen. The reason? He’s a family man and a Catholic, and he’s always made it clear that he won’t do sex scenes. And ABC knew that. Because he also didn’t get into action with Nicolette Sheridan on the network’s Desperate Housewives when he played her psycho husband during Season 5. And he also didn’t do love scenes with his on-air girlfriend in his previous series, NBC’s Boomtown, or that network’s Medical Investigation. ”It has cost him jobs, but the man is sticking to his principles,” a source explained to me. You can’t help but admire McDonough for sticking to his beliefs, even if he’s poised to lose as much as $1 million in paydays for Scoundrels, which is based on the New Zealand series Outrageous Fortune centering on the matriarch (Madsen) of a family of criminals who decides it’s time for her brood to go straight after her husband (McDonough, now Elliott) is sentenced to a long prison term. (“I thought these … Read More »

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Kal Penn Returns From White House to Another ‘White Castle’ Stoner Sequel

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 10:43am PDT
Mike Fleming

2008_harold_and_kumar_escape_from_guantanamo_bay_wall_002New Line has set a summer start date on the third installment of the Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle franchise, with the Warner Bros-based company about to hire a director, and seriously considering doing the film in 3D. The film is Christmas-themed, giving Warner Bros a nice R-rated holiday release for 2011 or 2012. The biggest significance is that the start date signals the return of Kal Penn, who put his career on hold to take the position of associate director of the White House Office Of Public Engagement. The politically conscious actor gave up a lot to take the job–his doctor character, Lawrence Kutner, was killed off from the Fox drama House–but it was done with the understanding that he’d commit to the position for one year. As to the idea of leaving a prestige D.C. post to reprise in a stoner comedy, well, a guy’s got to make a living, right? He’ll leave shortly.

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Faris In New Line ‘Private Benjamin’ Redo

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 9:20am PDT
Mike Fleming

New Line has closed a rights deal to remake the 1981 comedy Private Benjamin with Anna Faris playing the title role originated by Goldie Hawn. Amy Talkington will write the script originated by Charles Shyer, Nancy Meyers. and Harvey Miller. Mark Gordon will produce. Between the Scary Movie films and House Bunny, is there an actress more closely replicating Hawn’s comedy career than Faris?

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Marketing Prez Bob Oswaks Exits Sony TV

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 8:45am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: I heard this late last night but confirmed it this morning. This week is his last. Several sources tell me Steve Mosko took the step because of Oswaks’ management style. He was a ”completely ineffective marketer, in addition to his constant internal struggles with key management caused the abrupt departure. Oswaks had many complaints against him including the fact that Harpo (Dr. Oz, Nate Berkus) thought he was completely inept.”

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MGM GETS MORE TIME (4th Extension)

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 7:20am PDT
Mike Fleming

mgmIn a development that’s hardly surprising, MGM has received more time from its lenders to figure out its ownership and try to make the Lion roar again. This follows an auction that amounted to a bottom-feeding frenzy in which suitors looked over the studio’s assets that include James Bond, a half-share of The Hobbit, and other franchises and a library. But the bids that came in would not even have halved the MGM debt load. The Studio just issued this statement:

“MGM said today its lenders agreed to extend the forbearance period and therefore will not seek remedies in connection with the nonpayment of interest and principal due on the company’s bank debt, including the revolving credit facility, through May 14, 2010.  The lenders took this action in support of the Company’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its financial position, and MGM appreciates their continued support throughout the process.”

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From Movies To Stage – And Back Again

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 7:06am PDT
Mike Fleming

A lot of reciprocal movement from screen to stage. Smuggler Films, the shingle formed by John N. Hart, Brian Carmody and Patrick Milling Smith, have optioned Jean Anouilh’s Tony-winning 1960 play Becket and plan to turn it into a film. They’ve hired playwright/lyricist Ranjit Bolt to write the script. The David Merrick-produced play –the story of King Henry II’s decision to appoint Thomas Becket to Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 to check the ever-growing power of the Church over his subjects, and Becket’s risky decision to embrace God over his king–originally paired Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn–who alternated roles. The play was turned into an Oscar-nominated 1964 film with Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, so there is fertile ground for a re-discovery. Bolt, nephew of A Man For All Seasons writer Robert Bolt, has translated classic plays produced by Britain’s Royal National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company, including Lysistrata, Tartuffe, Cyrano de Bergerac and The Real Don Juan. The Smuggler Films team is turning the John Carney-directed independent film Once into a stage musical, and recently acquired the stage rights to Hollywood producer Robert Evans for a musical aiming for a 2010-2011 Broadway bow…Woody Allen might not shoot his films in New York any longer, but he hasn’t forgotten the talent here. He’s cast big names for his next film–Thor co-star Tom Hiddleston is the latest alongside Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard and Rachel McAdams–but he has also given showy roles to  stage actors Corey Stoll, who’s currently starring in … Read More »

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‘Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer Gives Fans Novella; Makes Progress On ‘The Host’

By | Wednesday March 31, 2010 @ 5:32am PDT
Mike Fleming

stephenie-meyer2Stephenie Meyer announced that she has written the Twilight tie-in novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novel. Little,Brown will release the book June 5, pledging $1 from each copy to be donated to the Red Cross for disaster relief in Haiti and Chile. But fans will want to know if this means another Meyer movie, and it doesn’t seem likely at this point. In her disclosure about the 192-page novella—about the young vampire Bree who’s introduced in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse—Meyer reveals that the prose helped Eclipse director David Slade and his castmembers as a research tool but it isn’t clear whether it will stand on its own as a film. Because Summit Entertainment financed the Twilight films—the last book, Breaking Dawn, will be split into two installments—the indie company would likely own the character rights and there will undoubtedly be some begging by a distributor eager to keep the franchise alive. twilight-eclipse
I can report some forward progress on the movie version of The Host, Meyer’s first adult novel which she optioned last fall to producers Nick Wechsler and Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz–the trio behind the terrific screen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Steve Schwartz tells me that Andrew Niccol is working on the third draft of a screenplay which he’s writing in close consultation with the author. The Australian-born Niccol was once the … Read More »

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Hollywood Reporter Publisher Eric Mika Officially Out: THR Turned Down By LA Times’ Lynne Segall; What’s Next?

By | Tuesday March 30, 2010 @ 6:46pm PDT

THR logo2 E5 Global Media CEO Richard Beckman just informed the staff about Eric Mika’s exit. It’s hardly unexpected. Ever since Beckman was hired in January, he has been telling people outside the trade — but, deliberately, not the staff — that he plans massive firings at The Hollywood Reporter because the company plans to abandon the traditional trade format and formula. Instead it will become a small online showbiz news aggregator, and a glossy magazine, and a cable TV programmer which all depend on whether The Hollywood Reporter brand itself is marketable. On the other hand, there is a real possibility that the new owners may just flip the property or take on outside partners instead of exploit it themselves. So the future of The Hollywood Reporter as we all knew it remains a big question mark right now.

Meanwhile, I recently confirmed that e5 Global Media tried to hire away Los Angeles Times VP of entertainment advertising Lynne Segall around the same time that the company tried to hire me as THR editor-in-chief. But Segall wasn’t eager to return to her former haunt where she last served as VP and associate publisher before leaving in 2006. I’ve learned that Segall listened to e5′s bait but didn’t bite.

It may be nearly impossible for the new owners of THR to convince Hollywood advertisers, who’ve virtually stopped supporting the trade in its current beleaguered state, to come back. Beckman is convinced he doesn’t need them because of his advertising and promotions expertise from Conde Nast/Fairchild.

Many very smart people think the new owners might just dump THR if they … Read More »

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