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Del Toro Leaves ‘The Hobbit’ As Helmer; Peter Jackson Won’t Retake Directing Reins

By | Sunday May 30, 2010 @ 5:40pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Peter_Jackson_and_Guillermo_del_ToroGuillermo del Toro announced today on the — the official Middle Earth sounding board — that he’s stepped out of the directing assignment on the two film versions of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, though he will continue to collaborate as a writer. I would have bet that Peter Jackson would be the one to step back into the director’s chair because there have been rumblings about this lately. But his manager, Ken Kamins, tells me this is absolutely not a possibility. It seems a sad ending to the dream job that prompted del Toro to suspend his whopping overall deal at Universal — and a slate full of epic-sized projects — to take on The Hobbit after he got the offer instead of Sam Raimi (who wanted it badly). And after the imagination del Toro displayed onscreen in Pan’s Labyrinth, who better to join Jackson and his original Lord of the Rings creative team?

Jackson, who is coming off the disappointing Oscar season entry The Lovely Bones, would seem the perfect person to retake the directing reins after del Toro’s exit. They’ve worked closely on the script, so there would be no interruption in creative continuity. Whether they bring back Raimi (who is working on World of Warcraft but hasn’t committed to his next film) or give the job to a filmmaker like Jackson’s District 9 protege Neill Blomkamp (he’s committed to do his next project for Media Rights Capital) there would … Read More »

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No Afterlife For Cancelled Series This Year

By | Sunday May 30, 2010 @ 5:36pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

network-logosAfter three cancelled broadcast series found new homes in the past two years – Scrubs moved from NBC to ABC, Medium from NBC to CBS and Southland from NBC to TNT – things looked hopeful that we may see multiple migrations this year with three major veteran series in play: NBC’s Law & Order and CBS’ Ghost Whisperer and The New Adventures of Old Christine. But it wasn’t to be. Law & Order won’t be going to TNT after the cable network officially passed on the series. Ghost Whisperer won’t be moving to ABC. And Old Christine’s chances at ABC are hanging by a thread.

Jennifer-Love-HewittWhy did the transfer attempts largely failed this season? Scrubs, Medium and Southland had a lot going for them. Scrubs and Medium were fully owned by ABC and CBS, respectively, with syndication deals in place. And Southland was a very young series that wasn’t closely associated with NBC quite yet and that came with built-in critical acclaim and a stack of already produced but never aired episodes that TNT could negotiate for a reasonable price.

None of the candidates this year had any of those factors weighing in their favor. Ghost Whisperer came close, as it is 50%-owned by ABC (co-produced with CBS) and has been a solid ratings performer, regularly winning its Friday 8 PM time slot.

law-and-orderBut Law & Read More »

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SHREK TAKES #1; ‘Prince Of Persia’ #2; ‘Sex And The City 2′ Falls off To #3

By | Sunday May 30, 2010 @ 9:01am PDT
Mike Fleming

sex-and-the-city-2MONDAY AM WRITETHRU:

SATURDAY 7 AM: Stats show that 90% of the audience was women. New Line/Warner Bros says Sex and the City 2 ended Friday #1 despite horrible reviews with a big domestic box office of $13 million (-9% from Thursday’s total) for a cume already of $27.2M. That’s an estimated 4-day Memorial Weekend number – Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday — around $53M. And $67M or so for the 5-day holiday.

prince of persia posterAlso with “mediogre” reviews, DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek  4 was sitting comfortably in 2nd place because it was distributed by Paramount into 1,000+ more theaters at higher 3D ticket prices. It ended Friday with $11.3M (-45%) but that could be $50M for the 4-day holiday and estimated new cume of $149M.

Much is riding on Disney’s Prince of Persia in terms of price and prestige (a holdover from the Dick Cook administration though marketed by Rich Ross’ new one), not to mention whether Jake Gyllenhaal can open a big budget movie. But Jerry Bruckheimer’s period actioner based on the 2003 video game debuted a disappointing 3rd on Friday with about $10.3M. That should be $42M for the 4-day holiday.

Here’s the preliminary Top 10 with numbers to be refined later this morning:

1. Sex And the City 2 (NL/Warner Bros) NEW [3,445 Theaters]
Friday $13M, Estimated Weekend $53M, Estimated Cume $67M
2. Shrek Forever After (DWA/Paramount) Week 2 [4,367]
Friday $11.3M, Estimated Weekend $50M, Estimated Cume $149M 
3. Prince Of Persia (Disney) NEW [3,646]
Friday … Read More »

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New ABC Reality Series Subject Of Apparent Product Placement Scheme

By | Saturday May 29, 2010 @ 4:50pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

You know those deals that seem too good to be true? A few days ago, a number of people received an email with an offer for product placement on ABC’s upcoming reality series The Bachelor Pad, a spinoff from The Bachelor franchise. It read as follows:






batch2The offer was accompanied by an elaborate 7-slide PowerPoint presentation (you can see some of the slides pasted on left), and contact information for Tamara Henry from The Escapes Group.

The steep discount makes ABC look pretty desperate for some extra cash for its new summer series and sure seems like a pretty good bargain.

batch3The problem is that, despite the fact that ABC’s logo is splattered on every slide, no one at the network or Warner Horizon, which produces The Bachelor Pad, has heard of The Escapes Group. An Internet search didn’t turn up anything on such a branded entertainment company either. And those familiar with how product placement works say that it is never done for a flat upfront fee but is always a subject of batch4negotiation.

That made me wonder how … Read More »

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R.I.P. Dennis Hopper

By | Saturday May 29, 2010 @ 11:37am PDT

DennisHopperHe died today reportedly surrounded by friends and family at his modern art-filled Venice home in Los Angeles. He had been fighting prostate cancer since 2009. He was 74. Dennis Hopper was a Hollywood original from the start, memorable despite average looks in small roles in Rebel Without A Cause and Giant while still in his late teens. But it was the actor-writer-director’s cool embrace of the hippie counterculture and stark indictment of straight society in Easy Rider that brought him both fame and acclaim within the movie community — especially after it grossed $40 million at a cost of a mere $350K. Afterward, his very public addiction to drugs and alcohol eclipsed his immense talent, and it took him years to live down that and the failure of his next film The Last Movie. In his later years, Hopper became the consummate character actor in films as polar opposite as Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet, Hoosiers as well as Speed, directed Colors, and received two Academy Award nominations.

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Deadline Advisory: Nikki Back On June 4th

By | Saturday May 29, 2010 @ 8:45am PDT

Nikki Finke is on medical leave from May 23rd until June 4th.

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What Was Hot At LA Screenings’ TV Week?

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 11:51pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Gala0279After the networks tout their new shows to advertisers during upfront week in pursuit of ad dollars, it’s the TV studios’ turn to plug their new series to international buyers in an effort to recoup the deficits on their newly picked-up shows through international sales. The so-called LA Screenings week, which wrapped today, featured showings of the pilots of all new scripted series, often on a big screen at the studios’ movie theaters, as many or sometimes even more series stars than you could see at the upfronts and as good or even better parties too. (Everyone is still talking about the Warner Bros International TV Distribution carnival-themed gala for 1,500 on Tuesday, which featured trapeze artists and fire breathers.) Read More »

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Cruise Reprises ‘Tropic Thunder’ Character

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 6:02pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Les Grossman, the foul-mouthed, hot-headed studio executive Tom Cruise portrayed in Tropic Thunder, is back as “producer” of the MTV Movie Awards. In promos for the awards show, Grossman gives hair career advise to Twilight star Robert Pattinson and directs himself in Risky Business.

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Trio Joins Bill Condon’s HBO Pilot ‘Tilda’

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 4:26pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

wes_bentley--randEXCLUSIVE: Wes Bentley, David Harbour and Leland Orser have joined the cast of HBO’s comedy pilot Tilda, from Bill Condon. The project stars Diane Keaton as Tilda, a powerful female online Hollywood journalist with a no-holds-barred style. And no, her last name is not Finke, it’s Watski.

Bentley will play Tilda’s often called upon cute young IT guy whose relationship with her bleeds beyond just fixing her computer (they sleep together). Harbour will play an old school entertainment columnist  working for a major publication (in the version of the script circulated around town, it’s The Los Angeles Times) who harbors bitterness towards Tilda’s means of going about her job. In a guest starring/potential recurring role, Orser will play a movie studio head who is being exposed by Tilda. The three join Keaton as well as Ellen Page also was recently cast in the project. Condon and Tell Me You Love Me creator Cynthia Mort wrote the script and are executive producing the pilot, which Condon is attached to direct. Filming is slated for June in Los Angeles.

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R.I.P. Gary Coleman

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 12:11pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

gary_coleman_1909914Former child star Gary Coleman has died. He was 42. Coleman died at 12:05 p.m. at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah, where he had been in a coma after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage at his Utah home on Wednesday night. Coleman, who was plagued by health problems his entire life and never grew taller than 4’8”, burst into the spotlight at age 11 as the star of Diff’rent Strokes. We was never able to repeat his early success and his adult life was marked by a series of personal problems.

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Christopher Titus Preps New Fox Comedy

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 11:45am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Christopher TitusEXCLUSIVE: Christopher Titus is back at Fox with a new comedy project loosely based on his life. Titus’ eponymous sitcom ran on Fox for three seasons before being abruptly cancelled in 2002. In the show, which Titus co-created with Jack Kenny and Brian Hargrove, he starred as a version of himself surrounded by his dimwitted stepbrother, his girlfriend, his goody-goody friend and his lewd, multiple-divorced father. Read More »

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Legendary Pictures Re-Teams With ‘Clash Of The Titans’ Scribe On ‘Pacific Rim’

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 10:34am PDT
Mike Fleming

clash-of-the-titans-2010-movie-poster1EXCLUSIVE: In a last dash pre-holiday deal, Legendary Pictures has closed a high-six figure preemptive acquisition of Pacific Rim, a science fiction film that will be written by Travis Beacham. Beacham was the original writer of Clash of the Titans, the 3D remake which has grossed $475 million worldwide for Legendary and Warner Bros.

Set in a future in which malevolent creatures threaten the earth, the planet must band together and use highly advanced technology to eradicate the growing menace. The deal was made on the basis of a detailed 25-page treatment. Legendary acquired the project under its co-production and co-financing agreement with Warner Bros. The deal was made by the writer’s reps at WME and Anonymous Content. Read More »

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Johnny Depp: Only Star To Hit The Billion Dollar Gross Mark Twice

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 10:17am PDT
Mike Fleming

tim-burton-alice-in-wonderland-movie-photos-7When Alice in Wonderland this week became only the sixth film to cross the $1 billion gross mark, it certainly bolstered Johnny Depp’s case for being the biggest movie star in the world. He’s the only guy who has reached the $1 billion mark with two films. The other, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, is the fourth highest grossing film ever. While Will Smith usually leads the world’s biggest star discussion, he has yet to reach the $1 billion mark. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt haven’t hit it either. Leonardo DiCaprio hit it once with Titanic, but you could say the boat was the star in that enterprise.  Same with Orlando Bloom, who finds himself on the list twice with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Pirates, but it would be hard to argue he’s the reason. In fact, most of the billion dollar films are not star-driven spectacles, but Depp’s two entries certainly were. James Cameron is the only director to hit the billion dollar mark twice. He did it with Avatar and Titanic, the top grossing films of all time.

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MTV Picks Up U.S. Version of ‘Inbetweeners’

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 9:40am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

43008-morris_beesley_341x182The Inbetweeners are coming to the U.S. via MTV. After a heated bidding for the rights to the British high school comedy series, I hear MTV is close to giving a pilot commitment to the project, from Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment. Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, creators of the original series which runs on Channel 4′s digital sibling E4, will executive produce alongside Kaplan. Former Comedy Central head of original programming Lauren Corrao, who stepped down at the end of last year to return to producing, is also attached to the project as producer. Search is under way for a writer to pen the adaptation.

Described as Superbad meets Freeks and Geeks, The Inbetweeners takes a realistic look at life in high school, often glamorized on shows like The O.C. and Beverly Hills 90210. It revolves around four high school boys who belong to the “inbetweeners” social class — teens who are not the most cool and popular but not geeky enough to be branded uncool. This is the second stab at adapting The Inbetweeners in the U.S. Two years ago, ABC gave a put pilot commitment to an U.S. version written by Morris and Beesley.

For MTV, this marks the second project based on a high-profile British teen series. The network recently picked up to series an adaptation of drama Skins, which also airs on E4. It also gave a series order to an updated version of Teen Wolf.

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RATINGS RAT RACE: Solid ‘Dance’ Start For Fox; Low-Rated ‘FlashForward’ ABC Exit

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 8:57am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Fox ruled the first night of the off-season with the premiere of So You Think You Can Dance, while ABC’s FlashForward and NBC’s 100 Questions made quiter exit/debut, respectively. The two-hour season 7 opener of Dance averaged a 3.0 rating/10 share among adults 18-49 and 8.2 million viewers overall. That was up 11% in the demo from the show’s most recent fall premiere but down 12% from Dance’s last summer’s debut. The series finale of FlashForward (1.3/5) was down 19% from last week and tied the recently cancelled drama’s lowest-rated telecast. Meanwhile, NBC’s new multi-camera comedy 100 Questions, originally slated for midseason but subsequently sent to summer for a burn-off run, premiered with a 0.8/3 in the demo, ranking as the lowest-rated program on the night dominated by repeats. It was tied for the bottom position with the only other original offering last night, ABC’s Hollywood Salutes Matt Damon special, which also drew a 0.8/2. All repeats fared better.

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More Spanish Film Industry Cuts Coming

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 5:05am PDT

spainSpanish producers are braced for much deeper public funding cuts than those announced by Spanish film agency the ICAA. The top amount filmmakers can claim for through the automatic subsidy system – pegged to box office performance – is being halved to €400,000 ($500,000). The ceiling producers can claim through selective funding is being cut by 25% to €1.5 million.

But there’s worse to come next month, Fabia Buenaventura, head of the Spanish producer’s association, tells me. The Ministry of Culture is going to announce much deeper spending cuts. Spain’s producers are resigned given the country’s awful financial situation. First, there was Greece, then Spain. The government has just intervened to save a local bank from going under. There’s talk of Portugal and the UK being the next dominos to go down in this sovereign debt crisis.

Buenaventura says the cuts announced by the ICAA are not going to have a huge effect, given that they only affect a handful of films. It’s what’s coming next month that will really hurt. “This is just the first chapter,” she says, “although we expect the culture minister will try and be sensitive.”

Nadine Luque, a UK-based producer who works on Spanish co-productions, tells me the ICAA subsidy ceiling comes on top of state TV broadcaster TVE having its budget slashed – which means less money for local features – plus a dearth of Spanish banks willing to lend to the film industry.

“This is a triple whammy,” … Read More »

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‘American Idol’ Creator Bids $600M For CKX

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 4:25am PDT

american idol logoSimon Fuller has teamed up with former Barclay Capital banker Roger Jenkins to try and buy CKX, the entertainment group which owns the rights to the TV talent show. Jenkins and Fuller have amassed a $1 billion war chest to fund the CKX buyout. They are writing to the CKX board with their offer today. Fuller’s offer trumps a $550-560 million offer in March from One Equity Partners, the JP Morgan private equity arm. One Equity Partners had been working with former CKX chairman/CEO Bob Sillerman and media investor Allen Shapiro. (EXCLUSIVE: Allen Shapiro Behind Planned Deal To Buy ‘American Idol’ Parent CKX) This latest offer represents a substantial premium on CKX’s current share price, which values the company at $395 million. Clearly, Fuller believes there’s a lot of mileage left in Idol, despite the latest U.S. series ending with weak ratings and questions over its prospects.

Jenkins has close ties to investors in the Middle East, where he helped broker a £5.8 billion investment in Barclays through Qatar and Abu Dhabi, says the Financial Times. He has hosted charity events, rubbing shoulders with celebrities including Bono and George Clooney.

Fuller’s move pits him against former CEO Sillerman, who remains CKX’s largest shareholder with a 21% stake. Fuller wants to buy back 19, the company behind Idol, which he sold to CKX for $174 million. … Read More »

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New York Streets Ready To Fake Again (…On Universal’s Hollywood Backlot)

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 2:32am PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal Studios has unveiled the restored New York streetback-lot location that burned down in a fire in June 2008. The lot, which consists of 13 city blocks of buildings, has been a tourist attraction and frequent location for commercials and films from The Sting to Blues Brothers. Get a look at the process behind the overhaul below known as The Phoenix Project. The Peter Jackson-created 360 3D King Kong attraction, replacing the original which also burned down, will open this summer.

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1492 Pictures And CJ Entertainment Scare Up Thriller Trio

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 2:14am PDT
Mike Fleming

Chris.Columbus1492 Pictures and South Korea-based CJ Entertainment unveiled their first slate this morning since signing a three-year development deal late last year to create family-friendly films with global appeal. 1492 partners Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan and Mark Radcliffe pick the projects, and CJ funds development and will co-finance production with studio partners.

They start out with three thrillers.

* Killer Pizza is a comedy about a 14-year old who lands a summer job at a pizza joint which serves pies like The Monstrosity and The Frankensausage, but is actually a front for a monster-hunting organization. Adam Green is adapting the Greg Taylor novel and Rafaella de Laurentiis will also produce.

* Carpe Demon is an adaptation of the Julie Kenner novel Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom. Columbus will rewrite the story of a stay-at-home mother charged with cleaning up her demon-plagued small town.

* The Graveyard Book is an adaptation of the book by Coraline‘s Neil Gaiman. Neil Jordan will write and direct the live-action film about an orphan raised by ghosts. Wayfare Entertaiment, Framestore and Gaiman will also produce, and CJ will co-finance the film and distribute in Korea and Japan.

“The projects we are developing together meet our shared goal of producing movies for the global audience,” Columbus said. “We see this as just the beginning of many terrific movies together.”

CJ, a powerhouse in Asia and one of the original investors of DreamWorks, made 1492 its first Hollywood talent pact for … Read More »

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