The California Assembly today passed AB 2479 by a margin of 43-13 to impose penalties of up to $5,000, with the possibility of jail time, for paparazzi who drive recklessly and endanger celebrities and the general public. The legislation passed on the anniversary of the 1997 death of Princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car crash as she and her boyfriend and their security were fleeing the stalkarazzi. Depending on your POV, this law which now goes to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign is either badly needed legislation to control a public menace or an unnecessary restriction on press freedom.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I believe the only way to stop outrageous behavior by the photogs is to hold responsible the editors of those magazines and websites willing to pay outrageous prices for celebrity pictures. None of this would be happening if the photos weren’t worth big bucks in newsstand sales or online traffic. Of course, the public is at fault for wanting to see the snaps or videos in the first place. But I say that if a stalkarazzi is getting too rough and tumble, then the mag or web editor who assigns or publishes those photos and footage is as much morally and legally at fault as the picture taker.
The impasse in the negotiations between AT&T U-Verse and Crown Media, the parent company of the Hallmark Channel and the Hallmark Movie Channel, over a new carriage agreement resulted in the two channels gong dark for 2.3 million subscribers at 12:01 AM EDT tonight when the two sides’ previous deal expired. Here are the statements by AT&T and Hallmark Channels:
AT&T: We are very disappointed that Hallmark has refused to provide AT&T and its customers with a fair deal one that is no worse than similarly-sized and smaller providers and refused to adhere to key obligations under our current deal. We offered to extend the current deal while talks continued, and Hallmark rejected that offer. We don’t want customers to lose their programming, but we believe strongly that our customers should not have to pay more than their fair share for Hallmark’s channels, which is exactly what Hallmark is demanding.
AT&T U-verse will replace the two Hallmark channels with a free preview of programming from Starz Kids & Family and Turner Classic Movies. According to Crown, negotiations hit a standstill as of Aug. 26.
Hallmark Channels is willing to re-start negotiations toward the distribution agreement as long as they are fair and in good faith. “I was stunned by the apparent disregard for the facts in AT&T’s recent statement regarding our negotiations,” said Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Hallmark Channels. ”However, if they are really serious, my team and I are ready
Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich have teamed with Ford Motor Co. and Sprint Nextel for ControlTV, an interactive reality show. The series, which will follow six weeks in the life of a guy in his twenties, enables the audience to vote, in real time, on every aspect of his life—from what he wears and eats, to where he works, to who he dates. Given the partners, there obviously will be product placement: the guy will drive a 2011 Ford Fiesta, and Sprint’s new HTC EVO 4G phone will also be featured. Creators Green and Senreich will exec produce with former Dimension Films president Richard Saperstein, The Bachelor director Ken Fuchs, commercial director Stephen Kessler and interactive technology expert Craig Ullman. The show will also be executive produced and distributed by video network DBG. Production will begin in Los Angeles this fall.
A nationwide billboard campaign asking “Still A Virgin? For Help, Call 888-742-4335” is creating controversy in a growing number of cities. TV news stations in Louisiana, Miami, San Diego, and Arizona have so far covered the brouhaha as local politicians demand the billboards’ removal. Turns out the whole thing is a ruse, a flash marketing campaign to create awareness for The Virginity Hit, the “R”-rated feature comedy from Sony Pictures which is sponsoring the billboards. The movie is about three guys who try to get their virgin pal laid and memorialize it on camera. So what happens if you call the phone number? A recorded message from the movie’s cast members gives an array of semi-humorous options for virgins, then offers a link to the film’s website. The number, 888-743-4335, has been dialed 70,000 times in five days.
Such guerrilla marketing campaigns have been employed to great result on The Last Exorcism, Paranormal Activity, Exit Through the Gift Shop, to create awareness on films that blur the line between fact and fiction, and have tiny promotional budgets and no stars. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s blowback on this movie. Laughing all the way to the bank in anticipation are Gary Sanchez partners Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, who produced with Principato Young’s Paul Young and Peter Principato. The film will be released in college towns on September 10th, with a wider roll out planned for the next weekends depending if it catches on. The pic was written and directed by Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko, writers … Read More »
Gavin Polone is smart and snarky and Hollywood’s erstwhile bad boy. He keeps earning his nickname as the Prince Of Darkness by today filing yet another lawsuit against an entertainment company. (His now infamous lawsuit against a former talent agency employer exposed oodles of bad behavior…) This time, it’s Summit Entertainment which the manager/producer is suing for breach of contract along with the screenwriter Pablo Fenjves over the film Man On A Ledge. Polone claims he and his Pariahproduction company were cut out of the deal. The Hollywood Reporter‘s legal eagle Matt Belloni has details but they’re boring.
Writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel have come aboard to do a quick rewrite of Us & Them, the Andy Fickman-directed film. The scribes worked with the film’s star/producer, Billy Crystal, on City Slickers, Forget Paris and Father’s Day. Us & Them, picked up in turnaround from Paramount, is on a fast track as a co-production between Walden Media and Fox. Crystal plays a grandpa left alone to care for his grandchildren. He has to navigate to overcome generational shifts to bond with the kids, and try to repair a rift with his daughter. They’re rewriting the draft by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse.
A war of words broke out today between Avatar director James Cameron and producer Mark Canton over whether Weinstein Co/Dimension’s current version of Piranha 3D is a crapfest. (Cameron was hired and then fired as the director of the original 1981 Piranha Part 2). Here’s what they are saying:
Cameron told VanityFair.com while publicizing his Avatar re-release: “I tend almost never to throw other films under the bus, but [Piranha 3D] is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3D horror films from the ’70s and ’80s, like Friday The 13th 3D. When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3-D version to get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that’s now what’s happening now with 3D. It is a renaissance. Right now the biggest and best films are being made in 3D. Martin Scorsese is making a film in 3D [Hugo Cabret]. Disney’s biggest film of the year – Tron: Legacy — is coming out in 3D. So it’s a whole new ballgame.”
Canton issued this rebuttal via Dimension’s PR department: “As a producer in the entertainment industry, Jim Cameron’s comments on VanityFair.com are very disappointing to me and the team that made Piranha 3D. Mr. Cameron, who singles himself out to be a visionary of movie-making, seems to have a small vision regarding any motion pictures that are not his own. It is amazing that in the movie-making process – which is certainly a team sport – that Cameron consistently celebrates himself out as though he is a team of one. His comments are ridiculous, self-serving and insulting to those of us who are not caught up in serving his ego and his rhetoric.
Jim, are you kidding or what? First of all, let’s start by you accepting the fact that you were the original director of Piranha 2 and you were fired. Shame on you for thinking that genre movies and the real maestros like Roger Corman and his collaborators are any less auteur or impactful in the history of cinema than you. Martin Scorcese made Boxcar Bertha at the beginning of his career. And Francis Ford Coppola made Dimentia 13 back in 1963. And those are just a few examples of the talented and successful filmmakers whose roots are in genre films. Who are you to impugn any genre film or its creators?
No surprise here: NBC has renewed summer series America’s Got Talent for a 6th season. Celebrity judges Piers Morgan, who recently signed a multi-year deal with NBC, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel will return along with host Nick Cannon. This is the 5th consecutive year that AGT, from FremantleMedia and Simon Cowell’s SYCO Television, has ranked as the top summer series in total viewers. Season-to-date, the show has averaged a 3.4 rating/10 share in adults 18-49 and 11.8M viewers overall on Tuesdays and a 3.3/10 and 11.8M viewers on Wednesdays. The two-night fifth season finale will air September 14. Cowell, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Jason Raff, Ken Warwick and Georgie Hurford-Jones are executive producers.
Paramount Pictures has made a first-look producing deal with Stefan Sonnenfeld, the founder and president of visual effects company Company 3. Sonnenfeld has provided post production work on such Paramount films as the first two Transformers films, Star Trek and Cloverfield. Sonnenfeld’s company has also worked on such films as Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean, 300 and Watchmen.
Considering how stingy studios are with producing deals these days, this is a surprise considering that Sonnenfeld hasn’t yet produced a picture. He will form a new production label and to Paramount Film Group president Adam Goodman, part of his value will be turning the studio onto talent with film potential that Sonnenfeld works with in the commercial, advertising and video worlds. Sonnenfeld’s advertising work includes campaigns with Nike, and Company 3 is currently working on the third Transformers film and the fourth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean.
“With post-production playing a large role in the filmmaking process these days, leveraging my knowledge, skills, resources and relationships opens up many different possibilities in this new partnership,” Sonnenfeld said.
HBO has acquired the U.S. TV rights to the Israeli documentary Precious Life, which is an official selection of this year’s Toronto Film Festival. The documentary, about a four-month-old Palestinian boy from Gaza who was born without an immune system and required a bone marrow transplant that could only be done in an Israeli hospital, was directed by Israeli broadcast journalist Shlomi Eldar and produced by Ehud Bleiberg and Yoav Ze’evi. It will premiere on HBO in 2011.
Every Icahn move has deep reverberations inside the film/television studio whose management is increasingly paranoid about how their actions will be viewed by him. What a destabilizing situation. Now Carl Icahn’s hostile takeover attempt intensifies with his $7.50 a share unsolicited tender offer this morning. It expires October 22nd. Icahn said his new offer will only be valid if the extra shares that the company recently issued to Lionsgate director Mark Rachesky (who used to be Icahn’s investment adviser) are rescinded or converted into nonvoting stock. The film/TV mini-major, in a defensive move against Icahn, did a debt-for-equity swap in July to dilute his stake in the company. It issued 16.2 million new common shares to Rachesky, boosting his stake to 28.9%, while diluting Icahn’s stake to 33.5% from 37.9%.
Icahn has asked the Supreme Court of British Columbia to reverse the swap. Lionsgate told me just now that its annual shareholders meeting, usually scheduled for sometime in September, has been postponed until after October 12th. “The British Columbia Supreme Court, which is hearing Icahn’s litigation, asked us to delay the record date for the Annual Shareholders Meeting until after their October 12 hearing,” a source told me.
Here is Lionsgate’s response to Icahn’s new tender offer:
SANTA MONICA, Calif. and VANCOUVER, August 31, 2010 — Lionsgate today announced that it has received a revised unsolicited tender offer from Carl Icahn and certain of his affiliated entities (the “Icahn Group”) to acquire up to all of Lionsgate’s
It may have lost at the Emmys where it was nominated for best drama series, but airing against the awards show on Sunday, HBO’s True Blood hit a new series high, drawing 5.4 million viewers. The vampire drama added another 1.2 million viewers with the 11:30 PM replay. Also on Sunday, HBO’s comedies Hung and Entourage averaged 2.5 million and 2.9 million viewers, respectively, with Entourage hitting a season high.
Joan Cusack has joined the cast of Showtime’s new drama series Shameless and appear in all 12 episodes of the new series. She’ll play the role of Sheila, an agoraphobic Chicago housewife with a sexually active teenage daughter who strikes up a special friendship with William H. Macy’s character, Frank Gallagher. She replaces Allison Janney, who played the role in the pilot but had to pull out because of her commitment to ABC’s Mr. Sunshine after the producers of Shameless decided to make the character more prominent than originally planned. Production on the series begins in mid-September for a January 9 premiere. Read More »
It looks like the summer TV season will wrap the way it started, with CBS’s all-rerun Monday lineup easily topping the night. The network’s comedies The Big Bang Theory (2.8 rating/7 share among adults 18-49, 8.8 million viewers overall) and Two and a Half Men (2.6/7, 9.0 million) were the top programs of the night. Despite featuring the much-hyped announcement of the next Dancing with the Stars cast, ABC’s Bachelor Pad (2.0/6) didn’t get a boost and finished flat with last week. Dating in the Dark (1.5/4) was up a tenth. Following a House rerun (1.3/4) on Fox, an original Lie To Me (1.7/5) was down a tenth from last week. NBC aired an America’s Got Talent repeat (1.3/4) and Dateline (1.3/4), which was down 7% from its last original on Aug. 16.
Newspaper critics are increasingly being put off by how expensive the Venice Film Festival, which begins tomorrow, has become. One critic from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf says that he can spend two weeks covering Toronto for the same cost of one week in Venice. This at a time when newspapers are reducing staff and slashing travel budgets. Increasingly, critics are covering either the first few days or the closing few days. The London Guardian is sending just two critics and a reporter to the festival. And those two critics who are leap-frogging each other.
Baz Bamigboye, show-business reporter for the Daily Mail, tells me: “My sense is that it’s no longer special. There are fewer important films and the place has become another junket nightmare.” Bamigboye isn’t going to Venice this year. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian agrees: “Venice is declining in importance.”
A deeper problem though is Hollywood stars staying away. It’s very expensive to get Hollywood A-listers to come out to Italy. And when they are there, they want to stay at one of the city’s big luxury hotels such as the Gritti Palace or the Danieli – both of which are some distance from the Lido, where the fest takes place. Even transporting Hollywood stars from their suites to the event becomes expensive. Distributors cannot justify dropping so much money this early in the awards season. Toronto is a great deal … Read More »
Amazing how a bedbug scare begins. One MSN reviewer’s tweet that a friend had been bitten by bedbugs while watching Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto. That fueled a frenzy of reports that festival-goers might not be the only things swarming the movie theaters of Toronto next month. Toronto International Film Festival co-director Cameron Bailey sent a tweet Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Marketer and producer Krishnan Menon has inked a first-look deal with Fox TV Studios. Under the pact, FtvS will have first crack at Menon’s TV and Internet projects, which Menon intends to develop with appropriate brands attached. Menon, who worked for top marketing agencies such as DDB and Digitas West before launching his own marketing consulting firm Phenomenon, has been involved in such campaigns as the launch and marketing of the iMac and iPod for Apple, the xBox for Microsoft, Williams-Sonoma’s eCommerce business and American Express’ Blue Card. Since venturing into TV in 2006, he created and executive produced ABC Family’s reality series America’s Prom Queen and sold two scripted projects, Heir Apparent at FX written by Kevin Kennedy and Niels Mueller and exec produced by Menon and Jonathan Prince, and Genius Bar at CBS from writers Josh Sternin and Jeff Ventimilia, which didn’t go to pilot. On the unscripted side, Menon, repped by Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Skrzyniarz & Mallean, has previously partnered with Mark Burnett Prods., Bunim/Murray, Ken Mok and Scott Satin to develop projects.
Anyone who doubts the potential of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo need look no further than how the half-year earnings of Bertselmann and its Random House division were positively impacted by the sales of the Millennium novel trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson. Bertelsmann issued its half-year report this morning, and cited the performance by Random House as a big reason for its own record half-year results. According to a letter sent company-wide by Random House chairman/CEO Markus Dohle, the publisher’s sales were up nearly 8%, and profit doubled to around $50 million on revenues close to $1 billion, despite a shaky economy.
The reason? Dohle singles out the sales of the Larsson trilogy, which Random House publishes in the U.S. and Germany. “Their cumulative 6.5 million-copy impact on our overall half-year figures is substantial, and Larsson’s print and digital sales continue to skyrocket,” Dohle writes in the memo. “Stieg Larsson is the first author ever to sell one million e-books on the Kindle. This additional e-book revenue and readership opportunity is just one of the many reasons we are so excited about our robust digital-publishing momentum.”
The e-book results for the half year are showing how important digital sales are becoming to the bottom line of all publishing houses. Dohle said worldwide digital sales are on course to exceed $100 million. The first half results were up 300% for Random House in the U.S. A majority of … Read More »