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Is Jean-Jacques Annaud’s ‘Black Gold’ Biggest Ever Arab-Backed Pic?

Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications has brought the Doha Film Institute aboard as a co-producer of Black Gold, the Jean-Jacques Annaud-directed feature that began production in Tunisia on October 18. DFI, making its first foray into a major international feature production, will provide a mix of equity, services and locations. Even though the $55 million picture is directed by a French helmer, Black Gold is shaping up to be groundbreaking for a film that is back by Arabs with subject matter about them. An adaptation of the Hans Reusch novel The Great Thirst, Black Gold stars Antonio Banderas, Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed and Liya Kebede. The drama is about the rivalry between two Emirs in Arabia in the 1930s, just as oil is being discovered, and the rise of a young dynamic leader who unites the various tribes of the desert kingdoms. The film is being earmarked for Christmas, 2011 release, and Warner Bros has signed on to distribute in France, UK, Latin America and the Middle East, while Universal Pictures International will release it in Germany and Spain and Quinta’s Eagle Pictures has Italy. Read More »

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New Zealand Passes “Hobbit” Deal: Opposition MPs Call It “Day Of Shame”



The New Zealand parliament has passed emergency legislation ensuring that the 2 back-to-back Hobbit films get made in the country. The legislation bypassed usual parliamentary committees, prompting New Zealand MPs to call it a “day of shame.” One held up a redesigned national flag with the Warner Bros logo in one corner. “What is the government going to do next – give in to any multinational that asks for a labour standard to be diluted in return for some form of investment?” asked opposition MP Charles Chauvel. The amendment was passed by a 65-50 vote. The government’s decision to rush through amended employment laws – stopping below-the-line workers from being treated as full-time employees, with all the rights which go with being a salary man — has divided local opinion. The above political cartoon is from a New Zealand newpaper. Meanwhile, some actors union officials though have received death threats after threatening a boycott. Prime Minister John Key has defended his government’s tax deal that secured The Hobbit movies as being far less generous than the opposition’s Lord of the Rings deal. The Hobbit tax deal is understood to be worth $57 million to Warner Bros across 2 movies. Key suggested that the previous Labour government’s Lord of the Rings deal was worth $225 million across all 3 movies. Warner Bros as well as producer/director Peter Jackson had been threatening to move the production to England or Western Europe.

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Sony Profits Rise With Help From Film, TV

By | Friday October 29, 2010 @ 1:46am PDT

A 6.1% increase in sales in its movie division helped Sony’s net profit power back in the company’s 2nd quarter compared to a loss same time last year. Salt, Grown Ups, The Karate Kid and The Other Guys were solid performers. Television revenues also increased due to higher advertising and subscription revenues from international channels. The company reported an overall profit of $375 million, compared with a $326 million loss in the same quarter of 2009. On the gaming side, Playstation performed well as did computer units. In the past year, Sony has cut thousands of jobs and has had to revise its outlook for 2010 in order to address the slow economy, the dollar’s declining value and increased competition.

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CBS Picks Up Family Comedy Starring Rob Schneider & Produced By Tannenbaums

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 8:25pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Eric and Kim Tannenbaum are fashionably late to the marketplace in their first development season at their new home, CBS TV Studios. But their last-minute comedy sale to CBS is a big one: a half-hour starring Rob Schneider in his first TV series gig in 13 years. The untitled project, to be written by Lew Morton (Saturday Night Live, Big Lake) and Schneider, is based on Schneider’s life and centers on a solitary guy who marries into a huge Mexican-American family. Morton, Eric and Kim Tannenbaum are executive producing, with Schneider and his brother John Schneider producing through their From Out of Nowhere Prods. CBS TV Studios and the Tannenbaum Co. are producing the comedy, which has received a script order. Read More »

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OSCAR: Animation Entries Down To Wire; But Will There Be Enough For 5 Nominees?

Pete Hammond

Today the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences sent out a reminder confirming the 5 PM PT November 1st deadline for 2010 Best Animated feature entries. At this point there do not appear to be enough entries to trigger five nominations rather than the more common three but there is still time, brother. What wasn’t mentioned in the release is the number that have been received so far at the Academy. A really good clue though is a  letter I have learned that was  sent late last week updating members and potential members of the Animation committee (the ones doing the voting)  and informing them that 14 entries had been received but that it was still possible to reach 16, the magic number needed to expand the category. Last year a flurry of last minute entries flooded the Acad offices and Oscar ‘toon watchers were hoping the same might miraculously happen this year. Academy rules state that in any year with 8 to 15 eligible entries there will be three nominations allowed but if it’s 16 or more there will be five contenders, as has happened twice (including last year) since the  category was created in 2001 when Dreamworks’ Shrek became the first winner.

Dreamworks Animation has only won once  since then (for releasing 2005’s Wallace & Gromit in The Curse Of The Were Rabbit) and is back in the game big time this year with its March release, How To Train Your Dragon but would also love to see its upcoming  Megamind (Nov 5) in the … Read More »

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FX Adapting Korean Film ‘Soo’ To Series

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 4:52pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: FX is working on a series project based on the 2007 Korean movie Soo (aka Act of Revenge) with Barry Josephson (Life as We Know It) on board to executive produce. A History of Violence writer Josh Olson is writing the adaptation, a drama exploring the nature of identity through the lens of twin brothers — one a detective and one a hitman. After witnessing the killing of his estranged twin brother, a hitman decides to assume his life and become a policeman to find those responsible. Olson is executive producing with Josephson Entertainment’s Josephson and Alexander Young as well as Ted Kim and Jiwon Park from Korean entertainment giant CJ Entertainment which distributed the movie based on the South Korean graphic novel Double Casting by Shin Young-woo. Olson, repped by UTA and Benderspink, has several feature projects in development, One Shot at Paramount, Oz at Warners and a script he is working on with the directing team of Neveldine/Taylor. He is also attached to direct his adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s short story Until Gwen. On TV, Josephson is executive producing Bones, now in its sixth season on Fox.

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TV Teaser: ‘Walking Dead’ Stunt Video

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 4:35pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Here is an exclusive look at a compilation video from the global Walking Dead zombie stunt on Tuesday which featured hundreds of people in full zombie gear and makeup invading 26 cities worldwide, targeting major landmarks. The video plays a lot like Candid Camera, with the expected puzzled reactions of passers-by. But the stunt was clever and the clip gets extra points from me for ending with a glimpse of my homeland, Bulgaria, whose capital Sofia was among the invasion targets. Walking Dead‘s AMC premiere is on Sunday followed by the rollout on Fox International Channels the first week of November.

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Lionsgate Picks Up Miley Cyrus Pic ‘LOL’

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 4:10pm PDT
Mike Fleming

SANTA MONICA, CA, October 28, 2010 – Lionsgate today announced that it has acquired from Mandate Pictures the U.S. distribution rights to LOL, a coming-of-age comedy starring Miley Cyrus, Demi Moore, and Ashley Greene. Lisa Azuelos writes and directs the film, an American version of her 2008 French box office hit Laughing Out Loud. The producers are Academy Award® nominees Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher of Double Feature Films and Tish Cyrus. Executive producers are Mandate President Nathan Kahane, Lisa Azuelos, Romain Le Grand and Jerome Seydoux, with Double Feature Films’ Taylor Latham, Mandate’s Nicole Brown and Kelli Konop, and Jim Powers co-producing. Mandate Pictures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lionsgate, operates as an independent brand. LOL marks the first collaboration between the two companies.

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Agent David Styne Sells Script Under Pseudonym, Steps Into New Writing Career

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 3:50pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After spending 17 years at CAA and the last three at ICM, David Styne is leaving the agency business to focus on a new career as a screenwriter. This comes after he made a sale on the first (and only) script he has ever written. Scott Steindorff’s Stone Village bought Carnival!, a comedy that Styne wrote, based on a trip to Rio that he took four years ago with his high school buddies from Los Angeles. The trip was a seminal experience for Styne and when he described it to ex-client Oliver Stone, the director told him there was a movie in it. Styne never had time to write it. When the trip’s Brazilian guide, Marco Cavalcante, was killed, Styne became determined to follow through and dedicate the movie to him. Read More »

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Lionsgate Sues Carl Icahn, Says He Was Playing A “Double Game”

Lionsgate has sued its biggest shareholder Carl Icahn, claiming he publicly opposed a merger between the company and MGM then gummed up the process until he could profit substantially from a potential marriage. Lionsgate claims Icahn publicly said he would oppose the merger, only to turn around and secretly buy up a large stake in MGM’s debt…and then push for the merger. ”It turns out that Icahn was misleading Lionsgate and its shareholders all along,” the lawsuit, filed in New York, says. And that “recent developments indicate he was playing a double game. Icahn opposed a merger not because it was bad for Lionsgate but because it was good – so good in fact that he wanted to postpone it until he could buy up as much of both companies as he could.” The suit also says that, “While urging Lionsgate shareholders to support his takeover campaign to ensure that Lionsgate did not pursue what he called a ‘delusional’ MGM transaction, Icahn was quietly amassing a huge position in MGM debt with the undisclosed intention of reaping profits from both sides in an eventual merger.” All of this comes one day before the voting deadline on a proposed prepackaged bankruptcy plan that would see Spyglass Entertainment’s Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum take over the studio. Just this week, Icahn redoubled his efforts to buy up even more MGM debt in preparation for a Lionsgate merger, so the big unknown is how any … Read More »

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Spike TV Goes Older With Scripted Slate

Nellie Andreeva

Spike TV is recalibrating its male demo focus with a new scripted slate catering to the older portion of the 18-49 demographic. The cable network’s development slate features 6 comedies from such auspices as  veteran SNL and 30 Rock director Beth McCarthy Miller, top reality producer Thom Beers, and Wild Hogs director Walt Becker as well as one drama. ”We have spent the last few years successfully bringing in Men 18-34 with a mix of action, outrageous comedy and fun infotainment.” said Spike TV president Kevin Kay. “Now we’re focused on bringing 25-49 year-olds with scripted fare that they can relate to – especially workplace and family humor.” He described Spike’s new development as “a little broader, more content (aka advertiser)-friendly and a little bit older.” The network’s projects also feature more strong female characters, Kay said. The goal is to find a companion for Spike’s hit comedy Blue Mountain State and launch a comedy block. As for drama F.T.W., Kay said he wasn’t looking to develop in the hourlong arena but loved the spec script and found it very timely as it deals with an undercover officer infiltrating extremist militia. The trend of Spike going older and broader is not limited only to the scripted side. In the reality area, it is exemplified by the recently greenlighted coal mining docu series from Beers. Here is a list of Spike’s new scripted projects with descriptions: Read More »

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Gersh Bolsters Film Finance/Distribution Division

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 2:30pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Looking to beef up its place in the independent film finance/distribution arenas, Gersh has promoted to partner Jay Cohen, the producer who last year joined the agency to spearhead the department. Gersh has also hired producer Jennifer Dana to work closely with Cohen to package projects and work with film funds. Dana is in post-production on the Emma Roberts-Freddie Highmore film Homework, which she produced under her Mint Pictures banner. She formed her producing company after a stint with Andrew Lauren Productions. Among the film funds repped by Gersh are Queen Nefertari Productions, Northern Lights Films and Ketchup Media. The agency is also looking to secure offshore equity from Columbia, UK and China. Read More »

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Pilot Castings: Mehcad Brooks Joins USA’s ‘Roughness’, Trio Added To Lifetime’s ‘Wall’

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Mehcad Brooks has become the first actor from a cancelled fall series to line up a new pilot gig. Brooks, who had been in demand since the cancellation of ABC’s My Generation, has been tapped to co-star on USA Network’s pilot Necessary Roughness. Meanwhile, Marisa Ramirez, Brandon Quinn and and Chris Johnson have joined Lifetime’s pilot Against the Wall. Roughness, from Sony TV, centers on tough, sexy Long Island divorcee Danielle Santino (Callie Thorne), who, to make ends meet, becomes the therapist for a professional football team and quickly becomes sought after by other athletes, musicians, politicians and those living in the spotlight. Brooks will play one of her clients: a star wide receiver for the Hawks who has been unable to hold onto the ball recently while regularly getting into trouble with the law. Initially pissed about being forced into counseling with Dani, he winds up bonding closely with her. Brooks, who had a memorable season-long arc on HBO’s True Blood as Eggs, is repped by Innovative and Mosaic. Read More »

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Ridley Scott Sweet On ‘Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace For ‘Alien’ Prequel

Mike Fleming

20th Century Fox and director Ridley Scott have just about completed meetings with actresses to find the Ripley-like heroine for the 3D Alien prequel. I’m told that, so far, Scott’s favorite is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace. The other names being whispered range from Carey Mulligan to Abbie Cornish, Natalie Portman and Tron: Legacy star Olivia Wilde, the latter of whom met this week. Deadline revealed early this month that Rapace — who got the female lead in Sherlock Holmes 2 – was a possibility for Alien. Now, the studio will be heavily involved in the ultimate decision, and I’m told that Rapace’s English is a consideration. Stay tuned.

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Legendary Names Matthieu Coppet EVP

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 1:47pm PDT

Burbank, CA, October 28, 2010 — Legendary Pictures announced today the appointment of Matthieu Coppet as Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy, who joins the leading entertainment company from UBS where he served as Global Media Strategist.

In this newly created role, Coppet will work directly with Legendary’s Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer Larry Clark to identify and pursue value-enhancing strategic opportunities for the company.

Coppet brings to Legendary nearly a decade of strategic and investment experience in the global media and digital sectors.  Coppet will continue and augment the company’s charge to acquire and grow new complementary business lines.  He will also work to utilize Legendary’s brand extensions and widen the company’s global reach into new countries and territories such as China.

Read More »

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R.I.P. James MacArthur

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 1:23pm PDT

The original Danno on Hawaii Five-O died in Florida of natural causes on Thursday. He was 72. MacArthur, who was the son of Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur, was at the other end of one of TV’s most famous lines: “Book’em Danno” was the order whenever his TV partner Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) caught the bad guy. Scott Caan currently plays Danno in the CBS remake of the original, which ran from 1968-1980. MacArthur was also in several Disney films, including Swiss Family Robinson and Kidnapped.

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Showtime ‘Crazy’ For Blog-Based Comedy

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 11:42am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Showtime is developing Boycrazy, a half-hour comedy based on Alexi Wasser’s provocative blog ImBoyCrazy.com, with Wasser attached to star and Lynda Obst to executive produce. Wasser will co-create the potential series with Daisy Gardner (Californication), who will serve as showrunner. Boycrazy centers on a girl (Wasser) looking for love, purpose, and the meaning of her life, one dude at a time. It follows her as she tries to navigate the world of sexuality in the post-modern society of Los Angeles while trying to find real love. 3 Arts Entertainment is producing, with WME-repped Gardner, Obst and 3 Arts’ Dave Becky and Alan Rautbort executive producing. Wasser is with Don Buchwald & Assoc. This is the latest Internet property to migrate to TV. CBS’ sitcom $#*! My Dad Says was based on the Twitter feed, CBS is developing 2 more Twitter feed-based comedies for next season, Dear Girls Above Me and Shh … Don’t Tell Steve, while ABC is working on a series based on the Awkward family Photos blog. And Showtime recently acquired Lisa Kudrow’s Web Therapy videos to convert them into three 5-minute interstitials. Read More »

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It’s Official: Eric McCormack To Star In TNT Pilot ‘Perception’

Nellie Andreeva

Following some pretty intense final negotiations, Eric McCormack has closed a deal to return to TNT as the star of the network’s pilot Perception. The Will & Grace alum will play the lead in the project, Dr. Geoffrey Pierce, an eccentric, frequently erratic and absolutely brilliant neuroscientist who helps the FBI solve complex cases. Kenneth Biller and Mike Sussman co-wrote the pilot, which is produced by ABC Studios. McCormack will serve as producer. At TNT, McCormack previously toplined ad agency drama Trust Me.

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Hot Trailer: ‘Sanctum’

By | Thursday October 28, 2010 @ 11:11am PDT
Mike Fleming

A trailer has been released for Sanctum, the James Cameron-produced feature that Alister Grierson directed based on the natural mishap that befell a team of cave divers in Australia. The film will be released February 4, and is considered an important next step in Cameron’s evolution of 3D technology for films that don’t have to be made on the budget scale of Avatar, but look superior to films shot in 2D and then converted. The $30 million film, financed by Wayfare Entertainment, was scripted Andrew Wight and John Garvin. The drama is based on the near-death experience of Wight, who has collaborated with Cameron on such docus as Aliens of the Deep and Ghosts of the Abyss, and who led the perilous dive expedition.

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