ANALYSIS: Lessons Of The Fall & What Lies Ahead For The Big 4 Broadcast Networks

Nellie Andreeva

As broadcast network executives were leaving for their holiday destinations last week, most of them were certainly glad to get away, and not only because of  the dreary wet Los Angeles weather. The broadcast networks had little to cheer about this fall, which failed to produce breakout hits of the size of Modern Family or Glee a year ago. This year, the breakout hits were all on cable: The Walking Dead on AMC and Rizzoli & Isles on TNT, which ranked as the top basic cable series of 2010 among adults 18-49 and total viewers, respectively. The biggest new reality hit was also on cable, MTV’s Jersey Shore, which launched at the very end of 2009. Here are some notes on the fall season, evaluation of the performance of the individual networks and a look ahead at midseason.

- The biggest thing on TV this season has been football, which set ratings records for NBC and ESPN. It dwarfed the entertainment competition not only in live viewing but also in Live+7 where scripted series gain a significant chunk of their viewership.

- It’s nearly impossible to launch a new series at 8 PM. Two of the 3 new 8 PM series, NBC’s Undercovers and ABC’s My Generation, are history, while ABC’s No Ordinary Family was on a ratings decline until moving to 9 PM where its numbers stabilized. NBC’s new reality series School Pride barely registered in the Friday 8 PM slot, raising concern over CBS’ plan to launch new drama Chaos in the slot in midseason.

- Big-name producers don’t guarantee success unless the name is Chuck Lorre. While the Lorre-produced new CBS sitcom Mike & Molly is the highest-rated new series this fall in the 18-49 demo, J.J. Abrams’ Undercovers went bust as did the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced ABC legal drama The Whole Truth, while another Bruckheimer series, Chase, is fading. The jury is still out on Dick Wolf’s Law & Order spinoff Law & Order: Los Angeles, which has had so-so ratings so far. Next up are Shonda Rhimes with ABC’s Off the Map and David E. Kelley with NBC’s Harry’s Law.

- Texas proved the unluckiest setting for new series. Of the four freshman series set and filmed in the Lone Star state, My Generation, Lone Star, The Good Guys and Chase, 3 have been already been canceled and one, Chase, is struggling. Read More »

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UPDATE: Last-Minute Extension Agreement Between Comcast & DISH Keeps E! & Style

Nellie Andreeva

Hours before DISH Network’s carriage agreement with Comcast’s E! and Style was to to expire at midnight, threatening a blackout of the two cable networks on DISH, the two sides have agreed to a short-term extension. The deal is … Read More »

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Discovery’s Michael Jackson Autopsy Documentary ‘Postponed Indefinitely’

By | Friday December 31, 2010 @ 1:26pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Two days after Michael Jackson’s estate blasted Discovery Channel for their decision to air a documentary about the autopsy of the late pop star, the cable channel has pulled the program off the schedule. “Given the commencement of legal proceedings … Read More »

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Reports Of Sony Courtship Of IMAX Drives Stock Price Spike

By | Friday December 31, 2010 @ 12:42pm PST
Mike Fleming

Fueled by a speculative report in Britain’s Daily Mail that IMAX is being courted by Sony Corporation, the oversized screen company’s stock price rose from $27 to $32 per share, ending at $28.07. The report asserted that Sony would pay $40 per share for the publicly traded company. The pre-holiday … Read More »

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In Other New Year’s Eve News…

In a tough blow for the brick and mortar bookstores coming out of the holidays and heading into the new year, Borders has acknowledged that it delayed payments to vendors. In a statement released yesterday to PublishersMarketplace.com, Borders claimed restructuring its vendor financing was part of an ongoing potential refinancing of its existing credit facilities. Without such a move, the company faces a liquidity shortfall. The Wall Street Journal reports that the retailer doesn’t know it new funding will materialize and it is unclear whether publishers will be understanding enough to send fresh product. Borders and rival Barnes & Noble have been weathering a worsening storm of customers opting for online shopping and e-books, trading the charm of browsing bookshelves for discounted wares…

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s landing at conservative site Newsmax is causing a bit of a stir. Miller, who also contributes to  the conservative-leaning Fox News, will always be known for controversy over  whether her pre-Iraq invasion reports about possible weapons of mass destruction was used by the Bush Administration build momentum toward the subsequent invasion. She also spent 85 days in jail after refusing to disclose that Scooter Libby, the former aide to vice president Dick Cheney, had disclosed to her that Valerie Plame was in the CIA. Miller recently used her experience on that topic to debunk the Plame pic Fair Game in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, calling the film well acted, but a “gross distortion of a complicated political saga.” Firing back in an essay for Columbia Journalism Review, Liman wrote: “Judith Miller demonstrated in her recent WSJ story about my film, Fair Game, the same cavalier attitude towards the facts that led to her departure from The New York Times in disgrace. And we should never forget that Scooter Libby outed Valerie Plame to Miller in June 2003—more than two weeks before Richard Armitage outed Plame to Novak. Somehow Miller neglected to mention that in her op-ed piece. But she also forgot about that before—in her early grand jury testimony—until she was forced to come clean about it in a subsequent grand jury appearance and under oath at Libby’s trial. Miller’s belated testimony helped convict her “source” Libby, but not until she did everything she could, as a forceful proponent of the war in Iraq, to avoid telling the truth to the American public. And so here we go again.” Moviegoers didn’t seem to care much about the controversy, based on ticket sales. The $22 million budget Fair Game grossed less then $10 million domestic, and less than $19 million worldwide…

The producers of Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark have officially acknowledged that Natalie Mendoza is leaving her role of Arachne, Read More »

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Warner Bros Wins 2010 Film Market Share; Year’s Box Office Grosses Not A Record; Overall Movie Attendance Down Sharply; Should Studios Slash Number Of 3D Pics?

The movie moguls hate it whenever their studios are judged by market share. Which is why it’s so much fun to spotlight at the end of the year. Final figures aren’t in yet, but the order isn’t going to change: Warner … Read More »

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Flackery Humiliates ‘Buried’ Screenwriter By Helping Him With Oscar Rule-Breaking

By | Friday December 31, 2010 @ 2:27am PST

And here I thought only Los Angeles flackery mPRm’s name was moronic. Turns out this fish stinks at the head because its co-founder and president Mark Pogachefsky is now blaming his own client for an Oscar rule-breaking situation that the PR firm should have … Read More »

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UK Honors Film Director Steve McQueen And TV’s ‘Poirot’ Detective David Suchet (Oh, And Annie Lennox, Too)

By | Thursday December 30, 2010 @ 4:00pm PST

UPDATE: This New Year’s UK Honours list from the Queen includes only two names of major film/TV interest for CBEs (one notch below knighthood): film director Steve McQueen (Hunger) who’s about to start shooting Shame in January with Michael … Read More »

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Comcast’s E! and Style Face Blackout On Dish Network In Carriage Dispute

Nellie Andreeva

UPDATED: The countdown to New Year’s eve is on, and so are the countdowns to a couple of possible channel blackouts as a number of carriage agreements expire at midnight on Dec. 31. Comcast’s E! and Style just issued … Read More »

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Video: Making Of ‘The Fighter’

By | Thursday December 30, 2010 @ 12:46pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount has issued a featurette on director the David O. Russell-directed The Fighter, a film that is developing momentum that might give it more than a puncher’s chance in awards season.

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Wednesday: Holiday Box Office Grosses



THURSDAY AM: Here are unofficial numbers from my sources for Wednesday’s box office as the holidays continue. The Weinstein Co’s Blue Valentine opened in 4 theaters; the Derek Cianfrance film starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams logged an estimated opening … Read More »

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Hot Clip: Justin Bieber ‘Never Say Never’

Mike Fleming

And in Deadline’s shameless plug for Justin Bieber tweener traffic… Paramount Pictures is doing a slow build toward the February release of Never Say Never, that feature film which is Bieber’s biopic. This clip shows how Bieber learned to play the drums. Looks like the lessons paid off.

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WGA Script Awards Disconnect With Oscars

By | Wednesday December 29, 2010 @ 9:00pm PST
Pete Hammond

UPDATE: PETE HAMMOND RESPONDS — Some commenters to my post seem to believe it was written with an anti-WGA agenda on my part. I didn’t point out in the story – and perhaps I should have – that I am a longtime and proud WGA member and also represented … Read More »

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OSCAR: Voters Receive Final 2010 Screener

Pete Hammond

Here’s the story of an Oscar campaign aiming not to be first, but dead last: Academy members have begun receiving what is believed – and intentionally planned – to be the final screener of the season, Peter Weir’s … Read More »

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R.I.P. Grant McCune

By | Wednesday December 29, 2010 @ 5:08pm PST

He was one of George Lucas’s original team of F/X wizards who in 1978 took home an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects (which he shared with John Dykstra) for his work on R2-D2 and all those wonderful creatures from the … Read More »

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‘Two And A Half Men’ Cast’s Holiday Gifts For The Show’s Crew And Staff

By | Wednesday December 29, 2010 @ 2:18pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: It is a happy ending to a rocky year for the behind-the-scenes workers on the veteran CBS comedy series Two and a Half Men. I hear that as holiday gifts, the cast of the show gave iPads to the … Read More »

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‘Unnatural History’ Creator Mike Werb On Show’s Cancellation & His Season 2 Plans

By | Wednesday December 29, 2010 @ 1:31pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

More than a month after we broke the story about Cartoon Network’s decision to cancel live-action series Unnatural History after one season, fans of the show continue to weigh in on the cancellation in the comments section of the … Read More »

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OSCAR: Overview Of Best Screenplay Race

Pete Hammond

It’s amazing that any good script ever gets made anymore. If there is one common thread running through most of the contenders for screenplay honors this year, it is what a long, looooong journey it is from page to screen. And another fairly obvious truth: the road to Best Picture starts on the page. In fact, since 1933, only 3 movies have managed to win the Best Picture Oscar without at least having their screenplay nominated and, in the majority of cases, actually winning. One of those movies was Hamlet in 1948 but its credited writer, William Shakespeare, wasn’t around for the rewrites. The other two were The Sound Of Music (1965) and Titanic (1997).

The writers strike in 2007 proved not much gets done without scribes and the effects of that strike, particularly in terms of quality screenplays, is still being felt. Nevertheless 2010 is a rich feast as far as the writers are concerned  but none of it was easy. Among the screenplay contenders, Black Swan, Blue Valentine, Get Low, and Inception were each percolating in the minds of their writers for more than a decade. In the case of The King’s Speech, it was more than 3 decades. The Kids Are All Right and Hereafter were thrown into drawers, unfinished, only to be rescued years later. And to demonstrate just how important  the right words and concept are, it was 11 years between Toy Story 2 and 3. Of course the wait for just the right concept and script paid off when Toy Story 3 not only became the highest grossing film of the year, but also the number one animated film of all time and the best reviewed movie of the year on Rotten Tomatoes.

On the other hand, it doesn’t always have to take years to see a script turned into a movie. Another of 2010’s most critically acclaimed hits, The Social Network, was fast-tracked. The events it depicts happened just six years ago and were still unfolding when Aaron Sorkin wrote his screenplay even as the book it is partially based on was still being written itself. That seems to be an exception as most Oscar caliber scripts languish in development hell, most of them “too good” to get made until fate – and a reasonable budget — intervenes. Of all the branches in the Academy, the writers have been the ones to go off the page as it were and select offbeat and sometimes unexpected and unheralded nominees.

Here is a rundown of the screenplays that completed Hollywood’s obstacle course  and now have a shot at the industry’s highest award:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Animal Kingdom – David Michod: This tight Australian crime thriller about a 17-year-old trying to survive in a fearsome crime family has so far won lots of notice this awards season for co-star Jacki Weaver but could be recognized by writers for writer/director Michod’s powerfully effective and almost Shakespearean-like tale.

Another Year – Mike Leigh: Leigh’s uniquely original scripts borne out of a long and involved rehearsal period in which his actors all contribute to the final product have won him four previous nominations here (Secrets And Lies, Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake, Happy Go Lucky) and this slice-of-British-life drama could make it five.

Biutiful – Alejandro Gonzalez  Inarritu: After directing such critically acclaimed films as Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel all written by Guillermo Arriaga, Inarritu strikes out on his own to write this very personal, dark, and moving journey about a man whose life is in freefall. He’s been previously Oscar nominated as a director, producer, and for Foreign Language Film. But this could be the first time he is recognized for his writing talents.

Black Swan – Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J McLaughlin: This script started out as sort of an All About Eve set in the world of ballet but it morphed into much more than that once it finally got into the hands of Heyman, director Darren Aronofsky’s director of development. After 10 years and almost being permanently shelved just a month before production was to begin, it’s turned into a hit movie and major awards magnet.

Blue Valentine - Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne: First written in 1998 and then rewritten more than 60 times, Cianfrance, who also directed, took 12 years to finally see his very personal story of a failing marriage hit the screen. The rawness of the dialogue and intensity of the scenes nearly landed this with an NC-17 until distributor Harvey Weinstein convinced the MPAA to change course and award an “R”.

City Island – Raymond De Felitta: This spring crowd-pleaser about a loud but loving and highly dysfunctional New York family was one of the first to get its screeners out, a good thing since many Academy members missed it and now seem to have a sense of discovery as they have been catching up with it. Whether that translates into a long shot surprise nomination in the writing category is anyone’s guess. But this movie has been full of surprises since winning the audience award at Tribeca two years ago.

Company Men – John Wells: The timeliness of WGA president John Wells’ story of corporate executives being downsized and thrown out of a job could be the thing that gets his fellow writers to give this a whirl in the DVD player. But the Weinstein Company seems to be pushing other higher profile movies in this category like The King’s Speech and Blue Valentine a little more forcefully. Its 76% fresh ranking at Rotten Tomatoes suggests that critics at least have liked what they’ve seen.

Conviction – Pamela Gray: She wrote two films, A Walk On The Moon and Music of the Heart, both released in 1999. But it would be another decade before she earned another big screen credit for this remarkable true story of  Betty Anne Waters who spent 18 years putting herself through school in order to become a lawyer and get her wrongly convicted brother out of prison. Still this might be as much of a long shot as that triumph was.

The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington (co-story): Another long in development dream project, this true story of boxer Mickey Ward and his relationship with his crack-addicted brother Dicky was another case of ‘never say never’, thanks in large part to the perseverance of star/co-producer Mark Wahlberg who didn’t stop training even when the Paramount movie looked dead until further rewrites and budget cuts got it a greenlight from Ryan Kavanaugh/Relativity Media. With strong Best Picture prospects, this would seem a shoo-in for a nomination.

Get Low – C. Gaby Mitchell, Chris Provenzano: Mad Men writer Provenzano dreamed up the story of a hermit wanting to throw his own funeral in 2001 but then saw it reworked five years later by Mitchell. The result of this shotgun writers’ marriage was this long-in-development film finally got made and gave Robert Duvall  another major starring role and shot at a second Oscar at age 80.

Hereafter – Peter Morgan: As a writer Morgan tended to do real life stories like The Last King Of Scotland, The Queen and Frost/Nixon, the latter two both winning him Oscar nominations. But the death of a friend led him into very different territory with this very spiritual tale on the tenuous connections between living and dying. With director Clint Eastwood insisting on not changing a word, Morgan got to live the writers dream and could land his third nomination although the film seems to be fading in memory this awards season.

Inception - Christopher Nolan: Shortly after winning his only Oscar nomination to date with his original screenplay Memento 10 years ago, Nolan came up with the concept for this startling and emotional story about dream invaders. It took a couple of enormously successful Batman films but Nolan finally got it made, winning that “dream” combination of rave reviews and blockbuster boxoffice. This would seem a certainty to earn him his next dance with Oscar.

The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg: Indie filmmaker Cholodenko wanted to go a little more commercial. And commercial filmmaker Blumberg wanted to go a little more indie. So the perfect combination was formed to write this family dramedy about a Lesbian couple with two teen kids whose relationship hits the rocks when their sperm donor suddenly flies in from the past. Winner of a NY Film Critics screenplay award and nominated for Golden Globes and CCMA honors, this is a rare comedy that could break through against its super serious competition.

The King’s Speech – David Seidler: Seidler, who had stuttering problems of his own as a kid, has been waiting 35 years to tell the story of the friendship between King George VI of England and his Australian speech coach, Lionel Logue. It’s been the longest journey of any screenwriter this year, but this WGA nominated writing veteran (Tucker: The Man and His Dream) is suddenly an “overnight” success and an Oscar frontrunner.

Made In Dagenham - William Ivory: A feel-good period piece about a group of feisty female factory workers fighting for equal pay in late 1960s England, Ivory’s deft combination of pathos, humor, and determination would make this an instant contender. But box office has been spotty, and its main chance at Oscar recognition would appear to be in the hands of the writers branch who are often known for championing the little guy – or in this case gal.

Please Give – Nicole Holofcener: This spring comedy was one of the first 2010 films to elicit any awards talk when it was released in April but its memory has faded a bit and another offbeat family comedy The Kids Are All Right may have stolen its thunder. Still, Holofcener’s quirky dialogue and amusing and flawed characters are highly entertaining and could pull a (major) surprise.

Somewhere – Sofia Coppola: This European-style minimalist exercise may be an acquired taste but don’t count out Coppola who won here for her only other original screenplay, Lost In Translation, in 2003. The Grand Prize winner at the Venice Film Festival, this story of a LA actor adrift and trying to forge a relationship with his young daughter actually could strike a few chords and win a few votes from other writers who may see someone they know in this.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy: Adapting Aron Ralston’s book about his 5-day ordeal trapped “between a rock and a hard place” in a canyon he only escaped by cutting off his own arm, would seem to be impossible. Director Boyle had a vision and conquered 2 drafts before bringing in his Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire writer Beaufoy to do clean up. Somehow, they managed to turn this one-man show into a compelling movie and so far have landed Golden Globe and CCMA nominations for this ‘farewell to arm’ tale of man vs. nature with Oscar recognition a good bet at this point.

Fair Game – Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth: This riveting political thriller won top reviews in Cannes but failed to ignite the box office in its November opening stateside. Still, the screenplay crackles as the Butterworth brothers took both books by Valerie Plame and husband Joe Wilson to tell the tale of Plame’s massive CIA identity leak and the ensuing nightmare it caused. Longshot.

The Ghost Writer – Robert Harris, Roman Polanski: With Polanski’s aid, novelist Harris took a crack at his own book about a hired writer helping to craft the memoirs of a shady former British Prime Minister. With Hitchcockian twists and turns, the pair wrote a screenplay dealing with the craft of writing among many other things that should have great appeal in this category and may well win a nomination despite the threat of being forgotten due to its early 2010 release date.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg: Despite its Foreign Language and Swedish origins, this first of Stieg Larsson book adaptations (followed by The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest) represent perhaps one of the highest profile and most prodigious contenders in the category this year. Writers branch members in their Oscar voting are often receptive to foreign films so this one has a genuine shot of making the grade.

How To Train Your Dragon – William Davies, Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders: Taking Cressida Cowell’s stirring kids book and giving it heart, humor, and action, this writing team could find themselves competing against another toon, Toy Story 3. Writers have never been shy about acknowledging the scribe talents behind animated features in recent years and this one should be no exception. But it would mean seeing two toons going head to head here for the first time.

Love And Other Drugs – Ed Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Charles Randolph: Jamie Reidy’s book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman proved to be perfect source material to get Zwick off the historical epic beat and back to romantic comedy basics. An underperformer at the box office,  this sexy romp is a long shot but showed there’s still life in the genre. Read More »

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Official: MGM Moving Into Office Building Once Intended For William Morris Agency

By | Wednesday December 29, 2010 @ 11:18am PST

The Beverly Hills Courier broke this real estate story and now it’s confirmed: on Sunday, MGM signed a lease with New York-based George Comfort & Sons for that 6-story big blue office building at the corner of 235-269 N. … Read More »

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