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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 “in hopes of reaching a long term solution,” E! and Style said in a statement.

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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 beginning next week, and at the request of Michael Jackson’s estate, the scheduled broadcast of the medical documentary related to Michael Jackson’s official autopsy has been postponed indefinitely,” the network said in a statement. The letter to Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav triggered a petition by fans against the special, which was slated to air across Europe in January.

In their letter, the Michael Jackson estate co-executors John Branca and John McClain called the network’s decision to air the documentary “shockingly bad taste, insensitive to Michael’s family and appears motivated solely by your blind desire to exploit Michael’s death, while cynically attempting to dupe the public into believing this show will have serious medical value.”  They also objected to a print ad for the special (picture on right), which they called “debased, sick and insensitive.”

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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 stock run prompted IMAX to respond to a request from the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada on behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange. “IMAX Corporation is not aware of any corporate developments to account for this activity,” the company said in the statement. “The Company’s policy is not to comment on rumors or speculation, and accordingly does not intend to comment further.” IMAX has become a more important player to studios trying to corner the market on prime 3D-capable screens that bring in premium ticket prices, and IMAX has been on an aggressive campaign to raise its screen counts around the world. Whether a studio wants to get into that business is the major question, one that raises major regulatory issues.

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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 Bros is No. 1 (for the third straight year), followed by Paramount, then Fox, then Disney, then Sony, and finally the bomb factory known as Universal. Next comes the mini-majors with Summit Entertainment, and Lionsgate bringing up the rear. The only surprise is the high placement of Fox even though it took a terrible beating from the media all year, and the low order of Sony which appeared to dominate box office week in and week out. Go figure.

As for overall grosses, 2010 alas was not a record-setting year. My pal Paul Dergarabedian over at Hollywood.com is projecting that when full year revenues come in by Monday, the expected figure of $10.5 billion will fall just short of 2009’s record $10.6 billion. ”This is only the second time in box office history that full year revenues will top the $10 billion mark. However, the last time that revenues fell short of the prior year was in 2008 when they dipped 0.52% from 2007. More telling is that attendance this year will see a 5.36% downturn vs. 2009 giving us the biggest percentage drop year over year since 2005 when attendance fell a whopping … 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 prevented instead of aided and abetted. After a lot of Sundance hype because of its claustrophobic nightmare premise and star Ryan Reynolds, this movie came and went at the box office in record time after making only $1 million domestic. And not even distributor Lionsgate is campaigning Buried for an Academy Award or anything else. So Buried has zero chance of any golden statuettes this season without its studio support. And yet mPRm while repping Buried let its screenwriter Chris Sparling commit an Oscar taboo even though he didn’t know the rules, as Pogachefsky is admitting. (“Weirdly, I would not be surprised if this was not a setup just to get attention,” Deadline’s awards columnist Pete Hammond comments to me. “How else would he get any notice?”) Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Karger scoops that Sparling sent a personal missive to members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ writers branch gushing about his screenplay — “no film this year — or ever — has done so much with so little” — and respectfully asking them to read it in hopes that it would land on their ballot for Best Original Screenplay. Well, the return address belongs to mPRm. Still, this is hardly a repeat of last year’s Nicolas Chartier scandal because The Hurt Locker was an … 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 Fassbender, and actor David Suchet, best known for playing Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in those marvelous Agatha Christie mysteries for ITV and PBS. Music legend Annie Lennox was on the list, too, but a notch below with an OBE. I would say that McQueen’s selection is surprising given his anti-establishment stance. His Hunger was a sympathetic portrayal of Irish terrorist Bobby Sands – not the Establishment’s favourite person. Actress Harriet Walter, mainly known for her stage work over here, has become a Dame, and comedienne Sheila Hancock also becomes a CBE. Burt Kwouk, who was Peter Sellers’ karate-chopping butler in the Pink Panther movies has been made an OBE.

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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 a statement warning viewers that the two networks may go dark on DISH Network. Also tomorrow night, another satcaster, DirecTV, could drop the Golf Channel. Additionally, Sinclair’s 33 broadcast stations face blackout on Time Warner Cable systems as the two companies continue to be at odds over retransmission consent fees. Meanwhile, another station group, Hearst, just reached a last-minute agreement with DirecTV, so its 29 broadcast stations will remain on the DirecTV systems into the new year. Here is E! and Style’s statement:

We are in active negotiations with DISH Network.  We are trying to reach a fair agreement, however, it is our belief they will once again turn their backs on their subscribers by dropping the networks and holding E! and Style fans hostage. In actively choosing to discontinue these two networks, Dish is denying their subscribers E!, the ultimate network for entertainment fans with marquee January events from exclusive coverage of Red Carpet season to the premiere of the new season of the Kardashian show Kourtney & Kim Take NY, and Style, the home of transformations, from fashion, to beauty to home, featuring all-new seasons of

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 day gross of $47K for a best day location average of $11,750. Sony Pictures Classics’ Another Year debuted in 6 runs:

Top 10

1. Little Fockers (Universal) Week 2 [3,536 Theaters]
Monday $8.4M, Tuesday $7.7M, Wednesday $7.8M, Cume $69M
2. True Grit (Paramount) Week 2 [3,047 Theaters]
Monday $7.1M, Tuesday $6.1M, Wednesday $6.2M, Cume $55.3M
3. Tron: Legacy 3D (Disney) Week 2 [3,451 Theaters]
Monday $6.3M, Tuesday $6.3M, Wednesday $6.1M, Cume $106.1M
4. Yogi Bear 3D (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,515 Theaters]
Monday $3.5M, Tuesday $4.5M, Wednesday $4.5M, Cume $48.4M
5. Tangled 3D (Disney) Week 5 [2,582 Theaters]
Monday $3.2M, Tuesday $3.6M, Wednesday $3.7M, Cume $154.2M
6. Chronicles Of Narnia 3D (Fox) Week 3 [3,350 Theaters]
Monday $3.5M, Tuesday $3.7M, Wednesday $3.3M, Cume $73.1M
7. Gulliver’s Travels 3D (Fox) Week 1 [2,546 Theaters]
Monday $2.6M,Tuesday $2.9M, Wednesday $3.1M, Cume $15M
8. Black Swan ( Fox Searchlight) Week 4 [1,466 Theaters]
Monday $2.4M, Tuesday $2.4M, Wednesday $2.5M, Cume $36.2M
9. The Fighter (Relativity/Paramount) Week 3 [2,511 Theaters]
Monday $2.4M, Tuesday $2.2M, Wednesday $2.4M, Cume $33.8M
10. The Tourist (GK Films/Sony) Week 3 [2,756 Theaters]
Monday $1.8M, Tuesday $1.7M, Wednesday $1.7M, Cume $46.1M

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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 the interests of writers, rather vehemently at times, as one of two TV Academy writing Governors for four years. I would hope my reporting on this particular story is not taken as any personal position on my part against the Writers Guild as some commenters seem to think. I do however find it sad that some of the best screenplays, year in and year out, are ruled ineligible by the WGA. Awards should honor the absolute best, not an incomplete list, but that’s the Guild’s prerogative to protect their interests as a union and their right to conduct the contest the way they see fit. 

Realistically, however, the media are going to view the WGA awards — just as with SAG, DGA, PGA, and even the Oscars – as being a significant part of the season because, it is peer group voting. That’s a fact, no matter which scripts turn out to be eligible or not.

PREVIOUS 8:30 AM: Here they go again. Every year the disconnect between the Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences seem to grow wider in the movie script categories. This year looks no different. … 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 independently produced and distributed adventure epic The Way Back. For those with short memories, the first screeners mailed this awards season were Sony Pictures Classics’ Mother And Child and Animal Kingdom on September 28th. The Way Back is one of four indie dramas making up the final quartet of 2010 contender releases in limited runs beginning today. The others, all in theatres more easily accessed on the Academy voter-centric Westside of Los Angeles are Roadside Attractions’ Biutiful, Sony Pictures Classics’ Another Year and The Weinstein Company’s Blue Valentine. But awards strategists for The Way Back‘s distributor, Newmarket, decided to hold back mailing the DVD screener to Oscar voters until Monday of this holiday week, the same day nominating ballots were also being mailed by the Academy. The thinking was that, rather than getting lost in the pile of hopeful discs, it would be fresh in mind just as members start thinking seriously about filling out their ballot. As one of the film’s strategists told me today, “We think voters will take notice of it coming at the tail end of the screener process and be curious to watch it, particularly since it is a film by Peter Weir who has been nominated … 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 1977 Star Wars. (In addition to his work as chief modelmaker for the groundbreaking film, he also appeared as a Death Star Gunner.) Grant McCune died of complications from cancer on Monday. He was 67. Described as a “quiet but crucial” innovator who specialized in models and miniatures, Grant McCune was one of Hollywood’s best known special and visual effects artists pumping out designs for over 100 films, spanning decades of sci-fi and action classics, from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to Ghostbusters II to Speed to Batman Forever to Spider-Man 2.

McCune worked as miniature supervisor for Apogee Inc. on Star Trek: The Motion Picture and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects in 1980, sharing with Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Richard Yuricich, Robert Swarthe, and David K. Stewart. He was chief model maker on the 1978 pilot for Battlestar Galactica and again worked with Apogee as chief model maker on the sci-fi thriller Firefox. His other credits include Avalanache Express (1979), Caddyshack 1980), Lifeforce 1985), Jackals (1986), Spaceballs (1987), My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), Ghostbusters II (1989). Since the early ’90s, he was miniature supervisor for his own company Grant McCune Design located in Van Nuys and worked on Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994), Executive Decision (1996), Daylight (1996), and Sphere (1998). He … 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 crew and staff as well as some executives who work on the multi-camera comedy. In addition to wondering about any possible impact on the show from star Charlie Sheen’s legal problems, the Two and a Half Men crew members lived in uncertainty for a couple of months in the spring when Sheen declared that he may not return to the show after the end of his contract in May. But he ultimately signed a rich new 2-year deal, matching the series’ pickup by CBS through the 2011-12 season, giving everyone employed on the show job security. Now they also have new gadgets to go with that.

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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 story. They have now been joined by Unnatural History creator Mike Werb. He just posted a note thanking everyone who had expressed support for the Warner Horizon TV-produced show, which was set in  Washington, D.C. and centered on Henry, the skilled son of globetrotting anthropologists solving the postmodern mysteries of high school with the help of his best friends Jasper and Maggie. Werb also addressed the prospects for Unnatural History continuing on another network and laid out his story ideas for Season 2. Here is what he wrote:

I am sorry but we have been unable to secure a second season from another network. The reasons are too tedious to get in to but thanks for loving what was. It’s nice to hear that the show I intended to make (a show that both kids, teenagers and parents could watch alone or together without ripping their eyeballs out — reached some people — even if that audience wasn’t large enough to satisfy the network. There’s some website on facebook where people hit “like” to request that Warners release the season on DVD. In case you are on

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. Beverly Drive that was initially going to be the new home of the old William Morris Agency. But when that tenpercentery was taken over by Endeavor, the move was nixed. So MGM is emerging from bankruptcy by leaving its current headquarters in Century City at its namesake building.

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