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Inventive Zombie Spec ‘Maggie’ Acquired By Timur Bekmambetov

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 7:58pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Timur Bekmambetov has won a spec auction for Maggie, a script that sparked a spirited auction today, with six bidders. Bekmambetov will produce a film that has a script by John Scott 3, and vfx wiz Henry Hobson set to direct. Why did so many bidders spark to the script? Aside from offering some inventive twists on the popular zombie genre, Maggie is a blueprint for a genre movie that can be made for between $4 million and $8 million. That budget range has suddenly become highly desirable for distributors looking to make genre films in the mold of Paranormal Activity.

Maggie is a 16-year old girl from a town in middle America who becomes infected by a zombie. Much the way that Danny Boyle changed the lumbering zombie stereotype by speeding up the undead in 28 Days Later, Maggie changes the lightning quick infection period evident in most zombie films, where victims become zombies in minutes. It will take six weeks for Maggie to turn, and the film tracks the transformation as she stays with her family. Trevor Kaufman will produce with Bekmambetov.

When he’s not writing scripts, the writer builds commanding for NASA’s flagship X-ray satellite. He works with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which takes photos of X-ray photons in deep space. Hobson was trained at the Royal College of Art in London as a graphic designer, and specializes in creating inventive title sequences for films that included Sherlock Read More »

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Chuck Lorre: “I’ve Been Going Through A Tough Time Recently”

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 7:30pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Chuck Lorre took to his favorite outlet, the vanity cards running at the end of his CBS comedies, to reflect on the impact the ongoing war with Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen has had on him. The card aired at the end of tonight’s original episode of The Big Bang Theory and was spotted by my colleague, TVLine‘s Michael Ausiello. It was another Lorre vanity card, the now infamous “If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I’m gonna be really pissed” one at the end of the final (for now) episode of Two and Half Men, which triggered Sheen’s vicious attacks against him that ultimately led to the actor’s firing from the show and his $100 million lawsuit against Warner Bros and Lorre. Lorre first reflected (quite philosophically) on the situation in a Mike & Molly vanity card a month ago. Here is the new one from tonight:

Whenever I’ve gone through tough times, well-meaning people have told me that God/the universe does not give us more than we can handle. Well, I’ve been going through a tough time recently, and sure enough, that old saying has been tossed my way on several morose occasions. After some careful consideration, I’ve decided it’s bull$#*!. As an aphorism, it only makes sense in hindsight – after you’ve managed to crawl from the wreckage of whatever calamity that God/the universe decided to toss your way. No one can ever use it

Read More »

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Matt Weiner: “These Are The Last Three Seasons Of ‘Mad Men’”

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 6:59pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

“I’m thrilled,” a happy Matt Weiner said in a phone interview shortly after his new three-year $30 million deal for Mad Men was announced. He is going back to work tomorrow, the writers room will get up-and-running in 4-5 weeks, and production on the much-delayed Season 5 of the Emmy-winning AMC drama will start in July, the same month the fifth season was originally slated to premiere.

But the deal almost didn’t happen. “I walked away from it 4-5 times in the last few days,” said Weiner who had been objecting to several proposals made by series producer Lionsgate TV and network AMC, including shortening the episodes’ running time from 47 to 45 minutes to make room for more commercials, introducing more product placement, potentially reducing the number of regulars on the show and pushing Season 5′s premiere to March 2012. “It’s never been about money,” Weiner said. “I wanted to do the show I wanted to do and the show the audience has come to expect.”

Now, “the cast is safe from financial concerns” for all 3 seasons, Weiner said, adding that he reserves the right to cut actors “on creative basis.”

In terms of product placement, Weiner said that there will be no changes to the series’ existing policy. He noted that there have been only 3 instances of product placement in Mad Men‘s first four seasons. “I don’t want the audience to feel they are being sold on the … Read More »

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CBS Orders Nigel Lythgoe-Produced Game Show Pilot

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 6:55pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

It’s like Deal or No Deal with envelopes instead of briefcases: CBS has ordered game show pilot Secret Fortune, which will be executive produced by American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance guru Nigel Lythgoe.

Based on a Wild River Prods. format, Secret Fortune will have contestants choosing from 24 sealed envelopes, each of them containing a check for amounts that varies widely from a buck to a fortune. Eventually, 23 of the envelopes will be destroyed, with the contestant left with the check in the remaining one. Lythgoe is exec producing with Wild Rover’s Phil Morrow.

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Chloe Moretz Joins ‘Dark Shadows’

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 6:46pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Tim Burton’s cast for Dark Shadows gets better and better. Kick-Ass star Chloe Moretz is now in talks to join the Warner Bros drama based on the 60s TV soap. Moretz will play Carolyn. She’s the daughter of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), the reclusive matriarch of the Collins clan and owner of the Collinwood mansion where the supernatural saga unfolds. Moretz just wrapped the Martin Scorsese-directed Hugo Cabret and she is currently starring in the Derek Martini-directed Hick with Blake Lively and Alec Baldwin. Moretz also is expected to reprise her Hit Girl character in a Kick-Ass sequel. She’s repped by WME and 3 Arts.

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McG Launches Comic Imprint, Plots ‘Haunted City’ As First Project

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 6:24pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision has launched a new comic and graphic novel imprint to create transmedia properties out of original ideas. The first title will be Haunted City, based on an idea by screenwriter Chap Taylor. Taylor and Wonderland’s Peter Johnson will write the comic, will be published by Wonderland in association with Aspen Comics. It will simultaneously be developed into a feature script that McG hopes to direct, as well as a TV pilot that Wonderland will executive produce. A vidgame is also in the works. Taylor scripted Changing Lanes and is adapting Gideon’s War for Michael Bay and Paramount.

The comic is a dark, supernatural story set in major cities around the world, with New York the venue for the first comic.

“As a filmmaker, I want to work with talent like Chap to build new models that allow us to create more freely,” McG said. “By creating our own original properties, we can guide their development across several media simultaneously and kick off a whole new chapter of our company as a full-spectrum content provider. It also allows me to home-grow the movies I want to direct in the future.”

Wonderland has so far published comic book versions of its TV shows Supernatural, Chuck and Human Target, all through DC Comics. Haunted City will be the first to surface as a comic first, but Wonderland has already experimented with multiple platforms on Supernatural. Aside from the comic and … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘The Hangover Part II’

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 5:50pm PDT

The Warner Bros sequel comes out May 26.

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In Other Deals …

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 5:49pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Former cop and Gangster Squad scribe Will Beall will script the Logan’s Run remake that director Nicolas Winding Refn will do with Ryan Gosling. … Vulture reports that Diego Gonzalez Boneta has bagged the male lead in Rock of Ages, the Adam Shankman-directed musical based on the Broadway show. Actually, he’s not set yet, because New Line brass has to approve him. But he’s Shankman’s choice to star alongside Julianne Hough and a supporting cast that will include Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige and maybe Amy Adams. So it’s looking good for the young actor. … Phase 4 Films acquired North American rights to Lucky, the Gil Cates Jr.-directed pic that stars Colin Hanks as a young lottery winner who uses his windfall to pursue the girl of his dreams, trying his best to hide his passion for serial killing.

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DONE: Matt Weiner Closes Deal For ‘Mad Men’, Series Renewed For 2 More Seasons

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 4:40pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

RELATED: Matt Weiner: “These Are The Last Three Seasons Of ‘Mad Men’”

After some last minute saber-rattling over product placement, episode duration, possible cast cuts and the show’s return date, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner has come to an agreement with AMC and Lionsgate TV for a new three-year mega deal said to be in the $25M-$30M range. With Weiner locked in, AMC has picked up the show for two more seasons, Season 5 and Season 6, with a seventh season almost a given now that Weiner is signed for it.

In his quote in the official announcement of the deal (press release below), Weiner said, “I want to thank AMC and Lionsgate for agreeing to support the artistic freedom of myself, the cast and the crew so that we can continue to make the show exactly as we have from the beginning.” Word is he was able to get resolution from the network and the studio on the issues he had had a problem with. That included shortening the running time of the show, introducing product placement, cutting regular cast members and pushing the Season 5 premiere date to 2012. For example, AMC had been looking to cut the series’ running time from 47 to 45 minutes per episode to accommodate more commercials. In the upcoming 13-episode fifth season, the season premiere and finale will be 47 minutes, while Weiner … Read More »

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Marvel Taps Its ‘Runaways’ Scribe Drew Pearce To Write ‘Iron Man 3′ Script

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 4:35pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Drew Pearce has been chosen by Marvel Studios to write Iron Man 3. Robert Downey Jr. will reprise his signature Tony Stark role, and Marvel recently locked Downey’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang helmer Shane Black to direct. Pearce got the job after writing the script for Runaways, a Marvel project based on the cult comic by Lost writer Brian K. Vaughan about children of super villains who try to use their evil powers for heroic purposes. Pearce is the British writer who created the irreverent UK TV series No Heroics, about a bar hangout for superheroes, who aren’t allowed to use their superpowers while drinking. That project had Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist director Pete Sollett attached and seemed on a fast track. It is still at Marvel, but the company is concentrating on its other big superhero franchises first.

Pearce is in talks to jump on one of Marvel’s biggest hits, and I’m told the plan is for him to start from scratch and work closely with Black. Iron Man 3 will be released May 3, 2013 through Disney.

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Post-’Office,’ Steve Carell Ponders Doomsday With Keira Knightley

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 3:43pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In what shapes up as his first feature project after leaving The Office, Steve Carell will star in Seeking A Friend For The End of The World. The film marks the directorial debut of its screenwriter, Lorene Scafaria. Keira Knightley is in negotiations for the female lead. Mandate Pictures and Indian Paintbrush will co-finance and production begins in May. The film takes place at a time when mankind is forced to absorb the fact that an incoming asteroid will end humanity. Carell plays a man suddenly alone when his wife leaves in a panic. His high school sweetheart writes him saying she wants to be with him when the world stops. His neighbor (Knightley) accompanies him on the road trip as love blooms at the worst possible time. Despite the doomsday climax, the film has a somewhat comic and romantic tone.

Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Joy Gorman will produce with Steven Rales and Mark Roybal from Indian Paintbrush. Mandate’s Nathan Kahane and Nicole Brown will be exec producers. It is the second collaboration between Mandate and Indian Paintbrush: they recently wrapped the Jason Reitman-directed Young Adult, which was scripted by Diablo Cody and stars Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt. Paramount will release the film. Read More »

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Sony Pictures Classics Releasing ‘Restless’ With Gus Van Sant

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 3:37pm PDT
Mike Fleming

NEW YORK (March 31, 2011) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they will release Gus Van Sant’s new film, RESTLESS, in North America, with Sony Pictures Releasing International distributing the film in the rest of the world. Jason Lew penned the film’s script that stars Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, Ryo Kase, Schuyler Fisk and Luisa Strus. RESTLESS is produced by Bryce Dallas Howard, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard under the Imagine Entertainment banner and Columbia Pictures. SPC expects a fall release.

Van Sant assembled a world class crew to work on RESTLESS, director of photographer Harris Savides (MILK, AMERICAN GANGSTER, ZODIAC), production designer Anne Ross (LOST IN TRANSLATION, SOMEWHERE, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE), editor Elliot Graham (X MEN, SUPERMAN RETURNS, MILK), costume designer Danny Glicker (UP IN THE AIR, MILK, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING) and music by Danny Elfman (ALICE IN WONDERLAND, MILK, SPIDERMAN).

RESTLESS is a powerful and emotional coming of age story that centers on the relationship of two outsiders brought together by unforeseen circumstances. The story of friendship becomes an engaging and provocative love story.

“Having known and admired Gus’ work for years, we are so pleased to be releasing his newest film, which to our mind, is one of his very best. We are also thrilled to be working with producer Bryce Howard and the impressive team at Imagine,” states Sony Pictures Classics.

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Jenny Bicks Signs Overall Deal At Sony TV

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 3:08pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Former Sex and the City executive producer Jenny Bicks has signed a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with Sony Pictures Television. Under the pact, Bicks will continue as executive producer/showrunner on the studio’s Showtime series The Big C, now in production on its second season with Hugh Dancy and Parker Posey joining the cast led by Laura Linney for multi-episode arcs and Alan Alda for a guest shot. On the series, created by Darlene Hunt, Bicks focuses the production aspects, working closely with the cast in Connecticut where the dark comedy is being filmed. The series about Cathy (Linney), a high school teacher diagnosed with a cancer, has been a very personal one for Bicks, who is a cancer survivor herself. The Big C earned its first major awards recognition at the Golden Globes with a best comedy series nomination and an acting win for Linney.

In addition to The Big C, Bicks has Modern Love, a one-hour dramedy produced by Sony TV, in contention at Lifetime. The project, loosely based on the New York Times column by the same name, was originally developed at HBO two years ago. Bicks is also expected to help with other projects in development at Sony with other writers. This marks Bicks’ official return to the Sony fold, where she previously had an overall deal. In the past year, she has been working under a show deal for The Big C. Read More »

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Time Warner Cable Drops Big Networks From IPad App

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 3:07pm PDT

The cease-and-desist letters have piled up high enough for Time Warner Cable to pull a bunch of major networks from its recently released iPad app, which allowed subscribers of the nation’s second-largest cable company to stream programming inside their homes. News Corp, which sent its letter yesterday, has been pulled from the service, as have all channels from Viacom and Discovery Communications — a total of 12 channels. From Time Warner Cable’s statement today:

We believe we have every right to carry the programming on our iPad app. But, for the time being, we have decided to focus our iPad efforts on those enlightened programmers who understand the benefit and importance of allowing our subscribers — and their viewers — to watch their programming on any screen in their homes. In the meantime, we will pursue all of our legal rights against the programmers who don’t share our vision.

Networks have been critical from the get-go about the TWCCableTV app, the first to stream live content, saying the tablet platform isn’t accounted for or authorized in current contracts with the cabler. In other words, networks want to be compensated for their content on each screen it’s played on. The app debuted March 15, and more than 300,000 people have downloaded it, according to Bloomberg.

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James Franco Discusses Oscar Hosting Turn With Letterman

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 2:11pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Two panned Oscar hosts, James Franco and David Letterman, commiserate about the experience on Letterman’s CBS show tomorrow night. After a long soul-searching, Franco says he has a theory why people thought he was under the influence onstage. “I love her, but (co-host) Anne Hathaway is so energetic, I think the Tasmanian Devil would look stoned standing next to Anne Hathaway,” he said. Here is the full clip:

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‘The Talk’ Executive Producer Brad Bessey To Exit

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 1:14pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: The Talk executive producer Brad Bessey will be leaving CBS’ talk show after the end of its freshman season. Bessey had notified CBS of his plans earlier this month and shared the news with The Talk co-hosts today. Bessey launched The Talk, the first network daytime talk show to successfully premiere in nearly 10 years. Since its October debut, the show, hosted by Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete and Leah Remini, has averaged an O.K. 2.21 million viewers, a 1.0/6 rating in women 25-54 and 0.8/5 in women 18-49. Because The Talk is owned by CBS, it is already more profitable for the network than the soap it replaced, As the World Turns. It has also started to sell internationally.

Meanwhile, Bessey and his reps at WME have been approached for several projects currently in development which Bessey could not pursue if he’d reup with The Talk. So, with the show’s future secure after the pickup, Bessey opted to leave to work on other things but intends to stay on until the summer to assure a smooth transition. CBS has started looking for a replacement. Last year, CBS recruited Bessey from the company’s domestic syndication division where he spent fifteen years at Entertainment Tonight.

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MTV Picks Up ‘Inbetweeners’ To Series

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 1:00pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

MTV has picked up its remake of the award-winning British series The Inbetweeners to series with a 12-episode order. Brad Copeland wrote the adaptation and serves as the showrunner. He is executive producing with Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, creators of the original series, and Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment.

The Inbetweeners, which was greenlighted to pilot in September, stars Joey Pollari (Avalon High), Bubba Lewis (To Save a Life), The Virginity Hit star Zack Pearlman and Mark L. Young  (Big Love) in a high school comedy described as Superbad meets Freaks and Geeks. It revolves around four high school boys (Pollari, Lewis, Pearlman, Young) who belong to the “inbetweeners” social class — teens who are not the most cool and popular but not geeky enough to be branded uncool. Taika Waititi (The Flight of the Concords) directed the pilot. This marks the third series pickup for Kapital Entertainment out of four produced pilots. The company has three more pilots now filming at the broadcast networks.

There is no word yet on the future of another high-profile British adaptation at MTV, controversial teen drama Skins, which recently wrapped its first season. Unlike the racy, sexually charged Skins, Inbetweeners is said to be a more innocent and sweet look at coming-of-age. The Inbetweeners pickup follows another recent order of a new scripted series, drama I Just Want My Pants Read More »

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Movie Theater Owners Livid Over New VOD Plan Between DirecTV & Studios

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 12:41pm PDT

The National Association of Theatre Owners has issued a response to reports today that DirecTV is in talks with the Hollywood studios for a premium VOD service that would offer movies 60 days after their theatrical release as early as next month. The exhibition organization’s “disappointment” is no surprise, but the timing of the negotiations is: It comes right during NATO and the exhibition industry’s biggest event, CinemaCon, which is going on right now in Las Vegas.

The studios have been positioning for this for a while, looking to find revenue to replace long-plummeting DVD sales (i.e., deals with Netflix to expand windows on the streaming service), but it certainly sets up a showdown with big exhibitor chains like Regal and AMC, who already are gun shy about low boxoffice numbers during the first three months of the year.

Here’s NATO’s response:

On March 30, it was reported that Warner Bros., Fox, Sony and Universal planned to release certain of their films to the home 60 days after their theatrical release in “premium” Video on Demand at a price point of $30. On behalf of its members, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) expresses our surprise and strong disappointment.

Theater operators were not consulted or informed of the substance, details or timing of this announcement. It’s particularly disappointing to confront this issue today, while we are celebrating our industry partnerships at our annual convention – CinemaCon – in Las Vegas.

NATO has repeatedly, publicly and privately, raised concerns and questions about the wisdom

Read More »

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Lionsgate Extends Tyler Perry Relationship

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 11:21am PDT
Mike Fleming

Tyler Perry’s monogamous relationship with Lionsgate will be interrupted this year when he stars in I, Alex Cross for Summit Entertainment. But Perry and Lionsgate have renewed their vows with a new multi-year deal that will see him continue as the indie’s franchise figure for years to come. Lionsgate has extended its first-look partnership with Perry and his 34th Street Films banner for films and DVD. That continues a lucrative relationship that began with the 2005 hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman and continued with a series of hits that Perry writes, directs, produces, stars in, and owns. The extension comes as Perry receives the Visionary Award for film making at CinemaCon tonight.

Lionsgate will continue to distribute Perry’s films–Madea’s Big Happy Family and the Perry-produced We The Peeples are in the can–and the agreement covers future projects that include two more revolving around Perry’s matriarch Madea character. WME and attorney Matt Johnson made the deal.

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