2ND UPDATE: I hear the New World Development investment in Legendary Pictures was $45 million.
UPDATE: What’s being described as the most powerful privately held family fortune in China has recently made an investment in Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures. It signals the start of new China business for the entertainment movie finance and production company best known for its 7-year, 40-picture deal with Warner Bros. The family company is called New World Development and among their many holdings it’s the largest landholder in China outside the government. This investment in Legendary Pictures is similar to those of Jim Breyer and Gordy Crawford previously reported. Film financing circles familiar with the investment speculate to me that Tull is eying a major move in China and expect this financial and strategic relationship to be a great asset to have towards that end. They say it’s possible that a joint production deal, company expansion, or offshoot company is planned. New World Development is the third well-connected investor for Tull’s company this month alone: both Gordy Crawford, the Downtown LA-based shareholder in a long string of entertainment companies through his firm Capital Research Global Investors, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Jim Breyer of Accel Partners quietly bought minority stakes in Legendary — Crawford for his personal portfolio, and Breyer $40M for Accel after purchasing the shares from a previous legendary investor as part of a larger stock sale that Legendary arranged in March.
APRIL 16: Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures is seeking to secure a $700 million line of credit from 2013 out to 2016 or even 2017. Its current credit facility doesn’t expire until 2013 — the same year that Legendary’s current distribution and financing arrangement with Warner Bros ends — “but the feeling is that now there are really favorable terms.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The era of the Reveille of Ben Silverman is officially over — Howard T. Owens will step down as managing director of the Shine-owned company in June when his contract is up. He plans to spend time with his family while consulting for Reveille through the end of the year. A search for Owens’ replacement is already under way. Owens was Reveille’s first employee when Silverman launched the company in 2002. He was one of a core troika Silverman brought with him from WMA, along with Chris Grant and Mark Koops, who together took over running the company when Silverman left for NBC. Following Shine’s 2008 acquisition of Reveille, Grant became head of Shine International, with Owens and Koops becoming co-managing partners of Reveille. Then last September, a month after Emiliano Calemzuk took oversight of Reveille as CEO of Shine Group Americas, Koops exited and Owens became the sole managing director. (Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group was recently acquired by News Corp.)
Insiders tell me that the decision not to renew Owens contract was a strictly business one and reflects the different management style the company is going for for its next stage as it is moving from the agent and sales skills required early on to build a programming slate to a more producer- and creator-type approach sought for a company that has already established big franchises such as … Read More »
After mostly conciliatory messages for the past month, Charlie Sheen has fired one of his most vicious attacks on Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre over increased speculation that Lorre is plotting a Men without Sheen. The letter (aka rant), titled Good Luck Chuck, was released by TMZ. In it, Sheen talks about the prospects of Men continuing without him and references the fact that Lorre was at the very end of an expensive overall deal at Warner Bros TV that hadn’t produced a hit when the script for Men was picked up by CBS contingent on getting Sheen for the lead.
“MY fans may tune in for a minute, but at the end of the day, no one cares about your feeble show without me,” Sheen wrote. “Shame on you. Not even a phone call to the man that put you on the map. The man that put 500 million dollars in your pockets. You were on your way out of Warner Bros. with a buy out and a cup of cold coffee in your shaky and clammy hands. And then I walked into your office. And you created a show BASED ON MY AWESOME LIFE. I busted my ass for 8 years to support your vision. Your dream. In turn, it is my nightmare. You sad silly fool.” He goes on to also call Lorre “a-hole pussy loser,” “nut-less sociopath,” “a stupid bitch,” “a narcissist,” “a … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: TV Land successfully jump-started its half-hour comedy business with a sitcom from a former NBC comedy star, Sean Hayes’ Hot In Cleveland. Now USA Network is looking to do the same with Kelsey Grammer. As part of USA’s push in half-hour comedy, the network has bought the single-camera project The Dicocco Brothers, executive produced by Grammer through his Grammnet Prods. Written by Ed Cannistraci based on a story by him and his brother Chris Cannistraci, The Dicocco Brothers centers around an aspiring dot-com entrepreneur who moves to Silicon Valley with his Jersey family in tow. Ed Cannistraci is executive producing with Grammer, his Grammnet producing partner Brian Sher and Stella Stolper. USA signaled its intention to get back into half-hour comedies last May when it made its first script deal in the genre in more than a decade — a single-camera comedy from Designing Women creator Linda Bloodworth starring Ron White. The network has been very selective in its half-hour development and is yet to greenlight its first half-hour comedy pilot from the new push in the genre. Besides The Dicocco Brothers, Gremmnet is co-producing with Lionsgate the Starz drama series Boss, starring Grammer and exec produced by him, Sher and Stolper, which started production in Chicago this week. “We are thrilled to embark on one of USA’s first comedies with such a prestigious production company (Grammnet) and a truly unique voice (Cannistraci brothers),” said USA’s SVP original scripted … Read More »
This morning NBC executives finally had something to celebrate: great fast national numbers for the rerun of The Voice premiere. Its 2.1/5 rating in 18-49 bested everything in the 9-11 PM slot except for Fox’s American Idol-powered lineup. TV reporters immediately trumpeted the good news for the ratings-challenged NBC — all but the website TheWrap which sent out a news alert with the subject line: “BREAKING: ‘The Voice’ Loses Nearly Half its Audience After Big Debut! NBC’s Singing Show Crumbles Against ‘Idol’.” The alert linked to a ratings story that pummelled The Voice for its ”decline”. It turned out that network execs don’t read the website and found out about the inaccurate story from emails. Even NBC’s network rival CBS was sympathetic. “One of my competitors is owed a correction this morning,” tweeted CBS PR honcho Chris Ender. NBC reps contacted TheWrap demanding it right its ratings wrong. But the writer only tweaked it slightly at first before finally radically reworking it. ”I truly think they don’t know what a repeat is. That is the only explanation,” snarked The Daily Beast‘s Kate Aurthur. Most surprising for NBC brass were the many outraged emails they received from showbiz journalists. ”They came to our defense,” an NBC insider marveled, “and you don’t see that happen very often.” Add this to all the other stuff that TheWrap gets wrong, and you start to understand why Hollywood calls the website TheCrap.
Disney XD has opted not to renew sophomore comedy I’m In the Band for a third season. The remaining unaired episodes from Season 2 will run throughout the rest of the year.
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson (Inside Job) has come on board to direct HBO Films’ movie about Julian Assange should it be greenlighted for production. The project, a co-production with the BBC, is based on source material that includes Raffi Khatchadourian’s June 7, 2010, article in The New Yorker No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency, which takes an in-depth look at Assange and follows him and his WikiLeaks operatives as they prepare to leak a 38-minute classified video filmed from inside of the cockpit of an U.S. Army Apache Helicopter. The film is being executive produced by Joshua Maurer and Alixandre Witlin of City Entertainment and David Stern of KippSter Entertainment. Ferguson will also produce with producing partner Audrey Marrs. A writer for the project is expected to be locked in soon. This marks the first narrative project for Ferguson, who is also eying a transition to feature film directing. In addition to Inside Job, he wrote, directed and produced the Oscar-nominated documentary No End in Sight.
20th Century Fox has made a high six-figure spec deal for an untitled action comedy that figures to be the next film directed by Luke Greenfield, whose pic Something Borrowed opens May 6 through Warner Bros and Alcon. The new film will be produced by Simon Kinberg under his overall Fox deal. Greenfield wrote the script with Nicholas Thomas. The film is an edgy action-comedy for two male stars. The studio is already looking at actors in hopes of starting production in the fall.
Kinberg will produce through Genre Films with Genre’s Aditya Sood and Wide Awake’s Greenfield. Kinberg is in post-production on the Matthew Vaughn-directed X-Men: First Class and the McG-directed This Means War, and he’s exec producer on Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and producer on the Neill Blomkamp-directed Elysium. CAA reps Kinberg and Greenfield, APA reps Thomas.
Say it ain’t so … again. It seems Grauman’s Chinese Theatre has had as many owners as footprints and handprints that blanket the famed Hollywood movie house’s front steps and draw tourists from all over the world. The latest title swap was revealed today, the Los Angeles Times reported, when an ownership group that included Warner Bros and Viacom approved a deal to sell the iconic property to a pair of movie producers: Don Kushner (Tron: Legacy) and entrepreneur Elie Samaha (Battlefield Earth). The Times said the latest sale is scheduled to close May 20 and includes the adjacent Mann’s Chinese 6 multiplex at Hollywood & Highland. The Mann chain sold Grauman’s Chinese to the current owners after filing for bankruptcy in 2001. The original owners back when the theater opened in 1927: Sid Grauman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Mary Pickford and Howard Schenck. Since then, the iconic movie palace hosted several Oscar ceremonies and countless premieres — and more than a few faux superheroes interacting with tourists — and was declared a cultural landmark in 1968.
EXCLUSIVE: Back when Chris Albrecht took the reins of Starz as CEO more than a year ago, he said that the programming focus of the pay cable network will be on original series and big event miniseries/limited series. With nothing in the pipeline in the big event arena, Albrecht picked up the eight-part miniseries Pillars of the Earth. Now Starz may be ready to roll out its first original limited series, an adaptation of Dean Koontz’ 1985 novel Twilight Eyes. The project, which centers on Slim MacKenzie, who uses his psychic powers, aka Twilight Eyes, to hunt Goblins — monsters that have the ability to mimic human beings — is in high-priority development.
Koontz has shied away from TV in the past few years and no book of his has been adapted to the small screen in a decade. His former agent at WMA, Rob Lee, now head of his own production company Bayonne Entertainment, remembered Koontz once talking about Twilight Eyes as a potential miniseries. But Koontz wanted a longer treatment — 6-8 hours, something the broadcast networks, the primary longform buyers in the 1990s, were not interested in. Lee teamed with writer Stephen Tolkin, who had adapted two Koontz novels as TV movies, 1997′s Intensity and 1998′s Mr. Murder. The two pitched the idea for a Twilight Eyes limited series to Koontz, and he gave them their blessing. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate is making a deal with MGM to distribute The Cabin in the Woods, putting an end to an unexpectedly long shelf life for a horror film that has a terrific creative pedigree and a high degree of fanboy wanna-see. Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard directed the film and co-wrote it with Joss Whedon. The film’s cast includes Chris Hemsworth, who made it before he was set to star as the title character in Marvel’s Thor. Ironically, Whedon and Hemsworth are reuniting, with Whedon directing The Avengers, and Hemsworth reprising his hammer-swinging role. It’s unclear when Lionsgate will release the film, but October is a good bet.
The delay has little to do with the quality of the film. It was once slated to be released by MGM on Oct. 23, 2009, but was pulled back because it was going to be converted to 3D. Then, everything froze at MGM because of the strangling debt load, and The Cabin in the Woods was among several pictures that languished. By the time the picture is released, Thor will have established Hemsworth’s star value, which will certainly help a film that also stars Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford.
That leaves the remake of Red Dawn as the last holdover MGM film seeking a distributor. That picture also stands to gain from having sat on a shelf. Read More »
Paramount’s 3D Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third installment in the Michael Bay-directed franchise, is slated for a July 1 release. The trailer gets its world premiere today.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures is negotiating with Jeff Bridges to star with Ryan Reynolds in the Robert Schwentke-directed supernatural comedy R.I.P.D. The Matt Manfredi & Phil Hay-scripted film centers on a police force comprised of undead officers, based on the Peter Lenkov comic. Zach Galifianakis was going to star but exited over uncertainty of when Reynolds would be able to make the film because of the option Warner Bros holds for a sequel to Green Lantern. Bridges, who won the Oscar for Crazy Heart, is booked to star in The Seventh Son for Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures. He’s repped by CAA and Schiff Co.
Canada’s already cozy film market may soon become a little cozier. We hear that the country’s No. 1 independent film distributor, Alliance Films, is angling to acquire one of its largest competitors, Maple Pictures — and is deep into talks with Lionsgate to buy its 10% stake in Maple. Lionsgate is looking to pay down debt following a year during which it fended of a hostile takeover attempt by corporate raider/shareholder activist Carl Icahn to give the company to his son Brett. Lionsgate stock right now is still stuck in neutral. The Maple stake is considered peripheral. Maple grew out of Lionsgate in 2005 – it was known as Lionsgate Films before the company spun off the unit. It’s run by two former Lionsgate executives, Laurie May and Brad Pelman, and continues to distribute Lionsgate films, DVDs, and TV shows in Canada.