Mea culpa, I took today off rather than suffer more of Universal’s humiliating slings and arrows inevitably directed at me. Because, thanks to matinee and pre-sale tickets, the studio’s Bridesmaids passed Knocked Up around noon as Judd Apatow’s biggest grossing film, not adjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices. Cume is over $148.769M and counting. Needless to say, Judd himself used the occasion to bitchslap me over my pre-release belief that the R-rated comedy featuring women burping and farting for our female amusement wouldn’t have an opening domestic weekend bigger than $13M, even $15M tops, before it actually debuted with $26.2M: “I am so delighted to confirm that I was right and you were wrong,” Apatow emailed me for posting here. “From now on when you say something which hurts me, I will remember to read your early Bridesmaid‘s opinions and predictions and that will soothe me.” Ouch!
UPDATE: MoviePass Gets Its Ticket Punched As Trial Launch Is Canceled After Two Movie Chains Give It Thumbs Down
UPDATE, 7:12 PM: Reps for MoviePass confirm they have thrown in the towel and canceled their test run in San Francisco this weekend. They say this is on a “temporary hiatus,” but I doubt we’ll see this service up and running again particularly since it’s clear two major theater chains don’t want it. That Moviepass counted six AMC theaters in its test run without actually getting clearance from that chain or from Landmark, probably qualifies this as one of the most boneheaded stillborn launches in recent entertainment history.
PREVIOUS: Hollywood doesn’t like to let newcomers into its exclusive club. When a couple of companies tried to sell sell futures based on box office movie grosses, the MPAA used its lobbying might to crush the ventures in DC. Netflix is one of the few interlopers that managed to create a niche for itself in the Hollywood infrastructure, helped by the indisputable fact it was providing a new revenue source at a time when DVD revenues went in the crapper. So it’s not surprising that an upstart service like MoviePass is having so many problems as it tries to test out a service that was to start this weekend in San Francisco. The plan was to charge $50 a month for passes that allowed buyers to see as many movies as they wanted in a calendar month. Stacy Spikes, one of the execs who formed the venture, seemed crestfallen this evening; on the eve of the test program, AMC and Landmark both said they hadn’t been informed about it, wanted no part of it and even seemed to scoff at it.
A group of musicians protesting the Recording Academy’s move to drop 31 categories from the Grammy Awards is calling for a boycott of CBS, which airs the annual awards event, as well as the sponsors who advertise during the show, the Associated Press reported. The academy in April trimmed the number of categories from 109 to 78, saying the changes would hold for at least next year’s Grammys in February. …
Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert received approval today from the Federal Election Commission to start his own political action committee, which means he can raise money and produce and buy TV time for political ads. If the ads air anywhere but on his Viacom-owned show, they must disclose their funding sources. Colbert started the campaign to mock Citizens United, a PAC that won a Supreme Court case relaxing national campaign finance rules. “I don’t know about you but I do not accept limits on my free speech, I don’t know about you but I do not accept the status quo. But I do accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express,” he told a crowd in Washington DC after the ruling. …
NBC will televise the season finale of fellow Comcast network G4′s original series American Ninja Warrior on Aug. 22 as part of a two-hour primetime special.
EXCLUSIVE: Here’s the part of the Lionsgate movie What To Expect When You’re Expecting that I’ll look forward to. Chris Rock is signing on to play a guy named Vic, who is the head of a group of expectant fathers who lectures them on what it’s really like to have a baby and become a father. The Kirk Jones-directed pic stars Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Brooklyn Decker and Anna Kendrick (the latter two castings were announced today) in a mix of couples awaiting that stork visit. Rock will start working in late July, right after he finishes his run as the star of The Motherfucker With The Hat, which ends its Broadway run July 17. ICM is making Rock’s deal.
EXCLUSIVE: Humanitas’ New Voices initiative, a program designed to help up-and-coming television writers break into the business, has had plenty of success since launching in November 2010, with five projects ordered to script at various studios. Now the organization has hired TV executive and producer Lowell Mate for the newly created role of Consulting Producer to help oversee the program. In addition, he will be executive producer of the New Voices project Why My Wife Thinks I Am an Idiot, based on the best-selling book by Mike Greenberg and recently ordered by ABC Studios. Mate and Humanitas executive director Cathleen Young will guide the program’s participants through critical steps with an eye towards partnering them with successful writers that are either Humanitas trustees or board members. Mate has been in development at Warner Bros and HBO and most recently was exec producer of Second City Entertainment.
Wall Street has high expectations for AMC Networks as it prepares to begin its new life Friday as an independent, publicly traded company. Most, and possibly all, of the analysts following the owner of AMC, IFC, WeTV and Sundance have a “buy” rating on the stock, which Cablevision Systems is spinning off and will trade on NASDAQ under the symbol “AMCX.”
The company’s going public as its biggest channel, AMC, enjoys a hot streak. Mad Men is bidding to become the first series since NBC’s The West Wing to win the Emmy for Best Drama Series for four straight years. If The Walking Dead and The Killing also are nominated, then AMC could become the first cable network to have three candidates in that category. Another AMC hit, Breaking Bad, isn’t eligible this year.
Maxim Group’s John Tinker says that AMC has “done an exceptional” job of commissioning original series as he projects that AMCX will hit $34 in 12 months. He’s concerned, though, that AMC won’t enjoy most of the financial rewards from its hits. For example, Mad Men producer Lionsgate owns the show’s syndication rights. Tinker also fears that AMC’s collection of older movies compete too directly with Netflix. Cable cord cutting “is here to stay,” he says.
Francis Ford Coppola, who last participated in Comic-Con to tout his 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is returning to the annual convention next month to discuss another horror project — his new film Twixt. The director will present portions of the experimental film he calls “one part Gothic romance, one part personal film, and one part the kind of horror film that began my career” on Saturday, July 23 in Hall H. (Of course, that career-beginning film was Dementia 13.) The film, which stars Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning and Ben Chaplin, incorporates live music by performance artist Dan Deacon, who will attend the panel to help demonstrate the viewing experience.
Scripps Networks seemed to dash investor hopes that it might be sold when the owner of HGTV and the Food Network announced today a plan to buy back $1 billion of its stock — including $300 million from its controlling shareholder, The Edward W. Scripps Trust. Speculation about a sale grew on June 17 when the trust asked a probate court for a ruling that would have made it easier for family members to sell their shares. It would have dissolved the trust on the death of Edward W. Scripps’ last grandchild, who’s 93. Scripps’ stock price rose 5.9%, the biggest single-day jump in two years. After the company announced its stock repurchase, the share price fell 19 cents to $48.88. Scripps Networks CEO Ken Lowe says the decision “demonstrates our faith in the financial strength of our lifestyle media businesses and the company’s ability to generate strong free cash flow.”
EXCLUSIVE: Cross Creek Pictures has stepped up to finance A Walk Among the Tombstones, an adaptation of the Lawrence Block novel that seemed to have been put to rest more than a decade ago. DJ Caruso is in discussions to direct a script by Scott Frank. It is one of two pictures Caruso is considering for his next film. The other is Preacher, the John August-scripted film for Sony Pictures and producer Neal Moritz.
Double Feature partners Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher are producing with Danny DeVito and Cross Creek president Brian Oliver. Shamberg, Sher and DeVito first got Frank to write a script while they were partners in Jersey Films. It had been set at Universal and once had Harrison Ford interested in playing Matthew Scudder, an alcoholic former cop who spends his retirement doing favors for friends, the kind that take him deep into the underbelly of New York City. In A Walk Among the Tombstones, a heroin kingpin’s wife is kidnapped and those kidnappers begin to send her back in pieces. The Scudder character was previously seen in 8 Million Ways To Die.
EXCLUSIVE: Over his career, Christopher Nolan has only gotten involved in producing a picture he didn’t direct when he godfathered Man of Steel, the Warner Bros Superman reboot that’s going into production with Zack Snyder directing. Now, he’s quietly making another exception. I’m told that Nolan’s company, Syncopy, has set up a supernatural thriller at Warner Bros and hired Keith Gordon to write and direct it. Nolan’s former assistant and right-hand guy Jordan Goldberg is the prime mover on the project, and Nolan and partner Emma Thomas will take executive producer credit, insiders say. Details are scant, but I’m told it’s based on a novel whose title I haven’t yet been able to unearth. Gordon is the actor (he starred in Christine) turned director who most recently has been directing episodes of series that include The Killing and Dexter. He’s repped by CAA and The Arlook Group.
Kansas City, Mo. (June 30, 2011) – AMC Theatres® (AMC), a leading theatrical exhibition and entertainment company, today announced it will not participate in the beta test of MoviePass, an initiative launching this weekend in the San Francisco area.
“Plans for this program were developed without AMC’s knowledge or input,” said Stephen Colanero, chief marketing officer at AMC Theatres. “As MoviePass is currently designed, it does not integrate well into our programs and could create significant guest experience issues.”
Some concerns with the program include AMC Stubs members’ ability to receive credit when purchasing a MoviePass. AMC Stubs, the company’s rewards program, was rolled out in April 2011 and rewards participants for ticket and concessions purchases.
“As MoviePass was created without AMC’s input and testing, we cannot confidently say the guest experience would be positive for our guests and specifically our AMC Stubs members,” said Colanero. “We were surprised to see the press release and subsequent press coverage of MoviePass earlier this week as it included several of our San Francisco locations. It was news to us to see that we were participants and we will be communicating to those theatres they are not to accept MoviePass.”
The mind-numbing network of interlocking corporate relationships at Live Nation — the No. 1 concert promoter and owner of Ticketmaster — just became much more complicated with the announcement that Jim Dolan is joining its board of directors. He’s a power in live entertainment in his role as executive chairman of Madison Square Garden — a major owner of concert venues (Radio City Music Hall, The Beacon Theater, The Chicago Theater), sports teams (New York’s Knicks and Rangers) and media outlets (MSG network and music channel Fuse). Dolan’s also CEO of Cablevision Systems, a director of AMC Networks, and a Live Nation client in his role as lead singer and guitarist for blues band
DreamWorks and Disney have moved the opening of the Kathryn Stockett bestselling novel adaptation The Help to Aug. 10. They’ll open it Wednesday instead of its original Aug. 12 Friday date to make a long weekend out of it and take advantage of word of mouth. The Tate Taylor-directed film stars Emma Stone and Viola Davis.
EXCLUSIVE: Karen Croner has been set to script Hello Ghost, the film inspired by the Korean comedy about a man whose failed suicide attempt allows him to see ghosts who haunt him until he grants each of them one wish. Chris Columbus will direct a film that will be financed by CJ Entertainment, which has a first-look deal with Columbus and his 1492 banner. Columbus set Hello Ghost up in February 2011 with Next Entertainment World, the Korean distributor and financier. Croner, who’d been known for dramas that included the Meryl Streep-starrer One True Thing, continues to make a switch to comedy. She scripted Admission, which Paul Weitz will direct with Tina Fey starring, and Croner just finished Kiss and Tango for Jennifer Lopez and producer Denise DiNovi at Fox 2000. She’s repped by WME.
Fox News is taking a platoon approach this summer to fill Glenn Beck’s former time slot. It has announced a new show called The Five that will feature commentators including Juan Williams, Dana Perino, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Geraldo Rivera, Andrea Tantaros, Eric Bolling, Monica Crowley, and Bob Beckel. Beck’s last show is tonight. Here’s the release:
Marvel And Disney Setting ‘Thor 2′ For Summer 2013; Chris Hemsworth’s Back But Kenneth Branagh Won’t Return
UPDATE: Disney has set a July 26, 2013 release date for Thor 2.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE: Marvel Studios, which is in production on the Joss Whedon-directed The Avengers, is making a full commitment to Thor 2, with Chris Hemsworth reprising his role as the title hero. Marvel will need to hire a director for that film because, I’ve learned, Kenneth Branagh won’t be returning as helmer. Branagh, who directed the first film and watched it gross $437 million worldwide with a few territories still playing out, will likely be involved in some producing capacity. His exit was “mutual and amicable,” I’m told. That means a big job is out there that a lot of directors and their agents will be chasing over the upcoming holiday.
Disney will today finalize a release date for Thor 2, which will be released sometime in the summer, 2013. Disney and Marvel have already slotted the Robert Downey Jr-starrer Iron Man 3 to open May 3, 2013. So figure that Thor 2 will come later in the summer. Developing…
EXCLUSIVE: Starz said today that due to significant production challenges, the network has decided not to exercise the option for subsequent seasons of its freshman original series Camelot. We’ve heard that scheduling conflicts with some of the actors were part of the problem for the Ireland-shot costume drama, which stars Joseph Feinnes, Jamie Campbell Bower and Eva Green and takes off on the King Arthur legend. GK-tv, Octagon Films and Take 5 Prods produced. Camelot wrapped its first season earlier this month by drawing 1.5 million total viewers, the second-highest viewership for the series behind its two-hour premiere, which set a network record for a series bow. It had been on a ratings upswing for its final few episodes.
Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone stunned the entertainment industry in 2006 when he fired CEO Tom Freston. One of the chief reasons for the move was that Freston hadn’t moved decisively enough to buy MySpace, enabling Rupert Murdoch to pick up what was then the most popular social networking site for $580 million. Redstone seemed to think that contributed to the 20% drop in Viacom’s stock price in 2006 up to the date of Freston’s ouster. The CEO’s successor, Philippe Dauman, would “never, ever let another competitor beat us to the trophy,” Redstone told analysts. Redstone told interviewer Charlie Rose that losing MySpace had been “humiliating,” adding, “MySpace was sitting there for the taking for $500 million.”
But who’s laughing now? MySpace has collapsed into a distant also-ran behind Facebook and Twitter. And Murdoch took a bath on MySpace this week. He wanted $100 million for it but sold 95% of his interest to ad company Specific Media for a mere $35 million. Just imagine what would have happened to Viacom’s stock if Redstone’s passion for chasing fads led him to outbid Murdoch. It’s hard to believe that the owner of MTV would have seen what Murdoch didn’t — that social network fans were being turned off by MySpace’s tawdry commercialism as it established itself as a music and entertainment portal. That provided the opening for Facebook and Twitter to position themselves as safer alternatives for people who simply want to connect with friends.