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‘Warrior’ Director Gavin O’Connor Takes On ‘The Samurai’ And Stage Version Of ‘The Hustler’

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: In a high-six-figure deal, Warner Bros has acquired The Samurai, a spec script that will be the next film directed by Warrior helmer Gavin O’Connor. The intention is to get it into production quickly, because O’Connor is also working on a stage play adaptation of The Hustler, the Walter Tevis novel that was turned into the 1961 pool hustler film that starred Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. O’Connor secured the rights from the author’s estate and Fox and is writing the stage play with his Warrior co-writer Anthony Tambackis. They are deep into it, and while they’ve not yet taken the play out for financing, O’Connor is eyeing a Broadway bow and said he’s got a commitment from Renee Zellweger to play Sarah Packard, the companion of Fast Eddie Felson who was played in the film by Piper Laurie.

As for The Samurai, O’Connor wrote the spec with Michael J. Wilson. The action adventure is about a rogue assassin named Townes Joyce, who breaks out of a Texas jail that puts him on the run from an international manhunt. Along the way, he gets involved with a woman and her child, and they go along for a ride that spans Costa Rica, Colombia, Paris and back to the U.S. O’Connor intends to make this his film follow-up to Warrior, which stars Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte. I’m not … Read More »

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‘Reaper’ Creators Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters Sell Projects To CBS And CW

By | Friday September 30, 2011 @ 10:51am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: In the first year of their overall deal, Reaper creators Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters have sold projects to both networks the studio is supplying: CBS and the CW.

At CBS, the duo has Notorious, a character-based procedural that follows an attention-loving LAPD detective who has become famous after solving a murder that made national headlines. Thriving in the spotlight and not bothered by the fact that his personal life is fodder for TMZ, he tries to solve the city’s most high-profile cases. Notorious taps into Fazekas and Butters’ extensive procedural background. They spent five seasons on NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, rising to co-executive producers and earning two WGA Award nominations. Additionally, under their overall deal, Fazekas and Butters serve as full-time consulting producers on the CBS/CBS Studios cop drama Hawaii Five-0 this season.

At the CW, ICM-repped Fazekas and Butters have an untitled Alien Bounty Hunter project, about a young woman who, on the first day of her new job, discovers that the cosmetics company for which she is working is actually a cover business for a secret governmental project that monitors alien activity on Earth. With its high-concept and a supernatural theme, the project is reminiscent of the duo’s cult CW dramedy Reaper, which was produced by ABC Studios. It also reunites several key Reaper auspices: creators/showrunners … Read More »

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Analyst: Studios Have “Little Chance” Of Winning Fight Over 3D Glasses

Sony’s warning that it will stop subsidizing 3D glasses is “bluster over substance,” Lazard Capital Markets analyst Barton Crockett says today. He’s struck that the National Association of Theatre Owners is vigorously opposing the idea while he’s heard no word — publicly or privately — about whether Warner Bros or Paramount might back Sony. “With theaters united and studios split, we see little chance of a studio victory,” Crockett says. What’s more, there’s “little chance” that consumers will be “stuck with big extra charges.” He raises the possibility of a compromise in which theaters would benefit from lower-cost distribution for the glasses, while studios reduce their payments — now at about 50 cents a pair — and consumers kick in about 25 cents a pair. “But even that seems unlikely,” he says. The analyst has a “buy” recommendation on Cinemark and National CineMedia but is “neutral” on Regal Entertainment.

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Relativity Makes Tucker Tooley Co-President, Ups Robbie Brenner To Production Boss

By | Friday September 30, 2011 @ 10:03am PDT

Relativity Media has promoted worldwide production president Tucker Tooley to co-president of Relativity and upped Robbie Brenner to take his spot. Tooley will oversee day-to-day operations at the company alongside current president Steve Bertram while also continuing to oversee Relativity’s film output. He will report to Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh; the two have worked together since 2007 to guide Relativity’s slate, and most recently Tooley has worked on the studio’s The Immortals, 21 And Over and Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire. Brenner, previously EVP Production, will report to Tooley. Here’s the company’s release:

(Beverly Hills, Calif.) September 30, 2011 – Relativity Media announced today the promotion of Tucker Tooley to Co-President of Relativity. Robbie Brenner has also been promoted to President, Production taking over Tooley’s prior position.

In Tooley’s new role, he will oversee day-to-day operations alongside current President & CFO, Steve Bertram, and will continue to oversee Relativity’s film slate. Tooley will report directly to Relativity’s CEO, Ryan Kavanaugh, as he did in his prior position as President, Worldwide Production. Brenner most recently served as Executive, Vice President, Production and will continue to report directly to Tooley.

Since 2007, Tooley has been instrumental in building the company’s single picture films division, along with Kavanaugh, into a fully-fledged studio developing, producing, acquiring and distributing 8-10 films per year. During his tenure, Tooley has managed the creative team while overseeing the recent production of Immortals, the 3-D epic adventure from the producers of 300 and acclaimed director Tarsem Singh, who is also directing Relativity’s Untitled Snow White. Tooley most recently worked on Untitled Snow White, 21 and Over, and Oscar®-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire.

Tooley has also executive produced such films as the box office hit Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish and Oscar®-winner Robert De Niro, The Fighter, starring Oscar®- nominated Mark Wahlberg, Oscar®-nominated Amy Adams and Oscar®-winners Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, and Dear John, directed by Oscar®-nominated Lasse Hallström, starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried.

As President, Production, Brenner will continue to shepherd Relativity’s homegrown productions including Immortals, Untitled Snow White, and 21 and Over, and is in pre-production on such upcoming projects as Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s The Crow, the film adaptation of Nicholas Spark’s best-selling Safe Haven and Out of the Furnace from the critically-acclaimed writer/director Scott Cooper. While at Relativity, Brenner also worked on The Fighter, Dear John, and was integral in helping to acquire Catfish.

Read More »

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TBS Orders Pilot Starring Comedian Steve Byrne And Produced By Vince Vaughn

By | Friday September 30, 2011 @ 9:20am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

TBS has ordered a half-hour comedy pilot Sullivan And Son, which stars comedian Steve Byrne and is executive produced by Vince Vaughn and producer-director Peter Billingsley. Warner Horizon TV and Vaughn’s Wild West Picture Show banner are producing. Written by Byrne and comedy veteran Rob Long (Cheers), who serves as executive producer/showrunner, Sullivan And Son takes place in a popular and legendary neighborhood bar in a working-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh. It centers on Steve Sullivan (Byrne), the son of the current owner of the bar and the grandson of its founder, who surprises his Irish-American father and Korean-American mother when he decides to leave his job as a successful corporate attorney in New York and return to the old neighborhood to take over Sullivan & Son. Read More »

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Hacking Scandal Update: Fired News Of The World Reporter Warns News Corp That “Truth Will Out”

The News Of The World phone hacking scandal became more nettlesome for News Corp this morning: A key player, former NOTW reporter Neville Thurlbeck, issued his first public statement alleging that the company wrongfully fired him recently — and warned that “There is much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News  International but so far, have chosen not to do so.” He says the company recently attacked him in off-the-record interviews. He called for everyone to “retain a dignified silence until we meet face to face in a public tribunal where the issues can be rigorously examined and fairness can eventually prevail.” He added, ominously, that “those responsible for the action, for which I have been unfairly dismissed, will eventually be revealed.”

Thurlbeck could be a dangerous opponent for the company and deputy COO James Murdoch. Thurlbeck was the intended recipient of the famous “For Neville” email in 2008. It included material hacked from the phone of Gordon Taylor, the former head of the Professional Footballers Association. The email is significant because it seemed to indicate that the illegal practice was more widespread than News Corp had acknowledged. At least two former NOTW execs say that Murdoch had seen that email before he agreed to a $1.4M settlement with Taylor on the condition that he keep quiet — leading some members of parliament to wonder whether Murdoch was engaged in a cover-up. Murdoch says he did not see the email before agreeing to the settlement. Thurlbeck was arrested in April on phone hacking charges.

Here’s Thurlbeck’s statement, which ran in The Telegraph: Read More »

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RATINGS RAT RACE: ‘Gentleman’ Debuts Low, ‘Angels’, ‘Whitney’ & ‘Suspect’ Drop

Nellie Andreeva

NBC’s Bob Greenblatt Not Rushing To Cancel Low-Rated ‘Playboy Club’ Or ‘Free Agents’

CBS’ decision to put two unproven new series back-to-back on lucrative Thursday night — comedy How To Be A Gentleman and drama Person Of Interest — was quite a gamble for a risk-averse network like CBS. And now, the tandem starts to spell trouble for the network in their first airing together. In its premiere, How To Be A Gentleman (2.7/8) was down 33% from the debut of the now-defunct $#*! My Dad Says in the 8:30 PM slot last year but still did better than anything but X Factor in the half-hour. Gentleman dragged down Person Of Interest (2.7/7, 12.4 million), which slid a modest 13% from its premiere last week directly behind The Big Bang Theory. The ripple effect continued with The Mentalist (2.5/7, 12.7 million), down 11%. The only good news for CBS last night came at 8 PM, where Big Bang (4.8/15, 14.5 million) matched the fast national 18-49 rating for its season premiere last week and was once again the top program of the night in viewers and the 18-49 demo. CBS (3.0/8, 12.3 million) was No. 1 for the night in total viewers and second in 18-49.

How quickly they fall. After a disappointing start last week, ABC’s Charlie’s Angels (1.5/4) took a 29% dive in Week 2 and is facing likely early cancellation. Grey’s Anatomy (3.5/9) was down 15% from its two-hour opener last week. At 10 PM, Private Practice launched its fifth season with a 2.8/8, down 15% from last season’s debut and its lowest-rated premiere ever, but it still won the 10 PM hour in 18-49. ABC (2.6/7, 8.4 million) finished third for the night in viewers and 18-49. Read More »

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NBC Buys Cyrus Voris/Ethan Reiff Shanghai Cop Drama, Comedy From ‘Sitter’ Scribes

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: NBC is China-bound. The network has bought a cop drama project set in Shanghai from writers Cyrus Voris and Ethan Reiff. The project is about a pair of fugitive recovery agents working in China’s (and the world’s) largest city, population 23 million. It stems from a blind script deal Voris and Reiff had at NBC and will be produced by Universal TV. Voris and Reiff had been thinking about doing a cop show set in China for a while, and separately new NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke had been looking to do a show set in the Asian country for some time, originally as top development executive at 20th TV. UPDATED: Voris and Reiff have an extensive background and knowledge of China working on Chinese-themed projects, including co-writing the story for DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda, which was set in old China. The new project reunites UTA-repped Voris and Reiff with NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt. The two co-created and executive produced the Showtime drama Sleeper Cell, which ran for two seasons while Greenblatt was at the helm of the pay cable network. Read More »

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Doug Liman Scales ‘Everest’ For Sony Pics

By | Friday September 30, 2011 @ 7:40am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Doug Liman has climbed aboard Everest, a Sony Pictures drama about George Mallory and his three attempts in the early 1920s to become the first man to climb the world’s highest mountain. The film, an adaptation of Jeffrey Archer’s book Paths Of Glory, has a script by Sheldon Turner. Jennifer Klein is producing. Liman has several projects percolating, including Luna, a moon mission film that Paramount Pictures and New Regency are trying to make work, as well as Warner Bros’ Dante Harper-scripted drama All You Need Is Kill. Liman, who directed the action hits The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, is himself an avid climber and a fan of the Mallory story. He is in the midst of a deal to supervise the next draft by Turner with the intention to direct a film that is a priority at Sony Pictures. Read More »

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Fake Empire Comedy Among Latest Pilot Script Sales

By | Friday September 30, 2011 @ 7:11am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Known primarily for its hourlong series, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s Fake Empire has sold a half-hour comedy pitch to Fox. The single-camera comedy about three childhood friends who are all now fathers with teenage sons will be written by Barry Schwartz, who will co-executive produce. Fake Empire’s Schwartz, Savage and Len Goldstein will executive produce for Warner Bros TV. Fake Empire has three series on the air this season: NBC’s dramedy Chuck and the CW dramas Gossip Girl and Hart of Dixie. On the feature side, Barry Schwartz, repped by WME and the Gotham Group, sold Bromance to Montecito and DreamWorks and Parents Weekend to Kopelson Entertainment.

Writer-director Nancy Hower and her writing/producing partner, actor John Lehr, have sold a half-hour comedy pitch to NBC. Titled Retreat, the project is set at a corporate retreat. The sale was made based on a demo Hower and Lehr shot, which Hower directed and Lehr starred in. The demo, made in association with EUE/Sokolow, was probably helpful, as the duo uses a hybrid scripted/improv style where their scripts are incredibly detailed but don’t feature any dialogue. Read More »

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BBC America Deal With UK Indie Clerkenwell

By | Friday September 30, 2011 @ 7:05am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

BBC America has signed a non-exclusive development deal with UK indie Clerkenwell Films, best known for producing the BAFTA-winning drama Misfits, to fund a number of potential projects over the next 18 months that will be created specifically for BBC America with a global audience in mind. “Moving into original production is a big step for BBC America and one that we hope can bring interesting new opportunities for UK indies,” said Perry Simon, General Manager of BBC America. “To stand out in this hugely competitive market we need access to the most creative talents and original shows in the world.”

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NBC’s Bob Greenblatt Not Rushing To Cancel Low-Rated ‘Playboy Club’ Or ‘Free Agents’

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:08pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

There have been rampant rumors this week that NBC is cancelling underperforming new series The Playboy Club and Free Agents. It’s because the shows have logged 2 and 3 low-rated airings, respectively, dropping double-digits week-to-week. Also in danger is the network’s Prime Suspect, which opened with a disappointing 1.9 18-49 rating last week, and sophomore Harry’s Law, stuck at a 1.2 in 2 airings. But I’m told NBC won’t be pulling any new series this week since NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt wants to give all freshmen more time to send a message to the creative community that he will give their shows on NBC every possible chance to succeed. (And those are not even shows he had developed.). That is a departure from traditional network MO in the case of fall shows with such underwhelming launches. Last year, Fox’s Lone Star and ABC’s My Generation were cancelled after 2 airings each. They drew a 1.0 and 1.1 demo rating, respectively, just before they were pulled. This week, Free Agents and The Playboy Club posted a 1.0 and a 1.3. But Greenblatt comes from the cable world, where series are given a season-long run to find their footing before a decision on their futures is made. In the realities of the broadcast business, keeping a high-end drama or comedy on the air at a 1 demo … Read More »

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Studio Lambert Inks Deal With UK Indie Co.

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 10:58pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Undercover Boss producer Studio Lambert has entered a partnership with indie U.K. production company Spun Gold. Under the pact, Spun Gold’s UK-created formats will be produced in the U.S. with Studio Lambert, which has similar arrangements with two other U.K.-based independent production companies, Betty and Nutopia. Since its 2004 launch, Spun Gold, which has produced unscripted series as well as several specials featuring members of the British Royal Family including Prince William, has been run by CEO Nick Bullen. Founded by Stephen Lambert, Studio Lambert launched its U.S. operations about 3 years ago with Project Runway creator Eli Holzman as president. The company’s series roster includes The Pitch for AMC and Diamond Divers for Spike.

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NBC & CBS’ Late-Night Lineups Down In Premiere Week, ABC On The Rise

Nellie Andreeva

Nine years ago, ABC brass were ready to dump Nightline for David Letterman. Boy, aren’t today’s bigwigs at the company happy that didn’t happen. The veteran ABC newsmagazine beat both CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman and NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno among adults 18-49 during premiere week for the first time ever. Nightline, which airs from 11:35 PM-midnight, saw its audience grow 7% vs. last fall to 3.9 million. In adults 19-49, it averaged 1.3 million, even with last year. Its companion, Jimmy Kimmel Live was also strong out of the gate, drawing its second-largest premiere week audience ever (1.8 million) and 790,000 adults 18-49, up 5%.

In comparison, NBC’s Tonight Show With Jay Leno and CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman were neck-and-neck in 18-49 (1.07 million vs. 1.05 million) but both down double-digits, 20% (Leno) and 16% (Letterman). In total viewers, Leno (3.6 million) was off by 4%, Letterman (3.2 million) by 15%. CBS’ ratings declines Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: UK, Spain, Cuba

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 9:20pm PDT

Summer Movies Will Face Tough Competition in Britain
Things don’t look too rosy for the British summer box office in 2012. Film Distributors’ Association CEO Mark Batey told BBC News that May to September will be a difficult period. Competition will come from 2 1/2 weeks of the London Olympics, plus Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix, the queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Paralympics. Summer films like The Dark Knight Rises, BattleshipThe Amazing Spider-Man and The Bourne Legacy will have little chance to continue the British box office growth seen this year over 2010, Batey said. The British box office currently stands at £872 million, 4% higher than it was this time last year.

Spanish Sales Agency Freak Moves Into Feature Films
Madrid-based short-film sales agency Freak is branching out to feature films. It announced international sales of Bernard Arellano’s Between Night And Day and Celia Novis’ On Vampyres And Other Symptoms. Arellano’s movie won the Industry Award at the recent San Sebastian International Film Festival, and Novis’ film is screening at horror fest Sitges on Oct. 12. Freak also will attend the American Film Market this fall as well as the IDFA/Docs For Read More »

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Saul Zaentz Sues Miramax-Disney (Again!) Over Oscar-Winner ‘The English Patient’

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 7:23pm PDT

That legendary 90-year-old movie producer Saul Zaentz is litigious is nothing new. Today he’s suing Miramax and Disney for breach of contract alleging he hasn’t seen enough profit from the 15-year-old Best Picture Oscar-winner The English Patient. He’s accusing the studios of blatant self-dealing and manipulation and misstating the movie’s revenue by millions in order to enrich itself — but not Zaentz — as well as deceptive and unfair accounting practices in connection with the movie. The lawsuit was filed today by Lavely & Singer’s Marty Singer in Los Angeles Superior Court. But here’s the thing: This isn’t the first time Zaentz has done this. He sued Miramax and Disney over pretty much the same stuff in the same court over the same pic back in 2006. And it was Lavely & Singer who filed that lawsuit, too. (Did they just Xerox today’s complaint?) That first scuffle was dismissed in 2008. In this latest legal battle, Zaentz also is seeking $20 million in damages — same as before. Of course, the Weinsteins owned Miramax when the film was released, but now it’s Disney’s problem because Zaentz claims the Mouse House promised to be good for the dough. Of course, Disney doesn’t own Miramax anymore. What a mess.

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ESPN Sells First Project As Scripted Series Producer: Sports Fan Comedy To ABC

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 7:15pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: ESPN may have put the scripted plans for its own primetime on hold following the demise of short-lived dramas Tilt and Playmakers, but its production unit is looking to become a supplier of scripted series to other networks. ESPN has sold its first scripted project, an untitled Boston sports fan comedy from former Scrubs executive producer Bill Callahan, to ABC. The project is described as a look at the relationship between four longtime guy friends, still living in their hometown outside of Boston, who gather once a week to watch one of their beloved teams play. Read More »

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ABC Buys Spiritual Drama From ‘Lost’ Exec Producer Carlton Cuse And Pastor Rob Bell

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 6:45pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Carlton Cuse has teamed with author/pastor Rob Bell for Stronger, a drama project with spiritual overtones, which has been sold to ABC via ABC Studios in a hefty script deal. Stronger, which the former Lost co-showrunner and the founder of Michigan’s Mars Hill Bible Church are co-writing and executive producing, revolves around Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, and his spiritual journey as he becomes a benefactor and guide to others. Music is expected to be a big part of the show, which features autobiographical elements as Bell is a former musician and played with rock/gospel bands in the 1990s.

Cuse and Bell met at the 2011 Time 100 gala — Bell was a 2011 honoree and Cuse had been on the magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010. The two immediately hit it off and soon concocted the idea for Stronger. While spiritual, Stronger won’t be supernatural. It will touch on the spiritual side of people’s lives much like the final season of Lost did and like Bell has done in his career as a pastor speaking to congregations of more than 10,000. Bell last week announced that he will be leaving the Mars Hill Bible Church in December to move with his family to Los Angeles. The series with Cuse is one of many things Bell plans to pursue, Read More »

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HAMMOND: Should The Academy Give Agents Full Voting Rights For Oscars?

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 5:47pm PDT
Pete Hammond

You can always count on it. It seems there is always some talent agency honcho who revives the decades-old quest to gain Oscar voting rights for agents. The subject always comes up, but the answer, whatever the merits of the idea, will always be the same. It will NEVER happen. I’ve heard the effort is gearing up once more and agency movers and shakers in the movement for equal Academy voting rights are trying to find sympathetic ears in the media to further the cause and make some noise again. Of course, the Academy has traditionally held a different opinion. Agents are allowed in only as associate members. The number of agents with that status in the Academy is well under 100 and has included major names like Jeff Berg, Kevin Huvane, Patrick Whitesell and many others like WME’s Brian Swardstrom, who actually has his own Oscar but not a vote (keep reading for more on that). Being an associate means they get invites to attend Academy events and maybe access to freebie movies at local theaters during Oscar time, but they don’t have their own branch or any reps on the Board of Governors and no voting rights whatsoever, kind of like illegal aliens. Read More »

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