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News Corp’s HarperCollins Agrees To Buy Religious Publisher Thomas Nelson

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 12:26pm PDT

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)– HarperCollins Publishers today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Thomas Nelson, Inc. for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition, which is expected to close by the end of the calendar year, is subject to regulatory clearances and other customary closing conditions.

Thomas Nelson is one of the leading trade publishers in the United States. The Company provides multiple forms of inspirational content including: books, Bibles, e-books, journals, audio, video, curriculum and digital applications available for download on “smart” electronic devices. It has published some of the bestselling books in the industry, including the current #1 bestseller Heaven Is For Real, and the books of many popular authors, such as Billy Graham, Max Lucado, and Dave Ramsey.

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AFM: Industry Conversations Series Set

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 11:59am PDT

AFM: Panels And Speakers Schedule Set

The American Film Market has released the schedule for its new Industry Conversations program, which will spotlight prominent biz players, is free to attendees and runs November 2-8. AFM begins Wednesday and runs through November 9. Here’s the lineup:

Thursday, 3 November, 2011

“Columbus Circle” – A Conversation with Actor Kevin Pollak (co-writer & producer), Actress Selma Blair, director and co-writer George Gallo; TBD executive from Lightning Entertainment or another Producer.

“Columbus Circle” is a stylish and riveting thriller about a reclusive young heiress, Abigail, who lives a guarded and sheltered life in a luxurious New York penthouse. But when she is befriended by Lillian and Charlie, the glamorous new owners of the apartment next door, Abigail’s safe and secure existence is suddenly threatened. The film stars Selma Blair, Amy Smart, Giovanni Ribisi, Jason Lee and Kevin Pollak. (Lightning Entertainment; American Film Market World Premiere).

Flights. Camera. Action. How to make it all happen – A Conversation with Bertram von Munster, Co-creator and Executive Producer, “The Amazing Race.” Hosted by Jack Gonzales, Former Travel Director, Sony Pictures.

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Cable Notes: ID, VH1 Exec Hires, Weather Channel Series And Kardashian Divorce

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 11:47am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Kevin Bennett has been named SVP Programming and Research, ID, Military Channel and Planet Green. It marks Bennett’s return to ID, aka Investigation Discovery, which he helped launch four years ago. His hire is part of a new management structure in which Bennett will lead a newly centralized programming, scheduling and research division across the three brands and will oversee development for ID.

Tom Huffman, formerly of Shed Media, has joined VH1 as VP Original Programming. He will step into to the network executive producer role for VH1′s Basketball Wives, which he developed and originally pitched to VH1 in 2009 when he was at Shed.

With Coast Guard Alaska debuting November 9, the Weather Channel has greenlighted another “guard” reality series, Lifeguard! Premiering in February, the 13-epiosde half-hour docudrama, produced by LMNO Prods, follows the men and women who guard the 150 miles of California coastline. Read More »

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Home Video Spending Up 4.9% In 3Q

The industry’s Digital Entertainment Group credits a 58% gain in spending on Blu-ray discs vs last year’s 3Q and a 12.8% pickup in electronic sell-though (to $135.9M) for much of the gain in 3Q consumer spending, to $3.93B. The 4.9% improvement in total sales was “a major milestone,” DEG says, because “this is the first time spending has increased since the first quarter of 2008, when the economic downturn began.” This also was the first time DEG broke out spending numbers for subscription streaming services such as Netflix, formerly folded into the tally for rentals: They accounted for $255.4M in the quarter and $463.6M for the first half of 2011. But the results show that DVD sales continue to plummet: The huge gains for Blu-ray weren’t sufficient to stop the decline packaged goods sales, down 4% to $1.74B. Over in the rentals, subscription services for discs — again, like Netflix — led the pack (+4.9% to $607.3M). But video-on-demand came in second (+4.9% to $419.9M), followed by kiosks (+23.3% to $414M) and bricks-and-mortar stores (-28.6% to $353M).

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AFM: Naomi Watts And Matt Dillon On ‘Sunlight Jr’

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 11:29am PDT
Mike Fleming

NEW YORK, NY – October 31, 2011 – Principal photography has begun on SUNLIGHT JR., it was announced today by Original Media’s Charlie Corwin and Freight Yard Films’ Andrea Roa. Filmed on location in southern Florida, the independent film stars Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon.

SUNLIGHT JR. is written and directed by Laurie Collyer (SHERRYBABY) and produced by Charlie Corwin (HALF NELSON, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE), Andrea Roa (BOOSTER) and Ariel Elia, who will produce on behalf of Empyrean. Joshua Skurla is on board as an Executive Producer, as are Billy Dietrich and Simon Fawcett, who arranged the financing.

The film follows two have-nots who have fallen through the cracks of society. Hard-working convenience store clerk Melissa (Naomi Watts) and her paraplegic boyfriend, Richie (Matt Dillon), are trapped in a generational cycle of poverty and ignorance. They are genuinely excited when they learn that Melissa is pregnant. But when she loses her job and they are evicted from the motel where they live, things go from bad to worse.

Dillon and Watts are both represented by CAA and Untitled. Collyer is represented by Gersh and Principato-Young. Her previous film, SHERRYBABY, earned Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe nomination for best actress.

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Paramount Hires John Glenn For Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Abducted’

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 11:25am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Screenwriter John Glenn has been brought on to re-imagine Abducted, a science fiction thriller that was originally acquired by the studio as a spec by John Heffernan. Disruption Entertainment’s Mary Parent and Cale Boyter will produce. JC Spink, Chris Bender and Jake Weiner are exec producers. The story centers around an alien abduction of a group of average Americans who decide to take on the aliens and battle their way off the extraterrestrial craft. Glenn, who did early drafts of Clash of the Titans and Eagle Eye, is writing the hour-long Treasure Island for NBC. That is a contemporary re-imagining of the Robert Louis Stevenson story, set in Gotham. Glenn’s repped by WME and managed by Brian Lutz.

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FX Renews ‘American Horror Story’ for Second Season

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 10:55am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Very appropriately for Halloween, FX’s breakout new horror drama American Horror Story today was renewed four episodes into its freshman run. The series, created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, has received a 13-episode second-season order. “It’s one thing to have the ambition and guts to reinvent a genre in a way that makes it captivatingly fresh for a broad audience — it’s something else entirely to have the craft to back that ambition up,” said FX president John Landgraf. “Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have hit the trifecta with Nip/Tuck, Glee and now American Horror Story, which will be scaring FX’s viewers to death for many years to come.”

The series premiere of 20th TV-produced AHS delivered 3.14 million adults 18-49 and 1.77 million adults 18-34 in Live+7 to rank as FX’s highest-rated series debut in those demos. On a Live+7 basis through two weeks, first-run episodes of AHS are averaging 4.2 million total viewers, 2.9 million adults 18-49, and 1.7 million adults 18-34. On a Live+3 basis, last week’s fourth episode was the highest-rated episode to date in adults 18-49 (3.1 million) and adults 18-34 (1.85 million). AHS, whose first season ends on December 21, is currently tracking to become the highest-rated first season of any series ever on FX.

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Anchor Bay Dates Director’s Cut Of ‘The Divide’

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 10:45am PDT

Anchor Bay made probably the biggest-ever deal at the South By Southwest Film Festival when it acquired Xavier Gens’ postapocalyptic thriller The Divide this year for the U.S. in a seven-figure deal. Now the distributor said it is releasing the film as a director’s cut on January 13, 2012 — a different cut than the one shown at SXSW. The plan is for a platform rollout in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Denver, with more markets to be announced. The movie stars Lauren German, Michael Biehn and Milo Ventimiglia in a story about a group of strangers who escape a nuclear attack by hiding out in the basement of their New York high-rise apartment building. Things get more desperate as supplies dwindle and hope fades. “We felt strongly that we needed to bring his full vision to the screen, and confident this is the version audiences will want to see,” said Jennifer Roberts, Anchor Bay Film’s SVP Brand Marketing.

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James Murdoch’s Succession Prospects Dim As He Prepares To Testify Again About Hacking Scandal

James Murdoch isn’t going to succeed his father Rupert as CEO of News Corp — if you don’t believe that yet, then wait for November 10 when he’s due to testify again before the parliamentary committee investigating the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal. Media execs and close News Corp watchers tell me that James would have to perform a PR miracle to enhance his already tarnished reputation: He’s on the defensive after former NOTW legal affairs manager Tom Crone and editor Colin Myler testified in September that he knew more about the lawbreaking earlier than he has let on — raising the possibility that he was engaged in a cover-up. James’ testimony comes after institutional shareholders just made it clear that they don’t want him: Guardian columnist Dan Sabbagh called the News Corp Deputy COO “dead man walking” last week after 75% of voting shareholders aside from the Murdoch family, other directors, and Rupert’s ally Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal opposed James’ election to the board. Analysts and reporters will have a chance to raise more questions about the company’s governance Wednesday after News Corp reports its earnings for the quarter that ended in September.

A lot of people say James is in a similar predicament to the one that former Disney CEO Michael Eisner was in before he was forced out in 2005. Eisner initially fended off efforts by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold to oust him from power. But their steady criticisms soured institutional investors to the point where Eisner’s presence hurt Disney’s stock and made it impossible to hang on. Read More »

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OSCARS: Melissa Watkins Trueblood Named Talent Producer; Danette Herman To Consult

Beverly Hills, CA – Melissa Watkins Trueblood has been named talent producer for the 84th Academy Awards, telecast producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer announced today. This will be her first association with the Oscar telecast. In addition, Danette Herman has signed on to consult for the 84th and 85th shows. Trueblood has served as a co-producer or talent producer on numerous awards shows, recently serving as co-producer for “The 63rd Primetime Emmy® Awards.” Her other credits include the American Music Awards, the Golden Globe® Awards, the People’s Choice Awards and the World Music Awards. Herman, who was coordinating producer for the 83rd Academy Awards® telecast, has served in various producing and executive capacities on Oscar shows over the years. In 2010 she was co-producer of the Academy’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards. Her other credits include The Kennedy Center Honors, the Primetime Emmy Awards and “Stand Up to Cancer.”

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Pamela Levine Joins HBO As Head Of Marketing

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 10:08am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

HBO is expected to make the announcement shortly. Pam Levine, a 16-year veteran of 20th Century Fox, was longtime co-president of marketing at Fox Filmed Entertainment before stepping down in December. At HBO, she will replace Courteney Monroe, who exited last month. This is the second major hire of a feature executive at HBO following the August appointment of Michael Ellenberg as head of drama. UPDATE: Here is HBO’s release:

Pamela Levine will join HBO as Executive Vice President of Marketing announced Eric Kessler, Co-President, HBO, to whom she will report. Levine will be responsible for overseeing advertising campaigns for all programming, providing strategic marketing direction for HBO and Cinemax as well as guiding digital platforms and retail marketing efforts for the company.  She will start in her new position on November 15 working out of HBO’s headquarters based in New York. “We use event marketing strategies often employed in the theatrical arena to launch most of our series so Pam’s background makes her an ideal choice for this position,” said Kessler.

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Warner Bros, Joel Silver Revive Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer Novel Series With ‘The Galton Case’

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 9:54am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros acquired rights to the Ross Macdonald mystery series about private detective Lew Archer. The studio will launch a franchise, starting with the 1959 novel The Galton Case, which was the eighth book in the series. Paul Newman played Archer in the  1966 Warner Bros film Harper and 1975 film The Drowning Pool.

Silver Pictures’ Joel Silver will produce and Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman will be executive producers.  Silver will partner with Random House Films on the movie, and RHF head Peter Gethers exec producing with series rights holder Stephen White. Archer is a private eye who cracked dangerous cases in Southern California in the 1950s and 60s. In The Galton Case, Archer is hired to track down the lost heir to the Galton fortune. His path leads him through a trail of murder, deception and a tangle of secrets. The studio will hire a writer soon to script what they see as an elevated noir franchise.

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RATINGS RAT RACE: ABC’s ‘Once Upon A Time’ Holds, ‘Allen Gregory’ Soft In Debut

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 9:53am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

It looks like ABC has a hit on its hands with Once Upon A Time. In its second airing, the fairytale drama drew a 3.9 rating/10 share in 18-49, matching the fast national for its series premiere last week. (It was adjusted up to a 4.0, which will likely happen this time, too.) Once Upon A Time has emerged as the breakout broadcast drama hit this fall and is certain to land a full-season order shortly. It has been a big fall for series with fairytale elements with NBC’s Grimm also opening well on Friday. The other ABC originals last night, Desperate Housewives (3.1/7) and Pan Am (1.9/5) both went up a tenth.

Fox’s new animated series Allen Gregory (2.4/6) was off to a slow start behind the highly rated annual The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (4.0/10), which was up 8% from last year’s Halloween special and up 33% from the last Simpsons original 4 weeks ago. Allen Gregory was well below Fox’s most recent animated series premieres, Bob’s Burgers (4.5/11) in January, which also aired behind The Simpsons but the entire Fox Sunday lineup was bolstered by a big NFL overrun that night, and The Cleveland Show (5.3/13) in September 2009. Is Fox’s back-nine order to Bob’s Burgers on the same morning Allen Gregory’s premiere numbers came in below par a coincidence? At 9 PM, Family Guy (3.2/7) … Read More »

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Turner’s Linda Yaccarino Named President of Cable/Digital Ad Sales For NBCUniversal

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 9:25am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

This is a move that has been rumored since last Monday, when within a few hours Dave Cassaro was pushed out as president of cable advertising sales at NBCUniversal and Linda Yaccarino left her post as EVP and COO of Turner Entertainment Ad Sales & Marketing and Acquisitions for a “new professional opportunity.” A week later, Yaccarino has been named President, Cable Entertainment & Digital Advertising Sales at NBCUniversal. She will replace Cassaro and report jointly to Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment & Cable Studios, and Lauren Zalaznick, Chairman, NBCU Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media. Word is that Cassaro, who came from the Comcast side of the company (he was a 20-year E! veteran), didn’t mesh with the NBCUniversal-dominated combined cable unit’s new leadership, led by NBCUni cable mavens Hammer and Zalaznick. Read More »

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Don Mischer To Receive PGA’s Norman Lear TV Award

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 9:11am PDT

Don Mischer, the longtime live-event TV guru who is producing the Oscars in February for a second consecutive year, has been tapped to receive the Producers Guild of America’s 2012 Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television. It’s the first time the guild has awarded the Norman Lear to a live-events producer. The honor will be bestowed January 21 during the 23rd annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton. Mischer’s credits include everything from The Kennedy Center Honors to Super Bowl halftime shows, the Democratic National Convention and opening and closing ceremonies at the Olympics. He also has produced specials for Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks and Barbra Streisand, among others. He has won 15 Emmys, 10 DGA Awards and a Peabody.

Previous recipients include Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman last year, Dick Wolf, Jerry Bruckheimer, John Wells, Lorne Michaels, Don Hewitt, Garry K. Marshall, Aaron Spelling, Steven Bochco, David E. Kelley and Mark Burnett.

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‘Avengers’ Director Joss Whedon Launches Next Film Under Bellwether Pictures Banner

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 9:06am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After wrapping their first film Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon and Kai Cole’s micro-studio Bellwether Pictures has set a follow-up. It’s the supernatural romance In Your Eyes. Whedon wrote the script and Brin Hill will direct. Cole will produce with Night & Day Pictures’ Michael Roiff. Whedon will be executive producer and David Rothenberg will be co-producer. Whedon, who just wrapped Marvel’s The Avengers, also directed Much Ado About Nothing and shot it in secret before officially launching Bellwether last week.

In Your Eyes is a metaphysical love story about two seemingly polar opposites who are deeply connected in ways neither could have ever imagined. “When I wrote In Your Eyes, I didn’t have the wherewithal (or the moxie) to make it without an established production house,” Whedon wrote in a statement. “I believe, as I did then, that it’s a pretty timeless romance, and now, with the creation of Bellwether Pictures (and Brin Hill’s elegant, passionate take on the piece), I have the opportunity to prove it. (I also have a 37% increase in moxie.) I love this team and I can’t wait to see them bring In Your Eyes to life.” Read More »

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Fox Gives Back-Nine Order To Animated Series ‘Bob’s Burgers’

By | Monday October 31, 2011 @ 9:06am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Fox has given animated comedy Bob’s Burgers a back-nine order ahead of the series’ second-season launch in January. Bob’s Burgers premiered in midseason and its initial second-season renewal was for 13 episodes. “Last season, Bob’s Burgers infused our Sunday lineup with a fresh new voice that was fully embraced by our Animation Domination fans,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said. “Loren Bouchard, Jim Dauterive  and the team have done an amazing job with the show.” Bouchard created the series, from 20th TV, and is executive producing/writing with Dauterive. Read More »

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Queen Latifah To Host Daytime Talk Show Eyed For 2013 From Sony TV & Overbrook

Nellie Andreeva

With a slew of daytime syndicated talk show projects jockeying for a fall 2012 berth, a big one is entering the fray for fall 2013. Queen Latifah is set to host a new daytime talk show that Flavor Unit, her company with Shakim Compere, will co-produce with Will Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television. Compere and Overbrook’s Miguel Melendez, who were instrumental in getting the project together, will serve as executive producers with Queen Latifah and Overbrook’s Lassiter, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Queen Latifah and Smith have a lot in common — both started in hip-hop before segueing into acting and then producing and both have earned Oscar nominations. In fact, Latifah’s first role was an arc on NBC’s The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, which starred Smith, also in his first acting gig. “We’ve had a long and successful history both personally and professionally with Overbrook’s Miguel, JL, Jada and Will,” Compere said. “We share a common vision and have been wanting to collaborate for quite some time.” In addition to Queen Latifah’s work with Smith on Fresh Prince, she starred opposite his wife, Pinkett Smith, in the 1996 movie Set It Off. “We are excited to join forces with Latifah and as well as Sony Pictures TV on this new venture,” Melendez said. “This forum is the perfect place to showcase Latifah’s tremendous range of talents and unique ability to connect and inspire people.” Sony TV’s relationship with Pinkett Smith and Overbrook stems from their recent collaboration on the TNT series Hawthorne, which starred Pinkett Smith and was produced by Sony and Overbrook. Additionally, Overbrook has had a long relationship with Sony on the film side, most recently producing together the hit Karate Kid remake.

Sony could’ve fast-tracked the talk show for a fall 2012 launch but opted to give it time to develop the way the studio did with The Dr. Oz Show, which has been the No. 1 syndicated daytime talk show in women 25-54 for the past three weeks. Sony TV does not have a contender for fall 2012 as the studio has been very selective with daytime projects, taking its time to find one that it feels it can throw its full support behind. Besides, the 2012 field is overcrowded already with talk shows hosted by Katie Couric and Steve Harvey already cleared for launch, Maury spin-off Trisha Goddard close to a go after getting picked up by Sinclair a week ago, and several other shows — including Twentieth’s Ricki Lake, Warner Bros’ Bethenny Frankel and CBS TV Distribution’s Jeff Probst — looking for station clearances. Read More »

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Anthony LaPaglia Joins ‘Django Unchained’, Laments Hardships Pushing Film Actors To TV

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Anthony LaPaglia has joined Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained cast. LaPaglia will play the leader of a group of greedy Australians who encounter slave-turned-bounty hunter Django (Jamie Foxx) as they are escorting a group of slaves recently purchased as fighters. LaPaglia said he and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play mean brothers, and LaPaglia said he was bowled over by the script. “It’s wildly ambitious and imaginative, deals with that subject matter in a way it hasn’t been dealt with before,” LaPaglia told me. “The way the cast has shaped up, it’s exciting to be involved.” It will be the second film in a row where LaPaglia can readopt the Australian accent he grew up with but dropped for many of his Hollywood roles and the series Without A Trace. He wrapped the PJ Hogan-directed Mental with Toni Collette and Liev Schreiber, a film that LaPaglia said is partly based on the filmmaker’s own experiences. “I play the father, who in real life had committed his mother to a mental institution, who had five kids, picked up a hitchhiker [Collette] on the way back and said, you’re taking care of the kids now.” LaPaglia said Hogan got rights to tunes from The Sound Of Music, and uses them in unexpected ways. “I absolutely assassinate “Edelweiss,” just tear it to shreds so badly that I’m sure Christopher Plummer would have a fit. It was meant to be terrible, and it is.” Read More »

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