The deal with GoDigital includes North American VOD and digital distribution rights for the film starring Anita Briem (The Tudors), Melonie Diaz (Hamlet 2) and Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie) and directed by Ty Hodges. Produced by Omar Epps (Scream 2), You, Me & The Circus centers around four young Angelenos who are simultaneously dealing with the verge of a break-up and the spark of a fresh romance. Mulvey and Premjit Panicker of Panicker Law negotiated on behalf of GoDigital with ICM and Christine D’Souza of Preferred Content working on behalf of the filmmakers. The film will initially be released on cable and broadband VOD in early Summer 2012. Omar Epps is represented by ICM, Anonymous Content and attorney Steve Warren. GoDigital has distributed over 300 films through their output arrangement with Lionsgate Home Entertainment and other companies.
Justified alumna Margo Martindale has been cast as one of the leads in ABC’s multi-camera comedy pilot Counter Culture. Additionally, Martindale has been taped for a guest-starring role in the Showtime pilot Masters Of Sex. Written and executive produced by writer-actress Stephnie Weir and executive produced by Claudia Lonow, Counter Culture revolves around three sisters running their family diner together in West Texas who find that sibling dynamics are always getting in the way of getting the job done. Martindale will play Joyce, the bossy eldest sister, the glue of the family and the rock, who is also a cancer survivor. It’s another matriarch role for Martindale, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of drug kingpin Maggs Bennett of the Bennett crime family on FX’s Justified. Counter Culture reunites Martindale with Sony TV, which produces both the ABC comedy pilot and the FX drama series. For Martindale, the casting is in second position to CBS’ softly rated freshman drama A Gifted Man, on which she is a regular. On Counter Culture, she joins another Emmy winner, Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Doris Roberts, who plays a cashier at the diner. As for Masters Of Sex, also produced by Sony TV, Martindale is joining the pilot along with Beau Bridges as guest stars/potential recurring. Bridges will play University Chancellor Barton Scully; Martindale will play his by-the-book secretary.
BREAKING: This is the week when the pain from the Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment merger gets felt, as the pieces are being mixed and matched, and layoffs rule the day. It sounds a lot like the plot of Highlander, a high profile remake that comes in through Summit. They are taking heads, and when it comes to mashing together departments in film and home video and choosing an exec to run it, there can be only one. Besides eliminating one major maker and buyer of pictures, how great is this merger for an already struggling feature and TV industry?
Here is the latest stuff I’m hearing. Richie Fay, Summit’s former president of distribution, will become president of distribution for Lionsgate; David Spitz will stay on as general sales manager at Lionsgate. That means that Bill Lewis, exec veep and general sales manager for Summit, will likely leave. Chris LeRoy had become defacto head of distirbution for Lionsgate after Steve Rothenberg passed away two years ago after an illness. It’s not exactly clear what happens to LeRoy, who came in on an interim consulting basis, but he’s likely to exit.
Expectations are that with Erik Feig being named president of production of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, Lionsgate production topper Alli Shearmur will be leaving. I’ve heard that she might remain involved in The Hunger Games trilogy, perhaps in a producing role. Lionsgate’s Joe Drake has still been reporting to …
The stock closed down 12.2%, to $17.26, after analysts piled on the production company for its soft year-end results, a warning that costs in 2012 will be higher than expected, and broad concerns about the market for animated films. ”Although the studio can control the quality and genre of its movies, it cannot prevent competition in the crowded animation space, or combat 3D fatigue and lofty ticket prices,” says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible says that DreamWorks Animation’s prospects “look more challenging” in 2012 because it will release just two films instead of three and it’s ”seeing weaker performance on the 2011 carry-over films” — Puss In Boots and Kung Fu Panda 2. Wible lowered his 2012 earnings per share forecast 11.2% to 95 cents, and says the stock is only worth about $13. Susquehanna Financial Group’s Vasily Karasyov is more optimistic — he has a target stock price of $18. But he was jarred by the company’s spending plans to upgrade its production infrastructure, and the talent costs for the upcoming Madagascar 3, which the company says will be $20M higher than they were for the original film. “These largely offset potential benefits of a proven property,” he says. What about DWA’s new joint venture to release films in China? Since the first picture in that deal isn’t due to be released until 2016, “we believe the JV is unlikely to have a material impact on DreamWorks’ earnings near …
BREAKING: Paramount Pictures has signed Sacha Baron Cohen and his Four By Two Films banner to an exclusive three-year first-look deal. Four By Two Films will be headed by Sir Todd Schulman, who worked on the Baron Cohen films The Dictator and Bruno.
Deal comes after Baron Cohen’s memorable stunt on the Oscar Red Carpet, where he dumped what he said was the ashes of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il over emcee Ryan Seacrest’s tux jacket. All this as the star and studio prepare to release the comedian’s latest film The Dictator on May 11th. They simultaneously have agreed to partner again on Baron Cohen’s next original star vehicle. As part of the arrangement, Paramount has also created a development fund for Baron Cohen to generate projects in the UK to find new talent.
Tabu is the fourth pickup for Adopt Films from this year’s recent Berlin International Film Festival’s main competition. It won the festival’s Alfred Bauer Prize and the FIPRESCI international critics award. Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes directed and co-wrote with Mariana Ricardo the romancer about an impossible love affair set in colonial Africa. Luís Urbano and Sandro Aguilar produced. Match Factory’s Brigitte Suárez and Michael Weber negotiated the deal with Adopt’s co-managing execs Jeff Lipsky and Tim Grady. Adopt plans a theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles in late December followed by a larger rollout in first-quarter 2013. Tabu joins fellow Adopt Berlin pickups Ceasar Must Die, which took the Golden Bear; Barbara, by Best Director winner Christian Petzold; and Silver Bear title Sister from Ursula Meier.
EXCLUSIVE: Molly Shannon is reuniting with Mike White, signing on for a recurring role on the upcoming second season of White’s HBO series Enlightened. The single-camera comedy stars Laura Dern as Amy, a self-destructive woman who has a spiritual awakening and decides to live an enlightened life, which creates havoc at home and work. In a role written for her by White, Shannon will play Eileen, the loyal executive assistant to the CEO of Abaddonn. In Amy’s mission to blow the whistle on Abaddonn’s corporate malfeasance, Eileen is unwittingly duped into providing damning information about her boss. Eileen also becomes a romantic interest for Tyler, played by White. This marks the third collaboration between Shannon and White. She previously starred in his movie Year Of The Dog and his Fox series Cracking Up.
EXCLUSIVE: The revolving door at OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network continues. The latest high-level executive to depart the struggling cable network is SVP Business and Legal Affairs Alan Saxe, a well-respected executive who ran OWN’s business affairs department. In light of his departure (he reportedly left to pursue other opportunities), Tina Perry, VP Business and Legal Affairs, will lead the department as interim head. Saxe is the latest in a slew of executive departures at OWN, most recently EVP Production and Development Lisa Erspamer.
Meanwhile, OWN has been in cost-cutting mode after an yearlong struggle to break out in the ratings despite a marquee brand name and massive cash infusion from co-parent Discovery Communications. I hear the network’s executives have been told that the business in its current form is unsustainable and cuts have to be made, especially in the main Los Angeles office. Leading the charge in that area is new Discovery CFO Andy Warren, who has been examining OWN’s books. In one cost-cutting measure, OWN was recently asked to eliminate temp positions. The network has had a lot of essential positions, including assistants, filled by non-full-time employees, something that will now end.
Cloris Leachman will play Mary Anne, the owner of a porn store, in director Scott Coffey’s Adult World. John Cusack, Evan Peters and Emma Roberts star in the film, currently shooting in upstate New York from a script by Andrew Cochran. The film centers on 21-year-old Amy Anderson. Convinced she is the next star in the literary world, she moves back with her parents to write poetry. But her parents force her to get a “real job,” and the only place that will hire her is an erotic bookstore called Adult World. Leachman, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1972 for The Last Picture Show, is repped by Innovative Artists.
Emma Watson will lead an ensemble cast in the latest from Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola. The Bling Ring is inspired by real events in which a group of teens engage in a string of celebrity burglaries.
UPDATE: I’m told that as of right now, Aloni’s top client Chris Nolan has not left the CAA fold. We’ll have to wait and see if that changes. There is speculation that Aloni could perhaps become a manager, or that he would land at WME. If the latter move is going to happen, it hasn’t yet because even that agency was caught off guard by what happened. I’ve also heard that no matter what happens, CAA is looking at a huge commission cushion from Nolan’s Inception, Batman trilogy and Superman, which he’s producing. The prospect of that revenue made it easier to decide life’s too short, which is evidently what happened between CAA and Aloni.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE: In a major and surprising development, Dan Aloni has left CAA abruptly. I’m told it was the result of an eroding relationship with the agency and his coworkers. It sounds like his approach didn’t mesh with the CAA culture. I’ve heard that it led to his firing. Which just happened. Aloni came over to CAA in October 2005 after a long stint at UTA. He has an amazing list of writers and directors, including The Dark Knight Rises helmer Chris Nolan, Tom Shadyac, David Goyer, Michel Gondry, Dean Parisot and others. I’m not sure whether Aloni will move to another agency, and will follow this story as it develops. It does put a lot of clients in play, that’s for sure. I’ve …
The Marvel superheroes pic is written and directed by Joss Whedon, which only serves to ramp up expectations among the fanboy set. So does the cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard and Samuel L. Jackson. Here’s the second trailer for the tentpole, which Disney releases May 4.
I have some bigger articles to post. But for the next several weeks I will be traveling for most of the time. Play nice.
EXCLUSIVE: R.J. Cutler is expanding his relationship with Lionsgate Television. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker (The War Room) and Emmy-winning television producer (American High), has signed a first-look television deal with Lionsgate to develop and produce scripted programming for broadcast and cable. Cutler first teamed with Lionsgate TV this development season on drama project Nashville, which sold to ABC and was recently picked up to pilot with Cutler executive producing and directing. “R.J.’s interest in expanding his activities in scripted programming meshed perfectly with our desire to continue working with him beyond Nashville,” said Lionsgate TV Group president Kevin Beggs. “He’s an extremely creative and experienced producer and we’re looking forward to developing other projects together as we continue to expand our television business.”
Written by Oscar winner Callie Khouri, Nashville is described as a family soap about love, country music, family, politics and sex set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene. Cutler and Khouri are executive producing the pilot with Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment; Lionsgate TV is co-producing with ABC Studios. “We’re having such a great time on Nashville that building on the relationship seemed an obvious next step,” Cutler said. “Lionsgate is the perfect home for the kind of scripted television I want to produce and direct.” Cutler, repped by CAA and attorney Jeanne Newman, is currently producing and directing the feature documentary The World According to Dick Cheney for Showtime.
Frank Giustra founded Lionsgate in 1997, was chairman until 2003 and returned to the board in 2003. Now the Canadian investor has come aboard to become a major shareholder in Thunderbird Films, the Vancouver-based financing, production and distribution company that owns a 5o% stake in the Blade Runner franchise. The plan is for Thunderbird to change its name and ramp up its TV business, using the new funds to produce projects with multinational co-production partners, manage and exploit intellectual property rights (as in the case of Blade Runner), and oversee third-party distribution activities. “Thunderbird will now have access to sufficient capital to focus on becoming a prominent entity in the production and distribution of television programming with a special emphasis on rights management,” Giustra said. “I look forward to moving the company to its next level of success, leveraging its independence to capitalize on global opportunities.”
Davy Jones was the lead singer of the 1960s band The Monkees, the Beatles-esque pop group that was created to star in the TV sitcom of the same name. He died of a heart attack today in a Florida hospital at age 66. The band — the British-born Jones, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith — spawned numerous No. 1 singles thanks to the popularity of the show, which ran from 1966-68 on NBC and lived long in syndication.
Twilight co-star Ashley Greene has been tapped for the female lead opposite Anthony LaPaglia in ABC’s drama pilot Americana, a soap about a famous fashion industry clan. It centers on iconic fashion designer Robert Soulter (Anthony LaPaglia), the patriarch of a sprawling family who just welcomed a new member, Alice Clarke (Greene), a young designer whose shocking arrival turns the family and the legendary label inside out. Playing a character named Alice won’t be new for Greene, best known for her role as Alice Cullen in the blockbuster Twilight franchise. Americana reunites the actress with ABC where she recurred on Pan Am this season. Michael Seitzman wrote the pilot with Phillip Noyce directing for ABC Studios and the Mark Gordon Co.
That question seems to intrigue News Corp watchers far more than any debate about succession plans following today’s announcement that Deputy COO James Murdoch is relinquishing his role as executive chairman of the UK publishing unit. News Corp shares are up about 2% at mid-day, a contrast to the overall market which is slightly down. And many believe it’s because James’ departure from the publishing business gives investors a little more reason to hope that Rupert might ditch some or all of his newspapers. He loves the assets, but the Street considers them to be growth-challenged distractions. Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker calls the news about James “one sign” that newspapers “may be spun, sold or otherwise shed.” Yesterday COO Chase Carey said that News Corp recognized such a move might help its stock price, which he says is “woefully undervalued.” But he tried to douse any belief that a plan to unload newspapers is on the company’s front-burner. “Our focus is on managing these businesses and improving profitability,” he said.
Why so little attention to James and his role in the line of succession? It’s now a foregone conclusion that
The move by Acorn Media Group to take a 64% stake in Agatha Christie’s estate marks the first time a U.S. company will have a controlling interest in one of the most-mined properties in entertainment. The mystery author counts 2 billion books sold, and numerous TV shows and movies based upon them; the estate, co-owned by Chorion, includes more than 80 novels and plays. Among the latest projects in the canon came almost a year ago, when Disney announced it was developing a Miss Marple movie with Jennifer Garner as the famous sleuth. That news was met with scorn among fans of the mysteries, who objected to what would be a younger, sassier Marple. That project hasn’t been heard from since. Here’s today’s release:
Silver Spring, MD; February 29, 2012 – Acorn Media Group, a leading independent media company, has acquired a 64% stake in Agatha Christie Limited from Chorion. With more than 2 billion books sold, Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her works only follow The Bible and William Shakespeare as the most widely published books, and they continue to be adapted into internationally successful films. This milestone acquisition gives Acorn Media majority ownership of Christie’s extensive works including more than 80 novels and short story collections, 19 plays, a film library of nearly 40 TV films, and iconic characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, among many others. The Agatha Christie family retains its 36% holding and Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson, remains Chairman of Agatha Christie Limited.