Before tonight’s Academy Awards, catch up on the top stories you missed this week on Deadline:

Oscar_badgeOscars Finally Here – Record Voting Turnout According To Academy But What Does It All Mean?
By Pete Hammond – The robocalls and emails apparently did the trick as Academy CEO Dawn Hudson reports the 86th Oscar contest is responsible another significant high mark in the Academy’s efforts to turn out the vote.

OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever
By Pete Hammond – With no real clarity from the usually reliable guild contests and critics awards, the best picture race is one of the most80th Academy Awards NYC Meet the Oscars Opening unpredictable in years. Considering the preferential Oscar voting system, it is not probable there will be a winner on the first ballot because it’s unlikely any film in this great year for films will be able to  muster more than 50% of the first-place votes required. The second choice on those best picture ballots could end up being the most important.

BOX OFFICE: ‘Non-Stop,’ And Powerful ‘Son Of God’ Fly Past ‘Lego’ On Wings And A Prayer; ‘Lego’ Passes $200M, ‘Frozen’ To Pass $1 Billion
By Anita BuschAfter a strong Saturday night, Non-Stop’s total cume for the 3-day weekend has been estimated towards the high end of yesterday’s expectations — with a $30M gross and a wonderful $8,200 per screen average for Universal. In its second weekend out, Relativity’s 3 Days to Kill got hurt by the strong showing of Non-Stop as the audience for the two pics are very similar. Son of God is still expected to gross anywhere from $25.7M to $26.7M.

Warner Bros’ Next Whitey Bulger Move: Ease Rift With Ben Affleck And Matt Damon
damon_affleck__121220232749-275x206By Mike Fleming Warner Bros jumping aboard the high-profile Johnny Depp-Joel Edgerton pic Black Mass, it means the studio won’t be taking on another Whitey Bulger project in its own backyard: the one that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon had been developing for a couple of years as a starring vehicle for Damon via their Warners-based Pearl Street Films. I’m hearing that Affleck and Damon were given a day or two advance notice that the studio was putting its eggs in the Black Mass basket

Kevin Spacey Continues His Disruptive Platform-Shifting Experiments By Self-Releasing ‘Now: In The Wings On A World Stage’: Q&A
By Mike Fleming When most leading men get preoccupied with messing with models, it usually means extracurricular activity. When it’s Kevin Spacey, it means taking bold risks to create disruptive opportunities to alter arcane platforms that have ranged from his own acting career to pioneering the first breakout multi-platform success in the J.C. Chandor-directed Margin Call and the first breakout Netflix series hit House Of Cards. Now, he has made an intriguing documentary, Now: In The Wings On A World Stage, and will test new waters by self-distributing the film.

Video Game Sensation ‘Minecraft’ Coming To The Big Screen As Warner Bros Acquires Rights; ‘Lego’s’ Roy Lee
Producing

By Anita BuschEXCLUSIVE: Minecraft, one of the hottest video game franchises in the market today, is going to be madethe_minecraft_monsters_v2__by_xepherxv-d5x34b2_6269636_lrg into a major motion picture. Warner Bros.just acquired the rights to the wildly popular game from Swedish indie developer Mojang AB (mojang means “gadget” in Swedish). The property already is getting huge interest from writers and filmmakers as Warners is putting together a live-action version.

Sony Sets ’50/50′ Team For Chess Drama ‘Brooklyn Castle; One Of Three Pics For Scott Rudin And Seth Rogen’s Point Grey
By Mike Fleming EXCLUSIVE: Scott Rudin Productions’ Scott Rudin and Eli Bush and Point Grey’s Seth RogenEvan Goldberg and James Weaver have together set up a trio of feature collaborations. Two of the films are based on documentaries and will be made for Sony, where Rudin has his deal. All three will be produced by Rudin and Eli Bush along the the Point Grey trio.

‘Ride Along’ Producer Will Packer Sets Up First Film At Universal, Comedy ‘Girls Trip’ With Malcolm Lee Directing; ‘Ride Along 2′ Will Start Shooting This Summer
By Anita BuschBREAKING: Will Packer, who produced the $123.1M-to-date grosser Ride Along with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube and currently has two pictures in the box office Top 10 with About Last Night (also a Hart vehicle that has grossed $38M in two weeks), has set up his next film with Universal Pictures via his Will Packer Productions banner. It’s a comedy, Girls Trip, with Best Man’s Holiday helmer Malcolm D. Lee set to direct.

Warner Bros Acquires ‘American Blood’ For Bradley Cooper To Star In And Produce; Andrew Sodroski Scripting
By Mike Fleming EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros closed a preemptive deal Friday night forAmerican Blood, a 50 page proposal for a crime story by New Zealand-based bestselling author Ben Sanders for Macmillan Entertainment. Bradley Cooper is attached to star and produce through his 22nd & Indiana banner. He and cohort Adam Kassan will join Le Grisbi’s John Lesher to produce, along with Pouya Shahbazian through his New Leaf Literary and Media banner.

Warren Beatty’s Untitled Howard Hughes Pic Finally Takes Flight Financed By Billionaire Boys’ Club; Ehrenreich, Collins To Star In Love Story; Bening And Broderick Also In
Warren-BeattyjpgBy Anita BuschEXCLUSIVE: It took two decades, but it’s finally getting off the ground thanks to billionaires Ron Burkle and Steve Bing, Windsor Media’s Terry Semel, Arnon Milchan’s New Regency and James Packer’s and Brett Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment. The heavies have come together to finance Warren Beatty’s long-gestating Howard Hughes-based project.

R.I.P. Harold Ramis — ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Groundhog Day’ Comedy Veteran Was 69
By Jen YamatoActor, writer, producer and director Harold Ramis, who made many of the most iconic comedy hits of the 1980s and 1990s, died today at his home in Chicago. He was 69. The award-winning comedy filmmaker who co-starred in and co-wrote Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, and Stripes passed away from complications related to auto-immune inflammatory vasculitis which he’d battled for four years.

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