Fox cancelled The X Factor in the U.S. back in February, the same day that ITV said creator Simon Cowell would rejoin the UK version. The following month, Cowell confirmed that former X Factor UK judge Cheryl Cole would return for the 11th season of the show after having left to join the U.S. version in a famously short-lived stint. Today, Cowell’s company Syco announced by tweet that Mel B is to be the fourth UK judge. The panel is now complete with Cowell, Cole, Mel B and the returning Louis Walsh. Last year’s group consisted of Walsh, Sharon Osbourne, Gary Barlow and Nicole Scherzing. The former Scary Spice, Mel B (aka Melanie Brown) was a guest judge on The X Factor UK in 2012 who lived up to her nickname with her straight talking approach. Today, she said, “I’ve always thought honesty is the best policy when being a judge and that’s what I’m going to bring more of this year — whether it’s spotting an incredible singer, giving someone a reality check or debating with Simon over who’s got it wrong! Now I can’t wait to get started and find some amazing talent.” Cowell added, “I thought she was fantastic as a guest judge a couple of years ago. She is feisty, opinionated and, I believe, will be a great mentor.” Mel B is also …
Simon Cowell has joined Univision‘s effort to dissuade advertisers of the notion that Spanish-language programming is fine for older viewers but not necessarily young Latinos who are bilingual and watch English TV. He’s launching a talent show in 2015, La Banda — a search for five members of a Latino boy band — across the company’s media platforms, he said today at Univision’s upfront presentation. “There was only one destination [for the show], and that was Univision,” he said as execs added that they’ll begin looking for product integrations, which have become de rigueur for TV talent shows. Contestants will come from Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, and the band will have a recording contract with Sony Music Latin.
The announcement buttressed what’s possibly the most direct sales pitch advertisers will hear from the major networks presenting during upfront week: “You won’t sell your stuff if you don’t speak the language,” EVP Ad Sales Steve Mandala told advertisers in his presentation today. Univision presents itself as the “one media company that’s 100% focused on all Hispanics.” Mandala pointed to rapper Pitbull (he “isn’t just a pop star; he’s a marketing powerhouse”) and Univision’s success selling products for Post’s Honey Bunches Of Oats, Subway, Nissan, and Toyota.
EchoLight Studios, the faith- and family-based production entity headed by self-professed Christian politician and former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, said it will distribute four films a year starting in September 2014 then one a quarter after that. But here’s the twist: The films will be playing in churches throughout the country instead of theaters. One of those films is Hoovey, starring Patrick Warburton (Rules Of Engagement) and Lauren Holly — a true story about a Midwestern basketball family who, with God’s help, stayed in the game and won. The film is an unlikely candidate for the nation’s theaters to begin with, but there is a larger goal for Santorum, who is the CEO and not in politics any longer — to bring in flocks to the churches. “We want to be a part of empowering the church to elevate its role as a cultural change agent,” EchoLight President Studios Jeff Sheets said in a statement. “Our vision is not to create sermons wrapped in a movie but to create content that inspires, fascinates and incorporates a strong Christian worldview.”
Uh, that’s taking the faith-based craze to a different level — using churches as theaters. The Franklin, TN-based company is developing content with “strong ministry value as tools for the Church to use in their in-reach and outreach ministries.” They also said that a portion of the revenues generated from these films will “fuel the missional needs of the hosting local church.” So instead of the money going into Hollywood coffers, it’s going back to Santorum’s churches. And therein lies the business model.
Keshet International has already sold its buzzy singing competition format Rising Star to France, Germany, Russia, Italy and the Nordic territories. In the U.S., where the race is on for the next big competition show, Keshet International and DC Media’s Keshet DCP joint venture is shopping a Rising Star adaptation to American networks. The UK market is poised to be a next stop for the interactive hit. British broadcaster ITV has been in exclusive negotiations for Rising Star and I’ve learned that a deal is imminent. This would give ITV three high-profile talent competition franchises, just as one of its staples is exiting. The network just today renewed its pact on Simon Cowell’s The X Factor UK and Britain’s Got Talent through the end of 2016. If Rising Star goes ahead at ITV, I’m told it could slot into the space that’s currently reserved for Dancing On Ice which ends next year. That would put Rising Star on deck for January 2015. It would also potentially set up a new rivalry with the BBC which is moving The Voice UK to a January slot beginning in 2014. (The Voice UK previously aired from March-June which pitted it against Britain’s Got Talent.) Rising Star has been top of mind for TV execs since it launched at …
ITV is extending its relationship with Simon Cowell for another three years. The British network has pacted with Cowell and Sony’s Syco Entertainment and FremantleMedia UK to keep reality competition series The X Factor UK and Britain’s Got Talent on the air through the end of 2016. Britain’s Got Talent will return to ITV next spring for an eighth series. The 11th series of The X Factor will air in the fall. The renewals had been expected, although there has been some question as to Cowell’s involvement with The X Factor going forward. The 10th series of the show is currently airing with judges Sharon Osbourne, Nicole Scherzinger, Louis Walsh and Gary Barlow and a consolidated average of about 10M viewers. It was earlier suggested that ITV was urging Cowell to return to X Factor to help goose ratings after last December’s finale hit a six-year low. While he is expected to make special appearances during the series’ runs, a full-time return is still a question mark. He left the show in 2010 to concentrate on the Fox version in the U.S. The two air at essentially the same time of year, meaning doing both would be a stretch. But with the U.S. version faring poorly this season and facing the danger of cancellation, Cowell could potentially become …
Earlier this month, I wrote about gymnastics as a possible new frontier for celebrity competition shows, and about buzz that the BBC was readying such a project. The broadcaster has now made it official, commissioning Let’s Get Ready To Tumble. The show will air live in Saturday primetime and feature British celebs teamed with international gymnasts to tackle what are being described as “never-before-seen, new-to-TV disciplines.” The announcement could mean there will soon be two celebrity gymnastics formats in the international arena. I recently reported that CORE Media is developing Celebrity Champions in the U.S., an original format that sees former Olympians coach celebrities and has Mary Lou Retton attached as anchor judge. CORE is currently talking to U.S. networks.
Toronto: Weinstein’s Premiere Marathon Delivers Huge Reaction For Oscar-Bait ‘August: Osage County’ – But Will It Divide Audiences?
Just call it Weinstein Premiere-O-Rama. The company launched four movies with splashy galas at the Toronto International Film Festival in the span of 48 hours (is this some sort of weird record?). That included Saturday night’s Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom World Premiere, Sunday’s North American launch of Philomena and last night’s World Premieres of August: Osage County and One Chance directly against each other. When I saw Harvey Weinstein at the combined Soho House after-party for the Monday films I told him he obviously loves Toronto. He was moving fast between his movies showing up everywhere, including on stage for August before it began. ”Everything came together and we just thought this would be the perfect way to get these films out there,” he said clearly beaming at the reaction.
All the films won standing ovations, not uncommon in movie-friendly Toronto (people like getting up on their feet here) but even by those standards the raucous, prolonged standing O for August: Osage County was definitely the most enthusiastic I have encountered at this year’s fest. And the John Wells-directed movie adaptation of actor/writer Tracy Letts’ Tony-winning Midwestern-set Broadway play about a dysfunctional family to end all dysfunctional families played like gangbusters with much audible reaction throughout. Star Meryl Streep was a last-minute cancellation due to illness and co-producer George Clooney (with Grant Heslov) didn’t make the trek to Canada for this film or Gravity in which he co-stars with Sandra Bullock since he was back in L.A. still working on posting his latest directorial gig, Monuments Men as well as shooting Disney’s Tomorrowland. But most of the cast was there including Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney and Julia Roberts, clearly the belle of this ball. When I spoke with her afterwards she was definitely on cloud nine over the reaction the film received and obviously excited to be working with this cast and opposite Streep who manages to do the impossible and tops Streep as the bitterly funny, bitingly caustic mother who lets it rip, particularly in the film’s (and the play’s ) signature dinner scene. Roberts is also at her best and both should be major Oscar contenders in the impossibly crowded lead actress category. This would make nomination #18 for Streep. Could anyone ever top her own record?
Toronto Briefs: Myriad Selling ‘Miss Meadows’; Tom Hopper Joins ‘Northmen’; Taylor Swift To Sing For ‘One Chance’; More
Myriad Pictures is handling all international rights on Miss Meadows, written and directed by Karen Leigh Hopkins. The dark satire/fairy tale stars Katie Holmes and James Badge Dale. Myriad will introduce it to buyers in Toronto. Holmes plays a sweet and proper elementary school teacher who moonlights as a gun-toting vigilante. Badge Dale is the local sheriff who falls in love with her. The film is produced by Crazy Heart‘s Rob Carliner and Eric Brenner.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Tom Hollander Plays Dylan Thomas; Turkey’s ‘The End’ Sells To Russia; Pathé’s ‘Pride’; More
Tom Hollander Stars As Dylan Thomas In Andrew Davies Drama
Tom Hollander (Rev, Any Human Heart) will play Dylan Thomas in the one-off drama A Poet In New York by Andrew Davies’ (Mr Selfridge). Modern Television is producing for the BBC to mark the centenary of Thomas’ birth. The story kicks off with the Welsh poet’s arrival in Manhattan on his fatal visit and covers the last days of his life as well as his stormy relationship with wife Caitlin. Essie Davis, Ewen Bremner and Phoebe Fox also star. Shooting is underway, with the drama due to air on BBC One Wales and BBC Two next year.
The 2013 Toronto Film Festival gets underway in full force later tonight with the world premiere of DreamWorks’ awards hopeful The Fifth Estate from director Bill Condon. The fest will show off approximately 300 films by the time it wraps September 15 with the closing-night film, Life Of Crime. That movie, up for acquisition, stars Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Tim Robbins and has added heat since its selection as the closer. It represents the last movie in which the late author Elmore Leonard, an executive producer, was involved.
Among the true world premieres here — films that haven’t already been world premieres in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Sundance or Telluride — the most anticipated outside of the acquisition titles are those mostly sight-unseen movies expected to become major players in the awards race. They include August: Osage Country, which will be unveiled at a starry gala Monday that will include Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts; Ron Howard’s terrific car racing drama Rush, launching Sunday; Dallas Buyers Club with a buzzed-about turn from Matthew McConaughey on Saturday night; Nicole Holofcener’s romantic comedy Enough Said starring Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus and repping one of the final films of James Gandolfini, on Saturday afternoon; Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, the story of the young Nelson Mandela with Idris Elba in the lead, early Saturday evening; and David Frankel’s One Chance, a crowd-pleaser about the Britain’s Got Talent winning opera singer Paul Potts that could be a big player in the Golden Globe Musical or Comedy race (see the trailer for that one here). One of its producers is Simon Cowell, and it screens Monday night. And although Spike Jonze’s December entry Her won’t be debuting until it closes the New York Film Festival on October 13, key press will be given a preview of clips along with a conversation with Jonze on Sunday afternoon as Warner Bros tries to put the Amy Adams-Joaquin Phoenix picture into the awards conversation coming out of Toronto.
As previously noted, several contenders that played Telluride, Venice or Cannes such as All Is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska are skipping Toronto altogether in favor of turning up next at NYFF later this month. By the way, Nebraska really popped at Telluride, a consensus favorite there doing even better than it did in Cannes competition. Director Alexander Payne told me he “tinkered” with the film for some time after its Cannes debut to get it to the place he wanted. Obviously he made the right choice. This one looks like it could be a major player at the Oscars — you can just feel it. “People just want a comedy right now, ” explained a modest Payne about the reception it received in the Rockies last week.
Toronto organizers shouldn’t be crying in their soup over pictures they didn’t get. This fest, once known as the Festival of Festivals, is already impossibly overcrowded. It’s like Cannes on steroids with way too much for any one person to see. You have to make Solomon-like choices if you want to cover Toronto in all its glory. I say thank god for Cannes and Telluride as it gives me a head start.
Season 10 of Simon Cowell‘s The X Factor UK kicks off in a few weeks on ITV. Sharon Osbourne is returning after a five-year absence, and Cowell will make special appearances, but won’t be back full-time. Could Season 11 be a different story? Three-year contracts for both X Factor and Cowell’s other ITV mainstay, Britain’s Got Talent, expire at the end of this year and The Guardian reports that ITV is urging Cowell to return to X Factor as part of the parties’ new contract negotiations. Thinking is that a Cowell return could help goose ratings after last December’s finale hit a six-year low. Still, the show is key to ITV and while the network is staying mum, I’m assured by a source that X Factor UK and BGT “are going to be around for some time to come.” ITV has “an excellent and long-standing relationship with (producers) Syco and Talkback.” Cowell left X Factor UK in 2010 to concentrate on the Fox version in the U.S. Now going into its 3rd season, that show has had some growing pains – Cowell recently likened S2 to a bad dinner party. But the two X Factors air at essentially the same time of year, meaning doing both would be a stretch. If talks do not guarantee Cowell’s return to the UK …
The Toronto International Film Festival has set its list of 70 gala and premiere screenings, and not surprisingly it includes many of the films that figure to factor in the Oscar discussion. This includes 12 Years A Slave to August: Osage County, Rush, Labor Day, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Parkland, Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D thriller Gravity and Atom Egoyan’s West Memphis 3 film Devil’s Knot. There will be plenty of starpower, including actors-turned first time directors Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon), Keanu Reeves (Man Of Tai Chi), Jason Bateman (Bad Words), Mike Myers (Supermensch), as well as Coriolanus helmer Ralph Fiennes (The Invisible Woman).
The festival generally provides a mix of those films as well as acquisition titles that usually get released next year. Also on the list is the opening night film, the Bill Condon-directed The Fifth Estate, the DreamWorks drama about polarizing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Here’s the list made official this morning by Toronto Fest organizers:
Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, unveiled the first round of titles set to premiere in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival®.
“This first round of films offers a taste of the powerhouse lineup at this year’s Festival,” said Handling. “These are
Britain’s fascination with Andy Murray continues. The Scotsman won his semi-final match at Wimbledon on Friday night, beating Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz after just under three hours of play. The audience for the primetime match-up peaked at 13.2M, BBC One said via Twitter. The channel called it the “most watched TV moment of the year so far.” By way of comparison, the finale of ITV‘s Britain’s Got Talent peaked at 13.1M in June and Broadchurch, arguably the biggest new drama of 2013, peaked at 9.27M during its April finale. The average audience for the Murray-Janowicz serve and volley was 9.68M, according to overnight data. Murray is set to play Novak Djokovic in the final tomorrow. Last year’s final, which Murray lost to Roger Federer, had a peak audience on BBC One of 16.9M.
The 7th season of Simon Cowell‘s Britain’s Got Talent concluded Saturday night with Hungarian shadow dance troupe Attraction crowned the winners. But it was during the performance of third place Welsh singing brothers Richard and Adam Johnson that a woman raced on stage and started pelting judges Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams with eggs. It later came to light that the egg-hurler was Natalie Holt, a member of the Johnsons’ backing group. She was summarily pulled off stage and issued an apology. But she later told, The Telegraph: “I basically took a stand against people miming on television and against Simon and his dreadful influence on the music industry.” After the show, an ITV spokesperson said the police had been called, but “we have decided to take no further action at this stage.” Ratings for the live final peaked at 13.1M for a 57% share and had an average rating of 11.1M viewers from 7:30-10 PM. Here’s video of the incident; the pelting starts at the 1:49 mark:
Cannes Briefs: Epic’s ‘Thale’ Sequel; Osiris’ ‘The Kill Hole’; Darclight’s ‘Contracted’; Simon Cowell’s ‘Pudsey’; Ridley Scott’s ‘Get Santa’; More
Refresh for latest…
Epic Sets English-Language ‘Thale’ Sequel
Epic Pictures is partnering with Norway’s Yesbox Productions to finance and produce an English-language sequel to Norwegian thriller Thale. The sequel will be written and directed by Thale‘s Aleksander Nordaas. Patrick Ewald and Shaked Berenson are producing alongside Bendik Heggen Strønstad of Yesbox. Thale appeared in Toronto and SXSW last year and told the story of two crime-scene cleaners who discover a tailed female creature in a concealed cellar who has been held captive for decades. Thale was based on a mythical character in Nordic folklore called the “huldra,” a beautiful creature with female attributes that is said to seduce men by humming a beautiful song, but the men never return to their villages. Epic’s Patrick Ewald says the budget will be upped for the sequel “so that Aleksander and Bendik’s vision can be accomplished on a grand scale.”
As Simon Cowell put it yesterday, Britain’s Got Talent has “gotten some stick” in the past few weeks. Viewers have reacted to what they perceive as inappropriate acts on the show, and also to the fact that some current contestants have previously appeared on TV. Cowell took to Twitter on Sunday to address the latter complaints, saying, “We try and have a no rules policy on the show… Would it be right to say to someone who has appeared on a show before you can’t audition?” Referring to BGT‘s biggest breakout star, he added, “I believe Susan Boyle had appeared on another tv show years ago. Nothing happened. Bgt gave her another go. Is that wrong? I am not whining. Simply wanted to explain there is no hush hush plot. I just think everyone deserves a second chance.”
Simon Cowell‘s Britain’s Got Talent dropped slightly on Saturday from its debut last week, scoring 10.3M viewers for a 47% share, UK network ITV said. The show peaked with an audience of 12.1M, but that was down from a high of 13M on April 13. After going head-to-head with BGT last week, rival show The Voice UK moved out of its way on Saturday. The two shows jockeyed for position last year and this year has been no different with time slots frequently shifting. But the BBC this weekend set The Voice to start at 8:20 PM (BGT starts at 7 PM) and according to overnights, its ratings grew with a season high of 7.92M viewers. That was up 1.25M on the week prior. It peaked at 9.08M.
Meanwhile, controversy seems to be following BGT this season. Last week’s episode featured two acts that were deemed inappropriate by some in the Twittersphere and by a group that campaigns for family values in the media. This Saturday, a five-year-old moved through to the next round with a dance routine, spurring viewers and a child protection group to wonder about his coping mechanisms. A spokesman for BGT told The Daily Mail that contestants’ welfare is the show’s “number one priority.”
Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent returned to ITV with much fanfare on Saturday night, beating rival BBC show The Voice UK and causing some controversy in the process. BGT had its second biggest launch in seven years scoring an average 10.5M viewers and peaking at just over 13M. Only the 2010 start was bigger with a 10.6M average.
But two acts have been deemed inappropriate by some in the Twittersphere and by a group that campaigns for family values in the media. The performances in question saw an 11-year-old girl sing the one-night-stand-themed “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls, while a 40-something woman did a semi-striptease and gave Cowell a mini-lapdance. Vivienne Pattison, director of Mediawatch UK, told The Daily Mail that ITV appeared “to have completely ignored” guidelines set up by regulator Ofcom which has warned broadcasters about sexually explicit content ahead of the 9 PM watershed. But an ITV spokesman tells Deadline, “In its seventh series, Britain’s Got Talent celebrates variety and showcases a wide range of different acts. Mindful of our family audience, the performance was carefully edited to ensure it was suitably inexplicit.” Ahead of this weekend’s controversy, an ITV source told me the network chose to air BGT at 7 PM despite a clash with the BBC’s The Voice, because otherwise it “would have had to go late” and risk losing the family audience.
UPDATE, WRITETHRU, 9:23 AM PT: The seventh season of Simon Cowell‘s Britain’s Got Talent kicks off in the UK on April 13 and has set the scene for yet another showdown with The Voice UK, shifting timeslots and pitting the two shows head-to-head. The Voice debuted on BBC One on March 30 in the 7-8:35 PM slot, the same space it occupied last year. Then yesterday, it was revealed that ITV would air BGT at the identical hour when it debuts, despite traditionally starting an hour later. The BBC in turn has confirmed that it will back The Voice up by 15 minutes to 6:45 PM starting on April 13 to avoid a direct clash (this also moves Doctor Who back to about 6 PM). Given the flexibility of British broadcast schedules – and how much jostling there was last year – this is unlikely to be the last change in the ongoing battle between the two competition shows. A BBC insider calls ITV’s move “disappointing” saying “it’s not in the best interest of the fans.” An ITV source contends that the BBC “deliberately” slotted The Voice in the spring, where BGT has been since 2006 meaning an overlap was inevitable. To avoid a clash, ITV “would have had to go late” and risk losing the family audience.