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Bart & Fleming: Why Nikki Finke Won’t Be Coming Back

By and | Sunday June 22, 2014 @ 11:10am PDT

Bart & Fleming: Why Nikki Finke Won’t Be Coming BackPeter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: You and I have lived through a few journalistic zigs and zags in our years at Variety, and we were always candid with each other in analyzing risks and rewards. Variety was started by the Silverman family but the dynasty ran out of sizzle and sold control. Deadline was started by Nikki Finke but she never managed to create a dynasty before running out of sizzle. So the question is this: Where do you take Deadline from here?

FlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Fleming: I think we built something exceptional with her. That said, a few people have asked me, ‘Why, when it looked like she might come back, did she start a site that is crapping all over you?’ I might as well begin there. The testiness that existed since her acrimonious exit aside, I got it in my head that enough time had passed and I wanted her back. I leaned on Jay Penske to end arbitration proceedings to make it happen, and he did just that. Here was my thinking. I like her. Even though we never met in person during our time together at Deadline, we had a lot of fun. When she and Jay hired me from Variety, they changed my life. My only goal was to get three kids through college without having to sell my house, and that effort is looking good. Since taking over, I have been able to extend a hand to several people I grew up with at Variety, and they’ve been great hires. I wanted to do the same with Nikki. My feeling was, when you reach the top after an unprecedented climb up a mountain like she did with Deadline, what’s wrong with staying to enjoy the view? I also thought a measured dose of her fire would complement the mix Nellie Andreeva and I have now.

Bart: Seems understandable. So why are you now known on her site as Mike Pflegming? Read More »

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Indie Spirit Awards: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Takes Best Feature And Dominates With Five Wins; McConaughey & Blanchett Top Actors

By | Saturday March 1, 2014 @ 1:24pm PST

!2YearsASlaveSpiritsUPDATED WITH ALL WINNERS AND REACTIONS: The 29th annual Independent Spirit Awards ended up more like a cast party for Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years A Slave, which won five of the seven categories for which it was nominated today — including Best Feature and Best Director for Steve McQueen. The strong showing for the slave drama gives the pic plenty of momentum headed into tomorrow night’s Oscars, the marquee event in a long awards season in which 12 Years has been one of many films ebbing and flowing buzz-wise along with Warner Bros’ Gravity ahead of what’s being called one of the more wide-open Academy Awards in a long while.

Dede Gardner, a producer on the pic with her Plan B partner Brad Pitt, thanked the many people involved in making the movie (including Pitt for “getting the movie made when he said he would”). She also thanked the descendants of the film’s subject Solomon Northup. “It’s a reminder to care-take our freedom,” she said.

Spirit Award WinnersWith most of the big studio pics in the Oscar Best Picture race sitting it out today with the focus on indie fare under a tent on the beach in mostly rain-free Santa Monica, it allowed others to shine. Dallas Buyers’ Club‘s acting duo of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won Best Male Lead and Supporting Male, respectively. Cate Blanchett continued her hot streak winning Best Lead Female for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, making her a solid favorite to win tomorrow night. Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Female for 12 Years. That pic rounded out its wins with a Best Screenplay nod for John Ridley and Best Cinematography for Sean Bobbitt.

2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Show2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Backstage And AudienceThe Weinstein Company also had a good day during the ceremony, hosted by Patton Oswalt. Best Documentary went to the distrib’s 20 Feet From Stardom, whose subjects performed today, and Best First Feature went to writer-director Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station, which started its fruitful awards-season at Sundance 2012 when TWC acquired it for $2 million.

Oswalt presided over one of the most memorable parts of the show, when a black drone flew in and delivered the scroll announcing Nyong’o's win. Later, after Blue Is The Warmest Color won Best International Film, Oswalt came back out onstage covered in blood. ”Don’t touch the drone,” he quipped.

The weather, such an issue during the blustery and wet 2011 Spirit Awards, held for most of the day, with rain beginning to fall just as Blanchett reached backstage after her acceptance speech. ”There’s a storm coming,” she said to the press. “It was nice knowing you all in case we’re swept away.”

Related: Oscars Rainout? Organizers Say No Way

The Spirit Awards will be shown tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on IFC. But here’s how the day went down, with on-scene coverage by Deadline’s Pete HammondDominic Patten and Anthony D’Alessandro and contributor Diane Haithman.

Read More »

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R.I.P. New York Observer Editor Peter Kaplan

By | Saturday November 30, 2013 @ 8:00am PST
Mike Fleming

peterkaplanSad holiday weekend news today. Peter W. Kaplan, the longtime editor of The New York Observer, has died at age 59 of cancer, The New York Times confirmed. Kaplan’s accomplishment was this: he took a salmon-colored weekly and made it a must read dissection on the glitter of Gotham power players. He injected the publication with relevance and invested his personal stamp, a love of dogged reporting on niche subjects like media, high finance and publishing, down to who sat where at lunch in Manhattan’s most important restaurants and who was getting fired in the magazine business and why. In transforming his publication into a must read, Kaplan’s tenure at The Observer reminded me of when Kurt Anderson, Graydon Carter and Tom Phillips launched Spy Magazine. They took a much more acerbic and satirical look at the subjects, but both were imprinted by the vision of editors. Kaplan could dish out the snark in pieces that were long, stylishly written and provided dish on inside baseball subjects. He unleashed writers including Sex and the City columnist Candace Bushnell, political journo Joe Conason, Frank DiGiacomo, and of course Nikki Finke, who honed her edgy reporting style under Kaplan  before founding this website. This was during the last golden age of newspapers before the web changed everything, and Kaplan moved in 2010 to become editorial creative director at Conde Nast Traveler and then editorial director of Fairchild Fashion Media.

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Box Office Update: ‘Thor 2′ Hammers Past Predecessor In Global Gross

By | Sunday November 17, 2013 @ 5:38pm PST
Mike Fleming

5TH UPDATE: Considering that there was only one major new film in the marketplace, it has turned out to be a good weekend for the movie business. Before I get to the Top Ten, I hate to wear my heart on my sleeve, but like everyone else in America, I was completely captivated by the Batkid, and his crime fighting exploits accomplished in San Francisco after his cancer went into remission. It is a reminder that while there is plenty of cynicism in Hollywood, there is a reason this is called the Dream Factory that gives America heroes and hope. And the reaction by past Batman Christian Bale and future Batman Ben Affleck, well, if you are not touched, you should check yourself for a pulse.

Then there is Nebraska, which opened limited this week. What does it say when Paramount’s slate is chock full of films like World War Z and sequels of Star Trek and G.I. Joe, and by far the best film that studio has made is a $13 million black and white road trip movie with a former Saturday Night Live funnyman with no feature currency and a 77-year old forgotten actor who was dusted off by Alexander Payne to turn in the performance of a career that spans 53 years? Well, what it really says is this movie goes down as a total fluke. It was brought in by former Paramount Classics head Ruth Vitale, who’s long gone, but who bought it as a black and white project. The current Paramount brain trust probably gave this a harder time giving a green light than all of those other three films, but they did green light it and allowed Payne to make it his way, with Will Forte and Bruce Dern. The latter has staked a claim on a Best Actor nom at least. You would see him in a small dose in a film like All The Pretty Horses, and he pretty much lit up the screen and infused his characters with intelligence and integrity. Wait till you see what he does here, and how much this film benefits from being shot in glorious black and white.

My final observance of major box office news is our own news that we have brought Anita Busch into the Deadline fold. She will take over box office reporting and make it her own. I gotta be honest, I have to take off my shoes to count to 20, and I have no head for math. I have been filling in as best I can, while still breaking film stories and trying with Nellie Andreeva to change the narrative here and draw Deadline away from the expectation it will be a House of Hate, and instead a haven for fast breaking exclusive, attitude, sharp analysis and stylish writing. I think we’ve a major step in that direction with Anita, who understands this part of the business better than I do, and who will add insight when she takes over in early December. Nellie and I have been trying to get used to new roles. It has been daunting for me. The Wrap actually engaged some service to poll awareness of me, versus Nikki Finke. It was done about 28 minutes after Nellie and I took over, and it was comical, with an actual pie chart that shows I am lagging. For our entire run at Deadline, Nellie and I were happy to have Nikki Finke be the face and the galvanized presence. Neither of us have ever craved attention or had egos to feed, and we loved being able to simply be judged by what appeared under our bylines. As things settle down, it will be nice to get back to that and save the drama for the page.

On to Box Office.

Thor: The Dark World opened in Argentina, Paraguay and Hungary this weekend, and it still has yet to unveil in Italy and Japan. Its $38.4 million weekend (a 55% drop from last weekend) was eclipsed by the $52.5 million which the film grossed overseas (covering 94% of the world territories in which it will play) for a $90.1 million worldwide weekend take. That puts the film at $479 million globally, with a lot more to come. How did it compare with the original Thor? That pic grossed a total of $181 million domestic, so two weeks in the sequel has grossed 81% of its predecessor. The sequel has passed the global grosses of Captain America ($371 million) and Thor ($449 million). So those wondering if the sequel is measuring up, it has done 107% of the original Thor, and it is not near done. Read More »

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Caption Contest: Funny Or Die Spoofs Deadline Hollywood & Nikki Finke

By | Saturday November 16, 2013 @ 5:28pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

In case you haven’t noticed, Deadline Hollywood and Nikki Finke have been a lot in the news lately. Now we are getting the Funny Or Die treatment. Here is a great photo we’ve obtained from the set of the spoof, which filmed yesterday. Directed by Jody Lambert and written by Lambert and Matt Oberg, who brought the idea to Funny Or Die, the skit promises to reveal who the real Nikki Finke is. You can see in the photo Jean Smart doing her best Nikki Finke impersonation, joined by extras from LA Casting. Co-starring in the video with Smart are Christina Applegate, Denise Vasquez, Ann Lansang, Michelle Gallagher and Amy Harber. Funny Or Die’s Betsy Koch and Rachel Goldenberg are producing. We will update with the video when it’s up but in the meanwhile, in Deadline.com tradition, you can offer a caption for the photo. We will pick the best and list them with the video.

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Facts Be Damned! How Traffic Trumped Factual Reporting On Tom Cruise-Mark Wahlberg Non-Story

By | Friday November 15, 2013 @ 12:10pm PST
Mike Fleming

The digital age has made entertainment industry coverage more exciting, but the race to post and the hunger for eyeballs leads to increasingly shameful reporting of innuendo and flat-out falsehoods. Last Saturday, I attended a premiere of Out Of The Furnace when The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman comes up to me to scold me for attacking her and her publication. I hadn’t done that in awhile, but I asked if she was specifically sore that I quoted George Clooney accurately when he singled her out for what he said was a 100% false story that his movie The Monuments Men had been pushed to next year because of a pacing problem. She said something about me carrying George’s water. I said I would consider her complaint. Driving away that night, I was thinking, wait a minute, isn’t this the same person who blasted a story in early June proclaiming that Nikki Finke had been fired at Deadline by Jay Penske (100% false) and that she would leave by the end of the week (also 100% false)? And wait, didn’t The Wrap two weeks ago write a breathless exclusive that exposed the anonymous scribe behind the Scandal411 blog as an ABC reporter, only to retract it when ABC proved it was the network employee’s former roommate? Read More »

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Deadline.com And Nikki Finke Parting Ways

By and | Tuesday November 5, 2013 @ 6:26pm PST

Despite attempts by all to have it go otherwise, Nikki Finke will no longer be leading Deadline Hollywood, and she will not be writing weekend box office or filing stories going forward. This is an emotional and painful parting of the ways for us. When we joined Deadline four years ago from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety (respectively), we felt that we were doing something disruptive and game-changing. That spirit is what brought us together and will keep us together, and the current team will remain on that path. Businesses evolve and change, and we’ve learned that no one is indispensable. We will be adding a few significant hires to our staff imminently and, though we will never completely replace Nikki’s unique voice, we will continue ahead, charging hard, breaking every story possible. On behalf of everyone at PMC and Deadline Hollywood, we wish her well and appreciate the opportunity to have worked alongside her.

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

Miss Deadline’s best film stories this week? Catch up here:

Heard It Here First: Tom Hardy To Play Elton John In ‘Rocketman’
By Mike Fleming Jr. - As Deadline reported in June when FilmDistrict paid $10 million to acquire U.S. rights to the Elton John film Rocketman, Tom Hardy has been set to play Captain Fantastic himself in the Michael Gracey-directed biographical musical film.

Oscar-Buzzed ’12 Years A Slave’ In Top Ten, ‘Jackass: Bad Grandpa’ Opens #1 For $32M, All-Star ‘The Counselor’ Bombs With $8M
By Nikki Finke - The most interesting news of the weekend, at least to me, is that New Regency’s financed and produced Best Picture Oscar frontrunner 12 Years A Slave marketed and distributed by Fox Searchlight is only playing in 123 theaters (up from 19 last weekend) yet jumped into the Top Ten.

J.J. Abrams & Lawrence Kasdan Take Over As ‘Star Wars’ Scribes
By Dominic Patten - The new Star Wars movie has a new screenwriting team. It was announced online today that Episode VII director J.J. Abrams and Empire Strikes Back co-writer Lawrence Kasdan will take over as scribes for the upcoming Disney project which is set to be released in 2015. Read More »

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Oscar-Buzzed ‘12 Years A Slave’ In Top Ten, ‘Jackass: Bad Grandpa’ Opens #1 For $32M, All-Star ‘The Counselor’ Bombs With $8M


SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: The most interesting news of the weekend, at least to me, is that New Regency’s financed and produced Best Picture Oscar frontrunner 12 Years A Slave marketed and distributed by Fox Searchlight is only playing in 123 theaters (up from 19 last weekend) yet jumped into the Top Ten. Propelled by critical raves, Jackass Bad Grandpa Box Officeit’s in 8th place despite Steve McQueen’s unvarnished depiction of mankind’s brutality from John Ridley’s screenplay based on the book by Solomon Northup. The per screen average is $17,400 for a new cume of $3.4M. There still is tremendous curiosity in Hollywood as to this pre-Civil War drama’s box office potential after it opened last weekend with an ‘A’ CinemaScore and an impressive $50,000 per screen averager. Studio says it’s playing well in art houses, African American theaters, as well as in mainstream multiplexes in markets LA, NY, Atlanta, Wash DC, Chicago, Toronto, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit. Next week it adds 45 new cities and will increase theater count to over 400 locations across North America. Stellar cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodward, and of course Brad Pitt who’s also starring in one of this month’s worst box office bombs. (See below).

Are there really going to be 86-year-old Irving Zismans (aka Johnny Knoxville in 8 hours worth of industrial-strength makeup) at Halloween parties this weekend? This fourth moronic Jackass movie was outselling R-rated comedies like We’re The Millers and This Is The End at the same point in their online pre-sales cycles. So it was no surprise that Thursday 9 PM late shows and Friday midnight screenings grossed a gigantic $1.4 million and then went into Friday’s $12.6M opening total for Paramount/MTV Films’ Jackass: Bad Grandpa (3,336 theaters). Saturday’s take was down only -5% for $11.5M and a $32M weekend from 3,336 theaters. Hollywood knows never to underestimate the taste of American moviegoers which gave the comedy a ‘B’ CinemaScore. So this crapfest came in an easy #1. “Not bad for a film that cost $15M,” a studio exec tells me. It’s apparently now the 3rd best R-rated comedy opener of the year demonstrating this 2000 MTV-origin franchise isn’t played out. But this gross is far less than 2010′s Jackass 3-D opening weekend of $50.4M.

But internationally Bad Grandpa opened as the highest-grossing release in the Jackass franchise. It was let loose day and date this weekend in the UK and Germany and a number of smaller markets and grossed a healthy $8.1M from 1,014 locations in 16 territories. That’s 3X bigger than the second Jackass opening for the same group of markets and on a par with Jackass 3D despite the fact that Bad Grandpa is a 2D release and a spin-off rather than a straight sequel. In terms of admissions, there were +20% more than for Jackass 3D. The UK delivered $3.2M from 371 sites for the biggest opening for the Jackass franchise. And Knoxville’s geezer scored a big $3.1M from 285 cinemas for the #1 launch as the biggest opening for the Jackass franchise in the market. Other releasing territories: Netherlands $474K at 63 locations, Austria $410K in 50 cinemas, Finland $164K from 69 locations. Australia releases on November 14th.

Zisman’s character previously only perturbed passerbys in brief hidden-camera punk’ds. Here director Jeff Tremaine ages up Knoxville who travels with his grandson to some pretty decent reviews. (Hey, not my problem if critics want to lose more brain matter.) The marketplace was ripe for a raw comedy and Paramount marketed to frat houses around the country. The trailer launched in August on We’re The Millers and TV ads had heavy play on sports channels. At MTV’s VMAs, Knoxville as Zisman and his grandson did shtick then custom vignettes for Spike TV and Comedy Central showed the geezer screening the film at the Playboy mansion with bunnies.

Warner Bros’ Gravity fell from atop the domestic box office for 3 straight weeks to #2 and a still amazing $20.3M weekend and nearly $200M domestic cume through Sunday. In #3 is the Paul Greengrass/Tom Hanks adult drama Captain Phillips entering its 4rd weekend for Sony Pictures with an $11.8M weekend for a new cume of $70M through Sunday.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Ridley Scott vanity project The Counselor (3,044 theaters) only opened #4 to a meager $8M weekend. Studio claims the cost was only $25M. Good thing because audiences gave the derivative drug thriller a dreaded ‘D’ CinemaScore despite a standout cast of Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz in No Country For Old Men author Cormac McCarthy’s first screenplay. Not much reason to talk about the film’s marketing or creative plan since Fox ran off the top execs running both departments in recent days. So why did this turkey get made? “Tom Rothman did it for Ridley because he’d made so much money for the studio with Prometheus,” an insider tells me. “But even people who’ve seen it can’t figure out what it’s about.” Ouch! Exit polling showed that the audience was 49%/51% male-female, with 85% aged 25+ and 15% aged 25 or under. “Some good grosses in the big city, core runs where audiences are more likely to be receptive to challenging, provocative filmmaking,” a Fox exec Sunday. “We’re extremely proud of our filmmaker Ridley Scott as well as our phenomenal cast who all came together to make this film for a very reasonable price. We opened in a few international territories this weekend so the end result for our modestly budgeted film is far from being known at this time. But suspect we will be in good shape financially at the end of the day.”

Overall the weekend is $100M, or +15% from last year. Here’s the Top Ten list:
Read More »

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Fleming On Deadline’s Efforts To Restore Nikki Finke’s Game-Changing Writer Voice

By | Friday October 25, 2013 @ 5:28pm PDT
Mike Fleming

A little perspective on what is really going on with Deadline Hollywood founder Nikki Finke. For the past few months, she has unfortunately turned an internal matter, her dissatisfaction, into a public spectacle. While Nikki has been doing box-office from Hawaii for the last five months, the Deadline team that keeps this publication awash in scoops has continued to take the high ground and has absorbed these ridiculous barbs. Her latest flurry of dispatches warrants a response.

First let me make it clear, that Nikki has not been locked out of the site. If she had been, if would’ve been difficult for her to post that she was locked out of the site. That said, Nikki has been restricted to filing and editing her own stories. Secondly, she has complained she is prevented from running Deadline stories on her personal Twitter feed, because she has too many followers. The truth is, she has built a Twitter following with a site that gives the appearance she writes every story on Deadline, when her output continues to diminish. That traffic belongs to Deadline’s Twitter feed. The reason for this and other changes is simple. We are trying to strip away the distractions and diversions that have gotten between her doing what she does best, which is filing provocative copy like the Jeff Robinov scoop earlier today.

When I left Variety to come to Deadline, and Nellie Andreeva joined from THR, Deadline Hollywood was more … Read More »

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Deadline’s Oscar Event ‘The Contenders’ Fills To Capacity In One Week

By | Tuesday October 22, 2013 @ 11:33am PDT
Mike Fleming

Deadline Hollywood‘s 3rd annual The Contenders, which gives film studios an opportunity to vamp their Oscar films directly to AMPAS and Guild members on November 2nd, has in one week filled all 500 available seats in the newly opened Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. You could call it a sellout, but it is of course free admission for voters. That is the fastest we’ve had a full house, even though we have 200 more seats available than in past years. We also have more sponsors than ever, including returnees Dell, Paradigm, Rentrak, Screen Engine and IMAX, and newcomers Rolls Royce, Delta Airlines, Simon & Schuster, Final Draft, and the Honolulu Film Office, which is providing coffee shipped direct from Hawaii.

The Contenders was first conceived and implemented by Deadline Editor In Chief Nikki Finke. Event producer Madelyn Hammond tells me that many of this year’s RSVPs are members who’ve worked The Contenders into their annual pre-voting fact-finding process. “One Academy member told me, ‘In one day I learn all about all the potential Oscar contenders. Hearing directly from the people who made them makes this event relevant and important’.”

This year 12 distributors are represented, screening footage and sending panelists who run the gamut from directors, writers, producers and stars to sound editors and composers. Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros, Sony, Universal, and DreamWorks Animation are slated for presentations, as are indies Sony Pictures Classics, The Weinstein Company, Roadside Attractions, Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and CBS Films. Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

Catch up with the top film stories you missed this week:

OSCARS: Why Michael Fassbender’s Refusal To Campaign Likely Won’t Matter
By Pete Hammond - Campaign or no campaign, in Fassbender’s case it may not matter. He’s very likely going to get nominated — and could win — for Best Supporting Actor and I think that’s a scenario whether he lifts a finger or not in doing the usual rounds.

Tom Hanks Retraces A Life In Pictures, Talks Pitfalls Of Comedy & Freedom From Self-Consciousness At BAFTA Event
By Nancy Tartaglione - Tom Hanks was in London on Saturday to spend an evening with BAFTA. The British Academy’s Life In Pictures series is a walk through an actor or director’s career – Hanks’ this evening lasted two hours, which, considering his resumé, wasn’t nearly enough time to touch on every film.

Oren Aviv Exited As Chief Movie Marketing Officer At 20th Century Fox
By Nikki Finke - EXCLUSIVE: There’s yet another shake-up inside a major Hollywood studio. I’ve learned that Thursday will be the last day for 20th Century Fox Chief Marketing Officer Oren Aviv at Twentieth Century Fox even though his contract had another 18 months to go.

Tony Sella Not Out Yet At Fox Film – But Decision Day Is Monday
By Mike Fleming Jr. - Might 20th Century Fox Film chief creative officer Tony Sella be soon following marketing chief Oren Aviv out the door? Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Oren Aviv Exited As Chief Movie Marketing Officer At 20th Century Fox

By | Wednesday October 16, 2013 @ 10:39pm PDT

Related: Fox Ups Paul Hanneman, Tomas Jegeus To Run Global Marketing & Distribution

EXCLUSIVE: There’s yet another shake-up inside a major Hollywood studio. I’ve learned that Thursday will be the last day for Oren Aviv 20th Century Fox ExitChief Marketing Officer Oren Aviv at Twentieth Century Fox even though his contract had another 18 months to go. But movie studio chairman Jim Gianopulos and Aviv agreed Wednesday afternoon that things were not working out. Unlike other studios, 20th separated its Chief Marketing Officer from Chief Creative Officer, the job long held by Tony Sella and a gig Aviv used to have at Disney films. “It’s a funky structure and there’s a reason no other studio is set up that way,” a source tells me tonight. “This isn’t a dramatic exit. Over time it’s been easy to see Oren’s frustration not to be able to make the best possible campaigns.” Aviv was hired in January 2011 as Chief Marketing Officer and also held the title of President of Theatrical Marketing along with 21-year Fox veteran Sella, who took on the additional role of Chief Creative Officer at the same time. Sella is by no means an easy exec to get along with, and at the same time Aviv came into the job with … Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

Catch up with the best of Deadline’s Top Film stories from this week:

SHOCKER! Charlie Hunnam Exits Christian Grey Role In ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’
By Mike Fleming Jr. – Well, here’s a surprise. Universal is going to have to look harder to find its S&M minded zillionaire Christian Grey because Sons Of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam has exited the role he only just got.

Angelina Jolie Sets Japanese Singer Miyavi As Brutal WWII POW Camp Guard ‘The Bird’ In ‘Unbroken’
By Mike Fleming Jr. - EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and director Angelina Jolie have found their villain for the Lou Zamperini tale Unbroken.

Universal Pays 7-Figure Deal For Aaron Berg ‘Section 6′ Spec
By Mike Fleming Jr. – EXCLUSIVE: It’s not only an exceptional deal for a new writer; I’m hard pressed to come up with the last clean seven-figure deal for a script with no attachments. Four studios bid on the project… Read More »

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Deadline Hollywood’s Long Island Film Bureau Heads West Next Month

By | Tuesday October 8, 2013 @ 12:45pm PDT
Mike Fleming

After a quarter century covering the film business and speaking directly to the industry from my house in the sticks of Long Island, I am taking the Hollywood plunge. I will spend half of each month in Los Angeles beginning November.

The hope is to take as much ground as I can for Deadline Hollywood and help it continue to evolve. The tone and the urgency and irreverence of this site will always be trademarks of Nikki Finke (when I try to write with attitude like she does, I often hear in my head that Bob Seger lyric, “All of Chuck’s children are out there playing his licks”), but I am eager to see how I can do it better. I think Deadline is thriving despite a recent batch of articles implying otherwise, and it pisses me off when journalists cheap shot us (I disagree with New York Times’ reporter Brooks Barnes and his assessment that Deadline has grown bland. The only thing that concerns me is Barnes could teach a master class on how to write blandly, so he’s as close to an authority as you’ll find on the subject). Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Soon Latest Studio Closing Big Co-Financing Film Deal
By Nikki Finke — EXCLUSIVE: All of the Sony parent company brass from Japan including Kazuo Hirai are in Culver City this week for meetings to discuss among other things the film studio. Finally, here’s some good news for Amy Pascal et al. I’ve learned that Sony Pictures is in the process of closing a rich co-financing deal.

SHOCKER! Peter Schlessel Takes Over Focus Features
By Mike Fleming Jr. — The news that Universal dropped another bombshell today and announced that James Schamus would leave as head of Focus Features has left everyone at that boutique label reeling. But it hits the company’s New York staff hardest.

Focus Features Day 2: Who’ll Stay?
By Mike Fleming Jr. — EXCLUSIVE: Yesterday’s bombshell that caught everyone at Focus Features by surprise has given way to a collective depression among the people at Focus who watched the abrupt exit of their leader James Schamus, and learned Universal will close the Gotham headquarters after incoming head Peter Schlessel arrives in January.

After Eight ‘Harry Potter’ Hits David Heyman Follows Up With ‘Gravity’ – This Time He May Finally Be Going To The Oscars
By Pete Hammond — With Gravity looking like it is soaring at the box office today and the Harry Potter 8-pack of films successfully behind him, producer David Heyman is riding high. Of course, director Alfonso Cuaron and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are getting the lion’s share of attention for the space drama, but Heyman is happy to give credit where credit is due. Read More »

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UPDATE: No Hiatus For Nikki’s Box Office

By | Friday October 4, 2013 @ 7:12am PDT

FRIDAY 7 AM UPDATE: Turns out nobody on The Deadline Team wants to tackle box office this weekend or any weekend. I certainly don’t blame them because it’s a thankless job. Now I’m stuck doing it on vacation through the end of this year. Glad to provide yet more hilarity for your continuing pleasure. (What’s next: a DH sitcom?)

THURSDAY 5 PM: Ask the people who calculate or cover box office regularly what they want the most, and they’ll tell you it’s to get up late on weekend mornings and get to bed early on weekend nights. We’re all sleep-deprived. I’ve been taking some banked vacation in recent weeks while still reporting and analyzing the grosses. But now I intend to take what I consider a well-deserved break from box office until the new year when my contractual obligations start again. Please don’t beat up my temporary replacements as badly as you’ve bruised me over the years. And yes, start betting that I won’t manage more than a week or two away from box office. I love how it can be so unpredictable – especially these days when tracking is meaningless. I started including box office reports on Deadline Hollywood with the goal of doing it differently. In those days, every new release was a ‘boffo hit’ in the trades. I sought to inject more truth into the analysis. I’m still in disbelief how my coverage back then and even now can cause instant dismay and certain dispute and at least debate. In fact I’m positive there’ll be a big sigh of relief around Hollywood when my byline on box office disappears for a while. Even I was surprised by this edited excerpt from the start of a 2011 Fast Company article about Disney’s film biz:

It was prime time, the main event, the first punch of a one-two summer combo — Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides and then Cars 2 – that would shape the studio’s financial fate for the year. The Pirates 4 indicators were particularly discouraging. Disney executives were counting on big revenue from 3-D screens, but ticket sales in the U.S. for such films had been flagging all spring. The reviews had not been pretty… During the afternoon of Friday, May 20, and well into the night, Disney executives emailed [then Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich] Ross and one another with the latest box-office data and anecdotal evidence. The big question on their minds was this: How would media reporters spin the opening-weekend numbers? And more specifically, what was Nikki Finke going to say on Deadline Hollywood? The most influential — and, to studio executives, terrifying — entertainment reporter in town, Finke would set the tone with the initial report on her website. As the results filtered in, Ross and his team wondered if Finke would cackle over the film’s failure to crack the magic $100 million mark in the United States.

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EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Soon Latest Studio Closing Big Co-Financing Film Deal

EXCLUSIVE: All of the Sony parent company brass from Japan including Kazuo Hirai are in Culver City this week for meetings to discuss among other things the film studio. Finally, here’s some good news for Amy Pascal et al. I’ve learned that Sony Pictures is in the process of closing a rich co-financing deal. Sources say the 3-year transaction could start as soon as January 1st (or whenever it closes) and covers Sony movies for at least 2014, 2015, and 2016 (but perhaps not Screen Gems’). I’m told the entity Blue Anchor Entertainment is bringing $300M-$350M in equity and there could be an additional line of credit. For instance Bank Of America/Merrill Lynch at one point was approached for $350 million – but now bankers are being asked for less. ”Sony has been searching for a co-fi partner since its deal with Relativity ended. And they became desperate this summer as all the other studios closed co-fi transactions and Sony’s movies failed,” an insider tells me. “The Sony Pictures deal will be very similar to the Fox/Chip deal, the Warners/Dune deal, and the Universal/Legendary deal. Sony expects this reduction in risk on their slate to mollify investors such as Daniel Loeb and to make Wall Street very happy.”  Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

By | Sunday September 29, 2013 @ 2:55pm PDT

Catch up with the best of Deadline’s Top Film stories you may have missed this week:

OSCARS: ‘Foxcatcher’ Becomes Latest Film To Drop Out Of This Year’s Race
By Pete Hammond – Scratch off another potential Oscar contender. Sony Pictures Classics has announced the planned December release of the Bennett Miller-directed drama Foxcatcher has been moved out of this year’s awards race and into 2014 so filmmakers “can have more time to finish the film”.

Tom Sherak Named As LA Film Czar By Mayor
By Dominic Patten – The former AMPAS President today was appointed to the new LA Film Czar post by Mayor Eric Garcetti. The announcement of Tom Sherak‘s immediate appointment to the $1 a year position comes close to the 100 day deadline Garcetti gave himself to find someone to lead the effort to halt runaway production and work with the industry soon after being sworn into office in late June.

Tom Sherak Q&A: Cancer Battle And $1 Salary Not Stopping New L.A. Film Czar’s Latest Quest
By Pete Hammond – Former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak has been named to the new post of LA Film Czar by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Sherak will be paid only $1 a year (“an infinity compared to what the Academy paid,” he laughed about his previous nonpaying gig) in the post designed to bring a halt to runaway production and put it back in Los Angeles, capital of the film world.

‘Cloudy With Meatballs 2′ Beefs Up For $35M And Easy #1, ‘Rush’ Slows To Small $10.6M, ‘Baggage Claim’ Gets Lost With $9.2M, And ‘Don Jon’ Can’t Seduce Past $8.8M Weekend
By Nikki Finke – A total of 4 major releases this weekend amounted to a soft domestic box office with total moviegoing slightly below last year’s. Read More »

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