The numbers do the roaring for MGM. In the first three months of this year it generated net income of $57.4M, +150.7% vs the period last year, on revenues of $481.7M, +168.4%. It shouldn’t be a surprise. With the late 2012 release of the James Bond film Skyfall, and a 50% stake in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the studio had $139.5M in worldwide box office revenues, up from $0.5M last year. The company says that it has to wait for costs to be covered before it can recognize revenue from two films it co-financed: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Home entertainment also was way up — to $201.7M from $36.2M — with the home video release of Skyfall and piggy-back promotions for its James Bond library. But worldwide television licensing was -3.2% to $109.3M. MGM’s 19.1% stake in EPIX delivered $5M to net earnings, +16.3%. The results “exceeded our expectations” and “position us well to deliver on our financial goals” for 2013, CEO Gary Barber told investors.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Michael Haneke Feted By Spain, BBC To Air Record-Breaking ‘You Will Be My Son’
Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts has gone this year to Amour director Michael Haneke. The two-time Palme d’Or winner was given a $65,000 prize to go with the honor. The jury hailed his “constantly evolving” filmography and praised his “dazzling mastery” that employs “radical sincerity, keen observation and extreme subtlety” for an “original and highly personal approach to fundamental issues that concern and affect us both individually and collectively.” Established in 1980, the Prince of Asturias awards honor an individual or institution whose work “constitutes a significant contribution to mankind’s culture heritage.” Pedro Almodovar is a previous recipient.
BBC’s Cup Runneth Over With Record-Breaking ‘You Will Be My Son’
Moviegoers who went to see Gilles Legrand’s You Will Be My Son during its first week of UK and Ireland release in December were given a free glass of wine as a means to entice folks during a week that also saw the bow of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The movie ultimately stayed in theaters for a record-breaking six months, and indie distributor Swipe said today that it’s been acquired by the BBC for TV broadcast. The French wine film is set in St. Emilion and stars Niels Arestrup as a vintner who plots to disown his own son and pass the …
EXCLUSIVE: This ought to reverberate through the geek realm. Warner Bros has acquired rights to make a movie based on Dungeons & Dragons, the perennially popular role-playing game fantasy game. The studio is actually quite far along in the development of the project, as it will use a script by Wrath Of The Titans and Red Riding Hood scribe and Frank Darabont protege David Leslie Johnson. That script, Chainmail, was acquired last year as a free-standing project, based on an obscure game that was also hatched by D&D designer Gary Gygax before he and Dave Arneson launched D&D. It is being retro-fitted to fit the much bigger game creation. The film will be produced by The Lego Movie producer Roy Lee and Courtney Solomon. The latter actually directed a 2000 Dungeons & Dragons feature, a film that starred Jeremy Irons and did not do well.
EXCLUSIVE: Big Media companies don’t tell you when something’s rotten with the corporate culture. But this list should help you begin your search. This is Deadline’s third annual tally of out-of-whack CEO compensation. It’s an account of chiefs who not only make vastly more than you and me, but also collect far more than their closest colleagues at their own companies. Corporate governance experts become concerned when a CEO consistently makes at least three times more than the median for the four other highest-paid execs that the SEC requires companies to list in the annual proxy statement. That’s the standard I use, and it indicates that 14 out of 31 media companies that I tracked and that have already filed 2012 data failed the test — in many cases miserably.
Out of whack CEO pay can send a poisonous message to employees, including others in the C-suite. Internal pay parity “is critical to ensuring fairness and encouraging a collaborative team effort,” News Corp says in its proxy. Huge disparities also can tip you off to troublesome boardroom beliefs. It might indicate that directors lack faith in the business or leadership team — and fear that things will unravel if the top dog leaves. It may be a symptom of corporate groupthink where people give the chief credit for everything that goes well, and seek scapegoats for everything that doesn’t. Or it might mean that directors are beholden to the CEO — or share a cynical and grandiose sense of entitlement — and see nothing wrong with helping him (it’s almost always “him”) stuff his pockets with shareholders’ money, even where there’s little danger that he might leave if paid less. Whatever the case, researchers find that all too often the damage from such obeisance to the CEO eventually hurts a company’s performance and stock price. (For example, here, here, here, and here.)
This list looks at the biggest and best known infotainment providers. I include Web-based companies such as AOL and Yahoo that produce and sell their own content, and added Facebook which depends on ad sales. But I left out ones including Apple and Verizon that generate most of their revenues from hardware or personal communications services. (I’ve also left out Google, where the top execs benefit from stock performance and only collect a symbolic $1 in compensation.) For context, I’ve also noted how many people the company employs, and how that’s changed since the last fiscal year, to see whether these fabulously rich CEOs were job creators. The data isn’t nearly as revealing as it ought to be. For example, the SEC doesn’t require companies to specify how many jobs are based in the U.S., or even how many are full time. I’ve also included the CEO’s 2012 compensation rank among other media chiefs in our list, as well as among all media executives listed in their company proxies, and the average compensation over the last three years. (To avoid having them counted twice, I combined the compensation that Sumner Redstone collects as chairman of CBS and Viacom, and that Charles Dolan collects at Cablevision and AMC Networks.)
A few things to keep in mind: The SEC reporting rules only cover the top-paid executives of publicly traded U.S. companies. That means we’ll miss a lot of highly paid people who work at subsidiaries of a big company; Universal Studios’ Ron Meyer may be a big deal in Hollywood, but he didn’t make the top echelon at his corporate parent Comcast. Also, the pay data given to the SEC can spike in a year when an executive cashes in stock or collects deferred compensation. Averages also can be skewed when people on the list come and go in the middle of the year. So consider this to be a starting point to judge whether a CEO was paid fairly — not a final verdict.
I’ll be back soon with additional information including a similar list showing CEOs whose pay was more in line with his or her colleagues. Here’s how the out-of-whack CEOs stack up for 2012:
1. Live Nation: Michael Rapino. The concert and ticketing giant had a so-so year generating higher revenues but even higher costs — and a net loss. Last year’s big tours included Madonna, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Roger Waters, and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Company shares appreciated 8.1% in 2012, lagging the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 which was +12.7%. But the big excitement took place at year-end with the surprising departure of Chairman Irving Azoff, taking performers he represents including Eagles, Van Halen, and Christina Aguilera. That left Rapino clearly in charge — but under the watchful eye of Liberty Media, which owns nearly 27% of the stock. With a flood of option awards, the CEO’s compensation rose 138.4% to $28.5M (The package: $2.2M salary, $243,281 bonus, $2.6M stock awards, $19M option awards, $4.4M non-equity compensation, $46,408 other compensation.) That was a whopping 17.0 times more than the median for the four other highest paid execs — up from last year’s 5.5 times — and 46% of the pie. Even these numbers underplay the disparity in executive pay: The group of other execs includes Azoff who made $27.4M. The company had 7,100 full time employees at year end, up 500. (Pay rank among media CEOs: 9. Among all media execs: 11. Average annual pay over last three years: $18.7M.)
The annual marketing kudos went big for Disney pics Iron Man 3, Wreck-It-Ralph, Monsters University, Brave, and The Avengers at the Golden Trailer Awards Friday night. The GTAs didn’t just fete the best movie promos of the year. They also doled out Trashiest Trailer (to A24′s Spring Breakers) and gave indie comedy Hit & Run the Golden Fleece award, awarded to a trailer better than its actual movie. Here’s the full list of winners:
EXCLUSIVE: The Crow will fly with Welsh actor Luke Evans playing the title role in the F. Javier Gutierrez-directed franchise reboot for Relativity Media. Evans was the original choice, but he has been incredibly busy. He was just cast as the lead in Dracula Year Zero, he is the villain in Fast & Furious 6 and is Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Evans seemed to be unavailable because of production on Dracula and promotion on The Hobbit. The distributor looked at Tom Hiddleston and more recently Alexander Skarsgard, the latter of whom has a bunch of offers after Warner Bros halted Tarzan. Ultimately, they have decided to push the start date to early next year to accommodate his schedule in order to secure Evans, who is currently promoting the release of Fast 6. So hey junket guys, be sure to ask him about it. They are now in negotiations and I expect the deal to make. He seems an ideal fit for the role originated by Brandon Lee, who died tragically during production on the 1994 Alex Proyas-directed revenge story based on the James O’Barr comic book series. He’s repped by WME and United Agents.
EXCLUSIVE: Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road has acquired Valkyries, a pitch by scribe Nick Schoenfeld for a large-scale fantasy film based on the Norse hero Sigurd. Thunder Road made the deal in partnership with Christian Angemayer’s Filmhaus Germany. Most famously recounted in the 13th century Volsunga saga and the four-part opera by Richard Wagner, Sigurd’s feature will be drawn about his recruitment to slay the monstrous dragon Fafnir to ward off a generations-long curse. Sigurd’s exploits were also chronicled by The Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien. Schoenfeld, who just scripted Attila for Warner Bros, here pitched a take that blends the traditional dragon-hunting plot with an original thread involving a fallen daughter of Odin (called Valkyries) and her desire to retake a place in the heavens.
The first three months of 2013 were mixed for the entertainment giant. Time Warner says this morning that it generated net income of $720M, +23.9% vs last year’s Q1, on revenues of $6.93B, -0.6%. That missed the consensus analyst forecast of $7.12B. But adjusted earnings at 82 cents a share were well ahead of predictions for 74 cents. At the cable networks, including HBO, revenues were up 3% to $3.7B with operating income +11% to $1.3B. The company says that a 1% decline in ad sales ($12M) and 4% drop in content revenues ($11M) took some of the edge off of subscription revenues which were +5% ($115M). Ad growth at Turner‘s U.S. entertainment networks “was more than offset by declines at its news networks, due to lower demand” as well as the closing of channels in India and Turkey last year. Film and TV entertainment saw operating income grow 23% to $263M even though revenues fell 4% to $2.7B. Time Warner attributes the decline to “lower theatrical performance and a decline in television licensing revenues” — adding that it was offset by higher home video sales for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Argo. Meanwhile the magazine publishing unit, which the company plans to spin off, generated a $9M operating loss (vs last year’s $5M loss) on revenues of $737M, -5%.
Cannes Market Briefs: Lightning’s ‘Gus’, UConnect’s ‘Close Enough’, TrustNordisk’s ‘Someone You Love’
Lightning Strikes For SXSW Comedy ‘Gus’
Lightning Entertainment has acquired international rights to the comedy Gus, starring Michelle Monaghan, Radha Mitchell and Michael Weston. It premiered at this year’s SXSW and is the feature debut of Jessie McCormack, who wrote and directed. ICM Partners reps Monaghan and Mitchell and is also repping U.S. rights to the film in Cannes, where it will make its market bow May 16. Gus centers on Lizzie (Mitchell), who longs to start a family with her husband Peter but is unable to conceive. Her best friend Andie (Monaghan), single and adrift, gets pregnant from a one-night stand and offers to give Lizzie the baby. Reluctantly, Peter agrees to be the child’s father, and before he knows it Andie has moved into the guest room for the duration of her pregnancy. When Peter invites his ne’er-do-well recovering-addict brother (Weston) to the house, chaos ensues. McCormack produces alongside Kathryn Himoff, Kevin Fitzmaurice Comer and Erik Van Wyck. Richard N. Gladstein is exec producer.
UPDATE: 9:20 AM: Just two days after Disney announced that Iron Man 3 would open in China on the same day as its North American release May 3, the date has changed. The sequel from the studio and Marvel Studios will now open there May 1 to capitalize on the final day of the May Day holiday.
PREVIOUSLY, WEDNESDAY AM: This is the date Disney and Marvel Studios were eyeing all along for the pic, but Disney now has set it in stone. It’s now day-and-date with its U.S. release. Disney, Marvel and China-based producer-distributor DMG Entertainment have pulled out all the stops to promote Iron Man 3 in China, where it was partially shot, complete with a lavish 90-minute TV special about the movie that premiered over the weekend on national TV and will air in repeats until its release. The cast also includes Chinese stars Wang Xueqi and Fan Bing Bing. The release in China could mark a rebound for U.S. films in the territory: Last year, four foreign films were responsible for 56% of total sales in the first quarter, but in 2013 the only Hollywood pictures to punch above 300M yuan ($48.5M) were Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, according to reports. They were followed by A Good Day To Die Hard, Cloud Atlas and Resident Evil: Retribution.
EXCLUSIVE: The Hobbit’s Hugo Weaving is turning to crime. The Australian actor has signed on for the true crime drama The Mule, I’ve learned. The film will be shot Down Under later this year. While details are sketchy about Weaving’s lead role, the film chronicles a drug mule who is nabbed by the police and the fallout from that capture. The Mule is written by Leigh Whannel, who penned and produced the Saw sequels, and Angus Sampson. With financing from Screen Australia, the film is being produced by the screenwriters and Michele Bennett of Sydney based Cherub Films. Bennett was the producer of the hit 200 Australian film Chopper that brought Eric Bana to prominence. Hugo Weaving is repped by CAA, Shannahan Management, and attorney David Weber.
The Motion Picture Association and the China Film Distributors and Exhibitors Association have released a study that says the film and TV business contributed $15.5B to China’s economy in 2011. Commenting on the report, Mike Ellis, president and managing director of the MPA for Asia Pacific, said, “Chinese audiences are seeking out and enjoying a variety of films, whether they are made locally, internationally or co-produced through collaborative international partnerships.” While box office is predicted to keep building regardless of where films come from, figures released recently by China’s film watchdog confirm what could be a disturbing trend for Hollywood: Local movies are taking a big bite out of ticket sales. The State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said last week that homegrown films accounted for 69% of mainland box office revenues in the first quarter of 2013. The shift began with the late 2012 release of comedy Lost In Thailand, which broke about every record possible, went on to become the highest-grossing Chinese title of all time and gave a kickstart to 2013. But despite that movie’s eleventh-hour arrival, local pics still finished 2012 at a four-year low with a market share of only 48%. In the first three months of this year, however, Chinese films made 3.6B yuan ($582M) and six films broke the coveted 100M yuan ($16.2M) barrier. The top film was Stephen Chow’s Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons, which earned 1.25B yuan ($202.2M).
Last year, four foreign films were responsible for 56% of total sales in the first quarter. But this year, the only Hollywood pictures to punch above 300M yuan ($48.5M) were Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the Xinhua news agency reported. They were followed by A Good Day To Die Hard, Cloud Atlas and Resident Evil: Retribution.
Here’s another title hailing from the super-hot Nordic territories, and from sales outfit TrustNordisk which had a sizzling Berlin EFM with several of its films. The company will handle pre-sales in Cannes on English-language Danish western The Salvation, which has just cast up and started shooting in Johannesburg. Joining the previously announced Mads Mikkelsen are his Casino Royale co-star Eva Green along with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce, Eric Cantona (Looking For Eric), Mikael Persbrandt (The Hobbit 2 & 3), Douglas Henshall (The Eagle) and Michael Raymond-James (Jack Reacher).
Fear Me Not and The King Is Alive director Kristian Levring is helming. (He was one of the signatories of the Dogme95 manifesto started by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg to create films based on traditional values without elaborate effects.) Susanne Bier collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen penned the script that pays tribute to classic Westerns, but also is inspired by the Nordic sagas. The story is set in 1870s America where a settler kills his family’s murderer and in so doing unleashes the fury of a notorious gang leader. Betrayed by his corrupt and cowardly community, the peaceful pioneer must turn vengeful hunter, slay the outlaws and cleanse the town’s black heart.
Exhibitors I polled this week at CinemaCon had more faith in franchises than star-driven blockbusters on the 2013 slate. Like Tom Cruise in Oblivion, Will Smith is still a big deal to theater owners. He’s just not a sure thing in a slow-moving sci-fi vehicle like Sony’s After Earth, which now opens May 31. Johnny Depp scored biggest with a surprise appearance in front of elated NATO members and the promise of another eccentric blockbuster role, but the specters of Universal’s Cowboys & Aliens and Disney’s own John Carter loom over the Western. Paramount even trotted out an uncomfortable-looking Brad Pitt to boost World War Z, but exhibitors worry the zombie pic won’t be a must-see for moviegoers. Jennifer Lawrence and Lionsgate’s Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, on the other hand, had CinemaCon attendees seeing dollar signs. Meanwhile the problem with Aubrey Plaza winning CinemaCon’s Breakthrough Performer Of The Year award (on the heels of her MTV Movie Awards stunt) is that exhibitors still have no idea who she is. The Parks And Recreation star is better known to younger TV viewers than the corporate-leaning CinemaCon crowd. And many theater owners still see television as the enemy, including Regal CEO Amy Miles, who said as much at a CinemaCon luncheon Thursday.
But mid-sized theater owners are realizing they have to cater to their audiences, and those may not always be blockbuster crowds. “My biggest movie of last year was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel“, a 40-year owner of a Michigan resort-town cinema said. “At my theater, the biggest star is Kevin James”, another operator of a California second-run multiplex told me. One thing that was not bankable at CinemaCon 2013: High-frame-rate technology. The Hobbit stumbled at last year’s confab by pushing its 48 FPS HFR 3D to exhibitors. Despite the first pic’s $1 billion global box office, nobody this year was pinning hopes on HFR specifically in The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug this Christmas — even Peter Jackson, who conspicuously made no mention of it in his taped message to the CinemaCon audience.
Diane Haithman is a Deadline contributor:
UPDATE: The American Humane Association’s planned industry confab took place this morning at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to discuss issues surrounding the monitoring of animal action on film and television sets. After the event, AHA spokeswoman Jody Frisch told Deadline the meeting was a “productive exchange of ideas” with total attendance 45-50 people including panelists and guests. One news report claimed only Warner Bros had accepted the invite that went out weeks ago, but Frisch told Deadline that “yes” responses continued coming in early this morning. She confirmed invitees included representatives of “any and all filmed entertainment” but noted “we’d like to see more participation”. The names of the attendees were not made public at the closed-to-the-press roundtable discussion described as “a small private affair” at the Academy’s North Hollywood headquarters. Deadline confirmed that notably absent from the invite list were Hollywood’s professional animal trainers. They have a love-hate relationship with the American Humane Association — the group behind the well-known “No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval for movies and TV — which oversees their work. Frisch told Deadline trainers were not invited because the event was geared to educate the production side of the industry. But trainers were represented on the panel, however, as part of what Frisch said were “a mix of industry executives, producers, writers and directors along with trainers, veterinarians and AHA representatives”.
The reasons for Wednesday’s meeting? Mostly money. AHA is now solely funded by the nonprofit Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund overseen by SAG-AFTRA and says it needs more dollars to continue overseeing an explosion in productions worldwide. This despite the fact that more films are using CGI for animal action than in the past. Still, Life Of Pi, for example, used 4 live tigers along with computer-generated ones. In 2002-2003, Frisch said AHA monitored 2,392 days of animal production and issued about 144 certifications. In 2012, the organization monitored about 3,500 days of action and handed out about 570 certifications. Far-flung locations call for more travel than ever before. And the organization has added a veterinary adviser and a scientific committee. “It’s difficult. We’ve grown about 395%, and our grant has really only increase about $600,000 over the last 10 years,” Frisch said.
It was Warner Bros Pictures’ turn for studio slate presentations at the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas Tuesday and President of the Warner Bros Pictures Group Jeff Robinov unveiled the studio’s packed summer lineup with its familiar mix of comedy, horror, superheroes, monsters, and sequels. Robinov looked to the future and thanked all the studio’s partners: New Line, Legendary, Village Roadshow, Alcon, and MGM (on the Hobbit trilogy). He also thanked his new boss Kevin Tsujihara who won the job of Chief Executive Officer replacing Barry Meyer. ”All of us share his vision and this will be an exciting time under his leadership,” Robinov said. Distribution head Dan Fellman initiated a bunch of baseball analogies after the success of Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros’ Jackie Robinson biopic 42 last weekend. It followed a string of 5 straight box office disappointments for Warner Bros and occasional other partners (like New Line). ”Consistency has always been a hallmark of Warner Bros Pictures. But even the most consistent player can hit a few fouls,” Fellman told exhibitors. Fellman emphasized that Warner Bros is the only studio to score $1 billion box office gross domestically 12 years in a row. And International Distrib topper Veronika Kwan Vandenberg pointed out that the studio in 2012 grossed over $4 billion worldwide thanks to hits like The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Add to that the 85th Oscar-winning Best Picture success of Argo. Plus, this year Warners Bros is celebrating the 90th anniversary of its founding by the Brothers Warner in 1923.
The season starts out May 10th with the 3D drama from Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby, originally intended for the 2012 awards season but held for Summer 2013 instead. Luhrmann is still tweaking the movie which will open the Cannes Film Festival on May 15th, but sent along a pre-taped introduction – complete with music underscoring to the film’s trailer. Footage was shown at last year’s CinemaCon but this was much different and in 3D. No question it looks like another visual triumph for the director of Moulin Rouge and Romeo And Juliet which starred his Gatsby lead Leonardo Di Caprio. Luhrmann said he was inspired to use 3D when he saw a 3D screening of the Alfred Hitchcock 1950s drama Dial M For Murder (also released by Warners). Even though he said the most special effect in this movie is the acting.
Director Todd Phillips publicly chided Luhrmann before introducing The Hangover Part III trailer. “It would be nice if Baz showed up. There are a lot of directors backstage. We showed up,” he said. Phillips then fed the exhibitors’ egos by saying that comedies should be seen in theaters where everyone can laugh together. Warner’s is now referring to his sleeper smash as the Hangover Trilogy.
Next was Zack Snyder, director of Man Of Steel, who turned up with the world premiere of the film’s new trailer which will play before Oblivion starting on Friday. “There’s no competition between superheroes obviously. But if there were, he would win,” said the unabashed fan of the comic book hero. “I am sorry to even have to say this now but we shot the movie on film and anamorphic. We wanted to give your cinemas a big giant movie movie.” He also acknowledged producer Christopher Nolan’s help during their first meeting in steering him in the right direction on the film. Nolan and his co-producers Emma Thomas and Chuck Roven were in the audience but oddly not introduced to the crowd. The trailer played well and Nolan seemed pleased with the reaction when I saw him afterwards.
LAS VEGAS (APRIL 15, 2013) – RealD Inc. (NYSE: RLD) announced today the introduction of Precision White Screen technology for cinema projection, combining 2D white screen performance with the ability to project polarized 3D images. Designed to deliver enhanced 2D and 3D presentations with wide viewing angles similar to white screens of equivalent gain, Precision White Screen technology features edges 4 to 5 times brighter than a standard silver screen. The improved screen efficiency results in 40% more total light coming off the screen, providing more uniform brightness than a standard silver screen. Precision White Screens also feature a smooth, white surface which generates better image contrast for improved image quality in 2D and 3D.
The Weinstein Co.’s Silver Linings Playbook and leading duo Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper came up big at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards, nabbing Best Female Performance, Best Male Performance, and Best Kiss at the annual fan-driven ceremony. Marvel’s The Avengers took home three awards including Movie Of The Year, while host Rebel Wilson and her breakout summer pic Pitch Perfect also garnered kudos. Meanwhile, Taylor Lautner of Summit’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 snagged a win out of the film’s lone nomination: Best Shirtless Performance. Here’s the full list of winners, highlighted in bold:
The American Humane Association will hold a hearing Wednesday at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to discuss issues surrounding the monitoring of animal action on film and television sets. The AHA’s “No Animals Were Harmed” program was created in 1940 to ensure the protection of animal performers in filmed entertainment, although high profile incidents of animal neglect and death continue to make headlines. Most recently the biggest scandal occurred with HBO’s Luck, which shut down after three horses died on set. WB’s The Hobbit was also plagued by animal cruelty allegations, but other incidents have occurred in film, television and commercial production. The New York Times wrote about showbiz and animals today.