The stock price is up nearly 6% pre-market after the company released a Q1 report that showed strong results in most key metrics. AMC Networks generated net income of $61.5M, +42.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of nearly $382M, +17.1%. The top line was well ahead of the $366M that analysts projected. And earnings at 85 cents a share topped forecasts for 82 cents. The core National Networks operation led with way with revenues +18.2% to $359.5M and operating income +29.5% to $141M. The company says that ad sales were up 26.9% to $164M “due to strong demand for our original programming, primarily at AMC” which airs The Walking Dead. Affiliate fees rose 11.7% to $196M. The international business, which is much smaller and includes IFC Films, was a different story: Revenues fell 0.2% to $26.3M with an operating loss that increased by $2M to $15M. AMC says that the operation was hurt by a revenue decline in the independent film operation. “AMC Networks is off to a strong start in 2013,” CEO Josh Sapan says pointing to the strong performance of shows including Sundance Channel’s Rectify and Top Of The Lake, IFC’s Portlandia, and WEtv’s Braxton Family Values.
The timing of last year’s decision by the TV Academy to consolidate the four longform acting categories into two was baffling as it came a couple of days after the record-breaking debut of History’s miniseries Hatfields & McCoys and the network premiere of HBO’s Hemingway & Gellhorn, which had opened at the Cannes Film Festival. The TV Academy moved to cut the categories in half amidst a renaissance of the longform genre with such programs as British imports Downton Abbey, which started off in the miniseries field, Sherlock and Luther; History’s Hatfields & McCoys and FX’s American Horror Story, which was submitted as a miniseries. At the time, TV Academy’s SVP Awards John Leverence explained the decision by saying that the decrease in longform categories “corresponds to their primetime presence.”
But this week, just as the consolidation was about to take effect, the TV Academy reversed its decision, keeping the lead and supporting acting fields intact. “What a difference 13 months make,” Leverence said yesterday. He said the May 2012 vote “was based on how the longform (programming) was trending — the patient was on the table getting last rites.” But now “there has been a major revival of the longform. The consolidation was based on last year’s reality, not based on this year’s reality; what we thought was happening reversed itself.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: Tribeca Heads To UK; New Zealand Film Revenues Surpass $3B; Sundance London; Odin’s Eye
Tribeca Expands In UK
The Tribeca Film Festival is coming to the UK, after a fashion. Distributor Tribeca Film will release select titles from the festival across multiple platforms in the region beginning April 16 and for an eight-week run. The movies, including two that are screening at the festival this year, will be accessible via pay-per-view with Virgin Media and on select digital platforms including iTunes, PlayStation, and Xbox. Greetings From Tim Buckley and Fresh Meat along with previous fest selections Supporting Characters, Rubberneck, Monogamy and The Wild And Wonderful Whites Of West Virginia will be available. Tribeca chief creative officer Geoff Gilmore tells me the festival is also exploring the initiative in places beyond the UK. “We want to see how the model works and how much the Tribeca Festival brand can expand.” Gilmore says it’s clear that festival platforms are “something you have to take advantage of in the distribution world.
Reporting from Cannes
The annual Mip-TV market, and its sister Mipcom, keep getting more interesting as star power grows and what’s on offer takes on an increasingly global feel. At October’s Mipcom, Kevin Spacey was in Cannes to support Netflix’s House Of Cards; Jane Campion presented BBC/Sundance Channel series Top Of The Lake; Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys were here for The Americans and even Harvey Weinstein turned up in support of The Weinstein Co.’s push into international TV sales. Mip-TV, which kicks off in earnest on Monday, will draw such speakers as BBC controller Ben Stephenson, eOne’s Darren Throop, Da Vinci’s Demons creator David S. Goyer, CSI franchise creator Anthony Zuiker, Homeland exec producers Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff, Endemol’s Tim Hincks and Discovery chief David Zaslav. Shine America CEO Rich Ross is also in town.
At these international markets, there’s an increasingly habitual fight between the big ticket drama and the reality format business. Both are lucrative in an expanding and fragmented market. But while certain companies are chasing the critical mass of the next Big Brother, others are finding it’s good to be in the scripted drama business, making deals that give them – and the shows – the most flexibility.
High-profile dramas that will be showcased here in Cannes this week include Da Vinci’s Demons which was picked up straight to series by Starz in October and premieres there on April 12. The BBC Worldwide co-production will roll out in 120 countries courtesy of Fox International Channels. (Starz is also in Cannes with the first episode of The White Queen which will premiere with star Max Irons in attendance.)
The straight-to-series deal is part of a growing trend that sees companies seek direct orders in the U.S. for a license fee, relying on international sales. Jens Richter of Red Arrow International, which sold cooking competition show The Taste to ABC, says that when it comes to drama, “For an indie, it only works if it goes straight to series. You can’t go through a pilot… and then take the risk.” Red Arrow also handles the Norway-set Lilyhammer with Steven Van Zandt which is a partnership with Netflix and is currently shooting its second season. “Everybody profits, you spread risk on various shoulders and go straight into production.” There’s also an upside for talent. They can take a backend position that’s worth “real money from day one.”
EXCLUSIVE: Sundance Channel has greenlighted drama series The Descendants (working title), from writer Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) and producer Sarah Condon (Bored To Death), with a six-episode straight-to-series order. As Sundance is stepping up its original scripted efforts, the cable network also is expanding its scripted programming team. In addition to the recent appointment of Nena Rodrigue as Head of Programming and Development, overseeing scripted and unscripted development with a focus on scripted series, Sundance has named Christian Vesper as SVP Scripted Development and Current, and Jordan Helman as Director, Scripted Development and Current. Vesper, based in New York, reports to Rodrigue. Helman is based in Los Angeles and reports to Vesper.
The Descendants is Sundance’s second wholly owned original scripted series, joining Rectify, which debuts April 22. (Sundance’s mini-series Top Of The Lake premieres March 18.) The Descendants, which was among the handful of scripts Sundance brass zeroed in on for series pickup, is a hard-hitting drama that revolves around a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians. After a terrible tragedy and cover-up occurs involving the sheriff’s wife, an unholy alliance is forged between the sheriff and a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved. Guzikowski, repped by Verve and Madhouse Entertainment, wrote the script and created the series with former HBO executive-turned-producer Condon. “At Sundance Channel, we are passionately dedicated to the creation of non-formulaic, daring original stories and we are delighted with this outstanding new addition to our scripted slate,” said Sarah Barnett, Sundance Channel President and General Manager.
Sundance Channel has brought in veteran producer-executive Nena Rodrigue as head of programming just as the cable network is nearing a greenlight for an original drama project. I hear Sundance brass have narrowed down the field to three scripts, The Descendants, T and Behind The Sun, and is considering picking up one of them straight to series.
Rodrigue has been named SVP of Original Production and Development, effective immediately. Based in New York, she will be responsible for developing and overseeing Sundance Channel’s original slate — scripted and unscripted — reporting to Sundance Channel president and general manager Sarah Barnett. Given Rodrigue’s extensive scripted background, her focus is expected to be on scripted programming. Sundance’s head of programming post had been vacant since last spring when SVP Michael Klein, who oversaw unscripted, left to head alternative programming for Condé Nast Entertainment. “Nena’s deep experience, especially in dramatic television, will serve us well as we continue our strategy of bringing audiences scripted series of the highest quality as well as fresh, unscripted worlds,” Barnett said. Sundance has been making a push into original scripted programming. Its first wholly-owned original scripted series, Rectify, debuts on April 22; mini-series Top Of The Lake premieres on March 28.
Rodrigue did an eight-year stint as head of development for Dick Wolf’s Wolf Films. Before that, she was a producer under a deal at Touchstone TV, SVP of development for Imagine Television, a development exec at Witt-Thomas Prods. and an …
Sundance Channel‘s Sarah Barnett is getting a title bump. Barnett, who has served as EVP and general manager of the cable channel since 2009, has been upped to president and general manager, effective immediately. She is based in the company’s headquarters in New York City and reports to AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll, who noted that “under Sarah’s leadership, Sundance Channel has undergone a successful and dramatic transformation.”
During her tenure, Barnett has been building Sundance Channel into a destination for original programming. The channel is currently preparing the rollout of its first wholly owned scripted drama Rectify, which premieres Monday, April 22, and Top Of The Lake, which bows Monday, March 18.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Iran Disses ‘Argo’ After Oscar Win, ‘I Want Your Love’ Banned In Oz, HBO Go Launches In Asia, Depardieu In Chechnya & More
Iran Dismisses ‘Argo’ As “Anti-Iran”, Pro-CIA
Iran’s culture minister blasted Argo, a day after it won the Best Picture Oscar, calling it anti-Iranian and weak artistically. Iran’s state TV also called the movie “an advertisement for the CIA.” “This anti-Iran film lacks any artistic aspects and it is a very weak film from an artistic perspective and we don’t expect anything else from the enemy,” Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini said, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency and reported by Reuters. Mehr called the Oscar “politically motivated” because first lady Michelle Obama joined Jack Nicholson via video link from Washington to help present the best picture award. Argo has not screened in any Iranian theaters but the movie has been widely available on bootleg DVDs in the black market in Tehran. The Iran hostage drama also won best film editing and best adapted screenplay.
Jane Campion‘s limited series Top Of The Lake debuts on the Sundance Channel on March 18. The seven-part drama screened as a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, a first for a longform series. Campion wrote the BBC Two/UKTV/Sundance Channel co-production with Gerard Lee and directed along with Garth Davis. Elisabeth Moss stars as a detective investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl, who is also the daughter of a local drug lord. Holly Hunter, Peter Mullan and David Wenham also star in the New Zealand-shot series. Emile Sherman and Iain Canning (The King’s Speech) and Philippa Campbell (Black Sheep) are producers. Here’s the trailer:
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Indian-born Saroo Brierley spent 25 years searching for his birth mother, from whom he was separated at age 5. He found her last year and has penned an autobiography to be published by Penguin later this year. See-Saw Films’ Emile Sherman and Iain Canning (The King’s Speech, Shame, Top Of The Lake) and Sunstar Entertainment, which reps Brierley, announced Thursday (Oz local time) they will produce a movie based on the book. No screenwriter or director is attached. Brierley was adopted by a family in Hobart, Tasmania where he still lives. He searched for his birth mother using Google Earth and childhood memories of his Khandwa hometown. See-Saw’s latest film Tracks, which recounts the true story of Robyn Davidson’s trek across the Outback, starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver and directed by John Curran, is in post. Formed in 2010 by Andrew Fraser, Daniel Starling and Shahen Mekertichian, Sunstar Entertainment announced last year it would co-produce with Brookwell McNamara Entertainment True Spirit, the saga of Australian sailor Jessica Watson who in 2010 at age 16 became the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world. That film is due to shoot in Sydney and the Gold Coast later this year, directed by Soul Surfer helmer and BME principal Sean McNamara. Paramount has Australian rights. Sunstar manages Watson. Sunstar is also developing Inmate 002, the true story …
Busy up-and-comer Alicia Vikander is becoming quite the globetrotter. The Swedish actress who rose to prominence with the Oscar-nominated Danish film A Royal Affair, then shot Anna Karenina in England, The Seventh Son in the U.S. and has a role in The Fifth Estate which just kicked off in Germany, will head to Oz to star with Ewan McGregor in crime thriller Son Of A Gun later this month. Also boarding the Australian production are Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent) and Jacek Koman (The Great Gatsby, Top Of The Lake). Julius Avery, an award-winner for his short Jerrycan, is directing the story of the complex relationship between McGregor’s public enemy number one character and his young protégé, played by Thwaites. Altitude Film Sales is handling international rights and UTA Independent Film Group represents the producers for North American rights.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Altitude Boards Stone Roses Doc, K5 & ‘Beware Of Mr Baker’, Oz Filmmaker Launches PicSeeder, ‘In The Shadow’ & More
Altitude To Proffer Stone Roses Doc at EFM
Will Clarke’s Altitude Film Sales has boarded This Is England director Shane Meadow’s The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone as the UK-based company heads into its first European Film Market in Berlin. Set up just prior to Cannes last year by Optimum founder Clarke, along with former Exclusive Media managing director Andy Mayson and former Pathé International exec Mike Runagall, Altitude will also handle international sales on Catch Me Daddy, the first feature written and directed by commercials and music video director Daniel Wolfe. Documentary The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone chronicles the cult British rock band on their 2012 reunion tour after a 15-year split. Warp Films’ Mark Herbert is producing the Film4-financed picture which will be released in the UK by Revolver Entertainment. Catch Me Daddy director Daniel Wolfe’s credits include work for and videos for rapper Plan B, boy band Take That and French group The Shoes. His thriller follows a couple on the run and is produced by Mike Elliott of Emu Films with backing from Film4 and the BFI Film Fund. Studiocanal is distributing in the UK.
On its fourth day, the Sundance Film Festival is wall to wall with some of Hollywood’s best known actors and actresses — and we don’t mean the ones who show up just to party hop. While the festival can be a great launching pad for emerging filmmakers, Park City has never been shy about letting the already well known show their wares there too. It was created by Robert Redford after all. This year sees a number of famous faces and names get behind the camera with new films. As buyers begin to dig in, expect to see these marquee names generating some serious interest as they play out of their regular position. And then there’s the plethora of Oscar winners and nominees, blockbuster and TV stars and indie superstars in front of the camera — check out our comprehensive list below.
James Franco – Executive Producer, kink; Co-director, Interior. Leather Bar. - Actor, director, conceptual artist, grad student and failed Oscar host, Franco wears many hats. This year, he’s adding producer and co-director for two separate films for Sundance. Franco produced kink, a documentary directed by Christina Voros about the Internet’s biggest producer of BDSM. Franco also co-directed Interior. Leather Bar with Travis Matthews. The film seeks to re-create the 40 minutes of Gay S&M footage rumored to be cut from 1980’s Cruising staring Al Pacino to avoid an X rating. Sure the sexual subject matter of both films is similar but Franco’s ambition is wide ranging. Franco also makes an appearance in front of the camera in Interior. Leather Bar and Lovelace.
Alicia Keys – Executive Producer, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete - The multi-platinum singer/songwriter is no stranger to cinema. More than a few films feature her tunes on their soundtracks and Keys was in front of the camera in 2006’s Smokin’ Aces. However, this Sundance is Keys’ debut as a producer. Directed George Tillman Jr. and starring Skylan Brooks, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson and Anthony Mackie, the coming of age film could be the start of a whole new career for Keys.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Director/Writer, Don Jon’s Addiction – He sings, he dances, he starred in The Dark Knight Rises and Looper last year, and now Gordon-Levitt slips into the director’s role on the comedy Don Jon’s Addiction. The actor’s directorial debut, which he also wrote the script for, stars Gordon-Levitt himself as a lady’s man who begins seeking a more fulfilling emotional life. Scarlett Jonansson, Julianne Moore, Brie Larson and Tony Danza co-star in the film.
Dave Grohl – Director/Producer, Sound City - No stranger to movie soundtracks, the Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer has now moved into the director’s chair with his debut documentary Sound City. Debuting early in the Festival, the film is about the famous Van Nuys studio where Nirvana, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, Guns and Roses and others have recorded. Even before the Festival began, Gravitas Ventures acquired worldwide VOD to Grohl’s movie.
Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke – Writers, Before Midnight - This one’s a bit of a cheat because the duo are actually on both sides of the camera at this year’s Sundance. Premiering tonight, the Richard Linklater directed Before Midnight sees Delpy and Hawke return to their roles as Jesse and Celine from 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset. The onscreen duo also retuned to their off screen roles as writers. Like Before Sunset, which was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay, Delpy and Hawke crafted Before Midnight’s script with Linklater. This year marks the second time the trio have premiered their tale of the perpetually unfulfilled lovers to Sundance –Before Sunrise debuted at the Festival in 1995.
Berlin Unveils Special Gala Screenings
The Berlin Film Festival has lined up its special gala screenings of recently released works followed by discussions with some of the filmmakers. Among the films to be shown are Ken Loach’s documentary The Spirit Of ’45, Jane Campion’s TV miniseries Top Of The Lake, Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Best Offer, Michael Winterbottom’s The Look Of Love, Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables and Raoul Peck documentary Fatal Assistance.
Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
At today’s panel on the Sundance Channel movie Top Of The Lake, actress Holly Hunter talked about what it was like being reunited with director Jane Campion, who directed her in The Piano some 20 years ago. Hunter, who appeared on the panel with producer Iain Canning and co-star Elisabeth Moss, said she and Campion have maintained their friendship through the decades. “It’s an indescribable thing to work with Jane to begin with,” Hunter said. “She’s such an utterly silly persona, and she brings that silliness to the set, and she has wisdom that I think is hard won in her life… her sense of humor is equal to her wisdom.” She added that working with Campion is like “falling in love with somebody, but you are falling… it is deep and dark and fun. You can’t say no to Jane.”
The production was shot in New Zealand, and producer and cast waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of the landscape. But Canning joked that when he was reading the Top Of The Lake script on the plane, he was asked: “Oh, is that The Hobbit?”
EXCLUSIVE: Open Road is near a deal to distribute Jobs, the film that stars Two And A Half Men star Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, the late high-tech visionary leader of Apple. Joshua Michael Stern directed a film that focuses on the trials and tribulations that Jobs encountered in his younger years as an innovator, from 1971-2000. The project was made independently by Five Star Features and is slated to close the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.
I’m told that Open Road will take on the film in a service deal with the producers, who’ll put upward of $10 million in P&A to release the picture; CAA negotiated the arrangement. Matt Whiteley wrote the script. I’ll provide more details when the distributor gets back to me, but I believe this deal will close imminently. It’s unclear exactly when the film will be released, but it will certainly precede the biopic that Aaron Sorkin is scripting, based on the Walter Isaacson bestseller Steve Jobs. That book was done in close collaboration with Jobs. While Sony acquired the book in fall 2011, just as Jobs succumbed to cancer, the studio has been moving at a deliberate pace.
Park City, UT — Sundance Institute announced today the program of short films selected to screen at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, January 17-27 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. The 2013 Short Film program is comprised of 65 short films selected from a record 8,102 submissions (427 more than for the 2012 Festival). The Short Film program is presented by YouTube.
U.S. NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
The Apocalypse / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Zuchero) — Four uninspired friends try to come up with a terrific idea for how to spend their Saturday afternoon.
Black Metal / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kat Candler) — After a career spent mining his music from the shadows, one fan creates a chain reaction for the lead singer of a black metal band.
Boneshaker / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Frances Bodomo) — An African family lost in America travels to a Louisiana church to find a cure for its problem child.
Broken Night / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Guillermo Arriaga) — A young woman and her four-year-old daughter drive across desolated hills. Everything looks fine and they seem to enjoy the ride, until an accident sends them into the nightmare of darkness.
Sundance Additions Include Ashton Kutcher-Starring Steve Jobs Biopic As Closing-Night Film, ‘Lovelace’, Scripted Series ‘Top Of The Lake’
The 2013 Sundance Film Festival has added several films to the out-of-competition Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections, including jOBS, the Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, and Matthew Modine. The movie, from director Joshua Michael Stern and screenwriter Matt Whiteley, chronicles the defining 30 years of the tech giant’s life and will be the closing-night film January 27. The feature film add-ons includes Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, the Linda Lovelace biopic Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried, the Jack Kerouac portrait Big Sur from writer-director Michael Polish, Park Chan-wook’s Stoker, and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s The Way Way Back. On the documentary side, heading to Park City is Alex Gibney’s WikiLeaks pic We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks; R.J. Cutler and Greg Finton’s The World According To Dick Cheney; and Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life And Time Of Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger’s ode to Hetherington, who co-directed the war docu Restrepo with Junger and was killed in a mortar attack in Libya in April 2011.
The festival also is debuting Sundance Channel’s original scripted series Top Of The Lake in the Premieres section — a first for a longform series. The seven-part crime drama from directors Jane Campion and Garth Davis stars Elisabeth Moss, Holly Hunter Peter Mullan, David Wenham and Lucy Lawless and will be shown in its entirety January 20. Another Sundance Channel series, Rectify, will be showcased in a private screening January 19.
Here’s the full list of additions: