Prolific TV movie producer Larry Levinson Productions has denied claims from the WGA that it owes millions of dollars in residuals to writers. The production company told Deadline today that the dispute instead is “over what appears to be the WGA’s unfair, improper, over-reaching and arbitrary application of its residual calculation for these pay TV movies.” In the past 20 years, the company has produced nearly 200 family-oriented telefilms, most of which were made for Hallmark Channel or in association with Hallmark Entertainment. The guild is pursuing arbitration claims against Levinson’s various production entities for unpaid residuals and interest owed on 33 of those TV movies and is threatening to bar the company from using guild writers again until it pays up. An arbitration hearing is scheduled for May 14.
Related: WGA Targets Larry Levinson And Hallmark For Unpaid Residuals
LLP said in a statement today, “The companies involved and drawn into this dispute are determining their respective legal rights and remedies against these WGA practices and will vigorously defend and pursue their rights as smaller independents to be treated equally.” Hallmark parent company Crown Media Holdings also is named as a respondent in the arbitration notice. It said Tuesday that it is up to date on its residuals payments. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The LA Film Critics Association today made the booting of member Len Klady official after months of behind-the-scenes deliberations over a major financial snafu attributed to the author and film critic. Klady, a longtime member of the LA critics group, was expelled over an unauthorized agreement he’d made on behalf of LAFCA to third-party consultant Sheri Wish, who was contracted for $3,000 to bring in sponsorships for LAFCA’s annual awards dinner last January. Wish failed to deliver any sponsorships at all. Worse, Farber and other executive members of LAFCA had no prior knowledge of Wish’s contract or that Klady had tapped her to bring in sponsorships. When she invoiced, LAFCA President Stephen Farber refused to pay the $3,000, and Wish hit back with a small claims lawsuit against the org for the sum.
Thirty LAFCA members attended a closed-door meeting March 22 to address the matter, voting in favor of dipping into LAFCA’s funds to settle with Wish before the suit was brought to court, paying $1,000 of her requested fee. They also voted to strip Klady of his membership, as recommended by the executive board and the membership committee. According to Farber’s letter to LAFCA members, there was enough in the organization’s coffers from last year’s dinner — where studios typically pay for tables and bring in talent to accept their awards — to cover the settlement payout. Read More »
The NFL is coming off most-watched program in U.S. TV history with the Super Bowl, and its just-released 2014 schedule arrives today with a couple key differences from last year – one of which is bound to make NBC execs smile. The league said that its “flex” scheduling for the Paeaock’s Sunday Night Football games can begin as early as Week 5, moving up from Week 11 in the past. That means the NFL can move any scheduled day game into primetime to air on what has been the No. 1 show in primetime viewership for four consecutive years and tops in the adults 18-49 demo for six straight. But there is a catch: The flex option can be exercised only twice between Weeks 5 and 10, which means Fox or CBS won’t have to give up their best matchups every week during that span. The flex-scheduling say-so remains with the league, which must make the call no fewer than 12 days ahead of time. (Regular Sunday night flex scheduling remains in play after Week 10.) Meanwhile, the NFL also is introducing a plan to “cross flex” Sunday day games on CBS and Fox, which have over-the-air rights to the AFC and NFC, respectively. In previous years, a game between two AFC teams had to be on CBS, but now the league can choose to move those games to Fox (and vice versa). This could help during weeks when one network happens to have the potentially biggest games.
Related: ESPN To Air Cable’s First NFL Playoff Game
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“Independent American films are largely considered anathema to foreign distributors these days,” says Jeff Lipsky. The distribution veteran, who’s also a John Cassavetes-mentored filmmaker, knows a thing or two about the indie business. He co-founded October Films with Bingham Ray in 1991, and is also a former executive at New Yorker Films, Samuel Goldwyn Films, and Skouras Pictures. In 2011, he launched Adopt Films with Tim Grady, which recently handled Oscar nominee Omar. As a director, Lipsky has made five movies, and is shooting a sixth this fall. Some of his own films have been in official selections at Sundance and San Sebastian, and seen U.S. releases, but none has ever been distributed internationally. And that’s why he’s taking things into his own hands, making three of them available via Vimeo On Demand worldwide as of May 1: Flannel Pajamas (2006), Twelve Thirty (2010) and Molly’s Theory Of Relativity (2013). Among the stars of those movies are Justin Kirk, Julianne Nicholson, Mamie Gummer, Jonathan Groff and Cady Huffman. Two of them also have actor Reed Birney in common with In Your Eyes, the micro-budget Tribeca title that writer and exec producer Joss Whedon just announced is going out worldwide via Vimeo. The timing was pure coincidence, Lipsky says as he sings the service’s praises. “There is great potential for indie filmmakers. It doesn’t require legal contracts, you can geoblock and call your own shots… It’s not rocket science.” (Post continues below)
He says Vimeo’s quality is the same as “any of the big boys.” Although a fan of Netflix and Amazon, Lipsky contends the “problem” with those services is that they are “fantastic for consumers, but little to no money can be realized by filmmakers or distributors.” Vimeo allows for an “instantaneous” revenue stream, which is “as it should be in this world we live in.” The split with the site is 90% to the rights holder and 10% to the service, Lipsky tells me. The only risk, he says, is that it’s “not the 800-pound gorilla. You have to do a little more” to market, but it’s “whatever I want.” What he hopes is that when his next movie is completed in 2016, the Vimeo experience will create “an expectant audience clamoring to see the film in many countries.” Here’s a clip from Lipsky latest, Molly’s Theory Of Relativity, with Tony winner Huffman and God’s Pocket‘s Sophia Takal: Read More »
Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner star in the James Gray period drama The Immigrant. It centers on Ewa Cybulski (Cotillard) and her sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan), who immigrate to New York from their native Poland to start a new life. The two women are separated when doctors discover Magda is seriously ill and she is quarantined. Ewa then falls into the hands of Bruno (Phoenix), a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution. She later meets Bruno’s cousin Orlando (Renner), a magician who sweeps her off her feet and is her best chance to escape the nightmarish life she’s been enduring. Have a look at the new trailer for the Weinstein Co pic, which opens May 16 in limited release:
Apple shares are up more than 8% post market after it released a lot of news designed to please investors — including a 7-for-1 stock split, an increase in stock repurchases to $90B from $60B, and an 8% increase in the quarterly dividend. “We are confident in Apple’s future and see tremendous value in Apple’s stock,” CEO Tim Cook says. The announcements come as the consumer electronics company released earnings for the first three months of the year that trounced Wall Street forecasts.
Apple generated net income of $10.22B, +7.1% vs the period last year, on revenues of $45.6B, +4.7%. Analysts thought the top line would come in at $43.5B. Earnings at $11.62 a share far exceeded the consensus prediction of $10.18. Some of the upbeat news comes from higher-than-expected iPhone sales. Apple sold 43.7M units, up 17% vs the period last year. But iPad sales slipped 16% to 16.4M units while Mac computers were +5% to 4.1M and iPods fell 51% to 2.8M. Read More »
The 13-episode comedy series from director Gaz Alazraki and creator Mike Lam is set in the world of professional futbol. The untitled project, slated to premiere in 2015 on Netflix, centers on a family feud among heirs of a soccer club after the owner’s death. Luis Gerardo Mendez stars in the series, which will be shot entirely in Mexico and feature a cast from throughout Latin America. The project reunites Alazraki and Mendez, who worked on the Mexican box office hit Nosotros los Nobles (We Are The Nobles). Mendez starred in the pic and Alazraki directed.
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Spirit Award-winning directing brothers Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie (Daddy Longlegs) have wrapped filming on Heaven Knows What, a docu-fiction hybrid starring Caleb Landry Jones and Arielle Holmes. Pic is based on the life experiences of Holmes, a street kid who met the Safdies on the subway and is playing a fictionalized version of herself in the film. She and Jones star as a vagabond couple in NYC battling addiction amidst a manic love affair. The Safdies penned the script with their Daddy Longlegs collaborator Ronald Bronstein. Heaven Knows What is the first feature under the Safdies’ Elara Pictures production banner, which the duo launched with partners Sebastian Bear-McClard and Oscar Boyson. Elara is set to produce multiple indie features per year, committed to giving complete creative control to each project’s director. Paris-based Iconoclast Films (Spring Breakers) is also producing Heaven Knows What. Read More »
Some analysts say it could as investors lifted the value of Time Warner shares by 1.8% and drove Netflix down 5% and Amazon down 1.5% in afternoon trading. The agreement giving Amazon series from HBO including The Sopranos and Six Feet Under “is unparalleled for a subscription-only online streaming service from a quality perspective,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter says. He estimates that when the deal kicks in next month Amazon will be able to offer its customers 800 episodes of original content “compared to roughly 100 episodes of original content currently available on Netflix.” That could help Amazon to turn its Prime Instant Video offering into a stand-alone streaming service, separate from the current arrangement which — for $99 a year — also includes no-charge delivery for many retail items.
Related: HBO Signs Exclusive Licensing Deal With Amazon Prime
Pachter estimates that Amazon is paying “well above” $200M for HBO’s shows. Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner and Todd Juenger figure the payment to HBO to be “somewhere between $200M and over $400M…at a very high margin” for what they call “a significant addition to the Prime video library.” Read More »
Lionsgate has slotted Johnny Depp-starrer Mortdecai for February 6, 2015. The action comedy, adapted from the 1970s novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli, centers on debonair art dealer and part-time rogue Charlie Mortdecai (Depp). Charlie juggles angry Russians, the British Mi5, his impossibly leggy wife and an international terrorist as he travels the globe in a race to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filed with Nazi gold. Ewan McGregor, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn, Oliver Platt, Aubrey Plaza, and Jeff Goldblum co-star. David Koepp directs from a script by Eric Aronson. Depp produces with Christi Dembrowski and Andrew Lazar. Gigi Pritzker exec produces. Mortdecai will open against Warner Bros’ action pic Run All Night and Universal’s Seventh Son.
Bravo Media has put in development All The Pretty Faces, a dramedy-mystery executive produced by Jennifer Garner. Written and executive produced by J. Mills Goodloe, the project is set in the bucolic beach town of Half Moon Bay, CA. It centers on two warring families engaged in an epic, decades-long feud. The death of one of their own brings both families together in search of the secret to the affliction that has plagued them for generations…immortality. “All The Pretty Faces tracks with Bravo’s tradition of presenting strong, relatable characters and tackling provocative subjects in an entertaining way,” said Bravo’s VP Andrew Wang. Garner’s Vandalia Films is producing with Warner Horizon Television where the company has a deal, with Garner and Goodloe executive producing, and Juliana Janes serving as a producer. Bravo recently greenlighted its first two original scripted series, hourlong Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce and half-hour Odd Mom Out.
NBC’s Saturday Night Live will explode in a Comcast symphony of cross-promotion for its final original episodes of the TV season. SNL alum Andy Samberg will make his hosting debut for the season finale May 17 — Samberg stars in/produces Universal TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine for Fox network (Universal and NBC both being divisions of Comcast). Charlize Theron, one of the stars of Universal-distributed Seth MacFarlane movie A Million Ways To Die In The West — will take her second swing as SNL host May 10. The network also made official that Andrew Garfield will make his SNL hosting debut May 3 as his The Amazing Spider-Man 2 premieres nationwide May 2 — Spider-Man being a big attraction at Universal theme parks. Read More »
Now you’ll know why characters will drink Miller High Life on The Americans, Coors Light on The Strain, Leinenkugel’s in Fargo, and Miller Lite on The Bridge. The three-year deal will make MillerCoors brands the “official beers” for FX, FXX, and FXM giving the brewer exclusive rights to program integrations and first look placement rights for shows that FX is developing. The beers also will have “a strong presence” on FX’s digital app, FXNOW. The agreement — which the companies call “groundbreaking” — expands on an existing relationship that gives MillerCoors exclusive product placement rights to Sons Of Anarchy and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The new terms make this “the most comprehensive advertising deal ever for the FX suite of channels,” says FX Networks Ad Sales SVP Michael Brochstein. MillerCoors’ Marketing Connections VP Jackie Woodward says that “our objective is to make sure our brands are woven throughout the entertainment programming that matters most to beer drinkers” especially men from 21 to 35. “This partnership underscores our commitment to telling our brand stories with the right message, in the right places and at the right time.” Media strategy company Initiative helped to ferment the alliance.
El Rey Network has begun production on eight hourlong episodes of Cutting Crew, the network’s first unscripted original series. It has been been set to premiere in the fall. The series centers on award-winning barber Amit Corso and his raucous team at their shop on the outskirts of Philadelphia, where they execute cutting-edge cuts while finding plenty of time to bicker, debate and joke around. Production kickoff comes on the heels of El Rey’s success launching its first original scripted series, From Dusk Till Dawn, which was picked up for a second season last month two weeks after it bowed. (The network’s second scripted series, the Roberto Orci- and Alex Kurtzman-scripted Matador, is in production for a July bow after the World Cup.) Cutting Crew is produced by BIG VIDA Entertainment for El Rey Network. Sergio Alfaro, Flavio Morales, John Ehrhard and FactoryMade Ventures executive produce with El Rey co-founders John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa.
EXCLUSIVE: Allen Iverson was one of the most controversial players the NBA has ever had. He was also one of the best shooters to ever hit the court, an 11-time All Star and the 2001 MVP. Now officially retired, the former Philadelphia 76er is the subject of a docu making its sold out world premiere on April 27 at the Tribeca Film Festival. From first time director Zatella Beatty, Iverson features the man himself telling his own story in his own words with appearances from the Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade and former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw among others. Beatty’s 214 Productions produces alongside Ted Faye with Mandalay Sports Media and Moore Entertainment as EPs. If you didn’t get a ticket to Sunday’s 9:30 PM screening in NYC, check out the game of this exclusive Iverson clip here:
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has found what the studio believes will be its next global franchise. The studio has closed a partnership with Mattel and Parkes+MacDonald/Image Nation on a live-action comedy built around Barbie, the top-selling fashion doll. This is no development deal, it’s all moving very quickly. Studio chief Amy Pascal oversaw this deal herself, along with production president Hannah Minghella, and this movie is getting made. Jenny Bicks is writing the script and the intention is to begin production before year’s end.
The film will be produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who are also rebooting Men In Black for the studio. The exec producers are Parkes+MacDonald president Marc Resteghnini and Julia Pistor for Mattel’s Playground Productions.
Studios prize franchises more than ever, and it is particularly a priority at Sony. The key to turning these brands into successful films comes down to execution, as was particularly evident in the way that Warner Bros turned The Lego Movie into something with a high cool factor for kids. The plan for Barbie is also clever. Some of the doll’s appeal has been cool clothes and of course Ken, but beyond accessorizing, the toy has always been about female empowerment. Barbie has been part of merchandise packages that span over 150 careers, and Bicks and Parkes and MacDonald won the rights from Mattel when they plugged into that with their pitch for a contemporary tale. It allows the character Barbie to use her personal and professional skills to step into the lives of others and improve them, almost like a modern-day Mary Poppins. That storyline allows for the discovery of a young actress to play the title character, and young cast to play Ken and Barbie’s best friend, putting stars around them that can change in subsequent movies. Much the way that Marvel has managed its costs with deals that call for options on future films as they create stars with their superhero movies, this seems a way to keep costs manageable for another live-action series meant to span multiple films. Read More »
After agreeing in principle to support the conclusion of a co-production treaty last December, the UK and China have finally put pen to paper. British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and Vice Minister Tong Gang of state authority SAPPRFT signed the pact in Beijing today. The treaty, which is subject to ratification, is being touted by Britain as welcome news. It could ease access to the world’s second-largest box office market: Films will have to qualify for true co-production status, which eliminates the quota barrier on foreign movies. The exact qualifying criteria have yet to be laid out, but would be expected to include financial and cultural elements. Importantly, if a film is granted the co-production seal, it will be able to access “national benefits including sources of finance” the parties said today. That means the lucrative UK film tax relief system as well as the BFI Film Fund. BFI CEO Amanda Nevill called the treaty “hugely significant for UK film as it will open the door for our filmmakers to collaborate and contribute to each other’s success.” The BFI has been pushing hard to enhance its relationship with China. In January, it established the Electric Shadows initiative encompassing a year of business, trade, and creative and cultural collaborations between the countries.
UPDATED with video of Colbert’s appearance: Viewers curious to know what Actual Stephen Colbert is like, and what might his upcoming CBS late-night show be, got a good look Tuesday when the Comedy Central star made his first visit to David Letterman‘s Late Show since being named as his replacement. After telling Dave he’d been offered a gig with Dave’s old NBC show but turned it down because it was an unpaid internship – “It’s an expensive city,” Colbert explained. “The next job I’m taking here, that pays? Cause I’ve already signed” — Dave asked Colbert if he vacations well:
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