BET announced its first miniseries as part of its upcoming lineup presented to advertisers at its upfront today in New York. The network also confirmed an eighth season for The Game, Season 3 for The Real Husbands Of Hollywood and a previously announced second season for Being Mary Jane, along with renewals for video countdown series 106 And Park. Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett Jr and Aunjanue Ellis star in the six-part miniseries The Book Of Negroes, a historical drama based on the Commonwealth Prize-winning novel by Lawrence Hill. It tells the story of Aminita Diallo, who was abducted at age 11 from her village in West Africa and sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. The story follows her capture and her enslavement in America, eventually ending with her emancipation in England. BET is producing in partnership with eOne and The CBC.
BET Greenlights Its First Miniseries; Renews ‘The Game’, ‘Real Husbands’ & ‘The Game’ & ‘Being Mary Jane’
Fox‘s Animation Domination High-Def will cease to exist as a late-night block on June 28 after 11 months on the air. The network is keeping alive the initiative, which employs 100 people working on six series in production. It will be geared exclusively towards younger-skewing digital platforms like Hulu and focus on incubating shows for primetime. ADHD is working on two half-hour primetime series that Fox has quietly greenlighted for next year. After a preview in Fox’s animation domination Sunday primetime block, ADHD got off to a slow start in the Saturday 11 PM hour last summer and never gained traction. Its programming was considered too edgy, targeting young males who weren’t necessarily available at that hour. After ADHD exits late-night, Fox will resume airing repeats in the time slot.
A judge in Florida has ruled in favor of Sony Pictures Television in a $50 million lawsuit over the reality TV show Shark Tank. “Sony Pictures Television won a directed verdict and the entire case was settled afterwards,” said Sony TV spokeswoman Paula Askanas today. The suit against the producers of the entrepreneurial reality show was filed by Florida attorney Bobbie Cellar. He claimed that he’d hired two of the show’s “sharks,” Daymond John and Robert Herjavec, to appear at an event he called the “Shark Tour,” an expo for people trying to start their own businesses. The suit claimed that Sony Pictures Television coerced John and Hervavac to withdraw from Cellar’s event because SPT didn’t want anyone to think the show and his expo were in any way connected. Cellar was unavailable for comment.
Specialty Box Office: ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ Leads Newcomers; Nic Cage’s ‘Joe’ Opens Weak; ‘Railway Man’ Too Disturbing?
Only Lovers Left Alive held sway among Specialty newcomers this weekend, scoring the weekend’s highest average in a fairly crowded box office. The film starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston grossed nearly $97K in four theaters, averaging $24,244. Crowds packed the 268-seat Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center Friday night where director Jim Jarmusch took part in a Q&A for the 7pm screening of the film (he gave a rather interesting theory on William Shakespeare not being the author of his work). The weekend results for Lovers outperformed Jarmusch’s previous 2009 feature The Limits Of Control, which averaged $18,607 in three theaters when it opened in May of that year. It went on to cume over $426K domestically. Broken Flowers which starred Bill Murray, Sharon Stone and Julie Delpy had a slightly higher PTA launch, averaging $28,904 in 27 theaters when it opened in August 2005. The Focus Features release went on to total over $13.744M in the U.S.
“It’s a great start, people really seemed to love the film,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker Sunday. SPC will open Only Lovers Left Alive in New York and L.A. this weekend, expanding to San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C. the following week before heading to the top 50 markets through spring.
TWC opened The Railway Man in several locations, grossing $64,506 for an so-so $16,127 average. “We’re off to a respectable start on Railway Man,” said TWC president of Theatrical Distribution Erik Lomis Sunday. “Our exit information confirmed [what we thought]. It was a mostly an older audience. There’s some images that are disturbing, but it’s very relevant today with current events in Fort Hood. What we learned from the U.K. and Australia was that the midweek grosses were about as good as the weekends. So we’re just going to let it roll.
Much as it did with October’s Mipcom, Israel’s Keshet International dominated the just-wrapped Mip-TV market. The savvy folks behind Rising Star energized the Croisette this week with ticking time bomb format Boom!, which closed at least a deal a day including in the U.S., France, Spain, Belgium and Hungary. And, interactive singing competition Rising Star, which had already locked down more than 25 territories since last October, is still selling. But save for Brazil, which on Sunday became the first territory outside Israel to debut a local version of Rising Star, the shows have yet to be tested abroad and Mip was abuzz with anticipation, mixed with some skepticism, about the ultimate results. Underscoring that, Brazil, which scored strong numbers, had a technical glitch that meant some home viewers had trouble entering their votes. I understand this was not the same sort of situation suffered by NBC’s Million Second Quiz last year when its app crashed during the premiere. In the case of Rising Star, I’m told there was no loss of connectivity and the live show was not affected. But, it’s a fair bet that other networks who have acquired the format are keeping a keen eye on the international rollout. Portugal is next to bow in May, and ABC debuts the format in June; it’s playing close to the vest with details.
In Cannes this week, execs up and down the Croisette praised the folks at Keshet International for their marketing acumen, enthusiasm and ability to generate creative formats. The company is often credited with putting Israel on the TV map thanks, most notably, to scripted drama Prisoners Of War, aka Homeland. The deal success of Rising Star, and now Boom!, had more than one observer marveling this week that Keshet has taught “a masterclass in marketing.” A key element of that masterclass includes bringing both formats to the Riviera sales shows hot on the heels of their respectively record-breaking debuts in Israel on Keshet Channel 2. Each format’s gimmick has also been highly touted. Rising Star‘s interactive app, incubated in Tel Aviv’s cutting-edge start-up community, lets viewers control the show’s outcome. Boom! is more of a straightforward quiz show. But the concept of contestants defusing (fake) bombs onstage, while shocking some, has made buyers sit up and take notice.
Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Railway Man’, ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’, ‘Joe’, ‘Hateship Loveship,’ ‘Cuban Fury’, ‘Dancing In Jaffa’, ‘A Fragile Trust’
The likes of Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Tilda Swinton, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce and more have films joining the Specialties in theaters this weekend in what could possibly be a big draw at the box office — hopefully. TWC will bow The Railway Man, a period drama set against WWII, while SPC will open Jim Jarmusch’s vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive. David Gordon Green returns to theaters with Joe from Roadside and Lionsgate, while IFC Films will bow Hateship Loveship. The distributor will also open doc Dancing In Jaffa. Also joining the pack in a fairly packed weekend is Entertainment One’s Cuban Fury, starring Nick Frost. Also opening is A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, And Jayson Blair At The New York Times, an ITVS backed doc that will have a self-distributed theatrical run ahead of its broadcast on PBS.
The Railway Man
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Andy Paterson, Eric Lomax
Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine, Michael MacKenzie, Jeffrey Daunton
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
With a high-profile cast, bio-drama The Railway Man centers on a former British Army officer who was tormented as a young prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II. Later he discovers the man responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him. “We’re big fans of …
Comedy Central’s Late-Night: From Minor Leagues To Major Player & Innovator With Deep Bench Of Talent Competitors Vie For
For years in the 1990s, Comedy Central was considered nothing more than an incubator for late-night talent. Its first notable weeknight late-night show, Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher, originated there and ran for three years — from 1993-96 — before ABC snatched it to get into the late-night talk-show game. Maher’s successor at ABC, Jimmy Kimmel, also is a Comedy Central discovery, having gotten his start as host on the network’s Win Ben Stein Money and then The Man Show. Before Politically Incorrect left Comedy Central, it helped launch The Daily Show, which premiered behind PI at 11:30 PM before moving to the tentpole 11 PM slot. Back then, the Daily Show had Craig Kilborn as a host. In 1998, he was poached by CBS as a host of the Late Late Show. Sixteen years later, CBS once again is reaching out to Comedy Central’s Daily Show franchise to replenish its late-night ranks, this time drafting the former Daily Show regular and current host of spinoff The Colbert Report to succeed David Letterman on the Late Show.
A lot has changed over those 16 years. Since Jon Stewart replaced Kilborn at the helm of The Daily Show in January 1999, the show has risen to become a late-night leader. It became a top late-night choice for younger viewers and, with the addition of spinoff The Colbert Report in 2005 to form a 11 PM-midnight block, Comedy Central evolved from a late-night poaching ground to a force to be reckoned with. The two shows became pop culture phenomenons and strengthened their hold on the younger crowds by embracing the Internet and social media before most of their late-night competitors. They have enjoyed buzz as well as critical acclaim, with their Emmy dominance nothing short of staggering. The Daily Show won the best variety series category for a record 10 consecutive times before its streak was ended last year by The Colbert Report to give Comedy Central 11 consecutive victories. (It’s worth mentioning that it was the man Colbert is replacing, David Letterman, who ruled the top variety category before Comedy Central’s dynamic duo kicked off their dominant run with five consecutive trophies.) In the variety series writing category, The Daily Show and Colbert Report have won 10 of the past 11 years.
FX & FXX To Double Their Original Output, ‘Simpsons’ To Debut On FXX With A Bang, ‘The Americans’ Nears Season 3 Renewal
FX Networks had been ramping up development, with some dozen pilots ordered in the past year. It is part of a major original expansion. At an upfront press event in New York, CEO John Landgraf said the company will go up from 11 originals to 20 across FX and FXX during the next year. FX Networks’ $750 million acquisition, The Simpsons, will make its debut on FXX in August with 12-day marathon. “It will be the longest continuous marathon in the history of television,” Landgraf said.
On the renewal front, a formal third-season renewal of The Americans is expected soon, he said. “We look forward to it being on our schedule for quite some time,” he said, later adding that he was “confident in the [show's] long-term prospect.” While the series’ live numbers may have dipped, it has been a DVR growth story. The Americans‘ DVR numbers are “unlike anything I have ever seen,” Landgraf said. “Live viewing is essentially just 20% of whole.”
Landgraf and his team will wait for the seasons of Legit and Chozen to end before making a decision on their future but that would be coming soon. Landgraf also touted the new season of Louie as being “amazing” and upcoming limited series Fargo as being “so good I can’t close the door” on another installment. “If it comes back, it will once again be located in North Dakota or Minnesota but telling a different story with different characters.” However, “the bar is high, it has to be an extraordinarily good story.”
Yesterday, I moderated a Mip-tv panel that brought together the folks behind Comedy Central‘s web-to-TV transfer Broad City. The comedy, created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, is exec produced by Amy Poehler (this was the trio’s first time in Cannes and they were giddy with excitement). Broad City began as a web series, and was ordered by Comedy Central in March 2013. The first season recently concluded, and has a second-season order. Also on the panel were Comedy Central President of Content Development & Original Programming Kent Alterman, and Caroline Beaton, SVP International Program Sales for Viacom Intenational Media Networks. We talked about how the girls got together in the first place, Poehler’s involvement, and the impact of the switch to television. Alterman addressed the web’s usefulness as an incubator, and Beaton spoke to why comedy does translate abroad. Poehler, who had a lot of Parks & Recreation fans in the audience, waxed on the importance of diversity and authenticity, and how you can’t pull the wool over the eyes of today’s youth. She also got in a good Sharon Stone/Basic Instinct joke at my expense, for which I thank her — I was pretty nervous and she put me right at ease. Here’s the video of our chat:
UPDATED, 8:30 AM: Barbara Walters got a standing ovation on The View this morning as she announced she will make her final regular appearance on the show Friday, May 16. ”Many of you have had to put up with me since your childhood — and, you’re not free of me yet, because I am not leaving television entirely,” Walters warned. “I will continue in my role as exec producer of The View…which means I can continue to watch [exec producer] Bill Geddie, with whom I have worked for more than 25 years, get older and balder… as I get blonder.”
Discovery Channel touted its 2014-15 season slate to advertisers this morning at its upfront presentation, including Motor Mondays and the previously oredered The West with exec producer Robert Redford. The highlights of Discovery Channel’s 2014-2015 slate, unveiled ahead of its upfront presentation today, includes the following:
UPDATE: Intl Box Office: ‘Need For Speed’ Adds $29.2M For No. 1; ‘Noah’ Reigns In Mexico & Korea With $14M; ‘Peabody & Sherman’ Crosses $100M; ‘Spanish Affairs’ Muy Caliente; Asian Pics Advance; More
Highlights: Noah (PAR) floods Mexico and Korea with opening cume of $14M; Muppets Most Wanted (DIS) scores $1.5M in eight debut markets; Need For Speed (DIS/var) drives another $29.2M; 300: Rise Of An Empire (WB) seizes further $21.2M; Mr Peabody & Sherman (FOX) at $103M; Rio 2 (FOX) flies to $10.5M in Russia/Ukraine; The Grand Budapest Hotel (FOX) has extra room for $9.7M; Frozen (DIS) nearing Toy Story 3‘s record; Uni’s 8 Apellidos Vascos (aka Spanish Affairs) still seducing Spain; trio of Asian pics enters Top 20…
6TH UPDATE, MON, 12:43 PM PT: Final numbers are in now for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Monuments Men as well as Ride Along, 300: Rise of an Empire and The Lego Movie (which grossed more than previously thought). Final numbers also came in Monday night for Oscar Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave which added another $3.9M to raise its international cume to $121.7M, most of its gross has come from the U.K. with $32.7M; the film has made $178M worldwide. Lionsgate opened Divergent in 18 international markets, but are not releasing numbers as yet. We are using Rentrak which has five small territories (see below for more info on that). Lionsgate, as they always do, pre-licensed international so there are many distributors handling the film in their prospective territories. The big territory rollout for Divergent will be April 4 in the U.K., Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Mexico, and Finland, followed April 11 by France, Germany, Russia, Australia, Denmark and Norway.
Is This Hollywood’s Next Major Studio? Bob Simonds & TPG Growth’s Venture Fully Financed, JP Morgan Says; Hiring, Deals To Start In Earnest
There has been a fair amount of speculation since producer Robert Simonds, TPG Growth, Gigi Pritzker and Chinese concern Hony Capital announced their plans for “a next generation film studio” to finance, produce and self-distribute eight to 10 star-driven films every year. The group has already gone around the traditional business model in making deals for screen plays directly with the nation’s exhibitors and it will also make other output for home video, pay and other ancillaries. It also boldly announced that they would spend $1B over the next five years. When folks around town heard that, they rolled their eyes. After all, there is a history of largess announcements with Chinese investors only to find out later that it’s not real. So who better to confirm than with the bankers.
According to JP Morgan’s David Shaheen, the head of the financial institution’s entertainment banking team for the past 18 years, the deal is closed. “The funding is in place. We’ve been working with them for the past year and in earnest the last several months,” he said. “We were engaged from the beginning evaluating their business strategy and helped structure the financing. The combination of the equity capitalization that has been funded, the subordinated debt capital, the prints and advertising facility, and the senior debt revolving line of credit are sufficient to fund the production and releasing of film (and television content) for the term of the deal.” Which is? “Five to six years.” The prints and advertising facility is being handled by a separate company. But a billion dollars? “It’s fair to say that the capital is there,” says Shaheen. The Raine Group also served as the financial adviser to the studio.
Shaheen added that he was impressed with “the quality of the shareholders — all blue-chip players — including their exhibition partners and how they were able to pull the ingredients together. The capital is in place and ready to go. I’ve gotten some calls on this, too, from people around town wondering if this was real. I don’t know what else to tell you but it’s real.” It’s basically a revolver financial structure, which means that they can tap into larger resources if needed.
Also, the exhibitors — AMC Theaters, Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark and Carmike — have all negotiated separately with the joint venture. In order to agree, they also needed assurance, which was provided. They all put a conditionality on the agreement that they had to see the capital to produce the films before they would make an agreement to offer them a certain amount of screens each year. By making deals directly with the theater owners, it is a major shift away from the traditional way of doing business with exhibition.
First deal out of SXSW today is Lionsgate‘s purchase of the North American rights for Eduardo Sanchez‘s Bigfoot feature Exists. Sanchez co-directed the 1999 microbudget title The Blair Witch Project for $60K, which then-distributor Artisan morphed into a worldwide phenom with close to $250 million at the box office. Below is Lionsgate’s release for the Jamie Nash-scripted Exists:
(Austin, TX & Santa Monica, CA, March 8, 2014) — Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) has acquired North American distribution rights to EXISTS, a new horror film from THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT director Eduardo Sánchez. The film played last night to a sold-out midnight screening at SXSW in Austin.
In Bigfoot’s bold return to the big screen, five friends on a camping weekend in the remote woods of East Texas struggle to survive against a legendary predator that is stronger, smarter, and more terrifying than anything they would have ever believed exists.
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Kon-Tiki’ Writer To Pen TV Drama ‘The Institution’; UK’s Feature Film Company Relaunched
‘Kon-Tiki’ Scribe To Develop Norwegian TV Drama ‘The Institution’
In the hot Nordic TV space, Norwegian writer Petter Skavlan is set to develop The Institution, an original series, for Nordisk Film. The drama is set inside a fictional royal family and will examine the inner workings of a modern European monarchy as well as discussing the ancient institution’s place in today’s society. Skavlan wrote and exec produced 2012 Oscar nominee Kon-Tiki. Also teaming on The Institution are Borgen producer Camilla Hammerich, Nordisk’s head of production Henrik Zein and executive producer Lone Korslund. Skavlan is represented by ICM Partners.
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery has had a change of heart about its Naked And Afraid after-show, Discovery After Dark — but it’s not what you think. The cable network isn’t chickening out after announcing the after-show with surprisingly little fanfare last month – it’s changing the name and the host, to the much better Naked After Dark, and to Josh Wolf, respectively. Wolf, known to some for his panelist appearances on Chelsea Lately, is maybe best known to Discovery viewers as host of its wildly popular Shark Week after-show Shark After Dark.
Gold Medal Ice Dancers Meryl Davis And Charlie White Headline ‘Dancing With The Stars’ Cast Heavy On Athletes: Video
Fresh off their gold-medal win at the Sochi Olympics, ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White will headline the all-star lineup of ABC‘s competition series Dancing With The Stars when it returns for its 18th season – part of a celebrity lineup that’s heavy on athletes. Davis and White, who have been skating partners since 1997, will compete against each other on Dancing. They’ll be joined by double-amputee snowboarding champ Amy Purdy – a world-champion adaptive snowboarder and the show’s first Paralympian to compete. And, Sean Avery will be the first former hockey player in Dancing history. Also in this year’s celebrity cast: swimmer Diana Nyad, who became the first person to complete a historic 110-mile swim from Cuba to Key West in September of 2013 on her fifth attempt.
Joining the athletes in the battle for the mirrorball trophy: The Wonder Years star Danica McKellar, comedian turned game show host Drew Carey, actor Billy Dee Williams, former Full House actress Candace Cameron Bure, Real Housewives reality star NeNe Leakes, Australian pop singer Cody Simpson, and Big Time Rush actor-singer James Maslow.
EXCLUSIVE: Haifaa Al Mansour made history with Wadjda, the first feature by a Saudi Arabian woman and the first to be shot entirely within the Kingdom. For her second feature, the director is in negotiations to helm A Storm In The Stars for Amy Baer’s Gidden Media. The period romantic drama is about the tumultuous love affair between dangerously charismatic poet Percy Shelley and the brilliant and beautiful 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft. The relationship ultimately inspired the latter to write Frankenstein. The script was written by Emma Jensen, and will be produced by Baer. Joannie Burstein and Rebecca Miller are executive producing. Last Vegas producer Baer launched Gidden Media last November. Of A Storm In The Stars, she says, “From the minute I read the script, I was hoping to find a female director who would realize what Emma was trying to say — that Mary Shelley’s story is as much about female empowerment and about a woman ahead of her time, and not just a ‘monster’ origin story.” Baer sees similarities with Wadjda, the story of a young girl who challenges deep-rooted Saudi traditions in a determined quest to buy a bicycle. It’s “remarkably on point thematically — about a young girl chafing against the norms of her society as she tries to be true to herself. I couldn’t be more …