The industry couldn’t withstand the downdraft across the financial markets today as reports in China showed weaker-than-expected industrial growth and as Russian troops began military exercises near the border with Ukraine. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 1.4%, nearly matching the drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and ahead of the 1.2% fall in the Standard & Poor’s 500. All of the Big Media companies we track lost ground. News Corp shares fell 2.8% followed by Fox (-1.8%), Disney (-1.8%), CBS (-1.4%), Viacom (-1.3%), Sony (-1.2%), Comcast (-1%) Discovery (-0.9%), and Time Warner (-0.9%). Biggest losers across media and entertainment included Sinclair (-4.9%), Scripps (-4.7%), Crown Media (-4.6%), DreamWorks Animation (-4.2%), and Lionsgate (-3.2%). Only a handful gained ground including exhibition companies AMC Entertainment (+2.5%) and Carmike (+0.8%); programmers Starz (+1.0%) and World Wrestling Entertainment (+0.3%); and Amazon (+0.2%), which announced today that it has raised the price of its Amazon Prime program for the first time in nine years.
Jane Latman retains her responsibilities as SVP Development at Investigation Discovery. In her new post, Latman will report to Henry Schleiff, who recently was named group president of ID, Destination America, American Heroes Channel, and Discovery Fit & Health. She will continue to work for Kevin Bennett, GM ID and American Heroes Channel as ID’s chief development exec.
Late last month, in a re-alignment of its U.S. network portfolio, Discovery Communications named Eileen O’Neill to be Group President of the Discovery Channel and gave her oversight of Science Channel and Velocity — two networks seen to have tremendous growth opportunity. TLC, which O’Neill is credited with turning around, was given to the care of Marjorie Kaplan, who became Group President of TLC and Animal Planet, while Schleiff added O’Neill’s Discovery Fit & Health network to his watch, as Group President of that network and Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel.
Silver Spring, Md. – Discovery Communications, the #1 pay-tv programmer in the world, announced today that it has promoted John Honeycutt to the role of Chief Technology Officer for the company. An award-winning cable industry technology executive and 11-year Discovery veteran, Honeycutt most recently served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Discovery Networks International, based in London.
In the newly created position, Honeycutt will lead Discovery’s consolidated IT, media technology, production and operations functions globally. He will be charged with developing a long-term technology roadmap to enable Discovery’s growing pay-TV, digital terrestrial, free-to-air and online services.
David Zaslav isn’t ready to commit just yet to the plan that Dish Network and Disney sketched last week to create a personal pay TV streaming service with most — but not all — of the leading channels. “The question is: what’s the legacy impact?” the Discovery CEO said today at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference. “Does it have a negative impact?” Still, Zaslav sounds intrigued, saying that there’s a potentially big business if Dish or others can sell pay TV services to 2M or more broadband customers — including many young adults who are reluctant to pay $80 a month or more for a full expanded basic pay TV bundle. Dish’s deal with Disney “provided a lot of value to Disney” in the short run. But Zaslav says that he takes a long term view of the business and “we just have to see” the details and implications of a personal streaming service. The CEO also isn’t ready yet to pass judgment on Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The deal would give Comcast about 30M video subscribers. That’s “significant market share,” he says. “We’ll have to see what it means and how it plays out.” Zaslav has good reason to stay on the sidelines: Liberty Media’s John Malone is the biggest shareholder in Discovery, as well as Charter Communications — which wanted TWC until Comcast came in with a …
Fox and Nat GEO‘s reboot of Carl Sagan’s classic Cosmos series is getting some White House lift-off. President Obama will be introducing the series premiere episode this Sunday, March 9 at 9pm ET/PT. A preview of the series screened at the White House as part of their inaugural White House Film Festival on Friday, February 28. Release is below:
EXCLUSIVE: Level 1 Entertainment, which had set Michael Steinberger’s wine counterfeiting Vanity Fair article A Vintage Crime as a dramatic feature, is being rebottled. The story will be told as a documentary to be helmed by Barry Avrich. His docus include The Last Mogul on Lew Wasserman, Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story and Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life Of Garth Drabinsky.
A Vintage Crime focuses on the exploits of wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, who drove the elite and secretive world of rare-wine collectors into a frenzy with his extravagant showmanship and record-setting deals. Kurniawan conned the biggest players in the fine wine market, including prominent tycoons and entertainment moguls, before he made the mistake that ultimately led to his arrest and the discovery of a wine counterfeiting factory in his suburban Los Angeles home. Charged with mail and wire fraud in connection with the sale of fake rare wines, Kurniawan was convicted in a Manhattan federal court last month and is now facing up to 40 years in jail.
Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, ‘Grand Piano’, ‘Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons’, ‘Miele’, ‘Particle Fever’, ‘Bethlehem’
Wes Anderson dazzled the specialty box office in 2012 when Focus Features opened Moonrise Kingdom with one of the year’s highest per-screen averages. Now Fox Searchlight takes the Anderson mantle with The Grand Budapest Hotel, which bowed in Berlin and took the Siver Bear Grand Jury Prize. Also this frame, Elijah Wood goes indie with the thriller Grand Piano courtesy of Magnolia, while the distributor’s genre label will bow China box office behemoth Journey To The West. Emerging Pictures will oversee an Italian initiative to bring targeted films from the country “nationwide” in the U.S., starting with veteran actress-turned-director Valeria Golino’s Miele (Honey). Abramorama and BOND360 are collaborating on Sheffield documentary Particle Fever and Adopt Films will open Israeli thriller Bethlehem in more than two dozen theaters Friday.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director-writer: Wes Anderson
Writer: Hugo Guinness
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revolori
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Anderson’s latest film opens nearly two years after his last film, Moonrise Kingdom. That proved to be an opening-weekend powerhouse, smashing the screen average when Focus Features bowed the title in four theaters at the end of May 2012, grossing a whopping $523K for a dazzling $130,749 average. It went on to gross more than $45.5 million in the U.S. (Anderson’s The Royal Tennenbaums remains his biggest box office grosser to date in theaters, taking in more than $52.3M domestically in 2001. Budapest, the Berlin Film Festival opener, reunites some cast from Moonrise including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton. It centers on the adventures of Gustav H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous Eastern European hotel between the wars, and Zero, a lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. Budapest has already launched to strong numbers in France where it grossed nearly $2.8M its opening weekend in 172 theaters for a strong $16,220 average, becoming his biggest opening ever in the country.
Veteran TV producer Betsy Schechter has launched Storyville Entertainment, a full-service New York-based production company that will create content for TV, film, branded and multimedia outlets. Schechter, whose credits include producing A&E’s Paranormal State and the syndie dating show Shipmates, will serve as president of the new shingle, which already is in production on a music-based documentary series for MTV International and in development on nonscripted and scripted projects for A&E, TNT, H2, MTV International, Animal Planet and National Geographic. It also is collaborating on a scripted series with Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum. Caroline Christopher, formerly director of development for National Geographic Television and among those who helped launch Peacock Productions, has been hired as VP Development and Production. She will oversee Storyville’s development team, creating nonfiction series, specials and branded content. “Storyville serves as a hub for creativity regardless of the genre and platform, everything from non-fiction to scripted to digital to reality,” said Schechter. “What matters most and what will define our projects is that at the core are solid characters and great storytelling with a distinct point of view.”
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.
The Tribeca Film Festival continues to roll out its lineup for this year’s 13th edition, which kicks off April 16. Here is the program slates for the Spotlight, Midnight, Special Screenings and Storyscapes sections. The fest’s shorts program will be unveiled Tuesday. Here are today’s films, which include Spotlight spots for Roman Polanksi’s Venus In Fur, the Robin Williams-starrer Boulevard from Dito Montiel, world premieres of films directed by actors Chris Messina and Courteney Cox, and of course the horror comedy Zombeavers:
The 2014 Tribeca Film Festival unveiled 47 of its 89 feature-length films in its lineup today in the World Narrative and Documentary Competition selections as well as the out-of-competition Viewpoints pics. Thursday will see the remainder in the Spotlight, Midnight, and Special sections. The fest kicks off April 16 with the already announced opening-night film, the Nas documentary Time Is Illmatic. Dior And I will screen opening night for the World Documentary competition, the Rory Culkin-starrer Gabriel from U.S. writer-director Lou Howe will open the World Narrative competition, and Summer Of Blood will open Viewpoints — all world premieres and all to screen April 17. The fest runs through April 27. Here’s the lineups in the three sections:
The firm behind shows including Gold Rush, Unexplained Files, and Dangerous Persuasions will have the freedom to expand into scripted programming and produce “high-quality independent films” following the deal, the companies say. They didn’t disclose how much Discovery paid for Raw, but say that it will “continue to operate independently from its London headquarters” with all of its current staff. “We are looking forward to Raw infusing our ever-expanding creative pipeline with compelling stories that will be seen on Discovery’s networks around the world,” Discovery Studios and Production Group President Lee Bartlett says. He adds that the deal is being unveiled on the same day that Discovery rebranded the Military Channel – now called AHC: American Heroes Channel. The two events illustrate “Discovery’s ongoing strategy of increasing investment in new brands, new content creators, new programming genres, and new opportunities across more platforms in more regions of the world,” Bartlett says.
Dylan McDermott To Star In CBS’ Kevin Williamson Drama Pilot
By Nellie Andreeva – Hostages‘ Dylan McDermott is set as the male lead in another CBS/Warner Bros TV drama project, the untitled Kevin Williamson pilot.
In this week’s audio podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at the possibility that frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch will combine and snap up the UK’s Channel 5, even as a booming ITV opts out; and Amazon’s new combination platter of Prime services that are challenging Netflix more aggressively in Britain, including through a partnership with the BBC to revive the cancelled period drama Ripper Street. They also preview those other big awards this weekend, France’s Cesars, and take their weekly look at the international box office, as both Frozen and The Hobbit 2: The Desolation Of Smaug continue to rack up huge cumulative grosses.
Kevin Spacey Continues His Disruptive Platform-Shifting Experiments By Self-Releasing ‘Now: In The Wings On A World Stage’: Q&A
When most leading men get preoccupied with messing with models, it usually means extracurricular activity. When it’s Kevin Spacey, it means taking bold risks to create disruptive opportunities to alter arcane platforms that have ranged from his own acting career to pioneering the first breakout multi-platform success in the J.C. Chandor-directed Margin Call and the first breakout Netflix series hit House Of Cards. Now, he has made an intriguing documentary, Now: In The Wings On A World Stage, and will test new waters by self-distributing the film.
Here’s the first trailer that was just unveiled for the docu, which he is releasing in limited theatres and simultaneously via download here on KevinSpacey.com.
Spacey, in the midst of a strong run in Hollywood and two Oscars, started this journey of self discovery back in 2003 when he left Hollywood to revive the Old Vic in London. That has limited his screen time, but Trigger Street, the company he runs with Dana Brunetti, has kept him enough in the mix with Best Picture nominee Captain Phillips, The Social Network, 21 and other films. Spacey has kept up the Old Vic’s storied traditions, starring in and producing plays year after year. Now, after quietly funding and producing and starring in Now, a documentary about the conception and the experience of performing Richard III across the world, Spacey is self-releasing a film he feels captures the exhilaration of live performances that reunited Spacey with Sam Mendes since both won Oscars in Mendes’ screen debut American Beauty. His Now passion project and its trailer debut offers a a great chance to catch up with an actor who, after winning Oscars and asserting himself as a bankable leading man, up and left town for a venture many felt was folly. But this film’s most compelling selling point also underscores that Spacey knew what he was doing. If the millions and millions of rabid House Of Cards binge viewers want to see where his Vice President Francis Underwood character came from, it turns out they can find it right in this movie.
DEADLINE: I caught bronchitis this week and the only plus was tearing through the first season and one half of House Of Cards. Just a remarkable, game-changing way to absorb great drama.
SPACEY: I can’t say that I’m much of a binge watcher myself. People stop me on the street and tell me they are treating House Of Cards like a good novel, where they decide when to put it down on the bedside table, and when to pick it up again. What I love about that mind-set is that it puts the audience in complete control.
Global Showbiz Briefs: 3 Warner Bros TV Series Headed To Asia; Italian Exhibitors Blast TV Airing Of ‘The Great Beauty’; More
‘Pretty Little Liars’, ‘Gossip Girl’, ‘ER’ Getting Local Versions In Asia
Warner Bros Television Group series Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl and ER have been commissioned and optioned as local versions in the Philippines, Thailand and India, respectively. In the Philippines, ABC Development Corporation is in production on Pretty Little Liars with the 22-episode adaptation to air on TV5 in April. The show ranks as the No. 1 original series of all time on ABC Family, where its 5th season will air this summer. In Thailand, Kantana Public Company Limited is producing an 18-episode local adaptation of Gossip Girl. In India, ER is under option with Gold Television Network. This follows the announcement last month that a Colombian version of the show was going forward.
Dude, you’re renewed! Deadline has learned that Discovery quietly has ordered a second season of reality competition series Dude, You’re Screwed from High Noon Entertainment. A twist on the survival genre, the series follows five of the world’s most elite, thrill-seeking survivalists who are captured one at a time by the other four. Once captured, they are then dropped in one of the world’s harshest environments and must make their way back to civilization — all within 100 hours. Season one, which premiered in December, featured a range of survivalists including a Green Beret, a member of the UK Royal Air Force, a former Navy SEAL and a veteran Army Scout. Jim Berger and Scott Feeley are exec producing for High Noon, along with Discovery’s Julie Meisner Eagle and Erin Wanner.
Discovery Redistributes Networks Among Group Presidents Eileen O’Neill, Marjorie Kaplan, Henry Schleiff
In a re-alignment of its U.S. network portfolio, Discovery Communications has named Eileen O’Neill to be Group President of the Discovery Channel and has been given oversight of Science Channel and Velocity — two networks seen to have tremendous growth opportunity. TLC, which O’Neill is credited with turning around, has been given to the care of Marjorie Kaplan, who becomes Group President of TLC and Animal Planet, while Henry Schleiff adds O’Neill’s Discovery Fit & Health network to his watch, as Group President of that network and Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel.
“Nearly 70% of our global output is developed, commissioned and acquired in the U.S.,” company CEO David Zaslav said this morning in a memo to staff. “Most of our big characters, new franchises and tent pole specials have been developed by U.S. Network creative teams. We continue to invest in new international and local content, but it turns out that Gold Rush, River Monsters and I (Almost) Got Away With It attract an audience in almost every market in the world. The optionality of sharing our programming across so many brands and countries, and lining up that domestic content engine to support our global distribution growth overall, is key to our success.” He noted the cpmpany’s marketshare in the U.S. is up significantly over the past six years, growing from 5% in 2007 to nearly 12% today, “and that creative output has helped drive marketshare growth of nearly 25% internationally during the same time.”
Yet another U.S.-based unscripted production company is being snapped up by a European conglom. Munich-based Red Arrow Entertainment Group has acquired a majority stake in Half Yard Prods., which has offices in New York and Bethesda, MD. Founded in 2006 by Sean Gallagher and Abby Greensfelder, Half Yard focuses on reality series, factual entertainment and documentaries. It is the top producer of wedding programming in the U.S. with Say Yes To The Dress, I Found The Gown and Randy To The Rescue for TLC. The company’s portfolio also includes Diggers on Nat Geo, How the States Got Their Shapes on History, Hillbilly Handfishin; on Animal Planet and American Loggers on Discovery. Gallagher and Greensfelder will continue as co-CEOs. Half Yard joins Red Arrow’s other U.S. production holdings, Kinetic Content, Fabrik Entertainment and Left/Right Prods.