Walt Disney Studios and Paramount Pictures said today that they’ve reached a marketing and distribution deal for the Indiana Jones franchise. Among other things, this agreement removes the last hurdle for Disney in moving forward with future Indiana Jones movies, which the company acquired when it purchased Lucasfilm in a multibillion-dollar deal late last year. The new deal gives Disney marketing and distribution rights to future films as well as retaining Lucasfilm’s ownership rights — which basically means they’ve got the whole shebang now. Paramount, on the other hand, isn’t left in the cold: The studio will continue to have distribution rights to the first four films. While details of the deal are unknown, Paramount also will receive financial rewards on any future Indiana Jones films that are produced and released by Disney. Moving ahead with a new Star Wars movie coming out in December 2015 and with two more in the pipeline, the studio has not confirmed that a fifth Indiana Jones has the green light. However, with today’s news and star Harrison Ford’s previous expressed interest in returning to the role, one would have to say it’s looking likely.
The mantra over at Stan Lee Media Inc must be “if first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Certainly that is its legal strategy. Almost three months after a federal judge in Colorado granted Disney’s request for dismissal of SLMI’s multibillion-dollar Marvel superhero copyright suit, the company is back in Pennsylvania court this week claiming it owns the rights to Spider-Man. “In response to Disney’s Spider-Man claims and/or in response to [American Music Theater's] counterclaims and third-party claims, SLMI respectfully seeks a declaratory judgment … that Disney cannot bar SLMI from using or licensing the Spider-Man copyrights and trademarks by virtue of the fact that SLMI (not Disney) is the owner of various copyrights and trademarks regarding Spider-Man and has properly licensed the copyrights and trademarks to AMT,” says the third-party defendant paperwork (read it here) filed Tuesday.
The board authorized an annual dividend of 86 cents a share, up 11 cents, Disney says. It’s the 58th consecutive dividend and will be paid on January 16 to those who own shares as of December 16. “Disney had a great year creatively and financially in fiscal 2013, delivering record revenue, net income and earnings per share for the third year in a row,” CEO Bob Iger says. “We are pleased to be able to increase our shareholder dividend by 15 percent while continuing to invest for future growth.” Disney added that it plans to hold its shareholder meeting in Portland, OR on March 18.
EXCLUSIVE: Valerie Van Galder has left Fox-based New Regency as the head of marketing after a little over a year at the production company to become a franchise management executive at Disney‘s Imagineering. During her stint at New Regency, she worked on such films as the crime drama Runner, Runner with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, and the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson comedy The Internship. She also contributed on the Oscar contender 12 Years A Slave, the marketing of which was led by Fox Searchlight’s team. 12 Years A Slave, directed by Steve McQueen, led the Independent Spirit Award nominations last week with seven, including best feature and best director.
Van Galder was hired by Brad Weston who came over from Paramount two years ago to reinvigorate New Regency. No replacement has yet been named for Van Galder who left her post last week. Van Galder’s exit follows Weston’s hire of Pam Abdy as president of production in October. Weston and Abdy had previously worked together at Paramount.
The Studio previously announced it had reached a record high on November 12, when it surpassed the $3.791 billion set in 2010. In July, Disney was the first studio to reach the $1 billion domestic box office milestone for the year, a threshold it has achieved for eight consecutive years. In August, in record time, Disney reached the $2 billion international box office threshold for the fourth year in a row, and in early November the studio surpassed its previous all-time international box office record of $2.302 billion, also set in 2010.
BREAKING: Alice In Wonderland 2 has been set for a May 27, 2016 release, Disney said today, finalizing a spot on the schedule for the sequel to the studio’s massive 2010 hit that made more than $1.025B in worldwide box office. The Muppets helmer James Bobin takes over from original director Tim Burton and back too is Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter. Depp of course is also in Pirates Of The Caribbean 5, which Disney moved off its original May 2015 date and reportedly was aiming it for summer 2016. That would make it the Summer of Depp if those plans are carried out.
As for Disney’s live-action Jungle Book, that pic now has an October 9, 2015 date. Deadline broke the story that Jon Favreau is aboard to direct what is a priority project for the studio from a Justin Marks script. When Favreau’s deal made Marks was wrapping the latest draft and the studio wanted to begin production next year. Looks like all systems are go now that there’s a date. Disney previously turned The Jungle Book into the classic 1967 animated film and a 1994 live-action feature helmed by Stephen Sommers.
Walt Disney’s only biological child died today at her home in Napa, CA, of complications from a fall in September. Diane Disney Miller was 79. She was a driving force behind the construction of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A. Her husband of nearly 60 years, Ron W. Miller, is a former CEO of Walt Disney Productions. Here’s a statement on her passing from Disney president and CEO Bob Iger: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Diane Disney Miller and our thoughts are with her family during his difficult time. As the beloved daughter of Walt Disney and one of his inspirations for creating Disneyland, she holds a special place in the history of The Walt Disney Company and in the hearts of fans everywhere. She will be remembered for her grace and generosity and tireless work to preserve her father’s legacy, and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her.”
“With incredible results from our Marvel, Disney and Pixar brands, this is a phenomenal achievement and we still have seven weeks and three exciting films to go this year,” said Alan Bergman, president, The Walt Disney Studios. “What all of our films have in common is not only quality but great characters and universal stories that connect with people around the world, which is so important to us.”
In July, Disney was the first studio to reach the $1 billion domestic box office milestone for the year, a threshold it has achieved for eight consecutive years. In August, in record time, Disney reached the $2 billion international box office threshold for the fourth year in a row, and in early November the studio surpassed its previous all-time international box office record of $2.302 billion, also set in 2010.
The announcement comes as Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues to dominate the global box office. The film opened domestically November 8 with $85.7 million and has earned $348.5M million worldwide since beginning its international rollout October 30.
Dish Network’s chairman seems to be in sync with Disney CEO Bob Iger’s comments last week: Both execs say that they’re making progress toward a new program carriage agreement with Charlie Ergen telling analysts today that he’s “cautiously optimistic that we’ll get a deal done.” The companies agreed to keep talking, without a programming black out, at the end of September when their previous deal expired. Everyone’s been waiting to see how the companies would fare: Disney’s one of the broadcasters that sued Dish after it introduced its Hopper DVR which can automatically jump past ads in recorded programs. “Disney has not been one of our best relationships and part of that is my fault,” Ergen says. He wants to change that. “Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I’m getting too old to do business with people we don’t have a good relationship with just to make a buck….You don’t marry everyone you date. And Disney’s a very pretty girl.” As for the talks, “there’s always economic issues,” Ergen says. But they’re also looking at a lot of what-if questions regarding the future of television because Disney likes long term deals. “We don’t want to have to go back to Disney to ask permission to do something,” Ergen says. Since Disney is “further along in the technology curve” it’s been “a great negotiation because it’s forcing us to think of things.” And the Hopper isn’t a big …
Disney Interactive‘s Jimmy Pitaro will step up to helm the Games and Media operating group solo as his former co-president John Pleasants exits his post, the company announced today. Pleasants will stay on as a consultant as Pitaro is upped to President of Disney Interactive, merging both the games and media units into one. The pair were installed in their split co-presidency in 2010, when Bob Iger brought Pleasants to run games biz and Disney’s social gaming acquisition Playdom alongside Pitaro, who came from Yahoo to head digital media at Disney Online. Fast forward three years and web and mobile initiatives have converged at the studio. Despite the recent success of Pleasants’ 1M-unit selling Disney Infinity multiverse game, there could only be one at the helm of Disney Interactive. “Following three years of consistent operating improvement at Disney Interactive and a great partnership between John and Jimmy, we are now in a position to fulfill our original objective to consolidate our Interactive business under one Los Angeles-based leader,” said Iger in a statement. “With Jimmy and John’s input, we have created an Interactive organization that is best structured to meet the demands of the fast-moving technology industry. I thank John for his many contributions to Disney Interactive including building tentpole products like Disney Infinity and establishing the company as a leading mobile games publisher and appreciate his passion …
The 2013 AFI Fest opening night at Hollywood’s famed, newly IMAX’d Chinese Theatre was as AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale said “practically perfect in every way” — thanks in no small part to nabbing the North American premiere of Disney’s surefire Oscar contender Saving Mr. Banks. It was a no-brainer on AFI and Disney’s part to launch this holiday release (it opens domestically December 13) which chronicles the turbulent relationship of Walt Disney and Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers during the the making of that 1964 musical classic which had its premiere at the very same theatre a half century ago. Director John Lee Hancock noted that in his opening remarks: “My life just keeps folding around. Just like in Mary Poppins it seems what happened has happened before. Fifty years ago there was a premiere here for Mary Poppins. About a year ago we were here filming the re-creation of that premiere, and now here we are again so it all just feels right,” he said. By the way, Poppins itself returns to the Chinese when AFI Fest hosts a red-carpet screening Saturday with stars Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice and Oscar-winning composer Richard Sherman attending.
Disney chair Alan Horn was taking congrats for the film he actually inherited when he came to the studio, and production president Sean Bailey was also singled out for praise in making this happen. Of course stars Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson were there, but both skipped the Hollywood Roosevelt after-party where Sherman was the main attraction. I told Horn this is a word-of-mouth movie if ever there was one and should be a big hit for the studio. How it fares in the Oscar race will be interesting considering the last three Best Picture winners — Argo, The Artist and The King’s Speech — all seem to be films that make audiences feel good about themselves with the former two having a special Hollywood connection just like this one. Banks seems to fit the same bill that Oscar voters have been responding to recently, effortlessly blending laughs, tears, comedy, drama and emotion. This was my second viewing in three weeks (I saw it at a small screening shortly before it had its world premiere at the London Film Festival) and it holds up. Hanks and Thompson are slam-dunk nominees here and the film has many possibilities — but it is facing weightier fare in frontrunners 12 Years A Slave, Gravity and Captain Phillips (another film with Hanks, which could make him a double nominee this year).
As Disney Channel‘s Shake It Up is heading to its series finale this Sunday, series co-lead Zendaya is eying a return to the network’s comedy series lineup with a new show, Super Awesome Katy. Disney Channel has greenlighted a pilot for the project, which centers on 16-year-old Katy Cooper (Zendaya), an outspoken and confident technology wiz and skilled black belt, who discovers that both her parents are spies with aspirations that she will follow in their footsteps. Shake It Up! exec producer Rob Lotterstein wrote the shooting script for the pilot, while the original script was penned by Corinne Marshall. Filming is slated to begin in early 2014 for 2014-15 season consideration. Disney is making a big bet on 17-year-old actress-singer-dancer Zendaya. When Disney Channel in July made the decision to end Shake It Up, it signed a deal with Zendaya to headline an original movie for the channel, the upcoming Zapped. It is now being followed by a series starring vehicle with Super Awesome Katy. Additionally, Zendaya competed on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars last season and is signed by Disney’s Hollywood Records. The Shake It Up finale will feature a new music from her. Lotterstein is repped by ICM Partners. Zendaya was repped in the deal by Skrzyniarz & Mallean.
The basic numbers look fine but investors may find reasons to be concerned by Disney‘s unusually complicated report for a quarter that included a writedown for The Lone Ranger and an accounting adjustment that reduced ESPN revenues. The company reported net income of $1.54B, +11.0% vs the period last year, on revenue of $11.57B, +7.3%. The top line beat the Street’s forecast for $11.4B. Earnings at 77 cents a share were a penny ahead of expectations. The company’s cable networks reported a 1% increase in revenues to $3.57B with operating income -7% to $1.28B. But that includes a $172M reduction in deferred ESPN affiliate fee revenues. Take that out, and operating income would have been up $77M, the company says. At ABC broadcasting revenues were +2% to $1.37B with operating income -18% to $158M. The problems included higher costs for primetime programming as the company replaced news and reality fare with scripted shows. In addition it had tough comparisons with last year when ABC syndicated Castle and Wipeout and broadcast the Emmy Awards. Disney’s theme parks had cheerier news with revenues +8% to $$3.72B and operating income +15% to $571M. Consumer spending was up at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, but costs were up with the introduction of the MyMagic+ technology which helps guests avoid long lines. At the studio, revenues were +7% to $1.51B with operating income +35% to $108M helped by Monsters University — …
EXCLUSIVE: Disney is in negotiations with Jon Favreau to helm The Jungle Book, a new adaptation of the 1894 Rudyard Kipling novel that is a priority project for the studio. Justin Marks, scripter of The Raven, will turn in a draft shortly, and the studio hopes to get into production next year. Favreau — who wrote, directed, produced and stars in the modestly budgeted indie Chef – has a strong history with Disney, and this will put him back into the event film game. He helmed the first two Iron Man films and had been attached to direct Magic Kingdom, the pic where the theme park comes to life. Disney previously turned The Jungle Book into the classic 1967 animated film and a 1994 live-action feature helmed by Stephen Sommers. The book is public domain, and Disney has not yet set producers. Bet a few of them on the lot are going to be picking up the phone momentarily.
‘Thor: The Dark World’ Scores Superhuman $109M Overseas, Boosts Disney To Another All-Time Int’l Record
Disney scored a Marvelous haul opening Thor: The Dark World overseas early Wednesday to $109.4M in 36 territories. The film opens stateside next Friday and is already making history. Thor 2‘s early take helped bump Disney’s international box office on the year beyond its previous all time $2.302B record with two months of global cash-collecting to go. The studio brought the Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman Marvel sequel early and at #1 in key territories France, the UK, Korea, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, Australia, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil and still has Argentina, Italy, China, and Japan on the docket; at this pace it’s hurtling towards a better run than the first Thor flick overseas.
EXCLUSIVE: Marc Klein has been set to write Fairy Tale Wedding, the Disney romantic pic that will be produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman through their Mandeville Films banner. Pic’s in the vein of Enchanted, and is the story of a wedding planner in a fairy tale land who cannot find love. Klein scripted Mirror Mirror for Relativity, A Good Year for Fox 2000 and Serendipity for Miramax. He’s repped by UTA, Kaplan Perrone’s Tobin Babst and Karl Austen.
Elaine Paul has joined Hulu as CFO, the first major move by the streaming service since Mike Hopkins boarded as CEO last week. Hopkins made the announcement today to staff on the Hulu blog. Paul was SVP of Corporate Strategy at Disney and, Hopkins noted, was involved in Disney’s original investment in Hulu back in 2009. At Disney, Paul led various acquisitions, new business initiatives, and strategic investments. In addition to her work in Corporate Strategy, she previously served as VP, Business Development for the Walt Disney Internet Group. The fate of the streaming service controlled by Fox, Disney and Comcast was in doubt early this year. The owners entertained bids for it before deciding in July to keep it, and supply $750M to accelerate its growth. Paul begins her new job on Monday.
Shanghai’s financial district may soon be better known as the city’s entertainment hub. Robert De Niro and his partners are working on a massive cultural development there while Bruno Wu’s Pinewood Chinawood studio base is also due to be housed in the waterfront Bund area. Today, The Walt Disney Company China said it will open “the world’s largest Disney Store” in Lujiazui, part of the financial district on the east side of Huangpu River in the Pudong area. The store itself will be a 10,800-square-foot space housed on a 53,000 square-foot site that will also host family entertainment events. Disney is building its first mainland China theme park, Shanghai Disneyland, as the the centerpiece of its Shanghai Disney Resort which is targeted to open in Pudong at the end of 2015. Disney said today that the store, which is to open in early 2015, will be “an important site where fans can track the progress of Shanghai Disney Resort.”
They tried again, but they did not succeed. Today the heirs of Captain America, The Avengers and X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby were denied their recent petition to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing or a full rehearing en banc on whether the estate had the right to issue termination notices to Marvel on his characters back in 2009. The brief order (read it here) from the panel at the NYC-based federal court comes just more than two and a half months after the appeals court shut down the heirs’ claims against Marvel and Disney by reaffirming a 2011 lower court ruling that the comic legend was under a work-for-hire deal and hence had no rights to terminate. Four years ago, Lisa Kirby, Susan Kirby, Barbara Kirby and Neal Kirby sent 45 notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures that have made movies and TV shows based on boatloads of characters Jack Kirby created or co-created with Stan Lee and others. Jack Kirby died in 1994.