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Make-Up Artists And Hair Stylists Guild Unveils Awards Nominations

By | Tuesday January 14, 2014 @ 1:59pm PST

Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild 2014 AwardsLOS ANGELES, Jan. 14, 2014 – Today the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild’s President Susan Cabral-Ebert announced nominations for the 2014 Annual Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards in 14Categories. Winners will be announced at the 2014 Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild (IATSE Local 706) Awards honoring make-up artists and hair stylists outstanding achievements in motion pictures, television, commercials and live theater and will take place on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at Paramount Studios. M.A.C. Cosmetics is the Official Cocktail Reception Sponsor.

Here’s the full list of nominations:

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Year-End: How A Growing Global Mandate And Franchise Fever Led To Movie Studio Tsuris

Mike Fleming

Considering that global movie ticket sales reached precedent levels after a particularly robust holiday period and a hollywood-signmostly sizzling summer, 2013 was one of the most turbulent years I can remember in the executive suites of major studios. Studios were overhauled all over town to better compete in an arena that is more of a global pursuit than ever, with victory belonging to whoever can build and maintain the most franchises.

YearEnd2013_badge__131227212819Purists will decry the fact that Hollywood’s brightest minds are mostly focused on repackaging derivative concepts for maximum global grosses, but evidence of the rewards are right there in the gross charts: Six of the top seven biggest films were sequels that provided the kind of results that keep studio conglomerate parents happy, keep studio chiefs employed, and slate co-financiers coming back for more. Sure, studios will still get involved with awards-season prestige films like The Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, but often only when someone else pays to make them. This franchise fever pushed costs of blockbusters to ridiculously high levels, and left top execs and producers explaining, and sometimes packing, when some badly misfired. Add that to internal power struggles at places like Universal and Warner Bros, and you needed a scorecard to keep up with the executive changes — which came fast and furious, especially after the brutal summer blockbuster season. Among them:

Related: Leonardo DiCaprio On Creating Fact-Based Black Comedy Without Glorifying Crooks

Universal Pictures logo 2013*Universal fired film chairman Adam Fogelson in a move that surprised him along with everyone else in town but Ron Meyer and Donna Langley, with whom he engaged in a quiet power struggle. Fogelson was blindsided by the result, coming hours after he presided over the Toronto premiere of Rush. The Comcast-orchestrated move that put Jeff Shell in charge of filmed entertainment after he did well running NBCUniversal’s international operations. Meyer was upped to vice chairman of NBCUniversal and Langley as sole Universal Films chairman and picture picker. Even though the studio placed third in market share and Despicable Me 2 could become the studio’s biggest-ever box office hit when it plays in China, Universal also flubbed franchise launch attempts like R.I.P.D. and 47 Ronin, and Kick-Ass 2 proved that once was enough. Universal has sequels to Fast & Furious 6Jurassic Park, The Mummy and Ted coming, and a new salty adult franchise in Fifty Shades Of Grey for 2015. Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures moved in to hatch pictures and co-fi Universal titles like Jurassic World, hedging the studio’s bets as it moves forward. Langley’s biggest challenge has been retooling the studio’s most lucrative franchise, Fast & Furious, which was halfway completed when star Paul Walker died tragically in a fiery car crash. Right after Fogelson was ousted, longtime Focus Features chief James Schamus was dismissed just as suddenly. He was replaced by Peter Schlessel, the whip-smart former Sony dealmaker who’d been running FilmDistrict and who clearly will be charged with broadening the highbrow Focus slate to include more low-risk high-return genre films like the FilmDistrict hit Insidious. Schamus’s co-chairman, Andrew Karpen, declined to relocate and stay on, dramatically changing the complexion of that prestige company.

Related: Why ‘Fifty Shades’ Date Move Makes Sense

warnerbros_logo__131127025856-275x209*The final shoe dropped after Warner Bros gave the top job to Kevin Tsujihara instead of Warner Bros movie chief Jeff Robinov. At a time when Robinov should have been taking victory laps after his bets on filmmakers paid off so well with Ben Affleck’s Argo, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Robinov instead left in a frosty exit to form his own moneyed film venture. This, and the equally tempestuous exit of Legendary’s Tull after a lucrative franchise-fueled run, left Robinov’s successors Greg Silverman and Sue Kroll under big pressure to assert themselves to find new franchises. The studio re-upped Village Roadshow Pictures and replaced Legendary with James Packer, Brett Ratner and Steven Mnuchin’s RatPac Dune in a slate co-financing deal that will spread $450 million or more over 75 films. While Warner Bros brass tired of Tull imposing his creative will and cherry-picking Warner Bros titles to co-fi, RatPac Dune will not do that, and I heard the studio was able to exclude certain plum titles from the arrangement. But Warner Bros also gifted RatPac Dune with a co-fi stake in Gravity after it was completed, creating Gravity-ca big windfall for a fledgling venture. It’s ironic given nobody in Hollywood but Robinov seemed to want to make that movie — an expensive auteur effort that has zero sequel potential. One challenge for the new team at Warner Bros: keeping Robinov from peeling away the directors he empowered, from Christopher Nolan to Affleck, Snyder, Luhrmann, The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips and Cuaron to make movies at the new company he and Graham King are expected to launch at Sony. Silverman is respected and Kroll is regarded as arguably the best marketer in town and the studio’s global distribution and marketing operation is as good as there is, but the pressure’s on even though Warner Bros topped other studios in market share. It also has what seems like a strong year with franchise launches in Godzilla and LEGO, another installment of 300 (so what if everybody died in the original?), and a Hobbit finale. Beyond Hobbit, New Line continues to do its part on the franchise front, hatching a Horrible Bosses sequel for 2014 and gearing up another installment of its sleeper 2013 road trip comedy We’re The Millers.

Related: OSCARS Q&A: Alfonso Cuaron On ‘Gravity’

Sony-Pictures-logo__130125035333-200x312 (1)*After two costly summer misfires in After Earth and White House Down,  a lackluster Smurfs sequel that fizzled the franchise, and disappointing returns on the Matt Damon-starrer Elysium, Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal found herself  in the cross-hairs of minority activist shareholder Daniel Loeb. The result: seismic changes in its executive structure and game plan moving forward. The studio dropped marketing head Marc Weinstock, corporate PR chief Steve Elzer and home entertainment chief David Bishop, and then added former New Line president-turned Fifty Shades Of Grey producer Michael De Luca to share president of production duties with Hannah Minghella. The studio vowed heading into its fall investor meetings that it would cut $250 million in costs through 2016, and make fewer movies in 2014 and  pour the money into TV. I keep hearing that was temporary window dressing, and after adding former Fox chief Tom Rothman to revive TriStar, which creates another buyer on a lot full of them, Sony will continue to try and create sony_amazing_spiderman_DF-06775_rV7franchises to go along with its Spider-Man and 007 stalwarts. Sony secured a big slate co-fi investment from John LaViolette and Joseph Singer’s Blue Anchor that begins with George Clooney’s The Monuments Men. And then there is the prospect of the venture by Robinov/King which would give Sony huge movies to release and gain market share and bragging rights, without actually having to fund them if they don’t want to. If 22 Jump Street and especially The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit as well as is hoped, some of that pressure could be alleviated as the studio presses ahead with reboots of past franchise successes Ghostbusters and Men In Black.

Related: Hot Teaser: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′ Read More »

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Paramount Dips Toe Into MGM’s ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ Sequel

By | Tuesday December 17, 2013 @ 3:54pm PST

Paramount will distribute the film worldwide theatrically and on home video while MGM will handlehottub2 select international territories. MGM/United Artists paired on the first movie in 2010 which grossed $50.3 million domestically, a mild success theatrically but the pic did well digitally and on demand. Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke return for the sequel, along with Steve Pink who directs from a screenplay by Josh Heald. Adam Scott also stars. In the sequel, when Lou (Corddry) finds himself in trouble, Nick (Robinson) and Jacob (Duke) fire up the hot tub time machine in an attempt to get back to the past. But they inadvertently land in the future. Now they have to alter the future in order to save the past… which is really the present. The pic is produced by Andrew Panay. It’s slated for a 2014 release. MGM and Paramount have partnered on several projects including the upcoming Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner, due for release July 25, 2014 as well as G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

Related: The Financials Of ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Silvio Berlusconi Expelled From Italian Parliament; Turkey’s D-Smart Inks TV Deal For MGM Fare; More

By | Wednesday November 27, 2013 @ 10:00pm PST

Silvio Berlusconi Expelled From Italian Parliament
SilvioBerlusconiItaly’s senate on Wednesday expelled former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from his parliamentary seat over his August conviction for tax fraud. This will be the first time the Mediaset chief will not hold an elected office in about 20 years. The New York Times notes that without the protections afforded to lawmakers, Berlusconi is now more vulnerable in other legal cases against him. Reuters quoted Berlusconi as saying to his Forza Italia party, “We are here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for democracy.”

MGM International TV Distribution Inks Deal With Turkey’s D-Smart
Turkish digital platform D-Smart, a subsidiary of Dogan TV Holding, has inked a multi-year first pay deal with MGM International Television Distribution. The exclusive deal gives D-Smart access to new releases and library titles. The package will include the Hobbit trilogy, Carrie, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Four Weddings And A Funeral and the Pink Panther movies, among others. In addition to linear distribution, D-Smart will also offer the films via SVOD through its digital service, D-Smart Blu. Read More »

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Noomi Rapace To Star For Helmer Tommy Wirkola In ‘What Happened To Monday?’

By | Monday October 28, 2013 @ 12:32pm PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Noomi Rapace has teamed with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters helmer Tommy Wirkola for What Happened To Monday? The script, which made the Black List, was written by Max Botkin. Rapace will play the multiple roles of septuplet sisters who struggle to stay hidden in an overpopulated world were a one-child policy outlaws siblings. Wirkola said he originally envisioned the protagonist(s) as male, but “I was struck by the complexities of having an actor portray seven characters and immediately knew Noomi was the ideal actor – male or female – to bring them to life,” Wirkola said in a statement. That puts the breakout star of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in the rare company of female talent like Angelina Jolie, who succeeded Tom Cruise as the star of Salt. Raffaella De Laurentiis is producing through Raffaella Productions, along with Vendome’s Philippe Rousselet. Vendome is also financing the film.

Related: CAA Signs Noomi Rapace

Rapace, who next stars in Child 44 and Animal Rescue, is repped by CAA and Magnolia’s Shelley Browning and attorney Howard Fishman. Wirkola, who next helms Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead, is repped by CAA and attorneys Michael Schenkman and Gregory Slewett.

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TCA: In Fox’s ‘Sleepy Hollow’, Ichabod Crane Meets Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, Rip Van Winkle & Superman

By | Thursday August 1, 2013 @ 11:55am PDT

Fox’s new drama series Sleepy Hollow bears as much resemblance to the Washington Irving story to which it has glommed on, as Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters did to the German folk fairy tale about the two cute tots who nearly got baked. Which is to say, barely. The Irving short story, set in 1790, was about a superstitious schoolmaster in Connecticut who is competing with the Tarrytown troublemaker for the daughter of a local rich guy, but who gets frightened out of town when his rival lobs a Jack-o-Lantern at hime, while masquerading as as the legendary Hessian trooper who’d had his head blown off by a cannonball in the neighborhood during the Revolutionary War and who returns nightly to look for his head.

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci has reinvisioned Ichabod as a superhero who is resurrected two and a half centuries later, finds the world on the brink of destruction and the Headless Horseman now one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation. Rather than crawling into his bed and pulling the covers over his head, like you’d think, the guy who used to fear Jack-o-Lanterns instead rises to the occasion, teams with a contemporary cop, and unravels a mystery that dates back to the Founding Fathers, which is before even his time. Read More »

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FX Acquires ‘Man Of Steel’, ‘Fast & Furious 6′, ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ & ‘The Purge’

By | Thursday June 20, 2013 @ 10:26am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

FX continues to load up on blockbusters, acquiring the TV rights to The Purge (Universal), Fast & Furious 6 (Universal), Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount), and this past weekend’s box-office champ, Man of Steel (Warner Bros.) The Network has also picked up This Is The End (Sony) – last weekend’s #2 film — along with The Internship (Fox) and Epic (Fox). With the latest acquisitions, FX has now secured 71% of the highest-grossing weekend films of 2013 – 17 out of 24 weekend releases. The new movies join the previously announced acquisitions of past weekend #1s Iron Man 3 (Paramount), Pain and Gain (Paramount), Oblivion (Universal), The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/FOX), A Good Day to Die Hard (FOX), Evil Dead (Sony), Identity Thief (Universal), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount), Mama (Universal), and Zero Dark 30 (Sony). The films will make their premieres on the FX Networks in mid-to-late 2015.

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Sundance Institute & Skywalker Sound Partner To Support Indie Filmmakers And Film Composers

By | Monday June 3, 2013 @ 11:31am PDT

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute and Skywalker Sound today announced that the Sundance Institute Music and Sound Design Labs at Skywalker Sound will take place at Skywalker Ranch in 2013 and 2014 and also announced the artists that will participate in the 2013 Labs. This is the first time the two organizations will collaborate to support independent filmmakers and film composers and marks a significant expansion of the Institute’s existing Composers Labs to include sound design.

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MGM Reports Q1 Windfall From ‘Hobbit’ And ‘Skyfall’

By | Thursday May 16, 2013 @ 1:23pm PDT

The numbers do the roaring for MGM. In the first three months of this year it generated net income of $57.4M, +150.7% vs the period last year, on revenues of $481.7M, +168.4%. It shouldn’t be a surprise. With the late 2012 release of the James Bond film Skyfall, and a 50% stake in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the studio had $139.5M in worldwide box office revenues, up from $0.5M last year. The company says that it has to wait for costs to be covered before it can recognize revenue from two films it co-financed: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Home entertainment also was way up — to $201.7M from $36.2M — with the home video release of Skyfall and piggy-back promotions for its James Bond library. But worldwide television licensing was -3.2% to $109.3M. MGM’s 19.1% stake in EPIX delivered $5M to net earnings, +16.3%. The results “exceeded our expectations” and “position us well to deliver on our financial goals” for 2013, CEO Gary Barber told investors. Read More »

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Big Box Office Means Big Win For FX

By | Tuesday May 7, 2013 @ 1:56pm PDT

The huge opening for Iron Man 3 over the weekend gives FX Networks 10 titles that have been the highest-grossing pics at the U.S. box office during the first 18 weeks of 2013. FX has commercial TV premiere rights to Iron Man 3 as part of a previous output deal with Marvel Studios. As part of that pact it aired Iron Man 2 on Sunday, which ranked as as basic cable’s top program that night in total viewers (3.26 million), adults 18-49 (1.75 million), adults 18-34, and men 18-49 and 18-34. “Iron Man 3 is a massive success and that franchise has performed incredibly well for our networks”, said Chuck Saftler, EVP FX Networks and General Manager of FXM. “The success of Iron Man 3 along with the other titles we’ve purchased this year bodes well for future success on our three networks.” The FX Networks include FX, FXM and new entry FXX. The other hot 2013 titles that will join the FX library in mid-to-late 2015: Pain And Gain (Paramount), Oblivion (Universal), The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/Fox), A Good Day To Die Hard (FOX), Evil Dead (Sony), Identity Thief (Universal), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount), Mama (Universal), and Zero Dark Thirty (Sony).

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Viacom Fiscal Q2 Results Mixed As Home Entertainment Revenues Fall

By | Wednesday May 1, 2013 @ 4:06am PDT

Several key numbers were down, although cost-cutting at Paramount appears to have enabled Viacom to slightly beat the Street’s profit expectations. The company’s fiscal Q2 net earnings from continuing operations came to $489M, -18.4% vs the period last year, on revenues of $3.14B, -5.9%. Analysts thought revenues would reach $3.19B. But earnings at 96 cents per share were a penny above forecasts. At Viacom’s core pay TV networks operation, revenues increased 2% to $2.23B while operating income fell 2% to $873M. Domestic affiliate revenues were up 3%, but the company says that if you factor out the streaming deals that helped last year’s results the number would be up by a low-double-digit percentage. Ad sales in the U.S. and abroad were up 2% — an upturn that many investors wanted to see after last year’s ratings declines at Nickelodeon. Filmed entertainment was the weakest link with revenues -20% to $941M and operating income -43% to $65M. Viacom says its worldwide theatrical revenues fell 15% without a film that provided the same boost it saw last year from Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.

Related: Viacom CEO Says Digital Video Sales On Track Despite Changes With Netflix Read More »

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Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick Join ‘Voices’ Chorus

By | Monday April 22, 2013 @ 8:27am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick have been set to star alongside Ryan Reynolds in The Voices, the Marjane Satrapi-directed psychological thriller that is being co-produced by 1984 Private Defense Contractors and Mandalay Vision. Filming is about to start in Berlin, with script by Paranormal Activity‘s Michael R. Perry. Reynolds plays a lovable but strange bathtub factory worker who yearns for the attention of a woman in accounting. When their relationship takes a sudden murderous turn, Jerry’s evil “talking” cat and benevolent “talking” dog lead him down a fantastical path that ultimately brings him to salvation. Read More »

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CinemaCon: Paramount Kicks Off ‘Star Trek’, Brad Pitt, Michael Bay At Convention

Pete Hammond

CinemaCon kicked off tonight at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with a presentation from Paramount. In only its  3rd year, what used to be ShoWest is proving to have the magic touch as once again all the major studios plus Lionsgate will be doing dog and pony shows for the nation’s exhibitors before the confab ends on Thursday. Paramount and its Vice Chairman Rob Moore were first and offered the theater owners a slickly produced and very quick reel of upcoming product, along with extended looks at its hoped-for summer blockbusters Star Trek Into  Darkness and World War Z, as well as a complete screening of Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain which opens next week.

With director J.J. Abrams stuck in L.A. still mixing the film to make its May 17 release date, Star Trek sequel writer/producer Damon Lindelof (Lost) filled in and interviewed cast members on hand including CinemaCon’s Male Star Of The Year Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Alice Eve and John Cho. Pine talked about the “vulnerability” of Kirk in this installment, while Quinto emphasized Mr. Spock’s previously not-fully-explored “emotional” side. Quinto also said it was the most physical of the Trek films at least for him. The 18 minutes of footage shown in 3D certainly confirmed that, with hair-raising scenes set in a volcano, underwater, and for a sequence where Kirk … Read More »

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Showtime Buys Dark Comedy From ‘Hansel & Gretel’ Director, Will Ferrell & Adam McKay

By | Thursday March 21, 2013 @ 1:57pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Tommy WirkolaEXCLUSIVE: After collaborating on Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, the movie’s writer/director Tommy Wirkola and production company Gary Sanchez are reteaming, this time on the TV side. Norwegian filmmaker Wirkola and Gary Sanchez’s Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have set up a half-hour project at Showtime.

The untitled dark comedy, now in development, is based on the 2012 Norwegian half-hour series, Hellfjord, which Wirkola created and produced with his partners Kjetil Omberg, Terje Strømstad and Stig Frode Henriksen through their Tappeluft Pictures. Wirkola, Henriksen, and Zahid Ali, the writers on the original seven-episode series, will also write the Showtime adaptation. Wirkola will direct the potential pilot and will executive produce with Ferrell and McKay. Described as in the vein of Hot Fuzz and Twin Peaks with a Nordic noir twist, Hellfjord centers on a disgraced Oslo police officer (Ali) who, after a freak horse accident, is banished to serve out his last three months on the force in the remote and strange fishing town of Hellfjord. (watch trailer below) There are no plans for Ali and Henriksen, who co-starred on the original series, to act in the American adaptation. With strong attendance overseas, revisionist fairy tale Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, just crossed … Read More »

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Paramount, MGM Confirm ‘Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’ Sequel In Works

By | Monday March 18, 2013 @ 1:29pm PDT

The news comes the same day the revisionist fairy tale starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton crossed $200 million at the global box office. That’s a significant milestone and key to the decision to go ahead with a sequel that is now officially in development; Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters made its bones overseas. While the pic opened at $19.6 million here January 25, and topped out at $54 million domestically on what Paramount said was a $50 million budget. But they loved it overseas, where the film has done over $150 million. That provides a strong hedge for these high concept action films.

Paramount, MGM and MTV Films were behind the first pic, from Gary Sanchez Productions, whose principals Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick are expected to return as producers for the second go-round as is Beau Flynn. Tommy Wirkola wrote and directed the first movie, which after this weekend has grossed $205.8M worldwide.

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‘Die Hard 5′ Wins Presidents Weekend, ‘Identity Thief’ #2, ‘Safe Haven’ Fades After Valentines Day, ‘Escape Planet Earth’ Weak, ‘Beautiful Creatures’ Bombs

TUESDAY 10TH UPDATE… TOP TEN GROSSES BELOW…  This Presidents Weekend overall was a so-so moviegoing weekend and not a good one, even though this holiday is usually one of the hottest domestic. If only the opening pics had been better. Total moviegoing was $164M, or down -15% from last year. The race for #1 was closer than expected. Twentieth Century Fox’s critically panned A Good Day To Die Hard (3,552 theaters) went up more than +45% from Friday to Saturday and held Sunday to win the 4-day holiday. But Universal thought its 2nd place holdover, the Melissa McCarthy-Jason Bateman frenemy comedy Identity Thief, was giving it a run for its money. As a Universal exec told me, “To think we could even scare a #1 film is a great accomplishment.” So it came down to Monday’s grosses with the $92 million budgeted actioner that’s a 25-year-old franchise ending up with an unimpressive $36.7M in its first 5 days. Last time around, 2007′s Live Free Or Die Hard opened on a Wednesday and earned $48.3M for the 5 days and $33.3M for the 3-day weekend. Fox shrugged off the awful reviews – only 13% positive on Rotten Tomatoes – for this R-rated mess directed by John Moore, scripted by Skip Woods, and produced by Alex Young and Wyck Godfrey. (“What reviews? There are reviews on this movie?,” a Fox exec laughed.) On Sunday, Fox released international numbers claiming A Good Day To Die Hard had an “explosive weekend” grossing its biggest weekend ever - $61.5M from 9,595 screens in 63 markets to hold the #1 market position in 32 out of 37 new openers. The worldwide cume went past $80M.

There was another holiday to score: Valentine’s Day, always a huge moviegoing event. (2012′s was a $30 million Tuesday.) Thursday was won by Relativity’s critically panned romantic drama Safe Haven (3,223 theaters) -even though it was worse reviewed than Die Hard 5 with only 11% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. The Lasse Hallstrom-directed PG-13 pic has been fading since VDay. Maybe because this latest tearjerker adapted from romance novelist Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Dear John) starred Josh Duhamel who doesn’t have the sex appeal of Channing Tatum or the acting chops of Ryan Gosling. Both Die Hard 5 and Safe Haven earned ‘B+’ CinemaScores from audiences to help word of mouth. Bruce et al was #2 on Valentines Day because, when you think of romance, you think of Die Hard 5.

As for Friday’s release, The Weinstein Company’s critically panned PG toon Escape From Planet Earth (3,288 theaters) came in 4th Friday, then had a major kiddie business (Saturday +82%). But the $70M movie ($40M cost and #30 to open, according to Weinstein execs) earned only $20.8M this 4-day holiday even though there’s been nothing fresh in the family marketplace for months and most toons do $35M-40M on a 3-day weekend. With no new kid films for the next few weeks, let’s see what the multiple turns out to be. The film was directed by Cal Brunker.

Warner Bros’ Beautiful Creatures (2,950 theaters) opened Thursday as a huge disappointment after its ‘B’ CinemaScore. Scripted and directed by Richard LaGravenese, this PG-13 tween/teen goth romantic fantasy tried to capitalize on the Twilight target audience addicted to the book series – in this case, the first in the Caster Chronicles novels by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The marketing emphasized social media –from Instagram-released production photography to Facebook-hosted set visit contests to extensive Twitter-based interviews. There even were mall tours. But none of this could overcome the fact that the filmmakers altered the book, which annoyed fans who stayed away from the movie version.
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#1 ‘Identity Thief’ Steals $36M Weekend (Bigger Than ‘Bridesmaids’), #2 ‘Warm Bodies’ $11.4M, #3 ‘Side Effects’ $9.5M: Blizzard Didn’t Blitz U.S. Box Office

By | Saturday February 9, 2013 @ 11:58pm PST

SATURDAY 11:45 PM, 7TH UPDATE: Well, Winter Storm Nemo raged over the Northeast Friday but box office stayed really solid. Despite movie theaters closed by nightfall and venues with lost power. Even though Northeast governors shut down all road traffic and imposed fines and even jailtime. That could have been terrible news for this weekend’s two major openers but wasn’t. Now for the dig out. Both Universal’s frenemies comedy Identity Thief and Open Roads Films’ Steven Soderbergh crime thriller Side Effects scored middling ‘B’ CinemaScores which won’t help or hurt word of mouth. Yet grosses went up double digits – +35% and +52% respectively from Friday to Saturday for the pair. True, this weekend’s total moviegoing is only $100M which is down a disappointing 45% from last year.

Even so I’m astonished that weekend trends showed incredibly strong numbers for Identity Thief (originally in 3,141 theaters) with $11.2 million Friday and $15 million (+35%) Saturday trending for $36M this weekend. Despite (or because) it was critically panned as derivative drivel, the Melissa McCarthy-Jason Bateman comedy is doing fantastic box office in nation’s center (which Hollywood derides as ‘flyover’ country). ”Everyone says Identity Thief is really good – even when it gets formulaic,” a rival exec admitted to me. And it only cost $35M, claims the studio. It’s even beating McCarthy’s Bridesmaids opening numbers - $26.2M weekend from 2,918 theaters on May 13, 2011. Of course, that Universal movie went on to do a huge multiple for the studio which would be happy with 3x now.

Identity Thief is doing 1/3 better than tracking predicted — and it was tracking well before the storm. Led initially by females, awareness and interest spread out to men, helped by 2 spots around the Super Bowl this past Sunday. But why Hollywood keeps making this story every decade is beyond me – 2003′s Bringing Down The House with Queen Latifah and Steve Martin, 1992′s HouseSitter with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin. This one reteams Batemen with his Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon, and it’s McCarthy’s first starring role since Bridesmaids which earned her an Oscar nomination. Identity Thief was produced by Scott Stuber, Pam Abdy and Bateman who pitched Stuber the idea while they were working together on Couples Retreat. They originally developed the film for two male leads, but then they saw McCarthy in Bridesmaids and adapted the co-lead role for her with more physical comedy. Overseas, pic opens day and date in Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Taiwan and continues rolling out abroad beginning February 21st.

#3 is last weekend’s winner, Summit Entertainment’s zombies rule comedy Warm Bodies, which grossed $3.2M Friday and $5.4M Saturday for maybe $11.7M after its big $25.1M opening a week ago. New cume is $36.8M.

#3 is Side Effects  (originally 2,605 theaters) opening with $2.8M Friday and $4.2M Saturday (+52%) for a $9.4M weekend. Open Road, underwritten by both AMC and Regal, claims it will make a profit at that result even with a production budget of $30M and a marketing spend of $20M. Open Road in January 2012 pre-bought the U.S. rights to Side Effects which was financed by Endgame Entertainment. Pic’s producers are Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Gregory Jacobs, and Scott Z. Burns who is also the screenwriter. With a marquee director in Steven Soderbergh and a marquee cast in Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, it’s perplexing why pic didn’t do better at the box office. Obviously, kicking off the publicity campaign with a New York Times piece doesn’t mean anything anymore. Rooney Mara even appeared on the cover of Vogue and Interview Magazine. But the hip stayed home. The trailer launched on November 2nd with Flight and the media campaign was focused on adults 18-49. A heavy word-of-mouth screening program included screenings for psychiatric doctor groups accompanied by niche publicity about the psychiatric medicine of the movie. The online campaign kicked off with a viral push for the fictional drug featured in the film. Interestingly, much of the content featured on the film’s website could only be revealed by rollover – alluding to the theme of the film that there is much more beneath the surface. Oh, well.

Warner Bros pushed up the print count to 1,405 for its Best Picture Oscar lead contender Argo in its 18th week to jump back into the Top Ten Films for a $2M weekend and $123.2M cume. And Paramount’s Top Gun reissued in 3D IMAX (300 locations) rounded out the Top Ten with $2M for the weekend  in support of the Blu-ray debut this month.

Here’s the Top Ten based on weekend estimates:

1. Identity Thief (Universal) NEW [Runs 3,141]
Friday $11.2M, Saturday $15.0M, Weekend $36.0M

2. Warm Bodies (Summit/Lionsgate) Week 2 [3,009]
Friday $3.2M, Saturday $5.4M, Weekend $11.7M (-43%), Cume $36.8M

3. Side Effects (Open Road) NEW [Runs 2,605]
Friday $2.8M, Saturday $4.2M, Weekend $9.4M

4. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) Week 13 [Runs 2,809]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend  $6.4M, Cume $89.5M

5. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) Week 3 [Runs 3,285]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $5.7M, Cume $43.8M
Read More »

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UPDATE: Jeremy Renner’s ‘Kill The Messenger’ Acquired By Focus Features For WW Distribution On Journo Gary Webb Saga

By | Tuesday February 5, 2013 @ 9:30am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE UPDATE, 9:30 AM: Just after Jeremy Renner and Homeland exec producer/director Michael Cuesta came aboard Kill The Messenger, the film has formalized a deal for Focus Features to take worldwide rights. Focus will distribute in the U.S., and Focus Features International’s Allison Thompson will sell foreign in Berlin this week. This development isn’t a shock, considering that Scott Stuber set it up years ago at his home studio Universal, and it is an excellent fit at Focus. The film is about journalist Gary Webb and how his mostly accurate investigative report on how the CIA helped introduce crack to California got the journalist smeared and fired. He eventually committed suicide.

EARLIER, JANUARY 31 PM: The movie packages are coming together on the eve of next week’s Berlin film market. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters star Jeremy Renner has been set to star in Kill The Messenger, a thriller that Michael Cuesta will direct that is based on the tragic tale of a journalist who committed suicide after being smeared by the CIA. The script was written by Peter Landesman. Cuesta seems perfect for this; he’s an exec producer and has directed numerous episodes of Homeland and has been integral in establishing the visual look of that show. He also helmed the pilots for Dexter and Elementary.

Scott Stuber, who set up this project eight years ago as producer at Universal, will be joined by Renner and Don Handfield, and it will be a co-production between Stuber’s Bluegrass and Renner’s The Combine. Naomi Despres is also producing. The film begins production in the summer. Read More »

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Clean Sweep For ‘The Sapphires’ At Australian Academy Awards

By | Wednesday January 30, 2013 @ 1:15am PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

Nominated for 12 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, The Sapphires won six gongs at a ceremony hosted by Russell Crowe in Sydney on Wednesday night. The musical drama about four Aboriginal girls who formed a singing group in the 1960s won best director (Wayne Blair), lead actress (Deborah Mailman), lead actor (Chris O’Dowd), supporting actress (Jessica Mauboy) and adapted screenplay (Keith Thompson, Tony Briggs). That’s in addition to five craft awards presented on Monday. The Weinstein Co. will release the film in the U.S. on March 22. Thriller Wish You Were Here took the AACTA original screenplay award for husband-and-wife creative team Kieran Darcy-Smith and Felicity Price, and supporting actor for Antony Starr. German actress Saskia Rosendahl received the best young actor trophy for Cate Shortland’s Lore, which was Australia’s entry for the foreign language Oscar. The Byron Kennedy Award, named for George Miller’s late producing partner, went to director/animator Sarah Watt (Look Both Ways, My Year Without Sex), who died of cancer in 2011. John Edwards’ Puberty Blues, which was inspired by Bruce Beresford’s 1981 film, was named best TV drama series. Presenters included AACTA president Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters leads Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. It was the second annual ACTAA awards, the successor to the Australian Film Institute’s awards. The complete list of winners follows: Read More »

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