Former Leverage star Timothy Hutton is set as the male lead in ABC’s drama pilot American Crime. Felicity Huffman is in negotiations for the female lead in the project, written and exec produced by John Ridley, who is fresh off winning an Oscar for 12 Years A Slave. It centers on the racially charged murder of a war veteran and the subsequent trial, which are examined through the personal lives of the players involved. Hutton, repped by Untitled, WME and Jackoway Tyerman, will play Chuck Skokie, a former gambling addict-turned-honest working man whose adult son Matt is the victim.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
ANALYSIS: Even though the Robert Wise original musical West Side Story is about as sacred a cow movie as you are going to find, Fox has unlocked that movie title for a remake specifically because Steven Spielberg is interested in making it. No writer has been set yet and Spielberg hasn’t done anything more than register his interest, which traditionally has always been enough to get a studio hot and bothered. Between this project and the Fox/DreamWorks team-up Robopocalypse, the Daniel H. Wilson sci-fi novel that has a Drew Goddard script and which Spielberg has said he will direct even though he stepped away to make Lincoln, it would be easy to see Spielberg directing movies at Fox for the next several years if in fact Stacey Snider makes a move to that studio after her contract expires at year’s end.
That’s just part of why the town sees Snider’s move over there as such an easy transition. It is an easier fit than when Jeff Robinov eyed Fox at a landing place but he did not want to report to Jim Gianopulos, who likes calling the shots after sharing power so long with Tom Rothman. Snider is apparently willing to do that and she has a lot of experience to offer managing a studio pipeline, skills that are rusting with DreamWorks’ comparatively small output.
Robinov is now well on his way to finding his money to start a company that will allow him to take big swings at Sony, and I’ve heard that there’s a good chance the bulk of that investment will come from Len Blavatnik, the Ukraine-born billionaire whose worth has been pegged at north of $17 billion. What better way for a man with that kind of money to jump into the perilous Hollywood movie business than with Gravity and Argo architect Robinov and the distribution and marketing might of Sony Pictures?
Related: Is Jeff Robinov Headed To Sony Pictures?
After a strong run when DreamWorks was sold to Paramount, a nasty divorce that left behind plum properties like the Transformer series, a near move to Snider’s past home Universal, and the Reliance financing/Disney arrangement which has been stepped down and has hobbled the company, I can easily imagine this finally calling a halt to the great DreamWorks experiment. The one that started with Jeffrey Katzenberg being denied the crown at the Mouse House by Disney’s Michael Eisner, and then joined into building what was to become the next great major studio by his pals Spielberg and David Geffen. I look at the recent crop of DreamWorks films, from the upcoming Need For Speed, the good but disappointing at the box office flop The Fifth Estate and the solid hit The Help, and DreamWorks just seems like an ordinary production company to me. That certainly didn’t have to be the case if the supremely ambitious principals hadn’t made all those deals that disrupted the company and instead stayed a solid course from the beginning and kept building a company on a consistent track. Read More »
Awards ceremony broadcasts may have been changed forever at last night’s Oscars when Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie of herself and a dozen A-listers in the theater. She broke the record for most retweets – 3 million-plus and counting — causing a brief service issue with Twitter. “We just broke Twitter,” DeGeneres announced during ABC’s broadcast of the Oscars after word got out.
Related: Ellen Gets Mixed Reviews For Oscars
“The envelope please … to @TheEllenShow — this is now the most retweeted tweet with over 1 million RTs. Congrats!” chimed in Twitter when DeGeneres’ selfie hit that retweeting threshold. (According to Poptip, a platform that analyzes and synthesizes social conversation in real time, among last night’s Oscar highlights, four of the top 15 phrases about the Oscars were about the Samsung selfie.)
Related: OSCARS: A Selfie-Important Academy Awards Honors Past And Future
Read More »
Like any change to a well-established model, the networks’ efforts to break away from the traditional development cycle is undergoing growing pains. There have been issues for studios who don’t have a pilot to show to international buyers at the May screenings because production has been shifted to off-season or because projects have received what Fox refers to “an off-cycle commitment for further investment towards series production,” meaning an order for backup scripts and a bible but no tape. Then there is the issue for writers hired on the projects that have no formal green light.
Related: Fox’s Abolishment Of Pilot Season: How Will It Work
This is not a new phenomenon — Starz, for example, assembles a writers room and gets scripts ready as part of its development process because it only orders projects straight to series. But more and more broadcast networks are now embracing the off-cycle and straight to series models and, hedging their bets, invest in small writers rooms (an average of 3 people) working for 4-10 weeks to produce multiple scripts and a bible that network brass evaluate before making an episodic commitment. Fox and NBC have been the most active in the field, with the others also exploring the idea. The model has raised concerns for writers as it allows the studio to hire scribes at scale (minimum pay) per WGA article 14 (“writers in additional capacity”) and not adhere to writers’ “quotes,” which is the per-episode fee to which they are entitled based on experience. It also allows studios to ask for lengthy holds of up to 6-8 months on the writers after they finish work while the network makes a decision on the series. Read More »
What goes up must — keep going up? That’s what investors seem to think about Netflix, even after it unveiled a “mutually beneficial interconnection agreement” with Comcast widely believed to include payments to guarantee that its broadband customers receive “a high-quality Netflix video experience for years to come”. Share prices for the market’s biggest gainer in 2013, with stock values +312%, are up another 21.4% so far in 2014 — and touched yet another new high today at $449.69. The price retreated a little to close at $447, +3.4% on the day. Investors believe that Netflix used its leverage to influence Comcast’s $42.5B deal to buy Time Warner Cable to negotiate payments that will be low enough to keep profits growing and high enough to help it dominate rivals. “Few others can match [Netflix's] spend without incurring massive losses,” Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible says. Barclays Capital’s Kannan Venkateshwar also sees the deal as a positive for Netflix, even though this is “the first time in the cable industry’s history a content provider will pay for direct access to the [broadband] pipe.”
Related: Will TV Programmers Have To Consolidate If Comcast Buys Time Warner Cable?
Read More »
ION Television has joined Shaftesbury, Canadian network CTV and Fox International as a producer on the Canadian procedural drama series The Listener for its 13-episode fifth season, which started production earlier this year. Under the agreement, ION becomes the exclusive U.S. television network for originals of fifth and future seasons of the series. ION has been carrying The Listener — in 2011, the network acquired the first two seasons of the drama, which was originally picked up by NBC for a summer 2009 run of Season 1, which was cut short after several episodes. After the show did well alongside CBS’ off-network procedurals, including Criminal Minds and Law & Order; Criminal Intent, I hear ION exercised its option to become a co-producer of original episodes. The network used a similar strategy for another popular Canadian procedural drama, Flashpoint, first inking a syndication deal with CBS for the show’s Season 1-4 episodes that had aired on CBS (plus 11 that hadn’t aired) before becoming Flashpoint‘s exclusive US network for Season 5. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Domenick Lombardozzi (Boardwalk Empire) is set to star and Eva Amurri Martino (Californication) to co-star opposite Henry Winkler in ABC’s comedy pilot The Winklers, from Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal; Winkler’s son, director Max Winkler; and son-in-law, actor Rob Reinis. Based on Henry Winkler’s relationship with his son-in-law, Reinis, The Winkles centers on Jack (Lombardozzi), an emotionally reserved construction worker who learns about love, life and hugs while unexpectedly living with his in-laws — successful actor Henry (Winkler) and Tita Winkler. Martino will play Henry and Tita’s spoiled, somewhat controlling daughter Emily who is married to Jack. 20th TV is producing.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots Read More »
A long-gestating series offshoot from TNT‘s successful The Librarian original movies is inching closer to a green light as a 10-episode, straight-to-series at TNT. Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment, which was behind the three Librarian movies, would be back as producer, partnering with the movies’ star Noah Wyle, who is in early talks to serve as an executive producer as well as reprise his role as Flynn Carsen in several episodes as he has a full-time job on TNT’s hit series Falling Skies. Also eyed to reprise their roles from the movies in guest starring/recurring capacity are Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin. Tentatively titled The Librarians, the proposed series would revolve around a group of younger men and women eager to become Flynn’s successor as the protector of secret artifacts. The green light for the series is cast-contingent, hinging on finding an actress for the lead role of a strong, ass-kicking woman. I hear the character is conceived as British, with actresses like Melissa George and Rhona Mitra as prototypes.
Related: TNT Orders Six Extra Episodes Of ‘Cold Justice’
Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros is just getting underway with the movie version of the hit HBO series Entourage. You know from the series that Ari Gold’s long-suffering assistant Lloyd has moved up to rep. So Ari has found a new assistant, and that role will be played by Scott Mescudi, who is better known in hip-hop circles as Kid Cudi. Mescudi is about to open opposite Aaron Paul in the DreamWorks vidgame adaptation Need For Speed, and he just wrapped the films James White and Two Night Stand. He’s also performing at Coachella. Mescudi is repped by WME and Leverage.
Related: ‘Entourage’ Gang Back As Movie Finally Begins Filming
While he hasn’t decided whether to oppose the deal in Washington, DirecTV CEO Mike White says Comcast’s $42.5B pact to buy Time Warner Cable would result in “unprecedented media concentration in one company.” The No. 1 satellite service provider is “still assessing some of the competitive implications” but White wants to “ensure it’s appropriately scrutinized” — especially the “effective broadband monopoly they might have in two-thirds of the country.” The owner of NBCUniversal also would have a lot of power to raise content prices. That “creates some significant changes in the competitive landscape that we have to think hard about.” Couldn’t Comcast use its clout, with 30M subs after a merger, to slow the rate of increase in programming costs? Perhaps, but “it’s a complicated dynamic because that leverage may not flow through to its competitors.”
White says he’ll continue to resist high programming costs.”None of our customers have an income like those of us on the call here.” He wouldn’t comment on the state of the carriage negotiations with The Weather Channel, which went dark on DirecTV in January, but says that his company “may have lost a few thousand customers in the first quarter” due to the dispute. “Fundamentally I continue to believe if your viewership goes down ….that should be reflected in the price.” Read More »
Former Nikita co-executive producer Albert Kim has signed a two-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV. The pact, which has an option for a third year, marks Kim’s first overall deal. Under the agreement, Kim will work on 20th TV’s upcoming Fox adventure series Hieroglyph and will later join the second season of the studio’s breakout Fox drama Sleepy Hollow as a co-executive producer. He also will develop. “This was highly sought after,” said 20th president of creative affairs Johnny Davis of the deal. “We build shows around a voice, and Albert has a very specific voice; his writing is compelling and an adrenaline rush.”
Related: 20th Century Fox TV’s Head Of Current Jeffrey Glaser Upped To EVP
Read More »
Breaking Boston will premiere Thursday, March 13 at 10 PM on A&E Network, which already is home to producer Mark Wahlberg‘s family restaurant series Wahlburgers. The new docu-drama will center on four working-class women coming of age in hardscrabble Boston and was inspired by the tough, hard-as-nails female characters in Wahlberg‘s Oscar-nominated movie The Fighter. A&E ordered the pilot in November 2012 and picked up the series last May. “These are real women telling their original stories of trying to break out of what’s expected of them,” said Wahlberg who himself was raised in Boston and just earned his high school diploma at age 42. “The odds are difficult, but I believe they can make it.” The series is from 44 Blue Prods, Wahlberg’s Closest to the Hole Prods, Leverage Entertainment and Bill Thompson Prods. Wahlberg, Stephen Levison and Thompson are executive producers. Executive producers for 44 Blue are Stephanie Drachkovich and Jennifer Colbert. Lily Neumeyer and Devon Graham are exec producing for the network. Read More »
Dwayne Johnson is headed to HBO‘s primetime. The pay cable network has picked up to series half-hour pilot Ballers toplined by the wrestling and movie star in his first major series gig. He is executive producing the series with his Pain & Gain co-star Mark Wahlberg; Wahlberg’s manager/frequent producing partner Steve Levinson, on whose original idea the project is based; showrunner Even Reilly; and Peter Berg, who directed the pilot. Written by Levinson in his pilot-writing debut, Ballers is exploring the lives of a group of former and current football players. Johnson stars as Spencer Strasmore, a retired athlete. The cast includes Omar Benson Miller as Charles, an affable former pro athlete who is searching for his next career; Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington as Ricky, a highly competitive and highly spiritual pro athlete; Rob Corddry as Joe, a financial advisor who tries really hard to fit in; Troy Garity as Jason, a top-tier sports agent; Donovan Carter as Vernon, a deeply family-oriented pro athlete; Jazmyn Simon as Julie, wife of an ex-pro athlete; Taylor Cole as Michaels, an ESPN sideline reporter who is romantically involved with Spencer; and LeToya Luckett as Tina, widow to one of Spencer’s closest friends.
The series pickup for Ballers, which will start production later this year, comes on the heels of the series order on Tuesday of another half-hour project with marquee stars from a top director and producer, The Brink, starring Jack Black and Tim Robbins. Jay Roach, who directed the pilot, and Jerry Weintraub are executive producing. Both series have been touted as capable of attracting broad audiences, something Johnson already has done in primetime as his WWE alter ego The Rock and on the big screen. He next reprises his role on the Fast & Furious 7 movie, whose production has been delayed by the death of star Paul Walker, and also has feature Hercules and TNT reality series Wake Up Call coming up. Read More »
Analysts may feel Comcast‘s just announced $45.2B all-stock deal to purchase Time Warner Cable is a good bet, but there will certainly be more than a few voices coming out against the mega-merger. One of the first to formally oppose the deal is the Parents Television Council. The sometimes controversial and always vocal advocacy group today said the deal “will invariably be anti-consumer and anti-family” in a statement. While the PTC is known for coming out against the TV rating system, on-air profanity and content, the group also has been consistent in its opposition to cable bundling — the source of its issues with the TWC-Comcast deal. “A horizontally and vertically integrated Comcast/Time Warner Cable entity would wield calamitous market leverage over consumers,” PTC president Tim Winter said today in a statement. “Unless and until Comcast – or, for that matter, any other potential suitor of Time Warner Cable – agrees to allow customers to choose and pay for only the cable networks they want coming into their homes, the Parents Television Council will vehemently oppose any such merger.”
Related: WGA West & WGA East Slam Comcast-TWC Merger
The PTC has long advocated cable unbundling as part of its agenda, with the argument that the present system “forces families to underwrite explicit content.” The group isn’t the only one against bundling: Last May, Sen. John McCain introduced The TV Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 to, in part, end bundling, though that effort has been quiet since. Regardless, Comcast and TWC as well as investors will have to wait for a potentially long regulatory approval process from the FCC and the DOJ.
What A Comcast-TWC Could Mean For Hollywood
Wall Street Sees Mixed Impact From Cable Mega-Merger Plans
Will TV Programmers Have To Consolidate If Comcast Buys TWC? Read More »
Folks in the movie business sometimes argue with me when I tell them that the most powerful executive in Hollywood lives in Philadelphia. But that debate should end if Brian Roberts’ Comcast buys Time Warner Cable. With 30M cable TV subscribers, the colossus based in the City of Brotherly Love would have incalculable power to influence Big Media and entertainment generally. Here are a few potential flash points:
Related: Comcast Announces Agreement To Pay $45.2B In Stock For TWC
Home video sales. Comcast recently became an important ally for studios that want to sell downloads of movies and TV shows (called EST, for electronic sell-through), their best hope to revive a business that has struggled as consumers lost interest in DVDs. Internet services such as Amazon and Apple’s iTunes were fine. But Comcast stunned some studio execs late last year when it began to sell EST movies and TV shows to its cable subscribers and beat iTunes and Amazon in sales of Universal’s Despicable Me 2. “In the first 2 months of their service, relying only on the content of three studios, including Lionsgate, Comcast has captured 15% of the EST market and expanded the business,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said last week. He added that “there are ongoing conversations with other [pay TV providers]. You will see them enter the EST space. It’s been too … Read More »
Actors/pop singers/producers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg can add reality TV stars to their resumes with A&E’s Wahlburgers. While A&E’s flagship Duck Dynasty has lost some of its ratings prowess this season, it has helped launch a potential new breakout for the network in freshman reality series Wahlburgers, which chronicles brothers Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s efforts to expand their burger restaurant business in the Boston area. Three weeks into Wahlburgers‘ run, A&E has ordered 18 more episodes of the series, double its original order of 9 episodes. Wahlburgers, which follows Duck Dynasty, has seen audience growth week to week, averaging 3.5 million total viewers to date. “Viewers are responding to the heartwarming dynamics of Boston’s first family as they balance living in the Hollywood spotlight and growing a business,”said David McKillop, General Manager and EVP of A&E. Wahlburgers is produced by 44 Blue Prods., in association with Closest to the Hole Productions, Leverage Entertainment and Donnie D Productions. Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson and Donnie Wahlberg exec produce with 44 Blue’s Rasha Drachkovitch.
The Berlin fest’s European Film Market kicked off today under surprisingly sunny skies. That’s oddly apt for a market that a buyer referred to this week as “a desert.” The exec was lamenting the lack of big-ticket product to be proffered up and down hotel halls here. “Everybody is asking where the projects are. Cannes better be good because we can’t fall any lower.” That’s a pretty harsh evaluation, but one that’s been echoed by others.
That’s not to say there is a total lack of catnip amongst the pickings here. Some of the projects generating extra heat include IM Global’s M. Night Shyamalan/Bruce Willis reteam Labor Of Love, and Chris Pine-starrer The Line; FilmNation’s A Most Violent Year with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain and directed by JC Chandor; Sierra/Affinity‘s Jonathan Mostow-directed action thriller For The Dogs with Emma Roberts and Sam Worthington; and Mister Smith’s Jesse Owens pic Race. But the oft-heard complaint that Berlin falls too closely on the heels of the AFM, the holidays and Sundance, is even more of a lament this year. IM Global’s Stuart Ford tells me, “As ever, Berlin does suffer from the time crunch. It’s always hard to get new projects completely packaged.” There’s also a bit of a slowdown in the higher-budget … Read More »
Paladin has acquired The Maid’s Room and will release the Michael Walker-helmed thriller theatrically and on digital platforms this spring, per the company. Pic played the Hamptons Festival and was shot in that resort area. Paula Garces of Devious Maids, plays that role again, caring for a spoiled family and gaining leverage when the son of her employers comes home with a bloodied car after a hit and run. Devilworks, a new London-based sales agency, has pacted for international rights and is launching the title at the current European Film Market in Berlin.