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TCA Postmortem: Consolidation News Framed Press Tour Conversation

By | Friday July 25, 2014 @ 8:48am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

TCA Postmortem: Consolidation News Framed Press Tour ConversationWith the power of fans growing and the influence of TV reviews declining in the age of social media, the once marque summer TCA press tour has been taking a back seat to Comic-Con. Once again, the Los Angeles critics convention served as a warm-up for the San Diego geekfest, with the networks trying to save their noisy announcements for the Con. But what would’ve been another uneventful summer TCA was livened up by two big consolidation stories that broke in the first and second week — 21st Century Fox’s decision to put both the broadcast network and 20th Century Fox TV under the studio’s chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman, and the company’s (for now unsuccessful) bid to acquire Time Warner.

TCA Logo New (2)The first news, which had been widely expected, was met largely with approval as an inevitable move in an industry where owning content is becoming more and more important. CBS has helped grow CSI into a billion-dollar franchise for the parent company, which owns the show. Compare that with The Big Bang Theory, which CBS developed and nurtured to a blockbuster hit that would make as much as $3 billion — for another company, Warner Bros. TV. Watching how much money it has made for WBTV, with the Chuck Lorre series, and for 20th Century Fox TV, with How I Met Your Mother, the network focused on growing its own syndicatable comedies, recently renewing CBS Studios-produced The Millers for a second season. During CBS’ TCA executive session, chairman Tassler was asked whether ownership played a role in the decision to renew The Millers over two 20th TV freshmen, The Crazy Ones, which drew bigger DVR ratings increases, and Friends with Better Lives, which showed better retention. “We will never ever, ever discriminate based solely on ownership,” Tassler said. “We feel that The Millers has a lot of great story material still imbedded in the DNA of the show.” Read More »

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‘Star Wars’ Sets Short Hiatus As Two Actors Join Film

By | Sunday July 6, 2014 @ 12:27pm PDT

‘Star Wars’ Sets Short Hiatus As Two Actors Join FilmSome tidbits, none that earth-shattering, have trailed out of the Star Wars production, as they’ve scheduled a two-week break in August and added two newbies to the cast. The Lucasfilm/Disney production of Star Wars Episode VII picked the two actors after an open casting call across 11 U.S. and U.K. cities that garnered (as you can imagine) almost 70,000 applicants. The two-week hiatus in August was called as a result of schedule adjustments after  star Harrison Ford broke his ankle last month. We’re told that Ford, who is undergoing physical therapy for the next few weeks, has been recovering well and is expecting to return to the set soon.

After wrapping on-location filming in Abu Dhabi in May, principal photography continues at Pinewood Studios in London. LucasFilm said that the production remains on schedule, even with the hiatus, and should wrap in the fall in time for the Dec. 18, 2015 release. Read More »

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UPDATE: ‘Star Wars’ Bombshell! Rian Johnson To Write, Direct Next Two Films

By | Friday June 20, 2014 @ 11:55am PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE: ‘Star Wars’ Bombshell! Rian Johnson To Write, Direct Next Two FilmsUPDATE, 11:55 AM: Rian Johnson hasn’t commented yet on his monumental new task of mounting the next two Star Wars films. Even better, he has borrowed the spirit of another space film, The Right Stuff, that perfectly explains how he must be feeling as he processes the daunting task ahead of him. I think he’s up to it. Glimpse it below Deadline’s original scoop.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 11:16 AM: Rarely have I seen the revival of a film franchise stir so much fervor as Star Wars, among hot young filmmakers who grew up loving George Lucas’ original film trilogy. In a bombshell move, I’m told that Lucasfilm is making a deal with Looper writer-director Rian Johnson to write and direct Star Wars Episodes VIII and IX. Essentially, that means that the intention is for Johnson to take the baton from JJ Abrams, who has gotten the space franchise off the ground and is right now helming Episode VII. I don’t know too much more at this point, but it is in keeping with Disney and Lucasfilm’s strategy of entrusting the venerable franchise to the best and brightest writers and directors, including the spinoff films that are being directed by Chronicle‘s Josh Trank and Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards.

rian johnsonJohnson will take over the core film franchise, and he’ll get started quickly and this will be his preoccupation for quite awhile. Technically, he’ll write that second treatment but the intention on both sides is … Read More »

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Disney Taps Philip Steuer As Senior Veep Of Physical Film Production

By | Thursday June 19, 2014 @ 10:08am PDT
Mike Fleming

Disney Taps Philip Steuer As Senior Veep Of Physical Film ProductionReacting to Tony To’s move to Lucasfilm, Disney has hired Philip Steuer to be SVP Physical Production, for the studio’s live-action film group. Steuer produced Saving Mr. Banks and all three Chronicles Of Narnia films. His executive producing credits include Oz The Great And Powerful, The Rookie, and Disney’s upcoming Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, due out in October. So he has experience in logistically challenging films, and knows the studio infrastructure. For the time being, Steuer and longtime studio executive Jerry Ketcham will co-lead physical production following To’s move to Lucasfilm. The two will report directly to President of Production Sean Bailey.

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Teresa Cheng Joins Lucasfilm Singapore; ‘Sherlock’s Stubbs In BBC Artist Hunt; Dusk! TV Dawns; More

By | Friday June 13, 2014 @ 12:43am PDT

lucasfilm_logoLucasfilm has appointed Teresa Cheng as General Manager for Lucasfilm Singapore. She joins the company from DreamWorks Animation where she was senior production executive for the joint venture between DWA and Oriental DreamWorks. Cheng has also held senior positions at Warner Bros, Rhytym & Hues and Digital Domain. Feature credits include Shrek Forever After, Madagascar, Batman & Robin and True Lies. In January, George Lucas unveiled Lucasfilm’s new digital production headquarters in the Southeast Asian city-state, replete with the Sandcrawler building that sits on a 22,500 square meter campus. Industrial Light & Magic Singapore is currently working on Transformers: Age of Extinction, Star Wars Episode VII and Agent 47. Colin Brown, who has served as Lucasfilm Singapore’s interim GM for the past seven months, will remain with the company through the summer to help transition Cheng into her new post. She will report to Lynwen Brennan, President and GM of ILM. Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Star Wars’ Spinoff Makes Date With Pinewood; India’s ‘Holiday’ Travels Well; Nordisk Film TV Appointment

pinewood star warsBritain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne confirmed on Tuesday night that the UK’s relationship with Star Wars will continue. The MP was at Pinewood – where JJ Abrams’ Episode VII moved onto soundstages about 10 days ago – and tweeted, “On set of Episode VII tonight, can announce another #StarWars film will be made in UK. A #LongTermEconomicPlan in a galaxy far far away.” The Conservative politician caught a lot of flack on Twitter for the latter remark, but by and large the Star Wars movies, and other big Hollywood projects, are bringing a flood of money into the UK which has very lucrative film tax breaks. The currently filming Episode VII is due for release on December 18, 2015 and the standalone Star Wars Osborne referred to last night will also be shot next year. The spinoff is being directed by Gareth Edwards. Per local reports, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid added last night, “Given Lucasfilm’s decision to film another Star Wars movie in the UK, it is clear that the Force is strong here.” Read More »

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Lucasfilm Hires Disney’s Tony To As Head Of Production & Development

By | Thursday June 5, 2014 @ 9:10am PDT

disney_lucasfilm_logo__121030233602__121205001627__130419000056__130510231828Disney Studios EVP Production Tony To is crossing over to Lucasfilm, which said today the veteran is joining the company as Head of Production and Development. He will report to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy after a three-year stint at Disney and will be tasked with overseeing all live-action and animation production. That includes six new projects on the studio’s slate including Star Wars: Episode VII, the upcoming Star Wars Rebels animated series, and two recently announced stand-alone Star Wars films from directors Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank.

As part of the deal, To will continue to oversee Disney’s recently announced co-development deal with China’s Shanghai Media Group, a multi-year partnership to co-develop Disney-branded movies for U.S.-China co-productions. As part of that initiative, U.S.-based writers team with locally based Chinese writers and filmmakers to develop scripts that combine Disney’s storytelling and Chinese elements. Read More »

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‘Chronicle’ Helmer Josh Trank To Direct A ‘Star Wars’ Movie

By | Wednesday June 4, 2014 @ 9:16am PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Disney and Lucasfilm are wasting no time Josh Trank Star Wars Directormoving along on its Star Wars films. They’ve just set Chronicle helmer Josh Trank, who’s next directing the Fantastic Four reboot at Fox.

It is the second big hire of a hot young director for the franchise. After the monster Godzilla opening, director Gareth Edwards was set for an untitled Star Wars 3D stand-alone film, which Disney has dated for a December 16, 2016 release. Going young like this makes me more bullish on star-wars-logo__130325012712-200x144__131107212744what is happening here, because I felt that Lucas steered the last three films to a sense of complacency that I felt hobbled the franchise. Lucasfilm is lucky these directors grew up with the original groundbreaking trilogy, making these hot young shooters desperate to be involved here. Read More »

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Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o, ‘Game Of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie Join ‘Star Wars’ Cast

By | Monday June 2, 2014 @ 9:17am PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Casting on Star Wars: Episode VII under JJ Abrams continues. lupita1Joining the group is 12 Years A Slave Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and Gwendoline Christie, currently starring in the HBO’s hit series Game Of Thrones as Brienne of Tarth. She is also in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. ”I could not be more excited about Lupita and Gwendoline joining the cast of Episode VII,” says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “It’s thrilling to see this extraordinarily talented ensemble taking shape.”

Related: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast Finalized

gwenJohn Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow were the first batch of stars joining Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film. Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams wrote the script and  Kennedy, Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer. The movie opens worldwide on December 18, 2015.

Related: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast: Photos

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Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk Among Cast Set For Adult Swim’s ‘Team Unicorn’ Pilot From Robot Chicken Duo

By | Wednesday May 28, 2014 @ 10:00am PDT

Production is underwayTeam Unicorn SAFH photo by Eric Blackmon (1) on the Team Unicorn Saturday Action Fun Hour! pilot for Adult Swim. Penned by Dan Milano (Greg The Bunny) and inspired by the Team Unicorn cartoons, the pilot is described as a modern twist on Saturday morning-style cartoon/live-action hybrid shows, but for adults. It follows the adventures of the four mythical heroines who masquerade as human girls. Danger Maiden Prods’ Clare Grant and Rileah Vanderbilt executive produce and star alongside original Team Unicorn member Milynn Sarley (How I Met Your Mother) and Alison Haislip (Attack Of The Show) as both Team Unicorn and their cartoon counterparts. Jane Lynch (Glee, Hollywood Game Night) voices the villainous Dark Puba; Alan Tudyk (Suburgatory) voices her sidekick, Chummy Cherub; Tara Strong (The Fairly OddParents) voices Billy, the boy with the ability to summon Team Unicorn; and Kevin Shinick (Mad) is the show’s announcer. Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich serve as executive producers for Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. Green is directing the pilot. Read More »

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J.J. Abrams Unveils Charity Drive On ‘Star Wars’ Set: Video

By | Wednesday May 21, 2014 @ 7:34am PDT

J.J. AbramsJJ_Video Still has a message from the desert set of Star Wars: Episode VII. He’s offering fans a chance to appear in a cameo in the movie via a $10 contribution to Star Wars: Force For Change. The new initiative from Disney and Lucasfilm, in collaboration with Bad Robot, is dedicated to finding creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. The first Star Wars: Force for Change campaign will benefit UNICEF’s Innovation Labs and its programs aimed at helping the world’s most vulnerable children. Disney has committed $1 million to the project. Fans can contribute directly at Omaze.com/StarWars for a chance to appear in the film. For each $10 contribution, eligible participants will be automatically entered for a chance to win the cameo. The campaign runs through July 18. It looks like this is how Star Wars will be marketing itself in the social media era after tweeting out first cast photos and Abrams’ video on Star Wars Day on May 4. Pic is slated to be released December 18, 2015. Check out Abrams’ pitch:

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Alan Horn Extends Disney Studios Contract Until 2018

By | Thursday May 15, 2014 @ 11:16am PDT

Bloomberg Breakfast - 2014 Tribeca Film FestivalWalt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, who oversees worldwide operations for the company, has extended his contract for another four years to 2018. He was named chairman of the studio on May 31, 2012, after a long stint as the chairman of Warner Bros, and his first day at Disney was June 11, 2012. He oversees production, distribution, and marketing for live-action and animated films from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, as well as marketing and distribution for DreamWorks Studios films released under the Touchstone Pictures banner. He also oversees Disney’s music and theatrical groups.

Related: ‘Frozen’ Helps To Warm Disney Earnings In Fiscal Q2, And Beyond

Under his tutelage, the studio has been doing incredibly well. For the first three months of the year, the studio reported net income of $1.92B, an increase of 26.7% vs.Frozen the same period last year, on revenues of $11.65B (that’s up 10.4%). In fact, it topped analysts’ forecasts. The movie studio was the hero of the first quarter, with revenues up 35% to $1.8B and operating income up 302% to $475M. The company benefited not only from a $1.19B worldwide box office take for its sweet animated family film Frozen but also reported stellar sales in home entertainment for the pic. Thor: The Dark World also was a box office behemoth, with $644M worldwide, and a home entertainment winner. The success of Frozen has spawned talk of a Broadway show. Theme parks also exceeded analyst predictions with up 8% to $3.56B and operating income up 19% to $457M. The Walt Disney Studios set a company record for reaching $1B internationally in mid-April, thanks mostly to those films, and also $500M domestically on April 27 — becoming the first studio to do so in 2014.

Related: ‘Frozen’ Is Highest Animated Int’l Grosser Of All Time As Disney Reaches $1B In Record Pace

Read More »

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ABC Upfront Presentation Pitches Advertisers On Disney, Digital, And Data

Upfronts2014_badgeNot much change from last year in the basic business proposition that ABC offered to upfront advertisers today: Forget that it’s the No. 4 network in prime time for 18-to-49 year olds. Execs touted the “brand halo” (as entertainment chief Paul Lee put it) that Disney and its properties offer ABC. “When you bring them all together they are as unstoppable a force as The Force,” Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney said in a forced reference to the parent company’s acquisition of Star Wars creator Lucasfilm. Sales President Geri Wang and ESPN sales chief Ed Erhardt shared the stage to illustrate ways advertisers can mix and match appeals to women and men, for example via New Year’s programming on ABC and games on the sports network. Wang added that ABC offers more original programming than other networks which “creates great moments for your brands.”

Related: ABC 2014 Schedule: ‘Scandal’ Moves To 9 PM As Part Of Shonda Rhimes Thursday; ‘Black-ish’ Gets Post-‘Modern Family’ Slot

The network also talked up digital and data. Sweeney says the company will “continue to develop” its WATCH ABC app. It will offer opportunities to watch live broadcasts from multiple viewpoints, multitask on social media, and share clips with others. That can provide a “more integrated, immersive, personalized experience…..You get our passion for innovation and technology and the resources we put behind it, and the scope of our brand and the strength of our businesses.”

Related: Read More »

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UPDATE: Conan O’Brien Rips Donald Sterling & CAA At Shoah Foundation Event Honoring President Obama

Obama at ShoahWRITETHRU: President Obama accepted the Shoah Foundation’s Ambassador of Humanity Award from Steven Spielberg tonight during a ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. Following some jokes from host Conan O’Brien and acoustic takes on set from Bruce Springsteen (“The Promised Land” and a haunting “Dancing In The Dark”), Spielberg presented the president with the honor, after which Obama gave a heartfelt and somber speech before a crowd of about 1,300, according to the White House pool report. He didn’t touch on any subjects directly related to the entertainment industry, but the crowd that included many Hollywood heavy-hitters was moved by its universal themes of violence, war and intolerance. “The work of this foundation,” he said, “the testimonies of survivors like those with us tonight, also remind us that the purpose of memory is not simply to preserve the past; it is to protect the future.” It was the second stop on the president’s visit to Los Angeles. Earlier in the evening, he spoke at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser hosted by Alan and Cindy Horn at their Bel-Air home. The mood was much lighter for the roughly 90 guests, including Jeffrey Katzenberg and Barbra Streisand, who shelled out $64,800 a couple. They heard the president give what amounted to a stump speech that also eschewed any mention of showbiz. Obama will stay overnight before leaving for San Diego in the late morning. A full transcript of his Shoah Foundation speech is at the bottom of the original post.

Related: Obama Rips Cable News & Joel McHale Bombs At White House Correspondents Dinner

4TH UPDATE, 10:15 PM: Host Conan O’Brien kicked off the Shoah Foundation event where President Obama was being honored with a few zingers. “Whoever Steven [Spielberg] suckered to tell jokes at this event is a true idiot,” he said in his opening remarks. The late-night host teased Obama about the traffic gridlock his visit caused. “You left Washington six hours ago, but I left Burbank seven hours ago.” But O’Brien got one of USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala - Showthe night’s biggest laughs when he mentioned Spielberg’s efforts to record Holocaust survivors and other victims of genocide. O’Brien said the filmmaker “was recording evidence of intolerance long before Donald Sterling’s girlfriend.” Obama was seen laughing at the remark. The TBS host also acknowledged the philanthropists and other humanitarians in the room before reminding everyone of the true nature of Hollywood. “I’m also told there are some people from CAA here, so that evens it out,” he said to a huge laugh. “They don’t represent me, so I don’t care.” He then introduced Bruce Springsteen, who played a couple of acoustic numbers including a haunting version of “Dancing In The Dark.” As he introduced Spielberg after the performance, O’Brien recalled a lunch they’d had when he first moved to LA in 2009 for what ended up being a short stint hosting The Tonight Show. “Steven took me on a tour of his awards,” he said. “It took 5 hours.”

Spielberg then took the podium. “Everywhere from Syria to southern Sudan, the world has yet to learn the lessons,” he said of genocide and war during his introduction of Obama.”This program exists because we know the future can be re-written.” Then he introduced the president, who gave a somber and heartfelt speech that ran about 15 minutes.

obamahollywood__120118234033-1__120615023234-1-6__121008025841-200x150__121105180912__130424210450__140430225506“Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of good will,” Obama said after accepting the Ambassador of Humanity Award from Spielberg. The president passionately praised genocide survivors in the packed ballroom as “inspirations of hope.” He also praised the foundation’s work capturing on video the survivors’ stories “Recording the memories that would be lost to time. … They turn never forget into never again.”

He later said, “It’s up to us to search our own hearts for those stories that have no place in our world.” The president asked the crowd to “erode” the destructive forces of anti-Semitism and other bigotry and injustice. “Drop by drop by drop … never forget, never again,” said Obama, who mention in closing the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria and the civil war in Syria. Read More »

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Hot Teaser: ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Animated Series

By | Sunday May 4, 2014 @ 9:45am PDT

starwarsrebelsIt ain’t your grandpa’s Jedi rebellion, but here’s the new trailer Disney and Lucasfilm put out today – on May the 4th, AKA Star Wars Day – for the upcoming CGI animated Star Wars Rebels series set to premiere this Fall. Story takes place between the events of Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope with Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman exec producing and Freddie Prinze, Jr., Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, and Vanessa Marshall leading the voice cast:

Related: Final ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast: Photos

Related: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast Finalized

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‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast Finalized: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson & Max Von Sydow

Star Wars Episode VII CastThe cast of Star Wars: Episode VII is now official, announced by the team on StarWars.com, complete with a photo of a read-through. As Mike Fleming Jr reported yesterday, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and John Boyega are aboard, as are Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow and Daisy Ridley. They join returning franchise players Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker.

Related: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast: Photos

abrams__120217054827__130124215848-150x150This pic has been supernova-hot ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in October 2012 and announced its intention to reboot the franchise. That got the hard-core fans (there are legion) excited, but the question remains if the franchise can be restored to anywhere near the status it reached before George Lucas essentially cratered the second three movies in the series. Now the speculation will begin if this group has what it takes to make it happen, led by Abrams, who has the sci-fi cred and now has picked his soldiers to head into battle. He is directing, co-writing the script with Lawrence Kasdan and producing with Kathleen Kennedy and Bryan Burk.

Disney has set a December 18, 2015 release date for the first pic in a planned trilogy.

May the 4thLittle is known about who will play what, though it’s thought Driver, a standout on HBO’s Girls, will play the main villain. Also notable: there is only one new female character on this list joining Fisher. The biggest reaction so far has been to Ridley — a Brit actress who has been in a handful of UK series including Mr Selfridge — both because she is fairly unknown and because she’s the only new face keeping this from becoming a total sausage party.

“We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII,” Abrams said in the announcement today, which puts a cap on months of cast speculation  – most of it BS. (The announcement also included a cast photo.) “It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.” Read More »

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Universal Dates Tina Fey-Amy Poehler Comedy ‘The Nest’ For December 2015

By | Tuesday April 22, 2014 @ 11:45am PDT

Universal-Pictures-logo-2013__140130232555__140321183123-275x141The comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will hit theaters on December 18, 2015. Pitch Perfect helmer Jason Moore directs The Nest, about two disconnected sisters cleaning out their parents’ family home who throw one last high school rager for their now-grown former classmates. Universal hopes it’ll serve as a counterprogramming option to Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode VII, which also opens that weekend along with Sony’s thriller Inferno. Jay Roach is producing The Nest alongside Fey, with Poehler exec producing. SNL and 30 Rock scribe Paula Pell penned the script.

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Disney’s Maker Studios Purchase Threatened By Ex-CEO’s Legal Action

By | Thursday April 10, 2014 @ 1:37pm PDT

DJP LEGAL BADGEDisney’s proposed $500 million plus purchase of Maker Studios may have a problem from the past. The former CEO of the multichannel YouTube network wants a California judge to issue a temporary restring order against the planned vote next week on the big ticket merger. “Permitting the April 15, 2014 vote on the Merger to proceed without requiring additional disclosures would makerstudios__140311194353-275x177irreparably harm Plaintiffs, as well as Maker shareholders, because it would deprive them of the opportunity to make an informed vote in the Merger,” says the redacted and previously sealed application, filed yesterday in LA Superior Court by co-founder Danny Zapplin and three other former Maker execs. The TRO application alleges that something has to be done before it “will be too late” because current Maker execs are “skimming tens of millions of dollars for themselves by kicking back to the other stock adverse to the common shareholder.” The application to Judge Elihu Berle became public today. Disney is not named as a defendant in the matter.
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British Newcomer Eyed For ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Role

By | Wednesday April 9, 2014 @ 8:50pm PDT

Maisie Richardson SellersThe producers have their eye on Maisie Richardson-Sellers, an Oxford-trained actress whose credits seem to range from local stage plays to, well, more local stage plays. With the scarcity of real Star Wars: Episode VII casting news, any hints from the London set have fans and media making the jump to light speed. Six weeks ago, the rumor star-wars-logo__130325012712-200x144mill had Adam Driver out front for a lead villain role. And with production set to start next month on the Disney/Lucasfilm tentpole, it’s high time for some facts. But not tonight. Well, at least R2-D2 is confirmed. Meanwhile, the franchise pic is due to touch down in theaters December 18, 2015.

Related: Darth Vader Selfie Inaugurates ‘Episode VII’ Instagram Page

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