Former Aardman Animation Creative Director Sarah Smith is branching out on her own, creating the UK’s first dedicated high-end CG feature animation studio, Locksmith Animation. The new shingle’s focus will be on creating a long-term slate of CG-animated pics for a worldwide audience. Locksmith has received backing from Elisabeth Murdoch, who is the principle shareholder and made the investment in a personal capacity, as well as VFX house Double Negative which will collaborate closely with the company. This is a major development in the UK toon sector following the introduction of the animation tax credit last year.
Smith made her animation debut as director and co-writer of 2011′s Arthur Christmas, and co-exec produced The Pirates! Band Of Misfits in 2012. Her other credits include producing UK TV series The League Of Gentlemen, and several collaborations with Armando Iannucci. She joined Aardman in 2006. Double Negative, a major player in Britain’s bustling VFX arena, counts credits that include The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Les Misérables, Fast & Furious 6, Captain Phillips, Rush, Man Of Steel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Transcendence and Godzilla. Smith said today, “With animated films among the most beloved and successful movies in the world, but still only a handful of producers out there, the UK offers Locksmith a unique opportunity, including a world class CG Visual FX industry, brilliant comedy writers and … Read More »
The streaming service has put together a decidedly international cast for its upcoming drama about the legendary 13th century traveler. Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy stars as the title character in Marco Polo, which has begun filming in Venice before moving on to Kazakhstan and the new Pinewood Studios in Malaysia. Richelmy starred in the Italian dramedy Terra e vento and has appeared in other films including Fat Cat and Terzo tempo. The cast also includes England’s Benedict Wong (Prometheus), China’s Zhu Zhu (Cloud Atlas), Hong Kong-born and London-raised Tom Wu (Skyfall), Aussie Remy Hii (Treading Water) and Washington, D.C. native Rick Yune (Olympus Has Fallen). Creator John Fusco and Harvey Weinstein are executive producing the Weinstein Co. drama, which received a 10-episode straight-to-series order in January. Kon-Tiki helmers Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg are directing the first two episodes. Dan Minahan is exec producing and also directing two episodes. The series is set in China during the 1200s — a world replete with astonishing martial arts, sexual intrigue, political skullduggery and spectacular battles. Netflix plans to debut Marco Polo late this year.
Related: ‘Marco Polo’ Crew Mourns Ju Kun; Asst Martial Arts Choreographer Is Among Missing On Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The dark epic Darren Aronofsky film Noah got off to a good start domestically last night in late nights that started at 7 PM taking in an estimated $1.6M for Paramount and New Regency. Also, word is from distributors that the early matinees in N.Y. look good. The opening of Noah doesn’t reflect the numbers or the group sales that Son of God had for Fox. That faith-based pic surprised everyone last month when it took in $1.2M from shows that began at 10 p.m. So, in other words, Noah is opening more like a mainstream studio movie, which is not surprising given that it stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. The demo on the picture is definitely skewing older and Paramount is comparing it to Gravity, noting that Noah is playing just above it — Gravity made $1.4M in late nights. However, Gravity started at 10 p.m. for Warner Bros. so had less playtime and neither its opening weekend nor its gross is expected to touch Gravity, which opened to $55M and went on to make $273.1M domestically. Tracking has it anywhere between $40M and $45M for the 3-day domestically but others have it in the high 30s, so after more grosses come in tonight, everyone will have a better estimate.
Noah already opened overseas in Mexico (where the Catholic faith is prominent) and Korea to a combined $14M. The movie grossed $8.3M at 500 dates for the No. 1 … Read More »
It’s easy to see why the studio would rather focus on the 12-month results. With hit films including Skyfall and The Hobbit, and TV series Vikings and Teen Wolf, full-year revenues jumped 11% to $1.53B. Net income at $122.2M fell 5% but would be up 97% if you factor out the company’s asset sales in 2012 including its $55.6M gain from the sale of MGM Networks. “Growth in revenue and profitability was above our expectations and our operating income of $202 million is higher than any known or reported amount in MGM’s 90-year history,” CEO Gary Barber says. But we pretty much already knew that from the results in the first nine months. What about the new figures for Q4? The company has little to say about that. MGM had to report costs tied to the December release of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug before most of the sales rolled in. That contributed to a 69.6% drop in net income to $12.2M on revenues of $463.7M, – 69.6%. MGM appears to be unfazed as it crows about a 2014 film slate that includes 22 Jump Street, Hercules, If I Stay, and The Hobbit: There And Back Again, as well as a TV lineup that includes the new series Fargo.
Highlights: Noah (PAR) floods Mexico and Korea with opening cume of $14M; Muppets Most Wanted (DIS) scores $1.5M in eight debut markets; Need For Speed (DIS/var) drives another $29.2M; 300: Rise Of An Empire (WB) seizes further $21.2M; Mr Peabody & Sherman (FOX) at $103M; Rio 2 (FOX) flies to $10.5M in Russia/Ukraine; The Grand Budapest Hotel (FOX) has extra room for $9.7M; Frozen (DIS) nearing Toy Story 3‘s record; Uni’s 8 Apellidos Vascos (aka Spanish Affairs) still seducing Spain; trio of Asian pics enters Top 20…
6TH UPDATE, MON, 12:43 PM PT: Final numbers are in now for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Monuments Men as well as Ride Along, 300: Rise of an Empire and The Lego Movie (which grossed more than previously thought). Final numbers also came in Monday night for Oscar Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave which added another $3.9M to raise its international cume to $121.7M, most of its gross has come from the U.K. with $32.7M; the film has made $178M worldwide. Lionsgate opened Divergent in 18 international markets, but are not releasing numbers as yet. We are using Rentrak which has five small territories (see below for more info on that). Lionsgate, as they always do, pre-licensed international so there are many distributors handling the film in their prospective territories. The big territory rollout for Divergent will be April 4 in the U.K., Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Mexico, and Finland, followed April 11 by France, Germany, Russia, Australia, Denmark and Norway. Read More »
Literary and cinematic roots run deep in Showtime’s new psychosexual horror series Penny Dreadful, which debuts in May with an episode helmed by The Orphanage director Juan Antonio Bayona. Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, and Harry Treadaway star in the show created by Oscar-nominated scribe John Logan and exec produced by Sam Mendes which crosses the mythologies of iconic horror figures from Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dorian Gray lore in a Victorian England setting. “We wanted to pay respects to the mythology but bring them to a new level,” said Bayona of the show’s twisty take on well-known stories and characters.
Coincidentally, another thread connects the Penny Dreadful gang in front of and behind the camera. “There’s a lot of James Bond on this show: John wrote Skyfall, Sam directed it, Eva was in Casino Royale – I said to someone, I think I’m being groomed for the next Bond movie,” said Hartnett at a Q&A following the premiere of Penny Dreadful’s first episode Sunday at SXSW. Hartnett plays American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, who is recruited by Sir Malcolm (Dalton, a former 007 himself) and the enigmatic Vanessa Ives (Green) for a supernatural mission in London. The gothic series is one of a handful of television projects highlighted this year in SXSW’s new programming slate devoted to episodic /TV content.
Related: Showtime Lands Horror Drama From John Logan & Sam Mendes Read More »
The Tribeca Film Festival continues to roll out its lineup for this year’s 13th edition, which kicks off April 16. Here is the program slates for the Spotlight, Midnight, Special Screenings and Storyscapes sections. The fest’s shorts program will be unveiled Tuesday. Here are today’s films, which include Spotlight spots for Roman Polanksi’s Venus In Fur, the Robin Williams-starrer Boulevard from Dito Montiel, world premieres of films directed by actors Chris Messina and Courteney Cox, and of course the horror comedy Zombeavers:
Related: Tribeca Film Festival Unveils Competition Slate
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In a move that was expected, Sony will sell off its Vaio personal computer business to investment firm Japan Industrial Partners, the company said this morning in Tokyo. Also on the electronics side, the company is continuing with a restructure of its TV business, with plans to spin the division off by July. As a result of the measures, Sony anticipates it will cut 5,000 jobs by the end of the 2014 fiscal year. The announcements were made as Sony reported consolidated financial results for the third quarter ended December 31, 2013, and adjusted its forcast for the fiscal year to a $1.08B loss. That’s compared to a previous estimate of a $295M profit. Restructuring costs of $690M are partly responsible for the revised figures. Overall, sales and operating revenue were up 23.9% to $22.9B, boosted by the new PlayStation 4 game console, which sold more than 4.2M units since its November launch. Operating income was also up to $860M. In the movie division, sales were down 13% on a U.S. dollar basis. Operating income dropped to $231M. The motion picture division saw lower theatrical and home entertainment revenues, despite the strong performance of Captain Phillips and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2. The same quarter last year had Skyfall still in theaters while The Amazing Spider-Man and Men In Black 3 were clicking on the home entertainment front. On a U.S. dollar basis, … Read More »
There are strong debuts and holds for Hollywood in the international marketplace this week, despite a drop of about 25% from the similar frame last year when Django Unchained was the top film overseas. (Last week, international box office was off about 50%, so that’s an improvement of sorts.) Still, a fair few movies are making, and breaking records — especially in China. While Monday-morning quarterbacks have been gearing up for today’s Super Bowl, in the rest of the world where football is played without shoulder pads and where the Big Game isn’t due til this July, audiences flocked to movies in such diverse places as China, Russia, Germany, Korea and France. Notably, the Chinese New Year began on January 31 and with it came The Monkey King. The film took $46M in seven territories, and broke records at home, while TV reality series transfer Dad, Where Are We Going? grossed $34M (more below).
The only new studio entry on the international scene this week was MGM and Columbia Pictures’ Robocop which blasted its way into three territories in Asia. The movie, starring Joel Kinnaman, strategically bowed in Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore – taking advantage of the Chinese Lunar New Year – and scored a strong opening with $5.5M and a No. 1 trifecta. Robocop does not yet have a China date, although that’s expected to be clarified shortly. … Read More »
Netflix Execs Headed Back To France For More Expansion Talks
Last week, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company was eyeing “substantial” European expansion in 2014. His comments came a little more than a month after execs from the streaming service met with staff of French President François Hollande to discuss an entry into France. According to local media reports, Netflix execs now are due to return to France to meet with industry folk within the next week. Pascal Rogard, head of authors’ rights group the SACD, told Le Figaro that the situation is coming into focus with a possible launch later this year. Netflix is available in 41 countries including France’s neighbors to the north such as the UK, the Netherlands and the Nordic region. A French launch has been rumored over the years, but moving into the fiercely protected territory is ornery in part due to a complex film-windows chronology that prohibits movies from appearing on monthly SVOD services until three years after a theatrical release. There is no such protection for TV series, but Netflix’s House Of Cards already airs on local pay-TV leader Canal Plus, which would see the service’s arrival as competition. In a conversation with analysts, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos was asked last week whether the service would be out of certain markets with its key originals because it had already sold them to local providers. “It depends,” he said. “There’s multiple windows, and we’ll continue to have those negotiations as we get closer to those launches.” It’s expected that should Netflix enter France, it would have to adhere to obligations to invest in local content. Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti told Le Journal du Dimanche this weekend, “Netflix should be an additional player, not a stowaway.” It’s also believed that Netflix is eyeing a move into Germany. With regard to expansion, MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson said last week that “it remains difficult to figure out the ultimate size and value of Netflix’s international opportunity” due to the company’s “undisclosed new market entries, minimal transparency and continual reinvestment.” Read More »
UPDATED, MONDAY 3:55 PM: International numbers are flowing in and will be updated as they arrive in the below market by market breakouts. The Wolf Of Wall Street continues to show its teeth, grossing $17.4M in eight markets holding the No. 1 spots in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Australia and Switzerland. Norway will be the next (and final) release date on Friday, January 31 for UPI, but the picture is expected in other markets with other distribs. Just to update on Universal’s 47 Ronin: The mega-budgeted pic which is playing strong in Russia, has now cumed $83.7M internationally and $38M domestically for a worldwide total of $121.7M. It has 14 more markets to play, most notably Germany. Frozen is over $813M now globally and The Hobbit: Desolation Of Smaug added another $5.7M this weekend for worldwide box office of total of $947.6M ($595.3M internationally). Paramount’s numbers have not arrived on Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, but Universal’s Despicable Me numbers have been revised upwards to $5.2M in China in 4,500 runs for a total of $43.5M. It’s still too close to call to see who will be No. 1 in this all-important territory but the numbers should arrive from China tomorrow.
UPDATED, SUNDAY 7:30 PM: The international box office is off about 50% from last year when Django Unchained … Read More »
Technology, not executive hypersensitivity, accounted for the blackout of last night’s Grammy Awards broadcast on AT&T U-verse systems around Orlando at a potentially controversial moment in the proceedings, the company says. The show went dark just as performers Macklemore & Lewis prepared to sing their song “Same Love,” with Queen Latifah set to use her new authority to officiate at weddings to marry 33 couples. AT&T says that’s when a fiber cut left customers experiencing “a brief disruption of local TV affiliate channels, including CBS.” Technicians made the repairs in about 10 minutes. “We sincerely apologize for the perceived implication of the timing. It definitely was not purposeful,” AT&T says.
Ratings: Longest Grammy Awards In 22 Years On Par With 2013
Griffin, Colbert, ‘Skyfall’ & Fincher Among Grammy Winners
What do Kathy Griffin and Stephen Colbert have in common? They are now both Emmy and Grammy winners. Colbert, winner of four Emmys for his eponymous Comedy Central late-night program, added a second Grammy to his collection for the audio version of his book America Again: Re-becoming The Greatness We Never Weren’t. He previously won in 2010 in the comedy category where Griffin nabbed her first Grammy in her sixth nomination tonight to become only the third woman to do so. (Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin were the other two.) Griffin, who won two Emmys for her Bravo series My Life On The D-List, thanked recently arrested pop star Justin Bieber for giving her his “relax juice.”
Related: Who’s Giving Grammy Intro To Paul McCartney And Ringo Starr?
The reigning Oscar winner for best song, Adele’s James Bond ballad “Skyfall,” and Tony winner for best musical, Kinky Boots, repeated at the Grammys as Best Song Written for Visual Media and Best Musical Theater Album (Skyfall also won for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.) After missing out on the DGA Award last night for directing the pilot of Netflix’s House Of Cards, David Fincher was triumphant in the Best Music Video category for helming Justin Timberlake’s black-and-white “Suit & Tie.” And Pharrell Williams, big winner tonight with the French electronic music duo Daft Punk, was named Producer of the Year for several songs, including ”Happy,” the Oscar-nominated track from Despicable Me 2. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: I have learned that Gaumont International Television’s Barbarella has been set up at Amazon Studios, which has taken in the pilot script penned by feature writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Skyfall). I hear search is underway for a showrunner in anticipation of a pilot pickup. Barbarella is based on the character created by Jean-Claude Forest in a graphic novel and made famous in the 1968 sci-fi movie staring Jane Fonda as a sexpot tasked with finding and stopping an evil weapons inventor. The project, which has been in the works at GIT for a year and a half, is executive produced by Nicolas Refn (Valhalla Rising), who had been attached to direct, and Martha De Laurentiis, whose late husband Dino produced the 1968 movie. GIT has two other series – Hannibal on NBC and Hemlock Grove on Netflix — with a third, Narco, eyeing a green light at Netflix. Amazon Studios has five drama and comedy pilots in the works following the launch of its first original series, comedies Alpha House and Betas. Purvis and Wade are repped by UTA and Casarotto and Neil Meyer; Refn by WME.
When I ran into Ben Affleck at the Golden Globes on Sunday he told me he thinks this wide open Oscar race won’t really come into focus until the Producers Guild names its choice for Best Picture on January 19th at the Beverly Hilton. Of course Affleck (with George Clooney and Grant Heslov) won at the PGA last year for Argo and it went on to take the Oscar for Best Picture as well. Now about to celebrate their 25th anniversary the PGA awards have become one of the most reliable bellwethers of eventual Oscar glory. In fact the last six films in a row that have taken the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures has gone on to win the Academy’s Best Picture prize too, a list that in addition to Argo includes The Artist, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and No Country For Old Men. In fact it was the PGA that turned the race completely around for The Hurt Locker by unexpectedly choosing it over Avatar and picking King’s Speech over The Social Network, the favorite until that point. The PGA turned both races on a dime. In fact since handing out awards a quarter century ago the Guild has had a strong overall track record in matching Oscar’s sentiments. Perhaps one reason is they work very closely with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in vetting producers credits and determining which producers are eligible not only for the PGA award, but also the Oscar, although the final decision on the latter is up to the Academy’s producers branch.
Related: Producers Guild Unveils Motion Picture And Long-Form TV Noms
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Marc Weinstock had been president of worldwide theatrical marketing at Sony Pictures until late September, when he was ousted as part of what became a seismic shake-up at that studio. Those moves included the exits of corporate PR chief Steve Elzer and home entertainment chief David Bishop and the addition of former New Line president-turned-Fifty Shades Of Grey producer Michael De Luca. Weinstock’s new gig at Fox helps put a bow on the studio’s own new exec structure; in mid-October, Oren Aviv left as Chief Movie Marketing Officer, replaced by Fox international guys Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus, who became co-presidents of Worldwide Theatrical Marketing & Distribution as marketing was combined into a worldwide division. Chief Creative Officer Tony Sella soon followed Aviv out the door. Weinstock, whose new deal we’re hearing came together pretty fast, will report to Jegeus and Hanneman as part of that plan, with Jegeus and Hanneman overseeing the overseas side of the business. Here’s Fox’s release:
LOS ANGELES (January 7, 2014) __ Twentieth Century Fox Film (Fox) has hired Marc Weinstock as President of Domestic Theatrical Marketing, reporting to co-Presidents of Worldwide Theatrical Marketing & Distribution, Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus. Weinstock, who joins Fox on January 13, will oversee all domestic marketing functions for the studio.
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UPDATE, 12:16 AM PT: Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity scored 11 nominations from the British Academy this morning including Best Film, Best British Film, Best Director and Leading Actress for Sandra Bullock. It led the pack of movies recognized by BAFTA and is followed by 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle with 10 nods each across the major categories. Captain Phillips drew nine mentions; Behind The Candelabra – released theatrically in the UK – has five, as does Saving Mr Banks. The latter film has underperformed at the British box office, but it clearly found a mark with voters. It world premiered in London and both of its stars, Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, recently made a point of stopping by BAFTA for lengthy sit-downs and a look back at their careers. Thompson is nominated in the Leading Actress category for the film and Hanks is also a Leading Actor candidate, although he’s up for Captain Phillips which is also a Best Film contender. But back to Gravity: It’s also vying in the original screenplay, original music, cinematography, editing, production design, sound and special visual effects races. Notably, Gravity is nominated as both Best Film and Best British Film, something I expected might happen. The same thing goes for Philomena which scored … Read More »