Ross Lincoln is a Deadline contributor.
THQ, a onetime video game industry titan that published franchises like Saints Row, Metro and Homefront, is being sold off piecemeal to industry rivals as part of bankruptcy proceedings. Some of its most valuable titles will be acquired, including gamemaker Ubisoft purchasing THQ Montreal outright and all assets associated with the long-in-development South Park: The Stick Of Truth. THQ had hoped a stalking horse bidder arrangement reached with Clearlake Capital Group in December would allow the company to remain intact. However, CEO Brian Farrell informed staff in a letter this morning that the company was being dissolved, adding that he expected “most employees of the entities included in the sale will be offered employment by the new owners.” THQ suffered several setbacks beginning in 2011 stemming from overexpansion (including attempts to branch out into TV) and flopped games. Most notably, the uDraw Tablet for Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 tanked, with more than 1 million units unsold — a failure later cited by the company as a primary reason for a $100 million shortfall. Layoffs, the closure of studios in Australia and Japan and a reverse stock split in July to prevent a NASDAQ delisting failed, and THQ filed for bankruptcy in December.
Related: Atari’s U.S. Business Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection
You know that things are really bad when a company withdraws its financial guidance, and then abruptly ends a quarterly earnings call after about 12 minutes without taking analysts’ questions. But that’s what just happened with THQ after it disclosed that it needs more cash to remain competitive. That point was underscored by its fiscal Q2 financial report that showed a 23.3% drop in revenues, to $91.8M, vs the period last year (not including deferred net revenues). The video game maker pushed back the release date for its much-anticipated South Park: The Stick Of Truth which was due on March 5, 2013. “We have been working closely with the co-creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, to make sure all of the game’s content performs to the high standards of the TV show, and this takes time,” THQ President Jason Rubin says. The company also delayed Company Of Heroes 2 and Metro: Last Light. THQ says that these changes “will likely create a need for additional capital” and that it has hired Centerview Partners to help it come up with options to handle payments on its $100M in 5% convertible senior notes due August 2014. That usually means the company’s for sale, although THQ says there’s no guarantee that it will come up with anything. THQ attributed some of its fiscal Q2 problems to disappointing sales for Darksiders II which shipped 1.4M units in … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning scribe Dustin Lance Black has been set to script Earthquake, a big scale disaster film for Universal that is being produced by JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk and their Bad Robot banner. While Universal made the 1974 film that starred Charlton Heston, I’m told that the title and natural disaster subject is all the films share. So it is not a remake.
This puts Universal potentially in a competitive situation with New Line, which has a 3D earthquake project set up under the title San Andreas 3D.
There have been rumblings of an earthquake film from Abrams and Universal since 2008, when the project was first set up with The Omen‘s David Seltzer writing. It languished, but now the project is regaining momentum. Black won his Oscar for Milk, and followed with J. Edgar. He most recently has been adapting the Jon Krakauer book Under the Banner of Heaven at Warner Bros for Ron Howard to direct and Brian Grazer to produce through Imagine, and he scripted Barefoot Bandit for Fox. He’s currently adapting the Dark Horse graphic novel 3 Story as a directing vehicle, with Laurence Mark producing. He’s repped by CAA.
EXCLUSIVE: Multiple offers are on the table for Aftershock, an earthquake thriller scripted by Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez & Guillermo Amoedo. It’s the next ‘Eli Roth Presents’ film, and it marks the English-language debut from director Nicolas Lopez. His last two films, Que Pena Tu Vida and Que Pena Tu Boda, were the highest-grossing Chilean films of 2010 and 2011. Roth most recently produced The Last Exorcism, a microbudget film that grossed $70 million worldwide. I’m told that several distributors are in talks, with the Weinstein Company and Relativity Media among them. The dealmaking will likely take place in Berlin, where, after the success of small-budget genre films like Chronicle and The Last Exorcism, these movies are becoming a license to print money. I’ve heard from potential buyers that the plot revolves around an insane asylum on an island, where the inmates escape during the quake. Read More »
Sony Pictures’ strong performance in the quarter that ended in June stood out as the corporation reported a net loss of $191M on revenues of $18.5B, down 10% vs. the same period last year. Sony attributed the decline to the effects of this year’s earthquake and tsunami as well as lower-than-expected sales of TV sets and other consumer electronics. As a result, Sony lowered its net profit forecast for the year ending March 2012 by 25% to $771M.
Home video sales for The Green Hornet, Battle: Los Angeles, and Just Go With It as well as television ad revenues from India contributed to the $1.78B fiscal 1Q for Sony Pictures. The company says that the unit delivered $53M in operating profit, up 50.4% vs. the same period last year. Results were somewhat muddled at Sony Music due to currency exchange issues. Its profits were 61.4% to $149M on sales of $1.35B, down 0.6%. But the company says the slight drop is largely due to the appreciation of the yen vs the U.S. dollar. Factoring that out, the music operation’s sales were up 7%. Best sellers for the quarter included recordings from the TV show Glee, Adele’s 21, Beyonce’s 4, and Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light.
Videogame maker THQ has teamed with Syfy for Red Faction: Origins, (working title) a two hour live-action movie/backdoor pilot based pilot on THQ’s Red Faction game franchise, which is scheduled to air in March 2011 on Syfy, tied with the release of the Red Faction Armageddon video game. The story of Red Faction: Origins follows rebel hero Alec Mason and the Mason family and is set during a period between the Red Faction Guerilla video game and Red Faction. The screenplay for Red Faction: Origins screenplay was written by Andrew Kreisberg (Warehouse 13), based on a story developed by Paul DeMeo, THQ Director, fiction development. Production of the film will be managed by Universal Cable Prods.
UPDATE: Early reports peg it at a 5.8 5.4 at 11:42 AM. My phone service has been interrupted is back to normal (after I pulled out my Juno hamburger phone).
Send me any reports of Hollywood production interruption…
Deadline’s Dominic Patten & Jen Yamato contributed to this report
7th UPDATE, 10:03 AM: Fast & Furious star Paul Walker died of trauma and burn injuries, the LA County Coroner’s office said today. The autopsy was completed last night, sources say. Walker was killed Saturday after he and friend Roger Rodas crashed in a red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT while driving it in Santa Clarita, CA. Rodas was driving the luxury car with Walker in the passenger seat. Rodas died from “multiple traumatic injuries” said the Coroner’s report, with Walker’s death resulting from the “combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries.” Both deaths have been ruled to be the result of an accident. On a Thanksgiving break from filming Fast & Furious 7, the 40-year-old actor had been at a nearby charity event just beforehand. A LAPD investigation of the incident is ongoing, as is the Coroner’s toxicology examination. The latter is expected to take 6-8 more weeks.
Related: Universal Formalizes ‘Fast & Furious 7’ Postponement
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The studio hasn’t made any decisions about the future of Fast & Furious 7 yet in the wake of the death of Paul Walker on November 30. But Universal said today that it will donate some of the proceeds from the upcoming Fast & Furious 6 DVD, Blu-ray and digital release to Walker’s charity Reach Out WorldWide. Here’s the release:
Related: Photos: Paul Walker, 1973-2013
Universal City, CA, December 3, 2013—Universal Pictures today announced that a percentage of proceeds from the upcoming home entertainment release of Fast & Furious 6 will be donated to Paul Walker’s non-profit Reach Out WorldWide, a network of professionals with first responder skill-sets who augment local expertise when natural disasters strike in order to accelerate relief efforts. Walker founded the organization after witnessing deficiencies in local activations following the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, and he remained passionately devoted to the charity.
Related: Reactions To Paul Walker Death: Vin Diesel Honors His “Brother”
“With the passing of Paul, the world has lost a man who spent a great deal of his life in service to others. We share in the deep grief of his family, friends and the countless fans who love him,” said Donna Langley, Chairman, Universal Pictures. “We keep Paul’s memory alive and honor his legacy through continued support of Reach Out WorldWide, the non-profit he founded to give hope to those who must rebuild after they have experienced natural disasters.”
Fast & Furious 6 will be available in North America on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and On Demand on December 10, 2013.
Related: Other Paul Walker Movies Headed To Big Screen Cautious Over How To Proceed: “We Need A Bit Of Time”
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Dwayne Johnson will star in the disaster pic San Andreas for New Line. He’ll play a rescue-chopper pilot who treks across an earthquake-devastated California in search of his estranged daughter. Brad Peyton, who directed Johnson in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, will helm San Andreas. The actor’s recent credits include G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Pain And Gain, and he next appears in Hercules: The Thracian Wars and Fast & Furious 7. He is repped by WME, the Garcia Companies and Gang Tyre.
UPDATE, 6:50 AM: Fox has declined the Media Action Network for Asian Americans’ suggestion it re-shoot its Dads pilot in order to remove the scene it finds most offensive. In the scene, business partners Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi have Brenda Song’s employee character dress up in sexy Asian Schoolgirl costume and giggle demurely to please Chinese businessmen.
Down the road, Fox execs promised the organization, “You will see that Brenda Song’s character is a strong, intelligent, empowered young woman who basically runs the company, and who almost always gets the upper hand.” They also said the show, from Seth MacFarlane and team, “is a show that will be evocative and will poke fun at stereotypes and bigotries — sometimes through over-the-top, ridiculous situations,” adding, “The series is based heavily on the executive producers’ own lives, and the relationships between the fathers and sons on Dads will continue to be the main driver of show’s comedic sensibility. Everyone involved with Dads is striving to create a series with humor that works on multiple levels and ‘earns’ its audaciousness.”
PREVIOUS, AUGUST 15: The Media Action Network for Asian Americans says it’s waiting to hear back from Fox execs in response to a letter it sent Monday asking the network to reshoot some “racist” scenes in the pilot of Fox’s new Seth MacFarlane live-action comedy series, Dads. Fox says it has been in the process of responding. Word of the kerfuffle got out this afternoon when MANAA took the issue to the press. In case you didn’t get the screener MANAA saw back in July, Dads is about two video game developers (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) with cranky old dads (Martin Mull and Peter Reigert) who move in to their place. Sometimes the dads say stupid racist things. Mull’s character, for instance, calls Asians “Orientals,” and says, of Chinese people, “There’s a reason ‘Shanghai’ is a verb.” TV critics don’t like the show much either, and said so at the recent Summer TCA Press Tour. Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly placated them somewhat by telling them the show will need to recalibrate and find the right comedic balance. MANAA wants the pilot recalibrated before it premieres. Read More »
In addition to the news about Ehab Al Shihabi, the soon-to-launch network says that Kate O’Brian, formerly of ABC News, will be president. ABC News President Ben Sherwood lauded O’Brian’s “insights, judgment and humor.” Here’s the Al Jazeera America release, followed by Sherwood’s comments:
New York (July 22, 2013) – The Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network, Dr. Mostefa Souag, announced today that Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director for international operations, has been named (till further notice) as an interim chief executive officer of Al Jazeera America, and ABC News veteran Kate O’Brian has been named its president. Dr. Souag also announced that the groundbreaking American news channel is scheduled to launch on August 20, 2013.
In addition, David Doss has been named senior vice president for news programming; Marcy McGinnis has been appointed senior vice-president, newsgathering; and Shannon High-Bassalik will serve as senior vice-president, documentaries and programs.
Al Shihabi, one of the network’s leading American senior executives, has effectively participated in and been in charge of developing Al Jazeera America. Al Jazeera America will be headquartered in New York City and have 12 bureaus in key cities around the U.S.
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Back when Darren Aronofsky stepped away from The Wolverine to direct Russell Crowe in the Biblical epic Noah, the emergence of James Mangold was something of a surprise. He’s an accomplished filmmaker, but his sweet spot is grounded characters with earthbound dilemmas in films from Walk The Line to Girl, Interrupted, Copland and 3:10 To Yuma. Just before he and Hugh Jackman unveiled a killer highlight reel as part of Fox’s Hall H panel, I sat down with Mangold to see why he related to Marvel Comics’ perennially pissed-off protagonist.
DEADLINE: You’ve directed actors like Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Angelina Jolie and Sylvester Stallone to career performances, but with the possible exception of Knight & Day, your movies have always been very grounded in character and reality. What made you take the leap into the fantastical genre of superheroes?
JAMES MANGOLD: Several things appealed to me. The studio and the star were ready to do something different. This didn’t have to serve other films, we were operating off some perception of disappointment for the first film. To follow an act that tripped in some way gave us a lot of freedom. As for my own sensibility as a filmmaker, the opportunity I sensed was a chance to make a movie more like the comic books I’ve read and less like what I call comic book event movies. I’ve been a comic book fan since I was a kid, and they weren’t always about the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Every week, it was not about how a city, a continent or a universe will be destroyed if X doesn’t happen. That is unsustainable for the comic book writers. I think what is missing from a lot of comic book films reliant on peak battles is the angst, the character work, the things that as young people we related to. It was not infantile, but incredibly mature themes about life, death, betrayal, revenge, friendship, loyalty, parents, genetics, who we are and accepting ourselves for who we are. Those are themes in the comic books but the movies dabble in that but become about defeating a villain who’s intent on destroying the X that will occur unless Y happens to stop them. I was really interested in the idea of making a superhero film that purposely avoided putting the audience at risk. It seems all too often that comic book movies convey situations to the audience that, if the superhero doesn’t succeed, we’re all dead. I was trying to make a film that operated as a real drama, a real thriller, noir, Western or a real samurai film. Where you become invested in the heroes of the film worried about their interests, their needs, their safety, and not yours. Read More »
The news was announced at the CW superhero drama’s Comic-Con panel today, when the network showed a sneak peek (see below) of Season 2, which premieres October 9.
SAN DIEGO and BURBANK, Calif. (July 20, 2013) — Oliver Queen (series star Stephen Amell) will have his work cut out for him when he returns to Starling City on October 9 for the second season of The CW’s #1 series Arrow (Wednesdays 8/7c). At today’s Comic-Con panel session in Ballroom 20, fans learned of two new DC Comics characters coming to Starling City — Bronze Tiger and Sebastian Blood. Executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg revealed that Michael Jai White (Spawn, The Dark Knight, Mortal Kombat) will guest star as Bronze Tiger, while Kevin Alejandro (Southland, True Blood, Golden Boy) will appear as Sebastian Blood in upcoming episodes of the acclaimed action drama’s second season (airdates to be announced).
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YouTube‘s paid content slate is getting an infusion of classic miniseries and made-for-TV films via Sonar Entertainment, which today launched new subscription channel MINIS + MOVIES. Popular small screen properties like 1989′s Emmy-winning Lonesome Dove starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall lead Sonar’s catalogue of over 500 titles viewable on the online video site starting today. The dense Sonar library is also packed with retro telefilm gems from the filmographies of Hollywood’s brightest, like Jennifer Garner’s 1999 disaster pic Aftershock: Earthquake in New York and the 1997 sorority thriller Dying to Belong with Hilary Swank, with new titles added each month. Also included in the channel’s initial launch are Merlin with Sam Neill and Isabella Rossellini, Tin Man with Zooey Deschanel, Good Fences with Danny Glover and Whoopi Goldberg, The Yearling with Philip Seymour Hoffman, and True Women with Angelina Jolie. Users can subscribe for $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year.