EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company‘s Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters has added the final pieces to its casting puzzle. Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland and Vikings’ Gabriel Byrne will now also be sinking their teeth into the movie based on the books by Richelle Mead. Byrne will play Victor, one of the leaders of the Academy while Hyland will play Natalie, Victor’s daughter and the best friend of the lead Rose and Lissa characters. Lucy Fry and Zoey Deutch have already been announced as Lissa and Rose. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Joely Richardson and Dominic Sherwood have also joined the film. Richardson will play Queen Tatiana, leader of the Moroi Vampires. Sherwood will be playing Christian, Lissa’s love interest. These latest cast additions come on the heels of the announcement last week that Sami Gayle (Blue Bloods), Cameron Monaghan (Shameless), Ashley Charles (White Buffalo) and Claire Foy (White Heat) had joined the ensemble cast. The film also stars …
The numbers do the roaring for MGM. In the first three months of this year it generated net income of $57.4M, +150.7% vs the period last year, on revenues of $481.7M, +168.4%. It shouldn’t be a surprise. With the late 2012 release of the James Bond film Skyfall, and a 50% stake in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the studio had $139.5M in worldwide box office revenues, up from $0.5M last year. The company says that it has to wait for costs to be covered before it can recognize revenue from two films it co-financed: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Home entertainment also was way up — to $201.7M from $36.2M — with the home video release of Skyfall and piggy-back promotions for its James Bond library. But worldwide television licensing was -3.2% to $109.3M. MGM’s 19.1% stake in EPIX delivered $5M to net earnings, +16.3%. The results “exceeded our expectations” and “position us well to deliver on our financial goals” for 2013, CEO Gary Barber told investors.
In the company’s first such deal, Amazon-owned LoveFilm has acquired exclusive streaming rights to History‘s Vikings for the UK and Germany. The Netflix rival will make all nine episodes of the hit show available via LoveFilm Instant in the UK on May 24 and in Germany on June 15. Vikings, handled internationally by MGM Television, is the No. 1 new cable series of the year in the U.S. and was renewed for a second season in April. This marks the first time LoveFilm has pacted for a series to stream on the service ahead of traditional broadcast television. Amazon Studios recently used the platform for its pilot screening process, making a slate of 14 pilots available on Amazon Instant Video, LoveFilm UK and LoveFilm Germany.
EXCLUSIVE: A+E Networks is venturing into half-hour comedy with Whitey, a pilot from Leslie Greif, the producer behind the blockbuster History miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. The Office alum David Koechner is attached to star in the sitcom project, which is being produced under the A+E Networks umbrella as part of the company’s longstanding relationship Greif and his company Thinkfactory Media. I hear Whitey is being earmarked for History though a decision about which A+E Network the project will go to will be made if the pilot is picked up to series. Greif is in the process of locking in a writer/showrunner for the pilot, which eyes a mid-June start date. Whitey centers on Guy “Whitey” White (Koechner), a bright, conservative and frustrated guy in his 40s who is struggling to understand the changing values of a country in a world that has forever gone with the wind. Whitey graduated high school, married his high school sweetheart and spent his career working at the local engine factory until he got laid off. Now what?
A&E and History both have original drama series on the air (The Glades, Longmire, Bates Motel, Vikings) though neither of them has taken a stab at half-hour scripted comedy. (Sibling Lifetime has in the past with Rita Rocks among other sitcoms, but Whitey is clearly …
Nancy Dubuc‘s meteoric rise continues. Seven months after she was named President, Entertainment and Media, A+E Networks, taking creative oversight of the entire cable group, Dubuc has now been named president and CEO of A+E Networks. She succeeds Abbe Raven, who is being elevated to Chairman, A+E Networks. The promotions come as A+E networks continue to deliver blockbuster ratings, most recently with History’s The Bible and Vikings and A&E’s Duck Dynasty.
Effective June 1, 2013, Dubuc will oversee the day-to-day operations of the company with the brand groups and business divisions reporting to her. Raven will be in charge of A+E Networks’ long-term business and revenue opportunities, as well as public policy initiatives, and serve as corporate strategic adviser. Raven will report directly to the company’s Board led by Anne Sweeney, president, Disney/ABC Television Group, and Steven Swartz, president & COO, Hearst Corp. Dubuc will report both to Raven and the Board. “Abbe and Nancy have enjoyed one of the most successful partnerships in our business. Together, over the last several years, they have built some of the strongest brands in media, Sweeney and Swartz said jointly. “We look forward to the company’s next chapter as Abbe becomes chairman and Nancy steps into her expanded new role as president and CEO and leads the company into the future”.
Oprah Winfrey hosts the Emmy-winning husband and wife team behind the History Channel hit The Bible Sunday night on her primetime show Oprah’s Next Chapter. One topic the pair will address is the controversy-sparking resemblance between Satan actor Mehdi Ouzaani and President Obama. “I honestly was horrified,” Downey tells Winfrey. “We love the President, we have nothing but respect for the President. We felt somehow hijacked.” And, on The Bible’s ratings coup: “We were delighted throughout the run of the series we saw various headlines — ‘God Beats Zombies’ — was my particular favorite”. The interview airs Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT on OWN.
History Channel announced today that it is picking up another season of Vikings. The first scripted drama for the network, Vikings will return for 10-episode second season next year. Production is set to begin this summer. The show’s first-season finale will air April 28. The renewal comes five episodes into what has been a successful run for the series. With a lead-in from the Mark Burnett-produced The Bible, Vikings had 6.2 million viewers, 2.5 million adults 18-49 viewers and 2.7 million adults 25-54 catch its March 3 debut. That topped the broadcast networks at 10 PM in the 18-49 demo. The series has emerged as the No. 1 new cable series of the year.
A couple of thoughts on TV from a feature guy. The Kevin Williamson-created Fox series The Following might be the most aggravating but addictive series to come down the pike in some time. Kevin Bacon plays an FBI agent trying to capture a serial killer (James Purefoy) who has accumulated a Manson Family-like group of creepy disciples all too eager to commit unimaginably horrible acts on the killer’s behalf. As if that in itself wasn’t unlikely enough, the killer met all of his acolytes when they visited him in prison. Hasn’t anybody in the FBI thought of checking the visitor list from his days behind bars, rather than waiting and reacting to the latest horror? Can the FBI really be that dumb? That said, I cannot think of a time when I’ve been hooked on so many series, between The Following, Justified, The Walking Dead, House Of Cards, The Americans, Vikings and Blue Bloods, and I just now received the first four episodes of the new season of Game Of Thrones, and have new seasons of Homeland, Sons Of Anarchy and Boardwalk Empire to look forward to. I remember Tony Gilroy telling Deadline in an interview that mid-range dramas like his superb Michael Clayton are becoming extinct in features, and are instead being made as series for basic and pay cable networks by feature guys. As a result, TV has never been stronger while film leaves room for improvement in this department.
There’s so much current programming that’s available for free from online pirates that it “could put the whole [pay TV] ecosystem at risk,” Macquarie Equities Research’s Tim Nollen warns today. His report follows what he says was a “quick and dirty Google search” to see what he could find. To his surprise “practically everything that’s popular on TV can be found instantly” from torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and cyberlockers listed in Letmewatchthis.com. For example, he found episodes of FX’s Justified, TNT’s Dallas, AMC’s The Walking Dead, History’s Vikings, and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory less than three hours after they aired. He also was surprised by how slick some of these sites have become. “In terms of usability, it’s difficult to tell the difference between iTunes or Netflix and the smoothest-looking illegitimate sites.” About 70% of U.S. homes have broadband service, giving them the ability to download an hourlong show in about 42 seconds — and lots of people already use that power to watch shows for free. Pirate Bay is more popular among U.S. Internet users than sites from The Washington Post, Best Buy, and dating service Match.com.
It was a big night for History, whose 10-hour miniseries The Bible opened with 13.1 million viewers and 4.6 million adults 25-54 to rank as the No.1 cable entertainment telecast of the year. It was followed by the debut of the network’s first original scripted series, The Vikings, which rode The Bible‘s coattails to draw 6.2 million viewers, 2.5 million Adults 18-49 and 2.7 million Adults 25-54, beating the broadcast networks at 10 PM in the 18-49 demo. The rollout was part of a new strategy by male-skewing History which is launching the bulk of its programming after the end of football season this year.
Dirk Hoogstra has been promoted to EVP, Development and Programming, for History and H2. Hoogstra, who previously served as SVP, Development and Programming since 2010, will continue to report to Nancy Dubuc, President Entertainment and Media, A+E Networks, who called him “one of the fastest rising stars in the business.” Hoogstra oversees History and H2’s programming teams, and shepherds the network’s development and production. He was an executive producer on History’s first scripted miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, which premiered in May 2012 to cable ratings records and earned five Emmys. Since joining History in 2007, Hoogstra has overseen such series and specials as American Pickers, Counting Cars, Mountain Men, Top Gear, Only In America With Larry The Cable Guy, Top Shot, Men Who Built America and the upcoming scripted series Vikings and docudrama The Bible, which premiere this Sunday.
What comes after the professional football careers of NFL players? For some of them it might be Hollywood. Twenty-two current and former NFL players have signed up for the second annual NFL Pro Hollywood Boot Camp. Directed by NFL Player Engagement and New York-based Film Life Inc., the March 11-15 event will provide a wide-ranging crash course on creative disciplines in the film industry including screen writing, directing, producing, and film financing. Session leaders include Legendary Pictures partner-producer and member of the Pittsburgh Steelers ownership group Thomas Tull (The Dark Knight, Inception, We Are Marshall), director-producer Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), and writer-actor-director Robert Townsend (The Five Heartbeats, Hollywood Shuffle). This spring’s group of current and former NFL players will include 2005 NFL MVP Shaun Alexander (Seattle, Washington DC) and four active first-round draft picks – Darrius Heyward-Bey (Raiders), Alex Mack (Browns) Gerald McCoy (Bucs), and Jared Odrick (Dolphins). Participants will have the opportunity to shoot and edit a short film at Universal.
Cinemark To Sell Theaters In Mexico
Texas-based Cinemark Holdings will sell its Mexico theaters to Grupo Cinemex and Cadena Mexicana de Exhibicion, the company announced. The Mexico circuit encompasses 290 screens in 31 theaters. Cinemark CEO Tim Warner said the sale would allow Cinemark to concentrate on its remaining Latin American theaters in Central and South America. Cinemark said its Mexico operation’s unaudited revenues for the 12 months ending September 30, 2012 were $73.7 million from 12.9 million admissions with a net income of $7.9 million. Sale of the Mexico theaters is subject to closing conditions and regulatory approval.
Ireland Reauthorizes Film & TV Incentive With 4% Increase
Ireland’s film and TV tax incentive has been signed into law and extended through to 2020. Value of the incentive commonly known as Section 481 will increase to 32% of qualifying expenditures from 28% from 2015. Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan acknolwedged the new law during a visit to the set of Frank, which he described “an example of the excellent work the Irish film industry is producing.” Michael Fassbinder stars in Frank with Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The project centers on a band fronted by an eccentric leader Frank, played by Fassbender. Currently shooting in Dublin and Wicklow, it’s directed by Lenny Abrahamson and co-produced by Ireland’s Element Pictures and the UK’s Runaway Fridge Productions. Other big-budget projects to benefit from the incentive include The History Channel’s Vikings and BBC’s Ripper Street.
EFM Roundup: Cinedigm Gets ‘Berlin Job’; Naedomi Takes U.S. ‘Sleeper’s Wake’; ‘The Pact 2′ Set; Radiant Chases ‘Run Boy Run’; K5 & Clive Owen For ‘Blue Angel’ And More
Refresh for latest… Cinedigm has acquired the crime thriller Berlin Job from Arclight Films for release on digital platforms as well as DVD and VOD in North America. The directorial debut by Frank Harper was released in the UK as St. George’s Day. Pic stars Craig Fairbrass, Vincent Regan, Neil Maskell, Luke Treadaway, Sean Pertwee, Jamie Foreman, Ashley WaIter and Charles Dance. The deal was secured by Clay Epstein on behalf of Arclight and Emily Rothschild on behalf of Cinedigm. Arclight Films is handling international sales outside the UK.
Naedomi Media has picked up U.S. rights to the suspense thriller Sleeper’s Wake. Negotiating the deal on behalf of the film were XYZ Films, producer Ken Kaplan and exec producer Sanjeev Singh and Steve Break represented Naedomi Media. Naedomi launched in 2010 and has distributed 16 titles through to 2011 via digital, DVD and television and it has set a midyear release for Sleeper’s Wake. The movie marks director Barry Berk’s feature debut. Berk’s script is based on the acclaimed novel by Alistair Morgan. It stars South African actors Lionel Newton and Deon Lotz. The film is co-produced by Bioskope Pictures and Videovision Entertainment. Sleeper’s Wake concerns a recently widowed man who takes refuge in a small coastal town but gets caught up in a dangerous relationship with a young woman. MPI Media is repping the film for international sales at Berlin. Sleeper’s Wake will be released in South Africa on 8 March 2013 by United International Pictures (South Africa).
Content Film says The Pact 2 is ready for buyers in Berlin. The thriller’s sequel, written and directed by Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath, will start production in the spring. Hallam & Horvath’s debut feature Entrance premiered at the LA Film Festival and was featured on Stephen Kings Best of 2012. The Pact 2 is produced by Preferred Film & TV’s Ross M. Dinerstein and exec produced by Content’s Jamie Carmichael and Nicholas McCarthy. The Pact 2 is the second film produced by the Preferred Content / Content Media Corp venture Preferred Film & TV formed in 2012. Content’s Carmichael and Preferred’s Kevin Iwashina will jointly sell North America and Content will handle the rest of the world. The new movie is set weeks after the original’s deadly climax.
Radiant Films is now handling world sales, including the U.S., on German-French co-production Run Boy Run. The drama from Pepe Danquart, an Oscar winner for his 1993 short Black Rider, is based on Uri Orlev’s novel about a boy who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 and survived on his own in the woods until the end of the war. Newcomer Andy Tkacz stars alongside German actors Jeanette Hain and Rainer Bock, both of whom have done crossover work in U.S. films. Lead co-producers are Bittersuess Pictures and Ciné-Sud/Vandertastic. Run Boy Run will debut on the festival circuit later this year. Picture is a nice fit for L.A.-based Radiant’s Mimi Steinbauer who’s Austrian by birth and says she feels a particular connection to the European material.
The smart guys at Paris-based film finance group BackUp Media think they’ve come up with something that will help revolutionize rights management for international film biz execs – and it’s free, for now. They’ve developed Movie Chainer, a cloud-based application designed to improve the tracking of revenue shares throughout the commercial life of a production. I sat down with BackUp partner Jean-Baptiste Babin in Berlin yesterday for a demo of the software that launches April 30, just in time for Cannes and in partnership with the Cannes Market’s Cinando film database and networking platform. Basically, once contract details are loaded into the system, a whole series of reports, maps and waterfall charts can be generated and simulated including availability lists, revenue splits, payment schedules and cash flow status. The BackUp team, which has been involved through their distribution fincancing fund with such films as Amour, On the Road,
Watch the Super Bowl ads there. Comment here. This was their order: Hyundai – Epic Playdate, Century 21 – Mini Mart, World War Z Big Game Spot, Pizza Hut – Hut Hut Hut, The Lone Ranger Trailer, Taco Bell – Grande Papi, Budweiser Black Crown Coronation, M&M’s Love Ballad, Audi Prom, Hyundai – Team, GoDaddy Kiss, Doritos Goat 4 Sale, Pepsi NEXT – Party, Best Buy – Asking Amy, Budweiser Black Crown – Celebration, Oz The Great And Powerful Trailer, Coca Cola Cameras, Oreo Whisper Fight, Fast and Furious 6 Trailer, Toyota Rav 4 Wish Granted, Calvin Klein Concept, Doritos Fashionista Daddy, Cars Wolf, Bud Light Journey, YourBigIdea.CO – Danica Patrick Takes Off, Star Trek Into Darkness Trailer, MilkPEP: The Rock in Morning Run, Hyundai Stuck, Volkswagen Get In. Get Happy, Coca-Cola – Mirage, Subway – Congratulations Jared, Taco Bell – Viva Young, Sketchers – Gorun 2, Lincoln – Phoenix, Jeep: America Will Be Whole Again, NFL Surprise, History Channel Vikings, Iron Man 3 TV Spot, Century 21 – Wedding Day, RIM – Blackberry Z10, E Trade Baby, Subway: FebruANY, Bud Light Lucky Chair, Axe – Lifeguard, Mio – Anthem, Kia – Hotbots, Gildan – Getaway, Wonderful Pistachios – PSY Get Crackin’, Lincoln – Once Upon a Tweet, Speed Stick: Unattended Laundry, Beck’s Sapphire: Serenade, Budweiser – Brotherhood, NFL – Leon Sandcastle, Ram Trucks, Kia Space Babies, Tide Miracle Stain, …