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Does Time Warner Need CBS To Thwart A Fox Takeover?

Does Time Warner Need CBS To Thwart A Fox Takeover?Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has a problem. Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch is preparing to sweeten his offer for the owner of Warner Bros, CNN, and HBO after it rejected an $80B cash-and-stock proposal last month. And Bewkes, who says he wants to keep Time Warner independent, has few takeover defenses. What can he do? Here are a few of the leading options that Time Warner execs and their advisors at Citigroup are weighing.

Corporate And Media Leaders Attend Allen & Company Media And Technology Conf.Combine with CBS: This would make Time Warner toxic for Fox: The FCC would not allow Murdoch to control two of the four biggest networks, and two of the largest TV station groups with overlaps in the nation’s largest markets.

And the business logic of a Time Warner-CBS combination is compelling. CBS chief Les Moonves would like to diversify his company to make it less dependent on domestic TV advertising. (He has already said that he’d like to buy CNN if Fox prevails with Time Warner and puts the news channel on the block.) Moonves also has made it clear that he’d like to play a bigger role in movies — his CBS Films appears to be struggling to figure out its identity. CBS could address these concerns by blending with Time Warner’s cable channels and movie studio.

The chief obstacle is that CBS is controlled by Sumner Redstone, who also owns Viacom. He hasn’t wanted to give up either property, and some bankers believe he’d prefer to … Read More »

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Box Office Preview: ‘Lucy’ To Overpower ‘Hercules’ And ‘Apes’

By | Thursday July 24, 2014 @ 11:00am PDT

Box Office Preview: ‘Lucy’ To Overpower ‘Hercules’ And ‘Apes’Luc Besson’s Lucy (UNI) which stars Scarlett Johansson is tracking this AM at 28% first choice for moviegoers following by 17% for Hercules. The interesting part of tracking is how much better female interest is than males in both under and over 25. This is a female superhero movie, so it’s not surprising that females are more interested in wanting to see this but will they actually come? If they do, they will get over $40M and if not, look for it at least to head north of $30M. It opens at 8 PM tonight. The CinemaScore will be interesting to see on this movie which is getting a lot of mixed reviews.

1363969011dwayne-johnson-hercules-movie-2145997It’ll take an easy No. 1 though over the other newcomers Hercules (PAR/MGM) and And So It Goes (which stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in this comedic turn from Clarius). The other movie opening is comedian Gabriel ‘Fluffy’ Iglesias’ concert film Fluffy from Open Road in about 400 theaters. So there’s the group.

The No. 2 spot could go either to Hercules or to Apes in its third week but if you believe the tracking, it looks more likely to be Hercules (which opens at 7 PM tonight).
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Comic-Con 2014: What You Can’t Afford To Miss

Comic-Con 2014: What You Can’t Afford To MissComic-Con 2014 officially opens today and tens of thousands are descending on San Diego to pick up their passes and prepare for four days of special screenings, studio and network panels, and previews. Having already hit the ground running, Deadline is here with Mike Fleming Jr leading our film coverage along with Jen, while Dominic and Anthony D’Alessandro handle the TV side. (Dominic will also be moderating FX’s Archer panel this year.)

Comic-Con 2014 Announces Full ScheduleOf course, veteran heavyweights like HBO’s Game Of Thrones and AMC’s The Walking Dead will be packing the mammoth Hall H on the TV side. HBO’s True Blood, a longtime fave in its final season, is set to make its Comic-Con bow Saturday in Ballroom 20, as is Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, which just wrapped its first season and has its panel this evening. Repping the big screen side, studios are putting their tentpole wares out there with presentations by Marvel and Warner Bros with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and Mad Max: Fury Road among others.

Below we spotlight a few special events on the schedule that you don’t want to miss. (For the full TV and film lineups, go here and here.) Read More »

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London Critics Heart ‘Shakespeare In Love’; NY Times Not So Much

By | Thursday July 24, 2014 @ 9:03am PDT

London Critics Heart ‘Shakespeare In Love’; NY Times Not So MuchThe stage adaptation of Oscar winner Shakespeare In Love has opened at London’s Noel Coward Theatre to raves from many of the UK critics but a big ho-hum from the New York Times‘s Ben Brantley, which could throw a wet blanket over plans for a Broadway transfer by co-producers Disney and Sonia Friedman.

“I’ve often attacked our modern mania for turning movies into plays. But, in the case of Shakespeare In Love, the transformation is fully justified,” wrote Michael Billington in The Guardian. “Even more than the original screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, Lee Hall’s new version is a love letter to theatre itself, and one that celebrates the way magic and mystery are born out of chaos and confusion.”

“Screen to stage transfers are so frequent and mostly catchpenny and cynical that the prospect of yet another tends to fill a critic’s heart with dread,” wrote Paul Taylor in The Independent. “But here there’s the elating sense that the material – with its rivalry between two public playhouses echoing the feud between the Montagues and Capulets – is revelling in its natural element in the theatre. And the smartest move made by the producers was to hire director Declan Donnellan and designer Nick Ormerod, the world-renowned Cheek By Jowl team whose profound understanding of Shakespearean drama (its dazzling fluidity; its blithe refusal to respect the “rules” of genre; its mood-mingling suppleness) enriches a production that is filled … Read More »

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Comic-Con: TV Promos Dominate As San Diego Marketing Blitz Begins

By and | Wednesday July 23, 2014 @ 7:38pm PDT

Comic-Con: TV Promos Dominate As San Diego Marketing Blitz BeginsOnce again it’s the networks that have poured big money into blanketing downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter in promo materials, with a few exceptions. Besides Showtime’s Penny Dreadful being on all the lanyards for the more than 130,000 attendees, here’s what’s greeting Comic-Congoers on the ground as Wednesday’s Preview Night kicks into gear ahead of the Thursday-to-Sunday rush (check back for more glimpses from geek ground zero throughout the week):

Related: Comic-Con 2013: TV Outrunning Film As Race To Blanket San Diego Hits High Gear (PHOTOS)

sdcc-legendsNBC’s Constantine (above) has a blazing standee of star Matt Ryan on display to get audiences used to seeing the Welsh thesp as DC Comics antihero John Constantine. Show debuts October 24. Elsewhere around Comic-Con’s downtown HQ, a massive banner for TNT’s August-premiering series Legends, starring Sean Bean and Ali Larter, has taken another chunk of prime eyeball real estate. Read More »

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UPDATE: Disney Sets Another Mystery Marvel Movie For 2018

By | Wednesday July 23, 2014 @ 3:15pm PDT

UPDATE: Disney Sets Another Mystery Marvel Movie For 2018UPDATED, 3:15PM: As folks head south for Comic-Con, Disney and Marvel have announced yet another mystery movie, this one set to kick off the 2018 summer season. Marvel Untitled — that “title” sound familiar?  — will invade a megaplex near you on May 4, 2018. This makes a half-dozen of their TBA superhero flicks set to open 2017 and 2019.

PREVIOUSLY, July 18: Just in time for Comic-Con, Disney has press-dumped a quintet of release dates for untitled Marvel films that fanboys and girls can spend the weekend agonizing over before the Con. They’ll open two films in 2017, on July 28, 2017 and November 3, 2017, followed by two more in 2018 on July 6, 2018 and November 2, 2018. The summer/fall double hitter strategy stops (as far as we know) in 2019, when Marvel will release one new to-be-identified pic on May 3, 2019.

We’ll know next week if Disney/Marvel reveal any of this extended lineup in San Diego, though the studio might as well use it as more ammo to drive fans to its own D23 fan confab. Read More »

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Comic-Con: Sony Dates Two ‘Spider-Man’ Films And ‘Uncharted’

Mike Fleming

Comic-Con: Sony Dates Two ‘Spider-Man’ Films And ‘Uncharted’San Diego Comic-Con has become more than a place for film studios to vamp their upcoming superhero movies. Now, they use the geek frenzy to stake out release date turf. Days after Disney and Marvel declared release dates for a flurry of superhero films the studio isn’t even ready to identify yet, Columbia Pictures has set its release plans and formalized plans to expand its $4 billion Spider-Man universe. As expected, the next film in the series will be Sinister Six, writer-director Drew Goddard’s bad guy mash-up, which is the first of several planned character and story expansions. That film has been dated for release November 11, 2016, with Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach producing.

Columbia will then release the third installment of The Amazing Spider-Man in 2018.

unchartedThe studio also announced that it has slated Uncharted for June 10, 2016, the date originally held by The Amazing Spider-Man 3. The adaptation of the Sony PlayStation vidgame will be directed by Seth Gordon, and the latest draft of the screenplay is being written by David Guggenheim. They haven’t set a star to play Nathan Drake; I’ve heard they are trying to pull Mark Wahlberg back into the mix, but the studio and the actor’s reps say nothing is happening. That film will be an Arad/Atlas Entertainment Production, produced by Charles Roven, Avi Arad, Alex Gartner and Ari Arad. Read More »

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Disney Dates ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean 5′ For July 2017

By | Wednesday July 23, 2014 @ 8:15am PDT

Disney Dates ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean 5′ For July 2017Disney has slotted Pirates Of The Caribbean 5 for July 7, 2017. Right now the pic has the date to itself but will have some competition from Fantastic Four 2, which bows on July 14 that year, and Despicable Me 3, which opens June 30. Disney initially was eyeing summer 2016 to release the latest installment of the franchise, being directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, but the decision was made that it wasn’t worth rushing until the script was right. Jeff Nathanson is the scribe. The first four Pirates films grossed $3.7 billion, and the last one, On Stranger Tides, crossed the $1 billion mark.

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Salman Khan’s ‘Kick’ Poised To Break Global Bollywood Records? (Video)

By | Wednesday July 23, 2014 @ 5:54am PDT

Salman Khan’s ‘Kick’ Poised To Break Global Bollywood Records? (Video)Bollywood superstar Salman Khan is about to make a comeback of sorts when his latest film, Kick, opens worldwide on July 25. That’s the Friday that falls just ahead of the beginning of the Eid al Fitr holiday, generally one of the most profitable periods for Bollywood titles locally and abroad. Beginning in 2008, films toplined by Khan staked a claim on Eid which celebrates the end of Ramadan. They have included big hits Wanted, Dabaang, Bodyguard and Ek Tha Tiger — the latter the 4th highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time worldwide. But in 2013, it was rival Shah Rukh Khan‘s romancer Chennai Express that grabbed the Eid date and went on to leave a trail of broken records behind it. (Both Chennai and Kick hail from distributor UTV Motion Pictures in which Disney has a strategic stake.) With the recent success of Bollywood films abroad, Kick is set up to do strong business this weekend. (See trailer below.)

Some history: In June 2013, Yeh Jawaani Hai Dawaani, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone auspiciously broke into the North American Top 10 on its first weekend with an opening gross of $1.3M. Then Chennai, also starring Padukone, debuted last August in North America and became the biggest Bollywood opener of all time, besting Shah Rukh Khan’s own 2010 My Name Is Khan, with $2.225M on 196 screens (at home Rohit Shetty’s love story cum road movie became the fastest local … Read More »

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Aly Michalka, AJ Michalka Topline Own LA-Set Indie Dramedy

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 4:02pm PDT

Aly Michalka, AJ Michalka Topline Own LA-Set Indie DramedyEXCLUSIVE: Aly Michalka and AJ Michalka have wrapped on an untitled indie dramedy for first-time feature writer-director Stephen Pierce Ringer. The musician-actress siblings known as Aly & AJ, who perform together as the musical duo 78violet, produced and starred in the film as two sisters on the cusp of adulthood spending their last week in their LA hometown before embarking on their next tour. Read More »

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‘Frozen’ Tops Digital Sales And Rentals For 2014′s First Half

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 3:38pm PDT

‘Frozen’ Tops Digital Sales And Rentals For 2014′s First HalfFrozenalready the all-time animation box-office champ and an Oscar winner, has added another jewel to its icy crown: Rentrak says the Walt Disney Animation feature topped the charts for the first half of 2014 in digital movie purchases and rentals on VOD and electronic sellthrough. Nearly all the other films in the top 10 were Oscar nominees tooeven the Jackass-produced comedy Bad Grandpa, which snagged a nomination for best makeup and hairstyling. It appears everyone spent that very chilly winter of 2014 catching up on the Oscar contenders they didn’t watch in theaters.

There is one important caveat to this list, however: It does not include any films from NBCUniversal, nor from indie studios (whatever size studio we count Lionsgate as these days, its Hunger Games sequel made the list at a not-that-surprising No. 2). Rentrak said that though it couldn’t include individual Universal films for the list, the studio’s products as a whole were No. 1 for both overall transactions and retail revenue during the period, which ran from the week of January 5 to June 29.

Rentrak top digital movie sales rentals 1st half 2014jpg

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Ashley Tisdale’s Blondie Girl Prods Inks Overall Deal With Asylum Entertainment

Ashley Tisdale’s Blondie Girl Prods Inks Overall Deal With Asylum EntertainmentUnder the multi-year overall production deal, High School Musical alumna Ashley Tisdale and her sister Jennifer, Blondie Girl Prods‘ VP Development and Production, will create and develop scripted and unscripted content for Asylum Entertainment. The announcement was made today by Asylum president and CEO Steve Michaels.
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Comic-Con: Off ‘Ant-Man’ Hill, Edgar Wright Sets Sights On ‘Baby Driver’

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 11:08am PDT
Mike Fleming

Comic-Con: Off ‘Ant-Man’ Hill, Edgar Wright Sets Sights On ‘Baby Driver’Here’s one to get the Comic-Con crowd going as things ramp up in San Diego. I’m hearing that Edgar Wright has found his next film, after stepping away from Marvel’s Ant-Man. Wright’s looking to next direct Baby Driver for Working Title Films. The project, which Wright wrote, is described to me as a collision of crime, action, music and sound. That sounds like a close cousin to the Cornetto Trilogy of films that Wright did at Working Title, but at this point at least, it doesn’t appear that Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are part of this. They made the three comedies World’s End, Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead together. Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Nira Park. This is all happening on a fast track, and I will keep you posted as more details emerge. It isn’t at a studio yet, but Working Title’s deal is at Universal and so it seems natural that the film will be made there or by Focus Features, which released World’s End. CAA and Anonymous Content rep Wright.

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Disney’s ‘Maleficent’ Crosses $700 Million In Global Box Office

Disney’s ‘Maleficent’ Crosses $700 Million In Global Box OfficeThe Not-Very-Nice Little Witch That Could keeps enchanting audiences around the globe, as Disney’sMaleficent‘ crossed the $700 million mark in global box office, Disney distribution execs said. It’s the studio’s second 2014 release to cross that high mark (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, box office champ for the first half of 2014, is the other).

Since its U.S. release on May 30, the film has tallied $228.8M domestically. Overseas, it has been extremely strong, no doubt helped by star Angelina Jolie‘s global visibility and appeal. The overall international gross has hit $471.8M so far, with big numbers out of China, Mexico, Russia and Brazil. Japan, which has a habit of keeping late-arriving Disney films in theaters for many lucrative weeks (see what happened with Frozen earlier in the year before Maleficent dethroned it), just debuted the film on July 5. Since then, it’s been No. 1 for three straight weekends, pulling in $32.7M already.

The studio said Maleficent is the year’s highest-grossing film based on an original story, (though some may quibble, given the film’s roots in Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty). It’s also Jolie’s highest-grossing live-action film ever, whether measured by domestic, international and global box office.

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TCA: PBS Announces Walt Disney Bio, ‘The Brain’ Series, Navy SEALS Story, And Season 4 Pickup For ‘Call The Midwife’

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 10:25am PDT

TCA: PBS Announces Walt Disney Bio, ‘The Brain’ Series, Navy SEALS Story, And Season 4 Pickup For ‘Call The Midwife’PBS chief Paula Kerger this morning made a slew of announcements from TCA Summer Press Tour 2014:

Call The Midwife will be back for a fourth season. BBC announced in February it would produce a fourth season of the period drama about  a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the 1950s — only it will be set in the 60′s for the next season.
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Sony Pictures Vice Chairman Jeff Blake Exiting Studio After 22 Years

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 8:06am PDT

Sony Pictures Vice Chairman Jeff Blake Exiting Studio After 22 YearsEXCLUSIVE: Jeff Blake, who has served as vice chairman of Sony Pictures and chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures since 2005, is leaving the studio that he has been a part of for the past 22 years. Part of the innermost circle of Sony’s senior management team with CEO Michael Lynton and chair of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group Amy Pascal, the departure is a real shake-up for the studio at the highest level. Blake is the stalwart pro and has been one of the longest survivors at any studio. He worked under several Sony regimes including that of Peter Guber and Mark Canton, Jonathan Dolgen, Alan Levine, Robert Wynne, Mel Harris, the beloved John Calley, Howard Stringer, and finally Lynton and Pascal. He exits August 1.

Sony announced it at 8 AM this morning, saying, “It’s with a heavy heart and great appreciation that we want to share with you news that Jeff Blake has decided to leave SPE to pursue other opportunities … he’s been an important part of the fabric of SPE. We have all loved his legendary role as raffle master at our annual holiday party, enjoyed his gregarious laugh and sense of humor and appreciate his reputation as one of the nicest and most easy-going guys in the business.”

Image (1) sony-pictures-logo__140323172613.jpeg for post 703140With Blake’s departure, the studio loses an executive with institutional and strategic knowledge of not only marketing and distribution both domestically and internationally, but on the business itself. He has worked at three studios, having joined the business in 1974 working for Paramount Pictures in Chicago. He has also worked with the best known names in the business at Paramount and at Sony (and even a short stint at Disney) – from Charlie Bludhorn and Barry Diller to Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Stanley Jaffe, Frank Mancuso, the wonderful Brandon Tartikoff, the aforementioned executives and so many others. Katzenberg and Mancuso became Blake’s lifetime friends and mentors.

decode-pascal-articleInlineHis departure comes after Pascal and Lynton and the rest of SPE’s senior management have been under tremendous pressure after a rough round last summer and a hit-and-miss year so far in 2014. Pascal and Lynton have spent this past year making changes at the studio and shoring up their ranks with execs like Michael De Luca coming in as president of production at Columbia, and the announcement last week that Doug Belgrad is expanding duties with a new president of the motion picture group title. Those expanded responsibilities included working with the marketing and distribution team which also saw changes last year. Sony has undergone extreme cost-cutting at the studio as well with layoff after layoff. They have also worked to bring in co-financing deals and closed a big one with Lone Star Capital and Citibank, a smaller agreement with Village Roadshow and have also been waiting for former Warner Bros. executive Jeff Robinov to secure financing to start producing movies to distribute.

“Certainly there has been an air of change at Sony for the past couple of years,” said Blake. “I put it out there prior to our summer if at some point, I needed to step aside that I certainly would but, in the meantime, I wanted to make sure that there were no distractions in releasing our summer slate. I’m really comfortable with my decision, Read More »

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3BlackDot Hybrid Firm Emerges From Stealth Mode With Ex-’Duck Dynasty’, Machinima Execs, Top YouTubers

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 8:00am PDT

3BlackDot Hybrid Firm Emerges From Stealth Mode With Ex-’Duck Dynasty’, Machinima Execs, Top YouTubers3BlackDot – a hybrid entertainment company with gamer and social-media-marketing roots and composed of video production, game development, online influencer and integrated marketing units – has officially come out of stealth mode this morning. Company principals include two former Machinima executives (Angelo Pullen and Luke Stepleton) and two prominent YouTube personalities (SeaNanners, aka Adam Montoya, and TheSyndicateProject, aka Tom Cassell).

As well, Stepleton’s older brother, former Duck Dynasty co-executive producer Hank Stepleton, will join the organization as partner and head of Pickaxe, the company’s video-content production company. The first Pickaxe project will be a live-action short based on Zombie Killer Squad, the mobile title developed by the company’s game unit and released last November to substantial success. The trailer for the short will be shown at San Diego Comic-Con this week, at a lounge 3BlackDot will be running for its online influencers and others.

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GLAAD Study Finds Lack Of LGBT Images, Offensive Content In Films From 7 Studios, Sony Columbia Gets Best Grade

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 7:45am PDT

GLAAD Study Finds Lack Of LGBT Images, Offensive Content In Films From 7 Studios, Sony Columbia Gets Best GradeGLAAD has released its second annual Studio Responsibility Index that maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios during the 2013 calendar year: 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers. GLAAD found that of the 102 releases from the major studios in 2013, 17 of them included characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. It found that  the majority of these characters were minor roles or cameos, and that many of these were outright defamatory representations in films such as Pain & Gain and Riddick.
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Amy Ryan To Co-Star In Steven Spielberg’s Cold War Pic; Alan Alda & Two Others In Talks

By | Monday July 21, 2014 @ 4:29pm PDT

Amy Ryan To Co-Star In Steven Spielberg’s Cold War Pic; Alan Alda & Two Others In TalksAmy Ryan will co-star opposite Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s untitled Cold War Spy thriller for DreamWorks. Production is set to begin in September and will be shot on location in New York and Berlin ahead of its October 16, 2015 release date. In talks for roles are Alan Alda, Boardwalk Empire‘s Billy Magnussen and The Knick‘s Eve Hewson. Mark Rylance is already aboard.

The pic is based on the true story of James Donovan (Hanks), the CIA attorney who is thrust behind the Iron Curtain when he is sent to negotiate the release of captured American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. The Coen brothers wrote the 1960s-set screenplay off Matt Charman’s original script. Ryan, repped by Gersh and attorney Dave Feldman, will play Donovan’s wife. Read More »

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