First Lady Michelle Obama will play herself in a cameo appearance on ABC‘s country music drama Nashville on May 7, an episode titled “All Or Nothing With Me” that is set at the Fort Campbell Army base. This comes a couple months after she was set for a cameo on the season finale of Parks And Recreation on April 24, that appearance to promote her “Let’s Move” program targeting child obesity.
Aside from numerous late-night appearances and docu-series, Obama has appeared in only a couple scripted series including Sesame Street in 2009 and in a cameo on Nickelodeon’s iCarly in 2012. Obama taped the iCarly appearance in June 2011 while in LA to promote a series of PSAs targeting her “Joining Forces” initiative, designed to raise awareness of military families; iCarly‘s lead character was the daughter of a U.S. service member stationed overseas. That plan was unveiled at the WGA Theatre during a panel sponsored by the Hollywood guilds (and moderated by JJ Abrams) designed to create a dialogue among film and TV folks about ways to share those families’ stories. The Nashville appearance would seem to jibe with that initiative: ABC says the episode’s storyline involves Reyna (Connie Britton) organizing of a charity concert on the Army base after finding out Luke (Will Chase) has been injured in Afghanistan, cutting short his tour. Read More »
John Benjamin Hickey, Daniel Stern, Olivia Williams, Ashley Zukerman and Rachel Brosnahan star in WGN America‘s 13-episode scripted series Manhattan, slated to premiere in July. Set during the clandestine mission to build the world’s first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, NM, Manhattan follows the brilliant but flawed scientists and their families. Here’s a sneak-peek at the teaser trailer that will air during Salem‘s season premiere on Sunday. Manhattan is from writer Sam Shaw and director Thomas Schlamme, Skydance TV, Tribune Studios and Lionsgate TV.
Blumhouse and Entertainment One have inked Ciaran Foy to helm Sinister 2, the sequel to the micro-budget horror movie. Production starts in July on the follow to the Lionsgate/Summit pic, which starred Ethan Hawke and grossed more than $77M worldwide on a budget of $3M. Foy’s first writer-director effort, Citadel, won the Midnighter Audience Award at SXSW in 2012. That pic (check out the trailer for it below) carries some of the same DNA as the original Sinister, which starred Hawke as a true crime novelist who discovers a box of mysterious, disturbing home movies that plunge his family into a supernatural nightmare. Scott Derrickson, who directed the original and co-wrote the script with C. Robert Cargill, announced Foy got the gig today on his Twitter feed:
Derrickson and Cargill are back as co-writers for the sequel. eOne is financing and Blumhouse International is handling foreign sales via a worldwide distribution and servicing deal with IM Global. Executive producers are Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Charles Layton, and Xavier Marchand and Patrice Théroux for eOne.
Here’s the Citadel trailer:
Lionsgate is the latest studio to shake up its marketing operations, saying today it is combining operations under Chief Marketing Officer Tim Palen that will give him oversight of film marketing for Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment product as well as its Pantelion Films joint venture with Televisa and urban Codeblack Films label. With the consolidation, Summit’s president of worldwide marketing Nancy Kirkpatrick is resigning at month’s end (although she doesn’t appear to be in her office now). As the company streamlines its operations — it currently releases about 12 to 15 movies a year now — the question is if others might follow Kirkpatrick out the door.
Kirkpatrick, who is well-regarded, ends her tenure after shepherding the marketing efforts for all five Twilight Saga films as well as the recent launch of the first pic in the Divergent franchise, which bowed last month with a $56.4 million opening weekend and has grossed $175M-plus to date worldwide. Draft Day was the last picture to open and it didn’t do well, grossing only $9.7M this past weekend, but the last three Kevin Costner film openings have been soft.
“Nancy has done a great job and has been an important part of this company,” said Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chair Rob Friedman, “And Tim has done an amazing job and has great relationships with both staffs.” One source noted that the word ‘integration’ has been talked about for awhile in the hallways of Lionsgate and Summit.
In fact, one of the biggest question marks since Lionsgate merged with Summit in 2012 was what would happen to their two veteran marketing heads. Eventually, Lionsgate’s Palen was given a new long-term deal to remain Chief Marketing Officer and it was decided Summit’s Kirkpatrick would continue in her role separately since the two entities had their own big slates to shepherd. As part of that structure, Palen was tasked with overseeing all of Lionsgate Films’ North American theatrical marketing campaigns and strategy, media, creative advertising and digital media initiatives as well as continuing to supervise the company’s corporate branding activities — he oversaw the marketing campaign for Lionsgate’s signature franchise The Hunger Games while Kilpatrick guided Twilight pics. As part of today’s moves, Palen now has expanded responsibilities for merchandising, theme park attractions and new business opportunities generated by the company’s franchises. He joined Lionsgate in 2002 as VP Theatrical Marketing. Read More »
UPDATED: Bret Harrison (Orange County) and Aaron McCusker (Shameless, Dexter) have been cast as series regulars in ABC’s 10-episode drama series The Astronaut Wives Club, from Fake Empire, Groundswell Productions and ABC Studios, eyed for 2015. Written by Stephanie Savage based on Lily Koppel’s book and directed by Nick Cassavetes, it tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history during the height of the space race. Harrison will play Gordon “Gordo” Cooper, one of the original astronauts. His wandering ways pushed his wife, Trudy, to the brink of divorce, but he’s convinced her to come back so he can have his shot at space. McCusker, repped by UK’s Curtis Brown and Kritzer Levine Wilkins Griffin Nilon Entertainment, will play Wally Schirra, another one of the original astronauts who’s also a prankster.
Read More »
David Wisnia has been appointed President of Business Operations for TVGN, a CBS Corp and Lionsgate partnership. He will oversee TVGN’s operational strategy, including ad sales, content distribution, corporate strategy and business development, finance, and business and legal affairs. Wisnia’s appointment is effective immediately, and he will report to TVGN’s Board of Directors working alongside Brad Schwartz, TVGN’s President, Entertainment and Media. Wisnia succeeds Dennis Miller, who had been a consultant to Lionsgate for TVGN, and later served as the interim president during the network’s recent transition of partnerships from One Equity Partners to CBS. Read More »
Spike comedy series Blue Mountain State was cancelled in 2012 after three seasons, but a second life on Netflix and Hulu reinvigorated fan interest. Now the show’s creators are hoping to channel that demand into a big-screen film continuation with a Kickstarter campaign launched today. “We’ve seen fan activity on social media since the show ended and went on to Netflix, and we’ve seen the audience continue to grow through that platform,” said Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), who played high-strung All-American linebacker Thad Castle on the show and is aboard to produce the film project with co-creators Chris Romano and Eric Falconer. “When they find it on Netflix, they also find out it’s no longer airing on Spike or being made. A lot of them are asking for another season. We didn’t get our senior year and we want to do that.”
Ritchson, Romano and Falconer seek to raise a minimum of $1.5M to produce a Blue Mountain State movie based on the series, an idea that’s been brewing since Spike cancelled the show. Producer Lionsgate TV passed on doing a feature film but sold the rights back to Ritchson and company and retain a first-look option on the potential movie.
Taking a beloved TV series to the big screen through crowdfunding worked well for recent Kickstarter successes Veronica Mars, which raised $5.7M and opened day-and-date via Warner Bros last month, and Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here, which raised $3.1M and opens July 18 through Focus Features. Both high-profile films, however, also encountered their own high-profile snafus. Read More »
Sharon Stone is the latest to snag a role in the Jesse Eisenberg-Kristen Stewart starrer American Ultra. Production began yesterday in New Orleans. The action comedy that Lionsgate ponied up $7M for in March focuses on Mike (Eisenberg), a stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend (Stewart) is upended when his past catches up with him, putting him in the crosshairs of a government operation bent on wiping him out. Stone joins recently cast Bill Pullman Tony Hale, along with Topher Grace, John Leguizamo, and Walton Goggins in the pic directed by Project X‘s Nima Nourizadeh and penned by Chronicle writer Max Landis. Stone, repped by Gersh and manager Chuck Binder, will play Victoria Lasseter. The PalmStar, Likely Story, and Circle of Confusion co-production is produced by Anthony Bregman, Kevin Frakes, Raj Brinder Singh, David Alpert, and Britton Rizzio. Ray Angelic is exec producing with Lionsgate’s Jason Constantine and Eda Kowan overseeing. FilmNation is repping international sales. Stone recently wrapped the TNT pilot Agent X and can currently be seen in Fading Gigolo with Woody Allen and Jon Turturro.
Highlights: Rio 2 (FOX) has $63.4M weekend, lands $12.6M in China debut; Captain America: The Winter Soldier (DIS) crosses $300M international; Noah (PAR) adds $36.2M; Divergent (LGF/SUM/var) nears $50M; Spanish Affairs (UNI) has 5th No. 1 weekend in Spain…
4th UPDATE, 7:15 PM, PST: The final Divergent numbers are in, with the film nearing $50M but not yet crossing it; it stands at $48.1M. The film is based on the YA novel of the same name (part of a trilogy) and Lionsgate is hoping it will become another big franchise. This is the same company that launched the wildly successful Hunger Games series. Divergent is at $124.7M in the U.S. after the 3-day weekend for a worldwide gross of $172.8M+.
3rd UPDATE, Monday, 1:52 PM, PST: New grosses are in for Rio 2, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 300: Rise Of An Empire, The Lego Movie, Spanish Affairs and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Rio 2 did better than previously expected internationally over the weekend, with a total tally of $63.4M to date; the worldwide cume on the animated family picture is over $100M.
2ND UPDATE, MONDAY 12:45 AM PT: Last weekend, Captain America: … Read More »
OPENING: Rio 2 (FOX) on Friday was expected to fly to No. 1 for $43.9M to $44.3M (Fox was the only one to predict $45M), then Saturday got its wings clipped by Captain America: The Winter Soldier and ended at $39.3M, Oculus (REL) was expected to scare up $12M to $12.8M for third spot and ended up at $12M; Draft Day (LGF) on Fri. was second round pick for $10.9M (although Summit estimated lower $10.5M) and ended the weekend with $9.7M. NOTEWORTHY: Captain America 2 (DIS) expected to fall 56% in second weekend but will take No. 1 with $40.5M to $41.4M to end the 3-day with $41.2M.
UPDATED, MONDAY, 3:37 PM: Rio 2 opened to $39.3M right in line with the first film which opened in 2011 to $39.2M. That hurts, but overseas, the film has already grossed $63.4M, so it has already pulled in over $100M worldwide and it should get some decent multiples as there is really nothing standing in its way for some weeks to come … well, there is the long- in-release Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Muppets Most Wanted. But for the sequel not to surge past the first film, something went a little haywire. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the champ again this weekend and the final tally ended up at $41.2M but next weekend, it has competition when Warner Bros. opens the Johnny Depp sci-fi thriller Transcendence. The big disappointment of the weekend was the Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner football feature Draft Day (LGF). It took in only $9.7M. That’s three in a row for Costner that really didn’t thrill audiences — behind 3 Days To Kill and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, although the criticism for that film really was directed at Chris Pine not being a strong enough lead. Regardless, it’s too bad for all involved. Oculus, despite its C CinemaScore, was able to pull in $12M for the weekend which served Relativity well. Noah also bypassed Divergent to step into the Top Five. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Kyle Villella, most recently VP Theatrical Distribution Operations at LD Entertainment, has been appointed to head the expanding film and TV sales and distribution division at indie Paragon Pictures. It’s the last ramp-up for Paragon, the specialty distribution arm of Osiris Entertainment that kicked off its theatrical business in February with the platform release of the Melissa Leo starrer Bottled Up, a drama about over-the-counter drug abuse that also stars Josh Hamilton. The company formally launched in September with Osiris CEO Evan Crooke at the helm, and its other titles include the thrillers The Kill Hole starring Chadwick Boseman and UK pic Twenty8K. Villella previously worked at Lionsgate, Paramount, The Weinstein Company and most recently LD, where he helped sell the Matthew McConaughey pic Killer Joe, Disconnect and Black Rock.
Bill Pullman and Tony Hale have been tapped to round out the cast of American Ultra, the action comedy that Lionsgate shelled out $7M for in March. Production begins today in New Orleans on the pic, which stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mike, a stoner slacker whose secret past as a highly-trained sleeper agent upturns his small-town life with girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) as he’s thrust into a covert government operation. Project X‘s Nima Nourizadeh is directing from a script by Max Landis (Chronicle) with Topher Grace, John Leguizamo, and Walton Goggins also co-starring. The PalmStar, Likely Story, and Circle of Confusion co-production is produced by Anthony Bregman, Kevin Frakes, Raj Brinder Singh, David Alpert, and Britton Rizzio. Ray Angelic is exec producing with Lionsgate’s Jason Constantine and Eda Kowan overseeing. FilmNation is repping international sales. Pullman is at ICM. Hale is repped by UTA.
It’s the end of the road for thriller, suspense and horror-themed FEARnet. Comcast has bought out its partners in the joint venture — Sony Pictures Entertainment and Lionsgate Entertainment — to take 100% ownership. Following the transaction, which closed this morning, FEARnet will no longer be a stand-alone brand but will be folded into Comcast’s NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment division. “NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment has acquired all remaining interests in FEARnet from its productive venture with Lionsgate and Sony,” the company said in a statement to Deadline through a spokesman. “FEARnet, along with its popular content, will be integrated into NBCU Cable Entertainment. This process will take place over a yet to be determined period of time.”
FEARnet is expected to be folded mainly into Comcast/NBCU Cable Entertainment’s similarly thriller, suspense and horror-focused Chiller, though some content could also migrate to Syfy. I’ve learned that 10 of FEARnet’s 25 employees will stay on through the transition. The other 15 are being let go today. NBCU would try to find job opportunities for some of them across the company. FEARnet president Peter Block will stay at least through the transition. Read More »
Catch up on the top film stories you missed this week:
The Death Of Sarah Jones: Safety Concerns Raised Over ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew’s Previous Film In Georgia
By Jen Yamato
Local, state, and federal investigations are underway to determine who from the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider is responsible for the February 20 train collision on location in rural Georgia that left 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones dead and seven others injured. As the production community rallies around the tragedy and calls for stronger guidelines to ensure that similar accidents never happen again, a Deadline investigation that included interviews with people on the ground in and around Savannah has revealed several troubling factors preceding the afternoon when the crew of the movie, directed and produced by Randall Miller through his Unclaimed Freight Productions banner, placed a metal hospital bed on the live train tracks overlooking Southern Georgia’s Altamaha River.
Safety On Set: Camera Crew Outnumber Stunt Personnel In On-Set Deaths
Safety On Set: Helicopter Crashes Have Taken Most Lives On TV & Film Sets
Safety On Set: Three Workers Speak Out
BOX OFFICE: ‘Rio 2′ Runs Afowl Of ‘Captain America 2′ Which Blasts To No. 1, ‘Oculus’ Runs Over Disappointing Opener ‘Draft Day’
By Anita Busch
Even with a 56% drop in its second weekend, Disney/Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier surprised all the distribs and trackers this weekend by clipping the wings of Fox’s Rio 2.
Lionsgate To Split Final ‘Divergent’ Sequel ‘Allegiant’ Into Two Films To Cap Sci-Fi Franchise
By Jen Yamato
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate/Summit will adapt Veronica Roth‘s Divergent novel trilogy into a total of not three, but four films starring Shailene Woodley as the dystopian sci-fi heroine Beatrice “Tris” Prior, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger revealed today.
Drew Goddard Near Helming Deal For Spider-Man Spinoff ‘Sinister Six’
By Mike Fleming Jr
BREAKING: Sony Pictures is nearing a deal with Drew Goddard to direct Sinister Six, the Amazing Spider-Man spinoff for the studio. Read More »
Only Lovers Left Alive held sway among Specialty newcomers this weekend, scoring the weekend’s highest average in a fairly crowded box office. The film starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston grossed nearly $97K in four theaters, averaging $24,244. Crowds packed the 268-seat Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center Friday night where director Jim Jarmusch took part in a Q&A for the 7pm screening of the film (he gave a rather interesting theory on William Shakespeare not being the author of his work). The weekend results for Lovers outperformed Jarmusch’s previous 2009 feature The Limits Of Control, which averaged $18,607 in three theaters when it opened in May of that year. It went on to cume over $426K domestically. Broken Flowers which starred Bill Murray, Sharon Stone and Julie Delpy had a slightly higher PTA launch, averaging $28,904 in 27 theaters when it opened in August 2005. The Focus Features release went on to total over $13.744M in the U.S.
“It’s a great start, people really seemed to love the film,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker Sunday. SPC will open Only Lovers Left Alive in New York and L.A. this weekend, expanding to San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C. the following week before heading to the top 50 markets through spring.
TWC opened The Railway Man in several locations, grossing $64,506 for an so-so $16,127 average. “We’re off to a respectable start on Railway Man,” said TWC president of Theatrical Distribution Erik Lomis Sunday. “Our exit information confirmed [what we thought]. It was a mostly an older audience. There’s some images that are disturbing, but it’s very relevant today with current events in Fort Hood. What we learned from the U.K. and Australia was that the midweek grosses were about as good as the weekends. So we’re just going to let it roll. Read More »
“It takes a minnow to catch a barracuda, a barracuda to catch a shark,” German intelligence agent Gunther Bachmann says. He’s using a young lawyer for a human rights group who is harboring a mysterious client as bait to trap an Islamist terrorist with Chechen connections who has made his way into Germany. So goes A Most Wanted Man, an international thriller based on spy-meister John le Carré’s 2008 novel. It’s the final starring role for Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in February. Director Anton Corbijn’s cast also includes Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright. Andrew Bovell wrote the pic, which debuted at Sundance. Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions opens the film July 25. Here’s a look:
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate/Summit will adapt Veronica Roth‘s Divergent novel trilogy into a total of not three, but four films starring Shailene Woodley as the dystopian sci-fi heroine Beatrice “Tris” Prior, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger revealed today. Following last month’s blockbuster hit Divergent and its planned 2015 sequel Insurgent, Allegiant – adapted from the third book in Roth’s bestselling YA book series – will be split into two separate films to conclude the franchise. Lionsgate had previously set Allegiant for a March 18, 2016 release. Allegiant Part 1 will keep that date, with Part 2 to follow on March 24, 2017. Both films will be produced separately.
Divergent has quickly made a box office star of Woodley, who will reprise her role in all three sequels as Tris, the 16-year-old girl who finds herself a target as one of few in her futuristic society who defy categorization into one of five personality-based factions. The first picture scored a $54.6M opening in March and has now racked up $117M domestic and $139M worldwide in three weeks of release. It’s still rolling out strong internationally and opens this weekend in France, Germany, Russia, Australia, Scandinavia, and other territories. Meanwhile sales of Roth’s novels have also enjoyed a bump from the film’s release, with boxed set and multi-book e-bundles jumping up 55 percent in sales last week and nearly 20 million copies sold worldwide.
Related: BOX OFFICE: ‘Divergent’ Opens At $54.6M
Splitting Roth’s final novel into two films isn’t a left field move for Lionsgate. Similar thinking first paid off for the company in a big way with Twilight Saga-ender Breaking Dawn. Read More »
The likes of Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Tilda Swinton, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce and more have films joining the Specialties in theaters this weekend in what could possibly be a big draw at the box office — hopefully. TWC will bow The Railway Man, a period drama set against WWII, while SPC will open Jim Jarmusch’s vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive. David Gordon Green returns to theaters with Joe from Roadside and Lionsgate, while IFC Films will bow Hateship Loveship. The distributor will also open doc Dancing In Jaffa. Also joining the pack in a fairly packed weekend is Entertainment One’s Cuban Fury, starring Nick Frost. Also opening is A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, And Jayson Blair At The New York Times, an ITVS backed doc that will have a self-distributed theatrical run ahead of its broadcast on PBS.
The Railway Man
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Andy Paterson, Eric Lomax
Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine, Michael MacKenzie, Jeffrey Daunton
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
With a high-profile cast, bio-drama The Railway Man centers on a former British Army officer who was tormented as a young prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II. Later he discovers the man responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him. “We’re big fans of … Read More »