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Bart & Fleming: On Jeff Blake, Comic-Con And Chasing Moviegoers In Digital World

By and | Sunday July 27, 2014 @ 10:14am PDT

Bart & Fleming: On Jeff Blake, Comic-Con And Chasing Moviegoers In Digital WorldFlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: You’ve been hanging at the epicenter of pitchdom all week at San Diego Comic-Con so you have watched the masters at work (also the loser geeks). But my thoughts this week were focused on a different generation of marketing mavens — those of Jeff Blake’s generation. Blake was “let go” this week after serving as Sony’s king of marketing and distribution for a couple of decades. Another of his generation, Dan Fellman of Warners, also is set for the sidelines. These were not the Comic-Con types — they were thoughtful pros who knew how to set strategy, pick dates — and tactfully tell filmmakers when their movies were dead on arrival. They didn’t bulls*** about social marketing like their young cohorts. One studio chief told me recently that all social marketing represents is a road map for spending less money while still failing to find an audience. The Comic-Con-crowd would likely disagree.

comic-conFleming: This is the movie business in Moneyball mode. We are seeing a profound change of the studio guard as they figure out how to tap a completely new generation that’s easily distracted by video games, social media and TV binge watching. Social media allows them to … Read More »

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Bart & Fleming: Fox-Time Warner Merger Mania Means Banker Fees And Layoffs, Not Quality

By and | Sunday July 20, 2014 @ 9:25am PDT

Bart & Fleming: Fox-Time Warner Merger Mania Means Banker Fees And Layoffs, Not QualityFlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: Like  7th grade boys staring in the mirror, corporate CEOs these days keep asking themselves, “Am I big enough?” What scares them is the prospect of becoming a takeover target, and there’s been a rush of takeover talk lately —Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Time Warner being the most dramatic. Size means safety in the corporate universe and Time Warner became vulnerable by ridding itself of Time Inc., AOL and Time Warner Cable — the latter becoming a target for Comcast. With giants like Google, Apple and Amazon looming, CEOs are scared they can’t measure up, but the folks who should really be frightened are the creatives and their audiences. Bigness means giant fees for bankers and profits for shareholders, but the impact of the monoliths is easy to read — a universe of corporate plodding, tentpoles and sequels.

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Bart & Fleming: Is China Hollywood’s Future, Or Folly?

By and | Sunday June 29, 2014 @ 11:57am PDT

Bart & Fleming: Is China Hollywood’s Future, Or Folly?FlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: Everyone I encounter in town this week seems fixated on Chinese takeout — only it’s finance, not food. Specifically, funding for films and theme parks. Here’s the catch: For every mogul who claims he’s made a ‘killer deal,’ I run into ten who say their deals imploded. “Once your deal closes with the Chinese, that’s when the real negotiations begin,” according to one veteran of the co-production process. Jeff Robinov and Ryan Kavanaugh may have announced megadeals, but will they get their money? On a smaller scale, look what just happened to Paramount on their Transformers: Age Of Extinction deal – a Chinese partner (the Pangu Group) changed their minds when they saw the film and it endangered the China release of the movie. Two weeks ago China abruptly scrapped a giant alliance between the world’s three largest container-shipping companies, triggering confusion among Euro entities like Maersk as well as US lines.

Flaming Optimus Prime - New International Transformers 4 Age of Extinction Movie Poster__scaled_600Fleming: Pangu disagreed with how its Pangu Plaza property was displayed in Transformers, and used as pressure the threat of delaying China distribution to get its way. Everybody walks on eggshells in these … Read More »

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Bart & Fleming: Why Nikki Finke Won’t Be Coming Back

By and | Sunday June 22, 2014 @ 11:10am PDT

Bart & Fleming: Why Nikki Finke Won’t Be Coming BackPeter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: You and I have lived through a few journalistic zigs and zags in our years at Variety, and we were always candid with each other in analyzing risks and rewards. Variety was started by the Silverman family but the dynasty ran out of sizzle and sold control. Deadline was started by Nikki Finke but she never managed to create a dynasty before running out of sizzle. So the question is this: Where do you take Deadline from here?

FlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Fleming: I think we built something exceptional with her. That said, a few people have asked me, ‘Why, when it looked like she might come back, did she start a site that is crapping all over you?’ I might as well begin there. The testiness that existed since her acrimonious exit aside, I got it in my head that enough time had passed and I wanted her back. I leaned on Jay Penske to end arbitration proceedings to make it happen, and he did just that. Here was my thinking. I like her. Even though we never met in person during our time together at Deadline, we had a lot of fun. When she and Jay hired me from Variety, they changed my life. My only goal was to get three kids through college without having to sell my house, and that effort is looking good. Since taking over, I have been able to extend a hand to several people I grew up with at Variety, and they’ve been great hires. I wanted to do the same with Nikki. My feeling was, when you reach the top after an unprecedented climb up a mountain like she did with Deadline, what’s wrong with staying to enjoy the view? I also thought a measured dose of her fire would complement the mix Nellie Andreeva and I have now.

Bart: Seems understandable. So why are you now known on her site as Mike Pflegming? Read More »

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Bart & Fleming: Selling Summer Sleepers Like ‘The Fault In Our Stars,’ ‘Jersey Boys’ ‘Begin Again’ And ‘Boyhood’

By and | Sunday June 15, 2014 @ 11:39am PDT

FlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

faultinFleming: The success that Elizabeth Gabler’s Fox 2000 had with The Fault In Our Stars has me entertaining the unthinkable. Is it possible that between the giant lizards, robots and superheroes that populate studio tentpoles, there is room for thoughtful sleeper films in the summer? The Fault In Our Stars might be the most stirring summer sleeper success I can remember since 1990’s Ghost, another movie about loss. The Fault In Our Stars was particularly sad, young teens facing their mortality because of cancer, struggling to seize life while they can, and helpless parents who’ll never recover from outliving their kids. By the way, the big star is John Green, writer of the book. How’s that for a blockbuster formula in an escapist summer season? Next up is Jersey Boys, where the starpower comes solely from director Clint Eastwood and Frankie Valli’s famous falsetto!

jerseyboysBart: If John Green is unexpectedly the Man of the Moment, Clint Eastwood has every right to wonder how some of that zeitgeist can be transferred to Jersey Boys. Clint’s new film, out June 20, is not tracking well and his rather melancholy take on the brash … Read More »

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Bart & Fleming: Are Cinematic Comedy Creators Taking Themselves Too Seriously?

By and | Sunday June 8, 2014 @ 9:04am PDT

FlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: Here’s a suggestion for Adam Sandler, Seth MacFarlane and James Franco that none will appreciate: Guys, you should think about taking a sabbatical. All of you have been working too hard, trying too hard, and you’ve become predictable. Why not take a place on the sidelines for a while and think about life? I know the whole concept of “the sidelines” worries you. They’re already occupied by the likes of Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey and Mike Myers; it’s much more fun being in the middle of the action. Even too much action.

operaFleming: Wow, that’s a buckshot blast. Those three fall into different categories. Let’s take them one at a time, starting with Sandler. I loved his Saturday Night Live character creations, from Opera Man to Canteen Boy and miss the edge he carried into his early films. I wish Adam would stop pandering to the four quadrants and challenge himself to write something less predictable. Audiences are losing interest.

Bart: My problem with Sandler, MacFarlane and others is that “raunchier” doesn’t necessarily mean “funnier”. Scatalogical humor already has been pushed over the edge this summer and we are yet to see Melissa McCarthy’s new road movie, Tammy, or the next Cameron Diaz epic, Sex Tape. By the standards of the moment, the Diaz-Ben Stiller hair gel moment in There’s Something About Mary seems like a Disney picture. The R ratings for movies like Neighbors were saved only by some eleventh-hour manipulation in the cutting room — “frame-f*cking,” it’s called, and it’s a flourishing career. Read More »

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Bart & Fleming: Are Feature Films Losing Their Prestige Mojo To Television?

FlemingBartColumn_badgePeter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this occasional column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Fleming: Working on the Deadline/Awardsline Emmy issues prompted me to binge my way through cable series like True Detective and House Of Cards. It really got me depressed about the movie business.

Bart: Why?

trueFleming: Because those series and 10 more like them are better than anything I see on a movie screen. For the 25 years I’ve covered it, film has always been the sexiest, most prestigious part of the business. Sure, TV packages drove the bottom line, but agencies and studios were measured by the feature stars and directors in their stables. TV, particularly pay and basic cable, has gradually overtaken movies and become the trendsetting cool place to work. Why leave the house for the theater when so many movies regurgitate past success, especially at studios? Look at the projects put in development last week. Revamps of Power Rangers, The Flintstones, Private Benjamin. Uninspiring. The most successful major studio right now, Disney, has a success formula based on recycling old movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, sequelizing Marvel superheroes, and refashioning fairy tales. The definition of excellence in studio summer movies these days is putting a smart spin on an old concept, as happened on Rise Of The Planet Of Read More »

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