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Movie Academy Invites 271 New Members

Movie Academy Invites 271 New MembersThe Oscar organization has unveiled its annual invitees list for 2014. Check out the release below:

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is extending invitations to join the organization to 271 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures. Those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy’s membership in 2014. “This year’s class of invitees represents some of the most talented, creative and passionate filmmakers working in our industry today,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “Their contributions to film have entertained audiences around the world, and we are proud to welcome them to the Academy.”

The 2014 invitees are:

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It’s Got A Title Now: ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice’

By | Wednesday May 21, 2014 @ 10:26am PDT

Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice logoBREAKING: Warner Bros’ sequel to Man Of Steel now has a title, and it looks like it sets up the franchise’s plans to expand the DC Comics universe to the Justice League. The studio unveiled the title, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice just now as it confirmed principal photography is underway on the Zack Snyder-helmed pic starring Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman that is due out May 6, 2016. Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman in the sequel, with Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane returning from Man Of Steel, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, and Holly Hunter also starring.

Related: Ben Affleck As Batman: First-Look Photo

BatmanAffleckSnyder will take the directing reins on Justice League after helming this latest film in the superhero series. No release date for that one has been set, but for aching DC Comics fans today’s news and finally seeing “Justice” in a Warners-DC tentpole title must really press all the right buttons. It’s taken a long time for the studio and DC to get their acts together on a unified franchise pic a la Disney with Marvel’s Avengers-centered pics that have dominated the tentpole landscape since launching Iron Man in 2008. Of course, Marvel’s version of Justice League, Marvel’s The Avengers, grossed $1.5B in global box office in 2012, with a second film, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, coming May 1, 2015. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’

DawnOfThePlanetOfTheApes_posterFox’s sequel to its 2011 reboot got CinemaCon attendees’ attention in March when execs showed off a harrowing scene involving a couple of drunk dudes, a playful-seeming ape and an Uzi. Director Matt Reeves certainly seems to have the ominous tone down in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, which picks up the story with a band of humans who have survived a devastating virus, and who threaten the now-dominant apes. The pic is due out July 17 in 3D, with Andy Serkis back as Caesar and Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell among the humanoids. Check it out:

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Hot Trailer: ‘A Million Ways To Die In The West’ Red Band

Let’s just say it’s tough to get a handle on how a Seth MacFarlane product will play without a red band look (if only Family Guy were on HBO). So here’s one that dropped today ahead of the Universal-MRC pic that premieres May 30. MacFarlane directs, produces, co-writes and stars in the Western-themed comedy alongside Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris:

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Alex Gibney’s ‘Finding Fela’ Docu Acquired By Kino Lorber

By | Wednesday May 7, 2014 @ 8:39am PDT

FindingFelaKino Lorber has landed all north North American rights to Alex Gibney’s Finding Fela, the prolific documentary-maker’s latest film, which had its world premiere at Sundance. The theatrical rollout will begin August 1 at NY’s IFC Center, adding Washington DC the next week and Boston and Atlanta the week after that. In addition, Kino Lorber will book Finding Fela in more than 75 additional markets where Fela!, The Musical, attracted big crowds; it will also screen at Tennessee’s Bonnaroo music fest June 13, where Fela’s son, musician Seun Kuti, will appear for a Q&A and performance.

Related: Alex Gibney To Receive AFI’s 2014 Guggenheim Honors

Finding Fela tells the story of the life of the Nigerian music and political icon  Fela Kuti, whose Afrobeat (a fusion of Jazz, traditional West African rhythms, Funk, Highlife, and psychedelic rock) creation brought audiences closer to his fight against the dictatorial Nigerian government of the 1970s and 1980s. He was twice a Presidential candidate in the ’80s, after  his socialist political views led to a government-sanctioned attack on his commune in 1977, which led to his arrest and the death of his  mother. Read More »

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‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast Finalized: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson & Max Von Sydow

Star Wars Episode VII CastThe cast of Star Wars: Episode VII is now official, announced by the team on StarWars.com, complete with a photo of a read-through. As Mike Fleming Jr reported yesterday, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and John Boyega are aboard, as are Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow and Daisy Ridley. They join returning franchise players Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker.

Related: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast: Photos

abrams__120217054827__130124215848-150x150This pic has been supernova-hot ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in October 2012 and announced its intention to reboot the franchise. That got the hard-core fans (there are legion) excited, but the question remains if the franchise can be restored to anywhere near the status it reached before George Lucas essentially cratered the second three movies in the series. Now the speculation will begin if this group has what it takes to make it happen, led by Abrams, who has the sci-fi cred and now has picked his soldiers to head into battle. He is directing, co-writing the script with Lawrence Kasdan and producing with Kathleen Kennedy and Bryan Burk.

Disney has set a December 18, 2015 release date for the first pic in a planned trilogy.

May the 4thLittle is known about who will play what, though it’s thought Driver, a standout on HBO’s Girls, will play the main villain. Also notable: there is only one new female character on this list joining Fisher. The biggest reaction so far has been to Ridley — a Brit actress who has been in a handful of UK series including Mr Selfridge — both because she is fairly unknown and because she’s the only new face keeping this from becoming a total sausage party.

“We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII,” Abrams said in the announcement today, which puts a cap on months of cast speculation  – most of it BS. (The announcement also included a cast photo.) “It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.” Read More »

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Universal Studios Japan Sets Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Opening For July 15

By | Friday April 18, 2014 @ 5:30pm PDT

UniversalPotterJapanThe Japan branch of Universal Studios Parks & Resorts and Warner Bros’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction was originally unveiled in May 2012 with a target late-2014 opening date. They made it: The opening day will be July 15. The announcement was made today in Osaka during a ceremony that included Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Harry Potter production designer Stuart Craig, who helped plan and build the themed land. The new attraction will be similar to the one in Florida and will include Hogwarts castle — the first of the new attractions to be unveiled today — Hogsmeade and multiple attractions. This will be the second Wizarding World franchise to get up and running following a lucrative launch at Universal Studios Orlando in June 2010 that revitalized that park. Last April, the LA County Board of Supervisors ended a seven-year process that cleared the way to begin construction on NBCUniversal’s 25-year Evolution Plan, which allowed work to begin on Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood last summer.

Related: Warners, J.K. Rowling Prep ‘Harry Potter’-Inspired Film Series

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Tribeca Film Institute Taps ‘Imitation Game’ Among Winners Of TFI Sloan Science Grant

By | Wednesday April 9, 2014 @ 10:36am PDT

TribecaInstituteThe Tribeca Film Institute has unveiled its grant winners for this year’s TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund, which supports filmmakers with cash and guidance on their films that focus on science, math and technology. It’s always a cool bunch of projects in a genre that is surely underserved, and with this year’s batch of winners getting $150,000 the fund has now awarded more than $1 million in its 12-year history. This year’s three winners include Imitation Game, based on the life of cumbBritish mathematician and logician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch; the Weinstein Company acquired it for $7M at EFM this year, the highest price ever for a U.S. rights deal there. (With that kind of cash in the mix I guess the Sloan grant is more of a tip-of-the-hat kind of thing.) Recent TFI Sloan projects include 2030, the climate change pic from Vietnam that opened the Panorama section this year in Berlin; the Sundance pic and Indie Spirit Award nominee Computer Chess; and Focus’ A Birder’s Guide To Everything starring Ben Kingsley and Kodi Smit-McPhee. This year’s recipients, chosen by a jury that included John Slattery, Meg Ryan, Dark Knight scribe Jonathan Nolan, will be honored at the Tribeca fest that kicks off April 17. Part of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation-sponsored events this year include a 10-year retrospective screening and panel for Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind on April 21. Here are this year’s winners: Read More »

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Will Ferrell To Star In Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs Pic ‘Match Maker’

Chernin Entertainment and Gary Sanchez Productions’ Match Maker is based on Don Van Matta Jr’s ESPN The Magazine article “The Match Maker: Bobby Riggs, The Mafia And The Battle Of The Sexes,” centering on the 1973 exhibition tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs that drew 50 million TV viewers. King, then 29 and at the height of her powers, beat Riggs, the a 55-year-old retired pro — though there’s always been speculation there’s more to the story. Will Ferrell is now attached to play Riggs, and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty scribe Steven Conrad has been hired to write the script. Variety had this break first.

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Hot Trailer: Warner Bros’ ‘Into The Storm’

By | Thursday March 27, 2014 @ 10:31am PDT

New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow Pictures will release the Steven Quale-helmed Into The Storm on August 8, 2014. This is the first teaser for the pic, which is told through the eyes and lenses of professional storm chasers, thrill-seeking amateurs, and courageous townspeople, throwing you “directly into the eye of the storm to experience Mother Nature at her most extreme.” John Swetnam wrote the script and Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Nathan Kress, Jon Reep and Jeremy Sumpter star. A lot has improved VFX-wise since Warners’ 1996 tornado pic Twister, so this looks pretty great (check out the teaser below). But it sure is a tough time to promo a pic from the disaster genre, what with the Malaysian Airlines plane and its 239 passengers still missing and the tragedy in Washington state where rescuers are faced with recovering an entire neighborhood that essentially disappeared under a wave of mud.

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R.I.P. Production Manager Abby Singer, Creator Of The “Abby Singer Shot”

By | Thursday March 13, 2014 @ 10:33am PDT

AbbySingerAbby Singer, a veteran production manager and assistant director and a DGA member for more than 60 years, died this morning of cancer and old age at the Motion Picture & Television Country House in Woodland Hills. He was 96. Singer got his start working as an assistant for Harry Cohn’s right-hand man Jack Fier at Columbia Pictures in 1949 after a stint in the Navy and moved on to Universal in 1957 to work in TV. He eventually landed at Mary Tyler Moore and Grant Tinker’s MTM Productions, where he oversaw such series as Rhoda, Phyllis, The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP In Cincinnati, The White Shadow, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere. His last film as unit production manager was on 1997′s Family Plan. He later taught at the American Film Institute Conservatory.

But Singer’s name is known to film and TV crews everywhere for a production shot that came to be known as the “Abby Singer shot.” Partly thanks to his training under notorious tightwad Fier, Singer spent his long career honing his skills at saving productions dough, and his idea was to begin moving crew and gear to the next location one shot before the last shot of the day, with the idea that the next location would be set up ahead of time — thereby saving money and precious shooting time. (The last shot of the day, by the way, is known as “the martini.”) Here’s a Spring 2011 interview in the DGA Quarterly with Singer where he recalled how his namesake shot came to be:

“It was probably on Wagon Train, although I can’t be sure,” he says. “Working in TV we made many moves per day—from the back lot to the stage, or from one stage to another. I’d say to the guys, ‘One more shot and then we’re moving,’ so when we moved, they were all prepared. The time saved could add up to a full hour of shooting for the director.”

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Indie GKIDS Eyes Next Oscar Play With Deal For ‘Princess Kaguya’

By | Wednesday March 12, 2014 @ 1:48pm PDT

PrincessKaguyaGKIDS has become a regular on the Oscar scene despite its indie status with four Best Animated Feature nominations since 2010 — most recently backing this year’s nom Ernest & Celestine and notching two noms in the category in 2012 with A Cat In Paris and Chico & Rita. So today’s deal in which it has acquired North American rights to Studio Ghibli‘s The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is legit news, especially GKIDSwhen GKIDS says it will release the pic this year and make an awards push. The animated movie from Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata is his first in 14 years. It was released in November in Japan and was a hit, telling the story of the heroine at the center of an ancient Japanese folk story, the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. The plot: Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo, a tiny girl grows into an exquisite young lady, raised by an old bamboo cutter and his wife. From the countryside to the grand capital city, even unseen she enthralls all who encounter her, including five noble suitors. Ultimately however she must face her secret fate. Read More »

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Erik Feig Re-Ups With Promotion To Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-President

By | Tuesday February 25, 2014 @ 10:12am PST

ErikFeigErik Feig now shares the co-president title of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group with Steve Beeks, who continues as co-COO of Lionsgate. The long-term deal, terms of which were not disclosed, comes after the former head of production at Summit helped oversee a film slate that made more than $2.3 billion at the 2013 box office including The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Now You See Me. Here’s today’s release:

Lionsgate_newlogo__130418225246-200x107SANTA MONICA, CA, February 25, 2014 – Motion picture executive Erik Feig has been promoted to Co-President of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group and has signed a new long-term agreement, the Company announced today. He oversees all aspects of feature film development and production for the Company’s Lionsgate and Summit film labels.

The Company’s feature film slate generated more than $2.3 billion at the global box office in 2013, led by the second film of Lionsgate’s blockbuster Hunger Games franchise, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the 10th highest-grossing film of all time at the domestic box office, and Summit’s sleeper hit Now You See Me, which grossed more than $350 million worldwide.

“Erik has assembled a tremendous production slate over the past two years, and he will be a critical, innovative and disruptive part of our future as we continue to evolve as a next generation global content leader,” said Lionsgate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer.

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Fred Armisen To Lead Seth Meyers’ ‘Late Night’ Band

By | Monday February 10, 2014 @ 1:58pm PST

Seth Meyers tweeted out the news today that his former Saturday Night Live castmate Fred Armisen will lead the band on the new Late Night With Seth Meyers. Armisen, who plays a mean drums (check on the video below), currently stars on IFC’s sketch series Portlandia opposite Carrie Brownstein — another musician who fronted the excellent rock band Sleater-Kinney. She’s not in Meyers’ shot of his new band from his show’s Twitter feed but here’s hoping she’ll sit in at some point. As for Armisen, he “will curate and lead the band, and continue to run it even when he’s off shooting Portlandia”, Meyers wrote. Meyers’ Late Night debuts February 24:

 

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Berlin: David Foster Wallace Pic ‘The End Of The Tour’ Going Forward With Kilburn Media Financing

segelJason Segel is starring as the late author David Foster Wallace in The End Of The Tour, which co-stars Jesse Eisenberg and will be directed by James Ponsoldt. Mark Manuel and Ted O’Neal’s Kilburn Media has come aboard to fully finance the pic, which was written by Donald Margulies from Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky’s book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace. The fact-based movie follows Wallace and Lipsky (Eisenberg) on the book tour supporting Wallace’s best-known novel Infinite Jest. David Foster Wallace at New Yorker Magazine FestivalAlong the way, friendship, jealousy and competition emerge between the two writers as they discuss women, culture, depression and the pros and cons of fame. Wallace committed suicide in 2008. Newly launched sales outfit Fortitude International will shop the pic at EFM. Read More »

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Super Bowl Ad: Summit’s ‘Draft Day’

By | Thursday January 30, 2014 @ 8:35am PST

Not much choice but to buy ad time during the Super Bowl for Summit Entertainment‘s Draft Day, the Ivan Reitman-directed pic about an NFL franchise and its beleaguered GM that risks it all during the draft in order to save football in Cleveland (no, this is not a documentary). Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella and Denis Leary lead the ensemble cast, and the ad capitalizes on its NFL connection to include clips of Super Bowl opponents Denver and Seattle. The movie is due out April 11. Check out the ad, which will air during the Fox pregame show:

Related: Super Bowl Ad: Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’

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Electus Forms Electus Digital With IAC Sibling CollegeHumor

By | Monday January 27, 2014 @ 11:28am PST

electus logoMultimedia studio Electus is teaming with fellow IAC property CollegeHumor Media to form Electus Digital. Drew Buckley, Electus’ COO, will oversee the new division, which will encompass website properties CollegeHumor.com, Dorkly.com and WatchLOUD.com; YouTube channels WatchLOUD, Nuevon and Hungry; and production companies dumbdumb and Big Breakfast. The latter is a newly formed full-service production company from CollegeHumor Originals. It will focus on the development of feature-length films, TV programming and new-media projects for Electus Digital and CollegeHumor.com, and it will create original content including via a development deal with TBS that is bringing the CollegeHumor series Jake And Amir to TV. It will be run by CollegeHumor president of original content Sam Reich. “This configuration represents a combination of the best of creative execution and distribution on the digital landscape,” Buckley said today in a release announcing Electus Digital’s formation. “As one team, we are now able to deliver even more inventive, high-quality programming to more fans across all platforms.”

Reich, who most recently was president of Original Content at CollegeHumor, established the CollegeHumor Originals department in 2006. He has since been responsible for the creative and production of all of the site’s original videos including overseeing the creation of web series including Jake And Amir. “Since we started making original video content in 2006, we’ve kept Sam and his team in-house as our own little secret. Breaking them out should really unlock their potential,” says Ricky Van Veen, co-founder of CollegeHumor.com. “It’s funny how many new projects have come together since we moved … Read More »

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Hugh Jackman Cast As Blackbeard In Warner Bros’ ‘Pan’

By | Friday January 24, 2014 @ 10:07am PST

David Lynch Foundation Presents: "Change Begins Within" 2013 Benefit Gala Hosted By David Lynch And Jerry SeinfeldWarner Bros is getting its Peter Pan movie in ship-shape. It has just announced it has set Hugh Jackman to play Blackbeard in Pan, the Joe Wright-directed update of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan tale. He joins Garrett Hedlund, who we scooped this week landed the role of Captain Hook after being in the mix with Boardwalk Empire‘s Jack Huston and Perks Of Being A Wallflower‘s Ezra Miller. The script is by Jason Fuchs, and Greg Berlanti is producing under his Berlanti Productions banner with Paul Webster. Sarah Schechter is overseeing for the studio.

In Fuchs’ script, an orphan is taken to the magical world of Neverland, where he becomes the savior of the natives and leads a rebellion against the evil pirates led by Blackbeard. Javier Bardem at one time was offered this part, but Jackman was later rumored to be in the mix, and now it is final. For the record, that makes a pretty formidable acting duo playing the same historical figure: John Malkovich is set as Blackbeard in NBC’s upcoming pirate drama series Crossbones from Neil Cross.

The studio said Blackbeardtoday that the pic remains untitled, though it does have a July 17, 2015 release date after it was shifted last week to take the slot previously held by the studio’s Superman Vs. Batman movie. The move keeps Pan from being sandwiched between Fox’s Fantastic Four and Paramount’s Terminator reboot and took the pic off the the same date as Ted 2 from Universal.

Jackman, repped by WME, just wrapped shooting on Fox’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and his most recent pic in theaters was the Warner Bros’ thriller Prisoners. Read More »

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Skydance Taps Jesse Sisgold As President Of Business Affairs & Strategic Planning

By | Friday January 24, 2014 @ 9:14am PST

JesseSisgoldEXCLUSIVE: Jesse Sisgold has been appointed to the newly created position of President of Business Affairs and Strategic Planning at David Ellison‘s Skydance Productions. He will have oversight of business and legal affairs across all company units, as well as strategic planning for the company’s expansion, which recently has included launching a TV division last spring.  Sisgold arrives from his boutique entertainment/corporate Skydancelogofinance law firm Sisgold PC, which closed about $400 million in deals in 2013 — including every TV deal Skydance finalized from talent to distribution. Sisgold also handled development-related deals for Skydance pic projects including the Terminator reboot, Dean Devlin’s disaster epic Geostorm and the Christopher McQuarrie-directed adaptation Star Blazers. “It has been a privilege to work with Jesse this past year, and we are honored to have him officially join the Skydance family,” Ellison said today in announcing the hire. “His role will be crucial in Skydance’s growth and we are thrilled to have him on board.”

Related: Megan Ellison Won’t Fund ‘Terminator’ Revival; Skydance, Paramount Paying Read More »

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