EXCLUSIVE: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences COO Ric Robertson is taking what’s being internally called a “sabbatical” from June through August. I have learned this is an unusual paid leave even though the Academy is complaining about a financial crunch. Normally, its staff are restricted to 30 days of unpaid leave (and then only with approval). “He has worked here for 31 years. Doesn’t he deserve it?” an insider told me. “He didn’t tell us what he’ll do. Maybe work on his golf game.” Robertson’s upcoming sabbatical has prompted AMPAS staff to wonder whether he will be pushed out and/or look for another job. In April 2011, he was passed over for Bruce Davis’ executive directorship and now reports to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson, who was brought in over him. Insiders tell me that Robertson was primarily responsible for this year’s online voting debacle, which Hudson dumped in his lap when the Academy finally decided to implement Oscar balloting electronically — something Robertson and Davis resisted for prior years. (Grumbles one insider: “Dawn gives him anything messy that she doesn’t want to deal with or anything that means a lot of real work or anything that has a potential for failure, like the electronic voting.”) In November, the Academy had to extend its registration period after member complaints. Then AMPAS had to back down and send an old-fashioned paper ballot to any member who had paid their dues but hadn’t registered for online voting. (The Academy initially required a one-time registration for online or paper ballots.) Then, because of elaborate security steps necessary to avoid hackers, a large and very vocal group of AMPAS members complained that they were locked out of the system and had to waste 2-3 days trying to vote online. The Academy sent members a detailed but overly complex E Voter Guide that proved more confusing than helpful. Sources have been predicting for some time that Robertson would leave AMPAS, and yet he has stayed. He joined the Academy in 1981 and became the organization’s second-in-command in 1989 when he was appointed Executive Administrator. In that position he oversaw the Academy’s public programming, library and film archive as well as its public relations, marketing, legal affairs, and numerous awards-related events and activities. One reason he was passed over for the top job was because AMPAS staff members were so unhappy they were beginning to take the first steps to unionize by exploring how to join up with IATSE. (And how embarrassing would that have been to the Hollywood bigwigs?) I’d be unfair not to point out that Robertson has his admirers. But I’m not — not since he yanked Deadline’s press credential to cover the 2011 Academy Awards because I posted exclusive spoilers. (He threw a hissy fit and successfully lobbied then-Academy President Tom Sherak to ban Deadline from the Oscars press room.)
EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a clip from Season 2 of FEARnet‘s original comedy series Holliston, which premieres at 10 PM Tuesday, June 4. Starring Adam Green and Joe Lynch, Holliston is set in Green’s real-life hometown of Holliston, Mass., and follows the daily exploits of Adam and Joe — two aspiring horror filmmakers, dealing with the struggles of post-college life and relationships while trying to make their big break in the business. Check it out:rtmp://streaming.deadline.com/ondemand/video/HOLLISTON_201_clip_1.mp4
Disney announced today that the release date for DreamWorks’ Wikileaks movie The Fifth Estate has moved to October 11, 2013, nearly a month earlier than its initial November 15th date. And Delivery Man has moved to November 22, 2013 from its initial date of October 4th. With the shift, The Fifth Estate avoids Paramount’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, Fox’s thriller The Counselor and Universal’s comedy/drama The Best Man Holiday and faces Sony/Columbia’s drama Captain Phillips, Fox’s horror pic Haunts and Film District’s thriller Old Boy. Delivery Man now goes up against Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Paramount’s Nebraska.
Fox has officially announced that Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio will join Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato as judges on the third season of The X Factor. “It’s taken more than a decade, but I’m delighted to finally be on a panel with three girls (I think!),” Cowell said. “Paulina and Kelly both have great taste and massive experience in the music industry, and together with Demi, this is going to be a fun panel. It just feels like the time to do something different.” Rowland served as a judge on the eighth season of the U.K. version of X Factor.
Christopher Abbott has signed with WME. Abbott made headlines recently with his decision to abruptly leave HBO‘s comedy series Girls, on which he played Allison Williams’ boyfriend Charlie for the first two seasons. Abbott, who continues to be repped by Parseghian Planco, co-stars in Burma, which debuted at this year’s SXSW where it received jury recognition for Best Ensemble. He will next be seen in Mona Fastvold’s The Sleepwalker.
Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Showtime and the producers of The Big C end Cathy Jamison’s personal cancer saga in hospice care tonight with its fourth and Hereafter season finale. Executive producer and showrunner Jenny Bicks naturally declined to divulge whether Cathy (Laura Linney) dies tonight, though she and fellow exec producer Darlene Hunt co-wrote. The mini-series’ four last episodes span a year in the life of the lead character, each separated by roughly three months. The finale follows Angelina Jolie’s shocking May 14 announcement that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy, which spurred a slew of press calls to Showtime and the Big C team. Bicks, herself an early-stage breast cancer survivor, told Deadline. “It has really drawn attention to us in a way we couldn’t have anticipated,” she said. “I hope we’ve done something to help more people recognize that cancer isn’t any longer this thing you whisper about behind a closed door. And it isn’t necessarily a disease you necessarily have to die from.”
CBS has pulled tonight’s Mike & Molly third season finale out of sensitivity to the victims of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma. Titled Windy City, the season finale features Mike and Molly confessing important news to each other as a tornado descends on Chicago. The episode will be replaced by a rerun tonight and broadcast at a later time. Mike & Molly is not on the fall schedule but has been picked up for a 22-episode fourth season.
Alex Winter’s documentary about the rise and fall of Napster will open at Manhattan’s Village East Cinema on Friday, June 21 and the Sundance Sunset Cinemas in Los Angeles on June 28, VH1 announced today. Focusing on Napster and its founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, Downloaded examines the rise of digital media sharing and “VH1 is so proud of this timely project, and we want to showcase it in as many ways as possible,” said Brad Abramson, Vice President, Programming and Production, VH1 in a statement today. This comes on the heels of VH1′s distribution deal with AOL. Additional theatrical bookings for Downloaded are scheduled for Albuquerque, Austin, Chicago, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Martha’s Vineyard, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as other cities to be announced, in partnership with specialty distributor Richard Abramowitz of Abramorama. On July 1, the film will debut on several On Demand platforms including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and XBOX, in partnership with digital entertainment curator FilmBuff. Produced by VH1 for its rockDocs series, Downloaded premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival. Following the theatrical and On Demand windows, VH1 will air the film, most likely in 2014. Downloaded is written, directed and executive produced by Alex Winter and executive produced by Maggie Malina.
Less than a week after E! President Suzanne Kolb told striking writers on Fashion Police that their guild is the real enemy, the WGA has organized a rally in support of the picketers. In an email to its members today, the guild said the action is set for 11:30 AM-12:30 PM Thursday, May 23, at E!’s headquarters on LA’s Miracle Mile. Writers on the series hosted by fellow WGA member Joan Rivers went on strike in April claiming E! owes them more than $1M in back wages.
UPDATE 4:15 PM: Here is Ang Lee’s statement about his departure from Tyrant.
It is one of the most brilliant ideas for a series that I’ve seen and one about which I was very excited.
However, after spending over four years making and promoting Life Of Pi, I have recently realized that I need some rest .
Because I cannot give 100% to this exciting project at this time, I cannot allow myself to do anything that may affect the potential for this exciting new series.
I wish FOX 21 and FX the best with this remarkable project.
EXCLUSIVE 2:50 PM: Oscar-winning director Ang Lee has pulled out of directing high-profile FX drama pilot Tyrant, from Homeland executive producers Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff and Six Feet Under alum Craig Wright. Lee committed to Tyrant shortly after winning a second directing Oscar (and third overall) for Life Of Pi. But after 4 1/2 years devoted to making Life Of Pi, a year to promote it and another six months of Oscar campaigning, I hear Lee felt he didn’t have gas left in the tank. Additionally, he had made other previous commitments including his current role as a juror at the Cannes Film Festival. I hear Lee called Gordon this morning from Cannes. In a very emotional …
Breaking Dawn‘s Mia Maestro is set to star opposite Corey Stoll in FX‘s high-profile drama project The Strain, from filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and veteran showrunner Carlton Cuse. The Strain, an adaptation of del Toro’s vampire novel trilogy, formally has a pilot order, but is being eyed for a 13-episode series pickup.
The Strain is a high-concept thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Stoll), the head of the Centers for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. Actress-singer Maestro, repped by ICM Partners and 3 Arts, plays Dr. Nora Martinez, who works so closely with Ephraim, they finish each other’s sentences and stumble into an affair. A brilliant biochemist, Martinez cares more about people than the diseases that threaten them, but she will soon be forced to embrace a new identity as a ruthless warrior. Del Toro will direct the pilot from a script he co-wrote with Chuck Hogan, who also co-authored the books with del Toro. Cuse, who helped develop the adaptation, executive produces alongside del Toro and will serve as showrunner, overseeing the potential series with del Toro. Hogan and Gary Ungar also serve as exec producers of the project, produced by FX Prods.
This marks a return to series television for Alias alumna Maestro, …
EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks is firming up a January production start for Glimmer, and a big reason for that is so that it will allow some scheduling room for Dylan O’Brien to play the starring role. O’Brien is busy starring in Maze Runner for Fox, but he’s in talks for the lead, I hear. He’s repped by WME. He’s also in the TV series Teen Wolf, and the schedule was moved so he could complete the season of that show before going off to do feature work. Ringan Ledwidge directs the sci-fi thriller about a group of teenagers who discover a portal to the past. When one of them changes history, the effects start to snowball with tragic consequences. Josh Schwartz and Carter Blanchard wrote the script. Madhouse’s Adam Kolbrenner and Ryan Cunningham produce with Mark Sourian.
Apple CEO Tim Cook can expect a tough grilling about his company’s tax practices tomorrow when he appears before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on “Offshore Profit Shifting and the U.S. Tax Code.” An 18-month bipartisan investigation — whose findings were summarized in a memo released today – charges that Apple’s offshore subsidiary, Apple Operations International, reported net income of $30B from 2009 to 2012 but “declined to declare any tax residence, filed no corporate income tax return, and paid no corporate income taxes to any national government for five years.” In addition, Ireland-based Apple Sales International generated $74B in sales income over four years but allegedly “paid taxes on only a tiny fraction of that income” after the company negotiated a deal with the government that enabled Apple to pay a tax rate of less than 2% vs the statutory rate of 12%. All told, the investigation found that Apple avoided paying about $10B in U.S. taxes each year for the last four years. While these and other actions are legal, they constitute “the Holy Grail of tax avoidance,” subcommittee Chairman Carl Levin said today. “We intend to highlight that gimmick and other Apple offshore tax avoidance tactics so that American working families who pay their share of taxes understand how offshore tax loopholes raise their tax burden, add to the federal deficit and ought to be closed.” The subcommittee’s ranking Republican, …
Cancelled ABC drama 666 Park Avenue will return on Saturday, June 22, with the unaired episodes slated to run in the Saturday 9 PM slot for four weeks. 666 Park Ave will be paired with another short-lived ABC freshman drama, Zero Hour, whose unaired episodes will launch on June 15 from 8-10 PM and will air in the Saturday 8 PM hour starting June 22, leading into 666 Park Ave.
Warner Bros Television and the creators of Smallville are not taking their multimillion-dollar legal battle to a jury after all. Lawyers for WBTV and co-creators/writers Miles Millar and Alfred Gough announced in a hearing today that they have reached a settlement in their breach of contract and conflict of interest dispute. No details of the settlement were made public. LA Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson told the parties today that they now have until August 30 to file a formal request for dismissal. Millar and Gough along with Tollin/Robbins Productions claimed in their initial $100 million vertical integration suit, first filed in March 2010, that WBTV signed low-balling licensing deals with the WB and later the CW that were nowhere near the requisite arms-length nor conducted with the good faith that they should have been. Tollin/Robbins came to a settlement with WBTV back in early January.
Ads for Deadline Hollywood were visible every 10 minutes on the Fox Screen by Sony Monday through Friday during last week’s TV upfronts. The brainstorm of DH business manager and advertising czar Nic Paul, our message flashed on state-of-the-art LED display technology measuring almost 35′ high and 40′ wide on some of the most valuable real estate in NYC’s Times Square. Cool, huh?
Ambassador Theatre Group has acquired The Foxwoods Theatre from Live Nation Entertainment through its subsidiary, Lyric Theatre LLC. The Foxwoods is the largest theatre on Broadway with nearly 2,000 seats and currently is home to the hit rock musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. The Foxwoods opened in 1997. The acquisition comes just months after ATG announced plans to expand overseas into key international territories including North America, Australia and the Asia Pacific Region. Berenson & Company LLC acted as the exclusive financial adviser to Ambassador Theatre Group. Recent Broadway productions within the ATG Group include The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, Exit The King starring Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon and John Doyle’s award-winning production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Erich Jungwirth, previously VP Theatrical for The Foxwoods, is remaining with the venue as COO for Lyric Theatre, LLC.
The DVR pioneer says that it added 277,000 subscriptions from cable and satellite companies, the biggest increase from pay TV providers in more than seven years. And although TiVo continues to spill red ink, it wasn’t as bad as the Street envisioned. The company says it had a net loss of $10.3M in the three months that ended in April, down from a $20.8M loss in the period a year ago, on revenues of $82.6M, +21.8%. The top line far exceeded the $61.9M that analysts expected. The net loss at 9 cents a share also beat predictions for a 14 cent loss. The loss includes $10.9M in litigation expenses as TiVo prepares for a potentially important copyright infringement trial against Motorola which is due to begin on June 10 in Texas. TiVo had 3.4M subscriptions at the end of April, +8.1% vs the end of January. The growth is all due to sales of TiVo subscriptions by pay TV companies including UK’s Virgin Media, Spain’s ONO and U.S. providers including DirecTV and Suddenlink. Just 29.6% of customers receive the service directly from the company to a TiVo box — the lowest percentage ever. Still, CEO Tom Rogers says that “it is clear from our results that our vision for the future of TV is playing out as we expected it to.” He projects that, even with legal expenses, the company will be cash flow positive in the year that ends …