UPDATE, 12:48 PM: Looks like three isn’t a crowd for the Supreme Court when it comes to the upcoming Aereo hearing. The high court has decided to let the Solicitor General’s office participate in the one-hour oral arguments session between Aereo and the broadcasters Tuesday in Washington D.C. “Motion of the Deputy Solicitor General for leave to participate in oral argument as amicus curiae and for divided argument GRANTED,” said the SCOTUS yesterday. The granting of the motion comes more than a month and a half after the federal government’s top legal office filed a brief supporting the broadcasters in their showdown with the Barry Diller-backed streaming service. That was followed by the Solicitor General’s office requesting the time to directly make its points. The broadcasters have given the federal lawyers 10 minutes of their time. Though the broadcasters have a couple of former Solicitors General on their team, the current Solicitor General will not be involved; before he took his present post, Donald Verrilli Jr. argued Hollywood copyright cases before the SCOTUS and hence has recused himself. The likely candidate will be Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler, who submitted the March 13 motion.
WonderCon: Warner Bros Still Earns Cheers With Largely Star-Less Presentation & Jaw-Dropping ‘Godzilla’ Tsunami Clip
Next to the all-star fireworks Warner Bros unleashed at CinemaCon last month with Adam Sandler, Johnny Depp and Clint Eastwood, the studio kicked off WonderCon’s Saturday movie schedule on a sleepy note with a low wattage of stars. Comparisons to Disney’s previous D23s are inevitable, especially due to the fact that the Mouse House has trotted out such megastars at this same venue — the Anaheim Convention Center Arena — in its previous confabs, i.e. Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, and Robert Downey Jr. First up for Warner Bros today was a fresh Edge of Tomorrow trailer, spotlighting co-star Bill Paxton as a Kentucky sergeant; Paxton later took the stage. Though Edge of Tomorrow star Tom Cruise didn’t show, the crowd didn’t seem to mind, rolling their cheers in appreciation for the Aliens thespian, but still — Cruise isn’t here. Nor was Godzilla castmember Bryan Cranston, a fave for his panels appearances at ComicCon for Breaking Bad. Also, M.I.A. at the Warner Bros panel was Andy Serkis, who plays the lead lizard (he’s on junket duty for Fox over at the Hilton for Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.
Thank God for the Godzilla clip toward the end of the panel. Introduced by director Gareth Edwards, it showed a mesmerizing in-your-face tsunami scene that floods a tropical city, in addition to Godzilla battling a three-legged moth monster at an airport. The crowd stamped their feet. “I thought it was going to be the easiest thing in the world — designing Godzilla, but everyone has an opinion,” said Edwards. “But designing Godzilla was the hardest thing in the world, because everyone has an opinion.”
Box Office: ‘Heaven Is For Real’ Suprises; ‘Captain America’ May Pass $200M And Flips The Bird As ‘Rio 2′ Perched at No. 2; ‘Transcendence’ Soft
OPENING: Heaven Is For Real (SONY) best opener est. $18.9M to $20.1M (3-day) and $26.8M to $27M+ (5-day); Transcendence (WB) No. 4 with $11.5M to $11.8M; A Haunted House 2 (OPRD) $9M to $9.4M in top five; Bears (DIS) hibernating with $5M at No. 9.
UPDATED, SATURDAY, 7:17 AM: Positions have not changed this morning — Captain America: The Winter Soldier is No. 1 three weekends in a row for Disney/Marvel and Rio 2 is in the second spot for Fox, but estimates have been revised slightly. Captain America is now expected to gross $24.5M to $25.4M compared to $23M for the animated sequel Rio 2, which is now lower at $23M+ for the 3-day. It looks like Captain America will cross $200M this weekend or come very close to it at least. And next weekend, the franchise has a strong possibility of holding on to No. 1 for the fourth weekend in a row. If it does so, it will be the first picture since Hunger Games to do so in 2012 and before that The Dark Knight in 2008. There is nothing of circumstance opening next weekend to put the whoa’s on it (competition is the female comedy The Other Woman, the late Paul Walker starrer Brick Mansions, and the horror film The Quiet Ones).
Sony/TriStar’s Heaven is For Real is in the $18.9M to the $20.1M range for the three-day with the 5-day gross now estimated to be $27M+, depending on how much the picture drops on Easter Sunday. Traditionally, moviegoing peaks on Good Friday and then falls off a bit on Easter Sunday as people tend to spend time at home with their families; it is unlike the heavy moviegoing seasons of Christmas or Thanksgiving when the marketplace is flooded with moviegoers of all ages as school kids and college students have long breaks and people can’t wait to get a break from family get togethers. However, faith-based pictures, have been enjoying stronger holds on Sunday. The picture, produced by Joe Roth and TD Jakes with filmmaker Randy Wallace at the helm, was well adapted from
We’re heading into the homestretch of pilot season as the broadcast networks are beginning to view and test the completed pilots, a process that will continue for about two weeks before the nets move on to making pickup and scheduling decisions. Based on buzz around town, here are the most talked-about pilots three weeks before the upfronts.
Related: PILOTS 2014: Early Buzz Edition
Every year, there is at least one pilot that comes out of nowhere and surprises everyone. We may have that this season in ABC‘s multi-camera Cristela. It was not even supposed to be a pilot. Developed at 20th TV-based 21 Laps/Adelstein for more than a year, the semi-autobiographical project co-created by and starring rising Latina stand-up comedian Cristela Alonzo was sold to ABC last summer with significant penalty. But when pilot-pickup time came along, ABC quickly loaded on high-profile sitcoms, including the 20th TV-produced The Winklers, starring Henry Winkler, and the untitled Kevin Hart project starring Romany Malco. Cristela didn’t get a pilot order, but the producers, who also are behind ABC’s Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing, decided to take the penalty, which I hear was about $500,000, and use it to shoot a presentation. (ABC called it “proof of concept.”) Cristela ended up filming a full-length pilot on the stage of Last Man Standing using that sitcom’s crew, led by director/co-exec producer John Pasquin, with very little time to rehearse and prep. Because it was supposed to be a presentation, Cristela was not budgeted to get a testing, but I hear 20th TV brass liked the finished product and had it tested. I hear the results blew expectations, with Alonzo, who has no previous acting experience, scoring higher than most stars in recent 20th TV comedy pilots, including Allen, New Girl‘s Zooey Deschanel and The Crazy Ones‘ Robin Williams.
UPDATE: James Franco’s Former Biz Management’s Countersuit “Will Be Shut Down Quickly”, Says Plaintiffs’ Attorney
UPDATED, 8:20 PM: Just hours after James Franco’s former management company sued the actor’s ex-rep and his ex-financial adviser for fraud and a litany of other claims, Tanner Mainstain Blatt Glynn & Johnson LLP has fired back with a counterclaim. “JLM, the management company, was rife with internal mismanagement, surreptitious behavior, duplicitousness and questionable ethical acts,” the Hollywood financial management company said in its 7-page filing today in LA Superior Court. “By its Complaint, the management company and its owners seek to make TMBGJ responsible for their own myriad internal shortcomings.” The counterclaim alleges that in desperation to keep The Planet Of The Apes actor as a client, JLM partner and co-founder Randy James looked the other way at his former partner Miles Levy’s supposed skimming of a third of Franco’s commissions from 2006 to late 2013 as well as other indiscretions.
The lawyers for James and fellow plaintiff and former JLM director Ken Jacobson isn’t buying the spirit or the letter of the counterclaim. “This is no defense to the complaint’s allegations that Tanner Mainstain name partner Steve Blatt knowingly facilitated, concealed and profited from Mr. Levy’s theft from the corporation,” plaintiffs’ primary attorney Devin McRae said in a statement after the counterclaim was filed today. “The law doesn’t allow fraudsters to point to the victim and say, ‘It’s your fault I duped you’. This pleading will be shut down quickly.” TMBGJ is represented by attorney Randall Dean of LA film Chapman Glucksman Dean Roeb & Barger.
PREVIOUSLY, 1:06 PM: Last fall my colleague Mike Fleming Jr reported that James Franco and Miles Levy, his manager of almost two decades, had parted ways. Today, according to a multi-claim complaint (read it here) filed in LA Superior Court, we might have a sense of what really happened. “Box office star James Franco’s recently fired talent and financial managers, Defendants Miles Levy and Steve Blatt, conspired to, and did by fraudulent means, embezzle significant sums in commissions due James Levy Management for nearly a decade,” says the filing for a jury trial. It adds dramatically: “The thieves have been caught and the day of reckoning has arrived.”
Levy is said to have been skimming a third of the 15% Franco has been paying in commissions to the Burbank-based management company since 2006. Alleging breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment among other claims, James Levy Management co-founder Randy James and former company director Ken Jacobson have gone after Levy plus big-time Hollywood financial management firm Tanner Mainstain Blatt Glynn & Johnson LLP and partner Blatt for unspecified compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages. They also want an independent accounting, a court declaration of their rights, and an order “removing Levy from office.” The plaintiffs say they discovered this case of sticky fingers on March 20, 2014 and that is why they have brought this legal action now. Obviously, the 50-year friendship and 28-year business partnership between James and Levy has hit a bit of a rocky period to put it mildly.
NBC will have two “new” judges for The Voice in the fall as Gwen Stefani is in talks to replace the pregnant Christina Aguilera as a coach for Cycle 7, which starts taping in June. According to informed sources, Stefani also had been in talks for a judge position on ABC’s Rising Star, the interactive singing competition that’s set to premiere June 22. And she has experience on these kinds of shows, having mentored on Fox’s American Idol. The No Doubt singer and fashion icon might have given fans at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival something of a Voice fall preview last week when she joined Pharrell Williams onstage for a take on her 2005 solo hit “Hollaback Girl.” NBC announced last month that Williams will join The Voice next season, replacing CeeLo Green, who had announced his departure in February.
The 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.
It has been a three-way race for renewal among three bubble ABC comedies: sophomore The Neighbors and freshmen Trophy Wife and Mixology, There seems to be some movement within the pack, with the youngest, midseason entry Mixology, gaining momentum. I hear the network and the studio already have put in place a leadership plan for next season, with creators Jon Lucas and Scott Moore set to take over the reins as showrunners from Ira Ungerleider, who will be leaving after running the series for its original 13-episode order. What’s more, in a sign of confidence to Lucas & Moore and their show, I hear ABC Studios is in negotiations with the duo for an overall deal. At the same time last year, ABC Studios inked an overall deal with Dan Fogelman, with his freshman comedy The Neighbors going on to clinch the only comedy renewal for ABC Studios a few weeks later. Mixology – set in a bar over the course of one night — quickly built a core fan base and has supporters at ABC, including network topper Paul Lee. Its ratings have been lackluster at best, but so have been the numbers for Trophy Wife and The Neighbors. Relaunching a heavily serialized comedy in the fall four months after a brief midseason run would be a challenge, though I hear the story might be reset for Season 2.
“To win a war, you have to start one.” This HBO telefilm arrives nearly three decades after Larry Kramer’s play premiered off-Broadway. Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts star in the adaptation directed by Ryan Murphy and scripted by Kramer. Set in NYC during the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the early ’80s, The Normal Heart follows gay activists and their allies in the medical community as they try to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic. HBO already is looking into a sequel. The telepic, which co-stars Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, Denis O’Hare, Stephen Spinella, Corey Stoll, Finn Wittrock and BD Wong, bows May 25 on the premium channel. Here’s the first full trailer:
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom preview what could be a very big day in the history of broadcasting and technology, as the Supreme Court hears legal arguments Monday about Aereo and its business model. The Davids talk about what’s at stake and how it might play out, where broadcasters might go if they lose and whether a win will turn the broadcasting business upside down. They also look over that very messy, and pricey Disney acquisition of online video powerhouse Maker Studios, and examine why ESPN, pay-TV’s most valuable brand, felt compelled to pitch investors that it’s just fine despite competition, cord-cutting and other existential challenges.
EXCLUSIVE: While the second unit crew shooting Everest were in the vicinity when a tragic avalanche struck Mount Everest and so far has killed 13, there were no injuries or fatalities on the film, I can report. Principal photography on the Baltasar Kormakur-directed film is nearly over and they are finishing in Pinewood in England, but the second unit was setting up to go and shoot at Base 2 on Mount Everest near Nepal. Fortunately for the crew, they were acclimating at the foot of the summit and weren’t up where the disaster took place, when a wall of ice 1,000 feet up fell off at the left shoulder of the mountain and crashed down on Base 2. Most of the fatalities were experienced sherpas that guide climbers to the summit. Several of the sherpas involved with the Everest production rushed to help. The production will now have to wait to assess whether a trek back up the mountain to finish shooting is feasible.
The guides were carrying equipment and supplies to camps for climbers getting ready for peak trekking season — including those preparing to participate in Discovery Channel‘s Everest Jump Live, produced by NBC News Peacock Prods. Seven NBC News staffers on site are accounted for and unharmed, and Discovery said it has not had conversations as to how the disaster might impact the event’s scheduled May 11 air date.
Ryan Seacrest will split his allegiances on May 1 when Fox‘s American Idol, which he hosts, airs against NBC‘s iHeartRadio Music Awards, which his company produces with Clear Channel. The programs involve all three of Seacrest’s major employers: Fox, where he has been making $15 million a year hosting Idol; NBCUniversal, where he has a wide-ranging deal spanning Today, the Olympics and E!; and Clear Channel, where he has his radio show and has been involved in the iHeartRadio franchise as host and producer. Two of the three deals — the Fox and NBCU ones — are coming up in the next few weeks, while the Clear Channel radio pact has another year on it. It seems neither Fox nor NBC has objections to Seacrest promoting programs that compete against each other as both companies are looking to extend their relationship with him. Seacrest is near a deal with Fox to continue on Idol, which is set to return for a 14th season next year despite its ratings slide. He also is expected to reach a new agreement with NBCU, though its scope is still in flux. Seacrest has a long history at both places, which launched his TV career, and loyalty has marked a lot of his business decisions so far.
Here’s the official trailer for Michael C. Hall‘s first post-Dexter project. He plays Richard, a small-town guy who’s hailed as a hero after he offs a burglar. But then the crook’s ex-con dad (Sam Shepard) shows up with vengeance on his mind and Richard’s family in his sights. But do the cops know more that they’re saying? Cold In July also stars Don Johnson as a private eye. Director Jim Mickle’s pic premiered at Sundance, where it was acquired by IFC Films. Scripted by Nick Damici and based on Joe R. Lansdale’s book, the film hits theaters and VOD on May 23. Take a look:
Cohen Media Group has acquired North American distribution and English-language remake rights to Bérénice Bejo-starrer The Last Diamond. Written and directed by Eric Barbier (The Serpent, Toreros), the French suspense drama centers on paroled jewel thief Simon (Yvan Attal) as he plots the heist of a legendary diamond, put up for auction by the family of gem expert Julia (Bejo). Masquerading as a security consultant, Simon leads the beautiful but vulnerable Julia down a seductive, dangerous path toward a fate neither of them suspected. Jean-Francois Stévenin also stars. The deal was negotiated by CMG EVP John Kochman and Other Angle Pictures’ Olivier Albou. The Last Diamond will have its North American premiere next week at the Colcoa Film Festival in Hollywood. It’s set to open in France at the end of the month followed by an early 2015 release in the U.S.
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.
ABC Family has handed out a pilot order to drama Stitchers. Written by Jeffrey A. Schechter (Overruled), Stitchers follows a young woman recruited into a covert government agency to be “stitched” into the minds of the recently deceased, using their memories to investigate murders and decipher mysteries that otherwise would have gone to the grave. Schechter executive produces alongside Jonathan Baruch and Rob Wolken. Production is slated to begin in June. ABC Family got a vacancy on its drama pilot slate when the network pulled the plug on Saudi Arabia-set Alice In Arabia four days after greenlighting it to pilot after pressure from a Muslim advocacy group. Stitchers joins two other recently picked up ABC Family drama pilots: Recovery Road, based on Blake Nelson’s novel about a teenage girl dealing with addiction, and Unstrung, about a brother-sister tennis player duo. Schechteris with Resolution.
EXCLUSIVE: Another actor from a comedy series whose fate is up in the air has boarded CBS’ multi-camera odd-couple comedy pilot Cuz-Bros. Cougar Town co-star Ian Gomez has been cast in the pilot, toplined by Geoff Stults and Parker Young of Fox’s Enlisted. Cuz-Bros, from writers David Caspe and Erik Sommers, Sony TV, CBS Studios and Fanfare, centers on Nick (Stults), a successful, suave ladies man working as a sportscaster for a local Los Angeles TV station whose perfect life gets turned upside down when his mess of a cousin, Barry (Young), needs a place to stay. Gomez, repped by APA, Intellectual Artists Management and attorney Jonathan Moonves, plays Phil, Nick’s boss at the TV station. He is being cast as a guest star as he is in second position to Cougar Town, the way Stults and Young are to Enlisted, making Cuz-Bros a rare pilot where most of the primary cast are formally tied to other shows. Cougar Town‘s fifth season ended its run several weeks ago, but TBS is yet to make a decision on a renewal.
Related: 2014 CBS Pilots