The business affairs exec who held posts at Fox, Universal and MGM died July 26 of brain cancer at his home. Donald Mirisch was 67. As EVP of MGM Animation, Mirisch helped re-establish Hanna-Barbera Productions, which had been dark since the departure of founders Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera decades earlier. He served as executive producer on features including All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, The Pebble And The Penguin, James Bond, Jr. and Babes In Toyland. Earlier the Milwaukee native was SVP of MGM’s Entertainment Business Group, overseeing corporate business affairs. He also did a stint at Embassy Home Entertainment and most recently had been working at Foxfield Entertainment, an independent production company he co-founded with producer Bruce Johnson. Mirisch is survived by his wife, Roberta; children Niki and Marc; sisters Lynn Rogo and Carol Hartmann of San Diego; and three grandchildren. A private service was held July 29.
UPDATED, Friday 6:02 PM: More numbers are rolling in for Guardians of the Galaxy right now which is on track at the moment to take in anywhere from $33M to $36M tonight for a three-day weekend that is right now in the $88M to $95M range and will get a better idea in a couple of more hours so stay tuned, but this looks to be the case at the moment. Matinees have ended incredibly strong. Regardless, this is another great hit for the daring duo of Disney/Marvel. Stay tuned.
UPDATED, Friday, 1:33 PM: Matinee showings of James Gunn’s The Guardians Of The Galaxy is hot as can be and after those record late night numbers we are now looking at a picture that could play past $95M — if this strength holds up, which we believe it will. It plays to families, with kids so Saturday and Sunday moviegoing should be strong and tonight’s CinemaScore is also expected to be high. It’s taking all the air out of the box office right now. And checking in with Fandango, they said today is their biggest ticketing day of the summer. So Guardian tickets are selling like hot cakes. Of the more than 1,000 ticket buyers, 55% plan to see the movie more than once and 63% plan to bring in their kids to see the film. It’s outselling the first Thor and Captain America and even the first Iron Man in the same point of their sales cycle so Marvel has itself the start of another original film franchise. See below for comparisons between Guardians and the first Iron Man.
Meanwhile, the James Brown biopic Get On Up is doing just that and will likely see a three-day weekend of around $14M … one estimate shows it at $14.6M and an easy third place behind the holdover Lucy, which may fall around 57% to 60% in its second weekend to log around $18M. So, as predicted yesterday, Universal is likely to take both the No. 2 and No. 3 box office spots and Get On Up could surpass Lucy as the rest of the day plays out. Hercules looks to come in fourth right now with $10M to $11M, falling harder than expected. Rounding out the Top Five will be Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes from Fox, who just inked a three-year deal with its director Matt Reeves.
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A federal investigation has been opened into the source of the illegal downloads of Lionsgate action pic The Expendables 3, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, aka ICE, has picked up the case after Lionsgate made calls to several law-enforcement agencies to ask for help in locating the pirates, who are accused of leaking a full version of the pic on various file-sharing sites last week. you would U.S. Customs was merged into USDHS, and it investigates illegally distributed copyrighted materials, including media content. In the past it has actually seized domain names of websites used to illegally distribute media content and/or counterfeit goods. Said an ICE public affairs officer this afternoon, “It is our policy to neither confirm or deny that an investigation is underway, unless or until it results in some type of public enforcement action.”
It comes the same day Lionsgate filed suit against the sites hosting the pic and the same day it dropped the final trailer (see it below) that opens wide August 15.
Lionsgate found out about the theft of a single digital copy last Friday, according to the suit, with news of the download surfacing wide by the time Comic-Con was in full swing last weekend. We’re told there were 250,000 downloads on that first day, and Variety reports piracy-tracking firm Excipio says there have been 2 million downloads to date. Read More »
Forget about your worries and your strife: Disney has found its lovable and carefree if somewhat bumbling bear for The Jungle Book. The studio said today that Bill Murray will supply the voice of Baloo in its live-action/VFX take on Rudyard Kipling’s classic. Murray joins a powerhouse voice cast that includes Ben Kingsley as worrywart panther Bagheera, Christopher Walken as fire-envious orangutan King Louie, Scarlett Johansson as kaleidoscope-eyed snake Kaa, Luipta Nyong’o as wolf mother Raksha and Idris Elba as villainous, man-hating tiger Shere Khan. Newcomer Neel Sethi is mancub Mowgli in the film from director Jon Favreau, which is set for an October 9. 2015, release. Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Murray next appears in St. Vincent and Cameron Crowe’s untitled pic and is filming Rock The Kasbah. The SNL vet and star of such films as Lost In Translation, Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters and Stripes most recently appeared in The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Monuments Men. Now if only he’d croon “Bear Necessities.”
Related: Zooey Deschanel Tweets First Photo From ‘Rock The Kasbah’ Set
The three-time Emmy nominee died Wednesday in a traffic accident in LA’s Hancock Park, his family told Deadline. Rick Mittleman was 84. He wrote for dozens of TV shows during a half-century career, ranging from The Flintstones and The Dick Van Dyke Show to MacGyver and Early Edition. Along the way he racked up credits on numerous classic series including The Odd Couple; Get Smart; M*A*S*H; Mary Tyler Moore; Bewitched; I Spy; Sanford and Son; Welcome Back, Kotter; and Murder, She Wrote. Mittleman also penned multiple episodes of such shows as Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.; That Girl; CHiPS; Emergency! and What’s Happening.
He shared an Emmy nom for his first TV writing gig, on The Red Skelton Hour (1963), and earned two others for writing on Arnie (1971) and Van Dyke And Company (1975). He began his career as a producer on You Asked For It! in the late 1950s. He later was a producer on Arnie and co-produced and wrote episodes of Simon & Simon.
Mittleman also was active in the Writers Guild of America, serving on its board of directors. He spent more than two decades on its Pension & Health board as well and served many years on the Planning Committee. In 1997, he received the WGA’s Morgan Cox Awards for service to the guild.
He is survived by his wife, Arlene; children Todd, Rachel, and Dana; and grandchildren Leah, Will, Isaac and Mia.
The first installment of EuropaCorp‘s rebooted Transporter franchise, The Transporter Legacy, will be released in North America via EuropaCorp USA on March 6. Pic is in production with Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions) directing from a script by Exodus scribes Bill Collage and Adam Cooper. EuropaCorps’ Luc Besson (Taken and Transporter franchises) and Fundamental Films’ Mark Gao are producing. This is the first EuropaCorp deal stemming from the joint distribution agreement reached with Relativity in February. Under that pact, EuropaCorp titles will be released under EuropaCorp USA and Relativity titles under Relativity.
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Hollywood trade organizations and unions have yet to launch cohesive safety programs in the wake of the Sarah Jones tragedy. But one group of anonymous film and TV pros have moved quickly to launch a 21st century initiative in the name of on-set safety. The Pledge to Sarah organization this week launched a fundraising campaign to release a free safety app in honor of Jones, the camera assistant killed on the set of Midnight Rider in February. With the blessing of her family (which was confirmed by Deadline), they’re seeking $3,400 in funds to pay for development and hosting of the free app that will allow any industry worker to anonymously report unsafe working conditions or excessive work hours.
Related: ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers’ Safety Claims A “Lie”, Says Former Crew Member
So who’s behind the grassroots org? The Pledge to Sarah group is comprised of 10 core working professionals in multiple departments of the industry from award-winning crew to PAs, many of whom belong to guilds and unions. The group has chosen to remain anonymous to keep the focus on their safety awareness efforts, which include ongoing initiatives to create and distribute safety awareness cards. Some knew the well-liked Jones personally; others were simply moved by her unnecessary death and are dedicated to spreading on-set safety awareness in the workplace, including previously established industry concerns over long and potentially unsafe work days that can lead to sleep deprivation-related accidents.
Related: ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Enter Not Guilty Plea
Organizers are hoping the lack of a guild- or union-specific affiliation encourages workers in all areas to speak up, department-agnostic: “The reason we’re doing this is that we don’t want there to be another Sarah Jones.”
Related: WGA East Charges Reality-TV Producers With Creating “Sweatshop” Conditions At NYC Hearing
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With Disney’s live-action/VFX take on The Jungle Book set for October 2015, Warner Bros has staked out a date a year later for its take on the Rudyard Kipling classic about an orphaned boy raised by animals in the wilderness. Now officially titled Jungle Book: Origins, the pic has been slated for October 21, 2016. Andy Sirkis is set to direct the live-action film, to which Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu had been in talks to helm last year. The script is by Callie Kloves, daughter of Harry Potter series scribe Steve Kloves, who is producing. It’ll go up against Universal’s Untitled Blumhouse Horror 3.
Here’s our first look at the upcoming drama series about life after an “extinction-scale event” involving fluffy puppies. No, not really. It’s the zombie apocalypse, people!! Z Nation takes place three years after the living-dead virus has gutted the country, and a team of regular Joes and Janes must transport the only known survivor cross-country to the last functioning viral lab. The Syfy series from Sharknado producer The Asylum features an ensemble cast led by Harold Perrineau, Tom Everett Scott and DJ Qualls. The mayhem begins in September; until then … unpleasant dreams:
Numbers co-star Peter MacNicol is returning to CBS with a co-starring role on another crime procedural, CSI: Cyber. MacNicol is set as a regular on the upcoming series opposite Patricia Arquette and Charley Koontz.
Inspired by the work of real-life CyberPsychologist Mary Aiken, CSI: Cyber centers on Special Agent Avery Ryan (Arquette) who heads the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI, a unit at the forefront of solving illegal activities that start in the mind, live online, and play out in the real world. MacNicol will play Ryan’s supervisor, Assistant Director Stavros Sifter, a career FBI insider and savvy networker who quickly rose up the ranks and positioned himself in a job where he is the clearinghouse between FBI Cyber and all other branches of government. Read More »
NBC has put in development Big Kids, a half-hour comedy project from longtime Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre performer Joe Wengert and UCB alum Ed Helms. Loosely based on Wengert’s life, Big Kids centers on Andy, a young professional with a messiah complex who is constantly trying to control and “fix” his little sister and their young, blue-collar parents. Wengert will write the script and co-executive produce for Universal TV. He is not attached as an actor. How To Live With Your Parents and Accidentally On Purpose creator Claudia Lonow will executive produce and serve as showrunner. Helms will executive produce through Pacific Electric, the production company The Office alum launched last fall. This marks the first full development season for Pacific Electric, which has a first-look at Uni TV.
Wengert, repped by CAA, Mosaic, and Morris Yorn, has written for Kroll Show, Playing House and Comedy Bang Bang and was named a “New Face” at the 2012 Montreal Just For Laughs Festival. His first half-hour stand-up special recently aired on Comedy Central. Helms is repped by CAA, Principato-Young, and Schreck, Rose. Lonow is with WME and Del, Shaw, Moonves.
EXCLUSIVE: Zombie video game Dead Island is getting reanimated for the screen by Occupant Entertainment and publisher Deep Silver. The companies have pacted to package, produce, and finance a new film based on the bestselling vidgame played from the perspective of survivors fending off the undead on an island paradise.
Dead Island sold over 8 million units worldwide after its initial release, drawing huge viral buzz from a memorable teaser trailer depicting one family’s dream vacation gone horribly wrong, Memento-style. That video notched a whopping 1 million YouTube views in a day, won the Golden Lion in Cannes at the International Festival of Creativity, and caught Hollywood’s attention. (It even inspired its own live-action recreation.)
Lionsgate bought the rights in 2011 but the project stalled when production head Alli Shearmur left the studio the following year in the Summit exec shake-up. When rights reverted back to the publisher, the company sealed a new deal with LA-based Occupant, the indie production and financing shingle that launched with 2006 genre slasher All The Boys Love Mandy Lane – one of the original bidders on the property. Read More »
In an early buy for the upcoming development cycle, Fox has given a script commitment plus penalty to a drama from NYC 22 and Criminal Justice creator Richard Price. Like those two shows, the untitled new project, from sister studio 20th Century Fox TV, is a crime drama set in New York. It centers on a twentysomething Wall Street portfolio manager who unwittingly becomes a pawn in the DA’s attempts to take down a criminal organization. Price’s rookie-cop drama NYC 22, produced by Robert De Niro, aired on CBS in 2012. The upcoming HBO limited series Criminal Justice is loosely inspired by the BBC series of the same name created by Peter Moffat. The pilot starred James Gandolfini, with De Niro and later John Turturro stepping in to play the role after The Sopranos star’s death. On the feature side, Oscar-nominated Price (The Color Of Money) recently wrote the upcoming thriller Child 44.
Related: 2014 Fox Pilots
Like last year, it has been slow going early in the pitch season. Once again there is a concern that many experienced writer-producers, especially on the drama side, are tied to series and not available to develop.
Matt Reeves, the filmmaker behind Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, which is easily on its way toward a $200M+ domestic box office and already has grossed more than $370M worldwide, has inked a three-year production deal at 20th Century Fox. The studio said today that the deal had been in the works for months and pre-dated the opening of Apesl.
A big priority for the studio is Apes 3, which Reeves has signed on to direct from a script he’s penning with Mark Bomback, one of the writers who scripted the the second installment.
Related: Matt Reeves To Direct ‘Planet of the Apes 3‘
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes still is playing in 59 countries and just grabbed another $54.8M internationally last weekend to hold on to to its status as the No. 1 box office performer.
“We are thrilled Matt has decided to make Fox his home,”President of Production said Emma Watts in a statement. “We have long admired his bold, intelligent approach to filmmaking. I know our collaboration on Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is just the beginning of many great things to come.”
Reeves’ career surged after he directed the sci-fi-horror hit Cloverfield — which opened to $40M+ in January 2008 and went on to gross $170.7M ww on what was claimed to be a $25M budget. After that, he directed Let Me In in 2010. But Apes that has catapulted him onto the lot. … Read More »
The studio has dated its adaptation of the best-selling children’s books that spawned a PBS series. The live-action/animated 3D pic Clifford The Big Red Dog has fetched an April 8, 2016, release slot. Scholastic Media’s Deborah Forte will produce and Matt Lopez (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the just-announced The Day The Crayons Quit) is working on the script, which David Bowers will helm. First published in 1963, the book series follows the adventures of Emily Elizabeth, a young denizen of a rural island community who gets a red puppy for her birthday that grows to the rather unusual size of 25 feet tall. The Universal movie has that weekend to itself for now; maybe Tim Burton will counter with a pic about a 25-foot cat.
EXCLUSIVE: WME has signed Game Of Thrones alum Pedro Pascal. Pascal played Oberyn Martell this past season in the HBO blockbuster, and he will next star on Netflix’s upcoming drama series Narcos as a DEA agent on the hunt for notorious Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Pascal will continue to be repped by Jason Weinberg at Untitled Entertainment and Kim Jaime at Jackoway Tyerman.
The new multiyear distribution pact with the National Cable Television Cooperative looks a lot like Disney‘s recent deals with large pay TV distributors: The more than 950 firms that NCTC represents will be able to offer the entertainment giant’s VOD services as well as digitally delivered Watch sites and apps for ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and ESPN. They offer live and on-demand programming both in and out of home for computers, gaming consoles, mobile and streaming devices.
In addition, systems will pick up Fusion (the Hispanic network from ABC and Univision) and several sports channels including SEC Network (which launches on August 14), the upcoming Longhorn Network, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater and ESPN Bases Loaded.
The change helps “strengthen the long-term partnership and enhances the value the agreement brings to members,” says NCTC EVP Programming Judy Meyka.
NCTC members will continue to carry ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic and ESPN3.