Law & Order alumna Alana de la Garza has been tapped as the female lead opposite Ioan Gruffudd in ABC’s drama pilot Forever, written by Matthew Miller and directed by Brad Anderson. It centers on Dr. Henry Morgan (Gruffudd), New York City’s star medical examiner. But what no one knows is Henry studies the dead for a reason — he is immortal. His investigative work with recently widowed Detective Jo Martinez (de la Garza), a recovering alcoholic, and relationship with best friend Abe (Judd Hirsch) will peel back the layers of Henry’s colorful and long life. De la Garza, repped by SDB Partners, most recently co-starred on NBC’s Do No Harm.
Josh Duhamel is returning to television with a lead role in Battle Creek, CBS’ high-profile series written by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and House creator David Shore and directed by Bryan Singer. The straight-to-series drama centers on Detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) and FBI agent Milton Chamberlain (Duhamel), who have different worldviews but are teamed up to clean up the semi-mean streets of Battle Creek, MI. Duhamel’s Milton is a clean-cut FBI agent; a sincere, humble, even naive guy who heads from Detroit to Battle Creek to set up a satellite FBI office. Gilligan, who created Battle Creek several years ago, and Shore, who will serve as showrunner, will executive produce with Singer and Mark Johnson, with Janet McTeer and Kal Penn co-starring. ICM Partners-repped Duhamel started in daytime, on staple All My Children, before segueing to primetime with Crossing Jordan and Las Vegas, in which he played the co-lead opposite James Caan, and then features.
CEO Philippe Dauman just disclosed his plan to add Spike to Viacom‘s overseas pay TV offerings, joining a portfolio that includes MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and the Paramount Channel. “We’re doing a little bit of proof of concept,” he said today at the Deutsche Bank Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference. He’s optimistic because “we have been creating a lot of original programming on Spike itself,” and much of it — especially scripted shows — is “able to travel.” Overseas expansion is “a big, big opportunity” for Viacom and he sees distribution deals in countries including Brazil, Italy, and Russia helping to “fuel long-term growth” for the cable operation. In addition, “we look at India and think of our company a quarter century ago. It’s a great value creation opportunity.” Dauman also is taking a global view for Paramount.
‘Marco Polo’ Crew Mourns Ju Kun, Asst Martial Arts Choreographer Among Missing On Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Among the passengers missing and believed to have perished on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is Ju Kun, the veteran martial arts expert and assistant martial arts choreographer on Marco Polo, the Netflix/The Weinstein Company series pilot that is scheduled to begin production in three weeks. The 35-year old stuntman had completed a day of training and choreography and made a quick trip from Pinewood Studios in Malaysia to his home in Beijing, which was why he boarded the flight that disappeared 35,000 feet over Vietnam.
This sad news comes to me from Marco Polo series creator John Fusco, who provided the below photo he took with Ju Kun the day he boarded the flight. Fusco first worked with Ju Kun on The Forbidden Kingdom and made sure that Ju Kun’s close friend, Marco Polo‘s head fight choreographer Brett Chan, brought him in for both choreography and stunt work on the ambitious series. He said Ju Kun has worked at Jet Li’s stunt double and been in films like Fearless, The Expendables, The Grandmaster and The Forbidden Kingdom, and Fusco said Ju Kun’s mastery of several martial arts styles made his choreography distinctive. Right now, they are all waiting for answers.
Comcast is fast becoming a powerful challenger to Apple and Amazon when it comes to selling downloaded movies and TV shows — the long-awaited replacement for DVDs and Blu-ray discs known in the industry as electronic sell through (or EST). And today’s deal with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will help, bringing movies including American Hustle and Captain Phillips and TV series Breaking Bad and House Of Cards to the cable company’s offerings. Comcast already has carriage deals with Fox, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal (which the cable company owns), and Warner Bros — but not Disney, Paramount, DreamWorks Animation, or MGM. Comcast doesn’t yet support UltraViolet, so consumers who buy movies or shows from it can’t access them from the entertainment industry’s cloud-based storage lockers. Comcast has its own infrastructure that makes it possible for buyers to access the content they buy, even if they move or stop subscribing to the cable video service. Last month, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said that since Comcast began offering EST in November it “has captured 15% of the EST market and expanded the business.” He said that other cable operators likely will soon follow because “it’s been too successful for Comcast.” Consumers spent $424.8M on EST in Q4, up 44% from the period in 2012, according to Digital Entertainment Group data.
EXCLUSIVE: ICM Partners has reason to crow a little this morning. The agency just signed Sebastian Stan. He’s the goth-looking villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which Marvel Studios and Disney release shortly. Stan, who had been repped by WME, appeared in the first Captain America as Bucky Barnes, the superhero’s sidekick in the WWII storyline who has a resurgence in the Marvel Comics and obviously the movie.
He’s front and center in the sequel, but until that film comes out, Stan is better known for his stage work that includes starring opposite Ellen Burstyn in the Broadway revival of Picnic, and starring with Liev Schreiber in Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio. His other film work includes The Apparition, Gone, Black Swan, Hot Tub Time Machine and The Covenant. He also did the USA Network’s Political Animals as well as Gossip Girl on the small screen. Emily Gerson Saines continues to manage him.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros is in, and Sony Pictures and New Regency are out of The Juliet, an adaptation of the Alfred Bester short story that was developed by Charles Roven’s Atlas Entertainment. The film has a script by Henry Bean and Snow White And The Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders is attached to direct, and at one point it looked like Sony would make it this spring. Atlas’s Roven and Alex Gartner are producing with Frank Beddor of Automatic Pictures.
It makes me wonder, what is going on in Hollywood? I have been around long enough that I actually broke the story of when Warner Bros, clashing with John Hughes over $2 million dollars in budget, allowed Fox to grab Home Alone and turn the $18 million film into a $477 million worldwide gross blockbuster. After that, studios used to never let projects go for fear of being embarrassed, a possibility that was reinforced when Paramount inexplicably let the option lapse on the Twilight Saga, the billion dollar franchise which built Summit Entertainment. Studios used to keep everything, or heap overhead costs on them that made them prohibitively expensive, or attach first dollar gross obligations, like the 5% that Harvey Weinstein got on The Lord Of The Rings and is trying to enforce on The Hobbit.
The $32.M weekend domestic box office for Mr. Peabody & Sherman was lower than the $43.7M average for DreamWorks Animation‘s recent original films, and less than most analysts anticipated. But it was strong enough to leave the basic debate over DreamWorks Animation’s stock intact with shares up less than 1% to $29.74 in morning trading. Cowen and Co’s Doug Creutz leads the naysayers, dropping his price target for DWA to $21 from $35. Following losses for Turbo and Rise Of The Guardians, he says “the company has been piling up an increasingly alarming film body count over the past few years.” Calling P&S “just another dog,” he predicts that the film will merely break even: He’s concerned that it will struggle in the U.S. with school spring breaks delayed by the later than usual date for Easter (April 20). In addition, in seven other markets (UK, France, Argentina, Germany, Mexico, Russia, and Spain), P&S “opened 37% below The Croods and 22% below Turbo.”
Others are more hopeful. Stifel’s Benjamin Mogil acknowledges that that the domestic opening was softer than expected, but adds that its “A” rating at CinemaScore means that “the next two weeks
At last October’s Mipcom, Israeli interactive talent show Rising Star, was the hot property, selling local versions around the globe. At the Mip-TV market next month, The Big Picture, a new interactive entrant from Israel, is aiming to be the next big thing. The game show hails from Israeli format company A Cappella, which recently made U.S. and UK deals with eOne for religion-themed drama Reaching For Heaven. Big Picture is created by TV host and mentalist Nimrod Harel, whose first scripted series, The Believer, has been sold to Fox International Channels. A budget of $1M went toward developing and producing an English-language Big Picture pilot hosted by Andrew Günsberg (Australian Idol, Live To Dance), which A Cappella will shop at Mip-TV (see promo below). The trivia-based show asks a contestant to identify photographs projected on a 20-meter-high screen in the studio; the pictures can be of celebrities, political figures, events and such. There are 12 stages to the game with the ultimate possibility of winning $1M. The contestant can opt out at any time and take the money they’ve amassed, or continue vying for the top prize. If they get an answer wrong, they leave empty-handed. The interactive element in Big Picture is the participation of the viewing audience. Via a specially-designed app that uses technology created in Israel’s booming start-up community, and with consultants who have worked with the Israeli military, viewers can answer questions by text and potentially become the partner of the onscreen contestant, eventually splitting the purse. In a twist, the show will be pre-recorded in studio, but viewers will participate on the day of broadcast. Those selected will have their image projected on screen, and play along via the technology.
A Capella CEO Einat Shamir says, “The audience at home wants to be an active participant and influence what they watch on the screen in real time. The beauty of our format is the very unique production formula, which allows to overcome a lot of traditional obstacles many TV producers were facing when trying to cater to the new interactivity trend in the business.”
Cartoon Network has unveiled its programming and digital slate for the 2014-15 upfront season. It includes an expanded portfolio of exclusive content for specific platforms that kids access, including television, smartphones, computers, tablets and other gaming devices.We reported on Friday that the network had greenlighted its first miniseries Over The Garden Wall. Additional new programming includes Clarence, an original animated series about an optimistic boy who wants to do everything. It’s set for an April 14 premiere. Returning series include Adventuretime and Legends Of Chima. Click over for the complete slate.
SXSW: Vimeo Expands On Demand, Partners With Oscilloscope, Patagonia Selects, Slamdance & SXSW On Curated Film Collections
A year after introducing its direct distribution platform at SXSW, Vimeo today announced upgrades to its Vimeo On Demand experience as the service continues to expand into a digital storefront destination for video. Vimeo has also added themed collections to its offerings, launching with four curated partnerships with Oscilloscope Laboratories, Patagonia Selects, the Slamdance Film Festival, and the SXSW Film Festival. Vimeo users can now browse themed film bundles and titles by genre from the content uploaded and distributed by Vimeo creators. Among the new improvements to the user experience are a My Library function that allows viewers to access rented, purchased, and previously watched titles and the ability to browse title cards with posters, descriptions, and trailers. Last week Vimeo announced a $10 million investment providing direct financial support and online marketing assistance to Vimeo content creators. Here’s the lineup of premium Vimeo partner titles included in the new film collections:
Oscilloscope Laboratories: Oscilloscope Laboratories is a film distribution company founded by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Oscilloscope’s eclectic, acclaimed slate has garnered six Academy nominations in as many years. The collection for Vimeo On Demand includes 12 O’Clock Boys; A Teacher; After Tiller; Dark Days; It’s a Disaster; Our Day Will Come; The Messenger; These Birds Walk; and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Patagonia Selects: Vimeo On Demand will feature a selection of social impact films curated by Patagonia, including the upcoming DamNation; Fall and Winter; Groundswell; North of the Sun; Snows of the Nile; Slow is Fast; The Fruit Hunters; Trashed; and Village at the End of the World. Today, the Vimeo Theater at SXSW will host the world premiere of Patagonia Film’s new feature, DamNation.
David Zaslav isn’t ready to commit just yet to the plan that Dish Network and Disney sketched last week to create a personal pay TV streaming service with most — but not all — of the leading channels. “The question is: what’s the legacy impact?” the Discovery CEO said today at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference. “Does it have a negative impact?” Still, Zaslav sounds intrigued, saying that there’s a potentially big business if Dish or others can sell pay TV services to 2M or more broadband customers — including many young adults who are reluctant to pay $80 a month or more for a full expanded basic pay TV bundle. Dish’s deal with Disney “provided a lot of value to Disney” in the short run. But Zaslav says that he takes a long term view of the business and “we just have to see” the details and implications of a personal streaming service. The CEO also isn’t ready yet to pass judgment on Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The deal would give Comcast about 30M video subscribers. That’s “significant market share,” he says. “We’ll have to see what it means and how it plays out.” Zaslav has good reason to stay on the sidelines: Liberty Media’s John Malone is the biggest shareholder in Discovery, as well as Charter Communications — which wanted TWC until Comcast came in with a …
NBC News will present a two-day cross-platform event, Forgotten? Syria’s Children Of War: A Live Documentary, on Tuesday and Wednesday. More than 5 million Syrian children have had their lives scarred by conflict, the news division says, including children displaced inside the country, another million living under seige and a million who are now refugees. The project will span Today, NBC Nightly News, NBCNews.com and social media, creating what the division is calling a “live documentary” — aka a continuous stream of reports from inside and outside Syria’s borders. From the announcement:
The Sam Mendes-directed West End musical Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, which recently extended its run to May 20, 2015, tied today with the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along to lead the list of Olivier Award nominees with seven each. Charlie grabbed mentions in the Best Actor in a Musical category for Douglas Hodge as well as Best New Musical, among others. The show, from Warner Bros Theatrical Ventures, has twice broken records during its run for the highest weekly gross sales. The other Best New Musical nominees include Once, The Book Of Mormon and The Scottsboro Boys; each received six nominations. In the acting categories, Tom Hiddleston is cited for his lead turn in Coriolanus and Jude Law for his take on Henry V. Judi Dench in Peter And Alice, is up against Hayley Atwell, Anna Chancellor and Lesley Manville for Best Actress. The Olivier Awards ceremony will take place at London’s Royal Opera House on April 13. Click over for a full list of nominations:
While Hollywood wonders if a big part of the financing for Jeff Robinov’s new shingle will come from Huayi Brothers Media, others with less luster are tapping China for funding. Producers Robert Simonds and Gigi Pritzker announced in The New York Times they have teamed with backers including TPG Growth and Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital to form a venture they call “a next generation film studio” that will finance, produce and self-distribute eight to 10 star-driven theatrical films per year for the global market with budgets at around $40M. They expect the venture to spend over $1B over the next five years. The strategy: Hollywood’s devotion to tent poles has pushed them away from star vehicles, and the venture wants to bring those back. Of course, that happened because new stars are few and far between, and even the dependable ones no longer deliver strong opening weekends like they once did. Simonds, who had an early strong run with Adam Sandler comedies but whose last hit was 2006′s The Pink Panther, will be chairman and CEO of the venture with former Viacom Entertainment Group exec Thomas McGrath as COO. OddLot Entertainment CEO Pritzker will also sit on the board. She is coming off the disastrous Ender’s Game, but has also been involved in tasteful fare like The Way Way Back, Drive and the upcoming Jon Stewart-directed Rosewater. They say they have made direct distribution deals with North American …
Jumping on the popular Scandi crime wave, BBC Films and Shine Pictures have jointly acquired rights to Child 44 author Tom Rob Smith’s recently published The Farm. Shine’s head of film, Ollie Madden, will produce the feature adaptation with Christine Langan executive producing for BBC Films. The psychological thriller centers on Londoner Daniel, who believes his parents are living a peaceful life on a farm in rural Sweden. After the shocking revelation that his mother has escaped from a mental hospital, she pleads with him to allow her the chance to tell her story. Daniel must decide whether she is a victim of a terrible conspiracy, or, as his father fears, is suffering a psychotic episode. He soon becomes entwined in an urgent tale of secrets, lies, and a horrible crime that implicates his own father. The novel debuted last month to strong reviews in the UK and also launched as a bestseller in Australia, Germany and Israel. It has a further 13 major territories sold. Smith’s Child 44 series has sold over 4 million copies worldwide. The first installment was made into a feature starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Vincent Cassell and directed by Daniel Espinosa. Summit/Lionsgate will release later this year. The author also created the five-part BBC miniseries, London Spy, a contemporary thriller that sees an innocent young man drawn into a dangerous world of espionage …
In its first such ageement, Sky Deutschland has pacted with Red Arrow International to join 100 Code as co-producer. The 21st Century Fox-owned outfit will take all exclusive pay and free TV rights in German-speaking territories fo all platforms. Lost alum Dominic Monaghan and Swedish-born Michael Nyqvist (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) star in the 12-episode drama created by Bobby Moresco (Crash). Shooting starts in May on the series that’s based on Irish author Ken Bruens’ novel Merrick. Set between Stockholm and New York, 100 Code sees New York detective Tommy Conley (Monaghan) sent to Sweden to advise the local police amid a rash of ruthless muders. He’s paired with veteran homicide detective Mikael Eklund (Nyqvist), a by-the-book Swedish nationalist with an aversion to America’s grab-and-go culture. The duo can’t stand each other but must learn to work together to stop the killings. The drama was developed by Red Arrow’s LA-based scripted arm, Fabrik Entertainment (The Killing) and is produced by 100 Code AB and Zen Productions. Joakim Hansson, Klaus Zimmermann and Fabrik’s Henrik Bastin are exec producers with Moresco. The series is yet to be shopped to U.S. networks, but Red Arrow will surely be talking it up at next month’s Mip-TV.