The Honeymooners actress Sheila MacRae has died. The 93-year-old UK-born MacRae passed away March 6 , at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, NJ. She is best known to American audiences for her 4-year stint as Alice Kramden in the mid-’60s revival of The Honeymooners within The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS. In addition to her 1966-70 run as Ralph Kramden’s wife, MacRae was on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 with her then husband, singer Gordon MacRae, the night the Beatles debuted in America. The actress appeared on General Hospital in the 1960s and on NBC’s Parenthood TV series for the 1990-91 season. MacRae had a career on the stage as well in Guys and Dolls, Absurd Person Singular and other productions. One of her last acting appearance was in the one-women show An Evening With Sheila MacRae.
AUSTIN, TX –– Heading into the annual SXSW festival, Starz Digital Media has snagged the rights to the film, To Be Takei. The documentary about pop-culture icon George Takei premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was directed by Jennifer M. Kroot (It Came from Kuchar). The company has acquired all rights for U.S. and Canada. The company will distribute with a theatrical release planned for 2014. The announcement was made today by Kevin Kasha, Head of Acquisitions for Starz.
“George has become a true icon who gracefully moves from comic conventions to Congressional hearings,” commented Kasha. “To Be Takei takes us into George’s life in a witty, familiar and delightful way. Starz is pleased to share his inspiring story with audiences.”
Box Office UPDATED: ‘300: Rise Of An Empire’ Wields Powerful International Debut And $3.3M Late Night Thursday Strength For Warner Bros.; ‘Mr. Peabody and Sherman’ Is Yet Another Animated Film Playing In First Quarter 2014
UPDATE, Friday 4:15: Around the world, Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures‘ 300: Rise Of An Empire is grossing huge numbers. In 32 markets, it has taken in a hefty $12.1M over two days in international release, with $9.5M coming from Thursday alone. The film, playing on 1,083 screens, is roughly 20% ahead of the original 300, which took in $7.9M during the same time period in 2007 and grossed a whopping $245.4M internationally by the end of its run.
Driving the box office for Rise Of An Empire overseas was Germany, where it nabbed $1.4M and ended up with a 50% share of the top five films, and Russia with $1.3M on 1,441, taking 73% share of the top five. It also opened to stellar numbers in Korea (918K from 651 runs), Italy ($508K with 45% of the top five) and France for a two-day tally of $3M. In Singapore, it now stands as the biggest opening of an M18 film of all time with a total take of $203K, adding to its $1.4M gross from smaller Asian markets. Rise Of An Empire will open in 25 more markets today – the UK, Spain, Mexico and Brazil are the biggest ones yet to come.
BREAKING: Late-night showings of the second of the 300 films have grossed an estimated $3.3M for Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures, putting the actioner on track for a $40M to $45M weekend. The 3D 300: Rise Of An Empire, which is based on the graphic novel Xerxes from Frank Miller, bowed powerfully on 3,470 screens last night — 3,100 of them were 3D. Thursday night plays started at 8 p.m. and continued through midnight, and that $3.3M take is great for this time of year to boot. The bloody epic from screenwriter Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad stars Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green in a story about a general who is trying to unify Greece and must first battle an invasion from Persia, led by a vengeful mortal-turned-god named Xerxes. The first 300 opened on the same weekend in 2007 to $70.8M and went on to gross $210.6M domestically (worldwide was $456M). Its late night showings, however, tallied $2.5 mil. The distribution team at Warner Bros., led by Dan Fellman, is top notch and truly know how to book and play out their movies, allowing them a little time to breathe in a marketplace that is so dang competitive now.
This is gutsy. Fox has handed early renewals for next season to comedies Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl and The Mindy Project and drama The Following. Golden Globe-winning freshman Brooklyn Nine-Nine is picked up for a second season, Mindy and The Following for a third and New Girl for a fourth. They join three other Fox scripted series that already have been picked up for next season: freshman drama Sleepy Hollow; veteran Bones, renewed for a 10th season; and Glee, which has a final sixth season as part of a two-year pickup. That is a lot of programming already locked in for next season though Fox has extra holes to fill following the cancellation of The X Factor. Networks are not required to make any renewal decisions until May, and most wait to see their pilots before making decisions. Fox, of course, declared in January that it was breaking away from the pilot cycle, so the network also may be going on its own timetable with renewals. But most of all, today’s pickups are about Fox brass giving a vote of confidence to series they feel strongly about creatively.
One Tree Hill alum Robert Buckley has been set as a series regular in Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero’s CW drama pilot iZombie, from Warner Bros. TV. iZombie is a supernatural crime procedural that centers on a med student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the coroner’s office to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity, but with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. Buckley, repped by WME and Interlink Management, will play Major, Liz’s former fiance who is trying to make the transition to friend.
NBC’s ads for midseason drama series Believe feature front and center its mastermind, newly minted Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón, touting his best director statuette for Gravity. Meanwhile, the promos for another heavily marketed midseason drama that premieres within a day of Believe, ABC’s Resurrection, don’t even mention the fact that it comes from the producers of best picture Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave. Brad Pitt’s Plan B is behind Resurrection, with the company’s two other principals, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, who shared in the best picture Oscar with him, executive producing the series. Just like Plan B’s 12 Years A Slave managed to top Gravity and seven other movies to land the biggest prize, ABC probably hopes its show would spark some ratings magic. And boy, does the network need some of that.
ABC is on an unenviable streak of three consecutive new drama entries hitting a 0.6 rating in adults 18-49 — an all-time low on a Big 4 network: The Assets (which was billed as a limited series), Killer Women and Mind Games. That, coupled with the 0.7 low marks for the long-forgotten Lucky 7 and Betrayal and the 0.8 for Once Upon A Time In Wonderland makes for a very dismal freshman drama record this season.
Here’s a look at the latest from true independent director Henry Jaglom. The title, The M Word, refers to the change of life, but in this case it is a broad definition as the story also centers on big personnel changes at a local TV station that is threatened by economic downturn, possible in-house graft and massive job loss. The cast is led by frequent Jaglom co-star Tanna Frederick and includes Michael Imperioli and Frances Fisher among many others. It opens April 30 in LA and NY, followed by a wider national break.
Former CBS News correspondent Bill McLaughlin died this morning. The diplomatic and foreign correspondent, who headed bureaus in Germany and Lebanon for CBS News in the late 1960s and ‘70s, died from cardiac arrest in a Waterbury, CT hospital. McLaughlin lived in France and was visiting friends in the U.S. at the time of his death. He was 76.
McLaughlin’s television news career spanned 27 years, nearly all of it with CBS News; he left for two years in late 1979 to report for NBC News as its United Nations correspondent. He spent a decade overseas on his CBS news assignments, including the Paris bureau, where he met his wife, the former Huguette Cord’homme, who survives him. He covered the gamut of overseas events, from the Vietnam War, to terrorism to the conflicts in the war-torn Middle East, appearing on the CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite, CBS Radio News and other CBS News broadcasts, including CBS Reports documentaries. From 1983 to 1993, when he left CBS news, he was a State Department correspondent, and general assignment reporter in the Washington Bureau. This job, too, sent him overseas on a regular basis, covering the diplomatic travels of secretaries of state, including George Shultz.
UPDATED: Chris Conroy has booked a series regular role on ABC’s The Club (fka untitled Susannah Grant) from CBS TV Studios and ABC Studios. The drama, already greenlighted straight to series with a 13-episode order, is an upstairs/downstairs soap set at a private country club. Gersh-repped Conroy will play rich and handsome Forty Holbrooke, who was doing OK until his mother killed herself, leaving him everything. Since then he’s been staggering through life with too much money and too little real support.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Comedy Central resident roastmaster Jeff Ross and Jayson Blair (The New Normal) has signed on to ABC‘s multi-camera untitled Kevin Hart comedy pilot. Written by Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan based on Hart’s life and stand-up, the project takes a candid look at the post-divorce life of a couple, Derek (Romany Malco) and Lorraine (Bresha Webb)
There may be lots of speculation about the future of DreamWorks in its current incarnation at Disney as my colleague Mike Fleming wrote earlier this week, but you would never know it from last night’s rip-roaring premiere of its latest film, Need For Speed, at the Chinese Theatre. I went in expecting a poor man’s Fast & Furious and instead got a riveting and fun entertainment with lots of heart and emotion in addition to all the stunt driving. The film, which opens Friday and stars Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as a street racer out for revenge after being framed for a death of a young street-racing rookie, has all the requisite action you would expect from this kind of movie, but there’s so much more. The fact that it marks the second feature directed by former stuntman Scott Waugh (the son of another stuntman, Fred Waugh, who passed away while his son was in preproduction) would lead one to believe it would be all pedal-to-the-metal and no soul, but that’s not the case. Waugh’s first feature behind the camera, Act Of Valor, proved he knew how to put humanity into a genre film. What he’s made here is a good old-fashioned movie that doesn’t rely on CGI, has a genuine story to tell with three-dimensional characters (in 3D, no less), and great locations.
It also presents yet another reason the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences needs to re-consider its decision not to create a 25th category for stunt work. Come on, these people deserve the recognition on a regular basis. I do understand the ticklish situation with the Actors branch, the Academy’s largest and most powerful, but this kind of work is definitely Oscar worthy. The Television Academy has a stunt peer group and recently even split comedy and drama stunt coordination into two separate Emmy categories. Veteran stuntman-director Hal Needham got an Honorary Oscar in 2012, and I suppose the Academy feels that’s enough recognition for now (Needham passed away several months after getting that Oscar). But it’s not.
The journalist-turned-PR man who went on to serve two terms as president of the TV Academy died Wednesday in Oceanside, Calif. Hank Rieger was 95. In 1977, he became the first elected president of ATAS following the split between the East and West Coast factions of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He is one of only 11 recipients of the Academy’s Syd Cassyd Award, presented in recognition of long and distinguished service. “Hank Rieger worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of the Television Academy,” ATAS Chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum said in a statement. “He believed in the Academy’s ability to have a positive impact on the entire entertainment industry, and we are deeply grateful for all he contributed.” The Kansas City, MO, native served in World War II before beginning his career as a journalist with United Press International, playing a key role in breaking the news of Marilyn Monroe’s death. In 1965, he joined NBC’s public relations department, where he worked with many of the biggest stars and execs in television — from Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, Johnny Carson and Milton Berle to Bob Kintner, Grant Tinker, Herb Schlosser and Brandon Tartikoff. He traveled with Hope as the comic entertained U.S. troops overseas and led the publicity team during The Tonight Show‘s move from New York to Los Angeles in 1972. When NBC News writers and reporters went on strike, Rieger filled in for two weeks as an on-air correspondent and host of a weekend political talk show.
Joanna Going (House Of Cards) has been tapped for a series regular role in DirecTV’s gritty drama series Navy St. From Byron Balasco and Endemol Studios, the dark family drama is set against the backdrop of Navy Street, a Venice, CA-based mixed martial arts gym owned by Alvey Henderson (Frank Grillo), a former fighter who never made it big due to a drug addiction but is now sober. Going will play Christina Hyatt, Alvey’s ex wife and mother to Jay (Jonathan Tucker) and Nate (Nick Jonas). Going, repped by AKA and Vanguard Management, co-stars in the upcoming Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy.
Related: Primetime Pilot Panic!
The premiere of CNN’s new Chicagoland didn’t get totally whacked last night but it certainly didn’t make a ratings killing either – in fact it came a distant third in terms of total viewership compared to its cable news time slot rivals. The 10 PM debut Thursday of the cable news network’s heavily promoted 8-part documentary series drew 227,000 viewers among adults 25-54 with 629,000 total viewers. That was a drop in total viewership of 7% from the 673,000 that the second hour of CNN’s much less hyped And The Oscar Goes To… documentary pulled in on February 27. That also leaves Chicagoland in third place behind the 1.43 million total viewers who watched Fox News Channel’s Hannity and the 816,000 who tuned into MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell.
In terms of the key news demo, Chicagoland was up 58% from the weak 144,000 viewers who watched the Oscars docu in the same time slot last week. Yes, that’s up just over 100% from the limbo low 113,000 viewers among the 25-54s that CNN has averaged on the previous four Thursdays in the time slot. However even with the full marketing efforts of CNN both on and off-air, Chicagoland was not that much ahead of the 207,000 among the 25-54s that MSNBC got last night with The Last Word– a show that was …
HBO has unveiled its promo for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, which unveils on April 27 (see below). The new weekly satire current events show from the former The Daily Show With Jon Stewart correspondent (and stand-in host) will air at 11 PM on Sundays. Last November, HBO announced it had snagged Oliver to do a weekly show. Oliver took his final Daily Show bow in December, and Stewart had him in tears as he surprised the Brit comic with his own retrospective, on his last day. During the ambush, Oliver, who’d been with the Comedy Central late-night program for more than seven years, was mostly speechless and fighting tears.
Oliver got rave reviews covering for Stewart over the summer on Comedy Central while Stewart took time off to direct his first film, Rosewater. And though Oliver told PBS’ Charlie Rose in an interview, “I don’t think it’s going to change my life”, and that his goal had been only “not to destroy that machine” during his brief tenure, it proved to be a game changer for Oliver — and for Viacom Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog, whose empire includes Comedy Central, and who learned from the experience that there can be life after Stewart — unless HBO comes to the same realization and is looking for another topical late-night show. Watch Oliver’s HBO promo here:
CBS, Disney, Fox, and Time Warner are the easy answers — and the ones that many financial types believe are eyeing the independent programming network companies following Comcast’s $45.2B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger takes the conversation a step further today with an intriguing report that suggests several less obvious potential buyers for AMC Networks, Scripps or Starz. Distributors including DirecTV, Dish Network, Charter, AT&T and Verizon might want to take a page from Comcast’s playbook when it bought NBCUniversal. DirecTV doesn’t offer broadband, so it has “additional motivation to take some action to future-proof the business,” possibly by offering exclusive access to certain networks, Juenger says. Charter and Dish are long shots: Charter probably could only afford AMC. And Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen seems intent on acquiring airwave spectrum, although “nobody really knows Mr. Ergen’s potential plans, and they could change.” AT&T and Verizon’s corporate cultures are “a step (or three) further removed from the content business.” Yet here, too, they might take a leap since “their historical core businesses are not exactly growing, and they could amass the financial resources.”
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at the big Dish-Disney deal and what it might mean for other media companies and even a possible sports-free online pay-TV service. They also discuss Disney’s continuing headaches with its Interactive unit, whether FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s new rules for local broadcast alliances go far enough and look at the speculation about Carmike, the big exhibitor whose strong quarter fueled speculation that it will be a fat takeover target.
Larry Kudlow‘s 7 PM ET CNBC program, The Kudlow Report will end its run at the end of this month, with Kudlow staying on as a senior contributor to the business network’s business-day programs. No word yet as to a replacement program. Kudlow, who has been a part of CNBC for its 25-year history, had headlined The Kudlow Report since January of ’09, after hosting Kudlow & Company from ’05 to 0’8., and partnering with Jim Cramer in Kudlow & Cramer before that. “In my career, I have encountered few television hosts with Larry’s range,” CNBC president Mark Hoffman said in a memo to staff, a copy of which was obtained by TVNewser. “As an interviewer, he is unfailingly polite and energetic, skillfully grilling guests but always ending a segment graciously. Larry has always brought great enthusiasm to every program and appearance.”
Rake co-star Bojana Novakovic is finalizing a deal for the title role in ABC’s drama pilot Agatha, from ABC Studios and Mark Gordon Co. It centers on former convict-turned-big-city criminologist Agatha (Novakovic), who is brought in to help local police crack a case involving a perplexing disappearance. The casting is in second position to Fox’s midseason series Rake, which has done poorly on Thursdays and is being moved to Fridays starting next week en route to likely cancellation. Rake marked the first US series for Serbian-born Australian actress Novakovic, repped by CAA and Management 360.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
The sci-fi thriller that screened at Sundance will hit theaters June 13 before expanding the following two weekends. In the Focus Features pic, three college students on a road trip across the Southwest experience a detour: the tracking of a computer genius who has already hacked into MIT and exposed security faults. The trio find themselves drawn to an eerily isolated area when suddenly, everything goes dark. When one of the students, Nic, regains consciousness, he is in a waking nightmare. The Signal, from director William Eubank, stars Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp and Laurence Fishburne. Cutting Edge Group boarded the project during the Baja Film Festival in November.