Listen to (and share) the latest episode from the Cannes Film Festival of our audio podcast Deadline Festivals & Markets Watch, featuring Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione. She talks with host David Bloom about which distributors and projects are making a splash so far; whether Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, with considerable Chinese backing, can move beyond China to a worldwide hit; how a film starring Sean Penn managed to sell its international rights even before it has been shot; and the crime wave hitting the Croisette.
EXCLUSIVE: Mike Lobell, the veteran producer whose 14-years of persistence helped make the remake Gambit happen, is getting close on three other projects with strong elements. He has re-teamed with former partner, writer-director Andrew Bergman, on A Film By Alan Stuart Eisner, an ensemble comedy which so far has Project X‘s Oliver Cooper, Shirley MacLaine and Robin Williams attached, with Rob Reiner making a cameo. Lobell reports that the film has added Sienna Miller, Isla Fisher and Audra MacDonald. Eisner is a comedy dealing with a young man making a documentary to learn what happened to his family during WWII. He is out looking for financing.
Gambit, by the way, ended up with Michael Hoffman directing a script by Joel and Ethan Coen. Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman star and CBS Films is releasing.
At the same time, Lobell is getting traction on This Man This Woman, the adult love story written by Frederic Raphael. The project has gotten a boost with the attachment of Richard Gere, who long ago sparked to a film which focuses on the trials and tribulations of a marriage. This was the picture that once nearly went into production with Meg Ryan and Sean Penn. Lobell and Gere will now look for a director and their female lead.
Dennis Lehane will adapt Travis McGee for Fox and Appian Way, based on 1964′s The Deep Blue Good-By and 20 subsequent novels by John D. MacDonald. Chernin Entertainment and Leonardo DiCaprio are producing, with the latter eyeing to star. The project previously had Paul Greengrass and Oliver Stone circling to direct.
LOS ANGELES, May 21, 2013 – Veteran research executive Julie Piepenkotter has been promoted to Executive Vice President of Research for FX Networks, it was announced today by FX Networks President and General Manager John Landgraf, to whom she will continue to report. In her new role, Piepenkotter will oversee all facets of program and consumer research for FX, FXM and the new network, FXX, which will debut on September 2. Based in Los Angeles, Piepenkotter joined FX as Senior Vice President, Research in 2009. During her tenure at the Network, she has overseen all aspects of program and consumer research for FX and Fox Movie Channel. She also worked with Fox National Cable Networks on special research projects. Prior to joining FX Networks, Piepenkotter spent 20 years working at The Walt Disney Company, most recently as Senior Vice President of Research for the Disney ABC Television Group in charge of program research for ABC Family, SOAPnet and consumer insights across the Disney ABC television portfolio. She began her career as a media buyer and planner with The Leo Burnett Company in Chicago.
Spike Jonze wrote and directed Her, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Samantha Morton and Olivia Wilde. The film is about a guy who falls in love with the voice of a computer, a la the iPhone’s Siri. Warner Bros will open the pic November 20, 2013 in limited release, two days before fellow specialty pic Nebraska from Alexander Payne and Paramount, Disney’s Delivery Man and of course Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Her has been percolating for a while, with Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures coming aboard to finance it in March 2011. Jonze’s last feature was 2009′s Where The Wild Things Are. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has international rights. Joining Jonze as producers on the film are Vincent Landay and Megan Ellison. Daniel Lupi and Ted Schipper will serve as executive producers.
The company’s U.S. stock closed +9.3% today — at $22.91, the highest it’s been since late 2011 — in unusually heavy trading after Japan’s Nikkei news service reported that Sony‘s board will explore the proposal from billionaire Daniel Loeb‘s Third Point. Sony was noncommittal last week when the hedge fund disclosed that it had paid $1.1B for a 6.4% stake in the electronics giant, and wanted it to create a separate stock for the movie, television, and music production and distribution operations. Loeb proposed that Sony sell as much as 20% of the entertainment unit, and use the cash to shore up the core electronics businesses. Sony shares have appreciated about 16% since then. (Third Point partnered with Deadline’s parent Penske Media Corp in its acquisition last year of Variety.)
New Falling Skies showrunner David Eick has started to put together a strong writing staff for the hit TNT drama’s fourth season. Veteran showrunner Carol Barbee has joined the alien-invasion series as a consulting producer. She recently worked with Eick on Fox’s Touch where she was an executive producer and he was a consulting producer. Season 3 of Falling Skies, executive produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Noah Wyle, kicks off with a two-hour premiere June 9. It is yet to be renewed for a fourth season though that is considered a formality as Falling Skies is TNT’s #1 scripted series in the younger demos. WME-repped Barbee previously served as executive producer/showrunner on cult CBS drama Jericho which, similarly to Falling Skies, was set in a post-apocalyptic world.
The freewheeling head of FilmOn has to stop using names including Aereokiller and BarryDriller.com for his broadcast streaming service according a settlement overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins. The decision appears to end three lawsuits: Last year IAC chief Barry Diller — a major investor in Aereo — sued David for creating a site called BarryDriller.com. In February, David returned fire, suing Aereo for trademark infringement after he bought the naming rights to a product called Aero. And in March, Aereo sued David for creating a site called Aero.tv. Like Aereo, FilmOn streams programming taken from over-the-air signals — and has also incurred the wrath of broadcasters who say that it violates their copyrights. A New York court has allowed Aereo to expand while it weighs the broadcasters’ challenge. But in December a California court granted a temporary injunction that applies locally against David’s service. Even so, he says that with the trademark settlements FilmOn now “can continue rolling out our service nationwide. We are currently in 45 markets compared to Aereo’s two.” He adds in a statement: “So eat s*it Barry.”
JS Communications has finally settled for a reduced break-up fee in the drawn-out Rhythm & Hues bankruptcy saga. It’s been two months since troubled VFX house R&H sold out of bankruptcy to Prana Studios-led Holdings, LLC following a roller-coaster closed-door auction. At issue was the court-approved $425K fee promised to JS Communications as stalking horse bidder if a qualified rival beat them out for the Life Of Pi company, which JS was eyeing to buy. But in a hotly contested development, JS failed to meet a deadline to submit its bid (exec David Shim told me then that his dealings with Fox and Universal left him less than optimistic about buying R&H without future work assurances). Per a court document filed this week (read it here), JS will receive a $300K break-up fee. If approved in court June 4, that should put the R&H saga to bed for the time being; multiple class action lawsuits against R&H filed by former employees have yet to be settled.
New York, NY – May 21, 2013 – Kino Lorber is proud to announce that it has acquired all US rights to Jia Zhangke’s (24 City, Still Life) latest film A Touch Of Sin, a four-part story inspired by real-life events and focused on the violent impact (and hefty human sacrifice) of the Chinese economic boom on its own citizens.
While prepping the film for a late fall or early winter national theatrical release, Kino Lorber will book this acclaimed Chinese film in select film festivals across the United States. This deal was negotiated between Kino Lorber CEO Richard Lorber and MK2′s International Sales Executive Victoire Thevenin.
The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis recently referred to A Touch Of Sin as Jia Zhangke’s “finest film since his 2006 feature Still Life,” also describing it as “a portrait of contemporary China told through four savagely violent episodes that take place in distinct areas of the country.”
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor
Microsoft finally unveiled the Xbox One, its next-generation successor to the Xbox 360 game console, with an impressive demonstration of a voice- and gesture-controlled device focused more on integrating and controlling all kinds of entertainment and social capabilities far beyond just playing videogames. The #XboxReveal event at Microsoft’s Seattle-area campus included the announcement by Xbox Entertainment Studios President Nancy Tellem that Steven Spielberg will create a new live-action TV show based on the “Halo” game franchise. In a video, Spielberg, a longtime game fan who also oversaw the launch of the DreamWorks Interactive game studio in the 1990s, briefly said “the Halo universe is an amazing opportunity to be at an intersection where technology and myth-making converge.”
Alison Brie has signed with WME. She was at UTA. Brie currently juggles two series — she is a female lead on NBC’s cult comedy Community, which recently was renewed for a fifth season, and recurs on AMC’s Emmy-winning drama Mad Men. Additionally, Brie stars in the indie Kings Of Summer. She continues to be managed by Scott Fish at Velocity Entertainment Partners and repped by David Weber.
CMT has picked up an additional 11 episodes of Dog And Beth: On The Hunt, bringing the reality show’s freshman season to 22 episodes. Production on the new episodes will begin immediately for an August airdate. Through its first five weeks on air, Dog And Beth, starring bounty hunters ‘Dog’ and Beth Chapman, ranks as CMT’s top current series, averaging more than 1 million total viewers. The Electus-produced show also has developed a big social media following. Original episodes air Sundays at 8 PM.
UPDATE, 11:08 AM: Apple‘s part of today’s proceedings is over after Sen. Carl Levin finally drew blood. He hammered CEO Tim Cook and other Apple execs for creating business arrangements that ensured that the company’s “crown jewels” — economic rights to more than two-thirds of its worldwide profits — “are in three Irish companies that you control and don’t pay taxes.” Cook acknowledged that he has “no current plan” to bring that cash “home at the current tax rate.” Levin noted that this was entirely Apple’s choice: The arrangement in Ireland was signed by “three people working for Apple.” He also observed that the company repatriates profits from Latin America and Canada but not elsewhere. “We cannot continue a system where a multinational company as phenomenally successful as you can make a decision as to where the profits are going to flow. An American company where the R&D is 95% in the United States. You had R&D tax credits, all the benefits of living in this country, [including] protection of patents….You made a unilateral decision where these profits are going to be taxed or not taxed. Folks, that is not right.”
PREVIOUS, 10:13 AM: Tim Cook seems to be in command so far in his appearance before the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to defend Apple against charges that it parks cash overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes. He began his testimony throwing down a gauntlet calling for “dramatic simplification” of U.S. corporate taxes. “Apple has always believed in the simple, not the complex,” he said adding that it should also apply to the tax code. He called for a revenue-neutral change that would lower corporate income tax rates and provide for “a reasonable tax”– which he said should be a single digit percentage — “that allows the free flow of capital back to the United States.” It would probably increase Apple’s U.S. taxes, he says, but “it would promote U.S. economic growth.”
EXCLUSIVE: CAA has signed Joel Kinnaman, the Swedish actor who plays the title role in the Jose Padilha-directed Robocop for MGM. Kinnaman had been repped by UTA. He’s a rising star whose breakout came in the Daniel Espinosa-directed Snabba Cash, and the AMC series The Killing. Kinnaman is in production on Child 44, which Espinosa is directing with Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace for Summit Entertainment, with Scott Free producing. Once he wraps that, he stars with Liam Neeson in Run All Night, the Jaume Collet-Serra-directed thriller for Warner Bros. The Killing returns for Season 3 on June 2. Kinnaman continues to be managed by Shelley Browning of Magnolia Entertainment.
Related: Magnolia Manager Vs UTA, Round Two
Steven Soderbergh tonight unveils what he says is his final feature film Behind The Candelabra. The film explores the secret father/son/lover relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his valet Scott Thorson. It’s playing in competition here at Cannes, even though HBO will premiere it in the U.S. on Sunday before it gets a traditional overseas theatrical release. If that seems complex, it fits Soderbergh, a true maverick who has always been up for putting himself on the line for disruptive, groundbreaking fare. That began with sex, lies, and videotape. The movie won the Audience Award at Sundance and the Palme d’Or at Cannes before grossing nearly $25 million in 1989 and earning him an original screenplay Oscar nom. It is viewed as the picture that turned indie film into a viable business. “He is the father of this movement,” said Harvey Weinstein, who distributed the film. “Before him, there was no independent movie that did more than $5 million. This was the one that went out, almost wide, in the summer — where they said these films could not play — and broke the art house ghetto.” An Oscar (for directing Traffic) later, and a career that spanned every genre and enterprising release strategy (he aroused the ire of theater owners by road testing the day-and-date release platform that is now a Sundance deal staple), the 50-year-old Soderbergh talks with Deadline about Behind The Candelabra, indie economics and more.
DEADLINE: All week, I’ve heard people here debate whether Michael Douglas and Matt Damon will lose possible Oscar nominations because the film plays first on HBO, before a more traditional international theatrical rollout. You intended it originally to be an indie feature. Explain the gyrations that ended up with this unusual release strategy.
SODERBERGH: We were trying to get the last $5 million to finish it off. The movie cost $22 million and change. We’d raised $18 million foreign and we just needed this piece. Superficially it would seem like a no-brainer, but when you look at the realities of the economics of putting a movie into wide release, you have to gross $65 million-$75 million just to get out. People just didn’t have that appetite for this kind of material.
DEADLINE: How different were things back when you conceived it as an indie and took several years to get to it and get a script by Richard LaGravanese?
SODERBERGH: There’s no question in my mind that if it had been five years earlier that we’d probably would have gotten it. But the pressure has gotten so extreme. I talk to people at the studios about it all the time. Somebody told me last week that they are doing a better job controlling movie costs but that marketing costs keep moving at a trajectory faster than everything else. Another terrifying thing is, you used to be able to bank on stars. If you had certain elements in a certain kind of movie, you could bank on doing X. Now you are guaranteed nothing.
Looks like Disney wasn’t quite done dropping trailers for the Disney tentpole starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. The Lone Ranger bows July 3.