ANALYSIS: The appointment of Michael De Luca to share production president duties with Hannah Minghella at Sony Pictures has taken the town by surprise. Insiders on the lot see an improved structure that could position the studio to up the level of quality as it follow through on its mandate to take big swings for global hits. The way the new structure will work is, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group chairman Amy Pascal and Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad will focus on the studio as a whole, including administrative endeavors, and Minghella and De Luca will concentrate on building the film slates.
Related: Sony Taps Michael De Luca As Columbia Production President
Many in town have expressed surprise that De Luca would make such a move at this moment, and not just because he’s most identified with smart and edgy filmmaker-driven films and not the tentpoles that increasingly account for studio slates. They are surprised that, after transitioning from a fabled run as wunderkind production chief at New Line (and a stint at DreamWorks) to become producer, De Luca has built enviable momentum: hits include Sony’s Oscar hopeful Captain Phillips, The Social Network and Moneyball, and De Luca is in the middle of Universal/Focus’s adaptation of the EL James publishing sensation Fifty Shades Of Grey. There are dozens of other promising projects percolating. “There is no way a guy with that hot a hand is going to take that job and probably a pay cut to report to Belgrad unless there is some eventual succession plan,” barked one rival exec.
Related: Q&A With ‘Social Network’s Mike De Luca
Plenty of turbulence has occurred at Sony these past few months leading up to the recent investor meeting, but insiders tell me this structure is not viewed as a short-term solution, and they say no other shoes will be dropping. They say this move will strengthen the studio in several ways. Most important is De Luca’s value as an executive; I have gotten to know him very well, as we spent over a year working on a book about his professional and personal coming-of-age years at New Line. We shelved the project at Mike’s request, so I’m not uncomfortable writing about him here. But what I observed that the above exec is unaware of is just how much De Luca loved being an executive. READ MORE »
In Legendary Television & Digital‘s first major producing deal, the company has signed a multi-year pact with Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld’s Red Hour Films. The company’s TV development will continue to be run by Red Hour president Debbie Liebling, while Red Hour Director of Digital Mike Rosenstein oversees digital. “All of us at Legendary are thrilled to be working with Ben, Stuart and their Red Hour team,” Legendary TV & Digital president Bruce Rosenblum said. “Their comedic programming is broadly appealing, yet fulfills the edginess and irreverence that is so on brand for Legendary.” At Legendary, Red Hour’s development will be overseen by Tom Lesinski, President of Legendary Digital Media, on the digital side and Peter Johnson, EVP Scripted Entertainment, in the TV side. “We are very excited to partner with Legendary, though I am a little concerned that Bruce called me ‘Mr. Affleck’ when discussing the deal on the phone,” Stiller said. “Hopefully, he won’t realize he got the other Ben till after the papers are signed.”
Red Hour Films most recently had a TV deal at ABC Studios for the past two years where is developed and sold a slew of projects. Red Hour also recently received series pickups for Birthday Boys at IFC and The Meltdown With Jonah And Kumail at Comedy Central.
Red Hour’s digital deal will kick in when the company’s current pact … Read More »
Walt Disney Studios and Paramount Pictures said today that they’ve reached a marketing and distribution deal for the Indiana Jones franchise. Among other things, this agreement removes the last hurdle for Disney in moving forward with future Indiana Jones movies, which the company acquired when it purchased Lucasfilm in a multibillion-dollar deal late last year. The new deal gives Disney marketing and distribution rights to future films as well as retaining Lucasfilm’s ownership rights — which basically means they’ve got the whole shebang now. Paramount, on the other hand, isn’t left in the cold: The studio will continue to have distribution rights to the first four films. While details of the deal are unknown, Paramount also will receive financial rewards on any future Indiana Jones films that are produced and released by Disney. Moving ahead with a new Star Wars movie coming out in December 2015 and with two more in the pipeline, the studio has not confirmed that a fifth Indiana Jones has the green light. However, with today’s news and star Harrison Ford’s previous expressed interest in returning to the role, one would have to say it’s looking likely.
The drama is not being renewed, making official its cancellation after one low-rated season. Low Winter Sun, which wrapped its 10-episode run in September, marks just the second AMC scripted drama not to receive a season-season order, following 2010′s Rubicon. The co-production between Endemol Studios and AMC Studios was based on the two-part 2006 British miniseries that starred Mark Strong, who reprised his role in the U.S. redo. Chris Mundy was written and executive produced by Chris Mundy. AMC liked what it saw originally, picking it up to pilot in May 2012 and ordering it to series that December. But after drawing 2.5 million viewers in its series premiere in August following the the first of Breaking Bad‘s final eight episodes, the ratings dropped off. Today’s news comes a couple of weeks after AMC renewed its Western drama Hell On Wheels for a fourth season and 13 episodes. It also has two new dramas in the works: Turn and Halt & Catch Fire.
Fans of Ichabod Crane will get a double dose of Fox’s Sleepy Hollow on January 20. The network said today that the freshman supernatural drama will expand to two hours on the date starting at 8 PM. That means the official Season 2 premiere of The Following will shift out of its previously set slot to 9 PM January 27. The hit Kevin Bacon series will still preview January 19 in the prized slot following the NFC Championship Game as Fox originally designed. The original schedule had Sleepy Hollow moved out of its regular 9 PM slot to an 8 PM finale for The Following to take over the time period. Sleepy Hollow’s last original of the year is December 10 at it was scheduled to come back with originals on January 6. Now return on January 13 to allow for the double-up on January 20.
EXCLUSIVE: Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, and Oscar Nunez have joined Antonio Banderas in the Chilean miners movie The 33, which is based on the true events of the collapsed Copiapo copper mine and the 33 miners who remained trapped more than 2,000 feet underground. The 2010 news story captured worldwide media attention. Rounding out the cast are Kate Del Castillo (Weeds) Lou Diamond Phillips, Mario Casas, Juan Pablo Raba, Tenoch Huerta, Jacob Vargas, Marco Trevino and Alejandro Goic. Binoche replaces Jennifer Lopez in the strong female role, after Lopez dropped out in September due to scheduling conflicts after rejoining Fox’s American Idol.
Mike Medavoy secured the miners’ exclusive life rights last year and developed the project in collaboration with the men, their rescuers and their families. He will produce along with Robert Katz and Edward McGurn. Patricia Riggen (La Misma Luna, Girl In Progress) will direct. Carlos Eugenio Lavin and Leopoldo Enriquez are exec producing. The film is being shot on location in Bogata and surrounding areas with 50% of the production to be shot in Chile. It’s interesting to note that visual effects will be overseen by Ben Grossman, who won an Oscar for Hugo. Read More »
The retailer’s stock closed -12% today after it disclosed in an SEC filing that the agency is investigating two matters involving the company’s recent financial reports. On October 16 the SEC’s New York regional office told Barnes and Noble that it’s looking at a company earnings restatement in July. In addition, the SEC is curious about a charge by a “former non-executive employee” that some Information Technology expenses had been ”improperly allocated” between the Nook and Retail segments. “The Company is cooperating with the SEC, including responding to requests for documents,” Barnes and Noble says in the filing. Did the chain lose $117M of its market value today just because of an investigation? Probably not. Many investors have also become pessimistic about the number of Nook tablets and e-readers that Barnes and Noble will sell this holiday season — especially after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attracted so much attention on 60 Minutes last week when he disclosed his experiments with delivery drones. “If you’re looking for an excuse” to sell B&N shares, then the SEC investigation “is the perfect one,” says Maxim Group analyst John Tinker.
A rising DA (Dominic Cooper) hits a guy with his car and leaves him in the street. Another guy (Samuel L. Jackson) is found with the body and faces a murder charge. The guilty prosecutor manipulates the trial to help the defendant go free. But did he just let a serial killer walk — one who now is targeting the DA’s family? Gloria Reuben also stars in Lionsgate‘s Reasonable Doubt, which was directed by Peter P. Croudins and penned by Peter A. Dowling (Flightplan). Here’s the trailer for the thriller that opens January 17 in theaters and VOD:
Marvel said today that Drew Goddard will write and direct the first episode of Daredevil, the Marvel Television series that will air on Netflix in 2015 as part of a wide-ranging live-action deal between those companies. He will stay on as showrunner/executive producer of the 13-episode series, one of four in the works under the deal including projects on fellow Marvel characters Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage. The deal was expected. Goddard’s credits include writing Cloverfield, co-writing and directing Cabin In The Woods and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and he adapted the Robopocalypse pic that’s on hold at DreamWorks. He and Lost cohort Damon Lindelof came aboard toward the end of writing the Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z to forge a new ending to the zombie pic.
Related: Melissa Rosenberg To Shepherd Marvel’s Jessica Jones Series
There’s going to be more Charlie Brown on ABC for the next few years. The network announced today that its finalized an an additional 5-year agreement with Peanuts Worldwide LLC and Lee Mendelson Film Productions to continue showing the Charles M. Schulz holiday specials until 2020. First aired in 1965, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas have been on ABC since December 2001. The Emmy Award-winning specials by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz are produced and animated by Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez. No details of the agreement were made available. However, even while down from last year this year, the specials certainly have been a return on investment for the network. Airing on December 3, this year’s A Charlie Brown Christmas was down 34% from its November 28 airing in 2012 but still beat Fox’s new Almost Human among Adults 18-49. Last year’s Peanuts Christmas special actually topped the Adults 18-49 demo in the 8PM-9:30PM time slot beating out The X-Factor, Survivor and NBC’s Christmas at Rockefeller Center.
Related: Paul Feig Lands Animated ‘Peanuts’ Fox Pic
You’re hearing a big sigh of relief from broadcasters today. New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post that he wants to postpone the voluntary auction that will enable wireless broadband providers to use airwaves now controlled by TV stations. It originally was planned for 2014, but Wheeler says he believes “we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015.” It’s easy to imagine that his decision was influenced by the troubled web rollout for the Affordable Care Act. “I have often defined the complexity of this multi-part simultaneous [auction] process as being like a Rubik’s cube,” Wheeler says. “As part of our auction system development, we will check and recheck the auction software and system components against the auction requirements, and under a variety of scenarios replicating real life conditions. … Only when our software and systems are technically ready, user friendly, and thoroughly tested, will we start the auction.” Wheeler also has to make a controversial policy decision about whether the government should limit how much spectrum might go to wireless giants Verizon and AT&T. Read More »
Real-life married couple John Ross Bowie and Jamie Denbo are set to play one on TV. The husband-and-wife duo has been tapped for a multi-episode arc on NBC‘s new comedy series About A Boy, based on Nick Hornby’s feature. The show centers on bachelor Will (David Walton) and his new neighbors, needy single mom Fiona (Minnie Driver) and her 11-year-old son. Bowie and Denbo will play a married couple and business partners in an organic toy company, who hire Fiona to work with them. Denbo, a standout in the hit Melissa McCarthy-Sandra Bullock feature comedy The Heat, along with Jessica Chaffin, are getting a spinoff movie, with Paul Feig and Peter Chernin producing for Fox. Read More »
The two talent agencies are set to merge offices effective February 1 at the current Bauman Redanty & Shaul office locations in New York and Los Angeles. BRS and The Gage Group have already notified clients of the merger. In New York, BRS partner Mark Redanty and agent Charles Bodner will be joined by Gage NY agents Phil Adelman and Steven Unger. In Los Angeles, Gage’s Martin Gage will join BRS partner David Shaul and agents Adam Lazarus and Evan Miller. The agencies are in the process of merging their staffs and client lists, with the new entity to be known as BRS/Gage Talent Agency.
EXCLUSIVE: Hot off helming the kidnap thriller Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve is circling Sicario, a Taylor Sheridan-scripted drama that is fast coming together with Black Label financing, and producing with Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road. Black Label is the finance/production company formed by Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill. Just as Villeneuve’s films Prisoners and especially Incendies presented thrillers with complex moral dilemmas and shocking conclusions, Sicario presents a similar opportunity for the filmmaker. It focuses on the murky legal loophole that allows mercenaries to breach the border of Mexico to corral drug kingpins, as long as they are accompanied by a legitimate law officer. In this case, a female cop from Tucson accompanies two delta force-type rangers across the border to apprehend a drug lord. Once across the border, the cop finds she has stepped into No Country For Old Men terrain, with violence and depravity she never imagined. I’m told that distributors are sparked about this one, and that CAA will broker the domestic deal. The Canadian helmer is being courted for other films, but this certainly sounds like this is right in Villeneuve’s wheelhouse.
Related: Denis Villeneuve Inks Overall Deal With Alcon
EXCLUSIVE: A&E Network’s upcoming drama Those Who Kill doesn’t debut until March, but this weekend there’ll be sneak peek shown during the network’s two-part Bonnie & Clyde miniseries. Why wait until then to see Chloë Sevigny as police detective Catherine Jensen in the series from Imagine TV and Fox 21. Here’s the clip:
Endemol Studios, Endemol North America’s scripted studio operation based in Los Angeles, has signed its first pod deal, bringing in Christina Wayne and her Assembly Entertainment shingle to develop and produce scripted projects for cable and other TV distribution platforms. “Christina’s taste in material, her relationships with top talent and her experience as a writer, director, producer and as a network and studio executive will be incredibly valuable as we expand our development slate,” said Endemol Studios CEO Philippe Maigret. Former AMC senior development executive Wayne most recently served as president of Cineflix Studios, Cineflix’s scripted television arm, since its 2010 launch, but the division was recently dissolved after the cancellation of its BBC America drama Copper as the unscripted producer decided to retreat from scripted series.
Under Wayne’s deal with Endemol Studios, she will develop existing and new projects, including MDX, an international medical disaster drama produced with Tony Krantz‘s Flame Ventures. ER alum Carol Flint will write the script and serve as executive alongside Jonathan Klein, Krantz and Wayne. “MDX is a dramatic series nod to the classic disaster films of the ’70s and ’80s, but done real,” Krantz said. Read More »
2nd UPDATE, 2PM: Instead of The Rachel Maddow Show tonight at 9PM, MSNBC are going to air a Headliners and Legends: Nelson Mandela special in the slot.
Related: R.I.P. Nelson Mandela
UPDATE, 10:50 AM: Programs on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela will take their place in ABC and CBS’ primetime lineups this weekend, but there won’t be any changes to their schedules. ABC said today that tonight’s 20/20 will be a special Nelson Mandela: A Man Who Changed The World broadcast following the human rights icon’s death yesterday. However, the telecast hosted by David Muir and Robin Roberts won’t cause alterations to ABC’s Friday primetime lineup — it will still air in its regular 10 PM slot. NBC tells me that right now Friday’s 8PM Dateline will stay with its previously scheduled report on a missing CIA employee. On Saturday at 9PM, CBS’ 48 Hours will air a special Nelson Mandela: Father Of A Nation hosted by CBS news anchor Scott Pelley and in its regular time slot. None of the evening news broadcasts are set to expand as NBC and ABC did Thursday. Read More »