HBO has come on board as co-producer of BBC’s miniseries adaptation of novel The Casual Vacancy, from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. The three-hour mini, written by Sarah Phelps (EastEnders), produced by Ruth Kenley-Letts (The Hour) and to be directed by Jonny Campbell (In the Flesh), will begin production this summer in South West England. Published in 2012, Casual Vacancy centers on Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind the pretty façade, however, is a town at war: Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils. The three-part mini is produced by Bronte Film and Television, the independent production company run by Rowling and Neil Blair, who is executive producing with Paul Trijbits (Saving Mr. Banks) and Rick Senat.
After agreeing in principle to support the conclusion of a co-production treaty last December, the UK and China have finally put pen to paper. British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and Vice Minister Tong Gang of state authority SAPPRFT signed the pact in Beijing today. The treaty, which is subject to ratification, is being touted by Britain as welcome news. It could ease access to the world’s second-largest box office market: Films will have to qualify for true co-production status, which eliminates the quota barrier on foreign movies. The exact qualifying criteria have yet to be laid out, but would be expected to include financial and cultural elements. Importantly, if a film is granted the co-production seal, it will be able to access “national benefits including sources of finance” the parties said today. That means the lucrative UK film tax relief system as well as the BFI Film Fund. BFI CEO Amanda Nevill called the treaty “hugely significant for UK film as it will open the door for our filmmakers to collaborate and contribute to each other’s success.” The BFI has been pushing hard to enhance its relationship with China. In January, it established the Electric Shadows initiative encompassing a year of business, trade, and creative and cultural collaborations between the countries.
USA Network is shaking things up this summer with a schedule that features four returning series moving to new time slots, joined by two new shows, dramas series Rush and Satisfaction, paired together. This is a rare new drama series launch on USA where the newbies are not slotted behind established series. Rush and Satisfaction (formerly untitled Sean Jablonski) will premiere July 17, airing Thursdays at 9 PM and 10 PM, respectively. Rush, from writer-director Jonathan Levine and Fox 21, examines the world of renegade physician Dr. William Rush (Tom Ellis), a “medical fixer” who privately caters to LA’s elite. Satisfaction, from Universal Cable Prods, stars Matt Passmore and explores modern marriage at its midpoint. (watch the first trailer below).
Entertainment One will continue to distribute The Weinstein Co‘s feature films in Canada through December 31, 2019 under an extended output deal. Following its acquisition of rival Alliance Films last year, eOne released TWC titles including Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook and The Butler across all media in the territory. Upcoming titles include Paddington, St Vincent De Van Nuys, The Giver and The Railway Man. The new agreement also includes Radius-TWC’s premium VOD slate in Canada. EOne has about 23% of the local market and a series of 10 output deals with U.S. indies whose films make up roughly half of its annual slate. Nelson Kuo-Lee, Richard Rapkowski and Patrice Théroux brokered the TWC extension for eOne with David Glasser, Irwin Reiter and Andy Kim for TWC.
UPDATED with video of Colbert’s appearance: Viewers curious to know what Actual Stephen Colbert is like, and what might his upcoming CBS late-night show be, got a good look Tuesday when the Comedy Central star made his first visit to David Letterman‘s Late Show since being named as his replacement. After telling Dave he’d been offered a gig with Dave’s old NBC show but turned it down because it was an unpaid internship – “It’s an expensive city,” Colbert explained. “The next job I’m taking here, that pays? Cause I’ve already signed” — Dave asked Colbert if he vacations well:
Fox is saving an extra original of Bones to run with 24: Live Another Day. In the most recent summer schedule announced last month, veteran Bones was to air its penultimate episode of Season 9 on April 28, leading to the second season finale of The Following. After a week-long break for the two-hour debut of 24: Live Another Day, Bones was slated to air its season finale on May 12, followed by the time slot premiere of 24, with MasterChef taking over the Monday 8 PM slot the following week. Now, Bones will air a repeat on April 28, the night of The Following finale, with the last two episodes for the season paired with the first two regular-slot episodes of the 24 event series on May 12 and May 19. Season 5 MasterChef will debut on May 26.
John Oliver took the NBC package deal to promote the launch of his new HBO late night show, Last Week Tonight this coming Sunday. Oliver stopped by Tonight show last night, where he made fun of Jimmy Fallon‘s interview style and talked about friends’ reaction to his final The Daily Show appearance:
Earlier this week, Oliver so deftly explained to Today show’s Matt Lauer why his satirical show would not bother to cover a report that had just been featured on Today, that Lauer barely noticed he’d been dinged:
Take that, Netflix. Beginning on May 21 the multi-year agreement will enable Amazon Prime subscribers to stream series including The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, and later — about three years after episodes initially air — Girls, The Newsroom and Veep. In addition, by year end Amazon will offer HBO GO on its new Fire TV platform. (It’s already available to HBO subscribers on other devices including Google’s Chromecast.) The shows will still be available on HBO’s platforms, but the companies say that this is the first time the premium pay TV channel’s shows have been licensed to an online-only streaming service. “As owners of our original programming, we have always sought to capitalize on that investment,” HBO EVP Business and Legal Affairs Glenn Whitehead says.
Amazon shares are up 1.4% pre market, and Netflix is down 2.7%, following the announcement. That suggests investors didn’t fully accept Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ claim on Monday that the streaming video providers can peacefully coexist. “It’s a very much not a zero-sum game and we are building this ecosystem together that’s about Internet video and the more players there are in Internet video, the bigger that ecosystem gets,” he said. “The big theme is Internet video is taking share away from linear video. So we are all participating in that transformation.” He has more mixed feelings about HBO: In January he joked that HBO chief Richard Plepler’s Netflix password was probably: “Netflix bitch.”
Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil says HBO probably made its deal with Amazon, instead of Netflix, because there’s less overlap among their subscribers. Still, it’s “clearly a negative for Netflix, given the high profile nature of the HBO content” and could “somewhat limit” the streaming company’s just-announced plan to raise its prices for new customers. He notes, though, that HBO and Amazon released few details about the deal terms and that it doesn’t include all HBO shows.
Here’s today’s announcement from HBO and Amazon:
EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel wants to stay in business with Rob Lowe. After starring as President John F. Kennedy in last year’s Killing Kennedy and narrating The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us last spring, NGC has signed Lowe to narrate the sequel. The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? will premiere over three nights in July on NGC in the U.S., followed globally in 171 countries and on Spanish-language network Nat Geo Mundo “I’m excited to be back working with the team at National Geographic Channel, who continue to show their commitment to creating great, entertaining and thought-provoking television programming,” said Lowe. “No one has really examined the ’90s like this before, and I think viewers will be fascinated by the dramatic changes we’ve seen in even the small amount of time that’s passed since Y2K.”
Cannes Film Festival Competition title Jimmy’s Hall is expected to be the last narrative feature from veteran helmer Ken Loach. This year will mark British director’s 12th time in Competition. He won the Palme d’Or in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and has taken the Jury Prize three times, for The Angel’s Share (2012), Raining Stones (1993) and Hidden Agenda (1990). This time around, Loach settles on a 1930s period film based on the true story of a man who built a dance hall on a rural crossroads in Ireland where young people could gather to learn, argue, dream, and above all, dance and have fun. But problems arise when the meeting place runs afoul of the church. Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Jim Norton and Sherlock‘s Andrew Scott star. Loach’s longtime collaborator Paul Laverty wrote the script. Entertainment One is releasing in the UK on May 30. There is currently no U.S. distributor; Wild Bunch has international sales.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Warner Bros Germany Courts ‘Madame Bovary’; ‘Jamaica Inn’ Off To Strong Start On BBC One; More
Warner Bros Germany Picks Up ‘Madame Bovary’
Warner Bros Germany has acquired all German-speaking rights to Sophie Barthes’ Madame Bovary from A Company Filmed Entertainment. Based on the classic Gustave Flaubert novel, the film stars Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans and Ezra Miller. Barthes co-wrote the screenplay with Rose Barrenche. Currently in postproduction, Madame Bovary tells the tragic story of Emma (Wasikowska), a young beauty who impulsively marries a small-town doctor in order to leave her father’s pig farm behind. But after being introduced to the glamorous world of high society, she soon becomes bored with her stodgy mate and seeks excitement and status outside the bonds of marriage. Joe Neurauter and Felipe Marino of Occupant Entertainment are producing in association with Aden Films’ Barthes and Aleph Motion Pictures’ Jaime Mateus-Tique. UK-based Prescience is financing with Tim Smith and Paul Brett as exec producers. Co-producers include A Company’s Alexander van Duelmen and Kai Kuenneman, Scope Pictures’ Genevieve Lemal and Left Field Ventures’ John Engel. Radiant Films International is handling foreign sales. A Company has distribution in select territories including Eastern Europe, Russia and Vietnam.
The NFL regular-season schedule comes out tomorrow, but we already know something big about the postseason. The league said today that ESPN will air a wild card game during the first weekend of the playoffs in early January. The milestone game will mark the first postseason NFL game on pay TV — and should draw astronomical ratings for the cable universe. Last season’s wild card weekend was a goldmine for NBC, CBS and especially Fox, whose 49ers-Packers contest was the most-watched wild card game on any network since the Reagan administration with 47.1 million viewers. Even that weekend’s lowest-rated game — in which the Colts erased a four-touchdown deficit to stun the Chiefs — drew 27.6 million. But that’s more than the largest cable TV audience ever: the 2011 Auburn-Oregon college football title game, which pulled in 27.3 million viewers for ESPN. The sports network, which carries Monday Night Football games, signed an eight-year contract extension with the NFL in 2011 to keep the lucrative franchise through the 2021 season. That pact — which also covers international TV rights to NFL games including the Super Bowl — included an option for the league to give a postseason game to ESPN. The network’s MNF team of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will call the Wild Card game, which also will be available via WatchESPN.
Safety issues are starting to take center stage across the entertainment industry in the wake of Sarah Jones‘ death on the set of Midnight Rider. Tonight in Burbank at a meeting of the Local 399, fliers were handed out for an IATSE-backed May 4 seminar entitled “Safety Rights of Workers & Your Rights Under OSHA Class,” which a description says will educate union attendees on set safety protocol, their rights as workers, and “what to do when you feel you are being placed in a hazardous situation.” The seminar will be open to all members of the entertainment industry, not just IATSE members, and will be jointly hosted by the Local 80, which reps first aid employees, motion picture grips, craft services, warehouse workers, and the Local 728, which represents represents studio electrical lighting technicians.
The estimated 50 attendees at tonight’s Local 399 meeting began the session with a moment of silence for fallen camera assistant Jones, who died in a train collision on February 20 in Georgia, and also for LAPD officer Chris Cortijo, a 26-year veteran of the force well known in the L.A. production community, who was killed by an alleged DUI driver April 5 in Sun Valley.
Handouts for the May 4 safety meeting were made available to attending members of Local 399, which represents camera car drivers, casting directors, crane operators, location managers, coordinators and scouts, production drivers, script coordinators, stunt and/or blind drivers, transportation coordinators, and others. It will be held from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM on Sunday, May 4 at the IATSE Local 80 in Burbank:
UPDATE, 8:14 PM: No joke — the strike is over. After a day-and-a-half labor action on the part of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700, the postproduction crew of Last Comic Standing now have a union contract, I’ve learned. With that over, everybody is heading back to work tomorrow on the soon-to-debut NBC reboot. The roughly 15 editors, assistant editors and other briefly striking post employees have won the health and retirement benefits plus vacation and holiday pay they sought when they walked out on Monday. A day of picketing today outside the Glendale postproduction facility of the NBC Studios show also saw significant wage increases for the assistant editors. Last Comic Standing is set to premiere on May 22.
PREVIOUS, APRIL 21, AM: Just more than a month before its reboot is set to debut, NBC‘s Last Comic Standing today has been knocked down by a labor action. About 15 editors and assistant editors walked off the job today in a no-joke strike organized by the Motion Picture Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700, I’ve learned. Hired by NBC Studios on a non-union basis, the editors are seeking a union contract that includes industry-standard health insurance and pension benefits.
Before Soviet hockey stars were allowed to show their skills in the NHL, many played at home for the Red Army — and were nearly unbeatable. Sony Pictures Classics has grabbed North American, Asian and Eastern European rights to Gabe Polsky’s new documentary Red Army, about one of the most dominant teams in sports history. (Watch the trailer below.) It focuses on the story of defenseman Slava Fetisov, who starred for the Red Army during the Cold War years before becoming one of the first group of players to leave the USSR to join the National Hockey League — where he starred en route to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The pic looks at his struggle to be allowed to play in North America and his transformation from national hero to political enemy in the late 1980s. “We can’t wait to present this film to audiences everywhere,” SPC Co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard said in announcing the acquisition. “This is Russian history as seen from the perspective of professional ice hockey.” Red Army was executive produced by Jerry Weintraub, Werner Herzog and Liam Satre-Meloy. It will play in the Special Screening section at Cannes next month. Here’s a look:
Sometime next year Stephen Colbert will be on the other end of a Late Show interview, but for now he’s just a guest. Before he takes over the show, the soon-to-be-former-Colbert Report host chatted with retiree-in-waiting David Letterman tonight at CBS’ Ed Sullivan Theatre. (Watch a clip here.) While we wait to hear what each has to say about all this, here are a few snapshots — including the obligatory selfie — from the visit. Check Deadline later tonight to read Lisa de Moraes’ recap of the meeting of the Late Show hosts.
Just days after a triumphant live staged reading of his The Hateful Eight script, Quentin Tarantino today took a hit in his copyright infringement lawsuit against Gawker over the site’s promotion and dissemination of the leaked material. “The Court GRANTS Defendant’s Motion on the grounds that Plaintiff has failed to adequately plead facts establishing direct infringement by a third party or facts that would demonstrate Defendant either caused, induced, or materially contributed to the alleged direct infringement of those third party infringers,” said Judge John Walter today in an order (read it here) on Gawker’s motion to dismiss. Essentially, by not being able to display a particular case of infringement facilitated by Gawker’s actions, the judge decided the director has nothing solid to move forward with.
“Plaintiff merely speculates that some direct infringement must have taken place,” says Walter. “For example, Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to allege the identity of a single third-party infringer, the date, the time, or the details of a single instance of third-party infringement, or, more importantly, how Defendant allegedly caused, induced, or materially contributed to the infringement by those third parties.”
Lots going on in this first trailer for NBC‘s new pirate drama. Crossbones stars a white-goateed John Malkovich as Blackbeard — Genius. Madman. Legend., we’re told — who reigns over a rogues gallery of outlaws and miscreant sailors in 1715. He comes up against Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle), an assassin masquerading as a physician who is sent to the Bahamian island of New Providence, the first functioning democracy in the Americas, and tasked with taking out the ruthless and much-feared Blackbeard. Swashbuckling, torture, explosions and pillaging ensue. The cast also includes Claire Foy, David Hoflin, Yasmine Al Massri and Tracy Ifeachor. Have a look, ye landlubbers:
EXCLUSIVE: Gemfilms and Hole in One Productions have tapped Need for Speed writer George Gatins to script faith-based tale Golfing for God, adapted from the book Golfing for God: A Novel of Heaven and Earth by Roland Merullo. Story tracks ex-golfing pro Hank Fins-Winston, who travels back to Earth from Heaven accompanying God, in the form of a 35-year-old woman, to help Her boost her golf game and is called upon to resolve his own unfinished business. Meg Montagnino-Jarrett, Peter Sobiloff, Andy Zolot and Kerry Orent are producing for Gemfilms/Hole in One Productions. Gatins is coming off the automotive racing pic Need for Speed starring Aaron Paul and exec produced 2010′s She’s Out Of My League. He’s repped by UTA and attorney Fred Toczek. Murello is repped by Lynne Pleshette. The deal was negotiated by Peter Nichols of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler & Feldman on behalf of the producers.