ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee has finalized a new multi-year deal to remain at the helm of the broadcast network and its sibling ABC Studios. With ABC News president Ben Sherwood recently tapped to succeed Anne Sweeney as co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks and President of Disney/ABC Television Group, ABC is heading into next month’s upfronts with a top executive team in place for the next several years.
Related: Incoming Disney/ABC TV Group President Ben Sherwood On Getting The Big Job, His Learning Curve & ABC Topper Paul Lee
Lee has faced a number of challenges during his first term, with several high-profile new series not able to take hold. His successes include Shonda Rhimes’ hot D.C. drama Scandal, fairytale drama Once Upon A Time and promising midseason entry Resurrection. Despite some inroads, ABC is expected to finish No. 4 among adults 18-49 again this season. I hear Lee’s decision to re-sign stems at least in part from his desire to see through his plan for the network’s turnaround. There are encouraging early signs about ABC’s current development, which has been getting thumbs-up within Disney. Lee is well liked by top Disney brass as well as within the Hollywood community and had been … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Thousands of emails sent to Writers Guild members from former WGA President Patric Verrone soliciting donations for his run for a seat in the California state senate are raising questions about how he got those email addresses and about the ethics of using his years of service to the guild to acquire them. Verrone, who led the guild in a contentious 14-week strike six years ago, is in a tight primary race to represent California’s 26th senatorial district. Numerous guild members report that they have received emails from Verrone soliciting donations and giving updates on his campaign. The WGA says it didn’t supply Verrone with a mailing list.
Related: Patric Verrone Eyeing California State Senate Seat With ‘I Won The Strike’ Boast
“We have had some members ask about this and we have made it clear that we have not provided him with a mailing list,” said WGA spokesman Neal Sacharow. “Outside of official guild business, we allow use of our list in two instances. As required by federal law, guild members may use the list in connection with internal union election campaigns. We also make the list available during awards season to studios, networks and certain publications for the purpose of mailing screeners or other awards-related communications. In both of those situations, we do not provide the list itself but rather, arrange for the mailing through a guild-approved mail house.”
Verrone told Deadline that he sent his campaign emails to “a couple of thousand” WGA members. Asked if a “couple of thousand” is two or three thousand, he said, “between two and three thousand.” He also acknowledged that he came by those email addresses in the course of his service to the guild. “I was president and secretary-treasurer and a board member for all those years,” he said. “I communicated with hundreds of members and they communicated with me. I have their email addresses. I didn’t get anything from the Writers Guild.” Read More »
EOne has dropped the first trailer for David Cronenberg’s thriller Maps To The Stars. Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson and Sarah Gadan star in the ghost story that’s described as a scathing attack on celebrity-obsessed LA. Bruce Wagner penned the script. Check it out:
Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society, and Peter Rice, Chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, today completed the sweeping changes at the top of the National Geographic Channels that started yesterday with the announcement that the channels’ president Howard Owens will be leaving in June. “Today, the worst kept secret is over — I am taking my leave as CEO of National Geographic Channels,” David Lyle, who had served as National Geographic Channels CEO since 2011, wrote in an internal memo (read it in full below the post.). “I am exhilarated but somewhat saddened also.” Lyle will be replaced by a marketing executive, Courteney Monroe, who has served as Chief Marketing Officer for National Geographic Channels’ domestic networks since 2012 and is now being upped to CEO. She will report to the Board of Directors of the National Geographic Channels. Additionally, David Hill, Senior EVP of 21st Century Fox and a member of the National Geographic Channels Board of Directors, will now add the title of Chairman of National Geographic Channels U.S. His role is described as “providing counsel to the executive and programming leadership team.” Coming from marketing, Monroe has no production experience. Hill, who had an oversight of NGC prior to Lyle’s 2011 hire, will remain a member of the NGC Board and also continue to oversee production of American Idol.
The moves continue to expand the domain of Hill, who is one of Rupert Murdoch’s trusted lieutenants. In 2012, the long-time chairman and CEO of Fox Sports was elevated to senior EVP for News Corp. Then last summer, following the departure of Fox alternative chief Mike Darnell, he was put in charge of the network’s The X Factor and American Idol. Since then, X Factor has been cancelled while American Idol is finishing up its lowest-rated season. Meanwhile, the National Geographic Channels have done very well under Lyle and Owens. “I’m exhilarated that NGC and NG WILD are in rude health with EBITDAs (profits) at all-time highs, and with programming featuring the most watched specials, series and year in the channels’ history,” Lyle wrote in his memo. That makes the executive housecleaning puzzling. It follows speculation about a discord between Hill and NGC’s leadership team of Lyle and Owens who turned the network around in the past three years. When Hill gave up direct oversight of NGC in 2011, the move was explained with a clash of cultures between him and the team at National Geographic.
Read More »
ABC Studios and ABC have inked a third consecutive deal with director-producer Michael Fresco for him to direct and executive produce a pilot next year. Fresco just completed ABC/ABC Studios’ Jeff Lowell pilot and previously has helmed the pilots for Fox’s Raising Hope and ABC’s Better Off Ted and Suburgatory. He is repped by Paul Alan Smith at ESA.
Live With Kelly And Michael co-host Michael Strahan stopped by Good Morning America this morning to talk about his gig with the show, making sure to say “couple days a week” several times to calm Live! fans’ fears. Expect to see Strahan mostly in GMA’s first hour, so he can continue to co-host Live!, at 9 AM in many markets. In addition to the NFL Hall of Famer, GMA recently added ESPN’s Tony Reali to its Social Square; both hires were made in the wake of the departure of GMA’s Josh Elliott, who moved to NBC Sports. Watch here:
ABC US News | ABC Business News
Production and management shingle 42 was founded last year by Welcome To The Punch producers Rory Aitken and Ben Pugh, and agents Josh Varney and Kate Buckley. The UK-based company reps talent and develops film projects, now with a deeper move into television. An exclusive, multi-year development and distribution partnership with ITV Studios Global Entertainment will focus on scripted drama, an increasingly lucrative area for UK producers. When they created 42, Varney and Buckley exited UK agency Independent Talent Group, but continued to share certain clients. 42′s client roster now includes Michael Caine, Rhys Ifans, Rupert Friend, Nicholas Hoult, Emily Mortimer, Tom Hollander, Jonny Lee Miller, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Monahan, Lynne Ramsay, Peter Cattaneo, Eran Creevy, Terry George, and Daniel Wolfe. The company is currently in post-production on feature Monsters: The Dark Continent, the sequel to Gareth Edwards’ Monsters. Pre-production has started on both Creevy’s Autobahn, starring Hoult, and The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, starring Martin Sheen and directed by Andre Ovredal (Trollhunter).
With just about 48 hours to go until Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux unveils the lineup for this year’s event, the fest has revealed its 2014 official poster. Hervé Chigioni and graphic designer Gilles Frappier based the design on a photogram of Marcello Mastroianni taken from Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, which was an Official Selection title in 1963. In Mastroianni and Fellini, the festival says, “We celebrate a cinema that is free and open to the world, acknowledging once again the artistic importance of Italian and European cinema through one of its most stellar figures.” The poster is a source of pride for the festival, and has increasingly featured iconic images to help set the scene. In recent years, images of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Faye Dunaway and Monica Vitti have graced the affiche officielle. The way Mastroianni “looks at us above his black glasses draws us right in to a promise of global cinematographic happiness… The happiness of experiencing the Festival de Cannes together,” Chigioni said today. Extra, extra happiness if attendees actually need sunglasses this year. The fest runs from May 14-25.
Simon Dickson Exiting As Managing Director Of Shine Group’s Dragonfly
Simon Dickson, Managing Director of Shine Group factual producer Dragonfly, is leaving the company after three years. The exec will step down next month, with Dragonfly Creative Director Mark Raphael and COO Lucinda Hicks taking over as Co-Managing Directors. Dickson joined Dragonfly in April 2011 as the company’s Creative Director before becoming Managing Director in November 2012. Prior to joining Dragonfly, he served as Deputy Head of Documentaries at Channel 4. At Dragonfly, Dickson was executive producer on event documentary The Plane Crash (Discovery and Channel 4) and celebrities-in-the-wilderness series Bear Grylls’ Wild Weekends (Channel 4). Under his stewardship the company has delivered such documentaries as The Horsemeat Banquet (BBC Three), Terror At Sea: The Sinking Of The Concordia (Channel 4) and Hurricane Sandy: Anatomy Of A Superstorm (BBC Two) alongside series People Like Us and What Happens In Kavos for BBC Three and Channel 4, respectively. Read More »
So tonight there are big scoops about how David Fincher walked away from the movie Sony and Scott Rudin are developing about Apple visionary Steve Jobs, based on the Walter Isaacson book. What an unusual outcome to a story that was almost completely the result of overeager journalists. I remember when the Fincher rumor first circulated on tracking boards, and while every trade called to check, only one broke the news, claiming a deal for the director was nearly done. Then another publication splashed a story that Christian Bale was Fincher’s top choice for the role, another nugget that came from these tracking board sheets that are becoming too much a staple of what ends up being published and accepted as fact. All along, people close to the project cautioned that while they’d gone to Fincher and he liked the script, the director had not committed. Fincher is famous for falling in and out of love with projects. Insiders in the Bale camp were steadfast that while they’d heard the rumors their guy was coveted, the actor never had a single conversation with anyone. I am not sure that ever changed. So the media christened a director who didn’t have the job, and then the media cast the actor. Not surprisingly, the media has made a big deal out of Fincher dropping out of a project he never signed on to direct (the exit rumor went out on … Read More »
Highlights: Rio 2 (FOX) has $63.4M weekend, lands $12.6M in China debut; Captain America: The Winter Soldier (DIS) crosses $300M international; Noah (PAR) adds $36.2M; Divergent (LGF/SUM/var) nears $50M; Spanish Affairs (UNI) has 5th No. 1 weekend in Spain…
4th UPDATE, 7:15 PM, PST: The final Divergent numbers are in, with the film nearing $50M but not yet crossing it; it stands at $48.1M. The film is based on the YA novel of the same name (part of a trilogy) and Lionsgate is hoping it will become another big franchise. This is the same company that launched the wildly successful Hunger Games series. Divergent is at $124.7M in the U.S. after the 3-day weekend for a worldwide gross of $172.8M+.
3rd UPDATE, Monday, 1:52 PM, PST: New grosses are in for Rio 2, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 300: Rise Of An Empire, The Lego Movie, Spanish Affairs and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Rio 2 did better than previously expected internationally over the weekend, with a total tally of $63.4M to date; the worldwide cume on the animated family picture is over $100M.
2ND UPDATE, MONDAY 12:45 AM PT: Last weekend, Captain America: … Read More »
Paramount’s 2015 live-action animation hybrid pic Monster Trucks has cast Emmy-winner Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, True Grit) in a role that the studio’s keeping under wraps. Pepper, who next appears in Focus Features’ Kill The Messenger with Jeremy Renner and the romantic drama The Devil’s Harvest, had a busy last year with Broken City, Snitch, and The Lone Ranger. He joins Thomas Lennon, Danny Glover, Jane Levy, Amy Ryan, Lucas Till, and Holt McCallany in the Chris Wedge-helmed Monster Trucks, which hits the road May 29, 2015. Pepper is repped by The Kohner Agency and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.
QED International has laid off five employees (which includes support staff and a junior lawyer) three weeks after the disastrous opening of Sabotage, directed by David Ayer and led by aging action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bloody pic flopped and is hanging on by its fingernails in the Box office Top 20 — it’s No. 18 in its third weekend — having grossed a mere $10M. John Hegeman, president of worldwide marketing, is still on board as he helps prepare the debut of the next Ayer-directed film, Fury, which has some star power in Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and audience favorite Michael Pena. QED slapped down $1M to buy the WWII spec from Ayer over a year ago; it will bow in November. One insider said that QED is reallocating resources for development spending. To that point, today QED purchased Yellowstone Falls, a 52-page spec script by Dan Kunka, winning what was said to be a heated bidding war. The film, which will be produced by Kevin Misher and QED President Bill Block, is about a mother wolf who must battle to save her cubs after being separated from her mate following an apocalyptic event. The film will have nearly no dialogue and few actors. Sounds a little like Disneynature’s Bears — with mutated humans thrown in. Read More »
There have been whispers that Tommy Lee Jones‘ The Homesman is heading to Cannes. That’s not a bad projection to make, considering that his previous directorial oater The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada — which, like Homesmen was produced by Luc Besson‘s EuropaCorp — debuted on the Croisette in 2005. Adapted from Glendon Swarthout’s novel, The Homesman follows pioneer woman Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank), who with the help of a claim jumper (Jones), escorts three insane women across Nebraska territory. I had the privilege in February of attending a scoring session for the film by Oscar-nominated composer Marco Beltrami with Jones in attendance. It’s the third time Jones has tapped Beltrami for his films, and with good reason: He savors the composer’s talent for designing and using eclectic instruments in his scores. In musically personifying the film’s crazed women against a windy landscape, Beltrami built what is akin to an Aeolian wind harp at his mountaintop Malibu studio. Beltrami’s homemade instrument consists of several feet of piano wire, connected between an old saloon piano atop a metal freighter, and a water tank atop a hill. As Beltrami plunked at the piano, his fellow musician took a huge bow to the piano wire. The result: a haunting, tinny, bellowing theme that rivals Ennio Morricone’s whistle tune from 1966′s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Beltrami’s music isn’t featured in the first trailer, however, it’s going to be a toss-up in terms of what is more sublime: His score or … Read More »
The studio tweeted today that it is bringing three of its high-priority summer pics to the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend. Saturday’s Warner Bros panel will cover the rebooted creature feature Godzilla, Tom Cruise’s futuristic war pic Edge Of Tomorrow – whose teaser trailer aired during last night’s MTV Movie Awards — and tornado actioner Into The Storm. The annual sci-fi, movie and comic book confab runs Friday to Sunday.
“I did not kill my wife!” Ben Affleck‘s hubby protagonist Nick Dunne emphatically declares in the first trailer from the high-profile big-screen adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s worldwide bestseller Gone Girl. And though that catchphrase might be an echo from 1993′s The Fugitive, Dunne is a guy — unlike Harrison Ford’s Dr. Richard Kimble — who has the deck stacked against him when it comes to his murdered better half (Rosamund Pike). Or so it seems. One of Flynn’s inspirations for the novel stemmed from the psychology and dynamics of couples’ long-term relationships. CinemaCon attendees got an early look at the trailer last month. Fox will release the David Fincher film on the first Friday in October — in the same spot the director’s 2010 awards-season darling, The Social Network, launched. Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Missi Pyle and Patrick Fugit round out the cast. Take a look and see if you can get Richard Butler’s eerie cover of the Charles Aznavour’s song “She” out of your head:
EchoLight Studios, the faith- and family-based production entity headed by self-professed Christian politician and former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, said it will distribute four films a year starting in September 2014 then one a quarter after that. But here’s the twist: The films will be playing in churches throughout the country instead of theaters. One of those films is Hoovey, starring Patrick Warburton (Rules Of Engagement) and Lauren Holly — a true story about a Midwestern basketball family who, with God’s help, stayed in the game and won. The film is an unlikely candidate for the nation’s theaters to begin with, but there is a larger goal for Santorum, who is the CEO and not in politics any longer — to bring in flocks to the churches. “We want to be a part of empowering the church to elevate its role as a cultural change agent,” EchoLight President Studios Jeff Sheets said in a statement. “Our vision is not to create sermons wrapped in a movie but to create content that inspires, fascinates and incorporates a strong Christian worldview.”
Related: Biblical And Faith-based Films In Hollywood To Stay?
Uh, that’s taking the faith-based craze to a different level — using churches as theaters. The Franklin, TN-based company is developing content with “strong ministry value as tools for the Church to use in their in-reach and outreach ministries.” They also said that a portion of the revenues generated from these films will “fuel the missional needs of the hosting local church.” So instead of the money going into Hollywood coffers, it’s going back to Santorum’s churches. And therein lies the business model. Read More »