While Trend Exchange CEO Robert Swagger was holding a conference call crowing about CFTC approval, the MPAA issued this press release, inferring that Capitol Hill is getting involved. I hung up from to Swagger’s conference call feeling that he did little to dispel the skepticism that this is really providing any real benefit moviemaking, but instead that the Trend Exchange and Cantor Fitzgerald businesses will be built potentially at the expense of the industry. While Swagger implied that Trend Exchange will sell contracts four weeks before a movie opens, with wagering to stop right before a movie’s opening, I’ve seen language on the Cantor Exchange plan that will open the investing up to 12 months before the release of a film. Suddenly, intel from secret recruited screenings becomes coveted information that could be worth money. It’s hard enough to cover this game, but misinformation will be even more rife. Just today, I checked out a rumor that a movie was having problems and might move its release date, but couldn’t not corroborate. In the case of the current top film Clash of the Titans, Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures decided 12 weeks before release to do a quick 3D conversion. While some found the quality wanting, the higher ticket prices charged for 3D most certainly changed the film’s box office fortunes. Wouldn’t an institutional investor who found out that information have gained an unfair advantage in placing box office bets? It feels like there is still much to be concerned …
EXCLUSIVE: In a movie that promises a visual feast with swimmers on the menu, David R. Ellis has committed to direct Shark Night 3D, a film that will shoot this summer in Louisiana. Incentive Filmed Entertainment is financing a $28 million film its makers hope will be Jaws for the 3D generation (but hopefully not 1983′s Jaws 3D). The script was written by Jesse Studenberg and Will Hayes, and the film will be produced by Mike Fleiss, Chris Briggs and Lynette Howell. Fleiss and Briggs teamed on Hostel and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sierra Pictures’ Nick Meyer will handle foreign territories. WME Global, which packaged the film, will sell North American distribution. The film is expected to get action at next month’s Cannes Film Festival. Ellis has the perfect resume for what is designed to be a scary 3D ride. Aside from directing Snakes on a Plane, Ellis last directed The Final Destination, a film he shot with 3D cameras, same as he will do for Shark Night 3D. Ellis is experienced in water shoots: he was second unit director on such films as The Perfect Storm and Deep Blue Sea. The animatronic sharks will be created by Walt Conti, who was responsible for the sharks in Deep Blue Sea, the supersized snake in Anaconda and the whales in the Free Willy films.
EXCLUSIVE: A third installment of the extreme sports action film XXX is revving up again, with some real twists and turns. The project has left Columbia Pictures, with negotiations underway for Paramount to take over the franchise, finance production and distribute the film in late 2011 or early 2012. Rob Cohen has returned as director, and reunites with Vin Diesel, with whom he made the original. The new installment of XXX will be shot with 3D cameras.
The project is controlled by Joe Roth, who generated the first two installments through Revolution Studios. Roth licensed the third installment to Columbia Pictures, which financed the development of a script by Michael Ferris and John Brancato. Ultimately, the studio decided not to go forward. Roth took the package only to Paramount, whose vice chairman, Rob Moore, worked on the original at Revolution. Roth, who just produced Alice in Wonderland and is exec producer of the upcoming Tom Cruise-starrer Knight and Day, will produce with Neal Moritz. Diesel and Samantha Vincent will also be producers through his One Race Productions banner.
The plot: Xander Cage (Diesel) is left for dead, but returns to execute a very difficult assignment that only he can pull off. Samuel L. Jackson will reprise his role as Agent Augustus Gibbons, Xander’s handler. Most of the action takes place in Europe. Diesel will star in the film right after he completes another installment …
New Line has set a summer start date on the third installment of the Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle franchise, with the Warner Bros-based company about to hire a director, and seriously considering doing the film in 3D. The film is Christmas-themed, giving Warner Bros a nice R-rated holiday release for 2011 or 2012. The biggest significance is that the start date signals the return of Kal Penn, who put his career on hold to take the position of associate director of the White House Office Of Public Engagement. The politically conscious actor gave up a lot to take the job–his doctor character, Lawrence Kutner, was killed off from the Fox drama House–but it was done with the understanding that he’d commit to the position for one year. As to the idea of leaving a prestige D.C. post to reprise in a stoner comedy, well, a guy’s got to make a living, right? He’ll leave shortly.
EXCLUSIVE: Buck Rogers, the fighter pilot who wakes up in the 25th Century, is being relaunched as a 3D screen hero. Paul WS Anderson has locked a deal to direct a new version of the classic tale of a fighter pilot who quickly acclimates to the future and puts his skills to use defending the planet against invaders. The character launched in the 1920s and has been the subject of comic books, radio and movie serials, and two TV series, the latter of which ran on NBC and starred Gil Gerard.
Iron Man scribes Art Marcum and Matt Holloway will write the screenplay.
The Buck Rogers rights are controlled by Paradox, the company behind a new version of Conan the Barbarian that is currently shooting in Bulgaria with Marcus Nispel directing Jason Momoa in a Nu Image/Millennium Films production. Paradox will finance the Buck Rogers development, and Anderson’s longtime partner, Jeremy Bolt, is producing with Fredrik Malmberg,with Larry Abramson and George Furla. They will lock in financing when they lock a script, though buyers have been aware of the project since it started getting talked up during last year’s Cannes Film Festival. It is one of the few branded properties that hasn’t been gobbled up by a studio.
Anderson, who is working on another classic property with a new version of The Three Musketeers–Constantin is financing, Summit is North American distributor and international sales agent, and Anderson is casting for a fall shoot–has a knack for launching films that go back for repeat installments. …
Last week, I wrote about a Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment deal to acquire the original Addams Family drawings by Charles Addams so Tim Burton could direct a stop-motion 3D animated film. Numerous Deadline readers thought the story was false based on an MTV.com “exclusive” report. I stand by my story. The deal happened. Deadline hardly needs MTV.com to become a self-appointed truth squad. That site should stick to its strength –which appears to be aggregating, and all the breathless scoops that come from surface-scratching celebrity junket interviews. As for my own cynical readers, I figure you are the same ones who sent nyah-nyah missives when Neil Patrick Harris denied my report that he would be in the song and dance number that opened the Academy Awards. (He rehearsed with Martin Short, but the latter bowed out due to a personal emergency). You guys should learn to trust me.
UPDATE: MTV.com and I buried the hatchet.
The chance to charge higher ticket prices has every Hollywood studio rushing to retrofit their 2D spectacles into 3D. Some directors are pushing back, concerned there’s an imminent future of cheesy-looking 3D that will stunt the momentum created by Avatar.
“After Toy Story, there were 10 really bad CG movies because everybody thought the success of that film was CG and not great characters that were beautifully designed and heartwarming,” Avatar’s James Cameron told me recently. “Now, you’ve got people quickly converting movies from 2D to 3D, which is not what we did. They’re expecting the same result, when in fact they will probably work against the adoption of 3D because they’ll be putting out an inferior product.”
That certainly didn’t happen with Alice in Wonderland, which is grossed huge and gave Disney leverage to shorten the window between theatrical and DVD. The next big test for retro-fit 3D comes with the April 2 opening of Clash of the Titans. The film is tracking well, but also building a buzz that it is an imperfect movie that will greatly benefit at the box office because of its last minute 3D conversion.
Hard conversion conversations are being had now at studios on films that include Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Gulliver’s Travels and The Hobbit. Executives are weighing competitive issues and the potential benefits of …
All over town, directors and studios are testing footage as they decide whether or not to go 3D. That included Jackass 3. From what I’m told, the filmmakers violated every rule that James Cameron set with Avatar, in which he used 3D to immerse an audience into his film, rather than sending projectiles out at the audience. Insiders say some of the footage displayed how Steve-O, Johnny Knoxville and cohorts doing their usual pratfalls, but the stunt that really won the day was called “The Heli-cockter.” One of the Jackass crew—I believe it was “Party Boy” Chris Pontius—tethered a remote control-operated helicopter to his penis, and sat there grinning as the copter swung in circles, flying out at the spectacle-wearing Paramount executives who green lit the film.
EXCLUSIVE: Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton has found a new 3D project. He will direct a stop-motion animated film based on Charles Addams’ original ghoulish cartoon drawings of The Addams Family. Illumination Entertainment, the Universal-based family film unit headed by Chris Meledandri, has acquired the underlying rights of the Addams drawings, once a staple of The New Yorker magazine.
Burton’s intention is to go back to the litany of Addams illustrations that displayed a sharper wit than seen on the big or little screen before. Other than being inspired by the same source material, the animated feature is unrelated to previous incarnations of Addams’ work: the 1960s TV series, the two 1990s feature film comedies that Barry Sonnenfeld directed with Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston, or the Broadway musical opening this spring with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth in the starring roles.
Meladandri will produce the film. Kevin Miserocchi of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation will be executive producer. A writer will be hired shortly. Burton, whose visual creations are currently on display at a MOMA exhibit that opened last November, is expected to provide much of the visual look of the film himself.
Burton’s experience in animated film is extensive. He last directed Corpse Bride, and is making a feature version of Frankenweenie, the 1984 30-minute short film Burton made about a boy who reanimates his dead dog. That reportedly got him …
From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler: Copenhagen cinemagoers are paying up to 20 euros ($28) a ticket to see Avatar, compared with an average Danish ticket price of 10 euros. Slovakian cinemagoers are paying 8 euros per ticket to see the James Cameron technopic, compared with an average of 4 euros. And the average Avatar ticket price in Europe is 7 euros. One unintended consequence of the amount of money Avatar is making is that it’s speeding up digital cinema conversion across Europe. According to consultancy Dodona, Europe currently has 1,688 digital screens. The push is on to convert – and quickly. Before Avatar, French chain UGC had been holding out until the cost of digital projectors came down. Now it has no choice but go digital. Claus Hjorth, a senior adviser to the Danish Film Institute, told me, “The 3D wave has got more energy now. Avatar has proven that 3D works right across Europe.”
This month a big confab took place in Barcelona about how to pay for European digitization. The French competition authority has just blocked the government’s scheme to pay for digital conversion. In the UK, Taxpayers Fund 3D For UK Cinema Chains. But the CNC, the French cinema agency, had wanted to establish a fund to pay for all cinemas. Now it appears as if the French will subsidize only the smaller chains. That’s what’s happening in Denmark, too. The Polish government has just paid to upgrade a dozen …
EXCLUSIVE: Robert Downey Jr is negotiating a deal to star in Gravity, the 3D space film directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures will co-finance. Cuaron wrote the script with his son, Jonas. Downey will play the leader of a team posted at a remote space station. While he and a female colleague are traveling outside the space station, the other team members are decimated by debris from an exploded satellite.
Downey was drawn to the chance to work with Cuaron, the director of Children of Men and Y tu mama tambien. Downey will shoot the film in London this summer, finishing in time to re-team with director Guy Ritchie and Jude Law in the Sherlock Holmes sequel that will shoot early fall, also in London.
The script for Gravity had been developed originally at Universal with the intention of having Angelina Jolie play the female role. Much of the film is devoted to her struggle to get back to Earth and her daughter. Jolie passed on the project around the time Universal cut it loose.
EXCLUSIVE From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler: Cinema chains including Cineworld, Odeon and Vue have all upgraded digital equipment provided free of charge by the UK government to 3D. Whereas other exhibitors have had to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds installing 3D digital projectors and screens, the big chains have received a massive leg-up on 3D courtesy of the public purse. It costs between £70,000 and £100,000 to convert each screen to digital. No wonder rivals to the Big Three think this is unfair competition.
The UK Film Council has invested £12 million ($18 million) in equipping 240 screens in 213 cinemas across the UK, or what’s called its Digital Screen Network. The DSN covers approximately 8% of screens in 1/3 of UK cinemas. Of those, half are controlled by Cineworld, Odeon, and Vue. Cineworld was apparently the first chain to begin upgrading its 73 DSN screens. Then Odeon and Vue followed. Cineworld has just posted a £40 million profit for 2009, boasting how it’s led the way in 3D.
The idea behind the DSN was to enable multiplexes to show a certain percentage of officially approved films across all screens. Otherwise, the UKFC could take their equipment away. But the rush to screen 3D Hollywood blockbusters like Alice In Wonderland and Avatar have elbowed these official movies out of the way. So there’s a question whether the multiplexes will hit the quota targets for officially approved films they agreed to. A review of the DSN is …
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2010
WORLDWIDE BOX OFFICE CONTINUES TO SOAR;
U.S. ADMISSIONS ON THE RISE
3D gives a boost to box office growth
Los Angeles – The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) today released its annual Theatrical Market Statistics Report for 2009. The report shows that global box office receipts reached an all time high of $29.9 billion, an increase of 7.6% over 2008 and almost 30% from 2005. The U.S./Canada market reached $10.6 billion, an increase of more than 10%, and International receipts increased 6.3% to $19.3 billion in 2009. The 3D market gave the U.S./Canada box office a
boost accounting for 11% of the total compared to just 2% in 2008. With 20 films released in 3D compared to just eight in 2008, higher value entertainment contributed significantly to box office revenues.
“While the motion picture industry continues to face tremendous challenges elsewhere in our business, we’re reminded again this year that the cinema is the heart and soul of our industry and it is thriving,” said Bob Pisano, President and Interim CEO of the MPAA.
Ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada rose more than 5.5% from 2008, the first admissions increase in two years. Per capita ticket purchases in the U.S. and Canada also increased 4.6% to 4.3 tickets per person, the first significant increase since 2002. Sales were fueled by repeated visits to the cinema by frequent
Sony Corp has officially announced its entry in the 3D television game, launching its first line of Bravia flatscreen TVs for sale in Japan beginning in June. Other announcements will follow as Sony joins electronics giants like Panasonic and Samsung in chasing a 3D marketplace that Sony expects will immediately become responsible for 10% of its sales in the next year.
The big question I have Is Sony indebted to James Cameron, beyond what his film Avatar has done to stoke 3D demand?
To hear Cameron tell it, Sony’s TV plan is exactly the same one he pitched Sony chief, Sir Howard Stringer, as a business proposition. Though Cameron makes his films at 20th Century Fox, he had a strong association with Sony, the maker of 3D cameras that were used for Avatar.
Listen to Cameron’s response to a recent Business Week cover story, when Charlie Rose mentioned Stringer ‘s plan to make 3D units the entire thrust of Sony’s presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show that took place in early January.
Said Cameron: “There’s an interesting history there because, about 6 or 7 months ago, I had a closed-door secret presentation to Howard Stringer of a new business venture, and I mapped out what I believed was going to be the future of 3D and how many television sets were going to be entering the home and how there would initially be a dearth of …
EXCLUSIVE: The world’s oldest story is on a collision course with cutting-edge Hollywood technology. I’m told that Paramount Pictures and former Walden Media co-founder Cary Granat producing with Reel Fx are mounting In The Beginning, a 3D telling of the creation story. The film is using The Book of Genesis as its primary resource. A script has been written by John Fusco (Hidalgo), and directing will be TV vet David Cunningham. This pair had teamed with Granat on a Walden film that never happened, Rebels: The Green Mountain Boys. Reel Fx is spearheading the visuals and will soon turn over test footage the filmmakers hope will prompt a green light. Paramount will co-finance and distribute.
I’m told the $30 million film will use 3-D visuals to transform the oft-told tale into a spectacle that the filmmakers hope will attract family- and faith-based audiences that flocked to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, that first Chronicles of Narnia installment made on Granat’s Walden watch. I hear Granat pitched the film by claiming that the Adam And Eve story has never really been told by a feature film. (At least not since John Huston.) The Genesis tale of creation took a week that began with God creating light, culminating with Adam and Eve on Day Six, and a day of rest on Day Seven. But I can guarantee you this film is going to take more than a week to make. Where’s Cecil B DeMille when …
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Summit Entertainment has acquired domestic distribution rights for The Three Musketeers, a 3-D period adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel that will be directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Constantin Films and Impact Pictures are producing a film that will be shot in “real 3-D.” The action will be shot in Babelsberg Studios in Germany, and on location in France. The late summer start gives Anderson a decided advantage over a rival film based on Dumas’ swordsmen that has taken root at Warner Bros. That film was conjured up by producer Lionel Wigram with a stylized take similar to the one that breathed life into Sherlock Holmes. Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stared at Goats) is writing the script.
What the Anderson-directed 3-D Musketeers won’t have is Taylor Lautner, who is in business with Summit on two more Twilight sequels and the action film Cancun. He had been offered the role, but passed last week.
From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler:The UK’s biggest movie theatre chain Odeon has now ended its standoff with the Walt Disney Co. It joined exhibitors Vue and Cineworld to show Alice In Wonderland as scheduled. What a win for Bob Iger and what a sea-change for filmgoers. It’ll end up like Korea where a movie plays for a few weeks in cinemas and then, snap your fingers, and all formats are available at a variety of prices. Disney decided to stare down exhibitors both here in the UK and in the U.S. by imposing a 12-week theatrical window instead of the standard lag between a film appearing in cinemas and then going to DVD of 17 weeks. It all kicked off when Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors during an earnings call earlier this month: “It‘s really important for us to maintain a very healthy business on the exhibition side, and 3D is definitely contributing to that, and a very healthy business on the home video side, which we think is actually in the best interest of the theater owners. And so, mindful of what‘s going on on the home video side, we feel that it’s time, on a case-by-case basis, movie-by-movie, to really take a look at how we’re windowing the home video product into the marketplace.” Disney distribution president Bob Chapek echoed his boss on the need for exceptions like Tim Burton’s 3D Alice In Wonderland to accomodate a shortened …