To quote the Thing from the Fantastic Four – “It’s clobberin time!” Just two days after Jack Kirby was honored at Comic-Con, lawyers for the heirs of the comic legend have replied to Marvel and Disney with a pummeling brief filed at the Supreme Court. “Respondents, although called to respond, do not address the legal issues. Instead, they focus on the wrong questions and the wrong court,” say lawyer Marc Toberoff and Tom Goldstein, a new attorney on the case, today. After failing repeatedly in lower courts, Lisa Kirby, Neal Kirby, Susan Kirby and Barbara Kirby petitioned the High Court on March 21 for a hearing. The heirs want SCOTUS to rule in favor of their assertion that they had the right in 2009 to issue dozens of termination notices to Marvel and others on the artist’s characters under the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act.
The 16-year Disney veteran and had been president of Walt Disney Japan and now will be charged with running Disney’s Asia strategy and coordinating its businesses in the region. Paul Candland will report to Andy Bird, chairman of Walt Disney International. The Walt Disney Company also said tonight that Stanley Cheung has been promoted to chairman of TWDC Greater China. He was managing director. Here’s the release:
Burbank, Calif., July 28, 2014 – Underscoring the growing importance of Asia to The Walt Disney Company’s global growth strategy, Paul Candland has been named to the newly created position of president, The Walt Disney Company, Asia, with oversight of Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and Greater China. Mr. Candland, a 16-year Disney veteran and president of Walt Disney Japan, will be responsible for driving the company’s strategy and coordinating all of its business efforts in Asia. He will report directly to Andy Bird, chairman Walt Disney International. Rob Gilby, managing director, TWDC South East Asia, will report to Mr. Candland.
Christopher Walken will voice King Louie, the ruler of a troop of monkeys and apes, and Giancarlo Esposito will play Akela, leader of the wolf pack, in Disney‘s Jungle Book. It’s the latest edition to the live-action/animation hybrid pic, which Jon Favreau is directing from a script by Justin Marks. The duo join Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa and newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli – the only actor to physically appear on screen. The 3D pic has an October 9, 2015 release date.
The stage adaptation of Oscar winner Shakespeare In Love has opened at London’s Noel Coward Theatre to raves from many of the UK critics but a big ho-hum from the New York Times‘s Ben Brantley, which could throw a wet blanket over plans for a Broadway transfer by co-producers Disney and Sonia Friedman.
“I’ve often attacked our modern mania for turning movies into plays. But, in the case of Shakespeare In Love, the transformation is fully justified,” wrote Michael Billington in The Guardian. “Even more than the original screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, Lee Hall’s new version is a love letter to theatre itself, and one that celebrates the way magic and mystery are born out of chaos and confusion.”
“Screen to stage transfers are so frequent and mostly catchpenny and cynical that the prospect of yet another tends to fill a critic’s heart with dread,” wrote Paul Taylor in The Independent. “But here there’s the elating sense that the material – with its rivalry between two public playhouses echoing the feud between the Montagues and Capulets – is revelling in its natural element in the theatre. And the smartest move made by the producers was to hire director Declan Donnellan and designer Nick Ormerod, the world-renowned Cheek By Jowl team whose profound understanding of Shakespearean drama (its dazzling fluidity; its blithe refusal to respect the “rules” of genre; its mood-mingling suppleness) enriches a production that is filled …
UPDATED, 3:15PM: As folks head south for Comic-Con, Disney and Marvel have announced yet another mystery movie, this one set to kick off the 2018 summer season. Marvel Untitled — that “title” sound familiar? — will invade a megaplex near you on May 4, 2018. This makes a half-dozen of their TBA superhero flicks set to open 2017 and 2019.
PREVIOUSLY, July 18: Just in time for Comic-Con, Disney has press-dumped a quintet of release dates for untitled Marvel films that fanboys and girls can spend the weekend agonizing over before the Con. They’ll open two films in 2017, on July 28, 2017 and November 3, 2017, followed by two more in 2018 on July 6, 2018 and November 2, 2018. The summer/fall double hitter strategy stops (as far as we know) in 2019, when Marvel will release one new to-be-identified pic on May 3, 2019.
We’ll know next week if Disney/Marvel reveal any of this extended lineup in San Diego, though the studio might as well use it as more ammo to drive fans to its own D23 fan confab.
Disney has slotted Pirates Of The Caribbean 5 for July 7, 2017. Right now the pic has the date to itself but will have some competition from Fantastic Four 2, which bows on July 14 that year, and Despicable Me 3, which opens June 30. Disney initially was eyeing summer 2016 to release the latest installment of the franchise, being directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, but the decision was made that it wasn’t worth rushing until the script was right. Jeff Nathanson is the scribe. The first four Pirates films grossed $3.7 billion, and the last one, On Stranger Tides, crossed the $1 billion mark.
Disney’s inexhaustible Lion King continued to roar last week, ringing up $2.43 million in ticket sales at the 1,700-seat Minskoff Theatre as Broadway jumped $2.23 million over the week before. Total receipts were $27,867, 272 for 29 shows for the week ending Sunday, as the Street bid farewell to Holler If Ya Hear Me and The Cripple Of Inishmaan. Both of those shows benefited from theatergoers knowing it was their final chance before bye-bye, translating into increases of $112,037 for Holler and $144,081 for Daniel Radcliffe’s Cripple, per figures released by the Broadway League trade group.
As reported earlier, several shows broke house records: At the Longacre, James Franco and Chris O’Dowd whipped Of Mice And Men up to $929,343, an increase of $66,481 over the week before. Hedwig And The Angry Inch broke the Belasco house record for the fifth time, ringing up $1,088,660 in sales, a slight increase over the week before. And Beautiful: The Carole King Musical jumped $46,627 to $1,300,153 at the Sondheim.
Only one show posted a decline: If/Then, the Idina Menzel starrer, was off $27,115, to $773,533, about 60% of its gross potential at the Richard Rodgers and not a great sign for the rest of the summer. Longterm survivor Phantom Of The Opera was up an impressive $137,410 to $1,114,417 at the Majestic; Kinky Boots kicked up …
As part of a UNICEF fundraiser being run on Omaze.com, director J.J. Abrams unveils the X-Wing Starfighter that will be used in next year’s Star Wars VII. The fundraiser is part of an effort Disney has dubbed Force for Change, designed to raise money to “find solutions to the world’s biggest problems.” Last week, the campaign posted an amusing video featuring Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (in drag as Princess Leia). Now they’ve gone full monte on the X-Wing to really wrap up the fundraiser in style. Here’s the trailer:
Campaign link to enter for a chance to win: Omaze.com/StarWars
The Oscar-winning film has been adapted for the stage by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) from the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. A co-production of Disney and Sonia Friedman Productions, the show is currently previewing at London’s Noel Coward Theatre and opening on July 23. The cast of 28 and a dog is directed by Declan Donnellan and the romantic comedy has been designed by Nick Ormerod. Look for a Broadway transfer in the not-too-distant future.
Walt Disney Animation Studios has assembled its voice cast for the studio’s fall feature Big Hero 6, about a young robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada and his robot companion Baymax, who pull together a team of crime fighters to save the city of San Fransokyo. Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, Damon Wayans Jr., T.J. Miller, Alan Tudyk, Jamie Chung, Genesis Rodriguez and Daniel Henney will voice the cast, with Oregon born, Tokyo raised actor Ryan Potter (Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas) starring as as Hiro Hamada and Scott Adsit voicing Baymax.
Big Hero 6 is the first Disney pic to feature Marvel universe characters and is adapted by Don Hall and Jordan Roberts from the Marvel comic mini-series of the same name, whose team and characters were created by Man of Action’s Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle. They’ve tweaked a few details: The original Big Hero 6 story took place in Japan and featured a post-nuclear villain created from the souls of atomic bombing victims; Disney’s version is being promoted heavily on the cute factor of robot sidekick Baymax.
EXCLUSIVE: No big surprise that today Marvel and Disney asked the Supreme Court to deny a petition from the heirs of Captain America, The Avengers and X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby. “This case presents a factbound application of a test uniformly adopted by the lower courts under a statute that does not apply to works created after 1978,” said a response filed today (read it here). “It implicates no circuit split, no judicial taking, no due process violation, and no grave matter of separation of powers. It does not remotely merit this Court’s review,” added the media giant’s main attorney in the matter, R. Bruce Rich. In case, Marvel’s rejection of the heirs desires were not clear enough, the Disney-owned company really hits it hard elsewhere in today’s response. “In likely recognition of the fact that the statutory question does not satisfy the requirements for this Court’s review, petitioners turn to a series of bizarre constitutional arguments raised for the first time in this Court,” says Marvel. “Those arguments only underscore that none of the questions presented merits this Court’s plenary consideration.”
In a move that could have huge copyright implications for the entertainment industry if it went before the nine justices and they found in the heirs’ favor, Lisa Kirby, Neal Kirby, Susan Kirby and Barbara Kirby petitioned the SCOTUS this spring to hear their much-denied case. The heirs contended they had the right in 2009 to issue 45 termination notices to Marvel and others including Fox, …
Looks like Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has no patience with waiting in line for a lawsuit claiming it violated the American With Disabilities Act to make its way through the courts. The division of the media giant bluntly hit back against complaint filed in early April by the families of children with developmental disorders over treatment at its parks. “Disney prays for the following relief,” said the 93-page response filed yesterday in federal court (read it here), “that the Plaintiffs take nothing by their Complaint … Plaintiff’s compliant be dismissed with prejudice in its entirety.”
In fact, in their repetitive point-by-point retort, Disney lawyers Rhonda Trotter and Daniel Paluch of LA firm Kaye Scholer LLP basically give short shrift to nearly all the allegations of violations of the ADA and Unruh Civil Rights Act from the large group of plaintiffs. The families say the violations occurred because of the introduction in October of a new and cumbersome to say the least Disability Access Service at the company’s theme parks and resorts including Disneyland. Long story short, the DAS left the children disrepected by park employees, stuck in long lines to which their conditions are unsuited and causing “meltdown behaviors.”
The bull market that began in 2009 continued its stampede today in abbreviated trading ahead of Independence Day: The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.5% and crossed 17,000 for the first time following a strong June jobs report that showed the unemployment rate dropping to 6.1%, its lowest point since late 2008. Media companies joined in the rally. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index, up 0.7%, hit an all time high. So did Disney (+0.5%), Time Warner Cable (+0.7%), Charter (+0.3%), and Nielsen (+0.6%), while Time Warner (+0.7%) and Gannett (0.7%) touched 52-week highs.
Fox (+1.4%) led the Big Media pack followed by Discovery (+0.8%), Time Warner, Disney, Viacom (+0.2%), Comcast (+0.6%), and CBS (no change) while Sony dropped 0.5%.
EXCLUSIVE: Hocus shmocus: Disney is in early development with Tina Fey on a supernatural-themed feature, but a knowledgeable source tells me it’s not the Hocus Pocus sequel that’s being wrongly buzzed about all over town. The film, currently known as Untitled Witch Project, will be produced by Fey and Cinderella producer Allison Shearmur in what’s described as falling in the vein of Ghostbusters, with 30 Rock Golden Globe winner Fey also attached to star. Sorry to break it to fans of the 1993 Bette Midler horror-comedy: No Hocus Pocus 2 project is currently in the works at the Mouse House – yet. Stay tuned to see if the nostalgic wave of online buzz conjures a return for the Sanderson Sisters.
After five weeks in release, and just before it hits its last overseas market, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty spinoff Maleficent is poised to cross $600M worldwide today. The studio notes this is its 2nd release of the year to pass the threshold, and its 20th ever. Directed by Robert Stromberg and starring Angelina Jolie, the film started rolling out internationally on May 28 and opened in North America on May 30. It bowed there at No. 1 with $69.4M and has remained in the Top Five since. It crossed $200M domestically this weekend, and through July 1 is at $205M. At the weekend, it hit $383.7M at the international box office, having added $18.3M in 54 overseas territories. It is the 4th highest grossing film of the year and Jolie’s biggest live-action film of her career. The biggest offshore markets have been Mexico, currently at $43.2M, and China where it opened June 20 and has taken in nearly $40M. Maleficent is expected to surpass $400M overseas just ahead of its July 5 debut in Japan where, I suspect, it may finally be the film that dethrones Frozen. The latter, also a Disney movie, has been No. 1 for 16 consecutive weeks but saw one of its bigger drops this past frame, adding $2.7M.
EXCLUSIVE: Seven years after Disney‘s live-action princess adventure Enchanted scored Golden Globe and Oscar noms and a $340M worldwide box office, the Mouse House is moving again on a sequel. Shrek 2 and The Smurfs writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been hired to write Enchanted 2, marking the scripting duo’s latest live-action family outing after penning Are We There Yet? and Daddy Day Camp for Sony.
Amy Adams starred and sang in the first pic in an eerily accurate portrayal of Giselle, the animated Disney princess who crosses over into the real world, opposite Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, and Susan Sarandon. Kevin Lima directed the musical romance, which opened at No. 1 over Thanksgiving weekend 2007.
Bryan Cranston ankled his Broadway gig as LBJ on another high, as All The Way ended its a limited run Sunday with another record-breaking week. The Tony winners (Best Play, Best Performance By A Leading Actor in a Play) took in $1,623,495, a new high figure for a non-musical, at the Neil Simon Theatre. Average ticket price was $141.62.
On the musicals front, Disney’s Aladdin is proving more popular each week, having its best stand since opening at the New Amsterdam. It was up $176,710 to $1,623,495, according to figures released by the trade group Broadway League for Week 5, which ended Sunday.
The season’s newcomer, Holler If Ya Hear Me, continued to sink, taking in just $159,571 at the Palace, and the long-running Once also looks to be in trouble, grossing barely half its $922,885 potential at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
Broadway total was up fractionally from the week before, to $29,774,659 for 33 shows, from $29,753,590. The Week 5 tally a year ago was $24,997,386, with fewer shows running.
Wicked, at $2,107,598, edged out The Lion King, at $2,044,928 for the top spot; third place was The Book Of Mormon, at $1,658,638. Mormon continued to have the highest per-ticket average, at $189.52.
The other news of the week: Sting’s musical The Last Ship (not to be confused with the new TNT drama) opened its Broadway tryout run in Chicago with a big wet kiss from the Sun-Times’s Hedy Weiss, who …
Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley has joined the voice cast of Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book. He’ll play Bagheera, the black panther companion to human Mowgli first made famous in Rudyard Kipling’s 19th century collection of short stories. Idris Elba is already aboard as the villanous Shere Khan. Jon Favreau is directing the new Jungle Book from a script by Justin Marks. Disney will release the pic on October 9, 2015.
Disney, which has been quick to drop the axe on its Broadway flops, including Tarzan and The Little Mermaid, announced today that its accidental hit, Newsies, will close on August 24 at the Nederlander Theatre, while still earning respectable money at the box office after a run of more than two years and grosses of over $100 million.
Based on Disney’s 1992 film — a $42.8 million box-office dud whose video built a cult following — Newsies opened in the fall of 2011 at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, where it was planned as a dry-run for a regional tour. But a new book by Harvey Fierstein (La Cage Aux Folles, Kinky Boots) and songs from Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, along with an upbeat, high-energy production staged by director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Christopher Gatelli impressed the New York critics, compelling Disney Theatricals chief Thomas Schumacher to change course and head for Broadway. The show, which cost about $5 million, opened the following May and won Tonys for score and choreography.
Since then, however, the Nederander box office has weakened incrementally as several other family-friendly shows came in and amped up the competition for dollars from the Disney demo, notably that company’s own Aladdin along, of course, with the now-and-forever blockbuster Lion King.