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Don Granger Takes Exec Veep Post At David Ellison’s Skydance Productions

By | Tuesday March 4, 2014 @ 11:54am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: As David Ellison‘s Skydance Productions gets DonGrangermore creatively ambitious in the popcorn pictures it makes in partnership with Paramount Pictures, the label has added a former Par stalwart exec in Don Granger. Granger joins Ellison and Dana Goldberg at Skydance in the post of EVP Feature Productions. It is a newly created position and he will report to Goldberg, the company’s chief creative officer.

SkydancelogoAs Skydance continues to pursue tentpole films like with the reboot of The Terminator franchise, Granger seems like an ideal fit because he has spent most of his career shepherding exactly these kinds of films. He most recently worked with Paramount and Skydance producing Jack Reacher, and before that had a strong relationship with Tom Cruise as president of Motion Picture Production at United Artists when Cruise and Paula Wagner revived the label. Granger before that was senior exec at C/W Productions and before that was partner in Mutual Film Company. He cut his teeth at Paramount, where he worked from 1990-2001 and shepherded such franchises as Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, Tomb Raider and the Jack Ryan films, as well as Saving Private Ryan. The brass at Paramount is different, but many of those franchises are ones that Skydance is involved in. Read More »

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Jack Reacher’s Back; Tom Cruise Developing New Bestseller ‘Never Go Back’

By | Monday December 9, 2013 @ 3:31pm PST
Mike Fleming

nevergoEXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions are moving ahead with a sequel to Jack Reacher, the 2012 film that starred Tom Cruise and is based on Lee Child’s bestselling novel series. A rumor went around that the studio might be trying to squeeze in a Reacher film before Mission: Impossible 5. Paramount has denied that, but I’ve learned it’s trying to fast track another installment. This one will be based on Never Go Back, which was published earlier this fall. In it, Reacher heads back to his old military base in Virginia to take a woman to dinner who is now the commanding officer. By the time he gets there, she has been arrested, and Reacher finds himself being charged with pummeling one guy and fathering a child with a woman. He can’t remember either transgression but gets to the bottom of it with cunning and sometimes brute force.

Related: Tom Cruise On ‘Jack Reacher’

jackrThe studio is out to writers; Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie adapted the first one, but is too busy prepping MI5 for a summer production start. Cruise and the studio hope McQuarrie will direct the sequel. Why are they making a sequel? The original cost around $57 million in production costs, grossed $218 million worldwide and has done well in ancillaries. Before studios got tentpole crazy, trying to … Read More »

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Tom Cruise Reaches $200 Million Worldwide Gross Mark For 19th Time

By | Friday February 22, 2013 @ 9:54am PST
Mike Fleming

Tom Cruise as Jack ReacherHere is an interesting stat. Reacher, the Christopher McQuarrie-directed adaptation of the Lee Child book series with Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, has crossed $200 million worldwide. That makes 19 films that Cruise has starred in that have done that well globally. Have any other actors put up those kind of numbers? I can’t think of any. There have been reports that Reacher might be a one off. The movie cost $60 million and I am hearing that they are already figuring out the sequel at Paramount and Skydance. Studios are all about franchise building, and some take off financially on the second go-around. There are so many good Reacher books written by Child that there’s a wealth of ground to cover here.

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Are Gun Control Pleas By Movie Stars Undermined By Onscreen Violence?

By | Wednesday January 2, 2013 @ 3:06pm PST
Mike Fleming

Well, you had to know this was coming from the gun crowd. A bunch of celebrities got together to speak out for gun control. In this video making the rounds, their pleas are superimposed with footage of the same actors taking part in gratuitous and sometimes cartoonish scenes of gunfire carnage in movies they’ve made over the years. This video goes overboard, but Hollywood has put itself on rocky moral footing by relying so heavily on violence, and when rampant gunfire is such a staple of features, TV shows and the commercials that sell them. We are not just talking about cheesy action films here–when I was at Variety and we had issues overstuffed with ads for AFM and Cannes B-films, it seemed like every one showed someone holding a gun–but also major film releases.

While Jack Reacher pulled back the gun violence in early trailers and now just shows Tom Cruise breaking the bones of bad guys even though the film’s plot is triggered by sniper fire, it seemed like every movie trailer I saw over the holidays had gunfire galore. That included Gangster Squad and The Last Stand, the latter an Arnold Schwarzenegger film where he and his cohorts are seen shooting a machine gun out of the back of a school bus (talk about tacky). I still maintain it’s the height of lunacy for an organization like the NRA to blame Hollywood for the carnage in Newtown, Read More »

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Friday Box Office: Tom Cruise’s ‘Jack Reacher’ #2, Judd Apatow’s ‘This Is 40′ #3, Behind Peter Jackson’s #1 ‘The Hobbit’

By | Friday December 21, 2012 @ 11:43pm PST

FRIDAY 11:30 PM UPDATE: Remember that all these pre-Christmas movie openings will be helped tremendously by the holiday multiple gift from Santa. Some of the newcomers opened on Wednesday, with others Friday. Domestic box office looks like this tonight which definitely isn’t a full reflection of what will be pre-Christmas weekend moviegoing. So this not-great-start is looking like only $100M total moviegoing, which is -19% from last year. See this as a quick glimpse until my refined numbers and full analysis Saturday and Sunday:

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (MGM/WB) Week 2 [Runs 4,100] PG13
Friday $10.5M (-73%), Weekend $31.5M, Cume $145.2M

The problem with blockbusters is they have giant openings and then giant falls.  But even with a -73% drop from a week ago, Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth epic is still the big #1 domestic and international. Going into the weekend, its huge domestic haul was already $113.1M and its international take was just shy of $189M. That makes for a worldwide cume of about $303M. Yikes! The pic now opens in Russia and the Ukraine as it continues to blanket the globe with new and old JR Tolkien faithful.

2. Jack Reacher (Skydance/Paramount) NEW [Runs 3,352] PG13
Friday $5.7M, Weekend $17.5M

Tom Cruise is currently not sitting quite as pretty as he was midday based on matinee trends. Yes, he’s still #2 today and should stay there all weekend now that audiences bestowed an ‘A-’ CinemaScore. That should help word of mouth, along with the expected holiday multiple. Still pic will debut less than the $20M which major stars like Cruise should gross to open movies. Frankly, Hollywood didn’t think this ammo actioner would make even this kind of money after tracking trouble. (There’s been snark from the film project’s get-go that Tom Thumb was miscast as Reacher, who’s a physically big guy in the novel.) But it only cost $60M, or so co-financiers Skydance and Paramount keep claiming. Remains to be seen if it’ll struggle to get to $100M total box office. If so then Oracle scion David Ellison may have to rethink steering movies towards Cruise even after Mission: Impossible 4 paid off.

3. This Is 40 (Universal) NEW [Runs 2,912] R
Friday $4.0M, Weekend $12.0M

Adult pictures don’t open big this time of year but then they go on to enjoy huge multiples. The studio wasn’t expecting the so-so reviews fgr This Is 40 but is expecting Judd Apatow fans to turn out over the weekend. Remains to be seen if tonight’s ‘B-’ CinemaScore from audiences hurts word of mouth. Universal knew tonight could swing anywhere between $3M to $4.5M depending on how the R-rated dramedy fared on Friday Date Night. I don’t agree with rival studios calling this openign “soft” just because This Is 40 had identical tracking to Jack Reacher. (“I’m surprised it’s so far behind. And for a movie that Universal sent out Academy screeners in November, it garnered only 49% positive reviews,” one rival studio exec snarked to me tonight.) It’s a way different genre though equally cheap. But let’s see if it has a better holiday multiple.

4. Rise Of The Guardians (DW Animation/Par) Week 5 [Runs 3,031] PG
Friday $1.5M, Weekend $7.2M, Cume $79.8M

This movie keeps taking advantage of Hollywood  shortsightedness in not skedding more December family pictures this season. Still, compared to other tentpole toons, this is still a disappointment.

5. Monsters Inc 3D (Pixar/Disney) Week 1 [Runs 2,618] G
Friday $1.4M, Weekend $5.0M, Cume $6.5M

Opened Wednesday and Disney now pumping up the publicity volume in preparation for the Christmas wannasee. Re-teched 2001 toon whose lifetime domestic gross was $257M should make a fat multiple while it also drums up interest for 2013′s prequel.

6. The Guilt Trip (Skydance/Paramount) Week 1 [Runs 2,431] PG13
Friday $1.4M, Weekend $4.7M, Cume $6.7M

Also opened Wednesday and Hollywood did a double-take tonight. ”It fell off the map,” one rival studio exec exclaimed to me. Co-financier David Ellison helped  foot the minor $40M bill to pair up Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand in a double-lame genre of road trip and mother movie. Stop, before you crap out another.
Read More »

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NRA’s Anti- Hollywood Stance An Assault On Our Intelligence

Mike Fleming

OPINION: Is anyone surprised that, following a one-week waiting period since 20 children and six others were gunned down in a Newtown, Conn. elementary school, the National Rifle Association would surface to pass the buck and blame the carnage on violent Hollywood movies and video games?

It has only been a few months since the last gun massacre, when 12 were killed and 58 wounded by an assault weapon-wielding madman during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. In the aftermath, I asked a number of filmmakers — and even studio moguls assembled at our The Contenders panel — if that tragedy caused them to re-evaluate the violence they depict onscreen. It’s a no-win question for studio moguls, and they were circumspect; they said they understood the responsibility of movies that project into the culture differently than other forms of media. But they haven’t dramatically changed the decision-making process on the movies they finance and distribute to the masses because they feel they already exercise responsible restraint. Quentin Tarantino — whom I interviewed before the Connecticut massacre — flat out rejects the notion that movie violence leads to the real thing.

Related: NRA Blames Violent Movies And Video Games For Gun Deaths

“I think that guy was a nut,” Tarantino told me in Playboy Magazine, referring to the Aurora shooter. “He went in there to kill a bunch of people because he knew there would be a lot of people there and he’d make a tremendous amount of news doing it. That’s no different from a guy going into a McDonald’s and shooting up people at lunchtime because he knows a lot of people will be there.” When I asked him to address criticism that onscreen violence promulgates the real thing, Tarantino pointedly said, “I make violent movies. I like violent movies. I’m on record about how I feel there is no correlation between art and life in that way.”

Some of my favorite films, from The Godfather to Heat and Goodfellas, depict violence. I hate guns, have never owned one, and do worry about gratuitously violent films — particularly in the horror genre — and I won’t watch them. I do find it disconcerting that right after the last two major shootings that studios and TV networks had to alter movies like Gangster Squad and more recently change marketing on films like Jack Reacher because of parallels to tragic events. I don’t play video games, and personally loathe those that make players participants in warfare settings. That’s mainly because I feel it is the height of disrespect to the armed forces risking their lives, only to have their soldiering reduced to a form of mindless entertainment. But for a gun lobby to point the finger at Hollywood for semi-automatic killing sprees is preposterous and it’s too bad that we are only just waking up to that. Read More »

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In Wake Of Tragedy, Lincoln Center Calls Off Tonight’s Screening Of Tom Cruise Film ‘Jack Reacher’

By | Monday December 17, 2012 @ 12:17pm PST
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: The Film Society Of Lincoln Center has postponed tonight’s fundraiser revolving around a premiere screening of Jack Reacher, which would have featured its cast including Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie in attendance. This is being done out of deference to the massacre that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 27, the majority of them small children. This follows a Paramount decision to push last weekend’s premiere scheduled to be held in Pittsburgh, PA, an event that will take this Wednesday.

I’m told that the postponement was undertaken with the feeling it is inappropriate to hold a celebration while the country is in mourning, and not because of the film’s violent subject matter. Cruise’s title character is an ex-military cop who investigates what seems like an indiscriminate shooting by a sniper who guns down five people in a public place. The film is based on Lee Child’s One Shot, written in 2006, but recent events make the timing incredibly awkward. Paramount supported the decision made this afternoon by Lincoln Center brass.

“We support Lincoln Center and their decision to postpone their fundraiser this evening,” Paramount said in a statement. “On Wednesday, Tom Cruise will be traveling to Pittsburgh to screen the film for fans in the city that so graciously hosted the production of the film. There will be no red carpet during this time and … Read More »

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Tom Cruise On ‘Jack Reacher’

By | Monday December 10, 2012 @ 10:07pm PST

Some have questioned casting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher – a 6-foot-5, 250-pound bad ass – but Cruise (5-foot-7 and slim) says he’s very comfortable in the role. Cruise told Reuters Television at the Jack Reacher premiere in London Monday that he wouldn’t have taken on the part if (author Lee) Child wasn’t happy. “You know, he created the character, I had my own opinion that I didn’t say to Lee and then he came back and pretty much reflected what I had felt about it. But had he said ‘look I’d rather not’, I would not have played the character,” Cruise said. The actor described Reacher’s size as a “characteristic” rather than a “character.” Jack Reacher is based on One Shot – one of the series of novels by Child about an ex-military policeman-turned-benevolent drifter. It opens on December 21.

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Lincoln Center Hosts Tom Cruise Retrospective, Screening Of ‘Jack Reacher’

By | Monday December 3, 2012 @ 7:57pm PST

A Tom Cruise retrospective might seem atypical of the often rarefied fare at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which considers itself “a pioneer among film institutions and one of the film world’s most respected and influential arbiters of cinematic trends and discoveries”. But on December 17th — sandwiched between the closing night of Spanish Cinema Now and a series of retro favorites including 2001: A Space Odyssey, It’s A Mad, Mad Mad, Mad World and The Sound Of Music — FSLC has scheduled An Evening With Tom Cruise. In the flesh, with New York Film Festival director of programming Kent Jones moderating. A screening of Cruise’s latest movie Jack Reacher directed by Christopher McQuarrie follows as an introduction to the December 18-20 retrospective All The Right Moves: The Films Of Tom Cruise.

It’s a pre-couch-jumping Tom Cruise’s greatest hits — Top Gun (directed by the late Tony Scott), Born On The Fourth Of July (Oliver Stone), Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe), The Last Samurai (Edward Zwick), Mission: Impossible (Brian De Palma), Rain Man (Barry Levinson), and Risky Business (Paul Brickman). With those directors Cruise was certainly in good company, so maybe the retrospective programmed by Scott Foundas isn’t so atypical after all. And the Chistopher McQuarrie-directed Jack Reacher, adapted from Lee Childs’ novel One Shot, happens to open the next day.

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Viacom Fiscal Q4 Revenues Fall On Weak Ad Sales And Drop In Filmed Entertainment

Not much to crow about for the quarter that ended in September, although net profits benefited from foreign exchange rates and lower taxes. Viacom reported net earnings of $650M, +12.8% vs the period last year, on revenues of $3.36B, -17%. The revenue figure was lower than the $3.42B that analysts expected. But earnings per share for continuing operations, at $1.21, beat forecasts for $1.17. The biggest operation, Media Networks, generated revenues of $2.29B — virtually unchanged from last year — with operating income of $933M (-3%). Viacom says that a 6% decline in domestic ad sales, and 7% fall overseas, outweighed the rising fees it collected from pay TV distributors, up 12% in the U.S. and 11% elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Paramount-led Filmed Entertainment unit delivered revenues of $1.09B (-39%) and operating income of $195M (+5%). Viacom says that it faced “difficult comparisons” with last year which included Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, although revenues from TV increased 19% while ancillary revenues were up 21%. “We continue to invest in our future across all platforms and geographies,” CEO Philippe Dauman says. He adds that the company “has an exciting pipeline in place with eight films in the first fiscal quarter, including Jack Reacher, DreamWorks Animation’s Rise Of The Guardians and the recently released Flight.”

Related: Viacom Chief Says MTV Is “Not Broken”

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Hot Trailer: ‘Jack Reacher’

By | Wednesday October 17, 2012 @ 9:20am PDT

Tom Cruise has big (really big) shoes to fill as Lee Child’s hulking tough guy in Jack Reacher. Does this second trailer for the Paramount pic prove that he’s pulled it off? The Skydance co-production opens December 21 and the principals are thinking franchise.

Watch This Trailer On YouTube!

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Viacom’s Philippe Dauman Talks Up Possibility Of A ‘Jack Reacher’ Franchise

By | Wednesday September 19, 2012 @ 12:16pm PDT

Tom CruiseThe movie starring Tom Cruise won’t be out until December 21. But Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman told investors at the Goldman Sachs Annual Communacopia Conference today that he’s “hoping to create new franchise” from the novels created by Jim Grant (who uses the pen name Lee Child). It goes to the heart of a strategy that he says will lead to “a good year” for Paramount. “We reduced the number of releases to about 15 a year and focused on existing franchises, developing new franchises, and developing our brands.” In addition to Reacher, he says that “we’re going to have a Jack Ryan franchise” — referring to the character featured in The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games. He’s also upbeat about new versions of Transformers, and the planned film built around Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although the film operation has struggled to recoup revenues lost from the decline of DVD sales, Dauman says Paramount’s productions have “driven some value for the rest of the company” including at EPIX and the overseas Paramount channels. “I’m very pleased with how they’ve performed and where they are.”

Related: Paramount Retitles Its Tom Cruise Film ‘Jack Reacher’

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Hot Trailer: ‘Jack Reacher’

By | Tuesday July 3, 2012 @ 11:49am PDT

Here’s a first look at Tom Cruise taking on the hulking main character in the Lee Child novels for Paramount‘s Jack Reacher. It will be interesting to see the fan reaction to finally seeing Cruise as the ex-military policeman-turned-benevolent drifter who always finding himself smack in a situation where a helpless person needs someone who can put the clues together and kick butt when necessary. Some have questioned casting Cruise as a 6-foot-5, 250-pound bad ass. The movie, from Paramount and Skydance Productions, opens December 21.

Watch More Trailers On Youtube!

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Paramount Retitles Its Tom Cruise Film ‘Jack Reacher’

By | Tuesday May 29, 2012 @ 12:17pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Tom Cruise Jack ReacherInstead of calling it One Shot, after one of the Lee Child novels about ex-military policeman-turned-benevolent drifter Jack Reacher, Paramount Pictures has retitled its Christopher McQuarrie-directed Tom Cruise-starrer Jack Reacher. That should resonate with fans of the bestselling series about the hulking loner who hitchhikes from town to town, always finding himself smack in a situation where a helpless person needs someone who can put the clues together, and lay an ass whupping on anybody who gets in his way. Those book fans will need to adjust to Cruise as the hero, who in the novels goes about 6’5″ and 250 pounds, towers over opponents and beats the bad guys to a pulp. Cruise isn’t of that stature, but when I interviewed him recently for Playboy Magazine and asked what he’d be bringing to the table to compensate, he said “Everything but the height.” He indicated that there are all the obligatory brawls and that the author himself endorsed the choice of Cruise. The title change indicates that Cruise and the studio look at this as more than a “one shot” deal, and that Cruise might well have two franchises at the studio after Cruise stood tall in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, which grossed $693 million worldwide. Jack Reacher hits theaters December 21.

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Spartacus’ Jai Courtney Takes On Tom Cruise In ‘One Shot’

By | Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 10:07am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Jai Courtney, who starred in the first season of the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has landed a lead in One Shot, Paramount’s Christopher McQuarrie-directed drama based on the Lee Child-penned  Jack Reacher novel series. In One Shot, Reacher investigates what seems like an open and shut case of a sniper who guns down five random victims. Reacher, teamed with a detective (Rosamund Pike) and uncovers a conspiracy. Courtney plays a highly trained sniper who is motivated to stop Reacher. Courtney starred in the first Spartacus season along with the late Andy Whitfield, a fellow Australian who took Courtney under his wing and got him signed by his manager, Sam Maydew, at The Collective. He’s repped by UTA and Australia-based Mark Morrissey.

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Paramount Moves Tom Cruise’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ To December 21 And Sets ‘One Shot’ For Early 2013

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures will move Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol from its Dec. 16, 2011 release date to Wednesday, Dec. 21, putting the picture smack into the holiday corridor. That moves the film back from opening against Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows and Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel. It will now open against the David Fincher-directed Sony drama The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and be released two days before Paramount’s The Adventures of Tintin, Summit’s The Darkest Hour, Fox’s We Bought A Zoo, and FilmDistrict’s release of the Angelina Jolie-directed In The Land Of Blood And Honey.

At the same time, Paramount will soon formalize a Feb. 8, 2013 release date for One Shot, the Christopher McQuarrie-directed adaptation of the Lee Child mystery novel series that the studio hopes will launch another Cruise franchise. Cruise committed earlier this month to play Jack Reacher, a retired military policeman who wanders the country with his toothbrush, the clothes on his back and his bankbook and inadvertently gets involved in conspiracies that find him taking the side of the powerless and exploited. He often settles matters with explosive violence. For Paramount, the strategy is to replicate the winter release pattern it followed successfully on Shutter Island, the Dennis Lehane novel that was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Leonardo DiCaprio. Read More »

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Tom Cruise Locked To Play Jack Reacher In ‘One Shot’ For Paramount And Skydance

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions have closed a deal with Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher in One Shot, the thriller based on the Lee Child bestselling book series about the former military policeman-turned-drifter. An early fall start date has been set for the film, which will be directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Cruise will then move right into the lead role of the Joseph Kosinski-directed Oblivion at Universal early next year.

I first wrote about the Cruise talks last month, and it created a lot of discussion among fans of the series because  the Reacher character is 6’5” and about 250 pounds, and Cruise is not. At the time, the author was among those most excited about the casting, saying that “Reacher’s size in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force, which Cruise portrays in his own way.” This is certainly a vote of confidence from Paramount and Skydance principal David Ellison in the work Cruise did reprising his Ethan Hunt role in Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, which the studio will release December 16.

In One Shot, Reacher investigates a case in which a lone sniper murders five victims before being captured. Reacher discovers it’s more than a simple open-and-shut case. Cruise and McQuarrie teamed on Valkyrie, McQuarrie did some script work on Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, and he also did early script work on The Tourist Read More »

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