Major pan-European distributor Wild Bunch and Germany indie bigwig Senator Entertainment have agreed to combine their businesses. The resulting company will be a top European film distributor and producer with a library of about 2,200 films and consolidated revenues of more than $250 million (based on 2013 figures). The existing management teams will take over the operational leadership of the group, with Wild Bunch’s Chairman and CEO Vincent Grimond becoming CEO, Brahim Chioua as COO, Vincent Maraval as Chief Content Officer, and Senator’s Max Sturm as CFO.
The two companies have a common history, teaming on the joint-venture operation Central Film Verleih to movie acquisitions (The King’s Speech, The Reader) and cooperation in video and TV sales. Senator is just completing a financial restructuring. The tie-up will bolster both sides’ digital efforts, and it will be active in four major territories: Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
“The new financially restructured Senator Entertainment benefiting from the strong support of its key shareholder Sapinda and of its stock market listing in Germany, is a perfect partner for the next phase of our company’s development,” Grimond said in the release announcing the deal. Read More »
CBS Films is moving aggressively on a sequel to its biggest-grossing film Last Vegas. David Diamond & David Weissman have been hired to write the second installment of the AARP comedy. The intent is to bring back director Jon Turteltaub, and the film’s stars Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. The sequel will focus on the quartet’s return to their old stomping grounds in Brooklyn. They discover that borough has changed more than a little since the four grew up there.
Laurence Mark and Amy Baer will be returning as producers. Scripted by Dan Fogelman, Last Vegas was a true sleeper, hitting an underserved demographic and enjoying a long theatrical run. The film topped out at $134 million in global grosses, including $63 million domestic, and has been a strong performer on home video and VOD.
Diamond & Weissman’s scripts include The Family Man, Evolution, Old Dogs, and When In Rome. The scribes are repped by WME.
In a most unusual spec script deal, Warner Bros has pre-emptively acquired an untitled “script-ment” from tyro screenwriter David Weil. Essentially, the studio bought the blueprint for a 7-part movie franchise featuring interconnected stories contained in The Arabian Nights. 3 Arts is the sole producer.
The script-ment is 90 pages long, and I’m told that Weil’s vision is for a period reinterpretation of very familiar stories from a public domain tale, with modern tropes and themes that lend themselves to the big tent pole CGI-driven element that is vital in fantasy fare. It is the bible for what the scribe envisions as a long running franchise. It came to Warner Bros because that is where 3 Arts’ Erwin Stoff has made numerous films that include the Doug Liman-directed Tom Cruise-starrer Edge Of Tomorrow.
Chantal Nong and Julia Spiro will oversee the project for Warner Bros. Weil is repped by CAA and Jessica Moresco at Unified Management.
EXCLUSIVE: Aly Michalka and AJ Michalka have wrapped on an untitled indie dramedy for first-time feature writer-director Stephen Pierce Ringer. The musician-actress siblings known as Aly & AJ, who perform together as the musical duo 78violet, produced and starred in the film as two sisters on the cusp of adulthood spending their last week in their LA hometown before embarking on their next tour. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Animation has set Jimmy Miller’s Mosaic and Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions on Manimal, the feature based on the cult 1980s TV show about a man who fights crime using his ability to morph into animals. Miller, Ferrell, and McKay will produce along with original series co-creator Glen A. Larson, and Key & Peele EPs Jay Martel and Ian Roberts already have been tapped to write.
The original 1983 series starred Simon MacCorkindale as Dr. Jonathan Chase, a dashing and wealthy man raised in Africa who was also “master of the secrets that divide man from animal.” It was cancelled after eight episodes, only to live on in the hearts of a devoted cult fandom (flash back with a clip from Manimal below). Sony Pictures Animation’s live-action/animation hybrid will reinvent that concept as an action-comedy with heavy visual effects and animated elements. SPA President of Production Michelle Raimo Kouyate and SVP Michael Lachance are overseeing for the studio. Read More »
Here’s one to get the Comic-Con crowd going as things ramp up in San Diego. I’m hearing that Edgar Wright has found his next film, after stepping away from Marvel’s Ant-Man. Wright’s looking to next direct Baby Driver for Working Title Films. The project, which Wright wrote, is described to me as a collision of crime, action, music and sound. That sounds like a close cousin to the Cornetto Trilogy of films that Wright did at Working Title, but at this point at least, it doesn’t appear that Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are part of this. They made the three comedies World’s End, Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead together. Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Nira Park. This is all happening on a fast track, and I will keep you posted as more details emerge. It isn’t at a studio yet, but Working Title’s deal is at Universal and so it seems natural that the film will be made there or by Focus Features, which released World’s End. CAA and Anonymous Content rep Wright.
Roadside Attractions has acquired U.S. rights to Xavier Dolan’s Cannes pic Mommy. The plan is to release it in first-quarter 2015. Dolan’s fifth film centers on an explosive 15-year-old boy with ADHD and his widowed single mom. But when Kyla, a new girl across the street, enters their lives, things change. Anne Dorval, Antoine Olivier Pilon and Suzanne Clément star.
Dolan, a Canadian, moved up to the Cannes Competition lineup for the first time with Mommy after winning three prizes in Directors’ Fortnight at just 19 (he was famously miffed to be in Un Certain Regard rather than Competition in 2012 with his Laurence Anyways). Mommy won the Grand Jury prize this year.
EOne and Montreal-based Les Films Séville are handling distribution of the film in English and French Canada, while Séville International VP International Sales Anick Poirier negotiated the U.S. deal with Roadside co-president Howard Cohen and attorney Greg Bernstein.
EXCLUSIVE: In recent years Universal Pictures has become defined by its The Fast And The Furious, Despicable Me, Bourne and Jurassic Park franchises. But the studio’s most enduring legacy is its library of classic movie monsters that include Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Creature Of The Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, Bride Of Frankenstein, and The Mummy. Universal is now dedicating renewed resources and an unprecedented, far-reaching commitment to revitalize its monster heritage.
The studio is in early stages of developing a substantial new production endeavor that will expand and unify a network of classic characters and stories. The architects of that narrative will be Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan. Kurtzman recently broke with partner Roberto Orci, but his big-scale projects have included Transformers, Star Trek and The Amazing Spider-Man. Morgan is the writer behind five installments of The Fast And The Furious, which has been Universal’s most reliably lucrative franchise. It’s not set in stone yet if either will write, but they will soon be going around town enlisting talent to bring new cinematic life to these enduring characters from lore, literature and Universal’s own library. While Universal has selectively tapped its Movie Monster library for The Mummy, Van Helsing, The Wolfman, and the upcoming Dracula Untold, this will be the first time that the studio has formalized an approach to these classic characters in a cohesive, connected way rather than as a series of stand-alone projects by disparate filmmaking teams. Read More »
As Deadline was first to reveal, Focus Features has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Race. with Stephan James playing Olympian Jesse Owens, opposite Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons, in the Stephen Hopkins-directed. Mister Smith Entertainment is handling worldwide sales on Race. The film starts production this month, and it is one of several films about the sprinter who ruined Hitler’s plans to showcase the superiority of German athletes in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This film has the support of the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Jesse Owens Trust and the Luminary Group. Read More »
Sony Pictures Entertainment continues to shuffle its motion picture division manpower. The studio announced this morning that Columbia Pictures president and former production president Doug Belgrad got promoted to the post of president of its Motion Picture Group. Belgrad continues to report to Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group.
When Michael De Luca was tapped to share the production president role with Hannah Minghella, speculation ran rampant about what might happen to all of these executives. This came after a rough summer 2013, and minority shareholder Daniel Loeb complaining loudly about the flops. There was great performance pressure on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and scrutiny on everything else Sony has been doing. That sequel did not match the original’s $757 million global gross, but it cracked $700 million, which was considered good enough to keep the train moving. There was the hit sequel 22 Jump Street, and the sleeper TriStar hit Heaven Is For Real and Screen Gems’ Think Like A Man Too. Sex Tape is about to open with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel boasting about baring all in the sexy laffer.
In the distance are the Antoine Fuqua-directed Denzel Washington film The Equalizer and the David Ayer-directed Brad Pitt-starrer Fury, with Annie and the untitled Cameron Crowe movie bowing in December in the Oscar mix. Down the line, there will be an event movie based on the venerable Barbie toyline, as well as another James Bond film, Spider-Man spinoffs, as well as reboots of Ghostbusters and Men In Black. As for the executive team, insiders tell me that Belgrad is an effective executive, and that he, De Luca and Minghella are bonding and creating their own niches. Read More »
Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler has made a three-year first look deal with Color Force, the production banner run by Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson. The first film under the new pact will be an adaptation of the Robert Crais novel Suspect.
Deal comes after Jacobson completed the quartet of The Hunger Games films for Lionsgate, pictures which have preoccupied the former Disney production chief for several years. Color Force worked with Gabler’s division on the Wimpy Kid series, and Jacobson and Simpson have numerous book related projects percolating. They include Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and Crazy Rich Asians, and there is also an enduring courtship if novelist Donna Tartt for her title The Goldfinch, which would land at Warner Bros. The author has shown reluctance, as that studio has sat on her debut novel, The Secret History, and has resisted demands by the author to give back the rights. Color Force senior veep Bryan Unkeless will be the liaison.
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Paramount Pictures is in talks to acquire U.S. distribution rights to Silence, and the tentative plan is to release the film November 2015, right in that holiday corridor where awards-bait pictures dwell. Silence is one of those pictures on Scorsese’s bucket list, an adaptation of the Shusako Endo novel that Scorsese has longed to make for more than a decade. The project finally came together when Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films principals Randall Emmett and George Furla committed the production financing, with Corsan Entertainment co-financing. Shooting will get underway in Taiwan. The film takes place in the 17th century, where two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and to spread Christianity. The script is by Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York scribe Jay Cocks, and the filmmaker has pulled together a cast including Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Ken Watanabe and Adam Driver.
Emmett and Furla are producing with Emma Tillinger Koskoff and Irwin Winkler. Paramount seems a logical landing place for Silence. While Red Granite funded The Wolf Of Wall Street, Paramount released the film, which was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture. The studio also distributed Shutter Island and Hugo. Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions is Paramount-based and the filmmaker has a strong relationship with Brad Grey, a producer on The Departed who didn’t get a Best Picture Oscar because Grey took the top Paramount job.
U.S. shares of China’s Bona Film Group are up 7.7% this morning after the distributor announced two deals that help to consolidate ownership: Its founder and CEO, Yu Dong, agreed to pay $71.4M for the 19.3% stake owned by 21st Century Fox. Separately, Bona plans to sell a 13.3% interest to a Chinese investment group, Fosun Group, which already owns 7.5% of Bona. When the dust settles, the Bona chief will own about 32.3% and Fosun will have 20.8%. Fosun’s deal follows its agreement last month to invest in Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8.
Fox (in its earlier incarnation as News Corp) bought its stake in Bona in May 2012 and later that year announced a multi-picture agreement to co-produce Chinese language films. The companies say today that Fox’s sale of its Bona stake “has no effect on the five film co-productions … or on the robust pipeline.” One of their co-productions, Bride Wars, began principal photography last month. It’s “the first of our five co-production projects with 21st Century Fox, and we are confident it will be a tremendous success, as it will appeal to the fast growing younger Chinese audience, one of the most important audience groups that we want to capture in today’s market,” Bona’s Yu says. Read More »
Margin Call writer-director J.C. Chandor is in talks to next helm Deepwater Horizon, the big-scale drama being mobilized by Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment and Participant Media for a winter shoot. The drama focuses on the April 20, 2010 explosion of the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that caused a massive offshore oil spill that created the second-largest U.S. environmental disaster. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian are producing. Matthew Michael Carnahan wrote the most recent draft.
The film took root at Summit and Participant two years ago, when they acquired feature rights to The New York Times article titled “Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hour,” published on December 25, 2010 and written by David Barstow, David Rohde, and Stephanie Saul. There was a heavy bidding battle for the property. Summit and Participant Media teamed on the deal and Matthew Sand wrote the first draft. The rig was owned and operated by Transocean and drilling for BP in the Macondo Prospect oil field about 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast. The movie isn’t a morality tale as much as it is the survival story and the courage shown by those who worked on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. More than 100 were on the rig when things turned bad. Despite their attempts to prevent disaster, the rig blew, and the explosion killed 11 workers and injured 16 others. Read More »
Relativity has closed a deal to to fully finance The Disappointments Room, a psychological thriller in the vein of The Shining that will begin shooting in August with Kate Beckinsale starring for director DJ Caruso. Geyer Kosinski is producing and Robbie Brenner will oversee for Relativity.
Inspired by a true event, The Disappointments Room tells the story of one family’s terror-filled encounter within their own home. Looking for a fresh start, Dana (Kate Beckinsale) and David, together with their 5-year-old son Jeremy, move into their dream house, a beautiful old rural home. Hidden within the attic was a secret room. When frightening and unexplainable events lead Dana to discover the long lost key to this room, she accidentally unlocks a host of unimaginable horrors that reveal the house’s past is terrifyingly tied with her own. The ghost story was shopped at AFM, but those entities aren’t involved. The script was written by Wentworth Miller, the Prison Break star who wrote Stoker. Caruso has done the most recent pass on the script.
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Swedish up-and-comer Rebecca Ferguson, who got a Golden Globe nom for her English-language debut in the title role of BBC’s The White Queen, has been set to play the female lead opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 5 for Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions and Bad Robot. This comes after Deadline revealed that Alec Baldwin is in talks to play the head of the CIA in the film, which Chris McQuarrie will direct with shooting to begin in August. This was a coveted role.
Ferguson was raised in Sweden and became established in London. The actress, who next will be seen in the Brett Ratner-directed Hercules, is repped by Charlies Collier at Tavistock Wood and Actors in Scandinavia. I would imagine there might be a Hollywood agency or five courting her after they read this. Cruise, who’ll reprise his role as Ethan Hunt, is producing with J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk, and David Ellison, Dana Goldberg & Don Granger exec producing the fifth installment of a franchise that has grossed north of $2 billion worldwide. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Robert Redford is attached to play CBS News icon Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett is attached to play his producer Mary Mapes in Truth, a film that will mark the directorial debut of James Vanderbilt, the A-list screenwriter behind the first two installments of The Amazing Spider-Man. The film will explore the scandal that erupted after Rather reported on 60 Minutes II that George W. Bush had gotten preferential treatment that put him in the National Guard to avoid the Vietnam War draft. The ensuing scandal during Bush’s reelection campaign left Mapes fired and Rather’s storied reputation in tatters.
Vanderbilt is adapting Mapes’ 2005 memoir Truth And Duty: The Press, The President, And The Privilege Of Power. Pic will be produced by Mythology Entertainment, the production partnership between Vanderbilt, Brad Fischer and Laeta Kalogridis. Fischer, William Sherak, Vanderbilt and Mikkel Bondesen are producing. They are eyeing a fall start, so this is all moving on a fast track. The project has not yet been set at a studio, but I expect it will not take long. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Beverly Hills-based management company Magnolia Entertainment has promoted a trio of managers and locked in $100 million in production funding with Shanghai-based Kylin-Mandarin Enterprises. The expansion into production funding comes as Magnolia promoted managers Ari Zudkewich, Jared Ceizler, and Kauveh Khozein and given them supervisory capacities. Two other managers have left the firm.
Zudkewich will focus on the company’s literary division, which includes such clients as Daniel Espinosa, David Caspe, Scott Kosar, Kieran Darcy Smith, Fedor Bondarchuk and Matt Greenberg. Ceizler will focus on servicing Magnolia’s talent division, which includes such actors as Rachel McAdams, Rosamund Pike, Tatiana Maslany, Bill Skarsgård, Oona Chaplin, Joel Kinnaman, and Dev Patel. Khozein will act as the coordinator of the company’s talent division. Read More »
Jeff Elefterion, who had been with The Weinstein Co. for 18 years and most recently served as head of creative advertising, has been named domestic marketing chief at New Regency, effective immediately. He replaces Valerie Van Galder, who exited the company earlier this year. The company also named UK-based Heta Paarte as its international marketing chief. She joins the company after spending over 10 years at Focus where she most recently served as EVP International Marketing and Distribution. She had been there since Focus began in 2002.
The move of Elefterion comes as a surprise as he had been with the Weinsteins seemingly forever, first at their Miramax Films and then staying with them at their new incarnation, where he oversaw the theatrical marketing campaigns of some 70 films including many that would go on to be recognized by the Academy, including The Artist, The King’s Speech, Silver Linings Playbook, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and this year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Philomena. Read More »