BREAKING: Remember the bruising that Universal Pictures brass received over the summer when Battleship failed and when rumors were published that Comcast had courted DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider to return? Now, Universal’s Ron Meyer, Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley have reason to take a bow. The studio, which passed the record for Universal’s domestic grosses back in October, is now on course to blow past its global record, even before Les Miserables gets released on Christmas. Grosses aren’t profits, of course, but hits like Safe House and Ted certainly have created some momentum. Here is the official release:
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, December 20, 2012—Universal Pictures today announced that 2012 will mark its best year at the worldwide box office in the studio’s 100-year history with global theatrical grosses exceeding $2.927 billion to date. Universal broke its domestic record ($1.127 billion) in October and the studio will surpass its international record ($1.716 billion) Friday, December 21. READ MORE »
Despite the rumors that Comcast had conversations with Stacey Snider and possibly Tom Rothman to take a top post at the studio, and despite the summer disappointment of Battleship, Universal Pictures has just set its best-ever result for North American box office with $1.128 billion. That beats the $1.127 billion set in 2008. Buoyed by hits like Ted, the studio will likely also beat its worldwide ticket sales record as well. It has four movies still to be released: Pitch Perfect, in wide release on October 5; the action-thriller The Man With The Iron Fists on November 2; Judd Apatow’s This Is 40, on December 21; and Les Misérables, on December 25. The films that Universal has released so far this year are: Contraband, Big Miracle, Safe House, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Wanderlust, American Reunion, The Five Year Engagement, Battleship, Snow White And The Huntsman, Ted, Savages and The Bourne Legacy. The studio is number four in box office share behind Warner Bros (22 films), Sony a(21) and Disney with 13 films. Read More »
BREAKING: Universal Pictures has taken the unusual step of outright denying a Hollywood Reporter story that Kristen Stewart had been dumped from the sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman. The studio issued this statement from Universal … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Just about every studio in town waged a concerted courtship for the movie rights to the E.L. James salty romance novel Fifty Shades Of Grey, and all but one today is feeling the sting of being jilted after the author and agent Valerie Hoskins went to the altar with Universal Pictures and Focus Features. Rumors raced all weekend that with 10 studios bidding, numbers passed $5 million upfront against a back end 5% or higher. Neither Universal nor Hoskins would divulge how much Universal co-chairman Donna Langley paid — when I broke the story this morning, I’d heard that it was a bit higher than the $3 million against 3.5% Sony paid for The Da Vinci Code, but many suitors figure it had to be around $4 million against as much as 5% of gross. If the picture sparks a trilogy, that is life-changing money for the former TV executive-turned-author. Since this was the wildest book auction in years and so many heavy hitters spent the weekend obsessing over it, I wanted to get the play-by-play from Hoskins, the British agent who, it turns out, is a real spitfire. I caught her just before she boarded a plane back across the pond with James, who left with a seven-figure publishing deal in one pocket, and a seven-figure movie rights deal in the other.
DEADLINE: Hollywood hasn’t seen a book rights auction like this since…
HOSKINS: It was not an auction.
DEADLINE: Generally, when a property is placed on the block for bids and sells, it’s considered an auction, no?
HOSKINS: My understanding of an auction is something that goes to the highest bidder. I can’t think of a better word for our process but it was not an auction.
DEADLINE: Does that mean you left bigger offers on the table?
HOSKINS: No comment.
DEADLINE: During this auction, the book was characterized in a number of ways that included ‘Mommy Porn.’ What would you call it?
HOSKINS: It’s a love story. People fall in love and they rabidly have sex, because that’s what you do when you fall in love. You do, you do! It’s a love story, a romantic one. I don’t really like the phrase ‘Mommy Porn.’ I guess I don’t mind it that much, but I don’t like it. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Ending the wildest book-to-movie auction in recent and distant memory, Universal Pictures and Focus Features have acquired screen rights to E.L. James’ steamy novel Fifty Shades Of Grey. Focus Features … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In a move that continues the longest standing production deal Universal Pictures has ever had in its 100-year history, the studio has extended its deal with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard through 2016. These mega-producer deals have been getting trimmed all over town, though, and the Imagine deal has shifted from an exclusive to a first-look deal. Going forward, Howard will be able to direct more films elsewhere, and Grazer can produce at other studios. He is now producing the upcoming Academy Awards with Don Mischer. The Imagine extension was just finalized by Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley.
The last deal Grazer and Howard made with the studio was set to expire in 2013. Imagine has made around 50 films since the partners first were brought into the Universal in 1986 by Ron Meyer, at the time Grazer’s former agent at CAA and had just transitioned to the top job at Universal. Like every producer-studio relationship, the Universal and Imagine arrangement has been tested in the past few years. The studio said no to The Dark Tower, a feature trilogy and two limited-run TV series adapted from the Stephen King novel series that Howard was to direct, with Javier Bardem starring and Grazer producing with Akiva Goldsman and King. The filmmakers continue to develop the project and expect to make it elsewhere. Universal and Imagine also mutually decided to not go forward with Cartel, a drama that Asger Leth was going to direct. Read More »
If anyone were to have told you back on May 13 when Universal’s raunchy female comedy Bridesmaids opened that we would seriously be discussing its Best Picture Oscar nomination prospects a week before Christmas, the status of their mental health would been called into question. But even though it remains a… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: After Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment established itself as a reliable provider of family films for Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley, the studio has expanded its commitment to the division by acquiring the … Read More »
It’s not Deadline policy to report on anyone’s personal lives unless it affects business. So I’m letting you know that Universal Pictures co-chairman and well-known workaholic Donna Langley may be out of pocket for a few hours. She and husband … Read More »
BREAKING: Universal Pictures has made a three-year deal to distribute at least six pictures produced and funded by Cross Creek Pictures. The first film in this deal will be Rush, the Ron Howard-directed Formula One drama. Cross Creek, run by president Brian Oliver and CEO Timmy Thompson, has quickly emerged as a significant film financier. They got started with the Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan and continue with the upcoming George Clooney-directed The Ides of March and Daniel Radcliffe-starrer The Woman in Black, which will be distributed by CBS Films.
The deal was announced by Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley, along with Oliver and Thompson.
Cross Creek is partnered with Exclusive Media Group as co-financier and co-producer of Rush, the Howard-directed drama about the battle between ’70s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt that stars Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth and Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Bruhl. Peter Morgan wrote the script, and Howard and the actors shot some footage during Formula One races held at Nurburgring Race Track in Germany. It was there, in the 70s, that Lauda was almost killed in a fiery accident that is a major part of the drama. The film seems a natural fit for Universal, since Oliver’s fellow producers are Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Both Imagine and Cross Creek have overall deals at the studio.
Aside from pictures that Cross Creek brings into the equation, the company will likely become a financier of existing Universal projects getting close to green lights. The budgets of the films will range from $15 million-$65 million, with the average film costing between $25 million-$35 million. Cross Creek is set up to generate up to four films per year, with Universal to distribute at least two of them with a wide-release commitment. Read More »
BREAKING: Universal Pictures Co-Chairman Donna Langley will continue her term through 2014. The studio extended the option on her deal, a move that was widely expected when Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson re-upped last week and will continue to have full day-to-day operating responsibility for the Motion Picture Group, reporting to Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer (whose contract was recently re-upped through 2015) and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. That was a signal that the studio’s production team would remain intact after NBCUniversal was acquired by Comcast. Langley will continue to serve as a key strategic business partner overseeing the company’s production department, Focus Features and the studio’s worldwide acquisitions efforts. She reports to Fogelson and has been co-chairman since October 2009. Read More »
Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley appointed Peter Kujawski to the post of EVP Worldwide Acquisitions. Kujawski is currently EVP International Sales for the Universal-owned specialty film label Focus Features. The Universal features team got a vote of confidence when chairman Adam Fogelson was given an early re-up, and Langley is also negotiating to extend her term with the studio.
Kujawski is charged with centralizing and streamlining Universal’s acquisitions and to maximize distribution opportunities. He’ll report to Langley and be based in Los Angeles. He isn’t replacing anyone directly, but does pick up some of the slack left when Christian Grass left the studio in July. Kujawski will also work closely with Universal Pictures President of International David Kosse. “Peter’s vast experience selling specialty films gives him a unique perspective on the global marketplace and undeniably qualifies him to lead our acquisitions efforts,” Langley said. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Jason Blum will bring the studio into the low-budget but often high-gross world of genre films. Universal Pictures has made a 3-year first-look deal with Blum and his Blumhouse Productions which produced the Paranormal Activity franchise, and followed that up with Insidious, the James Wan-directed thriller that has already become one of the most profitable films of 2011. A sequel seems inevitable.
The original Paranormal Activity cost about $15,000 and grossed $193 million. The first sequel cost $3 million and grossed $177 million worldwide and the third film debuts Oct. 21. Insidious cost $1.5 million and grossed $81 million worldwide and is still rolling out. This guy is minting money. He’s producing the latest installment of the fright franchise Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes for Dimension Films, produced the Barry Levinson-directed eco-horror film The Bay, The River for ABC and the Jay Chandresakar-directed comedy Baby Makers. He is producing the Oren Peli-directed Area 51 for Paramount Pictures, as well as The Lords of Salem, with Rob Zombie directing. Blum’s also an exec producer on the John Hillcoat-directed The Wettest County in the World. This amounts to an aggressive move into the low-budget area for Universal, which, if anything, is known for spending generously on its slates. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that Universal Chairman Adam Fogelson and Co-Chairman Donna Langley have restructured the studio’s production team. Veterans Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirschenbaum will be upped to co-Presidents of Production, replacing the current President of Production Debbie Liebling … Read More »
Universal has locked in release dates for some of its most ambitious films hatched by the team of Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley. Add these to previously set releases that include The Fast and The Furious sequel Fast Five (June … Read More »