As the UK’s Sky Living ramps up its NBC co-production Dracula with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, it’s also commissioned a slate of new series with talent that includes The Newsroom‘s Emily Mortimer and Emmy- and Oscar-nominated writer Simon Blackwell. Mortimer stars in and created the six-part comedy Doll & Em, an L.A.-set female buddy show that will co-star her real-life best friend Dolly Wells, and come replete with surprise high-profile celebrity cameos. Blackwell, whose credits include Veep, In The Loop and The Thick Of It, co-created new comedy Trying Again with actor Chris Addison, who starred in both In The Loop and The Thick Of It. The eight-part show, about a man whose fiancée has an affair with her boss, has yet to finalize cast, but is set for production this summer. The commissions follow last week’s announcements of the Sky/BBC America James Bond biopic Fleming along with a group of dramas involving Matt Smith, Idris Elba and Vanessa Redgrave which are all part of Sky’s drive to invest £600M in original content by 2014.
BREAKING: I can confirm that tonight’s New York Film Festival mystery film is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, the John Logan-scripted adaptation of the Brian Selznick novel Hugo Cabret. The festival revealed late last week that it would feature a film by a master filmmaker, and speculation covered everything from Clint Eastwood’s J Edgar to Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m told that Richard Pena will introduce the picture at Avery Fisher Hall, but I’m not sure if Scorsese will be in the house. The film isn’t quite finished, but it will be shown in 3D, though there might be some green screen moments. Paramount releases Hugo on November 23. Scorsese hasn’t shown an unfinished film like this before (though he did once tell me that The Last Temptation Of Christ qualified as that when Universal rushed it into release because protesters were dragging crosses in front of the houses of studio higher-ups like Sid Sheinberg), and the NYFF hasn’t shown an unfinished print like this since Disney’s Beauty And The Beast in 1991. But it’s a great opportunity to build buzz on the movie, Scorsese’s first family and 3D film.
It’s official: HBO has picked up Aaron Sorkin’s hourlong cable news network pilot to series. The now untitled drama (formerly More As This Story Develops), which has been a virtual lock for a series order, centers on a cable news anchor (Jeff Daniels), his new executive producer (Emily Mortimer), his newsroom staff (Alison Pill, John Gallagher Jr, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel, Thomas Sadoski), and their boss (Sam Waterston). Together they set out on a patriotic and quixotic mission to do the news well in the face of corporate and commercial obstacles and their own personal entanglements. The size of the order for the series is yet to be determined, but it should be around 10 episodes.
Sorkin wrote the pilot after lengthy research during which he spent time at Keith Olbermann’s and Chris Matthews’ MSNBC shows as well as behind the scenes at Fox News Channel and CNN programs. Sorkin executive produced the pilot, which was directed by Greg Mottola, with Scott Rudin and Alan Poul. This is Sorkin’s fourth series after Sports Night, the Emmy-winning The West Wing and Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip, and the first one on cable. Sorkin, who won an Academy Award in March for penning The Social Network, is now the second writer-creator to do an HBO series right after winning an Oscar. Alan Ball followed his Academy Award for American Beauty with HBO’s Six Feet Under.
Hurricane Irene: Worst Movie Weekend Of 2011? ‘The Help’ #1 Again, ‘Colombiana’ #2, ‘Afraid Of The Dark’ #3, ‘Our Idiot Brother’ #6
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: This weekend’s numbers bounced around, especially after Rentrak, the box office reporting service, sent out the following advisory: “We wanted to make you aware that a possible 1,000 theatres could be affected by the weather on the East Coast. We’ve been hearing about closures at many theatres and wanted to advise you that both Saturday and Sunday grosses will be affected.” This is turning into the worst moviegoing weekend of 2011, in a race with only Super Bowl weekend, because of the expected miniscule $80M expected for total North American box office grosses. Theater chains like AMC, Regal, and Clearview Cinemas were closing, location counts were dropping, and major releases were finding cover. Hurricane Irene came ashore along the Atlantic Seaboard on Saturday starting in North Carolina and heading due north. Mass transit was suspended in many areas while heavy rains and high winds pounded the region, causing one studio exec to complain to me, ”Business is in the crapper right now. Any way you slice it business is getting creamed this weekend.” The storm, at one point bigger than the size of Europe, created a state of emergency up the East Coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts and will depress box office by 10%, 20%, or more. Considering that this weekend’s 3 major opening movies were only expected to debut modestly even in fair weather, studios and distributors have a Mother Nature excuse when their films underperform at the North American box office. So I can’t humiliate them for not hitting double digits. Drats!)
1. DreamWorks/Disney’s The Help is a lock again for #1 with $4.4M Friday and $5.9M Saturday for a $14.3M weekend as the bestselling book-turned-pic enters its 3.5th week into 2,778 originally booked theaters. The cume is estimated at $96.6M and should pass the $100M plateau mid-week.
2. Sony Pictures/TriStar’s Luc Besson-produced and co-written PG-13 actioner Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana as the female assassin. It did the best of the newcomers opening to $3.7M Friday and also $3.7M Saturday to a $10.3M weekend with an original booking into 2,614 theaters. It earned an ‘A-’ CinemaScore from audiences. “Given the devastating weather system on the East Coast, the film performed better than expected and is off to a solid start and should hold well for the coming holiday weekend and into the Fall,” the studio said. Sony Pictures did a distribution deal for Colombiana which was fully financed by EuropaCorp and partners TF1 Films Production, Grive Productions with the participation of Canal+ and Cinecinema. They also put up the P&A for this title. For the media and promo campaign, Sony tied into the revenge theme of the movie with custom branded promotions and tie-ins with outlets like BET where there was “back to payback” stunt. The studio placed sneak peaks of the film in programming blocks where the cable channel was broadcasting revenge-oriented titles like Romeo Must Die and A Man Apart. Zoe Saldana shot custom interstitials. On channels like G4, a sweepstakes gave the winner time with Zoe’s trainer and to remake a scene from the film. Activities also specifically targeted urban audiences and Spanish language press. TriStar Pictures and Stage 6 Films present a coproduction EuropaCorp. Directed by Olivier Megaton, Colombiana gave writing credits to Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen, and produced by Luc Besson and Ariel Zeitoun.
3. FilmDistrict’s Guillermo del Toro-written and co-produced haunted house movie Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, starring Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce was originally booked into 2,760 theaters. It debuted with $3.6M Friday and $2.9M Saturday and will make $8.6M this weekend. It earned an unfortunate ‘C-’ CinemaScore from audiences. “All things considered, not a bad Saturday and ultimately the weekend total was good despite the hurricane,” said FilmDistrict’s Bob Berney. ”Our key large urban East Coast markets were really killed.” Females under 25 responded strongest to Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and in markets with large Latino populations. Berney has known Guillermo since distributing his Academy Award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth at Picturehouse. that’s also where Berney released The Orphanage which del Toro exec-produced. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark had been in the works for some time ever since del Toro made Mimic for the original Miramax. Guillermo based the new movie on a 1973 TV pic that had “scared the crap” out of him as a kid in Mexico. Del Toro chose director Troy Nixey from his work in comic books and a short film that Guillermo really responded to. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark was shot while Guillermo was in New Zealand preparing The Hobbit (remember that?) and would fly over to Melbourne where Nixey was shooting and remained very involved in the $28M production. After Disney sold Miramax to the Colony Capital/Ron Tutor group, FilmDistrict acquired Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark around Sundance this year. It was the closing night pic at the LA Film Festival and put together a Comic-Con panel with del Toro and Guy Pearce. Attendees called it the most highbrow discussion of the Con steeped in both film history and profanity. Guillermo has a “Presents” credit on the film and his pedigree has been one of the key marketing points of the film. “Jeanne and I were really happy to be working with Guillermo again,” Berney emailed me. “He really is the ’hardest working man in show business’ and the most generous and nicest guy as well. Not to mention that he holds the record for ‘F bombs’ at Q&As and panels around the world.”
4. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Fox) Week 4 [3,374? Theaters]
Friday $2.6M, Saturday $3.6M, Weekend $8.6M, Cume $148.4M
5. Spy Kids 4D (Dimension/Weinstein Co) Week 2 (3,305? Theaters)
Friday $1.5M, Saturday $2.5M, Weekend $5.7M (-51%), Cume $21.7M
6. The Weinstein Co’s not-so-raunchy R-rated comedy Our Idiot Brother showcasing Paul Rudd surrounded by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer originally booked into 2,555 theaters. It opened to $2.3M and $2.5M Saturday for a $5.7M weekend. It earned a disappointing ‘C+’ CinemaScores from audiences. This film was acquired by TWC and Ron Burkle’s YUK Films at the Sundance Film Festival for $6 million in exchange for U.S., Germany, France, Japan, and Benelux rights. Alliance has Canada via their recent acquisition of Maple Films. Directed by Jesse Peretz from a script he wrote with his sister Evgenia, he reached out to producer Anthony Bregman (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) who in turn enlisted producer Peter Saraf (Little Miss Sunshine) and they put the whole deal together in a few weeks. TWC’s marketing campaign involved not only the traditional media buys but a lot of extras on the Internet as well — like the Funny Or Die video with Harvey Weinstein and Paul Rudd. Rudd went on MLB.com talking sports. There also was a ’Search for Willie Nelson’ (the dog’s name in the film) viral campaign. And an Idiot Photo Booth social campaign. Our Idiot Brother gave writing credits to Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall and producing credits to Stefanie Azpiazu, Caroline Jaczko, Aleen Keshishian, Anthony Bregman, Peter Saraf, and Marc Turtletaub.
EXCLUSIVE: Emily Mortimer is in negotiations for the female lead in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO pilot. Tentatively titled More As This Story Develops, the project centers on cable news anchor Will McCallister (Jeff Daniels), who has his own show, as well as the show’s female executive producer, MacKenzie (Mortimer), for whom producing the news is what she does best and everything else is tied for last place. Mortimer landed the role after a series of reading. In addition to Daniels, Mortimer will also join Olivia Munn and Alison Pill, who are finalizing their deals for the project. Greg Mottola is directing the pilot, which is being executive produced by Sorkin, Scott Rudin and Alan Poul. Mortimer, repped by ICM, Independent Talent Group and Brillstein, will next be seen in Martin Scorsese’s 3D film Hugo Cabret and voices the female lead in Cars 2. She also co-starred in the hot Sundance entry Our Idiot Brother, which was picked up by The Weinstein Co.
Michael Ealy has been set to play the male lead alongside Kate Beckinsale in the fourth installment of the Underworld franchise for Screen Gems and Lakeshore. He will play a police detective who hunts the vampiress and ultimately teams up with her. Ealy, repped by Gersh and Epidemic Management, most recently played a soldier who returned from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder in the Tyler Perry-directed For Colored Girls, and he worked for Screen Gems in Takers. Underworld 3D just got under way in Vancouver, directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein from a script by J. Michael Straczynski and John Hlavin, a co-production between Lakeshore and Screen Gems. …
Robin McLeavy has been set to play the role of Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for 20th Century Fox. The role is brief but sets the tone for the action. It’s her death at the hands of a bloodsucker that hardens young Abe Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) into going to war against the growing scourge of vampires in the 1800s. The Australian actress, who just signed with UTA, is also repped by Wishlab and Shanahans in Australia. She played Stella opposite Cate Blanchett’s Blanche in the Liv Ullmann-directed revival of A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. …
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has stepped up to become the distributor of the Martin Scorsese-directed 3D film Hugo Cabret, with the studio locking a November 23 release date, the day before Thanksgiving. The adaptation of the Brian Selznick novel is produced and financed by GK Films and Graham King felt strongly that the five-day Thanksgiving holiday was the optimum time for the picture to open. Hugo Cabret was originally slated to be distributed by Sony Pictures, under GK Films’ output deal. Sony had the film originally scheduled for a December 9 release and when the studio couldn’t provide the requested Thanksgiving date, Sony Pictures agreed to let GK Films move the picture.
Paramount has an overall deal with Scorsese and chairman Brad Grey has a close relationship with the director and King. The studio, which didn’t have a big Thanksgiving release, jumped at the chance to be part of Scorsese’s first 3D film. The picture stars Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law and Emily Mortimer.
Steve Coogan has joined the cast of My Idiot Brother, the Jesse Peretz-directed indie comedy that is shooting in New York with Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Rashida Jones and Adam Scott. The film’s about family and the sacrifices it takes to deal with them. It’s a co-production between Anthony Bregman’s Likely Story and Peter Saraf and Marc Turteltaub’s Big Beach. Coogan plays a self-righteous documentary filmmaker. Evgenia Petertz and David Schisgall wrote the script.
Mortimer, who appeared in Shutter Island, and Stuhlbarg, who co-stars in Boardwalk Empire, have become the latest cast additions to Scorsese’s 3D children’s movie. Hugo Cabret began shooting in London last month. Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) star. Rounding out the cast are Jude law, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths (The History Boys) and Frances de la Tour (Alice in Wonderland). Hugo Cabret, the story of an orphan who solves the mystery of a broken robot, is something of a family reunion for Scorsese. John Logan, who wrote The Aviator, has written the script. And Graham King of GK Films is producing alongside Scorsese, Tim Headington and Johnny Depp. DP Robert Richardson, production designer Dante Ferretti, costume designer Sandy Powell and editor Thelma Schoonmaker all worked on Shutter Island. Cabret represents Scorsese’s first foray into 3D.