Universal Studios Home Entertainment today filed suit against its former chief operating officer Thomas Emrey, alleging that he breached his contract and fiduciary duties when he took a job as CFO at DineEquity last month. The Glendale-based firm, which operates restaurant chains including IHOP and Applebee’s, was also named in the suit for aiding and abetting the alleged breach. Universal claims that Emrey was under contract through May of 2012 but announced on September 2 that he had a new job and stopped coming to work. Universal claims in the suit that Emrey knew he was leaving for months before he left, and knowingly exited the unit just as it was prepping for two major DVD releases, Bridesmaids this month and Fast Five in October. The suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court, seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees.
Universal Pictures has just signed Fast Five director Justin Lin to a two-year production deal for his newly formed company Barnstorm Pictures. Lin has directed three The Fast and the Furious series installments. The last was Fast Five, which has earned more than $600M at the worldwide box office in 2011 and was one of the few bright spots in the studio’s year. Lin will go behind the camera for Fast & Furious 6, to be released May 24, 2013. Hoping to branch beyond fast car movies, Lin is developing an action adventure spy film called Leading Man and an untitled project about the 442 Japanese American WWII battalion that is the most decorated in American history. He is also attached to finish The Terminator franchise with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a project that is set up with Megan Ellison’s Annapurna banner.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment will kicks its Blu-ray and DVD campaign into gear at the “Fast Five 225″ auto race on Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway. The latest installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise will be released on Oct. 4. Fast Five stars Tyrese Gibson and Jordana Brewster will serve as the grand marshals. ”The combination of Fast Five and NASCAR is sure to be a huge thrill for race fans,” said Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau. “No two brands are bigger crowd pleasers or deliver a better action-packed, edge-of-your-seat racing experience.”
In one of its biggest movie-acquisition deals in the last few years, USA Network has bought a package of more than 30 titles from Universal Pictures. Nine of them include network premiere rights, including Judd Apatow’s sleeper comedy hit Bridesmaids; the Fast & the Furious sequel Fast Five; the latest installment in the Meet the Parents franchise, Little Fockers; as well as the Matt Damon starrer The Adjustment Bureau. All four will debut on USA. There was some corporate synergy at work in making the deal, with virtually all other NBCUniversal TV networks contributing financially, including NBC, Syfy, E!, Bravo, Oxygen, Style, G4, Chiller, Sleuth and UniHD. In exchange, those nets get rights to some of the titles in the package. For instance, NBC has committed to airing Bridesmaids and The Little Fockers after their premiere on USA and has an option to pick up more. Syfy will debut two of the nine movies, to which USA is getting network premiere rights: Repo Man and Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take.
The release date for Fast & Furious 6 is Memorial Day (May 24) of 2013. It follows the record-breaking success of Summer 2011′s Fast Five, which posted the biggest opening weekend in Universal Pictures history and will soon shoot past $600 million at the worldwide box office. The global blockbuster franchise (see my previous, ‘Fast Five’ Will Transition Franchise From Street Racing To Future Full Of Heist Action) reunites its ensemble cast ”for their most dangerous adventure yet”, according to the studio. Neal H. Moritz and Vin Diesel return to produce, and Justin Lin is lining up to go behind the camera for the fourth time in a row.
Kagan: ‘Rio’ And ‘Fast Five’ Only Clearly Profitable Films In April With Summer Movie Profits Poised To Fall
Don’t be fooled by the headlines this summer that likely will focus on how strong movie ticket sales look compared to last year. Researchers at SNL Kagan predict that domestic box office for the period from late April to the end of August will be up 1.7% to about $4.2 billion. Not bad – especially considering that this year’s figure counts 42 releases vs. 45 last year — right? Not so fast. When Kagan looks at all sources of income including international sales, home video, and TV, it estimates that this year’s crop will generate $4.45 billion in profits on $12.3 billion in revenues. That’s down slightly from last year’s $4.49 billion in profit on revenues of nearly $13 billion. The forecast follows Kagan’s estimate that only 2 out of 16 releases in April clearly will be profitable: Fox’s Rio and Universal’s Fast Five. Three others could be profitable for distributors, depending on the terms of their deals with exhibitors: Universal’s Hop, FilmDistrict’s Insidious, and Summit Entertainment’s Source Code.
While the studios sort through their finances, theater chains will enjoy any uptick in summer sales. Box office revenues in the first quarter for the four biggest publicly traded chains – Carmike, Cinemark, Reading International, and Regal – dropped 17.2% vs the same period last year to about $803 million. Their concession sales were down 12.6% to about $337 million, although sales per customer rose 3.2% to $2.97.
Monday’s box office actuals show that No. 1 Marvel/Disney’s Thor distributed by Paramount finished its opening weekend with $65.7 million. No. 2 Universal’s Fast Five ended wih $32.4M, or -69%. But the real story was the +13% Mother’s Day leap from Saturday’s gross by No. 3 TriStar/Sony’s African American-targeted Jumping The Broom for a $15.2 debut weekend. Sony crowed that it was “an indication of the electric word of mouth among its audience”. No. 4 Alcon Entertainment/Warner Bros’ Something Borrowed finished with $13.9M. And rounding out the Top 5 was Blue Sky Studios/Fox’s Rio 3D toon with $8.5M.
Mighty ‘Thor’ Hammers $242M Global Cume; ‘Fast Five’ $324M; ‘Jumping Broom’ $13.7M; ‘Something Borrowed’ $13.1M
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Welcome to the first of the big comic book-inspired movies on the Big Screen this summer, with Fox’s X-Men: First Class, Warner Bros’ Green Lantern, and Marvel’s Captain America to follow Marvel/Disney’s Thor distributed by Paramount. Total gross for all films is $161M but still off last year’s by 10% (when Iron Man 2 did $128M all by itself). Here are the following Top 10 North American grosses for Friday and Saturday and this domestic weekend in addition to international and worldwide cumes:
1. Thor (Marvel/Disney/Paramount) NEW [3,955 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.5M, Weekend $66M
International $176M, Global Cume $242M
Saturday brought in younger and family audiences to this latest in the Marvel Studios productions which earned a ‘B+’ CinemaScore overall, and an ‘A’ for ages under 18. Hollywood was predicting a $60+ million domestic weekend opening for Marvel/Disney’s Thor, with Paramount distributing. The PG-13 Norse God actioner had already made $133M from 56 territories so far with Finland and China opening this weekend. Now, in its second weekend of widespread release on the international circuit, Thor posted a formidable $46M from 12,476 positions in 60 markets for an overseas gross of $176M to date — or global cume of $242M outside the US and Canada — and in only 11 days has already outgrossed the final cume of X-Men 1, Fantastic Four 1 and the first Hulk movie from Marvel. In the U.S. and Canada, the film debuted as the No. 3 Marvel title — well ahead of X-Men and Fantastic Four and The Hulk, which all did around $55M, but nowhere near the $100M+ of Iron Man or Spider-Man. With Universal’s holdover Fast Five speeding to another strong weekend, Thor opened against such stiff competition, even with $3.25M in midnight box office compared with Fast Five‘s $3.8M midnights for its U.S. and Canada debut. But the Norse god took advantage of 3D’s higher ticket prices, including at 214 iMAX theaters domestically, for $6.6M and another 70 screens overseas. Reviews have been good, and British Kenneth Branagh’s direction and Aussie newcomer Chris Hemsworth in the title role of The Mighty Thor earned a 92% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The good-looking Hemsworth allowed for heavy PR to drum up appeal among women with his shirtless clip a popular choice for talk shows with large female audiences who also were targeted with a Royal Wedding blitz. To solidify male appeal, Paramount had spots during the Super Bowl and NCAA Basketball, the UFC Marathon and UFC Fight Night Live Premiere. And, to appeal to the feeble-brained, Thor ads aired on the finale of Jersey Shore.
Thor launched in 1962 and has endured for almost half a century across comics, toys, animated series, and now a movie. Like Iron Man, Marvel thought Thor deserved to be made in its own right and lends a long history to The Avengers. (Aka Marvel’s Avengers Assemble strategy. Expect to see agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., previously seen in the Iron Man movies, foreshadowing the coming of The Avengers). The challenge for Paramount was to market a reverse superhero story: a hero becomes a man. “Our challenge was to emphasize what was unique about his character and define him for audiences,” a studio exec told me. So the TV ads reminded: “The world has many heroes but only one is a God.” This epic adventure spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the realm of Asgard with the powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth. Thor was produced by Marvel wunderkind Kevin Feige, with Alan Fine, Stan Lee, David Maisel, Patricia Whitcher and Louis D’Esposito serving as executive producers from a screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne and a story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich.
2. Fast Five (Universal) Week 2 [3,644 Theaters]
Friday $10.6M, Saturday $12.8M, Weekend $32.5M (-62%), Cume $139.9M
International $184.8M, Global Cume $324.7M
The -62% domestic drop was primarily due to the loss of all IMAX screens and large-format screens which had only been booked for one week. But abroad Fast Five is the No. 1 film in the world for the second week in a row and the biggest international weekend in Universal’s history. It continued its international rollout with No. 1 openings in 44 more territories this weekend for 58 total. Fast Five set records for the biggest opening of the Fast franchise, and was the biggest opening day and biggest opening weekend in Universal’s history in 12 markets, including Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Netherlands, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, France, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, India, Vietnam. International grosses were an estimated $86.6M at 6,979 dates in 58 territories and raised the international total to $184.8M. The worldwide total including the outstanding domestic box office of $139.9M will reach $324.7M today.
3. Jumping The Broom (TriStar/Sony) NEW [2,034 Theaters]
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $5.2M, Weekend $13.7M
Sony was only expecting TriStar’s Jumping The Broom this weekend to do somewhere between $8M to $10M on the film that was made for just $6.6M. Hey, if major studios keep making cheap movies like this that do double the predicted grosses, I’m going to have a tough time making fun of mogul tightwads. Pic received an ‘A’ CinemaScore straight across the board — women, men, all ages. “Exits show we hit our target as 70% of this weekend’s audience was female and 64% was over 35,” A Sony exec tells me. Aimed at older African-American women, the PG-13 film focuses on two “Uptown meets Downtown” families who meet for the first time at a weekend wedding on Martha’s Vineyard in what is billed as an ”insightful and inspirational” comedy. The key for Sony was reaching out to faith-based audiences. Bishop TD Jakes, who is a producer on the film, hosted screenings at religious conferences throughout the country. On the media front, Sony worked with TLC on special wedding programming and on tie-ins with Royal Wedding coverage in local markets. There also was strong BET promotion since both the director/executive producer of The Game, Salim Akil, directed the film, and a co-star of The Game, Pooch Hall, co-starred in this film as well.
4. Something Borrowed (Alcon/Warner Bros) NEW [2,904 Theaters]
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $13.1M
This run-of-the-mill rom-com based on the novel by the same title earned a ‘B’ CinemaScore: ‘B+’ among females, ‘C+’ males. Financed and produced by Alcon Entertainment (The Blind Side) with Warner Bros just distributing, the pic was counter-programmed against Thor and Week 2 of Fast Five and was always expected to open in the low teens. Luke Greenfield directed from a screenplay adaptation by Jennie Snyder Urman. Hilary Swank was one of the producers. Gee, Kate Hudson’s career looked interesting when she did Almost Famous. But a succession of mediocre romantic comedies like this one where two female frenemies fight over the same man (so anti-woman) have made her into yesterday’s news. Sad that.
5. Rio 3D (Blue Sky Studio/Fox) Week 4 [3,708 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $3.5M, Weekend $8.2M, Cume $114.9M
6. Water For Elephants (Fox) Week 3 [2,820 Theaters]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $5.6M, Cume $41.6M
7. Madea’s Big Happy Family (Tyler Perry/Lionsgate) Week 3 [2,288 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.6M, Weekend $3.9M, Cume $46.8M
8. Prom (Disney) Week 2 [2,730 Theaters]
Friday $794K, Saturday $960M, Weekend $2.4M (-49%), Cume $7.8M
9. Soul Surfer (FilmDistrict/Sony) Week 5 [2,010 Theaters]
Friday $590K, Saturday $850K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $36.6M
10. Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs Evil (The Weinstein Co) Week 2 [2,505 Theaters]
Friday $433K, Saturday $877K, Weekend $1.8M (-54%), Cume $6.7M
Meanwhile, Summit Entertainment and Participant Media platformed Mel Gibson’s comeback movie The Beaver directed by Jodie Foster in 22 theaters across the top ten markets in North America: weekend gross was $104K, with a paltry per theater average. Doesn’t bode well for pic which expands on May 20 and will be brought to Cannes.
Yowza! Universal is crowing that its Fast Five actual 3-day North American opening-weekend gross is higher than Sunday’s estimate. Specifically, the film opened with $86.198 million playing at 3,644 theaters this weekend.
‘FAST FIVE’ SPEEDS TO $165M Cume! Record Breaking $83.6M North American Weekend; Newbies ‘Prom’ & ‘Hoodwinked Too’ Bomb
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Here’s the latest news about the start of the Summer Box Office with its first official weekend totalling $145 million, +52% from last year. The 2011 box office slump is now officially history. North America’s #1 movie is Universal’s Fast Five whose weekend of $83.6M blew away the $71M opening weekend of fourquel Fast & Furious. Now, this 5th installment in the street racing franchise breaks the studio’s non-toon losing streak in recent years with a global cume of $165M in just 10 days of release internationally. But two other pics debuting this weekend — Disney’s Prom and The Weinstein Co’s Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil 3D – failed to connect with audiences. Here’s the Top 10:
1. Fast Five (Universal) NEW [3,644 Theaters]
Friday $34.4M, Saturday $30.2M, Weekend $83.6M
Even with a -13% drop on Saturday, which would be normal because its Friday’s grosses expanded by midnight showings, that’s still a bigger North American weekend cume for Fast Five than the top 2 openings this year combined (Rio $39M/Rango $38M). The film received an “A” CinemaScore and an “A+” from moviegoers under age 18. In terms of records, Universal is claiming: the biggest opening in Universal history (besting Lost World: Jurassic Park‘s $72.1M), the biggest opening of 2011 (besting Rio‘s $39.2M), the biggest Universal opening for 2011 (besting Hop‘s $37.5M), the highest opening for an April Release (besting Fast & Furious‘ $71M), the highest opening for the last weekend in April (besting A Nightmare On Elm Street‘s $39M), the highest opening for stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and producer Neil Moritz, and director Justin Lin. A lot of Uni execs are breathing easier today now that they’ve delivered a nice fat hit to their new Comcast overlords who must have been wondering if they’d bought a bomb factory instead of a movie studio. Fast Five opened first overseas 10 days ago and this weekend grossed a huge $45.3M at 3,211 dates in just 14 territories. That raised its early international tally to $81.4M. So now the worldwide total stands at a whopping $165M. The pic opened No. 1 in each of the 10 new markets. The openings are bigger than all the previous Fast franchise films. (Paramount opened Marvel/Disney’s Thor head-to-head against Fast Five in more than a dozen markets but not in the U.S. and Canada until next Friday. Of course, sequels do better overseas than in this country.) But even rival studios say Fast Five is on track for a $300M foreign and $500M worldwide finish. “Here’s what I’m most proud of: there is nothing obvious about what happened. No one can say of course every single decision how it was going to be made, how it was going to be cast, when it was going to be dated, how it was going to be sold, was very startegically thought out. There is no reason for the 5th movie in a franchise to have pulled off what this pulled off,” Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson told me this morning.
2. Rio (Blue Sky/Fox) Week 3 [3,708 Theaters]
Friday $3.6M, Saturday $6.5M, Weekend $14.4M, Cume $103.6M
3. Madea’s Big Happy Family (Tyler Perry/Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,288 Theaters]
Friday $3.1M, Saturday $4.5M, Weekend $10M (-60%), Cume $41M
4. Water For Elephants (Fox 2000/Fox) Week 2 [2,820 Theaters]
Friday $2.9M, Saturday $4M, Weekend $9.1M (-45%), Estimated Cume $32.1M
5. Prom (Disney) NEW [2,730 Theaters]
Friday $2M, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $5M
Usually, studios large and small boast about releasing $9 million budget movies because the upside can be huge even if majors spend at least $30M to market any film. But when it’s the first greenlit movie from Rich Ross as chief of Walt Disney Pictures, then the Prom bomb has the potential to humiliate. Disney expected a weekend opening of around $8M-$9M, and Hollywood about $10M. Nope. It was half that. Prom is one of four movies that was greenlit around the same time last year along with Pirates Of The Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides, The Muppets reboot, and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. Only Prom didn’t have a box office pedigree, and I was bewildered why Ross wouldn’t make this little movie into a clone of the wildly successful High School Musical which Ross did at Disney Channel — complete with singing and dancing. (The sequel could have been Homecoming…) Nope. The Prom soundtrack featuring new and original songs by in-house Hollywood Records’ Allstar Weekend, Travie McCoy, and Neon Trees didn’t attract moviegoers. Nor did a young up-and-coming multicultural cast including Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) and Thomas McDonell who’s cast in the upcoming Dark Shadows but couldn’t match Zac Efron as a draw. Naturally, Prom‘s target audience was young female tweens/teens and its late April release was timed to U.S. prom-planning season. The Disney marketing machine leveraged third-party promotional support. But the pic, directed by Joe Nussbaum and written by Katie Welch, left the kids cold. ”We are going after a very specific market, and, if we can get that market and get films like this right, the upside represents an incredible opportunity,” a Disney exec told me before the movie opened. “When you have big budget tentpoles like Pirates, Oz, all the Marvel films, we need to have other types of films in the portfolio that have potential to make money with less risk attached.” Unfortunately for them, the ”Promb” puts more stress on the slate coming together now from Ross and his president of production Sean Bailey.
6. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil 3D (Weinstein Co) NEW [2,505 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $4.1M
Of the locations where this fractured fairy tale toon based on Red Riding Hood is playing, 75% are 3D. But even those higher ticket prices couldn’t help The Weinstein Co save this sequel. The indie studio was expecting mid- to high single digits for the weekend, and it’s underperforming. As a source in film financing emailed me, “A huge turkey.” P&A was estimated at $36M, but Weinstein Conow tells me now that since Hoodwinked Too was a service deal for Kanbar just like it did on the first one, “we did not put up one dime of P&A on the movie”. How embarrassing for The Weinstein Co that this piece of crap is what it’s playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. Then again, it’s appropriate since that fest is crap, too — merely an excuse for Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal to phony up a film fest and sucker American Express.
Here’s the strange thing about IMAX these days: the large screen exhibitor reported terrible financial results for the first quarter although analysts were projecting it would continue to report a profit. Yet its stock price closed up 6% at $34.24, for a more than 60% gain over the past year. Even this morning, Wall Street was reassured by the IMAX upbeat projections for ticket sales and global expansion plans. Which is why CEO Richard Gelfond today tells me that 1st quarter financial results are not nearly as terrible as they look.
GELFOND: If you strip out nonrecurring things, it really shows up as a 4 cent (earnings per share) number. That was a little short of expectations among analysts. And I think frankly some of that happened because we incurred expenses in China in building our business there. Some in R&D, and reinvesting in our business. And I think people didn’t understand that the first quarter was devoid of any blockbuster films. For us, if the box office drops 25% — as it did — as long as there are blockbuster films that doesn’t matter. We don’t play a full film slate. We play just a couple of films. But what made the quarter noteworthy was that there were no blockbuster films. That has a big impact on us. Fortunately, starting tonight at midnight, we have Fast Five domestically and Thor internationally. So the blockbuster season …
UK had the hottest Easter weekend box office in 62 years, with Universal’s Fast Five grossing $8.8 million (£5,332,096) in its opening weekend – the biggest debut to date for the franchise — to become Britain’s No. 1 film. The UK opening was also the biggest of the Fast franchise to date, surpassing the £4.92M of the previous fourth installment Fast & Furious. Opening across 437 UK sites, it delivered an average of £12,201 per screen and beat competition from Warner Bros’ Arthur, starring Brit lead Russell Brand (in third place after Fox’s Rio in second). Elsewhere internationally, including previews (up to and including Sunday), Fast Five’s opening also fared well across Australia ($10.3M — the biggest-ever Universal opening) Korea ($3.4M) and New Zealand ($870K). Overall, up to and including Monday April 25, the film took a total of $27.8M across the four territories — and was No. 1 for all four markets. Like Rio and Thor recently, Fast Five opened first overseas. It releases in North America this Friday.
UPDATE 4 PM: It’s a big start to Summer 2011, with both the Marvel/Disney actioner Thor 3D distributed by Paramount and Universal’s Fast Five such huge hits in their opening week. Both movies opened earlier overseas than in U.S. due to the Easter holiday Down Under.
Friday numbers for the start of the Easter weekend have just come in for Fast Five from Oz and Kiwi. In Australia, Fast Five is No. 1 again with 35% market share. Today’s gross is $2.4M (U.S. dollars) at 229 dates, up 20% over Thursday. The two-day total is $4.6M and the three-day cume is now is $6.7M. In New Zealand, Fast Five is No. 1 again today with 40% market share. Friday’s gross is $230K at 55 dates for a two-day total of $490K.
1:45 PM: Through today, Thor 3D has grossed $3 million (U.S. dollars) in Australia, or 30% ahead of the first two days of the original Iron Man, which did $2.3M. (Of course, IM1 was only 2D, so no higher 3D ticket prices.)
Sequels do especially well overseas, and Universal’s street-car racing franchise is scoring. Thursday’s previews of Fast Five in the UK at 416 locations grossed an estimated $2.1 million in the first day. The pic is No. 1 with 46% market share. It’s Universal’s biggest Thursday previews in history and in the Top 8 Thursday previews of all time — bigger than previews for Iron Man and Iron Man 2 and The Bourne Ultimatum. Fast Five also opened in Korea today at 239 locations to become No. 1 with 35% market share — twice as big as the franchise’s fourquel Fast & Furious with total previews grossing $570K. It’s also No. 1 in New Zealand with 40% market share and an opening-day gross of $260K at 55 locations. The total estimated grosses thus far including its No. 1 status in Australia are $7 million.
Well, this is a surprising start for the first two big films of Summer 2011. Marvel/Disney’s Thor 3D distributor Paramount opened on Thursday in Down Under thinking its Norse God would steal Fast Five‘s thunder from Universal, which opened its street car racing pic the day before. Didn’t happen. Day Two of Fast Five beat Thor by 38% — $2.02 million U.S. dollars vs $1.5 million U.S. dollars — even though both films are playing in the same number of theaters (220), Fast Five is only 2D so can’t command the higher 3D ticket prices, and Thor‘s lead Chris Hemsworth is Australian. Universal is crowing that its Day 2 of Fast Five was ahead of Iron Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 and its cume there is now $4.43 million U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, also today, Fast Five‘s previews in Korea are running 34% bigger than Fast And Furious (the fourquel in the franchise). In North America, Fast Five opens April 29 and Thor on May 6.
In Australia, films traditionally open on a Thursday, but Universal opened its latest in the street-racing franchise, Fast Five, last night on a Wednesday. Studio estimates show that it grossed $2.4 million (U.S. dollars) for opening day, making it No. 1 in the country for opening day with 41% market share. In U.S. dollar terms, that’s the biggest ever Universal opening day in Australia. In Australian dollar terms, it’s second only to the fourth film in the franchise, Fast & Furious, which opened on the traditional Thursday. Unfortunately, starting tomorrow, it faces stiff competition from Paramount’s Thor opening in Australia. Fast Five opens this week/weekend in four international territories — the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Korea — then day and date April 29 in North America and nine more international territories.
Universal announced today it has made a two-year term deal with Fast Five screenwriter Chris Morgan, who also penned the studio’s hits The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, and Wanted. Morgan most recently penned Universal’s upcoming 3D epic action-adventure 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. The production agreement includes a first-look deal. He is already started on the script for the sixth installment of the Fast And Furious franchise. “Universal has been an amazing partner during the past few years,” Morgan said in the statement. “The confidence and support I’ve received from Adam Fogelson, Donna Langley and Jeff Kirschenbaum have meant so much to me professionally, and even more so personally. I’m incredibly excited by this evolution of our relationship and look forward to producing many great films together.” Uni co-chairman Donna Langley called Morgan “a talented and collaborative partner.” Morgan is currently assembling his production team, which will be housed on the Universal lot. He is currently developing three projects to produce: The Eye of the World, with Universal; The Vatican Tapes, with Lionsgate; and Heatseekers, with Platinum Dunes at Paramount.
Universal Pictures has released its second trailer for Fast Five, a film that brings back the stars of the previous four films including original duo Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, and adds Dwayne Johnson for good measure. The film bows April 29.
EXCLUSIVE: Shortly after Arnold Schwarzenegger left the Governor’s Mansion and Tweeted his desire to resume his acting career, there seems to finally be some action on his signature franchise, The Terminator. I’m told that interest is kicking back up. One interested party: Universal, which is looking for a directing vehicle for Justin Lin. He helmed the last three installments of The Fast and the Furious franchise, including the latest Fast Five, which Universal releases April 29. I’ve heard that the plan would be to possibly pair him with Chris Morgan, who aside from Fast Five has credits on big scale Universal films that include the upcoming Keanu Reeves actioner 47 Ronin and Wanted.
Since being acquired in bankruptcy court last February by Santa Monica-based hedge fund Pacificor for $29.5 million, The Terminator has maintained radio silence, surprising given the voracious studio appetite for branded tent pole projects that lend themselves to 3D technology. Part of the reason was the subpar results of the last film, but also the bankruptcy auction which left the two most likely distributors, Sony Pictures and Lionsgate, walking away in disgust. Pacificor, one of the debt holders that forced Halcyon partners Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson into bankruptcy, was the surprise winner, bidding close to the $30 million that Kubicek and Anderson paid to acquire the rights back in 2007 from producers Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar.
While the bankruptcy approval left open …