Execs put the Street on notice that Universal‘s movie profits may take a hit this year, but for what they see as a good cause: They expect healthy returns in 2015 from films including Jurassic World (aka Jurassic Park 4), Fast & Furious 7, The Minions (an animated spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise) and Fifty Shades Of Grey. “It’s a little bit of an up-and-down business,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a conference call with analysts to discuss this morning’s Q4 earnings report. NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke assured them, though, that “we have a very strong year” planned for 2015 and “we’re incurring that investment [in 2014] as we gear up.” CFO Michael Angelakis also said that the productions will “absorb some cash,” but he characterized the increased spending as a kind of normalization, noting that last year Comcast went “lighter on the production spend for the 2014 slate.” The company spent $1.16B on capital expenditures for all of NBCU last year — up $397M from 2012 — with much of it going to Harry Potter and Transformers theme park attractions. It expects the level for NBCU to remain “relatively flat” in 2014, with continuing theme park investments.
Worry not Fifty Shades Of Grey fans: The movie of the book aims to give you what you want. “We’re very conscious of not making anything gratuitous or exploitive while being faithful to the stories of the book and to the fans of the book,” said producer Michael De Luca this morning at the Sundance Film Festival. “We’re going to give them what they expect, which is an intense and erotic love story,” he added. “Obviously the film can’t be as explicit as the book,” De Luca noted. “A picture is worth a 1000 words. So to be erotic onscreen means I think an image is going to have way more power than reading the words on a page.”
The soon to be president of Production for Columbia Pictures (he officially takes the reins March 1) was in Park City for the second annual PGA Breakfast. In a free-ranging discussion with Producers Guild national executive director Van Van Patten, De Luca mainly discussed his career history. But it was on Fifty Shades that things got steamy.
“Not to sound corny, but it is, at its heart, a young love story. I think those things always work,” he said of the blockbuster trilogy of books. “No matter what you think about the book, those things are in that story and they are very cinematic. I think people love a good love story and the these two characters endeared themselves to 90 million readers so it’s hard to say that it didn’t connect on a deeper level than just its more sensationalist aspects, but it was the love story that did it for me.”
In 2011, Iron Man (I and II) director Jon Favreau called the summer of 2011, “a bloodbath for Hollywood” because of the number big-budget special effects films, remakes and sequels. Pfft! Wait until you get a load of next year. The amount of big-budget sequel fare and remakes set for 2015 from the major studios is mind-boggling and add to that highly anticipated films such as Fifty Shades Of Grey and another Quentin Tarantino film in the same year and you have all the makings for the biggest movie going year in history. The year is even going to start out hitting the ground running with audience-familiar titles, but it the summer and holiday season of 2015 that will be packed like no other — which brings up serious questions about what will happen as some of the biggest franchises in history collide? Remember, these films need major market exposure on over 2,500-3,000 screens or more to open big and some of them hope to play for weeks. This is going to be a star-studded war. I guess it was inevitable when studios ride out the franchises as far as they do now … what are we on Mission: Impossible 5 and Fast & Furious 7 now? And we have another Star Wars on our hands.
The year 2015 will go down in the books as the World Cup of franchise players: Superman vs. Batman vs. The Avengers vs. Mad Max vs. Fast & Furious vs. Jurassic Park vs. Terminator vs. Fantastic Four 3D, Marvel’s Ant-Man vs. Assassins vs. Untitled Bourne Identity, and then James Bond vs. Star Wars vs. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 vs. Mission Impossible for top film of the year.
In kid fare, parents should be ready to be pulled to the theater time and time again (sacrificing much-needed sleep) with Cinderella, Monster Trucks, The Penguins Of Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda 3, The Jungle Book, Alvin And The Chipmunks 4, Peanuts, The Smurfs 3, Tomorrowland, and SpongeBob 2.
Practically every genre in 2015 is looking at proven titles: The year will start with the typical early year horror film fare — again no stopping franchise names — Amityville from Dimension and Frankenstein starring Daniel Radcliffe both in January, and Friday the 13th and Poltergeist. That will be followed by Fifty Shades Of Grey, based on the mega-selling book by EL James, which bows in February before the floodgates open again on sequels and remakes.
The plethora of franchise titles will likely push the 2015 box office to record-breaking heights as this year’s holdovers from the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday fare — such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (which bows on November 21), Fox’s Night At The Museum 3 and Sony’s Annie and Warner Bros’ The Hobbit: There And Back Again (or should it be called The Hobbit: Here It Comes Again) will also add to the huge overall gross numbers of 2015.
The next projects of a hot YouTube star, an Olympic swimmer and a unidirectional boy band, the latest news for Vampire Academy and Fifty Shades Of Grey movies, and the painful shocks of two much-loved actors’ early deaths were among the year’s 20 most retweeted and shared posts from Deadline on our main Twitter feed, @Deadline. Three subjects earned multiple visits to the Top 20: the band One Direction (if you include the Labor Day box office story on their concert movie) and the Vampire Diaries and Fifty Shades films. Here’s No. 1:
YouTube Star Shane Dawson Sells Autobiographical Comedy To NBC With Darlene Hunt & Will Gluck http://t.co/YG7yFZhrEC
— Deadline Hollywood (@Deadline) November 12, 2013
Check out the rest of the timeline here: Our Biggest Tweets 2013. Any surprises for you among the Top 20?
Universal and Focus Features have been busy rounding out the cast of Fifty Shades Of Grey, which stars Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey opposite Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele. Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) has been cast in the adaptation of EL James’ bestselling erotic novel as Ray Steele, Anastasia’s stepfather. Rennie recently finished filming Weinstein acquisition The Young And Prodigious TS Spivet with Helena Bonham Carter and indie feature Ride with Helen Hunt. He’s repped by APA, Hodgson Management Group, and Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo.
Catch up on Deadline’s best film stories of the week:
Emerging Star Gal Gadot Set To Play Wonder Woman In ‘Batman Vs. Superman’
By Mike Fleming Jr. – Warner Bros and Zack Snyder have found their Wonder Woman. They’ve cast Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot in the iconic role and she will be part of Batman Vs. Superman, the film that will see Henry Cavill square off with Ben Affleck.
Paul Walker’s Manager Matt Luber Looks Back On 18 Years Growing Up Together
By Mike Fleming Jr. – EXCLUSIVE: When they help build a Hollywood star career, agents and managers know it can all end in a moment. That usually comes in the form of a phone call, informing them that client has dropped them for another rep. While that is hard to bear, I have been imagining how much worse it has been for Luber Rocklin Entertainment’s Matt Luber. His 18-year run with Paul Walker ended with a Saturday phone call as Luber and his daughter were leaving a sports bar to attend a college football game in Phoenix. That is when Luber learned that Walker had died instantly at age 40 in a tragic car crash.
Ben Affleck On Playing Batman, And How Not To Accept An Academy Award
By Mike Fleming Jr. – For Playboy’s 60th anniversary issue, the magazine needed an iconic subject for the Playboy Interview, and I hit the lottery. I got to talk with actor-writer-director-producer Ben Affleck about his life and the remarkable second act that he wrote for himself as writer-director of Gone Baby Gone and The Town, which culminated in the Best Picture Oscar for Argo.
EXCLUSIVE: Dylan Neal is the latest actor to join the cast of Universal Pictures and Focus Features’ adaptation of EL James’ bestselling Fifty Shades Of Grey. He’ll play Bob, Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) stepfather and husband of Carla Adams (Jennifer Ehle). He begins shooting this week in Vancouver. Neal currently stars in Hallmark Channel’s Cedar Cove opposite Andie MacDowell. He is also shooting the second season of The CW’s Arrow, in the recurring role of the villainous Dr. Anthony Ivo. Jamie Dornan has been set to play Christian Grey opposite Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in the pic directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, which will hit theaters February 13, 2015.
Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden has joined the cast of Universal and Focus Features’ erotic adaptation of EL James‘s Fifty Shades Of Grey. She’ll play Dr. Grace Trevelyan Grey, the adoptive physician mama of emotionally damaged billionaire Christian Grey and his siblings Mia and Elliot. Dr. Grace Grey is the pediatrician who cares for 4-year-old Christian when his birth mother (or “the crack whore,” as Fifty Shades readers may know her) dies. She’s also the one who inadvertently introduces Christian to his cougar lover Elena from whom he learns his BDSM ways. Harden recently wrapped Woody Allen‘s Magic in the Moonlight and stars on HBO’s The Newsroom and ABC’s Trophy Wife. Jamie Dornan has been set to play Christian opposite Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in the pic directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, which will now hit theaters February 13, 2015.
The British singer-songwriter who had a cameo in Fast & Furious 6 has been cast in another movie you might have heard about. Rita Ora will play Mia, the outgoing adopted sister of billionaire Christian Grey, in Universal‘s adaptation of E L James’ mega-selling novel Fifty Shades Of Grey. The Albania-born Ora has topped the British album and singles charts but hasn’t broken through in the U.S. This ought to help. She is repped by CAA and manager Sarah Stennett.
The foreplay period seems to have taken forever to mobilize the Fifty Shades Of Grey film, but Universal Pictures and Focus Features …
Fans of the global bestseller will have to wait longer than planned to see Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) come to life on the screen. Universal Pictures and Focus Features’ have pushed the release …
EXCLUSIVE: They’ve cast one of the final major roles in Fifty Shades Of Grey, the Universal Pictures and Focus Features adaptation of EL James’ global bestseller that stars Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey. Victor Rasuk has been set to play Jose, the aspiring photographer and classmate of Anastasia, whose close friendship with the young girl — he’d like it to be more — pits him as rival for her affections with Grey, the wealthy businessman whose warped past leaves him with a need to dominate his partners and unable to accept Anastasia on equal terms (yes, I read the damn book).
Catch up with the best of Deadline’s Top Film stories from this week:
SHOCKER! Charlie Hunnam Exits Christian Grey Role In ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’
By Mike Fleming Jr. – Well, here’s a surprise. Universal is going to have to look harder to find its S&M minded zillionaire Christian Grey because Sons Of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam has exited the role he only just got.
Angelina Jolie Sets Japanese Singer Miyavi As Brutal WWII POW Camp Guard ‘The Bird’ In ‘Unbroken’
By Mike Fleming Jr. - EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and director Angelina Jolie have found their villain for the Lou Zamperini tale Unbroken.
Universal Pays 7-Figure Deal For Aaron Berg ‘Section 6′ Spec
By Mike Fleming Jr. – EXCLUSIVE: It’s not only an exceptional deal for a new writer; I’m hard pressed to come up with the last clean seven-figure deal for a script with no attachments. Four studios bid on the project…