Deadline last Thursday revealed Fox’s plans to prepare three Avatar sequels that can be shot in succession, and here’s what Fox Filmed Entertainment chief Jim Gianopulos just told analysts: “Of course, Jim Cameron is finalizing the scripts– yes, that was plural– for the continuation of the saga that began with the highest grossing film in history– Avatar. The growing breadth and scale of Jim’s magnificent fantasy world will come to life through three films, scheduled for release in December 2016, December 2017, and December 2018. We’re confident these major cinematic events will amaze and enthrall audiences around the world.” The comments came in a presentation where the exec argued that Fox will continue to lead the industry in profitability due to its focus on franchises and global scale.
The Hollywood Reporter is trumpeting that Fox Film chief Jim Gianopulos is “closing on a new long-term contract.” Well, thank you, Captain Obvious! It was clear to most that Jim G would be around awhile when the studio gave Tom Rothman his walking papers and anointed Gianopulos solo chairman. That just happened in September. Gianopulos since has been doing his part to make the place filmmaker friendlier and this week he made his first overall filmmaker deal by bringing in Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig to put the studio in the R-rated comedy business. As happens when your contract is expiring in 14 months, Gianopulos is working on a new 5-year deal to replace the old 5-year deal but that seems more like paperwork than revelation.
SHOCKER! FOX SHAKEUP: Tom Rothman Exiting 20th Film Group; Jim Gianopulos Becomes Sole Chairman/CEO; 20th TV’s Dana Walden & Gary Newman Now Report To News Corp #2 Chase Carey
BREAKING… EXCLUSIVE… 8TH UPDATE… Refresh For Latest:
We scooped at 3:20 PM today that longtime Fox Filmed Entertainment Co-Chairman Tom Rothman is exiting the studio at the end of the year. The brilliant but arrogant 59-year-old Rothman’s departure breaks up the longest major studio mogul pairing in recent history. In fact, he and co-Chairman/CEO Gianopulos were considered model moguls for running a studio cheaply, efficiently, and profitably – and their rivals were openly envious of their track record. Now the film biz will be “consolidated” under Gianopulos who’ll be sole Chairman/CEO of what will now be called Twentieth Century Fox Film.
The studio shakeup also affects TV operations, which will be “realigned”: the very successful duo of Twentieth TV heads Dana Walden and Gary Newman won’t have to report to Rothman or Gianopulos any longer. The TV execs considered that a slap in the face and lobbied to stop it. They now will run a stand alone unit under News Corp and report directly to News Corp No. 2 Chase Carey. Today News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch praised them effusively as ”unquestionably one of the best creative teams in the television business.”
Though in truth this is an amicable parting of the ways, the word around Hollywood is that Rothman was fired before he could jump ship. (Memos and releases below). Sources tell us that Rothman’s News Corp bosses were annoyed that he was aggressively seeking the top job at Universal Studios from Comcast. (Not Ron Meyer’s President/COO job per se, but the long vacant Chairman/CEO gig that would also put the TV studio under him.) And he did himself no favors when he opposed the new Fox distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation orchestrated last month by Gianopulos. In addition it’s been Gianopulos who has maintained the close working relationship with studio star talent James Cameron, not Rothman, and will see the studio through the much-anticipated Avatar 2 and 3.
But probably more damaging to Rothman was the perception inside and outside Fox that he often ran roughshod over Hollywood reps and talent to preserve the studio’s bottom line. And that he also micromanaged the studio executives and staff so that morale suffered. As a result, he was increasingly unpopular in the film community. (It also didn’t help that he was the on-air host for the Fox Legacy series on the Fox Movie Channel and seen as pompously providing background intel on the making of films.)
Going forward at Twentieth Film, our insiders say Emma Watts “will get more freedom to do her job,” while Gianopulos will step up oversight instead of focusing on international. ”It was time for a change. Tom wants to do something different. He had an amazing run and is a huge part of our success over the past two decades. Jim is a great leader. We’re in amazing hands,” one insider tells us. Says another, ”Tom and Jim could not be more different in how they approach business. Tom is very creative and hands-on but thinks he’s always the smartest guy around. Jim is more personable. He lets people do their jobs while respecting and nurturing the instincts of creative talent.”
What Rothman will do next is unknown, but an exec with his vast experience and relationships and fiscal prudence will be much in demand. (“I feel like he has something up his sleeve”, a source tells us. However, it was made clear to us today not to expect that he’ll be heading up Universal for Comcast next.) In a goodbye memo, Rothman himself said today, “I’m proud as hell of [my] run. But I’ve done the same thing, at the same place, for a long time (indeed, in the 75 year history of our studio, no one has supervised movies for longer except Darryl Zanuck himself). I do need some new challenges and to write a new chapter.”
Today’s shocker follows yet another lackluster summer box office for Twentieth Century Fox live action films, capping several years of missteps and misfires, and as a result Hollywood has been abuzz for months that Rothman was about to receive the ax. Especially embarrassing was this summer’s huge worldwide success of Ted, a Media Rights Capital movie project from Twentieth TV star Seth MacFarlane that Rothman turned down — against the pleas of Newman and Walden — and which went on to make a fortune for Universal Pictures. On the other hand, Rothman passed on Battleship, Universal’s big-budget humiliating summer loser.
But it’s also important to note that overall the film studio’s performance in recent years was still #1 or #2 for profit margins “which is what Rupert wants”, an insider reminds us. And Rothman had a great deal to do with that and the film studio’s tremendous success over the years. Rothman has supervised filmmaking activities at Fox for over 18 years.
Caught on the red carpet at the Gotham Awards, Fox Filmed Entertainment’s Tom Rothman swats away MTV suggestions that Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a prequel and disses leaked footage:
HBO is expected to make the announcement shortly. Pam Levine, a 16-year veteran of 20th Century Fox, was longtime co-president of marketing at Fox Filmed Entertainment before stepping down in December. At HBO, she will replace Courteney Monroe, who exited last month. This is the second major hire of a feature executive at HBO following the August appointment of Michael Ellenberg as head of drama. UPDATE: Here is HBO’s release:
Pamela Levine will join HBO as Executive Vice President of Marketing announced Eric Kessler, Co-President, HBO, to whom she will report. Levine will be responsible for overseeing advertising campaigns for all programming, providing strategic marketing direction for HBO and Cinemax as well as guiding digital platforms and retail marketing efforts for the company. She will start in her new position on November 15 working out of HBO’s headquarters based in New York. “We use event marketing strategies often employed in the theatrical arena to launch most of our series so Pam’s background makes her an ideal choice for this position,” said Kessler.
Fox Filmed Entertainment today finally gave its side of that lawsuit filed by two interns against Fox Searchlight over their work on the hit indie Black Swan. The studio maintains that the interns were working for director Darren Aronofsky’s production company well before Fox Searchlight ever became the distributor.
Now that we have had a chance to review this suit, it is clear that these are completely meritless claims aimed solely at getting press coverage for the litigants and their attorneys. These interns were not even retained by Fox Searchlight and, in fact, were working for the production company that made Black Swan well before Fox Searchlight even acquired its rights in the film. These individuals were never employed as interns or retained in any capacity by Fox Searchlight, which has a proud history of supporting and fostering productive internships. We look forward to aggressively fighting these groundless, opportunistic accusations.
The two former interns who worked on Black Swan are looking to end what they say is the studio’s improper use of unpaid interns. The plaintiffs, Alex Footman and Eric Glatt, claim the studio violated federal and state wage laws and are seeking back pay for work that they say should have been done by paid Searchlight employees. The U.S. Department of Labor requires companies that use unpaid interns …
Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chair Tom Rothman and Fox Animation Studios president Vanessa Morrison gave a presentation on the Ice Age franchise today to potential licensees and promotional partners. Besides talking about the origin of the relationship with animation house Blue Sky Studio, Morrison introduced the cast of the 2012 installment in the franchise, Ice Age: Continental Drift. Ray Romano is back as Manny; Queen Latifah returns as Ellie; Dennis Leary as Diego; John Leguizamo as Sid; Seann William Scott & Josh Peck as Crash & Eddie. New to the cast are Jeremy Renner, who will portray Gutt; Wanda Sykes as Granny; Aziz Ansari is Walter; Keke Palmer is Peaches; hip hop star Drake is Ethan; and Jennifer Lopez is Shira, a snow leopard (which falls under that overall Fox deal she made to be a judge on American Idol). Romano and Latifah told the story of the new movie to the potential licensees and promotional partners and showed pencil tests and rough early animation. Morrison also talked about the franchise’s record-breaking success, what the growth of the franchise has meant for Fox, a Christmas TV special in November titled Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas on Fox broadcasting, a multiplayer game online, a mobile game, and a possible Ice Age On Ice touring show. Gee, you’d think this was Disney…
2ND UPDATE: 20th Century Fox production VP John Fox is going to head production at Davis Entertainment, which last year extended its producing deal at Fox to 2014. Here’s the release:
LOS ANGELES (April 11, 2011) — Fox Filmed Entertainment today announced that John Fox will transition from his current position as vice president of production for Twentieth Century Fox to president of production at Davis Entertainment, where he will be responsible for all aspects of motion picture development and production.
The union will further the relationship between Davis Entertainment and Fox, who has overseen production on several of Davis’ films, including the upcoming Mr. Popper’s Penguins, based on the award-winning children’s book and starring Jim Carrey.
Fox joined Twentieth Century Fox in 2008 and since then has supervised production for several feature films, including hit comedies such as Date Night and The Tooth Fairy, as well as the upcoming films The Sitter, starring Johan Hill; Mr. Popper’s Penguins; and Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. Prior to Twentieth Century Fox, Fox held the position of vice president at Dreamworks Studios, overseeing such hits as Anchorman, Transformers, and Norbit.
After signing to direct Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine, we’ve just confirmed that Black Swan helmer Darren Aronofsky has extended the relationship and is bringing his production company Protozoa into the Fox fold. Here’s the release:
LOS ANGELES (November 18, 2010) __ Fox Filmed Entertainment has signed Darren Aronofsky and his production company Protozoa Pictures to a new two-year, overall deal, it was announced today. Under the deal, Protozoa will develop and produce films for both Twentieth Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Aronofsky’s debut picture under the pact will be THE WOLVERINE, starring Hugh Jackman. Written by Oscar®-winner Christopher McQuarrie, the film is scheduled to begin production in April next year.
The deal solidifies Fox’s relationship with Aronofsky, whose recent films – this fall’s critically acclaimed psychological thriller, Black Swan, was produced and distributed by Fox Searchlight, which also distributed Aronofsky’s 2008 award-winning film The Wrester. Black Swan opened this year’s Venice Film Festival, and has since screened at such major festivals as Telluride, Toronto and London to great acclaim. The film arrives in theaters beginning December 3rd.
“Darren’s vision has brought audiences some of the most original and memorable stories and characters in recent motion picture history,” said Fox Searchlight heads, Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley. “We at Fox witnessed this first hand with his work on The Wrestler, and Black Swan, and now, on THE WOLVERINE, which will be an exciting take on that iconic figure and on the genre itself. We can’t wait to see what else Darren has
BREAKING NEWS: James Cameron’s Next Films Are ‘Avatar 2′ & ’3′ For Fox; May Shoot Back-To-Back For December 2014 & 2015
UPDATE 7:20 AM: We just learned that James Cameron is telling Hollywood that Fox made a “huge” donation to his environmental green fund, and in return he committed to making the Avatar sequel and threequel his next films. That also caused him to withdraw from Sony Pictures’ Cleopatra with Angelina Jolie, even though he’d told the studio that he’d always wanted to film the Queen Of The Nile’s story.
WEDNESDAY 6 AM: With this move, Twentieth Century Fox effectively ties up James Cameron through December 2015, apparently putting a hold on Sony Pictures’ hopes for the director to helm a fast-tracked Cleopatra starring Angelina Jolie in 2012:
LOS ANGELES (October 27, 2010) __ Moving forward with the most anticipated films of the next decade, Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman announced today that Academy Award®-winning filmmaker James Cameron has agreed to make AVATAR 2 and 3 as his next films.
Cameron, who had always viewed AVATAR as the creation of a new world and mythology, will begin work on the scripts early next year with an eye towards commencing production later in 2011. Cameron will decide if he will shoot the films back-to-back after he completes the scripts, but the release of the first, as yet untitled sequel, is targeted for December 2014, with the third film contemplated for a December 2015 release.
AVATAR 2 & 3 will be produced