TUESDAY 5:45 PM: Hollywood VIP David Geffen was seated at President Obama’s table.
TUESDAY UPDATE: The White House announced today that also invited from showbiz were GE chairman Jeff Immelt whose corporation runs NBC Universal, Oprah Winfrey galpal Gayle King, director M. Night Shyamalan, and actors Alfre Woodard and Blair E Underwood.
Entertainers: Jennifer Hudson, AR Rahman, Bay Area Empire Bhangra, Kurt Elling, Marvin Hamlisch
EXCLUSIVE: If tradition stands, the details of the guest list will be revealed only a few hours before the Obama administration’s first state dinner tomorrow. The welcome for India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be the biggest social event of the Obama White House. Already the Washington DC press corp is buzzing about the “got-to-be-there” fever. But this first dinner is primarily a thank you to the Obamas’ most important political supporters. So I’ve learned that, among the Hollywood contingent asked to attend, are onetime DreamWorks partners David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg; Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton; and WME Entertainment Agency co-CEO Ari Emanuel.
Spielberg’s inclusion is interesting since he was a much ballyhooed Hillary Clinton supporter during the first months of her primary campaign when she looked like a sure thing, then quietly threw his clout behind Obama after he became the clear winner. But, given that the guest of honor is India’s highest ranking statesman, Spielberg’s new financial relationship … Read More »
Now that others are hinting at this, I can confirm what I’ve known for two months: that David Geffen isn’t interested anymore in buying the Los Angeles Times.
David Geffen Goes After LA Times Again?
I give TV and movie fans a lot of credit: when they get mad, they scare the crap out of the moguls. That’s happening at Lionsgate where the studio’s phones and email accounts are jammed with angry fans for the past week. They’re making a stink because new Lionsgate topper Joe Drake appears to be dumping all of ex-prez Peter Block’s movies. That includes Midnight Meat Train, the adaptation of the Barker short story that’s a fan fave. Supposedly the trailer tested higher than any film in Lionsgate history. But when Drake took over, he promptly bumped Midnight Meat Train from its May 16th release date. The result was that Rogue Pictures’ The Strangers (which was skedded two weekends later) had zero competition in the hard-R category. And guess who was exec producer of The Strangers? Joe Drake.
Then, the websites, Shock Til You Drop and Fangoria found out Lionsgate is planning only a 100 theater run on August 1st to merely fulfill the contractual obligation with Lakeshore Entertainment. The plan is to release the DVD immediately after. So fans are asking if Drake is such a dummy that he’d intentionally sink what to them is a sure-thing hit. And they want to know if the studio that was built on horror gross (both the gory and cash kinds) is going to bite the hand that’s fed it so well in favor of four Tyler Perry movies a year.
The result is a lot of anti-Lionsgate blogging in Horrorville by fans, by self-appointed horror flick experts, and also by Barker himself. ”I would passionately encourage everybody who cares about my work … Read More »
So now we know with whom David Geffen has been negotiating all these many months. And the newest Hollywood mogul names to put on speed dial are Rajesh Sawhney and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (one of the world’s Top 10 richest men). I can confirm that DreamWorks has secured $500 million to $600 million from India’s media and entertainment conglomerate Reliance ADA, specifically its Reliance Big Entertainment, and then will add $500 million to $600 million in debt for what will be a total $1.2 billion financing for its new independent film company. I’m told that DreamWorks 2.0 (yes, the principals get back the name) will make about 6 movies a year when it liberates Steven Spielberg from Viacom Inc’s Paramount and all the acrimony of that relationship of the past few years. There’s no need for DreamWorks to negotiate a distribution deal for a while, but I’m told that Fox, Universal and Disney would be in the running. Because of Spielberg’s long history with Universal and the fact his office never moved off the lot, I’ve always assumed DreamWorks would return there. But DreamWorks has a lot of ties to Fox, including Geffen’s close relationship with Rupert Murdoch and Spielberg’s with Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Tom Rothman.
Meanwhile, DreamWorks and Paramount will battle over Spielberg’s exit and all that joint development. Unentangling could really cost Viacom Inc’s movie studio. Here’s why: Spielberg has the right to terminate his contract as soon as October (because of a key man clause … Read More »
SUNDAY AM: North American box office gross expanded bigger than expected this weekend – a gargantuan 25% more dollars taken in than the same weekend last year. DreamWorks Animation’s feisty pot-bellied Kung Fu Panda distributed by Paramount led the way, fighting to a $60 million finish after opening to $20.3 million Friday and $22.5 million Saturday in very wide release at 4,114 theaters. This made the Jack Black-voiced toon Dreamworks Animation’s all-time non-sequel opening, overpowering 2004 Shark Tale’s $47.6M, and 2005 Madagascar’s $47.2M (the latter over Memorial Weekend). The two studios were surprised how much the PG panda pic played like a non-family film. “More like a live action film than a traditional animated film where you normally get a Friday number, then a huge bump on Saturday,” a Paramount insider told me. “But our Friday was bigger than we expected because we got more of a general audience. I attribute it to people loving pandas and Jack Black being a big star.” Interestingly, exit polls showed that 55% of the audience was female, and 51% over age 25, and 71% age 17 and older.
Best of all, the toon has the next two weekends to itself before Disney/Pixar’s Wall-E opens. Kung Fu Panda‘s success just goes to show that DreamWorks Animations’ strategy of making 90-minute toons is shrewd: not only can theaters get in a lot of screenings, but both parents and offspring can sit through anything that short without too much squirming. (Actually, this panda received rave reviews.) Plus, I have a pet theory: almost any animated film featuring … Read More »
So here’s The Women trailer that was playing with Sex And The City over the weekend. I find it funny, but I’d redo it to appeal more to the psychographic of SATC‘s two-quadrant audience. (Did you notice that the main lyrics to the Duffy song “Mercy” on the soundtrack of the trailer for The Women were: “Why won’t you release me… I’m begging you for mercy”?) I’ve found out that The Women‘s budget was only $16.5 million, not the $18 million previously circulating. Wow, that’s cheap. As I reported yesterday, Warner Bros is now going to “take another look” at marketing and distributing it in wide release: (See my previous post: Why Won’t Warner Embrace ‘The Women’? Or Will It? And What Other Female Film Isn’t Getting Love There?
I’ve written here again and again how much David Geffen wants to own the Los Angeles Times and put it back under local control as well as make it a real must-read. But the Hollywood mogul was rebuffed first by the Tribune Co’s CEO Dennis Fitzimmons and then by current owner Sam Zell. Now Geffen may be looking for a third chance to buy the paper. I’m told by a source that Geffen and Zell are “in serious discussions” regarding a sale. It’s all very hush-hush, but my source tells me: “Cash flow is not being met for the bankers, revenue is in freefall, and the potential liability on the Combs story is huge. Sam feels he bought a bill of goods. Geffen is back in the mix and he’s going to get it for a deep discount. They’re in serious discussions.”
UPDATE: However, Geffen has been on his yacht vacationing in the South Pacific for weeks. And a Geffen insider insists that the DreamWorks partner and Zell haven’t spoken in months.
Some background is needed. I’ve reported previously that, not long before Dean Baquet became the LA Times editor in July 2005, Jeffrey Katzenberg sought a meet-and-greet to announce that Geffen really wanted to buy the newspaper. Baquet was shocked. “How’s he going to feel the first time we review a movie or … Read More »
It appears David Geffen’s recent rapprochement dinner with GE chairman/CEO Jeffrey Immelt went well. Today, Jeff Zucker told an investor conference that NBC Universal would consider buying DreamWorks from Viacom. ”If the opportunity were to arise, it’s something obviously we would look at. We know them well, we have a long history with them.” (Well, actually, it’s Uni prez/COO Ron Meyer who has the long history with them.) Nor would there a problem getting third-party financing for DreamWorks’ picture slate: “lots and lots of people want to put up money,” an insider says. Everybody knows Steven Spielberg is only interested in a relationship with Universal, since his offices are still on the lot and he’s called it home for eons. And, an outside chance, Fox. Viacom/Paramount? Not so much, after all the animosity that’s gone on. ”It’s unlikely under any circumstances,” a source tells me. Speaking at the same conference immediately after Zucker, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman glossed over frictions saying Viacom was “very pleased with where we are with DreamWorks,” and that he has a “very good personal relationship” with Spielberg. “Our objective is to proceed with mutual respect. We’re going to proceed with calm and deliberateness.” DreamWorks can’t start negotiating until April.
NY Times Reports DreamWorks All Wrong
DreamWorks & NBC Universal Break Bread In Very Public Forum
… Read More »
I’ve just been slipped an early copy of ”Showdown At Fort Sumner” by Bryan Burrough in the latest issue of Vanity Fair about the DreamWorks-Paramount-Viacom warring. David Geffen goes on the record and rips Sumner Redstone a new one. “Nobody is going to treat me or my partner [Spielberg] in that manner and stay in business with us. Nobody.” geffen goes on to call DreamWorks sale to paramount “a poor choice” and accuses Redstone of “bullying. And I will not be bullied. There is no fight I will run from. I am absolutely unafraid of Sumner Redstone.” Geffen continues: “These people are a nightmare. I’ve never seen behavior like this in my entire life.”
Fortunately for Brad Grey, he gets only two sentences in the article. Most of the piece’s content has already been published in print or online before by me and other journalists. (My own reporting is acknowledged three times.) But at the end of the article, Burrough pats himself on the back for effecting a detente between Redstone and Geffen, who says Sumner called up and apologized, and then David apologized, and “we cleared the air. And we don’t have a problem with each other. We may still have problems between Paramount and DreamWorks. But not with each other.”
Oh, puh-leeze. You know and I know full well that they all still detest each another.
In addition to my own postings about DreamWorks moguls David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg in Malibu during the fires here and here and here, I’ve just combed other news stories and culled this showbiz-related coverage:
Perhaps the hardest-hit entertainment company was Sony Online Entertainment, maker of computer games, which closed its 600-worker office in the Miramar area of fire-affected San Diego.
Fox’s hot TV series 24 was scheduled to shoot Monday and Tuesday at a shuttered Naval air station in the Orange County city of Irvine but was forced to retreat because smoky conditions made filming impossible. The cast and crew returned to the studio.
ABC’s new series Big Shots had to reschedule a shoot planned for Tuesday in the Angeles National Forest as well as a cycling sequence in Malibu.
CBS’ Cold Case had a set in Simi Valley that high winds leveled.
Production on CBS’ NCIS had a few crew members unable to make it to work because of fire concerns. Otherwise, there was minimal disruption even though the series shoots at a Santa Clarita studio near the so-called Magic Fire in northern Los Angeles County.
Warner Bros finance executive Tony Rodriguez and his wife returned to their house on a hill above Malibu on Wednesday knowing they would find nothing. The couple were evacuated at 5 am Sunday along with their two dogs. They were watching TV when they saw their newly renovated home go … Read More »
My spies tell me that Jeff Zucker and Ron Meyer had lunch in the Universal Studios commissary today with Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider — and everybody was all smiles. Talk about a virtual public announcement that a reunion between the studio and DreamWorks isn’t far behind! “I can’t imagine GE will blow it a second time. They made an extraordinary mistake,” a source told me. Meanwhile, an agent analyzed, “I wonder if this is a negotiating ploy?” Look, we all know David Geffen still has to come to terms with GE chairman Jeff Immelt and his NBC Universal errand boy Jeff Zucker, so a deal isn’t yet a foregone conclusion. But Uni prez/COO Ron Meyer can facilitate the DreamWorks sale since he’s longtime pals with everyone involved (and Snider’s ex-boss). And we all know that Spielberg never left the Universal lot (even after DreamWorks’ sale to Paramount), and it’s the studio where the director has been happiest. He’d like nothing better than to call the place home again, and partner David is in the business of giving Steven what he wants. So stay tuned.
More news from Deal Beach, aka Billionaires Beach. David Geffen, whose Malibu Beach Inn recently underwent a major renovation, has opened the landmark hotel to evacuees for free as well as to firefighters who sleep there in shifts during the inferno. “Why be empty? I’d rather it go to good use,” managing director Alan Goldschneider told Reuters. “They try to throw down money and their credit cards, but we’re not charging a soul. They’re saving our houses.” What a deal, since Geffen shelled out a reported $29 million, or $617,000 for each of the 47 rooms on Pacific Coast Highway. The hotel’s website informs that, despite TV and web reports, ”the Malibu Beach Inn was never in danger during the recent wildfires in the city and, thus, sustained no damage. We appreciate your phone calls of concern. The hotel is currently open but priority is given to firefighters and emergency personnel fighting the Malibu Canyon fires.” Meanwhile, I hear David is nervous as hell about whether his own Malibu Cape Cod-style mansion on Carbon Beach will be safe from the flames. His DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose home is also on Carbon Beach, is feeling much the same way here.
DreamWorks Animation SKG named Tom Freston to its board of directors today. The former Viacom Inc. president and CEO, who OK’ed the deal to bring DreamWorks into Paramount, was axed by old coot Sumner Redstone a year ago. Nothing like having a common enemy to bring Hollywood types closer together. I should also remind you that, within hours of Freston’s firing before his body was even cold, David Geffen called up Redstone and suggested Jeffrey Katzenberg take Tom’s place. But Redstone said fuhgeddaboudit.
I can tell you that David Geffen is denying a throwaway line inside a Wall Street Journal article today about big ticket homes for sale claiming that he “has quietly shopped his historic 9.4-acre Los Angeles estate for $100 million, according to a broker who has shown the property”. Indeed, sources tell me that Geffen turns down offers, including those in excess of $100 mil, all the time for the famed Beverly Hills mansion that was formerly owned by Hollywood mogul Jack Warner in the 1930s. Geffen purchased it for $47.5 mil and spent another $45 million renovating it, including $20 million on landscaping. (As one journalist wrote, “He may be the only mogul who has ever made Xanadu smaller.) Since Geffen has owned it, the house has played a pivotal role in the charitable and political life of Los Angeles: the mansion that Bill Clinton stayed in has most recently been used for Barack Obama’s fundraising.
A few weeks ago, when Brad Grey visited Steven Spielberg in Connecticut where Indiana Jones 4 was shooting on location, the DreamWorks partner put the Paramount boss’s mind at ease. “Steven said to Brad that he intended to be in business with him a long time,” a source tells me. As a result, Grey was flabbergasted when he saw the headline “Paramount & DreamWorks: Splitsville?” from the new issue of Business Week which was reporting how it’s “entirely possible” that Spielberg could want to leave Paramount as soon as late next year. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Grey. Thanks to yet another DreamWorks pic Transformers performing spectacularly at the summer box office, not only had Paramount climbed to No. 1 in studio market share this year but boasted a new movie franchise to exploit. Grey had been celebrating. Now, because of the article, Brad was “bummed out”, a source close to him told me. Also Grey knew that every other Hollywood mogul like him attending Jack Valenti’s memorial service last Thursday had heard about the bombshell. So the Paramount chief needed to know if this was real or not. He spoke to Spielberg right away. This time, the director was on location in Hawaii. “And Steven continued to tell Brad he is ‘very happy’,” an insider tells me.
I, too, was shocked by the article. After all, I’d broken the first story about Brad Grey’s rocky relationship with DreamWorks (Brad’s Boorish Golden Globes), and also Paramount’s … Read More »
I hear Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey was on the phone today talking up his studio’s release of the mega-blockbuster Transformers when, all of a sudden, helicopters swooped out of nowhere and drowned him out. “It’s Jeffrey and David,” he quipped to the caller. After all, DreamWorks has been accusing Grey of trying to grab credit for its movie product because theirs are performing fab while Paramount’s films flop. But the messy integration and hurt feelings ever since DreamWorks sold their studio to Paramount 18 months ago may be easing. That’s because, after trying to boss DreamWorks behind the scenes for months and months, Grey finally gave up. Since April, Paramount has been issuing tortured clarifications to ensure DreamWorks gets its glory. Now Brad stays politic instead of constantly proclaiming he’s in charge. Grey is telling people that, ”right now, everybody is getting along, we’re in a good place”. The last time Paramount was sitting higher than 3rd place in studio market share was 2001. Well, next week, Paramount will be in 1st place. That’s why DreamWorks has Paramount cowed.
I’m told that, when the slightest thing goes wrong, the DreamWorks toppers complain straight to Katzenberg, who complains straight to Grey. And then, if it’s not handled quick enough, the very scary Geffen gets on the phone to Grey. “It’s brutal,” a source describes. It doesn’t help that many DreamWorks execs are now doing … Read More »
Huge Hollywood news fronting the home page of Hillary Clinton’s campaign website this morning, “Steven Spielberg Endorses Hillary”. There’s also new national polling today showing all three top Democratic contenders have caught up with Rudy nationally. Hillary is still out in front of Democrats, and Rudy out in front of Republicans, with Clinton actually pulling up alongside Guiliani. Says Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, “It’s still early, but Hillary Clinton just keeps rolling along. Either something — like Iowa — will dislodge her or else she’s the nominee. Should we start asking about vice-presidents?”
But, first, the Clinton announcement: “Influential filmmaker and philanthropist Steven Spielberg today announced that he is officially endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. Spielberg said that he has chosen to endorse Clinton because of her experience and strength. ‘I’ve taken the time to familiarize myself with the impressive field of Democratic candidates and am convinced that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate to lead us from her first day in the White House,’ Spielberg said. ‘Hillary is a strong leader and is respected the world over. As president, she will bring America back together, rebuild our prestige abroad and ensure our protection here at home.’”
This can’t help but have impact in Hollywood, where everyone including diehard Obama supporters is giving Hillary a closer look. And that’s only important because then they’ll … Read More »
I’m assured there’s nothing new to report on the David Geffen-Sam Zell-Los Angeles Times story. But I predict that, if ever there are any developments on that front, they will proceed very, very quietly from here on out.
I’m pleased to see that the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post has caught up days later with my reporting about the possibility of David Geffen paying $1 bil for control of the Los Angeles Times through a joint venture. (The New York Times is still way behind.) UPDATE: Now the Wall Street Journal finally matches my scoop, days late. The paper says Geffen and Zell are scheduled to meet Friday evening for informal talks. And, just as I’ve already reported, WSJ says the two men know each other and have spoken about the newspaper before.