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DeadlineNow Morning Report: ‘Man Too’ Leads Box Office, Jeff Robinov’s China Deal, World Cup Ratings (Video)

By | Monday June 23, 2014 @ 11:10am PDT
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Morning Report, Monday June 23

Sony takes the top spot at the weekend box office with 'Think Like A Man Too', Jeff Robinov inks estimated $1 billion deal with China's Fosun International, USA-Portugal scores ESPN’s highest overnight rating for men's World Cup match. Dominic Patten reports.

Related:
FINAL BOX OFFICE: ‘Think Like A Man Too’ No. 1 With $29M+; ‘Jersey Boys’ No. 4 With $13.3M
Jeff Robinov Back With Investment From Fosun Int’l; Others In Mix As Studio 8 Looks To Set Up At Sony
USA-Portugal World Cup Game Hits ESPN & Univision Viewership Records

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Jeff Robinov Back With Investment From Fosun Int’l; Others In Mix As Studio 8 Looks To Set Up At Sony

Jeff Robinov Back With Investment From Fosun Int’l; Others In Mix As Studio 8 Looks To Set Up At SonyBREAKING: Jeff Robinov’s back and with an investment from Fosun International Ltd. which will help finance his war chest that brings in a total of what sources say is a combined equity/debt structure of around $1B. Fosun just filed their paperwork with the Hong Kong stock exchange, stating that it entered the agreement on June 6.

Details of the Fosun deal structure is, as yet, unknown as the company did not disclose it nor have they disclosed any governance issues, the deal breakdown of how much equity vs. debt. In other words, its as ambiguous as can be at the moment. It is also understood that RobImage (1) Sony-Pictures-logo__130125035333-200x312-1__140530164135.jpg for post 738072inov is in talks with other possible financial partners as well. Huayi Brothers still could be involved in the final deal as a distributor in certain territories and Robinov is also talking to European investors. The entire financial structure of the deal is currently being worked out, sources said.

Meanwhile, Fosun said in its filing, “pursuant to the Agreement, the company will exercise significant influence over the distribution arrangements of movies produced by Studio 8 in the mainland of China, Hong Kong, Macau and  Taiwan regions.” They also just put out a press release which is translated from Chinese that states through its investments, the deal gives Fosun the opportunity to share “Chinese elements and stories in Studio 8′s Chinese co-productions and wants to “build a global culture platform covering movie, entertainment, culture … Read More »

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Jeff Robinov Still In Talks With Huayi Brothers And Other Chinese Companies To Fund Film Company

By | Thursday June 19, 2014 @ 10:26pm PDT

Jeff Robinov Still In Talks With Huayi Brothers And Other Chinese Companies To Fund Film CompanyTalks are ongoing between former Warner Bros Motion Picture Group President Jeff Robinov and numerous investors, including Beijing-based Huayi Brothers Media Corp, sources said late Thursday, despite published reports to the contrary. A total of three Chinese companies are in discussions to finance Robinov’s new company  — Studio 8 — including Fosun International (which, since it is not a distribution company, probably would be an equity investor) and Huayi, but nothing is set in stone yet. There also are talks with other possible partners as well. If financing comes together, Robinov’s new company will be set up at Sony Pictures Entertainment, where studio execs are awaiting word on the outcome of the talks. Robinov’s company would be a shot in the arm for Sony as he has a proven and impressive track record for choosing and championing smart, commercial material (the multiple-Oscar-winning Gravity and The Lego Movie) and rebooting stale franchises a la the Batman series with Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Warner Bros still is reaping the benefits of the Robinov slate at the box office; for instance, The Lego Movie is one of the highest-grossing pics of 2014. The studio now is flagging a bit a year after the executive’s exit. He is well known for having established strong relationships with numerous top filmmakers and writers.

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Jeff Robinov Talking With Several Potential Financiers – But No Deal With Anyone Yet

By | Wednesday March 5, 2014 @ 2:38pm PST

robinov-formal__130417111436-200x228Former Warner Bros executive Jeff Robinov is said to be talking to a number of investors to finance a new production company that could be set up most likely at Sony Pictures, and if a deal can’t be made there possibly 20th Century Fox. Despite rumors and reports swirling about done deals with the likes of China’s Huayi Brothers Media, we’re hearing that nothing has been set in stone in his quest to raise $100 million in funds. There are many moving parts, we’ve been told, and talks with numerous other investors are ongoing, and any combination of investors is possible. One rumored financier that is out at the moment is Ukrainian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, who had been in talks to provide the bulk of an investment for the new shingle. The crisis in Ukraine might have played a part in the cooling off of those talks. Read More »

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How Sony Pictures Answered Critics Going Into Thursday Investor Meeting With Cuts, Jeff Robinov Courtship, Blue Anchor Co-Fi

By | Monday November 18, 2013 @ 6:35pm PST
Mike Fleming

Oscar season is in full swing and is dominating attention, but the most important discussions taking place in town are being done with bankers in back rooms as heavyweight producers and co-financiers move around and will dramatically shape the future of studio event film slates for years to come. The players in the drama still to formalize landing places are Jeff Robinov and Graham King, Jerry Bruckheimer, John LaViolette and Joseph M. Singer’s Blue Anchor Entertainment. This after Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures left Warner Bros for Universal, and was replaced by Brett Ratner, James Packer and Steve Mnuchin’s RatPac Dune, which will co-finance the slates of Warner Bros going forward. Two of the next big moves seem to squarely involve Sony Pictures, whose heads Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal head into investor meetings on the Sony lot in Culver City on Thursday with some pending alliances that will greatly reshape their operations.

Related: Sony Hires Consultant To Find $100M In Showbiz Cost Cuts

The above players will be dealing in billions of dollars of production financing. RatPac Dune’s Ratner, Packer and Mnuchin fell into a right-place-at-the-right time windfall just as its Warner Bros deal commenced, and got kissed into Gravity as its first film. That put the venture off to a flying start as the film crossed the $500 million worldwide gross mark. I hear that Tull and Legendary might well get that deal underway in high style by co-financing Universal’s surefire blockbuster Jurassic World, though studio insiders said I’m getting ahead of myself because there is not yet a shooting script to show Legendary. While the RatPac Dune deal covers Warner Bros’ full slate, Tull gets to cherry-pick the films Legendary will co-finance, and the deal calls for a big Universal commitment on films that Legendary generates. This deal was papered by Uni president Jimmy Horowitz and chased aggressively by NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke as well as Donna Langley.

Related:
Sony Pictures Latest Studio Closing Big Co-Financing Film Deal

For Jerry Bruckheimer, Is Next Stop Paramount Or Warner Bros?

Read More »

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Is Jeff Robinov Headed To Sony Pictures?

By | Friday October 25, 2013 @ 12:30pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: I can tell you that everything is still in its very early stages. And that Jeff Robinov already made clear he was not interested in just being a producer on the Sony Pictures lot. But now Robinov is talking with Dune Capital Management Chairman/CEO Steve Mnuchin and GK Films honcho Graham King and Sony USA’s Michael Lynton and Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal about a Thomas Tull-type deal with the Culver City studio. He would bring to Sony already financed pictures like Tull did to Warner Bros with Pacific Rim and 42. However, Robinov is not especially interested in helping financing Sony’s slate like Tull did at Warners. Only recently did Robinov’s exit deal with Warner Bros Pictures even allow him to take meetings and figure out his next gig. But he still can’t take a job or even negotiate one until the middle of November even though he’s hot right now because of big grosses and awards buzz for Warner Bros’ Gravity‘s success. (Remember, Robinov took Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron’s original space drama script out of turnaround at Universal after Cuaron and his reps asked for it back when David Linde left.) Also critical acclaim for the upcoming Spike Jonze film Her among other pics. So can we please drop the Twentieth Century Fox rumor-mongering for the meantime?

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

By | Sunday September 29, 2013 @ 2:55pm PDT

Catch up with the best of Deadline’s Top Film stories you may have missed this week:

OSCARS: ‘Foxcatcher’ Becomes Latest Film To Drop Out Of This Year’s Race
By Pete Hammond – Scratch off another potential Oscar contender. Sony Pictures Classics has announced the planned December release of the Bennett Miller-directed drama Foxcatcher has been moved out of this year’s awards race and into 2014 so filmmakers “can have more time to finish the film”.

Tom Sherak Named As LA Film Czar By Mayor
By Dominic Patten – The former AMPAS President today was appointed to the new LA Film Czar post by Mayor Eric Garcetti. The announcement of Tom Sherak‘s immediate appointment to the $1 a year position comes close to the 100 day deadline Garcetti gave himself to find someone to lead the effort to halt runaway production and work with the industry soon after being sworn into office in late June.

Tom Sherak Q&A: Cancer Battle And $1 Salary Not Stopping New L.A. Film Czar’s Latest Quest
By Pete Hammond – Former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak has been named to the new post of LA Film Czar by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Sherak will be paid only $1 a year (“an infinity compared to what the Academy paid,” he laughed about his previous nonpaying gig) in the post designed to bring a halt to runaway production and put it back in Los Angeles, capital of the film world.

‘Cloudy With Meatballs 2′ Beefs Up For $35M And Easy #1, ‘Rush’ Slows To Small $10.6M, ‘Baggage Claim’ Gets Lost With $9.2M, And ‘Don Jon’ Can’t Seduce Past $8.8M Weekend
By Nikki Finke – A total of 4 major releases this weekend amounted to a soft domestic box office with total moviegoing slightly below last year’s. Read More »

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Jeff Robinov Free Of Warner Bros And Ready To Resurface In Hollywood

By | Monday September 23, 2013 @ 2:16pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Sidelined since ending his long run as president of the Warner Bros Motion Picture Group in June, Jeff Robinov has become free and clear of the studio and is now able to plan his next move. I’m told that this has just become official and while Robinov wasn’t reachable for comment, his ability to resurface should make more interesting a fall that has already been filled with shakeups and ousters of studio executives and producers.

The former powerhouse agent of filmmakers who was an advocate of Warner Bros-based directors from Baz Luhrmann to Ben Affleck, Todd Phillips and Zach Snyder, Robinov has widely been rumored to be heading for a post at Fox under Jim Gianopulos. I don’t think that is at all set in stone, and I’m hearing it is quite possible that Robinov will find another vehicle for his return.

Those machinations will now begin playing out, now that he’s no longer shackled by any contractual obligation to Warner Bros. Despite the soaring success of the Superman reboot Man Of Steel that had his stamp on it, Robinov’s relationship with higher-ups at the studio became strained after he was bypassed for the CEO job in favor of Kevin Tsujihara. After Robinov was ousted, Tsujihara set a leadership troika of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution president Sue Kroll, president of Creative Development and Worldwide Production Greg Silverman and New Line president/COO Toby Emmerich, … Read More »

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2ND UPDATE: WARNER BROS SHAKE-UP – Jeff Robinov Quitting Movie Studio After No New Contract Offered And Kevin Tsujihara’s War Of Silence; Sue Kroll, Dan Fellman, And Greg Silverman May Become Triumvirate

FRIDAY 5 AM, 2ND UPDATE: I’ve learned that Jeff Robinov’s attorney Skip Brittenham officially notified Warner Bros on Thursday that it is in breach of the movie mogul’s contract, and he wants to negotiate his exit.

THURSDAY 6 PM UPDATED THROUGHOUT… EXCLUSIVE 2:45 PM: The destabilization of once rock-solid Warner Bros continues. I’ve learned that Jeff Robinov has decided to leave as Warner Brothers Pictures Group President after months of waiting in vain for Time Warner Jeff Bewkes and Warner Bros Chairman Kevin Tsujihara to offer him a new contract when his expires in December. Robinov is on vacation in New Mexico and this week enlisted both his attorney Skip Brittenham and his friend and former Warner Bros chairman Bob Daly to negotiate his exit. Robinov’s frustration follows Bewkes and Tsujihara placing him inside the ‘cone of silence’ in recent weeks ever since the home entertainment chief was appointed as the new Warner Bros CEO and soon to be chairman. No phone calls of congratulations came from Bewkes or Tsujihara to Robinov after last weekend’s record-setting global successful opening of Man Of Steel or any of the studio’s Summer 2013 big worldwide releases, The Great Gatsby and The Hangover Part III.

[EXCLUSIVE below: Ben Affleck and Baz Luhrmann reflect on their relationships with Robinov while Christopher Nolan's is detailed.]

Witnesses tell me that on the LA to NY plane trip to the Superman premiere June 10th, Tsujihara sat for the five hours not saying a word to Robinov who was sitting opposite him. This cruel behavior was in full view of not only Robinov’s execs but also of the Man Of Steel filmmakers like Christopher Nolan whom Robinov had brought to the studio. I’m told that at the Red Carpet gala at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, which should have been his triumph, Robinov left demoralized after just 15 minutes. This, after he and Tsujihara used to be close friends who went on family vacations together. “I’m constantly being marginalized. My job is shrinking day-to-day,” Robinov confided to a pal the other day. “Kevin is starting to push me out by both the things he’s doing and the responsibilities he’s assuming. It’ll end up with everyone reporting to him. The result is that people at the studio are wondering how they can benefit from this or how they can not get hurt by this. Sitting around is not something I can do, or, by the end of the year, the studio will be in a massive mess.”

I’ve learned that the structure being contemplated for Warner Bros Pictures is not for any one person to replace Robinov, who was a rarity in recent Hollywood in that he did both the business and creative top job at a studio. Instead, his Warner Bros Pictures executives Sue Kroll, President of Worldwide Marketing; Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution; and Greg Silverman, President of Production, would run the studio as a triumvirate under Tsujihara who will take over the business side even though he has no such movie experience. Read More »

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Hammond On Cannes: Opening Night ‘Gatsby’ Party Wet But Elaborate

Pete Hammond

Baz Luhrmann followed up his biggest opening day in America with his biggest opening day in France as The Great Gatsby took in $78K in partial-day results that still were bigger than his Moulin Rouge and AustraliaUnderstandably in a party mood thanks to the overperformance of his U.S. box office last weekend, the director pronounced himself pleased with one of the most elaborate after-parties which Cannes has seen since Moulin Rouge premiered here in 2001. Warner Bros co-hosted the gala event with Gatsby‘s other key financier, Village Roadshow. “I love it.  I think Jay Gatsby would have loved it too. ‘Screw the rain,’ he would have said,” Luhrmann laughed.

The Cannes celebration of its opening-night film continued into the early morning hours despite a monsoon-like downpour. When I left around 2 AM, though, the party showed no sign of winding down. Luhrmann was frequently out on the dance floor whooping it up with the likes of Warner Bros worldwide marketing czarina Sue Kroll (“When you open the festival, you have to spend a good amount of money on the party,” Kroll told me), his co-star Isla Fisher, and his WME agent Robert Newman. Also there was the festival guru Thierry Fremaux, who told me that the first film he ever programmed when he first snagged the prestigious Cannes gig was Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

Luhrmann said he was now really optimistic about the global … Read More »

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CinemaCon: Warner Bros Wins Strong Exhibitor Reaction To Summer Slate

Pete Hammond

It was Warner Bros Pictures’ turn for studio slate presentations at the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas Tuesday and President of the Warner Bros Pictures Group Jeff Robinov unveiled the studio’s packed summer lineup with its familiar mix of comedy, horror, superheroes, monsters, and sequels. Robinov looked to the future and thanked all the studio’s partners: New Line, Legendary, Village Roadshow, Alcon, and MGM (on the Hobbit trilogy). He also thanked his new boss Kevin Tsujihara who won the job of Chief Executive Officer replacing Barry Meyer. ”All of us share his vision and this will be an exciting time under his leadership,” Robinov said. Distribution head Dan Fellman initiated a bunch of baseball analogies after the success of Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros’ Jackie Robinson biopic 42 last weekend. It followed a string of 5 straight box office disappointments for Warner Bros and occasional other partners (like New Line). ”Consistency has always been a hallmark of Warner Bros Pictures. But even the most consistent player can hit a few fouls,” Fellman told exhibitors. Fellman emphasized that Warner Bros is the only studio to score $1 billion box office gross domestically 12 years in a row. And International Distrib topper Veronika Kwan Vandenberg pointed out that the studio in 2012 grossed over $4 billion worldwide thanks to hits like The Dark Knight Rises  and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Add to that the 85th Oscar-winning Best Picture success of Argo. Plus, this year Warners Bros is celebrating the 90th anniversary of its founding by the Brothers Warner in 1923.

The season starts out May 10th with the 3D drama from Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby, originally intended for the 2012 awards season but held for Summer 2013 instead. Luhrmann is still tweaking the movie which will open the Cannes Film Festival on May 15th, but sent along a pre-taped introduction – complete with music underscoring  to the film’s trailer. Footage was shown at last year’s CinemaCon but this was much different and in 3D. No question it looks like another visual triumph for the director of Moulin Rouge  and Romeo And Juliet which starred his Gatsby lead Leonardo Di Caprio. Luhrmann said he was inspired to use 3D when he saw a 3D screening of the Alfred Hitchcock 1950s drama Dial M For Murder (also released by Warners). Even though he said the most special effect in this movie is the acting.

Director Todd Phillips publicly chided Luhrmann before introducing The Hangover Part III trailer. “It would be nice if Baz showed up. There are a lot of directors backstage. We showed up,” he said. Phillips then fed the exhibitors’ egos by saying that comedies should be seen in theaters where everyone can laugh together. Warner’s is now referring to his sleeper smash as the Hangover Trilogy.

Next was Zack Snyder, director of Man Of Steel, who turned up with the world premiere of the film’s new trailer which will play before Oblivion starting on Friday. “There’s no competition between superheroes obviously. But if there were, he would win,” said the unabashed fan of the comic book hero. “I am sorry to even have to say this now but we shot the movie on film and anamorphic. We wanted to give your cinemas a big giant movie movie.” He also acknowledged producer Christopher Nolan’s help during their first meeting in steering him in the right direction on the film. Nolan and his co-producers Emma Thomas and Chuck Roven were in the audience but oddly not introduced to the crowd. The trailer played well and Nolan seemed pleased with the reaction when I saw him afterwards. Read More »

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UPDATED SHOCKER! Kevin Tsujihara To Become Warner Bros CEO; Bruce Rosenblum And Jeff Robinov Didn’t Find Out Until Late Last Week; “I’m Disappointed; Who Wouldn’t Be?” Rosenblum States; “Excellent Choice,” Robinov Says

2ND UPDATE (includes Robinov statement): Hollywood is stunned. Time Warner Chairman/CEO Jeff Bewkes just destabilized Warner Bros in a big way with today’s shockingly Kevin Tsujihara Warner Bros CEOunexpected announcement that Kevin Tsujihara will take over Warner Bros on March 1st. I actually heard this two weeks ago from a source – and I didn’t believe it. That’s not a knock on Tsujihara’s ability. But no way Bewkes could ignore the fact that Bruce Rosenblum‘s Warner Bros Television Group accounts for 50% of overall Warner Bros revenues.* But Bewkes did. “Obviously, I’m disappointed; who wouldn’t be?” said Rosenblum, the TV president who was actively campaigning for the post, in a surprisingly candid statement. ”Warner Bros is a unique and special place and I know it will be in good hands with Kevin at the helm. I continue to be proud of our accomplishments and I have the most respect and admiration for our amazing team at the studio – a team that is thriving in an ever-transforming business.” Warner Bros Film Group topper Jeff Robinov at first remained silent and his office told Deadline it was “highly unlikely” he would have a statement. Now, one has been released – and it’s studiedly upbeat: “I am truly happy and proud of Kevin. We are both good friends and colleagues and I think he’s an excellent choice for the job. The Company will be in great shape under his leadership,” said Robinov. In fact, insiders tell me that Bewkes further humiliated Rosenblum and Robinov by not telling them about the choice of Tsujihara. I understand the duo had to hear about it at the last minute late last week from outgoing Barry Meyer.

[*Time Warner doesn't break out Warner Bros in its financial statements so that statistic may include Turner which doesn't report to Bruce. Warner Bros results are included in the 'Film And TV Entertainment' unit. It accounted for 40% of Time Warner revenues in the first 9 months of last year - $8.3B out of $20.6B - but just 17% of operating profit - $676M out of $3.9B. While Time Warner doesn't break out numbers for Warner Bros Television, it has revenues for "Theatrical Product" and "Television Product." Theatrical product accounted for $4B in the first 9 months ($1.4B from film rentals, $1.3B from home video and electronic delivery, $1.1B from TV licensing, and $127M from consumer products and other). Television product came to $3.4B ($2.6B from TV licensing, $617M from home video and electronic delivery, and $208M from consumer products and other).]

Here’s what Bewkes and Meyer said about their decision in a joint statement: “Given the talent, depth and strength of the Warner Bros’ leadership, selecting our next CEO was not a decision that could be made hastily or lightly. But we both agreed that Kevin is the right person to lead Warner Bros. and to build on its proud heritage as the world’s most storied content producer… In 2005, Kevin was appointed to head the then newly formed Home Entertainment Group, which he has skillfully led through a difficult transition and which remains number one in the industry by every measure. Just as importantly, he is a leading voice in creating and deploying new digital models to ensure that we remain market leaders. We’ve both been very impressed with Kevin’s strategic understanding and intuitive grasp of the evolution of the consumer’s interaction with our television shows, films and video games, and his ability to visualize how our products will be enjoyed in the future.” Warner Bros Home Entertainment’s division covers home video as well as the company’s wide ranging videogame properties and investments, digital distribution, anti-piracy, and emerging technology operations

Few thought Robinov was seriously in the running for the top job since he’d only taken over as film studio president in Spring 2011 from outgoing Alan Horn (now heading up Walt Disney Studios after Bewkes unceremoniously kicked him to the curb). But conventional wisdom was that Rosenblum, who took over the TV group in 2005 the same year that Tsujihara took over Home Entertainment, had a near lock on the job – especially if Bewkes decided not to go outside. And an appointment of Rosenblum would have continued Meyer’s TV leadership at Warner Bros and therefore not been questioned. Sounds to me like Meyer betrayed Rosenblum. Of course, Rosenblum still has an alternative power platform as Chairman of the Board of the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences since November 2011. Robinov, meanwhile, has kept and is keeping his head down, immersed in developing powerhouse franchises like The Hobbit and perhaps Man Of Steel to replace Harry Potter and the most recent Batman trilogy.

Undoubtedly, Tsujihara’s new appointment will spark debate inside and outside Hollywood over whether Home Entertainment is most important to the future of Big Media. And whether content or platform/delivery should dominate. Of course, Bewkes could have (and in my opinion, should have) done nothing for several more years, and simply allowed his Warner Bros troika to coexist as equals. Now Bewkes, especially given the harshly crude way he handled this announcement, is risking the loss of two superlative executives. Keep tuned. Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Joel Silver And Warner Bros Pictures Severing 25-Year Relationship

EXCLUSIVE: It’s the end of a modern Hollywood era, the quiet finish to one of the most long-term, big-time, noisy, up and down, and ultimately dysfunctional relationships between a film producer and a movie studio. I have learned that Joel Silver will no longer have a production deal at Warner Bros at the end of 2012. His Silver Pictures also won’t be housed on the studio’s Burbank lot after then — famously in the offices built for Frank Sinatra in 1963 — which is why the producer right now is looking for buildings in Santa Monica and Venice Beach. So what happened? I can tell you that the tipping point came during Christmas 2011 when Silver began loudly complaining around Hollywood, and using surrogates to grouse directly to showbiz media, about Warner Bros’ handling of Sherlock Holmes 2‘s release. Silver was a producer on the sequel, which was playing catch up to that holiday’s runaway No. 1, Paramount’s Mission: Impossible 4. Silver and his surrogates bitched about everything, from the studio’s marketing and distribution to the fact that Warner Bros shouldn’t have paired a first glimpse of its hot The Dark Knight Rises footage with M:I4‘s IMAX release. They claimed the move goosed M:I4 grosses to the detriment of Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows. (It had PR value but proved revenue neutral.) They claimed Sherlock Holmes 2 star Robert Downey Jr was so furious he would never work again for … Read More »

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Movie Moguls Talked, Joked, Mused About Oscars At Deadline’s ‘The Contenders’ Event

I hoped there would be fistfights. Or at least a chair thrown or two. “I tried but no one wanted to rumble,” Jeffrey Katzenberg told me later. Instead, Jeff Robinov, Tom Rothman, Rob Moore, Stacey Snider, Harvey Weinstein, Rob Friedman, and Katzenberg demonstrated remarkable restraint as they talked, joked, and mused about the Oscars process today. Everyone was ribbing everyone, and a few zingers landed as well. There were so many studio bigwigs at the first day of Deadline Hollywood’s two-day ‘The Contenders’ event (which continues Sunday at 10 AM with still more moguls) that it became a running joke. Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond opened up the 2 PM ‘Moguls Panel’ by saying, “This kind of event has never been held before. You realize that, if a bomb dropped in here, Amy Pascal would own Hollywood.” (The Sony Pictures chairman couldn’t attend.) The other studio chiefs came from hither and yon to attend ‘The Contenders’, and the packed crowd was obviously appreciative. ”Just sayin’ it doesn’t get any better than that. So rare in these times to have as august a group come together and discuss,” one of the attendees emailed me afterwards. That’s why our venue, the Landmark Theatre, pulled out all the stops, even reupholstering the seats in anticipation of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voters and select Hollywood Guild members who’d sit in them. More details about ‘The Contenders’ in coming days. Next week we’ll be posting the unedited video of the ‘Mogul’s Panel’ which was moderated by Hammond and Deadline Film editor/NY Editor Mike Fleming. Here’s some of the studio chiefs’ 1 1/2-hour-long discussion:

DEADLINE: “This is one of the most wide open Academy Awards seasons. Does that make you more likely to launch an aggressive campaign?”
TOM ROTHMAN, Chairman/CEO Fox Filmed Entertainment: “Yeah, we have a lot of pictures between the studio and Fox Searchlight. But I am a contrarian about this. I think the whole notion of a race and spending is hugely exaggerated. I think voters know what they want to vote for once they’ve seen the movies. Our job is to get them to see the movies. To advance positions for them to think about. Ultimately the Academy is gong to decide. And I think in contrast to what is often said, ultimately I think it comes down to the movies. As it should.”

DEADLINE: “Can an aggressive Oscar” campaign hurt?”
ROTHMAN: “Well, I don’t know, I guess there’s some truth to it. I suppose it depends on what you mean by campaign. Academy Award winners sometimes gain a momentum because of a particular performance, and sometimes for length of career and all the work that has been done. Look recently at Paul Newman. You might not say [1986's The Color Of Money] was his best performance. But he won for his great body of nominations and work. I don’t really think, being on the stump so to speak, when in the privacy of the voting booth which is their living room that it necessarily makes a difference.”
JEFF ROBINOV, PRESIDENT OF WARNER BROS: “I’d say Mr. Weinstein proves him wrong every year.”
HARVEY WEINSTEIN, CO-CHAIRMAN THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY: “That is the only thing that counts, so Tom and I agree more than you think.”
ROTHMAN: “You have just witnessed an historic moment.”
WEINSTEIN: “I’ve said this a thousand times. The most important job is getting voters to see the movie. If they don’t see the movie, they won’t vote.”

DEADLINE: “But it’s not as good to see these movies on a small screen via screeners.”
ROTHMAN: “It’s hard to get them to see movies on the big screen. Planet Of The Apes is not as good on a small screen. Also the other thing I think is time. It’s hard because of the crush of films that all come in at the end. Voters try to be responsible, but sometimes they’re seeing multiple movies [in one day]. I agree with Harvey completely on the need to see films in the theater as they were intended.”
KATZENBERG: “We could end up with a horse against an ape this year.”

DEADLINE: “Isn’t that especially true of 3D films?”
JEFFREY KATZENBERG, CEO DREAMWORKS ANIMATIONS: “Yeah, just to sort of cut to the chase on this, we spend 4 years and $150 million on trying to make an exceptional experience in the movie theater. And use tools one of which is 3D. So we settle for the fact that many many many people will never see it this way.”

DEADLINE: “Is it best to release an Oscar contender earlier in the year and get out early like The Hurt Locker did in June?”
ROB FRIEDMAN, CO-CHAIRMAN/CEO SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT: “I think what everybody’s saying is it’s vital to get the movies seen. In this case having the film out in June gave more time to build critical and audience response.”

DEADLINE: “How did The Hurt Locker manage to compete since its revenue cycle was over by the time big Avatar came out?”
FRIEDMAN: “By the way, I did offer Tom [Rothman] and Jim [Gianopulos] the offer to trade revenue streams.”
ROTHMAN: “We thought about it.”
FRIEDMAN: “Actually we had not completed our revenue cycle. It was not out on DVD yet. It performed massively in those revenue environments. We knew that any kind of Middle East/Iraq film was challenging at best. It found its level theatrically, but was enormous in the home market.”

DEADLINE: “Tom, would you have been happy to forget awards for Avatar as long as could count the money?’
ROTHMAN: “I guess the technical answer to that would be fuck, yes. [BIG LAUGH] Yes, we were disappointed to lose. I think Robbie and I found ourselves waiting for our cars by the heater that night, and I congratulated him mightily. But I made my career being honest, and if I said I wasn’t brutally disappointed it would be an understatement. I think it is a common problem that happens. David and Goliath is a very good narrative. It is easy to root for the little guy. I understand that emotionally. Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire was small and won. The Academy giveth, and the Academy taketh away. We had a good year with Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan and Best Actress last time. Those things happen. I do think, if I can get on my bully pulpit for a few seconds, that sometimes I think the craftsmanship and artistry in what is thought of as commercial cinema is not always given its proper place. Hurt Locker was ultimately thought the better film that year, that I understand. But when you look down categories, sometimes I think that other crafts get swept along. I was surprised and I would also say disappointed that the hard-working creative folks on Avatar were not recognized.”

DEADLINE: “Which other of your films were unfairly overlooked over the years?”
ROBINOV: “I think the quality of Harry Potter films has been somewhat discounted. Especially the last one.  It feels like the type of movie that traditionally would receive some Oscar attention. Also Inception was a very bold movie, yet it was not rewarded for risk-taking, I do think there is some bias against Hollywood and the resources that it has. Nice when a movie like Titanic actually gets what it deserves.” Read More »

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Warner Bros Re-Ups Greg Silverman As President Of Production

By | Wednesday November 2, 2011 @ 2:30pm PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Warner Bros Pictures production president Greg Silverman has re-upped for another term with the studio, it was announced by Warner Bros Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov. Silverman, who signed on for another three years (his deal was up at year’s end) continues to report to Robinov, steering development activities and budget in the division, and his responsibilities are broadening. The re-up comes at a time when Warner Bros seems to be putting together more high-profile projects than any major in town. “Greg has a phenomenal aptitude for fostering filmmaker relationships and discovering new talent around town,” Robinov said. “He demonstrated incredible leadership toward our creative team, and I am so pleased that he continue to oversee our slate.”

Silverman started with the studio in 1999, and after a short stint at Revolution Studios, returned as a vice president and began rising in the ranks. Projects he steered included The Dark Knight, 300, The Hangover and Inception, and he also worked on films that included The Matrix, Batman Begins, Troy and Get Smart. Not bad for a guy who got his movie start working craft services on the independent film Two Guys Talkin’ About Girls before getting an assistant job at TriStar.

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Harry Potter Inc: Warner Bros’ $21B Empire

Final Harry Potter Already Wrecking Foreign/Domestic Records

EXCLUSIVE: With history’s most successful movie franchise coming to an end with the Friday release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, it’s a good time to ask: How much loot was conjured up en masse? And the answer is startling. You can find about $21 billion by adding up gross sales the series has generated since 1998 from films, videos, video games, licensed merchandise, and books. (See detailed breakdown below.) Time Warner has already seen an estimated $1 billion in profit from the films and its work as custodian of a global entertainment brand. The tally should continue to grow, probably by a lot, with the release tomorrow of Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 — although Hollywood accounting has a way of making profits vanish. (Here‘s how the black magic worked for Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix in a studio accounting statement obtained by Deadline’s Mike Fleming. Though the film grossed $938.2 million worldwide, the document conveys that the film is still $167+ million in the red)

Things have turned out so well that it’s easy to forget what a huge risk Warner seemed to be taking more than a decade ago when it bought the Potter rights. The studio didn’t know how the series would end. And J.K. Rowling, who wrote the series, was a wild card. Many wondered whether U.S. audiences would warm to the all-British movie cast that Rowling required.  “The casting of the kids was the biggest place where it could have gone wrong,” Warner Bros Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov tells me. Some Warner executives also chafed at Rowling’s demands that there be no Potter-related fast food offerings and that Warner show restraint in product licensing. “I can only say now to all the parents out there, if the action figures are horrible, just tell the kids that I said don’t buy them. Sorry, Warners,” Rowling told a 60 Minutes interview.

Virtually everybody agrees now that Rowling was right to keep the franchise faithful to her vision. And Warner was right to embrace that vision down to small details in licensed merchandise. “We had a guideline that was perhaps frustrating to our colleagues in Consumer Products but has held well for us as a company which was to look to create artifacts, not souvenirs,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson tells me. She oversaw the Potter franchise from the beginning. Marketing plans also adapted as fans became older and the Potter saga grew darker. “We held on to fans as they aged in a way that’s never been seen before,” Nelson says to me.

Here’s how all of the Potter business decisions have turned out so far:

Movies. The first seven films accounted for nearly $6.4 billion in ticket sales, with 68% of the total coming from overseas, according to Box Office Mojo. The only other franchise that comes close is James Bond: Its 23 films beat Potter if ticket prices are adjusted for inflation.

Home Video. Consumers have spent nearly $3.9 billion globally — with 44% of that coming from the U.S. — to buy 302 million videos of the first six Potter films, Warner says. IHS Screen Digest says that Warner probably collected about $1.5 billion just from domestic video sales, which would more than cover the studio’s estimated $1.4 billion production budget for all eight films. Read More »

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First Lady Comes To Hollywood To Raise $$

Mike Fleming

When President Barack Obama arrived at the Sony Pictures lot in April for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, most studio employees left early and traffic was tricky. Tonight, it’s the First Lady’s turn. Michelle Obama will attend a fundraiser and discuss the 2012 re-election effort at the home of Michael S. Smith and James Costos. It starts at 6 PM tonight. Among those in attendance will be Linda Lichter, Peggy Lipton, Michael Patrick King, Donna Roth, Suzanne Todd, Jeff Robinov, Bryan Lourd, Roger Birnbaum, Peter and Megan Chernin, Brian Grazer, Kevin Huvane, David and Lona O’Connor, and Ellen and Portia DeGeneres.

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$200 Million Opening Weekend Has Warner Bros Thinking Third ‘Hangover’

Mike Fleming

RELATED:
FX Nabs Rights To ‘Hangover Part II’

In a move that seems to be about commerce as much as comedy, Warner Bros has started the process on a third installment of The Hangover. Though my sources say there are no deals and that the players involved won’t really get cracking on it for months, it seems likely that Craig Mazin will be writing the three-quel. Reports are surfacing based on an interview he did to promote the film; others involved have hinted at the third pic as well.  While Mazin doesn’t have a deal, after Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures just announced that the comedy crossed the $200 million worldwide mark and became the fastest comedy to surpass that number, developing the third film seems inevitable. The picture also blew past the Memorial Day weekend record for an R rated film.

Warner Bros hasn’t announced it’s going for three, and the timing of this film actually took longer than the last one: The Hangover Part II was commissioned before the original picture opened, because test audiences responded so well that Warner Bros knew it had a big hit. Now, there are hurdles to overcome. Warner Bros threatened to scrap The Hangover Part II because of salary disputes with stars Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms. Those guys were paid less than $1 million collectively to star in the first blockbuster, but luckily for the cast, they had no options for a sequel. Their reps smartly dug their heels in, and the trio each got around $5 million against 4% of gross, which ought to mean pretty good backend paydays for The Wolf Pack. Read More »

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Albert Hughes Exiting ‘Akira’ At Warner Bros

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The twists and turns on the Warner Bros adaptation of anime artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel Akira continue. Director Albert Hughes is exiting the movie, I’m told. Insiders say that it is an amicable creative differences  parting of the ways. Warner Bros will try to put him on another movie right away (Hughes and his brother Allen directed the hit The Book of Eli, and WB topper Jeff Robinov is their former agent and is very close with them). Hughes is coming to Hollywood next week to take meetings with his WME reps and look at scripts, hoping to find his next movie at Warner Bros.

As for Akira, the intention of the studio is to keep the picture on a fast track, which means they will find a director quickly. The studio has been wrestling with the approach on the film for the past year. Read More »

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