Disney announced its deal to add Avatar-licensed attractions to its parks two years ago, and today it officially kicked off construction on Pandora at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. The plan is to have it finished in 2017, complete with a bioluminescent jungle cruise, floating mountains, a new nighttime spectacular, and a flying Banshee simulator attraction among other “surprises.” On hand for shovel duty was Avatar producer Jon Landau and a crew of Disney execs including Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs. Check it out:
Are you ready to go back to Titanic?
That is not just a famous line from the 1997 Oscar-winning box office phenomenon, they are also the words producer Jon Landau used this morning in front of a packed theater of journalists at Paramount to introduce 18 minutes of the film’s new 3D conversion. Paramount and 20th Century Fox — which holds international rights after bringing in Paramount to be domestic distributor when the film was sailing way over budget — will open the new 3D-converted Titanic on April 6, 2012. That’s just days before the 100th anniversary of the ship’s maiden launch on April 10, 1912.
“We didn’t want to release it on the day of the sinking, we wanted it to be about the ship itself, but obviously it sank,” said the film’s writer/director/co-producer/co-editor and all-around King of the World James Cameron, who explained that with the 100th anniversary of the fabled ship’s sailing the time was right not only for 3D but to bring the movie back for a new theatrical experience — even though it has been out in various video formats for years. “It has to do with the psychology of going to a theater. We make a committment to spend those two or three hours in a shared experience with others … and there is a whole generation that hasn’t seen it at all,” Cameron said, adding that in the modern world of cell phones, texting, emailing and other distractions, it is hard to get the full intended impact of a film like this at home.
Of course, Cameron has publicly stated he isn’t a fan of 3D conversions for films that have a choice. But he makes an exception for those “20 or 30 classic films out there” that can find a new audience with the format, and Titanic fit the bill. “I love 3D; if I had the 3D cameras at the time, I certainly would have loved to have shot the film with them,” he said. When I spoke with him afterwards in the lobby, his enthusiasm was infectious for the film and the new technologies he now has at his disposal to give it new life. He said the whole movie would have been shot differently today than in 1997: Rather than building those massive ship sets, he would have relied much more heavily on CGI and other techniques than the not-so-cost-effective way they did it then. He said that fortunately for him the film made money (that’s an understatement), but it could have had a very different outcome. In other words, a lot of dice were rolled on Titanic, which of course went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time until Cameron’s own Avatar usurped it a couple of years ago. It would now take another billion or so for it to come back from the video bins and topple Avatar — an unlikely outcome — but one informed source working on the new re-release told me another “4 or 5″ (hundred million) could be in play. Certainly Disney’s success with The Lion King’s 3D conversion is whetting appetities all over Hollywood for the boxoffice possibilities of library titles. Read More »
GOP Candidates Seeking Hollywood Help
“We were discussing the new season of Glee,” tweeted Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson about what he and President Obama said to one another last night at the Sunset Strip’s House of Blues. It’s where the actor emceed one of two Hollywood fundraisers for Obama’s re-election campaign Monday. According to a White House pool report, Obama greeted Ferguson, turned to the microphone, and said, “I was telling him that Michelle and the girls love them some Modern Family.” Some in the crowd chanted “Four more years”. Roughly 900 people paid ticket prices starting at $250 and as much as $10,000 (to secure a photo with the president).
The second fundraiser cost $17,900 for each of the 120 people in attendance at Melrose Avenue’s Fig & Olive restaurant. The private event’s co-hosts included Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, his longtime political adviser Andy Spahn, and Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon. “I’m going to need your help, so don’t get tired on me now,” Obama was quoted by a pool report as telling showbiz attendees like Judd Apatow, Aaron Sorkin, Jamie Foxx, Jack Black, Eva Longoria, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, and Jon Landau (producer of Avatar and Titanic). “I urge some of you to watch the Republican debates,” Obama added.
Obama received a standing ovation from the industry types seated at round tables with white table linens. But news of the president’s impending Hollywood fundraising was punctuated by several media articles proclaiming that Tinseltown support for him had eroded greatly since 2008. Recently Democratic activists like Robert Redford, Matt Damon, and Michael Moore have criticized Obama’s inability to stay the liberal course. Katzenberg seemed to address that disappointment when he introduced Obama by saying, “We must keep fighting for him so he can keep fighting for us.” Katzenberg also noted, “I have a dependency on President Obama. He inherited a crashing economy and two wars and opponents who questioned if he was even born (in the U.S.). Yet he kept us moving forward. He was dealt adversity on all fronts, but he maintained his stature.” Read More »
After a judge last week denied a motion to dismiss, a lawsuit is tentatively scheduled to play out in LA Superior Court on August 8 that pits former William Morris literary agent Dave Phillips against William Sherak, president of the 3D conversion house StereoD. Phillips alleges in court papers that after inviting Sherak to be his 50/50 partner on emerging 3D technology that Phillips had been retained to shop in Hollywood, Sherak betrayed him. By the time 18 months worth of meetings culminated in the deal that led to the formation of StereoD, Sherak emerged with a 32% stake in that company and signed a 3-Year $14 million deal to run it after Deluxe acquired StereoD in May. Phillips was offered $30,000 to sign a release and go away.
Sherak, the son of Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak, is accused of breaching an oral agreement and his fiduciary responsibility to Phillips. At issue is whether the technology Phillips plugged Sherak into (it originated with Kerner, an offshoot of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic) led to the deals that formed StereoD and should be counted in the 50/50 3D deal split Phillips said he and Sherak agreed to in an oral (not written) contract. Phillips claims in his complaint that Sherak often assured him their position would be protected because of his father’s industry clout, but that he eventually became evasive after Phillips was offered the $30,000. Stereo D has quickly become a major player in 3D conversions of films that include Captain America, Avatar, Jackass 3-D, and Thor.
Phillips claims that he brought Sherak into the 3D mix because they were longtime friends and he knew Sherak’s father would use his clout to put them in rooms with the Hollywood heavyweights needed for deals that would enrich the duo with finder fees. According to Phillips’ complaint, the elder Sherak orchestrated meetings with the likes of Ron Perelman, Deluxe’s Cyril Drabinsky, Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Lightstorm’s Jon Landau. The elder Sherak also arranged for Fox to provide a print of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be converted into 3D for demos.
Along the way, the younger Sherak arranged meetings with Christopher Mallick, the financier of Middle Men, a film Sherak produced. These meetings evolved into a focus on 2D to 3D conversion technology called VDX that wasn’t owned by Kerner, but rather a Japanese inventor named Kuniaki Izumi. The filing indicates Phillips and Sherak were involved in bringing Izumi in from Japan to meet Mallick, who shortly after dropped his Kerner pursuit. He struck a deal with Izumi that paid the inventor $1 million for technology that became the core of Stereo D. Mallick gave equal ownership stakes in StereoD to himself, Sherak and Middle Men star Giovanni Ribisi. Phillips was not included. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: We’ve learned that Avatar producers James Cameron and Jon Landau presented 11 principal cast members of the mega-blockbuster film with gifts in the past few days: a blue Toyota Prius for each. But no word on whether any crew were included. A committed environmentalist, Cameron said back in September that Avatar did as well as it did at the box office because of people’s longing for a greater connection to nature, and mentioned the Prius: ”My optimistic side says that Avatar did as well as it did for that reason, that there’s a time for a change, for a recognition that we have to answer for the way that we’ve been and remember our respect for nature. We have to find a better way than the way we live today. It’s not that the movie converted people — it resonated with something that was already there, to find something inside for people and gave people a way to think about this. And if that manifests in people cutting down on their energy usage or recycle or buy a Prius…,” he told Time magazine. The challenge for me is to try to help people figure out what to do with that feeling that they’re feeling. I do think that part of my job — to show them what to do.” Hollywood has a long history of bestowing cars on cast members associated with hit … Read More »
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
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EXCLUSIVE: As if Twentieth Century Fox and James Cameron haven’t made enough money off this movie… It was always the director’s intention to create the “ultimate box set” that went deeper into the filmmaker process and the Avatar journey for fans. I understand he was very involved with every aspect of the development of this Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition, even coming to the lot with his producing partner Jon Landau a few weeks ago to thank the entire home entertainment team that worked on it. The Collector’s set includes the film’s 3 versions — the original theatrical release, the re-release, and the extended special that is 16 minutes longer than the original. “As Jim describes it, you pop the disc in and immediately see something new – as the movie with begins on Earth with Jake,” an insider tells me. The Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition will be available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD everywhere in the United States and Canada on November 16th. International release dates and product information may vary by market:
LOS ANGELES, CA. (October 5th, 2010) – Director James Cameron is unlocking the secrets of Pandora and taking fans on a guided tour of his vision with the highly anticipated release of AVATAR Extended Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and DVD releasing November 16th in North America and rolling out internationally from November 15th. These exclusive Extended Collector’s Editions come with iconic,
… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: After smashing box office records with Titanic, James Cameron segued to television with a primetime series. Now, after topping Titanic’s record haul with Avatar, Cameron is returning to TV with what is one of the hottest projects this development season: a TV series take on his 1994 action comedy True Lies that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. I hear the project, from Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV, is about to be taken out to the networks. Rene Echevarria is the writer/showrunner, exec producing with Cameron and Lightstorm’s Rae Sanchini and Jon Landau. The 1994 movie centered on Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger), a computer salesman/family man who lives a double life as a government spy. During a top-secret mission, Harry discovers that his mousy wife Helen (Curtis), is seeking adventure. Harry sets out to give her the excitement she craves while battling Middle Eastern terrorists who threaten nuclear war with the U.S.
After Titanic, which nabbed 11 Oscars, Cameron co-created and exec produced his first and only TV series to date, Fox’s sci-fi drama Dark Angel starring Jessica Alba. Echevarria worked on the show for its entire 2-season run, first as a co-executive producer and then as an exec producer. Lightstorm president Sanchini also served as a producer on the series. Echevarria, who co-created/executive produced the USA … Read More »
UPDATE 11 AM: TOLDJA! Alcon just issued a press release. Looks like James Cameron won’t be taking the producer credit, but his Lightstorm team of Jon Landau and Rae Sanchini are still taking the lead on this. Cameron, who’s probably too busy now, had been listed as producer about the project.
EXCLUSIVE 7:30 AM: Spike Lee is closing a deal to next direct Nagasaki Deadline, a thriller that will shoot on the East Coast next year. Alcon Entertainment will finance, and partners Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson will produce with Lightstorm Entertainment’s James Cameron, Jon Landau and Rae Sanchini. 8:38 Productions’ Kira Davis is also producing.
This will be the first feature for Lee since 2008’s Miracle At St. Anna. The film focuses on a troubled FBI agent and his desperate race to thwart two terrorist attacks planned to unfold on American soil. The fed goes beyond obvious suspects to focus on theories that the crime is tied to historical events, as he races against the clock.
Given the recent Times Square terror scare, this is risky, hot-button stuff. Creatively, it returns Lee to the fast-paced thriller terrain he covered in Inside Man, which I think was Lee’s best film in years. While he delivered a solid hit on budget with three stars–Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen–studios hardly flooded him with followup offers. While Lee should be viewed as one of Gotham’s most talented filmmakers, every film he makes is … Read More »