Vanity Fair stopped writing incisively about Hollywood a long time ago when Graydon Carter realized he had too many Tinseltown friends (and didn’t want to piss them off). Yet Graydon surprisingly hired a Hollywood screenwriter to pen The 100 To Blame charting the villains — people, companies, institutions, and vices — most responsible for the financial meltdown. A contributing editor at Vanity Fair since 1994 as well as Graydon’s pal since their Spy days, Feirstein is best known for the three Pierce Brosnan as James Bond movies he wrote/co-wrote): GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The World Is Not Enough. He is also the author of several books, including the infamous Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Feirstein also wrote a “Diary” column for 14 years for New York Observer. Still sounds like a bizarre choice to write 30,000 words on the economic crisis, right? Well, he’s done a regular column for Strategy In Business magazine, and wrote freelance editorials for Howell Raines at The New York Times. Still, Hollywood should hire Feirstein to bring these financial villains to justice for their crimes. I’m sure Graydon will want a $100,000 finder’s fee.
“There is a myth that people are looking for sound-bites and celebrity and that this has led to a growing demand for and acceptance of commoditized news output that speaks to the lowest common denominator. The reality is that there is a growing demand among the educated for intelligent news, analysis and entertainment that challenges, amuses and informs.” — Alan Press, SVP of marketing for The Economist to foliomag.com, after being asked about the magazine’s record year.
So who isn’t wondering whether this a harbinger of things to come for The Hollywood Reporter and other Nielsen Business Media properties? According to a post on BillboardBiz, consumers can access every Hot 100 and Billboard 200 chart at zero cost as the music trade paper knocks down the pay wall. There’ll also be more free content like music streaming and paid downloads.
MMC, the company that recently acquired my Deadline Hollywood Daily and my services to run it, is expanding yet again. Love her or hate her, Bonnie Fuller is undeniably a high profile “get” for MMC and its boss Jay Penske. But let me clear up any confusion: I will be running DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com, Bonnie Fuller will be running MMC’s existing HollywoodLife.com, and editorially the two divisions will be absolutely separate but equal. Besides, everyone knows that I don’t do celebrity coverage. (Full Disclosure: I will continue to post MMC’s news only if it relates to Hollywood.):
New York, NY (July 16, 2009) — Media executive and magazine innovator Bonnie Fuller has accepted a position to lead HollywoodLife.com, announced Jay Penske, CEO of Mail.com Media Corporation (MMC), which owns the online celebrity/entertainment site. The new position represents an important step both for Fuller, who has been instrumental in reshaping the magazine industry for more than two decades, and for Hollywood Life. Penske described this hire as “an extraordinary opportunity,” adding: “Partnering with Bonnie allows us to chart a new course for Hollywood Life—to create an exciting and innovative online destination for women.”
As President and editor in chief of Hollywood Life, Ms Fuller will grow the brand, transforming the site into a vibrant, interactive digital destination for entertainment news and style-minded women, ages 18-35. Fuller has been widely credited with sparking the current pop-culture celebrity mania, after transforming Us Weekly into the first celebrity newsweekly
I’m told that Mumbai’s Reliance folks are making the rounds of New York media this week — they wanted a meeting with The New York Times, for instance, and hit up Fortune for a puff piece – in advance of the announcement that DreamWorks 2.0 has secured its lender financing covering at least 3 years of film production. With Reliance Big Entertainment kicking in $300M of credit for a matching amount in equity funding, and distribution partner Disney lending up to $175M, and JP Morgan Chase leading the loan syndication with several other banks for a total $325M-$350M, Steven Spielberg’s and Stacey Snider’s will become a Hollywood buyer soon enough. For background see my, DreamWorks About To Announce Debt Financing.
This is a surprise since he’d been at the trade for 9 1/2 years as a TV critic, columnist, blogger, feature writer and contract employee. His TV column and reviews and blog had disappeared a few months back at his own behest and he’d been recently writing special issue features. “My situation at THR had been deteriorating for some time,” Ray just told me. “Mostly it stemmed from a personality clash and a difference in perception of what constitutes professional behavior with a certain editor. But I will cop to this being about me as much as them. I no longer saw an upside to riding the Hindenburg.” Other sources tell me Richmond hated to leave but thought it was for the best. Some of the clashes were about Richmond’s attempts to make his THR product more entertaining than the usual reporting wrapped in dry trade-speak. But his was not a popular position, nor his embrace of the web. Especially when The Powers That Be keep the THR print edition going at all cost.
I’m pleased to tell you that Deadline Hollywood Daily was named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s “50 Best Websites for Moviemakers.” The full article is not yet available.
Who is he fooling? The whole time Gerry Levin was chairman of Time Warner, and then AOL Time Warner, he kept complaining about how Warner Bros chairmen Bob Daly and Terry Semel were making more extravagant salary, bonuses, and other compensation than he was (thanks to their shrewd negotiating, their piece of Warner Bros licensing merchandise and retail stores, their division making wheelbarrows of cash, and their insistence on not going on Time Warner’s board (so their gargantuan pay package wouldn’t have to be disclosed in SEC filings). But listen to this clown who left Time Warner in shame for co-arranging that loser AOL deal. Suddenly he’s Robin Hood and telling Fox Business Network today:
“It’s time, I think, not only to put some principles back in executive pay, but also try and get CEOs to be a part of society. Let’s shop at Costco, let’s fly coach for a while and let’s not have a class society where the disparity between what a CEO makes and what the people in the company make is so large as to be almost unfair and unjust.”
And on whether he personally should give back the millions he made: “Obviously, I gave back my hundreds of millions because I never sold one share of stock, which is where most of the compensation was. My stock went down just as it did for every shareholder, which I think we should impose on CEOs.”
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, this Man …
UPDATE: I’m told there were 10 staffers sacked, including associate publisher Rose Einstein and art director Deeann Hoff and internatonal editor Chad Williams, and the two luxury brand reps in LA & in NY. As one of my tipsters explains: “Don’t miss the significance of the layoff of Deann Hoff — she is married to [with] Dave Morgan, deputy editor, so if she’s out, that’s very serious since Dave would not have let her go without a fight.” The layoffs started early this morning and continued all day. How they’re going to continue to put out a paper, I have no idea. Unless this will soon be an online-only publication.
Well, this is a surprise: The Hollywood Reporter announced today it has hired gossip columnist Roger Friedman as a senior correspondent “to beef up its coverage of the celebrity world and how it intersects with and influences the business of showbusiness,” according to a statement by THR editor Elizabeth Guider. I find it mystifying that THR, which is slavishly dependent on studio goodwill and advertising, would deliberately provoke 20th Century Fox which was surprised by the news. The freelance writer was very publicly fired by parent company News Corp last month because of its “zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy”. Friedman got himself in trouble for what he wrote after a stolen, early and unfinished work print of the studio’s big summer blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine was leaked onto the Internet illegally in a major scandal that the FBI continues investigating.
THR said that New York-based Friedman will replicate the Fox 411 column he wrote for Fox.com that broke news about Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith and the music scene, only now it will be called ShowBiz 411 and added to THR‘s roster of blogs. “In addition, he’ll provide breaking news for THR.com and occasional longer pieces for the daily newspaper as well as appear in THR video products and at THR-branded events. He also will play a key role in THR‘s multiplatform coverage of the Oscars, the Emmys, the Tonys and the Grammys,” the trade paper said. THR publisher …
UPDATE: Variety publisher Brian Gott just called me from Cannes and says there is no truth that Variety is very seriously contemplating any closure of the NY office. Variety sources were telling me that they were expecting the essential closure of the NY office except for Broadway coverage. (Michael Fleming works from home.) I’ve already reported how Variety Group prez/publisher Neil Stiles has already deeply cut back sales and editorial staff there. But Gott tells me there have been no discussions about further cutbacks to any staff in NY. This is good news for them.
Even celebrity magazines are hurting in this recession. According to news reports on Gawker and other websites, Katie Caperton, the former copy editor who recently became the magazine’s 3rd editor in 8 months, has been let go from OK! Magazine along with senior staff including the managing editor, the food and health editor, a staff writer and entertainment editor Delaina Dixon. Rumors are also swirling that publisher Lori Burgess plans to name editorial consultant Jason Oliver Nixon as the new editor-in-chief.
I can’t believe that Condé Nast’s business mag Portfolio has shut down without even yanking editor-in-chief Joanne Lipman and trying a new topper. (Like Peter Kaplan.) That sadly leaves a lot of good writers jobless, but hopefully they’ll snag contracts with other Condé Nast publications. (Like Amy Wallace.) I said from the beginning that the idea was good but its execution was awful. Take, for example, all those blowjob covers on the Big Media moguls: totally worthless CEO porn ignoring the new intolerance for corporate greed. File this under the subject of, “If Only…”
I first reported this on March 27th (Lionsgate About To Do Big Relativity Deal). It took Variety until April 13th to even confirm it. Here’s today’s announcement:
SANTA MONICA, CA (April 27, 2009) – LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF), a leading next generation filmed entertainment studio, and Relativity Media, a premier media and entertainment company, announced today that they have finalized a new multi-picture, multi-year deal under which Lionsgate will acquire U.S. distribution rights for up to five Relativity Media productions per year. The agreement builds upon the successful relationship established by the companies during the past two years, when they partnered on the critical and commercial hits THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, 3:10 TO YUMA and THE BANK JOB. The announcement was jointly made by Joe Drake, Lionsgate President, Motion Picture Group, and Co-Chief Operating Officer, and Ryan Kavanaugh, CEO of Relativity Media.
Said Drake, “Ryan Kavanaugh and his colleagues at Relativity Media have built an extraordinary company that is one of the industry’s most prolific suppliers of broad-appeal, talent-driven motion pictures. This agreement solidifies the long-term relationship we built together through successful partnerships on 3:10 TO YUMA, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM and THE BANK JOB. We are thrilled to bring these new movies into the Lionsgate family, adding to the tally of first-rate productions that will define the Lionsgate release slate going forward.”
Said Kavanaugh, “This deal represents a big step in the evolution of a partnership between two forward-thinking companies.
Back Stage has conducted its annual readers’ choice survey this year, including “favorite industry blog” as a category. And Deadline Hollywood Daily was named the readers’ favorite. So thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the actors who are staying tuned to DHD. Look for the May 14th issue devoted to readers’ choices.
Peter Bart In Variety Shakeup: Tim Gray Now Put Solely In Charge Of Newsroom; Insiders Say Bart “Essentially Up & Out”
Last night, I received word that Editor in Chief Peter Bart was being moved aside at Variety after 20 years. Naturally, I fanned out calls to all the trade bigwigs. Today, I phoned Variety editor Tim Gray asking if it were true that he was going to replace Bart. He asked if he could call me in 5 minutes. Twenty minutes later, Gray posted on Variety.com what I already knew. Effective immediately, Gray retains his title as Variety editor and reports to Variety Group Publisher Neil Stiles from now on. Bart will report to Reed Business Information CEO Tad Smith who isn’t involved in the day-to-day of the Variety Group because of his big management job. Obviously, I don’t need to tell you there’s been bad blood between Bart and Stiles. Now Stiles doesn’t have to deal with Bart anymore. Nor does Gray have to kowtow to Bart anymore. “Peter will probably try to give advice and stuff, but ultimately it’s Tim’s decision from now on,” one insider tells me. As for Smith, he’s expert at dealing with problems, and this was his solution to The Bart Problem.
Bart’s new title is “vice president and editorial director of Variety“, but it’s meaningless. He and the company are playing this like it’s voluntary, but Peter has been pushed ”essentially up and out” of the newsroom, as one of my sources puts it. But he’ll be allowed to continue as the “face” of Variety in public — which is something …
SUNDAY SOUR GRAPES? Peter Bart Not Consulted When His RBI/Variety Group Bosses Called Me Recently To Buy DHD
Peter Bart published in Sunday’s Weekly Variety three separate hit pieces on me. Since I did not sign a non-disclosure agreement, I am free to tell Hollywood why he did it: On February 27th, Neil Stiles, the president and publisher of Variety Group, called me saying Reed Business Information CEO Tad Smith was pushing him to discuss an acquisition of my site.
Stiles and I had spoken quite a bit about Variety‘s cutbacks and layoffs. I’d joked with him on several occasions that RBI should buy me because I was beating the trades on so many stories. But on this day, according to my informal notes from the conversation, Stiles admitted that his company had done a survey only to find that DHD was a bigger showbiz destination site on the Internet than Variety. He also noted that Variety was embarrassed when the trade publication missed the Peter-Chernin-resigning-from-News Corp story which I had broken a few days earlier. (It took Variety several hours to get online with a matching story…) Stiles’ idea was that I would remain independent, but Variety would own DHD and link to my scoops, etc. The one wrinkle he cited was that RBI’s parent is getting a new CEO and it might be a while before new deals were consummated.
I can’t discuss my end of the conversation (because of non-disclosure agreements I have with other interested parties). But, within a couple of days, the idea of Variety owning DHD was dead. I later learned that the trade publication’s editor Peter Bart …
On the Hollywoodland* back page of Los Angeles magazine is a how-to game entitled, “You’re The Next Studio Head”. I was surprised to see that the last stop was, “PAYDAY!!! Nikki Finke doesn’t hate you. ADVANCE TO WIN!!!”
Nonsense. If you’re winning the game in this economic crisis by laying off and cutting costs, of course I hate you.