EXCLUSIVE: Looking to stir up a bit of early Oscar buzz, The Weinstein Company has slotted the Lee Daniels-directed The Butler to an August 16 release date. It had been skedded for October 18. That slot has done well for films that include The Help, Julie and Julia and Eat Pray Love, and TWC will hope to follow suit. The film looks at the life of Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents from 1952 to 1986 and had a birds eye view of the Civil Rights movement. He was long retired when Barack Obama became the first African American president, but was invited back for the inauguration. The cast includes Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and Robin Williams. Here’s the trailer:
A first look at The Butler and the staff that Lee Daniels assembled including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey in her first film since 1998′s Beloved, and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan which raised plenty of eyebrows and rankles last year. The film tells the story of Eugene Allen (Whitaker), who served …
Another long-time executive from Oprah Winfrey‘s inner circle is out. After a 18-year stint as president of Harpo Films, Kate Forte was let go today. While the company continues to have a couple of projects in development at HBO, where it has been under a deal since 2008, Harpo Films has little to show for its efforts in the past five years — its last projects to reach fruition were the 2007 movie The Great Debaters, one of only two features produced by the unit, and 2007 ABC telefilm Mitch Albom’s For One More Day. Harpo Films is a vestige of old times — it was active in the broadcast movie business, doing six films for ABC between 1997-2007. But the demand for long-form projects, especially on the broadcast side, has dried out. And now the Los Angeles-based Harpo Films will de facto fold. As part of a restructuring, its larger sibling production company, Chicago-based Harpo Studios, overseen by OWN presidents Erik Logan and Sheri Salata, is launching a scripted division, which is expected to absorb some of the staff of Harpo Films. Likely based in Los Angeles, its focus will be scripted series, an area that has been growing in recent years as more and more cable networks enter the field. That includes Harpo Studios’ main client, Winfrey’s OWN, which is venturing into scripted series with a comedy and drama from Tyler Perry set to debut later this year.
Given the wave of publicity, Oprah Winfrey‘s sit-down with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong was expected to be a ratings monster and a game-changer for Winfrey’s OWN network. The first part of Winfrey’s interview, in which Armstrong admitted to doping, was big but not a record breaker. It averaged 3.2 million total viewers in its premiere telecast at 9 PM and another 1.1 million at 10:30 PM for a total of 4.3 million. The original telecast couldn’t top Winfrey’s newsmaking Oprah’s Next Chapter interview with Whitney Houston’s family, which garnered 3.5 million on March 11. The special’s premiere still ranked as the highest rated weekday telecast in OWN history across all key demos. Here are the stats:
Los Angeles – Oprah Winfrey’s exclusive no-holds-barred interview with Lance Armstrong, “Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive,” has expanded to air as a two-night event on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The special episode of “Oprah’s Next Chapter” will air Thursday, January 17 from 9-10:30 p.m. ET/PT (as previously announced) and Friday, January 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The interview will be simultaneously streamed LIVE worldwide both nights on Oprah.com.
Is Lance Armstrong pedaling a confession? The disgraced former seven-time Tour de France cycling champion will appear on OWN’s Oprah’s Next Chapter on January 17, the network announced today. This interview with Oprah Winfrey will be Armstrong’s first since the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency charged him with using illegal performance-enhancing drugs during a career that has made him one of America’s and the world’s most well-known athletes. The big question is whether Oprah will rip the skin off Armstrong the way she did author James Frey after he promoted his recovery memoir A Million Little Pieces, and then came back to be flayed when it was revealed he’d embellished big parts of the book.
That didn’t take long — two months after Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN announced a multi-year exclusive deal with Tyler Perry for scripted shows, the network has greenlighted two series written, directed and produced by Perry from his production company Tyler Perry Studios. Perry’s agreement with OWN called for him to write, direct and exec produce two series for a mid-2013 launch. Now the shows have been identified, drama The Haves And The Have Nots and comedy Love Thy Neighbor, the network confirmed. This marks the first drama series for the prolific Perry, who stayed strictly on the sitcom side with his TBS series, all done with Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury: House Of Payne, Meet The Browns and For Better Or Worse. The Tyler Perry shows mark OWN’s first scripted offerings.
Although the goals were set independently, David Zaslav says that his joint venture with Oprah Winfrey is growing fast enough that it doesn’t have to expand to 85M homes — from 80M now — to fulfill his prediction that it will break even in the second half of 2013. “The ratings growth has been fantastic,” he told investors and analysts on Day 2 of the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. The “cherry on top,” he says, is that “we’re the home for Tyler Perry on television.” On Saturdays, OWN ranks first or second with black women, attracting more of the demo than ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC combined.
Zaslav’s comment about OWN reflects his overall optimism about the state of his company and the programming business. He acknowledged that ad sales were slow in October. Discovery was “hurt more by the Olympics than we expected” — in part due to his decision not to schedule strong shows against the games. But since the election both volume and pricing have been “quite good.” He warns that the outlook “could change a week or two from now” if there’s no compromise in Washington to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, although “it’s getting pretty late for [the negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff] to have an impact” in Q4.
Tyler Perry’s exclusive TV production deal with OWN shouldn’t turn the self-improvement channel into just another general entertainment network, Discovery CEO David Zaslav told analysts this morning. “This is something Oprah really wants,” he says. “We were …
Long-time friends (and the two richest African Americans in showbiz) Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry are now forging a business partnership. OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network has inked an exclusive multi-year deal with Perry. Under the pact, he will executive produce, write and direct two new scripted series for a mid-2013 premiere on OWN, marking the network’s first foray into scripted programming. “I have been looking forward to the day when we would be in the position to enter the world of scripted television. That day has come,” said Oprah Winfrey, OWN’s CEO. “We are all energized by the opportunity to collaborate with Tyler who has a proven track record for producing highly successful cable series.”