Oprah Winfrey will receive the festival‘s Montecito Award for her performance in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and a celebration of her overall career. The Tribute to Winfrey is set for February 5 at the Arlington Theatre. Previous recipients of the award, given in recognition of a performer who has given a series of classic and standout performances, has gone to the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Javier Bardem, Naomi Watts and Annette Bening. Winfrey’s most recent work includes her moving portrayal of supportive wife Gloria Gaines in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The historical drama stars Forest Whitaker as a White House butler who served seven American presidents over three decades. “Ms. Winfrey, the actress, inhabits Gloria Gaines with such gusto – she makes you forget Oprah the impresario,” says SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “Her performance is career-defining and reason to rejoice.” The festival runs January 30-February 9.
Turns out Tyler Perry’s For Better Or Worse is definitely the former and not the latter on its new home on OWN. Having left TBS and moved over to OWN now, the Season 3 premiere of the Perry produced and directed sitcom gave the Oprah Winfrey Network its most watched Wednesday night in the outlet’s almost three-year history with 1.124 million. That was driven mostly by the 9 PM third cycle debut drew 1.5 million total viewers and the 9:30 PM episode pulled in 1.6 million viewers with 1.23 and 1.29 ratings respectively among women 25-54. The previous Wednesday high for OWN was May 29, 2013 when the network got 1.092 million. That was the same night Perry’s comedy Love Thy Neighbor debuted on OWN. For Better Or Worse joins Perry’s drama The Haves And The Have Nots as well as Love Thy Neighbor on the network.
UPDATE, 9:45 AM: The possibility of U.S. military action against Syria means that President Barack Obama won’t be coming to LA on September 9 after all for a fundraiser at the home of Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman. A source tells me that the White House wants the Commander-in-Chief in Washington for an expected Congressional vote next week on the proposed action, and subsequently the Democratic National Committee has postponed the event. Though no new date has been set, the fundraiser will be rescheduled, the DNC says. Patrons who purchased the $32,400-per-person tickets for the small gathering with Obama will be refunded if they don’t want to attend the rescheduled event. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 Wednesday in favor of the use of military force against the Assad regime. Full Senate and House votes on the matter will likely come early next week.
PREVIOUSLY, AUGUST 27 PM: EXCLUSIVE: Producer Marta Kauffman is inviting a good friend over next month. The Friends co-creator/executive producer and her composer-husband Michael Skloff will be hosting President Obama at their LA County home for a DNC fundraiser on September 9, Deadline has learned. Though Obama’s trip was revealed by the DNC on Monday, all details were kept under wraps. Now described as a “roundtable” discussion by one insider, the one-hour event (take a look at the invite here) comes at a price of $32,400 per guest and is expected to raise over $1 million for the party. In what is being set up as a smallish gathering of around 30 people, Obama will take direct questions from the big money ticket buyers, I’m told. A longtime Obama and DNC supporter, Kauffman most recently donated $50,000 to the president’s second inauguration. The visit comes just more than three weeks after Obama’s last trip to LA, when he appeared on The Tonight Show and had a private dinner with DreamWorks Animation boss Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Oprah’s PR Blitz Helps ‘The Butler’ Open #1 With $25M: Soft Box Office As ‘Kick Ass 2′ Falls, ‘Jobs’ Biopic Dies, ‘Paranoia’ Bombs
SUNDAY 8 AM, 6TH UPDATE WRITETHRU: With one exception, this weekend was a disaster zone for three of the four newcomers at the domestic box office. Tanking big-time were Universal’s Kick-Ass 2 based on the comic book, Five Star/Open Road Films’ Jobs biopic about the Apple co-founder played by Ashton Kutcher, and IM Global/Relativity’s Paranoia starring Liam Hemsworth and Harrison Ford. Total moviegoing this weekend was only around $160 million, or -6% from last year, despite the uber-crowded marketplace. Even the surprise #1 this weekend, The Weinstein Company’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler, opened with $25 million which was down from the $30+M Hollywood projected when the weekend started. ”Everything is coming in softer,” one studio exec warned me Friday night. Love her or hate her, co-star Oprah Winfrey and her big media blitz helped open the pic even if it did little to help her public image by providing more dirt for her detractors. Yet a survey by Fandango found that 72% of Butler ticket-buyers claimed Oprah’s involvement increased their interest in seeing the film which was her first movie role in 15 years. But The Butler still trailed the opening weekend grosses of two recent and similarly race- and civil rights-themed adult pics: 42 and The Help. No one, and certainly not The Weinstein Company, expected director Lee Daniels’ or screenwriter Danny Strong’s biopic (playing in 2,933 theaters) to double its $15M weekend projection much less land on top of the weekend box office. But on Thursday morning it already was the #1 ticket-seller on both Fandango and MovieTickets – a welcome event for such a modest $25M negative cost film. Its 73% Rotten Tomatoes positive reviews and ’A’ CinemaScore from audiences surely helped word of mouth as much as Oprah. (Note that in 1998. at the height of her syndicated power when she could sell anything to anyone, Oprah starred in and produced the film flop Beloved. Now she’s on her struggling cable network. But I’m assured she had no financial investment in the film nor contributed into the P&A nor bought up advance tickets in bulk like the rumors claimed.)
Forest Whitaker, Terrence Howard, Alan Rickman, and Cuba Gooding Jr helped overcome the uneven script that – depending on your POV – is dumbed-down or condescending, historically important or filled with historical inaccuracies. But the stunt casting of Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan has caused considerable Red State outrage on social media. Like 42 and The Help, this pic was marketed first to African-Americans through outreach in those faith-based communities. Then the campaign widened to the art house crowd and curious general audiences. Rival studios initially speculated that The Butler‘s grosses would be frontloaded since it was so dependent on pre-sales. But its Saturday number went up +10% over Friday’s. The film’s genesis began with a Washington Post profile of the longtime White House black butler Eugene Allen that was optioned by Sony Pictures producer Laura Ziskin. When she died of cancer 3 weeks before shooting began, Cassian Elwes and Pam Williams met with Daniels and, together with CAA, scrambled to put together financing. In all 28 investors came together including Buddy Patrick, Sheila Johnson, Michael Findley, and Len Blavatnick. Harvey Weinstein and his TWC boarded late in the production and banked $4M to help finish the film. Then Harv “helped edit” – we all know what that means – with Daniels. Initially The Butler was a fall film to platform for awards consideration. “But when it tested through the roof, we decided then that we needed to go wide. And we saw a gap in the schedule for adult fare in the summer,” an insider tells me. “In our deal we had a $20M P&A cap, and we had to go to the investor group to get the cap raised to $30M in order to go wide.” I’m told 100% of the P&A money is TWC’s. Along the way, Harvey orchestrated free publicity as he battled Warner Bros over the pic’s title.
Pre-release tracking predicted that Universal’s superhero action-comedy Kick Ass 2 (playing in 2,940 theaters) would be the #1 film this weekend as it made steady gains in key areas with solid interest indicated from younger audiences and males in particular. Instead, it bombed with only $13.6M after looking to open #1, then #2, then #3 on Friday - trailing the Warner Bros/New Line holdover comedy We’re The Millers. Not even its ‘B+’ CinemaScore could help word of mouth after critics savaged it with only 29% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes because it fell short of the original. Fanboys decided to stay away. I predict debate will rage about whether this sequel based on Mark Millar/John S. Romita’s comic book was necessary. Even the 2010 original’s $19.8M opening was considered dismal, only to make up for it as a hot DVD sale and rental and digital download because of its R-rated irreverence and style. Wrongly, the studio believed “there was a committed fan base that could be activated as a core audience for a sequel,” as a Universal exec emailed me. So the studio handled worldwide distribution for the further adventures of Kick-Ass, Hit Girl and Red Mist (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse respectively). Vigilante crusader Colonel Stars and Stripes is played by Jim Carrey who kicked up a fuss by proclaiming he wouldn’t promote the film because of its ultra-violence. A few weeks later, he got onboard – but not before generating a ton of bad publicity for the pic. (He didn’t make himself very popular in Hollywood with this stunt. Let’s see if his career continues to crater.) From a screenplay by director Jeff Wadlow, pic also reteamed producers Matthew Vaughn, Adam Bohling, Tarquin Pack and David Reid. It was independently financed for only $28M, then acquired by Universal before production began in September of 2012. Film opens day-and-date in 18 international territories including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany and grossed $6.3M at 1,500 dates.
Flopping in wide release (2,381 theaters) was Open Road Films’ Jobs, the much-publicized biopic about the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher. It came in only #7 with a meager $6.7M despite a plethora of TV ad buys. Ashton just isn’t a movie star, period, and the ‘B-’ CinemaScore didn’t generate any helpful word of mouth for the pic directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) and scripted by first-time screenwriter Matt Whitely. Open Road acquired Jobs just before it premiered at Sundance in January from Five Star Feature Films which financed the $12M production. Rotten Tomatoes critics only gave it 24% positive reviews because of its superficial made-for-TV depiction of a complex creative and business icon. Still it’s surprising how many Apple devotees stayed away despite the marketing’s psychographic targeting to them. And digital stunts included the launch of the first-ever Instagram movie trailer and Kutcher ringing the bell at the NY Stock Exchange.
Another tech pic tanked. Dropping from #10 on Friday to #13 by Sunday was the IM Global/ Reliance produced thriller Paranoia (distributed by Relativity into 2,459 U.S. theaters with EOne releasing in Canada). Even starring Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford, and Gary Oldman who all are good in the film, it made only $3.5M or about half what was projected. Both audiences and critics hated on it with a ‘C’ CinemaScore and 4% Rotten Tomatoes positive reviews. ”I think Relativity’s marketing department screwed up,” one insider tells me. “They tried to focus on the youth audience and teen girls in particular, and it isn’t that kind of movie at all. Also, IM Global picked this date, and they never should have opened this kind of film in the summer.”
Oprah did well by Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live when she made her first visit to the show Thursday night – but she’s no Orange County housewife. An average of 969,000 viewers watched Oprah visit Andy Cohen’s program as part of her march across the talk-show landscape, plugging…
UPDATE FRIDAY 2 AM: Oprah is all about carefully controlling her image at all times. But not this week when she made the media rounds to promote her return to the big screen in …
TCA: OWN Orders Deion Sanders Reality Soap; Oprah To Chat With ‘The Butler’ Notables, Lohan Chat Date
Oprah Winfrey Network has ordered a new docu-series about “the crazy and chaotic family life” of former NFL star Deion Sanders. The network also announced this morning the next crop of celebs sitting down with Oprah for her Next Chapter franchise. The reality docu-series about Sanders – described by OWN as “football legend, baseball great, broadcaster, Hall of Famer, international superstar, businessman, educator and father” – is called It’s Prime Time and will premiere in early ’14.
Oprah’s Next Chapter chatters in August include the cast of The Butler – a.k.a. Lee Daniel’s The Butler – will undergo the Next Chapter treatment on August 11. Oprah herself is in the movie about Cecil Gaines, who served as head butler at the White House under eight presidents. She will sit down with fellow cast members Forest Whitaker, who plays Gaines in the film, and with David Oyelowo, as well as director Lee Daniels. The movie is set to open on August 16. One week after her sit-down with The Butler notables, OWN will unveil Oprah’s much-ballyhooed TV tete-a-tete with Lindsay Lohan, who is looking for yet another career re-boot after the Lifetime Liz Taylor flick thing didn’t work out so well. Other upcoming Next Chapters will pair O with Gloria Estefan and Tina Turner.
Last month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences took great strides in order to bring more diversity to its membership. Now will that effort affect the actual Oscar race itself? Certainly this year distributors, particularly The Weinstein Company and Fox Searchlight, are going to be giving the Academy every opportunity to put some diversity into that race, especially in terms of a major African- American presence. Beginning with this Friday’s platformed Weinstein release of the widely acclaimed Sundance and Cannes award winner, Fruitvale Station there is a highly promising lineup of films that seriously depict the Black experience to be released in the second half of 2013. And I am not talking about Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.
This group of movies, which also includes the increasingly-controversial The Butler (8/16- Weinstein), 12 Years A Slave (10/18- Searchlight), Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom (11/29 – Weinstein), Black Nativity (11/27 – Searchlight), Blue Caprice starring Isaiah Washington (IFC – 9/13), the recently -released documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom (Radius-TWC) and (far less likely) even the long-delayed Winnie Mandela (Image Entertainment) starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard now being released in September, provide a bountiful opportunity to let the Academy show off its new spirit of diversity, not that they have been completely dormant in that area in recent years. Of course 2012′s Beasts Of The Southern Wild made the most recent Best Picture cut and won its 9 year old star Quvenzhane Wallis a Best Actress nomination. And Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar winning Original Screenplay for another 2012 Best Pic nominee, Django Unchained had a unique take on slavery. Two years ago the box office success of The Help propelled it towards a Best Picture nomination and acting nods for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, the latter winning for Best Supporting Actress. And just four years ago Precious won a couple of key Oscars for Supporting Actress Monique and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher as well as Best Picture and Directing (for Lee Daniels) nominations.
UPDATE: David Boies Charges Extortion As He Returns Fire In ‘The Butler’ Spat Between Warner Bros And The Weinstein Company
5TH EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Weinstein Company attorney David Boies has responded to the legal letter sent by Warner Bros legal affairs over their dispute regarding use of the title The Butler on the Lee Daniels-directed film. The letter is directed to John W. Spiegel, the Warner Bros-hired lawyer who fired off the last letter July 4. Here is the latest, as Boies makes the move to secure a restraining order as the legal maneuvering continues. He says that Warner Bros is holding hostage the civil rights film to “extort unrelated concessions from TWC.” This is getting nastier and nastier:
Dear Mr. Spiegel:
Although you do not directly respond to my inquiry, I assume that you are the counsel who should be notified in the event it is necessary to seek a TRO.
I will not try to respond to your version of the facts in part because it is so inaccurate and incomplete that such an exercise would be extensive, and in part because your letter appears to be a press release masquerading as a lawyer’s letter. However, I briefly note your lack of response to three critical points.
First, if an anticompetitive “permanent” allocation of titles (and words used in titles) among competitors is a product of a horizontal agreement, that is an antitrust violation, not a defense.
Second, the purported order that TWC not use titles that it has already cleared pursuant to the MPAA’s own rules and procedures demonstrates that it is Warner Bros. and the MPAA that are at odds with established custom, practice, and procedure.
Third, none of this controversy would have occurred if Warner Bros. had not repudiated its representations and agreements not to object to “The Butler” in a transparent attempt to hold a major civil rights film hostage to extort unrelated concessions from TWC.
4th EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: The July 4th holiday didn’t stop the battle between The Weinstein Company and Warner Brothers over the title to The Butler. Attorneys for Warner Brothers yesterday sent a letter to TWC counsel David Boies in response to director Lee Daniels’ personal appeal to WB to back down on its demand for a title change. In the letter, WB attorney John Spiegel stands firm, calling TWC’s “cries of unfairness and its threats to sue Warner ..unproductive and unwarranted”. Sources tell Deadline that Daniels received a personal response from CEO Kevin Tsujihara yesterday. Warner Bros had no comment on the matter. You can read the complete letter below:
July 4, 2013
David Boies, Esq.
Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP
333 Main Street
Armonk, NY 10504
Re:The Weinstein Company/The Butler
Dear Mr. Boies:
We represent Warner Bros. Pictures (WBP) and Warner Bros. Family Entertainment (collectively, “Warner”). I write in response to your July 3, 2013 letter on behalf of The Weinstein Company’s (TWC). TWC’s cries of unfairness and its threats to sue Warner are unproductive and unwarranted responses to a situation that TWC alone has created.
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Tiny Times’ Breaks Out In China; eOne Taps Aussie Unit Chief; ‘The March’ Coming To Television
Homegrown ‘Tiny Times’ Wows With $30.8M Opening In China
Tiny Times, a Shanghai-set coming-of-age drama revolving around four girlfriends, had a huge opening weekend in China, putting it on a par with last year’s breakout comedy Lost In Thailand. According to Film Biz Asia, the movie amassed $30.8M in three days. Including previews, it earned $42M in four days. The film is the directorial debut of novelist Guo Jingming and had a 45% market share for the weekend. Meanwhile, Man Of Steel and Jet Li- starrer Badges Of Fury incurred slight drops in their second weekends. Per the report, Man Of Steel had taken in $47.2M by the end of the weekend and Badges had $33.33M. Man Of Steel, however, is holding well, Film Biz Asia says.
eOne Appoints Co-Founder Of Its Aussie Unit To Head Distribution There
Entertainment One has promoted Sandie Don to head of distribution for its Australian operation, Hopscotch. Don will oversee theatrical distribution for Hopscotch/eOne including acquisitions, sales and marketing. She previously was marketing and acquisitions director. Along with partners Troy Lum and Frank Cox, Don formed Hopscotch Films in 2002; it was acquired by eOne in 2011.
Oprah’s Lifeclass, featuring Oprah and life coach Iyanla Vanzant, returns to OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network‘s primetime lineup with a special 90-minute episode at 9 PM Sunday, July 7. In the first episode, Winfrey and Vanzant continue …
Up to now the company promised that its joint venture network with Oprah Winfrey would break even on a cash flow basis in the second half of 2013. But CEO David Zaslav slightly raised the stakes this morning, promising those attending Sanford C. Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions Conference that “we’ll be making money on OWN.” The channel — which stumbled out of the gate in 2011 — is “ahead of where we thought it would be” and “finding enormous success for us.” For example, on Saturday night, when it runs original programming without Winfrey, “we’re the No. 1 network for African American women.” The comment buttressed Zaslav’s broader argument that the pay TV business is in good shape, and Discovery is doing especially well in that environment. Zaslav is unfazed by the seemingly growing number of consumers who say that they’re fed up with rising pay TV rates, and want distributors to offer channels a la carte or on low-priced tiers. “This is a very sturdy system,” he says. “Viewers really enjoy the basic package…I don’t see that being challenged.”