Paramount will release MGM‘s Hot Tub Time Machine sequel wide on December 25, 2014, the studio just announced. Paramount came aboard in December as worldwide distributor for the pic, after MGM/UA released the first one in 2010 and …
EXCLUSIVE: Although Megan Ellison and her Annapurna Pictures started the process on reviving the Terminator franchise, she has divested herself financially of involvement in the final two or three pictures that will now be solely financed by her brother David Ellison’s Skydance and Paramount Pictures. This has been confirmed to me, and I’m told she will retain an executive producer credit. No one was specific about how the funding of the films will be handled, but I’ve heard that Skydance will now fund 66%, and Paramount will pay for the rest. Others say this has not been determined, as the film is now being budgeted.
Coupled with a changeover at the top of her sales company Panorama yesterday, it might seem that Megan Ellison is tapering off. I don’t believe that’s the case. Even when she took control of The Terminator franchise when she paid $20 million or more to acquire the rights at auction around the time of Cannes 2011, this property was an anomaly for her. Her heart is in taste-maker auteur-driven fare, and she has become a patron saint of prestige films that might not otherwise get made. That is what she will focus on. Her efforts include recently named Best Picture nominees American Hustle and Her, last year’s Zero Dark Thirty and The Master, and the upcoming Bennett Miller-directed Foxcatcher.
For her brother David, Terminator: Genesis and possibly two other films to wrap up the storyline are right in his wheelhouse. He’s at home co-financing and producing large-scale popcorn pictures, and this one fits right in with his other franchises: Mission: Impossible, Star Trek and World War Z. Both of the Ellison siblings confirmed this has happened.
OSCARS: Best Actor Nominee Leonardo DiCaprio On Scorsese, ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’: “I Knew It Would Be Polarizing”
A Best Actor nomination is just one award-season reward this year for Leonardo DiCaprio, who not only stars in Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf Of Wall Street but produced the passion project alongside his mentor and five-time collaborator. The dark biopic based on ex-Wall Streeter Jordan Belfort‘s memoirs has sparked debate among audiences — and DiCaprio, speaking with Deadline after Wolf scored four more noms this morning (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Jonah Hill), says that was his and Scorsese’s goal from the start. “I knew that this film was going to be polarizing in some respect,” he said. “We knew that Jordan’s life was written as a cautionary tale but displayed the hedonistic, flagrant world of Wall Street at that time. We wanted for there to be a dialogue about this attitude — his is a very destructive attitude, and what some people don’t get is that is ultimately not a cautionary tale but an indictment of this world.”
DiCaprio won the rights to Belfort’s story in 2007 and began developing it with Scorsese, with whom he’d by then made Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, and The Departed. “I became obsessed with putting it up on screen, certainly after 2008,” he said. “But what Marty does is he doesn’t judge his characters. He ultimately puts these people onscreen as authentically as he possibly can and lets the audience extract what they can from it.”
Considering that global movie ticket sales reached precedent levels after a particularly robust holiday period and a mostly sizzling summer, 2013 was one of the most turbulent years I can remember in the executive suites of major studios. Studios were overhauled all over town to better compete in an arena that is more of a global pursuit than ever, with victory belonging to whoever can build and maintain the most franchises.
Purists will decry the fact that Hollywood’s brightest minds are mostly focused on repackaging derivative concepts for maximum global grosses, but evidence of the rewards are right there in the gross charts: Six of the top seven biggest films were sequels that provided the kind of results that keep studio conglomerate parents happy, keep studio chiefs employed, and slate co-financiers coming back for more. Sure, studios will still get involved with awards-season prestige films like The Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, but often only when someone else pays to make them. This franchise fever pushed costs of blockbusters to ridiculously high levels, and left top execs and producers explaining, and sometimes packing, when some badly misfired. Add that to internal power struggles at places like Universal and Warner Bros, and you needed a scorecard to keep up with the executive changes — which came fast and furious, especially after the brutal summer blockbuster season. Among them:
*Universal fired film chairman Adam Fogelson in a move that surprised him along with everyone else in town but Ron Meyer and Donna Langley, with whom he engaged in a quiet power struggle. Fogelson was blindsided by the result, coming hours after he presided over the Toronto premiere of Rush. The Comcast-orchestrated move that put Jeff Shell in charge of filmed entertainment after he did well running NBCUniversal’s international operations. Meyer was upped to vice chairman of NBCUniversal and Langley as sole Universal Films chairman and picture picker. Even though the studio placed third in market share and Despicable Me 2 could become the studio’s biggest-ever box office hit when it plays in China, Universal also flubbed franchise launch attempts like R.I.P.D. and 47 Ronin, and Kick-Ass 2 proved that once was enough. Universal has sequels to Jurassic Park, The Mummy and Ted coming, and a new salty adult franchise in Fifty Shades Of Grey for 2015. Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures moved in to hatch pictures and co-fi Universal titles like Jurassic World, hedging the studio’s bets as it moves forward. Langley’s biggest challenge has been retooling the studio’s most lucrative franchise, Fast & Furious, which was halfway completed when star Paul Walker died tragically in a fiery car crash. Right after Fogelson was ousted, longtime Focus Features chief James Schamus was dismissed just as suddenly. He was replaced by Peter Schlessel, the whip-smart former Sony dealmaker who’d been running FilmDistrict and who clearly will be charged with broadening the highbrow Focus slate to include more low-risk high-return genre films like the FilmDistrict hit Insidious. Schamus’s co-chairman, Andrew Karpen, declined to relocate and stay on, dramatically changing the complexion of that prestige company.
*The final shoe dropped after Warner Bros gave the top job to Kevin Tsujihara instead of Warner Bros movie chief Jeff Robinov. At a time when Robinov should have been taking victory laps after his bets on filmmakers paid off so well with Ben Affleck’s Argo, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Robinov instead left in a frosty exit to form his own moneyed film venture. This, and the equally tempestuous exit of Legendary’s Tull after a lucrative franchise-fueled run, left Robinov’s successors Greg Silverman and Sue Kroll under big pressure to assert themselves to find new franchises. The studio re-upped Village Roadshow Pictures and replaced Legendary with James Packer, Brett Ratner and Steven Mnuchin’s RatPac Dune in a slate co-financing deal that will spread $450 million or more over 75 films. While Warner Bros brass tired of Tull imposing his creative will and cherry-picking Warner Bros titles to co-fi, RatPac Dune will not do that, and I heard the studio was able to exclude certain plum titles from the arrangement. But Warner Bros also gifted RatPac Dune with a co-fi stake in Gravity after it was completed, creating a big windfall for a fledgling venture. It’s ironic given nobody in Hollywood but Robinov seemed to want to make that movie — an expensive auteur effort that has zero sequel potential. One challenge for the new team at Warner Bros: keeping Robinov from peeling away the directors he empowered, from Christopher Nolan to Affleck, Snyder, Luhrmann, The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips and Cuaron to make movies at the new company he and Graham King are expected to launch at Sony. Silverman is respected and Kroll is regarded as arguably the best marketer in town and the studio’s global distribution and marketing operation is as good as there is, but the pressure’s on even though Warner Bros topped other studios in market share. It also has what seems like a strong year with franchise launches in Godzilla and LEGO, another installment of 300 (so what if everybody died in the original?), and a Hobbit finale. Beyond Hobbit, New Line continues to do its part on the franchise front, hatching a Horrible Bosses sequel for 2014 and gearing up another installment of its sleeper 2013 road trip comedy We’re The Millers.
*After two costly summer misfires in After Earth and White House Down, a lackluster Smurfs sequel that fizzled the franchise, and disappointing returns on the Matt Damon-starrer Elysium, Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal found herself in the cross-hairs of minority activist shareholder Daniel Loeb. The result: seismic changes in its executive structure and game plan moving forward. The studio dropped marketing head Marc Weinstock, corporate PR chief Steve Elzer and home entertainment chief David Bishop, and then added former New Line president-turned Fifty Shades Of Grey producer Michael De Luca to share president of production duties with Hannah Minghella. The studio vowed heading into its fall investor meetings that it would cut $250 million in costs through 2016, and make fewer movies in 2014 and pour the money into TV. I keep hearing that was temporary window dressing, and after adding former Fox chief Tom Rothman to revive TriStar, which creates another buyer on a lot full of them, Sony will continue to try and create franchises to go along with its Spider-Man and 007 stalwarts. Sony secured a big slate co-fi investment from John LaViolette and Joseph Singer’s Blue Anchor that begins with George Clooney’s The Monuments Men. And then there is the prospect of the venture by Robinov/King which would give Sony huge movies to release and gain market share and bragging rights, without actually having to fund them if they don’t want to. If 22 Jump Street and especially The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit as well as is hoped, some of that pressure could be alleviated as the studio presses ahead with reboots of past franchise successes Ghostbusters and Men In Black.
‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Had Its Own Consigliere For R-Rating In Tom Sherak; Exhibs Waiting To See How It Plays In Peoria
Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street will be released wide by Paramount Pictures on Christmas Day with a three-hour play time and an R-rating that some who have seen the film are surprised it received from the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Administration. Exhibitors who’ve seen it have called it everything from “rough” to “the hardest R I’ve ever seen from a major Hollywood studio.”
Most think it will play well on the coasts but question how audiences will react in Middle America once they realize the movie is quite different from what the ads indicate. (One exhib I spoke with Friday said it might be another Django Unchained – referring to the Quentin Tarantino pic that despite its violent content played well across the country.)
For Wolf Of Wall Street, the studio’s marketing team cut together a slick advertising campaign selling the party aspects of the film, which play to the young, college crowd (the demo that floods the marketplace during holiday break). But, the content is … well, even its star Leonardo DiCaprio aptly calls it “a modern-day Caligula.”
Nothing says Happy Holidays like wrapping up a festering lawsuit before the end of the year. After three long legal years, Paramount and asset management firm Content Partners have ended their film-financing court battle. “The matter has been amicably resolved and each of the Parties has denied any wrongdoing,” a Paramount spokesperson said today in a parsed statement. On Tuesday, Content Partners lawyers filed paperwork in LA Superior Court’s Santa Monica courthouse for dismissal of the case with prejudice on all actions by all parties involved. The resolution comes less than a week before a scheduled motion for summary judgment hearing. No details of what the settlement entails, but with tens of millions of dollars being bandied about in various complaints and counter-complaints, everybody likely got something for Christmas.
This all started in 2010 when Paramount was slapped with a $45 million breach of contract and fraud suit by Content Partners over profit participation on films such as Face/Off and The Truman Show. Content Partners claimed that the studio played fast and loose with paying out money it owed. As that case weaved its way through the courts and the discovery process, Paramount shot back this summer. “Paramount Pictures Corporation brings this Cross-Complaint against Content Partners LLC and its affiliate seeking redress for a years-long scheme by Content Partners and Wall Street investment bank JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. to defraud Paramount through an unlawful and secret assignment of rights in connection with 25 Paramount motion pictures,” said its cross complaint of June 6.
Fleming Q&As American Cinema-theque Honoree Jerry Bruckheimer On 40 Years Of Hits, And A Paramount Pictures Future
EXCLUSIVE: Tonight, the 27th American Cinematheque Award honors Hollywood’s longest-running and most commercially successful producer in Jerry Bruckheimer. Over the past 40 years, Bruckheimer has been the most consistent generator of films that filled theaters, moved popcorn and displayed more onscreen explosions than anyone else. First with late partner Don Simpson and then as a solo act, Bruckheimer’s films have earned estimated worldwide revenues of $16 billion in ticket sales, video and recording revenues, and he once had 10 TV series on networks in a single season, a record that still stands. Bruckheimer has something to prove as he moves from Disney to Paramount in the wake of the disappointing returns on The Lone Ranger. Bruckheimer doesn’t relish looking back as he starts a new chapter in a storied career that will include more installments of franchises Pirates Of The Caribbean, National Treasure, Bad Boys, Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun. But he invited Deadline to his spacious Santa Monica headquarters recently to spend an afternoon reflecting on how far the son of a Detroit suit salesman has come.
DEADLINE: Your long run as Disney’s signature event film producer ends with your return to Paramount, a place where you and late former partner Don Simpson made some of the seminal hits of the 1980s. Disney moved toward a branded supplier program built around Marvel, Star Wars, DreamWorks, Pixar and away from proven producers. That is emblematic of the business now as studio producer deals fall by the wayside. You raised $20 million a couple years ago through Barclays Bank for development, and had a line on over $300 million, positioning you to be in step with hybrid producer/financiers with co-fi coin. Why did you instead opt for a throwback first-look Paramount deal?
BRUCKHEIMER: I like the camaraderie and collaboration of developing at a studio. Brad Grey I’ve worked with in the past and enjoy. I developed Top Gun 2 with Tony Scott, Paramount executives and David Ellison, and had a good experience with them. They are aggressive about material, and how they market, advertise and distribute their films.
DEADLINE: Most producers who can are raising their own money, as studios make fewer films and downgrade traditional first-look producing deals. You had the money in place and no producer has your long track record of hits if you wanted to raise more. Why didn’t you go that route?
BRUCKHEIMER: Because you spend your time finding millions, setting up time-consuming meetings with bankers, accountants and lawyers. It sucks the energy out of you and you are not spending your time making movies. For me, it was like trying on a suit and not liking the fit. I’d rather spend my time sitting in a room with a writer or a director, working out the beats of a story, or sitting with a designer to figure out how to make this set as cool as possible. A lot of people are good at running around raising money, and I’m not saying it’s something that isn’t in my future if I have to do it. I’d just much rather work at the creative end of the business.
DEADLINE: In your first stop at Paramount, you made films like Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop, and you are drafting new versions of each almost 30 years later. Studios all over are rebooting and sequelizing old stuff. Why is it so hard to create new franchises today?
BRUCKHEIMER: It’s always been hard to launch a franchise. You have to hit the mother lode on the first one, then figure out how to create longevity for each of the main characters. That’s not easy. We got very fortunate with Beverly Hills Cop because Eddie was just the greatest new comic that I’d seen. He’d made only a few movies previously and I could see he had the ability to capture the imagination of the audience. 48 Hours and Trading Places made that clear. But they thought we were nuts to have him carry a lead in a movie.
BRUCKHEIMER: Because in both pictures he was a co-star.
DEADLINE: Didn’t Paramount prefer Sylvester Stallone for the Axel Foley role anyway?
BRUCKHEIMER: Originally. Here’s what happened. We went to Paramount and said, we want Eddie for this. They had the script, they loved it, they wanted to make the movie. They also had a pay or play commitment with Stallone, and they didn’t just want to pay him. So they wanted him for this movie. We said, we love Sly, but we created this script for Eddie. Even though Eddie didn’t know that we’d developed it for him. But we said, fine, you sign the checks, we’ll do what you want. We met with Sly and he said, I write my own stuff. We said OK, go ahead with your own thing. And when the project came in it had gotten way too expensive. He had written in car chases and everything. Barry Diller said, wait a minute, we’re not spending that kind of money on this movie. So he turned to us and asked who we would put in this movie if Sly couldn’t do it? We said, Eddie Murphy, but we didn’t say we’d originally given it to the studio for Eddie. Barry said, great, go make the movie! And he gave Sly his script back with all the things he wrote and Sly went off and used that to make Cobra, which was the direction he had taken Beverly Hills Cop. We went off and made it with Eddie. They still thought we were crazy because this was the first time an African-American had carried a studio movie. I think, ever. We were told we were nuts to spend that kind of money on Eddie, alone.
DEADLINE: Take movies like Pacific Rim, World War Z or The Lone Ranger this past summer. Each were franchise plays, but at $200 million or more, the high costs made it like shooting at a narrow moving target and hard to turn profit. The old way was to make films like Beverly Hills Cop for low price and if they build natural momentum, hello sequel.
BRUCKHEIMER: Beverly Hills Cop wasn’t expensive at all. It’s just so hard to make a successful movie to begin with, and to figure out which can be sustained. A lot of movies I’ve done, like The Lone Ranger, could have been franchises. But the audience didn’t brace itself for what might happen next with the characters. That is just how it has always happened. The difference is that now, everything is just a lot more expensive. Back then, Top Gun cost $14 million and Beverly Hills Cop was $8 million.
DEADLINE: Why didn’t The Lone Ranger catch on with audiences?
BRUCKHEIMER: I don’t really know. I can’t definitively tell you why Pirates Of The Caribbean worked so well. Nobody wants to make a picture that doesn’t make its money back, especially us. I loved the movie and enjoyed making it. You make the best movie you can, you put it out and then you find out. They did a good job marketing the movie, so I can’t say anything about that. It’s just one of those films that fell between the cracks. It certainly wasn’t helped by the negative press before the movie even got made. There were a lot of discussions about a lot of things that the audience shouldn’t care about, and maybe that turned them off.
DEADLINE: The average person or a journalist like me might say, $200 million or more is too much to spend on a picture. What doesn’t the lay person understand when they make statements like that?
BRUCKHEIMER: The part that gets me is, the audience only pays between $6 and $10 bucks, and they don’t pay any more when a film costs $200 million. It shouldn’t concern them. All they should care about is, did I love it? Do I want to go see it again? Will I tell my friends to go see it? That’s all that should be important to an audience. The media feeds into the cost of the movie, rather than, is it entertaining? Have the filmmakers used every nickel they spent to best advantage, where I can see it on the screen and it gave me a better experience? That’s what’s important, the moviegoer experience. And it is also important that someone like me looks at movies done by others that are so well done, so exciting, with such big endings that I say, ‘Jeez, how do we compete with that?’ And the way you compete is to be more inventive in finding concepts, actors and directors who’ll give the audience a real thrill ride.
UPDATE: Jerry Bruckheimer And Paramount Ink First-Look Deal; Brett Ratner Attached To Direct ‘Beverly Hills Cop’
UPDATED: Paramount Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer are back in business together, with the free-agent producer and his Bruckheimer Films finalizing a three-year first-look deal with the studio that will begin in April 2014. “I have a lot more freedom than at Disney,” Bruckheimer told me today. Clearly, he’s referring to the fact that he can take projects elsewhere to develop if need be, something he couldn’t do at Disney. He also cited Paramount’s strong marketing and distribution team and said he was impressed with how well they handled the Brad Pitt zombie movie World War Z when the going got rough in the press.
In September, Disney announced it would not renew its first-look with one of the few brand-name producers in town — the one who begat the mega-successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise. That decision came as the studio said it would have to write down as much as $190 million from losses tied to The Lone Ranger, the big-budget pic from Bruckheimer that failed to pop at the box office. Bruckheimer’s films have earned a combined $16 billion over the years, with 19 of his movies topping $100 million mark in U.S. box office receipts. His deal with Disney was about the most expensive in the business, with generous overhead, 7-figure producing fees and gross.
Bruckheimer will not have a discretionary fund at Paramount.
Projects he set up at Disney will remain there until they pass on them. One of the projects Bruckheimer will take with him is Shake, a cat-and-mouse thriller about and FBI agent who is bringing in a serial killer when an earthquake happens and the killer gets loose.
The first project under the new deal, however, will be a new Beverly Hills Cop movie — a reboot of one of Bruckheimer and Paramount’s biggest successes together when he produced the original with late partner Don Simpson. Eddie Murphy closed his deal to reprise his role as Detroit cop Axel Foley — this time Foley will be returning to his Detroit roots. It will be the fourth installment of the lucrative franchise. Brett Ratner, who is currently finishing up Hercules for MGM, is attached to direct the film as soon as his duties on the Dwayne Johnson-starrer finishes up. The picture bows in July. The Beverly Hills Cop script is still being worked on.
Another big Bruckheimer-Simpson-Paramount hit in their sights: Bruckheimer as part of his deal will also produce the long-in-the-works Top Gun 2, which is being developed by Skydance Productions with Tom Cruise back in the cockpit to star.
The production deal brings another heavy hitter into the Paramount mix with Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Bay, David Ellison and J.J. Abrams already there.
Jerry Bruckheimer may have his TV deal at Warner Bros, but sources say a feature deal at the studio for the producer is no longer in play. Bruckheimer now is looking to set up his lucrative production deal at Paramount. Sources close to the negotiation tell Deadline that they hope to seal a deal in the coming week but would not elaborate on the specifics — for instance, whether Bruckheimer would be given any special incentives or what the length of term might be.
Bruckheimer is one of the few brand-name producers in town, having worked for years to establish himself as such and making a mint for Disney with the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He also is one of the most expensive producer deals in town, pulling in hefty producing fees and backend deals. He has also made a name for himself in television with such successful franchises as CSI and The Amazing Race.
The producer previously had a long run at Paramount with his former producing partner, the late Don Simpson, where they churned out Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop and Flashdance in their heyday.