Participant Media’s push into television continues. On the heels of the company last week launching a formal TV division and tapping IFC TV and Sundance Channel president Evan Shapiro to run it, the feature producer has made an equity investment in Canada-based TV producer and distributor Cineflix Media. Participant’s TV division, headed by Shapiro, will partner with Cineflix to develop and produce original television programming that fits Participant’s brand of commercial and socially relevant entertainment. Participant is behind 39 narrative and feature films, including Contagion, Syriana, An Inconvenient Truth, The Cove and The Help. Cineflix Media set a foothold into the American marketplace with the 2010 launch of U.S.-based Cineflix Studios headed by another former Rainbow Media executive, AMC’s Christina Wayne. Cineflix Studios’ first scripted original series, Copper, premieres on BBC America in the U.S and on Shaw Media’s Showcase in Canada this summer. On the unscripted side, Cineflix Media produces a slew of series, including American Pickers, Property Brothers, Mayday, William Shatner’s Weird or What?, and Nazi Hunters.
IFC TV and Sundance Channel president Evan Shapiro is leaving AMC Networks. He has been named president of Participant Television, a newly formed TV division of Participant Media. Shapiro, who will report to Participant Media CEO Jim Berk, starts May 7 and will oversee the development and production of original television programming that the company says will follow its model of commercial and socially relevant entertainment. Participant is behind 39 narrative and feature films, including Good Night, And Good Luck and Food, Inc. as well as Contagion, Syriana, An Inconvenient Truth, The Cove, The Help and the upcoming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Last Call At The Oasis. “Expanding Participant’s brand of storytelling into television is both a natural progression and integral part of our expansion strategy,” Berk said. “Evan’s tremendous impact in transforming the IFC and Sundance networks combined with his genuine interest in socially relevant media, make him the perfect choice.” This is the first time Participant is launching a full-fledged TV division to be run by an executive at a president level. The company previously dabbled in TV with John Moser, who did a stint as SVP of TV, and Steve Tao as consultant and executive producer.
Participant Media and Doha Film Institute have signed on along with MyGroup Lebanon, FFA Private Bank, JRW Entertainment and Code Red Productions for animated project The Prophet, which Hayek’s Ventanarosa Productions will produce. Deadline first reported on …
UPDATE: I’m told the film has a new title: Promised Land.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Focus Features and Participant Media won a bidding battle for the untitled film that Gus Van Sant will direct with Matt Damon and John Krasinski starring, from the script those actors co-wrote. Focus and Participant are tying down the details. You’ll recall that Damon planned to make his directing debut on the film, but when his schedule made that impossible, he and producer Chris Moore brought it to their Good Will Hunting director Van Sant, who signed on. The film, which got a first draft from Dave Eggers when its title was Gold Mist, is a Capraesque tale in which Damon and Krasinski play rival corporate executives. Damon plays a sales executive who arrives in a small town only to have his whole life called into question. Moore, Damon and Krasinski will produce and production begins in April.
Park City, UT – January 27, 2012 – Participant Media and AFFRM (African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement) have jointly acquired U.S. theatrical rights to MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, an elegant and emotional drama chronicling a woman’s separation from her incarcerated husband and her journey to maintain her marriage and her identity. Written and directed by AFFRM founder Ava DuVernay, the film was produced by DuVernay and Howard Barish with producer Paul Garnes.
Staring into the hollow end of her husband Derek’s eight-year prison sentence, Ruby Sexton fights to support him on the inside and survive her own identity crisis on the outside. Through a chance encounter and a stunning betrayal that shakes her to the core, Ruby is propelled in new and, often frightening, directions of self-discovery.
AFFRM will distribute the film theatrically later this year, activating marketing and promotional support through its broad grassroots collective powered by the nation’s top black film organizations. AFFRM’s inaugural feature through this innovative model was the critically-acclaimed drama, “I Will Follow,” released in March 2011. In December 2011, AFFRM distributed last year’s Sundance World Cinema Drama Audience Award winner, “Kinyarwanda.”
Image Nation has separated its U.S. business from its local filmmaking activity. Michael Garin, who was appointed CEO in February, will continue to be overall head of Image Nation, while running overseas business Image Nation International. Its American partners include Participant Media, Hyde Park Entertainment, Parkes/Macdonald and Warner Bros. Former UAE ambassador Mohammed Al Otaiba has been appointed head of newly formed Image Nation Abu Dhabi, which has produced two local movies so far: Sea Shadow and Djinn, directed by Tobe Hooper. Garin told me recently that he has spent time restructuring deals originally signed by his predecessor Ed Borgerding, trying to give Image Nation more of a say over what gets greenlighted. He has restructured Image Nation’s deal with National Geographic Films in particular. “Before I arrived, the strategy was much more passive,” he told me. “The partnerships have changed significantly. Before I arrived Participant and National Geographic were structured in a way that gave us little or no control over projects. Those are not structures I would have entered into on that basis.”
Participant Media Can Boast ‘Contagion’ #1 & ‘The Help’ #2; ‘Warrior’ #3 Disappoints; ‘Bucky Larson’ Bombs; Kevin Hart Still #10?
SATURDAY PM: This is shaping up as 2011′s lousiest box office weekend in North America with only $70M total grosses. Yes, even worse than Hurricane Irene’s. A lot of surprises in this weekend’s numbers and a fuller analysis is coming. But no surprise which new North American movie is No. 1:
1. With $8M Friday and +20% for $9.7M Saturday, it’s a $24M weekend for Warner Bros’ Contagion playing in 42% more theaters — 3,222 — than its nearest newcomer. This Participant Media-backed disease movie looked like yet another yikes-you’re-all-going-to-die formula pic. But I’m surprised it didn’t generate more appeal what with Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh directing 6 Academy Award winners or nominees: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Laurence Fishburne. (Readers are urging me to include Oscar-honored John Hawke and Elliott Gould as well…) That added oomph to credited screenplay writer Scott Burns’ material. “Yes, it was important to be provocative and to scare people,” a Warner Bros exec tells me about the $60M-budget pic. “But both the print and trailer and TV campaign present a more well-rounded view of the mystery. We did sell the visceral experience — a smart and thrilling look at a killer virus, the science behind it, and the aftermath.” Warner Bros took the film to Venice to solid reviews and conducted an aggressive consumer campaign. Besides, adult movies are working at the box office.
2. Entering its 5th weekend in release, DreamWorks/Disney’s hit dramedy The Help which is also backed by Participant Media made $2.7M Friday and $4M Saturday going to $9.4M from 2,935 locations for the weekend. It’s estimated new cume of $137.8M by Monday.
3. This seemingly anticipated mixed martial arts drama Warrior starring Tom Hardy (Bane in the next Batman) and Joel Edgerton was only released for 1,869 runs. It opened with $1.8M Friday and $2.1M Saturday for what was just a dismal $4.8M weekend. Another very disappointing opening for Lionsgate which was very high on this actioner. Did last weekend’s sneaks let some wannasee steam escape? Will this hurt Hardy whom Hollywood execs consider a hot soon-to-be-star?
4. Focus Features’ adult holdover The Debt earned $1.4M Friday (-45% from a week ago) from 1,874 theaters and a projected $4.5M weekend for an estimated $21.6M cume by Monday.
5. Sony Pictures’ holdover Colombiana made $1.1M Friday and $1.9M Saturday from 2,354 runs for a $4M weekend and $29.8M cume.
But I have it on good authority that Sony execs were hiding out at the Toronto Film Festival (where better-than-expected Moneyball officially premiered Friday night) rather than get tagged by its Columbia Pictures’ R-rated Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star which had one of the most annoying TV ad campaigns I’ve ever been assaulted by. Mercifully, its box office take was miniscule: $540K Friday and $570K Saturday for only a $1.2M weekend. That wasn’t even enough to make it into the Top 10 much less Sony’s hoped-for $4M. Fortunately the budget is purportedly just $10M. Usually Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production banner gives Sony box office gold: stupid pics popular with audiences. But this was fool’s gold.
Before I give you the rest of the Top 10, you should know that Kevin Hart’s Laugh At My Pain was No. 10 Friday despite Hartbeat Productions and Codeblack Entertainment releasing it into only 99 theaters. It opened to $758K Friday and an estimated weekend of $2M. But it may ultimately be beaten by The Weinstein Co’s Spy Kids 4D. (I’ll know Sunday AM.) Hart’s fans turned out for this profanity-filled film version of his recent stand-up tour. It offers less than an hour of Hart onstage but also includes such bonus footage as Hart touring his old neighborhood in Philadelphia and faking a bank heist. Directed by Leslie Small, this 1-hour, 28-minute pic and its entry into the Top 10 now establishes Hart as a bonafide star beyond just his YouTube videos which have drawn tens of millions of views. Look for the major studios to take notice.