EXCLUSIVE: Carlos Saldanha, who co-directed Ice Age and then helmed two Ice Age sequels in addition to Robots and Rio, has formed BottleCap Productions. The label is Fox-based, where Saldanha made an exclusive five-year deal with 20th Century Fox and Fox International to develop both live-action and animated projects.
Saldanha has hired former Scott Free exec Maresa Pullman as his VP, and promoted Jessica Roberts to Creative Executive. Pullman, who will report directly to Saldanha, most recently worked at Scott Free where she helped develop the Duplass Brothers’ Cyrus, and co-produced Jake Scott’s Welcome To The Rileys. She also worked closely with Ridley Scott on a number of projects, serving as an executive producer on Scott Free’s short animated film featuring the Coca-Cola polar bears. She also worked directly under producer Michael Costigan, working on such films as American Gangster and Body Of Lies. She began her career in the WMA mailroom and also worked for manager Margaret Riley. Read More »
The nominations are out for the 39th annual Annie Awards, which will be awarded February 4 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Here are the contenders for Best Animated Feature: A Cat In Paris, Arrugas (Wrinkles), Arthur Christmas, Cars 2, Chico & Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss In Boots, Rango, Rio, and The Adventures Of Tintin. The Annies are put on by the international animated-film society ASIFA-Hollywood and span 28 categories (for the complete list of nominees, click here). “We are really excited about the expanded list of nominations this year,” said Frank Gladstone, president, ASIFA-Hollywood. “All of the major animation studios are represented, as are some of the independent productions from Europe and South America. This certainly is a testament to the wide reach and appeal of animation and the people who create it.” The group also will bestow the Winsor McCay Award to Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring and Robert Searle for career contributions; the June Foray Award to Art Leonardi for significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation; and a Special Achievement Award to tech company Depth Analysis.
UPDATE, 2:35 PM: The comment about James came from News Corp president Chase Carey, filling in for Rupert Murdoch, who wasn’t on the quarterly conference call with analysts and reporters. Despite growing concerns about James’ role in the News Of The World hacking scandal, the deputy COO “has done a good job and we are not contemplating any changes,” Carey said. He added, in response to a question, that the company is taking “seriously” the strong opposition that several shareholders expressed at the recent annual meeting to many members of the News Corp board — which includes three members of the Murdoch family. “The board will, and is, discussing those votes,” he says. “The board continues to evolve. …. That being said, we’re proud of the board.”
In other matters, Carey says that “we’re not buying the (Los Angeles) Dodgers,” but didn’t elaborate. Sports costs are not a big concern for the company for now because “outside of Los Angeles, most of our contracts are long term,” he says. He’s also unfazed by the NBA strike, saying that “it’s not a significant financial event for us” although “we’d like to see them settle it.” Carey denied that Fox is offering make-goods ads for lower-than-expected initial ratings for The X Factor: ”We have the No. 1 show and make real money from it,” he says. “It came out a bit below where we targeted … but is building momentum.” Not much detail about the collapse of the auction for Hulu. Carey says that it ”has been a positive for us in terms of creating value” despite its “complicated ownership structure.” Carey also didn’t provide much insight into the new programming deal with DirecTV, although he says it’s “fair for both of us.” Read More »
UPDATE, 3:40 PM: Although the drama in today’s analyst call involved the News Of The World hacking scandal, News Corp execs made a few interesting points about the company’s less sensational business activities. COO Chase Carey says that the Hulu auction is “progressing largely according to plan.” But he left open the possibility that it won’t result in a sale, rhetorically asking “does it make sense to pursue that path or for us to stay in an ownership position?” He and Rupert Murdoch also said that they support the Fox Business Network, claiming it was just an oversight that they didn’t mention it when listing cable channels that are poised to grow. “The ratings are in fact improving,” Murdoch said, adding that “we need more distribution, it’s true.” Still he says Fox Business is breaking even on a cash flow basis. Carey also says that FX has the potential to become a bigger revenue generator. All told, Murdoch says that News Corp operations were “exceptional” in the last quarter providing the company with the “most robust balance sheet in our history.”
PREVIOUS, 1:19 PM: The media giant says that it did well in its fiscal fourth quarter — as long as you don’t count the $245M earnings hit from the MySpace sale. The company had net profits of $683M, down 22% from the period last year, on revenues of $8.96B, up 10.5%. Net earnings came in at 26 cents a share — but if you factor out MySpace they hit 35 cents. Analysts expected 30 cents. Read More »
Fox just told me that Black Swan just debuted in Japan and earned $6.1M including previews for the biggest Fox Searchlight film opening ever there. The $12M-budgeted film is now on the verge of crossing $200M internationally, but its worldwide cume has now passed $305M. Darren Aronofsky’s drama helped Fox International cross $1 billion box office at the start of this month for calendar 2011 for the eight year in a row and the third straight year it reached that mark first. Fox’s Blue Sky Studios toon Rio also passed $300M international cume this week and $413M global.
Monday’s box office actuals show that No. 1 Marvel/Disney’s Thor distributed by Paramount finished its opening weekend with $65.7 million. No. 2 Universal’s Fast Five ended wih $32.4M, or -69%. But the real story was the +13% Mother’s Day leap from Saturday’s gross by No. 3 TriStar/Sony’s African American-targeted Jumping The Broom for a $15.2 debut weekend. Sony crowed that it was “an indication of the electric word of mouth among its audience”. No. 4 Alcon Entertainment/Warner Bros’ Something Borrowed finished with $13.9M. And rounding out the Top 5 was Blue Sky Studios/Fox’s Rio 3D toon with $8.5M.
Mighty ‘Thor’ Hammers $242M Global Cume; ‘Fast Five’ $324M; ‘Jumping Broom’ $13.7M; ‘Something Borrowed’ $13.1M
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 3RD UPDATE: After some initial uncertainty, this was indeed the comeback weekend that finally ended Hollywood’s extended 2011 slump at the North American box office. Because after a weak Friday, most of these pics grossed stronger on Saturday. The overall total is around $134 million, 11.7% ahead of last year’s $119M. Meanwhile, this weekend Twentieth Century Fox’s Rio 3D posted the best G-rated family pic opening since Toy Story 3, The Weinstein Co’s Scream 4 whimpered, Warner Bros’ Arthur slipped still more, FilmDistrict’s Insidious and Soul Surfer stayed strong, and Robert Redford’s The Conspirator debuted #9 in the Top 10 despite playing in only 707 theaters:
1. Rio 3D (Fox) NEW [3,826 Theaters]
Friday $10.2M, Saturday $17.1M, Weekend $40M, Global $168M
Twentieth Century Fox’s Latin-flavored toon Rio 3D already is #1 internationally with after opening in 92 territories and a premiere in Rio De Janeiro. With this weekend’s $53.5M earned overseas from 20 territories adding to its already $79.2M from 72 territories last week, plus domestic tally of $40M, its worldwide cume is now $168M. It finally opened in the U.S. and Canada Friday and earned a top “A” CinemaScore as well as the top spot. Made by Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha as a tribute to his hometown’s natural beauty and upbeat lifestyle, the bird flew past the studio’s mid-$30s target and even Hollywood’s $38M projections. With not many schools out Friday, Saturday’s kiddie matinees overperformed. Made for just a $90M budget because of tax breaks in Connecticut where Blue Sky Studios is based, the pic is playing … Read More »