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WHY NOW? Baffling Resurgence Of Rumor About MGM-Lionsgate Merger Talks

lionsgate_logoI’m being told there’s really nothing new with these explanatary conversations. And, anyway, Lionsgate can’t do any kind of deal with MGM unless the studio management brokers some settlement with 32% shareholder Carl Icahn, who has made it clear he won’t approve any big buys by the studio right now. Strange that this is coming on the heels of reports that Spyglass is in the lead to run MGM. (Spyglass Beating Summit To Run MGM?)

Lionsgate management attempted a lowball bid of $1.3B-$1.4B during the MGM auction and then dropped out in March. MgmlogosmallThat’s the last time Lionsgate defied Icahn’s warning not to do any major deals. Among other customary conditions, Icahn’s offer has tightened the reins on Lionsgate not to “enter into any material transaction outside of the ordinary course of business (including any acquisition of assets over $100 million, and any issuance of securities other than upon the exercise of currently outstanding options)”. Though buying MGM would make Lionsgate a bigger player in Hollywood, such an acquisition would add tremendous debt to the studio. And if they gave stock to a seller, then it would dilute Icahn’s stake. Carl wouldn’t be happy about that.

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Rupert And James Murdoch “Shocked” By BSkyB Rebellion: Who Gets The Profits?

By | Tuesday June 15, 2010 @ 3:18am PDT

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UPDATES BSkyB Still Rejects News Corp’s Increased Offer But Both Agree to Keep Negotiating & Proceed With Regulatory Process For Deal

Sky logoThe Murdoch father and son have been taken aback by Sky’s directors holding out for £1 billion ($1.5 billion) more from News Corp before it owns the company. So reports the BBC. Sky says it will accept an offer from News Corp worth 800 pence a share for the 61% of the pay TV company it does not own already. This would value BSkyB at £14 billion, costing News Corp £8.5 billion ($12.8 billion). A £14 billion deal would also value the company at 13 times earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation. The usual multiple for media deals is 6 times EBITDA. An 800 pence offer would also represent a 46% premium over BSkyB’s average 549p closing price over the past 12 months. Talks are ongoing.

james and rupert murdochBSkyB’s directors have rejected News Corp’s initial proposal, worth £7.8 billion or 700 pence a share. “James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch were shocked by the extent of the opposition they met from an organisation they believe works pretty closely to them,” reports BBC news programme Today. Of … Read More »

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Fox Scheduling Rumors: ‘Idol’ On the Move? ‘Lone Star’ With ‘House’ On Monday? ‘Glee’ Part of All-Comedy Tuesday? Stay Tuned

By | Friday May 14, 2010 @ 4:53pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

foxlogo.thumbnailHere we go again. A rumor, which is making the rounds today, has Fox’s American Idol switching its Tuesday 8 PM/Wednesday 9 PM broadcast pattern to Wednesday 9 PM/Thursday 9 PM next season. While Idol could finally be on the move this year and the Thursday 9 PM slot is riper than ever for an assault, this looks a lot like one of those decoy Idol scheduling moves that are floated this time every year but never pan out.

Here are a few other potential Fox scheduling movies I hear that I feel more strongly about:

  • New drama Lone Star possibly launching in the fall after House, putting together the network’s most sophisticated drama series.
  • Shawn Ryan’s cop drama Ridealong launching in midseason along with the Steven Spielberg-produced Terra Nova.
  • New comedies Keep Hope Alive and Traffic Light landing on Tuesday, leading into Glee; the network’s third new comedy series Running Wilde held for midseason
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Will Jamie Foxx Do More Than Mentor ‘Idol’?

By | Tuesday May 11, 2010 @ 7:34pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Jamie Foxx is mentoring the Top Four contestants on American Idol tonight amidst persistent chatter that he is being considered for the soon-to-be-vacated judge’s chair of Simon Cowell. Jamie_Foxx_American_IdolThe Foxx rumor first surfaced in January when the actor/R&B singer was quoted as saying “I would love to do it, but I don’t think I would be able to do it.” It was later refuted by his publicist. But Foxx’s name continues to be mentioned as being on the wish list, along with Elton John and other A-listers. And Foxx obviously has a soft spot for Idol, returning as a mentor this year after doing it last season for the Top Five. Back then, he showed good instincts for picking the winner, gushing about then-dark horse Kris Allen.

Another Idol mentor this season, Harry Connick Jr. also made a strong case for himself as a potential Cowell replacement. In addition to the guessing game over Cowell’s replacement on Idol, there was also a lot of speculation about Cowell’s choice to judge alongside himself on his upcoming Fox series The X Factor. British papers quote a close confidant of Cowell as saying that Mariah Carey is being considered for the job. The singer certainly has an “in” with Cowell — her husband Nick Cannon hosts Cowell’s NBC show America’s Got Talent.

And, in yet more Idol-related news, Thomas Benson CFO of CKX, parent of Idol, said on an earnings call today that he expects negotiations with Fox for a … Read More »

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Bob Berney Flies To Cannes Amid Rumors; More Insight Into Why He Exited Apparition

By | Tuesday May 11, 2010 @ 9:31am PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE: The rumors keep flying about where Bob Berney will land. Deadline has already posted Team Harvey’s denial that the ex-Apparitions chief is headed to the Weinsteins. At least not yet. (Berney Exit Blindsides Apparition) Now the latest chatter is that Berney will rejoin Newmarket to reassemble the glory team behind The Passion Of The Christ and Monster. On the surface, this would make sense because the distribution company has been quietly buying up films. But I just spoke to Newmarket’s Chris Ball who said, “I have great admiration for Bob. But this rumor is unfounded.”

bob berney bill pohladThough Bill Pohlad canceled this week’s film festival travel plans of the Apparition team, I hear Bob Berney is Cannes-bound anyway. And, so far at least, he’s not commenting on the reason for his abrupt exit from the company. So speculation is rampant on why this partnership hit the rocks. After talking with seasoned indie watchers, I’ll venture it has a lot to do with the fact that the distribution company never got the capital necessary to realize the aspirations of Pohlad and Berney. The original intention was to line up 3 principal investors to put up $25 million each and run their specialty films through Apparition. Berney would make other acquisitions and build a slate. After all, Bob embodied the spirit of specialty filmmakers who were excited to see a new distributor on the horizon run by a seasoned … Read More »

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UPDATE: Berney Exit Blindsides Apparition

By | Monday May 10, 2010 @ 9:01pm PDT
Mike Fleming


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UPDATE: Insiders are denying the rumor that Bob Berney is going to work with Harvey and Bob Weinstein. I’m told there haven’t been any talks — yet.  Meanwhile, I’ve learned that Berney has the ability to take key staffers with him wherever he’s going.

EXCLUSIVE 5:30 PM: In a pre-Cannes bombshell, bob berney bill pohladBob Berney resigned from the top post of indie distribution company Apparition. I hear its owner, River Road’s Bill Pohlad, was blindsided by the move, especially since Berney and his staff were about to travel to the Cannes Film Festival and look for pictures to acquire. Pohlad has abruptly canceled that departure, especially since there wasn’t really anybody else empowered to negotiate Cannes deals. So now Apparition won’t be a presence at the international fest when it starts on Wednesday. One thing for sure: Berney could not have exited at a worse time for Apparition, and maybe that was the point.

Though Pohlad has been through a number of executives since he started his film company, there hadn’t been talk of discord between Berney and himself. Berney spent the better part of a year raising money after his Picturehouse was shuttered by Warner Bros. Though he hoped to establish a new company with several filmmakers, Berney wound up aligning with Pohlad as the sole financier when the venture was announced last August. Pohlad and Berney originally said their goal was to acquire and release … Read More »

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Sony Pushes Back ‘Green Hornet’ Release By Three Weeks For 3D Enhancements

By | Thursday April 22, 2010 @ 3:53pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Green Hornet is moving its release date from December 22nd to Martin Luther King Weekend, which is January 14, 2011, so it can be converted into 3D. green-hornetSony is using the term “3D enhancements”. (Because no visual effects on the film have been done yet by Sony Imageworks, which is just getting into post-production on it. So the studio says it’s not a 3D conversion but an enhancement, and there’s already “great depth and scope” to the shots from director Michel Gondry, who has experience with 3D videos.) There have been rumors of problems with the comic book caper film, with some rival studios calling reporters to claim it’s unreleasable, but Sony Pictures Entertainment Vice-Chair and marketing/distribution kingpin Jeff Blake is denying. He says, if anything, Sony isn’t backing away from the film but, rather, “doubling down. We’re investing more in the film to have it 3D. We’ve seen part of the movie. We love it. We believe in it. Whoever is spreading these rumors has not seen it. We’re going to finish Green Hornet in 3D and take 9 months to do it right.”

He says the reason that MLK weekend was chosen is because the studio released Paul Blart: Mall Cop to a big number and now that date is lucky for everyone. Further, he says Sony wanted to steer clear from all the 3D films coming in the Christmas season, including Tron, Yogi Bear, Harry Potter, and Fox, which may make … Read More »

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Trio In the Running for NBC’s ‘Beach Lane’

By | Friday April 16, 2010 @ 9:22am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

UPDATE FRIDAY PM: Rumor is Michael Landes also tested for the role.

EXCLUSIVE: Comedian Nick Thune, True Blood’s Michael McMillian and John Forest, are in contention to replace Patton Oswalt on NBC’s comedy pilot Beach Lane. The three are screen testing with star Matthew Broderick. Beach Lane stars Broderick as a celebrity author is hired by an irresponsible millionaire heir – the role that is being recast– to run his struggling small-town newspaper. The decision to recast the role was made after the pilot’ table read, making for a tough last few weeks for Oswalt who was slated to make his Broadway debut in Lips Together, Teeth Apart until the play unraveled following the exit of co-star Megan Mullally.

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Whedon To Direct Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’

By | Tuesday April 13, 2010 @ 1:25pm PDT
Mike Fleming

joss whedonI’m told Marvel Studios is in final negotiations for Buffy the Vampire Slayer series architect Joss Whedon to direct Marvel Studios’ The Avengers. That’s the fast-tracked film that would amount to an all-star team of Marvel superheros, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as well as SHIELD leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Other signature superheros will likely be involved, but I’ve listed the actors in active superhero duty. Whedon has been  rumored for this job for awhile, and is high on the fanboy wish-list. He’s an interesting choice: despite his writing/producing TV series resume, his lone feature directing effort, Serenity, was not a hit. After Iron Man 2, Marvel has three pictures left on a distribution deal with Paramount before it moves to Disney, and the studio has been churning them out. Iron Man 2 gets released in May, Captain America will begin shooting this summer in Europe, Thor is in production, and Marvel Studios just set Pete Sollett to direct Runaways, based on the comic book series created by Lost writer Brian K. Vaughan. Whedon has written installments of the latter, so he knows how to make those superheros fly. Marvel has considered all of the individual superhero movies to  be an intro to The Avengers, so the wanna-see on this one will be huge. The film will be released in the first weekend of May, 2012.

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Akiva Goldsman’s To Haunt ‘Paranormal Activity 2′ – But Not As Director

By | Tuesday March 16, 2010 @ 1:08pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Hollywood PalladiumDon’t believe the rumors. Akiva Goldsman won’t be directing Paranormal Activity 2, but he has boarded the project. Goldsman became executive producer and is helping to flesh out the sequel story with the producing team of Oren Peli, Jason Blum and Steven Schneider. The directing job will be filled soon as the film moves toward a May production start. It became an open directing assignment when Twisted Pictures and Lionsgate removed Kevin Greutert from Paranormal 2 by exercising an option it held on the Saw VI director. Greutert suddenly became director of Saw 3D, a move that happened right after Paramount declared that Paranormal Activity 2 would open opposite Saw 3D on October 22.

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Ed Helms Will Have 2nd ‘Hangover’ Before ‘Central Intelligence’

By | Friday March 12, 2010 @ 8:26am PST
Mike Fleming

Universal won’t start production this spring on Central Intelligence, the comedy that had The Office‘s Ed Helms starring and Dean Parisot directing. Rumors raced yesterday that the film was scrapped. Insiders insist that isn’t so. I’ve learned the comedy won’t likely come before Helms reprises in The Hangover sequel, giving Universal time to sort things out.

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Knocking Down DC Comics Rumors…

By | Friday February 12, 2010 @ 1:18pm PST

I’m assured there is no truth to the Internet rumors circulating that Barbara Marcus will be the next publisher of DC Comics. A bigtime kid books publisher, Marcus is pals with DC Entertainment president after they launched the licensing partnership between Scholastic and Warner Bros for the Harry Potter films.

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“Not A Chance” Of ‘Watchmen’ Film Sequel

By | Thursday February 4, 2010 @ 7:10am PST

watchmenThe Internet is filling up with chatter here and here about how Dan DiDio, the SVP/Executive Editor for DC Comics, is determined to push not only a sequel to the Watchmen graphic novel, but a multiple prequel comic book miniseries and other spin-offs to his new bosses. And how he’s already looking for creators to do them. This is because of — what else? — money: Watchmen has become DC’s bestselling comic book of all time. Naturally, everyone’s now speculating about a sequel to Zack Snyder’s underperforming Watchmen movie from Warner Bros/20th Century Fox/Paramount, especially because there’s contract language for that possibility. (No matter how impossible storywise.) But a well-placed insider tells me: “There is no truth to anything related to a movie sequel. Not a chance by a longshot. With regards to the comics, well, I guess anything is possible. I’ll keep my opinion to myself as to whether it’s a smart idea to do so.”

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Oscar Campaign Badmouthing Has Begun!

By | Tuesday December 15, 2009 @ 2:20pm PST


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2ND UPDATE: I love awards season because my email and voicemail get filled with negative campaigning about all the Academy Awards hopefuls. (Such holiday cheer is out here!) Over the years, I’ve reported on the studio badmouthing of heavyweight Saving Private Ryan to better the Oscar chances of lightweight Shakespeare In Love. And the planting of “He’s an anti-Semite and adulterer” allegations against the schizophrenic Princeton professor who was the sympathetic subject of biopic A Beautiful Mind. And more recently, the efforts to scuttle Blood Diamond and Slumdog Millionaire‘s chances because of unfounded charges the filmmakers callously exploited locals.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this race is already turning nasty, nasty, nasty…

First, there’s some truth and some not in the Hollywood buzz that was emailed to me within minutes of today’s Golden Globes nominations by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Here’s one message I received from a rival campaigner: “Leo threw his good pal Tobey a party last week to which 40 HFPA went. They among others received some sort of fab parting gift, like a Blu-ray player. Thus the Tobey nom for a movie otherwise ignored.”

Yes, it’s true that Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire have known each other since they were 10 years old. Yes, they’re good pals even still. So Leo came back into town last week and told the Brothers fimmakers he was blown away by Maguire’s performance and wanted to throw an awards party for him. Yes, HFPA members were invited (but 15, not 40) along with a … Read More »

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Anne Hathaway Wanted For ‘Spider-Man 4′

By | Wednesday November 18, 2009 @ 5:03pm PST


anne hathaway spidey

Black_CatEXCLUSIVE: You know I’m insecure about my geek bonafides which I’ve been trying to improve in recent years. (Heck, I grew up never reading a single comic book.) But I’m aware that the Internet has been afloat with Spider-Man 4 casting rumors in recent days. While Sony Pictures insists no decisions have been made, sources tell me that the producers have approached Anne Hathaway to star in the film. Maybe you experts have an idea what she’ll play? All I know is that she’s wanted for a starring role, and she won’t replace Kirsten Dunst who’s also cast in the Spidey fourquel. UPDATE: You readers think the role is The Black Cat.

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SAG Internet Rumors Ridiculously Wrong!

By | Saturday October 3, 2009 @ 1:15pm PDT

SAG_logoI can confirm that there is NO truth to that ridiculously wrong Internet report that newly elected SAG president Ken Howard has undergone back surgery and has already handed over his office at 5757 Wilshire Blvd to newly elected Secretary-Treasurer (and fellow Unite For Strength camper) Amy Aquino. In fact, Ken made an appearance on Fox Business just yesterday. SAG sources tell me he’s fine, he didn’t have surgery, he’s not resigning or giving up his digs at 5757 Wilshire Blvd, and Aquino is not taking over or occupying his office. All I can say is that SAG members deserve the truth from all sides, and you’ll read it here.

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Now Brian Roberts Sends Note To Troops

By | Friday October 2, 2009 @ 5:48pm PDT

Message from Brian Roberts

comcast_logoYou have probably seen the news reports that speculate about Comcast’s interest in buying NBC Universal. As you know, we’ve had a long-standing policy not to comment on these types of stories. We have not commented about this rumor in the press, except to say that the blog report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate.

It’s not surprising that there is speculation about possible acquisitions given Comcast’s strong financial position. This happens from time to time. We have always said that we will consider acquisitions and investments to find opportunities to grow in our businesses so that they are profitable, differentiated and have scale.

We have a terrific company that is growing in this economy and we have an exciting future ahead across all of our lines of business. As Steve and I have said, cable is right at the core of everything Comcast does. We continue to invest in our cable business – it is a key component of our DNA. Some of our other businesses like content, business services and interactive advertising are a smaller part of the company today, and while they are growing rapidly, we would like to find ways to accelerate that growth. If the opportunity came up to add more cable content, we would definitely want to take a look at that opportunity, but in a very disciplined way.

You’ve all worked hard to grow our business and achieve

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On Huffington Post’s Media Page Right Now

By | Thursday October 1, 2009 @ 9:22am PDT


comcast bs

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Jeff Zucker Sends Memo To NBCU Staff

By | Thursday October 1, 2009 @ 6:59am PDT

From: Jeff Zucker (NBC Universal)
Sent: Thursday, October 01, 2009 8:50 AM
To: NBC Universal Employee Communications (NBC Universal)
Subject: Note Regarding NBCU

zucker1_1By now, you have probably seen or heard stories regarding the ownership of NBC Universal, most recently a flurry of stories in the last day involving Comcast. Stories spread quickly in this new information age, so let me take this opportunity to share an update with you, as best as I can as of today.

Not surprisingly, given the attractive nature of our assets, there is always significant interest in NBC Universal. That has been amplified lately by the annual discussion with Vivendi about its 20 percent ownership of our company. Vivendi has been a superb owner of NBC Universal, along with GE, for more than five years. They have not yet made us aware of any final decisions about their future with us; should they choose to exit, there are a number of possible things that could happen. It is our longstanding policy not to comment on rumors, and we have adhered to that policy in connection with these rumors.

As distracting as it may be to hear and read about potential changes to our ownership structure, nothing is more important than keeping this company strong.

So, we all have to do our best to keep our focus on our day-to-day operations, and continue to deliver the kinds of results that have made this one of the premier media companies in the world.

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