Well, looks like someone’s 4th of July celebrations are starting a bit early. A federal judge today tossed a $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against Tom Cruise, JJ Abrams , Paramount Pictures, CEO Brad Grey, Skydance Productions and David Ellison, JJ Abrams and others. “IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the above-entitled case is dismissed, without prejudice, for lack of prosecution and for failure to comply with the orders of the Court,” said a 1-page order from Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell today (read it here).
The ending of the case in U.S. District Court comes nearly six months after Timothy Patrick McLanahan formally sued the notables and the studio claiming that 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was lifted off of his script. In an error-filled January 13 complaint demanding a jury trial, the plaintiff alleged that the fourth flick in the MI franchise was really derived from a script he wrote more than 15 years ago titled Head On. Cruise’s longtime lawyer Bert Fields called the wide-ranging legal action in early February “bizarre.” While O’Connell never went that far, the fact that the self-representing McLanahan never submitted required or demanded paperwork after making such a big claim and seeking such a big payout was a little extraordinary.
On June 4, the judge gave McLanahan one last chance to “show cause why this case should not be dismissed.” As evident from today’s order, the plaintiff never did and this case, as I predicted, went nowhere. Happy Holidays guys!
Paramount Pictures reports that World War Z had passed the $500 million worldwide gross mark, surpassing Troy’s $497.3 million to become Brad Pitt’s highest grossing film ever. Now, you could argue that WWZ received the benefit of a higher ticket price particularly because of its 3D numbers. But considering how badly maligned this film was in the weeks before it bowed, hitting the half billion dollar plateau seems something to brag about, even for a movie that cost in the $220 million range.
According to Paramount (which co-financed with Skydance and GK Films), WWZ has set several records for Pitt, whose Plan B produced. It set a personal best with a $66 million opening on June 21, and a total $197.4 million in the U.S., both of which exceeded Mr. & Mrs. Smith‘s total domestic gross of $186.3 million and $50.3 million opening weekend. The film has earned $305.2 million at the international box office, to date.
This pales in comparison to the numbers put up by Johnny Depp and his Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises, but Pitt has done a lot of cool movies that were never meant to be blockbusters, and this was his most mainstream film since Troy and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. He seems happy with hitting a solid double with a Moneyball than playing the tent pole game. Passing the half billion dollar mark begs the question of … Read More »
Paramount Pictures has extended its relationship with the studio’s most prolific co-financier/producer Skydance Productions, the film producer-financier run by David Ellison, will extend its relationship with the studio for another four years. That keeps in the fold the company that has become a steady producing and financing partner on the studio’s biggest-budget popcorn films. The extension will also encompass the production of at least two final installments of The Terminator, which Ellison and his sister Megan brought into Paramount just recently.
Skydance will make three to four event movies per year, and brings an annual production financing budget of between $200 million and $250 million per year. Ellison and his team are also involved in many of the projects as creative producers as well. Since the original deal was inked in 2010, Skydance has done what was hoped, which was to deliver commercial films that succeeded globally. Among the movies made by the partnership in that stretch were True Grit, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Star Trek Into Darkness and most recently the Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z. Combined, those films have made more than $2.4 billion at the global box office. “Our partnership with David and Skydance has been tremendously successful,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Brad Grey in a statement. “We are very pleased to extend our relationship … Read More »
Less than two months after its launch, Skydance Television today announced one new hire and a pair of promotions. Carolyn Harris joins the company as VP, while Bill Bost and Sasha Garron have been upped to Manager of Development and Coordinator, respectively. Harris comes to Skydance from Robin Schorr’s Schorr Pictures, where she was VP Television. Before that she was an agent at WME. Bost had been executive assistant to Skydance Productions chief David Ellison. Garron was executive assistant to Marcy Ross at Fox and followed her boss to Skydance TV when Ross was named president of the division in May. All three report to Ross. “Marcy has assembled an amazing team of executives to build Skydance Television into a friendly home for all creators,” Ellison said in a statement. “Expanding our television department is an exciting step towards building Skydance into the multifaceted virtual studio that I have always envisioned.”
David Ellison‘s film production and financing company Skydance is entering the TV business with the May 1 launch of a television division, Skydance TV. It will be headed by former senior Fox executive Marcy Ross, who will serve as president of Skydance TV. The expansion into TV is part of Skydance’s rapid growth over the past three years. The company was founded by Ellison, son of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, in 2010 when he raised $350 million to co-finance movies with Paramount Pictures that has resulted in such films as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and the upcoming World War Z and Star Trek Into Darkness. Ross spent the last decade at Fox as SVP and EVP of Current Programming. She has led the network team that oversees all new and returning scripted series, including newcomer The Following, veterans Bones, Family Guy and The Simpsons as well as American Dad, Glee, New Girl, Raising Hope and Touch. “During her tenure at Fox, Marcy has developed and produced some of the best shows on television that have entertained audiences around the world,” Skydance president and CEO Ellison said. “We are thrilled to welcome her into the Skydance family to help pioneer our entrance into this wonderful medium of storytelling.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In the past month, the screenwriting team of Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz have seen their script work on Thor and X-Men: First Class lead to big opening weekends. The scribes are capitalizing on their heat by making film and TV deals. The duo just made a pre-emptive pitch deal worth high six-figures with Skydance Productions principals David Ellison and Dana Goldberg for an untitled contemporary disaster/action film. The style is ’70s fare like Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno and Earthquake. Specifics are being kept under wraps.
Miller & Stentz have also just sold a pilot to 20th Century Fox for mid six figures, with Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein producing. The scribes are currently writing a remake of the Lee Majors stuntman TV series The Fall Guy for producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. The project is set up at Imagenation, with an eye toward distribution through DreamWorks. They wrote an untitled “Knight Project” for Fox, and did production rewriting work on the Dimension Films “found footage” thriller Apollo 18. The feature success comes after Miller & Stentz spent years as writers/producers on series that include Fringe, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Andromeda. The scribes are repped by Principato-Young and WME.
While there have been reports that Paramount might kill World War Z because of a $125 million budget and no partners, I’m hearing that hot and heavy talks are going on with David Ellison’s Skydance and as many as two other financiers to share the load on a movie that is gearing up for production as soon as June. The plan remains for Brad Pitt to star and for Marc Forster to direct the adaptation Max Brooks’ novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. The book looked at the aftermath of a global zombie war 10 years after the conflict, with a researcher for the UN Postwar Commission interviewing survivors in countries that were decimated by flesh eaters. It was thorough, and a thoroughly creepy read. Matt Carnahan wrote the script.
The temptation is to joke about the irony of a zombie project coming back to life after it was pronounced near dead. As a devotee of great zombie movies from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, Zack Snyder’s spirited Dawn of the Dead remake and genre spoofs Zombieland and Shaun Of The Dead, I am excited enough by WWZ that I hope it stays on its fast track. Because if it waits around much longer, Hollywood might by that time have killed off the genre with an … Read More »