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Sky To Become HBO’s Home In Britain

The pay-TV giant has struck an exclusive output deal to be the only place to watch HBO shows from now on. Boardwalk Empire, Martin Scorsese’s series about Atlantic City gangsters, will be the first show to air through the deal in the autumn. Future HBO shows airing exclusively will include Game of Thrones and Luck, executive produced by Michael Mann and starring Dustin Hoffman. The next series of HBO shows such as Entourage and Big Love will also air exclusively on the channel.

The output deal also gives Sky on-demand rights to hit HBO shows such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under.

Sky is throwing huge amounts of money at programming. It wants to get away from the downmarket image it’s saddled with. Many early adopters lived on council estates – think housing projects – peppering the skyline with satellite dishes. Sky is pulling strenuously upmarket. It’s just announced that it’s taking over ITV’s prestigious arts programme The South Bank Show. And it’s pouring big money into original drama such as Terry Pratchett TV movies and adaptations of crime author Martina Cole.

This year, Sky will spend £1.7 billion ($2.7 billion) on content – most of it on movies and sports rights though. By contrast, ITV will spend £1 billion, Channel 4 £550 million and Channel Five £165 million.

Meanwhile, BSkyB has just announced its fourth-quarter results for the year ending … Read More »

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EMMYS: Do Cable Dramas’ Scheduling Patterns Give Them An Emmy Advantage?

Nellie Andreeva

emmyIt’s hard to look around and not come across an ad for the upcoming fourth season of AMC’s drama Mad Men. There are billboards, promos, reviews, stories, and interviews with the cast and creator Matthew Weiner seemingly everywhere this week, which leads to the Sunday season premiere. This week also happens to be when TV Academy voters receive their ballots for the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. And on Monday, the day after the Mad Men season premiere, they will start receiving the ballots for the categories featured in the main telecast, including best series. Of course, Mad Men will be judged for Season 3, but is all this attention to the new season helping the series’ Emmy chances? Mad Men won multiple awards including the top drama series statuette at the Emmys in the past 2 years. Both times, a new season of the show launched just before the final voting phase, with fresh episodes airing throughout. In the year before Mad Men’s first Emmy appearance, 2007, The Sopranos won best drama series. The series was also fresh in voters’ minds, having concluded its run with the much-talked about finale in June.

In comedy, it’s mostly about the characters, the situations and laughs, but in drama, it’s about the emotional connection with the show. That’s why I think having a series fresh in your mind while voting is important. I think it’s not a coincidence that in the month after the end of … Read More »

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‘Sopranos’ Creator To Film Rock Drama

By | Monday March 8, 2010 @ 1:17pm PST
Mike Fleming

chase1EXCLUSIVE: Two years after baffling audiences with his abrupt cut-to-black ending for HBO’s The Sopranos, David Chase is back — this time, with a feature film. Unfortunately, it’s not about the Mafia. But the subject matter could be just as compelling. I’ve learned that Chase has firmed a late summer/early fall start date for his feature directing debut of an untitled script he wrote himself. I hear the drama is a music-driven coming-of-age saga for Paramount about a bunch of guys who form a rock band in the 1960s. Chase will produce with Mark Johnson.

UTA-repped Chase signed to make a movie at Paramount back in 2008, reuniting with Paramount Pictures chairman and fellow Sopranos exec producer Brad Grey. At the time, the studio would not reveal what Chase had in mind to make. It was a big surprise. Chase’s film will be released using the label Paramount Vantage, whose name the studio retained when it shuttered the boutique as a full-service specialty division, to reflect that this project is closer to the indie spirit and budget of past Vantage fare like Babel and There Will Be Blood than to Paramount’s big ticket pictures.

Will the Vantage move lessen expectations for Chase’s first project since retiring one of the most revered series in TV history? My feeling? Fuggedaboudit.

I know what you’re thinking: will Chase ever bring back Tony Soprano in a feature film? I asked around. While a Sopranos movie might not be as dead as Jimmy Hoffa, it is nowhere … Read More »

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Paramount To Open Only 20 Films A Year; Re-Consolidated Studio Will Save $50M

By | Wednesday October 15, 2008 @ 8:36am PDT

Paramount Delaying 2 Oscar-Buzzed Pics 

UPDATE: So now we have a glimpse of a new Paramount in the post-DreamWorks divorce, current credit crunch, era. Also the studio finally clarified the job duties of Adam Goodman and Brad Weston which I’ve already reported. They have the same title, but different duties! And they’re not co-heads!  (Can’t we all get along?) ”We now own and control 12 years of DreamWorks development and assure continuity with Adam Goodman staying at Paramount,” a bigwig told me this morning. ”He’ll be the point person interacting with Stacy and Steven.” In all there are 100 active DreamWorks projects staying at Paramount, and 35 being developed together with DreamWorks. I’m told that the production and personnel savings to Paramount now that it’s “one consolidated organization again” will be $50 million. As an insider summed up, “We’re keeping everything that makes money and giving away anything that costs money.” Here’s the press release:

LOS ANGELES, CALIF., October 15, 2008 — Paramount Pictures said today it has reduced its release target to twenty films annually to more effectively compete in the changing marketplace and to realize the maximum financial benefit of the series of new operating efficiencies achieved by the studio.  Under the new targets, Paramount plans to release twelve films, including MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies, and up to four additional releases from its Paramount Vantage unit.  Paramount will also continue to distribute 2-4 films a year produced by DreamWorks

Read More »

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Paramount Ready To Get More Litigious

By | Thursday September 4, 2008 @ 11:06am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount is beefing up its corporate litigation department. Karen Magid, a well known name in the studio’s legal affairs department, is moving over to the general counsel’s office to go from contracts to litigation. Sources tell me to expect a more aggressive litigation posture from Paramount now, akin to the pitbull troika of Disney/Warner/Fox. (Universal still likes to settle, and MGM doesn’t have enough money to sue anybody anymore.) Magid will be working for Rebecca Prentice, Paramount’s EVP and in-house general counsel and also the highest-ranking member of the studio’s legal team, so Dan Ferleger will be looking to hire Magid’s replacement. (There were rumors that Magid had been terminated.)

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Lionsgate, A Studio With No Conscience

By | Thursday August 28, 2008 @ 12:59pm PDT


The Pulitzer-prize winning New Orleans local newspaper thinks it’s an outrage that Lionsgate is releasing Disaster Movie on the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The studio that has hawked torture porn for years has now decided to make a buck off the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, and on the eve of another terrible storm about to strike the Gulf states. “Around these Katrina-scarred parts, Aug. 29 is still — and will be for some time — a black-armband kind of day,” criticized Mike Scott, the movie writer for the local newspaper The Times-Picayune. “For Lionsgate studios, however, Aug. 29 isn’t quite as sacred. For them, the third anniversary of the day the levees were breached and New Orleans slipped under is something on the order of perfect timing: a ripped-from-the-headlines release date.” Lionsgate is quick to point out that the pic’s disaster isn’t meteorological; it’s an incoming meteor and claims the opening date is an unfortunate coincidence. “The film does not depict or parody any actual natural disaster, and the release date of ‘Disaster Movie’ is in no way a reference to or joke about the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,” read a studio statement prepared for The Times-Picayune. As the newspaper noted, “That’s a hard line to swallow. Tasteless humor and B-movie comedies have their place. But this confluence of dates isn’t just a cheap laugh. It’s a cheap shot to an entire region still digging out from an all-too-real … Read More »

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TOLDJA! Alli Shearmur Joining Lionsgate

By | Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 1:45pm PDT

I was out of the office yesterday but DHD readers already knew what Joe Drake finally announced: that Lionsgate hired Alli Shearmur to head a new production arm as part of the studio’s expansion. See my previous from July 18th: Major Expansion At Lionsgate

Comments (5) Also Says MGM Is For Sale…

By | Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 12:04pm PDT

So my sources, BusinessWeek‘s sources, and now’s sources all report that MGM is for sale despite the studio’s denials. Last night, the well-known financial website (whose articles require a subscription) noted that MGM doesn’t need Goldman Sachs because it already has relationships in place to, quoting from a statement it released Monday, “explore enhancements to MGM’s long-term capital structure.” The website cited in particular existing MGM arrangements with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc. “Veteran film financier John Miller of J.P. Morgan, which with Credit Suisse Group committed $4.25 billion in debt financing for MGM’s acquisition by a consortium in April 2005, was described by one source as the go-to guy should MGM wish ‘to rework the credit facility.’ RBS, meanwhile, has been trying to raise a $500 million credit line for the studio for six months.”

So, asked, what’s left for Goldman to do? ”Something it does really well, sources speculated, which is investigate M&A opportunities.”

Sources told that Goldman Sachs may help MGM take on additional equity partners as well as holding a sale of the company.” adds more detail to what I’ve noted previously — Goldman Sachs’ long history with selling MGM. Kirk Kerkorian retained the investment bank in the spring of 2004 to co-run its auction of the studio with Latham & Watkins LLP. In addition, Goldman provided the fairness opinion advising MGM’s public shareholders to accept the $12 per share offer that allowed it to go private … Read More »

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‘Valkyrie’ Nazi Extras Sue Tom’s UA Studio

By | Monday August 25, 2008 @ 11:02pm PDT

There’s more bad news for the movie studio part-owned by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner with MGM. Last summer, 11 extras dressed in Nazi army uniforms fell out of the back of a World War II-era troop carrier truck as it swung around a corner in central in Berlin during the filming of Tom Cruise’s biopic Valkyrie, sending the actors to the hospital with injuries. Now, the actors are suing Cruise’s United Artists for $11 million, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel. It reports that the extras’ lawyer claims United Artists knew the trucks used in the filming were not entirely safe because there was an internal studio memo about the rickety railings.

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MGM Now Claims It’s Not On The Block

By | Monday August 25, 2008 @ 11:50am PDT

MGM issued the following statement today after I and BusinessWeek received tips that Goldman Sachs had been retained to shop MGM. (See Goldman Sachs Shopping MGM — Again.) Back when MGM was last on the block in 2004, Goldman Sachs handled that deal, too. Sony and Comcast and Providence Equity Partners and TPG paid roughly $5 billion in debt and equity to acquire then publicly traded MGM from its majority owner Kirk Kerkorian. But one of my financing sources has this to say about MGM’s denial today: “What utter bullshit double-speak ‘to explore long term enhancements to your capital structure’. What they did is just confirm that they have retained Goldman Sachs.”:

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 25, 2008) — Contrary to recent media reports, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM) is not for sale. There is no “asking price” for the company.  MGM’s existing financing arrangements are sufficient to meet its needs.  Goldman, Sachs has been retained to explore enhancements to MGM’s long-term capital structure.  All of the MGM shareholders, including Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Sony Corp. Of America and Comcast Corp, are pleased with the Company’s current momentum and are committed to the future growth of the studio.

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Primetime Pilot Panic: ABC Picks Up 5

By | Monday August 25, 2008 @ 11:15am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Because of the writers strike cutting short this past spring’s pilot season, ABC delayed its development so that most of the network’s new primetime scripted series would go midseason. Pilots were shot in July, and today ABC finally started making decisions. None of this has been officially announced:  

Better Off Ted — The formerly untitled laugher from Victor Fresco (Andy Richter Controls The Universe) and 20th Century Fox stars Portia de Rossi.

Single With Parents – Starring Alyssa Milano, Annie Potts and Beau Bridges, this sitcom is from ABC Studios and DreamWorks Television and was created by Kristin Newman who’s exec producing with Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey. 

The Unusuals — This Sony Pictures Television show was written by Noah Hawley who’s exec producing with Peter Tolan. It stars Amber Tamblyn and Adam Goldberg.

Cupid — The ABC Studios/Sony show was written by Rob Thomas (who remade his 1990s series starring Jeremy Piven) and stars Bobby Cannavale and Sarah Paulson.

Castle — This ABC Studios/Beacon TV show was created by Andrew Marlowe who’s exec producing with Armyan Bernstein and Laurie Zaks. Rob Bowman directed the pilot which stars Nathan Fillion.

(There’s a lot of talk that Prince Of Motor City and Captain Cook’s Extraordinary Atlas are possibles. Prince Of Motor City, from ABC Studios, is the well-received hour-long written by Jessica Goldberg and Hamish Linklater who are also exec producing with Chris Brancato and Bert Salke. Starring Annie MacDowell and Aiden Quinn, it’s had good buzz from the start. And Captain Cook’s Extraordinary Atlas, the Warner Bros TV show, is from writer-exec producer … Read More »

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Goldman Sachs Shopping MGM — Again

By | Friday August 22, 2008 @ 9:14pm PDT

Yesterday I received a tip from a reliable source in film financing circles telling me that Goldman Sachs had been retained to shop MGM. “It’s doubtful that something will come out of the process. But one never knows,” my insider told me. Well, tonight Business Week‘s Los Angeles Bureau Chief Ron Grover is reporting that the proposed pricetag is a whopping $5.2 billion and the strategic buyers being sought are “other entertainment companies that would likely fold MGM into existing operations”. Grover says already the Indians have passed (i.e. Reliance ADA Group, which is financing DreamWorks 2.0) and a $3 billion offer from two-time owner Kirk Kerkorian has been rejected. Back when MGM was last on the block in 2004, Goldman Sachs handled that deal, too. Sony and Comcast and Providence Equity Partners and TPG paid roughly $5 billion in debt and equity to acquire then publicly traded MGM from its majority owner Kerkorian. Here is Grover’s report and below are my own recent MGM posts:

  • Now Bond Plays Xmas Release Date Game
  • Look What Tom Cruise Made Harry Say…
  • Paula Wagner Is DOA At United Artists; But Was It Suicide or Murder By MGM?
  • Another Top Executive Exits United Artists
  • Read More »

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    New Line About To Party Like It’s 2007…

    By | Tuesday August 19, 2008 @ 1:37pm PDT


    Say you’re a downsized Hollywood studio that recently laid off almost all your employees. Well, if you’re New Line you throw the annual summer staff party for those remaining few. Ex-New Liners are emailing me that the pool party on Thursday at Skybar will cost $35,000 and “all 48 employees will be there to swim in the blood of the 550 employees who were massacred.” (Hey, they have a right to be bitter because their severance was less than they were told it would be.) I’m assured it was an ”agonizing” decision by Toby Emmerich and Richard Brenner whether to hold the fete this year. In the old days, New Line co-founder Bob Shaye was famous for these fancy parties held in NY and in LA at summer and Christmas in swanky settings like Malibu beach houses with all-you-can-eat steak and lobsters. 

    “Even in the worst years New Line always had that party,” a studio insider tells me. ”Senior management didn’t want to be disrespectful of the circumstances. We’re still mourning the hurt and difficulties of so many of our former colleagues. But Toby felt like the summer party is part of New Line’s DNA and to change that is a mistake.” So the studio decided to lower the party’s budget, telling me that the price tag is only “one third” of what the laid-off employees claim. New Line senior management also thinks the studio’s got something to celebrate because of the recent grosses on Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (a Mandate film), … Read More »

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    ABC Studios Stays Inside To Replace EVP

    By | Monday August 18, 2008 @ 5:54pm PDT

    EXCLUSIVE: Sources tell me that Barry Jossen, EVP of physical production at ABC Studios, is replacing Julia Franz as ABC Studios EVP of development. Franz is stepping down voluntarily after recently having a baby. Jossen has been overseeing production for the studio’s slate of network primetime programs, including pilots, series, original movies and miniseries. In addition he supervises the production of original specials for the ABC network and the network’s late night talk/variety show, Jimmy Kimmel Live. I hear Jossen and ABC just closed his deal. This was a hot job that a lot of folks wanted. As I wrote in my previous, What’s Really Going On At ABC Studios, Morgan Wandell, the SVP of drama development at ABC Studios, really wanted it but ABC Entertainment topper Steve Mcpherson nixed it. Wandell went to work with Greg Berlanti…

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    SAG-AMPTP: It’s Been A De Facto Lockout

    UPDATE: Here is the definitive answer to whether there is now a de facto strike or a de facto lockout in Hollywood. I’ve repeatedly opined it’s nonsensical to think there’s been a de facto strike when it’s the Hollywood CEOs who control the movie production spigot and who’ve made the decision not to let films go forward even though SAG has said publicly it has no plans to even ask its membership for a strike authorization vote (step one before a strike is even contemplated). And let me also make it clear here and now that the moguls have told me the production stoppage has nothing to do with completion bonds and insurance. As one mogul clarified in response to my question about this: ”Most studio movies are not bonded — those are indie films. And no insurance, unless separately bought for huge money, insures against strikes.” Another mogul emailed me when I asked if completion bonds/insurance were the studios’ reasons for the stoppage, “…That has not been the focus of our internal discussions.” So what has been? ”Firstly, our productions are coming to an end, as planned. Secondly, it’s only prudent to know there is an agreement before committing millions of dollars of production which you may not be able to get back.” Meanwhile, SAG has signed more than 500 guaranteed completion contracts with independent producers of films, the top of which boast budgets between $14 million and $40 million dollars and represent in total hundreds of … Read More »

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    Showbiz Smoking B.S. From Governator (& Similarities Between Hellboy & Arnold)

    By | Thursday July 10, 2008 @ 5:53pm PDT

    California governator Arnold Schwarzenegger is so useless — and not just because nearly every morning he sits around drinking coffee in a Brentwood cafe instead of tending to state business in Sacramento. Now, instead of helping the California economy by stopping the networks’ and studios’ runaway production, he’ll seek headlines tomorrow by announcing a “major Hollywood anti-smoking initiative” with the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

    And read up on the similarities between Hellboy and Arnold. Separated at birth:

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    Sony’s Gargotta Upped, Goldstine Moved

    Just came back from a meeting to find that Sony Pictures Entertainment has promoted Tommy Gargotta to president of worldwide creative advertising, replacing Josh Goldstine who’ll now work on a few Columbia titles a year as a senior creative exec. (See my previous, More Hollywood Title Inflation Coming…)

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    Bombshell ABC Studios Memo Is Blatant Blueprint To Rip Off Foreign TV Series

    EXCLUSIVE: I’ve obtained a shocking official ABC Studios memo written by EVP Howard Davine to showrunners and executive producers with deals there. Those who’ve seen it are shaking their heads in disbelief. “I’m stunned that they would have done this,” one insider tells me. “I can’t believe they actually put this down on paper.” That’s because the memo blesses anyone who brings foreign formats to ABC Studios first so that the studio can steal the idea without paying the fat licensing fees that would accompany an up-and-up deal. Obviously, ABC Studios doesn’t want to repeat what happened with a show like Ugly Betty, which is the American version of the Latin telenovela. This now proves they would rather just rip it off.
    Here’s the memo:

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    SAG vs AMPTP: The Nastiness Ramps Up

    Tonight the AMPTP issued this statement on something they call “final offer retroactivity.” (But if you ask me, it just sounds like the Hollywood moguls don’t want their summer vacations interrupted…):

    “The Producers remain committed to making a deal with SAG as soon as possible, which is why the AMPTP’s final offer would make the wage and salary increases retroactive to July 1, 2008 if the agreement is ratified by SAG’s membership no later than August 15, 2008. Under the final offer, if the new agreement is not ratified by August 15, 2008, all changes in terms and conditions would become effective in the first payroll period after ratification. The Producers have included this traditional incentive in the final offer in order to get everyone back to work and end the de facto strike. The Producers’ final offer includes more than $250 million in additional compensation over the course of the three year contract, as well as groundbreaking new media terms.  We remain hopeful that SAG will accept our final offer and that its members will ratify the new agreement so that these economic gains can go into effect at the earliest possible period.”

    And SAG shot back:

    “As management knows, and as we have often stated, the Screen Actors Guild national negotiating committee’s goal is to bargain a fair contract for our members. Our committee is at this very moment finalizing its response to the employers’ proposal of June 30. SAG’s national negotiating committee is scheduled to deliver that response at AMPTP

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