In this week’s podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom take apart the just-announced deal by Discovery and Liberty Global to buy All3Media for $930 million and look at who might be next in line as the global buying spree in TV production companies continues. They also catch up on still more news ahead of next week’s opening of the Cannes Film Festival, with pictures involving Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Aniston and Elisabeth Moss, even as a squad of aging Expendables plans to roll onto the Croisette; look at a U.S. production with a good reason besides tax incentives to shoot in London; and a kingly casting for the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall.
Notoriously litigious Stan Lee Media Inc couldn’t have thought that Disney would respond to its latest Marvel character rights grab in a placid manner, so the company shouldn’t be surprised by the legal hit to the jugular that the House Mickey Built just gave it in federal court over Spider-Man. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting. “Making SLMI’s patently frivolous ownership claims [American Music Theater's] defense to a straightforward copyright infringement suit gets neither of them anywhere,” says the March 21 reply (read it here) to the SMLI’s opposition to Disney Enterprises’ motion to dismiss the company from its copyright case against AMT. “This Court should now end this SLMI-financed frolic and detour once and for all,” adds the filing in federal court in Pennsylvania, noting that the intervention lacks any merit to succeed. Last week’s reply comes just under two weeks after SLMI aggressively responded to Disney’s motion to throw them off the media giant’s copyright case against AMT over its allegedly unauthorized use of Spider-Man in its regional show Broadway: Now & Forever. A month after being hauled into court by Disney last September, AMT claimed that it got the rights to Spidey from rights holder SLMI. In December, SLMI, who had lost a claim in federal court in Colorado on several Marvel characters and the multibillion-dollar profits from them just a couple of months …
Despite Disney’s best legal efforts, perpetually litigious Stan Lee Media Inc is not going quietly into the Pennsylvania night with its claims to Spider-Man. Today SLMI fired back at the media giant’s attempts to shut it down once and for all last month with assertions of time-barred claims and the fact that it is a dissolved corporation. “It is Disney’s burden to prove Disney’s ownership of the copyrights to Spider‐Man. Prior litigation cannot bar [American Music Theater], and concomitantly SLMI, from defending itself by showing Disney’s assertion is wrong,” says the dense and exhibit heavy filing in federal court in the Keystone State (read it here). “No judge has decided that Disney actually owns the Spider‐Man copyrights or, for that matter, that SLMI does not own the copyrights,” adds the opposition to Disney Enterprises’ motion to dismiss SLMI from its copyright case against American Music Theater. AMT also filed paperwork (read it here) in opposition to Disney’s motion to toss its counterclaims and SLMI from the case. This latest kick at the can by the repeatedly defeated SLMI over its claims over various Marvel characters created by Stan Lee — who no longer has anything to do with the company that bears his name — seems certainly to clog up the courts for at least a little while longer.
The mantra over at Stan Lee Media Inc must be “if first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Certainly that is its legal strategy. Almost three months after a federal judge in Colorado granted Disney’s request for dismissal of SLMI’s multibillion-dollar Marvel superhero copyright suit, the company is back in Pennsylvania court this week claiming it owns the rights to Spider-Man. “In response to Disney’s Spider-Man claims and/or in response to [American Music Theater's] counterclaims and third-party claims, SLMI respectfully seeks a declaratory judgment … that Disney cannot bar SLMI from using or licensing the Spider-Man copyrights and trademarks by virtue of the fact that SLMI (not Disney) is the owner of various copyrights and trademarks regarding Spider-Man and has properly licensed the copyrights and trademarks to AMT,” says the third-party defendant paperwork (read it here) filed Tuesday.
Obama Set For DreamWorks Animation Visit Next Week
By Dominic Patten – EXCLUSIVE: The last time President Obama was in town back in early August he had a private dinner with Jeffrey Katzenberg – now the Commander-in-Chief is heading over to his top bundler’s DreamWorks Animation Glendale campus for a very public pre-Thanksgiving visit.
Universal, Malcolm D. Lee In Talks To Make ‘The Best Man Holiday’ Sequel After Monster Opening
By Mike Fleming Jr. – EXCLUSIVE: After a rousing opening weekend that saw his sequel The Best Man Holiday gross over $30 million domestically, Malcolm D. Lee is negotiating a deal with Universal to write, direct and produce another installment of the hit ensemble romantic comedy.
OSCARS: Why A Documentary Nomination Could Be Game-Changer For Gay Love Story ‘Bridegroom’
By Pete Hammond – The steady, emotional journey of award-winning documentary Bridegroom continues with its availability for sale beginning today on iTunes and Amazon. But it is an Academy Award nomination — or even just making that shortlist – that filmmakers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and husband Harry Thomason really want in order to carry their message of love and tolerance for gay couples worldwide.
Box Office Top 10: ‘Catching Fire’s Global Opening Gross Will Hit $307.7 Million
By Mike Fleming Jr. – International numbers for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are pouring in now, and they are as good as the domestic numbers. The film has grossed $146.6 million in 63 territories, which puts its global opening weekend gross at $307.7 in 65 territories.
UPDATED, 1:50 PM: “We do very much have the ambition about creating a bigger universe around Spider-Man. There are a number of scripts in the works” involving characters and villains in the series, Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Michael Lynton told analysts in a Q&A session wrapping up his operation’s first meeting with investors. But he didn’t offer details, except that Sony is “working closely with Marvel and Disney.” But lest fans of the Marvel world take that to mean that Spider-Man could finally join his buddies in an upcoming The Avengers or other Marvel/Disney film — think again. Sony’s longtime rights deal with Marvel for Spider-Man allows them to exploit any character within the superhero’s universe — including villains, girlfriends or even Aunt May. But Disney, which acquired Marvel in 2009, owns merchandising rights to Spider-Man and those related characters, so any further exploitation would have to involve Disney.
While Sony today promised to hold down costs, especially for films, Lynton says that “we have in no way shape or form lost our commitment to the movie business. The movie business sits at the heart and soul of the company.” And he wouldn’t feel constrained from approving a major project. “We never once found ourselves lacking for capital” when it comes to a needed investment including an acquisition. That also was true when Disney snagged Marvel. With theme parks and several cable channels, Disney has “a few more channels to exploit” the properties. “You have to measure it against that backdrop.”
Turns out the Walt Disney Company really does own the rights to the Marvel characters created by Stan Lee, at least according to a federal judge today. U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez Thursday granted with prejudice Disney’s motion to dismiss Stan Lee Media’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit superhero copyright suit. In his 11-page order (read it here) Martinez did little to hide his annoyance with the litigious SLMI. “Plaintiff has tried time and again to claim ownership of those copyrights; the litigation history arising out of the 1998 Agreement stretches over more than a decade and at least six courts,” he wrote of the company’s many legal moves.
This latest attempt started in mid-October 2012 when SLMI filed a copyright infringement complaint seeking the profits from the $5.5 billion it said that Disney made from Marvel superhero movies and merchandise based on characters created by Lee. In its suit, SLMI claimed that Lee, who no longer has anything to do with the company with his name, signed over the rights to comic book characters like Iron Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man and many more that he created or would create to its corporate predecessor in October 1998 for shares in the company. In November 1998, Lee signed an agreement with Marvel handing over the rights to the same characters. …
Japanese scientists have divined a mathematical model for what they call “The Hit Phenomenon.” By calculating the advertising budget of a film before it’s released, along with the amount of time a campaign runs and its word of mouth quotient on social media, a team from Tottori University worked to predict the success of such films as Spider-Man 3 and Avatar and then compared their findings to actual box office. “They appeared to match very well, meaning the calculations could provide a fairly good prediction of how successful a movie could be even before it is released,” said the Institute of Physics, which published the paper in the New Journal of Physics today. The scientists used the model to calculate the likelihood of an individual going to see a movie in a Japanese theater over a period ranging from 60 days ahead of a movie’s release to 100 days after the opening. Although the study was based on the Japanese market, its lead author, Akira Ishii, told Agence France Presse he thinks the model is “very general. It will work in other countries as well.” He also noted a key benefit of the formula is that companies can calculate the best time to spend advertising dollars. Hollywood could soon get its chance to plug in the formula as AFP says there are hopes to make it commercially available.
Posting a record loss of $5.7B for the fiscal year ended March 31, Sony today reported a quarterly loss of $3.2B. However, the company also expects a return to profit, predicting that net income for the fiscal year to end March 2013 could be about $376M. Still, that figure lags behind what a group of Bloomberg analysts had estimated. Under new CEO Kazuo Hirai, the company will slash 10,000 jobs as it trims costs to help turn around its flagging TV unit. Sony Pictures Entertainment sales increased 18% benefitting from the sale of a participation interest in Spider-Man merchandising rights and higher pay TV and VOD sales. Operating income at SPE decreased to $416M primarily due to combined gains in the previous fiscal year from the acquisition of a controlling interest in GSN and the sale of SPE’s interest in HBO Latin America. Sony also noted the strong theatrical performance of The Smurfs and Bad Teacher, offset by the underperformance of Arthur Christmas.
Universal Orlando Resort today celebrated the reopening of “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man”, one of the world’s most popular theme park experiences. The attraction now features enhancements including all-new 4K digital high-definition ride animation, a new highly-sophisticated Infitec 3-D projection system, a new music score, and all-new 3-D Spider-Vision glasses:
EXCLUSIVE: While we wait for the offers on Sundance films like The Words, Celeste and Jessie and others to turn into deals, the other Park City festival, Slamdance, has scored a good one. EPIX is closing a preemptive deal for With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, a documentary that makes its Slamdance debut on Tuesday. Lee is the co-creator of hundreds of comic character superheros that include Marvel movie staples Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Iron Man.
I’m told that the documentary will premiere on the pay channel and EPIXHD.com, later this year. The documentary covers Lee’s life, from growing up in the Depression to finding his way to become an iconic comic creator during the Marvel heyday. The film features the likes of Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Samuel L. Jackson, Kirsten Dunst and others who’ve starred in Marvel movies. Lee shows up in all those movies in cameos and is still hatching superheroes at age 88. The film’s produced by Paris Kasidokostas Latsis, Terry Dougas, Nikki Frakes, and Will Hess through 1821 Pictures. WME Global’s Deborah McIntosh is making the deal.
It may be indelicate to make this argument just as thousands of fantasy fans are converging on San Diego for the annual Comic-Con. But the movie business may soon find itself mourning “the death of superheroes,” Susquehanna Financial Group’s Vasily Karasyov says in an intriguing report this morning. The analyst says that the boom in superhero movies began around 2000 as computer generated imagery (CGI) made it easier for filmmakers to credibly show action that defies the laws of physics. Virtually all of the most popular films of the last decade couldn’t have been made without CGI. Within that group Karasyov counts 16 superhero films, not counting sequels, resulting in four franchises: Fox’s X-Men, Sony’s Spider-Man, Warner Bros’ Batman, and Paramount’s Iron Man. Yet nothing has taken off since Iron Man came out in 2008, he says, largely because studios have already tapped their hottest properties. “As film studios dig deeper into catalogues for characters for new films, we think the chances of finding a break out property are diminishing fast” — even though the films still come with high production costs — Karasyov writes. If superhero films fail to catch on, then studios can forget about raking in lots of additional revenue from licensed merchandise. The bottom line: Investors should expect “growing risks to (financial growth) estimates” for companies including Disney and Time Warner that are looking to superheroes to help rescue their studio profits. And Disney CEO Bob Iger may end …
Deadline Comic-Con Movie Contributor Luke Y Thompson reports:
It’s the story every media outlet is dying to tell every year: “Comic-Con just ain’t what it used to be.” This year, however, the event — set for July 21-24 at the San Diego Convention Center — comes with some alarmist (and circumstantial) evidence: Warner Bros won’t be doing a movie presentation. Marvel Studios won’t be either, even though the tiniest teaser for The Avengers last year made for the most memorable panel. Disney initially appeared absent too. So what’s going on? Did the failure of Scott Pilgrim to triumph at the box office following a massive Con promotion last year leave studios leery?
Well, you’d think if that were the case, Universal would feel the most burned — yet they’re doubling down by holding the premiere of Cowboys and Aliens there, inviting many of the fans to attend; one would imagine the big names like Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig will at least attend.
Disney, which now owns the Muppets and Marvel Studios, is likely saving those properties for its own D23 Expo in Anaheim toward the end of August. They are, however, bringing the DreamWorks pickup Fright Night to Comic-Con (in presentation and screening form) — notably, this is a movie that will open Aug. 19, the same day the D23 Expo begins, so it makes sense to hype it sooner. Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are the big names attending; curiously, the publicity has consistently downplayed the presence of former Doctor Who star David Tenant, and he has not been mentioned as attending, though he’d be given a hero’s welcome if he did.
Warner Bros’ lack of a movie panel may largely be due to the fact that the next Superman and Batman movies aren’t ready to show much yet — Man of Steel star Henry Cavill will be there, but on behalf of Relativity’s Immortals (also Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz and Mickey Rourke; director Tarsem Singh is not currently expected). Certainly WB is showing a ton of TV previews, but I’ll leave that to my colleague Gary Hodges to discuss. The biggest question mark in my mind is what Time Warner-owned Entertainment Weekly will put on the cover of their Comic-Con issue now: traditionally, it’s been a big reveal from a Warners movie.
The biggest name being batted about right now as a possibility is Steven Spielberg, to present footage from his The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Certainly, a Tintin presentation would be wise, as the teaser has left many (myself included) highly skeptical. The fanbase needs persuading, and since it’s Spielberg, there’s probably at least one kickass scene that can get people hyped. But Paramount’s still playing things close to the vest — when I asked a publicist there about Comic-Con plans, I was told “It’s uncertain what or if we’re bringing anything.” That’s not a denial. And there has been talk of a Captain America screening — whether that translates into an actual panel is uncertain, as the regular press junkets and such will already be in full swing for the movie, opening that week.
It’s another dark night at Broadway’s Foxwood Theatre for Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. After a cancelled performance Tuesday, previews were supposed to resume tonight but the stage crew and performers took an extra day to incorporate the extra safety procedures designed to eliminated the variables that led to an aerialist falling 30 feet into the orchestra pit. While some are speculating that the show shouldn’t open at all, it’s coming. At a projected $65 million budget, you don’t cancel. But this isn’t like Starlight Express. I remember seeing that musical, and after finding it to be a bore, watched wondering if performers would fall while buzzing around the rink on roller skates (several did). Accidents on this musical have already been more serious than a few skinned knees suffered in a roller rink mishap. It’s too bad that such an ambitious show has been defined by mishaps, but the wall crawler has prevailed against long odds before and audiences are packing preview performances.
2ND UPDATE: A spokesman for the musical said that preview performances will resume tomorrow night. “Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Actors Equity and the New York State Department of Labor have met with the Spider-Man company today to discuss additional safety protocols. It was agreed that these measures would be enacted immediately. Tomorrow’s matinee has been postponed and will be rescheduled. Tomorrow evening’s, and all subsequent performances will proceed as scheduled.” Inspectors cited “human error” as the explanation for the latest mishap.
UPDATE: New York Post columnist Michael Riedel has now confirmed that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was shut down today following the fourth injury suffered during preview performances. Actors Equity confirmed that State Department of Labor investigators are once again scrutinizing whether the show can be performed safely.
EARLIER: Another preview of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark ended last night with yet another cast member injured. This time, an actor fell into the orchestra pit, and the performance was halted just short of completion. That makes four performers injured during the early preview performances of a musical directed by Julie Taymor with music and lyrics by U2′s Bono and The Edge. Accidents on action-laden feature films sometimes happen–an extra was left disabled and disfigured in an accident on the set of Transformers 3 earlier this year–but how long before Spidey’s creatives think about toning down the sophisticated acrobatics and onstage stunts before …
EXCLUSIVE: In the first project he has set at Sony Pictures Entertainment since exiting the co-president post to become a producer, Matt Tolmach is at the center of a preemptive pitch deal for Frankenstein. The film will be a contemporary version of the Mary Shelley novel. Craig Fernandez pitched the project and will write the script. Tolmach will produce through Matt Tolmach Productions.
Tolmach ended his run as co-president alongside Doug Belgrad on October 29 to take a multi-year producing deal at the studio that starts with him joining Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad as producers of the 3D Spider-Man reboot. That film begins production in the next few days with The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield playing the title role and Marc Webb directing.
Fernandez’s credits include the upcoming Lionsgate pic From Prada to Nada, described as a Latin spin on Sense and Sensibility. He also just scripted Everything Must Go, a DreamWorks Animation project based on Terry Pratchett’s The Bromeliad Trilogy, and is adapting the Octavia Butler novel Clay’s Ark for DreamWorks Animation and Shrek producer Aaron Warner. Original Artists’ Jordan Bayer, who brokered the Frankenstein deal, will soon shop Fernandez’ script The Courageous, a futuristic adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous that will be produced by Jon Shestack.
The Producers Guild of America has named Laura Ziskin to receive its 2011 Visionary Award. The honor will be presented at the 22nd annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony January 22. Ziskin is being honored not just for a body of work that includes the Spider-Man films but also for her work in organizing the recent Stand Up to Cancer awareness campaign. She received the Producers Guild’s David O. Selznick Achievement Award in 2005 and is the first recipient of that award to get the Visionary prize as well. “Laura Ziskin is not only an exceptionally talented producer but also an avid humanitarian with an inspiration drive to make a difference in the fight against cancer,” said Paula Wagner, chair of the 2011 awards.
Martin Sheen is joining the Marc Webb-directed 3D Spider-Man movie, playing the role of Uncle Ben. He joins Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans, who were set earlier in the Sony Pictures Entertainment film that begins production in December. Meanwhile, Sally Field is in early talks to join the film as Aunt May. Uncle Ben, who raised Peter Parker along with May, doesn’t last long. That’s no surprise to fans of the comic or the original film series, who watched Uncle Ben get killed by a thief whom Parker could have stopped with his new-found superpowers, but let escape. Sheen has a longer run in The Way, the crowd-pleasing film directed by his son Emilio Estevez that made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival and is still in the process of being set up for distribution.