EXCLUSIVE: In many states, including California, texting or emailing while driving could get you a fine. If you’re a Disney employee, it may also get you fired. That’s according to a companywide memo that went out yesterday. The so-called “distracted driving,” which involves mostly people using their mobile devices while behind the wheel, is a serious problem that caused 5,474 deaths last year. But a private company enforcing the ban on the use of such devices is a little odd even for Disney, considered to be the most buttoned-down and regulated entertainment conglom. According to the memo, Disney “is enhancing its vehicle safety policy effective immediately.” That includes prohibiting Disney employees from sending or reading texts or emails while driving company cars or their private cars while performing duties related to their Disney jobs. “Failure to comply will lead to disciplinary actions up to and including termination,” the memo said. While the intention is noble, the bureaucratic way it was handled has raised eyebrows, evoked Big Brother references and has mostly puzzled Disney employees as to how exactly would Disney enforce its new rules. Nevertheless, the new policy may affect business as most people working in the entertainment industry in LA do a lot of work on their blackberrys while driving. With its ban, Disney joins the Obama administration which has prohibited federal employees from texting while driving on government …
Reaching into their past to (hopefully) repeat some of their glory, Harvey and Bob Weinstein have tapped a familiar face to be The Weinstein Company’s president of production. Donna Gigliotti was was an executive at Miramax from 1993-1996. She was also one of the Oscar-winning producers on Miramax’s Shakespeare In Love back in 1998 and received an Oscar nomination for TWC’s The Reader in 2008.
New York, NY (October 18, 2010) – Having established a relationship for more than seventeen years, The Weinstein Company (TWC) has hired Oscar-winning producer and former Miramax Films Executive Vice President Donna Gigliotti as president of production. She will work directly with TWC Co-Chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein, as well as produce several films for the company. Gigliotti’s first production will be I Don’t Know How She Does It, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, which will begin principal photography January 17. She is currently overseeing My Week With Marilyn, starring Michelle Williams shooting in the UK, and will produce David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook in the latter half of 2011.Gigliotti is one of only five women ever to win a Best Picture Oscar. In her first outing as an independent producer, she received the 1998 Academy Award for producing the seven-time Oscar-winning Miramax film Shakespeare in Love, and was subsequently nominated for a Best Picture Oscar for The Weinstein Company’s 2008 romantic drama The Reader.
EXCLUSIVE: Despite the speculation that India conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar might swoop in and buy MGM for $2 billion, it doesn’t sound like MGM’s current management is taking it that seriously. At least not based on this internal memo I just obtained:
We wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on the Company’s restructuring efforts. Recently we announced that our lenders have again agreed to extend the forbearance period relating to certain of our debt obligations and we are appreciative of their ongoing support throughout this process.
We recognize that throughout this restructuring process, there has been a great deal of speculation about the Company’s future in the media and elsewhere which can be very distracting. We appreciate the focus, hard work and dedication you all have demonstrated for the last year. We can assure you we are working to bring this process to a conclusion as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. However, the process is still evolving and we appreciate your understanding that there are not a lot of definitive answers at this stage.
In the latest evolution of this process, we have entered into a nonbinding letter of intent with Spyglass Entertainment’s Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum to become the co-chairmen and co-chief executive officers of MGM upon consummation of a restructuring. We believe this development is a constructive step toward concluding this process. The Company will be working with Messrs. Barber and Birnbaum
Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar is reported to be in exploratory talks to buy the debt-hobbled MGM studio for $2 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Bloomberg adds that the Broccoli family, owners of the James Bond rights, are aligned. What an endless soap opera. Later, Bloomberg corrected itself to say that Eon disavowed even knowing about the Indian bid.
UPDATE: I’ve just confirmed that the driver of a car crashed through Gate 5 on the northside of the Warner Bros lot in Burbank late this afternoon and sped onto the property. Burbank Police were called and now have detained him. Authorities are checking to see if he had any weapons with him. Every showbiz company is on alert ever since that gunman took hostages at the Discovery Communications headquarters back east.
Veteran TV executive/producer Francie Calfo is joining Imagine TV as president after more than 20 years at ABC. Calfo will replace David Nevins who is leaving to become entertainment president at Showtime, replacing Robert Greenblatt. Calfo’s deal with 20th TV where Imagine TV is based came after a couple of weeks of negotiations, mostly over financial terms.
Calfo most recently served as an ABC Studios-based producer, executive producing several pilots and one series, this summer’s struggling dramedy Scoundrels. Before that she was EVP at ABC, serving as entertainment president Stephen McPherson’s No.2. She segued into that job after spending a year as a producer, partnered with Stu Bloomberg when the two executive produced the short-lived ABC drama series Life As We Know It.
Calfo was previously an executive at ABC Studios’ predecessor Touchstone TV where she helped develop Alias and CSI under then-boss McPherson. Calfo first joined Disney’s TV team in 1989, in Buena Vista’s TV research department, eventually working her way into programming at Touchstone.
Calfo is the second ABC Studios-based producer to land a president-level job at a 20th TV-based company this week. On Tuesday, Bert Salke was named president of 20th TV’s cable/unscripted division Fox21.
EXCLUSIVE: Former 20th Century Fox TV SVP drama Patrick Moran has been tapped as new head of drama at ABC Studios. He will replace Josh Barry, who is stepping down from his post after a year. Barry, a 10-year ABC/ABC Studios veteran, is well-regarded and, while the top drama job at the studio didn’t quite work out for him, I hear he could stay within the company in a different capacity.
Meanwhile, Moran exited his post as head of drama for 20th TV in early May when the studio tapped Michael Thorne for the job. Moran spent 7 years at 20th TV. He was upped to SVP in August 2007 and took over the drama department in January 2008, following the promotion of EVP Jennifer Nicholson Salke. He oversaw the development of the studio’s breakout freshman hit Glee as well as other 20th hourlong series such as Bones, Lie to Me and Prison Break. This development season, he shepherded the development of new Fox series Lone Star and Ride-Along, as well as Breakout Kings, which landed at A&E, and Chaos, which got close to a series order at CBS.
Barry joined Touchstone TV in 2000 where he worked on Alias and The Amazing Race. As executive director at the studio and then vp drama development at ABC, he helped develop Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy. He became SVP and head of drama for ABC Studios in June 2009 as part of the executive …
CULVER CITY, Calif., July 1, 2010 – After a comprehensive worldwide casting search, Andrew Garfield has been chosen to portray Peter Parker when Spider-Man swings back onto the screen in 3D on July 3, 2012. The new film will begin production in early December directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt. Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad will produce the film from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.
Today’s confirmation culminates what has been one of the most eagerly anticipated casting announcements in recent memory. Bloggers, pop culture speculators, and everyday fans have pored over and analyzed every conceivable online rumor in an attempt to discover the identity of the next actor to play Peter Parker. Garfield will immediately begin preparing for the coveted role.
The Spider-Man franchise is one of the most successful in film history and the three previous motion pictures have collectively grossed more than $2.5 billion in worldwide box office.
On selecting Garfield, director Marc Webb said, “Though his name may be new to many, those who know this young actor’s work understand his extraordinary talents. He has a rare combination of intelligence, wit, and humanity. Mark my words, you will love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.”
Commenting on the announcement, Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Matt Tolmach, President of Columbia Pictures said, “Spider-Man is a classic superhero
EXCLUSIVE: Now that Spyglass has emerged as the favorite to steer MGM’s future fortunes — although Summit insists it’s not out of the running yet and Lionsgate is in merger talks — more details are emerging about MGM’s possible future. Insiders tell me that the Spyglass plan would transform MGM into a pure production company and close down its marketing and distribution divisions. That would certainly cut costs in the short run. Coupled with the equity that Spyglass would bring to the table, a streamlined MGM would lower its debt and have a shot at raising new funding to finance its own pictures. That would let Spyglass partners Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum do what they do well, which is to lower risk by making domestic and offshore distribution deals.
But I see the downside of this plan. MGM would have to pay others to distribute and market its films — and those fees could be comparable or higher than the monies saved on overhead. I’m told that rival Summit and Lionsgate proposals would maintain MGM as a studio because both companies have distribution divisions. The Spyglass move would mean yet another morphing of MGM over the recent past. Under Harry Sloan, the revived studio started off as a distribution rental system for films by financiers like Sidney Kimmel and The Weinstein Co, a strategy that didn’t work.
EXCLUSIVE: Reliable sources tells me that Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns flew to NYC on Wednesday night to have dinner with Carl Icahn “to see if they could work together and avert a hostile takeover of the studio”. This is a very big deal because in recent months and weeks the two men have been sparring very publicly on CNBC. Or Icahn and Lionsgate management have been sending nasty letters to shareholders and even nastier news releases to the media about each other. I understand that Burns explained why Lionsgate is having merger talks with MGM. That may be the reason why Carl was not completely dismissive of the idea Friday – but not why he still slammed management for distracting from the studio’s problems. Remember, a proxy fight like the one Icahn has pledged to wage is a very expensive proposition. And now that Lionsgate stock has joined the Russell 2000 index and jumped past Carl’s $7-a-share tender offer, Icahn may have to offer at least $7.50 to control more than 32% of the studio. Thus making his hostile takeover still more pricey.
EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Television is staying put at 20th Century Fox TV but its president David Nevins is exiting after 8 years. Nevins’ contract was up and I hear he couldn’t come to an agreement with the studio, which pays for Imagine TV’s overhead. There had been rumblings for the past couple of months about the future of Nevins at Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine TV, which he joined as president in 2002. The company had a solid upfront showing, securing two key renewals, for freshman Parenthood and sophomore Lie To Me, and landed one new series, Friends With Benefits on NBC. (Imagine has one more series on the air, DirecTV/NBC’s Friday Night Lights). Nevins’ deals with 20th TV were usually made at the time of Imagine TV’s renewals. I hear Imagine TV was just picked up for another two years, but after coming close to a new contract with 20th TV, Nevins and the studio ultimately couldn’t agree on terms. I also hear Nevins already has a new gig lined up but will stay on at Imagine, which he is leaving on very good terms, to help with the transition.
Nevins joined Imagine in 2002 after spending 10 years as a programming executive at NBC and Fox, rising to EVP programming at Fox. At Imagine, he also oversaw such series as 24 and Arrested Development.
I’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. That’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.
Lionsgate has formally announced its acquisition of North American rights to Machine Gun Preacher, the fact-based drama about Sam Childers, a reformed badass who established an orphanage in war torn Africa and then supervised a militia to protect the kids. The film stars Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon, with Marc Forster directing the Jason Keller script based on the real life exploits of Sam Childers. Deadline told you all this last month after first reporting on the worthy project getting Forster and Butler in January. What’s new? They start shooting July 5 in Detroit and South Africa, and Madeline Carroll, Kathy Baker and Souleymane Sy Savane are also in the cast. It gives Lionsgate production execs something to think about while management fights off Carl Icahn.
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – June 21, 2010 – After one of the longest and most successful careers in entertainment marketing, John Miller, Chief Marketing Officer and President of The NBC Agency, will now transition to a new role within NBC Universal. Miller, who will remain the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of NBC Universal Television Group, will be working full-time on the NBCU Comcast integration.
Here are some early photos of the 600 fans starting to line up today for Thursday’s Eclipse premiere at the Nokia Theater for a glimpse of the cast of this 3rd pic in the Twilight Saga: Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Dakota Fanning, Billy Burke, Gil Birmingham, as well as director David Slade, author Stephenie Meyer, and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. About 350 Twi-Hards already were cleared through security to camp out at 6 AM PT Thursday in the L.A. Live plaza located outside the Staples Center until the premiere. Yikes! Summit Entertainment will hold events and activities for the fans over the coming days including special appearances by cast members and a live stream of special acoustical performances of acts from the Eclipse soundtrack:
Warner Bros is giving the Glen David Gold novel Carter Beats the Devil another chance to beat death by development hell. The studio has optioned the novel, and set Michael Gilio to write the script. Jon Shestack will produce, and Ginny Brewer and Jeremy Stein will also be involved as producers. The book weaves a tale around the magician Carter the Great, a murderous rival, the mysterious death of President Warren Harding and Philo Farnsworth’s invention of television. The book was a hot property when optioned for high six-figures in 2002 by Paramount for Cruise/Wagner, a time when Tom Cruise was intrigued with playing a magician. It was eclipsed by a different C/W-developed magic book, David Fisher’s The War Magician. Ultimately, nothing happened on either front. As author Michael Connelly discovered when he sued Paramount to get back his Harry Bosch crime novels, books like these often get buried development costs and overhead charges that studio accountants lump on to justify pricey producer overhead deals. Carter Beats the Devil managed to escape that morass, but had little going after AMC tried to turn it into a series and dropped it. Shestack tried to option it when the book first came out, and followed its subsequent manifestations. “I’ve been trying to get Warner Bros to buy it since the day it came out and that it’s finally happening is enough to make me believe in magic,” Shestack said. Gilio has some heat …
A few actor developments that caught my eye this weekend…. Despite her frustration-filled weekend tweeting, I don’t believe Amanda Bynes is done with acting at age 24. Like most parents of now-college age kids, I endured hours of often insufferable Tollin-Robbins-produced Nickelodeon kid sketch shows. The charismatic Bynes, a regular in a bunch of those shows since age 10, always seemed the kid who’d best weather the rocky transition to adulthood and have a real career. She’ll be back, I predict… Bruce Dern has signed for a role in the movie version of The Big Valley that starts shooting with Jessica Lange and Travis Fimmel next month. This comes at a time when Dern just signed a new deal to reprise in HBO’s Big Love, and as he, ex-wife Diane Ladd and daughter Laura Dern will get their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in the same ceremony. Dern seemed to have reached his peak playing the heavy in such 70s films as Coming Home, Black Sunday and The Great Gatsby. But a good actor can remain one and it’s nice to see a Dern resurgence…After galvanizing the first season of the FX series Justified with a character that morphed from avowed enemy of Tim Olyphant’s federal marshall Raylan Givens, into a not entirely trustworthy wingman, Walton Goggins will spend his hiatus time shooting at extraterrestrials. …
Disney has assembled the cast of Prom, its high-school comedy feature revolving around a group of teens and the emotional ups and downs they go through prepping for the big dance. The studio stuck to its original plan to cast mostly unknown young actors as the leads in the movie, which is eyed as a potential launching pad for a franchise in the mold of High School Musical and whose tone is said to be similar to John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. Cast as the leads in Prom are: Thomas McDonell, Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights), Danielle Campbell, Nolan Sotillo, Yin Chang (Gossip Girl), Jared Kusnitz (Surviving Suburbia), Nicholas Braun (10 Things I Hate About You), Ben Esler (The Pacific), Kylie Bunbury and DeVaughn Nixon. Joe Nussbaum is directing from a script by Katie Wech. Ted Griffin and Justin Springer are producing.
Video-on-demand/online service FearNet is planning to go linear October 1. The multi-platform service, owned by Lions Gate, Sony Pictures TV and Comcast, said it will launch as a high-definition ad-supported movie channel. No carriage agreements have been announced though having No.1 cable operator Comcast as a parent should come in handy. FearNet on demand is currently available in 28 million homes.