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HAMMOND: Less Restrictive Rules, Food And Filmmakers Drawing More Academy Members To Screenings

Pete Hammond

Throw them a party and they will come.  Or at least a reception with good food and drink. That seems to be the case with the increasingly strong turnouts of Academy members at screenings this season. As with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and other groups studios are discovering a shrimp cocktail can be a powerful magnet for potential voters. The Academy’s new pre-nomination relaxed rules seem to be having a positive effect, at least if the evidence at recent screenings is any indication. And that was exactly the Academy’s point when they announced on September 21 that there would be a loosening of restrictions on the kinds of screenings to which Academy members could be directly invited — at least before nominations. In previous years studios and distributors might have gotten their hands slapped or Oscar tickets taken away if they dared to invite Academy members to screenings that included Q&As, receptions, food, drink and mingling with filmmakers.  Members could only just attend a film, not partake in the side shows or receptions. Period.  Of course consultants got around this by going to guild members instead, and obviously there is a very strong crossover membership between the guilds and the Academy. Now the shackles have been removed and members seem to be turning out in larger numbers to watch, eat and mingle.

Monday night The Weinstein Company drew a packed industry crowd to the Academy’s own 1000 seat-plus Samuel Read More »

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Casting Directors Under Scrutiny After Investigation Finds Convicted Molestor Hired Child Actors

Jason James Murphy served a five-year prison term for kidnapping and abusing an 8-year-old boy near Seattle, but has been working for a decade as Jason James hiring kids as a casting assistant for productions including Super 8, Bad News Bears, The School Of Rock, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, and the upcoming film The Three Stooges, the LA Times reports.  Police said that they have no reason to believe that he molested anyone else; he is cooperating with their investigation into whether he complied with laws that apply to registered sex offenders — including that they report within five days when they use an alias. The law also bars sex offenders from working directly with unaccompanied minors. The fact that he has had so much power and opportunity to victimize kids has child protection advocates up in arms: Several say that they want unions to screen people who work with children, and to have them submit to background checks and fingerprinting. Murphy is a member of Teamsters Local 399 since 2008. The union and casting directors told the paper that they were unaware of Murphy’s background. “It’s shocking and it’s devastating, not just as a filmmaker but as a father and someone who is entrusted to make sure that everyone I work with, especially children, are safe,” Super 8 director J.J. Abrams said. “To think that someone like this was among us is unthinkable.”

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Paramount Awards Screeners Going Online; First Streams Available This Week

It looks like Paramount will be the first major studio to take its “For Your Consideration” screeners online, announcing today a deal with Deluxe Entertainment Services Group that will provide streams of its awards-season offerings including Rango, Super 8 and Like Crazy. The Visual Effects Society will be the first recipient of the online screeners, getting them as early as Friday. From the release:

The Deluxe solution allows Paramount to securely stream films backed by unique watermarking of the content tied to the individual recipients with DVD quality picture and a controlled window of availability. Content can be played back on a variety of PC and Mac devices, including the iPad and iPad2, as well as home entertainment systems with compatible HDMI cable connection.

Said Paramount’s President of Domestic Marketing & Distribution Megan Colligan: “We are excited to present these films for online streaming and are hopeful that this will be a quality experience allowing us to offer more opportunities for our filmmaker partners to reach appreciative viewers.”

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Pirated ‘Super 8′ Print Points Back To Howard Stern Show

By | Saturday August 6, 2011 @ 5:37pm PDT
Mike Fleming

In a bizarre development that I can only imagine will be very embarrassing to Sirius XM’s morning man Howard Stern, a bootlegged copy of the JJ Abrams-directed Super 8 has shown up on content-thieving websites. The print is watermarked with the Paramount Pictures logo, and “H Stern” in the right-hand corner. Film companies and networks like HBO routinely personalize advance screeners to safeguard against piracy. There is widespread speculation the leak came from a DVD sent to the show.

I see that already, the features an “over/under” asking commenters to decide if Stern got $50,000 for posting the film. That is preposterous. Stern receives advance screeners so he can talk knowledgeably about upcoming films he likes, and because he does superb interviews with directors and stars. He will be upset if his show breached a trust with Abrams, a longtime friend who once thrilled Stern’s daughters by putting them on his series Felicity. That is something a dad never forgets. I recall that Stern interviewed Abrams when the director made the rounds to promote Super 8. Read More »

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Paramount First Studio This Year To Top $1B At Domestic Box Office

Thanks to the bounty from such films as Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Super 8, ThorRango and Kung Fu Panda 2, Paramount confirmed today that it has crossed the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office for the year. It is the first studio to surpass the milestone — the fifth consecutive year it’s been first. From Jan. 3-July 4, the studio’s overall domestic cume is $1.024 billion. Earlier this month, Paramount Pictures International crossed the $1 billion mark in overseas box office.

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VA VROOM! ‘Cars 2′ Revs $68M Weekend; ‘Bad Teacher’ More Than Good For $31M

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: After last weekend’s disappointing outcome for Green Lantern, Summer 2011 returns with big-time North American grosses. But both Disney’s Cars 2 and Sony’s Bad Teacher cooled off Saturday after a hot Friday. Expect an overall moviegoing total of $176M, up +6% from last year. Here’s the Top 10.

1. Cars 2 3D (Pixar/Disney) NEW [4,115 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.3M, Weekend $68M

Wow, even Pixar’s clunker exceeded expectations, becoming Pixar’s 12th straight No. 1 toon. Strange that the special studio parent/kids’ tracking was only showing a $50M weekend for Cars 2 even with 3D’s higher ticket prices and a very wide U.S. and Canadian release. (Its 4,115 theaters comprise 2,508 3D locations, including 120 IMAX venues.) Other studios at first thought the toon could zoom between $71.5M-$75M for the weekend, but Disney was right to stay conservative with projections of “just” $68M. Surprising that gross was -10% from Friday despite those Saturday kiddie matinees, indicating that word of mouth wasn’t good. It’s still a big bump up from the original’s $60.1M despite far less favorable reviews. Audiences gave Cars 2 a ‘A-’ CinemaScore vs ‘A’ for the first Cars back in 2006 but critics called the sequel a lemon and Pixar’s worst movie ever because of the lame espionage story and over-use of Larry The Cable Guy (a little of him goes a loooong way). No doubt his good ol’ boy tow truck voiceover will go down well in flyover country. But critics expected better of Pixar CEO John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering, who is returning to the director’s chair for the first time since Cars. Still, the moolah puts the sequel #5 on the Pixar food chain.

But the real platinum lining here is all that Cars-branded merchandise parents are going to buy for their kids. Disney has put 300 or so products on the market – Cars Kleenex, anyone? — and Wall Street expects those licensed retail sales to total $10 billion, making it the biggest movie merchandising ever. (Toy Story 3 made about $2.8 billion.) It’s a supremely cynical move — lousy movie, great crap – that includes a video game releasing Tuesday, ice and stage shows, and a 12-acre Cars Land expected to rejuvenate California Adventure next year. On the other hand, the Pixar brand may wind up hurt by its first bout of bad PR for a company whose first 11 feature-length animated films have earned $6.5 billion at the global box office and 29 Academy Awards. ”Families (flyover or not) are deciding for themselves and disregarding reviews,” an unconcerned Disney exec replies to me. “Critics not liking a movie doesn’t seem like it will hurt the Pixar brand in my opinion. It will be their 12th #1 film in a row and will rank near the top for opening weekends. Should I send you a Larry the Cable Guy DVD?”

Besides its licensing bonanza, Cars 2 builds on the original’s brand overseas. Cars 1 made “only” 47.2% of its $462M internationally, so Pixar/Disney decided to rev up the sequel’s foreign appeal by sending its vehicles on a race to Tokyo, Italy, London and Paris after the studio found that the tow truck resonated with kids around the world. (The Japanese washlet toilet scene is sight to behold.) Cars 2 is opening in 18 international markets including Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Already Russia scored the biggest opening day of all time for a Disney animated film (but there also are more theaters there now than before), while Australia is pitting Cars 2 against Kung Fu Panda 2, and the Pixar film has pulled a little ahead. Even the music is global, with a score by American composer Michael Giacchino, plus alternative rock legend Weezer, country music hitmaker Brad Paisley, best-selling British singer-songwriter Robbie Williams, French superstar Bénabar, and the power pop Japanese girl band Perfume.

2. Bad Teacher (Sony) NEW [3,049 Theaters]
Friday $12.1M, Saturday $10.9M, Weekend $31M

Welcome to the brave new moviemaking world of Bad Gals and raunchy ‘R-rated’ movies starring women. (Hard to believe feminists fought for this kind of film equality, huh?) Exit polling showed the pic attracted 63% female/37% male audiences, while 57% were over age 25/43% under age 25. Given the mega-success of Bridesmaids and now Bad Teacher, expect a lot of clones coming to the megaplex near you. Even though audiences gave foul-mouthed Cameron Diaz et al a ‘C+’ CinemaScore, this sleeper overperformed with Sony expecting a $20+M result. I’m told this under-$20M budgeted comedy was championed internally by Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad, and, like so many other films that Sony has successfully released of late, he was able to put the film together with the producers for the right $20M-$40M price. (If you look at the last several years, Sony still overspends on tentpoles but also has developed a solid portfolio of modestly produced films like The Social Network, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Bounty Hunter, Karate Kid, Julie and Julia, Easy A, Vantage Point, The Ugly Truth, etc. These titles, when done right, allow for decent upside…)

Once again, Sony had pitch-perfect marketing thanks to Marc Weinstock, Tommy Gargotta, and of course Jeff Blake. The buzz began developing weeks ago thanks to an irreverent outdoor campaign with Cameron and her desk continuing through the trailers and TV ads that shouted the subversive concept of the film. “We had a lot to work with on this title. From the movie itself to the cast, we used all our assets to build heat and awareness for the film while having fun with the campaign,” a Sony exec tells me. For example, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, the studio sent apples with Post-it notes that read “Eat Me” to top radio DJs in key markets to get a lot of air chatter going. Online, there were initiatives like the Worst Teachers In History Collection on Of course, Cameron, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel all worked the talk-show circuit. On TV, spots aired on many of the more mouthbreather-targeted season finales and premieres, while the two-minute trailer ran during MTV’s Jersey Shore in March to gain early awareness. Sony also had a strong footprint throughout the recent NBA playoffs and finals.

Bad Teacher opened first in the UK where it has done very well, taking in nearly $4M in its first week of play there and holding to a strong -41% Friday. It opens day and date in 25 smaller countries this weekend, including Germany, Holland, New Zealand and Sweden. Read More »

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J.J. Abrams Taking WME Agency Sabbatical: Will Be Repped By Manager And Lawyer

EXCLUSIVE: There has been no internal announcement at WME about this. And the feeding frenzy has already started, with manager David Lonner’s phone ringing off the hook with calls from every major agency within minutes of Deadline first scooping the news. Because we’ve learned that Super 8 director JJ Abrams is taking a sabbatical from WME and will be repped by his former William Morris agent-turned-manager David Lonner as well as his longtime Jackoway Tyerman attorney Alan Wertheimer. Also advising JJ is John Fogelman, who also was on Team Abrams at William Morris and then repped him at WME when Lonner was exited before the merger. Fogelman has since left WME to start his own venture. Abrams feels his primary reps are gone, and he wants to take a breather before deciding who’ll make his deals in the future. Abrams is telling friends that when Lonner left WMA, he still had Fogelman. But when Fogelman left the merged WME, he was without a dedicated agent. So he’s now decided to “just take a beat” to figure out where he should be agency-wise. “He may very well end up at WME. But it is irresponsible to just assume that is the way to go simply because his agent(s) once worked there,” one insider emailed us just now. “He likes those guys. But he needs to consider everything.” Meanwhile, writer-director-producer Abrams and his reps … Read More »

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Paramount Crosses $1B At Intl Box Office

Paramount Pictures announced today that the studio has passed the $1 billion mark for the calendar year at the international box office, reaching the milestone on Friday with the debut of Super 8 — that’s four days sooner than last year’s record-setting pace. It’s the fifth year in a row that Paramount Pictures International has topped $1 billion.

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FX Acquires TV Rights To ‘Super 8′

By | Tuesday June 14, 2011 @ 9:43am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

FX is expanding its collection of box-office hits with the acquisition of J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg’s Super 8, which opened at No. 1 this past weekend with $36.4 million. The Bad Robot/Amblin/Paramount movie joins the two previous No. 1 box-office openers – X-Men: First Class and The Hangover Part II, which were also recently picked up by FX. All three will make their FX premieres in late 2013-early 2014. Because of Super 8‘s strong early performance, its license fee is expected to be close to 12% of its domestic box-office tally. In addition to Super 8, First Class and Hangover II, FX acquired a slew of other No. 1-opening movies this year: Disney’s Tron: Legacy, Sony’s The Green Hornet, Screen Gems’ The Roommate, Sony’s Just Go With It, Paramount’s animated Rango, Sony’s Battle: Los Angeles and Marvel’s Thor.

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NBA Finals Takes Big Bite Out Of Box Office

If you thought everyone was glued to the tube watching last night’s NBA Finals, you were right. LeBron fans (or foes) took a big bite out of Sunday night’s North American box office numbers. TV ratings were 50% higher than last year, affecting the male-skewing films in the evening like Super 8 ($9.3M), X-Men: First Class ($6.4M), and The Hangover Part II ($4.4M), which all missed their Sunday estimates by between $800K and $1.6 million. That means Super 8 ended the weekend at $35.4M (not $37M) with a cume of $36.4M (not $38M):

1. Super 8 (Bad Robot/Amblin/Paramount) NEW [3,379 Runs]
Friday $12.2M, Saturday $14M, Sunday $9.3M, Weekend $35.4M, Cume $36.4M

2. X-Men: First Class (Fox) Week 2 [3,692 Runs]
Friday $8M, Saturday $10.1M, Sunday $6.4M, Weekend $23.7M (-57%), Cume $97.6M

3. The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros) Week 3 [3,644 Runs]
Friday $5.7M, Saturday $7.6M, Sunday $4.4M, Weekend $17.7M, Cume $215.8M

Secret No More: ‘Super 8′ Reels In Big $37M Weekend; ‘X-Men’ Reboot $25M For Strong #2; ‘Hangover II’ Grosses $216M In 18 Days

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Will More Directors Dabble In Marketing After JJ Abrams’ Hide-The-Creature Ploy Pays Off?

By | Monday June 13, 2011 @ 9:46am PDT
Mike Fleming

Super 8’s $37 million opening weekend was a surprise given last week’s soft tracking numbers that rival marketing execs attributed to JJ Abrams’ insistence on keeping plot reveals — and the creature — out of the TV spots. Those skeptics might argue Super 8 could have posted a larger opening weekend with a more revealing campaign, but it is nice to see a filmmaker — and the studio that backed him — vindicated in their decision to preserve the moviegoing experience by not dishing all the reveals. It’s too bad Abrams wasn’t advising disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, who also would have benefited by fighting the temptation to unveil the creature. Read More »

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Paramount And JJ Abrams Leak ‘Super 8′ Footage And Their Creature Is Showing

By | Thursday June 9, 2011 @ 1:13pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Insiders at Paramount said days ago there would be no divulging the creature in Super 8 before Friday, but that was before they pushed up the release one day. Today, director JJ Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg have leaked online what appears to be an industrial film that explains the creature. Part of this shows up in Super 8. It places an emphasis on the creature and even gives the first glimpse (it does look a bit like the Cloverfield critter). Now, Paramount insiders had said the film was being launched for playability and that success wasn’t determined by a huge opening-weekend number, but they certainly seem to be changing their tune. Here is the footage leaked to Yahoo:


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Soft Tracking Be Damned! Studio Saving JJ Abrams’ ‘Super 8′ Plot Secrets Until Friday

By | Monday June 6, 2011 @ 7:28pm PDT
Mike Fleming

When JJ Abrams conceived Super 8, his intention was to replicate those Steven Spielberg films of the 70s and 80s, where he discovered the magic in a movie theater and not by watching every reveal in a commercial. When Spielberg directed or produced films like Jaws, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist and Gremlins, finally seeing the creature was half the fun, and they were always kept secret until opening day.

Abrams and Paramount’s decision to embrace that retro marketing strategy on Super 8 has the movie marketing crowd buzzing. Even though an initial strong statement was made with a Super Bowl ad that showed a train crash and some creature pulverizing a steel train door, Paramount and Abrams have focused on character and given up little in the creature department in commercials that followed. Days from its Friday opening, rivals say that tracking numbers are soft and would be considerably stronger among young moviegoers had Abrams and the studio given up a glimpse of the creature and playing up that plot line. Rivals say that there is nervousness at Paramount because the studio has gone so far in embracing Abrams’ now famous desire for utmost secrecy. This is a bold gamble Paramount is taking, at a time when the mission of  studio marketers is to deliver the highest possible opening weekend, no matter how many plot highlights and … Read More »

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Hot Clip: J.J. Abrams’ ‘Super 8′

By | Monday May 16, 2011 @ 8:43pm PDT

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Hot Interactive Teaser: ‘Super 8′

By | Wednesday April 20, 2011 @ 5:57am PDT
Mike Fleming

Hollywood’s track record for turning video and computer games into movies is spotty. Top titles like Halo and Bioshock got halted along the way, and many of the hottest games don’t even get set up for films because game designers won’t sell them. But Paramount Pictures found a smart way to tap into the gaming audience for its JJ Abrams-directed alien film Super 8. Every geek on earth last night was playing the Valve game Portal 2, and the studio inserted this interactive trailer to the film. I’m told that the execution was nothing to brag about. It wasn’t really interactive and you you couldn’t jump or move around that freely. But transferring the action to vidgame graphics, putting gamers inside the train car that crashes and unleashes the alien, and getting that crowd excited about the film was certainly thinking outside the box. Here’s the trailer as gamers saw it:

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New Trailer: ‘Super 8′

By | Friday March 11, 2011 @ 8:00am PST

Paramount Pictures used Twitter this morning to launch the latest movie trailer for Super 8 from writer/director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg:

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Super Bowl Spot: J.J. Abrams’ ‘Super 8′

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Super Bowl XLV: Game Day For Movie Ads

Universal, Disney, Paramount, and Sony have all bought time for Super Bowl Sunday on Fox which is selling a 30-second commercial for a whopping $3 million this year (up from $2.8 million in 2010). Many more films will be advertised on this most-watched TV event compared with last year but once again Warner Bros won’t join the crowd. Studios often keep secret what specific films they will promo on Game Day, but I have the rundown:

Paramount is promo’ing the most movies, servicing all at halftime: Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp’s Rango, DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2, Marvel’s Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, JJ Abrams’ Super 8, and Michael Bay’s Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon.

Disney will feature one ad during the game’s 3rd quarter: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Sony’s ads will run during pre-game, not during the game: Priest, Just Go With It, and Battle: Los Angeles.

Universal and DreamWorks didn’t even wait for the game: they released their Super Bowl ad an hour ahead of the scheduled time for Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. Uni also had a 1st quarter ad for Vin Diesel’s Fast Five, the latest in the Fast & Furious franchise.

Twentieth Century Fox will make Super Bowl history this Sunday when a 30-second spot for its 3D toon Rio (April 15) airs during the game’s 4th quarter and becomes the first ad to air during the game with an embedded code tied to the ”Angry Birds” mobile game. During the spot, viewers will be invited … Read More »

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Paramount And IMAX Make Release Pact For ‘Super 8′, ‘Tintin,’ Mission: Impossible’ And ‘Transformers’ Sequels

Mike Fleming

Los Angeles – January 12, 2011 – IMAX Corporation (NASDAQ:IMAX; TSX:IMX) today announced an agreement with Paramount Pictures to release four of the studio’s tentpole releases in 2011 – Super 8, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Each film will open day-and-date in IMAX® theatres worldwide. Sony Pictures Entertainment is co-production partner on The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and Sony Pictures Releasing International (SPRI) will handle distribution and marketing in most key territories overseas.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, both originally shot in 3D, will be digitally re-mastered into IMAX’s format for presentation in IMAX® 3D.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol continues the legacy of The Dark Knight and its revolutionary integration of IMAX original footage as this fourth chapter in the Mission: Impossible franchise will feature scenes shot with IMAX cameras. These specific sequences, exclusively in IMAX, will expand on the screen and further immerse the audience in the explosive action and vast scope of the film.

“Consumer demand for The IMAX Experience® has never been higher,” said Rob Moore, Vice Chairman of Paramount Pictures. “Coupled with the rising popularity of the IMAX brand, the growing number of IMAX screens and the increased interest from our top filmmakers to have their movies offered in this format, IMAX is and continues to be a key part of our release strategy.”

“Paramount Pictures consistently delivers top-quality,

Read More »

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