The hit movies are the gifts that keep on giving for MGM. In addition to the jump in revenues, the studio says that James Bond and the residents of Middle Earth helped to raise Q3 net income by $23M vs the period last year — once you factor out last year’s $48.5M gain from the sale of MGM Networks to Liberty Global’s Chellomedia. The reported results, including last year’s sale, shows net income of $16.59M, -29%, with the revenue boost to $242.9M. TV licensing was +84% with pay TV and streaming revenues for Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as well as TV series Vikings and Teen Wolf. MGM says that there was “no similar film content” moving through its pipelines last year. The privately held company also reports that it doubled its share repurchase plan to $150M. That indicates MGM’s “continued confidence in the company and its prospects,” CEO Gary Barber says.
The numbers do the roaring for MGM. In the first three months of this year it generated net income of $57.4M, +150.7% vs the period last year, on revenues of $481.7M, +168.4%. It shouldn’t be a surprise. With the late 2012 release of the James Bond film Skyfall, and a 50% stake in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the studio had $139.5M in worldwide box office revenues, up from $0.5M last year. The company says that it has to wait for costs to be covered before it can recognize revenue from two films it co-financed: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Home entertainment also was way up — to $201.7M from $36.2M — with the home video release of Skyfall and piggy-back promotions for its James Bond library. But worldwide television licensing was -3.2% to $109.3M. MGM’s 19.1% stake in EPIX delivered $5M to net earnings, +16.3%. The results “exceeded our expectations” and “position us well to deliver on our financial goals” for 2013, CEO Gary Barber told investors.
Netflix Nabs ‘Hunger Games’ For The UK & Ireland
Netflix has secured exclusive rights to The Hunger Games for the UK and Ireland before it hits the streaming service in the U.S. Netflix entered the market in January 2012 where Amazon’s Lovefilm is a strong player and where Sky continues to build its business. It hit 1M subscribers last August and has UK deals with studios including Disney, Fox, NBCU, Paramount and Miramax.
Bérénice Bejo To Star In ‘Le Dernier Diamant’
The Artist star Bérénice Bejo has booked her latest French film and will start shooting next week. The Eric Barbier-directed Le Dernier Diamant co-stars Yvan Attal, Jean-François Stévenin and Annie Cordy. France’s Vertigo Productions is producing with international sales handled by Other Angle Pictures. The heist movie follows an ex-con who is coerced into participating in the theft of a celebrated diamond during an auction in Antwerp and who becomes entangled with the diamond’s owner (Bejo).
Shares are up more than 3.6% in pre-market trading after the provider of large-screen theater services released a surprisingly strong financial report for the last three months of 2012. IMAX says it generated net income of $12.9M, +105.9% vs the end of 2011, on revenues of $77.8M, +16.6%. The top-line number was comfortably ahead of the $74M analysts expected. And adjusted earnings at 23 cents a share handily beat the consensus forecast for 16 cents. Although the company didn’t break out results for individual films in the quarter, some analysts expected IMAX might surprise them after seeing the strong box office results for Sony and MGM’s James Bond film Skyfall, and Warner Bros’ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Gross box office revenues for IMAX titles came in at a record $152M, +55.7%, with an average box office per screen of $264,400, up from $221,600.
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor
This year’s nominees show how visual effects have spread from summer blockbusters to genres as diverse as superheroes, different flavors of fantasy, more traditional sci-fi territory, and even the art-house film. For each nominee, there’s a moment that makes it worthy of an Oscar nomination. Here, the visual-effects supervisors on the nominated films break down the key challenges and talk about the sequence that clinched the nomination.
The nominees: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White
No. of visual-effects shots: 2,176
Tech breakthrough: The complexity and number of techniques used to create the digital creatures. “It’s a combination of lots of things to get a creature to that point”, says Letteri. “It’s muscles, it’s skin, it’s facial capture, it’s performance capture”. All those things had to come together to bring to convincing life six leading digital characters with dialogue.
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor
Production designer Dan Hennah—nominated for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with set decorators Ra Vincent and Simon Bright—says that this set for hobbit Bilbo Baggins’ comfy parlor is one of few that did not require a CGI extension to accommodate both fantasy elements and the movie’s large band of characters, who tend to appear together in many scenes. And even the simplest of sets required finetuning to meet the demands of 3D. By phone from New Zealand, Hennah talked about this scene in which Bilbo (Martin Freeman) talks with Dwalin (Graham McTavish) as the dwarf slurps his way through Bilbo’s carefully hoarded food supply. 1) Bilbo’s parlor had to be built twice: Once in “hobbit scale” and once in a .76 “wizard scale” for Gandalf (Ian McKellen), so Gandalf would appear to be too tall for his surroundings, whereas for the hobbits it would be, as Goldilocks might have observed, “just right”. Hennah says the less dramatic difference in size between hobbits and dwarves was taken care of by casting: Most actors portraying dwarves are taller than Freeman.
Year-end hits including Sony’s Skyfall, Lionsgate’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, and Warner Bros’ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey helped propel the year’s average ticket price to $7.96, which is a new all-time high (not adjusted for inflation) but up just 3 cents from 2011 according to data out today from the National Association of Theatre Owners. The growth rate, at 0.4%, is close to 2011′s 0.5% — and contrasts with the steep growth in previous years including 5.2% in 2010, 4.5% in 2009, and 4.4% in 2008. But the growth pace accelerated at the end of 2012: Tickets sold for an average of $8.05 in Q4, which is up 2.8% vs the same three month period in 2011. That’s the biggest quarterly jump since fall 2011. The average price in Q3 was $7.78, a 2% drop from the previous year. Ticket prices hit the high point for the year in Q2 when they reached $8.12, up 0.7% from 2011.
Thomas McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.
Nearly 10 years after The Lord Of The Rings trilogy wrapped its record-breaking run with a best picture Oscar and more than $3 billion in worldwide ticket sales, director Peter Jackson has done the last thing he expected: He got the band back together for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. “I came away from Lord Of The Rings with 266 days of shooting three movies and thought I’d never do that again in my life,” says Jackson. “Then we sat down at the first production meeting on The Hobbit, and I flipped to the last page of the schedule, and it was 266 days! It was exactly the same length of time! And I just said, ‘I cannot believe I find myself back at this place again.’ ”
The first in a new trilogy adapting the first book in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Middle Earth mythology, Jackson and his crew’s steady hand on The Hobbit offers reassuring creative continuity while pushing the technical envelope by adding stereoscopic 3D and, most controversially, shooting at 48 frames per second.
Related: OSCARS: The Directors
‘The Hobbit’ Back To #1 With $563M Global; ‘Les Misérables’ #2 With $71.6M Worldwide; ‘Django Unchained’ #3 With $34M Domestic; Billy Crystal & Bette Midler Beat Tom Cruise
FRIDAY 12 PM, 9TH UPDATE: This film trio should stay on top through the rest of the holidays. MGM/Warner Bros’ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made $10.1M Thursday to bring it back to #1 and its domestic cume to $189.7M. Coming off of a strong Boxing Day internationally, Thursday continued to deliver huge numbers generating an estimated $26M from 62 territories, an increase of 34% over last week. Pic continues to rank #1 in key markets and across the world, and the overseas cume to date now stands at $373M. Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth epic is approaching $563M worldwide total. Dropping from #1 to #2 is Working Title/Universal’s Les Misérables which grossed $9.1M Thursday for $39.4M domestic in its first three days of release. Musical grossed $3.8M internationally on Thursday to raise its overseas total to $32.2M. The worldwide total currently stands at $71.6M. Internationally, Les Miz is playing in Australia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Spain. Still in the #3 slot, Quentin Tarantino’s controversial R-rated Django Unchained for The Weinstein Company added $8.3M Thursday for $33.3M domestic in just 3 days. Here’s the Top Ten films based on Thursday estimates:
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (MGM/WB) Week 2 [Runs 4,100]
Tuesday $11.3M, Wednesday $11.3M, Thursday $10.1M (-11%), Cume $189.7M
2. Les Misérables (Working …
Chinese box office takings were $2.3B for the January through November period, up from about $2.1B for all of 2011, the Xinhua news agency reports. And even though China has produced 686 movies so far this year, the majority of the coin is being generated by foreign films. Deputy head of China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, Nie Chenxi, said today that the market share for imports is up 90.4% on 2011. Last year, Chinese films had 53.61% of the market, but figures for the first half of 2012 show local market share is down 4.3% to 35%. The numbers fall in line with the comments of another SARFT official who in November blamed the influx of imported films for having “shaken” the Chinese industry. In what’s perceived as an attempt to combat the weight of Hollywood, local authorities have increasingly scheduled tentpoles for release on the same date. The latest showdown is expected to be between Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which are understood to be set for a head-to-head release in January. Xinhua earlier this week reported that up to 40 local films will be released during the Chinese New Year season which runs from late November to mid-February.
Two days after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against Global Asylum’s release of the mockbuster producer’s Age Of The Hobbits, the company has changed the title to Clash Of The Empires on its website. Warner Bros and its partners on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which opens Friday, was granted the TRO to avoid confusion between the two and thwart Global Asylum’s “cynical business model” of capitalizing on the work of others. Retitling the movie that was scheduled to be released yesterday to the home entertainment market has not dissuaded Warner Bros, New Line Cinema, MGM and producer Saul Zaentz from proceeding with a full hearing on the matter January 28.
OK maybe not, but in a business filled with teasers and trailers for trailers, the 13-minute behind-the-scenes featurette on Warner Bros‘ Peter Jackson trilogy seems like Lawrence Of Arabia — and at least as long as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘s 166-minute runtime. But does it give too much away ahead of the pic’s December 14 opening?
We’ve all seen movies that made us want to puke–especially during the summer–but Warner Bros is taking exception to a silly spate of reports that the revolutionary 48-frames per second format of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey had left some audience members nauseous and dizzy, even complaining of migraines. This seems to have all the veracity of those rumors that Entertainment Tonight‘s Mary Hart was creating seizures among watchers prone to them (the rest of us just felt our brain cells atrophy listening to her inane, gushy sweet celeb coverage). Here is Warner Bros’ statement:
“We have been screening the full-length HFR 3D presentation of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY extensively and feedback has been extremely positive, with none of thousands who have seen the film projected in this format expressing any of the issues described by two anonymous sources in media reports. We share the filmmakers’ belief that by offering filmgoers the additional choice of HFR 3D, alongside traditional viewing formats, they have an opportunity to be part of a groundbreaking advancement in the moviegoing experience and we look forward to having audiences everywhere share in this new way of storytelling.”
Listen to the third episode of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond. Deadline Awards Columnist Hammond and host David Bloom discuss Oscar prospects for the late-arriving Django Unchained and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; whether the New York Film Critics Circle awards will boost multiple winners Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln; and why Life Of Pi might find some of its best Oscar friends in the Best Visual Effects category; plus all the behind-the-scenes buzz from the busy pre-nomination whirl of parties as studios and distributors jostle for lead positions in the big races.
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
Although the wait is nearly over for the familiar goblins and mystical forests of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, senior visual-effects supervisor Joe Letteri says the only thing that remains the same for this iteration of Peter Jackson’s fantasy films is on the surface. The digital tools that brought countless Orcs to life and gave Gollum his distinctive distorted face are virtually unrecognizable from those used a decade ago for the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“It’s changed almost completely,” Letteri says. “On the outside, you want Gollum to look like the same character, but he’s completely different” underneath.
The biggest change from the first set of films is the way that actor Andy Serkis’ performance is captured and analyzed in order to create the digital character, according to visual-effects supervisor Eric Saindon. “Our facial capture has progressed leaps and bounds,” he says. “Now we actually capture all of Andy’s performance, when he’s acting with Martin (Freeman) in Gollum’s cage on set. We have a small camera attached in front of his face that captures his exact facial performance. Rather than an animator going in and doing it frame-by-frame, the computer analyzes Andy’s performance and then fires Gollum’s muscles to do the exact same thing. So the first half of the animation, which is the raw mo-cap data, is really Andy.”
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Peter Jackson again denied allegations of animal abuse during filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. “Absolutely none; no mistreatment, no abuse”, he said during a news conference in Wellington hours before Wednesday’s world premiere in New Zealand. The director also described animal rights group PETA as “pretty pathetic” for seeking publicity for their cause at the premiere. When asked if the negative publicity had dampened the experience of making the film, Jackson said it had not. “At the end of the day we’ve made a movie we’re extremely proud of. So many people have worked for so long, it will take a bit more than that to spoil the event”.
Peter Jackson says he and his team are working ’round the clock to finish post-production on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in time for its world premiere Wednesday November 28 in Wellington, New Zealand. And there’s also U.S. opening December 14. Jackson and editor Jabez Olssen introduce the latest in a series of Hobbit video progress reports: