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Netflix And MGM Strike Exclusive Streaming Deal For UK And Ireland Pay TV Window

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Nov. 7, 2011 - Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. today announced a new multi-year licensing agreement that will make Netflix the exclusive subscription streaming service in the UK and Ireland for most first-run feature films from MGM.

MGM titles will be available for Netflix members in the UK and Ireland to watch instantly in the pay TV window on their televisions, tablets, game consoles, computers and mobile phones, for a low monthly price. Netflix announced last month that it would launch its service in the UK and Ireland early in 2012.

Appearing exclusively on Netflix within one year of their theatrical release will be such films as “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” the highly-anticipated prequels to the Academy Award-winning “Lord of the Rings” trilogy by Peter Jackson, “Zookeeper” starring Kevin James, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, and “21 Jump Street,” featuring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and Ice Cube.

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‘The Hobbit’ Finally Filming In February, But Peter Jackson & Actor Unions Still At Odds

UPDATE: Things must be getting close on The Hobbit, because casting buzz is getting strong in Hollywood. Word is Martin Freeman will soon be set to play Bilbo Baggins, that Jimmy Nesbitt has been offered a role and that Michael Fassbender is being pursued for another as is David Tennant. Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis are expected to reprise Gandalf and Gollum.

EARLIER: While it looks like production on The Hobbit is set to start in February on the pair of films directed by Peter Jackson, there are still a few giant issues standing in the way. The films had to go in early 2011 to make the holiday release date. But even though the production schedule looks locked, there’s still the issue of the loud labor fight happening between Jackson and the unions, which have told performers outright not to work on the film because it’s a non-union production. By agreeing to a detente, the films would indeed get underway in New Zealand in early 2011. The delay has also been caused by all the ongoing problems at MGM, and just this week Lionsgate put forth a merger recommendation which Carl Icahn backs. That would obviously affect the pending Spyglass deal  – and add more drama to any major production going forward. (Meanwhile, while MGM goes through all of its tumult, Mary Parent is expectedly in the process of leaving the studio, which she has run for almost three years.) Read More »

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Peter Jackson Directing ‘The Hobbit’? TOLDJA!

Mike Fleming

I saw yesterday’s breathless reports that Peter Jackson is close to a deal to direct The Hobbit – and I am bewildered how anyone slaps an “exclusive” tag on a story Deadline broke back on June 25th. That’s when Jackson moved from co-writer/producer into the director’s chair. Recent reports by the LA Times and NY Times have added some nice details, but I laid out back then the chain of events that are unfolding now. Even before Guillermo del Toro withdrew as director, Warner Bros and MGM had set December 2012 and December 2013 as release dates, replicating the release pattern of the original The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Production has to begin in January or these pictures would get pushed back an entire year — and who knows if Jackson would have stayed? Deadline advised that MGM’s creditors needed to get their heads out of their you-know-where’s and either commit funding or step aside to let Warner Bros  pay for the films. It was clear those decisions would precede a long-planned prepackaged bankruptcy that won’t play out until year’s end. 

The 3D discussion also goes back before Del Toro departed, but I can confirm a NYT report that they’re locked into a 3D two-picture shoot that will cost around $500 million. Unless a third party steps in, Warner Bros most likely funds production because MGM can’t. The movement on The Hobbit doesn’t help James Bond, which is post-bankruptcy business. … Read More »

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Spyglass Partners Inch Closer To MGM Reins; Battle Royals Looms For James Bond Distribution Rights

Mike Fleming

As expected, the MGM ownership situation is getting closer to being sorted, and it won’t be long before the Lion has a chance to roar again. Or at least emerge from its cage. Spyglass chiefs Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber have signed non-binding letters of intent that will make them MGM co-chairmen/CEOs. That leads to the next step, which is a pre-packaged bankruptcy proceeding that would convert debt to equity, removing the $4 billion albatross from around the Lion’s neck so that it can start generating films again. The prepackaged bankruptcy allows the company to be restructured while it freezes existing deals for franchises that include the James Bond series and The Hobbit.

The LA Times reports that the Spyglass guys are already looking past this hurdle, and are talking with Ken Schapiro about coming aboard as COO. He’s a vet of Qualia Capital, which was among the entities that kicked the tires on MGM before management decided to go with Birnbaum and Barber, who are expected to make projects but will likely eliminate the studio’s marketing and distribution arms and set the projects up elsewhere. All this means that The Hobbit, with Peter Jackson at the helm, can move forward, with co-financing partner Warner Bros distributing the two films worldwide.

The situation on 007 will be more feverish. Warner Bros, Sony Pictures Entertainment and 20th Century Fox are the obvious outlets, … Read More »

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Can ‘The Hobbit’ Wait For MGM Decisions?

Mike Fleming

MgmlogosmallEXCLUSIVE: My recent scoop that Peter Jackson is negotiating to direct the two installments of The Hobbit is probably the best news for debt-laden MGM in years. But the development has put extra pressures on the beleaguered studio backers. Because making a 2-picture directing deal with the Lord Of The Rings director is no easy feat. I’m told that 30% of the gross is already committed to various participants, including Jackson (just for writing and producing!). peterjackson-9He and Fran Walsh don’t work cheap, and they once got $20 million against 20% of gross from Universal to direct King Kong (Jackson, who can’t get enough of Kong and just oversaw the renovation of the ape attraction on the Universal backlot). Insiders tell me that gross participants are right now being asked to make adjustments so that MGM and its partner, Warner Bros, can finance the film and make money. Creative deals are becoming routine on sequels like Men in Black, but they aren’t easy. There’s no certainty that MGM creditors will respond to the urgency that Jackson’s reps are ready to make a deal. Read More »

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