Shanghai’s financial district may soon be better known as the city’s entertainment hub. Robert De Niro and his partners are working on a massive cultural development there while Bruno Wu’s Pinewood Chinawood studio base is also due to be housed in the waterfront Bund area. Today, The Walt Disney Company China said it will open “the world’s largest Disney Store” in Lujiazui, part of the financial district on the east side of Huangpu River in the Pudong area. The store itself will be a 10,800-square-foot space housed on a 53,000 square-foot site that will also host family entertainment events. Disney is building its first mainland China theme park, Shanghai Disneyland, as the the centerpiece of its Shanghai Disney Resort which is targeted to open in Pudong at the end of 2015. Disney said today that the store, which is to open in early 2015, will be “an important site where fans can track the progress of Shanghai Disney Resort.”
Related: Iron Man To The Rescue At Hong Kong Disneyland
Read More »
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. … Read More »
The man who put the Rolling Stones back on the road and Spider-Man on Broadway is now going to bring Marvel’s costumed characters to life in a town near you. In a partnership between Marvel and live entertainment producer Hero Ventures, former Live Nation chairman and Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark producer Michael Cohl will produce the Marvel Experience. Described as a “first-person superhero adventure” and set to debut next year, the $30 million themed production will feature dozens of Marvel characters combined with multimedia technology, original 3D animated movies and a 4D motion ride, all in a traveling dome complex the size of two football fields. The plan is to bring the Marvel Experience to two dozen cities around the US in 2014 with weeklong stays in each. “Hero Ventures is developing a themed entertainment concept that we expect will be a transformative, traveling destination that will deliver to fans and families an exciting, groundbreaking and unique experience,” said Sean Haran, Marvel’s VP Business Development, in a statement Wednesday. Spider-Man co-producer and veteran stage and touring Jeremiah Harris also will produce the Experience along and Hero Ventures’ Jason Rosen a former Sony Pictures exec. Hero Ventures was founded in June 2012 by former Gersh player agent Doug Schaer and sports lawyer Rick Licht.
Related: Vin Diesel In Talks To Join ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’
Read More »
On the sidelines of the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley last week, Walt Disney Company CFO Jay Rasulo said executive car allowances are going the way of the Edsel. “We’re phasing them out,” Rasulo told Bloomberg. The move is part of a larger attempt to curtail some perks at the Mouse. Rasulo wouldn’t be led on specifics, but told Bloomberg he was seeking to modernize operations. “We looked at the way technology is changing our businesses. We’re removing vestigial parts.” A mid-level Disney exec told the news agency that in recent years their monthly car allowance was $900. Some company units have also done away with the half-day Friday policy during the summer. Disney CEO Bob Iger and Rasulo last year ordered an internal review to pinpoint superfluous positions and increase efficiency. In one result, about 150 staffers were laid off at the film studio April.
EXCLUSIVE: Millennium Trilogy star Michael Nyqvist, whose recent Hollywood films include Disconnect and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, is returning home to Sweden for dramedy My So-Called Father. Directed by A Summer Tale‘s Ulf Malmros, the film will be released in Scandinavia by Disney/Buena Vista next year. Up-and-comer Vera Vitali also stars in the story of a self-involved dad and the estranged daughter who tries to re-create him when he loses his memory. Jan Blomgren of Bob Film Sweden, which produced 2008 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner The King Of Ping Pong, is producing with Film I Väst, The Walt Disney Company Nordic, TV4, Molkom Film, GEL Investment and Nordsvensk. Bob Film is handling international sales.
Two producers today sued the Walt Disney Company claiming the company lifted their idea for a Christmas movie. “The ABC television movie, The 12 Dates Of Christmas, is nothing more than a hijacking of the Idea which was originally pitched by Plaintiffs to Defendants and the treatment which was given to ABC executives by the Plaintiffs, cloned and re-written in a crude attempt to conceal the brazen theft of the Idea,” alleges the Breach of Contract suit (read it here). Beth Grossbard and Barri Rosenblum, who goes by the professional name Barri Evins, are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Disney, ABC, ABC Family and former ABC executive Beth Miller. In the complaint filed in LA Superior Court Monday, the duo allege that they and writer Denise Gruska met with then ABC Family Director of Development Miller and ABC Family VP of Original Programming Donna Ebbs on December 13, 2005 at ABC’s Burbank offices in a pitch meeting for their I Hate Christmas idea. It was from that meeting the Plaintiffs say that the idea for Miller-produced 2011 ABC Family movie The 12 Dates Of Christmas was hatched at their expense. In their four count complaint, including breach of confidence and breach of implied-in-fact contract, the duo have requested a four-day jury trial.
Read More »
The Walt Disney Company has called Stan Lee Media’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit “flawed beyond cure.” In a motion to dismiss (read it here) filed last week, the company mocks SLMI’s legal claims that it actually owns rights to all the Marvel characters created by Stan Lee. “There is no conceivable basis on which Plaintiff can state a viable copyright claim against TWDC in this Court, or for that matter, any other,” the Disney motion says. “In sum, against the backdrop of Plaintiff’s six prior unsuccessful litigations on this topic, express judicial displeasure with Plaintiff clogging the courts with a repeated invocation of rights it does not possess, and the fact that TWDC conducts no business activities other than those of a holding company, this lawsuit is completely frivolous and should be dismissed,” Disney added. SLMI wants the profits from the $5.5 billion it says that Disney made from Marvel superhero movies and merchandise based on characters created by Lee, who no longer has anything to do with the company. The November 30 motion to dismiss, like the initial suit by SLMI in October, was filed in Colorado. Read More »
Disney plans to bring not just one but three new Star Wars films to the big screen, and the companies “have a pretty extensive treatment of the next three movies,” chairman and CEO Bob Iger said in a conference call announcing its deal to acquire Lucasfilm. “Episode 7 will be released in 2015, the first under the Disney/Lucas banner,” he said, with Episode 8 and Episode 9 to follow. Disney plans to release a new Star Wars movie “every two to three years.” Disney also intends to pursue the Star Wars brand in their parks, with games and, “other initiatives,” CFO Jay Rasulo said. “Being that there hasn’t been a Star Wars film since 2005, a lot of the value we attribute to the deal is to come, added Rasulo. ”This gives us a great footprint in the consumer market, and we already had a good one,” said Iger of the licensing possibilities that the Star Wars franchise could represent for Disney.
Related: Disney Buys Lucasfilm; More ‘Star Wars’ Movies Planned Read More »
Stan Lee Media, Inc. wants the profits from the $5.5 billion it says the Walt Disney Company has made from superhero movies and merchandise based on characters created by Stan Lee. Those characters include Iron Man, Spider-Man, most of The Avengers, The X-Men and more. “Defendant The Walt Disney Company has represented to the public that it, in fact, owns the copyright to these characters as well as to hundreds of other characters created by Stan Lee. Those representations made to the public by The Walt Disney Company are false,” says the company’s copyright infringement complaint filed today (read it here) in a Colorado court. SLMI, which Lee himself has nothing to do with nowadays, is seeking “the maximum statutory damages allowable” plus full control over Iron Man, Spider-Man and other characters. A failed party to past litigation with Lee himself and Marvel, SLMI also is seeking a jury trial in this case. Read More »
Walt Disney World has spent nearly $2.5 million on almost exclusively GOP candidates and groups in Florida so far this election cycle in an attempt to stop casino gambling. So says the Orlando Sentinel after a review of state records showing Disney’s political contributions:
Disney’s political spending in Florida has ballooned to unprecedented levels … as the giant resort attempts to influence elections from the Keys to the Panhandle. Nearly 90 cents of every dollar that Disney has spent on Florida campaigns in this election has gone to Republican candidates or Republican-leaning interest groups, according to the Sentinel‘s analysis. Republicans control the Governor’s Office and Florida Legislature. Disney’s goal? To elect politicians who will support its legislative agenda in the state Capitol — especially those who commit to voting against any plans to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida.
UPDATE, 2:29 PM: The Walt Disney Company has sent out a new statement about Imane Boudlal and the discrimination lawsuit she filed today against her former employer:
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a history of accommodating religious requests from cast members of all faiths. We presented Ms. Boudlal with multiple options to accommodate her religious beliefs, as well as offered her several roles that would have allowed her to wear her own hijab. Unfortunately, she rejected all of our efforts and has since refused to come to work. – Suzi Brown, Director, Media Relations and External Communication, Disneyland Resorts.
PREVIOUS, 10:25 AM: The American Civil Liberties Union today sued the Walt Disney Company for discrimination on behalf of a Muslim former Disneyland employee. The ACLU says that Imane Boudlal was fired in 2010 from her job at the theme park for wearing the hijab headscarf at work. The organization, with law firm Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick, filed the federal lawsuit today. In a 28-page complaint (read it here), the ACLU went after the Walt Disney Corporation on seven counts including discrimination and harassment in employment, and failure to remedy discrimination and harassment. The ACLU and Boudlal are asking for a jury trial as the plaintiff seeks applicable statutory, actual and punitive damages under each course of action as well as her legal fees. In the complaint, the ACLU is also requesting that the court order that all “Disney employees, supervisors, and managers regarding harassment and discrimination.” Ms. Boudlal says that besides the issues of the hijab, in beginning in the summer of 2008 she became the subject of insults based on her religion, national origin and skin color by fellow Disney workers and supervisors. Boudlal said today that she was called a “terrorist,” a “camel” and a “bitch” by supervisors and co-worker as well as repeatedly subjected to comments about Arabs being bombmakers and terrorists. “When she reported these attacks to her Disney managers, she was told that she had to put up with them, told that Disney knew there was a problem, but that the solution was the directive from her bosses that she needed to stop complaining”, said ACLU chief counsel Mark Rosenbaum today. ”Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a long history of accommodating a variety of religious requests from cast members of all faiths. However, because we have not seen the lawsuit, we cannot comment specifically about this situation at this time”, Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said in a statement.
Read More »
During the continuing phenom that is The Avengers, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige talks with Bloomberg’s Carol Massar on the Disney lot in Burbank. He discusses the company’s future movies including Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2 and two others he says they haven’t announced yet. Regarding Marvel properties still handled by other studios — Spider-Man and X-Men in particular — Feige notes “as long as they are making them [with] quality, that will be good.” Massar asks if the Disney Studios job is ”something that you’re interested in at all?” Feige replies, “I’ve got a very good job right now. I can’t complain.”
Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Robert Iger this week exercised stock options that netted an estimated $26.6 million in profit, Bloomberg reports. The sale of 1.8 million shares worth $81.6 million took place Thursday, according to an SEC filing, at a cost to Iger of $55 million. The shares sold at an average price of $45.36 per share, yesterday’s closing price. Disney stock closed at a record $45.02 Wednesday after the Mouse outlined plans for a sequel to the studio’s runaway global hit Marvel’s The Avengers during its second-quarter earnings call. Stock climbed to $45.28 Thursday and again yesterday. Iger exercised his options at a cost of roughly $55 million. Iger still has 1.14 million shares with a value Disney said is 400% greater than ownership requirements. Disney is up 21% this year. Even after the stock-option “transactions, his holdings exceed what
Mr. Iger owned at year-end,” according to a Disney statement. The SEC “filing is part of routine financial planning to meet his family’s diversification.”
Disney Announces ‘Avengers 2′ In Development
Disney Tops Fiscal Q2 Earnings Estimates On Boosts From Cable, Theme Parks
The Mouse is roaring in China. On Tuesday, The Walt Disney Company announced it had entered a partnership with the culture ministry and Chinese internet giant Tencent to develop the country’s animation business. Today, it has emerged that Shanghai Shendi Group, the operator of Disney’s planned Shanghai Disneyland, has secured a $2 billion loan for construction of the park.
The loan deal for the new Disneyland was signed on Tuesday and falls under a framework that Shendi agreed to in May with 12 banks including China Development Bank, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and the Bank of Communications, according to ShanghaiDaily.com. (A groundbreaking ceremony for the resort was held in April last year.) Shanghai Shendi Group vice president Shao Xiaoyun said the project will receive two syndicated loans with plans to develop the theme park as well as a tourism district in the surrounding area to be known as the Shanghai International Tourism Zone. The second phase of the loan will go towards an estimated $714 million cost to build the tourism area, according to ShanghaiDaily. The total cost of the park is estimated at $3.9 billion, according to Reuters. Read More »
France’s Canal Plus and The Walt Disney Company have pacted to offer Disney movies and TV shows on Canal’s VOD service Canalplay Infinity. The paid subscription service will now offer some 100 film titles from Disney including the Pirates Of The Caribbean and National Treasure films, among others. Full seasons of ABC TV shows like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives will also be available. The 9.99 euros per month unlimited service was launched in November in a burgeoning and competitive market that includes Allociné’s iCinema platform and Wild Bunch’s FilmoTV. Netflix, for the moment however, is not a player in France.
The Walt Disney Co. and Univision Communications Inc. are in talks to partner on a 24-hour news channel, the Wall Street Journal reports. The channel would broadcast in English in a bid to align with changing demographics among U.S. Hispanics who speak English. The new channel would mark a huge departure for both ABC and Univision. ABC has stayed out of the cable news wars, and Univision has always been defined by its Spanish-language broadcasts. If the talks are successful, the joint venture’s goal would be to get the network up and running before the November elections. It would be based in Miami where Univision already has studios, the Journal said. Discussions have been taking place for more than a year and could still unravel. It would be led on the Disney side by ABC News President Ben Sherwood and on the Univision side by Univision Networks President Cesar Conde. The proposed partnership would be a bet by both companies that consumer spending by Latinos will continue to grow faster than the rest of the population. The number of English-speaking U.S.-born Latinos is also growing at a faster rate than those who speak Spanish. Read More »
UPDATE: Today News Corporation, Providence Equity Partners, The Walt Disney Company, and the Hulu senior management team issued a joint statement that it was terminating the sale of Hulu. ”We look forward to working together to continue mapping out its path to even greater success.” (Full statement below.) So what went wrong? A lot of things. But people close to the process tell me that one problem was particularly difficult to overcome: Comcast, Disney, and News Corp could never agree on the scope of the programming they were willing to offer someone buying Hulu. This was especially true for advertising supported VOD, the kind of service that Hulu offers now. Hulu simply wasn’t worth much if the sellers wouldn’t throw in exclusive rights to stream popular first-run shows. Sources tell me that Disney was more open to offering hit programming, and therefore to a Hulu sale, than News Corp was — even though News Corp’s digital chief Jon Miller was the point person in wrangling the bids. (Comcast had to give up its vote at Hulu to win federal approval for its acquisition of NBCUniversal.)
As far as the actual bidding, Dish Network was willing to bargain but offered less than the $2B that the sellers wanted. Google was willing to pay a lot more, only if it included lots of exclusive programming guarantees. But the thing to remember is that all three of Hulu’s main backers collect a lot of cash from cable channels … Read More »