UPDATED, 10:35 AM: Three LA-area men have been arrested and a local woman has agreed to surrender in a scheme to defraud hundreds of people who invested in a company called Gigapix Studios that claimed to be producing a 3D animated version of The Wizard Of Oz. A federal grand jury handed down a 36-count indictment on May 15, and they were unsealed yesterday. The FBI arrested Christopher Blauvelt, 58, of Woodland Hills, David Pritchard, 66, of Malibu, and Gregory Pusateri, 49, of Woodland Hills; and Cheri Brown, 65, of Studio City will turn herself in soon. The charges include mail fraud, wire fraud, attempted wire fraud and offering for sale unregistered securities. If convicted, the defendants face decades in federal prison. Details of the case are below. Read the FBI’s press release about the indictments and arrests at the bottom of the original post.
PREVIOUSLY, MAY 14, 2013: The FBI in Los Angeles is conducting an investigation involving investments made with Gigapix Studios Inc and OZ3D LLC between 2002 and the present for a scam to remake The Wizard Of Oz as a computer-animated feature film. The feds are “seeking victims” of financial fraud in the private offerings and is trying to find the “large number of investors” who were fleeced. Here’s the announcement on the FBI website: Read More »
The last surviving female Munchkin from the 1939 classic The Wizard Of Oz died Thursday at a Las Vegas hospice after a brief illness. Ruth Robinson Duccini was 95. Her death was confirmed by longtime friend Stephen Cox, author of The Munchkins Of Oz. Duccini’s only other acting gig after her uncredited role in Oz was the 1981 Chevy Chase-Carrie Fisher comedy Under The Rainbow. She was one of a half-dozen Oz veterans who attended the unveiling of the Munchkins star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007 (that’s her on the left in the photo), and she was a guest of honor at the world premiere of The Wizard Of Oz in IMAX 3D in September. Her death leaves Jerry Maren, who turns 94 next week, as the lone surviving Munchkin from the Judy Garland musical.
Related: R.I.P. ‘Oz’ Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini
There’s some legal action down that Yellow Brick Road. Just in time for the upcoming 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, Warner Bros were sued Wednesday by the estate of the Emmy winning late son of the actor who played the Tin Man in the movie. At dispute in the breach of fiduciary duties action (read it here) filed in federal court in Georgia is a documentary on the classic pic that the estate of Jack Haley Jr says WB is choking off unless it is given full rights to. In requesting a jury trial, plaintiff Kelly Brandt of Haley’s estate and trust wants a summary judgment that they are and always have been 50% owners of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making Of A Movie Classic. The estate also wants unspecified damages, all its legal costs covered and an accounting of all profits from the docu plus profits from a new docu that uses some of the same material. The director of 1974’s That’s Entertainment as well as the docu and other films, Jack Haley Jr died in 2001. Making Of A Movie Classic has been distributed with the 1939 original movie on video and DVD since the late ‘80s and has made over $4 million, of which the Haley estate has received $2,083,451 as of August 2013, according … Read More »
The Yellow Brick Road will run through the Golden Arches. Warner Bros said today it will spend about $25 million on its comprehensive campaign for the 75th anniversary of the iconic 1939 film and that McDonald’s will lead the charge. For three weeks starting September 20, the fast-food behemoth will offer The Wizard Of Oz toys in Happy Meals at more than 14,000 outlets in North America. Other corporate marketing partners include QVC, which will offer Oz-themed products starting September 26, and Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, which will air an Oz competition episode two days later. Warners also added licensees for toys, games, clothes, jewelry, collectibles and much more. Warners, IMAX and TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX will host the September 15 world premiere of the 3D giant-screen version of the Judy Garland classic, which premiered at the then-Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It screens the same day at the Toronto Film Festival. A weeklong IMAX run in more than 300 theaters in North America follows, and a five-disc Collectors Edition set streets October 1. From the release about merchandising partners: Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: A century after the release of L. Frank Baum’s Wizard Of Oz series, the books have become the toast of this TV development season. NBC just nabbed Emerald City, an Oz-themed drama from Siberia creator/showrunner Matthew Arnold. Two weeks ago, CBS put in development Dorothy, a medical soap inspired by the characters and themes from The Wizard of Oz. I hear there is another Oz drama making the rounds from Heroes alums Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster, with Heroes creator Tim Kring supervising. And just last month, Syfy picked up for development a miniseries titled Warriors Of Oz from director Timur Bekmambetov, a fantasy-action reimagining of the classic story. The great interest in Wizard Of Oz is not entirely unexpected as the title has been getting a lot of attention in conjunction with the upcoming 75th anniversary of the classic 1939 feature, which will include a 3D re-release of the Judy Garland starrer. It also comes on the heels of the success of Oz The Great And Powerful earlier this year.
Related: ‘Wizard Of Oz’ Sets Fall IMAX 3D Debut
Emerald City, which Arnold is writing and executive producing through Universal Television, is described as a dark reimagining of the classic tale of Oz in the vein of Game Of Thrones, drawing upon stories from Baum’s original 14 books. Read More »
The producers who brought Sherlock Holmes to New York for CBS, are doing the same with some other classic literary characters. CBS has put in development Dorothy, a drama project from Elementary executive producers Carl Beverly and Sarah Timberman. The project, from CBS TV Studios where Timberman/Beverly Prods. is based, is described as a medical soap based in New York City inspired by the characters and themes from The Wizard of Oz. Emily Fox (Ghost Whisperer) will write the script and executive produce with Beverly and Timberman. L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been pursued for screen adaptations and interpretations for decades now, including the 1939 feature classic which will soon mark its 75th anniversary. In addition to Dorothy, Syfy is currently developing Warriors Of Oz, a mini-series project from Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov that is described as a fantasy-action reimagining of the classic story. Beverly and Timberman’s series credits also include Unforgettable, Justified and Masters Of Sex.
Related: ‘Wizard Of Oz’ Sets Fall IMAX 3D Debut
One of the last surviving Munchkins from The Wizard Of Oz has died. Margaret Pellegrini, who as a 15-year-old played the flowerpot Munchkin (right) and one of the “sleepyhead” kids in the 1939 classic, died Monday of a stroke at her home in Phoenix. She was 89. Pelligrini continued to take part in Oz-related events throughout her life. Her death leaves Ruth Duccini, 95, and Jerry Maren, 93, as the lone surviving Munchkins from the film.
Related: ‘Wizard Of Oz’ Sets Fall IMAX 3D Debut
The Technicolor classic will have its IMAX 3D world premiere on September 15 at Hollywood’s historic Chinese Theatre, the same movie house it first debuted in 75 years ago. The special screening will mark the reopening of the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX, which boasts the largest number of seats in an IMAX auditorium in the world and Hollywood’s first theater equipped in the large-screen format. The Wizard Of Oz will screen in a new IMAX remastering and will then open for a special one-week run at the TCL Chinese Theatre and additional US IMAX screens on September 20. WB‘s home video release of the 5-disc The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will follow on October 1.
The Wizard Of Oz is getting a major brand revitalization this fall. The Technicolor classic will return to screens on September 20 for an exclusive one-week IMAX 3D engagement commemorating its 75th anniversary, with dozens of promotional partnerships bringing the Oz brand to apparel, jewelry, collectibles, publishing, stationery and paper goods, toys and games, slot machines, November’s 87th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and a campaign of child passenger safety PSAs. WB‘s extensive 8K 3D conversion will also be available as part of a 5-disc Blu-ray 3D collector’s edition debuting in October.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is banking on ruby-red slipper magic to rally support for its proposed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures — 70 years after the iconic shoes’ debut in The Wizard Of Oz. Dorothy’s vibrant Technicolor footwear was acquired Wednesday by a group of angel investors led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg and Terry Semel and is one of only four pair known to exist. They are primed to be both a centerpiece and rallying cry for the planned museum, located adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. ”(Academy CEO) Dawn Hudson spearheaded the effort to get the shoes, and DiCaprio, Spielberg and Semel stepped in to help,” an Academy spokesperson tells Deadline. “The slippers were a passion for Dawn because she knows the significance they have with the moviegoing public.”
If a price tag can be attributed to sentimental value, then the slippers — known as “The Witch’s Shoes,” considered the finest of the known surviving samples — have cemented their place over the decades. The pair, given their name because they’re the ones the Wicked Witch of the East wore when Dorothy’s house fell on her, sold at auction in 1981 for $12,000, and another surviving pair fetched a cool $666,000 in 2000. In December, Moviepropcollectors.com said the shoes were set to go under the gavel with an estimated value between $2 million-$3 million. Asked about what DiCaprio, Spielberg and the others ponied up, the Academy … Read More »
With the recent announcement of selections for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Rachel Weisz discovered she is going to be there with two films: The Deep Blue Sea and Fernando Meirelles’ ensembler 360. But it was her acclaimed performance in another Toronto film — from the 2010 fest — that she most wanted to discuss when I recently caught up with her.
After its 2010 Toronto premiere, buzz started on awards prospects for The Whistleblower star Weisz’s intense and emotional performance. But after the fest, filmmakers went back into editing and toned down the harrowing rape scenes and further shaped the movie, which finally gets released today through the Samuel Goldwyn Company, which hopes the awards buzz will pick up again, especially if the distributor can get any box office traction in a crowded marketplace for small movies like this one.
Although it received mixed reviews after its Toronto unveiling, there was near-unanimous praise for Weisz’s portrayal of real-life Nebraska cop Kathryn Bolkovac, who took a job as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia only to uncover a web of corruption, sex trafficking and United Nations cover-ups when she arrived there in 1999. The real story turned out to be too intense to show the way it really was. “In fact the rape scene was cut down after the Toronto screening by the studio, which I completely understand,” she says. “It would be just too harrowing for people to watch. What actually happened was so much worse. I mean the stories I could tell you from the first person who encountered these young women. That was the ‘light’ version if you can believe that. But it isn’t a documentary, you don’t want to destroy people. You just want to illuminate something that actually happened that was a hundred times worse.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The smash hit stage musical Wicked is taking its first formative steps toward the movie screen. I’m told the musical’s producer Marc Platt, book writer Winnie Holzman, and songwriter Stephen Schwartz have begun meeting with filmmakers. Insiders confirm that JJ Abrams, James Mangold, Ryan Murphy, and Rob Marshall are among the directors who’ve met or otherwise thrown their hat in the ring. More meetings will take place when the musical’s authors come to town in the fall. The film will be made at Universal, which produced the stage musical with Platt.
After the billion dollar gross of Alice In Wonderland, studios are combing their fairy tale books for classics. It’s crowded on the Oz front –Disney attached Sam Raimi to The Great and Powerful Oz, and Warner Bros has more than one film in development. But the $2 billion in global stage grosses for Wicked put it in league with Mamma Mia!, the long-running stage musical whose movie transfer grossed over $600 million worldwide for Universal.
Wicked, a Wizard of Oz prequel, is based on the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and focuses on the early relationship between Glinda the Good and Elphaba, a green-skinned beauty before she ended up flying on a broomstick. Wicked began as a movie development project with Platt and Universal, before they changed course and took it to the stage first. It was an immediate sensation, quickly … Read More »