Don Payne, whose screenwriting credits include 2011′s Thor, Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer and My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and who was an award-winning writer/producer on The Simpsons, has died. He had been battling cancer. Payne started out in TV, hooking up with writing partner John Frink before graduating with a screenwriting master’s from UCLA. They penned episodes for such series as Hope & Gloria, The Brian Benben Show and Veronica’s Closet. Payne and Frink eventually joined The Simpsons in 1998, sharing in four Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program. In 2005, Payne received the WGA’s Paul Selvin Award for penning the Simpsons episode “Fraudcast News”, which skewered the TV news business. Another Simpsons episode — co-written as was the usual case with Frink — was “The Bart Wants What It Wants,” was nominated for a WGA Award for animation in 2003. Among his projects in the works, Payne, who described himself in a LA Times interview as “superhero geek”, wrote the first draft of Thor sequel Thor: The Dark World. He also was in development on Maximum Ride, based on the James Patterson books. In addition, as consulting producer he penned two Simpsons episodes that will air this fall: this year’s Christmas show “White Christmas Blues” and ‘Labor Pains”, which is set to air November 3. He is survived by his wife and three children.
EXCLUSIVE: Intellectual property lawyer Marc Toberoff has a winning track record when he goes after Hollywood studios on behalf of rightsholders. But not today. I’ve just learned that he lost big in Federal Court for the Southern District Of New York after suing Disney/Marvel for the Jack Kirby Estate. The federal judge not only granted the studio motions for summary judgment but also denied the Toberoff/Kirby’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The ruling revolved around the fact that Kirby was a freelance writer and did work-for-hire and so didn’t retain the copyright. Well, you win some and you lose some. But all the Hollywood studios are chortling because they now see Toberoff as vulnerable and not invincible. “This is just the beginning,” Toberoff just told me, noting that, after the Kirby Estate exercised their termination rights under the Copyright Act, Marvel (backed by Disney) was in the middle of settlement negotiations in December 2009 and sued the Kirbys on January 8, 2010 in NY to benefit from that state’s more favorable work-for-hire case law. UPDATE: The
Walt Disney Companyissued this statement regarding the Marvel Worldwide Inc. v. Kirby ruling: “We are pleased that in this case, the judge has confirmed Marvel’s ownership rights.”
Specifically, the estate of comic book superhero legend Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, The Silver Surfer and Thor, sent notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios that have made movies and TV shows based on characters he created or co-created, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. Normally these kinds of lawsuits are run of the mill for Hollywood. But not when they’re litigated by Toberoff, who is the bane of Big Media.
Mighty ‘Thor’ Hammers $242M Global Cume; ‘Fast Five’ $324M; ‘Jumping Broom’ $13.7M; ‘Something Borrowed’ $13.1M
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Welcome to the first of the big comic book-inspired movies on the Big Screen this summer, with Fox’s X-Men: First Class, Warner Bros’ Green Lantern, and Marvel’s Captain America to follow Marvel/Disney’s Thor distributed by Paramount. Total gross for all films is $161M but still off last year’s by 10% (when Iron Man 2 did $128M all by itself). Here are the following Top 10 North American grosses for Friday and Saturday and this domestic weekend in addition to international and worldwide cumes:
1. Thor (Marvel/Disney/Paramount) NEW [3,955 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.5M, Weekend $66M
International $176M, Global Cume $242M
Saturday brought in younger and family audiences to this latest in the Marvel Studios productions which earned a ‘B+’ CinemaScore overall, and an ‘A’ for ages under 18. Hollywood was predicting a $60+ million domestic weekend opening for Marvel/Disney’s Thor, with Paramount distributing. The PG-13 Norse God actioner had already made $133M from 56 territories so far with Finland and China opening this weekend. Now, in its second weekend of widespread release on the international circuit, Thor posted a formidable $46M from 12,476 positions in 60 markets for an overseas gross of $176M to date — or global cume of $242M outside the US and Canada — and in only 11 days has already outgrossed the final cume of X-Men 1, Fantastic Four 1 and the first Hulk movie from Marvel. In the U.S. and Canada, the film debuted as the No. 3 Marvel title — well ahead of X-Men and Fantastic Four and The Hulk, which all did around $55M, but nowhere near the $100M+ of Iron Man or Spider-Man. With Universal’s holdover Fast Five speeding to another strong weekend, Thor opened against such stiff competition, even with $3.25M in midnight box office compared with Fast Five‘s $3.8M midnights for its U.S. and Canada debut. But the Norse god took advantage of 3D’s higher ticket prices, including at 214 iMAX theaters domestically, for $6.6M and another 70 screens overseas. Reviews have been good, and British Kenneth Branagh’s direction and Aussie newcomer Chris Hemsworth in the title role of The Mighty Thor earned a 92% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The good-looking Hemsworth allowed for heavy PR to drum up appeal among women with his shirtless clip a popular choice for talk shows with large female audiences who also were targeted with a Royal Wedding blitz. To solidify male appeal, Paramount had spots during the Super Bowl and NCAA Basketball, the UFC Marathon and UFC Fight Night Live Premiere. And, to appeal to the feeble-brained, Thor ads aired on the finale of Jersey Shore.
Thor launched in 1962 and has endured for almost half a century across comics, toys, animated series, and now a movie. Like Iron Man, Marvel thought Thor deserved to be made in its own right and lends a long history to The Avengers. (Aka Marvel’s Avengers Assemble strategy. Expect to see agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., previously seen in the Iron Man movies, foreshadowing the coming of The Avengers). The challenge for Paramount was to market a reverse superhero story: a hero becomes a man. “Our challenge was to emphasize what was unique about his character and define him for audiences,” a studio exec told me. So the TV ads reminded: “The world has many heroes but only one is a God.” This epic adventure spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the realm of Asgard with the powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth. Thor was produced by Marvel wunderkind Kevin Feige, with Alan Fine, Stan Lee, David Maisel, Patricia Whitcher and Louis D’Esposito serving as executive producers from a screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne and a story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich.
2. Fast Five (Universal) Week 2 [3,644 Theaters]
Friday $10.6M, Saturday $12.8M, Weekend $32.5M (-62%), Cume $139.9M
International $184.8M, Global Cume $324.7M
The -62% domestic drop was primarily due to the loss of all IMAX screens and large-format screens which had only been booked for one week. But abroad Fast Five is the No. 1 film in the world for the second week in a row and the biggest international weekend in Universal’s history. It continued its international rollout with No. 1 openings in 44 more territories this weekend for 58 total. Fast Five set records for the biggest opening of the Fast franchise, and was the biggest opening day and biggest opening weekend in Universal’s history in 12 markets, including Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Netherlands, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, France, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, India, Vietnam. International grosses were an estimated $86.6M at 6,979 dates in 58 territories and raised the international total to $184.8M. The worldwide total including the outstanding domestic box office of $139.9M will reach $324.7M today.
3. Jumping The Broom (TriStar/Sony) NEW [2,034 Theaters]
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $5.2M, Weekend $13.7M
Sony was only expecting TriStar’s Jumping The Broom this weekend to do somewhere between $8M to $10M on the film that was made for just $6.6M. Hey, if major studios keep making cheap movies like this that do double the predicted grosses, I’m going to have a tough time making fun of mogul tightwads. Pic received an ‘A’ CinemaScore straight across the board — women, men, all ages. “Exits show we hit our target as 70% of this weekend’s audience was female and 64% was over 35,” A Sony exec tells me. Aimed at older African-American women, the PG-13 film focuses on two “Uptown meets Downtown” families who meet for the first time at a weekend wedding on Martha’s Vineyard in what is billed as an ”insightful and inspirational” comedy. The key for Sony was reaching out to faith-based audiences. Bishop TD Jakes, who is a producer on the film, hosted screenings at religious conferences throughout the country. On the media front, Sony worked with TLC on special wedding programming and on tie-ins with Royal Wedding coverage in local markets. There also was strong BET promotion since both the director/executive producer of The Game, Salim Akil, directed the film, and a co-star of The Game, Pooch Hall, co-starred in this film as well.
4. Something Borrowed (Alcon/Warner Bros) NEW [2,904 Theaters]
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $13.1M
This run-of-the-mill rom-com based on the novel by the same title earned a ‘B’ CinemaScore: ‘B+’ among females, ‘C+’ males. Financed and produced by Alcon Entertainment (The Blind Side) with Warner Bros just distributing, the pic was counter-programmed against Thor and Week 2 of Fast Five and was always expected to open in the low teens. Luke Greenfield directed from a screenplay adaptation by Jennie Snyder Urman. Hilary Swank was one of the producers. Gee, Kate Hudson’s career looked interesting when she did Almost Famous. But a succession of mediocre romantic comedies like this one where two female frenemies fight over the same man (so anti-woman) have made her into yesterday’s news. Sad that.
5. Rio 3D (Blue Sky Studio/Fox) Week 4 [3,708 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $3.5M, Weekend $8.2M, Cume $114.9M
6. Water For Elephants (Fox) Week 3 [2,820 Theaters]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $5.6M, Cume $41.6M
7. Madea’s Big Happy Family (Tyler Perry/Lionsgate) Week 3 [2,288 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.6M, Weekend $3.9M, Cume $46.8M
8. Prom (Disney) Week 2 [2,730 Theaters]
Friday $794K, Saturday $960M, Weekend $2.4M (-49%), Cume $7.8M
9. Soul Surfer (FilmDistrict/Sony) Week 5 [2,010 Theaters]
Friday $590K, Saturday $850K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $36.6M
10. Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs Evil (The Weinstein Co) Week 2 [2,505 Theaters]
Friday $433K, Saturday $877K, Weekend $1.8M (-54%), Cume $6.7M
Meanwhile, Summit Entertainment and Participant Media platformed Mel Gibson’s comeback movie The Beaver directed by Jodie Foster in 22 theaters across the top ten markets in North America: weekend gross was $104K, with a paltry per theater average. Doesn’t bode well for pic which expands on May 20 and will be brought to Cannes.
I’ve had a front-row seat on a fascinating drama unfolding behind the international grosses for Universal’s Fast Five and Paramount’s distribution of Marvel /Disney’s Thor over the past 10 days. This weekend they went head to head in more than a dozen countries. The feud started because of Paramount’s decision to move onto Fast Five‘s Easter weekend Down Under. That created ill will, so Universal has been crowing about how much its street racing fivequel has been beating the Norse god pic overseas. Now Thor insiders are nervous that the lopsided victory of Fast Five internationally will hurt the Disney/Marvel’s domestic box office when it opens in the U.S. and Canada this coming Friday. Rarely have I seen studios bicker back and forth about box office as intensely as during this matchup. Especially when Paramount is only distributing Thor for its standard fee from Marvel. But it’s all about market share and just plain pride. Universal has been hit starved in the live action arena for so long that it’s releasing foreign numbers almost hour by hour, to the great consternation of Paramount which is pointing out that sequels always do better overseas. Paramount also is claiming that this may be Universal’s only really big hit of the summer. Strange thing to say, since Paramount is distributing foreign for DreamWorks/Universal’s Cowboys & Aliens. But, hey, all is fair in love and war and grosses, and I’m enjoying the heck out of this box office throwdown.
Universal preened about Fast Five results in Russia (where FF 68% ahead of Thor), Germany (FF 86% ahead of Thor), Spain (FF 30% ahead of Thor), Austria (FF 202% ahead of Thor), Switzerland (German-speaking area), Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, and Korea. But Paramount boasted that Thor recorded the highest opening weekend gross at the international box office this year and had big No. 1 openings this weekend in the UK, Ireland, France, Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, and Italy.
Here’s the strange thing about IMAX these days: the large screen exhibitor reported terrible financial results for the first quarter although analysts were projecting it would continue to …
IMAX announced today that it has finalized a deal with Paramount and Marvel Entertainment to release the tentpole Thor in IMAX 3D worldwide day and date May 6. “We’re pleased to expand our relationship with Marvel and Paramount with Thor, which is a great addition to our summer tentpole slate,” …