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‘Rango’ Wins 4 Visual Effects Awards; ‘Hugo’, ‘Apes’, ‘Transformers’, Take 2 Each

Paramount’s Rango dominated this evening’s 10th Annual Visual Effects Society Awards with four wins in animated feature categories — Visual Effects, Animated Character, Created Environment and Virtual Cinematography. Hugo, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Transformers: Dark Of The Moon took a pair of awards each in the feature categories. Boardwalk Empire and Game Of Thrones won two apiece in the TV categories. Stan Lee was honored with the VES Lifetime Achievement Award and visual effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull received the Georges Méliès Award. Ceremonies recognizing visual effects wizardry in 23 categories took place at the Beverly Hilton. The awards presentation will air at 7PM Pacific/10PM Eastern on ReelzChannel Sunday, February 19th. Complete list of winners follows:

Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Dan Lemmon, Joe Letteri, Cyndi Ochs, Kurt Williams

Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
Hugo: Ben Grossmann, Alex Henning, Rob Legato, Karen Murphy

Visual Effects in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Rango: Tim Alexander, Hal Hickel, Jacqui Lopez, Katie Lynch

Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie, or Special
Inside the Human Body: Phil Dobree, Sophie Orde, Dan Upton

Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series
Terra Nova – Occupation & Resistance: Kevin Blank, Colin Brady, Adica Manis, Jason Zimmerman

Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
Game of Thrones – Winter is Coming: Lucy Ainsworth-Taylor, Angela Barson, Ed Bruce, Adam McInnes

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Hasbro’s 4Q Entertainment Gains Offset By Losses In Games

By | Monday February 6, 2012 @ 4:34am PST

Shares are down about 5.5% in pre-market trading after the company behind Transformers and cable’s The Hub kids’ channel reported soft results for the last three months of 2011. Hasbro generated net earnings of $139.1M, down 6.3% vs the period last year, on revenues of $1.33B, up about 4%. Analysts expected revenues to come in slightly higher, at $1.34B. Earnings, at $1.06 a share, were a penny ahead of forecasts. Hasbro’s entertainment and licensing unit more than held its own: Its operating profit grew 44% to $21.5M on revenues of $64.1M, up 20%. The company says the operation thrived from sales of TV shows overseas, as well as from movie and merchandise revenues from Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. But that didn’t seem to help the games and puzzles category where revenues fell 11% to $370.6M. “Despite the challenges we encountered in 2011, we grew our business, effectively managed our capital structure and maintained a healthy balance sheet,” CEO Brian Goldner says.

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Paramount Gives TV Oscar Push To ‘Transformers’; ‘Rango’ Spots Also Target Voters

By | Thursday February 2, 2012 @ 3:05pm PST
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: Although studios are furiously spending big campaign bucks on new TV spots to try to bring home the Best Picture Oscar for the likes of The Descendants, The Artist, Hugo, The Help, Moneyball and others, there hasn’t been a big broad pitch and TV ad spend to influence less visible below-the-line crafts categories. Until now.

Paramount, which has ramped up its Best Picture campaign for Hugo and its 11 nominationshas also decided to finance a big TV buy in voter-centric Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco to promote its summer blockbuster Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. At $1.1 billion, the film is second only to Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part II among 2011′s top worldwide grossers (and the biggest hit yet in the valuable franchise). Transformers landed three nominations this year in the not-so-glamorous categories of Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects — categories where the studio’s prestigioius Best Picture nominee Hugo is also competing. But Hugo is not an ongoing billion-dollar franchise for the studio, and even though Oscar wins might mean more to its bottom line than that of the played-out Transformers, it certainly can’t hurt relationships with the film’s director Michael Bay and producers — including executive producer Steven Spielberg, whose War Horse is also competing in the sound races — to visibly support its Oscar prospects. Hence, the ad buy in hopes of turning around the Transformers franchise’s losing streak with the Academy. The first film in the series, 2007′s Transformers, was nominated in the same three categories but lost each time. The … Read More »

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Big Media 3Q Corporate Earnings Roundup: Are CEOs Really Worried About Recession? Or Just Looking For Convenient Excuse?

Three months ago, when Big Media CEOs wrapped up their 2Q earnings, they were still relentlessly upbeat about the business. Any worries about the economy? Not then. But the messages they delivered over the past few weeks, as they discussed 3Q, were different. Although they’re still optimistic — remember, they’re paid to be salesmen — now and then you could hear expressions of concern about where things are headed. It stood out when Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman noted that “ad sales growth will face some headwinds.” Other CEOs who are known for speaking bluntly warned that other shocks may bedevil the business. For example, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said that his satellite company — and others in pay TV — have to fight harder against rising programming costs because “there’s a limit to the price increases that could be passed on to consumers.” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt warned that premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz “are clearly impacted by the economy as consumers try to cut back.” Either they’re genuinely worried, or they want a scapegoat to blame for things that are going bad, or may soon do so. Whatever the case, we can expect to hear a lot more about the economy when it’s time for the post-mortem on the all-important 4Q earnings.

As for industry performance matters, parents of movie studios had their usual mixed results to brag about or explain away: Time Warner benefitted from Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Viacom was up on Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. And News Corp beat its chest about Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and X-Men: First Class. But Disney’s Cars 2 was no match for last year’s Toy Story 3. Comcast’s Universal Pictures had nothing to compare to last year’s Despicable Me. Lionsgate suffered from Conan The Barbarian and Warrior. And DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 didn’t contribute as much in the quarter as Shrek Forever After did in the same period last year.

Over at the TV networks, Comcast’s NBC underperformed the Street’s already modest expectations. Execs at almost all the companies were eager to talk about the cash they expect to collect soon from political ads — as well as their favorite new ATM machines: retransmission consent deals and digital streamers including Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, CEO Reed Hastings once again tried to reassure investors that he’s focused on “building back our reputation and brand strength” after his decision in July to slap a 60% price increase on customers who wanted to continue to rent DVDs and stream videos. In 3Q Netflix lost 57.7% of its market value and 800,000 subscribers. And since that customer loss was bigger than projected, Netflix shares continued to fall — they’re now down 67.3% since July 1.

Here are some other themes from the latest earnings reports:

Ad sales: They’s good, but for how long? Most television networks report that scatter prices are comfortably above the upfront market from this past summer. CBS chief Les Moonves says prices in 4Q are up by “mid-teens” on a percentage basis, while Discovery says it sees least high single digit percentages. But Disney’s Bob Iger noted that scatter prices have “slowed slightly these last few weeks.” Kurt Hall of National CineMedia — the leading seller of ads in movie theaters — was far more direct when he spoke to analysts after ratcheting down his company’s financial forecasts. “I’m sure that the broadcast and cable guys are sitting there now counting their lucky stars they got their upfront done before August,” he told analysts. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.” Read More »

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UPDATE: Viacom Says Nielsen Snafu Led To Decline In Nickelodeon Toy Ads; Forecasts Strong 2012 Despite Economic “Headwinds”

UPDATE, 8:50 AM: Listen up Occupy Wall Streeters: Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman told analysts that the company is doing better than ever financially – yet is still cutting jobs. It reported a $130M restructuring charge in the fiscal 4Q — $77M coming from the Media Networks and $53M from Filmed Entertainment. That will mostly go toward severance payments over the next year. Viacom expects to benefit from $140M in annual savings, improving profit margins even if the economy weakens, COO Tom Dooley says. Company SEC filings indicate that the Viacom cut 320 positions over the last year, ending with 10,580 full and part time employees in September. Most of the cuts took place overseas. Dauman says that in late October the company announced that it will hire 100 people for accounting, finance and corporate support at cable channel CMT’s headquarters in Tennessee, which means Viacom is “able to bring jobs onshore.”

Dauman cited two problems that worry some investors: He cited economic “headwinds” hurting ad sales — although he quickly added that Viacom can make up for any problems with additional revenues from rising fees that cable and satellite companies pay. Also, he said that Nickelodeon lost ad sales, especially from toy companies, beginning in September when Nielsen ‘inexplicably” reported unusually weak ratings. Although Dauman offered few details, Morgan Stanley’s Benjamin Swinburne says he believes live-only ratings in Nick’s key demos fell 9% in September and 15% in … Read More »

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Academy Dinner Honors 2011 Nicholl Fellowship Winners

Pete Hammond

Academy Announces Winners Of 2011 Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowships

Although they are certainly best known for those other awards they hand out in February, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences do a lot more throughout the year. One of its prized events happened Thursday evening at a dinner at the Beverly Wilshire, where the 26th annual Don and Gee Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowships were awarded to what Academy president Tom Sherak described as the “Academy’s Magnificent 7.”

The Nicholl Fellowships were established in 1985 and are now chaired (and hosted) by new Academy governor Gale Anne Hurd, who told me she’s been on the Nicholl committee since 1989. Each of the writing fellows (or teams) will receive a $35,000 prize in order to continue developing their scripts (checks are handed out in installments with the understanding that the recipients will  complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year), and the Academy is not involved otherwise commercially with the scripts in any way and holds no rights to them. Even with the Oscars in the mix, Sherak opened the program by saying: “This is my favorite event. It’s nights like this that I wish I were an agent. You want to sign every one of them.” He added these few winners were chosen from among a record 6,730 entries by the 24 judges and committee members who read everything.

It was quite a night that also included a rousing keynote address from David Seidler, this year’s reigning Best Original Screenplay winner for The King’s Speech and “new Academy member” at age 74. At the reception before the dinner, I asked Seidler how the Oscar has changed his life at this age. He joked, “Producers now owe me more, but it takes them longer.” Seidler is red-hot, though, having completed two new scripts over the summer and now embarking on two rewrites. He asked me who I thought was the front-runner to win Original Screenplay this year and I suggested probably Woody Allen for Midnight In Paris. “Well, he has me beat then,”  Seidler said.  Allen at 76 would usurp Seidler as the oldest winner ever in that category, meaning that Seidler’s record could be short-lived. His speech, which he said was working on right to the last minute, won over the crowd and certainly provided inspiration for the writers in attendance. Read More »

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Paramount To Stream ‘Transformers’ On China’s QIYI

By | Tuesday November 1, 2011 @ 5:21am PDT

BEIJING, Nov. 1, 2011 — QIYI Inc., a leading Chinese internet video company, and Paramount Pictures announced today that they have entered into a groundbreaking online distribution agreement for rights to Transformers: Dark of the Moon in Mainland China. The film will be available for transactional video-on-demand beginning November 21 on QIYI.COM. As part of the agreement, QIYI will also have the right to distribute the film to other companies within the Mainland China market for transactional, subscription, and free video-on-demand services. QIYI is extending its special procurement model to Hollywood productions so that international films will be shown to Chinese audiences from QIYI.COM.

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UPDATE: Hasbro Working On New ‘Transformers’ As It Ramps Up Movie Slate

UPDATE, 9:40 AM: Hasbro’s in “active discussions” with Paramount, Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg about a fourth Transformers, CEO Brian Goldner told analysts in a conference call today. ”Hopefully I’ll have more news for you next quarter,” he said. The most recent edition, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, will generate revenues for Hasbro between the $482M from the first film in the series in 2007 and $592M from the previous one in 2009. In other movie news, the company is reworking the budget for a film based on its Ouija game in the hope of reviving the project that Universal recently dropped. Battleship is on course to be released worldwide in April and in May in the U.S., with G.I. Joe: 2 following in June. Hasbro is working with J.J. Abrams on Micronaughts. Goldner says Hasbro is “actively developing” scripts for films based on Monopoly, Risk, and Clue as well as “projects yet to be named.” Goldner says, though, that Hasbro won’t produce its own films.

The CEO adds that cable channel The Hub is “making great progress” and is “ahead of plan” overseas where its programming runs in 142 countries. The channel is in 61M homes domestically; talks to increase distribution on cable are “going quite well,” although Goldner wouldn’t be specific. Ratings are up. On the advertising side, the channel has 120 more sponsors than it did last year when it was still Discovery Kids.

Goldner’s presentation impressed investors: Hasbro shares are up about 1% in midday trading. They opened down after the company reported 3Q earnings below expectations. Read More »

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Latest ‘Transformers’ Passes Last ‘Lord Of The Rings’ As #4 Box Office Film of All Time

So the Top 5 order now for all-time box office worldwide grosses (but not adjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices or 3D premiums) is:

1. Avatar 2D (Fox – 2009) $2.7B

2. Titanic 2D (Fox/Paramount – 1997) $1.8B

3. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 3D (Warner Bros – 2011) $1.3B

4. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon 3D (Paramount – 2011) $1.119B

5. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (New Line/Warner Bros – 2003) $1.1B

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An IMAX Encore For ‘Transformers: Dark Of The Moon’

By | Monday August 22, 2011 @ 6:35pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third film in the blockbuster Transformers franchise, is returning to 246 IMAX domestic locations for an extended two-week run from Friday, Aug. 26 through Thursday, Sept. 8. During those two weeks, the 3-D film will play simultaneously with other films in the IMAX network. Since its launch on June 29, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has grossed $1.095 billion globally, with $59.6 million generated from IMAX theatres globally. ”Transformers: Dark of the Moon: An IMAX 3D Experience” has been digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology for presentation in IMAX 3D. The crystal-clear images, coupled with IMAX’s customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio, create a unique immersive environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.

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Report: Plummeting Disc Sales Depress Home Video Business in 1H 2011

A spokesman for DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group says the trade organization didn’t deliberately choose a Friday afternoon to release its dreary new report about consumer spending on home entertainment in the first half of 2011. But from a PR perspective it probably doesn’t hurt to bury news that shows VOD and electronic distribution still can’t make up for the collapse in sales of DVDs. The headline number is that consumer spending on all forms of home video — including DVD and Blu-ray disc sales and rentals, VOD, and online — fell 5.1% vs the first half of 2010 to $8.3B. Last year, spending fell 3.3% in the first half of 2010. DEG says this year’s drop isn’t so bad because last year included Avatar. (It seems that the blockbuster was good enough to include last year when it made sales look strong, but is supposed to be treated as an anomaly now that it makes comparisons look weak.) Still, there’s no getting around the steep decline for DVDs. Consumers bought nearly $3.9B worth of DVD and Blu-ray content, down 18.3% vs the first half of 2010. At this time last year, disc sales were off 7.1% vs. 2009. DVDs are the culprit: Although DEG only reports figures for “packaged goods,” it notes that Blu-ray sales are up more than 10%. Read More »

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‘Transformers 3′ Crosses $1 Billion Worldwide

HOLLYWOOD, CA (August 3, 2011) – Worldwide box office receipts for TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, have hit $1 billion, Paramount Pictures announced today. To date, the third installment of the hit Transformers franchise, and the first shot in 3-D, has grossed $338 million in U.S. (through Monday) and $663 million internationally (through Tuesday).

“TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is the first billion dollar grossing movie in the history of Paramount Pictures, marking a substantial milestone in the 99 year life of this legendary studio,” said Brad Grey, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Paramount Pictures. “We are grateful for the extraordinary work of  Michael Bay and his film-making team, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and everyone at Paramount around the globe who played a part in helping make this latest TRANSFORMERS one of the 10 highest grossing films worldwide of all time.”

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IMAX Blames Bad Films For Dramatic 2Q Earnings Decline

UPDATE, 6:40 AM: In a conference call with analysts, CEO Rich Gelfond continued to talk up future opportunities while acknowledging that “like you we’re not happy” with recent box office sales. He’s talking to studios about making films available to IMAX venues before they open elsewhere and is “optimistic about obtaining a title in the not-too-distant future.” He’s also considering making a bigger bet on potential blockbusters by reducing the number of films IMAX shows each year. No decision has been made but “my own vote is for less (films) with longer lead times.” Gelfond also will change the mix of films IMAX runs: “Our audience is more of a fanboy-driven audience than a family-driven audience, so we are going to make an adjustment.” Gelfond says he’s excited about a new digital laser projection technology he hopes to introduce in 2013 that would brighten screen images and reduce costs on bulbs. He’s not sure, though, whether he’ll accomodate director Peter Jackson’s effort to have his upcoming film The Hobbit shown at 48 frames per second vs the industry average of 24 fps. “We’re in discussions with Warner as to whether it makes sense,” he says.

PREVIOUS, 4:55 AM: Not a happy quarter for IMAX. The large-screen theater company reported 2Q net income of $1.8M, down 86.5% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $57.2M, up 3%. After adjusting for stock compensation and deferred taxes, earnings came in at … Read More »

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RAUNCH RULES: ‘Horrible Bosses’ #2, ‘Zookeeper’ #3, ‘Transformers 3′ Still #1 And Now Top Grossing 2011 Domestic Film

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Better late than never. I could blame my Horrible Bosses but they’d just claim to be my Zookeeper. (The reason, actually, is far less interesting and much more banal.) That said, both new movies outperformed their tracking and scored ‘B+’ CinemaScores. Though that sucking sound you heard starting Thursday was because of the giant tracking numbers for the upcoming final Harry Potter installment which made it hard for this weekend’s releases to show strength on paper. Overall Friday through Sunday moviegoing should total $155M, or -15% from last year. Refined numbers in the morning. Here’s the Top Ten:

1. Transformers 3 3D (Paramount) Week 2 [4,088 Theaters]
Friday $14.9M, Saturday $18.4M, Weekend $47M (-54%), Cume $261M

A very gold hold. Plus it now holds 2011′s record as the top grossing domestic film so far this year. (This 3D summer’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides made the vast majority of its money abroad…) Meanwhile, I’ve heard from a reliable source that Michael Bay should make between $80M and $100M from Paramount’s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. And, if that’s not enough to make you call Hollywood’s suicide hotline, then this might be: Transformers 3 will now be the highest grossing movie of the  year. And its 2nd weekend is running +10% of Transformers 2‘s. Internationally, pic remained #1 on the foreign circuit this weekend, grossing a big $93M from 9,926 locations in 59 markets. So after only two weekends of release, the actioner has amassed an overseas cume of $384M anf global cume of $645M.

2. Horrible Bosses (New Line/Warner Bros) NEW [3,040 Theaters]
Friday $9.9M, Saturday $10.3M, Cume $28.1M

Yet another New Line high concept/low brow comedy had a good opening day that improved on Saturday — demonstrating that raunchy vagina- and scrotum-centric comedies (like Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part II, Bad Teacher) still rule the box office this summer. Audiences sampled Horrible Bosses with 51% of men rating it an ‘A-’ and 49% of women rating it a ‘B+’. The studio tells me that the film “played evenly well” across North America, over-indexing in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Denver, and Kansas City. With 74% ripe on Rotten Tomatoes going into the weekend, plusses were the chemistry between leads Charlie Day, Jason Bateman, and Jason Sudeikis, as well as the poison oozing from Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston. Great Warner Bros marketing tapped into the universal relatability of contempt that workers have for their bosses rather than relied on the script’s lame gags. The campaign used tag lines (‘Is your boss a slave driving you psycho?’, ‘Is your boss a sex crazed maneater?’, ‘Is your boss a total sleazy tool?’) to good effect. The studio created early awareness with a hosting slot on the  MTV Movie Awards. I don’t understand why it took this $35M-budgeted film’s producers Brett Ratner and Jay Stern (paired on Rush Hour) four years to get this to the big screen, but it got there once director Seth Gordon nailed the tone on his first pitch. Credits on the script go to Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein.

3. Zookeeper (MGM/Sony) NEW [3,482 Theaters]
Friday $7.4M, Saturday $7.5M, Weekend $21M

I remember when MGM production chief Mary Parent greenlit this script and got Kevin James at a pre-Paul Blart: Mall Cop bargain price. Then MGM slid slowly into bankruptcy, and the film became collateral damage and eventually a co-fiinanced production with Sony Pictures. Along the way the budget ballooned to $80M (because of all that talking animals CGI work). So now the pressure is on for the film to perform next weekend. At least Kevin James did his job and opened the movie to around $20M which is all anyone can ask of a star. Exit polling showed that audiences were 48% general moviegoers and 52% parents and children; overall 47% were male and 53% female, with 41% under age 25 while 59% over age 25. But it doesn’t bode well that PG Zookeeper didn’t get a Saturday kiddie bump especially when it had been tracking well enough with audiences and families to convince Sony execs to move it from October 2010 into a coveted July 2011 slot. (After cancelling Spider-Man 4 in favor of a reboot, the studio was light on summer product. Given the $1+B success of Pirates Of The Caribbean 4, is that the smart move now?)

Sony made Zookeeper seem like a tentpole  with a petting zoo inside Caesar’s Palace at Cinema-Con and a screening inside the gargantuan Colisseum. The studio tapped 220 zoos and aquariums nationwide in over 50 markets for live remote broadcasts. During the NBA post-season, Zookeeper was the exclusive motion picture partner for the finals, and Kevin James taped a series of interstitials using the NBA’s talking basketball and the film’s talking gorilla. Sony is hoping Zookeeper delivers a strong multiple here but also overseas, where it debuts this week in Mexico and Germany. I was surprised that celeb voices like Sly’s and Cher’s and Adam’s (and, yes, even Judd Apatow’s) weren’t more hyped in this country. Speaking of Sandler, this is another production pairing Sandler’s Happy Madison with James; other producers are Todd Garner, Jack Giarraputo, and Walt Becker. Directed by Frank Coraci, the screenplay is credited to Nick Bakay & Rock Reuben & Kevin James and Jay Scherick & David Ronn, with story by Jay Scherick & David Ronn. Read More »

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Paramount First Studio This Year To Top $1B At Domestic Box Office

Thanks to the bounty from such films as Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Super 8, ThorRango and Kung Fu Panda 2, Paramount confirmed today that it has crossed the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office for the year. It is the first studio to surpass the milestone — the fifth consecutive year it’s been first. From Jan. 3-July 4, the studio’s overall domestic cume is $1.024 billion. Earlier this month, Paramount Pictures International crossed the $1 billion mark in overseas box office.

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FX Nabs Rights To ‘Transformers 3′, Too

By | Tuesday July 5, 2011 @ 10:21am PDT

FX is continuing its strategy of dealing for every movie ever made. This time, the network has landed commercial TV premiere rights to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which just wrapped the highest-grossing Fourth of July opening of all time over the weekend and has grossed $181.1 million domestic to date. Last week, FX acquired Bad Teacher, and the network also recently has nabbed Green Lantern, The Hangover Part II, Super 8, X-Men: First Class, Thor, The Green Hornet, Tron: Legacy and Kung Fu Panda 2.

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‘Transformers 3′ Biggest July 4th Weekend: Now Tracking $416M Global Thru Fireworks; Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts In Holiday Flop

MONDAY AM, 15TH UPDATE: There were fireworks for some Hollywood action and family movies this Fourth Of July long weekend but not for Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts whose new movie bombed. Right now total U.S. and Canadian moviegoing for the holiday looks like $239M, which is trailing last year’s $250M by -4.5% but still the 2nd biggest Fourth Of July long weekend ever.

Here’s the Top 10 :

1. Transformers 3 3D(Paramount) NEW (opened Tues) [4,013 Theaters]
Tuesday $5.5M (9 PM), Wednesday $37.7M, Thursday $21.4M
Friday $32.8M, Saturday $34.4M, Sunday $30.2M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $97.5M, Four-Day Holiday $116.4M, Cume $181.1M
Three-Day International $217M, Three-Day Global Cume $379M, International $235M, Global Cume $416M

Paramount’s latest Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is the giant #1 movie and biggest Fourth Of July opening weekend (3-day and 4-day) ever beating Spider-Man 2‘s $88.2M and $115.8M. IMAX broke its global record with the first ever $20M-plus debut ($22.5M global). Domestically, the pic opened with some 3D-only nighttime sneaks on Tuesday ($5.5M), followed by a full release into 4,013 theaters on Wednesday ($37.7M) and Thursday ($21.4M). Now Friday brings in a big $32.9M, Saturday $34.5M, and Sunday $30.2M. That’s still -6% behind 2009′s Transformers 2 despite 3D’s higher ticket prices. Michael Bay’s robot actioner should hit $181M through the Fourth of July, compared to TF2‘s $214M. About 60% of the gross was from 3D. “We expected to start behind the last one,” a Paramount exec tells me. “This one has an ‘A’ CinemaScore and better reviews, so it should play to a better multiple.” Paramount now says it’s the only studio to ever score five consecutive $100+M films.

The movie is doing even better overseas where sequels and 3D are more popular. Internationally the movie is open in 110 countries (but not yet Japan or China) and is up +55% over the franchise’s 2nd installment. Foreign should close in on $235M through Monday for Paramount Pictures International’s biggest opening weekend ever. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon shredded a bunch of box office records as it claimed #1 in 57 of the 58 territories where it was released. The movie was the biggest opening of all-time in 7 countries, led by Korea ($30M), Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Peru. About 70% of the overall gross was generated by 3D this weekend. Combined with the domestic result, TF3 becomes Hollywood’s third highest grossing worldwide debut ever with $416M global cume for its first 7 days. (TF2 did only $360M in 2009.)

2. Cars 2 3D (Pixar/Disney) Week 2 [4,115 Theaters]
Friday $7.8M, Saturday $9.4M, Sunday $8.8M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $26.1M (-60%), Four-Day Holiday $32M, Cume $123M
International: $207.5M, Global Cume $330.5M

3. Bad Teacher (Sony) Week 2 [3,049 Theaters]
Friday $4.5M, Saturday $5M, Sunday $4.9M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $14.4M (-54%), Four-Day Holiday $17.6M, Cume $63M

4. Larry Crowne (Universal) NEW [2,972 Theaters]
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $4.8M, Sunday $4.3M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $13M, Four-Day Holiday $15.7M

The pairing of veteran Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts failed to open Larry Crowne which also was produced and directed and co-written by Hanks. (Did he tell himself to dye his grey hair with the equivalent of black shoe polish? Looked weird…) Even though the two stars did any and all publicity for it, this is a bigger repudiation for Hanks who went on a rare 5-city personal appearance tour, his first since promoting Saving Private Ryan, and met with regional press in every one of those cities. He and Roberts
appeared on one of Oprah’s final shows together in early May, which re-aired this week, but Hanks also personally co-hosted Oprah’s final two blowout shows personally.

Despite all that, the romantic comedy finished a dismal #4 with just a $13M three-day weekend and $16M four-day holiday from a wide release into 2,972 theaters. That’s a very disappointing start for two stars who individually should be able to open a new pic to at least $20M of North American grosses for a three-day weekend and presumably more when paired. (Their last film together, 2007′s Charlie Wilson’s War, also bombed.) Their latest pic received a ‘B’ Cinemascore, but just ‘C+’ from audience members under age 35. Exit polling showed moviegoers were 64% female vs 36% male, and 81% over age 35 vs 19% under age 35. Good thing Universal was only distributing, and good thing the film’s negative cost was only $30M fully financed by Vendome Pictures. But the marketing cost was at least another $30M high with a heavy rotation of expensive TV ads. This is the third movie with major stars to disappoint at the box office this summer following Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern and Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

5. Super 8 (Paramount) Week 4 [3,088 Theaters]
Friday $2.2M, Saturday $2.8M, Sunday $2.7M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $7.8M, Four Day Holiday $9.5M, Cume $110M

6. Monte Carlo (Fox) NEW [2,472 Theaters]
Friday $3.1M, Saturday $2.3M, Sunday $1.9M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $7.4M, Four-Day Holiday $8.7M

Fox’s counterprogramming film aimed at tween/teen girls, Monte Carlo performed about as expected with an ‘A’ CinemaScore with $8.7M for the four-day weekend.

7. Green Lantern 3D (Warner Bros) Week 3 [3,280 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $2.3M, Sunday $2.2M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $6.5M, Four-Day Holiday $8M, Cume $103.6M

8. Mr Popper’s Penguins (Fox) Week 3 [2,861 Theaters]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $1.8M, Sunday $1.9M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $5.4M, Four-Day Holiday $6.8M, Cume $51.8M

9. Bridesmaids (Universal) Week 8 [1,389 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.3M, Sunday $1.3M, Monday
Three-day Weekend $3.6M, Four-Day Holiday $4.4M, Cume $153.7M
International $34.8M, Global Cume $188.5M

10. Midnight In Paris (Sony Classics) Week 7 [858 Theaters]
Friday $866K, Saturday $1.3M, Sunday $1.4M, Monday
Three-Day Weekend $3.5M, Four-Day Holiday $4.3M, Cume $34.5M

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No, Paramount Has NOT Finally Found New Financing Partners; Variety Gets It Wrong

Writing about big film financing deals is not for every Tom, Dick, or Harriet. It usually involves intricate knowledge of behind-the-scenes discussions atop the major studios and film funds. So I suppose it was inevitable that today Variety would get it wrong by leaving such sophisticated reporting in the hands of a shallowly sourced young newcomer who mistakenly writes that “Paramount has found new investors to back its tentpoles” when actually it’s just a minor update affecting non-Paramount partners of a 5-year-old co-financing deal. ”The story is stupid, misguided, and misleading,” a top Paramount executive just told me. “Nothing has changed in our financing approach to motion pictures. There is no new financing deal. Variety has it totally wrong.”

So let me tell you what’s really going on: only that the existing investors in Melrose II continue to have the right to co-finance sequels to the specific movies originally co-funded by them starting back in 2006. (Melrose I from 2004 was a $225 million fund bankrolling 25 Paramount films.) “They have no rights to finance any go-forward Paramount pics other than those sequels. And they can’t finance any sequels that Paramount doesn’t want to make,” the top Paramount exec tells me. “This has almost no impact on Paramount. It’s merely a new financing restructuring on their end.” What happened is only that JP Morgan and Bank of America replaced Germany’s Commerzbank on June 15th as senior lenders on Melrose II. Originally, Dresdner bank had been involved, but then Commerzbank purchased Dresdner in 2009 and … Read More »

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Michael Bay Writes To Theater Projectionists — & Writes To Fans: “See This Movie In 3D”

UPDATE: Michael Bay’s personal blog is filled with photos of himself from the worldwide premieres like the one above… Egads. He writes this to fans today:

Thank You Note From Michael Bay

I just want to take the opportunity to thank all the fans around the world for letting me have fun with the Transformers franchise.  It has been a wonderful opportunity to have worked with about 4000 crew members around the world.  These artists are some of the very best in the entire film business.  I’m honored to have had you work along side me.  We had an amazing time.

‘Dark of the Moon’ has some of the most technically challenging sequences ever shot.  And shot in 3D.   I must urge you to find the very best theatre and see this movie in that format. 3D was a forethought, not an afterthought in this movie. I’m glad Jim Cameron and Steven Spielberg really convinced me to shoot in this new technology.  We used and invented many new techniques to make the 3D sharper, brighter and more color contrast.  I think theatre owners heard their audience that they need to respect the specs of the projectors and not dim the bulbs to save money.

Many theaters are presenting it in the brand new 7.1 sound, which is awesome.  This is the most complex, intricate sound track that me and my Academy Awarding winning sound team have done.  They really out did themselves to make this a big picture experience.  Hopefully you will have as much fun watching this movie as we all had making it.

Michael Bay

Michael Bay now writes to projectionists after he’d already called the chief executives of major theater chains to implore them to show Transformers: Dark Of The Moon in a way that burns out projector bulbs more quickly but makes 3D look brighter and sharper. Talk about being pushy: you’d think there was a lot riding on Transformers 3. Paramount Making Too Many 3D Demands?

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