BREAKING: Paramount Pictures has split up two movies that figure to pack a merchandising punch. The studio just moved from June 6, 2014 to August 8 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Nickelodeon Movies/Platinum Dunes franchise re-launch. Why the shell game that moves the picture into the back end of the summer? It’s because Paramount has its Transformers movie slated for June 27. That will likely move to June 25 as traditionally the studio has opened these Michael Bay films on the Wednesday of that week. Both of these have involved campaigns and a big merchandising component, and it was thought the studio would be better off spacing the two toy-tied films further apart than the 19 days it was looking at in the original scheduling configuration. Of course, this puts TMNT just one week away from Marvel Studio’s next superhero franchise launch Guardians Of The Galaxy, which opens August 1. That is ballsy of Paramount.
EXCLUSIVE: Forget the affable Frasier Crane; Kelsey Grammer is embracing his inner bad guy. After his Golden Globe turn as the ruthless politician in Boss, Grammer has just landed the key villain role in Michael Bay‘s next Transformers film, which also stars Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci. I’m told that Grammer will play Harold Attinger, a counter intelligence guy. Now, Grammer has been in big films before–he played The Beast in X-Men: The Last Stand–but he moved to UTA a couple of months ago, hoping to get more feature opportunities and the agency certainly came through. He’s also managed by Brian Sher. The film begins production in July, from a script by Ehren Kruger. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Ian Bryce, Tom DeSanto and Don Murphy are the producers.
Japanese scientists have divined a mathematical model for what they call “The Hit Phenomenon.” By calculating the advertising budget of a film before it’s released, along with the amount of time a campaign runs and its word of mouth quotient on social media, a team from Tottori University worked to predict the success of such films as Spider-Man 3 and Avatar and then compared their findings to actual box office. “They appeared to match very well, meaning the calculations could provide a fairly good prediction of how successful a movie could be even before it is released,” said the Institute of Physics, which published the paper in the New Journal of Physics today. The scientists used the model to calculate the likelihood of an individual going to see a movie in a Japanese theater over a period ranging from 60 days ahead of a movie’s release to 100 days after the opening. Although the study was based on the Japanese market, its lead author, Akira Ishii, told Agence France Presse he thinks the model is “very general. It will work in other countries as well.” He also noted a key benefit of the formula is that companies can calculate the best time to spend advertising dollars. Hollywood could soon get its chance to plug in the formula as AFP says there are hopes to make it commercially available.
Viacom shares are down about 3.5% at midday on an otherwise up day for the market after CEO Philippe Dauman punted on the big question on the minds of analysts attending the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference: What’s up with the steep decline in Nickelodeon’s ratings — which he said last month was due to a problem with Nielsen’s measurement system? “There’s nothing new” to report, he says. ”No one’s more frustrated than myself.” He didn’t continue his attack the ratings company, which said today that it made a mistake in calculating the number of kids who watch TV — but added that it’s unrelated to the double-digit change in Nickelodeon’s ratings. ”However imperfect Nielsen is, it’s the only game in town, so we have to live with it,” Dauman says. “It is what it is. We’re going to move on.” He acknowledged that the channel’s ratings dive is “unfortunate” because “this is by far the most important quarter for Nickelodeon” due to the number of toymakers who flock to the channel to advertise holiday gifts. But he says the Nick problem will become less significant after the holidays are over. ”One way or the other we’ll move forward” with growing profit margins. Viacom has “more new shows coming to Nickelodeon than we’ve ever had.” He adds that “next quarter we expect to see stronger ad sales growth because we won’t have that issue” with the ratings.
CEO Philippe Dauman told the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference that Viacom will see “high-single-digit” growth in ad sales in the current quarter. That put a scare into investors who anticipated double-digit growth. Viacom’s down about 6.5% in mid-day trading, ahead of the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500, which is off about 3%. Dauman tried to cast a flattering light on the situation: ”Despite the macroeconomic headlines, the tone of the advertising market remains strong,” he said. Specifically, he says that Viacom has held on to orders made in the upfront market while scatter prices are “in the teens above upfront. … We had a good quarter, and the next quarter looks good.” He also said that he has seen no weakness in many of the most important ad-sales categories for Viacom’s cable networks including auto, toys, and movies. The overseas situation is mixed: “Some (markets) are strong and some are weaker.” Although acknowledging that the market shifts with the economy, as Viacom’s ”new shows kick in, we have positive momentum.”
Granted, there were lots of legitimate reasons for Michael Bay to fire Megan Fox off the Transformers franchise a year ago. (Refresh your memory by re-reading, MICHAEL BAY’S REVENGE! No More Megan.) But now the Transformers 3 director gives GQ this reason why he axed her: the film’s exec producer Steven Spielberg told him to because of Fox’s remark that Bay “wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he’s a nightmare to work for”. I say, shame on Bay for hiding behind Spielberg now. Man up, Michael:
Michael Bay: She was in a different world, on her BlackBerry. You gotta stay focused. And you know, the Hitler thing. Steven [Spielberg] said, “Fire her right now.”
Just as I hit the ground at the Nice airport today I ran smack into Jude Law, one of the main competition jury members of the 64th edition of the Cannes Film Festival (under President Robert De Niro), and he looked rarin’ to go as he arrived for all the hoopla and non-stop filmgoing over the next 11 days. We’ll see what he feels like after plowing through the 20 competition films as well as those out of competition such as Wednesday night’s opener, Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, and the closer, on May 22, Christophe Honore’s 2-hour and 25-minute Les Bien-Aimes (Beloved), the longest of any film in the official competition — competing or not.
Workers were busily attaching huge billboards up on the big Croisette hotels when I cruised the tony neighborhood earlier today, but the world’s second-most-famous red carpet won’t be laid out until midday tomorrow just before Woody, Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson and the cast of the director’s first French-set film make their way up those famous Palais steps for his love letter to Paree. It was hoped that co-star Carla Bruni, aka Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy, First Lady of France, would be coming too, but I heard she’s not making the trip after all and neither is her husband. C’est La Vie.
Up and down the Croisette you are bombarded as usual by Hollywood product being hyped on any available space. The new Transformers film from that auteur (NOT) Michael Bay got the hot spot at the Carlton entrance right next to a display for Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 on one side and Cowboys and Aliens on the other. Lording over them, though, are The Smurfs and all of those Pirates of the Caribbean, which plans to make a huge splash here Saturday as the prime-time film on one of the key nights of the fest. Star power will be in force, of course, with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz driving the paparazzi wild, which is just what Disney wants for its global launch of the film that premiered last week at Disneyland and makes another stop in Moscow before hitting the Cote d’Azur. Cannes, though a serious-minded haven for cineastes, doesn’t mind the attention either.
‘Twilight’ Saga Facebook Page Now Has More Fans Than ‘Iron Man’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Transformers’, ‘Toy Story’ Combined
THE TWILIGHT SAGA Facebook page now has 6.665 million fans. (Above, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart sign autographs at last night’s Eclipse premiere.) It’s the largest of all the film pages, with more fans than Iron Man, Harry Potter, Transformers, and Toy Story Facebook pages combined.
UPDATE: Now the story’s been debunked.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting tonight that Hasbro is in preliminary talks with Providence Equity Partners about a leveraged buyout. Hasbro has a market capitalization of about $6 billion. It owns the G.I. Joe and Transformers and Stretch Armstrong toys sold to Hollywood, has several board games like Battleship in movie development, and even has its own office on the Universal lot. In all it has more than 10 films in the works with different movie studios and a cable channel The Hub in partnership with Discovery Communications.