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.
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 …
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 …