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CinemaCon: Lionsgate Aiming For Major Studio Status With ‘Hunger Games’ Sequel Leading 2013 Slate

Pete Hammond

After the six major studios wrapped up their turns in front of the CinemaCon convention goers with 20th Century Fox earlier today, it was Lionsgate‘s turn to carry the flag for the indie sector, even though NATO’s John Fithian said last year that in Lionsgate we are seeing the birth of the “seventh major studio”. And although some of the speakers during the company’s relatively brief presentation this afternoon took up that mantle, Lionsgate in its sizzle reel  actually touted the fact that they are the only non-major to actually go over $1 billion in a single year — certainly thanks to the dynamic duo of Summit’s Twilight finales and The Hunger Games, which became the third-highest-grossing film of 2012 with more than $400 million domestically. So are they are a major? A mini-major? A true independent? Or just a money-minting film company with a couple of franchises the real majors would kill for (and in the case of Twilight actually passed on — ouch).

But as befits any wannabe major, a spiffier, more corporate logo was in order, and as Deadline reported earlier they debuted it for the theatre owners here in Las Vegas. As distribution head Richie Fay put it during his turn onstage, “Lionsgate is an overnight success that was 12 years in the making”.

As far as the presentation went, Lionsgate certainly took an independent route from the way the majors have behaved all week, offering a musical-chairs lineup of executives taking their turn in front of delegates who crowded into the Colosseum to check out the product. In addition to Fay, we also heard from CEO and co-founder Jon Feltheimer, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Rob Friedman and AMC theatres exec Elizabeth Frank, who pointed out the company released 20 major films in 2012 and led the field 11 separate weeks. She said her company was looking forward to the 17 movies on tap this year and many of them were showcased for the first time over the course of the 80-minute show emceed by comedian Kevin Hart. Read More »

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Can Twilight Saga Finale Become Top Home Entertainment Release Of 2013? (Good Start)

By | Tuesday March 5, 2013 @ 6:46am PST

Studios rarely talk to Hollywood about their movies’ DVD and Blu-ray and sell-through and video-on-demand sales anymore. Because it would demonstrate how healthy their business is. Instead the figures are reserved for Wall Street, apparently. Yet Lionsgate‘s Summit Entertainment announced today that its Twilight Saga; Breaking Dawn Part 2 sold an estimated 3.86 million units in its debut weekend release. Both DVD and Blu-ray combined sales for this 5th film in Stephenie Meyer’s vampire novels-to-films franchise represent an increase over the opening weekend of Breaking Dawn Part 1 which along with Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games ranked as two of the top 4 home entertainment releases of 2012. Lionsgate acquired Summit Entertainment in January 2012. Blu-ray sales accounted for an estimated 27% of Part 2‘s first weekend sales, up from 22% of the first weekend sales of Part 1. Part 2 also recorded approximately 20% more electronic sell-through transactions than Part 1 and is showing early indications of a “robust” video-on-demand performance as well. Part 2 launched at 12:01 AM on Saturday with midnight retail events at more than 3,000 stores across the country. The film has grossed $829 million at the worldwide box office, a franchise best, bringing the entire Twilight Saga’s worldwide box office to more than $3.3 billion.

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Lionsgate Passes $1B Domestic For First Time Helped By Summit’s Twilight Finale

By | Sunday November 18, 2012 @ 11:27am PST

The frontloaded worldwide total for Summit Entertainment’s Breaking Dawn Part 2 is $340.9M through today – or $141.3M domestic + $199.6M international. That helped its parent company Lionsgate achieve a first-ever milestone for it at the North American box office – crossing the $1 billion mark ($1.09B). This is also the first time ever that a studio has opened two films – Breaking Dawn Part 2 and The Hunger Games – to over $125M in the same year. And it certainly explains why Lionsgate was so eager to acquire Summit. Now Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga is ending, but Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games franchise is still reeling. Francis Lawrence is directing first sequel Catching Fire, now in production and set for a November 2013 release, and has signed to helm the final two installments, Mockingjay Part 1 (November 2014) and Mockingjay Part 2 (November 2015).

Related: ‘Breaking Dawn 2′ Record $199.6M Foreign Opening
Related: ‘Breaking Dawn Part 2′ Opens To Behemoth $340.9M Global

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‘Breaking Dawn 2′ Foreign’s $199.6M Sets Twilight Saga Overseas Opening Record

By | Sunday November 18, 2012 @ 11:08am PST

Related: Breaking Dawn Part 2 Opening Weekend: Main Story

SUNDAY UPDATE: As expected, Breaking Dawn Part 2 dominated the foreign marketplace, setting franchise records across the world and tracking roughly 38% higher than the previous installment in gross international box office. In all, it opened to a $199.6M weekend internationally from 61 territories on 12,812 screens for a worldwide cume of $340.9M. Its Top 10 markets were UK $24.4M, CIS $20.3M, Brazil $19M, France $16.4M, Australia $12.7M, Italy $12.4M, Spain $11.8M, Mexico $11.8M, South Korea $7.1M, Philippines $4.4M, and Sweden $3.9M. As for IMAX overall internationally, the film grossed $3M from 82 locations.

Related: Lionsgate Passes $1B Domestic For First Time

Once again, the UK was the top territory for the Twilight Saga pic’s opening. It was the top grossing 3-day weekend film of all time in Spain. In Latin America, its $43M was 57% above the opening of Part 1. France came in with a huge 2M admissions on opening weekend for the year’s best. Sweden’s opening was the biggest of 2012.
Read More »

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‘Breaking Dawn Part 2′ Opens To Behemoth $340.9M Global Weekend ($141.3M Dom + $199.6M Intl): Twilight Saga Record Abroad; Holdover ‘Skyfall’ #2 & ‘Lincoln’ #3 Strong

SUNDAY 9 AM, 13TH UPDATE: If you went to your local multiplex this weekend, you know how crowded it was: overall moviegoing was an impressive $245M, or +14% from last year. The main reason is that it’s the Twilight Saga’s swan song (until the inevitable reboot). But the franchise’s $2.5 billion box office may even climb to $3B all in judging by this weekend’s big bite of global theatrical grosses. The frontloaded worldwide total for Summit Entertainment’s Breaking Dawn Part 2 is already $340.9M through through Sunday - or $141.3M domestic + $199.6M international. That’s a new Twilight Saga record for an overseas opening. Lionsgate as a studio also has achieved a first-ever milestone at the North American box office with help from Summit – crossing the $1 billion mark ($1.09B). This is the 1st time ever that a studio has opened two films – Breaking Dawn Part 2 and The Hunger Games – to over $125M in the same year. And it certainly explains why Lionsgate was so eager to acquire Summit.

Related: Lionsgate Passes $1B Domestic For First Time

Summit’s official numbers are $71.9M Friday (including $30.4M from Thursday 10 PM/Friday midnight shows), $41.8M Saturday, and an estimated $27.6M Sunday from 4,070 theaters in the U.S. and Canada. Friday’s take was the 6th highest opening day in history right behind the Twilight Saga’s Breaking Dawn Part One‘s $71.6M, and New Moon‘s $72.7M. Breaking Dawn Part 2 had the 8th largest weekend opening overall and the 2nd best opening weekend for the franchise, beating the $138.1M set by Part 1 in 2011. But not New Moon‘s franchise first-weekend record of $142.8M set in 2009. Summit reported that Breaking Dawn Part 2 opened in North America to long lines and sold-out screenings with $30.4M from Thursday 10 PM and Friday midnight late shows in over 3,000 theaters. This was a Twilight Saga best, earning slightly more than Breaking Dawn Part 1‘s $30.25M. (Eclipse made $30M, and New Moon $26.27M.) Needless to say, the Twi-Hards gave this final franchise installment an ‘A’ CinemaScore which may mean more fans go see it multiple times. This was the highst rated and recommended of all the Twilight Saga films with both genders and all ages. Exit polling showed that 50% of the audience was under age 25 and 50% over 25, while 79% were female and 21% male. That’s the highest percentage of males of any Twilight Saga franchise.

Related: ‘Breaking Dawn 2′ Record $199.6M Foreign Opening
Related: Man Arrested After Planning Twilight Theater Shooting

Overseas, Summit announced that, from the 37 international territories that opened as of Thursday, the overseas cumulative gross for Breaking Dawn Part 2 was a very impressive $38.8 million (not including the U.S. and Canada). I don’t expect an international update until Sunday AM. On Friday, 24 additional territories opened, bringing the total to 61 territories along with the U.S. and Canada. Nearly every market has opened at or above the Part 1.

In all, Summit made 5 films beginning in 2008 based on Stephenie Meyer’s series of 4 bestselling vampire romance novels with Melissa Rosenberg penning all the screenplays and Wyck Godfrey & Karen Rosenfelt producing all the films. Catherine Hardwicke directed the first Twilight, followed by Chris Weitz (2009′s New Moon), David Slade (2010′s Eclipse), and Bill Condon (both 2011′s Breaking Dawn Part 1 and 2012′s Part 2). Going into this weekend, the previous 4 films in the Twilight Saga have accounted for $2.5 billion in worldwide box office grosses – which is why Lionsgate purchased Summit. Of course, the lead roles in all the films were played by Kristen Stewart (Bella), Rob Pattinson (Edward), and Taylor Lautner (Jacob). Like the movies or not, there’s no arguing with the fact that this franchise’s phenomenal box office and fan base have been fantastic for the film business.

Related: Skyfall’s $669.2M Global Helps Sony Post Best Ever $4B

In 2nd place domestically, Eon Productions/MGM/Sony Pictures’ James Bond #23 actioner Skyfall looks down 53% from its big opening a week ago for a $41.5M second weekend. It took a bigger hit (-60%) on Friday than the studios

anticipated but bounced back Saturday to bring its North American cume to about $161.3M in just its first 10 days of release. Sony Pictures today announced its biggest movie year ever at the global box office, passing $4 billion for the first time in the studio’s history thanks in large part to Skyfall‘s worldwide cume of $669.2M. That’s bigger than the $599.2M worldwide total taken in by Casino Royale in 2006. This weekendm, Skyfall made $49.6M abroad for an overseas cume of $507.9M. All in worldwide, MGM/Sony expect the Sam Mendes-directed, John Logan-scripted, Daniel Craig-starring pic to make $800M as the biggest 007 movie ever (not adjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices or IMAX premiums). Skyfall enjoyed an amazing hold on IMAX: $6M for the weekend, which is a -45% drop, and IMAX global cume to day of $39M. Studio execs felt that the reason for Skyfall‘s success (preventing the Bond franchise from jumping the shark after the dreadfall Quantum Of Solace) was because the characters were richer, deeper, and more flawed. Plus, the addition of Javier Bardem - who received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame timed to the film – made Skyfall less white bread so it was a better reflection of today’s world. After 4 years on hiatus, the studios had to win back hardcore 007 fans while expanding the franchise’s appeal to younger moviegoers through MTV, Comedy Central, and ABC Family and ethnic audiences through BET, Telemundo and Univision. The marketing campaign started early with big events, like the high profile Bond integration during the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics featuring Daniel Craig and the Queen. Most of all, the studios promoted Skyfall through the fact that 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of 007 on film – including a TV blitz of ads that aired in early October on the anniversary of the premiere of Dr. No.  Global James Bond Day was marked with the launch of Adele’s Skyfall theme song, which execs felt was a major draw – “massive and moody and sexy and perfect”. There also was a Bond-themed charity auction at Christie’s in London, a retrospective of all 22 previous Bond movies at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, a Music Of Bond night at the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles, a 50 Years Of Bond Style exhibit at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the premiere of the documentary Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story Of 007. On TV, Daniel Craig hosted SNL while the film was promoted on 60 Minutes. Overseas, the cast toured Moscow, London, Paris, Zurich, Madrid, Berlin, Rome, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Sydney, and Johannesburg, which produced big grosses overseas.

Related: Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ Marches Into Oscar Season

In 3rd place and also very strong is Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-buzzed Lincoln from DreamWorks Studios in association with Participant Media. Biopic expanded its run from 11 to 1,775 venues this second weekend in release. With an ‘A’ CinemaScore from audiences and 92% postive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes which will help word of mouth, it earned $21M this weekend for a $22.4M cume. The pic is distributed by Fox internationally and by Disney domestically but had to pay off Paramount first so the film’s budget is said to be $65M. Like most movies from Spielberg, who produced with Kathleen Kennedy, this one is receiving a ton of media attention. The bulk was weighted to this weekend’s expansion including Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln on the cover of Time including a 9-page spread featuring interviews with Day-Lewis, Spielberg, Sally Field, screenwriter Tony Kushner (after John Logan and Paul Webb turned in scripts), and Doris Kearns Goodwin whose non-fiction book Team of Rivals provided the basis for the film. The trailer launched September 13th during Google+ Hangout featuring Spielberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and broadcast on the ABC SuperSign in Times Square. Special conversations with Spielberg and Day-Lewis streamed live on Yahoo! Movies and were simulcast via satellite to theaters in 9 other cities. There also was a huge marketing presence throughout 2012′s election coverage starting with 2-minute exclusive trailer airing immediately after the first presidential debate on ABC, CNN, and CBS. Also let’s not forget the surprise screening at the New York Film Festival last month or the official premiere November 8th on closing night of AFI Fest. Spielberg and the cast are Oscar-touted, as are longtime Spielberg collaborators Janusz Kaminski and John Williams.

Related: Weinstein Finds ‘Silver Linings’ For Another Oscar Race

In other Oscar-touted openings this weekend, The Weinstein Company platformed producer/director David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. The romantic comedy earned $120K Friday and $181K Saturday from just 16 theaters in 10 cities for a $458K weekend and per screen average of $26,652. Hollywood expressed surprise to me that the Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence starrer’s PSA wasn’t higher given its awards buzz. My understanding is that this Matthew Quick adaptation of his novel (which was 6 years in the making from the time the book was acquired to the film’s release) will expand into 55 markets for 400 runs this pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday. The hope is that it’ll hang on and get up to 600 plays by Xmas. The plan is to bump it up to 2,000 theaters in January once the various movie awards nominations begin and TWC starts spending on its Academy Award campaign. That wasn’t the release plan first drawn up. TWC intended to go wider with the pic right away, but I’ve learned that Harvey Weinstein felt the need to change course and go slower “because he thinks it’ll be taken more seriously by the Academy if it does more of a traditional roll out,” a source tells me. We’ll see how much gravitas this much lauded laugher can muster.

Related: Anna Karenina‘s Risky New Version

Focus Features also started its Oscar-buzzed Anna Karenina in 16 theaters earning just $88K Friday and $130K Saturday for a $314K weekend and $19,577 per screen average. This lush reteaming of Pride And Prejudice director Joe Wright with star Keira Knightley for Tolstoy’s iconic adultress did not adhere strictly to Academy Award winning screenwriter Tom Stoppard’s rather literal script. That’s causing some blowback among film critics even though the intent was to distinguish this adaptation from the dozen or so previous films. (The pic is so female-centric that Jude Law is barely shown or even recognizable in the TV ads…) Before Thanksgiving Day, Focus expands it into 27 markets and then windens still further November 30th.

You’ll notice that in 9th place is the Indian romance Jab Tak Hai Jaan directed by Yash Chopra who died on October 21st after 50 years of working in Bollywood. It’s written and produced by Aditya Chopra under their production banner Yash Raj Films. The film features Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma in lead roles. The background score and soundtrack is by AR Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire). The film released in India during the 6-day Diwali weekend November 13th. It’s extremely rare for Bollywood to make it into North America’s top films – so rare I can’t recall when it last happened.

Here’s the Top 10 based on weekend estimates:

1. Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Summit/Lionsgate) NEW [Runs 4,070] PG13
Friday $71.9M, Saturday $41.8M, Est Sunday $27.6M, Weekend $141.3M
International $199.6M, Worldwide $340.9M

2. Skyfall (Eon/MGM/Sony) Week 2 [Runs 3,505] PG13
Friday $12.3M, Saturday $17.7M, Weekend $41.5M (-53%), Cume $161.3M

3. Lincoln (DreamWorks/Fox/Disney) Week 2 [Runs 1,775] PG13
Friday $6.3M, Saturday $8.5M, Weekend $21.0M, Cume $22.4M

4. Wreck-It Ralph (Disney) Week 3 [Runs 3,622] PG
Friday $4.4M, Saturday $8.5M, Weekend $18.3M, Cume $121.4M

5. Flight (Paramount) Week 3 [Runs 2,612] R
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3.9M, Weekend $8.6M, Cume $61.3M

6. Argo (Warner Bros) Week 6 [Runs 2,210] R
Friday $1.1M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.0M, Cume $92.0M

7. Taken 2 (Fox) Week 7 [Runs 2,063] PG13
Friday $650K, Saturday $955K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $134.6M

8. Pitch Perfect (Universal) Week 8 [Runs 1,122] PG13
Friday $398K, Saturday $567K, Weekend $1.3M, Cume $61.6M

9. Jab Tak Hai Jaan (Yash Raj Films) NEW [Runs 161] NR
Friday $373K, Saturday $536K, Weekend $1.2M

10. Here Comes The Boom (Sony) Week 6 [Runs 1,350] PG
Friday $338K, Saturday $535K, Weekend $1.1M, Cume $41.0M Read More »

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‘Twilight Saga’ Twitter Following Crosses 1 Million Mark

By | Monday August 20, 2012 @ 11:31am PDT
Mike Fleming

SANTA MONICA, CA August 20, 2012 – Summit Entertainment, a LIONSGATE® company, announced today that THE TWILIGHT SAGA Twitter handle @Twilight (https://twitter.com/twilight) amassed 1 million followers, making it the first-ever movie page on Twitter to ever reach the million mark. The Studio started the Twitter handle in October 2009. Within 24 hours of creating the handle, @Twilight became a worldwide trending topic. To celebrate today’s achievement, the Studio released a video to thank the million who follow the film franchise on Twitter, which can be seen via the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lNefFg9AAI. The film franchise’s cast members are also thanking fans for their support, using the hashtag #Twihards4EVER.

Summit’s Twitter handle for THE TWILIGHT SAGA, which has 50% more followers than the next biggest film property, has consistently been used to share exclusive content and news announcements including one-sheets, first look images, and messages from the franchise’s filmmakers – often resulting in worldwide trending topics on the microblogging service. Some highlights of this from over the past three years include the following:

· The @Twilight Twitter profile directed nearly 1.7 million views to the first teaser trailer for THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2. A week before the launch, a short sneak peek was teased on the handle, and within a few hours, it generated two of the top worldwide trending topics on Twitter (#RunningVampireBellaFTW and #WeLoveTwilight).

· During the opening weekend of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 1, a variety of Twilight topics – from “Twilight” to “Breaking

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‘Twilight Saga’s Stephenie Meyer Planning Comic-Con Surprise For ‘The Host’

By | Wednesday July 11, 2012 @ 2:38pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Author Stephenie Meyer, whose Twilight Saga franchise helped make Comic-Con such an important cog in movie marketing, has something dramatic planned when she and the film’s cast gather tomorrow for their final Comic-Con panel for Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 2. I’m told that the surprise will focus on what is shaping up to be Meyers’ next film franchise, The Host. She and that film’s distributor, Open Road, will be doing something during the Twilight Saga panel. I could not  confirm whether this is a sneak peek at footage–the film wrapped just weeks ago–though that would certainly make sense as the author tries to entice Twihards to embrace her next major film.

The Host is Meyers’ first science fiction novel, and focuses on a parasitic alien soul injected into Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), one of the last human holdouts trying to resist the alien invasion. Initially bent on breaking the girl’s spirit and thwarting the resistance effort, the alien soul becomes obsessed with her memories and free will.

There is a certain symmetry here, because while Meyer has only published a single novel, it’s believed she has already written the next two installments of a trilogy. Just as that vampire/werewolf saga focused on a love triangle between Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, the Andrew Niccol-directed … Read More »

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‘Twilight’ Saga Finale Already Breaks Record

By | Thursday June 21, 2012 @ 7:10pm PDT

Here’s another shameless plug for Twihard traffic. Summit Entertainment’s 24-hour-old debut of the new teaser trailer for the last of this annoyingly anticipated Twilight Saga films, Breaking Dawn Part 2 which releases November 16th, is already breaking records. It debuted exclusively on Yahoo and received 7 million views within the first day, the most ever for a trailer viewed on Yahoo. The previous record-holder on Yahoo was the Twilight Saga’s Breaking Dawn Part 1.

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No ‘Twilight’ Reboot Planned By Lionsgate – Yet

Summit Entertainment just phoned me to publicly deny an Internet report that its parent company Lionsgate already is drawing up plans to remake the Twilight Saga by the 5th anniversary of the insanely successful movie and book series which began November 21, 2008. Summit Co-Chairman and now Lionsgate domestic movie czar Rob Friedman tells me: ”We are not remaking Twilight. We will happily support Stephanie Meyer if she decides to proceed in any way. But this will be the last one unless that should change.” What this statement means is simply that the studio will do whatever Twilight Saga author Stephenie Meyer wants. She has said in some interviews that she wouldn’t mind seeing a reboot — so an evantual remake isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But as of now none is on the drawing board. Summit has released four Twilight adaptations, with the fifth and final for now film Breaking Dawn Part 2 arriving in theaters on November 16th.

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Midnight Madness For ‘Breaking Dawn’ DVD

By | Sunday February 12, 2012 @ 11:31pm PST

Sneak Peek At Twilight ‘Breaking Dawn Pt 2′

SUNDAY: Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 on opening day starting at midnight Saturday sold an estimated 2.4 million DVD and Blu-ray units. That’s 15% ahead of its predecessor Eclipse. Digital sales on Saturday also were 45% higher than Eclipse for electronic sell-through, and 160% higher than Eclipse via video on demand.

SATURDAY: Amazing how some aging franchises can still cause a frenzy. There were long lines inside and outside retailers when this second-to-last Twilight Saga film Breaking Dawn – Part 1 began selling its DVDs, Blu-ray disks, as well as video-on-demand and electronic sell-thru at 12:01 AM Saturday across North America. Summit Entertainment partnered with Target and Walmart and held “midnight” fan events for the 3,000 select stores. Exclusive sneak peeks at footage from Breaking Dawn – Part 2 will be showing at some Targets nationwide. Walmart has an exclusive version of the Part 1 DVD (called ‘Bella’s Wedding Dress Edition’) while Target has a limited edition DVD (with a sweepstakes for fans to win a trip to the “real Isle Esme” resort, site of Bella’s & Edward’s honeymoon. The DVD also comes with a limited edition collectible: authentic prop flowers from the movie wedding scene encased in an acrylic keepsake. Wanne bet that next year Summit will include Bella’s baby afterbirth as a keepsake with Part 2‘s DVD? Anything for a … Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate About To Clinch $700M Deal For ‘Twilight’-Studio Summit

By | Saturday January 7, 2012 @ 12:59pm PST

EXCLUSIVE: The hard-fought Lionsgate purchase of Summit Entertainment now looks about to consummate with insiders telling me it’s a $700 million deal consisting of $400M in equity plus an assumption of $300 million of debt. Most of that debt will be in the form of a bank loan by JP Morgan to Lionsgate. Several estimates have valued Summit at between $350 million and $450 million so to those familiar with Summit’s finances who don’t think my numbers add up, here’s why: Although the gross debt on Summit’s balance sheet is $500M, part of it gets wiped out by cash, and part of the cash moves with the company. Bankers and attorneys have been hovering all week around Summit, best known for its billions-dollar success with its Twilight Saga series,  as the merger talks between two of Hollywood’s largest independent movie studios morphed into takeover talks and went down to the wire, while media have been writing that the Lionsgate-Summit deal either was imminent or blew up.

But let me explain why this deal is very bad news for Hollywood: my insiders tell me it will mean the end of Summit as a buyer. First, behind the scenes, Lionsgate toppers Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns have no interest in continuing to let Summit make movies. But also in recent days the negotiations between the two indie studios became so rough and tumble that insiders now feel there is no possible way that … Read More »

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Alleged ‘Twilight Saga’ Hacker Holds Press Conference In Argentina To Declare Innocence; Summit Responds

By | Thursday August 4, 2011 @ 6:06pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Days ago, Summit Entertainment took the unusual step of announcing it had identified and was filing criminal charges against a woman in Argentina identified as the “principal hacker who earlier this year stole unreleased materials from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn which were then distributed on the internet.” Now, Summit is responding to allegations made by Daiana Santia after she held her own press conference this morning to deny she was the master hacker depicted by Summit and the filmmaking team behind Twilight Saga. In her press conference, Santia reportedly said she only saw Twilight Saga images while combing the web and that she doesn’t have the computer savvy to distribute them to anyone. She also claimed that she and her family were harassed by Summit in an attempt to go through her hard drive and that Santia is considering legal action of her own for harassment and defamation of character. She is also insisting that Summit’s claims be handled in Argentina and not in the U.S.

Summit swiftly responded to her charges in a memo just sent to Deadline: Read More »

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HAMMOND: HFPA Gives Away Record $1.5M

Pete Hammond

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association held its annual lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel and presented a record $1,579,500 in financial grants to 46 film schools and nonprofit organizations. Over the past 17 years, the org best known for awarding Golden Globes in January has awarded $13.5 million through their grants program, according to newly elected HFPA president Aida Takla O’Reilly.

All this philanthropic activity comes even as the sometimes controversial group of foreign entertainment journalists remains embroiled in ongoing legal battles with their longtime Globes production company, Dick Clark Productions, over rights to their annual highly rated awards show on NBC (and an Emmy nominee this year) as well as another legal dust-up with former publicist Michael Russell.

Despite the legal woes and bad Wall Street news, the HFPA luncheon was an upbeat affair, drawing numerous entertainment execs like Fox’s Peter Rice, FX’s John Landgraf, Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh and Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley, among others. There was also the usual starry turnout to help hand out the checks including Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Walhberg, Gerard Butler, Kevin Bacon, Yoshiki Hayashi, Jessica Chastain, Hugh Dancy, Lea Michele, Taylor Lautner, Elizabeth Moss, Elizabeth Olsen, Jim Sturgess, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Gabriel Macht, who all took turns introducing each other in the fast-paced, breezy presentation.

Over the years, awards-season strategists have also seen the lunch as a great opportunity to get some of their potential awards contenders in front of a captive audience of HFPA voters, and it was no different this year as Butler, DiCaprio, Olsen and Chastain are all actors with upcoming releases expected to figure in year-end awards considerations. Last year at this lunch, for instance, I noticed Annette Bening and Nicole Kidman on the lineup, and both did end up with Globes (and Oscar) nods. The exposure certainly can’t hurt as they say, especially in the overly crowded fall field of contenders. At the very least, the luncheon sort of serves as one of those “unofficial” precursors of the impending season. “I guess it’s all starting all over again,” one awards consultant still suffering battle scars from last year wearily told me. Read More »

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Summit Targets Alleged ‘Twilight Saga’ Hacker In Argentina

By | Monday August 1, 2011 @ 11:26am PDT
Mike Fleming

Los Angeles, CA August 1, 2011 – In an action that further communicates that those who steal images, video and other intellectual property will be identified and prosecuted globally, Summit Entertainment communicated today that it has identified the principal hacker who earlier this year stole unreleased materials from THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN which were then distributed on the internet. Civil actions in the United States and Argentina name Daiana Santia, along with others, as being involved in stealing photographs, unfinished images and video from both parts of the yet to be released THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN which first appeared on the internet of March 31 of this year. Criminal action in Argentina has also been filed.

The investigation, which utilized the services of Kroll Inc. and the law firm of Keats McFarland & Wilson LLP, spanned four continents (North America, South America, Europe and Australia) and has led to the town of Posadas in northern Argentina. It is believed that others may also be involved in the crime and thus the investigation is on-going.

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COMIC-CON: Some Film Studios Sitting Out

Deadline Comic-Con Movie Contributor Luke Y Thompson reports:

It’s the story every media outlet is dying to tell every year: “Comic-Con just ain’t what it used to be.” This year, however, the event — set for July 21-24 at the San Diego Convention Center — comes with some alarmist (and circumstantial) evidence: Warner Bros won’t be doing a movie presentation. Marvel Studios won’t be either, even though the tiniest teaser for The Avengers last year made for the most memorable panel. Disney initially appeared absent too. So what’s going on? Did the failure of Scott Pilgrim to triumph at the box office following a massive Con promotion last year leave studios leery?

Well, you’d think if that were the case, Universal would feel the most burned — yet they’re doubling down by holding the premiere of Cowboys and Aliens there, inviting many of the fans to attend; one would imagine the big names like Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig will at least attend.

Disney, which now owns the Muppets and Marvel Studios, is likely saving those properties for its own D23 Expo in Anaheim toward the end of August. They are, however, bringing the DreamWorks pickup Fright Night to Comic-Con (in presentation and screening form) — notably, this is a movie that will open Aug. 19, the same day the D23 Expo begins, so it makes sense to hype it sooner. Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are the big names attending; curiously, the publicity has consistently downplayed the presence of former Doctor Who star David Tenant, and he has not been mentioned as attending, though he’d be given a hero’s welcome if he did.

Warner Bros’ lack of a movie panel may largely be due to the fact that the next Superman and Batman movies aren’t ready to show much yet — Man of Steel star Henry Cavill will be there, but on behalf of Relativity’s Immortals (also Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz and Mickey Rourke; director Tarsem Singh is not currently expected). Certainly WB is showing a ton of TV previews, but I’ll leave that to my colleague Gary Hodges to discuss. The biggest question mark in my mind is what Time Warner-owned Entertainment Weekly will put on the cover of their Comic-Con issue now: traditionally, it’s been a big reveal from a Warners movie.

The biggest name being batted about right now as a possibility is Steven Spielberg, to present footage from his The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Certainly, a Tintin presentation would be wise, as the teaser has left many (myself included) highly skeptical. The fanbase needs persuading, and since it’s Spielberg, there’s probably at least one kickass scene that can get people hyped. But Paramount’s still playing things close to the vest — when I asked a publicist there about Comic-Con plans, I was told “It’s uncertain what or if we’re bringing anything.” That’s not a denial. And there has been talk of a Captain America screening — whether that translates into an actual panel is uncertain, as the regular press junkets and such will already be in full swing for the movie, opening that week. Read More »

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TOLDJA! Open Road Films Acquires Screen Adaptation Of Stephenie Meyer’s ‘The Host’

Mike Fleming

A week after Deadline told you that upstart distributor Open Road had closed a splashy deal for the Andrew Niccol-directed adaptation of Twilight Saga author Stephenie Meyer’s scifi novel The Host, Open Road has confirmed the scoop. They’ve also dated the film for Easter weekend 2013 release, with the film opening March 29. The film stars Saoirse Ronan. Here’s the official confirmation:

Los Angeles, CA, June 27, 2011 – Open Road Films has acquired U.S. distribution rights to “The Host,” the big screen adaptation of Twilight series author Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling novel. As previously announced, “The Host” will be directed by Andrew Niccol (“Gattaca”), who also wrote the screenplay, and will star Saoirse Ronan (“Hanna,” “The Lovely Bones,” “Atonement”). Open Road Films has set a March 29, 2013 release date (Easter weekend) for “The Host.”

“The Host” producers are Nick Wechsler, Chockstone Pictures’ Paula Mae Schwartz and Steve Schwartz, and Stephenie Meyer. Marc Butan, Jim Siebel, and Bill Johnson of Inferno Entertainment, which is handling international sales, are executive producers. Claudia Bluemhuber of Silver Reel, which is providing mezzanine financing, is also an executive producer. Roger Schwartz and Lizzy Bradford are co-producers.

Principal photography is scheduled to being in February 2012 in Louisiana and New Mexico, in anticipation of the wide release on March 29, 2013.

“The Host” is a riveting story about the survival of love and the human spirit in a time of war.

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Open Road To Acquire U.S. Distribution On Stephenie Meyer’s ‘The Host’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Open Road, the upstart distribution company formed by theater chains AMC and Regal, is making its second big acquisition. Tom Ortenberg’s company is acquiring domestic distribution rights to The Host, the Andrew Niccol-directed adaptation of Twilight Saga author Stephenie Meyer’s novel. I’m told that the there were at least three other distributors trying to get this and that the deal will be a seven-figure minimum guarantee, a healthy P&A commitment, and gross for participants that include the author.

Saoirse Ronan is set to play heroine Melanie Stryder, one of the last humans putting up a fight against an alien species called Souls, parasites that invade human bodies, fuse to each person’s consciousness and systematically erase their personalities. Melanie is captured by the aliens and implanted by a Soul called Wanderer. While Wanderer’s goal is to get Melanie to give up the remaining pockets of humans, the alien finds Melanie to be unique in her unwillingness to surrender her consciousness. Wanderer is so overwhelmed by Melanie’s memories and feelings that she is driven to reconnect with Melanie’s old life, which includes falling for Melanie’s boyfriend. The result is a complex, romantic and emotional human/alien love triangle. Nick Wechsler, Meyer, Paula Mae Schwartz and Steve Schwartz are producing. Inferno’s Marc Butan, Jim Seibel and Bill Johnson are exec producers and Roger Schwartz is co-producer. Read More »

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Summit’s Post-’Twilight’ Chapter To Be Underwritten By Book Adaptations

Mike Fleming

The start of Summit Entertainment’s trajectory began when the mini-major convinced Stephenie Meyer to sell her Twilight Saga book series after she’d been left so frustrated by how Paramount Pictures let it languish. Was it a billion dollar lucky break? As the vampire-werewolf series that fueled Summit’s recent $750 million refinancing comes to a close, Summit has bet heavily on books for its future franchises. Under production chief Erik Feig, Summit has been as prolific a buyer of books as any studio in town over the past two years. Most are conducive to young casts.

As Deadline predicted, Summit Entertainment has closed a screen rights deal for Veronica Roth’s young adult novel Divergent, which will be published by the HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books. It takes place in a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into factions as kids are categorized based on human traits. A teenage girl and guy rebel against the labels, which is a very dangerous thing to do. The buying community has compared it to The Hunger Games in tone and violent content. Red Wagon’s Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher will produce with Pouya Shahbazian. The latter works for FinePrint Productions and stirred up some dust in the early deal brokering with what I’m told were high demands like 35% of the fee from whatever established producer came onto the picture, even though the book fell … Read More »

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Will Kristen Stewart Follow Viggo Mortensen Into ‘Snow White And The Huntsman?’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: With word circulating that Viggo Mortensen is in talks to play one of the title characters in the Rupert Sanders-directed Snow White and the Huntsman for Universal Pictures, will Twilight Saga‘s Kristen Stewart end up with playing Snow White? Though the studio has been testing young actresses and no one is set, there are persistent rumors that Stewart looms large as a potential lead. Mortensen surfaces in the lead of that movie in a role that had been rumored for Michael Fassbender. But Fassbender never had an offer and he committed to the Ridley Scott-directed Prometheus with Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron. Ironically, Theron is also starring in Huntsmen as the Evil Queen. Stewart is repped by Gersh. Stay tuned…

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