‘Ride Along 2′ Gets Rolling: Tim Story To Direct, Will Packer To Produce With Deals Closing For Kevin Hart and Ice Cube

Ride Along CrewEXCLUSIVE: It was inevitable after the huge success of Ride Along that Universal Pictures executives would be salivating to get the sequel together. Tim Story will direct Ride Along 2 and Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are closing to reprise their roles as the quick-witted security guard (Hart) who has his eye on his partner’s (Cube’s) sister. The film debuted five weeks ago on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend to bring in a record opening of $41.5M. It has since grossed more than $120M worldwide as of this weekend. The three-day gross on Ride Along dropped only 9% even as they shed 283 screens with $3,460 per screen. Helluva hold.

Will Packer and Cube’s Cube Vision (Ice Cube and Matt Alvarez) are coming back to produce from a script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? A late June/early July start is planned and all are hard at work finalizing the script which is expected to have more action and am hearing that it will be more multi-cultural to expand the demos. Smart move, all, if you want to expand into the lucrative Latin American and European markets. Yes, it’s comedy but it’s also business. Ride Along is in six territories currently with expansions into other markets yet to come, but it is getting 97% of its total box office ($121.2M) from domestic. Likewise, the bankable Think Like a Man also had 95% of its box office coming from the U.S. Universal EVP Production Scott Bernstein will oversee the project for the studio. Larry Brezner is also producing and BenderSpink, executive producing. Read More »

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Brittany Snow Back For ‘Pitch Perfect 2′

By | Friday February 14, 2014 @ 2:56pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has just signed a deal Closing Party - STYLE360 Spring/Summer 2014 Collectionsfor Pitch Perfect co-star Brittany Snow to rejoin Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson for the sequel. Elizabeth Banks is set to directRead More »

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Universal Sets Zhang Yimou To Helm Robert Ludlum Adaptation ‘The Parsifal Mosaic’

By | Thursday February 13, 2014 @ 4:32pm PST
Mike Fleming

Marrakech International Film Festival - Tribute To Zhang Yimou - Red Carpet PhotocallEXCLUSIVE: What’s a Robert Ludlum thriller without an unexpected plot twist? How about Universal Pictures setting Zhang Yimou to direct The Parsifal Mosaic, the Ludlum bestseller that Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are producing with Captivate’s Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith? I’m told this is the first time that a mainland Chinese director has signed to do an English-language film with a film studio in the U.S. That was the goal when, in May 2012, CAA signed the filmmaker whose film Ju Dou became the first Chinese feature to be nominated for an Oscar, and who also directed the dazzling Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is not clear yet whether this will be his first Hollywood film or not because he has other irons in the fire. Zhang’s films include the BAFTA-winning Raise The Red Lantern, Hero, House Of Flying Daggers and the Christian Bale starrer Flowers Of War. His latest film, Coming Home, is in the process of being acquired out of Berlin by Sony Pictures Classics, which releases most of Zhang’s Chinese films. Read More »

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Eva Longoria Joins Blumhouse’s ‘Visions’

By | Wednesday February 12, 2014 @ 12:05pm PST

Eva Longoria horror VisionsEXCLUSIVE: Blumhouse horror pic Visions has added another TV name to its cast. Eva Longoria will join Isla Fisher, Anson Mount, and Community‘s Gillian Jacobs in the … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘The Purge: Anarchy’

By | Wednesday February 12, 2014 @ 10:01am PST

Universal and Blumhouse Productions’ micro-budget horror thriller The Purge made about $90 million worldwide last year on about a $3M budget and now comes the first trailer for the sequel, the now-titled The Purge: Anarchy. James DeMonaco returns as writer-director-producer as does the premise: what happens in a dystopian … Read More »

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The Horse’s Mouth: Joe Biden, ‘Pets’ Project & Windows 95

By | Tuesday February 11, 2014 @ 1:56pm PST

The Horses MouthYears ago when working at the trades, one of the most popular features we did was The Horse’s Mouth, where we collected comments and unusual conversations we had with people across the film and TV industries and shared them with our readers. We’ll never tell, but you know who you are:
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Joe BidenDeadline Commenter: I have three words for that: Joe Biden.
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Reporter: I left a message for Sanford [Panitch], too.
Assistant: The name of the movie is Sanford 2?
Reporter: No, Sanford Panitch. He works at Fox with you.
Read More »

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Universal Closes $1 Million Spec Deal For ‘Mena,’ 80s Drug Tale Ron Howard Will Direct

By | Saturday February 8, 2014 @ 6:28pm PST
Mike Fleming

specEXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures today closed a $1 million spec deal for Mena, a script by Gary Spinelli that has Ron Howard attached to direct. The film will be produced by Doug Davison with Imagine’s Brian Grazer, and … Read More »

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Universal Wins 7-Figure Auction For ‘Red Rising,’ With Marc Forster Helming Mars Tale

By | Thursday February 6, 2014 @ 6:10pm PST
Mike Fleming

redrEXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has emerged from a bidding battle with Sony Pictures to win screen rights to Red Rising, the just-released Pierce Brown novel that World War Z director Marc Forster will helm as his next film. The … Read More »

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Universal Signs Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson For ‘Pitch Perfect 2′

Mike Fleming

pitchpUniversal Pictures and Gold Circle, which just set Elizabeth Banks to helm Pitch Perfect 2, has signed the two core performers in the original sleeper, making deals with Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson to reprise.  … Read More »

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Universal Sets Dates For ‘Everest’, Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Crimson Peak’, Others

By | Thursday January 30, 2014 @ 3:04pm PST

Universal Pictures logo 2013Universal Pictures announced release dates for a slew of movies today. Among them: The Baltasar Kormakur-directed 3D adventure Everest is set for February 27, 2015, and Legendary Pictures’ haunted house pic Crimson Peak, from helmer … Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

Catch up on the stories you missed this week:

TarantinoQuentin Tarantino Shelves ‘The Hateful Eight’ After Betrayal Results In Script Leak
By Mike Fleming Jr. EXCLUSIVE: Learning today that his script The Hateful Eight leaked after he gave it to a small circle of actors, Quentin Tarantino tells me that he’s so upset that he has decided that he will not direct that film next.

Rupert Sanders Set To Helm ‘Ghost In The Shell’ For DreamWorks
By Mike Fleming Jr.EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has made a deal with Snow White And The Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders to direct Ghost In The Shell, a live-action film based on the Japanese manga futuristic police thriller that has a new script from William Wheeler.

Whiplash Sundance AwardSundance: ‘Whiplash’ & ‘Rich Hill’ Win Grand Jury Awards; Dramatic Directing Goes To Cutter Hodierne For ‘Fishing Without Nets’
By Dominic Patten and Jen Yamato – It was the first major deal of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and tonight Whiplash was the big winner at the fest’s Awards Ceremony. The Damien Chazelle-directed film about a young drummer, played by Miles Teller, and his demanding teacher, played by JK Simmons, took both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award. Read More »

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Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley Re-Ups To 2017, Adds Oversight Of International And Marketing Divisions

Mike Fleming

donaBREAKING: After coming through a major fall restructure and flying out of the gate with two box office hits in 2014 and overhauling Fast & Furious 7 so it can resume production in March, Universal Pictures chairman … Read More »

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Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Sets Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet And Kevin Hart For 3D Animated ‘Pets’ Pic At Universal

Mike Fleming

UNTITLED_PET_PROJECT_Image_(2)EXCLUSIVE: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures have been reserving prime release date real estate for secret family film projects. Deadline has the details on the one that will be released on February 12, 2016. Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri has set Louis C.K., Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet and Ride Along’s Kevin Hart to voice the main characters in what is being called the Untitled Pets Movie. Meledandri is producing the 3D animated film with longtime collaborator Janet Healy. Chris Renaud, who helmed the first two Despicable Me films for Illumination, will direct this one, and the co-director is Yarrow Cheney, who helmed a short that will be part of The Minions DVD release. The script was written by Despicable Me scribes Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio.

louisericThis becomes the fifth animated film for Illumination and a return to an original property, and the Pets pic marks the first animated studio feature that Louis C.K, Stonestreet and Hart have taken part in. Here’s the logline: the action comedy is set in a Manhattan apartment building. After the two-legged residents head for work and school, their pets gather to start their day, which consists of hanging out, trading humiliating stories about their owners, and helping each other work up adorable looks that will lead to more snacks. The head hound is a quick-witted terrier rescue (Louis C.K.), whose position at the epicenter of his master’s universe is suddenly threatened when she comes home with Duke (Stonestreet), a sloppy mongrel with no polish. The two soon find themselves on the mean streets of New York, where they meet the adorable white bunny Snowball (Hart). It turns out that Snowball is the leader of an army of pets that were abandoned and are determined to get back at humanity and every owner-loving pet. The dogs must thwart this plot and make it back in time for dinner. Read More »

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R.I.P. ‘The Mummy’ Franchise Producer Jim Jacks

By | Tuesday January 21, 2014 @ 5:56am PST
Mike Fleming

This is sad news. Jim Jacks has died. The former Universal Pictures production JimJacksexecutive transitioned to a film partnership with Sean Daniel in Universal-based Alphaville, and together they produced The Mummy franchise and films that included Tombstone, Dazed Read More »

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‘Despicable Me 3′ Set For June 2017 Release; ‘Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ Arrives Five Months Later

despicable_me_2Universal Pictures has announced dates on three upcoming high-profile projects and it means more Minions on the menu, along with a big helping of Grinch: the third installment of its incredibly successful animated franchise Despicable Me 3, and a “newly imagined” version of Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and a new – wait, let’s read that again – an untitled animated comedy from Despicable Me makers Illumination Entertainment that says its “an original … project 2,” whatever that means.

Related: Best Box Office Ever? Biggest Hollywood Franchises Explode In 2015 On Historic Collision Course

Anyway, Gru, Lucy, the girls and the minions are coming back to a megaplex near you — in 3 1/2 years. Universal today announced a June 30, 2017, date for Despicable Me 3, the follow-up to last year’s first sequel, which has grossed $935.8M worldwide and just opened in it last territory, China. The studio also revealed dates for two other Illumination Entertainment toons: a new version of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (November 17, 2017) and Untitled Illumination Project 2016 2 (December 21, 2016).

Today’s announcements set up a couple of potentially interesting box office battles — if all the dates hold. But it’s a big if. DM3′s release is set for two weeks after both Disney/Pixar and Fox/DWA/Blue Sky have untitled projects set for release (June 16, 2017). Also, Grinch is set for five days before the bow of an untitled Pixar toon. Read More »

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BOX OFFICE: ‘Lone Survivor’ Opens Strong In Late-Night Showings; $33M to $35M Weekend Now Predicted; ‘Hercules’ Anemic

By | Friday January 10, 2014 @ 4:34pm PST

Lone_Survivor_posterUPDATE, 4:34 PM: In a matter of less than 24 hours, Universal has doubled its expectations for the war-themed action/drama Lone Survivor to $33M-$35M for the 3-day weekend. And, according to distributors’ estimates, Lone Survivor will open far and above the other titles in the marketplace. These are very early returns from Friday play times and numbers are bound to change after the N.Y. evening shows and L.A. afternoon and evening dates are calculated. Other titles’ box office numbers (below) are also expected to rise. Stay tuned.

PREVIOUS, FRIDAY AM: Lone Survivor, the true story about a group of Navy SEALs who are cut off from communication and then ambushed by Al-Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan, opened well in late-night showings — 8 PM-midnight in 1,811 theaters in the U.S.  The action pic from director Peter Berg and real-life hero Marcus Luttrell took in $1.5M, according to U.S. distributor Universal Pictures. Today it opens on 2,876 theaters in North America; EOne is handling the film’s distribution in Canada. The picture is currently on track to take the No. 1 box office spot, and Fandango reported it had 51% of ticket sales leading into the weekend. The consensus is that it will far outweigh newcomer The Legend Of Hercules from Lionsgate/Summit which may even fall towards the bottom of the pack as it is getting killed by the critics (a zero Rotten Tomato score? Yikes!), but it all remains to be seen. It’s typically very hard to track war-themed films, but the best comparison is probably Zero Dark Thirty which opened limited in December last year, expanded wide in January and grabbed a $24.4M in its 3-day opening weekend. It opened wide in 2,072 runs for its Thursday night sneak to gross $650,000, according to Sony. However, it opened at 10 PM, giving it one less showing in slightly fewer theaters. Read More »

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Universal, Chris Morgan Howl For ‘The Wolf’s Hour’

Mike Fleming

olfEXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired the Robert McCammon novel The Wolf’s Hour for Chris Morgan and Emile Gladstone to produce through their Universal-based Chris Morgan Productions banner. While Universal has done several werewolf films since launching the classic … Read More »

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Box Office Market Share: Warner Bros No. 1 With $5.035B, 8 films over $100M; Disney, Uni Records Set — But What Does It Matter If All Costs Aren’t Calculated In?

By | Thursday January 2, 2014 @ 3:40pm PST

Warner_Bros._Pictures_intro Warner Bros., Disney and Universal Pictures are the leaders in the marketplace for 2013, driven by powerful box office numbers from franchise tentpoles and animated titles. Warner Bros. had a huge market share jump over all others … Read More »

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Year-End: How A Growing Global Mandate And Franchise Fever Led To Movie Studio Tsuris

Mike Fleming

Considering that global movie ticket sales reached precedent levels after a particularly robust holiday period and a hollywood-signmostly sizzling summer, 2013 was one of the most turbulent years I can remember in the executive suites of major studios. Studios were overhauled all over town to better compete in an arena that is more of a global pursuit than ever, with victory belonging to whoever can build and maintain the most franchises.

YearEnd2013_badge__131227212819Purists will decry the fact that Hollywood’s brightest minds are mostly focused on repackaging derivative concepts for maximum global grosses, but evidence of the rewards are right there in the gross charts: Six of the top seven biggest films were sequels that provided the kind of results that keep studio conglomerate parents happy, keep studio chiefs employed, and slate co-financiers coming back for more. Sure, studios will still get involved with awards-season prestige films like The Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, but often only when someone else pays to make them. This franchise fever pushed costs of blockbusters to ridiculously high levels, and left top execs and producers explaining, and sometimes packing, when some badly misfired. Add that to internal power struggles at places like Universal and Warner Bros, and you needed a scorecard to keep up with the executive changes — which came fast and furious, especially after the brutal summer blockbuster season. Among them:

Related: Leonardo DiCaprio On Creating Fact-Based Black Comedy Without Glorifying Crooks

Universal Pictures logo 2013*Universal fired film chairman Adam Fogelson in a move that surprised him along with everyone else in town but Ron Meyer and Donna Langley, with whom he engaged in a quiet power struggle. Fogelson was blindsided by the result, coming hours after he presided over the Toronto premiere of Rush. The Comcast-orchestrated move that put Jeff Shell in charge of filmed entertainment after he did well running NBCUniversal’s international operations. Meyer was upped to vice chairman of NBCUniversal and Langley as sole Universal Films chairman and picture picker. Even though the studio placed third in market share and Despicable Me 2 could become the studio’s biggest-ever box office hit when it plays in China, Universal also flubbed franchise launch attempts like R.I.P.D. and 47 Ronin, and Kick-Ass 2 proved that once was enough. Universal has sequels to Fast & Furious 6Jurassic Park, The Mummy and Ted coming, and a new salty adult franchise in Fifty Shades Of Grey for 2015. Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures moved in to hatch pictures and co-fi Universal titles like Jurassic World, hedging the studio’s bets as it moves forward. Langley’s biggest challenge has been retooling the studio’s most lucrative franchise, Fast & Furious, which was halfway completed when star Paul Walker died tragically in a fiery car crash. Right after Fogelson was ousted, longtime Focus Features chief James Schamus was dismissed just as suddenly. He was replaced by Peter Schlessel, the whip-smart former Sony dealmaker who’d been running FilmDistrict and who clearly will be charged with broadening the highbrow Focus slate to include more low-risk high-return genre films like the FilmDistrict hit Insidious. Schamus’s co-chairman, Andrew Karpen, declined to relocate and stay on, dramatically changing the complexion of that prestige company.

Related: Why ‘Fifty Shades’ Date Move Makes Sense

warnerbros_logo__131127025856-275x209*The final shoe dropped after Warner Bros gave the top job to Kevin Tsujihara instead of Warner Bros movie chief Jeff Robinov. At a time when Robinov should have been taking victory laps after his bets on filmmakers paid off so well with Ben Affleck’s Argo, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Robinov instead left in a frosty exit to form his own moneyed film venture. This, and the equally tempestuous exit of Legendary’s Tull after a lucrative franchise-fueled run, left Robinov’s successors Greg Silverman and Sue Kroll under big pressure to assert themselves to find new franchises. The studio re-upped Village Roadshow Pictures and replaced Legendary with James Packer, Brett Ratner and Steven Mnuchin’s RatPac Dune in a slate co-financing deal that will spread $450 million or more over 75 films. While Warner Bros brass tired of Tull imposing his creative will and cherry-picking Warner Bros titles to co-fi, RatPac Dune will not do that, and I heard the studio was able to exclude certain plum titles from the arrangement. But Warner Bros also gifted RatPac Dune with a co-fi stake in Gravity after it was completed, creating Gravity-ca big windfall for a fledgling venture. It’s ironic given nobody in Hollywood but Robinov seemed to want to make that movie — an expensive auteur effort that has zero sequel potential. One challenge for the new team at Warner Bros: keeping Robinov from peeling away the directors he empowered, from Christopher Nolan to Affleck, Snyder, Luhrmann, The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips and Cuaron to make movies at the new company he and Graham King are expected to launch at Sony. Silverman is respected and Kroll is regarded as arguably the best marketer in town and the studio’s global distribution and marketing operation is as good as there is, but the pressure’s on even though Warner Bros topped other studios in market share. It also has what seems like a strong year with franchise launches in Godzilla and LEGO, another installment of 300 (so what if everybody died in the original?), and a Hobbit finale. Beyond Hobbit, New Line continues to do its part on the franchise front, hatching a Horrible Bosses sequel for 2014 and gearing up another installment of its sleeper 2013 road trip comedy We’re The Millers.

Related: OSCARS Q&A: Alfonso Cuaron On ‘Gravity’

Sony-Pictures-logo__130125035333-200x312 (1)*After two costly summer misfires in After Earth and White House Down,  a lackluster Smurfs sequel that fizzled the franchise, and disappointing returns on the Matt Damon-starrer Elysium, Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal found herself  in the cross-hairs of minority activist shareholder Daniel Loeb. The result: seismic changes in its executive structure and game plan moving forward. The studio dropped marketing head Marc Weinstock, corporate PR chief Steve Elzer and home entertainment chief David Bishop, and then added former New Line president-turned Fifty Shades Of Grey producer Michael De Luca to share president of production duties with Hannah Minghella. The studio vowed heading into its fall investor meetings that it would cut $250 million in costs through 2016, and make fewer movies in 2014 and  pour the money into TV. I keep hearing that was temporary window dressing, and after adding former Fox chief Tom Rothman to revive TriStar, which creates another buyer on a lot full of them, Sony will continue to try and create sony_amazing_spiderman_DF-06775_rV7franchises to go along with its Spider-Man and 007 stalwarts. Sony secured a big slate co-fi investment from John LaViolette and Joseph Singer’s Blue Anchor that begins with George Clooney’s The Monuments Men. And then there is the prospect of the venture by Robinov/King which would give Sony huge movies to release and gain market share and bragging rights, without actually having to fund them if they don’t want to. If 22 Jump Street and especially The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit as well as is hoped, some of that pressure could be alleviated as the studio presses ahead with reboots of past franchise successes Ghostbusters and Men In Black.

Related: Hot Teaser: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′ Read More »

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