Universal Launches Year-Long Centennial Celebration; Announces Major Restoration Of 13 Classics

Pete Hammond

Universal this month is launching a yearlong 2012 centennial celebration with an ambitious and almost unprecedented film-restoration effort, a new logo, a swarm of special-edition Blu-ray movie packages, theme park celebrations emphasizing their film history, special events, premieres, and a major social media campaign. Like Paramount, which is also embarking on a centennial celebration, the emphasis here is making the old seem new again. Key among Universal’s plans is the complete restoration of 13 films that showcase a large part of the history of the studio — from 1930′s All Quiet On The Western Front to 1993′s Schindler’s List.

When I spoke with Universal president and COO Ron Meyer on Monday morning, his excitement about this opportunity to mark the studio’s storied past and take it into the future was evident. “One hundred years is such a great milestone,” he said. “I am a movie lover. It’s such an important part of the American culture, a part of the heritage of this country. I think we have a responsibility  to our employees, to the public to celebrate not just a milestone but celebrate the movie business, and this gives us a reason to do it.” He emphasized the centerpiece of this yearlong effort: the restoration of many Universal classics each uniquely repping their own decades.

Films chosen to get the full restoration treatment — in addition to the aforementioned All’s Quiet and Schindler’s List — are  both 1931 versions of Dracula, Frankenstein (1931),  The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Abbott and Costello’s Buck Privates (1941), Pillow Talk (1959), To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), The Birds (1963), The Sting (1973), Jaws (1975), and Out of Africa (1985). That’s actually 12 titles altogether, but there are 13 films since the studio is restoring both 1931 versions of Dracula — including Bela Lugosi’s famous English-language picture and the Spanish version that was filmed on the same sets at night. Pillow Talk repping the ’50s was one of Universal’s biggest hits ever to that time, earning an Original Screenplay Oscar and Doris Day’s only Oscar nomination. It seems an interesting and  inspired choice to me, and to Meyer. “What a great movie,” he said. “I have four children who don’t know these movies. They don’t know a Doris Day movie or Rock Hudson movies. And they are going to enjoy them when they see them. Once they see it they can appreciate it. There’s no way for even 30-year olds to know some of those movies unless they are film buffs.” Read More »

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Comcast Says Disney Deal Offers Protection From Google And Apple: Citigroup Confab

By | Thursday January 5, 2012 @ 10:34am PST

It’s hard to imagine what the video business will look like in one year, let alone 10. Yet Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis says that was an incentive for his company to pursue the decade-long deal with Disney, announced yesterday, that gives the cable company broad rights to about 70 channels and services. ”I look at that anxiety (about video’s future) as an opportunity,” he told bankers and analysts at the Citigroup Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference. ”Having long-term deals provides consistency.” He calls the agreement “a building block” — along with investments in live sports and VOD — for Comcast’s plan to compete with tech companies including Google and Apple as they move into the video business. “Our goal is to provide our customers with the best experience so they have no desire to go anywhere else.” Although Comcast and Disney didn’t disclose financial terms for their deal, the CFO acknowledges that it will increase Comcast’s programming costs. That’s “a challenge and we’re working through that.” Read More »

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Fire On Universal Backlot: No Injuries

By | Thursday December 8, 2011 @ 5:23pm PST

UPDATE, 6:28 PM: Talk about deja vu. Fire broke out in a construction area atop the former Technicolor building Thursday afternoon at Universal Studios. Workers were cutting and handling ductwork when sparks ignited insulation material, according to a … Read More »

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Harry Potter Attraction Riding Into Universal Studios Hollywood

Harry Potter will materialize sometime in the future in Universal City with his own special section of the theme park much like “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Orlando Resort. NBC Universal is expected to announce plans … Read More »

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Steve Burke Likes To “Scramble The Jets” (Plus Other Stuff About The NBCU CEO)

I regularly scoff whenever out-of-town media aim their powder puffs at Big Media moguls. So it is with Philadelphia Magazine’s new profile of NBC Universal boss Steve Burke which compares him to Superman and Jason Bourne among other fictional heroes.  The article is a big wet smooch to Philly-based Comcast, and among other hilarity suggests that, if Burke succeeds, he could lift Comcast “into the lofty ranks of Apple and Google”. Huh? There’s no doubt that Burke is still very much in his honeymoon period with the media. He won’t talk to the media — yet. But the article says Burke himself will “do a round of media interviews” timed to Smash, the Stephen Spielberg-produced TV drama about the creation of a musical debuting on NBC mid-season with Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston. Burke will be ”touting the new NBCUni and its downright Comcastic marketing strength”. Here’s more from this long article which focuses almost exclusively on TV and mentions the movie studio only once:

– One of Steve Burke’s first acts when he took over as CEO of NBCUniversal last winter­ was to redecorate the walls. He dispatched a staff member into the bowels of NBC’s headquarters to select 50 or 60 photos and then Burke went through them personally, choosing Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Johnny Carson, Groucho Marx, the Seinfeld cast, and NBC’s leaders like David Sarnoff and Brandon Tartikoff. The significance of the photos, according to Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts, was that “Steve believes as a manager and human being, that people need to have some sense of greater meaning in everything they do.”

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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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Will ‘Avatar’ From Fox Provide Disney With The Theme Park Hit It Needs?

Disney And Fox Unveil Plans To Develop ‘Avatar’ Theme Park Attractions

Disney must be hoping that its new plan to build Avatar theme park attractions will be the shot in the arm the business may need. And, unbelievably, the new … Read More »

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Ron Meyer Continues At Universal Thru 2015

By | Monday June 27, 2011 @ 10:20am PDT

I don’t know if there’ll be a formal announcement of this, but Ron Meyer has signed a new contract to continue as President and Chief Operating Officer of Universal Studios. He will remain with the company at least 4 1/2 more years through 2015 and he will continue to report to Steve Burke, chief of NBCUniversal. And so concludes the recent saga of whether Meyer would stay atop the studio after the recent sale to Comcast. First came the inaccurate reports last November that the 66-year-old Meyer was about to get fired by the new owners. Then came more inaccurate reports in May that Meyer was in negotiations to get hired again. Actually, the longest-serving Hollywood mogul began bargaining shortly after that since the perks alone made the job worth the headaches, and Comcast wanted him to stick around.

Meyer’s current contract continues through December 2012 and he’s been running Universal Studios for 16 years in charge of motion pictures, parks and resorts, and studio operations. Since he arrived in 1995, he’s made it through four changes of ownership (Seagram’s, Vivendi, General Electric, and now Comcast) and nine different bosses (Edgar Bronfman Jr, Frank Biondi, Jean-Marie Messier, Pierre Lescure, Barry Diller, Jean-Rene Fourtou, Bob Wright, Jeff Zucker, and now Steve Burke). And each and every time, Hollywood collectively would turn to him with the same worried expression and say, “How are you?” And each and every time, Meyer would reply, “I’m still here.” Once, entertainment super-lawyer Bruce Ramer asked Ron to speak to an industry luncheon: of course, on the topic of surviving. It’s not only a miracle — a word Meyer himself uses from time to time — it’s certainly a footnote in the history books of showbiz. “Fear of failure has taken me a long way,” Meyer once told me on the record. Read More »

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Universal Marketing Head Eddie Egan Moving To Top Illumination Post

By | Wednesday May 25, 2011 @ 4:30pm PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long. Universal has confirmed Egan’s move. Here’s the release, below Deadline’s original break of the story.

EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing that Universal marketing president Eddie Egan will be moving over to a top post at Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment. I hear he will transition slowly, straddling both jobs for a limited time. It’s the latest growth move for Illumination, the Universal-based family film company, which is 2-for-2 on movies with Despicable Me and Hop. Despicable Me, Meledandri’s first release through Universal, is also spawning a theme park attraction. Developing…

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, May 25, 2011 – After leading the domestic marketing of back-to-back breakaway hits for Universal Pictures in Fast Five and Bridesmaids, President of Marketing Eddie Egan has chosen to take on a new position as head of marketing for Illumination Entertainment. As Egan assumes the title and duties of Illumination’s President of Marketing, he will also continue to serve as a senior executive at his home studio as Executive Vice President for Universal Pictures, where he has spent 17 years and served for the last three and a half years as its domestic marketing chief. The announcement was made jointly today by Adam Fogelson, Chairman of Universal Pictures and Chris Meledandri, founder of Illumination.

In his newly created position at Illumination, Egan will oversee every aspect of marketing for the company’s slate, working closely with his new team at Illumination and his long-time colleagues at Universal. Illumination is planning to accelerate their output with Universal to two films a year starting in 2013.

Read More »

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Universal & Gold Circle Films In Distrib Deal

Universal Pictures will distribute six Gold Circle Films between 2012 and 2014, or two each year. The two companies already have partnered on multiple projects in the past decade including White NoiseBecause I Said SoThe Wedding DateThe Fourth Kind, and Slither. Gold Circle is currently … Read More »

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‘Despicable Me’ Becoming 2nd Biggest Toon Home Entertainment Release

EXCLUSIVE: This is the reason that Universal Studios president/COO Ron Meyer and his team trekked to Arkansas last week for a personal visit to the Wal-Mart headquarters. I’ve just learned that Universal’s first family film/toon unit from Chris Meledandri’s … Read More »

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Universal Not Pursuing Gores Bid For Focus

By | Friday December 10, 2010 @ 8:45pm PST

EXCLUSIVE: I can tell you that Focus Features is not for sale — yet anyway — and Universal hasn’t even had one conversation with Comcast about putting the specialty house in play (and can’t until the deal gets regulatory approval). So much for all that Internet chatter tonight about the … Read More »

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Comcast Internal Memo From NBC Universal Boss Steve Burke Reveals Organizational Structure Under New Owners

UPDATES COMCAST-NBCU: Ted Harbert And Bob Greenblatt To Run NBC, Pat Fili-Krushel Also Coming
UPDATES New Comcast/NBCU Organizational Structure

NBC Universal boss Steve Burke today made the new organizational structure official for NBC broadcasting, NBC Entertainment, NBCU cable, and Universal Studios and Universal Pictures:

For nearly a year, we have worked hard to identify people from NBC Universal, Comcast and outside the two companies to form our new leadership team when the deal closes. Our goal has been to find people who have the skill sets we need to succeed and who reflect the values that will be the hallmark of NBC Universal, including teamwork, integrity, creativity and a commitment to treating people the right way.

We have also been very focused on putting in place the best possible organizational structure. To that end, we have created some new positions, changed the scope of others, and shifted some reporting assignments. We think we’ve developed a structure that organizes the company in the smartest way possible.

We are beginning our leadership announcements now because with the anticipated close of the deal nearing, we want to give everyone enough time to begin to think about the specific opportunities and challenges they will face beginning the day of the close. This is particularly true for areas that have transition work to complete before we close. While new roles won’t be effective until the deal closes, and while there will be more announcements to come, it is important that we are prepared to hit the ground running.

To that end, I am pleased to make the following initial announcements of members of the new NBC Universal senior management team:

Bonnie Hammer will become Chairman, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. USA, SyFy, E! Entertainment, G4, Chiller, Sleuth, Universal HD and UCP (Universal Cable Productions) will report to Bonnie. Neil Tiles will remain President of G4 and report to Bonnie as will a newly appointed president of E! Entertainment.

Lauren Zalaznick will become Chairman, NBC Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media. Bravo, Oxygen, and iVillage will continue to report to Lauren, as will the Integrated Strategic Marketing Group, which oversees initiatives including Green Is Universal, Healthy at NBC Universal and Women at NBC Universal. Digital properties Daily Candy and

Fandango, Spanish language broadcaster Telemundo, and cable networks mun2, Style, and PBS Sprout will also report to Lauren.

Read More »

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New Comcast/NBCU Organizational Structure

8TH UPDATE: Comcast is clearing the way for its pending announcement of the new NBC Universal top executive structure. Jeff Gaspin, who had felt more and more as the odd man out in Comcast’s plans for the post-merger NBCU, just sent out a note to NBC Universal employees announcing that he will depart the company following its merger with Comcast after he and new NBCU CEO Steve Burke “could not agree on an appropriate role” for him in the new company. Gaspin had 4 years left on his contract, which was breached by the merger and Burke replacing Jeff Zucker. Gaspin was furious when a report last week claimed he was gone because it wasn’t true: in fact the two men hadn’t made that decision yet even though everyone guessed that’d be the ultimate conclusion because it’s known that Burke wants to decrease the media company’s layers of management. Gaspin has spent a combined 19 years at NBCU, most recently as chairman of NBC Universal TV Entertainment. “I want to thank Jeff for his many significant contributions to NBCU and for his professionalism throughout the integration process,” Burke said in a statement. After sending the memo, Gaspin gathered his senior executive team for an emotional meeting.

EXCLUSIVE… 6TH & 7TH UPDATE:  Jeff Gaspin is flying on an NBC Universal corporate jet from NYC back to LA right now and is telling fellow passengers that a report he is leaving the company is “not accurate”. As we’ve been saying all along, there are a lot of moving parts to this NBCU organizational restructure, and a lot hasn’t been pinned down yet. Gaspin, who is NBCU Television Group President/COO, falls into that category. We’ve learned that he hasn’t had a “definitive conversation” with Comcast about his future yet. And the fact is that, as of today, his future has not been decided. “It may turn out to be true that he leaves. And he’s preparing for it. But it’s not true right now,” an insider just told us.

EXCLUSIVE… 5TH UPDATE: We’ve confirmed that onetime CBS bigwig and now consultant Nancy Tellem has indeed been in formal talks with Comcast brass about taking a top job at NBC alongside Robert Greenblatt. The idea was that he would be in charge of creative, and she would fill a parallel NYC-based network president-type job. Both would report to new NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke. As we reported Comcast hopes to announce the new NBC Universal organizational structure — one which now may or may not include Jeff Gaspin who got on a plane Monday for NYC Monday to meet with Comcast brass. About Tellem, “Comcast is talking to her. Nothing has been decided yet though because there are still ongoing issues. But people are trying to work through those issues,” one insider told us. ”She wants to do it. She just has to make sure the job is right.” Tellem was among half a dozen top-level broadcast executives (including Fox Network Group Chairman/CEO Tony Vinciquerra) approached by Burke some months ago after the Comcast/NBC deal was announced. Tellem was most recently boss of the bulk of CBS Inc’s entertainment operations until she stepped down in December 2009 to become Senior Advisor To The CEO.

Read More »

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Universal Unaware Of Longtime Security Breach: “Embarrassing Beyond Belief”

By | Sunday August 15, 2010 @ 2:26pm PDT



Good thing the morons at Universal aren’t in charge of Homeland Security. Because I’ve learned that studio bosses Ron Meyer, Jim Waters, and many others only recently discovered a security breach that has existed on the lot for decades — even throughout … Read More »

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Reliance Bringing Universal Studios Theme Parks To India?

Mike Fleming

The Wall Street Journal reports that Reliance ADA Group is negotiating with Universal Studios to replicate its  movie-themed amusement parks in India. The result would be a $1.5 billion new park that covers 400 acres –in either New Delhi or … Read More »

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