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‘X-Men: First Class’ Helmer Matthew Vaughn Options Max Barry Thriller Novel ‘Lexicon’

By | Wednesday May 30, 2012 @ 5:15pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Using his own money, Matthew Vaughn has optioned Lexicon, the new thriller novel by Max Barry that will be published next year by Penguin in the U.S. and Mulholland in the UK. Vaughn is writing the script to direct.

Barry’s novels include Jennifer Government, Company and Machine. In Lexicon, the setting is contemporary but in a world where words are potentially lethal weapons–tools for persuading others to do what you want–which are wielded by members of a secret, ancient, global organization of people with an aptitude for persuasion in general. Their most gifted and troubled member, a young woman, breaks the society’s primary rule and falls in love.

Vaughn is coming off X-Men: First Class and is working on a sequel which Fox has on a fast track. He’s also producing a sequel to his film Kick-Ass, which will be directed by Jeff Wadlow and became real when Universal signed on. That’s plenty of action. This deal came about when Barry’s agents at Janklow & Nesbit Associates sent an advance copy of the book only to Vaughn, and the filmmaker responded.

Janklow & Nesbit, which almost always used a co-agent to make movie deals in the past (usually CAA,) now handles that task for most of the agency’s authors, since opening a Hollywood outpost in March. Janklow & Nesbit’s Carlo Martinelli and Amanda Schweitzer did this deal for Barry.

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VA VROOM! ‘Cars 2′ Revs $68M Weekend; ‘Bad Teacher’ More Than Good For $31M

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: After last weekend’s disappointing outcome for Green Lantern, Summer 2011 returns with big-time North American grosses. But both Disney’s Cars 2 and Sony’s Bad Teacher cooled off Saturday after a hot Friday. Expect an overall moviegoing total of $176M, up +6% from last year. Here’s the Top 10.

1. Cars 2 3D (Pixar/Disney) NEW [4,115 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.3M, Weekend $68M

Wow, even Pixar’s clunker exceeded expectations, becoming Pixar’s 12th straight No. 1 toon. Strange that the special studio parent/kids’ tracking was only showing a $50M weekend for Cars 2 even with 3D’s higher ticket prices and a very wide U.S. and Canadian release. (Its 4,115 theaters comprise 2,508 3D locations, including 120 IMAX venues.) Other studios at first thought the toon could zoom between $71.5M-$75M for the weekend, but Disney was right to stay conservative with projections of “just” $68M. Surprising that gross was -10% from Friday despite those Saturday kiddie matinees, indicating that word of mouth wasn’t good. It’s still a big bump up from the original’s $60.1M despite far less favorable reviews. Audiences gave Cars 2 a ‘A-’ CinemaScore vs ‘A’ for the first Cars back in 2006 but critics called the sequel a lemon and Pixar’s worst movie ever because of the lame espionage story and over-use of Larry The Cable Guy (a little of him goes a loooong way). No doubt his good ol’ boy tow truck voiceover will go down well in flyover country. But critics expected better of Pixar CEO John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering, who is returning to the director’s chair for the first time since Cars. Still, the moolah puts the sequel #5 on the Pixar food chain.

But the real platinum lining here is all that Cars-branded merchandise parents are going to buy for their kids. Disney has put 300 or so products on the market – Cars Kleenex, anyone? — and Wall Street expects those licensed retail sales to total $10 billion, making it the biggest movie merchandising ever. (Toy Story 3 made about $2.8 billion.) It’s a supremely cynical move — lousy movie, great crap – that includes a video game releasing Tuesday, ice and stage shows, and a 12-acre Cars Land expected to rejuvenate California Adventure next year. On the other hand, the Pixar brand may wind up hurt by its first bout of bad PR for a company whose first 11 feature-length animated films have earned $6.5 billion at the global box office and 29 Academy Awards. ”Families (flyover or not) are deciding for themselves and disregarding reviews,” an unconcerned Disney exec replies to me. “Critics not liking a movie doesn’t seem like it will hurt the Pixar brand in my opinion. It will be their 12th #1 film in a row and will rank near the top for opening weekends. Should I send you a Larry the Cable Guy DVD?”

Besides its licensing bonanza, Cars 2 builds on the original’s brand overseas. Cars 1 made “only” 47.2% of its $462M internationally, so Pixar/Disney decided to rev up the sequel’s foreign appeal by sending its vehicles on a race to Tokyo, Italy, London and Paris after the studio found that the tow truck resonated with kids around the world. (The Japanese washlet toilet scene is sight to behold.) Cars 2 is opening in 18 international markets including Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Already Russia scored the biggest opening day of all time for a Disney animated film (but there also are more theaters there now than before), while Australia is pitting Cars 2 against Kung Fu Panda 2, and the Pixar film has pulled a little ahead. Even the music is global, with a score by American composer Michael Giacchino, plus alternative rock legend Weezer, country music hitmaker Brad Paisley, best-selling British singer-songwriter Robbie Williams, French superstar Bénabar, and the power pop Japanese girl band Perfume.

2. Bad Teacher (Sony) NEW [3,049 Theaters]
Friday $12.1M, Saturday $10.9M, Weekend $31M

Welcome to the brave new moviemaking world of Bad Gals and raunchy ‘R-rated’ movies starring women. (Hard to believe feminists fought for this kind of film equality, huh?) Exit polling showed the pic attracted 63% female/37% male audiences, while 57% were over age 25/43% under age 25. Given the mega-success of Bridesmaids and now Bad Teacher, expect a lot of clones coming to the megaplex near you. Even though audiences gave foul-mouthed Cameron Diaz et al a ‘C+’ CinemaScore, this sleeper overperformed with Sony expecting a $20+M result. I’m told this under-$20M budgeted comedy was championed internally by Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad, and, like so many other films that Sony has successfully released of late, he was able to put the film together with the producers for the right $20M-$40M price. (If you look at the last several years, Sony still overspends on tentpoles but also has developed a solid portfolio of modestly produced films like The Social Network, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Bounty Hunter, Karate Kid, Julie and Julia, Easy A, Vantage Point, The Ugly Truth, etc. These titles, when done right, allow for decent upside…)

Once again, Sony had pitch-perfect marketing thanks to Marc Weinstock, Tommy Gargotta, and of course Jeff Blake. The buzz began developing weeks ago thanks to an irreverent outdoor campaign with Cameron and her desk continuing through the trailers and TV ads that shouted the subversive concept of the film. “We had a lot to work with on this title. From the movie itself to the cast, we used all our assets to build heat and awareness for the film while having fun with the campaign,” a Sony exec tells me. For example, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, the studio sent apples with Post-it notes that read “Eat Me” to top radio DJs in key markets to get a lot of air chatter going. Online, there were initiatives like the Worst Teachers In History Collection on collegehumor.com. Of course, Cameron, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel all worked the talk-show circuit. On TV, spots aired on many of the more mouthbreather-targeted season finales and premieres, while the two-minute trailer ran during MTV’s Jersey Shore in March to gain early awareness. Sony also had a strong footprint throughout the recent NBA playoffs and finals.

Bad Teacher opened first in the UK where it has done very well, taking in nearly $4M in its first week of play there and holding to a strong -41% Friday. It opens day and date in 25 smaller countries this weekend, including Germany, Holland, New Zealand and Sweden. Read More »

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NBA Finals Takes Big Bite Out Of Box Office

If you thought everyone was glued to the tube watching last night’s NBA Finals, you were right. LeBron fans (or foes) took a big bite out of Sunday night’s North American box office numbers. TV ratings were 50% higher than last year, affecting the male-skewing films in the evening like Super 8 ($9.3M), X-Men: First Class ($6.4M), and The Hangover Part II ($4.4M), which all missed their Sunday estimates by between $800K and $1.6 million. That means Super 8 ended the weekend at $35.4M (not $37M) with a cume of $36.4M (not $38M):

1. Super 8 (Bad Robot/Amblin/Paramount) NEW [3,379 Runs]
Friday $12.2M, Saturday $14M, Sunday $9.3M, Weekend $35.4M, Cume $36.4M

2. X-Men: First Class (Fox) Week 2 [3,692 Runs]
Friday $8M, Saturday $10.1M, Sunday $6.4M, Weekend $23.7M (-57%), Cume $97.6M

3. The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros) Week 3 [3,644 Runs]
Friday $5.7M, Saturday $7.6M, Sunday $4.4M, Weekend $17.7M, Cume $215.8M

Secret No More: ‘Super 8′ Reels In Big $37M Weekend; ‘X-Men’ Reboot $25M For Strong #2; ‘Hangover II’ Grosses $216M In 18 Days

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Rising Scribes Miller & Stentz Follow ‘Thor’ And ‘X-Men: First Class’ With New Deals

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In the past month, the screenwriting team of Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz have seen their script work on Thor and X-Men: First Class lead to big opening weekends. The scribes are capitalizing on their heat by making film and TV deals. The duo just made a pre-emptive pitch deal worth high six-figures with Skydance Productions principals David Ellison and Dana Goldberg  for an untitled contemporary disaster/action film. The style is ’70s fare like  Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno and Earthquake. Specifics are being kept under wraps.

Miller & Stentz have also just sold a pilot to 20th Century Fox for mid six figures, with Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein producing. The scribes are currently writing  a remake of the Lee Majors stuntman TV series The Fall Guy for producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. The project is set up at Imagenation, with an eye toward distribution through DreamWorks. They wrote an untitled “Knight Project” for Fox, and did production rewriting work on the Dimension Films “found footage” thriller Apollo 18. The feature success comes after Miller & Stentz spent years as writers/producers on series that include Fringe, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Andromeda. The scribes are repped by Principato-Young and WME.

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FX Nabs TV Rights To ‘X-Men: First Class’

By | Tuesday June 7, 2011 @ 12:27pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

FX has added another No.1 box-office opener to its collection of film acquisitions. The cable network has closed a deal for the TV rights to X-Men: First Class, which opened at the top spot last weekend with $55.1 million. Last week, FX picked up Hangover II, which was the box-office champ the previous weekend. The acquisition of First Class, produced by sister studio Twentieth Century Fox, completes FX’s X-Men collection. The network also has the first 3 films in the franchise. On the strength of their rebroadcasts last week as well as a Two and a Half Men Memorial Day marathon, FX finished last week at No.3 basic cable network among adults 18-49. X-Men is joined by other superhero movie franchises whose rights FX owns, including Spiderman, Fantastic Four and the X-Men offshoot Wolverine. Through its output deal with Marvel, FX is getting Thor and the upcoming Captain America this year. Read More »

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RISKY REBOOT? ‘X-Men: First Class’ $56M; Lowest Marvel Opening In A Long Time

By | Friday June 3, 2011 @ 10:21pm PDT

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 3RD UPDATE: So now the 2011 Summer Movie Season enters June after a big month of May. And this week looks like another up week as total movies are looking at a $160M weekend which is more than +24% from last year. The action continues with Marvel/Fox’s X-Men: First Class, a risky reboot directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) with a 1960s vibe and a release date all to itself in 3,641 theaters. It received a “B+” CinemaScore and very positive reviews (92 on Rotten Tomators) and started off by opening with a midnight gross of $3.3M from 1,783 locations. That edged out Marvel title Thor‘s $3.25 million midnight openings in 1,800 locations, but trailed X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘s $5 million midnight start at 2,000 locations. Wolverine‘s $85M opening weekend (from 4,099 locations) also swamped X-Men: First Class‘ debut – Friday’s total North American gross was $54 million for the weekend. This will be the lowest opening of a Marvel-branded movie in a long time — not to mention less than the $60M opening which Hollywood expected. Internationally, X-Men: First Class has already opened in France and Australia but broke no records and will roll out in 75 international territories on over 8,000 screens.

“Given that we are reinventing the X-Men franchise with a critically acclaimed director and top actors who are not really widely known to audiences, we’re hoping to be somewhere around Batman Begins ($48.7M) and X-Men ($54.4M). That seems to be a good target area … Read More »

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‘X-Men: First Class’ Writing Credit Dispute Resolved

Mike Fleming

A Writers Guild arbitration upheld the WGA decision that Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn deserve screenplay credit on X-Men: First Class, with Sheldon Turner (who wrote an origin film about Magneto) and Bryan Singer (who wrote an outline for the film at the beginning) getting story credit. There were more writers on the films than mutants in it and a skirmish unfolded for script credit. The Vaughn-directed Fox film opens June 3.

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Hot Trailer: ‘X-Men: First Class’

By | Thursday April 28, 2011 @ 6:13am PDT
Mike Fleming

20th Century Fox has issued a more expansive trailer for the overseas marketplace on X-Men: First Class, the latest installment of the mutant franchise. Watching this makes me wonder, is there any other superhero franchise with as rich a mythology and deep pool of core characters that lends itself to spinoff films that seem fresh and not derivative? The film will be released June 3.

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January Jones Set For ‘X-Men: First Class’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has rounded out the cast of X-Men: First Class, and the big surprise is that Mad Men star January Jones has been signed to play the role of Emma Frost, the gorgeous mutant with telepathic powers. At the same time, director Matthew Vaughn has set Zoe Kravitz to play Angel; Salvadore; Jason Flemyng will play Azazel, the father of Nightcrawler; Bill Milner to play the young version of Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and Morgan Lily to play the Young Raven. They join Fassbender, James McAvoy (Xavier), Nicholas Hoult (Beast) Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Caleb Landry Jones (Banshee), Lucas Till (Havoc), Edi Gathegi  (Darwin), who round out the mutant contingent. Kevin Bacon is playing the villain, Rose Byrne will play McAvoy’s love interest Moira MacTaggert, and Oliver Platt is playing The Man in Black. Production begins August 23 in London.

UTA client Jones, who plays Mad Men‘s Betty Francis — the recently divorced wife of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) — will emerge from that 1960s setting to play Emma Frost, the mutant also known as the White Queen. While speculative reports had Alice Eve playing that role, no deal was concluded. Mad Men wraps its fourth season in early September, and she will be able to jump right into the role. Jones received her first Emmy nomination for Lead Actress in a Drama, for Mad Men.

Kravitz (the daughter of singer and Precious star Lenny Kravitz) is set to star in the upcoming George Miller-directed Mad Max: Fury Road; Flemyng most recently starred in Kick-Ass, Milner is best known from Son of Rambow Read More »

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WME Signs ‘Kick-Ass’ Scribe Jane Goldman

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Screenwriter Jane Goldman has signed with WME. The British scribe is best known for teaming with director Matthew Vaughn to write Stardust and Kick-Ass. They are now scribbling away on X-Men: First Class as Vaughn heads to the starting gate. They also scripted The Debt, the John Madden-directed drama that was just accepted into the Toronto Film Festival. Separately, she adapted the Susan Hill novel The Woman in Black, which James Watkins will direct this fall with Daniel Radcliffe starring. Goldman, who has an incredible track record for seeing her penned projects make it into production, continues to be repped in the UK by Independent. This is the first time she has had a Hollywood agent. WME also reps Vaughn.

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