EXCLUSIVE: UK director Carl Tibbetts (Retreat, Black Mirror) is now in the director’s chair on Timeless, the science fiction project scripted by Bill Kelly (Enchanted, Premonition). Story tracks a twentysomething surfer who sets out to build a time travel machine after his wife dies in an accident. He taps a young Harvard physicist to help make the impossible a reality. Kelly first sold the spec in 2010 when Phillip Noyce was attached to direct. Now new financier Nicolas Veinberg and Defiant Pictures has come aboard and Sunil Perkash (Salt, Enchanted, Premonition) will produce alongside Veinberg and Lucas Jarash. Relativity Media, who made the initial spec deal, is not currently attached to the project. Tibbetts made his feature debut with the sci-fi thriller Retreat starring Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton, and Jamie Bell. He’s currently casting for the Timeless shoot next spring in Gran Canaria, Spain where producers aim to take advantage of generous 38% local tax incentives. Defiant Pictures’ upcoming slate includes Charlize Theron-starrer Dark Places and Wild Oats starring Shirley Maclaine and Jessica Lange. Tibbets is repped by Verve, Independent in the UK and Attorney Doug Stone. Kelly is repped by WME.
Malcolm D. Lee is back to write and direct the third film in the series, which Universal has titled and slated for April 15, 2016. The studio says the ensemble cast is returning for The Best Man Wedding, which features the group getting back together for a most unexpected nuptials. The previous film in the franchise, $17 million sequel The Best Man Holiday, was a hit right out of the gate, scoring a $30 million opening in November. It was the fifth-largest bow for an R-rated romantic comedy, the second-highest for an urban romantic comedy and the sixth-biggest for an urban-themed film overall. It also received an A+ CinemaScore across all quadrants. Best Man Holiday and 1999′s The Best Man starred Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Monica Calhoun and Melissa De Sousa. Sean Daniel also is returning to produce the threequel, which has the release date to itself for now.
Frozen, already the all-time animation box-office champ and an Oscar winner, has added another jewel to its icy crown: Rentrak says the Walt Disney Animation feature topped the charts for the first half of 2014 in digital movie purchases and rentals on VOD and electronic sellthrough. Nearly all the other films in the top 10 were Oscar nominees too, even the Jackass-produced comedy Bad Grandpa, which snagged a nomination for best makeup and hairstyling. It appears everyone spent that very chilly winter of 2014 catching up on the Oscar contenders they didn’t watch in theaters.
There is one important caveat to this list, however: It does not include any films from NBCUniversal, nor from indie studios (whatever size studio we count Lionsgate as these days, its Hunger Games sequel made the list at a not-that-surprising No. 2). Rentrak said that though it couldn’t include individual Universal films for the list, the studio’s products as a whole were No. 1 for both overall transactions and retail revenue during the period, which ran from the week of January 5 to June 29.
Written and directed by Justin Simien, Dear White People takes a satirical look at race relations in the age of Obama. Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P. Bell, Kyle Gallner, Malcolm Barrett, Brittany Curran, Marque Richardson, and Dennis Haysbert star in the Sundance prize winner that follows a group of black students as they navigate campus life and racial politics at a predominantly white college. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions will release the film October 17. Check out the first official trailer:
EXCLUSIVE: French Canadian drama Sarah Prefers To Run has been acquired by distribution platform Film Festival Flix following its U.S. debut at Outfest. Chloe Robichaud wrote and directed Sophie Desmarais in the story of a college-bound woman who agrees to get married in order to get a grant to afford university and compete in the school’s premier athletic club. Film Festival Flix’s deal covers U.S. rights. The company will open Sarah as part of its Film Festival Flix theatrical series monthly film series that enables audiences to interact with filmmakers and actors, as well as in limited release next spring. Film world-premiered at Cannes, where it screened in the Un Certain Regard section. EOne negotiated the deal via its Les Films Séville label.
The average consumer outlay for tickets, from the National Association of Theatre Owners, is down 0.6% vs the same three-month period in 2013 — mostly due to a drop in attendance for premium-priced 3D and large-screen films. Box office for the quarter was down 6.6% as tentpole films including The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A Million Ways To Die In the West, and Captain America: The Winter Solider fell short of some analysts’ expectations. Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible, for one, noted that in Q2 “64% of tentpoles underperformed [his forecasts] and offset stronger performance by Maleficent, Transformers, 22 Jump Street and Godzilla.” The $8.33 average price in Q2 was up 4.6% vs the first three months of the year, a period when studios typically release few 3D films. Consumers paid an average of $8.13 for a movie ticket in 2013.
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Animation has set Jimmy Miller’s Mosaic and Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions on Manimal, the feature based on the cult 1980s TV show about a man who fights crime using his ability to morph into animals. Miller, Ferrell, and McKay will produce along with original series co-creator Glen A. Larson, and Key & Peele EPs Jay Martel and Ian Roberts already have been tapped to write.
The original 1983 series starred Simon MacCorkindale as Dr. Jonathan Chase, a dashing and wealthy man raised in Africa who was also “master of the secrets that divide man from animal.” It was cancelled after eight episodes, only to live on in the hearts of a devoted cult fandom (flash back with a clip from Manimal below). Sony Pictures Animation’s live-action/animation hybrid will reinvent that concept as an action-comedy with heavy visual effects and animated elements. SPA President of Production Michelle Raimo Kouyate and SVP Michael Lachance are overseeing for the studio.
A federal judge today has denied a motion seeking to disqualify lawyers repping the estate of The Lord Of The Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien in its $80 million copyright and digital merchandising lawsuit against Warner Bros and the Saul Zaentz Company. The studio and its partner in early June filed a motion to have Fourth Age’s lawyers, Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP, disqualified the almost-2-year-old suit ”because the firm impermissibly gained access to privileged information in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct.”
In today’s three-page order (read it here), U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins wrote that “Warner and Zaentz have not met their burden of showing that disqualification is necessary to preserve the integrity of these proceedings.” WB is repped by Daniel Petrocelli of LA firm O’Melveny & Meyers; Saul Zaentz Co is repped by Martin Glick of San Francisco firm Arnold & Porter LLP.
In an exclusive interview with Deadline, a crew member who suffered serious injuries on an earlier film by Midnight Rider director-producers Randall Miller and Jody Savin has called their “safety first” claims “a lie.”
Katie Dover, a costumer who was hurt on the set of Miller and Savin’s 2013 film CBGB during pre-production, says Miller and Savin’s recent statements regarding safety on their films don’t jibe with her experience.
Days ago, Midnight Rider director Miller and his wife-producer Savin — two of the three filmmakers charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones — went on the record stating that since they began in the business in 1990, “We have always emphasized the safety of the crew. In all those years we have never had a significant injury or accident of any kind.”
“That’s a lie,” said Dover, who is going on the record about the injury for the first time. “My injury was significant. I lost 6 months of work because of it.” After a table sliced the back of her hand open from little finger across to her forefinger, Dover underwent two surgeries, was in a cast and had to endure months of physical therapy. “I’d call that significant,” she said.
Here’s one to get the Comic-Con crowd going as things ramp up in San Diego. I’m hearing that Edgar Wright has found his next film, after stepping away from Marvel’s Ant-Man. Wright’s looking to next direct Baby Driver for Working Title Films. The project, which Wright wrote, is described to me as a collision of crime, action, music and sound. That sounds like a close cousin to the Cornetto Trilogy of films that Wright did at Working Title, but at this point at least, it doesn’t appear that Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are part of this. They made the three comedies World’s End, Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead together. Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Nira Park. This is all happening on a fast track, and I will keep you posted as more details emerge. It isn’t at a studio yet, but Working Title’s deal is at Universal and so it seems natural that the film will be made there or by Focus Features, which released World’s End. CAA and Anonymous Content rep Wright.
The Not-Very-Nice Little Witch That Could keeps enchanting audiences around the globe, as Disney’s ‘Maleficent‘ crossed the $700 million mark in global box office, Disney distribution execs said. It’s the studio’s second 2014 release to cross that high mark (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, box office champ for the first half of 2014, is the other).
Since its U.S. release on May 30, the film has tallied $228.8M domestically. Overseas, it has been extremely strong, no doubt helped by star Angelina Jolie‘s global visibility and appeal. The overall international gross has hit $471.8M so far, with big numbers out of China, Mexico, Russia and Brazil. Japan, which has a habit of keeping late-arriving Disney films in theaters for many lucrative weeks (see what happened with Frozen earlier in the year before Maleficent dethroned it), just debuted the film on July 5. Since then, it’s been No. 1 for three straight weekends, pulling in $32.7M already.
The studio said Maleficent is the year’s highest-grossing film based on an original story, (though some may quibble, given the film’s roots in Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty). It’s also Jolie’s highest-grossing live-action film ever, whether measured by domestic, international and global box office.
Roadside Attractions has acquired U.S. rights to Xavier Dolan’s Cannes pic Mommy. The plan is to release it in first-quarter 2015. Dolan’s fifth film centers on an explosive 15-year-old boy with ADHD and his widowed single mom. But when Kyla, a new girl across the street, enters their lives, things change. Anne Dorval, Antoine Olivier Pilon and Suzanne Clément star.
Dolan, a Canadian, moved up to the Cannes Competition lineup for the first time with Mommy after winning three prizes in Directors’ Fortnight at just 19 (he was famously miffed to be in Un Certain Regard rather than Competition in 2012 with his Laurence Anyways). Mommy won the Grand Jury prize this year.
EOne and Montreal-based Les Films Séville are handling distribution of the film in English and French Canada, while Séville International VP International Sales Anick Poirier negotiated the U.S. deal with Roadside co-president Howard Cohen and attorney Greg Bernstein.
The 17th Costume Designers Guild Awards will be held Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at the Beverly Hilton. The awards ceremony will be produced by JumpLine, executive producer JL Pomeroy and supervising producer Sarah Cowperthwaite. Nominees, honorees, host and presenters will be announced at a later date.
Toronto Film Fest Will Close World Premiere of ‘A Little Chaos’; No Opener Yet; Jon Stewart, Chris Rock Get Perches
UPDATED, 8:40 AM: The 39th Toronto Film Festival, running September 4-14, will close with the world premiere of Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos with Kate Winslet, Rickman, Matthias Schoenaerts and Stanley Tucci. The opening-night film was not announced at this morning’s press conference.
“A Little Chaos is the perfect closing-night film – it transports audiences to another time, another place, full of beauty, complexity, rivalry, politics and romance,” said Toronto artistic director Cameron Bailey. “Alan Rickman’s film will wind audiences up just as our festival is winding down.”
In this sumptuous historical drama Sabine De Barra (Winslet) — a landscaper with a taste for the unconventional — is invited to design one of the fountains at the Palace of Versailles. As she battles with the weather, the perilous rivalries at the court of Louis XIV and her own private demons, she finds herself drawn inescapably closer to the formality and enigma of the architect who hired her.
Of the 13 Galas and 46 Special Presentations announced, the initial lineup includes 37 world premieres from directors including Noah Baumbach, Susanne Bier, Peter Ho-Sun Chan, David Dobkin, Philippe Falardeau, Mia Hansen-Løve, Ning Hao, François Ozon, Christian Petzold, Lone Scherfig and Chris Rock. Here’s the list:
EXCLUSIVE: Jeff Blake, who has served as vice chairman of Sony Pictures and chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures since 2005, is leaving the studio that he has been a part of for the past 22 years. Part of the innermost circle of Sony’s senior management team with CEO Michael Lynton and chair of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group Amy Pascal, the departure is a real shake-up for the studio at the highest level. Blake is the stalwart pro and has been one of the longest survivors at any studio. He worked under several Sony regimes including that of Peter Guber and Mark Canton, Jonathan Dolgen, Alan Levine, Robert Wynne, Mel Harris, the beloved John Calley, Howard Stringer, and finally Lynton and Pascal. He exits August 1.
Sony announced it at 8 AM this morning, saying, “It’s with a heavy heart and great appreciation that we want to share with you news that Jeff Blake has decided to leave SPE to pursue other opportunities … he’s been an important part of the fabric of SPE. We have all loved his legendary role as raffle master at our annual holiday party, enjoyed his gregarious laugh and sense of humor and appreciate his reputation as one of the nicest and most easy-going guys in the business.”
With Blake’s departure, the studio loses an executive with institutional and strategic knowledge of not only marketing and distribution both domestically and internationally, but on the business itself. He has worked at three studios, having joined the business in 1974 working for Paramount Pictures in Chicago. He has also worked with the best known names in the business at Paramount and at Sony (and even a short stint at Disney) – from Charlie Bludhorn and Barry Diller to Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Stanley Jaffe, Frank Mancuso, the wonderful Brandon Tartikoff, the aforementioned executives and so many others. Katzenberg and Mancuso became Blake’s lifetime friends and mentors.
His departure comes after Pascal and Lynton and the rest of SPE’s senior management have been under tremendous pressure after a rough round last summer and a hit-and-miss year so far in 2014. Pascal and Lynton have spent this past year making changes at the studio and shoring up their ranks with execs like Michael De Luca coming in as president of production at Columbia, and the announcement last week that Doug Belgrad is expanding duties with a new president of the motion picture group title. Those expanded responsibilities included working with the marketing and distribution team which also saw changes last year. Sony has undergone extreme cost-cutting at the studio as well with layoff after layoff. They have also worked to bring in co-financing deals and closed a big one with Lone Star Capital and Citibank, a smaller agreement with Village Roadshow and have also been waiting for former Warner Bros. executive Jeff Robinov to secure financing to start producing movies to distribute.
“Certainly there has been an air of change at Sony for the past couple of years,” said Blake. “I put it out there prior to our summer if at some point, I needed to step aside that I certainly would but, in the meantime, I wanted to make sure that there were no distractions in releasing our summer slate. I’m really comfortable with my decision,
3BlackDot Hybrid Firm Emerges From Stealth Mode With Ex-’Duck Dynasty’, Machinima Execs, Top YouTubers
3BlackDot – a hybrid entertainment company with gamer and social-media-marketing roots and composed of video production, game development, online influencer and integrated marketing units – has officially come out of stealth mode this morning. Company principals include two former Machinima executives (Angelo Pullen and Luke Stepleton) and two prominent YouTube personalities (SeaNanners, aka Adam Montoya, and TheSyndicateProject, aka Tom Cassell).
As well, Stepleton’s older brother, former Duck Dynasty co-executive producer Hank Stepleton, will join the organization as partner and head of Pickaxe, the company’s video-content production company. The first Pickaxe project will be a live-action short based on Zombie Killer Squad, the mobile title developed by the company’s game unit and released last November to substantial success. The trailer for the short will be shown at San Diego Comic-Con this week, at a lounge 3BlackDot will be running for its online influencers and others.
GLAAD Study Finds Lack Of LGBT Images, Offensive Content In Films From 7 Studios, Sony Columbia Gets Best Grade
GLAAD has released its second annual Studio Responsibility Index that maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios during the 2013 calendar year: 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers. GLAAD found that of the 102 releases from the major studios in 2013, 17 of them included characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. It found that the majority of these characters were minor roles or cameos, and that many of these were outright defamatory representations in films such as Pain & Gain and Riddick.
Ahead of Thursday’s announcement of the Venice Film Festival competition lineup, the parallel Venice Days section has presented its roster. As previously noted, Kim Ki-duk’s revenge drama One On One will open the section out of competition. The Korean helmer’s Pieta won the Golden Lion in 2012. Closing the section is Alex De La Iglesia’s documentary about Argentine football great Lionel Messi. Titled Messi, the film uses reconstructions, archival material and interviews to trace the player’s rise to stardom. Among the competition titles is the world premiere of Palme d’Or winner Laurent Cantet’s Return To Ithaca. Set in Havana, the film sees five friends reflect on their past and future. The section also hosts the international premiere of Shawn Christensen’s SXSW drama Before I Disappear with Emmy Rossum, Fatima Ptacek, Paul Wesley, Ron Perlman and Richard Schiff. It’s based on Christensen’s 2013 Oscar-winning short film Curfew. Click over for the full Venice Days lineup:
Comcast has become so big and complex that its earnings are almost always mixed — and Q2 was no exception, although the combination of soft revenue growth with strong profits sent shares up 2.1% in pre-market trading. The cable giant reported net income of $2.03B, +16.1% vs the period last year, on revenues of $16.84B, +3.5%. Analysts expected the top line to come in a little higher, at $16.95B. But earnings at 76 cents a share handily beat the consensus forecast of 72 cents.
NBCUniversal also seemed to have a split personality with operating cash flow +20.4% to $1.43B while revenues were +0.3% to $6.02B. The main Cable Networks operation saw sales grow 2.6% to $2.48B with affiliate fees +4.2% while ad sales fell 2.2%. Still, by controlling costs, the unit’s operating cash flow rose 6.3% to $914M. The Broadcast Television unit told a similar story: With rising retransmission consent fees, its revenues increased 4.9% to $1.8B. But ad sales fell 1.7%, which the network partly attributes to having fewer hours of The Voice than it had last year. Still, broadcast operating cash flow increased 16.2% to $240M reflecting, the company says, “a slight increase in operating costs and expenses.” Theme Parks proved to be NBCU’s most consistent performer despite the increased costs for Orlando’s The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley attraction which opened this month. Attendance and spending were both up, resulting in a 12.8% increase in revenues to $615M with …