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Disney-Fox Deal Expected for Thursday (Report)

2 hours ago

A mega deal between Disney and Fox will be announced on Thursday, according to a new report on CNBC.

The $60 billion-plus pact will see Disney acquire key entertainment and sports assets from 21st Century Fox, including its film and TV studio. The CNBC report follows a Monday announcement that Comcast has opted out of its pursuit for Fox.

A spokesman for Fox declined comment. A Disney spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shares of Disney were up 0.44% in early morning trading to just over $107, while shares of Fox rose .33% to $33.37.

Not all of Fox’s assets will go to Disney. The company will retain Fox News, the Fox broadcast network, and Fox Sports 1, which will be reconstituted into a new, independent company. According to CNBC, that would be worth roughly $10 a share. As part of the deal, Fox shareholders will get a stake in the new company, along with shares of Disney. »

- Brent Lang

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Mike De Luca, John Legend Will Produce ‘Long Way Down’ for Universal (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

Universal has optioned the rights to “Long Way Down,” beating out several other studios for the chance to make a movie based on the best-selling novel.

As part of the package, Michael De Luca will produce alongside John Legend for their respective banners, Michael De Luca Productions and Get Lifted Film Co. The book was a hit with young adult readers and was written by Jason Reynolds. It has an unusual premise. The story takes place in sixty seconds, as a young man struggles to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother. Another dash of unorthodoxy: the book unspools in free verse and is set in an elevator. “Long Way Down” was a finalist for the National Book Award.

De Luca is an Oscar nominee, whose credits include the “Fifty Shades” trilogy, “The Social Network,” and “Moneyball.” Legend is best known for his work as a singer and songwriter »

- Brent Lang

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Film News Roundup: Live-Action ‘Detective Pikachu’ Gets 2019 Release

17 hours ago

In today’s film news roundup, “Detective Pikachu” gets a release date, T.C. Boyle’s “The Relive Box” is being turned into a movie, and Dimitri Thivaios is cast in “Rise of the Living Dead.”

Release Date

Legendary Entertainment’s live-action “Detective Pikachu” has been set for a May 10, 2019, release.

The film, based on the Pokémon franchise, will star Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”), and Kathryn Newton (“Big Little Lies”).  Rob Letterman will direct.

Universal Pictures will handle distribution outside Japan. Toho will distribute in Japan, as it has done in its partnership with Legendary on the blockbuster monster reboot “Godzilla.”

Project Unveiled

Condé Nast Entertainment is developing the feature film “The Relive Box,” based on T.C. Boyle’s short story in the New Yorker about a tech device that allows you to relive your past.

Daniel Arsham is making his feature directorial debut and Chai Hecht (“Unorthodox”) is writing the screenplay based on the »

- Dave McNary

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Film Review: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

47 minutes ago

Surely, all “Star Wars” fans hope each new installment will be the best ever. But in the case of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” that seemed like an actual possibility. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, a Sundance alum who established his serious-filmmaker bona fides with his 2005 indie debut, “Brick,” before graduating to young Christopher Nolan territory via the relatively big-budget sci-fi movie “Looper,” Episode VIII seemed to have everything going for it.

To the extent that “The Force Awakens” was essentially a heightened reboot of “A New Hope,” recycling many of the 1977 original’s thrills in fresh form with a mostly new cast, this latest chapter was positioned as the new trilogy’s “The Empire Strikes Back” — which is to say, a darker, more serious chapter (commonly regarded as the series’ best) that deepens the underlying mythology, shapes its emerging hero (originally Luke Skywalker, now Daisy Ridley’s Force-strong Rey), sets up an epic cliff-hanger and introduces »

- Peter Debruge

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Ari Sandel Tapped to Direct ‘Goosebumps’ Sequel

49 minutes ago

Ari Sandel has been brought on board to direct a sequel to “Goosebumps,” Variety has learned.

It is unclear, however, if this “Goosebumps” follow up will be the next one to hit theaters or if it will even get made at all. Sony, which is backing the movie, has two versions in development. One of these scripts features original star Jack Black, and one does not. There are scheduling concerns involving the actor. The pressure is mounting, and Sony had better make a decision soon about which film it wants to make if it has a chance of hitting its September 21, 2018 release date.

The studio has tapped Rob Lieber (“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”) to write one of these scripts. The first “Goosebumps,” was a modest hit, having grossed $150.2 million worldwide on a reported $58 million budget. Sony is looking to trim costs on this iteration.

Sandel’s credits include “The Duff, »

- Brent Lang

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How the Palme d’Or Went Missing, Briefly: Star of Cannes Winner ‘The Square’ Explains

1 hour ago

The director of “The Square,” which won the top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, lost the trophy, the Palme d’Or, briefly, the film’s lead actor Claes Bang told Variety in a video interview at the Dubai Film Festival. This week the Swedish film picked up a Golden Globe nomination and six European Film Awards, including best film and actor.

Bang, who plays art-gallery curator Christian in Ruben Ostlund’s art-world satire, said: “Ruben wanted to do a photo re-enactment of the whole week in Cannes — us arriving, all the expectation, the screening — and we were carrying cameras, lights … a lot of sh-t. So we pack everything up, and put it in the car, and drive around. And at one point we were like ‘Okay let’s move on. We need to do the next thing.’

“And we got everything in the car, and we were all in the car, and we were »

- Leo Barraclough

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Becomes Fandango’s Top 2017 Ticket Seller

1 hour ago

Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has become Fandango’s top advance ticket-seller of the year, topping previous record-holder “Beauty and the Beast.”

“Even though the film doesn’t officially open till Friday, Fandango’s pre-release ticket sales for ‘Last Jedi’ have already eclipsed the total pre-release ticket sales of any other movie on Fandango this year,” the online ticketing service said on Tuesday.

Tracking indicates that “The Last Jedi” could earn as much as $200 million in its domestic debut, which would be the fourth-largest of all time after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Jurassic World,” and “The Avengers.”

Directed by Rian Johnson, the movie picks up where 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” left off. It stars returning cast members Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Andy Serkis. The new cast members include Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro. The movie marks »

- Dave McNary

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Sophie Turner’s Drama ‘Josie’ to Launch Mammoth Film Festival

1 hour ago

Sophie Turner’s independent drama “Josie” has been selected as the opening night film for the inaugural Mammoth Film Festival on Feb. 8, Variety has learned exclusively.

The film, formerly titled “Huntsville,” also stars Dylan McDermott and Jack Kilmer. It’s directed by Eric England from a screenplay by Anthony Ragnone II. The script, which made the 2014 Black List, centers on a solitary man living a dull existence in the sleepy town. He raises eyebrows when he develops a questionable relationship with a recently transplanted high school student.

Turner is best known for her role as Sansa Stark in “Game of Thrones.” She portrayed Jean Grey in “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

The festival, which is being billed as a mini-Sundance, runs from Feb. 8 to Feb. 11 and will feature other indie world premieres, studio films, shorts, and episodics.

“It’s a real honor to have such a prestigious title as ‘Josie’ open our first ever Mammoth Film Festival,” said founder »

- Dave McNary

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European Parliament Rejects Key Proposed Digital Single Market Regulation

4 hours ago

In a decision sure to spark relief in the European film and TV industry, the European Parliament voted Tuesday morning to reject most of the European Commission’s so-called Sat Cab proposal threatening territory-by-territory licensing of films and TV shows across the E.U.

Details of the vote, and views on where the issue goes from here, largely remain to be seen. The vote tally was 344-265 to reject most of the EC’s proposals.

In one early reaction, Italian motion picture association Anica, which had been lobbying intensely against the proposal, issued a statement after the vote saying that it proves “that the majority [of the European Parliament] wants a Europe made up of major players in the audiovisual sector; a strong and competitive creative content industry; and a digital market that is dynamic and not made up of passive consumers.”

Other industry orgs are likely to hail the vote as a victory for quality, cultural diversity »

- John Hopewell and Nick Vivarelli

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Gaumont’s French Christmas Comedy ‘Santa & Cie’ Set for Big Rollout in China

5 hours ago

After smashing the French B.O. with an estimated €3.5 million in five days, Alain Chabat’s fantasy-filled Christmas comedy “Santa & Cie” will be getting a wide release in China on Dec. 15.

Hishow Entertainment is partnering up with China Film Group to give “Santa & Cie” a massive roll-out across 8,000 screens.

Co-produced and repped worldwide by Gaumont, “Santa & Cie” will mark the second French-language film to be released in China this year, following Dany Boon’s “Raid Dingue,” and the second French-language pic to be distributed nearly simultaneously with the release in France. Another Gaumont movie, the animated feature “Ballerina,” was released in China by Hishow and sold more than 1.3 million tickets.

Hishow Entertainment is aiming to bank on the growing popularity of Christmas, which Gaumont says has become the second-most celebrated holiday in China after the Chinese New Year. It turns out that two-thirds of the Christmas decorations consumed worldwide are made in Yiwu, a Chinese »

- Elsa Keslassy

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Writer Claims ‘Get Hard’ Ripped Off His ‘Prison 101’ Idea

15 hours ago

A writer has filed suit against Codeblack Enterprises, alleging that the Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy “Get Hard” was based on his idea.

Victor Dean says that in 2009, he wrote a treatment for “Prison 101,” which features a securities broker who has to learn how to survive prison from a “streetwise individual.” Dean says he pitched the idea to Codeblack, a division of Lionsgate that has worked closely with Hart. Dean alleges that he suggested that Hart and Ferrell could co-star. In 2012, Dean turned the idea into a four-episode web series.

Ferrell and Adam McKay subsequently developed “Get Hard” at Warner Bros., and Hart was brought in to co-star in the project.

The suit alleges that Codeblack “allowed McKay access to Prison 101 at the Codeblack offices by acts including… telling McKay about the ideas and storylines in ‘Prison 101’ and/or showing McKay Plaintiff’s YouTube videos.”

Jeff Clanagan, CEO of Codeblack, has been said »

- Gene Maddaus

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CineAsia: Charles Rivkin Looks to Asia as Locomotive for Theatrical Cinema

15 hours ago

Hollywood’s lobbyist in chief, Charles Rivkin Tuesday delivered a message of hope for the theatrical cinema industry, in Asia and the rest of the world.

The chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association, Rivkin suggested that film has enduring cultural power, as well as the power to make cross cultural connections.

“Audiences across Asia are devouring American content.. it is our responsibility to continue creating compelling content, and nurturing talent,” he said. Rivkin was speaking in Hong Kong at the CineAsia, the largest annual convention of cinema exhibitors and distributors in Asia.

Rivkin’s upbeat message comes at a time when theatrical cinema is challenged by online platforms, shrinking release windows, and changing retail patterns.

Asia, however, represents a different outlook. It is already the largest segment of the world’s theatrical market, representing 39% of global box office, and offers the strongest growth prospects.

“Asia is setting the pace of cinema building,” said Rivkin »

- Patrick Frater

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Hollywood’s Below-the-Line Workers Anxious About New Tax Plans

16 hours ago

As a professional juggler, Michael Rayner has a lot of work-related tax deductions each year, including $700 for the cheeseburgers he spins atop parasols, 30,000 travel miles and $220 for liability insurance, just in case one of the pins or flaming torches he flips into the air should somehow stray into the audience.

His wife, actress and voiceover artist Moira Quirk, also has a wealth of business-related deductions, the most significant of which is the 10% commission she pays her agent. And they write off 25% of the mortgage and expenses for their North Hollywood house for their respective home offices, which include a recording booth for her and rehearsal and juggling supply storage areas for him.

Now, the massive tax bills passed by the House and the Senate (429 and 479 pages, respectively) earlier this month have thrown the future of these write-offs into question, casting a cloud of fear and uncertainty over the financial fates of Rayner and other workaday entertainment pros. The »

- Todd Longwell

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Movie Chain AMC Exploring Investment in Saudi Arabia

17 hours ago

Movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings is exploring investing in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the kingdom lifting its 35-year-old ban on cinemas.

AMC announced Monday that it had signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. “In line with the Fund’s mandate to help unlock promising new sectors within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pif and AMC Entertainment will explore a range of commercial opportunities for collaboration that will support the growth of the Kingdom’s entertainment sector,” the company  said.

AMC said the agreement builds on Monday’s announcement of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media’s decision to grant domestic licenses to cinema providers, and supports the Vision 2030 objective of growing household spending on entertainment from 2.9% to 6.0% of gross domestic product.

“Pif sees huge potential in the Kingdom’s entertainment sector,” the Pif said. “We look forward to working with AMC Entertainment Holdings to explore opportunities »

- Dave McNary

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CineAsia: Sony Applies Haptic Technology to ‘Insidious: The Last Key’ (Exclusive)

18 hours ago

Touch and feel technology will allow creepy sensations to invade viewers’ bodies when they are watching “Insidious: The Last Key.” The film is the first feature from Sony to use haptic technology for its full duration.

The Interaction Technology version of the film will be unveiled first for attendees of the CineAsia exhibitors’ and distributors’ convention, which debuts Tuesday in Hong Kong. At CineAsia last year, Sony demonstrated a short-form immersive experience from the company’s “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.”

The haptic technology was developed by Sony Pictures Entertainment (Spe), Sony Corporation, and Sony Pcl. A specially-designed vest provides tactile sensations on the body that are concurrent with the narrative of the film. Visitors to CineAsia can choose to experience a 15-minute segment, or the entire movie, which is being played at the AMC Pacific Place multiplex. Franchise star Lin Shaye and co-star, screenwriter and co-creator of the series Leigh Whannell will be in attendance.

“The »

- Patrick Frater

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Rockets to Dominant Social Media Buzz

18 hours ago

Disney-Luscasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” dominated social media buzz last week in the wake of the Dec. 9 world premiere and announcing its dedication to the late Carrie Fisher, according to media-measurement firm comScore and its PreAct service.

“The Last Jedi,” which opens Dec. 15, generated 368,000 new conversations last week to bring its total to 4.75 million. Tracking has shown the tentpole’s opening weekend could be in the $200 million range at the domestic box office — which would be the fourth-largest of all time after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Jurassic World” and “The Avengers.”

Directed by Rian Johnson, the movie picks up where 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” left off. It stars returning cast members Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Andy Serkis. The new cast members include Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro. It’s the final film role for Fisher, who died last »

- Dave McNary

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Oscars: 10 Live-Action Shorts Advance in Race

19 hours ago

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has narrowed this year’s live-action short film race to 10 contenders.

Those advancing are:

DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk, director (UCLA)

“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, director (Finch)

Facing Mecca,” Jan-Eric Mack, director, and Joël Jent, producer (Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion)

Icebox,” Daniel Sawka, director, and Camille Cornuel, producer (Iceboxthefilmco)

Lost Face,” Sean Meehan, director, and Sam McGarry, producer (Soma Films)

My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr., director (New York University)

“Rise of a Star,” James Bort, director, and Boris Mendza, producer (Fulldawa Films)

The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, director, and Rachel Shenton, writer (Slick Films)

“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, director (Hamburg Media School)

“Witnesses,” David Koch, director (Lux for Film, Diez Films and Paradoxal)

Members of the short films and feature animation branch will select five nominees from the shortlist. Brand screenings will be held in Los Angeles, London, New York, »

- Kristopher Tapley

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Post-World War II Revenge Thriller ‘Ruin’ Leads 2017 Black List

19 hours ago

Revenge thriller “Ruin” has led the 2017 version of the Black List — an annual ranking of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

The project is set up at Marc Butan’s Mad River Pictures. The script is written by the team of Matthew and Ryan Firpo and centers on an ex-Nazi captain in post-World War II Germany. He seeks atonement for his crimes by tracking down the surviving members of his former SS Death Squad.

Ruin” received 68 votes from among the more than 250 executives voting. Mario Correa’s “Let Her Speak” was the second-highest on the list with 42 votes. That project centers on Senator Wendy Davis and her 24-hour filibuster to save 75% of abortion clinics in Texas. Sandra Bullock is attached to star.

Christy Hall’s “Daddio,” which Daisy Ridley is attached to star in, received 40 votes. The script is the story of a passenger and her cab driver who reminisce about their relationships on the way from »

- Dave McNary

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Disney Nearing Finish Line With 21st Century Fox as Comcast Bows Out of Acquisition Hunt

19 hours ago

Disney has such an inside track on reaching a $60 billion-plus deal to acquire key entertainment and sports assets from 21st Century Fox that Comcast has formally exited the chase.

Comcast said Monday it was “no longer” looking at Fox’s film and TV studio and other assets as acquisition targets. The cable giant had yet to comment on its interest in Fox prior to Monday’s statement. But with Hollywood abuzz of a Disney-Fox deal coming down within the next few days, Comcast made a point of getting the first word in on its effort.

“When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox’s becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders,” Comcast said in a statement. “That’s what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got »

- Cynthia Littleton

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CNN Suspends Ryan Lizza After New Yorker Cuts Ties for ‘Improper Sexual Conduct’

19 hours ago

Washington — Ryan Lizza, who has been the New Yorker’s Washington correspondent and an on-air contributor to CNN, was dropped from the publication over what the magazine said was “improper sexual conduct.”

“The New Yorker recently learned that Ryan Lizza engaged in what we believe was improper sexual conduct,” a spokesperson said. “We have reviewed the matter and, as a result, have severed ties with Lizza. Due to a request for privacy, we are not commenting further.”

CNN suspended Lizza. A spokesperson said they “have just learned of the New Yorker’s decision. Ryan Lizza will not appear on CNN while we look into this matter.” He has been a contributor at the network since 2012.

Lizza issued a statement in which he said that the New Yorker’s action in dismissing him was a “terrible mistake.” But Douglas Wigdor, an attorney who said that he represented a woman accuser, challenged Lizza’s contention.

Recently, Lizza »

- Ted Johnson

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