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

15 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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Fox Picks Up Leading 27 Golden Globes Nominations as Disney Deal Looms

20 hours ago

It was a big morning for 20th Century Fox, as the film studio picked up a leading 27 Golden Globes nominations on Monday. The haul was more than any other studio and more than double the number of nods racked up by any other media company. Globes voters recognized a number of different Fox releases from dramatically different genres and across the studio’s various divisions — a group that includes indie label Fox Searchlight, Fox Animation, and the main production arm, Fox.

Fox Searchlight’s “The Shape of Water,” a fairytale romance about a mute janitor who becomes enamored with a river creature, scored the most nominations, picking up seven nods. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” another Searchlight offering that follows a mother out to avenge her murdered daughter, and “The Post,” a historical drama about the publication of the Pentagon Papers, were close behind with six nominations apiece.

“I personally believe that audiences want variety and they »

- Brent Lang

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European Parliament Rejects Key Proposed Digital Single Market Regulation

1 hour ago

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

The vote was taken at a full plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Details of the vote, reaction 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 »

- John Hopewell and Nick Vivarelli

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Gaumont’s French Christmas Comedy ‘Santa & Cie’ Set for Massive Roll-Out in China

1 hour ago

After smashing the French B.O. with an estimated €3.5 million grossed in 5 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 8000 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 Gaul. 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 near Singapour, in Yiwu, a »

- Elsa Keslassy

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

11 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

12 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

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

14 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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Movie Chain AMC Exploring Investment in Saudi Arabia

14 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)

14 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

15 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

15 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

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

16 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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Veteran Executive Steve Beeks Departing From Lionsgate

16 hours ago

Steve Beeks is departing his posts as Lionsgate co-chief operating office and Motion Picture Group co-president at the end of the year.

The 20-year veteran of Lionsgate and its predecessor companies made the announcement Monday. He will transition to a consulting role as he prepares to embark on unspecified entrepreneurial opportunities.

Beeks has headed business and strategic initiatives for the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group since being named to the post as co-president in 2012. Erik Feig will remain as president while Brian Goldsmith remains chief operating officer.

During the past five years, Lionsgate’s film slate has grossed nearly $10 billion at the global box office, led by “La La Land,” and the “Hunger Games” franchise. Its most recent title is family drama “Wonder,” which has topped the $100 million mark in less than three weeks.

Beeks also helped orchestrate the recent renewals of theatrical distribution agreements with StudioCanal and CBS Films, and he has overseen the continued growth of [link »

- Dave McNary

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‘Endless Summer’ Filmmaker Bruce Brown Dies at 80

17 hours ago

Documentary filmmaker Bruce Brown, known for surfing movie “Endless Summer,” died Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif. of natural causes, his official website reported. He was 80.

Brown was born in San Francisco and grew up on Long Beach, Calif. before briefly moving to Hawaii where he began making films and worked with submarines for the U.S. Navy. Brown became a documentary filmmaker and released his first film “Slippery When Wet” in 1958. He was Oscar nominated for the 1971 motorcycle racing film “On Any Sunday,” on which Steve McQueen was a producer.

The 1966 “Endless Summer” was narrated by Brown and starring surfers and board shapers Mike Hynson and Robert August. »

- Matt Fernandez

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Steven Caple Jr. to Direct ‘Creed 2’ Starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone (Exclusive)

18 hours ago

MGM and Warner Bros. have tapped up-and-coming director Steven Caple Jr. to direct Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in “Creed 2,” sources tell Variety, with production expected to start in spring 2018.

Along with Jordan and Stallone, Tessa Thompson will also return for the sequel, reprising her role as Bianca.

Sources also say that Ryan Coogler, who directed “Creed,” is expected to join in an executive producer role, though a deal has not yet closed, as Coogler is currently wrapping up post-production on Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

Stallone had considered directing “Creed 2” at one point, but after talking it over with Jordan and the execs, they made the decision to find another director. After a lengthy search, Jordan and Stallone personally picked Caple to take the reins.

Caple will direct from an original screenplay written by Stallone and Cheo Hodari Coker (showrunner of “Luke Cage”) based on characters from the Rocky franchise. The film is »

- Justin Kroll

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Seth Rogen to Play Walter Cronkite in JFK Assassination Drama ‘Newsflash’

18 hours ago

Seth Rogen will play legendary anchor Walter Cronkite in the upcoming film “Newsflash,” centered on CBS’ coverage of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

David Gordon Green is directing the drama from Ben Jacoby’s script. Former Warner Bros. production president Greg Silverman is producing through his Stampede Ventures, along with Adam Kolbrenner of Madhouse Entertainment.

Cronkite, who began working as a radio announcer in 1935, had been named the anchor of CBS’ nightly newscast in 1962. The pic will also feature include Cronkite, newsman Dan Rather, producer Don Hewitt, and CBS network president James Aubrey.

The network broke into its broadcast of “As the World Turns” for Cronkite to announce that Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. CBS returned to the soap opera, then interrupted it again with Cronkite’s announcement of Kennedy’s death: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time. 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, »

- Dave McNary

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Golden Globes Nominations: At Least It Was a Good Year for Strong Female Roles

18 hours ago

Looking across the Golden Globe film and TV nominations, it’s a banner year for movies driven by some of the most unlikely female characters to get the big-screen treatment.

In “The Shape of Water,” Sallie Hawkins plays a mute cleaning woman in 1962 Baltimore who has an supernatural encounter. In “The Post,” Meryl Streep plays a woman in her mid-50s who is thrust by circumstance into a leadership role. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney deliver tour de force performances in “I, Tonya,” a movie that on paper sounds like B-grade cable material. And the great Laurie Metcalf is the hero of “Lady Bird” and its touching look at mother-daughter and familial dynamics, for which Saorise Ronan received a best actress, comedy nom.

None of these are projects tailored to the conventional notions of the audiences who drive movie-going or indie film success. The shutout of female directors from the Globes race is particularly striking this year »

- Cynthia Littleton

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There Will Be Greenwood: The Radiohead Rocker on Scoring ‘Phantom Thread’

19 hours ago

After their much-acclaimed collaboration on “There Will Be Blood,” as well as lesser-known projects “The Master” and “Inherent Vice,” director Paul Thomas Anderson and Radiohead’s multi-instrumentalist savant Jonny Greenwood have teamed up for the fourth consecutive time on “Phantom Thread.”

The film’s piano-and-strings dominated score, which received a Golden Globes nomination for best original score, plays a key role in defining the lead characters of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), the 1950s London couture designer, and Alma (Vicky Krieps), his model and lover. Anderson first called Greenwood about it a year ago.

“We talked a lot about ‘50s music, what was popularly heard then as well as what was being written and recorded,” Greenwood tells Variety. “Nelson Riddle and Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings were the main references. I was interested in the kind of jazz records that toyed with incorporating big string sections, Ben Webster made some good ones, and focus on »

- Jon Burlingame

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