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Good Article on the Direction of Disney Studios

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Theproposal

It feels like every time you turn around, someone at Disney is trying to blow up the old model of doing business and replacing it with a snazzy new paradigm. The news in the last few days has been about Disney's increasingly contentious battle with movie theater owners over shrinking the window between a film's theatrical release and its reappearance on DVD. But as I've written over and over in the past, Disney chief Bob Iger is also busy transforming his studio into a Brand Factory, where nearly every film that hits the theaters will have built-in brand awareness, just like a new Procter & Gamble detergent.

Vulture's new crack reporter Claude Brodesser-Akner has just put up an eye-popping new post reporting that Disney's brand mania has gotten so out of control that it has told the producers of "The Proposal," one of last year's most profitable films, that the studio has no interest in making a sequel. That's a serious shocker when you consider that the film, which cost just $40 million to make, grossed a whopping $315 million around the world. Even if you had to give Sandra Bullock a hefty raise to star in a sequel, you have to really want to get out of the movie star business to take a pass on raking in the shekels from a sequel with such built-in awareness and audience goodwill.

Disney's move away from "The Proposal" is sure to set off more shock waves in the Hollywood creative community, since if you're a top talent agent or manager or producer, this is yet another sign of economic Armageddon for the top-flight actors who keep WME and CAA afloat. It means that instead of giving a big payday to a top star, Disney is bent on making two kinds of movie star-free films, either the $200-million special-effects extravaganza (in which the effects and the familiar source material are the star) or the low-budget comedy or thriller that can be stocked with Disney Channel stars who are either already under contract or can be paid the kind of money Jerry Bruckheimer doles out to his interior decorator.

Brodessor-Akner nicely describes the Disney brand strategy this way: "To help pay for the whopping $10 billion Disney spent acquiring Pixar and Marvel in recent years, Iger decreed that as the world's largest licensor of consumer products, Disney needs its films not to merely succeed in theaters, but to sell gobs of spinoff merch, as well: In 2008, the company sold some $30 billion worth of licensed consumer products, and suffice to say, exactly none of that came from Sandra Bullock hand towels."

It's not as if Iger didn't spell out the strategy himself, telling a global media conference in December that the value of Disney, Pixar and soon-to-be Marvel pictures is "going to be a lot greater over time than any [value] we could create from a non-Disney branded, or non-Pixar or non-Marvel film. That is where we are headed."

Can you stock a studio like you'd stock a supermarket, with familiar brands replacing homemade products on the shelves? It's a grand experiment but one, I suspect, that isn't going to work out as smoothly as Iger expects. Though he's clearly savvy and future-oriented, Iger should hole up some weekend and read a few Hollywood history books. He'd discover a funny thing — you can't take the risk out of the movie business, especially not with products with supposedly built-in mass appeal. Many of the most profitable movies ever made weren't pre-sold products or familiar brands, but quirky, unwanted ugly ducklings that were often made unwillingly by reluctant studio chiefs who only regained their enthusiasm for the pictures after they made a boatload of money.

"The Proposal" photo by Kerry Hayes/Touchstone Pictures

PREVIOUSLY: BOB IGER'S REDRAWING OF DISNEY CONTINUES

PREVIOUSLY: MARVEL IS DISNEY'S NEW FAMILY BRAND

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Categories: NEWS STORY, STUDIOS

First Official Picture of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Harry Potter Theme Park 1

Spring 2010 is almost upon us, which means only one thing for Harry Potter fans worldwide: the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando. Last month, I wrote about some of the awesome attractions awaiting guests at the park, including real-life replicas of The Three Broomsticks and Hogshead Pub taverns, a variety of thrill rides themed after the books and movies, and perhaps coolest of all, a giant replica of Hogwarts Castle.

While talking about the theme park was enough to juice up most Potter fans, many of us were left wondering when we were actually going to get our first look at it. Admittedly, the concept art (featured above) is beautiful, but how close would it be to the finished product? Now, we don’t have to wonder anymore.

 

Thanks to the good people at Universal, yesterday we got our first real look at the centerpiece of the park, Hogwarts Castle. To feast your eyes on the sumptuously detailed home of Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor, check out the image below.

hogwarts-castle-theme-park

Pretty cool, right? I definitely think so. Of course, according to an article in the UK’s Daily Mail, the exterior of Hogwart’s Castle isn’t fully completed yet. Unfinished or not, it sure looks great in this first picture. One of the biggest problems people have with theme parks is having to stand around waiting in lines to get in rides, but I don’t think people will mind waiting inside of Hogwarts Castle if the detail on the inside is as good as the detail on the outside.

Personally, I would love to see more pictures of the park, but considering that this is the first official image we’ve gotten and the park is supposed to open in only a few short months, it seems like Universal is keeping most of it under wraps. Oh well, I guess the only way I’ll be able to see it in its full glory is to schedule myself a vacation. Who’s coming with me?

What do you think of this first image? If you decide to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, what’s the first thing you plan on doing?

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Categories: PHOTOS, STUDIOS

Layoffs underway at Walt Disney Studios

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Company Town

The business behind the show

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January 14, 2010 |  9:35 am

[Updated at 10:45 a.m.: An earlier version said stage productions were affected, but that information could not be confirmed.]

Walt Disney Studios has further streamlined its distribution and marketing operations.

Twenty-three-year domestic distribution veteran Chuck Viane will take on added responsibilities for international sales across 70 countries. In communications, another studio veteran, Heidi Trotta, senior vice president of studio communications, is transitioning to a consulting role, as former theme parks publicist John Nicoletti takes over as vice president of global communications. He will be joined by Paul Roeder as director of global communications.

Christine Cadena, senior vice president of marketing, will take on a new role as senior vice president of multicultural initiatives.  Michelle Sewell has been promoted to senior vice president of global publicity, overseeing both domestic and international publicity departments, and she will be responsible for executing worldwide publicity campaigns for Disney’s live action and animated movies. Sewell is to report to the studio’s head of marketing, a position Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross has yet to fill after ousting Jim Gallagher and his boss, Mark Zoradi.

Disney confirmed that it is continuing its “reorganization of the workforce,” with dozens of jobs lost from its home entertainment division. 

“Our industry is evolving rapidly,” said Ross in a statement. “In order to remain at its forefront, we are adapting our organization to be more agile, creative and responsive.”

A round of layoffs has begun at Walt Disney Studios today as part of a continued, sweeping restructuring of operations under Ross.

Attempting to rein in costs, the Burbank studio has been consolidating operations within its theatrical and home-entertainment divisions.

The cost-savings move comes as Ross and his boss, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, have continued, since last fall, to remake the studio, streamlining its business units and ousting a number of top executives in production, marketing and distribution while clamping down on the costs of making and promoting movies.

Nearly four years ago, Disney undertook a similar belt-tightening move when it combined its domestic and international theatrical and home-entertainment marketing and distribution units, resulting in 650 employees losing their jobs and saving Disney about $100 million in overhead.

— Dawn Chmielewski and Claudia Eller

More in: Disney

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Categories: NEWS STORY, PRODUCTION, STUDIOS

News – Peter Chernin Wants MGM Studios

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Peter Chernin would love to get his paws on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

To do that though, Chernin might have to team up with his former employer, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., where Chernin served for years as president and chief operating officer until leaving that post last June.

CHERNINMURDOCH

While News Corp., which owns the Fox movie and TV studio and bankrolls Chernin's new production company, has not formulated any plan to bid for MGM, with or without Chernin's involvement, there is one possibility that could see the two unite.

According to people close to Chernin, under such a scenario, he would fold his recently launched production deal at Fox and its existing slate of movie and TV projects into MGM and oversee all new productions made under the historic trademark including any James Bond sequels and movies based on "The Hobbit."

Chernin would have an equity stake in the entity, but News Corp. would be the primary owner with or without a financial partner(s) if it were to fund an acquisition of MGM, which has about 4,000 titles in its library.

As one person with knowledge of the potential arrangement explained, this would give Chernin a way to leverage his production assets and revitalize new production at MGM, whose only release in 2009 was the remake of "Fame," which bombed. MGM no longer has the funds to greenlight new movies. Fox, which already releases MGM's movies on DVDs around the world and in theaters overseas, would distribute all new films and TV shows.

News Corp. declined to comment, and Chernin was traveling and unavailable for comment today.

So far, News Corp. has refused to sign the nondisclosure agreement required by all potential bidders who want access to MGM's books. The agreement as written is too restrictive for the company's liking. But MGM, struggling with nearly $4 billion in debt, is desperately trying to get News Corp. in the bidding game and may be willing to relax the provisions to attract bids from the media giant and other companies that have objected to its restrictive terms.

An auction for MGM is expected to get underway shortly. Initial nonbinding bids are due Friday, and no party has made an offer. 

MGM would like nothing more than to have a bidding war on its hands between Fox and Time Warner Inc., which is considered the most likely buyer because its Warner Bros. studio owns the older MGM library, which does not include the United Artists titles, and half the rights to the "Hobbit" movies through its New Line Cinema unit.

Time Warner is among more than 13 companies, including Lions Gate, Summit Entertainment and Relativity Media, that have signed nondisclosure agreements

— Claudia Eller

Photo: Peter Chernin and Rupert Murdoch. Credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg News

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Categories: NEWS STORY, STUDIOS

Warner Bros is 2009's Most Proftable Movie Studio

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

by Elisabeth Rappe Dec 28th 2009 // 2:35PM

Filed under: Warner Brothers, Box Office, Newsstand, Harry Potter

If Warner Bros was a movie character, it would be Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal — sexy, successful, and with piles upon piles of money to roll around in. That’s because as of today, according to Deadline Hollywood Daily, Warner Bros has become the most profitable studio of the year. With over $2 billion in domestic grosses, they now hold the movie industry record for most profitable studio. But even the record breaking is a little yawn-worthy for old Warner Bros. They broke the record last year too with $1.789 billion, so if there’s a trophy that gets passed around Tinseltown, they get to just polish it up and straighten it on their mantelpiece.

Of course, if you pay attention to box office numbers at all, this really comes as no surprise. They’ve had three incredible years when it comes to blockbusters. In 2007, they had three of the top ten highest grossing films with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I Am Legend, and 300. In 2008, a little movie called The Dark Knight raked in a hell of a lot of money, as did Sex in the City. This year, they’ve had three films crack the year’s top ten, including Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, The Hangover, and The Blind Side. I’m sure Sherlock Holmes will factor in there too once all the holiday pennies are counted. (All those numbers come from Box Office Mojo, who does all the math so we don’t have to.)

So, what’s their secret … besides a boy wizard franchise? One is tempted to say that they make a quality product, and take risks on filmmaker visions (see: Watchmen, Where the Wild Things Are), but still make sure to churn out the moviegoer-friendly commercial fare. There’s probably films on that money-maker list you don’t particularly like, but they were almost all worthy of your moviegoing dollar. They honor their franchises and they don’t micromanage. They take chances. And look how it pays off at the box office. Well done, Warner Bros — and better luck next year to everyone else.

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Categories: NEWS STORY, PRODUCTION, STUDIOS

Hollywood Tops $10 Billion for First Time in 2009

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Hollywood Sign (2).jpg

With Avatar the reigning champ and Sherlock Holmes still to come, Hollywood crossed the $10 billion line for the first time in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales for 2009.  Through Sunday, the total stood just $36 million short of crossing the $10 billion line, according to tracking firm Hollywood Box Office, and was set to plow across it Tuesday night.

The year’s top box office attractions were Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and with hits like Harry Potter and The Hangover, Warner Bros. was the North American box office champ among studios.  And with both Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Sherlock Holmes and the return of those rascally rodents in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel coming in time for Christmas, the final take is expected to top $10.4 billion.

Hit the jump for a list of the top 20 domestic box office hits of 2009.

It may have seemed like vampires were everywhere in 2009, but at the domestic box office, humongous robots and everyone’s favorite boy wizard reigned supreme. Here are the top 20 domestic box office hits of the year:

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: $402,111,8704
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: $301,959,197
3, Up: $293,004,164/5
4. The Hangover $277,322,503
5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon: $275,515,901-
6. Star Trek: $257,730,019
7. Monsters Vs. Aliens: $198,351,526
8. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: $196,573,705
9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine: $179,883,157
10. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: $177,243,721
11. The Blind Side: $166,726,943
12. The Proposal: $163,958,031
13. 2012: $159,476,032
14. Fast and Furious: $155,064,265
15. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: $150,201,498
16, Paul Blart: Mall Cop: $146,336,178
17. Taken: $145,000,989
18. Angels & Demons: $133,375,846
19. Christmas Carol: $131,694,716
20. Terminator Salvation: $125,322,469

Thanks to Reuters and Box Office Mojo for the info.

transformers_revenge_of_the_fallen_movie_image__2_.jpg

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Categories: NEWS STORY, PRODUCTION, STUDIOS

Summit 2010 Preview: Synopses and Images of New Releases

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment

slice_twilight_saga_eclipse_movie_image_robert_pattinson_kristen_stewart_01.jpg

Summit Entertainment has released synopses and some first look images from their 2010 films and it’s all after the jump.  They’re 2010 preview includes The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, directed by David Slade (Hard Candy) and starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and Bryce Dallas Howard; Furry Vengeance, directed by Roger Kumble (College Road Trip) and starring Brendan Fraser and Brooke Shields; Letters to Juliet, directed by Gary Winick (Bride Wars) and starring Amanda Seyfried, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Vanessa Redgrave; Remember Me, directed by Allen Coulter (Hollywoodland) and starring Robert Pattinson, Emile de Ravin, Chris Cooper, and Pierce Brosnan; and The Ghostwriter, directed by Roman Polanski (Chinatown) and starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Wilkinson, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, and Eli Wallach.

Also, while they didn’t release any images, they did provide the first synopsis for Red, which is directed by Robert Schwentke (Flightplan) and stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and Mary Louise Parker.

Check out everything after the jump. It’s posted in order of each film’s release date.

Remember Me

  • March 12, 2010
  • Drama
  • Directed by Allen Coulter
  • Screenplay by Will Fetters, Jenny Lumet Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4
  • Cast – Robert Pattinson, Emile de Ravin, Chris Cooper, Lena Olin, Tate Ellington, Ruby Jerins, and Pierce Brosnan. Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

In the romantic drama Remember Me, Robert Pattinson plays Tyler, a rebellious young man in New York City who has a strained relationship with his father (Pierce Brosnan) ever since tragedy separated their family.  Tyler didn’t think anyone could possibly understand what he was going through until the day he met Ally (Emilie de Ravin) through an unusual twist of fate.  Love was the last thing on his mind, but as her spirit unexpectedly heals and inspires him, he begins to fall for her.  Through their love, he begins to find happiness and meaning in his life.  But soon, hidden secrets are revealed, and the circumstances that brought them together slowly threaten to tear them apart.  Remember Me is an unforgettable story about the power of love, the strength of family, and the importance of living passionately and treasuring every day of one’s life.

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Furry Vengeance

  • April 2, 2010
  • Comedy
  • Directed by Roger Kumble
  • Written by Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert
  • Cast – Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields

Furry Vengeance is a live action family comedy in which an ambitious young real estate developer, Dan Sanders, faces off with a band of angry animals when his new housing subdivision pushes too far into a pristine part of the wilderness.  Led by an incredibly clever raccoon, the animals stymie the development and teach our hero about the environmental consequences of man’s encroachment on nature.

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Letters to Juliet

  • May 7, 2010
  • Romance
  • Directed by Gary Winick
  • Written by Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan
  • Cast – Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero

When a young American (Amanda Seyfried) travels to the city of Verona, home of the star-crossed lover Juliet Capulet of Romeo and Juliet fame, she joins a group of volunteers who respond to letters to Juliet seeking advice about love. After answering one letter dated 1957, she inspires its author (Vanessa Redgrave) to travel to Italy in search of her long-lost love, and sets off a chain of events that will bring a love into both their lives unlike anything they ever imagined.

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The Ghostwriter

  • Spring 2010
  • Thriller
  • Directed by Roman Polanski
  • Written by Roman Polanski and Robert Harris
  • Produced by Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa, and Alain Sarde
  • Cast – Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, and Eli Wallach

When a successful British ghostwriter, THE GHOST, agrees to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister ADAM LANG, his agent assures him it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. But the project seems doomed from the start-not least because his predecessor on the project, Lang’s long-term aide, died in an unfortunate accident.

The Ghost flies out to work on the project, in the middle of winter, to an oceanfront house on an island off the U.S. Eastern seaboard. But the day after he arrives, a forme
r British cabinet minister accuses Lang of authorizing the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by the CIA-a war crime. The controversy brings reporters and protesters swarming to the island mansion where Lang is staying with his wife, RUTH, and his personal assistant (and mistress), AMELIA. As The Ghost works, he begins to uncover clues suggesting his predecessor may have stumbled on a dark secret linking Lang to the CIA-and that somehow this information is hidden in the manuscript he left behind. Was Lang in the service of the American intelligence agency while he was prime minister? And was The Ghost’s predecessor murdered because of the appalling truth he uncovered?

Resonating with topical themes, this atmospheric and suspenseful political thriller is a story of deceit and betrayal on every level- sexual, political and literary. In a world in which nothing, and no one, is as it seems, The Ghost quickly discovers that the past can be deadly-and that history is decided by whoever stays alive to write it.

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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

  • June 30, 2010
  • Action/Romance
  • Directed by David Slade
  • Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg
  • Based on the novel “Eclipse” by Stephanie Meyer
  • Cast – Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone and Dakota Fanning

In The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger as Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge.  In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob – knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the struggle between vampire and werewolf.  With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella is confronted with the most important decision of her life.

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Red

  • Fall 2010
  • Action/Thriller
  • Directed by Robert Schwentke
  • Cast – Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and Mary Louise Parker

Frank Moses, a former black-ops CIA agent, is now living a quiet life.  That is, until the day a hi-tech assassin shows up intent on killing him.  With his secret identity compromised and his love interest in danger, Frank must reassemble his old team to figure out who is out to get them.

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Categories: NEWS STORY, PRODUCTION, STUDIOS