Archive for the ‘STUDIOS’ Category

'The King and I' >

By Susan King, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 14, 2010

Next time you’re at a movie at the Century City shopping center or visiting the Century Plaza Hotel, take a few moments to listen. Perhaps you’ll hear the ghosts of such legendary actors as Henry Fonda and Tyrone Power running lines from their memorable roles.

During Hollywood’s golden era, the back lot of 20th Century Fox spread across Century City. Portions of such films as “The Grapes of Wrath” and the 1956 musical, “The King and I” were shot here.

Though all that’s left from those bygone back lot days is the New York street used in such films as “Hello, Dolly,” 20th Century Fox has never forgotten its historic past. It’s pulling out all the stops for its 75th anniversary this year, screening seminal films in famous locations, for example 1951’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” in Washington D.C., celebrating the studio’s film music at the Hollywood Bowl in September and a 75th commemorative DVD box set of classic Fox films handpicked by the studio’s co-chairmen and CEOs Tom Rothman and Jim Giannopoulos.

“The history and the legacy is what separates a major studio from any newly created entertainment entity,” Rothman says. “We are custodians of that legacy and honor. I wouldn’t say you feel the weight of history, but I would say in a very positive way that you feel the inspiration of history.”

Twentieth Century Fox was born May 31, 1935, out of a merger between Fox Films, which was founded by William A. Fox in 1915, and the 2-year-old upstart 20th Century Pictures, founded by Darryl F. Zanuck, Joseph Schenck, Raymond Griffith and William Goetz William Goetz.

The Fox studio was in a bad way at the time of the merger. In 1929, William Fox was injured in a car accident and ended up losing most of his money in the stock market crash. On the verge of bankruptcy, he lost control of the studio. The studio’s biggest star, Janet Gaynor, was waning at the box office and its other major star, Will Rogers, died in a plane crash shortly after the merger. The only bright lights were blond musical comedy star Alice Faye and the young Shirley Temple, who became the biggest commodity at the studio in the late 1930s.

Despite the studio’s downfall in the early 1930s, William Fox was an influential pioneer. “When you look back at the history of this company,” Giannopoulos says, “it was started by a guy who took all of his capital and put it all at risk. He started out as a guy making $25 a week in the clothing business and eventually built his business up and bought his first theater.”

Fox had changed the face of Hollywood filmmaking, importing German expressionist master F.W. Murnau to the studio where the director helmed the 1927 masterpiece “Sunrise.” “Bringing this European expressionist cinema to Hollywood movies changed everything,” says Fox restorationist Schawn Belston. Several filmmakers in Hollywood even came to observe Murnau on the set, including two from Fox — John Ford and Frank Borzage.

Just as today with the success of Fox’s 3-D digital blockbuster, “Avatar,” Fox was in the forefront of technical innovations. “Fox had built their own camera, which was a smaller, lightweight camera that gave them more freedom to move a camera around,” Belston says.

It was Zanuck who turned 20th Century Fox into a major player. “It seems to be Zanuck came in with the sort of storytelling ideas that he developed at Warner Bros. and totally revitalized the studio,” Belston says.

With the studio star roster nearly bare, Zanuck hired fresh young talent. Fonda, Power, Don Ameche, Betty Grable, Gene Tierney, Carmen Miranda and Marilyn Monroe were among the studio’s top stars.

The newly formed studio also made important films by such directors as Ford including 1941’s “How Green Was My Valley,” which won the best picture Oscar, and Elia Kazan’s 1947 “Gentleman’s Agreement,” a drama about anti-Semitism that also won the best picture Oscar.

The studio produced some of memorable film noirs, including 1944’s “Laura” and 1947’s Nightmare Alley.” Besides Ford and Kazan, such filmmakers as Howard Hawks, Edmund Goulding, Jules Dassin and Joseph Mankiewicz were nurtured at the studio. It also embraced the sci-fi genre, which continued over the decades with “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and 1966’s “Fantastic Voyage” and the ” Star Wars,” “Aliens,” “Predator” and “X-Men” franchises.

When TV seemed to be destroying the movie business in the early 1950s, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to the large-screen format Cinemascope and paid to have theaters equipped to play the these large format films. And even when the big-budget extravaganzas like 1963’s “Cleopatra” and 1970’s “Tora! Tora! Tora!” threatened to bring the studio to its knees, a film like 1965’s Oscar-winner “The Sound of Music,” 1968’s “Planet of the Apes” and 1970’s “MASH” brought it out of the mire.

“The things that we cherish and something that inspires us going forward is the combination of bold creativity, willing to take on challenges, nurture the best and the brightest filmmaking talent and be willing to explore the reaches of technology,” Giannopoulos says. “It’s a very tough act to follow.”

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

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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



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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.


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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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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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.


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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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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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.


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