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‘Maleficent’ Holds Strongly at Japan Box Office

2 hours ago

Tokyo – In its fourth week on release “Maleficent” became the first foreign live-action pic to pass the JPY4 billion ($39.5 million) milestone at the Japanese box office.

Following the July 26-27 weekend, the film’s cume amounted to JPY4.03 billion, good enough for second place after Toho’s release of “Godzilla.” 

Opening on 649 screens on July 5, “Maleficent” far exceeded initial box office expectations and will almost certainly become the first foreign live-action movie to surpass $50 million since “Les Miserables” in 2012. It is expected to finish near the $60 million mark. 

Meanwhile, “Godzilla” earned $6.7 million on 460,000 admissions for the three days following its July 25 release on 427 screens. The picture is looking to beat the $54 million Japanese B.O. of the widely derided 1998 Roland Emmerich take on the iconic Japanese monster franchise.  

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- Mark Schilling

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‘Dragonriders of Pern’ Set Up as Movie Franchise at Warner Bros.

4 hours ago

Warner Bros. is launching development of a movie franchise based on the sci-fi series “Dragonriders of Pern.”

The studio has optioned the 22-volume book series from the estate of American-Irish author Anne McCaffrey, who died in 2011.

It has yet to set up the project with a producer.

The books are set in a pre-industrial society with  intelligent firebreathing dragons and their riders teaming to fight a rogue planet that attacks the world of Pern. The books take place over a period of over 2,500 years.

Drew Crevello and Julia Spiro are overseeing for the studio, which has launched the “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” franchises.

News was first reported by Variety sister site Deadline Hollywood.

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- Dave McNary

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James L. Brooks Signs With Wme

6 hours ago

Iconic writer and director James L. Brooks has signed with Wme.

Brooks has a long list of credits he is known for, which include “Broadcast News,” “Terms of Endearment” and “As Good As It Gets.” Besides his many film credits, Brooks is also listed as a co-creator on several hit TV shows including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Rhoda,” “Taxi” and “The Simpsons.”

Brooks continues to be repped by Sam Fischer at Ziffren Brittenham.

Wme has stayed busy on the TV front, having also recently signed writer and producer Ian Goldberg, who was most recently staffed on “Once Upon a Time” and is currently developing “Mars” at CW. They also recently signed Patrick Harbinson who is a co-executive producer on “Homeland.”

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- Justin Kroll

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‘Hercules’ Rules the Week in TV Advertising Spend

7 hours ago

In this week’s edition of the Variety/iSpot.tv Movie Commercial Tracker, MGM’s “Hercules” leads in spending with an estimated outlay of $8.4 million for spots that have aired 1,903 times across 37 networks through July 27. (That’s a relatively modest boost from the $7.3 million spent the previous week.) Bet scored the most commercial placements for “Hercules,” followed by MTV.

Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Into the Storm” are effectively tied, each with $8 million in estimated TV commercial spend, with “Guardians” spots appearing most frequently on Disney Xd and MTV, while “Storm” placements skewed toward Comedy Central and SyFy. “Lucy,” dipping to $6.7 million in estimated spend (from $8.2 million the previous week), echoed the “Storm” approach, with placements skewing toward SyFy and Comedy Central, in that order.

Finally, “A Most Wanted Man,” the espionage thriller starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, enters our top 5 with, curiously, Hgtv and Bravo as the two »


- Variety Staff

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‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Apologizes for Controversial 9/11 Poster

7 hours ago

Following backlash for a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” poster depicting the titular turtles jumping from an exploding building above the “September 11″ Australian release date, Paramount Australia has issued an apology and removed the tweet containing the poster (pictured below).

“We are deeply sorry to have used that artwork for the marketing materials promoting the September 11 opening in Australia,” Paramount said in a statement issued to Buzzfeed. “Combining that image and date was a mistake. We intended no offense and have taken immediate action to discontinue its use.”

Paramount Pictures Australia tweeted the image from their Twitter account, @ParamountAU, on Tuesday. It didn’t take long for Twitter users to sign off on the poster, calling it insensitive to put the image with the 9/11 date.

The image was promptly removed from Paramount Australia’s Twitter and Facebook accounts after complaints began to roll in. Neither social media account has addressed the controversy beyond the statement. »


- Alex Stedman

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Fatih Akin to Receive Douglas Sirk Award at Filmfest Hamburg

8 hours ago

London — Filmfest Hamburg is to honor Hamburg-based director Fatih Akin with its Douglas Sirk Award, which is presented to a personality for outstanding achievements within film culture and the film industry.

Festival director Albert Wiederspiel said the award was in recognition of Akin’s work as both a director and a producer.

“His films, which are strongly rooted in Hamburg, have put the city on the world map of cinema,” Wiederspiel said. “He has set an example for a whole generation of filmmakers — both in Turkey and Germany.”

Wiederspiel added that Akin’s films were “a starting point for a movement of German filmmakers of Turkish origin.”

The award will be presented at the German premiere of Akin’s drama “The Cut.” The film completes Akin’s “Love, Death and the Devil” trilogy, which began in 2004 with “Gegen die Wand” (Head-On), and continued with “Auf der anderen Seite” (The Edge of Heaven) in 2007.

The Cut, »


- Leo Barraclough

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SEC Investigating DreamWorks Animation’s $13.5 Million ‘Turbo’ Writedown

8 hours ago

During its second quarter earnings call, DreamWorks Animation disclosed an ongoing investigation with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the $13.5 million writedown of film inventories the studio took on “Turbo” in February.

The studio’s stock was down 7.3% in post-market trading after the studio disclosed its losses. Immediately after the SEC announcement, shares were down 8.9% and by 2 p.m. Tuesday had dropped by 9.3%.

“Turbo,” DreamWorks Animation’s $135 million July 2013 release that revolves around a supercharged snail, earned just $282.6 million at the global box office. News of the writedown was announced during its fourth quarter 2013 earnings call.

On Tuesday, executives declined to offer any further comment or details on the investigation.

This is not the first writedown the studio has taken.

Disappointing box office results for “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” led to a larger $57 million writedown in the first quarter of 2014. In November 2012, DreamWorks said it would take a writedown »


- Alexandra Cheney

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Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer Paid $63.6 Million for Fiscal 2014

8 hours ago

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer received $63.6 million in compensation for the fiscal year ending March 31 — about two-thirds of that in stock options.

The studio, which made the disclosure Tuesday in its proxy statement to shareholders, said that the five-fold jump in compensation from $12.6 million in fiscal 2013 stemmed from Feltheimer signing a new contract. Lionsgate announced in June 2013 that it had extended his contract for five years to May 2018.

“Because the company entered into a new employment agreement during fiscal 2014, the compensation for Mr. Feltheimer reported in the table for fiscal 2014 is significantly higher than his compensation reported for prior fiscal years and the compensation we expect will be reported for him in future fiscal years,” Lionsgate said.

The compensation will place Feltheimer, who has been CEO for the past 14 years, at the top tier of compensation for entertainment company execs. Feltheimer was paid $1.46 million in base salary, $11.67 million in stock awards, »


- Dave McNary

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Watch: New ‘Maze Runner’ Trailer Teases the Grievers

8 hours ago

The latest trailer for “The Maze Runner,” based on the Ya novel by James Dashner, gives fans their first look at the feared Grievers.

In the clip, our hero Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) starts his exploration of the maze and the Glade’s first female inhabitant arrives.

Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario and Thomas Brodie-Sangster also star.

The Maze Runner” hits theaters on Sept. 19.

Watch the trailer below:

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- Nikara Johns

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DreamWorks Animation Q2 Earnings Fall Short of Estimates, SEC Investigation Revealed

9 hours ago

DreamWorks Animation says it is cooperating with an ongoing SEC investigation regarding the $13.5 million film inventories write down it took on “Turbo” in February. Katzenberg and the other execs on the Tuesday afternoon conference call would not comment further on the matter.

Immediately after the announcement, shares were down 8.9%.

This news comes on the heels of the studio’s reported loss of 18 cents per share, a net loss of $15.4 million. Analysts had predicted a drop of two cents per share.

This marks the second consecutive impairment for the animation studio. Year over year, DreamWorks Animation revenue dropped 31% to $147.2 million in the first quarter of 2014, a net loss of $43 million. That’s primarily due to the soft box office performance of “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.” The quarter prior, revenue dropped 23%.

During the call, DreamWorks said that it has purchased distribution rights to all its feature films prior to 2013 from Paramount and going forward, »


- Alexandra Cheney

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‘Queen of Kentucky’ Movie in the Works With David Permut

11 hours ago

David Permut’s Permut Presentations and Unbridled Films are developing a movie version of “The Queen of Kentucky,” based on Alecia Whitaker’s young adult novel.

Katie Ford, writer of Sandra Bullock’s “Miss Congeniality” and co-creator of NBC’s new sitcom “Working the Engles,” will adapt the novel. Permut will produce with Unbridled Film’s Merry-Kay Poe and Permut Presentation’s Chris Mangano exec producing.

Ford and Permut previously teamed on the Lifetime TV movie “Prayers for Bobby.”

“The Queen of Kentucky,” published in 2012, centers on a 14-year-old from a family farm in Kentucky who moves from her small rural school to the public high school, where she trades in her blue jeans for “sophisticated” clothes and changes her name from Ricki Jo to Ericka — and begins to forget who she truly is.

Permut recently sold the domestic rights to IFC of “Match,” starring Patrick Stewart, and is in »


- Dave McNary

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Heinrich Himmler Documentary Gets U.S. Distribution After Winning at Jerusalem Festival

11 hours ago

Kino Lorber has acquired U.S. rights to the Heinrich Himmler documentary “The Decent One,” which recently won the Best Documentary award at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Directed by Vanessa Lapa, “The Decent One” explores the personal writings and photographs from the private life of the Nazi SS commander. The film is told from the perspective of Himmler and his family — first from an average German middle class perspective, and later on, from the privileged vantage point of a high ranking Nazi family.

Himmler committed suicide in May, 1945, while in British custody.

“The Decent One” debuted at the Berlin Film Festival. Kino Lorber plans an Academy Awards qualifying release for “The Decent One,” starting with Film Forum in New York on Oct. 1 before a national rollout.

“The Decent One excavates archival history to shed light on the unfathomable Nazi evil as no other film has done,” said CEO Richard Lorber. »


- Dave McNary

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Universal’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Casts its Mc Ren and DJ Yella

11 hours ago

Aldis Hodge has been cast as Mc Ren and Neil Brown Jr. as DJ Yella in Universal Pictures’ “Straight Outta Compton,” the biopic chronicling the rise of hip-hop group N.W.A.

They join O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell who have been cast as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-e, respectively. F. Gary Gray will helm.

Film is set in the mid-1980s, where five young men translated their experiences growing up on the streets of Compton, California into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority and gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation.

Cube and Dre will produce, along with Matt Alvarez and Tomica Woods-Wright. Will Packer serves as executive producer of the film alongside Gray and Scott Bernstein.

Pic bows Aug. 14, 2015. Exec VP of production Jon Mone and director of development Sara Scott will oversee the project for Universal.

Hodge, who is repped by Priluck Company and Paradigm, »


- Justin Kroll

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Women Prevailing Despite Sexism in Slowly-Changing Below-the-Line Industry

12 hours ago

When Rita Lundin was working as a driver on “Men in Black 3,” the message from her Teamsters coordinator was blunt: We don’t like to work with women.

“He told me he wouldn’t be able to sleep, thinking I wasn’t going to make it to the set and that I wouldn’t be able to do the job,” she says.

It didn’t matter that Lundin, 55, was a third-generation member of the movie industry, and grew up on the sets of films and TV shows, even appearing as an extra on “Gunsmoke” when she was a girl. Nor were her prior credits as a driver — an impressive list that includes “Iron Man” and “The Hangover” — enough proof that she could handle a job that required her to move massive trailers, set up generators and keep the stars’ cushy offscreen homes clean and in shape.

“Being a woman, »


- Brent Lang

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‘Boyhood’s’ Sandra Adair Lets Her Edits Subtly Suggest 12-Year Passage of Time

12 hours ago

When director Richard Linklater tapped Sandra Adair to collaborate on “Boyhood,” he asked his longtime editor what she planned to be doing for the next decade or so.

That expansive query kicked off one of the most daring experiments in film history: a 12-year odyssey to capture on the bigscreen the development of one young boy into manhood. Every year, the filmmaker and his cast would shoot for three or four days, and then Adair would splice together the footage over a three- or four-week period. That helped a project that might have seemed overwhelming become more manageable.

“The rhythm of the film came from having all these ordinary moments captured in the script,” Adair says. “I just tried to find the most natural rhythm, because the performances are so grounded in reality.”

The drama examines one Texas family through divorces, graduations, bowling outings and dinner-table confrontations — the flotsam and jetsam of ordinary life. »


- Brent Lang

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‘Snowpiercer’ Hits $3.8 Million on VOD as Weinstein Co. Shakes Up Distribution

13 hours ago

The indie movie market needed a kick in the pants this summer.

Other than “Chef” and the still-expanding “Boyhood,” arthouse films have struggled in theaters. But amid the doldrums, the Weinstein Co. has taken some radical steps, playing around with platforms even more than usual.

The studio’s Radius-twc label unveiled “Snowpiercer” on-demand, with Bong Joon-ho’s film still in theaters. The picture has racked up an impressive $3.8 over its first three weeks on VOD, while pulling in a respectable $3.9 million over five weeks of in theaters. It’s expected to become the company’s highest-grossing VOD release.

And while there are questions as to whether it could have minted more coin with a bigger theatrical play, the quirky sci-fi pic might have been tough to market to a mass audience.

“Some people used to view VOD and multiplatform releasing as a dumping ground for movies a studio doesn’t believe in theatrically, »


- Brent Lang

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Toronto Film Fest to Premiere ‘Tusk,’ Amanda Knox-Inspired ‘Face of an Angel’

15 hours ago

Kevin Smith’s horror comedy-drama “Tusk,” Michael Winterbottom’s hot commodity “The Face of an Angel,” and doc-comedy “The Yes Men Are Revolting” are among the titles set to world preem at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, which unveiled its auteur-driven Midnight Madness, Masters, Tiff Docs and Vanguard slates this morning.

Midnight Madness, a reliably lively zone for genre-pic launches and pickups, opens with Japanese helmer Sion Sono’s “Tokyo Tribe,” an adaptation of a popular hip-hop-inspired manga comic. The pic receives its international preem, as does Mark Hartley’s “Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films” (Drafthouse), the second documentary this year about the rise and fall of that filmmaking empire, after the Cannes-premiered “The Go-Go Boys.”

Aside from Smith’s labor of love “Tusk,” which stars Justin Long and will be released by A24, Midnight will unspool world preems of Jaume Balaguero’s “[Rec] 4: Apocalypse” (the fourth »


- Jennie Punter

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Sarajevo to Honor Gael Garcia Bernal, Agnes B., Danis Tanovic

18 hours ago

London — Actor Gael Garcia Bernal, designer and filmmaker Agnes B., and director Danis Tanovic will receive the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo at the 20th Sarajevo Film Festival.

Agnes B. and Garcia Bernal will receive their awards at the opening ceremony. Tanovic will receive his award in the National Theater on the last night of the festival.

Agnes B. will present her feature “Je m’appelle hmmm…” on the second day of the festival, which runs Aug. 15-23.

Three films will be screened on the opening night. In the festival’s largest venue, Ht Eronet Open Air Cinema, there’ll be a screening of “Amores Perros,” the debut feature of Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu.

Inarritu’s film plays as part of a tribute to Mexican cinema, and has been selected for two reasons. First, it heralded the emergence of the Mexican new wave cinema, and second, it introduced Garcia Bernal, who was only 20 at the time. »


- Leo Barraclough

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Taiwan Film Institute Launched

18 hours ago

Hong Kong – Taiwan this week unveiled the Taiwan Film Institute, a new center spanning film promotion, restoration and education.

It replaces the Chinese Taipei Film Archive and also absorbs the Taiwan International Documentary Festival, which is held every two years and lacks a consistent organizer.

Backed by the Ministry of Culture, the Tfi will have an annual budget of Nt$170 million (Us$5.67 million), compared with less than Nt$40 million (Us$1.33 million) for the Chinese Taipei Film Archive and a further Nt$23 million (Us$768,000) per year for film restoration.

Board members include director Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wang Hsiao-ti, producer Lee Lieh and critic Wen Tien-hsiang. The launch was presided over by minister of culture Lung Ying-tai and welcomed at a ceremony by new Taipei mayor Eric Chu.

Last week the Ministry of Culture, which took over responsibility for film industry supervision from the old Government Information Office, allocated production »


- Patrick Frater

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‘Youth,’ ‘Valley’ and ‘Higher’ in Savage Cinema line-up

18 hours ago

Llivia, Spain – Movies by key action sports production houses – such as “Days of My Youth,” “Valley Uprising” and “Higher” – will feature in the San Sebastian Festival’s 2nd Savage Cinema.

A novel partnership between an “A” grade film festival and Red Bull Media House to forefront to ever-broader audiences the most relevant in a building production sector – narrative-driven action sports films – Savage Cinema has also inked a collaboration with the Bilbao Mendi Film Festival to showcase the best in mountaineering movies.

Exhibit A: ”Valley Uprising,” produced by the Boulder Colorado-based Sender Films and Big Up Productions.

Helmed by Nick Rosen and Peter Mortimer, and charting Yosemite’s rock climbing revolution, “Uprising” portrays another version of the American Dream, the Yosemite National Park counter-culture heritage of three generations of climbers whose high-wall daring-do, dumpster diving and committed partying defied the laws of gravity and, in confrontation with the National Park Service, »


- John Hopewell

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