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Disney-Fox Deal Expected for Thursday (Report)

5 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)

3 hours 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

19 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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CAA Promotes Ten Trainees

43 minutes ago

CAA has promoted ten trainees to agent or exec at the agency.

Austin Denesuk has been promoted to agent in CAA’s industry-leading television department. Denesuk is based in Los Angeles, where she serves in the TV lit group.

Bennett Beckner, Joseph Harris, Madison Lee, and Joe Mott were elevated to agents in CAA’s music department, which represents more than one-third of this year’s top 100 worldwide tours. Beckner and Lee are based in Nashville, while Harris and Mott are based in Los Angeles.

Callie Rivers and Maddy Roth have been named executives in the CAA Foundation, the agency’s philanthropic arm, and are based in the Los Angeles office.

Jacksonville-based Beth Enstrom has been promoted to executive in CAA golf, and Tee Stumb has been promoted to agent in CAA sports talent sales department. He will continue to be based in New York.

Erik Telford has been promoted to agent in the speakers group, and is »


- Justin Kroll

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‘Coco’s’ Special Lighting Illuminated by Inhouse Coding

49 minutes ago

As the filmmakers behind Disney-Pixar’s hit “Coco” slowly walked through a Mexican village and the nearby cemetery during a Dia de los Muertos celebration while on a research trip for the movie, they were overcome by something that they saw. They knew if they were going to get the feeling and look of this tradition right, it had to be translated for the film.

“It was the most incredible thing I’d seen, there were candles everywhere and the light was amazing,” says Danielle Feinberg, director of photography, lighting, for “Coco.” “I thought, ‘I am so lucky that I get to help make that on screen,’ and also, ‘How on earth are we going to make that on screen?’”

At Pixar, the Dp position is split into two jobs to better help the animation production process. There’s a director of photography, camera, who comes into the process early to map out camera moves, and a director »


- Karen Idelson

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Scene Stealer: Beanie Feldstein Is the Best Friend We All Want In ‘Lady Bird’

52 minutes ago

While Saoirse Ronan soars as the title character in “Lady Bird,” she would be nowhere without her best friend Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein. The 24-year-old actress is also currently enjoying her Broadway debut in “Hello, Dolly!” opposite Tony-winner Bette Midler. Those musical skills came in particularly handy, as Lady Bird and Julie both end up participating in their high school musical “Merrily We Roll Along.” Her comedy chops run in the family — older brother is Jonah Hill — but it’s the sweet bond that the two high schoolers share that offers some of the film’s most touching moments.

Feldstein: “My agents emailed me and said, ‘We read this script, we think it’s brilliant and the second we read Julie, we thought of you.’ Just the description of the character made my heart race, it said: ‘Sweet, chubby, gets the lead in her high school musical.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ Ten minutes »


- Jenelle Riley

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Regina Hall to Co-Star in ‘Shaft’ Sequel With Samuel L. Jackson (Exclusive)

56 minutes ago

Regina Hall has joined the cast of New Line’s latest installment in the “Shaft” franchise opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Jessie T. Usher, sources tell Variety.

Hall will play a former love interest of John Shaft and the younger Shaft’s mother. Alexandra Shipp and the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree, are also on board.

Tim Story is directing from a script by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow. Barris and John Davis are producing. Marc Fischer and Ira Napoliello are exec producing.

The movie follows Usher, a nerdy FBI agent who, after his friend dies under suspicious circumstances, launches his own investigation, reluctantly enlisting help from his estranged father — the legendary, stuck-in-the-’80s-but-still-cool John Shaft.

MGM’s 1971 blaxploitation film was based on Ernest Tidyman’s novel and directed by Gordon Parks. John Shaft was portrayed by Roundtree, who navigates mob neighborhoods in New York City to find a mobster’s missing daughter.

The film was »


- Justin Kroll

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Rockets Toward $425 Million Global Launch Weekend

1 hour ago

The Force is seriously powerful financially, with Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” tracking to deliver about $425 million worldwide in its opening weekend.

More than a dozen international markets will open Wednesday, led by France and Italy along with Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Indonesia, Philippines, and Taiwan. On Thursday, key markets include Germany, the U.K., Australia, Korea, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico.

Previews begin at 6 p.m. Thursday in North America. On Friday, the domestic launch will take place at about 4,175 theaters in the U.S./Canada including nearly 410 Imax screens, 640 premium large format, 3,600 3D locations, and 212 D-Box locations. The total will be slightly higher than last year’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which opened at 4,157 locations.

The largest Thursday night preview gross in North America is “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with $57 million two years ago. “Rogue One” opened with $29 million in Thursday night previews.

Domestic tracking »


- Dave McNary

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Guillermo del Toro Taps Scott Cooper for ‘Antlers’ and Sets New Project ‘Nightmare Alley’ (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

After Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” landed a leading seven nominations at the Golden Globes, Fox Searchlight has ramped up development on two projects with the filmmaker.

Sources tell Variety that Searchlight is in negotiations with “Hostiles” director Scott Cooper to direct the supernatural pic “Antlers,” which del Toro is producing. Del Toro has been a fan of Cooper’s for some time now, and the two were eager to work together.

Del Toro is also setting up a new directing gig, attaching himself to write and direct a remake of the 1947 Fox movie “Nightmare Alley.” Sources indicate that this will likely not be his next directing job, as he still has to pen the script, which he plans to co-write with Kim Morgan.

“I am delighted to continue the producing partnership that has been forged with Fox Searchlight during the making of ‘The Shape of Water,'” del Toro »


- Justin Kroll

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Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart’s ‘Jumanji’ Maintains ‘Soul’ of Robin Williams Original

2 hours ago

The always-smiling Dwayne Johnson said he felt a bit stressed at Monday night’s premiere for Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” at the Tcl Chinese Theatre.

“I wasn’t nervous when we started shooting last year, but I’m a little nervous now that we’re going to open in a week,” he admitted.

Sony opens the action-comedy sequel on Dec. 20. The red carpet featured comedy banter between the 6-foot-5 Johnson and his 5-foot-4 co-star, Kevin Hart.

“It’s basically me putting him on my back,” Hart quipped. “I’m the star. Actually, I wouldn’t work with anybody else.”

Johnson shot back, “And I would want to work with anyone else.”

Nick Jonas, who received a Golden Globe nomination earlier in the day for his song “Home” from the movie “Ferdinand,” said he was starstruck. In his first major movie role, he plays Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough — the avatar of the mysterious teenager Alex Vreeke »


- Dave McNary

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Film Review: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

2 hours 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

2 hours 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

3 hours 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

3 hours 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

3 hours 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

6 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

7 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

17 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

17 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

18 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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