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Will Sundance See a Trump Effect?

10 minutes ago

A year ago at Sundance, #OscarsSoWhite and related outrage over a lack of diversity in Hollywood fueled an industrywide push of films with people of color, igniting a record $17.5 million bidding war for “The Birth of a Nation” and, later on, helping propel “Moonlight” and other films toward year-end Oscar campaigns.

This year, widespread anger over the presidential election and a celeb-packed Park City offshoot of the Women’s March on Washington raise the question: Will other issues that newly disenfranchised audiences care about boost interest in any of the slew of politically charged films at Sundance, helping to sow the seeds for another “Fahrenheit 9/11”?

There’s certainly money to be made from political films that cater to audiences who feel outraged, as shown by right-wing docs that have galvanized audiences angered by President Obama. 2016’s top-grossing doc by a wide margin was Dinesh D’Souza’s “Hillary’s America, »

- Gregg Goldstein

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Sundance Buyers Get a Head Start on the Pack

10 minutes ago

The Sundance Film Festival, Hollywood’s annual marathon of all-night bidding and impulse buying, kicks off Jan. 19, but credit cards were being thrown around before agents even bought their boots for the snowy mountains of Park City.

Sony Pictures Classics has already scooped up global rights for the gay love story “Call Me by Your Name” for close to $6 million. A24 took “A Ghost Story,” a spooky tale that reteams director David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Not to be left out, Netflix continued its recent acquisitions spree with the documentary “Casting JonBenet,” about the 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant who was murdered in 1996.

The trio of deals, while just the tip of the iceberg, suggests a robust market for Sundance, as distributors are eager to seize on strong material early to avoid frenzied bidding wars. Netflix and Amazon Studios, as well as such stalwarts as Spc, »

- Ramin Setoodeh and Brent Lang

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MGM Nabs Brandon Sanderson’s Sci-Fi Novella ‘Snapshot’

12 minutes ago

MGM has landed the film rights to Brandon Sanderson’s novella “Snapshot,” sources have confirmed to Variety.

The short story follows a detective assigned to Snapshot Duty, a recreation of a specific day and time. In the future, law enforcement uses the day as a way to solve crimes — i.e. find the location of a criminal’s dumped weapon or uncover what really happened in a domestic dispute. It’s drudgery, until the day a police officer investigates the memory of a call that was never logged, and he makes a horrifying discovery.

Broken Road Productions and Film 360 are producing the movie. The studio will soon begin the search for a screenwriter and director for the project.

Sanderson’s past books include “Mistborn,” “Wheel of Time,” and “The Stormlight Archive.” His book series “The Reckoners” recently landed at Fox with Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps banner producing. Dmg Entertainment also »

- Justin Kroll

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Indie Cinemas Face Challenging Future Together

55 minutes ago

Begun as a small exhibitor gathering at the Sundance Film Festival, the Art House Convergence has long since come into its own as a mecca for indie cinema operators.

Some 620 delegates are expected Jan. 16-19 at the 10th annual Art House Convergence in Midway, Utah, for panel sessions, networking, and film screenings before the Park City behemoth gets under way nearby. That’s a big change from 2008’s first Art House Convergence, which drew 25 attendees.

The growth, which surpassed its founder’s expectations, speaks volumes about the commitment of independent-cinema operators in a challenging business climate.

“Over the past decade, it’s grown far beyond what I ever imagined, and while it’s still a very intimate group compared with a CinemaCon, it’s a testament to the sheer passion [for arthouse cinema] of everyone involved,” says founding director Russ Collins.

As with multiplex operators, art-house cinemas must compete for audience attention at »

- Iain Blair

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After Michael Lynton’s Exit, Is Sony in for a Major Overhaul?

1 hour ago

Three years ago, Sony Corp. CEO Kazuo Hirai made it clear that the need for improved results at Sony Pictures Entertainment was urgent. At the time, he vowed to become a more prominent presence at the studio’s Culver City lot and to exert his authority to ensure a drastic makeover of the conglomerate’s struggling motion picture studio.

That was in February 2014, when the Japanese corporate leader signaled he would no longer tolerate substandard performance at his American entertainment operation, which, under the watch of studio chief executive Michael Lynton, had faced a revolt, with an activist investor calling for Lynton’s head.

In the 35 months since, Sony has not been able to extricate itself from financial woes, management turmoil, and a string of movie flops.

Last week, Hirai was back in the news, this time with an even more resolute, pointed agenda: He was assuming a new title »

- James Rainey and Brent Lang

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Legendary Entertainment CEO Thomas Tull Exiting

1 hour ago

Updated: Legendary Entertainment chairman and CEO Thomas Tull has announced his departure from the  company he founded in 2005, then sold to Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda last year.

Tull will take the title of founding chairman of the company, with Wanda executive Jack Gao assuming the CEO’s post while the company conducts a search for a permanent chief executive, an announcement said.

Gao is group senior vice president and CEO for International Investments and Operations at the Wanda Cultural Industry Group.


Tull scheduled a town hall meeting for Tuesday afternoon to tell employees about the transition at the company, the maker of such films as “300,” “Pacific Rim,” “Man of Steel” and the “Dark Knight” trilogy. He told to Wanda a year ago for a reported $3.5 billion.

The announcement said that Wanda “has built a solid platform and business to expand the release of the studio’s tentpole films into China »

- James Rainey

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‘White Men Can’t Jump’ Remake in the Works With Blake Griffin, Ryan Kalil

2 hours ago

“White Men Still Can’t Jump”?

The 1992 basketball comedy “White Men Can't Jump” is getting a remake from “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris, Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, and Ryan Kalil of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

Barris is producing and writing the script for the revamped “White Men Can’t Jump” under the overall film deal he signed with Fox in September. Griffin and Kalil are producing through their Mortal Media producing company, along with partner Noah Weinstein.

The original “White Men Can’t Jump” starred Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes as basketball hustlers who first oppose each other and then team up. The title comes from Harrelson’s character’s inability to make a dunk shot.

Ron Shelton directed the original movie from his own script, which followed Harrelson character and his girlfriend, played by Rosie Perez, on the run due to gambling debts. The film performed well for Fox, »

- Dave McNary

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Los Angeles Location Production Gains 6.2% in 2016

2 hours ago

On-location filming in Greater Los Angeles surged 6.2% last year, thanks in part to California’s expanded production incentive program, the FilmL.A. permitting agency has reported.

With a 5.1% gain in the fourth quarter, overall shoot days rose to 39,605 for the shoots taking place outside studio lots. The feature film category rose 12% to 4,865 days, including a 22.5% jump in the fourth quarter, making 2016 the most active year for feature films since the state launched its Film & Television Tax Credit Program in 2009.

“This report shows that the incentive program is working the way it’s supposed to work — and we should see similar increases next year,” said Amy Lemisch, exec director of the California Film Commission.

Fourth-quarter films backed by the incentive — which covers up to 25% of the production cost — generated 15% of the production. Recent projects filming on-location include Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” directed by Ava DuVernay; “Bright,” “Magic Camp,” “Miles” and George Clooney’s “Suburbicon. »

- Dave McNary

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Third Time’s a Charm for Michael Mann’s ‘Ali’ Commemorative Edition Cut

2 hours ago

“Times change,” director Michael Mann says of what prompted him to revisit his 2001 Muhammad Ali biopic “Ali” for a new “commemorative edition” Blu-ray, hitting shelves today. “What I was interested in, particularly now, was making more tangible the forces that were raised against him, all his adversaries, and linking them in a strong way.”

A director’s cut of the film was released in 2004, injecting eight-and-a-half minutes of material that both amplified the political strife of the times and deepened Ali’s kinship with sports journalist Howard Cosell, among other things. For the new release, Mann has pulled some of those Cosell elements back while keeping the political material in tact, shaving and trimming elsewhere for the shortest cut yet — though one still clocking in at a robust 151 minutes.

“It’s a combination of expanding certain things and compressing others,” Mann says.

A notoriously exacting filmmaker, Mann has often said »

- Kristopher Tapley

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Tupac Shakur Biopic Set for June Release by Lionsgate

3 hours ago

Lionsgate has set a June 16, 2017 release for the Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me,” on what would have been the rapper’s 46th birthday.

All Eyez on Me” stars Demetrius Shipp, Jr., in his first movie role. The cast of the Morgan Creek movie, filmed last year in Atlanta, includes Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh, Dominic L. Santana, Jamal Woolard, Keith Robinson, and Cory Hardrict.

All Eyez on Me” chronicles the life and legacy of the late Shakur, including his rise to superstardom as a hip-hop artist and actor, his imprisonment, and his time at Death Row Records.


Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur Among 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

All Eyez on Me” is directed by Benny Boom from a script by Ed Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft. The film’s title is taken from Shakur’s fourth studio album, which was released in early 1996 and sold »

- Dave McNary

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Scott Baio to Liberals Scared of Trump’s Presidency: ‘Grow Up’

4 hours ago

Scott Baio doesn’t have much sympathy for Hollywood liberals horrified by the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.

“Grow up,” he says.

“I was nervous for eight years with Obama. I had to suck it up and deal with it. Do the same, and maybe your country will be a better place than it was.”

Jake Chessum for Variety

The “Charles in Charge” and “Happy Days” star is part of a small but vocal band of entertainment-industry conservatives. While most actors threw their support behind Hillary Clinton, Baio was an enthusiastic Trump surrogate, tweeting about the candidate and speaking on his behalf at the Republican National Convention.

“He’s a fighter, and he won’t let anything slide,” says Baio. “So many Republican nominees always feel like they want to stay above the fray, and they get maligned and crushed with negative publicity, and they don’t do anything about it. »

- Brent Lang

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Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton to Present Lily Tomlin With SAG Life Achievement Award

4 hours ago

Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton will present the 2017 SAG Life Achievement Award to Lily Tomlin at the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The trio starred in the 1980 feminist revenge comedy “9 to 5,” currently listed at number 74 on American Film Institute’s ranking of the “100 Funniest American Movies of All Time.” The film, which was Parton’s first feature role, was a major hit, grossing more than $100 million at the domestic box office.

Fonda and Tomlin are the stars and executive producers of the Netflix comedy series “Grace and Frankie.” Tomlin is also up for a SAG Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series for her role in the show. “Grace and Frankie” returns for its third season in May.

Tomlin is the 53rd recipient of SAG Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment. She also won a 2014 Kennedy Center Award, the 2003 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, »

- Dave McNary

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Film Review: ‘In Loco Parentis’

4 hours ago

Not everyone subscribes to the hoary old maxim that school days are the best of your life, but even for those who do, along comes “In Loco Parentis” to prove that they could have been better. Set in and around the loving, liberally managed prep school of Headfort in idyllic County Kells, Ireland, Neasa Ní Chianáin’s gentle but keen-eyed documentary celebrates contemporary, constructive methods of elementary education, while also taking cozy comfort in the more longstanding aspects of the institution — not least in its selection of veteran teaching couple Amanda and John Leyden as our chief guides through Headfort’s venerable stone-built walls. There’s considerable poignancy in the contrast between this eccentric pair’s mutual sense that their lives are winding down and the vast, still-unshaped futures of their young charges, but Ní Chianáin’s film largely resists sentimentality of the “Greatest Love of All” variety.

Playing in »

- Guy Lodge

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Italy Box Office Up 3.86% in 2016 Calendar Year, Driven by Local Films

5 hours ago

Rome — Italian motion picture association Anica on Tuesday announced figures for calendar year 2016 showing a 3.86% increase in box office grosses to a total 661 million euros ($706 million) and a 6% rise in ticket sales to more than 105 million admissions.

The result is being touted as decent despite the fact that one local movie, smash comedy hit “Quo Vado” (pictured), accounted for nearly 10% of the year’s haul.

Previously, Variety reported that box office in Italy had dropped 6% percent in 2016, based on data from comScore. The discrepancy is due to the fact that Anica looks at the calendar year for its totals, while comScore uses an international “industry year” definition which starts from the first Thursday of the year – January 7, 2016 – and includes all play weeks that start within the calendar year of 2016. Their end date is therefore January 4, 2017. Both Anica and comScore use numbers provided by Italian national box office compiler Cinetel.

The »

- Nick Vivarelli

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Kirsten Johnson, Robert Greene Receive Grants From Rooftop Films (Exclusive)

5 hours ago

Kate Plays Christine” director Robert Greene and “Cameraperson” director Kirsten Johnson are among the filmmakers who will receive cash prizes from Rooftop Films. Greene will be awarded a monetary grant of $15,000 to help finish his new film, “Bisbee ‘17,” and Johnson will receive a $10,000 grant to support her upcoming film, “Deadpan.” Rooftop Films is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and showcasing the work of New York City filmmakers and musicians. As part of its mission, Rooftop provides grants to filmmakers, rents equipment at low-cost to artists and non-profits, and organizes film screenings.

“The Rooftop Filmmakers Fund grant committee was blown away by the quality of applicants this year, and the projects we selected feature powerful personal stories and bold political statements—often within the same film,” said Dan Nuxoll, Artistic Director of Rooftop Films. “In a year full of confusing twists and turns, we are excited to be supporting several »

- Brent Lang

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‘Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable’ Documentary Starts Shooting

5 hours ago

Lieber Films has launched production in Hawaii on “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable,” a documentary following the life of the professional surfer, Variety has learned exclusively.

Hamilton was the subject of the 2011 biopic “Soul Surfer,” starring AnnaSophia Robb and Helen Hunt and inspired by her real-life experience as a teenager when a tiger shark claimed one of her arms — along with her determination to get back into the water after the tragic attack.

“Unstoppable” follows her journey from childhood into motherhood with a focus on her powerful resilience against all odds to become one of the leading professional surfers.

The film is being directed by Aaron Lieber, who also serves as producer. Jane Kelly Kosek of Meritage Pictures and Penny Edmiston (“Bones Brigade: An Autobiography”) are producers on the film.

The project originated with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign dubbed “Bethany Hamilton — Surfs Like a Girl” that raised over $116,671 from 1,453 backers to fund development. »

- Dave McNary

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Sundance: ‘This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous’ Documentary Gets Release Date (Exclusive)

5 hours ago

Barbara Kopple’s documentary “This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous” has been set for a Feb. 8 launch on YouTube Red, Variety has learned exclusively.

As previously announced, the film will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival as an official selection of the Festival’s Documentary Premiere section. The film will also have a week-long limited theatrical engagement in New York at the IFC Center and at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills on Feb. 3.

This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous” portrays the journey of Gigi Lazzarato, who began life as Gregory Lazzarato and posted beauty and fashion videos to YouTube from her bedroom before coming out as a transgender female to an audience of millions. She currently has more than 2.1 million YouTube subscribers and over 7.1 million combined platform followers.

“The team poured their hearts into the creation of this timely and moving documentary, and we are thrilled to »

- Dave McNary

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Thelma Schoonmaker, Janet Ashikaga To Be Feted by American Cinema Editors

6 hours ago

The American Cinema Editors organization has announced that veteran cutters Janet Ashikaga and Thelma Schoonmaker will be honored with Career Achievement awards at the 67th annual Ace Eddie Awards later this month.

Ashikaga has won four Emmys throughout her career for work on multi-camera series like “Seinfeld” and “Sports Night.” She has been Ace-nominated seven times, for those series as well as “The West Wing” and “My Name is Earl.”

Schoonmaker, meanwhile, has been tied to filmmaker Martin Scorsese for most of her career, winning Oscars for “Raging Bull,” “The Aviator” and “The Departed.” She won Ace awards for those three films as well as “Gangs of New York,” and was nominated by the organization four times besides.

Schoonmaker and Scorsese’s latest collaboration, “Silence,” is currently in theaters.

Janet Ashikaga and Thelma Schoonmaker have helped create some of the most iconic films and television programs in entertainment,” the Ace »

- Kristopher Tapley

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Michael Moore on Why Donald Trump Will Build a Wall and Ban Muslims

8 hours ago

Michael Moore saw this coming. Last summer, when Hillary Clinton was enjoying a seemingly insurmountable lead over Donald Trump, the documentary filmmaker correctly predicted that the billionaire businessman would capture the White House. What’s more impressive is that Moore, the director of “Roger & Me,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and “Bowling for Columbine,” knew that Trump’s victory would come down to recapturing a group of Rust Belt states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) that had been reliably Democratic.

Moore takes no joy in being right. He’s alarmed by the prospect of a Trump presidency and believes that the Obama agenda will be swiftly dismantled by the Republican-controlled Congress. Moore spoke with Variety about why liberals lost, what Democrats need to do now, and who he’d want to run in 2020.

Jake Chessum for Variety

Journalist Salena Zito said the press took Trump “literally, but not seriously,” while his supporters took him “seriously, »

- Brent Lang

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Abbas Kiarostami to be Honored as Art Basel Expands Film Component

10 hours ago

Cinema will take a center stage at Art Basel, the giant Swiss art fair that holds its Hong Kong edition in Spring. It is due to be held place shortly after FilMart and the Asian Film Awards.

In addition to its existing film activities, the Swiss fair Tuesday announced that it will introduce the Kabinett sector to the Hong Kong show. Abbas Kiarostami, the Iranian auteur who died last year, will be commemorated through an exhibition of his final photography series, presented by Rossi & Rossi gallery.

The impact of early cinema on the tradition of Chinese opera will be examined in works by Singaporean artist Ming Wong, while Hong Kong’s Lee Kit will present video installation “It Was a Cinema” (2016.) China’s Wang Qingsong will show a five-minute video work called “Happy Bed” (2014.) Most works on show at the fair are for sale.

Adeline Ooi, Art Basel’s director Asia, »

- Vivienne Chow

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