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14 items from 2007

'Zebra' puts Foxx back in DW precinct

25 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Jamie Foxx is making himself at home at DreamWorks.

Two months after signing on to star in The Soloist, the Oscar winner is returning to the studio to play the lead in The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights.

Foxx will play Prentice Earl Sanders, one of two trailblazing black detectives who set out to solve a series of racially motivated serial killings that rocked San Francisco in the fall and winter of 1973-74. Ultimately, Sanders -- who, along with writer Bennett Cohen, recounted the story in the book on which the film is based -- ends up becoming the chief of police after the detectives successfully win their own battle against racism and harassment within the force.

The project, which reunites Foxx with The Kingdom's Matthew Michael Carnahan, who is penning the script, is being produced through Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner's Plan B and Foxx/King Entertainment, the production company run by Foxx and Jaime Rucker King. »

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Sonnenfeld takes on ABC buddy cop comedy

22 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Director Barry Sonnenfeld is adding another project to his busy TV schedule.

Sonnenfeld has signed on to direct and executive produce a comedy in the works at ABC, which hails from Sony Pictures TV and Tantamount, the production company of Mitch Hurwitz, Eric Tannenbaum and Kim Tannenbaum.

The project, tentatively titled Buddies, is a single-camera buddy comedy set in the world of '80s cops.

Josh Lobis and Darin Moiselle, the duo behind the 2006 Fox comedy pilot That Guy, penned the script. They are co-executive producing the project, which has received a script commitment from the network. Hurwitz, the Tannenbaums and Sonnenfeld are exec producing. Lobis and Moiselle are co-exec producing.

Sonnenfeld directed the pilot and the second episode of ABC's Pushing Daisies as well as executive produces the freshman series. He recently wrapped Fox's comedy pilot Hackett and is segueing to helming NBC's untitled Luke Reiter drama pilot. Sonnenfeld also is attached to direct CBS' medieval drama The Kingdom.

Sonnenfeld is repped by CAA and attorney Melanie Cook. »

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'Married' beats Clooney's 'Clayton' to the altar

15 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Tyler Perry spanked George Clooney this weekend.

On what was predicted to be an intensely competitive domestic boxoffice weekend, writer-director Perry's Why Did I Get Married? from Lionsgate grossed an estimated $21.5 million to open at No. 1. But Clooney starrer and putative frame favorite Michael Clayton from Warner Bros. bowed with just $11 million to snag a third-place tie with Sony opener We Own the Night, starring Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix.

Finishing in the silver-medal position was Disney's family laugher The Game Plan, toplined by Dwayne The Rock Johnson, which grossed $11.5 million in its third outing.

The leggy Game performance -- which followed two weekend wins for the Andy Fickman-helmed pic -- moved its cume to $59.4 million. Friday's grosses pushed Disney's annual domestic haul past the $1 billion mark for the 11th time.

Universal's historical sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age, with Cate Blanchett reprising her title role, bowed in sixth place with $6.2 million. And Yari Film Group's baseball drama The Final Season debuted with 1,011 playdates but a gross of $665,000.

Among holdover pics, The Heartbreak Kid, the Farrelly brothers comedy from DreamWorks/Paramount, dropped 47% from its opening weekend to gross an estimated $7.4 million in fifth place, with a 10-day cume of $26 million. Fox's youth fantasy The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising fell 43% in its sophomore session to $2.2 million in 10th place, pushing its cume to $7.1 million.

Universal's Jamie Foxx starrer The Kingdom dropped 53% over its third frame to gross $4.6 million in seventh place and move its cume to $40 million. And Lionsgate's Russell Crowe-toplined 3:10 to Yuma, while finishing outside the top 10 in its sixth frame, lassoed another $1.5 million to leg its cume up to $51.4 million.

Industrywide, an estimated $99 million was rung up this weekend, or 7% more than the same frame last year, according to data tracker Nielsen EDI.

With so many early award-consideration films in the art film swim this year, it's worth noting what may be the season's first belly-flop. »

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Mann & Smith to build an "Empire"

11 October 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- Columbia Prictures has acquired the rights to Empire- a Will Smith vehicle to be helmed by Michael Mann, who previously directed Smith to an Oscar nom in 2001's Ali. The film with be written by hot scribe John Logan. Plot details are sketchy but word has it that Smith will play a contemporary global media mogul. Smith's dance card has been full these days. His latest film, I Am Legend opens Dec. 14, with John Hancock (from Peter Berg, who recently helmed the Mann produced The Kingdom) to follow next summer. Empire will have to wait until Smith completes production on Seven Pounds- which reunites him with Pursuit of Happiness director Gabriele Muccino. Michael Mann has always been one of my favorite directors, and the prospect of him re-teaming with Will Smith is very exciting. Considering that Miami Vice tanked last summer- it's probably not a bad thing that »

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'Game' puts 'Kid' on weekend boxoffice bench

8 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Positive buzz was definitely in The Game Plan for Disney during the weekend, but the frame ended in tears for chief contender The Heartbreak Kid from DreamWorks/Paramount.

Game Plan, starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson, dipped a teensy 29% off its opening grosses to ring up an estimated $16.3 million and top the domestic boxoffice for a second consecutive session. The Ben Stiller vehicle Heartbreak didn't so much drive off the boxoffice cliff as get stuck in neutral, with the romancer remake debuting well under expectations at $14 million.

Game Plan broadened its base of patrons after a family-focused opening as it toted up a nifty 10-day cume of $42.8 million. In another sophomore success, Universal's Middle East thriller The Kingdom was off a relatively modest 45% from its opening grosses to land in third place overall with $9.3 million, pushing its cume to $31.4 million.

Fox's kids book adaptation The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising bowed with an estimated $3.7 million in fifth place, and Sony's teen-targeted musical drama Feel the Noise debuted in 1,015 playdates and fetched $3.4 million to place seventh.

Among the other top rankers, Sony/Screen Gems' Resident Evil: Extinction finished fourth in its third outing with $4.3 million and a $43.5 million cume. Lionsgate's Good Luck Chuck found sixth place in its third frame with $3.5 million and a $29.1 million cume.

Elsewhere, Warner Bros. posted a bodacious limited bow for Michael Clayton a weekend before the George Clooney starrer goes wide, fetching $704,000 from 15 theaters for a cool $46,903 per venue. And Warners' rerelease of the remastered sci-fi classic Blade Runner rung up $94,522 from Los Angeles and New York exclusives for a fab $47,261 per-screen average.

Sony Pictures Classics expanded its female drama The Jane Austen Book Club to 1,232 locations to gross $1.5 million, or $1,246 per location, and move its cume to $2 million. SPC also bowed the documentary My Kid Could Paint That with seven playdates to gross an estimated $28,285, or an acceptable $4,041 per engagement. »

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Funds may have to hedge H'wood bets

4 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

"Private-equity guys who have been phenomenally successful don't like to believe they've come to Hollywood and had the studios turn them into the latest round of dumb money."

Financial advisor David Davis

The less than regal bow for The Kingdom might just confirm what many industryites had previously suspected: Investors in one of Hollywood's highest-profile equity funds will take it on the chin with their slate of Universal and Sony movies.

Universal's Middle Eastern thriller, which opened last weekend to an underwhelming $17.1 million domestically, is the final release in an 18-picture slate dubbed Gun Hill Road I. A Hollywood bummer for Gun Hill's hedge funds could dampen further interest in film investment by private-equity groups.

Costing upward of $70 million to produce, Kingdom is one of six Uni releases in the Gun Hill mix, with the balance comprising Sony films.

The studio "ultimate" -- industry jargon for an ever-changing studio projection on profitability -- also takes into account forecasts for Kingdom revenue from DVD and other ancillaries. But there's gathering consensus that the Jamie Foxx starrer won't generate the kind of profits necessary to make a silk purse return from the sow's ear many claim it represents for equity investors.

For there's one big problem for equity investors: They get paid only after studios take double-digit distribution fees and bankers recoup debt service.

"The odds are always stacked against the investors," confided a former studio exec who helped construct another of the current equity deals. "I mean, if the profit margin is in the 8% range and studios are charging you an 11% distribution fee, it's hard to come out on top."

Ryan Kavanaugh, the financial impresario behind the Uni-Sony equity slate -- a $600 million financing constructed in January 2006 -- already has lined up a similar financial package for Gun Hill Road II. That may show continued interest in such investments or simply demonstrate the power of studio persuasion. »

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Boxoffice didn't 'Plan' for $22.7 million bow

1 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Disney's "The Game Plan" pulled off a surprise at the domestic boxoffice during the weekend as the PG-rated family film exceeded expectations and scored an estimated $22.7 million in its debut. It finished about $5 million ahead the second-place film, Universal's R-rated "The Kingdom", which bowed to about $17.7 million.

Heading into the weekend, prerelease tracking indicated that the two films were neck and neck, with most industry observers giving a slight edge to "Kingdom". But families and kids are the wild card in tracking because interest from that demographic is more difficult to gauge than teens and adults.

Another factor playing into the strong finish for "Game Plan" was the relative dearth of family-oriented pictures in the marketplace of late. The majority of wide-release films opening the past four to eight weeks have been rated R, with a smattering of PG-13 films thrown in.

"It always feels terrific when you over-deliver on industry expectations," said Chuck Viane, president of Walt Disney Pictures Distribution, which now has had four films debut in first place this year.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in "Game Plan", which opened in 3,103 locations and averaged $7,307 per theater. Andy Fickman helmed the gridiron-set family comedy, which centers on a carefree NFL quarterback (Johnson) who discovers he has an 8-year-old daughter (Madison Pettis) from a previous relationship.

The opening was the second best for Johnson in a starring role, after Universal's "The Scorpion King", which grossed $36.1 million in its April 2002 debut.

Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner toplined "Kingdom", which opened in 2,793 venues. Peter Berg directed the action thriller, about a team of U.S. counterterrorism investigators who work with local authorities in Saudi Arabia to track down the perpetrators of an attack on Americans there.

"Considering how many R-rated films are in the market, we are very pleased with the opening," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said.

Although "Game Plan" exceeded expectations and "Kingdom" bowed in the area expected, the total for the weekend's top 12 films was $76.7 million, down 11% from a year ago, when Sony's "Open Season" shot into the top spot with $23.6 million. »

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Weekend boxoffice holds keys to the 'Kingdom'

28 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

There will be something on theater marquees for nearly everyone this weekend as three wide releases and several specialty films arrive at the boxoffice for the last frame in September. The new arrivals carry MPAA ratings ranging from PG to NC-17, which all but ensures a broad demographic appeal.

Universal's The Kingdom is the highest-profile release of the group and is opening with the second-widest theater count of the newcomers, with 2,792 locations on tap. The action thriller, starring Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner and Chris Cooper, is a timely feature about a team of U.S. counterterrorism investigators who work with a local police officer, played by Ashraf Barhom, in Saudi Arabia to find the perpetrators behind an attack on Americans in Riyadh.

Peter Berg directed the R-rated Kingdom, which was produced by Michael Mann and Scott Stuber. Berg is presently working on the Will Smith starrer Hancock for Columbia Pictures and helmed Universal's Friday Night Lights and The Rundown.

Reviews have been mixed on Kingdom, but its timeliness, star power and astute marketing campaign should help the film open in the high-teens to low-$20 million area, according to industry observers. The 18-49 demographic is the target audience, and Kingdom is expected to skew more male than female.

Disney's The Game Plan is on the boxoffice playing field with hopes of scoring big with family audiences as there hasn't really been a film aimed at that group since Daddy Day Camp seven weeks ago. »

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Garner sees 'Ghosts' for New Line

19 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Jennifer Garner is in negotiations to star opposite Matthew McConaughey in New Line's Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a romantic comedy being directed by Mark Waters.

The story follows a bachelor (McConaughey) who goes to his younger brother's wedding, where he is visited by the ghosts of his past and future girlfriends who endeavor to connect him with his true love (Garner).

Jonathan Shestack and Brad Epstein are producing.

Cale Boyter and Sam Brown are overseeing for the studio.

Garner next stars opposite Jamie Foxx in Peter Berg's The Kingdom, which opens Sept. 28, and appears in Fox Searchlight's Juno.

Garner is repped by Endeavor, Management 360 and Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern. »

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The Kingdom

12 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The Kingdom, about a terrorist attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, would seem to be another addition to the list of this fall's politically-charged movies. But unlike the upcoming Rendition or In the Valley of Elah, Peter Berg's movie is no more than an action movie with an exotic backdrop. That would be fine, if only the movie were more exciting. It succeeds neither as a pointed political commentary nor as a taut thriller. With Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, and Jennifer Garner heading the cast, the movie should generate some healthy opening-weekend business. But its long-term prospects seem iffy.

The title sequence does a nifty job of sketching the history of America's involvement in Saudi Arabia during the last century, from the discovery of oil to the emergence of Osama bin Laden. The film itself opens with a gripping set-piece -- a baseball game held in the American compound (populated mainly by oil company workers and their families) that is disrupted by a deadly terrorist assault. The FBI is charged with investigating the killing of Americans on foreign soil, but Washington honchos, including a craven Attorney General (Danny Huston), refuse to authorize any official American action. So a strong-willed FBI agent, Ronald Fleury (Foxx), assembles his own small team and heads off to the Middle East to investigate. While the Saudis are initially wary of these American interlopers, the leading Saudi officer eventually decides to cooperate with Fleury's team. They mine the crime scene for clues and interview witnesses, with the hope of tracking down the mastermind behind the attacks.

The relationship of the two lead investigators is the strongest element in the film. Screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan seems to have taken some inspiration from In the Heat of the Night. The dynamic between the two detectives is exactly the same as in that Oscar-winning 1967 film. Fleury is the fish out of water in an alien world, and after some tense initial encounters, he and the local sheriff join forces to solve the crime. Foxx demonstrates his usual charisma, though the best performance comes from Ashraf Barhom (who previously appeared in Paradise Now) as the humane Arab colonel.

Unfortunately, the other actors have less opportunity to shine. Jason Bateman (as the least experienced team member) and Jeremy Piven (as a slick American diplomat who might be a cousin of Entourage's Ari Gold) do have a few funny moments. Garner has little to do, and Cooper barely registers at all. The biggest waste of the film is casting this superb Oscar-winning actor in a role that any B-level TV personality could have played just as smoothly. The fault is not with the actors; their roles are completely devoid of sharp character details. All we learn about Fleury is that he's a devoted father, which is established in a treacly early scene in which he visits his son's school.

The shallow script might have been salvaged by more dynamic direction. But Berg (Friday Night Lights) films much of the action in close-ups with a jerky moving camera. The film cries out for long shots that would clarify the logistics. Berg simply thrusts us into the middle of the chaos, which might have been his intention, but the result is a vertigo-inducing ride that leaves a lot of the action unintelligible.

The excessive use of close-ups undermines the strong work of cinematographer Mauro Fiore and production designer Tom Duffield. The film ends by suggesting that lust for revenge can warp righteous American patriots as well as Islamic fundamentalists. Still, this earnestly even-handed message is a bit of a cheat. Given the heinous actions of the terrorists, audiences are primed to cheer when they finally get blown to smithereens. We might cheer more loudly if The Kingdom were a more effective piece of rabble-rousing.THE KINGDOM

Universal Pictures

Relativity Media, A Forward Pass/Stuber-Parent Production


Director: Peter Berg

Screenwriter: Matthew Michael Carnahan

Producers: Michael Mann, Scott Stuber

Executive producers: Mary Parent, Steven Saeta, Sarah Aubrey, John Cameron, Ryan Kavanaugh

Director of photography: Mauro Fiore

Production designer: Tom Duffield

Music: Danny Elfman

Costume designer: Susan Matheson

Editors: Kevin Stitt, Colby Parker Jr.


Ronald Fleury: Jamie Foxx

Grant Sykes: Chris Cooper

Janet Mayes: Jennifer Garner

Adam Leavitt: Jason Bateman

Col. Faris Al Ghazi: Ashraf Barhom

Damon Schmidt: Jeremy Piven

James Grace: Richard Jenkins

Gideon Young: Danny Huston

Sgt. Haytham: Ali Suliman

Aaron Jackson: Tim McGraw

Francis Manner: Kyle Chandler

Elaine Flowers: Frances Fisher

Maricella Canavesio: Anna Deavere Smith

Prince Ahmed Bin Khaled: Omar Berdouni

General Al Abdulmalik: Mahmoud Said

Abu Hamza: Hezi Saddik

Running time -- 110 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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Foxx Stuns Public With Elevator Behavior

10 September 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Jamie Foxx stunned journalists and members of the public last week when he banned them from sharing his elevator, according to reports. The Oscar winner was appearing at Los Angeles' Four Season's Hotel to promote his new movie The Kingdom, and insisted he traveled in the building's lifts without being hassled by fellow guests. A source tells the New York Daily News' Page Six, "He told guests of the hotel and journalists to leave the elevator. Then, at every floor where the elevator stopped, the bodyguard would stand with his arm stretched out and say, 'You can't enter' to anyone who tried to get in. A lot of us were like, 'Who does Jamie think he is?'" However a spokesperson for the star has denied the incident, insisting, "There were four to five people in the elevator with Foxx at the time and rushing to get to interviews to promote his film." »

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Piven has 'Goods' on Par Vantage

27 August 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Paramount Vantage has greenlighted its first comedy under its deal with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Prods.: "The Goods: The Don Ready Story", starring Jeremy Piven and directed by Neal Brennan.

The project was brought to Gary Sanchez by Kevin Messick, who will produce with Ferrell, McKay and Sanchez's Chris Henchy.

Rick Stempson and Andy Stock wrote the script, which centers on a used-car liquidator hired to save a struggling dealership during a Fourth of July weekend sale. Messick said that the project was developed on spec with the writing pair. Production will begin in December in Los Angeles.

This is Stempson and Stock's second project. Their first, "Gary the Tennis Coach", recently was produced by GreeneStreet Films and stars Seann William Scott. The pair are repped by UTA and Karl Austen.

Brennan wrote, produced, directed and co-created Comedy Central's Emmy-nominated "Chappelle's Show" with Dave Chappelle.

Piven won an Emmy and received two Golden Globe nominations for his work on HBO's "Entourage". He next will appear in director Peter Berg's political drama "The Kingdom" and recently completed production on Guy Ritchie's "RocknRolla".

Piven is repped by CAA and Patti Felker. »

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Foxx flying 'Soloist' at DreamWorks

17 August 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Jamie Foxx is returning to the genre that won him an Oscar. The Ray star has signed on to topline the musical biopic The Soloist for DreamWorks.

Joe Wright, who recently wrapped the James McAvoy-Keira Knightley starrer Atonement, is on board to direct the project, which is based on a 12-part series of articles by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.

The story centers on a homeless musician with schizophrenia who dreams of playing at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) adapted the screenplay.

Gary Foster (Ghost Rider, Elektra) and Russ Krasnoff are producing, while Working Title's Tim Bevan is executive producing. Rikki Lea Bestall will serve as co-producer.

DreamWorks' Mark Sourian is shepherding the project for the studio.

Lopez's articles, From Skid Row to Disney Hall, were published in 2005 and will serve as the basis for an upcoming book by Putnam.

Foxx, who won the best actor Academy Award for playing Ray Charles in Ray, teamed with DreamWorks for the Motown musical Dreamgirls. His upcoming credits include the Middle East-set thriller The Kingdom. He is repped by CAA, King Management and attorney Nina Shaw. »

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Morgan, Uni join for new adventure

11 April 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Universal Pictures has pre-emptively purchased an untitled adventure pitch from scribe Chris Morgan for $700,000 against $1.35 million. Stuber/Parent Prods. is producing.

The sale marks the fifth straight Universal project for Morgan, the most recent being a rewrite on Wanted for director Timur Bekmambetov and producer Marc Platt, which is in preproduction in Prague, and an adaptation of the graphic novel The Psycho, which is in development.

Morgan also penned last summer's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift for Universal. Based on the global success of Tokyo Drift, which grossed $158 million worldwide, the studio tapped Morgan to write a fourth installment of the franchise.

Universal's Jeff Kirschenbaum and Erik Baiers will oversee Morgan's untitled adventure pitch for the studio.

H2F Entertainment's Walter Hamada and Chris Fenton are executive producing.

Stuber/Parent is in postproduction on The Kingdom, which will bow in the fall. The company is shooting the Martin Lawrence starrer The Better Man and is in preproduction on the Luke Greenfield-helmed Big Brothers and the Benicio Del Toro vehicle Wolfman.

Morgan also wrote Cellular for New Line Cinema. »

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