Anita Busch wrote:Fox Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos is said to be helping his old friend at Wanda Jack Gao behind the scenes on figuring out what to do with Legendary in the wake of the surprise exit of the production company’s CEO Thomas Tull. The relationship between Gianopulos may blossom into something more permanent as we’ve confirmed that Wanda has been heavily courting him. Does that mean that he will take the reins at Legendary? It’s not certain as the former executive’s name is also being bandied about for other top spots around town, including to replace Michael Lynton at Sony and also to take over Warner Bros.
Gianapulos and Gao’s relationship goes back many years when the latter was a top executive at New Corp.
The word of this comes only two days after Tull said he was exiting Legendary, the company he founded 11 years ago after clashing with Wanda owners. With no one to hand the reins to, Gao stepped in as interim CEO. Gao is the trusted right hand man to Dalian Wanda Group‘s chairman Wang Jianlin and has great business relationships in Hollywood. He currently serves as SVP & CEO of International Investments and Operations at Wanda Cultural Industry Group. The hiring of Gianopulos would be a coup for Wanda and Legendary.
Gianopulos has years of experience in distribution and production. In fact, he rose out of the international distribution ranks to eventually head Fox. He left the studio early last year. Stay tuned. Gianopulos could not be reached for comment.
Patrick Frater wrote:Legendary Entertainment’s Chinese owner, Dalian Wanda, said Friday that the abrupt exit of founder Thomas Tull is part of its larger restructuring plans for growth but that the change at the top did not reflect dissatisfaction with Tull or the recent release of “The Great Wall,” which some have described as disappointing.
“Legend’s personnel adjustments are due to Wanda Pictures’ overall structure” and are part of Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin’s previously announced expansion plans, a statement from the Chinese conglomerate said.
“‘The Great Wall’ has just begun its worldwide release, and it has not yet been released in the North American region,” the statement added. “Its so-called failure is a fiction.”
The Zhang Yimou-directed action film, which reportedly cost $150 million to make, has generated slightly more than $200 million at the box office, most of that in China, since its December release. How it performs in the U.S. after it hits theaters there next month will be closely watched.
Tull announced his resignation as CEO on Tuesday in the U.S., with Jack Gao, senior VP of Wanda’s Cultural Industries group, taking over as interim leader. Sources say that Wanda has held preliminary talks with Jim Gianopulos, former head of distribution at Fox, as a possible replacement.
Wanda had remained silent on Tull’s departure but issued a three-paragraph statement in Chinese to Variety on Friday. In addition to its terse explanation of Tull’s exit, Wanda said it would “release big news concerning the film industry soon.”
Wanda bought Legendary in early 2016 for up to $3.5 billion, a price tag that baffled many in the industry. Concerns that it had overpaid appeared to be confirmed when a regulatory filing showed that Legendary lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 2015.
In his annual work report a week ago, Wanda chairman Wang noted his company’s ambition to control 20% of the global cinema market, which he believes would give it ample bargaining power when negotiating with the six major Hollywood studios. Speaking this week in Davos at the World Economic Forum, Wang said that Wanda is planning $5 billion to $10 billion of overseas deals this year, with the major focus on entertainment and sports.
Wang has made no secret of his desire to buy a Hollywood studio. But recently he said talks were not making progress, for lack of willing sellers.
Legendary’s performance over the past couple of years has been mixed. In 2016, its two film releases in China both scored big box-office numbers. “Warcraft” was at its most successful in China with $221 million, compared with $47.3 million in North America.
Since its December release, “The Great Wall” has earned close to $166 million (RMB1.14 billion), making it one of the biggest films of 2016 in the Middle Kingdom. That figure was below some projections, though the overall slowdown at the Chinese box office last year makes comparisons tricky.
With its big production budget, “The Great Wall” still needs to score well in other territories. To date, it has grossed more than $40 million in ongoing theatrical release in Asia and Europe. Its North American outing, handled by co-financier Universal Pictures, is set for Feb. 17.
Wanda previously attempted a restructuring of its film businesses in the months shortly after the Legendary acquisition. That corporate reshuffle was to have seen some 20 outside companies provide investment for Wanda Pictures. However, the deals were halted by regulators, who expressed concern over the financial viability of the maneuvers.
That is a pattern that has played out previously. Two years earlier, regulators halted the IPO of film exhibition unit Wanda Cinema Line, only for Wanda to present new accounts and list the company on the Shenzhen stock exchange in January 2015.
Despite a dramatic retreat in the value of Chinese stocks in 2016, Wanda Cinema Line is valued at $6.8 billion (RMB46.9 billion) compared with the $3.45-billion market capitalization of AMC Entertainment, the U.S. theatrical market leader which Wanda also controls.
David Lieberman wrote:There’s something about Hollywood that dazzles overseas investors — most recently led by those in China. But the $962 million write down that Sony took this morning for its entertainment unit should give them pause.
Sony’s announcement contributed to a 3.5% drop today in its U.S. shares. And it revives painful memories from 1989 when the Japanese conglomerate believed it could ride the entertainment tiger — and made one of the worst deals in corporate history.
Today’s announcement heightened speculation that CEO Kazuo Hirai is setting the stage for a change — possibly a sale of the studio — although he and Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Michael Lynton assured employees this morning that the company’s commitment to movies and TV remains “unchanged.”
SPE is “a very important part of Sony group” and the company “will continue to invest to achieve long-term growth and increased profits in this space,” they said in a memo.
Still, it’s easy to appreciate why many Sony watchers wonder whether Hirai is thinking about a change.
This was the first big impairment charge for the unit since the shocking $2.7 billion one Sony took in 1994. That tacitly acknowledged that the Japanese conglomerate paid about twice as much as it should have in 1989 when it laid out $3.4 billion for Columbia Pictures stock, assumed $1.4 billion in debt, and agreed to pay Warner Bros. another $500 million to let producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters out of their contract so they could move to Sony.
Generally speaking, it’s easier for sellers and buyers to discuss asset values after write downs that get bad news out of the way. With Lynton planning to leave, the charge also would help a new leader — or owner — to craft a story showing growth and other improvements.
And the timing of the announcement is curious. Sony didn’t respond to a sudden or unexpected development. It took the charge to recognize a long term trend: DVD and other home entertainment sales have diminished to the point where the financial types felt they had to assign a new asset value to the studio — which it had carried at the 1989 purchase price less the 1994 charge — the company says.
With the new write down, Sony says that the Production & Distribution operation (not including Media Networks) is just worth the value of the hard assets. It no longer puts a dollar figure on the brand name, or other hard-to-quantify qualities that the accounting world classifies as “goodwill.”
To be sure, the writedown makes sense without assuming ulterior motives. Hirai and Lynton said this morning that the company is “moving forward” with efforts to improve movie profits — and is prepared to be patient.
“One of Sony’s great strengths is the diversity of its business portfolio and unifying power of the ‘SONY’ brand,” they say. “Each business must be autonomous, self-sustaining, but at the same time they work cooperatively under the common identity of ‘SONY’, aiming to enhance the total corporate value of Sony group. It is important to keep in mind that there was a time when some businesses were facing tough challenges; other businesses helped us to improve and sustain the profitability of the entire Sony Group.”
But that isn’t what Sony bargained for when it became a Hollywood power. And it should serve as a sobering reminder for those eager to buy into show business that it’s like no business they know.
Ted Johnson wrote:Also part of the settlement are Two Pic MC, formerly known as ImageMovers.
The settlement was disclosed in a court filing on Tuesday.
Disney and its companies were the last remaining defendants in the litigation. Earlier this month, a federal judge gave preliminary approval to a $50 million settlement with DreamWorks Animation, following previous settlements of $13 million with Sony Imageworks and $5.95 million with Blue Sky. All of the sums will be put in a settlement fund.
The workers contend that the roots of the anti-poaching agreements go back to the mid-1980s, when George Lucas and Ed Catmull, the president of Steve Jobs’ newly formed company Pixar, agreed to not raid each other’s employees.
Kim Masters wrote:Legendary has a library of its homegrown films, most of which didn't perform well, including Blackhat and Seventh Son. Its biggest hit was the 2014 Godzilla, which grossed $529 million worldwide. It also has stakes in major hits that Tull helped finance, including Universal's Jurassic World, and the right to invest in sequels. (Tull did far better as a financier than as a producer.) "Is Legendary a finished product? Absolutely not," says a source close to the company. "It's a platform on which something can be built."
For now, Legendary sources say the company has financing to move forward, but it appears to be enough only to cover perhaps two or three movies a year. And Legendary's pipeline is not exactly bursting. It has wrapped production on Kong: Skull Island, set for March 10 (and it has plans to make a Godzilla sequel and a third Godzilla-meets-Kong film at Warners). It is in production on a Pacific Rim sequel, TV producer Steven S. DeKnight's feature film debut. Parent is trying to make a deal to get Dwayne Johnson to star in an action movie called Skyscraper and to launch an adaptation of the sci-fi novel Dune, with Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) directing.
A source close to Wanda says the company's leadership wants Legendary to produce more prestige projects, becoming less identified with the megabudget monster flicks and fanboy fare that Tull favored. At a gala in L.A. in November, Wanda's chairman Wang Jianlin spoke out against the reliance on sequels, remakes and effects-heavy spectacles, saying, "We have to make Hollywood go back to storytelling."
Mike Fleming Jr wrote:EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox feature executive vice president Mark Roybal is leaving the studio, Deadline has learned. I’ve heard Roybal’s name for a couple of jobs in town recently, including the Focus Features president of production post that Jim Burke is vacating to return to producing. Roybal will exit when his contract expires within the next few weeks. I’ve confirmed the exit from Fox, and insiders there say he is leaving on good terms.
Roybal has spent the past four years at Fox and most recently was involved in bringing in The Post, the Liz Hannah-scripted Pentagon Papers drama that Steven Spielberg is directing with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep for Fox and Amblin. Other films he has shepherded include the Chernin Entertainment pic Underwater with Kristen Stewart and TJ Miller, the Alien Nation pic with Jeff Nichols and the upcoming Matt Reeves-directed War for the Planet of the Apes.
Before Fox, Roybal was an exec at Indian Paintbrush for four years, where he oversaw films including Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Prior to that he spent 14 years working for producer Scott Rudin, where he brought in such projects as No Country for Old Men.
Kim Masters wrote:As Viacom appears to be wrapping up a deal with former Fox studio chairman Jim Gianopulos to run Paramount Pictures, industry insiders are turning their attention to Sony Pictures, the other troubled studio currently in search of new leadership.
Speculation over who will replace outgoing Sony CEO Michael Lynton has involved a couple of major names that may prove to be ungettable. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Sony had its eye on Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, 52, for the top job, but complications in extricating him from his present position have caused him to fade, for now at least, from Sony's shortlist. Another candidate, Tom Staggs, is seen as unlikely to be lured by the Sony job but remains of interest. Former Fox Networks Group chairman Tony Vinciquerra has also been mentioned as a possible candidate. Sony declined to comment on the search. FX chief John Landgraf was also approached about the job, according to sources, but passed.
It is easy to see why Tsujihara’s background running a diversified film, television and digital studio would be appealing to Sony's Japanese owners. In addition, Tsujihara's experience in home video and gaming would seem like a major positive for Sony, which hopes to create original content for PlayStation, one of the top gaming consoles and an entertainment hub. And Tsujihara, the industry’s first Asian-American studio chief, is of Japanese descent, which might hold some appeal for Sony executives in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, there has been longstanding speculation in the industry that when and if AT&T completes its purchase of Time Warner, the new owner would make changes at Warners. Tsujihara might feel that moving to the top job at Sony Pictures is preferable to waiting to see what unfolds. Warners did not respond to a request for comment.
Tsujihara became Warners' chairman and CEO in 2013 after a tortured bake-off process that saw his chief rivals, top television executive Bruce Rosenblum and film studio chief Jeff Robinov, leave the company. The studio has had mixed success in the years since. The D.C. Comics universe has been a top priority, and while films featuring the characters have pulled in respectable grosses, they have failed to please many fans or to match the consistent success of Disney’s Marvel. (Even Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, with the two most iconic characters in the history of comics, topped out at $873 million. In contrast Disney got Captain America: Civil War — to take a recent example — to $1.15 billion.)
Tsujihara was credited with courting J.K. Rowling for a series of Harry Potter spinoff movies; the first installment, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, grossed $812 million and restarted the dormant franchise. He also has been negotiating with theater owners to allow premium, in-home viewing of movies.
Eriq Gardner wrote:In James Cameron's sci fi classic, The Terminator, a cyborg is sent back in time to assassinate. Something similar is playing out in Hollywood at the moment thanks to a mid-1970s change to copyright law that allows authors or their heirs to terminate a copyright grant. And like the film, there's resistance.
When Congress decided to extend the copyright term in 1976, it chose to recognize those who had created works at the early stage of their careers but handed their rights over without much bargaining power. By allowing authors to serve notices of termination to publishers or studios, those authors were allowed to enjoy the benefits of the latter stages of a copyright term. Authors just had to wait at least 35 years for another bite at the apple. As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, "I'll be back."
The time is now for many authors, and what first created hassles in the music industry has slowly crept into the purview of filmmaking just as major studios are in the midst of reboot mania. Even The Terminator itself appears be the subject of a termination battle judging by an only partly-informed Deadline story reporting a "copyright reversion" 35 years after the release of the 1984 film. Sources close to Cameron refuse to discuss what's happening, citing ongoing negotiations.
Studios will, of course, fight back.
In late February, for instance, in the midst of trying to defeat a $400 million lawsuit over This Is Spinal Tap, Vivendi and StudioCanal insisted that the co-creators of the 1984 rockumentary didn't have standing to sue over contingent profits, but did acknowledge that a court would likely have to weigh in on Harry Shearer's attempt to effectuate a termination.
On Wednesday, before arguing that the co-creators were beneficiaries of contracts and can indeed sue, the defendants' lawyer wrote of a "grossly inappropriate litigation threat against Harry Shearer" and also revealed that termination notices were also recently issued by Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean. (Read here.)
According to Vivendi, Shearer has no right to terminate because the movie and its music were created as works for hire. That would mean he and his cohorts are technically not the statutory authors of the work. The termination provisions have an exception for works made for hire. It's a common studio defense that is also being litigated in a dispute over Friday the 13th rights.
As more and more termination notices are sent, expect the fights to become exotic. Paul McCartney's suit against Sony over Beatles songs he wishes to reclaim signals how international differences in law may come into play. Thanks to a recent decision over in England, contractual promises made by foreign authors could potentially interfere with their ability to cancel copyright grants.
That's not all.
In a move that's never been reported until now, writer Avery Corman sent a termination notice over Kramer vs. Kramer, his novel that served as a basis for the film that won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1980. In response to an attempt to grab back rights to a work that ironically is focused on a custody battle, Sony's Columbia Pictures contested the termination last year to the U.S. Copyright Office.
The studio's position is that the grant of Corman's rights came via an oral agreement made in 1977, and only grants executed by the author on or after January 1, 1978 are eligible for termination. The parties formalized the details of a license after that date, but Sony insists, "It is immaterial when, exactly, the 1977 Longform or 1978 Copyright Assignment was executed. Under either the 1909 or 1976 Copyright Acts, such subsequent writings serve to validate the oral grant of rights as of the time the oral agreement was made."
Corman has hired Marc Toberoff, a specialist in termination rights who once did battle with Warner Bros. over Superman and is also currently representing the screenwriter of the original Friday the 13th. So far, however, no lawsuit has been filed over Kramer vs. Kramer.
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