UPDATED: A soft summer at the box office, a power shift at News Corp. and a perceived flirtation with Universal lead to the end of an 18-year run at Fox.
MIKE FLEMING wrote:EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox, already undergoing seismic changes with Tom Rothman’s year end exit, might have a major director to replace on one of the studio’s most important film franchises. I’m hearing that Rupert Wyatt, who helmed the superb franchise reboot Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, will leave the sequel. I’m told that Wyatt’s exit is similar to the same reason that Gary Ross stepped out of Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Wyatt didn’t feel comfortable making the May 23, 2014 release date that the studio announced in May.
Fox declined comment, but clearly something is going on. This would be a blow to the studio, but Fox and Chernin Entertainment have such a big hit here that they can aim high for a new helmer. The studio likes the script that Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver have turned in, and they are gearing up to make the date in a movie where the apes take over.
The first film turned out so well, grossing $483 million worldwide and seamlessly set up the apocalyptic sequel plotline. As for Wyatt, he will have no trouble finding another film to direct. He’s attached to direct Agent 13 at Universal with Charlize Theron starring, and he was interested in the Warner Bros film Londongrad, which had Michael Fassbender attached to play Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB spy who was poisoned in 2006 with polonium-210. Wyatt was forced to drop that project so he could get going on the Apes sequel. He’s repped by WME and Independent Talent Group.
Kim Masters wrote:Rupert Murdoch dismisses a top exec amid morale issues as Jim Gianopulos sets his plan - and how Jeffrey Katzenberg fits in.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Several months ago, Rupert Murdoch delivered a warning to Tom Rothman, co-chairman and CEO of the Fox film studio: Rothman's autocratic behavior was affecting morale. "The thing about Rupert," says one executive who has worked with the mogul, "is that once he's down on you, you're kind of dead." On Sept. 14, News Corp. announced Rothman, 57, will leave the studio Jan. 1.
Complaints about Rothman's style were nothing new, but he and co-chairman Jim Gianopulos had presided at the studio since 2001 without a single quarterly loss and had released such Oscar-winning hits as Moulin Rouge. Usually financial results speak louder than other actions in Hollywood. But for the past couple of years, Fox has performed erratically. Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the X-Men franchise were big successes, but the studio passed on Seth MacFarlane's Ted while missing this summer with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and the Ben Stiller comedy The Watch. And Ridley Scott's Alien prequel Prometheus fell short of expectations.
Now Gianopulos, 60, is left to convey a sense of stability -- with just a bit more filmmaker friendliness -- as the town wonders what will come next at the studio that has a reputation for micromanaging and grinding on budgets. Industry veterans with ties to Fox expect Gianopulos to take a pause then hire a creative executive to oversee movies. While there's considerable speculation on what the future holds for production president Emma Watts, as well as marketing co-presidents Oren Aviv and Tony Sella, for now the signals are that Gianopulos will see what his team can do without Rothman's relentless input.
"Jim comes at it as a good manager does -- be sure you have the right person in the job, and empower them and rely on their instincts," says Hutch Parker, a top film executive at Fox from 1998 to 2008 and who is currently producing Wolverine. "He's a believer. He wants to back filmmakers and back projects."
Indeed, Gianopulos supported both Titanic and Avatar. "Jim G. has always had an irrepressible enthusiasm for film as a grand entertainment, a visual spectacle to be shared," says James Cameron's production partner Jon Landau. "So many studio execs have lost sight of that. Neither Titanic nor Avatar would have gotten made without his support." Adds Cameron, "I go into every meeting with him knowing that there is no problem the two of us cannot solve together."
The rap on Gianopulos is that his strengths have been not on the creative side but in international distribution and dealing with the digital revolution. So some top agents and executives believe that eventually Murdoch and News Corp. COO Chase Carey will elevate Peter Rice, named chairman and chief executive of Fox Networks Group in June, to a broader job overseeing film and television. The role would be similar to the position occupied by Peter Chernin before he became COO of parent company News Corp. (he left in 2009 to become a producer). Rice has extensive experience on Fox's film side and is perceived as a Murdoch favorite.
And yet another player now lurks in the Fox universe. In August, Gianopulos brokered a distribution deal with Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation. It's no secret Katzenberg has long hoped to sell his company. "Jeffrey does not want a distribution deal," says one prominent executive. "He needs somebody to buy him." And if he could engineer a deal, some also speculate Katzenberg might be in quest of a high-level job at Fox.
News Corp. insiders say the company is not likely to buy DWA anytime soon. But observers say Katzenberg and his longtime associate David Geffen have been heavily courting Wendi Deng Murdoch, who joined the two aboard Geffen's yacht in May after the Cannes Film Festival. Whether the two are still pursuing a sale to Fox or a broader corporate role for Katzenberg continues to be a matter for speculation.
Kim Masters wrote:UPDATED: The DreamWorks action thriller will be distributed by Fox and Disney.
Tom Rothman, who will depart his post as chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment on Jan. 1, is nearing a deal to take on a new role as producer.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Rothman is in talks to produce Robopocalypse, the Steven Spielberg-directed sci-fi action film in the works at DreamWorks. In addition, Anne Hathaway is in talks for the female lead, according to sources close to the film, who characterized the discussions as in an early stage. Chris Hemsworth reportedly is negotiating to star as well.
The futuristic Robopocalypse is being co-produced by DreamWorks and Fox, with Disney handling domestic distribution and Fox taking care of foreign. Disney and Fox have set a release date of April 25, 2014.
Based on the 2011 book by Daniel H. Wilson, Robopocalypse reunites Fox and Spielberg, who worked together on Minority Report. Rothman, who recently announced his departure from Fox after 18 years with the studio, has a close relationship with Spielberg and is credited with orchestrating the deal that brought Fox on board to co-distribute Robopocalypse.
DreamWorks has been developing the property since 2009, when it acquired rights to Wilson's then-unpublished manuscript about the fate of the human race following a robot uprising.
UPDATE: DreamWorks issued a statement late Monday confirming THR's report that Rothman will produce:
Said Steven Spielberg, “When someone like Tom is a free agent, you snatch him up fast. He has proven himself to be a necessity of this industry. At Fox he had already been an enthusiastic partner on Robopocalypse, and it is to our advantage that he would come produce this film with me. Tom has been a wonderful friend and colleague over the years and DreamWorks is incredibly lucky to have him on board.”
Said Tom Rothman, “If you are in politics, you dream of a call from the White House, in baseball, from the Yankees, in movies, fromSteven Spielberg. Robopocalypse is the kind of important epic entertainment, a big movie with big ideas, that Steven does better than anyfilmmaker on earth. I am honored beyond measure that he asked for my help on it and fired up to do whatever I can for him, Stacey, the outstanding DreamWorks team, and all of my friends at Fox. I enjoyed the idea of being unemployed for a week, but this will be way more fun.”
Said Stacey Snider, “Tom was a fantastic studio chairman and his impeccable taste and passion for films will serve Steven, DreamWorks and this film well.”
MIKE FLEMING wrote:EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has come up with a short list to replace Rupert Wyatt as the director of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. I’m hearing that Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves is atop the list, along with The Disappearance Of Alice Creed helmer J Blakeson, 28 Weeks Later helmer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Crazy Heart and Mud director Jeff Nichols, Pacific Rim helmer Guillermo del Toro, The Impossible helmer Juan Antonio Bayona and Looper helmer Rian Johnson.
Those directors will be meeting with Fox production president Emma Watts to fill the plum post that Wyatt exited. Deadline revealed September 17 that Wyatt, who helmed the superb franchise reboot Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, would not reprise. I’d heard at the time that his exit was similar to the same reason that Gary Ross stepped out of Hunger Games: Catching Fire; with Wyatt uncomfortable about making the May 23, 2014 release date that the studio announced in May.
This should all be decided rather quickly, and this certainly helps the effort that Watts and Jim Gianopulos are making to invite elite emerging filmmakers into the Fox fold, with the promise of giving them more creative leeway. Who wouldn’t want to jump on this sequel, which already has a script by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. They did the first film, which grossed $483 million worldwide and seamlessly set up the apocalyptic sequel plotline. Stay tuned.
Mark Bomback is writing the 'Apes' sequel, which will see Andy Serkis return as Caesar the chimp.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," Twentieth Century Fox's sequel to its blockbuster 2011 hit feature film "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," is in pre-production and gearing up for a March, 2013 filming start date in New Orleans, Louisiana. With a $93 million budget and over $483 million at the box office, this second film in the reboot series of films is being highly anticipated. Principal actor casting for the film's lead roles co-starring roles will be cast in Los Angeles, with additional casting in New Orleans. All extras, photo doubles, and stand-ins will be cast throughout filming in New Orleans.
The extremely talented and necessary actor returning is Golden Globe winner Andy Serkis as the ultra-intelligent genetically altered ape Caesar. Serkis is the most highly respected and critically acclaimed motion capture actor in the entertainment industry, and has won many awards for that type of work including a Screen Actors Guild Award. Some of his credits include Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies, Universal Pictures' "King Kong," Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," and Caesar in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes".
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" director Rupert Wyatt was set to direct "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" but exited in mid-September due to his concerns about having a movie ready by the May 23, 2014 release date. Fox drew up a shortlist of possible replacement directors, and chose Matt Reeves, who recently struck a TV development deal at 20th Century Fox TV. He will create, write and direct broadcast and cable projects as well as supervise other writers. Reeves will direct "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" from a screenplay originally written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, with rewrites by Mark Bomback. Reeves' feature film directorial credits include "The Pallbearer," "Cloverfield," and "Let Me In". He also co-created the TV series Felicity with J.J. Abrams and directed the pilot and 5 episodes.
Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark are producing for Chernin Entertainment. Chernin is one of the most powerful media executives in the world. Under Chernin’s leadership, Twentieth Century Fox Film produced the two top-grossing movies of all time, Titanic and Avatar. Chernin Entertainment currently has a film production deal with Fox. In addition to writing the original draft for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," husband and wife Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver are also producing.
Brendon Connelly wrote:There’s progress being made on the big screen adaptation of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven‘s comic series Nemesis, with Joe Carnahan yesterday tweeting:My brother and I have begun 'Nemesis...' This script is gonna be a beast.
His brother is Matthew Michael Carnahan, the screenwriter of The Kingdom, State of Play and some of some iteration of World War Z. I like to think they’ll be batting ideas for the Nemesis screenplay back and forth over their Turkey today. They certainly don’t seem to be the shy kind, as you can tell from this subsequent tweet from Joe:With 'Nemesis' Matt & I are gunning for TDK trilogy with the thought that, if you're going after the world record holder, what's the point?
Nemesis was the strip advertised with that ‘What if Batman was the Joker?’ line, and revolves around the murderous rampage of a ‘supervillain’ with an alter ego. Joe Carnahan has been attached to direct for a while, though the late Tony Scott was the first to take up the project.
Mark Millar, of course, made note of the new development on his own Twitter feed:The bearded genius who shot Bin Laden AND made The Grey in the past 2 years has just started Nemesis movie. GO GO!
And it was also the perfect opportunity to remind us that more movies are on the way:Okay, you know Kick-Ass 2 wraps Sunday & the Carnahans are on Nemesis. But what are the 3 big Millarworld movies shooting after Easter?!
Matthew Vaughn’s The Secret Service is one of them, but the other two? Superior? American Jesus? Wanted 2?
I don’t think even Millar is holding out hope for an American Jesus movie any longer…
Studio moguls often come into their jobs roaring like a lion. But then they leave like a lamb. Such was the case when a kinder and gentler Tom Rothman came back onto the Fox lot this week for his on-the-downlow swan song held at the Fox commissary. “It was very warm and cordial and packed with a ton of people,” one insider tells me about the goodbye party Monday night. An estimated 250-300 invitation-only guests ate and drank in honor of Rothman, who was ousted in that September 14th studio shakeup and left the lot on October 12th. Those there were mostly Fox film employees, but also (in random order) Ridley Scott, Aline Brosh McKenna, Bart Walker, Bryan Lourd, Dave Wirtschafter, Hutch Parker, Jim Mangold, Lili Zanuck, Mark Gordon, Peter Farrelly, Peter Chernin, Lauren Shuler Donner, Robert Newman, Simon Kinberg, John Davis, and Peter Rice. Rothman’s longtime Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Jim Gianopulos — now solely chairman/CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film — spoke first about their time together and all that they went through in their daily business. Like how Gianopulos came up with a signal in meetings to get Tom to stop talking (more like quiet down) by pulling on his ear. Jim said he noticed one day that his earlobe was longer than the other from tugging on it so much that he simply had to stop. Then, with a “gracious” nod to Rothman’s career slate of movies, Gianopulos introduced a reel. contd.
After, Gianopulos called up senior staff (presidents, etc) and Fox 2000 head Elizabeth Gabler spoke on their behalf ”emotionally” about Rothman. She showed one of the leather-bound scripts they presented him as a gift from all the films he had worked on during his 18-year tenure. Then the assembled group “raised a glass together and toasted him”. With that, Rothman spoke to the assembled group. As always, he was very articulate and intelligent but also ”warm and witty and self-deprecating”, said one of my sources. Described another, “Nice speech. It was nostalgic, sad, but classy to the end”. Naturally, there were lots of inside jokes. In a town where a new Mercedes is de rigeur for movie moguls, everyone on the Fox lot knows Rothman has driven a Lexus SC coupe dating back to the 1990s. ”He said that this would probably shock a lot of people – but he’d got a new car. That’s unlike Tom.”
Rothman had packed up his Fox office a month after he was canned while the moving vans waited. Now he has not one but two offices — one out of Dreamworks Studios as he produces Steven Spielberg’s Robopocalypse, and another permanent space he rented at Sony’s Columbia Pictures. But at Monday night’s party, many of the guests were quietly wondering where Rothman might land next. As one of the attendees told me, “I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him running a studio.”
Adam Chitwood wrote:Burns was also involved with writing the script for the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and with Matt Reeves now onboard to direct the film and production moving forward, Steve asked Burns if they would be using his version of the script. The scribed admitted he was unsure, but he did talk a bit about why Rupert Wyatt left the project:
“I have no idea [if they’re using my script], Rupert Wyatt and I worked on a draft last summer that I think we were both really excited about and he went into Fox and they seemed to like it, they wanted a lot of changes and they sort of parted ways over those changes. Then management shifted at fox, they brought in a new director, I think the new director wanted a new writer and I don’t know how much of what we did and I wrote is ongoing. It’s kind of heartbreaking because I really loved what we were trying to say with that movie so I hope some of it survives or that they came up with something a lot better.”
Rachel Abrams wrote:Exclusive: Marking the first slate financing arrangement to close since the financial meltdown of 2008, 20th Century Fox has made a deal for just north of $400 million to help fund nearly all its films over the next five years, including the next two "Avatar" pics, multiple sources have confirmed to Variety.
Financial guru Chip Seelig brought the coin to Fox, and it's not the first time he's raised a sizeable amount of money for the studio, either: The pair have a relationship dating back to 2005, when Seelig arranged a $400 million slate deal as a then-partner of financial firm Dune Capital Management. Seelig left Dune about 18 months ago to start new funding ventures.
The latest deal effectively replaces the longstanding Dune structure, which has been renewed a number of times since its flagship run. Although Dune will continue to earn money from Fox films it's helped pay for (And can re-invest that money into future studio pics), the Gotham-based firm has elected not to renew its co-financing pact, according to topper Steven Mnuchin. Dune is also in the middle of a refinancing that could put more money into Fox pics, as Variety reported in August. At that time, both sides appeared to be close to yet another extension of their relationship.
New deal also marks Fox's first major financing under the sole chairmanship of Jim Gianopulos, who took over running the studio after co-topper Tom Rothman left his post at the end of last year. The duo ran the studio at the time of its first pact with Dune.
Magnetar Capital provided a chunk of the funding in Seelig's latest arrangement, a source with knowledge of the transaction confirmed, and it's understood that the Chicago-based group provided the majority of the money. As part of the arrangement, Seelig will put some of his own equity into the slate.
Seelig's investors will participate in almost all of Fox's films for the next five years, according to multiple sources close to the deal. Studio will typically take an 11% distribution fee, according to those briefed on the matter, and investors will usually have the option of funding between about a quarter and half of the budget per film. Deal does not include animated fare and certain smaller-budgeted pics, as is typical for Fox.
Seelig's departure from Dune left oversight of the Fox relationship to Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs fund manager who also serves as chairman of One West Bank. Mnuchin and Seelig have a long history together, both from their time at Dune and at Goldman, where Seelig also worked.
Seelig is also currently holding discussions with banks about putting between $300 million and $400 million of senior debt into the deal, according to sources close to the talks. And the overall pot of money could grow, as Seelig will continue his fundraising efforts in the hopes of a longer-term partnership.
Fox has its eye on the long-term too. In Dune, the studio counted one of the longest-running modern financing partnerships of any of the majors. Dune participated in the first "Avatar," and the relationship is widely considered to be one of the most successful co-financing pacts from the last few years. Some observers credit that to a lack of mezzanine financing in the deal's structure, others to Dune's access to Fox's slate - since the fund could participate in just about any film, a juggernaut like "Avatar" and other hits more than helped make up for misfires.
As is typical for investors, Dune will earn money from its Fox library for years, although the firm has held some discussions with Fox about the studio buying out those future cash flows.
Seelig's deal is the first slate financing arrangement to be completed in years. It also comes at a time when all the majors, with the exception of Disney, are aggressively pursuing outside cash. But capital markets have shrunk, and large-scale equity has vastly dwindled since the slate heyday of between 2005 and 2009, when every studio nabbed hundreds of millions of dollars from third parties.
While all the majors are meeting with potential investors, none appear close to a deal.
Sony and Universal are still talking to a group led by attorney John LaViolette that hopes to have around a billion dollars to divide between the studios, as Variety reported in March. But observers are mixed on whether an arrangement is likely to materialize.
Adam Markovitz wrote:It’s been almost almost 17 years since aliens destroyed the White House and the Empire State Building in Roland Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster Independence Day. But the world’s monuments aren’t safe yet. Emmerich, whose action-packed White House Down hits theaters June 28, says he plans to wreak a new round of havoc in two sequels – ID Forever Part 1 and ID Forever Part II. The films take place 20 years after the original, when a distress call sent by the first wave of aliens finally brings reinforcements to Earth. ”The humans knew that one day the aliens would come back,” explains the director, who completed two scripts with Independence Day co-writer Dean Devlin and has given them to White House Down writer-producer James Vanderbilt for a rewrite. ”And they know that the only way you can really travel in space is through wormholes. So for the aliens, it could take two or three weeks, but for us that’s 20 or 25 years.”
Emmerich says he’s also working with an art department staff to see how the world of ID Forever might look. “It’s a changed world. It’s like parallel history. [Humans] have harnessed all this alien technology. We don’t know how to duplicate it because it’s organically-grown technology, but we know how to take an antigravity device and put it in a human airplane,” he explains. And while there may be some familiar faces in the sequels — Bill Pullman has already confirmed that he is onboard; Will Smith has not — their storylines will focus on a new generation of human heroes, including the stepson of Will Smith’s Independence Day character (played in that film by Ross Bagley). “It’s still some of the same characters, but also new younger characters; it’s a little bit like the sons take over,” says Emmerich, who promises that the first sequel will have a cliffhanger ending to keep audiences coming back for more. “The first one ends on a little success, but only enough to give the humans hope. And then in the second one they free themselves again [from the aliens].”
After the mass destruction of the original Independence Day, what’s left for new aliens to destroy? “We’ve rebuilt,” Emmerich answers, with a smile. “But [the aliens] also do different things.”
MIKE FLEMING JR wrote:UPDATE, 4:35 PM: Fox has just confirmed Deadline’s earlier scoop and set a November 14, 2014 wide release date for The Secret Service.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 11:43 AM: After scrapping with Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox has just closed a deal for worldwide distribution rights to The Secret Service, the next directorial outing by Matthew Vaughn, who most recently helmed X-Men: First Class for Fox, and Kick-Ass.
Vaughn has already completed the script for this film with his writing partner Jane Goldman, and his Marv Films will finance and produce the film, based on the comic series by Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Fox is going to date it quickly for next year, and production will begin in August.
The drama closely follows the comic, about a veteran secret agent who leads a young protege into the shadowy business. Back when Deadline broke news that Vaughn was handing the directing reins of X-Men: Days Of Future Past to Bryan Singer, I noted that he was eyeing The Secret Service as his next film.
This is important one for Fox, which has made an effort to have the studio be considered a good place for accomplished directors to work. Keeping Vaughn in the fold after launching what has become an important franchise is a good indication that the efforts of Emma Watts and Jim Gianopulos are paying off.
Vaughn is repped by WME, Brillstein Entertainment, UK’s Independent Talent Group, and Ziffren.
Blake Hennon wrote:The film’s co-writers — director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin – told the Hero Complex Film Festival audience at a matinee screening of the 1996 blockbuster Sunday that they have ideas for a sequel (and maybe more) but, as Devlin put it, “things have to align … the planets have to get together.” And planets getting together is a thrilling prospect for fans of these spectacle specialists.
Emmerich said he and Devlin have discussed why the aliens came in the first place, what the bigger story is. The director called the aliens a “swarm intelligence, and we are individual intelligence – and even if we kill each other … we have something very special, we have this indomitable human spirit.”
So, if there is a sequel, would Jeff Goldblum, who surprised the audience by sitting in on the conversation, have a place in it?
“I think we’ll invite him back,” Emmerich said.
Goldblum had the audience laughing with his halting, gently ironic responses, including noting of his attitude toward science-fiction movies, “the good ones are good” and “I’ve loved the ones I’ve been involved with,” and citing alongside “ID4” and the “The Fly” the 1988 musical comedy “Earth Girls Are Easy.”
The actor was also a gentleman, grabbing an extra chair for a bonus panelist, visual effects supervisor Volker Engel, who won an Oscar with his team for “Independence Day.” Engel recalled of his time on the production, “I spent probably three-quarters of the time destroying things – which was awesome.”
One of the film’s most famous destructive sequences is an alien ship’s obliteration of the White House, which Engel recalled orchestrating with a large-scale miniature in front of the press – “no pressure,” he kidded.
Emmerich is putting that iconic residence in the crossfire again with the Channing Tatum-starring “White House Down,” due out June 28.
After talking about how he and his team had hustled to get “Independence Day” into theaters a month before Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!” – “I knew that we had to come out first, before the satire comes out – I mean the other way around would have been weird” — Emmerich noted that a similar thing had recently happened to him: “Olympus Has Fallen,” starring Gerard Butler as a government agent trapped in the White House after a terrorist attack, came out in March – though apparently Goldblum hadn’t noticed.
“I missed that,” he said to chuckles. “I’m looking forward to ‘White House Down.’”
Hosted by Hero Complex editor Gina McIntyre at the Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood, the matinee event started the final day of the Hero Complex Film Festival, now in its fourth year. The festival began Friday night with a John Carpenter double feature and discussion. “The Mist” followed on Saturday afternoon with Frank Darabont and surprise guest Thomas Jane. Saturday night’s program brought a Guillermo del Toro double feature of “The Devil’s Backbone” and the Oscar-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth,” exclusive new footage of his “Pacific Rim” and an on-stage conversation with the busy director. The festival closes tonight with a 20th anniversary tribute to “The X-Files” with creator Chris Carter and showings of three fan-picked episodes.
Check back in the coming days for video of discussions with the festival’s special guests.
Rebecca Ford wrote:The long-awaited sequel to Roland Emmerich's Independence Day will land in theaters in 2015.
20th Century Fox announced Thursday that Independence Day 2 will open on July 3, 2015, the eve of the lucrative holiday that drove 1996's Independence Day to a stellar $50 million debut. Emmerich will return to direct and produce, but none of the original cast -- including lead Will Smith -- has been announced as returning as of yet.
For now, only Universal's animated 3D Untitled Illumination Entertainment 2015 Project is slated to also open on that date.
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Alex Ben Block wrote:Loeb, who has called for Sony to spin off its entertainment businesses since May, described the studio’s summer releases After Earth and White House Down as box-office flops comparable to historic bombs Waterworld and Ishtar.
Moriarty wrote:Oddly, we are at the first moment in his career where Will Smith is no longer enough to guarantee a film's opening. While I think he could easily headline another monster hit, I don't think he is enough to make that happen anymore. "Men In Black 3" seemed to land on an audience that really didn't remember the first film, and "After Earth" not only failed, it failed because of Will Smith and the audience's reaction to Jaden being the lead. It was a personal rejection. I don't think "Winter's Tale" is in any danger of turning that around, and there's nothing coming from Smith that would suggest to me that him turning this film down is because he's "too big" for it. I think the opposite is true. I think he's afraid to be seen as someone who is coasting only on the past.
Then again, "Bad Boys 3" is in the works, so maybe he just plain doesn't want to do this.
Jamie Vanderbilt, who worked with Emmerich on "White House Down," has been working on two scripts for this, reportedly. One is with Smith's character, one is without. The fact that they can do that and it doesn't really impact the film one way or another would indicate they don't really need him. If you can imagine a draft without him, then how key can he really be to the story you're telling?
You tell me, folks… do you really want a sequel to this movie? Or does this seem like Fox worrying about an anniversary date instead of the actual movie they're making?
Mike Fleming Jr wrote:EXCLUSIVE: Top brass at 20th Century Fox got some work done this week, giving a green light to the long-awaited Independence Day sequel. The film has been slotted for a May production start, and the studio now will move to close Roland Emmerich’s directing deal. Now, Fox staked a June 24, 2016, release date, so this isn’t a shock, but these dates get recalibrated all the time. From what I’m told, Will Smith regrettably isn’t reprising though if he said yes, I’m sure Fox, Emmerich and Dean Devlin would write him in, in a heartbeat). Deadline revealed this back in February.
Casting will begin after they lock Emmerich, and I’m told by Fox insiders they will be making a single film. There had been speculation we might see two films shot back-to-back, but Fox only greenlighted one. Nicolas Wright and James A. Woods wrote the script. Carter Blanchard rewrote the first draft of the script that was done by Emmerich and Dean Devlin, and then James Vanderbilt. Emmerich is producing with Devlin and Harald Kloser. The green light means that Fox, Emmerich and Devlin can release the film for the 2016 July 4 weekend, marking the 20th anniversary of the 1996 original that grossed $811 million worldwide.
Fred Topel wrote:When producer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich first started seriously talking about a sequel to their 1996 hit Independence Day, they had plans for two sequels to shoot simultaneously. When 20th Century Fox finally greenlit the Independence Day sequel (at one time called ID 4 Ever), for July 4, 2016, it was only for one movie. I spoke with Devlin about his new TNT series The Librarians for Nuke the Fridge and he told me why they’re only doing one sequel for now.
“We decided just to do one first to make sure that people like where we’re going,” Devlin said. “If that works well, there’s an ability to do some world building which would be really fun and interesting to do. I think Roland and everybody felt, let’s just make sure 20 years later that people still are interested. I think in our case, we started to feel that maybe we were being a little bit arrogant by assuming that we could do two movies. We said you know what, let’s scale it down. Let’s first make sure that it works for everyone.”
Emmerich had previously said that Will Smith is now “too expensive” to return, which surprised me because Smith always seemed supportive of returning to the franchise that exploded his career. Devlin confirmed that Smith did indeed meet with them seriously before declining.
“I’m not sure of the reasons why Will ultimately decided not to do it. You’d have to ask him. I think he was just at a place where he did seriously consider it. We had a lot of meetings with him, but at the end of the day he decided that doing this wasn’t right for him.”
While the November 26 greenlight announcement did not confirm Emmerich’s directing deal, Devlin confirmed Emmerich is in fact back to direct.
“Roland is back to direct. He developed a new script with a couple young writers and the new script is fantastic. We’re very excited about shooting.”
This does, however, push back Emmerich and Devlin’s plans for a Stargate reboot. “Unfortunately, we have to wait until we finish Independence Day for that. Roland wants to direct that one too. Hopefully we go into that right afterwards.”
Kim Masters wrote:The new Tom Rothman era at Sony Pictures Entertainment represents a potential sea change at a film studio that had — at least until quite recently — been known to be among the most talent-friendly and free-spending in town.
When it comes to financial discipline, Rothman, 60, is the diametric opposite of exiting SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal, who, it was initially announced, was to remain in her post until May, but who now will cede the job immediately. Rothman led a very profitable and rarely open-handed film studio at Fox for many years, which heartens Wall Street analysts such as Rich Greenfield of BTIG, who says, "We have long been impressed with Tom Rothman's skills in managing a slate of films, particularly his focus on staying away from uneconomical productions and relationships." Adds Daniel Ernst of Hudson Square Research: "It was important to make the decision and move on in a relatively short period of time -- Sony has done that, and that's a positive."
But in Hollywood, there has been considerable fear about the impact of a Rothman regime. "He's going to shut shit down," says one producer who has worked with the executive at Fox. "He's going to lay a very heavy hand on budgets and deals. It's all going to change. He's going to be Tom Rothman."
In an interview with THR, Rothman sends a signal that for now, at least, no big changes are imminent. Among the questions in the wake of the Feb. 24 news of Rothman's ascension to chairman of SPE's film group is whether top execs including Doug Belgrad and Michael De Luca will remain. "I'm very confident in the level of executive talent here, and I prize stability," says Rothman, who met with Belgrad for a few hours on Tuesday.
Rothman long has felt quite strongly that his reputation for micromanaging and budget-pinching is unjustified. "I know that's the cliche about me, and I hope that current and future experiences will continue to belie it," he tells THR. But at the same time, he has in the recent past talked to associates about a less intrusive approach. "He cops to some of what went on at Fox," says a studio insider. "He cops to a reputation that was less than flattering and talks about how mellow and mild he is. The whole Tom story was about the leopard changing its spots. Let's see."
Since he took the job reviving Sony's TriStar label in August 2013, Rothman has assembled several movies with top talent, including Ang Lee (Long Halftime Walk), Robert Zemeckis (The Walk) and Jonathan Demme (Ricki and the Flash) that he hopes will help dispel any negative impressions. (The rebooted TriStar label is expected to continue.) As anxiety mounted over who would replace Pascal, many in Hollywood — both inside and outside the studio — were hoping the well-regarded Belgrad would wind up in the top job. "Doug is a very good guy and a very capable guy, but he suffered from the fact that he's been there and subordinate to Amy all those years," says a top agent. This person sees Rothman as a compelling choice: "I'm not his apologist, but he has a good track record."
Even those who are anxious about what it will be like to deal with Rothman acknowledge that he brings brains and dedication to the job. "He may be difficult, he may be brutal on his staff, but he does do the work," says a producer who has made a film with Rothman. "In terms of engagement, he's in the top 5 percent." Another industry veteran says Rothman "needs a media person whose job it is to create a new persona. I don't think there's anyone who doesn't think he's smart and he has good taste. He started Fox Searchlight."
Some insiders say Pascal had told them she believed Belgrad would be promoted because of the potential negative reaction to a Rothman appointment. "Amy said it wasn't going to be Rothman," says one executive, noting that it seemed for a time that the studio would install a triumvirate in the style of Warner Bros. But this person says Pascal also had expressed support for Rothman: "She's told everybody, 'You're the one that I want.' It's just Amy. She gets caught up in the moment."
The overwhelming consensus is that Rothman, who was out of the Fox job for nearly a year before Pascal gave him the opportunity to revive TriStar, will be protective of Pascal as she moves into a producing role at Sony. "Tom will be forever in Amy's debt," says a former Sony insider. Adds the agent, "He will definitely take care of her." Indeed, Rothman and Pascal were spotted having lunch at the Sony commissary on Tuesday.
As part of her rich producing deal, Pascal already has been cut into projects including the all-female Ghostbusters and the Marvel Studios-assisted reboot of Spider-Man. Producer Scott Rudin, who engaged in infamous email exchanges with Pascal that were revealed in the Sony hack, also has welcomed her as producer on a planned Cleopatra remake starring Angelina Jolie, though one source is skeptical the film will go forward in the Rothman era, joking, "I wouldn't go shopping for an outfit for that premiere."
Another source with close ties to the studio says he believes Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, intended for Rothman to succeed Pascal ever since Rothman joined the company. This person believes that Lynton, who on Feb. 23 extended his contract for an undisclosed period, will have little involvement in film studio affairs going forward. "Michael is moving to New York," says this person. "I don't believe it will be the Tom and Michael show the way it was the Amy and Michael show."
One unanswered question is to what degree executives at Sony's Japanese parent company were involved in the choice of Rothman. Sony Corp. CEO Kaz Hirai met with Rothman when he was in town to attend the Oscars. Certainly the company's influential chief financial officer, Kenichiro Yoshida, is known to be focused on controlling costs, and the Sony hack revealed last year that he had pushed Lynton to give "serious consideration to modifying the Entertainment executives' compensation plans." It's easy to imagine that an executive with Rothman's track record would appeal to Yoshida.
Still, it doesn't appear that Sony was holding the purse strings tight when it gave Pascal her exit deal — which The New York Times values at between $30 million and $40 million over four years — and one veteran producer doesn't expect the culture to change in one key way. "One thing we know about Sony is that if the movies don't work, you don't get fired," he says. "And if you do get fired, you make a lot of money."
Paul Bond contributed to this report.
Kim Masters & Tatiana Siegel wrote:
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." By that definition, Sony's new film studio chief Tom Rothman is one of the smartest people in Hollywood, as even his harshest critics would admit. The two opposed ideas in Rothman's mind are that he has changed into a mellower and less micromanaging executive than he was during his long tenure at the Fox film studio and, at the same time, that he does not need to change because he did a consistently outstanding job there.
Those who have dealt with Rothman, 60, in the nearly two months since he was tapped to replace Amy Pascal as chairman of Sony's Motion Picture Group on Feb. 24 see glimpses of both sides of Rothman's mind, though most expect the Fox version of Rothman — a very successful incarnation in terms of achieving consistent profit — will become dominant.
"There's a tremendous amount of energy and focus on making movies," says Sony-based producer Matt Tolmach. "As a producer, what more do you want?" Another source says Rothman is the right medicine for Sony, which was moving toward greater fiscal discipline before Rothman arrived but needs to travel further in that direction. "Tom is fearless," he says. "There's a lot that needs to be done, and he has the courage to do it."
Still, several filmmakers are said to be leery of working under Rothman's detail-oriented management. Sources say the studio had to soothe the anxieties of The Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum, who is set to direct the space drama Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Also said to be nervous are 22 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whom Rothman, for obvious reasons, very much wants to keep in the fold. Sources also speculate that Jump Street producer Neal Moritz, who is hands-on in marketing his films, might clash with Rothman, also known for his own heavy hand in marketing. "I am extremely involved in all my films, and I will continue to be, and there's been nothing to lead me to believe that that's not going to continue to be the case with Tom Rothman," Moritz tells THR. "I hope to have as good a relationship with this version of Sony as I have had in the past." Rothman has a special incentive to make it work given that he is said to have a particular interest in melding the Jump Street franchise with the studio's Men in Black property.
On the financial front, Rothman already has managed to tighten the budget on Paul Feig's all-female Ghostbusters, planned for July 2016, without any apparent bloodshed (despite earlier friction with Feig when the director made The Heat at Fox). The Ghostbusters price tag when greenlit by Pascal was a hefty $169 million, with rich deals for talent, including $14 million for Melissa McCarthy and north of $10 million for Feig. Rothman couldn't do anything about those fees, but sources say Feig made tweaks to the script to reduce the cost to $154 million — just a few million above Rothman's target of $150 million.
Those who may be wary of Rothman might be encouraged by the words of Robert Zemeckis, whose film The Walk, about high-wire artist Philippe Petit, was one of Rothman's first greenlights during his tenure at Sony's TriStar Pictures unit before he got the big job and is set to open in October. "Tom had the tremendous courage to greenlight this picture, and he has been 100 percent supportive of my process," Zemeckis tells THR. "My collaboration with him has been just as great as it was when we made Cast Away together [at Fox]."
It appears that Rothman is ready to relinquish Sony's already shaky relationship with uber-producer Scott Rudin, who has a nonexclusive deal with the studio through 2018 and who produced such hits for Sony as The Social Network and Captain Phillips. A perennial Oscar contender, Rudin only has made one film that crossed the $300 million mark (1996's Ransom) and would seem a questionable fit for Rothman's budget-conscious regime. Under Pascal, Rudin's Steve Jobs movie left Sony for Universal (the tortured process was detailed in the hacked studio emails), and now Sony has dropped Rudin's Little House on the Prairie project, which had a budget in the mid-40s. Rudin is said to be in talks to sign a television deal with Fox and could be eyeing that studio for a film deal as well. (Rudin declined to comment.) As one producer with ties to both studios says, "Fox is becoming the new Sony, and Sony is becoming the new Fox."
In more ways than one, Rothman clearly is looking to bolster Sony in the international area. On April 13, the studio poached Sanford Panitch from Fox to head up efforts in that area. Though Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton had been working toward luring Panitch long before Pascal's job was in jeopardy, Rothman — who was Panitch's boss at Fox for two decades — was key to sealing the deal. The shift enlarges Panitch's domain to include not just film but television — something he had attempted to do at Fox but could not execute since that studio's film and television divisions operate very separately. (Panitch reports to Lynton.)
Rothman has done some more shopping at Fox: In recent weeks, he approached Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler to run TriStar but was rebuffed, and he also tried to lure two senior Fox production executives. Even before taking the top Sony job, he worked behind the scenes to woo Tomas Jegeus, co-president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Fox. (Jegeus was interested but decided to re-up at Fox.)
At the same time, Rothman lost studio co-president Michael De Luca to a Universal producer deal despite efforts to keep him, and there is plenty of curiosity about how he'll interact with other important Sony executives, including Clint Culpepper, who is used to having considerable latitude and success running the studio's Screen Gems label.
The same applies to Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, who are said to want to be left to run Sony Pictures Classics autonomously, as they have since 1991. It seems likely that Rothman, with deep roots in independent film, will want to compete aggressively with Fox Searchlight, which he helped found while at Fox. Ironically, Barker and Bernard are known for their thrift, which in this one instance might not be consistent with Rothman's vision.
John Siuntres wrote:Great catching up with Mark Millar who talks comics and film. We talk Chrononauts, Jupiter's Circle and Jupiter's Legacy, Kingsmen:The Secret Service, Mark's collaborations with Director Mathew Vaughn, his film consulting work at 21st Century Fox.We compare the Fox filmmakers to the Marvel filmmakers and get his thoughts on the coming Fantastic Four film, and director Josh Trank.
Mike Fleming Jr wrote:EXCLUSIVE: Though he was flushed out of the bush quicker than he expected to be by a spate of rumors this week that led to tonight’s press reports about his exit, Doug Belgrad is well along in the construct of a monied production company that will have an exclusive first look deal at Sony Pictures, one that chairman Tom Rothman tells Deadline will generate two to four films per year for the studio.
Belgrad, who spent 27 years as a Columbia Pictures executive and has been a senior exec since 2002 when he became co-president of production with Matt Tolmach, will transition from the post and finish his run as an executive with the release of the Paul Feig-directed Ghosbusters. He’ll help with the transition of a replacement that sources said will be hired from outside to take the post of Motion Picture Group president (the hire is in the works and will happen quickly). And then, Belgrad will begin a new career chapter, one he said was his goal when he first became a studio executive nearly three decades ago.
“I came out here from Wall Street a long time ago hoping to build my own media company, and I got bit by the movie bug and got a great opportunity here to grow and learn the business,” Belgrad said. “But I always had these ambitions, even though I am a late booming entrepreneur.” His goal? “To have a relatively small, nimble company that has financing to back projects I believe in, that are commercially appealing, and to be able to work within Sony’s outstanding global distribution and marketing platforms,” he said. “I will make projects I’m passionate about, that fit the feature space or television platform, with properties and the talent relationships I want to explore. The landscape and possibilities are very exciting, but these executive jobs are more consuming than they were 10 or 15 years ago. I’ve got three kids, two of them who grew up while I’ve been doing this job, and I’d like to have a relationship with them. Part of this is a work-life balance decision. It was time for me to do something else.”
While his new venture doesn’t have a name he would disclose, Belgrad said he has been figuring out these plans since “well before” Sony got hit with a devastating cyber attack. He shelved his aspirations to help weather that crisis. Belgrad said the ambition and first discussions about this go back to discussions he had with Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton during his most recent re-up two years ago. And while Belgrad was a contender for the top job to replace Pascal that went to Rothman, both Belgrad and Rothman said Belgrad put his plans on hold while they got the studio past a slump and pulled together the promising slates for 2016 and 2017.
As word raced about Belgrad leaving (it comes a day after the exit of TV chief Steve Mosko though insiders the two are not related), rumors and one report suggested that Belgrad had been let go. Both he and Rothman wince at that notion, and vehemently deny it. Rothman said that he asked Belgrad to stay and help him put the studio on firmer footing, and that they have been figuring out this eventual transition for months (the rumors certainly have been around that long). The exit plan didn’t progress quickly because Rothman implored Belgrad to stay as they hammered out a slate that besides Ghostbusters includes such films as The Magnificent Seven, Passengers, Inferno and The Dark Tower, among others.
“He has been working his ass off for us in bringing us back to being a 20 picture releases a year studio,” Rothman said.
For his part, Rothman said he’s now determined to make Belgrad’s imminent fund raising efforts as painless as possible. “Doug will have guaranteed distribution slots, which should be helpful to him as he raises money, and he will be located on the lot and we will start him off with a number of projects at the studio,” Rothman told Deadline. “He is going to jump on some of our movies right away, and we will be making a major financial investment in his future. This is not one of those situations where an executive conveniently goes off into some producing deal. This is going to be a meaningful distribution partnership and I will be counting on him for two to four pictures per year. I don’t look at this as a blow to Sony in any way. We are gaining a supplier, one who knows everyone in the system here, and one that we trust implicitly. That is a rare thing.”
They wouldn’t divulge the pre-existing projects that Belgrad will become a producer on; this has all come to a head quickly and a lot of phone calls go into adding producers to existing projects, as was the case when Amy Pascal exited and became a producer on a number of plum pictures including Ghostbusters and Spider-Man: Homecoming, while she began building up her own arsenal of new projects. For Belgrad’s part, he’ll work on those projects Sony assigns to him while simultaneously staffing up and raising funding that will make him an equity player with the goal to grow a multi-platform content company in the mold of New Regency, Spyglass or Media Rights Capital, the latter of which was the catalyst and Sony’s partner in The Dark Tower.
There will be the cynical reaction that Belgrad’s exit was inevitable because that is what happens when two executives compete for the top job, and one doesn’t get it. Studio president Michael De Luca was also a candidate, and he left for a lucrative producing deal at Universal, for instance. “I understand the question, but this genuinely has nothing to do with me not getting the job as chairman,” Belgrad said. “I understood the decision that was made, at the time. Tom has the most experience of any executive around in running a studio, and he’s talented. I wanted to stay on. We have affection and respect for one another, and we had a great time putting together these films. I just didn’t feel right leaving when there was adversity to overcome, and I felt that there was a lot of job left for me to do before I took this on. I look not only at the Sony slates as accomplishments for us, but also moving Hannah Minghella to TriStar and Christine Belson to the animation company. The company is in a good place, and I sat down with Tom and explained my ambition and he has been most helpful in figuring out how to make the transition.”
Rothman said he understood Belgrad’s desire to change course, and in the course of conversations, the shape of Belgrad’s venture began to evolve with a greater involvement from the studio. “What evolved over months of discussion was a situation that was mutually beneficial to both of us, with this large and meaningful production deal as a major supplier for us. I asked him to stay and put together the slate, and our Cinemacon presentation showed an exceptional year of executive work that Doug and his team were responsible for. We are in a very strong place for the next 18 months, and that is why I don’t feel we’re losing a colleague as much as we’re gaining a supplier.”
Cynthia Littleton & Brent Lang wrote:Meanwhile, in the film operation, Rothman replaced Belgrad with one of his own picks, Sanford Panitch. Rothman recruited the executive from Fox, where they both previously worked, bringing him to Sony in June 2015 as president of International Film & Television.
The exit of Belgrad, who had been at Sony for 26 years, could make things more fraught internally as Sony veterans adjust to Rothman’s hard-charging management style. Belgrad was seen as a steady and even-keeled force at the studio. And Pascal, while demanding, was praised for being solicitous with her staffers and for having a warmer personal style. Rothman is known for being more controlling and obsessive about details. He pores over media coverage, and is prone to firing off emails at all hours, as well as marinating in the minutiae of a few favored films, picking over their marketing and distribution strategies.
Rothman’s full creative influence on Sony’s slate has yet to be seen. The studio fell behind most of its major competitors last year, weighted down by duds such as “Pixels” and “Aloha” that were greenlit under Pascal.
Two of the films that Rothman greenlit during his previous tenure as head of Sony’s Tri-Star label, “The Walk” and “Ricki and the Flash,” also flopped. While current release “Money Monster” is no blockbuster, the George Clooney and Julia Roberts financial thriller is a relative success that could make a profit. “The Lady in the Van,” an arthouse success, was developed by Tri-Star, but distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.
The Sony films that Rothman has approved begin to hit theaters in December, with the debut of “Passengers,” a Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt sci-fi romance. Going forward, the executive has stressed the need to find new franchises and movies that play well with foreign audiences, leading Sony to get behind an adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower,” a “Jumanji” reboot, and sequels to “Bad Boys” and “Blade Runner.” The scale of the projects and Rothman’s vision for Sony’s future has made some executives feel more confident. Pascal’s final years had a rudderless quality. He’s also pushing to keep the James Bond distribution rights at Sony, where they have been for the past four 007 films, though other studios, such as Warner Bros., are circling the franchise, which is controlled by MGM and Eon Prods.
All in all, Rothman and Sony find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Disney and Warner Bros. have cornered the market on comic-book films thanks to their ownership of Marvel and DC Comics, respectively. At the same time, Comcast is poised to become one of the heavyweights in family entertainment with its recent acquisition of DreamWorks Animation.
Stephen Galloway wrote:Animation is so competitive right now. How do you make something stand out?
It's competitive because it's very lucrative, right? You can't run that business without a view toward the costs. Those movies do not have to cost $150 million.
Can they cost half of that?
Yes, they can cost half of that.
Is that a rule?
No, not at all. We’ll make more expensive ones — particularly sequels — and we’ve had back-to-back successes, with Hotel Transylvania 2 and Angry Birds, which is going to be the fourth highest-grossing American animated movie in China ever. The sequel's in the works and we have the next four or five movies lined up. We have Smurfs all animated coming out next year. For the first time, we'll actually have three animated movies in the same year, [along with] The Emoji movie. And then the third animated movie will be at Christmas, an extension of our very good faith business. We're making an animated Nativity story, called The Star, from the animals' point of view. It's really sweet and lovely and that's a much lower cost. And we have dated Christmas 2018 for what I believe is truly going to be a breakthrough animated sensation. Lord and Miller, who did the Lego movies, are doing an animated Spider-Man. And it has a very breakthrough look to it, and a fantastic story, and it's independent from our Marvel Spider-Man.
Since you teamed with Marvel, do you plan to make a whole Spider-Man universe? Do you have plans for more work with Marvel?
Yes to both those questions. It’s been fantastic, our relationship with Marvel.
Who has greenlight authority?
Sony has the ultimate authority. But we have deferred the creative lead to Marvel, because they know what they’re doing. We start shooting the new Spider-Man in Atlanta [in mid-June].
Do you want to trim the costs of that franchise?
I don’t want to trim costs. I want to make money. And sometimes you make money by trimming costs and sometimes by investing in things that are profitable. A movie like Spider-Man by Marvel, that’s not inexpensive. But it’s a great investment. Knowing that Marvel has such a clear, creative vision, I sleep very well at night.
James Rainey wrote:A series of personnel complaints and threatened defections by senior executives have raised questions about the leadership of Sony Pictures Entertainment movie boss Tom Rothman, several sources said — a difficult challenge for a studio already fighting to gain traction during a rough year at the box office.
Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton and the company’s human resources department have fielded protests about Rothman from more than a dozen executives, according to an individual briefed on the showdown, who declined to be named discussing internal company business.
The unhappy Sony executives report that Rothman has made their lives untenable with his micro-management and obstreperous manner, which they say has also alienated talent agents, producers, directors and actors, many of whom are now loathe to bring their projects to Sony, the sources said.
Rothman was confronted with the charges of disillusionment with his leadership in a meeting last week with the company’s human resources department. The executives complained that morale has plummeted in the 20 months since Rothman was elevated from head of Sony’s TriStar Pictures label to chairman of the entire movie operation. “There is no confidence in his leadership,” said one of the sources, who declined to be named.
Rothman declined to comment. Lynton issued a statement late Sunday afternoon strongly backing his studio chief. “Tom Rothman has done an outstanding job in his efforts to restructure and turn around the Motion Picture Group,” Lynton said. “He has my full and complete support, and the support of SPE’s senior management and Tokyo.” The last reference is to the studio’s corporate parent, Sony Corp., headquartered in Japan.
Some insiders defended Rothman, saying that the complaints are the result of his urgent push to make a “sea change” in the culture at the studio, which has languished at or near the bottom of the box office standings for several years. Rothman, 61, was named chairman of the motion picture group in February, 2015.
Compared to the relatively laissez faire approach of previous studio co-chair Amy Pascal, especially on financial matters, Rothman’s tough, bottom-line mentality strikes some as abrasive. “There is an old guard of people who are, naturally, going to be uncomfortable with that kind of change,” said one insider, who declined to be named. “But it’s important that the change be made.”
Others who defended Rothman described him as decent and well-meaning, though sometimes oblivious to how his hard-charging manner is perceived by others. One insider also contended that the studio will soon announce that two top production executives are re-upping, while declining to provide details.
The internal furor does not come at a good time for Sony, which languishes in fifth place this year of the six major studios in domestic box office performance. This weekend’s “Inferno” — the “Da Vinci Code” sequel that was supposed to be a solid money-maker – collapsed at the domestic box office, its $15 million opening less than a third of the opening for the previous entry in the series.
Another big-budget film that under-performed: “Ghostbusters,” which scraped up $229 million worldwide, with production costs, alone, coming in at $144 million. The Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “The Brothers Grimsby” and last year’s holiday release, “Concussion,” with Will Smith, also tanked.
Fairing better for Sony were smaller films like the Blake Lively shark thriller “The Shallows,” which grossed $119 million worldwide on a production budget of $17 million; the R-rated cartoon, “Sausage Party,” which took in $135 million on a $19 million budget; and the horror flick “Don’t Breathe,” which scored $150 million worldwide on a trim $9.9 million budget.
One of the Rothman loyalists at the studio hoped that a comeback will begin, in earnest, with “Passengers,” a sci-fi romance starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, due out at Christmas. The Sony worker, who asked not to be named, cited a range of potential hits on the 2017 slate, led by the next “Spider Man” entry; the adventure fantasy “Jumanji,” with Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart; the Western/sci-fi mashup “The Dark Tower”; and a revamp of the 1982 hit “Blade Runner.”
Rothman’s previous tenure as a studio leader – at 20th Century Fox, where he was co-chairman with Jim Gianopulos – also provoked complaints about his contentious and domineering nature. His doggedness in ratcheting down salaries for talent also irritated some filmmakers and agents.
The objections are recurring at Sony, but without the buffer of the more positive results that Fox’s films had during much of Rothman’s tenure at the Pico Boulevard studio.
“When he left Fox, he told everyone, ‘I have changed. I realized I was a problem,'” said one individual close to the situation. “And, of course, when he came back to Sony he was the exact same person, and probably worse.”
The source called Rothman “the biggest micro-manager I have ever dealt with,” adding: “He thinks he can do everybody’s job better — from writer, to director, to producer, to business affairs to marketer — any position anyone would have on a movie — he thinks he can do better than they can.”
The complaints were serious enough that Lynton informed Sony’s corporate leaders in Japan. “There is apparently a reluctance to make a change quickly, so they are moving in a very deliberate way,” said one of those who would like to see Rothman ousted.
A top producer agreed that the harsh assessments extend outside the studio. “He lacks empathy. He is easily threatened. He doesn’t make people feel good about coming to work,” said the producer. “Certainly things are very strained.”
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