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Blumhouse, Meridian Form Multi-Year Co-Financing Agreement (Exclusive)

21 minutes ago

Meridian Entertainment has reached a film financing agreement with Blumhouse Productions, the makers of “The Purge” and “Insidious,” Variety has learned.

The pact is a multi-year one and will cover all Blumhouse films outside of the production company’s overall deal with Universal Pictures. The partners first film will be a remake of Benji, the long-running series of films about a mixed-breed dog with a preternatural ability to rescue humans.

The deal comes after a wave of successes for Blumhouse and its founder Jason Blum. The studio recently scored back-to-back box office hits with Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” a buzzy thriller about race relations, and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” a psychological horror film about a man with 23 distinct personalities. The company’s films have made $2.8 billion, but what makes them particularly valuable to studios is they carry small budgets, typically between $5 million to $10 million. That means they are »


- Brent Lang

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Open Road Taps Loren Schwartz to Replace Jonathan Helfgot as Marketing President

33 minutes ago

Open Road Films has shaken up its marketing operation, naming Loren Schwartz to replace Jonathan Helfgot as president of marketing.

Schwartz will report directly to Open Road Films CEO Tom Ortenberg, who also made the announcement Tuesday.

Helfgot came on board slightly over a year ago, replacing Jason Cassidy in the post. That shuffle came a month after Open Road’s “Spotlight” had won best picture at the Academy Awards.

The company said Tuesday that Helfgot is taking another unspecified job. Open Road also announced that Liz Biber has been promoted to president of publicity and will continue to report to Ortenberg. Biber has been head of publicity since the company’s inception in 2011.

Schwartz was previously executive VP of marketing at Screen Gems where he oversaw films such as “Evil Dead,” “Resident Evil,” “Think Like A Man,” “Heaven Is For Real” and “The Vow.” His most recent position was »


- Dave McNary

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Danny Pudi Comedy ‘Tiger Hunter’ Gets Fall Release

51 minutes ago

Shout! Factory has acquired North American rights to Lena Khan’s immigrant comedy “The Tiger Hunter,” starring Danny Pudi, from Red Sea Media.

Shout! Factory plans a strategic rollout across multiple platforms, beginning with a theatrical launch this fall. The film had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival on April 21, 2016, and won the grand jury prize for narrative feature.

Pudi stars as clever young Indian who travels to 1970s America to become an engineer in order to impress his childhood crush and live up to the legacy of his father — a legendary tiger hunter back home. When his job falls through, he takes a low-end job and joins with a gang of oddball friends in hopes of convincing his childhood sweetheart that he’s far more successful than he truly is.

Khan directed from a script she wrote with Sameer Gardezi (“Modern Family”). Producers are Megha Kadakia, »


- Dave McNary

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Thunderbird Releasing Takes ‘Una,’ ‘Brimstone’ for U.K. (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

Thunderbird Releasing has added Benedict Andrews’ “Una” and Martin Koolhoven’s “Brimstone” (pictured) to its U.K. distribution slate. Both films saw their U.K. premieres at the 2016 London Film Festival and are scheduled for release in September this year.

“We’re thrilled to add two intelligent and entertaining female-driven titles to our slate,” said Thunderbird managing director Edward Fletcher. “We’ve had great early exhibitor interest and, with the support of all the talent involved, look forward to delivering engaging U.K. campaigns.”

Una,” based on Scottish playwright David Harrower’s award-winning play “Blackbird,” stars Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn in the roles played by Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels in last year’s Broadway revival of the work. Also starring Riz Ahmed, the film focuses on the fraught and emotionally devastating ramifications following a young woman’s attempt to track down a man from her past, which unearths long-buried secrets. »


- Robert Mitchell

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Ed Asner to Receive Lifetime Achievement Honor at L.A. Jewish Film Festival

1 hour ago

Ed Asner has been selected to receive a lifetime achievement award at Wedensday’s opening night of the  12th annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Asner has won seven Emmy Awards for performing — more than any other male actor. He received five of the awards for the role as Lou Grant in the two series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant.”

Asner served as the 18th SAG president for two terms from 1981 to 1985. He received SAG’s Life Achievement Award in 2002, two years after winning the guild’s Ralph Morgan Award for service to the guild. He was also the lead plaintiff in a 2013 lawsuit against SAG-aftra alleging mishandling of $130 million in royalties and residuals.

The opening night activities will include the screening of  the short film “Super Sex,” directed by actor Matthew Modine and starring Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins, »


- Dave McNary

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Cannes: Will Smith, Paolo Sorrentino Join Festival Jury; Full Lineup Announced

1 hour ago

Actors Will Smith and Fan Bingbing and directors Paolo Sorrentino and Maren Ade will serve on the 70th Cannes Film Festival’s jury, whose full lineup was unveiled by festival organizers Tuesday.

Smith, Fan, Ade and Oscar-winner Sorrentino join previously announced jurors Jessica Chastain and Pedro Almodovar, who will preside over the panel. Rounding out the jury that will decide the winner of the Palme d’Or are French actress Agnès Jaoui, South Korean director Park Chan-wook and French composer Gabriel Yared.

Spanish helmer Almodovar, who won the festival’s best director prize in 1999 for “All About My Mother” and best screenplay for 2006’s “Volver,” was named as jury president in January. The festival’s artistic director, Thierry Fremaux, revealed that two-time Oscar nominee Chastain would serve on the official competition jury during an interview with French radio earlier this month. The actress’ breakout role came in Terrence Malick’s »


- Robert Mitchell

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Warner Bros. Unveils Metropolis and Gotham City for Abu Dhabi Theme Park

3 hours ago

Warner Bros. and Abu Dhabi’s Miral have unveiled details for their planned $1 billion theme park — including worlds for Superman’s Metropolis and Batman’s Gotham City.

The park, which will open next year, will also include Cartoon Junction, Bedrock, and Dynamite Gulch, themed after the Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera brands; and Warner Bros. Plaza, which will be reminiscent of old Hollywood. Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, located on Yas Island and set to open in 2018, will include thrill rides, interactive family friendly attractions and live entertainment.

Warner Bros. and Miral first announced the indoor project a year ago, promising to open the facility in 2018. The companies said Tuesday that the park is on track to make that goal.

“Miral is proud to confirm that one year after announcing its plans to bring Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi to Yas island, we’re making great progress with our partners where »


- Dave McNary

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AFI to Honor ‘Blue Velvet’ Cinematographer Frederick Elmes

3 hours ago

The American Film Institute has selected “Blue Velvet” cinematographer Frederick Elmes as this year’s recipient of its Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni medal.

The award is presented to an AFI alumnus who embodies the qualities of Schaffner — “talent, taste, dedication and commitment to quality storytelling in film and television.” Schaffner earned 28 Academy Award nominations during his 40-year career.

Elmes graduated from AFI in 1972 and received his first credit on David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” in 1977. He went on to work on Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” in 1986 and “Wild at Heart” in 1990. He won Independent Spirit Awards back to back years for “Wild at Heart” and Jim Jarmush’s “Night on Earth.”

Elmes won the National Society of Film Critics award for “Blue Velvet” and was nominated for a primetime Emmy for “In the Gloaming.”

Other credits include Tim Hunter’s “River’s Edge” (1986), Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm (1997) and “Ride with the Devil »


- Dave McNary

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Tom DeSanto Set For China Project With Citic Guoan

5 hours ago

Veteran U.S. producer, Tom DeSanto (“Transformers,” “X-Men”) has struck a deal to make Hollywood-China co-production films costing $120 million with Citic Guoan, one of China’s largest state-owned enterprises.

“We are joining hands with Hollywood legend Tom DeSanto to jointly create a series of movies incorporating Chinese culture for the global audience,” the company said in a statement at the end of the Beijing International Film Festival. “We hope that Chinese movies can appear on the global film stage to let more movie-goers appreciate Chinese culture’s long history and charm.”

Citic Guoan previously committed to partially finance former Disney boss Dick Cook in the development of his U.S.- and Chinese-based enterprise Dick Cook Studios.

Citic Guoan recently completed the development of Xinqiao VFX City in Beijing. The 30,000 sq m facility for film and television special effects. It is also developing the Citic Guoan Production Base at a »


- Vivienne Chow

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Sundance London Announces Full Lineup, With a Surprise Film and New Audience Award

6 hours ago

David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” will close this year’s Sundance Film Festival: London, organizers said Tuesday, unveiling the festival’s full lineup. Lowery will also headline the events section of the program with an onstage interview.

This fest will present 14 features that saw their world premieres at parent festival Sundance in Park City, Utah, in January. The films were selected by the Sundance Institute programming team in conjunction with Picturehouse. Miguel Arteta’s “Beatriz at Dinner” was previously announced as the opening film for Sundance London, which takes place for a second year at Picturehouse Central in the British capital’s Soho district, from June 1-4.

“As we head into our fifth festival in London, we remain committed to introducing new American independent films to audiences around the world,” said Robert Redford, president and founder of Sundance Institute. “Our success in the U.K. is a reflection of »


- Robert Mitchell

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Ken Loach and James Newton Howard to Be Honored at Karlovy Vary

7 hours ago

British director Ken Loach, writer Paul Laverty and U.S. composer James Newton Howard will be honored at the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, organizers said Tuesday. Howard (pictured) will also take part in a concert to launch the festival, conducting the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in a world premiere of selected music from his score for the 2018 sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

Veteran British director Loach and his regular writing collaborator Laverty will receive the festival’s Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. The festival called Loach and Laverty “two individuals who together have influenced the history of British cinema, becoming pioneers of British social-realist film with a humanitarian message.” The pair has worked together on 12 features, including 2016 Cannes Palme d’Or winner “I, Daniel Blake.” They first collaborated on Loach’s 1996 film “Carla’s Song” and also teamed for the »


- Robert Mitchell

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‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Trailer Debuts (Watch)

12 hours ago

The trailer for “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” the sequel to “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” has debuted, with new cast members Channing Tatum, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, and Elton John joining returning stars Taron Egerton and Colin Firth.

Matthew Vaughn the action-packed and humor-filled second installment of the story.

Firth, donning an eye-patch, once again plays Harry Hart — even though he died in the 2014 original.

Vaughn co-wrote the script with Jane Goldman. The original “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was based on the comic book “The Secret Service,” created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar. Vaughn also produced the original, which grossed a surprisingly healthy $415 million worldwide.

Fox is opening “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” for release on Sept. 22.

Related storiesChanning Tatum Makes Deadly Debut in 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' Trailer at CinemaConChanning Tatum Joins the Cast of 'Kingsman' Sequel'Narcos' Star Pedro Pascal Joining 'Kingsman' Sequel »


- Pat Saperstein

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Netflix to Debut in China Via Original Content Licensing Deal With iQIYI

12 hours ago

Global streaming giant Netflix has struck its first licensing deal in China with one of the massive market’s leading streaming platforms,  iQIYI.

To date, Netflix has been blocked by Middle Kingdom regulators from operating its own service in the world’s most populous nation.

The deal comes just over a year after Netflix took its service global with just a handful of territories — including China, Iran and North Korea — missing from its planet-wide strategy.

The announcement was made on the sidelines of the annual Apos conference in Indonesia, by the streaming service’s VP of content acquisition, Robert Roy. Netflix spokesmen told Variety that the deal was too new to provide many details, such as when the content will make its Chinese debut.

However, it is understood that Netflix Original content will be available on a day-and-date or near simultaneous basis, along with availability in other territories.

iQIYI claims »


- Patrick Frater

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‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,’ ‘American Assassin’ Top Social Media Buzz

15 hours ago

Disney-Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “American Assassin” generated the most social media buzz last week, according to media-measurement firm comScore and its PreAct service.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which opens May 5 amid massive expectations, generated more than 65,000 new conversations last  week in the wake of the April 17 announcement of the return of director James Gunn for the third film.

The tentpole, which has generated a total of 830,000 cumulative new conversations, announced a cameo role for Miley Cyrus. And Nathan Fillion released photos on April 20 of his Simon Williams character, which has been cut from the film.

Lionsgate/CBS Films’ “American Assassin” generated 53,000 new conversations last week following release of the film’s first trailer on April 18. The footage introduces Dylan O’Brien in the Mitch Rapp role, first seen on the beach and in the water at an idyllic tropical resort, proposing to his fiancee, »


- Dave McNary

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Faye Dunaway Felt ‘Very Guilty’ About Best Picture Mistake at the Oscars

16 hours ago

Faye Dunaway is finally speaking out about her role in #EnvelopeGate, two months after the now-infamous 89th Academy Awards best picture gaffe.

The Oscar-winning “Network” actress sat down with anchor Lester Holt on “NBC Nightly News” Monday, recounting the moments leading up to the mistake.

Dunaway and co-presenter Warren Beatty were responsible for announcing the night’s final award when she accidentally called out “La La Land” instead of “Moonlight.”

“[Beatty] took the card out, and he didn’t say anything. He paused, he looked over me, off-stage, he looked around, and I finally said, ‘You’re impossible.’ I thought he was joking! A dramatic pause.”

The confusion was cleared up moments later when the “La La Land” producers were informed they had lost, prompting both movies’ casts and crews to awkwardly crowd the stage.

While the mix-up »


- JD Knapp

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Writers Guild Members Vote for Strike Authorization With 96% Support

16 hours ago

More than 96% of the voting members of the Writers Guild of America have authorized a strike against production companies.

The WGA released the results Monday, a day ahead of the resumption of contract negotiations on a master contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. A work stoppage could start as early as May 2, after the current three-year master contract has expired.

“We thank you for your resolve and your faith in us as your representatives. We are determined to achieve a fair contract,” the negotiating committee said in a statement.

The AMPTP issued a statement in response to the strike authorization announcement: “The companies are committed to reaching a deal at the bargaining table that keeps the industry working. The 2007 Writers Strike hurt everyone. Writers lost more than $287 million in compensation that was never recovered, deals were cancelled, and many writers took out strike loans to make ends meet. »

- Dave McNary

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Madonna Biopic ‘Blonde Ambition’ in the Works at Universal

16 hours ago

Universal is developing Madonna biopic “Blonde Ambition,” picking up rights to Elyse Hollander’s “Blonde Ambition” screenplay about Madonna’s first album.

“Blonde Ambition” led the 2016 version of the Black List — an annual ranking of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. Hollander’s script received 49 votes among the 250 executives voting. The project details Madonna’s efforts in the early 1980s in New York City to get her first album released while navigating fame, romance, and the dismissive attitude of the music industry at the time.

“Blonde Ambition” is set up with Brett Ratner’s Ratpac and Michael De Luca. John Zaozirny of Bellevue Productions will also produce.

Madonna broke out in 1983 on her first album, “Madonna,” followed by 1984’s blockbuster “Like a Virgin.”

It’s the first script sale for Hollander, who has worked as an assistant to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

De Luca produces the “Fifty Shades” franchise for Universal »


- Dave McNary

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Film Review: ‘Bending the Arc’

18 hours ago

For anyone who wants to believe in the promise of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice,” a film like “Bending the Arc” is downright inspiring. With the gripping appeal of a great epic novel, Kief Davidson and Pedro Kos’ documentary spans three decades of diligent work on the frontlines of global health crises to prove, in moving detail, the difference dedicated professionals can make in seemingly hopeless situations. The film, with the help of celebrity producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, should overcome resistance to ostensibly downbeat subject matter to garner attention in the nonfiction marketplace.

Davidson and Kos filter the story through the work and friendship of physicians Paul Farmer, the co-founder of Partners In Health, and Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank Group, who began as idealistic medical students with the simple goal of launching »


- Geoff Berkshire

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‘Sicario’ Sequel, ‘Granite Mountain’ Move From Lionsgate to Sony

18 hours ago

Black Label has reached a deal with Sony Pictures to take over distribution of a pair of action-adventure films — “Granite Mountain” and “Soldado” — from Lionsgate for North America and select international territories.

Black Label and Lionsgate have not commented on why their distribution agreement collapsed. But informed sources indicated that disagreements on release dates and marketing strategies were factors.

Lionsgate is retaining the international rights on “Soldado” and on most foreign markets on “Granite Mountain.”

Granite Mountain,” directed by Joseph Kosinski, tells the true tale of an elite crew of heroic firefighters who battled to save their hometown from a wildfire. Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch and Jennifer Connelly star.

Granite Mountain” is based on the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which killed 19 firefighters. Sony will release the film on Oct. 20 — a month later than Lionsgate’s intended Sept. 22 release date.

Soldado” is the sequel to Lionsgate’s “Sicario. »


- Dave McNary

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Tribeca: Oscilloscope Buys Estonian Fantasy-Drama ‘November’

19 hours ago

Oscilloscope Laboratories has acquired North American rights to Rainer Sarnet’s Estonian fantasy-drama “November” ahead of its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in the international narrative category.

The film is based on Andrus Kivirähk’s novel “Rehepapp,” in which a peasant girl longs for a village boy who is inexplicably infatuated by the visiting German baroness that possesses all that he longs for. The story takes place in 19th Century Estonia amid a harsh landscape where spirits, werewolves, plagues, and the devil himself converge.

Rea Lest portrays the women who falls hopelessly in love with the village boy, played by Jörgen Liik. In desperation, she turns to dark magic in order to win him back.

“‘November’ is based on Estonian fables where the characters are mainly motivated by greed,” Sarnet said. “I was afraid our story would be too specific to the self-irony intrinsic to Estonians. But I »


- Dave McNary

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