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The Disney, Fox Deal Just Set Off a Studio Arms Race

16 hours ago

Disney’s $52.4 billion purchase of Fox is sending shockwaves throughout the movie business, with many industry observers believing that the marriage between the two iconic companies could inspire a fresh round of media mergers.

“The word tectonic has been overused to describe many deals, but in this case it applies,” said Hal Vogel, a veteran media analyst. “It’s one of those rare times you can feel the tectonic plates moving.”

The combined companies will have access to a blue-chip list of popular film franchises; their vault will encompass the Simpsons, X-Men, the Avengers, Avatar, Family Guy, Star Wars, Alien, and scores of family entertainment titles. That leaves the likes of Sony and Paramount looking downright scrawny in comparison. It also helps explain why Lionsgate tried to merge with Hasbro earlier this year only to abandon the plan after a dispute arouse over the price.

“These studios are all looking a lot smaller than they used to »


- Brent Lang

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Dustin Hoffman Accused of Exposing Himself to a Minor, Assaulting Two Women (Exclusive)

17 hours ago

Cori Thomas was in high school when she says Dustin Hoffman exposed himself to her in a hotel room. Melissa Kester was a recent college graduate when Hoffman allegedly sexually assaulted her while recording audio for the film “Ishtar.” A third woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Hoffman assaulted her in the back of a station wagon and manipulated her into a subsequent sexual encounter that left her traumatized.

Speaking to Variety, the women described predatory incidents involving Hoffman that fit into a pattern of alleged behavior that has emerged in the wake of previous sexual-misconduct claims against the now 80-year-old actor.

Representatives for Hoffman did not make him available to provide comment for this story. In a letter to Variety’s owner Penske Media Corp., Hoffman’s attorney Mark A. Neubauer of Carlton Fields Jordan Burt called the accusations against the actor “defamatory falsehoods.”

Thomas was 16 years old and a high-school classmate of Hoffman »


- Daniel Holloway

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How Spanish-Language Media Fails to Recognize Lgbt and Other Diverse Content (Guest Column)

56 minutes ago

When I came to the United States at age six with my family, none of us spoke English. It was tough. We had to maneuver many new and frightening things. Media sometimes helped bridge that large and cold divide between our old home and our new home. That moment, of turning on the TV and hearing someone speak the language of your past, of your dreams, the language spoken by the people you left behind, was powerful.

It is still powerful. For immigrants, who today arguably (and sadly) face more discrimination than we faced in the 1970s, media can be a place of comfort.

The connection is intellectual as well as emotional. Spanish-language media does a good job covering stories. Everything from daily detentions, raids, deportations, and confusing changes in policy that hurt immigrants, to natural disasters and the misdeeds of political figures like Joe Arpaio, is often covered more deeply in Spanish-language media.

Those of who »


- Monica Trasandes

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Jim Gaffigan to Star in Dramatic Thriller ‘All the Animals Come Out at Night’ (Exclusive)

56 minutes ago

Jim Gaffigan is set to star in “All The Animals Come Out At Night,” sources tell Variety.

Robbie Jones, Isabel Arraiza and Tammy Blanchard are also on board to star with Derrick Borte directing. Borte is also writing along with Daniel Forte.

Scott Lochmus of Storyland Pictures is producing the film in association with Xyz Films and via a workforce development partnership with Old Dominion University and The Virginia Film Commission.

The film tells the story of Cam (Gaffigan), a former computer programmer, now a down on his luck driver. After suffering an emotional breakdown, and the subsequent loss of his job and family, he is a shell of the successful man he once was. Cam makes extra cash chauffeuring Mazz, a low-level drug dealer, around the city. As Cam’s situation deteriorates into a serious financial bind he decides to kidnap Mazz’s child in hopes of collecting a ransom from the cash-carrying dealer.

Next year Gaffigan »


- Justin Kroll

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London Film Festival Director Clare Stewart to Take Yearlong Sabbatical

4 hours ago

Clare Stewart will take a break from running the BFI London Film Festival, with Tricia Tuttle filling in as artistic director in 2018. Stewart has run six editions of the London fest but will miss 2018 as she takes a year-long sabbatical.

In other moves sparked by Stewart’s year out, Anne-Marie Flynn, currently head of business and industry, will become the festival’s interim managing director. Tuttle and Flynn will also oversee BFI Flare, a festival devoted to Lgbt films

Stewart, an Australian, is credited with reinvigorating the London Film Festival. Her tenure as festival director has seen the scope of the event broadened beyond Central London theaters to neighborhoods throughout the capital and across the rest of Britain.

The festival’s spot on the calendar has also recently turned it into a prime platform for launching Oscar campaigns. The 61st edition of the festival in October 2017 with Andrew Garfield-starrer “Breathe.”

Anne-Marie and Tricia »


- Stewart Clarke

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Gianfranco Rosi Booked for Qumra

4 hours ago

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose “Loveless” is among nine titles shortlisted in this year’s foreign-language Oscar race, is one of three acclaimed helmers scheduled to give master classes and mentoring sessions during the Doha Film Institute’s annual Qumra event.

The other Qumra “Masters” are Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the 2010 Cannes Palme d’Or winner for “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” and Italy’s Gianfranco Rosi, who won a Venice Golden Lion and a Berlin Golden Bear for two separate documentaries – the first time either festival had awarded its top prize to a documentary. Rosi scored the Lion in 2013 for “Sacro Gra” and the Bear in 2016 for “Fire at Sea.”

Qumra 2018, which runs March 9-14 in the Qatari capital of Doha, blends together a creative workshop, co-production market, and festival elements. The event was established four years ago by the Doha Film Institute (Dfi) to help foster first and second works, mostly by Arab »


- Nick Vivarelli

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Berlinale 2018: Panorama Section Focuses on ‘Body Politics’ and ‘Resistance to Machismo’

4 hours ago

The 2018 Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section will focus on body politics and – with Harvey Weinstein and harassment still front-page news – “resistance to machismo.” The upcoming edition of Panorama, which is dedicated to controversial and unconventional features, will be the first to be overseen by Paz Lazaro, alongside Michael Stütz and Andreas Struck.

Eleven Panorama films were unveiled Friday, with Latin America making a strong showing. The four movies from the region include two apiece from Argentina and Brazil: Sebastián Schjaer’s “La Omision” (“The Omission”) and Santiago Loza’s “Malambo, el Hombre Bueno” (“Malambo, the Good Man”) from Argentina, and “Bixa Travesty” (“Tranny Fag”), about transgender female performers, and documentary “Ex-Paje” (“Ex-Shaman”) from Brazil.

“La Omision,” about a young mother and transient worker, along with Austrian film “L’Animale,” about a teenage girl and her motocross clique, are films that the organizers said address “resistance to machismo.”

Other Panorama titles this year include Swedish filmmaker Goran Hugo »


- Stewart Clarke

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‘Guilty Men’ Sweeps Colombia’s 6th Macondo Awards

7 hours ago

Pariente” (Guilty Men), an edge-of-your-seat drama-thriller, swept Colombia’s 6th Macondo National Film Awards Thursday night at Bogota’s historic Teatro Faenza in a home-turf industry vote that marks a big local thumbs-up for Colombia’s current foreign-language Oscar submission.

The first feature of Ivan D. Gaona – and marking him out for larger-scale fiction, such is the tension of its banner action sequences – “Guilty Men” walked off with best picture (in the fiction category), as well as directing and screenplay, the latter both won by Gaona, and a total of 9 wins in 16 categories.

Focusing on movies released over the last year, “Guilty Men” faced off for best picture with Juan Andrés Arango’s “X500,” Felipe Guerrero’s “Oscuro Animal” and Juan Sebastián Mesa’s “Los Nadie,” three fest favourites. The fact that three of the four best picture contenders are first features shows how much new talent is still driving much of Colombia’s cinema.

A three-part »


- John Hopewell

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Ecam Pacts With Torino, Rotterdam on First Incubator Projects

8 hours ago

Madrid — In a pioneering move, the Ecam Madrid Film School has sealed pacts for movie projects from its startup The Incubator development program to be presented at the Rotterdam Lab and the Torino Film Lab.

The agreements sees up-to-three titles from The Incubator’s first tranche of five feature projects being pitched at next November’s Torino Film Lab Meeting Event, global co-production forum with a special emphasis on up-and-coming directors, and one title presented at the January 2019 Rotterdam Lab, a five-day workshop for emerging producers.   The pacts mark the first international outreach deals at the Ecam’s Incubator, launched last month in a pioneering move by a film school to move into real-life feature film project development of five titles. Development initiatives are now common at film festivals – such as indeed Torino and Rotterdam, as Sundance and Tribeca. Their proposing partners are, however, for the most part national or regional state-run film agencies.

Ecam may have »


- John Hopewell

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‘Florida Project’ Producer Steps Down Amid Harassment Claims

10 hours ago

Andrew Duncan, the producer of awards contender “The Florida Project,” is stepping down from his indie production company amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Duncan launched June Pictures a year ago, and has produced a handful of independent films including “Operator” with Martin Starr, and “Thoroughbred,” a breakout film at the Sundance Film Festival. In a statement, CEO Alex Saks said she has solidified plans to buy out Duncan’s stake in the company.

“In light of allegations of misconduct against our investor Andrew Duncan, I am assuming sole ownership and leadership of June Pictures,” Saks said. “June Pictures is committed to a respectful work environment dedicated to producing quality films. We will continue our projects already in production and development.”

Rumors of Duncan’s alleged sexual misconduct have been circulating for the last couple of weeks. The ouster poses a potential problem for “The Florida Project,” a portrayal of children living in poverty from director Sean Baker (“[link »


- Gene Maddaus

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Film Review: ‘Antiporno’

13 hours ago

Tasked with contributing to Nikkatsu’s “Roman Porno Reboot Project” — a salute to the studio’s prolific run of sometimes-adventurous sexploitation features in the 1970s and ’80s — culty latterday director Sion Sono delivers a critique of the genre that’s very tricky in structure, yet in gist as blunt as its title. “Antiporno” has plenty of nudity and (non-graphic) sexual content. Nonetheless, viewers seeking titillation are much less likely to be satisfied than those who’ll appreciate this surreal, aesthetically bold gizmo as the latest left-turn in its creator’s idiosyncratic career.

On vainglorious display in the unnatural habitat of her bright-yellow loft apartment, Kyoto (Ami Tomite) is a writer/artist who acts and is treated more like a spoiled pop star. A typical day full of interviews, photo shoots, TV appearances and meetings begins as she’s woken by older personal assistant Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui). She treats the latter with an abusive contempt that often spills »


- Dennis Harvey

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Film News Roundup: Shooting Wraps on Nicholas Hoult’s ‘Tolkien’ Biopic

13 hours ago

In today’s film news roundup, shooting has wrapped on “Tolkien,” the DGA honors two veteran members and Spotlight Cinema Networks moves into event programming.

Production Wraps

Fox Searchlight Pictures has wrapped principal photography on the J.R.R. Tolkien biopic “Tolkien,” starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins. Dome Karukoski is directing from a script by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford. Producers are Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and David Ready of Chernin Entertainment, along with Kris Thykier of Archery Pictures. The film focuses on the orphaned author Tolkien, author of the “Lord of the Rings” books, as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school and serves as a British soldier in World War I.

DGA Honors

The Directors Guild of America has awarded Dwight Williams with the 2018 Frank Capra Achievement Award, which is given to an assistant director or unit production manager in recognition of career achievement in the industry and service »


- Dave McNary

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Disney-Fox Deal Casts Future of Fox Studio Lot Into Doubt

13 hours ago

The Fox lot in Century City has been a movie studio for more than 80 years, the place where classics like “Hello Dolly!” and “How Green Was My Valley” were filmed. But with the massive Disney-Fox merger on Thursday, the future of the 53-acre lot has been thrown into doubt.

The remaining Murdoch empire will hang on to the property for now, and has agreed to lease the studio space back to Disney for seven years. But that’s a relatively short horizon given the glacial time scale of real estate development, and it has led to speculation that the Murdochs will look to offload the property, perhaps even before the lease expires.

It is possible that another content producer — such as Apple, Amazon, or another digital provider — may seek to acquire the property, or just rent out any space that Disney opts to vacate. But purely as a business proposition, the land may »


- Gene Maddaus

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Oscars: Nine Films Advance in Foreign-Language Race

14 hours ago

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revealed the nine films advancing in this year’s Oscar race for best foreign language film.

Acclaimed films omitted from the list include Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” from Cambodia and Robin Campillo’s “Bpm (Beats Per Minute)” from France. Campillo’s film is the most critically laureled film of the year so far, having picked up five prizes from critics groups, including both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.

The nine finalists for nominations in 2017 are:

Chile, “A Fantastic Woman,” Sebastián Lelio, director

Germany, “In the Fade,” Fatih Akin, director

Hungary, “On Body and Soul,” Ildikó Enyedi, director

Israel, “Foxtrot,” Samuel Maoz, director

Lebanon, “The Insult,” Ziad Doueiri, director

Russia, “Loveless,” Andrey Zvyagintsev, director

Senegal, “Félicité,” Alain Gomis, director

South Africa, “The Wound,” John Trengove, director

Sweden, “The Square,” Ruben Östlund, director

For the foreign competition, »


- Kristopher Tapley

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‘It’ Director Andy Muschietti Eyed for ‘Electric State’ From Russo Brothers

15 hours ago

It” director Andy Muschietti is in talks with Russo Brothers Studio to board a movie version of Simon Stalenhag’s illustrated novel “The Electric State.”

The story, set in an alternative 1997, centers on a runaway teenager and her yellow toy robot as they travel through a strange USA, where the ruins of gigantic battle drones litter the countryside heaped together with the discarded trash of a high tech consumerist society in decline. As their car approaches the edge of the continent, the world outside the window seems to be unraveling ever faster as if somewhere beyond the horizon, the hollow core of civilization has finally caved in.

Muscietti, who’s attached to direct “It: Chapter 2,” would direct and produce “Electric State” with sister Barbara Muschietti and Rbs principals Joe and Anthony Russo, should the deal go through. Russell Ackerman and John Schoenfelder are also in talks to produce. Julian Angelin of The Salomonsson Agency and Simon Stålenhag will executive »


- Dave McNary

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Could Fox Acquisition Finally Make Disney an Awards Power Player?

15 hours ago

Disney has been one of the least awards-focused studios in the game for decades. The Burbank-based company even made a concerted effort to eliminate the specialty side of its movie business, selling off Miramax Films for $660 million in 2010 and only deigning to dabble in awards season fare with a handful of recent prestige productions like “The Help” and “Lincoln” through its distribution pact with DreamWorks.

How ironic, then, that with an acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s film divisions, it could mark a whole new era for Disney on the circuit. Through “Big” Fox and subsidiary Fox Searchlight, the studio would have a whole other silo far more adept at the awards game…if that’s even of interest, that is.

As if to prove that point, Fox blasted out a press release Monday morning in the wake of this year’s Golden Globe nominations announcement, beaming over a field-leading 27 mentions for a slew of films including »


- Kristopher Tapley

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Film Review: ‘Beyond Skyline’

15 hours ago

A semi-sequel to 2010’s “Skyline” which follows different characters from the same alien-invasion starting point through fantasy perils on a grander scale, “Beyond Skyline” does its predecessor proud in that it, too, is fast-paced and colorful enough to rate as a solid guilty pleasure. This helming debut for Liam O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original, is another showcase for the FX work of the earlier films’ co-directors the Brothers Strause and their company Hydraulx (which has contributed visual effects to numerous recent tentpoles).

All three dudes were centrally involved with 2007’s “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.” If this new movie also seems to have a whole lot of Aliens and Predators running around, well, it’s not the kind of joint you expect originality from, in narrative or even stylistic terms. It is, however, a goofy hybrid that’s never dull and sometimes flat-out ridiculous, never taking itself so seriously for its logical shortcomings to feel truly embarrassing »


- Dennis Harvey

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Kiernan Shipka’s Horror Movie ‘The Silence’ Sells to Global Road for U.S.

16 hours ago

Global Road Entertainment has acquired the U.S. rights to horror movie “The Silence,” starring Stanley Tucci, Miranda Otto, Kiernan Shipka and John Corbett.

Annabelle” director John Leonetti helmed the film, based on the book by Tim Lebbon. Producers are Robert Kulzer, Alexandra Milchan  and Scott Lambert. Constantin CEO Martin Moszkowicz is executive producer.

The Silence” centers on a family struggling to survive in a world terrorized by a deadly, primeval species who have bred for decades in the pitch darkness of a vast underground cave system, hunting only with their acute hearing. As the family seeks refuge in a remote haven where they can wait out the invasion, they start to wonder what kind of world will remain when they’re ready to emerge. Shipka plays a deaf girl who provides the only hope of survival.

“’The Silence’ complements our original production slate as we ramp up towards eventually releasing approximately 15 films per year,” said Global »


- Dave McNary

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Verve Continues to Show Dominance in Spec Market Following Blacklist, Hitlist Unveilings

16 hours ago

While the major agencies still had plenty to gloat about after the recent unveiling of both the Hitlist and the Blacklist, Verve Talent and Literary Agency is looking to be the big winner when it comes to repping writers on those lists.

For the Hitlist, which is a list of the 90 best already-produced specs of 2017, Verve ranked first among agencies, repping 17 of the writers on the list. For the Blacklist, which is a list of the best specs that have yet to be produced, Verve ranked second, trailing only CAA and repping 14 of the specs appearing on the list.

“Thrilled that our hard work and love for the writer business has been recognized by the best readers in town!” said co-founder Bryan Besser.

To most agencies, these lists serve as a benchmark to measure their standing in the biz in terms of their clients’ productivity. For the past several years, Verve has held its own, »


- Justin Kroll

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Sony’s Tony Vinciquerra: Disney-Fox ‘Creates Opportunities’

16 hours ago

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra sent a note to staff Thursday in the wake of the Disney-Fox deal confirming that the company had kicked the tires on Fox and that it will continue to pursue possible acquisitions in the future.

Vinciquerra’s memo followed 21st Century Fox chief Rupert Murdoch’s public assertions in a conference call Thursday on the heels of the Disney deals announcement that the company would be looking to partner with studios such as Sony and Warner Bros. after selling off the bulk of its entertainment properties to the Walt Disney Co. Speculation has emerged on the fox lot that 21st Century Fox could use profits from the Disney deal to fund the acquisition of a new studio.

The Spe chief also wrote, “we did take a run at the Fox assets when we learned of their availability, and will continue to aggressively look for new avenues of growth for the studio »


- Daniel Holloway

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