• ‘House Of Cards’, ‘Scandal’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The Bridge’, ‘Key & Peele’, ‘Orphan Black’, ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Win Peabodys
  • Viewers Go All In for Netflix's House of Cards
  • House of Cards Is Actually a Great Show
  • House of Cards Gets Huge Season 2 Viewership on Day 1
  • ‘House of Cards’ Viewing Soars on First Day of Season 2 (EXCLUSIVE)
  • How Absolute Power Can Delight Absolutely
  • How Media Rights Capital Built its 'House of Cards'
  • Fan-In-Chief Obama Tweets “No Spoilers” For ‘House Of Cards’ Season 2 Debut
  • WGA Awards: ‘Captain Phillips’ & ‘Her’ Win Top Film Awards; ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Veep’ & ‘House Of Cards’ Score On TV Side
  • Robin Wright wins Best Actress in a TV Drama at the Golden Globes
  • Netflix’s ‘House Of Cards’ Releases Season 2 Trailer, Key Art
  • Golden Globes TV: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’, ‘House Of Cards’ & ‘Masters Of Sex’ Lead Pack Of Newcomers As Old Favorites Fall
  • Netflix's 'House of Cards' earns four Golden Globe nominations
  • AFI Awards 2013: ‘Orange Is The New Black’, ‘Masters Of Sex’, ‘House Of Cards’ Among Top 10 TV Programs, ‘Homeland’ & ‘Modern Family’ Out
  • ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ ‘House of Cards’ Earn WGA Awards Noms in TV
  • PGA Awards Unveils TV Nominees
  • ‘Breaking Bad’ to Fight ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘House of Cards’ in PGA Awards’ TV Categories
  • Ted 2 Gets a Release Date
  • Netflix Makes History With Two Primetime Creative Arts Emmy® Awards
  • Sony, MRC Team On ‘Chappie,’ Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ Followup
  • The Worst Is Yet to Come
  • 'Elysium': Classy Class Warfare
  • In ‘Elysium,’ Matt Damon storms the ultimate gated community
  • 'Elysium' may beat 'Planes,' 'Millers,' 'Percy' at multiplex
  • In 'Elysium,' A Cosmic Divide For Rich And Poor
  • Sci-Fi Minus the Stupid
  • Emmy Nominations Announced: ‘House of Cards’ Makes History
  • The Producer Behind 'House of Cards' On How Netflix Offered Creative Freedom
  • EMMYS: Reactions To Academy’s Nominations
  • What Inspired Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’
  • Blomkamp's New Sci-Fi Thriller Sends Famous Brands Into Future
  • Matt Damon is a smart-ass and a bad-ass in new 'Elysium' trailer
  • Universal Officially Signs On To Co-Fi Seth MacFarlane’s Western With MRC
  • Netflix stock surges 25% on solid subscriber growth
  • Netflix Reports Profit, Strong Revenue
  • Netflix stock soars on subscriber growth led by 'House of Cards'
  • Netflix Subscriber Gains Exceed Estimates on Originals
  • ‘Elysium’ Trailer: See Bulked-Up, Bald Matt Damon Battle Futuristic Baddies
  • Matt Damon suits up in new 'Elysium' trailer, plus five burning questions answered
  • Watch: First Trailer For 'Elysium' Starring Matt Damon Is Explosive & Ambitious
  • Matt Damon Aims To Change The World In Explosive First Trailer For Elysium
  • Hot Trailer: ‘Elysium’
  • First 'Elysium' Trailer Debuts Online
  • Fans get early look at ‘Elysium,’ as ‘District 9’ filmmaker imagines bleak future on Earth
  • Matt Damon’s Elysium Is an Action Movie for the 99 Percent
  • 'Elysium' Sneak Preview: 7 Things to Know About Neil Blomkamp's New SciFi Movie
  • ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Ted’ Lead 2013 MTV Movie Award Nominations
  • ‘Ted’ Passes ‘Skyfall’ Box Office In Japan
  • House of Cards Is the Most Popular TV Show in the World Right Now (According to IMDb)
  • I finished 'House of Cards.' Did you?
  • 5 Things We Learned About the Unconventional Assembling of 'House of Cards' From Media Rights Capital's Modi Wiczyk
  • Media Rights Capital Raises $175M To Launch Movie Co-Financing Business
  • 'House of Cards' Is Netflix's Most-Streamed Show
  • 'Ted' Tops 'Jack Reacher' in Japan, While 'Les Miz' Hits $45 Million
  • Viewer Addiction To New Kevin Spacey Drama Series
  • Creative Freedom Will Push Cord-Cutting More Than Your Media Box
  • 'House Of Cards' Is Built To Last
  • House of Cards: TV Review
  • Netflix shuffles the TV deck with 'House of Cards'
  • A Drama’s Streaming Premiere
  • 'Ted' earns Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song
  • 'Ted' nominated for Visual Effects Society Awards
  • 'Ted' earns three Critics' Choice Awards nominations
  • 'Ted' nominated for Breakthrough Performance Behind the Camera - Seth MacFarlane
  • TV Trailer: Netflix’s ‘House Of Cards’
  • Media Rights Capital's Modi Wiczyk Talks 'House of Cards,' Reveals Projects With Zemeckis, Wyatt, More (Q&A)
  • ‘Ted’ #1 Biggest R-Rated Original Comedy
  • Netflix Launching Entire Run of David Fincher's 'House of Cards' in One Day
  • Netflix Sets February Premiere for ‘House of Cards’
  • Netflix to bow 'Cards' on Feb. 1
  • MIPCOM 2012: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright to Present Netflix Series 'House of Cards'
  • ‘Ted’ To Pass ‘The Hangover’ Gross Abroad
  • How TED Became Summer's Surprise Box-Office Superhero
  • David Cronenberg Teaming With MRC to Adapt 'Knifeman' for TV
  • ‘Ted’ Backer MRC In Talks To Finance Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’
  • Box Office Milestone: TED Jumps to $200 Mil Mark in North America
  • Twitter Goes to the Movies: Hollywood is Digging Deep into New Ways of Using Social Media; The Selling of TED
  • ‘Ted’ Beating ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Overseas
  • COMIC-CON 2012: 'Elysium' Footage Stuns in Hall H
  • Bull Market for R-Rated Bear?
  • Comic-Con 2012: ELYSIUM Footage Stuns in Hall H
  • Sony to distribute 'House of Cards'
  • TED Opens "Off the Charts" in Australia
  • TED Tops Box Office Weekend Numbers
  • Epix, Charles Target Steve Jobs with ICON Series Pilot
  • David Cronenberg Teaming with MRC to Adapt KNIFEMAN for TV
  • Sony to Distribute HOUSE OF CARDS
  • SYFY Developing TV Series Version of Movie THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU
  • X-FILES Creator Chris Carter is Back to TV with Mystery Drama Produced by MRC
  • MRC Buys Black Hole Thriller for Cronenberg
  • HBO Renews RICKY GERVAIS SHOW for Third Season
  • TRYLLE TRILOGY Film Rights Are Sold
  • It's Official: Netflix Picks up David Fincher-Kevin Spacey Series HOUSE OF CARDS
  • Kevin Dillon to Star in CBS Comedy Pilot HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN
  • David Fincher's HOUSE OF CARDS Starring Kevin Spacey to be Stream Instantly in North America Exclusively from Netflix
  • Netflix Gets Into the TV Business
  • ELITE SQUAD Star Wagner Moura Set for Neill Blomkamp's ELYSIUM
  • Kevin Spacey set to star in David Fincher's Drama Series for MRC HOUSE OF CARDS
  • Giovanni Ribisi joins Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis in TED
  • CBS Picks Up Comedy Pilot Written By and Starring David Hornsby
  • MRC Ups Brye Adler to Production Veep
  • Sony Pictures Snaps Up Neill Blomkamp's ELYSIUM; Matt Damon and Jodie Foster Set to Star
  • Jodie Foster Joins Neill Blomkamp's ELYSIUM
  • THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TIM Named One of the Top 18 TV Shows of 2010 By The Hollywood Reporter
  • Matt Damon in Talks to Join Neill Blomkamp's ELYSIUM
  • Mark Wahlberg in Talks for Seth MacFarlane's TED
  • MRC in Business with David Fincher
  • THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW Nominated for Primetime Emmy in Category of "Outstanding Animated Program"
  • MRC, Universal Make 20 Pic, Five-Year Pact
  • Jesse Eisenberg Joining 30 MINUTES OR LESS
  • Universal Buys Seth MacFarlane's R-Rated Comedy About Teddy Bear in MRC Film Deal
  • Taking the Podcast Back to a Simpler Time - THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW NY Times Review
  • Shaq Returns to ABC: Network Gives Second Season Order to VS.
  • A Hop for Hipps at MRC TV
  • Laffnet's GOODE Deal: Comedy Central Picks up FAMILY Show
  • MRC Coins Next for DISTRICT 9 Helmer
  • MRC in Business with David Fincher: Developing Political Drama Series Dubbed HOUSE OF CARDS
  • THE INVENTION OF LYING - Hollywood Reporter Review
  • THE INVENTION OF LYING - Variety Review
  • It's SHAQ VS. The Future
  • 'SHORTS' - Variety Review
  • ABC, Shaquille O'Neal Get Real: SHAQ VS. To Launch on Aug. 18
  • Emily Blunt Boards BUREAU: Actress Joins Matt Damon in Sci-Fi Thriller
  • Making a Mockery of Being Green: The Creator of BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD and KING OF THE HILL Has a New Target: Environmentalists
  • 'THE GOODE FAMILY' - Variety Review
  • Ricky Gervais Returns to HBO: Funnyman Draws Up New Animated Show
  • Universal, Damon Team on BUREAU: George Nolfi to Direct, Write Sci-Fi Love Story
  • RITA ROCKS on at Lifetime: Cable Network Renews Comedy
  • ABC Sets Suburbia for Monday: Saget Comedy to Follow DANCING on April 6
  • HBO Picks Up Second Season of TIM
  • M. Night Shyamalan in for 'DEVIL'
  • MRC, Shyamalan DEVIL
  • NBC Scores Green-Screen ARGONAUTS - MRC to Produce New Drama Adaptation
  • The Real Life and Times of the Man Who Isn't Tim
  • MRC Draws Cash Despite Crunch
  • Media Rights Capital Announces New Three-Year $350 Million Revolving Credit Facility With JPMorgan Chase and Comerica Bank
  • In Hollywood, Credit Remains, At Least for a Few Big Names
  • The Family Guy Goes Online
  • Serving 3 Brands: Burger King, Google and Seth MacFarlane
  • MRC Makes Splashy Bow
  • A Production Venture for a Film Director
  • Media Rights Capital announces “The Night Chronicles” Three Film Producing Deal with M. Night Shyamalan
  • Night Falls for Media Rights; Shyamalan Teams for Producing Deal
  • Tele Muenchen Takes Screenings Haul: EASY MONEY, RITA ROCKS Among Deals
  • TMG Picks Up U.S. Series: Programs Come From MRC, ShineReveille
  • Google and Creator of FAMILY GUY Strike a Deal
  • Lifetime in Tune with RITA ROCKS
  • MRC is the Toast of the TV Business
  • Canada's Rogers Media Buys U.S. Series; CW Lineup Part of ShineReveille Deal
  • Duo Sells Eight Series to Rogers; ShineReveille, MRC Pact with Canuck B'Caster
  • MRC Pact is Haul of Pics: Agreement is With Universal to Distribute 20 Films
  • Media Rights Capital Partners With Digital Star Amanda Congdon to Launch ‘Sometimes Daily’ Online Variety Show
  • Lifetime Picks Up RITA ROCKS
  • MRC, Second City Go Into QUARANTINE
  • MRC Announces Tory Metzger to Lead the Studio's Film Division
  • The Second City Partners with Media Rights Capital In Online Venture Showcasing Original Comedy Content
  • Webby Award for Film and Video Person of the Year to Seth MacFarlane for his 'Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy'
  • Media Rights Capital and ShineReveille Intl. Announce Joint Venture for International Distribution
  • Mike Judge Setting Up EXTRACT
  • Ricky Gervais TRUTH Acquired by Universal
  • Universal Pictures Acquires International Rights from Media Rights Capital
  • Hollywood's Endangered Entrepreneurs
  • MRC Producing Judge Toon for ABC
  • MRC TV Studio Announces Full Line-Up of Television Projects for Major Broadcast and Cable Networks
  • Striking Up the MRC Brand
  • Spyglass, MRC Ink Their Own Deals with WGA
  • Guild Signs Interim Pact with Media Rights Capital
  • WGA and MRC announce interim agreement
  • Writers Guild of America and MRC Announce Interim Agreement
  • Warner Bros. Pictures To Distribute Three MRC Films
  • LINHA Sells to Several Territories
  • MTV To Play NAME Game
  • Ricky Gervais to Star in TRUTH
  • Media Rights Capital Announces its Eight-Picture, $250 Million Film Production Slate
  • Media Rights to Fund Top Directors
  • MacFarlane, Symone Click with Adsense
  • Google Unveils Video Service Deal; Company Inks Pact with Media Rights Capital
  • Media Rights Capital and Google Announce the Distribution of Original Seth MacFarlane Content On-Line
  • BOX Is a Dark Place for Diaz
  • Cameron Diaz to Star in THE BOX
  • Media Rights Capital Greenlights Production of The Box Starring Cameron Diaz
  • ‘House Of Cards’, ‘Scandal’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The Bridge’, ‘Key & Peele’, ‘Orphan Black’, ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Win Peabodys

    By NELLIE ANDREEVA | Wednesday April 2, 2014 @ 7:08am PDT

    Netflix and BBC America each has two scripted series on the list of a record 46 programs to receive Peabody Awards this year. Joining Netflix’s Washington drama House Of Cards and prison comedy Orange Is The New Black is another DC drama, ABC’s soapy Scandal; BBC America’s clone thriller Orphan Black and Broadchurch, which is being remade by Fox as an event series; FX’s The Bridge, which itself is a remake of the Danish-Swedish series; Danish political drama Borgen; acclaimed French zombie drama The Returned; AMC’s Breaking Bad, awarded a second Peabody for its final season; Comedy Central’s hit sketch comedy Key & Peele; CNN’s travel docu-series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown; as well as Burka Avenger, the Pakistani animated series about a girl superhero; and two documentaries from newcomer Al Jazeera America. Additionally, former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, who recently announced he is battling cancer, will receive an individual Peabody Award. Here is the full list of recipients of the 73rd Peabody Awards, bestowed by the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism. They will be presented May 19 at a luncheon ceremony hosted by Ira Glass at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. A special on the Peabodys will air later on Pivot, which recently inked a rights deal through 2016:

    180 Days: A Year Inside An American High School (PBS)
    National Black Programming Consortium, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS

    Chronicling a year at Washington Metropolitan, aka DC Met, it’s an intimate, unvarnished portrait of a high-poverty high school and the challenges facing students, teachers and administrators.

    The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS)
    Thirteen, Inkwell Films, Kunhardt McGee Productions in association with Ark Media

    A long time coming, not to mention five years in the making, Gates’ history of African Americans, their trials, their triumphs and their ongoing influence on this nation, reaches back five centuries to find stories that inspire, unsettle, surprise and illuminate.

    Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)
    CNN, Zero Point Zero Production, Inc.

    Whether Bourdain’s tireless search for new taste experiences takes him to Myanmar or Detroit, he never fails to find great stories to go with the food.

    Best Kept Secret (PBS)
    American Documentary / POV, BKS Films, LLC

    The “secret” at Newark’s poor John F. Kennedy High School is its unexpectedly resourceful program for special-needs students, especially autistic teens. This documentary – frank, poignant, never simplistic – immerses viewers in the struggles of three autistic kids and one dedicated teacher.

    Borgen (DR1, Denmark)
    DR Fiktion

    Borgen is a Danish term for “government,” and this realistic, richly nuanced dramatic series is peerless in its depiction of how the machinery works. It’s also rumination on power, ambition, integrity, love and deal-making, with one of the most intriguing female protagonists in all the TV world.

    Breaking Bad (AMC)
    Sony Pictures Television

    Through a stunning brand of visual storytelling and meticulous character development, we were able to explore the darkest chambers of a human heart in a way never before seen on TV. Over five seasons, Vince Gilligan made good on his promise to utterly transform Walter White from Mr. Chips into Scarface.

    The Bridge (FX)
    Shine America and FX Productions

    A crime drama set in motion by a murder victim left literally on the border of West Texas and Northern Mexico, its rare, non-stereotypical depiction of two cultures rubbing against and informing each other is as fascinating as the mystery.

    Broadchurch (BBC America)
    A Kudos and Imaginary Friends Co-Production

    A peaceful, picturesque seaside town in England is rattled to its core by the murder of a young boy in this intricately crafted, emotionally rich, endlessly surprising mystery series.

    Burka Avenger (Geo Tez)
    Unicorn Black

    Smart, colorful and provocative, this Pakistani-produced television program about a super-heroine sends a clear message about female empowerment that has the potential to affect an entire generation.

    The Central Park Five (PBS)
    Florentine Films, WETA

    A tragic story, finally told in full, The Central Park Five reexamines not only the case of black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were railroaded and wrongly imprisoned for a rape but the climate of fear and the media frenzy that surrounded their trial.

    A Chef’s Life (PBS)
    Markay Media in association with South Carolina ETV (SCETV)

    A cooking/reality series revolving around a high-end, farm-to-fork restaurant in South Carolina’s low country, it’s made all the more appetizing by generous sides of local color, stereotype-defying rural neighbors and Southern food-lore.

    Coverage of Boston Marathon Bombings (WBZ-TV, Boston, and WBZ Newsradio 1030)
    WBZ-TV, WBZ Newsradio 1030

    Out in force to cover the annual marathon, both WBZ-TV and Newsradio 1030 had a journalistic advantage when the bombs detonated. Neither gave it up as their reporters spent hour after hour on the air providing wide-ranging, enterprising, non-sensational coverage of the casualties, the suspects and the intense, nerve-wracking manhunt. They become crucial sources not just to their city but to a stunned nation.

    Coverage of Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) (GMA Network Inc., Philippines)
    GMA Networks, Inc.

    Facing logistical challenges and sharing in the national shock in the face of what may have been the most powerful typhoon is history, GMA news teams provided desperately needed spot news coverage and information, gaining strength and perspective as they worked, and followed up with solid reporting on the aftermath, heroic acts and relief efforts.

    Fault Lines: Haiti In A Time Of Cholera (Al Jazeera America)
    Al Jazeera America

    Nearly 8,000 Haitians have died of cholera since the island was devastated by an earthquake in 2010, and more than half a million others have been infected. Fault Lines presses for accountability as it reports mounting scientific evidence that U.N. peacekeepers were the source of the epidemic.

    Fault Lines: Made In Bangladesh (Al Jazeera America)
    Al Jazeera America

    Probing a garment-factory fire in Bangladesh that left at least 119 people dead, Fault Lines discovered evidence that U.S. retailers such as Walmart, whose Faded Glory clothing brand was found in the ashes, often turn a “blind eye” to their subcontractors’ dangerous, cost-cutting practices.

    FRONTLINE: League Of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis (PBS)
    FRONTLINE, Kirk Documentary Group

    Undeterred by the National Football League’s defense, FRONTLINE’s investigative team produced a solidly-sourced, high-impact documentary about the extent of brain damage among players, a story still reverberating throughout the world of sports.

    Great Performances: Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy (PBS)
    B’WAY Films LLC, Ghost Light Films, Albert M. Tapper and THIRTEEN for WNET

    Historically fascinating and grandly entertaining, it’s a tune-filled dissertation on the incalculable influence of Jewish composers – from Irving Berlin to Stephen Sondheim to Stephen Schwartz – and Jewish musical idioms on the evolution of a great American art form.

    Hanford’s Dirty Secrets (KING-TV, Seattle)
    KING 5 Television

    Centering on a leaking nuclear-waste storage tank in Washington state, the Seattle station’s expose of mismanagement, deception and waste of tax dollars resulted in a full review of the Hanford nuclear “reservation” by the U.S. Department of Energy and resignations at the company that manages the toxic site.

    Harper High School (WBEZ Chicago 91.5)
    WBEZ Chicago’s This American Life

    A trio of This American Life reporters embedded themselves for five month at Harper, a Chicago high school where gun violence was epidemic, and produced a pair of hour-long documentaries that were vivid, unblinking, poignant, and sometimes gut-wrenching.

    Hollow (
    Hollow Interactive, LLC

    Experiential aurally and visually, the interactive website lets visitors immerse themselves in the lives of 30 residents of McDowell County, West Virginia, an economically stressed, shrinking American community both unique and emblematic.

    House Of Cards (Netflix)
    Donen/Fincher/Roth, Trigger Street Productions, Inc., Media Rights Capital, Netflix

    By releasing an entire season of episodes at once, Netflix took binge viewing to a new level and obliterated the idea that a hit TV show needs a slot in prime time. We are able to follow Frank Underwood’s political schemes at our own pace and immerse ourselves in the show’s version of Washington, D.C., where desperation for power is the capital city’s lifeblood.

    In Plain Sight: Poverty In America (NBC &
    NBC News

    Many faces and forms of poverty, some predictable, some startling, are highlighted in NBC News’ wide-ranging, multi-platform project, geared to the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of “war” on the scourge.

    Independent Lens: How To Survive A Plague (PBS)
    How to Survive a Plague LLC, Public Square Films, Impact Partners, Little Punk

    A real-life medical thriller, David France’s documentary evokes the alarm and enterprise surrounding AIDS in the late 1980s, when the activists in groups such as ACT UP and TAG took their fates into their own hands and changed the course of a global pandemic.

    Independent Lens: The House I Live In (PBS)
    Charlotte Street Films, Independent Television Service (ITVS), BBC, ZDF/ARTE, NHK Japan

    Forty years and 45 million arrests after the U.S. declared war on them, illegal drugs are cheaper, purer and more available than ever. What went wrong with the campaign? The House I Live In counts the ways, not just with hard statistics but with powerful human stories.

    Independent Lens: The Invisible War (PBS)
    Chain Camera Productions, Independent Television Service (ITVS), Girls Club Entertainment, RISE films, Fork Films, Cuomo Cole Productions, Canal Plus

    With powerful interviews with rape survivors at its core, The Invisible War is the most exhaustive report to date on the extent and causes of sexual assault in the U.S. military.

    Inside Syria’s War (BBC World News)
    BBC World News America

    From gruesome mass-murder scenes outside Homs to displaced children living in caves, the consistent, up-close coverage of Syria’s civil war and its human toll by BBC World News journalists had no equal in 2013.

    Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
    Central Productions

    It’s like Abbott and Costello Meet Richard Pryor when the duo of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele fearlessly apply their mischievous minds and satirical savvy to racially aware sketches both broad and incisive.

    Latino Americans (PBS)
    WETA, LPB (Latino Public Broadcasting), Bosch & Company, ITVS

    A revelation no doubt for many viewers, the documentary series’ six fascinating installments traced a people’s history that’s older than the United States itself and showed how Latinos, rendered to foreigners in a land their ancestors colonized, are now reshaping it.

    The Law In These Parts (PBS)
    American Documentary / POV

    The seemingly lighthearted title notwithstanding, Israeli filmmaker Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s documentary is serious, resoundingly significant work—a long, hard look at the legal system his homeland created in 1967 to govern the newly occupied Palestinian territories and what it has meant and still means to both sides in this lasting conflict.

    Life According To Sam (HBO)
    HBO Documentary Films and Fine Films LLC

    Sam Berns, a teenager bearing up to the ravages of a disease that causes accelerated aging with amazing grace, humor and thoughtfulness, is the subject of this great, informative, humane and humbling documentary.

    Louisiana Purchased (WVUE-TV, New Orleans, and
    WVUE-TV & Times-Picayune

    Plenty big, never easy, this extensive joint TV-newspaper investigation of Louisiana campaign financing – who gives and gets what – put influence peddlers and buyers on notice and provided TV-news operations around the country a template for ambitious digging.

    Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God (HBO)
    Jigsaw Productions, HBO Documentary Films, Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films

    Harrowing and infuriating, Alex Gibney’s investigative documentary focuses on one of the earliest and ugliest cases in the Roman Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal: a Milwaukee priest who abused more than 200 deaf children at a school he oversaw.

    A Needed Response (YouTube/Samantha Stendal)
    Samantha Stendal, Aaron Blanton

    Short, simple and spot-on in its critique of rape culture, the ingenious PSA by two University of Oregon students takes just 25 seconds to make its point that real men treat women with respect.

    NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Questions Of Influence (WTVF-TV, Nashville)

    In a series of reports capped by an hour-long prime-time special, WTVF’s investigators revealed that running Tennessee state government “like a business,” as the governor had publically pledged, in reality meant sweetheart deals, no-bid contracts and ethical lapses. A scathing state audit was just one of the results.

    One-on-One With Assad (CBS)

    In what was surely the biggest journalistic “get” of 2013, CBS THIS MORNING’s Charlie Rose sat down with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Under Rose’s polite but persistent questioning, Assad gave us a look into the mind of one of the world’s most vicious warmongers, a glimpse of banality and evil.

    Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
    Lionsgate Television, Netflix

    Orange Is The New Black turns a notorious drive-in genre – women behind bars – into a complex, riveting character study rich in insights about femininity, race, power, and the politics, inside and outside prison walls, of mass incarceration.

    Orphan Black (BBC America)
    Temple Street Productions in association with BBC America and SPACE

    It’s all about cloning, but Orphan Black is one of a kind – a super-charged, stylized sci-fi action serial that ponders identity, humanity, bioethics and genetic research when it occasionally stops for breath. Tatiana Mislany is a marvel in the title role.

    Outside The Lines: NFL At A Crossroads: Investigating A Health Crisis (ESPN)

    Its close business association with the professional football notwithstanding, ESPN produced a tough, wide-reaching documentary on the concussion crisis in the National Football League and its efforts to downplay growing bodies of scientific evidence and brain-injured player complaints.

    The Race Card Project (NPR’s Morning Edition)
    The Race Card Project, NPR News, NPR’s Morning Edition

    Undercutting the term’s political, pejorative meaning, Michelle Norris’ website project and NPR series defines “race card” literally, inviting listeners to share six-word summations of their racial ideas and experiences that became the basis of compelling reports about race, pride, prejudice and identity.

    Reveal: The VA’s Opiate Overload (Public Radio)
    The Center for Investigative Reporting, Public Radio Exchange (PRX)

    Reveal exposed a staggering upswing – 270 percent over a dozen years – in opiate prescriptions at Veterans Administration hospitals, which has led to an overdose rate among VA patients more than twice the national average.

    The Returned (Les Revenants) (Sundance Channel)
    Haut et Court TV, Canal +, Jimmy, Cine +, Backup Films

    Thoughtfully conceptualized, exquisitely photographed and sensitively acted, this supernatural drama explores loss, grief, memory, guilt and our notions of afterlife as deceased residents of a picturesque mountain town in France seemingly return. It’s elegant, it’s zombie-free and it’s still unnerving.

    Scandal (ABC)
    ABC Studios

    Loosely based on the exploits of a real Washington, D.C. “fixer,” turbocharged by Kerry Washington’s star turn, Scandal is part West Wing and part Dynasty, an exaggerated, outrageous, fun-house reflection of the real-life political shenanigans we’ve come to loathe and jeer.

    A Short History Of The Highrise (
    The New York Times, The National Film Board of Canada

    With text, games, antique photos and three storybook-style animated shorts – Mud, Concrete and Glass – the interactive website entertainingly explores 2,500 years of “vertical living.” A fourth feature, Home, catalogues images of multi-story life submitted by the public.

    Six By Sondheim (HBO)
    HBO Documentary Films and Sabella Entertainment

    The “father” of the modern Broadway musical bares some of his art and soul in the engrossing, entertaining documentary. It combines his candid reflections, archival footage and fresh interpretations of six of his iconic songs, including “Send in the Clowns.”

    TCM: The Story Of Film (TCM)

    Turner Classics’ monumental project combined 15 installments of Mark Cousins’ gorgeously constructed and richly layered historical tour of world cinema, The Story Of Film: An Odyssey, with full showings of 119 of the movies it covers.

    Tom Brokaw: Personal Award

    A personal Peabody is given to Tom Brokaw, the longtime reporter and anchor of NBC Nightly News. With his TV projects and celebrated books like The Greatest Generation, the anchor emeritus has only enhanced his reputation since he left the desk in 2004.

  • Viewers Go All In for Netflix's House of Cards


    By Julie VerHage Published February 20, 2014

    The second season of Netflix original series House of Cards drew a staggering number of viewers in its opening weekend, and people weren’t stopping at just one episode.

    According to data from Procera Networks, a broadband technology firm, as of 5:30 p.m. on day one, 16% of Netflix subscribers at one particular Internet service supplied by an unspecified U.S. cable operator had watched the first two episodes. That was eight times the percentage of viewers who watched the first episode of the first season during the entire opening weekend.

    More than 2% of viewers got through the entire second season during its opening weekend, with some finishing all 13 episodes on day one, compared with only 2% that watched the first season’s first episode during that opening weekend on a similar-sized network last year. The average viewer watched four episodes of the second season this weekend, Procera said. Procera does not disclose information on individual clients.

    A survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Netflix last year among nearly 1,500 TV streamers (online U.S. adults who stream TV shows at least once a week) found that binge watching is a widespread behavior among this group, with 61% taking part in the behavior regularly. A majority of respondents defined binge watching as watching between two to six episodes of the same TV show in one sitting, and nearly three quarters of TV streamers said they have positive feelings about binge streaming TV.

    “Both buzz and viewership of season two has significantly eclipsed season one over its first weekend,” Citigroup analysts Mark May and Kevin Allen said in a report.

    While 2-8% of Netflix traffic over the weekend was from House of Cards, the company still doesn’t spend a large portion of their content costs on original series such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Arrested Development. But analysts said they expect that number to increase in the future.

    “Original content is still below 10% of total content costs today, however, this percentage should grow over time,” Youssef Squali, analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, said in a report.

    Netflix original series House of Cards is an American political drama set in present-day Washington, D.C. In July of last year, Netflix earned the first Primetime Emmy Award nominations for original online-only Web television. House of Cards received nine of Netflix's 14 total nominations. Netflix original series have now received more than 80 major award nominations and wins.

    Shares of Netflix hit an all-time high of $441.24 on Tuesday, the first day of trading after the show’s opening weekend. Netflix surged about 130% in the last year.

    Citi analysts said that according to Google Trends the popularity of House of Cards is up 76% year-over-year. Citi also argues that House of Cards has contributed to the popularity of Netflix, the Internet television network, noting that the popularity of Netflix is up 15% year-over-year.

    “House of Cards is commonly considered to be a key contributor to both subscriber acquisition and retention for Netflix in the U.S. and abroad,” the analysts noted.

    Not surprisingly, the political drama is most popular is Washington, D.C., according to Google Trends. Even President Barack Obama appears to be a fan. The day before the series aired, he tweeted: "Tomorrow: @HouseOfCards. No spoilers, please."

    Focus will now shift to the release of the second season of Orange is the New Black on June 6, another Netflix original series, which ended 2013 as the firm's most-watched original series.

  • House of Cards Is Actually a Great Show

    Vanity Fair

    by Richard Lawson February 20, 2014 3:21 pm

    Upon finishing the second season of House of Cards, we have to correct our earlier review. This isn’t just a good show, it’s a great one.

    I finished the final three episodes of House of Cards’ second season the other night, and I’m here today to say I’m sorry. Or, not really “sorry,” just wrong. In my review of the second season’s first few episodes, I focused on how the show’s tone is a tricky balance between satire and seriousness, and how that makes the series oftentimes play like a juicy, enjoyable, but sorta insubstantial lark. And while I still don’t entirely disagree with that sentiment, it was ultimately the wrong tack to take when looking at this show. I made a mistake! I judged too quickly! Sure I was hobbled by a strict confidentiality agreement, and with only the first four episodes at my disposal, it was impossible to make a fair overall assessment of the show. But really, I just plain wasn’t giving it enough credit.

    If you don’t want to be spoiled about what happens all the way to the very end of season 2, read no further.

    It is admittedly hard sometimes to appreciate House of Cards as a genuinely great show. We have Kevin Spacey goofing around with his exaggerated drawl and florid asides to the camera, and then there’s the narrative problem of Frank and Claire being so obviously up to no good that it’s impossible to not roll your eyes when some dupe so gullibly trusts them, thus ensuring their inevitable destruction. But it’s that inevitability that manages to rescue the show from the depths of cheese, and places it, I think, on the mantle right alongside some other great television.

    It’s such a beautifully, mind-bogglingly crafted show, isn’t it? When you accept the reality that it’s not going to be some fascinatingly realistic look at the inner sancta of Washington power, House of Cards reveals itself as one of the most ingeniously built television series in a long, long time. Like the Underwoods’ own deft scheming, the writing is both improvisational and carefully structured, mapped out in the long-term but adaptive and quick on its feet from moment to moment. If every narrative rivulet, and there are many of them, is guided from the very beginning to lead to its eventual end, then that is a superhuman feat of storytelling. But if, as is likely, the writers are instead filling in the blanks and making the key connections as they go, then that is its own kind of beautiful stunt. Frank’s ascendency to the Oval Office felt somehow both shocking and preordained, a rare duality in television.

    How many other shows achieve that? For all its pleasing knottiness, Homeland often strikes out with a storyline and promptly abandons it. (Dana and the V.P.’s kid comes to mind.) Lately Mad Men has tended to get lost in its haze of allegory and allusion, to the point that recent seasons have felt more like disorienting jumbles of pathos instead of stories. (It’s still a beautiful show, but it’s hard to say what it’s about anymore.) Game of Thrones augustly marches along with a noble and admirable sense of purpose, but the source material is so jampacked with characters and plotlines that the show is frequently forced to move at an abbreviated, CliffsNotes-y clip. Just look how little actual screen time each character gets.

    The only show that’s really comparable to House of Cards’ careful, diligent thoroughness is Breaking Bad, a series that was great for many reasons, not least among them that it never forgot its own history. That’s a key factor in determining a show’s Greatness: Does it remember where it’s been? Even if the show is otherwise wobbly and inconsistent, like Dexter, a sharp sense of recall, a constant vigilance over loose ends, can turn something entertaining into an experience that’s vital and wholly rewarding. No show is doing that better than House of Cards right now.
    That strange episode in the first season when Frank visited his old military school and made some wispy references to a past homoerotic dalliance? It was satisfied nearly a whole season later with the now infamous Meacham threesome. Sure, it didn’t have much of anything to do with the larger plot, at least not yet, but it answered some questions about Frank’s character in a way that deliciously rewarded a good memory. In arguably more important parts of the narrative, look at how the show has woven Rachel, who would surely have been a throwaway character on a lesser series, into the political and emotional intrigue. The series is thoughtful enough to see the potential in each character; nearly everyone is given their due, helping the world of the show achieve a mesmerizing texture and sense of depth. The thicker the air is with criss-crossing motivations and shifting allegiances, the more ingenious fun the show has moving through it. It’s a daunting juggling act, keeping so many pieces of plot in play, but House of Cards does it, with uncanny ease and sophistication.

    Yes, sophistication. Because the show can often seem so pleased with its own cleverness, it’s easy to overlook how actually artful and well-tailored it is. Especially in season two, with episodes that were elliptically built, that grew and grew with elegant and ominous momentum, and that didn’t solely rely on big shocking moments to hook us—they also gave us quiet moments of mysterious beauty. Think of poor, doomed Doug Stamper being read to by Rachel, or Garrett sadly gazing at a painting. For a show as propulsive and deviously minded as House of Cards, there’s a surprising amount of artistry on display. Season 2 found a thrilling new creative confidence, the writers keeping the long game ever in mind while taking the occasional moment to savor and consider the weight of the world they’d created.
    And what a cast has been assembled! Not just the obvious standouts like Spacey and Robin Wright, but New York theater staples like Jayne Atkinson and Reed Birney, or familiar TV faces like Gerald McRaney, Molly Parker, and Mahershala Ali, all doing new and exciting things. They leave the showiness to Spacey and give us characters, few who are strictly either heroes or villains, who make the show hum with life. It’s an expert company, all pitching in to make this wild thing addictively operatic, but still alarmingly credible. It’s probably the best cast on TV, smooth and assured and sneaky without ever showing us the work.

    I was wrong to paint House of Cards as simply a diverting treat. It is definitely that, but just underneath all the winking and cornpone theatrics is a furious, expansive mind. Trickily plotted and stunningly executed, this is a show that can, and should, stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of the recent television renaissance. It may not be the most profound of series, but it is a near-perfect version of itself. Which is about as high praise as you can give in the vast and varied landscape of television these days. I can’t wait for season 3.

  • House of Cards Gets Huge Season 2 Viewership on Day 1

    TIME Magazine

    By Eliana Dockterman @edockterman Feb. 14, 2014

    The show's second season scores a big audience within hours of premiering on Netflix

    All 13 episodes of season two of House of Cards premiered on Netflix at midnight PST Friday. Less than 24 hours later, the first numbers are in, and they’re big, according to Variety.

    Though Netflix does not disclose its viewership data and Nielsen does not track streaming services, Variety enlisted Procera Networks, a broadband technology firm, to get a sense of how many people were tuning in to House of Cards on Valentine’s Day. More Netflix subscribers are streaming the second season than the first, according to their data.

    An astounding 15 percent of Netflix subscribers watched the first episode in a six to eight hour period on an undisclosed Internet service that Procera monitored on Monday. Last year, Procera — which measures usage of networks of six of the top 10 cable operators in the U.S. — found that just two percent of subscribers watched at least one episode of House of Cards throughout the entire premiere weekend.

    Netflix reported 40.4 million subscribers globally (31.2 million in the U.S.) in Sept. 2013.

  • ‘House of Cards’ Viewing Soars on First Day of Season 2 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Andrew Wallenstein Editor-in-chief: Digital @awallenstein | February 14, 2014 | 03:38PM PT

    Binge trend descends on Netflix drama shortly after its bow

    “House of Cards” is back, and it’s bigger than ever.

    The drama series’ second season that Netflix made available early Friday is getting far more sampling than its first season did, according to data provided by broadband technology firm Procera Networks.

    A whopping 15% of Netflix subscribers on one particular Internet service supplied by an unspecified U.S. cable operator (Procera can’t identify its clients) watched the first episode during a six to eight hour period monitored Friday. That’s a massive increase compared with a similar measurement Procera made last year when just 2% of “Cards” viewers watched at least one episode over the course of an entire weekend (and that bow was aided by a free-month discount to new subs).

    While the Procera numbers aren’t an exact science, they’re all we’re going to get considering Netflix doesn’t divulge its own numbers and Nielsen Media doesn’t track the streaming service. Extrapolating the data to a total-audience figure is impossible (though Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos recently indicated that unspecified Netflix programming were amassing auds bigger than cable fare on Sunday nights).

    In true Netflix fashion, viewers aren’t stopping at just one episode. As the data breakdown outlined below indicates, Netflix subs are showing healthy sampling across the first five episodes. (The final episodes don’t show any activity yet because it’s still quite early.) As with the first season, the entire second season was made available Friday.

    Procera is also seeing similar usage surges for “Cards” in other territories where Netflix is active. Scandinavia, for instance, is seeing a 6% uptake.

    The surge isn’t exactly a surprise; Netflix has made huge headway since the first-season premiere in establishing itself as a presence for original programming. However, the SVOD firm’s silent treatment to news media and rival networks looking for numbers makes it difficult to get any sense of how original content does vis-a-vis its library of licensed movies and TV episodes.

    What the value of early data like this is to Netflix is questionable. While its execs repeatedly assert it makes no difference whether its subs watch one of its programs on its first or 1,000th day on the service because there’s no advertising on the streaming service, first-day measurements are undoubtedly a useful data point in making comparisons that could inform its overall programming strategy. Premiere-day numbers may even give Netflix an early indicator of how strong “Cards” could perform over the life of its run.

    Netflix ended the fourth quarter of 2013 with 31.7 million U.S. subs.

    Procera measures usage across the networks of six of the top 10 cable operators and three of the top 5 DSL operators in North America.

    Episode Percentage Of Netflix Subs

    Episode 01 15.70%
    Episode 02 16.10%
    Episode 03 10.60%
    Episode 04 8.60%
    Episode 05 3.60%
    Episode 06 0.90%
    Episode 07 0.60%
    Episode 08 0.30%
    Episode 09 0.20%
    Episode 10 0.20%
    Episode 11 0.10%
    Episode 12 0.00%
    Episode 13 0.00%

    Note: Episode 2 likely has viewing patterns in excess of Episode 1 because Procera began measuring usage eight hours after the episodes premiered–and binge-viewers had probably already finished the first one.

  • How Absolute Power Can Delight Absolutely

    ‘House of Cards’ Returns, With More Dark Scheming


    “House of Cards” may well be the most joyless show on television.

    Colors are so washed-out that the closest thing to brightness in all that gray, taupe and black is an orange Post-it note. There is no laughter, not even the forced bonhomie that real politicians trade in cloakrooms and on cable news talk shows. This Netflix series is more cynical than “The Americans” on FX and more pessimistic about human nature than “The Walking Dead” on AMC.

    Yet it’s hard not to feel giddy delight at the first sight of those emblematic clouds rolling across the landscape of the nation’s capital and plunging the city into a Stygian gloom.

    All of Season 2 of “House of Cards” becomes available on Friday, Valentine’s Day. It’s a bitter chocolate bonbon for people who love to hate Washington.

    It’s not clear exactly why this bleak series is so exhilarating and binge-worthy. It could be that just as victims of tragedy find it hard to accept that their suffering is random and purposeless, voters find it intolerable that so many of the petty, shortsighted moves by elected officials have no greater meaning than small-time expediency. After so many years of Washington gridlock, there is a fascination with leaders who could actually get things done, like Lyndon B. Johnson, who is the subject of a new Broadway play, “All the Way,” starring Bryan Cranston.

    By positing a Johnsonesque power broker and master schemer who wields cabalistic influence behind the scenes, “House of Cards” assigns order and purpose to what, in real life, is too often just an endless, baffling tick-tack-toe stalemate.

    Or maybe it’s just a cleverly made Washington thriller.

    After much maneuvering and malfeasance, Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democratic congressman from South Carolina, is about to be sworn in as vice president. He remains just as intent on consolidating his gains and squashing his enemies, especially the few who suspect a conspiracy. He is racing against time and karma: It is Underwood’s precarious limbo between power and self-destruction that lends “House of Cards” much of its suspense.

    He is one heartbeat away from the presidency, but also just one step ahead of the truth.

    Season 2 is as immersed in the battlegrounds of governing as “The West Wing” was: entitlements, Chinese cyberespionage, anthrax scares, parliamentary procedure, government shutdowns. But that Aaron Sorkin series on NBC ennobled politics. “House of Cards,” which was adapted from a 1990 British series of the same title, eviscerates it. And while the second season picks up where Season 1 left off (the tagline is “The race for power continues”), this continuation is possibly even darker and more compelling than the first.

    Underwood still turns from the action to address the audience in the style of Shakespeare’s Richard III, but his cynical asides are not as clever as his underhanded actions. The conceit worked better in the British original, which was more arch and satirical and closer in spirit to “Kind Hearts and Coronets.”

    The American version takes itself more seriously: Its tone is a double bass, not a flute.

    Underwood’s cool, inscrutable wife, Claire (Robin Wright), is still ruthlessly pursuing her own agenda as well as her husband’s. She remains an enigma even as she reveals more and more disturbing secrets from her past. (Her perfectly organized closet is on the verge of self-parody — 50 shades of slate.)

    There are some welcome newcomers, especially a congresswoman, Jacqueline Sharp (Molly Parker), who is an ambitious former soldier who becomes an Underwood protégée and, like everyone else in his poisoned orbit, soon discovers that Underwood expects his people to cast aside principle and pursue his grand plan.

    There are few starry-eyed depictions of government anymore; cynicism is the currency of choice. And there are many variations on the theme.

    “The Americans,” the show about Soviet moles in the Reagan era, is more complex and inventive than “House of Cards,” and it begins a second season on Feb. 26. The next day, “Scandal,” Shonda Rhimes’s frothy, over-the-top West Wing telenovela, returns to ABC with new episodes, and it is a campy, escapist romp.

    “House of Cards” is “Scandal” for naysayers and misanthropes, and that’s actually quite cheering.

  • How Media Rights Capital Built its 'House of Cards'


    Sahil Patel / Feb 14, 2014

    As you should be very well aware of by now, the second season of Netflix and Media Rights Capital’s Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning series, “House of Cards,” debuts today. All 13 hour-long episodes of the delicious drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are available for you to stream, at the expense of spending time with your loved ones on Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day Weekend.

    To commemorate the occasion, we spoke with Modi Wiczyk, co-CEO of Media Rights Capital, the company that developed, produced, and sells the series you know and love today, about how it all came together.

    Building the Deck

    Media Rights Capital isn’t a stranger to producing content for digital platforms. Prior to “House of Cards,” the company was known for working with Seth MacFarlane on his animated series “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy.” Across its run, the program generated more than 100 million views on the web, and earned MacFarlane Webby Award in 2009 as the show’s Film and Video Person of the Year.

    What MRC learned from that experience, as well as other digital projects the studio produced with the likes of AT&T, Nike, and Google, was that online video, the way it’s set up right now in terms of advertising and distribution, doesn’t support short-form content the way it does long-form. “[We realized that] the bigger business, in general, was for us to deliver television-form content over the web via a service that could support it,” he says. “The aggregate dollars available for short-form content is significantly smaller.”

    Wiczyk describes MRC as a “director-driven” studio. The company likes to work with talented directors and creators on all sorts of premium projects and then find distribution on the platform that would serve that project the best. From this, Wiczyk says MRC “concluded that for our television business, we were going to make director-driven content designed for cable and subscription services.” From there, MRC began to look to acquire content that could be adapted with directors the studio already has relationships with.

    “At the time, we had a ‘housekeeping’ deal with David Fincher,” says Wiczyk. “He was one of those handful of great filmmakers who was already in our orbit.”
    Netflix was also on MRC’s radar. Ever since the studio’s deal with Google for MacFarlane’s animated show, MRC was aware of other digital tech/content companies like Netflix, even if the streaming service, at that time, publicly said it had no interest in original programming.

    Finding the Ace

    It all started with an intern. Well, not quite. It started with a critically acclaimed British mini-series about a ruthless politician, also titled “House of Cards.” But it was an intern at Media Rights Capital who discovered the show and kept talking about it at the company. “He said all of these anti-hero shows were cribbing from that show,” said Wiczyk. Soon after, Wiczyk watched the show, fell in love with it, and the company quickly discovered who held the rights.

    Here, Media Rights Capital’s “director-driven” model came in quite handy.

    “The British show was based on a book written by Lord Michael Dobbs, who was Margaret Thatcher’s chief of staff before being unceremoniously terminated,” says Wiczyk. “The book was his way of emotionally purging his fury.”

    Dobbs, who went on to become a successful businessman and industrialist, held the underlying rights to the property — and had no intention to license his work to a major studio. “Our reputation for giving artists final cut and a lot of support and creative freedom helped us win the rights,” says Wiczyk.

    Fincher was also a huge fan of the British series, says Wiczyk, and came on board to executive produce alongside his sometimes-collaborator, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”).
    With these initial pieces in place, now it came time to find the showrunner.

    The Dealer

    Joe Hipps, SVP of television production at Media Rights Capital, had seen “Farragut North,” Beau Willimon’s stage play loosely based on Howard Dean’s Democratic primary campaign for the 2004 presidential election. (The play was later adapted by Willimon and George Clooney into the Oscar-nominated film “The Ides of March.”)

    Needless to say, Hipps was a fan, and in Willimon (a political operative turned writer) found a creator who could write a gripping tale about the seedier side of politics. Willimon joined the project and was introduced to Fincher, as both men began developing the “bible” for what an American version of “House of Cards” would be.

    “We spent a year financing the show under the radar,” says Wiczyk. “A year later Willimon and Fincher come back with a finished script for the first episode and a bible for the first season.” With those pieces in hand, MRC outlined the budget and production/delivery schedule for the show.

    This was followed by the casting of Kevin Spacey in the lead role as the Machiavellian Rep. Frank Underwood. Spacey’s production company, Trigger Street Productions, also joined the project, and Fincher committed to directing the first two episodes.

    The Right Table

    Media Rights Capital and “House of Cards” was ready to be shopped, it just needed the right network. MRC rounded up the usual suspects — HBO, Showtime, and AMC — as potential places to sell this show to. But before MRC met with any of them (who had interest in the series), the studio first approached the streaming network it already had a relationship with, Netflix. Maybe Netflix would want second-run rights to the show once it had aired on television.

    Netflix had other plans. The company looked at its data and discovered that there was an appetite for political thrillers, as well as for films from Fincher and Spacey. What’s more, the original “House of Cards” was popular among subscribers. In other words, this was a no-brainer.

    “There was a week-long auction, with a bunch of different networks interested,” says Wiczyk. “Netflix, though, came out of nowhere, said that it was doing originals, wanted to buy the show, and offered to buy two seasons worth of episodes.” It cost Netflix a pretty penny, too, as the company famously ponied up $100 million to finance two seasons and 26 hour-long episodes.

    “There was a little bit of a question mark because we hadn’t really done this before,” says Wiczyk. As he describes it, there was no information on the value of selling territorial rights to a Netflix Original outside of the markets the streaming service is available in. “What does it mean to be a Netflix show, beyond the value of how they are going to do distribution and marketing for the show — we didn’t know,” the co-CEO says.

    MRC quickly realized, as many have to this day, that what Netflix offered was similar to what people are used to on premium cable. The only difference is that it’s delivered over the internet. “We decided to not get caught up in the delivery system,” says Wiczyk. “Here is a network with 25 million or so subscribers [at the time] — it was the third-biggest paid subscription service in the country with a projected upward trajectory.”

    There was also another value in partnering with Netflix. “What ‘The Shield’ was to FX, and ‘Mad Men’ to AMC, and ‘The Sopranos’ to HBO, we could be that with Netflix,” says Wiczyk. “If you become a series that’s sort of intertwined with the identity of a network, it’s terrific for both the network and the series. That is precious real estate. So we took the chance, and it’s worked out amazingly.”

    On to the Next One

    Wiczyk declines to share any details about the second season “House of Cards” — not that he would, but we had to ask! One thing’s for sure, though, MRC has no intentions to end the show anytime soon. Yes, it’s already been picked up for a third season by Netflix, but as Wiczyk tells it, “The intention is for this show to keep going for several seasons.”

    And it looks like the show’s audience wants it. Per data from a Civicscience survey, 93% of respondents who watched season one plan to watch season two. For context, the survey of more than 10,000 respondents found that 5% watched all of season one. If it’s a good representative sample, per BTIG Research (login required), that means as many as 9.6 million US adults watched all of season one.
    If you were a betting man, that number is only likely to grow.

  • Fan-In-Chief Obama Tweets “No Spoilers” For ‘House Of Cards’ Season 2 Debut

    By DOMINIC PATTEN | Thursday February 13, 2014 @ 4:04pm PST

    Well, guess we know what President Obama will be doing this long weekend while hanging out in Rancho Mirage after meeting with the King of Jordan – binge-watching the new season of Netflix’s House Of Cards, “Tomorrow: @HouseOfCards. No spoilers, please,” tweeted Obama’s Twitter feed today of the 13 new episodes of the political drama set to premiere simultaneously at midnight tonight. Now there was no “BO” after the tweet, which is the indication it came from the Commander-In-Chief himself but we know Obama is a fan of the DC-based drama and its ruthless soon-to-be VP Francis Underwood. “I’m just wondering if you brought advance copies of House of Cards?” the President was heard asking Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings during a White House meeting in late December last year. After an offer from Hastings to do a cameo on the award winning streaming series, Obama also made a crack that Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is “getting a lot of stuff done” and “I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient” in the real-life DC. That drew a big laugh from Hastings, Apple’s Tim Cook, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and the 12 other tech bosses in attendance. Maybe with this tweet, Obama is taking Hastings up on the offer. We’ll see in the recently formally announced Season 3.

  • WGA Awards: ‘Captain Phillips’ & ‘Her’ Win Top Film Awards; ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Veep’ & ‘House Of Cards’ Score On TV Side

    By THE DEADLINE TEAM | Saturday February 1, 2014 @ 5:49pm PST

    UPDATED WITH FULL LIST OF WINNERS: The 66th annual WGA Awards were handed out tonight in “simultaneous” ceremonies on both coasts — the WGA West is at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE and the WGA East at the Edison Ballroom. Like last year, the NY crew announced its main awards well ahead of the LA ceremony. In the end, Billy Ray was the somewhat surprising winner of the Adapted Screenplay award for Sony’s Captain Phillips while Spike Jonze took the Original Screenplay honor for Warner Bros’ Her. If the time snafu sounds familiar it is; last year the LA event lagged NYC’s by almost an hour, meaning award winners were being announced first by WGAE and then trickled into the WGAW audience to ruin the suspense. Tonight, word began filtering into the JW Marriott of the main winners about 2 hours into the show. Ray and Jonze, who were in LA, came to the podium a good 40+ minutes after their awards were unveiled at the Edison and pretended to look surprised — all of the final big awards seemed to lose steam as most in the room new the winners.

    2014 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony - InsideOn the TV side, Breaking Bad won both the Best Drama and Episodic Drama categories for the second time in three years and the third consecutive Best Drama trophy for the series’ final installment. House Of Cards picked up the first WGA Award for Netflix, taking the New Series honor. The streaming service led the network pack this year with six nominations as the guild amended its rules this year to allow eligibility for Netflix series that have been produced for initial exhibition in New Media. Veep won its first major series award with its Comedy Series win tonight over the likes of Modern Family, which was looking to take back the crown after losing last year to FX’s Louie. The fellow HBO comedy Veep launched, Girls, won the New Series award last year.

    Related: WGA Awards: Writers Hopeful As They Head Into Contract Negotiations With Producers

    2014 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony - Inside“Every writer deserves the kind of luck I’ve had. I owe quite a debt to Captain Richard Phillips,” said Ray, who was also nominated for an Oscar. “Capt. Phillps wrote this story, I just wrote it down.” The feature film competition this year was almost as interesting for what’s not in the running vs. what is. The most notable absences were Oscar Adapted Screenplay favorite John Ridley for 12 Years A Slave and fellow nominees Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena – the guild only includes screenplays that were produced under its signatory agreements. Ray’s win probably vaults him into the conversation with 12 Years.

    2014 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony - InsideSaid Jonze, also an Oscar nominee: ”This is a high honor coming from the Writers Guild. … It’s a high honor coming from writers. In a way this is like an award for pain. A specfic pain that writers know. The highs and lows of sitting there by yourself. I thank you guys for that.”

    Related: 2014 WGA Award Nominations

    Also tonight in LA, Mel Brooks presented the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement to Paul Mazursky, Henry Winkler presented the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing to Garry Marshall, Jennifer Tilly presented the Valentine Davies Award to Sam Simon for his community service and humanitarian efforts, screenwriter Bob Eisele presented the Morgan Cox Award posthumously to late screenwriter Thomas C. Cook for guild service, and WGA West VP Howard A. Rodman presented the Paul Selvin Award to Alex Gibney for his screenplay We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks. In NY, Dee Rees presented James Schamus with the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for bringing honor and dignity to writers; The Wire and Treme actor Wendell Pierce presented the Hunter Award for career achievement to David Simon, and Philip V. Pilato was presented with The Jablow Award for his service to the guild by last year’s recipient, Bob Schneider, the WGA East Secretary-Treasurer.

    Here’s how it went down tonight in LA, with Anna Raya, Diane Haithman and Anthony D’Alessandro on the scene in LA.

    Refresh for latest…

    We’re not trying to jinx anything but the LA show is just starting but NY host Colin Quinn has already finished and introduced the first presenters. Steady guys. (UPDATE: OK they’re not tweeting winners and there’s no live-feed — so they could be done by now!) Meanwhile, LA host Brad Garrett isn’t getting much reaction for his stand-up start — he’s known for being blue onstage. This was among many that didn’t work: One about guild negotiations beginning Monday so maybe now is a good time for his joke writers to walk out. OK, it officially went silent when he made a Woody Allen kids joke — and then another. Ouch. Some other jokes:

    2014 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony - Red Carpet“I think I was starting off on the wrong foot when I went over to the writer of Gravity and ask him to valet my car. I had a feeling that it was written by Mexicans when the spaceship wouldn’t start.” “Everyone, hold your groans until my dance routine for Fruitvale Station.” “Excuse me if I’m under the weather, I caught an STD while watching Wolf Of Wall Street.” “I understand Nebraska was shot in color, but Bruce Dern is so old, the film came out black and white.” “One thing about American Hustle, I want to be buried in Jennifer Lawrence when I die. What I meant is head-first. For those of you not following me — up to my sack.” And finally: “I know what you’re thinking. This guy has a lot of nerve for someone who doesn’t work.” Onto the awards…

    “Hogcock!” (30 Rock), Written by Jack Burditt & Robert Carlock; NBC
    Burditt and Carlock aren’t in the room but the winning episode was the first part of the 30 Rock series finale, which also earned Beth McCarthy Miller a DGA Award last month. This marks 30 Rock‘s first WGA award in three years.

    “Confessions” (Breaking Bad), Written by Gennifer Hutchison; AMC
    Breaking Bad had three of the six nominees in the category. Prediction: It won’t be the last time we hear the show’s name. “My parents at home watching the live-feed, freaking out right now,” Hutchison said. This is Breaking Bad‘s third episodic WGA Award and the first not won by creator Vince Gilligan. Meanwhile, in NY, WGA East president Michael Winship tells the audience in another guild labor talks reference: “Divided we beg, united we bargain.

    “A Test Before Trying” (The Simpsons), Written by Joel H. Cohen; Fox
    Maybe Cohen should have been writing for Garrett: “I better get a residual for that,” he said after he walked up onstage with a clip from the winning episode playing on the big screen. “My mailman needs something to steal.”

    “influANTces” (A.N.T. Farm), Written by Vincent Brown; Disney Channel
    This was a Black History Month episode, Brown said. He also thanks his husband in the audience.

    2014 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony - InsideHere’s WGA West president Christopher Keyser onstage: ”Writers are solitary people, we do what we do mostly alone. We gather once a year, to honor Vince Gilligan and Modern Family.” Again more laughs than Garrett. Keyser said the guild added 493 members during the past year and 103 of its members passed away.

    Screen Laurel Award for Screenwriting
    Paul Mazursky
    Mel Brooks introduces his old friend and gets a standing ovation, saying, “This is very touching — it makes up for the chicken.” After a highlight reel (the run of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Blume In Love, Harry And Tonto, Next Stop Greenwich Village, An Unmarried Woman came in a six-year span in the 1970s — wow), Mazursky is wheeled out by his Brazilian assistant and launches into a series of jokes and stories. ”The Oscar’s not bad. Who wants an Oscar, who gives a shi*t? I wanted it, you always want it. (Note: He was nominated four times, the last in 1990 for co-writing Enemies: A Love Story, but never won.) But when I got this award, I wept. Because the same people who got it (before) are the same ones who decided I (would get it).” He also reflected on his love of film critics, no matter how nasty they were throughout his career, specifically reflecting on the roller coaster moment when NY Times critic Vincent Canby buried the filmmaker’s New York Film Festival premiere Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, despite the fact that the crowd was falling out of their seats and that the-then Columbia Pictures executives were “carrying me out of the room on their shoulders.” Mazursky thought he was done, but it was the New Yorker‘s Pauline Kael who redeemed the film and assured the filmmaker that it would make a ton of money. “‘Vincent Canby is a schmuck’ Pauline told me. God bless her — she’s living somewhere in Maine now or Lake Michigan,” he joked about the deceased critic. This is a long rambling talk (hearing people checking their phones now) but hey why not?

    In NY, former Focus Features boss James Schamus is receiving the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for career achievement, presented by Pariah director Dee Rees.

    Jeopardy!, Written by John Duarte, Harry Friedman, Mark Gaberman, Debbie Griffin, Michele Loud, Robert McClenaghan, Jim Rhine, Steve D. Tamerius, Billy Wisse; ABC
    It’s the only nominee in the category’s first year. Alex Trebeck presented and Billy Wisse accepted. Trebeck called producers “rat bastards” for asking him to present “following Paul Mazursky and Mel Brooks”— graciously not mentioning Mazursky’s funny but endless monologue. Garrett was not so kind, dead-panning that because of Mazursky the 2015 WGA Awards would directly follow tonight’s ceremony.

    Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, Written by Shawn Slovo, Based on the book by Howard Bingham and Max Wallace; HBO

    Valentine Davies Award
    Sam Simon
    2014 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony - InsideJennifer Tilly is shouting her speech to introduce her ex-husband, who needs a cane to walk onstage — which takes a while. “I forgot my speech I’ll be right back,” he joked when he arrived. Remarking on Tilly’s listing of his massive philanthropy: “There’s no one more qualified to comment on my check-writing than my ex-wife Jennifer Tilly,” he said. “True happiness is the happiness that comes from being honored. I love scrolls, I love plaques, I have a building named after me.” (Tilly is taking cell phone pics of Simon onstage.) Simon said it’s been a year since his cancer diagnosis that includes colon, liver, kidneys brain and other vital organs. He was given three months to live. “Two things I would ask of you tonight,” he says. 1) If you’re over 40, get yourself a colonoscopy. 2) Tell someone that you haven’t told yet that you love them. I know to some people in this room, the colonoscopy sounds better, but do the best you can.”

    The Last of Us, Written by Neil Druckmann; Sony Computer Entertainment

    Morgan Cox Award
    Thomas S. Cook (posthumous)
    Robert Isley is presenting.

    Days of Our Lives, Written by Lorraine Broderick, David Cherrill, Carolyn Culliton, Richard Culliton, Rick Draughon, Christopher Dunn, Janet Iacobuzio, David A. Levinson, Ryan Quan, Dave Ryan, Melissa Salmons, Christopher J. Whitesell; NBC

    Paul Selvin Award
    Alex Gibney, We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks
    It’s the first time a documentary has won the award, which is presented to that member “whose script best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere and to those whose defense Paul Selvin committed his professional life.” Gibney might be out of this year’s Oscar conversation, but the past Oscar winner took to a proper soapbox, saying how it is our duty, not matter how low our status is in society, to leak information to protect the greater good of others. “Our government is spying on writers — journalists who speak to sources are now in danger of being accessories to conspiracies,” he said. With writers’ free expression in check, he warns it leaves “those in power to police themselves.”

    UH OH ALERT: The WGA East has gotten ahead of themselves again, with outlets reporting winners announced in NY that have not been announced here. Is it the Mazursky Effect? Nope, just one side of the guild not able to communicate with the other. Maybe they’ll fix it — next year.

    “Episode 4: The Collected Sylvia” (Sylvia Plath: Girl Detective), Written by Mike Simses;

    Spiky-haired presenter Walton Goggins comes on to introduce the Docu Feature award. Garrett jokes that he actor deserved the “Brian Grazer Award.” Garrett admonished, “Tease your hair, don’t piss it off.”

    Stories We Tell, Written by Sarah Polley; Roadside Attractions

    The Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement
    Garry Marshall
    2014 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony - Press RoomThe intro is by Marshall’s Happy Days star Henry Winkler, who reminded the crowd that “Garry owned ABC’s comedy block for 10 years” with Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. Winkler said Marshall was a guy who not only had the superhero powers to fix a comedy situation (“He would tip his head and 90 solutions would fall off the top”), but also a guy who never put one member of the cast above another: Winkler recalled a moment when the Happy Days cast was at a Little Rock, AK event for the TV show, and Winkler asked Marshall to hurry so he could make a flight. “He took me by the collar and shoved me against the wall and said, ‘Everyone has to wait just like you do!’ Garry was thinking of the entire cast,” Winkler reflected. “He once told me, ‘Other people make important television, I make recess. Well, Garry, you made recess very important for advancing the literature of TV.”

    Accepting his honor, Marshall spoke about how Chayefsky was also a Bronx-native like him and an alum of his high school, DeWitt Clinton. “It was an all boys school, so we had no other business but to write about girls,” he said. Remembering his start in the business, Marshall mentioned that one would cut their teeth and excel in the ranks by writing musical skits at the old WGA Award shows — and one of his caught the attention of Lucille Ball. Later, after quipping that ”Lifetime Achivement Awards should be earlier — my bedtime was at the soap opera (award), he dispelled some advice: “Like Samuel Beckett, I always say ‘Fail, fail again and fail better. You’ll get ahead.’ We both wrote pieces that were called Happy Days and they’re both still writing. And let me remind you all, that the hardest job is always filling the blank sheet of paper.”

    Backstage, a photographer took an alarming tumble scrambling to grab a shot of Marshall. ”You have a stunt man?” Marshall cracked.

    “The Crazy Ones – Building a Better Comedy,” Written by Erial Tompkins; CBS

    “2012 Year in Review,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News

    “Remembering C. Everett Koop,” Written by Scott Saloway; CBS Radio News

    “Afternoon Drive,” Written by Bill Spadaro; CBS Radio/1010 WINS

    CBS News Animations: “Brain Injury,” “Pills,” “Bionic Leg,” “Midland Parade,” “Concordia Salvage;” Animation by David Rosen; CBS News

    “Lethal Medicine” (60 Minutes), Written by Michael Rey, Oriana Zill de Granados, Michael Radutzky; CBS

    “Tragedy at Newtown” Special Edition (ABC World News with Diane Sawyer), Written by Lisa Ferri and Matt Negrin; ABC

    “The Choice 2012” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk; PBS
    “Silicon Valley” (American Experience), Telescript by Randall MacLowry and Michelle Ferrari; Story by Randall MacLowry; PBS

    “Egypt in Crisis” (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria & Martin Smith; PBS

    Blake Shelton’s Not So Family Christmas, Head Writers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts; Writers: Alex Rubens, Charlie Sanders; NBC

    The 66th Annual Writers Guild Awards East Coast Ceremony - InsideThe Colbert Report, Writers: Stephen Colbert, Tom Purcell, Michael Brumm, Nate Charny, Rich Dahm, Paul Dinello, Eric Drysdale, Rob Dubbin, Glenn Eichler, Gabe Gronli, Dan Guterman, Barry Julien, Jay Katsir, Frank Lesser, Opus Moreschi, Bobby Mort, Meredith Scardino, Max Werner; Comedy Central

    2014 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony - InsideNEW SERIES
    House Of Cards, Written by Kate Barnow, Rick Cleveland, Sam Forman, Gina Gionfriddo, Keith Huff, Sarah Treem, Beau Willimon; Netflix

    Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC
    “This has been an amazing last seven years, for us, personally, particularly this last year,” Vince Gilligan said of his win tonight, matching the show’s previous awards-season triumphs. “To eat a lot of dinners at events such as this. We’ve got some good ones coming up. My point being, not to show off, first of all, none of us saw this coming. Second, at each one of these dinners, I’m continually reminded this is a collaborative medium.” Later: “I think about the fact that it all starts with the written word. If I got to choose what’d go on my tombstone, above all these other hyphenate options, writer would be it — the most important thing.”

    Veep, Written by Simon Blackwell, Roger Drew, Sean Gray, Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin, Georgia Pritchett, David Quantick, Tony Roche, Will Smith; HBO
    “Veep” writers are currently in production in Maryland — so they’re no shows.

    Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, And Dangerous Days At Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty; Columbia Pictures
    Nebraska‘s Bruce Dern presented the award, hailing the writers in the audience as the group of people who “make a business work — scribes.” After announcing Ray, Dern added another tribute to the “wonderful writers in the room tonight” and said: “Once, just once, (I hope) you can know the kind of luck I had on this movie.”

    Her, Written by Spike Jonze; Warner Bros.

  • Robin Wright wins Best Actress in a TV Drama at the Golden Globes

    By Samantha Highfill on Jan 12, 2014 at 9:24PM

    Robin Wright won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama for her work in House of Cards. She beat out fellow nominees Julianna Margulies, Tatiana Maslany, Taylor Schilling, and Kerry Washington.

    Once on stage, Wright referenced Merritt Wever’s memorable Emmy acceptance speech and her desire to do the same before thanking David Fincher for convincing her to do the show, as well as Netflix. After flashing a little bit of what appeared to be tape (to hold her dress in place), Wright wrapped up with, “Thank you everybody; I really appreciate this. Thanks.”

    In addition to her Golden Globe win, Wright just picked up some more hardware: an engagement ring from fiancé Ben Foster. Backstage at the Globes, when Wright was congratulated on all her news, she said, “I’m shocked right now. Don’t know what’s going on exactly. It’s so new. We’re still talking about where, when, how. And I couldn’t be happier.”

    –Additional reporting by Katie Atkinson

  • Netflix’s ‘House Of Cards’ Releases Season 2 Trailer, Key Art

    By NELLIE ANDREEVA | Monday January 6, 2014 @ 7:29am PST

    Here is a full-length trailer and the key art for the upcoming second season of Netflix‘s Washington drama House Of Cards. In it, Francis (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) Underwood continue their ruthless rise to power as threats mount on all fronts. Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), an up-and-coming reporter and Francis’s former paramour, is inching closer to the truth about his crimes. President Walker’s (Michel Gill) billionaire confidante Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney) demands that Francis reciprocate political favors or face retribution. And Claire must confront the increasing glare of the spotlight as it eats away at her and Francis’s once private existence. The entire Season 2 will be available on February 14.

  • Golden Globes TV: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’, ‘House Of Cards’ & ‘Masters Of Sex’ Lead Pack Of Newcomers As Old Favorites Fall

    By NELLIE ANDREEVA | Thursday December 12, 2013 @ 8:34am PST

    The Hollywood Foreign Press are a fickle crowd — one day you may be in and winning by a landslide, the next day you are out. Showtime’s Homeland learned that this morning. The Golden Globes was the first major awards show to recognize the Showtime drama two years when it was tied for most nominations, 3, winning for best drama series and best actress, Claire Danes. The thriller drama did one better last year, leading the TV pack with most noms, 4, and sweeping the top drama categories: best drama, best actress and best actor, Damian Lewis. But there is no trace of Homeland on the list of nominations this year as the dominant winner of the past two Golden Globes has been shut out. The same goes for another big drama performer at the Golden Globes, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, which won the best drama series trophy before Homeland in 2011. The HBO drama had scored at least two nominations every year, also winning for star Steve Buscemi in 2011, but was left out completely today.

    The Golden Globes again took upon its role of the biggest cheerleader of new broadcast series. No, they didn’t hand a best drama series nomination to a freshman — extending first-year broadcast dramas’ drought in the category to seven years. But they still recognized broadcast’s freshman class, which had been completely ignored by the WGA and the SAG Awards. That includes best comedy series and comedy actor nominations for Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and star Andy Samberg; best comedy actor nom for Michael J. Fox, star of his struggling eponymous sitcom on NBC; and best drama actor for James Spader for hit new NBC drama The Blacklist. But the broadcast networks again fell short of unseating cable from the top of the network rankings. Premium cable and digital were dominant this year. Fueled by longform, HBO was once again No. 1 with 9 noms, followed by the two other pay cable networks, Showtime and Starz, and digital upstart Netflix with six each. But it was a broadcast net, CBS, that landed the only multiple best series nominations — for comedy The Big Bang Theory and drama The Good Wife.

    Almost all buzzy cable/digital 2013 newcomers (sans FX’s The Americans) got a notice by the HFPA, with Netflix’s House Of Cards leading the way with four nominations including best drama series; Showtime’s Masters Of Sex landing nominations for best drama and best actor, Michael Sheen (but no Lizzy Caplan?!); and fellow Showtime newcomer Ray Donovan nominated for star Liev Schreiber and co-star Jon Voight. Two breakout performances by young actresses are getting first major award recognition, Tatiana Maslany of BBC America’s Orphan Black and Taylor Schilling of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black. They are part of an overhauled best drama actress field which includes only one returning nominee, 2010 winner Julianna Margulies. The other first-timers are Kerry Washington for ABC’s Scandal and House Of Cards‘ Robin Wright. Things are mirrored on the male side with only one holdover, Bryan Cranston of AMC’s Breaking Bad, joined by Schreiber, Sheen, Spader and House Of Cards‘ Kevin Spacey. The Newsroom‘s Jeff Daniels, who landed a Golden Globe nomination last year and followed up with a surprise Emmy win, has been left out, along with Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, who scored the AMC drama’s only nomination last year. The series’ tally went to zero this year. Also left out completely for a second straight year: HBO’s Game Of Thrones.

    Things were a tad more stable in the best comedy actor category, with last year’s winner Don Cheadle of House Of Lies and 2011 winner Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory as the two to make it back, joined by Jason Bateman of Netflix’s Arrested Development (he was nominated in 2005 when the show was on Fox), Fox and Samberg.

    Compare that to the best actress in a comedy series, which has been stagnant for a while. Four of the five nominees are repeat ones (and favorites of the HFPA): last year’s winner Lena Dunham of HBO’s Girls; Zooey Deschanel of Fox’s New Girl; Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is yet to win a Globe for HBO’s Veep; and Amy Poehler of NBC’s Parks & Recreation who is co-hosting the ceremony. (Her show also is nominated for best comedy series.) With Poehler’s co-host, Tina Fey, out of contention since 30 Rock ended its run, her spot was taken by another former nominee, Edie Falco of Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.
    While Golden Globes love to be the first to recognize a series that would go on to become a pop culture phenomenon, like they did with HBO’s Sex And The City and The Sopranos, they missed the boat on AMC’s Breaking Bad, which is yet to score a Globe after three nominations for Cranston and one for the show. HFPA has one last chance to rectify that as both the show and Cranston, along with first-time nominee Aaron Paul, are nominated for the hit drama’s final installment.

    CBS’ The Good Wife continues to garner accolades for its strong fifth season. Today it landed its first best drama series Golden Globe nomination and its most Globes noms ever, three, including a mention for co-star Josh Charles. It is one of three newcomers in the best drama series field, along with House Of Cards and Masters Of Sex, joining last year’s nominees Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey. Unlike the shake-up on the drama side where best series winner for the last two years, Homeland, is out, things are far more stable in comedy, where the last two best series winners, Girls and ABC’s Modern Family, are back, along with CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, joined by Brooklyn and Parks & Rec in its first showing in the category.

    Like it did at the Emmys, HBO’s Behind The Candelabra will likely win big, tying House Of Cards today for most nominations including best movie/miniseries, best actor, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, and best supporting actor, Rob Lowe. A curious development in the top longform category, traditionally dominated by HBO — it was Starz, not HBO, that had the most entries (2) in the category, imports White Queen and Dancing On The Edge. HBO’s Emmy-winning Behind The Candelabra is still the 800 lb. gorilla in the field, which also includes FX’s American Horror Story: Coven and Sundance’s Top Of The Lake.

    Did HFPA try to confuse people with identical entries in best actor in a movie and TV movie? Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor will be squaring off in two categories, best actor in a motion picture-drama (for Mandela and 12 Years A Slave) and best actor in a TV movie/miniseries (Luther, Dancing On The Edge), respectively.

    Finally, a portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor in a TV movie about Taylor’s romance with Richard Burton made it to the awards circuit. No need for Lindsay Lohan to start preparing an acceptance speech though — it was Helena Bonham Carter for the BBC film.

  • Netflix's 'House of Cards' earns four Golden Globe nominations


    By Chris Welch on December 12, 2013 10:18 am

    Awards season is looking good for House of Cards; after the Netflix-exclusive show made history by winning three Emmy awards in September, it's now been nominated for four Golden Globes. It's up for best drama series, competing against Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, The Good Wife, and Masters of Sex for the honor. Lead stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright have each received acting nominations for their critically acclaimed performances. Wright will square off against Orange is the New Black's Taylor Schilling and others for the best actress in a drama series award. Corey Stole — who appears throughout the first season as Rep. Peter Russo — rounds out the nominations with a nod for best supporting actor. House of Cards tops all other TV shows with its four nominations. The series is due to return for a second season on February 14th.

  • AFI Awards 2013: ‘Orange Is The New Black’, ‘Masters Of Sex’, ‘House Of Cards’ Among Top 10 TV Programs, ‘Homeland’ & ‘Modern Family’ Out

    BY NELLIE ANDREEVA | Monday December 9, 2013 @ 12:00pm PST

    There are no hard rules for AFI‘s list of Top 10 programs of the year as the film institute tends to mix critical darlings with crowd pleasers, series, miniseries and TV movies. (Cable ratings juggernauts The Walking Dead and American Horror Story: Asylum made the AFI Awards list last year, along with the HBO movie Game Change). No longform entries on this year’s list, which features one major surprise — the omission of ABC’s Emmy-winning Modern Family, which had been among AFI’s Top 10 programs each of the past four years. Also MIA this season is Showtime’s drama Homeland, which made the cut the last two years. This is the most drama-heavy AFI list I can remember, with only one half-hour series, HBO’s Veep. (Netflix’s hourlong Orange Is The New Black was nominated as a comedy by the WGA but is competing as a drama for the Golden Globes and the Emmys.)

    The guilty pleasure on the roster is ABC’s hot sophomore drama Scandal, landing its first major best series awards recognition. The rest of the series have been in top awards consideration and received WGA noms last week, with the exception Game Of Thrones, which was not in the running due to a submission error. Returning from last year are Game Of Thrones, Emmy winner Breaking Bad and Mad Men.

    Here is the full list:


  • ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ ‘House of Cards’ Earn WGA Awards Noms in TV

    December 5, 2013 | 10:05AM PT
    Jon Weisman
    Senior Editor

    “Orange Is the New Black” received four nominations and “House of Cards” three for the WGA Awards in television, which will be presented Feb. 1.

    The digitally distributed Netflix series were announced in July as eligible by the WGA. “Orange Is the New Black” earned noms for top comedy series and top new series as well as two in the episodic comedy category, for the pilot teleplay by Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan and a subsequent episode by Sian Heder.

    “House of Cards” was nominated for top drama series and top new series and also received an episodic drama nomination for Beau Willimon.

    Also nominated in the drama series category were AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” Showtime’s “Homeland” and CBS’ “The Good Wife,” which was the only broadcast network show to garner mentions in the drama categories. For comedy series, the other nominees were NBC’s “30 Rock,” ABC’s “Modern Family,” NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and HBO’s “Veep.”

    The three remaining nominations for new series were FX’s “The Americans,” Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and “Ray Donovan.”

    In addition to its drama series nomination (a category that the show has won two straight years), “Breaking Bad” scored half of the six noms in episodic drama, for Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchinson and Peter Gould. Other episodic drama noms went to “The Good Wife” (Robert King and Michelle King) and “Masters of Sex” (Michelle Ashford).

    “Modern Family” matched “Orange” with two episodic comedy nominations, for Paul Corrigan & Brad Walsh and for Elaine Ko. The others went to Michael Schur and Alan Yang for “Parks and Recreation” and to Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock for “30 Rock.”

    Among the series not receiving WGA nods were “Arrested Development,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Game of Thrones,” “Girls,” “Louie,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Walking Dead.” Last year, “Louie” won best comedy series, while “Girls” won for best new series.

    Nominated for WGA awards in comedy/variety (including talk) were “The Colbert Report,” “Conan,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Portlandia” and “Saturday Night Live.”

    Six animation nominations were split evenly among “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” Two projects were nominated for WGA honors in adapted longform: “Killing Kennedy” (Kelly Masterson) and “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” (Shawn Slovo). Though submissions were received in original longform, the WGA said none were nominated in a category won last time by “Hatfields & McCoys.”



    Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC

    The Good Wife, Written by Meredith Averill, Leonard Dick, Keith Eisner, Jacqueline Hoyt, Ted Humphrey, Michelle King, Robert King, Erica Shelton Kodish, Matthew Montoya, J.C. Nolan, Luke Schelhaas, Nichelle Tramble Spellman, Craig Turk, Julie Wolfe; CBS

    Homeland, Written by Henry Bromell, William E. Bromell, Alexander Cary, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Barbara Hall, Patrick Harbinson, Chip Johannessen, Meredith Stiehm, Charlotte Stoudt, James Yoshimura; Showtime

    House of Cards, Written by Kate Barnow, Rick Cleveland, Sam Forman, Gina Gionfriddo, Keith Huff, Sarah Treem, Beau Willimon; Netflix

    Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Semi Chellas, Jason Grote, Jonathan Igla, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Janet Leahy, Erin Levy, Michael Saltzman, Tom Smuts, Matthew Weiner, Carly Wray; AMC


    30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Robert Carlock, Tom Ceraulo, Luke Del Tredici, Tina Fey, Lang Fisher, Matt Hubbard, Colleen McGuinness, Sam Means, Dylan Morgan, Nina Pedrad, Josh Siegal, Tracey Wigfield; NBC

    Modern Family, Written by Paul Corrigan, Bianca Douglas, Megan Ganz, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Becky Mann, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Audra Sielaff, Emily Spivey, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker; ABC

    Parks and Recreation, Written by Megan Amram, Donick Cary, Greg Daniels, Nate DiMeo, Emma Fletcher, Rachna Fruchbom, Daniel J. Goor, Norm Hiscock, Matt Hubbard, Dave King, Greg Levine, Joe Mande, Sam Means, Aisha Muharrar, Matt Murray, Amy Poehler, Alexandra Rushfield, Michael Schur, Jen Statsky, Harris Wittels, Alan Yang; NBC

    Orange Is the New Black, Written by Liz Friedman, Sian Heder, Tara Herrmann, Sara Hess, Nick Jones, Jenji Kohan, Gary Lennon, Lauren Morelli, Marco Ramirez; Netflix

    Veep, Written by Simon Blackwell, Roger Drew, Sean Gray, Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin, Georgia Pritchett, David Quantick, Tony Roche, Will Smith; HBO


    The Americans, Written by Michael Batistick, Joshua Brand, Joel Fields, Melissa James Gibson, Sneha Koorse, Joe Weisberg, Bradford Winters; FX

    House of Cards, Written by Kate Barnow, Rick Cleveland, Sam Forman, Gina Gionfriddo, Keith Huff, Sarah Treem, Beau Willimon; Netflix

    Masters of Sex, Written by Michelle Ashford, Tyler Bensinger, Michael Cunningham, Lyn Greene, Richard Levine, Amy Lippman, Sam Shaw, Noelle Valdivia; Showtime

    Orange Is the New Black, Written by Liz Friedman, Sian Heder, Tara Herrmann, Sara Hess, Nick Jones, Jenji Kohan, Gary Lennon, Lauren Morelli, Marco Ramirez; Netflix

    Ray Donovan, Written by Ann Biderman, Sean Conway, David Hollander, Brett Johnson, Ron Nyswaner; Showtime


    “Buried” (Breaking Bad), Written by Thomas Schnauz; AMC

    “Confessions” (Breaking Bad), Written by Gennifer Hutchison; AMC

    “Episode 101” (House of Cards), Teleplay by Beau Willimon; Netflix

    “Granite State” (Breaking Bad), Written by Peter Gould; AMC

    “Hitting the Fan” (The Good Wife), Written by Robert King & Michelle King; CBS

    “Pilot” (Masters of Sex), Written by Michelle Ashford; Showtime


    “Career Day” (Modern Family), Written by Paul Corrigan & Brad Walsh; ABC

    “Farm Strong” (Modern Family), Written by Elaine Ko; ABC

    “Hogcock!” (30 Rock), Written by Jack Burditt & Robert Carlock; NBC

    “Lesbian Request Denied” (Orange Is the New Black), Written by Sian Heder; Netflix

    “Leslie and Ben” (Parks and Recreation), Written by Michael Schur & Alan Yang; NBC

    “Pilot” (Orange Is the New Black), Teleplay by Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan; Netflix


    Killing Kennedy, Written by Kelly Masterson, Based on the book by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard; National Geographic

    Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, Written by Shawn Slovo, Based on the book by Howard Bingham and Max Wallace; HBO


    “Episode 4: The Collected Sylvia” (Sylvia Plath: Girl Detective), Written by Mike Simses;

    “Episode 8” (Lauren, Season 2), Written by Jay Rodan;

    “I Do Over Part 1” (Husbands), Written by Bradley C. Bell & Jane Espenson;

    “I Do Over Part 2” (Husbands), Written by Bradley C. Bell & Jane Espenson;


    “A Test Before Trying” (The Simpsons), Written by Joel H. Cohen; Fox

    “Game of Tones” (Futurama), Written by Michael Rowe; Comedy Central

    “Hardly Kirk-ing” (The Simpsons), Written by Tom Gammill & Max Pross; Fox

    “Murder on the Planet Express” (Futurama), Written by Lew Morton; Comedy Central

    “Saturday Morning Fun Pit” (Futurama), Written by Patric M. Verrone; Comedy Central

    “Yolo” (The Simpsons), Written by Michael Nobori; Fox


    The Colbert Report, Writers: Stephen Colbert, Tom Purcell, Michael Brumm, Nate Charny, Rich Dahm, Paul Dinello, Eric Drysdale, Rob Dubbin, Glenn Eichler, Dan Guterman, Barry Julien, Jay Katsir, Frank Lesser, Opus Moreschi, Bobby Mort, Meredith Scardino, Max Werner; Comedy Central

    Conan, Writers: Jose Arroyo, Andres du Bouchet, Scott Chernoff, Deon Cole, Josh Comers, Dan Cronin, Scott Gairdner, Michael Gordon, Brian Kiley, Laurie Kilmartin, Rob Kutner, Todd Levin, Conan O’Brien, Matt O’Brien, Jesse Popp, Andy Richter, Brian Stack, Mike Sweeney; TBS

    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Head Writer: Tim Carvell Writers: Rory Albanese, Steve Bodow, Travon Free, Hallie Haglund, J.R. Havlan, Elliott Kalan, Matt Koff, Dan McCoy, Jo Miller, John Oliver, Zhubin Parang, Daniel Radosh, Jason Ross, Lauren Sarver, Jon Stewart; Comedy Central

    Jimmy Kimmel Live, Writers: Tony Barbieri, Jonathan Bines, Joelle Boucai, Gary Greenberg, Josh Halloway, Sal Iacono, Eric Immerman, Bess Kalb, Jimmy Kimmel, Jeff Loveness, Molly McNearney, Bryan Paulk, Danny Ricker, Rick Rosner; ABC

    Portlandia, Writers: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Jonathan Krisel, Bill Oakley; IFC

    Saturday Night Live, Head Writers: Seth Meyers, Colin Jost Writers: James Anderson, Alex Baze, Neil Casey, James Downey, Steve Higgins, Zach Kanin, Chris Kelly, Joe Kelly, Erik Kenward, Rob Klein, Lorne Michaels, John Mulaney, Mike O’Brien, Josh Patten, Paula Pell, Marika Sawyer, Sarah Schneider, Pete Schultz, John Solomon, Kent Sublette, Bryan Tucker; NBC Universal


    Blake Shelton’s Not So Family Christmas, Head Writers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts Writers: Alex Rubens, Charlie Sanders; NBC


    Jeopardy!, Written by John Duarte, Harry Friedman, Mark Gaberman, Debbie Griffin, Michele Loud, Robert McClenaghan, Jim Rhine, Steve D. Tamerius, Billy Wisse; ABC


    Days of Our Lives, Written by Lorraine Broderick, David Cherrill, Carolyn Culliton, Richard Culliton, Rick Draughon, Christopher Dunn, Janet Iacobuzio, David A. Levinson, Ryan Quan, Dave Ryan, Melissa Salmons, Christopher J. Whitesell; NBC

    General Hospital, Written by Michelle Altman, Ron Carlivati, Anna Theresa Cascio, Suzanne Flynn, Kate Hall, Elizabeth Korte, Daniel James O’Connor, Jean Passanante, Elizabeth Page, Katherine Schock, Scott Sickles, Chris Van Etten; ABC

    The Young and the Restless, Associate Head Writers: Shelly Altman, Tracey Thomson Written by Amanda Beall, Jeff Beldner, Brent Boyd, Susan Dansby, Janice Ferri Esser, Jay Gibson, Beth Milstein, Lisa Seidman, Natalie Minardi Slater, Anne Schoettle, Linda Schreiber, Teresa Zimmerman; CBS


    “influANTces” (A.N.T. Farm), Written by Vincent Brown; Disney Channel

    “The Haunted Cave” (Spooksville), Written by Jim Krieg; Hub Network

    “Simon Says” (Sesame Street), Written by Christine Ferraro; PBS


    “Cliffhanger” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk & Mike Wiser; PBS

    “Egypt in Crisis” (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria & Martin Smith; PBS


    “The Abolitionists” (American Experience), Written by Rob Rapley; PBS

    “The Choice 2012” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk; PBS

    “Episode 1” (The Dust Bowl), Written by Dayton Duncan; PBS

    “Silicon Valley” (American Experience), Telescript by Randall MacLowry and Michelle Ferrari; Story by Randall MacLowry; PBS


    “The Election of Pope Francis” (CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley), Written by Jerry Cipriano, Joe Clines and Scott Pelley; CBS

    “The Fall of Lance Armstrong” (60 Minutes), Written by Michael Radutzky, Michael Rey, Oriana Zill de Granados; CBS

    “The Inauguration of the President” (CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley), Written by Jerry Cipriano and Joe Clines; CBS

    “Tragedy at Newtown” Special Edition (ABC World News with Diane Sawyer), Written by Lisa Ferri and Matt Negrin; ABC


    “Lethal Medicine” (60 Minutes), Written by Michael Rey, Oriana Zill de Granados, Michael Radutzky; CBS

    “Throwback Thursday – Happy Birthday, Michael Jackson” (ABC World News Now), Written by Matt Nelko; ABC

    “Vinyl Revival’ (CBS News), Written by Polly Leider; CBS



    “2012 Year in Review,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News


    “Afternoon Drive,” Written by Bill Spadaro; CBS Radio/1010 WINS

    “George McGovern: A Look Back,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News


    “Remembering C. Everett Koop,” Written by Scott Saloway; CBS Radio News

    “Remembrances,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News

    “Tributes,” Written by Thomas A. Sabella; CBS Radio News



    “48 Hours: 2013 Fall Preview,” Written by Jay Pedinoff; CBS News Marketing

    “The Crazy Ones – Building a Better Comedy,” Written by Erial Tompkins; CBS


    CBS News Animations: “Brain Injury,” “Pills,” “Bionic Leg,” “Midland Parade,” “Concordia Salvage;” Animation by David Rosen; CBS News

    *Editor’s Note: There were no nominees in Long Form – Original, Short Form New Media – Adapted, or Children’s – Long Form or Special awards categories this year.

  • PGA Awards Unveils TV Nominees

    The Producers Guild of America announced today the Television Series/Specials and Digital Series nominees that will advance in the voting process for the 25th annual PGA Awards. Nominees for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama are Breaking Bad (AMC), Downton Abbey (ITV-United Kingdom; PBS-U.S.), Game Of Thrones (HBO), Homeland (Showtime) and House Of Cards (Netflix). Nominees for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy are 30 Rock (NBC), Arrested Development (Netflix) pending eligibility, The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Modern Family (ABC) and Veep (HBO). All other nominations for the categories will be announced January 2, along with the names of the eligible producers for the nominated documentary motion pictures. Winners will be announced January 19 at the Beverly Hilton. Here’s the complete list of TV nominees:

    The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:

    Breaking Bad (AMC)
    Producers: Melissa Bernstein, Sam Catlin, Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Stewart Lyons, Michelle MacLaren, George Mastras, Diane Mercer, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett

    Downton Abbey (ITV – United Kingdom; PBS – United States)
    Producers: Julian Fellowes, Nigel Marchant, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge

    Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger, Bernadette Caulfield, Christopher Newman, Greg Spence

    Homeland (Showtime)
    Producers: Alex Gansa, Michael Cuesta, Alexander Cary, Henry Bromell, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Meredith Stiehm, Michael Klick

    House of Cards (Netflix)
    Producers: Karyn McCarthy, Beau Willimon, John Melfi, Kevin Spacey, Joshua Donen, Eric Roth, David Fincher

    The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:

    30 Rock (NBC)
    Producers: Jack Burditt, Robert Carlock, Luke Del Tredici , Tina Fey, Matt Hubbard , Marci Klein, Jerry Kupfer , Colleen McGuinness, Lorne Michaels, David Miner, Dylan Morgan , Jeff Richmond , Josh Siegal, Tracey Wigfield

    Arrested Development (Netflix) – Pending Eligibility

    Big Bang Theory, The (CBS)
    Producers: Bill Prady, Chuck Lorre, Steve Molaro, Faye Oshima Belyeu

    Modern Family (ABC)
    Producers: Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker

    VEEP (HBO)
    Producers: Simon Blackwell, Christopher Godsick, Armando Iannucci, Stephanie Laing, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Frank Rich, Tony Roche

    The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:

    30 for 30 (ESPN) – Pending Eligibility

    Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)
    Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig

    Duck Dynasty (A&E) – Pending Eligibility

    Inside The Actors Studio (Bravo)
    Oroducers: James Lipton, Shawn Tesser, Jeff Wurtz

    Shark Tank (ABC) – Pending Eligibility

    The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:

    Amazing Race, The (CBS)
    Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster, Mark A. Vertullo

    Dancing With The Stars (ABC)
    Producers: Ashley Edens-Shaffer, Conrad Green, Joe Sungkur

    Project Runway (Lifetime) – Pending Eligibility

    Top Chef (Bravo)
    Producers: Daniel Cutforth, Nan Strait, Jane Lipsitz, Casey Kriley, Tom Colicchio, Andrew Wallace, Erica Ross

    Voice, The (NBC)
    Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Nicolle Yaron, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker

    The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:

    Colbert Report, The (Comedy Central)
    Producers: Meredith Bennett, Stephen T. Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart

    Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) – Pending Eligibility

    Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
    Producers: Michael Shoemaker, Lorne Michaels, Gavin Purcell, Hillary Hunn

    Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)
    Producers: Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Dean Johnsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin, Matt Wood

    Saturday Night Live (NBC)
    Producers: Ken Aymong, Erin Doyle, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lorne Michaels, Lindsay Shookus

    The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:

    24/7 (HBO)

    Hard Knocks (HBO)

    Monday Night Football (ESPN)

    Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel (HBO)

    SportsCenter (ESPN)

    The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:

    Dora the Explorer (Nickelodeon)

    iCarly (Nickelodeon)

    Phineas and Ferb (Disney Channel)

    Sesame Street (Sprout)

    SpongeBob Squarepants (Nickelodeon)

    The nominees of the Award for Outstanding Digital Series are listed below in alphabetical order:

    Burning Love (

    Epic Rap Battles of History (

    Lizzie Bennet Diaries, The (

    Video Game High School (

    Wired: What’s Inside (

  • ‘Breaking Bad’ to Fight ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘House of Cards’ in PGA Awards’ TV Categories

    HBO earned the most nominations with six

    The producers of “Breaking Bad” can extend their victory lap into next year at the Producers’ Guild Awards, which unveiled its slate of nominees for TV series, specials and digital series Tuesday.

    The guild will announce its nominees for the film categories in January, and the show will take place Jan. 19 at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

    “Breaking Bad,” which wrapped its final season this fall and then won the Emmy’s top dramatic prize, is one of five nominees for The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama. Other nominees include “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland” and “House of Cards.”

    “House of Cards” earned Netflix one of its two nominations, as the latest season of “Arrested Development” is one of five nominees on the comedy side. Broadcast TV got a little more love from the guild in that category, as NBC’s “30 Rock,” CBS’ “The Big Bany Theory” and ABC’s “Modern Family” all scored nominations.

    HBO earned the most nominations of any network with six.

    Half of those nominations came in the sports program category, where its “24/7,” “Hard Knocks” and “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” will face off against a pair of ESPN programs, “SportsCenter” and “Monday Night Football.”

    The PGA will also be honoring one digital series. The five nominees in that category are “Burning Love,” “Epic Rap Battles of History,” “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” “Video Game High School” and “Wired: What’s Inside.”

    The full list of nominees is below, and those with “pending eligibility” are waiting to hear which of their producers will receive nominations.

    The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:

    Ø Breaking Bad (AMC)

    Producers: Melissa Bernstein, Sam Catlin, Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Stewart Lyons, Michelle MacLaren, George Mastras, Diane Mercer, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett

    Ø Downton Abbey (ITV – United Kingdom; PBS – United States)

    Producers: Julian Fellowes, Nigel Marchant, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge

    Ø Game of Thrones (HBO)

    Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger, Bernadette Caulfield, Christopher Newman, Greg Spence

    Ø Homeland (Showtime)

    Producers: Alex Gansa, Michael Cuesta, Alexander Cary, Henry Bromell, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Meredith Stiehm, Michael Klick

    Ø House of Cards (Netflix)

    Producers: Karyn McCarthy, Beau Willimon, John Melfi, Kevin Spacey, Joshua Donen, Eric Roth, David Fincher

    The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:

    Ø 30 Rock (NBC)

    Producers: Jack Burditt, Robert Carlock, Luke Del Tredici , Tina Fey, Matt Hubbard , Marci Klein, Jerry Kupfer , Colleen McGuinness, Lorne Michaels, David Miner, Dylan Morgan , Jeff Richmond , Josh Siegal, Tracey Wigfield

    Ø Arrested Development (Netflix) – Pending Eligibility

    Ø Big Bang Theory, The (CBS)

    Producers: Bill Prady, Chucke Lorre, Steve Molaro, Faye Oshima Belyeu

    Ø Modern Family (ABC)

    Producers: Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker

    Ø VEEP (HBO)

    Producers: Simon Blackwell, Christopher Godsick, Armando Iannucci, Stephanie Laing, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Frank Rich, Tony Roche

    The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:

    Ø 30 for 30 (ESPN) – Pending Eligibility

    Ø Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)

    Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig

    Ø Duck Dynasty (A&E) – Pending Eligibility

    Ø Inside The Actors Studio (Bravo)

    Producers: James Lipton, Shawn Tesser, Jeff Wurtz

    Ø Shark Tank (ABC) – Pending Eligibility

    The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:

    Ø Amazing Race, The (CBS)

    Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster, Mark A. Vertullo

    Ø Dancing With The Stars (ABC)

    Producers: Ashley Edens-Shaffer, Conrad Green, Joe Sungkur

    Ø Project Runway (Lifetime) – Pending Eligibility

    Ø Top Chef (Bravo)

    Producers: Daniel Cutforth, Nan Strait, Jane Lipsitz, Casey Kriley, Tom Colicchio, Andrew Wallace, Erica Ross

    Ø Voice, The (NBC)

    Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Nicolle Yaron, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker

    The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:

    Ø Colbert Report, The (Comedy Central)

    Producers: Meredith Bennett, Stephen T. Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart

    Ø Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) – Pending Eligibility

    Ø Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)

    Producers: Michael Shoemaker, Lorne Michaels, Gavin Purcell, Hillary Hunn

    Ø Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)

    Producers: Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Dean Johnsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin, Matt Wood

    Ø Saturday Night Live (NBC)

    Producers: Ken Aymong, Erin Doyle, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lorne Michaels, Lindsay Shookus

    The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:

    Ø 24/7 (HBO)

    Ø Hard Knocks (HBO)

    Ø Monday Night Football (ESPN)

    Ø Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel (HBO)

    Ø SportsCenter (ESPN)

    The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:

    Ø Dora the Explorer (Nickelodeon)

    Ø iCarly (Nickelodeon)

    Ø Phineas and Ferb (Disney Channel)

    Ø Sesame Street (Sprout)

    Ø SpongeBob Squarepants (Nickelodeon)

    The nominees of the Award for Outstanding Digital Series are listed below in alphabetical order:

    Ø Burning Love (

    Ø Epic Rap Battles of History (

    Ø Lizzie Bennet Diaries, The (

    Ø Video Game High School (

    Ø Wired: What’s Inside (

  • Ted 2 Gets a Release Date

    After becoming the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy in history, earning a staggering $550 million worldwide, Ted is ready for its second spotlight. Universal has scheduled its sequel (hopefully titled Ted 2: The Tedening) for June 26, 2015. A whole lot of high school juniors just figured out how they're going to celebrate graduation.

  • Netflix Makes History With Two Primetime Creative Arts Emmy® Awards

    LOS ANGELES, Sept. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

    Netflix (NFLX) makes history, garnering two Primetime Creative Arts Emmy® Awards' for its lauded series "House of Cards," including Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series and Outstanding Cinematography for a Single Camera Series. This marks the first win in a major Primetime Creative Arts category for non-linear programming. The 2013 Awards were held on Sunday, September 15th at the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles. A two-hour, edited presentation will air Saturday, September 21st at 9:00 PM (ET/PT) on FXX, with an encore airing at 12:00 AM (ET/PT).

    "We are so proud that both Casting and Cinematography were recognized with these historic Emmy wins for 'House of Cards' and Netflix," said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix. "Laray Mayfield, Julie Schubert & Eigil Bryld's work was truly exquisite, and the Academy's acknowledgement for their work is richly deserved."

    Following are Netflix Original Series wins for the 2013 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy® Awards:

    Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
    House of Cards - Netflix - Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions, Inc. in association with Media Rights Capital for Netflix
    Laray Mayfield, CSA, Casting Director
    Julie Schubert, CSA, Casting Director

    Outstanding Cinematography for a Single Camera Series
    House of Cards - Chapter 1 - Netflix - Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions, Inc. in association with Media Rights Capital for Netflix
    Eigil Bryld, Director of Photography

  • Sony, MRC Team On ‘Chappie,’ Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ Followup

    Sony has kept Neill Blomkamp in the fold, making a deal with Media Rights Capital to co-produce, co-finance and distribute his next film, called Chappie. Blomkamp will direct the script he wrote with Terri Tatchell. He will also produce the film with Simon Kinberg. Production begins this fall. Chappie tells the story of a robot imbued with artificial intelligence who is stolen by two local gangsters who want to use him for their own nefarious purposes. Sharlto Copley, star of Blomkamp’s District 9 and Elysium, will voice the robot. Ninja and Yolandi Visser, voices of the South African Zef counter-culture movement and members of rap-rave duo Die Antwoord, will play the gangsters.

    Said production president Doug Belgrad: “We’re huge fans of Neill Blomkamp – it’s a real thrill to be continuing our relationship with such a visionary and important filmmaker. Neill has proven that he is a true original voice and we expect that Chappie will strike a chord with worldwide audiences in the same way that District 9 and Elysium have. We love the script he and Terri have written and we’re looking forward to working again with our friends at MRC.”

  • The Worst Is Yet to Come

    ‘Elysium’ Sends Matt Damon Into a Dystopian Future

    Not since Charlton Heston struggled to save humanity from itself have movies looked this grimly, resolutely fatalistic. The man who was Moses began fighting the fantasy good fight in 1968, battling damn dirty apes in “Planet of the Apes,” before going on to face zombie hordes in “Omega Man” and an overpopulated nightmare in “Soylent Green.” (Psst: It’s people!) Heston may be gone, but the zombie hordes have kept coming, along with other new and unusual annihilating threats, and now it’s back to the dystopian future with “Elysium,” a cautionary shocker from the director Neill Blomkamp about a Hobbesian war of all against all from which only Matt Damon can save us.

    Mr. Damon plays Max, an Everyman living, though often just struggling, in 2154 amid the devastation known as Earth. Mr. Blomkamp knows how to set the stage and, as cameras race over the wreckage like vengeful or fleeing angels, taking in the digitally rendered horrors and real locations, some introductory text explains the basics. Disease, poverty and overpopulation — and, from the churning dust, presumably ecological ruin — have transformed the planet into a global ghetto. While the multicultural many crawl through the terrestrial dirt, the privileged few live in the ultimate gated community, a wheel-shaped space habitat, Elysium, that brings to mind an orbital Mercedes-Benz logo. Up close, it looks like one of the costlier coastal swatches of Southern California.

    Mr. Blomkamp, who made a splash with his 2009 feature debut, “District 9,” has a talent for making the old and familiar seem excitingly new. As he has before, he again uses real locations to suggest the impending worst, with areas in Mexico City here standing in for 2154 Los Angeles. (Parts of Vancouver double for Elysium.) Pauline Kael once called Los Angeles the fantasy-brothel, “you can live any way you want (except the urban way),” but for years, the city has also served as a reliable nightmare, more roach motel than brothel: Sure, you can get in, but good luck getting out. That this tends to say more about how some filmmakers see the movie industry should go without saying.

    For his part, the 33-year-old Mr. Blomkamp hasn’t been around long enough to bite the hand feeding him. And while he has a talent for visualizing the worst (apparently a big-studio directorial prerequisite these days), he brings a light touch and jokes to the ugliest proceedings. Even Max’s ghetto doesn’t seem especially awful. He may live in a home that’s a dump by haute Hollywood standards, but it looks far better than the cardboard and corrugated-metal houses crowding the poorer regions of so many of the real world’s megalopolises. The mob of children who swarm him on his way to work greet him with giggles not desperation, while his friend, Julio (a sweet Diego Luna in fetching braids), offers camaraderie and some back story when he asks for Max’s help with a robbery.

    A reformed thief with tattoos riding up his neck, Max now labors in a factory that manufactures the robots that police the masses and, shades of “The Jetsons” and Philip K. Dick, serve the Elysium elite. That the robots appear to have it easier than the humans stuck on Earth is one of the bitter truths that Mr. Blomkamp deploys as he begins filling in the story. He’s better with some big-picture details: On Earth, folks speak English and Spanish (Max switches between both), while on Elysium, the well-heeled drop a little French in between exchanging pleasantries and exercising their privilege. The apotheosis of their Elysium entitlement, and a crucial emblem of the divide between the haves and the have-nots, are home-wellness machines that, by rescrambling atoms, eradicate disease almost instantaneously.

    The movie gets going after Max receives a lethal dose of radiation, sending him on a mission of self-preservation. “I don’t want to die,” he says, voicing the fear of extinction behind all dystopian fiction. His mission grows exponentially weightier when, in an effort to cure himself, he joins up with a smuggler, Spider (Wagner Moura, fantastic). A high-tech coyote, if one still using a notebook computer, Spider agrees to send Max to Elysium illegally on the condition that he steal information from the head, literally, of an industrialist (the dependably good William Fichtner in full slither mode). The would-be brain-jacking goes wrong, sending Max deeper into trouble, pushed one way by a love interest (Alice Braga) and pulled another by Elysium villains (Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley).

    Putting the world in Mr. Damon’s hands is as smart as making him the star of a big special-effects fantasia. At once preternaturally boyish and middle aged (he’s 42), Mr. Damon has become the greatest utility player in movies: No one can better vault across rooftops and in and out of genres and make you care greatly if he falls. He’s so homespun that he could have sprung wholly formed from a corn silo (he shares James Stewart’s extraordinary likability if not his later-life, postwar neurotic edge). But it’s the ease and sincerity with which Mr. Damon conveys moral decency — so that it feels as if it originates from deep within rather than from, say, God or country — that helps make him a strikingly contemporary ideal of what used to be regularly called the American character.

    That character is crucial to making “Elysium” work as well as it does for the simple reason that Mr. Damon’s performance helps keep the movie from sinking under the weight of its artfully constructed horrors. Much as he did in “District 9,” a wobbly political allegory about crustaceanlike E.T.’s subjected to apartheid abuse in South Africa, Mr. Blomkamp builds on real catastrophes to create an admonitory tale. This is one of the axiomatic constructs of science fiction, which makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar, whether it’s the dark, rainy Los Angeles of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” or a Europe that foreshadows that of World War II in H. G. Wells’s 1933 novel, “The Shape of Things to Come” (which three years later became the film “Things to Come”).

    “Elysium” owes something to “The Shape of Things to Come,” in which Wells, writing amid a worldwide depression, envisions a disastrously fallen Earth saved by “an intelligent minority” that abolishes warring sovereign nations in favor of a world government. However disquieting his technocratic remedy for what ailed his times, Wells meets the imaginative worst with a speculative resolution. In other words, he suggests an answer, something that has become scarce in the ravaged landscapes of many science-fiction movies. Mr. Blomkamp’s rendering of Elysium as a McMansion-studded suburb is amusing (it owes much to a space haven designed in 1975 by NASA and Stanford University), but its banality is further evidence of how difficult Utopian visions, even caricatures like this one, have become for filmmakers to imagine.

    Like many others working the industrial genre beat, Mr. Blomkamp turns out to be much better at blowing things up than putting the shattered pieces together, though this may also be a matter of box-office calculation. The beginning of “Elysium” comes on like gangbusters, and at first it’s fun to be swept up in a movie like this, riding shotgun with the swooping camera moves and feeling the dread creep in with each of the score’s brassy blares (harbingers of doom like those in “Inception”). As the weapons start firing and the blood begins running, it’s hard not to wonder, though, if it’s Mr. Blomkamp who couldn’t find a genuinely fresh exit strategy or whether, as this summer’s screen conflagrations suggest, it’s the big studios that have given up on Utopia.

  • 'Elysium': Classy Class Warfare

    One smart-as-a-whip sci-fi thriller does not a summer make, but "Elysium" is good enough to suggest that the cyborgs of Hollywood have not, in fact, risen up and taken over. Starring Matt Damon in extra muscles and a shaven skull, it contains enough hardware for all the Home Depots of the future, and an atmosphere of grimy oppression one can almost taste.

    Futuristic science fiction is inherently political; very few "preapocalyptic" fantasies make their way to the mall, because the question behind all the speculative fiction is: How badly are we going to screw things up? Rather badly, judging by "Elysium," the work of the South African-born writer-director Neill Blomkamp. In 2009, he made sci-fi fans out of the otherwise allergic with "District 9," an electric parable that wore its antiapartheid sentiments on its sleeve. That apartheid had been abolished 15 years earlier didn't make the film feel any less urgent.

    In "Elysium," Mr. Blomkamp is again applying the here and now to the then and there, but in less vaguely allegorical terms. In fact, his terms are obvious, and his agenda progressive-cum-socialist.

    The year is 2154. A dusty, rusted, wasted Earth has become the despoiled home of the have-nots; the haves are in residence aboard a wagon-wheel-shaped space station named for the Elysian Fields of the ancients Greeks, the inside of which looks like Beverly Hills with better gardening and where each home is equipped with a medical pod designed to cure everything from mosquito bites to leukemia. Max (Mr. Damon), an ex-youthful ex-offender trying to toe the dictatorial line at his robot-factory job, is exposed to lethal radiation, given some painkillers, and told to go home and die. He opts to join a plan to breach Elysium, and liberate health care for the masses below.

    Mr. Damon brings both a weary optimism and convincing physicality to Max, who is no revolutionary. He just wants to live, and is willing to don an exoskeletal combat suit and fight robots to do it. Mr. Damon is surrounded by first-rate supporting actors who have been freed by Mr. Blomkamp from the usual expectations—notably William Fichtner, who can play sleazy weasels in his sleep but here brings a very subtle characterization to the loathsome John Carlyle, who carries the keys to Elysian security in his head—a space Max is going to vacuum clean once he gets past Carlyle's armored guard.

    And there's the terrifying Jodie Foster as Elysium's defense secretary, Delacourt, who seems willing to stop at nothing to protect Elysian privilege, including blowing children out of the skies. She says she'll do it. And you believe her.

  • In ‘Elysium,’ Matt Damon storms the ultimate gated community


    With “Elysium,” a nightmarish action thriller set in an apocalyptic future, South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp proves that he’s the reigning master of dystopian political allegory. In his stunning 2009 debut, “District 9,” he used a similarly downbeat sci-fi story as a wildly imaginative allegory for his country’s apartheid past and its present-day artifacts. “Elysium” doesn’t pack nearly the same startling punch, and its political agenda is far more ham-handed, but Blomkamp shows that, along with such contemporaries as Rian Johnson (“Looper”) and Duncan Jones (“Moon,” “Source Code”), he’s part of an innovative generation breathing new life into a time-honored genre.

    Set in 2154, “Elysium” takes place in Los Angeles, a polluted, overpopulated, chaotic police state run by greedy corporate interests and ruthless robo-cops, and where an ex-
    convict named Max (Matt Damon) works in a factory making the armed metallic thugs who routinely oppress him. With his head shaven to a cue-ball sheen, his body covered in tattoos and his ankle encased in a low-jack, Damon all but abandons his clean-cut image to play a buff, cynical anti-hero. When Max is sent on a mission to Elysium, an elite satellite compound that whirls like a seductive giant hood ornament hundreds of miles from ravaged Earth, it’s not to save mankind but to save himself.

    Not surprisingly, Max’s tough-guy reserve will crack, in this instance after an encounter with his childhood love, played by Alice Braga. And, once he’s outfitted with a set of computerized armor in a gruesomely graphic sequence set in a human chop shop, Max becomes something of a super-anti-hero — a one-man intra-galactic Dream Act who promises to open up the wealth, serenity and cure-all health-care system of the ultimate gated community for the huddled masses teeming below its airspace.

    To do that, he must conquer Elysium’s ice queen of a defense secretary, played by Jodie Foster with an indeterminate accent and stylish cool worthy of Christine Lagarde (even Foster’s wrist communicator is by Bulgari). And he must overpower her most deranged minion, a mercenary monster named Kruger, played by “District 9” star Sharlto Copley with manic touches of mean-spirited wit.

    As a commentary on contemporary wealth disparities, environmental degradation and immigration issues, “Elysium” is arguably too on-the-nose. Blomkamp’s admirable if obvious egalitarianism too often devolves into simplistic wish-fulfillment. Still, his formidable visual imagination is on full display in a movie that has spared nothing in persuasively bringing to life both an inhumane terrestrial world and the whirling gyre of protection and privilege above it. (Like “Pacific Rim” earlier this summer, “Elysium” features a distressed, scuffed-up version of the future, in which once-shiny machines are now rusty and covered with graffiti.)

    And, as in “District 9,” the filmmaker exhibits a strong penchant for blowing people’s heads off in liquid, Ralph Steadman-like blurs. A high-low tension runs through “Elysium,” not only in the narrative itself, but in Blomkamp’s own cinematic language, which can be lofty one moment and gleefully pulpy the next. If that juxtaposition isn’t quite as bracing as it was in “District 9,” Blomkamp is still clearly on his own mission: to bring new intelligence and even principles to bear on a genre too often dominated by banal cyborgs and recycled plots. The future he imagines may be grim, but the one he represents is full of promise.

  • 'Elysium' may beat 'Planes,' 'Millers,' 'Percy' at multiplex

    On a crowded box-office weekend, where four new films will fight for No. 1, "Elysium" may hover just above the competition.

    The sci-fi flick starring Matt Damon is set to debut with a solid-if-not-spectacular $32 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

    Its only real rival is likely to be the 3-D animated "Planes," a spinoff of Pixar's "Cars" franchise, which is expected to launch with a healthy $28 million.

    On Wednesday, the R-rated comedy "We're the Millers" and the sequel "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" both hit theaters in an effort to get out ahead of the packed weekend.

    The mid-budget "Millers," costarring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, looks poised to collect $24 million between Friday and Sunday. The "Percy Jackson" sequel, meanwhile, is likely to gross a so-so $19 million.

    The well-reviewed "Elysium," set in 2154, stars Damon as an earthbound factory worker. After being diagnosed with cancer, he tries to get to Elysium -- a luxurious world hovering above Earth where only the most fortunate reside.

    The movie is the second feature film from South African native Neill Blomkamp. His first release, "District 9," became a surprise box-office success in 2009, opening with $37.4 million domestically and ultimately grossing $210.8 million worldwide.

    "Elysium" was financed by Media Rights Capital for $115 million, but is being distributed and marketed by Sony Pictures. Heading into the weekend, the picture appears to be generating the most interest among older males.

    As for "Planes," not only does the movie have to contend with three other debuts this weekend, it also will face competition from other animated movies still in the marketplace. "The Smurfs 2" just hit theaters last weekend and "Despicable Me 2" is still a force to be reckoned with even after a month at the multiplex.

    However, Walt Disney Studios says the DisneyToon production was made for just $50 million, meaning it has a decent shot at financial success. "Planes" was initially slated to go directly to video, as most of DisneyToon's films do. However, after screening the movie for audiences, Disney decided to give it a theatrical release and is now planning a "Planes" trilogy. The film features the voices of Dane Cook, Teri Hatcher and Brad Garrett.

    "We're the Millers" is almost certain to be a hit for Warner Bros. and its New Line label, which made the film for just $37 million. The movie stars Sudeikis as a drug dealer who ropes a stripper (Aniston) and two teenagers into a ruse in which they pretend to be his family members and help him smuggle marijuana out of Mexico.

    Those who saw the film Wednesday enjoyed it, assigning it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The comedy is the first release for Sudeikis since leaving "Saturday Night Live" and will be a test of his draw with moviegoers as a leading man. The movie's success would also be good news for Aniston, who is coming off a flop in last year's comedy "Wanderlust."

    "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," financed by Fox and the Seelig Group for $90 million, is expected to launch with far less than the original film did in 2010. After starting off with $31.2 million in the U.S. and Canada, "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" went on to gross $226.5 million -- roughly 60% of which came from overseas.

    Based on a beloved bestselling novel by Rick Riordan, the original "Percy Jackson" movie was met with lackluster reviews. So far, the sequel is faring even worse with critics: On Thursday, the film had notched a 33% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared with a 49% grade for the original.

    "Sea of Monsters" stars Logan Lerman as Percy, son of the Greek god Poseidon, who sets out on a journey to heal a magical tree that protects his home. Opening-day filmgoers gave it an average grade of B+ -- the same grade the first film received three years ago.

  • In 'Elysium,' A Cosmic Divide For Rich And Poor

    NEW YORK (AP) — In the desert of big-budget summer moviegoing comes, like fresh water, Neill Blomkamp's "Elysium," a dystopic science-fiction thriller bristling with more ideas than all this year's superheros and action films combined.

    Like Blomkamp's first and previous film, the South African alien apartheid allegory "District 9," ''Elysium" is a rogue burst of originality — a futuristic popcorn adventure loaded with contemporary themes of wealth discrepancy, immigration and health care. Blomkamp, a 33-year-old South African native with a background in digital effects and a head for sociopolitical tumult, has emerged as a rare thing in today's movies: a maker of science fiction with soul.

    "What's somehow gone away from science fiction is that it's meant to represent ideas," says Blomkamp. "It's meant to be this looking glass through which you can look at society a different way."

    Whereas most science fiction today is all sleekness and impressive spaceships, metaphor — not exactly the stuff of movie posters — comes first for Blomkamp, who sees his film in the tradition of Fritz Lang's similarly allegorical "Metropolis." Set in the year 2154, "Elysium" finds the Earth a dilapidated slum, with the wealthy living in an orbital space station, a kind of floating Beverly Hills hamster wheel modeled after Syd Mead's Stanford torus design for a space habitat.

    Elysium, guarded fiercely by a defense secretary played by Jodie Foster, looms in the sky as an unreachable oasis of high-quality living and limitless health care. (Every home is equipped with beds that immediately cure illness.) The First and Third World divide has gone cosmic.

    In dusty Los Angles (shot in a Mexico City slum), Matt Damon stars as a reformed car thief working in a giant factory in grueling conditions, overseen by an infinitely more rewarded CEO (William Fichtner). When a radiation mishap gives Damon's character days to live, he endeavors to reach Elysium at all costs.

    "I sit there a lot of the time wrestling with balancing metaphor and also balancing entertainment," says Blomkamp. "Anything I do creatively comes from a place of instinct. I don't wake up one morning and say, 'I want to make a film about wealth discrepancy.' It seems to happen organically."

    Los Angles holds particular fascination for Blomkamp, who lives with his wife and frequent writing partner Terri Tatchell in Vancouver. He considers its segregated sprawl, close to the border of Mexico "a milder version" of his hometown of Johannesburg. But his relationship with Hollywood is considerably more at odds.

    "I would be as far from the film industry as physically possible as I could," he says.

    Blomkamp first caught Hollywood's eye for his commercial work and shorts, including "Alive in Joburg," which he would later expand into "District 9." Peter Jackson and his wife and producing partner Fran Walsh were particularly impressed by Blomkamp and helped get him hired to helm a big-budget adaption of the video game "Halo."

    But after months of development, the film was shut down. It was an early lesson for Blomkamp on the loss of control in directing studio films based on material not his own. "I count my lucky stars every day," he says now of the "Halo" fallout, since it led to Jackson and Walsh's suggestion that he turn "Alive in Joburg" — a documentary-styled story about aliens marooned in Johannesburg — into a feature.

    Famously made for just around $30 million, "District 9" had the look of a much more expensive film, boasting far more political subtext than often makes it into the multiplexes. It starred Blomkamp's longtime friend Sharlto Copley (the two first met when a teenage Blomkamp began doing 3D animation work for Copley's production company) as an Afrikaner bureaucrat who mutates into one of the interned aliens. Parts of it were shot in Soweto.

    "District 9," which received four Oscar nominations including best picture (a rarity for a genre film), made Blomkamp a phenom. In an earlier Time magazine issue on the 100 most influential people, director Ridley Scott wrote: "From time to time, there are people in the film industry who appear on the horizon with a unique vision. South African director Neill Blomkamp is one of those rare people."

    The success of the film (it made $210.8 million worldwide) led to numerous studio offers of major franchise movies, including entreaties regarding "Star Wars" and "Star Trek."

    "I get offered those kind of films less and less now because I just seem to be saying 'no' so much," says Blomkamp. "What I want to do for the next few films is find exactly my own voice."

    "If I get into other people's ideas without fully fleshing that out, there's some of that that I could lose," he adds. "It can become impersonal if you're not careful."

    In September, Blomkamp will begin shooting in South Africa the $60 million "Chappie," a sci-fi comedy he wrote with Tatchell. Though he cautions that he could change his mind in the two years it will take to make and release "Chappie," he would like to follow it with "District 10," a sequel to "District 9" for which he's written a treatment.

    "He protects his artistic area, and he's been like that since I met him," says Copley, who plays a mercenary in "Elysium" and will star in "Chappie." ''I've noticed in Hollywood, anything that has any kind of political thing, people get terrified. Coming from a place that was as explosively politically as where we came from, those are things that really interest us."

    Certainly, some critics will deride "Elysium" as heavy-handed and others will chafe at its liberal politics, seeing advocacy for universal health care. Though President Barack Obama's health care plan didn't specifically figure into Blomkamp's thinking, he says that if a pop culture film like "Elysium" were to get political blowback from talk show pundits: "I think that's cool. Otherwise, what was the film? It just came and went."

    Rated R satires about inequality don't typically set the box office on fire. So it will be interesting to see how moviegoers respond to "Elysium," made with financing split between Sony Pictures and Media Rights Capital for more than three times the budget of "District 9."

    Blomkamp professes no answers to the issues he raises, rather insisting there are none. Economic disparity, he says, is an age-old problem that's "inherently unsolvable."

    Sounding slightly mischievous, he says: "I hope the population likes the movie."

  • Sci-Fi Minus the Stupid


    SCI-FI MINUS THE STUPID: Matt Damon and Neill Blomkamp bring right-now relevance to a grim future

    Matt Damon, Jodie Foster
    Directed by Neill Blomkamp

    3 stars

    It’s a bitch thinking of descriptive tags for Elysium: Bourne’s Skinhead Identity, Alien vs. Health Care. Whatever you call it, strap in for a wild ride. South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, who busted us out of a death march of crap summer epics with 2009’s District 9, does it again. Like District 9, an allegory of apartheid that took four Oscar nods and put Blomkamp on the map, Elysium delivers sci-fi without dumbing it down. It’s a hell-raiser with a social conscience.

    The year is 2154. A ruined, overpopulated Earth looks like a garbage dump in Mexico City (where Elysium was partly filmed), and Matt Damon – tattooed, head shaved, armored with attitude – is taking massive shit from droids: robots who run the place for the one-percenters. They’re the privileged few who live on Elysium, a space station orbiting Earth and run with an iron hand and no mercy by Defense Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster, killing it), a Dick Cheney in heels.

    Damon’s Max Da Costa is a factory slave who helps engineer those droids. But he can’t resist pissing them off. Blomkamp’s script bristles with biting humor, which Damon lets rip. To play Max, Blomkamp had approached Eminem, who impractically insisted they shoot in his native Detroit. No matter. Damon could not be better. He’s a dynamo with a gift for digging deep, finding passion and purpose in the cynical Max. What makes Max storm Elysium? Several reasons. One is very personal. When Max is irradiated in a factory accident, he’s given five days to live. Only Elysium offers an instant cure. With an exoskeleton of armor painfully welded into his body, Max gets his rockets going.

    Elysium is slicker than District 9 and sometimes shouts its themes about immigration, poverty, pollution and medical care. And Blomkamp will surely take flak for wrapping those themes in a popcorn movie that revels in head-spinning action. The fight scenes with Damon and fab Sharlto Copley (the hero of District 9) as a nut-job villain are a blast. But it’s Blomkamp’s balls-out approach to blending brains with brawn that lifts him above the spineless herd. Elysium is the unruly antidote to the fatuous futurism of R.I.P.D and After Earth. It sticks with you.

  • Emmy Nominations Announced: ‘House of Cards’ Makes History

    Netflix series “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development” broke through to become the first digitally distributed series to earn a major nomination for the 65th annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

    “House of Cards” had nine nominations overall. Lead acting nominations for the series went to Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and David Fincher was nominated for directing the opening episode. “Arrested Development” had three noms, including lead comedy actor for Jason Bateman. Netflix totaled 14 nominations.

    “American Horror Story” had 17 nominations for the second year in a row, leading all programs. “Game of Thrones” had 16 to lead all series.

    HBO film “Behind the Candelabra” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” had 15 nominations, followed by 13 each for AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and NBC’s “30 Rock.”

    HBO had 108 nominations — 27 more than last year — to lead all networks, followed in cable by Showtime with 31 and AMC and FX with 26. CBS and ABC tied for the broadcast network lead with 53 noms apiece, followed by ABC with 45, PBS with 25 and Fox with 19.

    The milestone for the Netflix series comes on the 20th anniversary of the first cable show to earn a series nomination: HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show” in 1993. Garry Shandling also received a lead comedy actor nom that year.

    Digitally distributed shows have been eligible to enter the main Emmy categories for seven years, according to TV Academy senior vice president of awards John Leverence.

    Except for “House of Cards” replacing “Boardwalk Empire,” the drama series nominations remained the same as last year: were 2012 winner “Homeland,” “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men.”

    In comedy series, five of six nominees also returned: “30 Rock,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Girls,” “Modern Family” and “Veep,” with “Louie” replacing “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

    Nominations for reality-competition series went to longtime behemoth “The Amazing Race,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Project Runway,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Top Chef” and “The Voice.” In reality program, the noms were “Antiques Roadshow,” “Deadliest Catch,” “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” “MythBusters,” “Shark Tank” and “Undercover Boss.”

    Lead drama actor nominations went to defending champ Damian Lewis of “Homeland,” Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) and Spacey.

    In lead drama actress, new-show nominees Connie Britton (“Nashville”), Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”) and Wright joined 2012 winner Claire Danes (“Homeland”), Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”), Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) and Kerry Washington (“Scandal”).

    Moss was also nominated as a lead miniseries-movie actress for “Top of the Lake.”

    Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin of departing NBC series “30 Rock” each completed their streak of acting nominations for all seven years of the show’s run. They were joined on the comedy lead actor side by Bateman, Louis C.K. (“Louie”), Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”), Matt LeBlanc (“Episodes”) and Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) and on the actress side by HBO thesps Laura Dern (“Enlightened”), Lena Dunham (“Girls”) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (last year’s winner for “Veep”), along with Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”) and Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation.”)

    The most notable omission in the supporting acting categories was last year’s supporting comedy actor winner, Eric Stonestreet, who was left out while co-stars Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ed O’Neill nabbed spots.

    Last year, “American Horror Story” tied “Mad Men” with 17 nominations, but while the FX project, which went with some amount of controversy into the movies-miniseries category, managed to pull two wins (hairstyling and supporting actress), “Mad Men” was shut out.

    “Game of Thrones” (11 nominations in 2012) and “Homeland” (nine) won the most Emmys last September with six apiece.

    Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) and Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”) made this morning’s nominations announcement with TV Academy Chairman & CEO Bruce Rosenblum at the Academy’s Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood. Kate Mara (“House of Cards”) was scheduled to join but was unable to arrive because her scheduled flight from Santa Fe, where she is shooting on location, had a mechanical malfunction— echoing last year when travel issues prevented Nick Offerman from presenting with Kerry Washington.

    Academy COO Alan Perris, who is retiring at the end of the year, made pre-presentation remarks.

    The Emmys themselves will return to the Nokia Theatre at Los Angeles’ L.A. Live on Sept. 22.

  • The Producer Behind 'House of Cards' On How Netflix Offered Creative Freedom


    When House of Cards earned nine Emmy nominations this morning, it marked a major turning point in who the key players are in television. Netflix NFLX -0.42%, once a strictly technology company, is now well on its way to becoming a serious player in the world of quality TV.

    The show was a risky bet for Netflix. The tech company committed a reported $100 million to two seasons of the show. Sure David Fincher and Kevin Spacey were already on board but twisty political thrillers aren’t for everyone.

    The money went not only to the talent involved but to the look and feel of the show which is much more cinematic than most things you’ll watch on TV. That’s because MRC, the production company behind House of Cards, insisted that Fincher and his crew be given final cut — something that is virtually unheard of in the world of TV where everything is produced by committee.

    MRC is probably best known for its movies. The production company has backed films like Bruno, The Adjustment Bureau and last year’s Ted which was the surprise comedy hit of the year bringing in $550 million globally on a $50 million budget. Their next big movie, Elysium, starring Matt Damon, hits theaters August 9th.

    I caught up with MRC co-chair Modi Wiczyk just hours after the nominations were announced to find out how MRC made the original deal with Netflix, what’s different about House of Cards and what’s next for MRC.

    FORBES: Where did the idea come from to do an American version of House of Cards?

    Modi Wiczyk: Like a lot of great things, it started with an intern. When we decided to move into television, we knew we were going to do it with filmmakers at the vanguard. We were looking for intellectual property to pair with filmmakers we were already working with. The intern jumped up and down on the table saying you’ve got to watch [the British] House of Cards. I watched it on the plane. By the time we landed, I was already emailing saying how can we get the rights? This was back in ’08 or ’09. The original book that the show was based on was written by Lord Michael Dobbs who had been chief of staff of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet. He maintained control of the book rights because he never wanted to license it to a studio. He wanted it to be somewhere with a reputation for protecting artist work.

    He was kind enough to let us get the rights. We very quickly showed it to David Fincher who we have a production deal with. He loved it and said he’d like to bring Eric Roth on board. And then we spent the money on the development very privately. They went off and wrote the pilot. David committed to direct it and we went to Kevin Spacey.

    How did you hook up with Netflix?

    MRC historically has done a lot of unusual distribution deals whether it be film or digital. We did a deal with Seth MacFarlane years ago that was one of the first YouTube channels ever. We had a great relationship with Netflix and we talked to them about licensing. We hadn’t talked about originals. As part of the discussion we went to Netflix and said, would you like to come in with a network to take a close second window or is there a partnership to be made here? Netflix read it and said, we don’t want to partner with anyone. We want to make this our first original show.

    Interestingly at the time, and to give credit to the artists, we had talked about the fact that the show might not be eligible for Emmys. We had to decide which network to chose. The artists said, let’s just do great work and karma will deliver. I feel great that they took the risk and it’s possible they might have never been recognized. It’s nice when life works out that way.

    How important are Emmys from a business point of view?

    They expose a show to an audience that otherwise might not sample it. They expand the reach of the show.

    What did Netflix let you do that mainstream networks wouldn’t have?

    The show is probably the first true final cut show made in a long time. It’s the largest independent drama production made in the last decade. That combination of size and freedom let them take enormous risks in terms of structure.
    Explain what you mean by final cut.
    Great filmmakers are often given final cut or creative control which allows them to take risks. In television, that doesn’t exist. MRC’s ethos is creative freedom for our artists. We were able to deliver that in television and Netflix was OK with that.

    MRC provided the artists with the freedom and the resources to take significant creative risks and we’re just glad it payed off.

    Can you point to specific risks they were able to take?

    The first two episodes are structured as one in many ways. The rhythm and the editing patterns are much more cinematic. It’s not some sort of procedural. There’s not a cliff hanger at the end of every episodes. The episodes really build in a very different way. The sets are different. The cinematography is different. The acting is different.

    When you say different, do you mean more like film?

    It’s a hybrid of how these guys would have done their film and TV.

    What’s next for you in terms of TV?

    We’re currently shooting House of Cards season 2. We’ve got a bunch of stuff that we’re working on but generally television will always be filmmaker first. We’ve announced shows with people like Robert Zemeckis.

    What’s going to be new in the next season of House of Cards?

    I don’t want to give away plot but I think we can assume that Francis continues to be up to no good on his path to power.

    Are there any new people joining the cast?

    Not that I’m prepared to announce here.
    You also had a big success with Ted and you’re working on Seth MacFarlane’s new movie. Can you tell us a little about that?

    It’s a comedy Western called A Million Ways to Die in the West. It’s set in the 1880s and it’s about a guy who is totally out of place in the Old West. He’s a bit of a coward. In order to win the love of a woman he has to fight the meanest guns in the territory. Seth MacFarlane stars in it. Charlize Theron is in it, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman. We’re very excited about it.

    We’ve seen lately that Westerns can struggle at the box office. Was there any concern in taking on a Western?

    I don’t really believe that. We always go through phases when conventional wisdom says certain genres aren’t going to work. When I started out in the business and I was a baby executive, there was this conventional wisdom that high school movies could never work and then American Pie came out and made $250 million and then all you saw was high school comedies.

    Django Unchained worked big time. I would argue that if it’s really great work, it has a chance to find an audience. We believe in Seth 180% and we have since we backed him in digital. We’d make the phone book with Seth.

  • EMMYS: Reactions To Academy’s Nominations

    Drama Series

    Downton Abbey
    “Well of course it’s very very good position to be in, we’ve been so lucky to have many nominations every year we’ve been making the show,” said executive producer Gareth Neame of the Masterpiece theater soap opera hit. “We’re absolutely delighted to be represented this year. And it’s so pleasing that the nominations are across all the major categories, so many of our wonderful actors, talent and people in the below-the-line categories that add such wonderful production value to the show.” The British producer added that he’s happy to live with the added attention Downton will get in the next couple of months. “This is what comes of it. It’s not just our show, there are other huge dramas out there these days like Breaking Bad and Game Of Thrones, people want to talk about this, it’s a globalized age of television. People talk about these shows around the world. I’d much rather have people ringing me every day than not to be nominated,” he joked.

    “There were really two nominations that meant a lot to us — one this tribute to Henry Bromell, a man we really miss every single day. A second one is really Mandy Patinkin. He was kind of overlooked last season. His work in the last season was just superior; he was the moral center of the show”, executive producer Alex Gansa said. “His performance was sort of very subtle and in the margins and sometimes that doesn’t get you noticed. I’m really glad it did. Gansa joked that last year’s Emmy show was really a “perfect ceremony” for Homeland but added wistfully: “I’d like to hear people allowed to talk just a little longer. Everything is just so quick. Lights are flashing, wrap it up, almost the second you get up there. It’s the crowning moment of a career. You wish you had just a little more time.”
    “I feel a little bit like I’m playing with the house’s money — the show has been so warmly received by fans and critics. You don’t want to be falsely modest. It really does feel like we’re winners. The outcome at this point the specifics of it,” don’t really matter, executive producer Howard Gordon said. He added that today’s nomination “disabuses you, or hopefully the community, of the sort of one-shot wonder syndrome. It’s great to be included again. The sophomore year is always a potential sandtrap for a series. We have a lot of talented people, and great people doing great work.”

    House Of Cards
    “All of us at House Of Cards are honored by the nominations. Almost four years into this journey, and well underway on production for Season 2, it’s such a thrill to have the collective efforts of our talented cast, crew, designers, directors and writers recognized by the Television Academy. This dedicated team has made House Of Cards by far the most rewarding artistic experience of my career. I’m particularly happy for Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright — they are the center of our show’s universe and make every episode shine. And of course I’m delighted for David Fincher — his brilliance and vision inspire us all”. — executive producer Beau Willimon

    “As a company, MRC has always sought out great artists doing great work. It is validating for us and the creative team on House Of Cards that the Television Academy recognizes the quality of the art, rather than the method in which its delivered”. — Modi Wiczyk, co-CEO of producer Media Rights Capital.

    Comedy Series

    Modern Family
    “Well, listen, on a morning like this I’m just happy to wake up”, said co-creator Steve Levitan. “First of all it’s wonderful, it’s very nice we’re extremely appreciative. A morning like this lets me delude myself into thinking I’ll always have mornings like this. He adds that being nominated doesn’t get old. “No, honestly you have to embrace this time because it’s fleeting. The minute you stop embracing it is the minute you should hang it up. Our good fortune is ridiculous right now, I’m not going to turn my nose up at any of it. I enjoy the parties, seeing people I know and meeting new people. There are many, many worse things in the world than being congratulated.”


    The Bible
    “We are honored that our peers have nominated The Bible for an Emmy. We are thrilled we get to share this nomination with our tremendous cast and crew from all around the world who worked so hard with us to bring the epic story of the bible to the screen”. — producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett.

    “We are delighted that The Bible received three nominations and has been recognized in the Outstanding Miniseries or Movie category. Epic event programming is a hallmark of History, and the re-telling of these iconic stories from both the Old and New Testaments — covering the scope from Genesis to the Revelation — reached a huge and diverse audience, making it #1 in its time slot averaging 11.4 million total viewers over its five-week run and reaching 95 million people in total. Congratulations to the amazing History team and to Mark Burnett and Roma Downey for bringing these quintessential stories to life for a new generation.” — Dirk Hoogstra, History EVP and General Manager

    Lead Actor – Drama

    Kevin Spacey, House Of Cards
    Spacey had a theory on why House Of Cards broke through and Arrested Development didn’t at the Emmys: “The Emmy ballot this year was like a geometry test. There were a lot of characters and a lot of shows and it took a long time for me to work through it. But I do believe that if you look at Netflix’s 14 nominations, I don’t think it’s about anyone not breaking through, but it’s a pretty historical moment”, he said. “You can talk about individuals and shows being overlooked, but you can’t ignore the fact that the paradigm has shifted.” In regards to House Of Cards executive producer Beau Willimon being overlooked for outstanding drama writing, Spacey said, “I believe when a series is nominated for outstanding drama, you’re recognizing the whole thing. While I would have loved to see Beau recognized in the writing category, I wouldn’t have a nomination, Robin Wright wouldn’t have a nomination, David Fincher wouldn’t have a nomination if it wasn’t for Beau. We got nine nominations because of Beau.”

    Lead Actress – Drama

    Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
    “It is such an honor to be recognized by the Academy and in the company of such brilliant women. I’m grateful to Carlton, Kerry and Anthony for gifting me with the opportunity to play such a complex woman and for breathing new life into the iconic Norma Bates.”

    Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
    “I always have a couple of theories why [the Mad Men actors don’t win in the final round of Emmys], and then they don’t pan out”, Moss said after she landed a pair of noms today — for AMC’s Mad Men and the Sundance Channel miniseries Top Of The Lake. ” It’s hard to analyze artistic quality – how is one performance better than the others? However, I do feel we are an ensemble cast. We don’t have a bad apple on our show. The obvious thing that does come to mind is that there would be no Mad Men without Jon Hamm. Without his portrayal, the show wouldn’t exist. That’s the one [the Academy] should recognize in the end – it’s like c’mon guys.” On her own character on the AMC show: “From the very beginning, I wanted Peggy Olsen to be an everyman and to tell the story of a woman working in the work place and she has changed so much over the years”. With my character Robin in Top Of The Lake, she’s very much the juxtaposition of strength and vulnerability. She’s very hard and protected and it’s her job to be strong and commanding. Since she works with children, she has a tough sensitivity about her. Jane Campion said to me at the beginning, ‘I know you can do vulnerable, but I need you to cover it.’ ”

    Robin Wright, House Of Cards
    “I’m so proud to be a part of such a ground breaking project as House Of Cards. I’m thrilled that our show has been recognized and I want to thank the academy for this great honor”.

    Lead Actor – Comedy

    Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
    “It’s days like this that make me miss 30 Rock. Many thanks to everyone that nominated me”.

    Don Cheadle, House Of Lies
    “Given all the hilarious film work I’ve done, from Traffic to Crash to Flight, it’s nice to finally be recognized as the comic genius I am. Thank you, Academy members”.

    Lead Actor, Movie/Miniseries

    Douglas was excited by the fact that his HBO Liberace biopic – a film that at one time nobody wanted, having been rejected by studio after studio – was so universally honored with 15 nominations. “That’s what I’m most thrilled about, is our people getting recognized across the board,” he said. “From our producers to our writer to our costumers, hair and makeup, everyone was recognized. And of course Matt (Damon) and Scott (Bakula). …The nominations are the real winning. Winning itself would be gravy.” Douglas added that since he wasn’t on the production team, he didn’t have any first-hand experience with the rejection the film received but admitted there was probably a certain vindication in all of the Emmy attention. “It became like the largest-viewed film in HBO history, and has been doing fantastically overseas theatrically.” He’s convinced that having Candelabra land at HBO was the greatest break the film could have gotten. “The marketing strength and audience of HBO domestically is second to none,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier after struggling with some of the independent features that Steven (Soderbergh) and I encountered during our career where you get no marketing help.” This is Douglas’ fifth Emmy nomination — and he’s still looking for his first win. His first three came in the mid-1970s for the ABC cop drama The Streets Of San Francisco “So I guess I’ve really kind of come full circle,” he figures. “This film kind of reeks of commitment. We all made a clear commitment, and now it’s been acknowledged in a wonderful way. For me, that’s the nicest part.”

    Supporting Actress, Comedy

    Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
    After receiving her second nomination in as many years for her scene-stealing work as Amy Farrah Fowler on the CBS comedy, the one thing Bialik is certain of is that she’s not going to win. “I’m just completely shocked to have gotten nominated,” she admitted. “I got online early this morning to see who got nominated instead of me, and then I see MY name. It was crazy.” But why was she so shocked? After all, she’d already been nominated a year ago. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I famously don’t watch television at all, so I only have a vague notion of the other people in my category in terms of their performances. But I do know that Jane Lynch is phenomenal. So are Julie Bowen and Anna Chlumsky and, well, all of them really. I don’t stand a chance against them. Any of them can win. Except me.”

    Variety Series

    Jimmy Fallon
    “Honored to be nominated for an Emmy this morning. Takes the sting away from being snubbed by the ESPYs last night”.

    Reality Host

    Tim Gunn & Heidi Klum, Project Runway
    “It is still a bit surreal but I am thrilled and honored to be nominated alongside Heidi and the show. I am so grateful to Heidi, as she is the real star of the show, for sharing billing and allowing me to stand in her shadow.” — Gunn

  • What Inspired Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’

    Neill Blomkamp’s idea for his new sci-fi film “Elysium” came to him in 2009 as he completed his first feature, “District 9.” He wanted to explore the haves and have-nots through the realm of science-fiction, but it was still “very loose, unguided and unfocused.”

    A few months later, it clicked. Blomkamp was inspired by an image that hung on his wall, of artist Syd Mead’s rendition of the Stanford Torus space station (a proposed space habitat, with its own natural environment and agricultural system).

    He thought, “maybe the rich live on that station, and that separation of wealth from the Earth.” It led to a more concrete plan for a film that he developed and wrote for about one year.

    Working with a $115 million budget and a cast that includes Sharlto Copley (star of “District 9”), Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, Blomkamp filmed “Elysium” in the second half of 2011 in two locations: Mexico City and his hometown, Vancouver.

    In talking with Blomkamp about “Elysium,” he’s eager to share credit with the creative members of his team, including artist TyRuben Ellingson, who designed Copley’s black hawk helicopter, and special-effects artist Cameron Waldbauer, who designed a futuristic Bugatti space shuttle. As with “District 9,” Blomkamp brought in WETA Workshop, which designed and built robots, weapons and hundreds of other props, and Image Engine, which handled the film’s visual effects.

    Blomkamp, 33, a “massive squash player” and sports-car enthusiast who is obsessed with branches of science such as transhumanism, talked with the Journal about “Elysium.” This is the second part of our three-part interview, in which he discusses the thematic elements of the film. (Read the first part here.) Warning, there are some spoiler details below.

    “Elysium” takes on topics of class, health care, and immigration. What prompted you to address these issues?

    I don’t know if “addressing issues” is the right way of putting it, because if you go about things with the mindset where you wake up one morning and go, “I’m going to address this important political issue,” you shouldn’t be making popcorn blockbuster films. You should go make a documentary or get involved in politics or do something else. But I think any artist at some level is going to have political thoughts somehow, or at least observations. If you’re not observing the world around you, in some sense you’re not really an artist because then that means you’re just replicating other people’s stuff or, I don’t even know what you’re doing. So, it’s impossible for me to not look around the world and observe things and let them seep into the back of my subconscious and then have them not affect the artwork that you make.

    I think growing up in South Africa, and then moving to Canada, I’m just genuinely interested in the difference between the first world and the third world, immigration, and how the new, globalized world is beginning to operate. All of those things run through my mind a lot.

    Do you think of this film in terms of First World vs. Third World rather than 1% vs. 99%?

    They’re not exactly the same. The 1% lexicon of phrases and terminology is incredibly American. That’s very specific to America. This film isn’t really that. It’s much more international. The 1% is a catchphrase that is thrown around at the moment. You could go back to the feudal ages and you have people living in castles and you have a thousand serfs on your land that were considered your property. This is nothing new at all. That kind of separation between power and wealth and then the working class, the poverty-stricken class, has been around for millennia. What’s happening now with this globalized planet is there are other ingredients being mixed into that. The way that those population groups move, like how Africa is predominantly poverty-stricken, and North America predominantly has money — whether America is in a recession or not isn’t the point, the point is the glass of America appears a lot fuller than the glass of Africa. As those reservoirs of wealth equalize, the pockets of wealth diminish and the poorer areas increase in wealth, a lot of really interesting stuff happens. Part of that is the rich try to preserve what they have more, while the poor want wealth more at the same time. The movie is really about that.

    [Warning: Spoiler details] In the case of Max (Damon), the tipping point is when he gets very sick. He needs access to health care that’s only on Elysium.

    I wanted to inject the concept that when you live in a country that has a high level of income, you probably are going to have access to longevity, and access to medicine and to medical equipment that’s going to help you attain a longer life span. As that wealth per capita drops off and it goes lower and lower, you find longevity dropping as well. So a way to explain the situation in a very innate way is that the people that have money tend to have better health care, and that’s an idea I wanted the film to display. That if you go knocking on some wealthy country’s door, you can possibly end up living a little bit longer than growing up in Sudan or some slum in Harare in Zimbabwe.

    [Warning: Spoiler details] Another interesting concept in the film is ownership of data. The residents of earth have no privacy and their personal data is available to police. Max gains the advantage when he’s able to steal key data from a resident of Elysium. Power lies in who holds the data.

    On one level, to some degree what you’re saying is true, which is that I do think with power and wealth comes control of information. So, that’s definitely a theme that has worked its way into the film. A very true and interesting concept. But the second one, which is equally interesting in a completely different way, is the idea of transhumanism and the idea that we’re at the door of human beings actually changing. As we unlock the genetic code that makes us what we are and the way that technology is going to begin fusing itself with us. The richer you become, if you fast-forward 50 years from now and you look at the wealthiest nations on earth, they will have human beings that are very intertwined with technology in a way that the poverty-stricken areas will not be. I wanted to make that part of the film too. It’s like access to medical care is the same as access to information. That transhumanism part of it, the way that people who live on Elysium can upload information straight into their consciousness, and that degree of integration was definitely something I wanted to get in there.

    Why did you choose the year 2154?

    Well, the movie isn’t meant to be strictly speculative science fiction. If somebody asked me if this was how I actually believe the world would be like in 2154, the answer would be no. Like there wouldn’t actually be a space station with rich people because the whole movie is metaphor and allegory for rich and poor. So since the science fiction isn’t specifically science and it’s more metaphor, I thought I would just pick a date that felt like enough time had gone by that people could have built a space station and actually live on it for one or two generations. That date just seemed kind of natural.

    [Warning: Spoiler details] Max seems to go through a journey similar to Wikus in “District 9” — something in his DNA has changed and he is desperate. Circumstances turn him into a wanted man and as he seeks medical help, he sees he can help others. You’re obsessed with transhumanism, but your stories are full of humanity. Ultimately, no matter how scientifically modified humans become, are they in the end essentially their relationships to each other? Or are the two mutually necessary for progress?

    I don’t think they are connected, in fact I think the problems we deal with today – the ones Elysium addresses, are created because of human (mammal) DNA, and I think the only way to save us, is to engineer ourselves out of it — change our basic makeup, which includes things like the notion of humanity, and how compassion and other hormone-related triggers affect the globe.

    Check back in for Part 3 of the interview with “Elysium” writer-director Neill Blomkamp.

  • Blomkamp's New Sci-Fi Thriller Sends Famous Brands Into Future

    In his new sci-fi thriller, "Elysium," writer-director Neill Blomkamp takes some well-known brands and shuttles them into the future.

    "Elysium," to be released Aug. 9 by Sony Corp.'s TriStar Pictures and Media Rights Capital, is set in the year 2154, when humanity is divided into two worlds. Earth is overpopulated, full of poverty and disease. Elysium is a high-tech orbital space station inhabited by the privileged, with no illness, poverty or war, and it is heavily guarded against undocumented visitors from Earth.

    The CEO of a fictional company called Armadyne, which powers Elysium, commutes every day to Earth in a red-and-black space shuttle made by Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S.

    "If you had a bunch of rich people living up there, they would have the equivalent of Ferraris and Bugattis that they fly around with," said Mr. Blomkamp, who also wrote and directed the 2009 sleeper hit "District 9."

    The product placement is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fi classic "2001: A Space Odyssey," in which a space plane from Pan Am, still a thriving airline at the time of the movie's release, carries passengers between Earth and Space Station V.

    In Ridley Scott's 1982 film "Blade Runner," set in the year 2019, Pan Am makes another appearance, along with brands Coca-Cola, Atari and TDK, on prominent billboards in the backdrop as spaceships fly around.

    In "Elysium," set 141 years in the future, Volkswagen's Bugatti cars—which currently cost anywhere from $1.33 million to $3.28 million—are the luxury brand of choice for space travel.

    The concept of a Bugatti space shuttle aligns with late founder Ettore Bugatti's vision, which was "futuristic," according to Emanuela Wilm, general manager of marketing for Bugatti of the Americas.

    "If Ettore were still alive and Neill would have approached him, he would have fallen for it immediately and started doing drawings," she said. "In 2154, it could well be that there is a flying Bugatti."

    Mr. Blomkamp, a self-described "car fanatic," wanted the most expensive and fastest vehicles for Elysium's residents. "Basically, what I wanted to do was make a Bugatti that's 150 years in the future, and those don't come with wheels," he said.

    Bugatti cars today can reach up to 258 miles an hour, and a Grand Sport Vitesse accelerates from 0 mph to 100 back to 0 in less than 10 seconds, Ms. Wilm said.

    For the film's other main setting, a ramshackle Earth filmed in the slums of Mexico City, the director included Nissan Motor Co.'s GT-R sports car, which, in 2154, would be 147 years old. Today, the Nissan GT-R premium has a base price of $99,590.

    "The GT-R is one of the coolest high-performance cars for sale out there now," Mr. Blomkamp said. "I wanted to make the GT-R the Earth's version of a high-performance car," he said, meaning a dilapidated, broken-down version. He welded bulletproof panels onto a GT-R and gave it a "Mad Max" kind of feel, as in the 1979 dystopian film.

    Other brands are featured in unexpected places in the film. The logo for Kawasaki Motors Corp., a maker of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, becomes part of the main character, Max (played by Matt Damon), when a powered exoskeleton is grafted onto him that has the company's name on one of its parts.

    Inside houses on Elysium, residents own a "Med-Pod 3000," or an advanced medical bed that regenerates healthy, young cells and provides life-saving care. As a result, Elysium residents live three times longer than people on Earth. In the film's trailer, one of these longevity pods carries the Versace logo, from Gianni Versace SpA.

    Mr. Blomkamp, who worked with a $115 million budget for "Elysium," personally emailed companies whose products he wanted to feature in the sci-fi film to give it a sense of realism. "This film has been an oddity in the product-placement world because I am not looking for any money from the brands we are using," he wrote Bugatti. "I really want them because I [can] make the film better." Mr. Blomkamp's previous film, "District 9," was made for $34 million. It subsequently earned $216 million world-wide and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture "Elysium" is the filmmaker's first film since "District 9."

    It was his passion and confidence in a 2011 email that helped win over Ms. Wilm at Bugatti, where "Elysium" is the first film production to request product placement.

  • Matt Damon is a smart-ass and a bad-ass in new 'Elysium' trailer

    Matt Damon sci-fi movie Elysium doesn’t hit theaters until August, but until then you can feast your eyes on newly released footage from the film in the latest trailer.

    While previous trailers and reports have given us a good idea of what the future of Elysium looks like, this newest preview provides some more details on what Damon’s character, Max, is after and what his life is like before he decides to break into Elysium, the space station for the rich orbiting above a poverty-stricken Earth.

    There’s more footage of Max fighting villain Kruger (Sharlto Copley, teaming up again with his District 9 director, Neill Blomkamp), and there’s also Max serving up smart-ass, mocking responses to a robot. Looks like this guy has a little bit of snark.

  • Universal Officially Signs On To Co-Fi Seth MacFarlane’s Western With MRC

    Universal Pictures has formalized the much expected arrangement to cofinance with Media Rights Capital and distribute worldwide the Seth MacFarlane’s Western comedy A Million Ways To Die In The West. The studio has also set a May 30, 2014 North American release date. MacFarlane directs, produces and co-wrote the film and he plays sheep farmer Albert alongside a cast that includes Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi and Neil Patrick Harris. Scott Stuber and Jason Clark are producing with MacFarlane, who wrote the script with Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin. They along with Universal and MRC, are responsible for the global juggernaut Ted.

  • Netflix stock surges 25% on solid subscriber growth


    Netflix's original programming bet seems to be paying off.

    Netflix signed up more than 2 million new U.S. streaming subscribers in the first quarter, which was at the top end of the company's own predictions. The first quarter included the launch of Netflix's most ambitious original series to date: "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey.

    The strong subscriber gains helped Netflix handily beat analysts' earnings estimates. Profit, excluding one-time debt-related charges, came in at 31 cents per share, while analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting earnings of 19 cents per share.

    Sales just topped $1 billion, in line with expectations.

    Netflix (NFLX) shares soared 25% in after-hours trading following the company's earnings announcement. That jump could be attributed partially to Netflix's high percentage of short sellers, or investors who "borrow" shares expecting to sell when the price drops. If the stock goes higher, short sellers are forced to buy up shares and cover their positions.

    Netflix's quarterly earnings report is investors' first look at Netflix's original content plan, which the company first announced in late 2011. Netflix is rolling out a long list of original series this year: A second season of "Lilyhammer," a new season of the canceled "Arrested Development," a kids show from DreamWorks Animation, a new series from horror king Eli Roth, one from comedian Ricky Gervais and another from "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan.

    Hastings said Monday that if the original content is successful in the coming months, Netflix could expand its stable to 20 or more shows.

    "In the next two years, it's a modest increase," he said in a conference call with analysts. "If that were wildly successful for us, as the first three shows have been, we could continue to expand to 20 or north, but that would be dependent on what happens the rest of this year."

    Though Netflix's results were solid, the company still struck a defensive tone in its letter to shareholders.

    "Long term, we believe the value of our original series ... will be borne out as we add more seasons of already popular shows like 'House of Cards' and further series," the company wrote. "Harry Potter was not a phenomenon in book one, compared to later books in the series."

    Netflix has reason to be defensive, as analysts have expressed two big concerns about the original content approach. First, the company is releasing all episodes at once -- which means someone could sign up with a free trial for a month to watch "House of Cards" and cancel right afterward.

    Netflix addressed that issue head-on in its letter, saying fewer than 8,000 people "gamed" the free trial offer during the quarter.

    "Our decision to launch all episodes at once created enormous media and social buzz, reinforcing our brand attribute of giving consumers complete control over how and when they enjoy their entertainment," Netflix wrote in its release.

    Critics are also concerned that original series can be costly -- "House of Cards" reportedly cost $100 million for two seasons.

    But Netflix spokesman Joris Evers told CNNMoney earlier this year that the company spent about the same amount on "House of Cards" as it would have on an exclusive streaming deal with an outside studio.

    Those studios have demanded more for their valuable content over the past two years, as they can now shop their shows around to Netflix rivals: Hulu, Redbox (CSTR), Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) and more. HBO (owned by CNNMoney parent company Time Warner (TWX, Fortune 500)) and CBS (CBS, Fortune 500)' Showtime are also expanding their streaming offerings.

    That competition has crunched Netflix's streaming growth in the United States, although the last two quarters have each brought more than 2 million new streaming subscriber signups. That gives Netflix a current total of nearly 29.2 million subscribers.

    Hastings told analysts that "House of Cards" had generated "a very nice impact" in subscriber growth, "but a gentle impact, not one that's an overnight impact."

    Netflix expects that growth to slow in the current quarter. For the second quarter overall, the company expects to add only 230,000 to 880,000 new U.S. streaming customers.

    Hastings downplayed concerns that password-sharing could be a problem for the company, saying it was appropriate in the case of immediate family.

    "We really don't think that there's much going on of the, 'I'm going to share my password with a marginal acquaintance,'" he said.

  • Netflix Reports Profit, Strong Revenue

    Netflix Inc. shares jumped 24% in after-hours trading Monday as the online video service posted a first-quarter profit, having added more than two million U.S. streaming video subscribers.

    The company also reported a strong reception for "House of Cards," its high-profile original series.

    Netflix now is nearly on par with Time Warner Inc.'s HBO premium cable channel in terms of paying customers. HBO had 28.7 million paid U.S. subscribers at the end of the year, according to SNL Kagan, while Netflix's paid streaming subscribers at the end of March totaled 27.91 million. The company ended the quarter with 29.2 million U.S. streaming video subscribers, including those with free promotions, beating Wall Street's expectations.

    Profit for the quarter totaled $2.7 million, or five cents a share, compared with a loss of $4.6 million, or eight cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Revenue grew 18% to $1.02 billion.

    Some analysts had said there was a risk that users could sign up for Netflix's free monthly trial, watch "House of Cards," and then cancel their services. But the company said fewer than 8,000 people engaged in that "free-trial gaming" out of the millions of free trials in the quarter.

    In after-hours trading on the Nasdaq, Netflix shares rose $42.73 to $217.10, its highest point since September 2011. The stock move suggests that investors are regaining confidence in the company after a pricing change in 2011 triggered a selloff that sent the stock from a high of nearly $300 to a low of $53.80 last September. The stock is up 88% year-to-date.

    The challenge for Netflix, which sells $7.99 monthly subscriptions, is to sustain enough new customers to offset its increased spending on streaming content. Netflix had negative free cash flow of $42 million in the quarter, a slight improvement over the fourth quarter, largely because of high content acquisition costs. Netflix has more than $5.7 billion in long-term content commitments.

    Helping fuel content costs is the company's plunge into original programming, highlighted by "House of Cards," a Washington political drama that debuted in February. Netflix will spend about $100 million on the show, including a second, yet-to-be-aired season. The company didn't disclose viewership statistics for the show, but in its quarterly letter to shareholders said the launch "provided a halo effect on our entire service."

    On a conference call Monday evening, Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings left unclear how much credit "House of Cards" deserves for the brisk subscriber additions in the quarter. "What we've seen with House of Cards is a nice impact but a gentle impact," Mr. Hastings said.

    Netflix hopes such original content will lure in subscribers and further differentiate it from competitors, including Amazon Inc. and Hulu, as well as premium TV channels like HBO and Showtime. Another original series, supernatural thriller "Hemlock Grove," launched Friday. And a new season of cult comedy hit "Arrested Development" will be released next month.

    Still, Amazon, in particular, has become more aggressive at licensing shows from Hollywood studios and in developing its own original series. Mr. Hastings told analysts that aggressive bidding for programming rights by Amazon and Hulu in the past year has driven up the cost of content licensing deals.

    "That's made content providers happier and the prices higher than they would otherwise be," he said.

    In its letter to shareholders, Netflix said it is getting more selective in the shows it licenses from studios. It will not renew a licensing deal that expires at the end of May for programming from Viacom Inc.'s VIAB +0.51% networks including Nickelodeon, MTV and BET. Netflix said the companies are in discussions about a new deal that could involve particular shows. A Viacom spokesman said, "We are in discussion with several parties, including Netflix, on distribution of our content."

    A more selective licensing strategy could affect major entertainment companies, which in the past couple of years have enjoyed extra revenue provided by Netflix's licensing deals. But questions have also been raised about the impact on traditional TV ratings. Viacom, in particular, has seen ratings at its Nickelodeon channel fall since Nickelodeon shows began appearing on Netflix in 2011. Viacom, though, has played down the impact of Netflix, noting that TV ratings don't reflect viewing on tablets and other mobile devices. Viacom has also noted that Nickelodeon's ratings have begun to improve.

    The international-streaming unit is a source of future growth but has been a drag on profitability, with $389 million in losses last year and another $77 million in the first quarter. That is an improvement over the $103 million loss in the year-earlier period. The company added one million international streaming users in the quarter, bringing its total to 7.1 million.

    Netflix said it is improving profits or reducing losses in all international markets. It didn't launch any major new markets in the first quarter and has said it doesn't plan to until at least the second half of the year.

    The DVD-by-mail business continued to shrink, losing 240,000 subscribers in the quarter to 7.98 million.

    Operating profit margin in the U.S. streaming business widened to 20.6% from 19.2% in the fourth quarter.

    Netflix raised $500 million in February through a bond offering. About $225 million of the proceeds went to refinance existing debt, with the rest going toward corporate purposes as the company expands.

    Netflix also unveiled a new $11.99 per month plan in the U.S. that will allow users to simultaneously stream four videos. The company currently limits playing two video streams simultaneously. Netflix expects fewer than 1% of its subscribers to take it.

  • Netflix stock soars on subscriber growth led by 'House of Cards'

    Netflix’s stock shot up 24% in after-hours trading Monday after the Internet film and TV delivery service said it had added 3 million new members, bringing its total number of global subscribers to more than 36 million.

    The high-profile original series, "House of Cards," which debuted Feb. 1, generated a halo effect for Netflix, producing enormous media and social-media buzz.

    Some investors worried that fans of actor Kevin Spacey or of the show's executive producer, David Fincher, who directed "The Social Network," would take advantage of a free trial offer from Netflix to watch the political thriller -- and then cancel.

    But Netflix said there was little of this sort of gaming, with fewer than 8,000 people canceling out of the millions of free trials in the quarter.

    After the company released the subscriber news as part of its quarterly earnings announcement, its share price jumped about $42, or 24%, to about $216 in after-hours trading. That surge came after the stock climbed 11% in regular trading to $174.37.

    Netflix's latest home-grown series, "Hemlock Grove," a horror/science-fiction thriller that launched April 19, was viewed by more members globally in its first weekend than "House of Cards," the company said.

    The fourth season of the cult favorite "Arrested Development," becomes available May 26. It will be followed this summer by "Orange Is the New Black," a prison dramedy from "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan, and "Derek," a humorous look at life in a senior center, from comedian Ricky Gervais.

    "Long term, we believe the value of our original series in driving acquisition and retention improvements will be borne out as we add more seasons of already popular shows like 'House of Cards' and further series," wrote Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings, in a letter to shareholders. " 'Harry Potter' was not a phenomenon in book one, compared to later books in the series."

    Netflix reported revenue of more than $1 billion for the first quarter, ended March 31. That was up 18% from a year earlier. The company reported profit of $2.7 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with a loss of $4.6 million, or 8 cents a share, in 2012.

  • Netflix Subscriber Gains Exceed Estimates on Originals

    Netflix Inc. (NFLX), the leading online video-subscription service, posted a better-than-expected gain in U.S. subscribers for the first quarter, adding more than 2 million new customers. The stock soared.

    The increase brought the domestic total for the period to 29.2 million, Los Gatos, California-based Netflix said today on its website. Analysts had estimated Netflix would end March with 29 million online U.S. users, the average of seven estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

    Shows such as the original political drama “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright helped attract new online subscribers in the U.S., beating the company’s January forecast of 1.3 million to 2 million new signups. The company has been investing in original shows to bolster its library of films and TV reruns to stand out from competitors such as Inc. (AMZN), the largest Web retailer and Hulu LLC.

    “The launch of ‘House of Cards’ provided a halo effect on our entire service,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said in a letter to investors.

    Netflix jumped 26 percent to $219 in extended trading after the release. The shares rose 6.7 percent to $174.37 at the close in New York and have gained 88 percent this year, second most among stocks in the S&P 500 (SPX) after Best Buy Co.

    First-quarter net income, including an expense for debt retirement, totaled $2.69 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with a loss of $4.6 million, or 8 cents, a year earlier. Sales rose 18 percent to $1.02 billion from $869.8 million a year ago, matching analysts’ estimates of $1.02 billion.
    Profit Forecast

    This quarter, the company forecasts new U.S. subscribers to increase by as much as 880,000, reaching 29.4 million to 30.05 million, Hastings wrote.

    The company forecasts profit of $14 million to $29 million, or 23 cents to 48 cents a share. That compares with analysts’ projections of 30 cents, the average of 28 estimates.

    The company said it would introduce a $11.99-a-month plan that lets users receive four different streams to Web-connected devices, Hastings said, adding he expects fewer than 1 percent of customers to upgrade.

    Analysts had suggested Netflix might offer a range of plans, including individual accounts, surcharges for additional users or some combination, to increase revenue and margins. As many as 10 million people watch the online video service without paying, according to Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Securities analyst in Los Angeles.
    Worldwide Users

    The company gained 1.02 million international subscribers, reaching 7.14 million and contributing 14 percent of total sales. Netflix this month raised its subscription price in Brazil by 13 percent to 17 real to match local inflation, the statement said. The company also plans to start service in another European market in the second half, it said, without naming the territory.

    Netflix began showing all 13 episodes of the horror series “Hemlock Grove” on April 19. On May 26, the revived comedy “Arrested Development” will debut.

    The company also put all 13 episodes of “House of Cards” on its site at once. Hastings said fewer than 8,000 people took advantage of the company’s free trial to watch the series and then canceled.

  • ‘Elysium’ Trailer: See Bulked-Up, Bald Matt Damon Battle Futuristic Baddies

    In the future, Earth has pretty much turned into a garbage dump. So where better to film "Elysium" than at one of the world's biggest trash heaps?

    The sci-fi film, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, envisions a future 150 years from now where the elite live on a colossal space station — and those much less fortunate still live on the wasteland that has been made of Earth.

    The planet scenes were shot at a massive 975-acre landfill — about the size of West Hollywood, California — just outside of Mexico City. Bordo Poniente houses more than 76 million tons of trash, having received 12,700 tons of garbage daily before being shuttered in early 2012, when it reached capacity. And "Elysium" filmed there just days before the closing date.

    While filming, "Elysium" workers wore latex gloves and masks due to the strong smell and direct contact with the dense pile of waste that emits nearly 1.5 million tons of methane per year, according to the Clinton Foundation.

    It was likely a point of discomfort for Damon, who plays Max, an earthling who takes the desperate measure of suiting up to combat the privileged space dwellers in order to save his own life. If you watch the trailer, you'll see that Damon must have braved the foul smells — no face mask!

    Perhaps his muscles warded off the health risks. Damon spent about a year building muscle for the role, admitting he put in a lot of time at the gym. "I had to like just literally go to the gym for like four hours a day," Damon told reporters last summer. "[It] was kind of fun in its own way, actually, you know, at my age, to be given an excuse to do that, 'cause it's not something you ever really do otherwise!"

    During filming in late 2011, the trash heap in Mexico was heavily guarded. Trucks and staff had to go through a checkpoint, a local media outlet reported at the time. Tents, cars, campers, and even a helicopter were spotted moving to and from the site.

    The art department spent about a week collecting trash and debris to construct the film's postapocalyptic backdrop.

    But the film's rather earthy Earth setting wasn't the only thing dirty about "Elysium." Writer-director Neill Blomkamp wanted his hero's armor to be equally scrappy and forced some strategic product placement to further illustrate his junkyard suit. "I personally wrote emails to companies I wanted to try to get into the film to try to add realism to it. And one of my favorite ones is Kawasaki, which is on his suit," said Blomkamp, the mastermind behind 2009's Oscar-nominated "District 9."

    "So the idea was it was some sort of low-end, almost a dirt bike, like a motocross kind of version of a strength suit that was born out of research that the military is doing now," he added, pointing out HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) suits that are in development by the U.S. Army today for enhanced strength. "I just wanted it to look really grungy and extremely sort of low-end and kind of real."

    "Elysium" enters theaters Aug. 9.

  • Matt Damon suits up in new 'Elysium' trailer, plus five burning questions answered

    First, check out the new trailer for the upcoming sci-fi movie Elysium from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp below — we have been waiting since last year’s Comic-Con for a full scale look at the film, which imagines the rich escaping to a space station called Elysium, leaving a poverty-stricken Earth behind. Then see below for answers to your burning questions about the Matt Damon-starrer, which will be released in theaters on August 9.

    There is a lot going on in the trailer, so let’s get right to it. Blomkamp and the cast and crew were on hand in Hollywood this week to premiere the trailer and discuss the film.

    1. What is up with that suit that Max (Damon) is wearing?

    Max’s exoskeleton is a strength suit inspired by similar models used by the military. Blomkamp said that although it makes Max stronger he is by no means indestructible. It’s a cheap model that someone on poverty-stricken future Earth would be able to get their hands on.

    “I personally wrote emails to different companies that I wanted to try to get into the film,” Blomkamp said. “And one of my favorites is Kawasaki, which is on his suit. So the idea is it looks like a dirtbike … I wanted it to look really grungy and extremely low-end.”

    2. How did Earth become so divided – what is the backstory?

    Don’t expect the film to spend a lot of time explaining the current state of the human condition.

    “I like films that just put you there and you just have to deal with it,” Blomkamp said.

    3. What is the basis of reality in Elysium?

    “I think if you really try to make a proper speculative piece of science fiction it’s a very different product that you end up with,” Blomkamp said. “In this film … Proper science was sort of thrown out the window in favor of metaphor or story or plot. Building a space station with marble and slate is semi … Not that smart. Not really something that you’d want to do. But the metaphor of Bel Air in space is correct so you just kind of work toward that. My approach is always, start with something ridiculous and try to use the most realistic portrayal of the ridiculous as you can. It’s kind of like I’m painting ridiculous ideas with the brush of reality.”

    4. Why does Kruger (Sharlto Copley) have metal implants in his face?

    The implants are for easy access for things like night vision and body armor.

    “They’re drilled into his bone so it’s just easy on-and-off,” explained Blomkamp. “They just clip on and then there are magnets you can just pull it off.”

    5. Is it more of a space movie, or more gravity-based?

    Blomkamp told us that about two-thirds of the story takes place on Earth. So we should probably not expect to see spaceships zipping back and forth between Elysium and Earth — they don’t love visitors, from what we understand.

  • Watch: First Trailer For 'Elysium' Starring Matt Damon Is Explosive & Ambitious

    In case you haven't been on the internet in the past 24 hours, Sony has broken open the doors on Neill Blomkamp's until now secretive sci-fi "Elysium." Press got a dose of ten minutes of footage yesterday (read our breakdown right here), along with the trailer you're about to see below. And even more, Blomkamp talked up the movie, his desire for "Aliens"-style slime and eggs in his next movie and his thoughts on "Halo" and taking on pre-existing franchises already.

    Okay, now it's time for the big show, and "Elysium" is here. What you need to know: It stars Matt Damon as Max de Costa, one of the 99%, a down on his luck ex-con looking to go straight on a ravaged and scarred Earth in the year 2154. Up above in outer space, the 1% live on the pristine ship Elysium with all the latest comforts and cures. However, when a workplace accidence leaves him with cancer and five days to live, Max goes sorta cyborg with some help from Wagner Moura and embarks on a mission to Elysium, where cancer-curing procedures could very well save his life. But first he'll have to get past Sharlto Copley, the nasty agent hired by the government to keep guys like Max out (and he apparently gives a helluva performance).

    So yes, it's hella ambitious, with lots of real world issues being played upon. But does it work as a popcorn spectacle? It sure looks like it and if you're wondering who helped with all the futuristic design, it was none other than "Blade Runner" designer Syd Mead.

    Co-starring Carly Pope, Diego Luna and Alice Braga, "Elysium" launches on August 9th.

  • Matt Damon Aims To Change The World In Explosive First Trailer For Elysium


    It says a lot about how incredible District 9 was that we're as excited as we are for writer/director Neill Blomkamp's Elysium. The young filmmaker's debut feature was an absolutely stunning mix of blockbuster action, brilliant visual effects, and impressive political parable that launched him on to just about everybody's "must watch filmmakers" lists. And judging from his sophomore effort's first theatrical trailer, which has debuted over at Yahoo!, he aims to live up to his promise in spectacular fashion.

    Based on an original screenplay by Blomkamp, Elysium stars Matt Damon as Max DeCosta, an former felon living in a world heavily divided by class. While he lives on the Earth's surface with all of the other poor of the world, the richest and most powerful people of the world have shipped off to a space station known as Elysium, a perfect paradise completely devoid of all disease, pain, struggle and suffering. When Max suffers an accident, however, he learns that he has only five days left to live - and the only way that he can cure himself is to reach the space station. In a race against time, he is equipped with an exoskeleton that will allow him to maintain his strength while fighting against the forces that try to stop him from reaching the stars. The film co-stars Jodie Foster (as the head of the space station), Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, and William Fichtner, and will be in theaters on August 9th.

  • Hot Trailer: ‘Elysium’

    Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 follow-up, set in a future where humanity is divided into the very wealthy who live on a man-made space station and the poor who still live down below on a ruined Earth. Sony releases Elysium, from TriStar Pictures and Media Rights Capital, on August 9.

  • First 'Elysium' Trailer Debuts Online

    "District 9" helmer Neill Blomkamp directs the sci-fi epic starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.

    The wait is over for a first look at Elysium, the sophomore effort from District 9 helmer Neill Blomkamp.

    In the sci-fi film’s first trailer, a bald-headed and tech-enhanced Matt Damon is seen living in the slums that seem to have popped up all of Earth. The wealthy, including a sinister-looking Jodie Foster, orbit Earth on a space station called Elysium, where poverty and illness don’t exist.

    The trailer reveals that Damon’s character, Max, has a plan to help the poor back on Earth. The plan involves sneaking on to Elysium, to do what remains unclear. But it definitely involves big guns, killer robots and Max undergoing a painful surgical procedure to turn him into a one-man army.

    The Columbia/Media Rights Capital film is slated for an Aug. 9 release.

  • Fans get early look at ‘Elysium,’ as ‘District 9’ filmmaker imagines bleak future on Earth

    LOS ANGELES — The year is 2154, and Earth belongs to the poor. The wealthiest citizens live on “Elysium,” (el-IS’-ee-um) an idyllic, disease-free utopia they built in space.

    A few hundred film fans in Los Angeles and Berlin on Monday got an early look at the future home of the 1 percent as imagined by “District 9” writer-director Neill Blomkamp.

    Blomkamp showed about 10 minutes of footage from the anticipated film at a special screening.

    Matt Damon, who stars alongside Jodie Foster, introduced the footage in Berlin and appeared at Hollywood’s Arclight Theater via satellite.

    In the film, Earth has become a trash-filled landscape policed by robotic droids. Damon plays a diseased Earthling trying to infiltrate Elysium to find a cure for himself, and possibly all of humanity.

    “Elysium” is set to open in August.

  • Matt Damon’s Elysium Is an Action Movie for the 99 Percent

    A few hours ago at the Arclight theater in Hollywood, director Neill Blomkamp showed off a rock-em-sock-em trailer for his new sci-fi epic Elysium, followed by an even more revealing ten-minute clip reel … but if he'd had his druthers, he'd have shown nothing at all. "I try to show as little as I can," he told reporters afterward. "The thing is, if you're a responsible, functioning filmmaker in the 21st century, you can't spend a hundred million dollars and then try to behave as though you're going to keep [the movie] wrapped under a blanket … I realize that you have to get it out there."
    Blomkamp will start untucking that blanket tomorrow when the trailer for Elysium debuts online, and it'll give audiences a taste of the bracing, brawny, brainy movie that today's footage seemed to showcase: an action film with a whole lot on its mind, similar to Blomkamp's feature debut, the Best Picture nominee District 9, but realized on an even bigger scale. The director describes Elysium (out August 9) as "a science-fiction take on the haves and have-nots and the separation of wealth," and Matt Damon stars as one of those have-nots, a former car thief living in a slummy future Earth studded with smoking skyscrapers while the pristine space station Elysium looms up above, a beautiful paradise for rich one-percenters that's patrolled by a severely ponytailed Jodie Foster.
    After a factory accident leaves Damon so irradiated that he'll only live five more days, he realizes that the sole cure to his condition can be found on the technologically advanced Elysium. With the help of characters played by Wagner Moura and Diego Luna, then, Damon is grafted into a brawny mech suit resembling Sigourney Weaver's power loader from Aliens (which Blomkamp cited as "my favorite movie of all time") so that he can kidnap rich businessman William Fichtner, steal his identity, and hijack his way to Elysium.
    Filmed back in fall of 2011, Elysium coincided with the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and it's hard to miss the real-life parallels in the film's story. Still, the normally chatty Blomkamp began to choose his words carefully when a journalist asked him whether the Occupy movement impacted the movie. "Hopefully it didn't impact it all," said Blomkamp, who seemed understandably wary that his summer movie could become a cable-news hot potato (especially since its star, Damon, is a politically outspoken Fox News bête noire). "It was the first time that I realized that I was making a film that, in terms of the global consciousness, fit into a CNN sound bite. That upset me a little bit. But they both come from the same place, I just don't want [the coverage] to be fast-food and throwaway."
    Of course, Blomkamp is working in a medium dominated by fast-food filmmakers, so his idea-packed tentpole pictures stand out all the more: Producer Simon Kinberg promised that Elysium would tackle "immigration, health care, and class issues," while Blomkamp's District 9 was a sci-fi parable that drew from the apartheid era in his native South Africa. "I think that in the realm of commercial popcorn cinema, the amounts of message or smuggling of ideas you can get in there is quite limited," Blomkamp admitted. "If you think you're actually going to make a difference or change anything, you're on pretty dangerous thin ice. But you can put ideas in there that are real issues that are happening in the world."
    Still, don't get the wrong impression: Though Elysium is smarter than your average action movie, it still comes complete with several spoonfuls of sugar. The footage we saw was packed with futuristic weaponry and sarcastic wisecracks, and Damon even disrobes for a glory shot of his tattooed abs that recalls Ryan Gosling's shirtless introduction in The Place Beyond the Pines. "It's got a copious amount of robotics and guns, so that's cool," laughed Blomkamp. "For me personally to get invested in [a movie], it has to have crazy amounts of genre stuff in it. As long as that's in it, I also want to have things that interest me and that I want to explore and talk about. Not just 'The guy has to shoot the other guy because he's got a gun.'"

  • 'Elysium' Sneak Preview: 7 Things to Know About Neil Blomkamp's New SciFi Movie


    Typically, August is known as a dumping ground for run-of-the-mill flicks -- ones that end up
    doing poorly critically and commercially. However, that could change this year with Neil
    Blomkamp's futuristic sci-fi flick "Elysium."

    The long-awaited follow-up to Blomkamp's surprise 2009 hit "District 9," "Elysium" focuses on
    issues of class and oppression in the year 2159. Here, Matt Damon stars as Max Coburn, an excon
    living on a ruined planet Earth, which has become overpopulated with the sick and poor. As
    for the rich folks, they're floating above Earth in Elysium, a utopia where the extremely wealthy
    live out their opulent lives, blissfully unaware of the chaos happening below.

    Moviefone was recently invited to a sneak preview of the film, where we got a look at the trailer
    and several minutes of footage. Here are seven things to expect when "Elysium" (a film you
    should be excited about) hits theaters on August 9.

    1. The Earth in "Elysium" Is in Shambles: Are you part of the 99 percent? Sorry, but in this film you've been left on Earth to slum it with most of humanity. The footage we saw depicted a planet filled with crumbling buildings, shantytowns, and disease. In a nutshell, this version of Earth sucks, which is why everyone who is still living there is trying to get out and go to
    "Elysium." Why? Because ...

    2. Elysium Is Utopia: If you want to build a space station for super-rich people, you better make it shine. The world of Elysium (the station not the movie) is flush with beautiful green fields, crystal clear bodies of water, and picturesque views of space. As the trailer states, on Elysium, there is "no poverty, no war, no sickness." Sounds like a pretty sweet deal if you can make the cut.

    3. Matt Damon Is Back in Fighting Mode It's been quite some time since we saw "action star" Damon. Here, he plays an ex-con looking to sneak into Elysium, where he can get top-of-the-line medical care to help save his life. The only problem is actually getting there. Enter Damon's gigantic robotic arm, a piece of equipment that gives him a ridiculous amount of strength and the ability to download knowledge from others. When I spoke to Damon at Comic-Con last summer, he called this arm the hulk suit (for the record, I am not sure if that's the official term for it), which "bolts into and locks into your nervous system." Cue a scene in the footage where the piece of metal is actually bolted into his nervous system. Ouch.

    3. Fun With Technology: "Elysium" takes place a hundred years in the future, so you better
    believe Blomkamp stuffed this movie with tons of futuristic new toys, the most important being
    Damon's aforementioned robot arm. But there are plenty of other fun gadgets, too, including the
    "Prometheus"-like medical treatment center, which can diagnose everything from a cold to cancer.

    4. The Visuals Are Spectacular: CGI can be hit or miss these days. However, if the "Elysium"
    footage we saw is any indication, the visuals in this movie will be absolutely stunning. The 2159
    screwed-up version of Earth looks the part, as does the beautiful, heaven-like Elysium. "By far
    the biggest challenge is the space station itself. There was a sh*tload of robotics and aircrafts and weapons. It looks cool, though," Blomkamp told me last summer.

    5. Jodie Foster Is Not Messing Around: Foster is the big baddie in this film, playing Secretary
    Delacourt, a hard-nosed head-of-state looking to protect the world of Elysium at all costs. The
    wealthy space station she helps run has a strong anti-immigration policy, which means
    trespassers get shot on site.

    6. The Plot Mirrors Some of Our Current National Issues: Just like "District 9" before it,
    "Elysium" deals with the divisive issue of class warfare. In America, a minority of the population
    owns a vast majority of the wealth, a fact that is certainly not lost on Blomkamp. There's also the anti-immigration policy, a topic which is currently making the rounds in Congress.

    7. The Movie Has a Sense of Humor: Matt Damon may be fighting for his life, but his character seems to be taking it in good spirits. At one point in the footage, he publicly shames his robot parole officer by throwing a little sarcasm his way. He even screws around with a robot security force that tries to frisk him (unfortunately for him, his jokes end up getting his arm broken).

    "Elysium" hits theaters August 9

  • ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Ted’ Lead 2013 MTV Movie Award Nominations

    Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained and Seth MacFarlane’s Ted lead the 2013 MTV Movie Awards nominations with seven each. Silver Linings Playbook follows with six nods and the final installment in the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, nabbed five. The Avengers, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Pitch Perfect and Skyfall all have four noms each. Rebel Wilson, nominated for Best Female Performance and Breakthrough Performance for her role as Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect, hosts the annual celebration of movies, actors and music. She’ll be joined by Will Ferrell, who’ll receive MTV’s inaugural Comedic Genius Award. The show airs live on MTV at 9 PM ET on Sunday, April 14. The complete list of nominees follows:

    Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company)
    Producers: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher
    Director: Quentin Tarantino

    Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)
    Producers: Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon
    Director: David O. Russell

    TED (Universal Pictures)
    Producers: Jason Clark, John Jacobs, Seth MacFarlane, Scott Stuber
    Director: Seth MacFarlane

    The Avengers (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
    Producer: Kevin Feige
    Director: Joss Whedon

    The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Producers: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas
    Director: Christopher Nolan

    Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables (Universal Pictures)
    Mila Kunis – TED (Universal Pictures)
    Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)
    Emma Watson – The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Summit Entertainment, LLC)
    Rebel Wilson – Pitch Perfect (Universal Pictures)

    Ben Affleck – Argo (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)
    Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
    Jamie Foxx – Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company)
    Channing Tatum – Magic Mike (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    Ezra Miller – The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Summit Entertainment, LLC)
    Eddie Redmayne – Les Misérables (Universal Pictures)
    Suraj Sharma – Life of Pi (20th Century Fox)
    Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
    Rebel Wilson – Pitch Perfect (Universal Pictures)

    Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty (Sony Pictures)
    Alexandra Daddario – Texas Chainsaw 3D (Lionsgate)
    Martin Freeman – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Jennifer Lawrence – House at the End of the Street (Relativity Media)
    Suraj Sharma – Life of Pi (20th Century Fox)

    Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson – Django Unchained (The
    Weinstein Company)
    Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook (The
    Weinstein Company)
    Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane as Ted – Ted (Universal Pictures)
    Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo – The Avengers (Walt Disney Studios
    Motion Pictures)
    Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis – The Campaign (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    Christian Bale – The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Daniel Craig – Skyfall (Sony Pictures)
    Taylor Lautner – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Summit
    Entertainment, LLC)
    Seth MacFarlane as Ted – Ted (Universal Pictures)
    Channing Tatum – Magic Mike (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    Jamie Foxx vs. Candieland Henchmen – Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company)
    Daniel Craig vs. Ola Rapace – Skyfall (Sony Pictures)
    Mark Wahlberg vs. Seth MacFarlane as Ted – Ted (Universal Pictures)
    Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth,
    Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner vs. Tom Hiddleston – The Avengers
    (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
    Christian Bale vs. Tom Hardy – The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx – Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company)
    Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman – Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features)
    Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook (The
    Weinstein Company)
    Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg – Ted (Universal Pictures)
    Emma Watson and Logan Lerman – The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Summit
    Entertainment, LLC)

    Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson – “Candieland Gets Smoked” in Django Unchained
    (The Weinstein Company)
    Denzel Washington – “Final Descent” in Flight (Paramount Pictures)
    Anna Camp – “Hack-Appella” in Pitch Perfect (Universal Pictures)
    Javier Bardem – “Oops… There Goes His Face” in Skyfall (Sony Pictures)
    Seth MacFarlane as Ted – “Ted Gets Saucy” in Ted (Universal Pictures)

    Javier Bardem – Skyfall (Sony Pictures)
    Leonardo DiCaprio – Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company)
    Marion Cotillard – The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Tom Hardy – The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Tom Hiddleston – The Avengers (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables (Universal Pictures)
    Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash and Adam
    Rodriguez – Magic Mike (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Alexis Knapp,
    Ester Dean and Hana Mae Lee – Pitch Perfect (Universal Pictures)
    Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook (The
    Weinstein Company)
    Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller – The Perks of Being a
    Wallflower (Summit Entertainment, LLC)

  • ‘Ted’ Passes ‘Skyfall’ Box Office In Japan

    Universal and MRC‘s Ted today passed Skyfall at the Japanese box office and now has grossed $32.5M in the territory, the biggest total so far in 2013. It already was the biggest R-rated comedy of all time in Japan in its fifth week in the territory, where it enjoyed four weeks in a row at No. 1 following a January 18 bow. Skyfall has grossed $32.3M since its December 1 premiere there; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, meanwhile, has grossed $19.7M since its December 14 release; and Life Of Pi has grossed $17.4M since its January 25 bow.

    Overall, Ted has grossed $317.3M internationally and more than $536M worldwide, with Japan its final stop in the release schedule.

  • House of Cards Is the Most Popular TV Show in the World Right Now (According to IMDb)


    According to the IMDb MOVIEmeter, the Netflix original series House of Cards is currently the most popular TV show in the world right now.

    IMDb’s MOVIEmeter is based on algorithms that determine levels of public awareness and interest. It takes into account IMDb pageviews and well as star ratings.

    “IMDb Pro uses proprietary algorithms that take into account several measures of popularity for people and titles. The primary measure is who and what people are looking at on the public website. Other factors include Box office receipts and user quality votes on a scale of 1-10,” says IMDb.

    According to IMDb, this doesn’t mean that House of Cards is the best TV show out there (although I can personally confirm that it’s undoubtedly one of the most addictive). It’s not a rank of that. What it does show is a ton of buzz and interest for the new political drama.

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seems delighted by the news.

    Earlier this week, we learned from Netflix Content Chief Ted Sarandos that House of Cards is currently the most-watched program on Netflix – both in terms of total hours streamed and total viewers.

    “We’re not doing ratings, [but] we’re thrilled with the numbers,” said Sarandos. “It’s the most watched thing on Netflix in every country we operate in.”

    More good news for Netflix, who spent a pretty penny on this series (and who has plenty of other original series in the works).

  • I finished 'House of Cards.' Did you?

    Some aspects of House of Cards sound odd in concept, but they work, particularly Frank's tendency to break the "fourth wall" and speak directly into the camera. Also, every character on this show has a dark side. Interestingly, though, the more they screw up, the more attractive and oddly endearing they become. (Mad Men's Don Draper and Breaking Bad's Walter White are other notable antiheroes, but they're usually balanced out by more hopeful and well-behaved characters. Not here.)

    House of Cards is as good or better than what we'd see on HBO or AMC; in fact, I think its $100 million price tag makes it even more pleasurable to watch. For years critics have wondered whether TV networks still matter, and this show represents a moment when it appears they don't. If nothing else, the show serves as a call — to the major networks, anyway — that they need to step up their game. I only have so much time to watch a show, and given the choice between Cards and a stupid detective series on CBS, I'm picking the former.

  • 5 Things We Learned About the Unconventional Assembling of 'House of Cards' From Media Rights Capital's Modi Wiczyk

    "House of Cards," the Netflix original political drama from David Fincher, Kevin Spacey and Beau Willimon that launched exclusively on the site on February 1st, has been an fascinating experiment both in terms of storytelling and as a business venture. It's a show that, in accordance with our DVRing/streaming habits, was released all at once and seems like it was made with that mode of consumption in mind, its episodes feeling more part of a 13-hour whole than single serve installments. And it's one that, like the cable series to which it is intended to be compared, feels very much defined by the vision of its creators, particularly the chilly, beautiful visual style set in the first two episodes, which were directed by Fincher himself.

    "House of Cards" is produced by Media Rights Capital, a film and TV production company whose past work includes "The Adjustment Bureau," "Ted," "The Box," "Brüno" and "The Ricky Gervais Show." Indiewire spoke with founder and co-CEO Modi Wiczyk about the movie-style way in which "House of Cards" was assembled, and how that led to it being the kind of series it is.

    The idea came from an intern.

    While MRC started with a focus on film, the company began looking to TV several years ago as the industry shifted "toward filmmaker-driven or auteurish kind of shows" that, Wiczyk explained, didn't seem that far from the types of projects they were already making via their existing relationships with filmmakers. As they started looking for a property to which they could bring a filmmaker for a TV series, an intern with a British father started insisting they take a look at the 1990 BBC miniseries "House of Cards," with its antiheroic lead. Wiczyk added that he didn't actually listen for months, but that when he finally took a look at it, quickly saw the potential and the way that it "was way ahead of its time." Optioning the property involved some convincing of Michael Dobbs, the UK politician who had written the novel on which the miniseries was based and who was protective of it.

    David Fincher initially only came on board as an executive producer.

    MRC had an existing film production deal in place with Fincher, who knew the original and decided to join the project as an executive producer, bringing "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" screenwriter Eric Roth to serve as another EP. Beau Willimon, a playwright known for his political-themed play "Farragut North," which was turned into the film "The Ides of March," was brought on to write the pilot as well as a series bible, and upon seeing his work Fincher said he wanted to direct some of the episodes.

    MRC developed the series itself before shopping it around to networks.

    Rather than take the concept or a pilot script to networks in a more traditional TV fashion, Wiczyk said that they made the decision to incubate the project in house on the company's dime in order to maintain control of the project and shape it without network input. That was how Willimon was brought in and given a year to start working on the show, outining not just the first season but a second one as well. Spacey, who was playing the title character in a Sam Mendes-directed touring stage production of "Richard III," has worked with Fincher before in "Se7en" and had been tracking the project, and was ultimately approached for and accepted the lead role. Because of Fincher's schedule, after the Netflix deal was in place Willimon ended up having another year in which MRC supporting a writing room and all 13 episodes were scripted before anything was shot.

    The show was intended to be auctioned to a TV network.

    "All we really wanted was to make the best show possible with a great home," said Wiczyk. "No one thought more than that." MRC set up meetings with various networks, talking to Netflix in the context of potentially having them partner with whomever bought the primary window to have it available for streaming more quickly. "Up until then they never indicated any interest in original primary viewing or personal content," said Wiczyk. "They read it and they called, said, 'We absolutely love it, we want to make it our anchor show. We want it to be our 'Mad Men,' our 'Shield' or our 'Sopranos' and define our network, define our service and throw all our weight behind it." What sealed the deal is that Netflix handed full creative and production control to the producers and to MRC and in addition offered a 26-episde, two season commitment. "We just billed Netflix as our United States outlet and subsequently MRC has made deals all over the world, having the show picked up," Wiczyk explained.

    MRC plans to continue setting up series this way.

    Wiczyk sees more name filmmakers and actors expressing interest in heading up small screen projects like "House of Cards" because "the budgets are very high, the opportunity to tell a story in an interesting way is there. A lot of the best drama has moved to subscription television." The company has projects in development from Rupert Wyatt, director of "The Escapist" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," Robert Zemeckis and "Elite Squad" filmmaker José Padilha. "Generally speaking," said Wiczyk, "all of our projects are going to be filmmaker relationships that we have who want to move into television.

    "The TV world is changing so dramatically and so quickly, you have to be entrepreneurial by definition because there's no incumbency to cling to. We live in a world where AMC shows or PBS shows are the number one rated in the country. It's exciting though, a lot of opportunity.

  • Media Rights Capital Raises $175M To Launch Movie Co-Financing Business

    EXCLUSIVE: This is a big deal — both because it’s a new line of business for Media Rights Capital, and because the company was able to raise the cash at a time when the lending markets remain tight. Private equity firm ABRY Partners was the lead investor in the $175M equity sale. It joins AT&T, WPP Group, and Goldman Sachs which just increased their stakes in the independent film and TV studio that’s behind Universal’s hit film Ted and Netflix’s House Of Cards. MRC plans to use the cash to co-finance films. It will work with multiple major studios, but doesn’t have its eye on any particular projects yet. It can expect lots of offers: Studios are eager to find co-finance partners to help reduce their investment risks. And MRC can participate in several projects since it’s free to recycle returns from its investments to support other films. “MRC will approach studios as a financial partner, as well as an operating partner where we can,” MRC co-CEO and co-founder Asif Satchu says. Investment bank Moelis & Co and J.P. Morgan advised MRC and helped raise the capital. This is the first funding deal for MRC since 2011 when it closed a $350M revolving credit facility.

  • 'House of Cards' Is Netflix's Most-Streamed Show

    Chief content officer Ted Sarandos, though, would not provide details.

    House of Cards is the most-watched streaming title at Netflix, chief content officer Ted Sarandos said Tuesday.

    Sarandos, though, said he has “no motivation” to share actual numbers because episodes run without commercials.

    Netflix has paid $100 million for two seasons of House of Cards, a political drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and produced by Media Rights Capital. It's arguably the most high-profile title in Netflix's foray into original programming.

    On Feb. 1, Netflix made the first 13 episodes available to subscribers for streaming, and another sign that the show is popular is that viewers who sample the show usually watch multiple episodes.

    Sarandos was speaking at the D: Dive Into Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel on Tuesday.

    “We’re thrilled,” Sarandos said, adding that he thinks Netflix got more bang for its buck out of House of Cards than it would have using the same amount of money to license more traditional TV content.

    A Netflix spokesman clarified that while House of Cards is more popular than all other TV titles available for streaming, some film titles are more popular.

  • 'Ted' Tops 'Jack Reacher' in Japan, While 'Les Miz' Hits $45 Million

    Foreign movies take four of the top five weekend box-office slots after local productions dominated last year.

    TOKYO – Ted led the Japanese box office for the third consecutive weekend, bringing in a total of $18.4 million (1.7 billion yen) and keeping Jack Reacher off the number-one spot for the Tom Cruise-starrer’s debut.

    Japan’s contribution to Ted’s international takings had already brought it over the $300 million mark last Friday.

    Jack Reacher, released locally by Paramount as Outlaw, took $3.6 million Friday to Sunday.

    Strawberry Night, a spin-off from a Fuji TV series about a female detective (Yuko Takeuchi), both directed by Yuichi Sato, was the only local movie in the weekend top five, an unusually good performance by foreign films. Last year saw imports take only 34.3 percent of the box office, the lowest level for over 45 years.

    Life of Pi dropped one spot to fourth place in its second week of release, while Les Miserables was in fifth after seven weeks in the chart. Les Miz, released by Toho-Towa, has now taken more than $45 million (4.1 billion yen), a record for an imported musical in Japan.

  • Viewer Addiction To New Kevin Spacey Drama Series

    NEW YORK (AP) — I binged.

    There was much anticipation for "House of Cards," a new original series from Netflix starring Kevin Spacey that arrived in one big helping — all 13 episodes of its first season — on the subscription streaming service last Friday for viewers to enjoy, at their leisure, in the weeks, months or even years to come.

    Unless, that is, the viewer just couldn't stop. Which was me. I proved incapable of saving some for later, devouring all 13 hour-long episodes over the weekend. Then I licked the bowl.

    Now I'm gorged, and I'm left hanging for who-knows-how-long, deprived of answers to the questions with which the season jarringly concludes.

    But more to the point: I love the series. It hooked me. (Courting bedsores, I took root on the couch last Friday night and watched the first seven episodes in a row.)

    "House of Cards" is a loose but respectful adaptation of the 1990s British political thriller of the same name, a TV masterpiece starring Ian Richardson as a conniving, manipulating Parliamentarian who rises to the level of prime minister before meeting his fate in the span of just 12 hours that aired over several years as a trilogy.

    The new "House of Cards" is set in Washington, D.C., in the current day. It finds Spacey as U.S. Congressman Francis Underwood, a shrewd country boy from South Carolina who, early on, describes himself as "just a lowly House majority whip (whose) job is to clear the pipes and keep the sludge moving."

    His is a somewhat different self-appraisal than that of Richardson's Francis Urquhart, the Conservative Chief Whip in the House of Commons, an avuncular aristocrat who wields a silver tongue, a twinkle in the eye and a bloodthirsty streak. With equally false modesty but far more polish, he describes himself as "merely a functionary. I keep the troops in line. I put a bit of stick about."

    Like the original, the new "Cards" has its particular Francis soon joining forces with a young, hungry and attractive journalist (Kate Mara) in a partnership of subterfuge and mutual convenience that quickly gets personal.

    And he, too, has a strong and supportive helpmate, his wife Claire (played by Robin Wright) whom he loves "more than a shark loves blood."

    Once or twice, Underwood echoes Francis Urquhart's coy non-quite-confirmation, "You might very well think that, but I couldn't possibly comment." Then, thankfully, he lays it to rest.

    While the original "House of Cards" is irresistible (and readily available right there on Netflix), this "Cards" is an original too. In contrast to the starchy, Thatcher-era government its forebear makes sport of, this "Cards" is waist-deep in today's Beltway melt-down, where Congress is "choked by pettiness and lassitude," as Underwood notes in one of his asides to the viewer.

    Underwood (who, in contrast to the right-wing Urquhart, is some semblance of a liberal Democrat) has his eye on a loftier perch than the House, and there seems no limit to the cunning he can muster toward that goal. Confident but ever-mindful that things can always go awry, he relies on no grand plan but, instead, a thicket of potential counter strikes. His is a meticulously orchestrated power grab.

    The result is a dark, hard-edged thriller whose soundtrack — far from the proud brassiness of the British "Cards" — is a thrumming, cautionary bass line.

    The intense style of this "House of Cards" reflects the pair who developed it: Beau Willimon, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of another political drama, "The Ides of March," and David Fincher, Oscar-nominated for directing "The Social Network," a thriller in its own geeky right.

    Spacey — once he and the audience get used to his Southern accent — is arresting. As a politician on the make, he is evocatively deadpan and sad-eyed, as if he wished this wretched world didn't justify his deeds but will damn sure make the best of it.

    It's easy to sum up: "House of Cards" is an outstanding, even addictive enterprise.

    And this brings us to the way Netflix is giving it to us. For virtually the first time in television history, a TV series isn't a controlled substance.

    Here's a show that isn't parceled out in carefully prescribed weekly doses! Such an innovation could have major implications, especially with Netflix's all-you-can-eat price structure. (And, by the way, it could fail. At least one analyst has cast doubt on "House of Cards" as a magnet to expand the service's subscription base: In theory, you could subscribe for one month, catch all the episodes plus any other goodies you want, then bail.)

    In either case, "Cards" represents a brash response to the burgeoning new fad of linking TV viewership with social media in a shared "second-screen" experience, which largely depends on watching TV the old-fashioned way: in synch with everybody else when the network dictates.

    One more thing: "House of Cards" poses a new challenge to the media critic.

    I have regularly felt awkwardness at critiquing the premiere of a TV series without knowing what might lie ahead in future episodes. It's like reviewing the early chapters of a novel I haven't finishing reading and that maybe isn't even written yet.

    "House of Cards," with 13 episodes available to me and every subscriber to the Netflix library (another 13 hours are completed but still under wraps), settles that issue. Now I know where the season is going and how well it gets there, and so can you, whenever you choose.

    But what do I, as a spoiler-averse critic, feel comfortable disclosing, and when, with every viewer watching "Cards" at their own pace?

    I can say this: The first episode doesn't capture the power of the series, nor has Spacey yet hit his stride. But stick around and you'll be treated to remarkable performances, a wickedly twisted plot, and unforgettable moments like what I'll call the bathtub scene in episode 5, one of the greatest moments in film I can recall.

    And until the final fadeout of episode 13, "House of Cards" keeps the pressure on. It's a driving force. Not unlike Francis Underwood.

    With Netflix my enabler, I was helpless to resist.

  • Creative Freedom Will Push Cord-Cutting More Than Your Media Box


    Amazon and Netflix are cribbing from the hands-off approach cable giants like HBO and FX take to creating amazing television, a move that will lead to better shows by tempting writers and producers to create original programming.

    Streaming media companies are increasingly focusing on generating original content as they try to draw viewers away from network and cable television. Netflix is leading the way, and its flagship show, House of Cards, premiers today. Not to be outdone, Amazon said Thursday that it is expanding its plans beyond situation comedies to include children’s programming.

    To do this, Netflix and others are removing the traditional rules and oversight that can hamper creativity. Forget about the focus groups shaping shows, the suits calling the shots and the advertisers wringing their hands over something “edgy.” Streaming media companies are positioning themselves as the place where writers, directors and producers can do what they want, without fear of micromanaging.

    “Netflix offered total creative control of the production.” According Media Rights Capital to CEO and co-founder Modi Wiczyk. “Everybody believed in Netflix.”

    This will be key to the success of streaming media’s attempt to be more than the place where you watch the latest movies or catch up on Breaking Bad. The challenge has never been getting into people’s homes — Netflix is available on just about device that can be hooked up to a TV, and Amazon is pursuing similar ubiquity. The challenge is generating programming people will want to watch and cannot get anywhere else.

    This is one of the reasons Netflix got House of Cards. The show, produced by David Fincher, is based upon the best selling book by Lord Michael Dobbs and a TV series by the BBC. House of Cards will provide Netflix with the kind of credibility usually reserved for the likes of AMC or HBO. It’s also an interesting experiment, because Netflix plans to release the entire season — 13 episodes in all — today.

    But the show may have never been made had it not been for the artistic license Netflix gave the production company Media Rights Capital. Dobbs was wary of licensing the story for fear of relinquishing control and seeing his story sullied or sold out by the whims of traditional network or studio executives. But Netflix gave the production company wide latitude to do as it pleased.

    “Media Rights Capital ran it fully,” Wiczyk told Wired. “Netflix left Media Rights Capital alone to complete and deliver the show. A huge deal when you think about the fact that this is the most expensive drama on TV.”

    Still, it’s a huge gamble to Netflix, even with big names like Fincher — who directed films like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network and Fight Club — and Kevin Spacey involved. Netflix is rumored to have paid about $3.8 million per episode for House of Cards, about twice what television programs typically cost. But Netflix’s bet could pay off — it saw a jump of 2 million subscribers in the fourth quarter.

    The show’s launch is so big that Xbox is offering unlocked Netflix access to Xbox live subscribers. Currently only Xbox Live Gold members have access to the streaming app.

    Amazon is taking a similar tack in its bid to offer original programming. The company will finance 12 pilots — six comedies, six kids’ shows — and allow viewers to decide what gets picked up. Traditional studios and networks do the same thing, but use small focus groups.

    But regardless of how a show is picked to stream, Amazon is keen on letting artists be artist. “We can bring insights into what Amazon customers might respond to, but the best shows will be driven by a passionate, talented creative team and it’s important to know when to get out of the way and let the magic happen,” Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios told Wired via email.

    The rush to challenge established networks by offering original content is a good way for companies like Netflix and Amazon to attract more subscribers. But it’s also good for viewers, who may want throw down the shackles of their local cable company. Cord cutting used to mean paying a premium to see first-run shows via iTunes or Amazon 24 hours after they were broadcast, or waiting a year to see them on a streaming service like Netflix.

    Viewers will still have to rely upon such methods to see shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Girls, but they’ll soon be able to enjoy content they won’t find anywhere else.

  • 'House Of Cards' Is Built To Last

    This week brings two new high-profile drama series. One is The Americans, premiering Jan. 30 on the FX network; it's about sleeper KGB agents living in the U.S. during the Reagan era. The other is House of Cards, a new series premiering Feb. 1.

    Both of these new series are all about intrigue, and they set themselves apart from the TV pack in both setting and style. Based on their first episodes, House of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey, is the more artistically successful of the two, but both new shows are impressively ambitious and interesting enough to follow, to see how much they'll develop. Both of them are better than any new broadcast network series this season — and neither comes from a broadcast network. House of Cards doesn't even come from a network. But more on that in a minute.

    Let's start with The Americans. It's created by Joe Weisberg, a former member of the CIA, and its executive producers include Graham Yost, creator of another FX series, the excellent Justified. The premise of The Americans takes something from today's headlines — a concern about sleeper cells of foreign terrorists on American soil, blending in and waiting for orders — and flips it.

    Instead of modern times and al-Qaida, The Americans takes place in 1981, shortly after Ronald Reagan's first inauguration — when the Soviet Union was feared, Reagan was newly elected and the Cold War was heating up again. We meet a pair of Soviet agents who were given the assignment of an arranged marriage and moved to America more than a decade before, and who now live in the Washington suburbs with their two children, cover jobs as travel agents, and even a house with an actual white picket fence. And we're asked to empathize with them and root for them, despite their allegiances and activities.

    No doubt that's why the central roles have been cast with extremely likable actors. The husband, whose American cover name is Philip Jennings, is played by Matthew Rhys, who played Kevin on ABC's Brothers & Sisters. And Philip's wife, Elizabeth, who loves the KGB more than she loves her assigned husband, is played by Keri Russell, star of the WB series Felicity.

    The Americans provides both of them with dream roles. In the premiere, both Philip and Elizabeth adopt other disguises and identities to solicit information from targets — then return home, where they play the roles of ordinary mom and dad. Flashbacks flesh out their initial introduction and uneasy relationship, and there's a new wrinkle thrown at them early on: An FBI counterterrorist agent and his wife move in across the street, and the sleeper agents don't know if that's a coincidence or if the government suspects them.

    Either way, I suspect that Noah Emmerich, the actor playing the FBI agent, may steal this show. He's the real sleeper here — and though I really like Russell's tough new persona, The Americans truly comes to life whenever Emmerich shows up.

    At least initially, though, it bogs down a bit during the flashbacks, which are too straightforward; and one action sequence, which has Philip and Elizabeth bonding a little as they embark on a dangerous mission together, makes a serious musical misstep. As they set off — without saying a word to one another as they go through their various spy motions — we hear on the soundtrack one of the most iconic music cues in all of TV history. It's an homage, certainly, and a song that is true to the '80s era. But when I heard it, instead of pulling me more deeply into the drama, it made me laugh. If you were around during the decade when The Americans takes place, it's impossible to hear Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" without thinking of Miami Vice. Other period music is used more effectively, but that's one that should have been avoided.

    House of Cards, on the other hand, hits the perfect tone right from the start. It's based on a wonderful British miniseries from 1990, which starred Ian Richardson as a career politician who spoke to the camera directly as he schemed and charmed his way through the corridors of power. That version, based on the novels by Michael Dobbs, was adapted by Andrew Davies, who wrote Bridget Jones's Diary and the TV versions of Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair.

    This new American version is adapted by Beau Willimon, who replaces the House of Commons with the House of Representatives, an incoming prime minister with an incoming president, and lots of other details that make this new House of Cards the best TV series about American politics since The West Wing.

    In both the British and American versions of House of Cards, the central character is the majority whip — played, in this 2013 incarnation, by Kevin Spacey, who, as Frank Underwood, is perfectly ruthless and ruthlessly perfect.

    Robin Wright plays his equally ambitious and cold-blooded wife, Claire, and they're both like characters straight out of Shakespeare. She's Lady Macbeth, with her own insatiable drive and ambition — and he's Iago, the evil lieutenant who manipulates everyone above and below him.

    And Frank, like many a character from Shakespeare, often pauses to address his audience directly, and privately, to reveal his innermost thoughts. He's giving a soliloquy — but, as in a scene when he pauses during a re-election party to turn to the camera and speak, he turns us viewers into unindicted conspirators.

    Filmed on location in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., House of Cards looks and feels authentic. And series creator Willimon knows this world well: Before and after becoming a playwright, he was a campaign worker for Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean. The way Spacey's Underwood manipulates the press — embodied here by Kate Mara as a young newspaper reporter and blogger — is especially smart and credible. But all of House of Cards is intriguing and exciting: The first two episodes I previewed are so good and so addictive, I can't wait to see more.

    And starting Friday, I won't have to. That's when Netflix, which presents House of Cards, unveils not just the pilot, but all 13 episodes of the show's first season. Fans of the series, once they find it on Netflix's streaming service, can dive into some serious binge viewing and watch season one as fast as they want. This isn't the first time, on the Internet or on Netflix, that an original production has been presented this way, but House of Cards is by far the best yet. It is to Netflix what The Sopranos was to HBO, what The Shield was to FX, what Mad Men was to AMC. It's an identity maker and a game changer.

    And unlike all those others, House of Cards arrives all at once. If the broadcast networks, especially, aren't frightened by this, they should be. Netflix, this week, isn't merely making great television — it's making TV history.

  • House of Cards: TV Review

    Netflix goes big with the series starring Kevin Spacey as a scheming congressional leader in a production as slick and stylish as anything on HBO or Showtime.

    If Netflix wanted to come out of the gates strong as a content provider worthy of any cable channel, it picked a stellar choice in House of Cards, a remake of the Brit series starring a riveting Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher (at least the first two episodes, which were shown to critics before Netflix releases all 13 for streaming Feb. 1).

    The streaming and DVD-by-mail service got its original-content feet wet a year ago with Lillyhammer, starring Steven Van Zandt as a New York gangster who goes into witness protection in Norway, but it is really making its mark with a slate of five new series rolling out in 2013. It’s a concerted, calculated slate that says, “We’ve arrived -- and what are you going to do about it?”

    As a threat to higher-end niche cable channels that traffic in acclaimed dramas, Netflix’s likeliest competitors are FX, AMC and Starz. But there’s a ton of money on the screen in House of Cards -- produced by Media Rights Capital and launched with a reported $100 million investment for two 13-episode seasons -- and it looks as slick and stylish as any HBO or Showtime offering.

    Co-created and written by Beau Willimon (The Ides of March), House of Cards is the right lead-off show because it has “player” written all over it. Luscious cinematography that shows off Washington, D.C. -- a central force in this political series -- never gets old to look at, especially the opening montage.

    The series focuses on House Majority Whip Francis Underwood (Spacey), a wheeler-dealer who was essential in getting new president Garrett Walker (Michael Gill) elected, plus -- and more important to his plans for power -- landing Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey) as chief of staff, who will give Francis access and the policy changes he wants as he pushes for Secretary of State.

    But there’s only one problem with that: After the inauguration, the hard-nosed Linda gives Francis the bad news that he’s not getting the Cabinet job. (The president isn’t even present at the break-it-to-him meeting). Instead, the administration wants Francis just where he is, because he’d be more valuable there helping shepherd new legislation through in the first 100 days.

    Knocked on his heels and bitterly disappointed, Francis appears spun-around crushed. But his equally conniving and power-hungry wife, Claire (Robin Wright), won’t allow that. “My husband doesn’t apologize, even to me,” she tells him. Their main connection seems to be they crave power and influence more than any other couple and feed off it in an almost sexual way. The setback also has hurt Claire’s efforts at restructuring her nonprofit to be more high profile. It doesn’t take long for Francis to recover from the blow. And what he’s got on his mind isn’t all that hard to figure out: revenge.

    But he’s not just interested in making the new administration regret screwing him so cold-bloodedly; he wants to prove where the real power rests if such a person has the wherewithal and spiteful backbone to move all obstacles to get it done. And Francis does. He is gleefully manipulative, causing havoc and headaches in the first two episodes to establish he’s not to be messed with, while sublimely coming off in person -- and to the faces of those he’s sinking -- as if he’s on their side. It’s master-manipulation, and Spacey, using a wonderfully seductive and disdainful Southern accent, truly nails every line.

    Now, the big conceit in House of Cards is that Spacey breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the camera, one of the most dicey stylistic choices any series can make. But it’s not unique; Don Cheadle, yet another fantastic and magnetic actor, pulls it off with aplomb on Showtime’s House of Lies. That’s clearly the key: You need someone absolutely convincing to make that trick work. In House of Cards, Spacey gives a master class in how this is done, his dialogue dripping either with disdain or the calm dismissiveness of a man who already has set damaging events in motion and knows before anyone else the fallout that’s about to occur. Spacey also has a well-honed half eye-roll/half dead-eye stare that’s glorious to behold as he breaks that wall and engages the viewer.

    “You know what I like about people?” he asks, staring into the camera. “They stack so well.” He’s been reading newspaper coverage of the carnage he’s created. When he eviscerates a candidate's nomination, Francis looks at the camera and says the man will go home and realize how he was sliced and diced him and conclude, “My God, all I ever amounted to was chitlins.”

    It’s not all one-liners and sneering contempt, however. Spacey’s character is allowed some inoffensive exposition and often tells the viewer what someone is thinking and will do. When they do it, Francis will look into the camera, his faced drained of any emotion, letting you know it’s almost too easy for him. This is why you keep a guy like him on your side.

    Meanwhile, Wright’s performance is a unique blend of ice-queen power player and loyal, equal-partner wife who keeps Francis directed. Fincher’s shots of them enduring people they don’t like in Washington -- where the elected officials, lobbyists and other players see each other in church, at the symphony, at fundraisers, etc. -- solidifies a viewer’s belief that the duo combine to be the same type of predator.

    For Francis to pull the strings that crush the best-laid plans of the administration that screwed him, he needs a capable team and web of other players. His chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is a peacetime consigliere with an equally blunt approach. He and Francis also needed a loyal soldier who will follow orders and find one in Congressman Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), whose proclivity for women, booze and drugs eventually lands him in the majority whip’s doghouse and thus creates the makings of an indebted, loyal soldier.

    What might be less effective -- especially for those of us in the world of journalism -- is the construct of Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), who works at the fictional Washington Herald and is doing meaningless features and feeling wasted, though it’s clear she’s still quite young and green. She’s painted as more of a social-media/blogger type than a seasoned journalist, though she has a voracious desire to cover politics (and has some hard-earned understanding of the players to help her). “This is the Washington Herald, not TMZ,” an editor tells her. She replies, “Do you know how many people watch TMZ?” But senior political writer Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer) wants no part of her.

    Zoe wants to shake things up in a new-media kind of way: getting a blog, going to parties, doing more unsourced stuff for online, which leads to derision from those at the paper. But a trip to the symphony and a picture of Francis glancing at her ass while she walks in -- just a captured fleeting moment -- leads Zoe to make a bold proposition to Francis: Be my source; give me anything, and I’ll run with it. She wants access, and he realizes press manipulation will keep his Machiavellian plans in motion.

    Now, Mara is excellent in this role, but it’s a bit of a stretch to think that someone so savvy as Francis would make a link with someone so unproven. She hooks him by saying she’s better than what she’s being asked to do, which is precisely what’s happening to (and fueling) Francis, so that’s when he agrees.

    Once you get over the dubious alliance, the dramatic function of being able to manipulate things through the press becomes intriguing and essential. One night when they secretly meet in the shadows at a museum, Francis makes Zoe prove her smarts by trying to figure out what he’s about to give her and how it will play out. It’s a wonderful scene, allowing viewers to realize Zoe really is more talented than her entry-level job. Francis then gets up, looks at painting of two rowers and mentions that it’s his favorite. As he departs, Francis says: “We’re in the same boat now, Zoe. Be careful not to tip it over. I can only save one of us from drowning.”

    Willimon clearly is having fun with the writing on this series, and he’s deftly able to make it shift characters and moods with ease. That means Francis isn’t always devouring people. In one scene, we find that he -- like so many others -- owes a great deal to lobbyists. And when he’s shown being threatened to make promises come true, he says to the camera: “It’s degrading, I know. But everybody gets in line when the tit’s that big.”

    In other scenes, Willimon makes sure he fleshes out the characters so they’re not one-dimensional. If they’re doing awful things, he finds subtle ways to make that reverberate. For example, Claire makes her loyal office manager fire 18 people and then walks in and fires the office manager; later, Claire is ordering from a Starbucks-like chain, and the older woman running the cash register -- clearly someone who recently was downsized and needs work -- is mystified by the process and lost. As Claire endures the screw-up while a younger barista fixes things, Fincher keeps the camera tight on Wright’s face to find the cracks in her character’s emotions.

    Even better is when Willimon does the unexpected. Outside on the street, a crazy man -- half naked, dirty and with wild, stringy hair -- is grunting and roaring like an animal. Francis walks over, bends down and looks him in the eyes, which eventually calms the man. Says Francis: “Nobody can hear you. Nobody cares. Nothing will come of this.” Let the nice men take care of you, he says; part paternal offering, part command. It’s a great scene.

    House of Cards needn’t worry about ratings, of course. That’s not how Netflix -- or HBO or Showtime -- operates. So the series is in no peril, already having been picked up for a second season. It’s a heavyweight new contender in the drama category, just as Netflix now is as a content provider.

  • Netflix shuffles the TV deck with 'House of Cards'

    NEW YORK (AP) — In Netflix's bid for a flagship original drama of its own — a "Sopranos" to its HBO — the subscription streaming service is presenting a high-class adaptation of a British political thriller offered up all at once, with its first season immediately ready for TV-viewing gluttony.

    The show, "House of Cards," is a bold attempt to remake the television landscape with the kind of prestige project cable channels like HBO, AMC and Showtime have used to define themselves. But "House of Cards," produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey, won't be on the dial of that refuge of quality dramas — cable television — but streamed online to laptops and beamed directly to flat-screens through set-top boxes and Internet-enabled devices.

    "It's sort of like we're the new television series that isn't on television," says Spacey.

    On Feb. 1, all 13 hours of "House of Cards" will premiere on Netflix, a potentially landmark event that could herald the transition of television away from pricey cable bundles and toward the Internet — a process well under way at YouTube, Hulu, Yahoo and others, but not yet tested to the degree of "House of Cards."

    The show is no low-budget Web series, but an HBO-style production for which Netflix reportedly paid in the neighborhood of $100 million for two seasons.

    "When we got into original programming, I wanted it to be loud and deliberate," says Ted Sarandos, head of content at Netflix, who only will say the cost was in the "high end" for a TV show. "I wanted consumers to know that we were doing it and I wanted the industry to know that we were doing it so we could attract more interesting projects. Doing it in some half way, some small thing, it wasn't going to get us there."

    The revered British original aired in three seasons from 1990 to 1996 and was adapted from the books by Michael Dobbs, a notable politician and adviser to Margaret Thatcher. It starred Ian Richardson as a scheming, manipulating politician who shared his power-hungry strategies directly into the camera. With a darkly comic antihero as protagonist, it was a forerunner to characters like Walter White of "Breaking Bad" and Dexter Morgan of "Dexter."

    Independent studio Media Rights Capital, a producer of films like "Ted" and "Babel," purchased the rights to "House of Cards" and paired Fincher with the project, along with Beau Willimon, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of another political drama, "The Ides of March."

    When MRC approached different networks (HBO, Showtime and others), it reached out to Netflix about adding the show to its digital library following a run on TV. But Netflix wanted "House of Cards" as a statement show to launch a crop of original programming.

    Sarandos says their wealth of data on user viewing habits proved there's a large audience for Fincher, Spacey and political thrillers. As licensing rights have gotten pricier and harder to land, and the streaming business has grown more competitive, Netflix has focused on adding exclusive programming to entice viewers.

    "When you look at 'The Sopranos' or 'Sex and the City' on HBO, or 'Mad Men' on AMC or 'The Shield' on FX or 'Weeds' on Showtime, if you have the opportunity to earn your way into becoming that sort of anchor flagship show that defines a network, it's a very special thing," says Modi Wiczyk, co-CEO of MRC. "I'm sure going in, all of those folks that produced all of those shows said, 'This is not an incumbent. What's it going to look like?'"

    A general spirit of rookie experimentation pervades "House of Cards," the first TV show for Fincher, the director of "Fight Club" and "The Social Network."

    "I walk into this as a total neophyte. I don't watch much TV," says Fincher, who directed the first two hours and has overseen the whole series. "What was interesting to me was the notion of having a relationship with an audience that was longer than two hours."

    Obsessively bingeing on a serial, whether "The Wire" or "Battlestar Galactica," has become a modern ritual in DVR-emptying bursts, on-demand catch-ups or DVD marathons. In releasing "House of Cards" all at once, Netflix will sacrifice the attention generated by weekly episodes to cater to these habits. Sarandos notes that in the first 24 hours that Netflix had the second season to AMC's "Walking Dead," about 200,000 people watched the entire season.

    Netflix, being outside the purview of Nielsen ratings, doesn't plan to release viewership figures for "House of Cards." Instead, they hope to retain and add to its 27.1 million domestic subscribers, a number that hasn't always grown as quickly as some Wall Street investors have wanted. (A positive earnings report Wednesday, though, sent the stock soaring.) The audience for "House of Cards" will be immediately global: It premieres in 50 countries and territories.

    "We want to have a situation where these shows have time to find their audience," says Sarandos. "We're not under any time constraints that we have to get all of America to watch this show Monday night at 8 o'clock. There's no differential value in people watching it this year, let alone Monday night."

    Transferring the tale from Thatcher-era London to contemporary Washington, D.C., held obvious challenges to Willimon, who sought to broaden the show's scope. The wife to Spacey's Francis Underwood, played by Robin Wright as a kind of Lady Macbeth, has been fleshed out. The reporter whom Underwood exploits to both his and her advantage (played by Kate Mara) is now a blogger.

    Urquhart's great catch phrase — "You might very well think that, but I couldn't possibly comment" — is plainly British in manner. But Willimon had the breakthrough that if he made Francis a congressman from South Carolina — where much of Willimon's family lives — a Southern drawl would make the phrase more natural.

    Part of the thrill of "House of Cards," the original and the adaptation, is its use of direct address. Just as Richardson did, Spacey occasionally turns devilishly to the camera to explain his Machiavellian politics. It's a device famously used by Shakespeare in "Richard III," which Spacey fittingly played in a touring show before shooting began on "House of Cards" in Baltimore.

    "I'm not sure I would have known how to play it because you're just looking down the barrel of a lens, but I had just had the experience for 10 months and 198 performances of looking into the eyes of the audience around the world," says Spacey, who's also a producer on "House of Cards." ''I really learned a lot about that relationship."

    The timing is good for "House of Cards" in that it presents a corrupt Congressman at a time when Congress is viewed by many as the antihero of American life. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling found that Congress, in its inaction and party rancor, is currently less popular than root canals and the band Nickelback.

    That makes Fincher recall his first collaboration with Spacey, who played the elusive serial killer in his film "Se7en": "Now that John Doe's in Congress, he's so much more evil," he says, laughing.

    Yet Spacey's Underwood gets things done, a Lyndon Johnson-style practitioner of strong-arm politics. Willimon believes the show is thus one of the most accurate political dramas "in terms of how the real world works."

    "We give you Francis Underwood, a truly effective politician," says Willimon. "Are we willing to accept that side in our politicians that can be ruthless and self-interested if the result is progress?"

    An earlier Netflix original, "Lilyhammer," starring Steven Van Zandt, was created for Norwegian television, but "House of Cards" was made purely for Netflix. Next to come will be the highly-anticipated rebirth of the former Fox cult comedy "Arrested Development" in May, followed by shows from the horror filmmaker Eli Roth, "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan and the comedian Ricky Gervais.

    Says Sarandos: "This is definitely just the start."

  • A Drama’s Streaming Premiere

    EARLY in the new Netflix series “House of Cards” the narrator and card player Representative Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, looks straight into the camera and tells viewers: “Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value.”

    Underwood is speaking at a presidential inauguration, just outside the Capitol in Washington. As viewers observe the swearing-in he asks in a delicious Southern drawl, “Centuries from now, when people watch this footage, who will they see smiling just at the edge of the frame?” Then Underwood comes into frame again. He’s just a few rows away from the president. He gives the camera a casual wave.

    Underwood, having been spurned in his bid to become secretary of state, is on a quest for power that’s just as suspenseful as anything on television. But his story will unspool not on TV but on Netflix, the streaming video service that is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in original programming. Its plan for showing “House of Cards,” an adaptation of a 1990 BBC mini-series set in Parliament, will itself be a departure from the usual broadcast approach. On Feb. 1 all 13 episodes will be available at once, an acknowledgment that many of its subscribers like to watch shows in marathon sessions.

    Another 13 episodes are already in production. Odds are, then, that viewers are going to spend quite a while inside Underwood’s head as he tricks, coerces and sometimes intimidates his opponents. “He makes you complicit in an odd way,” said David Fincher, the acclaimed filmmaker who directed the first episode of the new series.

    This is accomplished by having Mr. Spacey break the fourth wall, or address the audience directly. The original “House of Cards” did it too.

    “I loved the idea of being intimately part of the thought process of this lead character, because he could take you aside and explain to you what he was doing and why he was doing it and where it was headed,” Mr. Fincher said.

    He and the other producers won’t reveal exactly where their modern-day “Macbeth” ends up, though a shot at the presidency isn’t a bad guess. The characters introduced in the first two episodes include Representative Peter Russo, a pawn for Underwood, played by Corey Stoll (Hemingway in “Midnight in Paris”); Linda Vasquez, the president’s chief of staff, played by Sakina Jaffrey; and Underwood’s conniving wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright. “In politics there’s ambition, desire, lust, betrayal — all the same kinds of things we exhibit and experience in our own everyday lives,” said Beau Willimon, the show runner. Mr. Fincher, Mr. Willimon and many of the other players — all basically television novices — were brought together by Media Rights Capital, an independent studio that had optioned the rights to “House of Cards” thanks to an intern who recommended it to Mordecai Wiczyk, the studio’s co-founder.

    Mr. Fincher was finishing “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” when he was introduced to the BBC mini-series by an agent. “David said, ‘I’d love to executive-produce this, and I’d like to bring Eric Roth with me,’ ” Mr. Wiczyk recalled. “Generally speaking, when you get that phone call, you just say yes. Which I did.”

    Mr. Roth had written the screenplay for “Benjamin Button.” Next, Mr. Fincher said, they had to “find a writer who would do the due diligence to transplant parliamentary politics to Washington.” Enter Mr. Willimon, who had written the play “Farragut North” and turned it into the film “The Ides of March.” After watching the BBC mini-series, he said, “I saw tons of great opportunities to make it our own, to make it contemporary, to broaden its scope and deepen its story.” It’s a “reinvention,” he added, not a mere remake.

    By the time Mr. Willimon completed the pilot in early 2011, Mr. Spacey’s agent had started asking about the project. (Artistic director of the Old Vic theater in London, “Kevin is an Anglophile,” Mr. Wiczyk said.) The actor was part of the package Media Rights Capital brought to HBO, Showtime, AMC and other possible television buyers.

    But before the studio met with any of them it put out a feeler to Netflix, thinking that fast-growing service might bid for the rights to repeat the show after a television premiere. The Netflix chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, a fan of the original, did what Netflix executives tend to do: He looked at the data. He found that Mr. Spacey and Mr. Fincher’s films were pretty popular among subscribers to Netflix’s streaming service. So were the films and TV shows in the category Netflix called “political thrillers.” And if that wasn’t enough evidence that a “House of Cards” reboot would fare well, there was this: The DVDs of the original mini-series were popular among subscribers to the company’s DVD-by-mail service.

    Mr. Sarandos also sized up the project qualitatively. “It looked incredibly promising,” he said, “kind of the perfect storm of material and talent.”

    He wanted exclusive rights to the show — a jaw-dropper at the time, since Netflix wasn’t in the exclusives business yet. His $100 million commitment to license 26 episodes, two seasons, sight unseen clinched the deal.

    Since the deal was struck in March 2011 Netflix has taken a couple of tentative steps into original programming, picking up overseas shows that had never been seen in the United States before. But “House of Cards” is the first show that can be called made for Netflix. It’s also the first to be considered, by those that do such considering, as prestigious as the programs on HBO and other top-tier cable channels. Netflix plans to have premieres of several other original shows this year, including a new season of the canceled Fox comedy “Arrested Development”; “Hemlock Grove,” a horror series produced by Eli Roth; a comedy, “Orange Is the New Black,” from the “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan; and another called “Derek” from Ricky Gervais.

    For “House of Cards” what was almost as important as the two-season commitment was Netflix’s promise of zero interference. “We’re placing our faith in you,” Mr. Sarandos told Mr. Fincher and the other producers.

    Mr. Willimon said that he and his writing staff wrote drafts of all 13 episodes of the first season before filming commenced on a soundstage outside Baltimore last April — in contrast to most television shows that have a much more compressed timetable. What is compressed, in this case, is the release of the first season.

    “We approached this creatively as a 13-hour movie,” said Mr. Willimon, who eschewed cliffhangers at the ends of some episodes because, well, he could. “Knowing we had two full seasons in advance, I didn’t feel the pressure to sell the end of each episode with superficial cliffhangers or shock tactics in order to keep coming back, in order to jack up the ratings week to week,” he said. “I hope our version of a cliffhanger is compelling, sophisticated characters and complex storytelling.”

    Since the series is set in Washington, some viewers will surely wonder if the characters are stand-ins for a real political animals. “Yeah, people will be tempted to think that it’s a real-life portrayal of life in D.C.,” Mr. Sarandos said. “It’s not at all. It’s a piece of fiction that is incredible. It’s not an attempt to portray the nastiness of Washington. It’s an attempt to portray the nastiness of mankind.”

  • 'Ted' earns Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song

    Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

    - “Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice”: Music and Lyric by J. Ralph

    - “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted”: Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane

    - “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”: Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri

    - “Skyfall” from “Skyfall”: Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

    - “Suddenly” from “Les Misérables”: Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

  • 'Ted' nominated for Visual Effects Society Awards

    Visual Effects Society Announces Nominees for 11th Annual VES Awards.

    Los Angeles – The Visual Effects Society (VES) is pleased to announce the nominees for the 11th Annual VES Awards, which recognize outstanding visual effects artistry in 24 categories of film, animation, television, commercials and video games. Nominees were selected Saturday, January 5 by VES members at SPY/ a FotoKem Company in the Bay Area and at FotoKem in Burbank in California; and at Blue Sky Studios in New York, Weta Digital in New Zealand, Fuel VFX in Sydney, Molinare in the UK and Image Engine in Vancouver.

    Jeffrey A. Okun, Chair of the Visual Effects Society, comments, "Visual effects have helped define the experience of going to the cinema. Every year, visual effects artists put their technical skill, ingenuity and passion to work in the creation of images that astound and move us. We congratulate all of our nominees on their amazing accomplishments in – and contributions to – the worlds of film, animation, television, special venue and games."

    As previously announced, acclaimed director Ang Lee will be honored with the VES Visionary Award. Richard Edlund ASC, VES will be presented the Lifetime Achievement Award.

    The 11th Annual VES Awards will take place on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

    The nominees for the 11th Annual VES Awards are as follows:

    Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
    Joe Letteri
    Eileen Moran
    Eric Saindon
    Kevin L. Sherwood

    Paul Butterworth
    Charley Henley
    Allen Maris
    Richard Stammers

    Life of Pi
    Thomas Fisher
    Susan Macleod
    Guillaume Rocheron
    Bill Westenhofer

    The Avengers
    Susan Pickett
    Janek Sirrs
    Jeff White
    Guy Williams

    Grady Cofer
    Pablo Helman
    Jeanie King
    Glen Mcintosh

    Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture

    Rust and Bones
    Béatrice Bauwens
    Cédric Fayolle
    Nicolas Rey
    Stéphane Thibert

    The Impossible
    Felix Bergés
    Sandra Hermida
    Pau Costa Moeller

    Matt Dessero
    Leslie Hough
    Gregory Mcmurry
    Tom Smith

    Kevin Baillie
    Michael Lantieri
    Chris Stoski
    Ryan Tudhope

    Zero Dark Thirty
    Geoff Anderson
    Chris Harvey
    Jeremy Hattingh

    Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program

    Game of Thrones: Volar Morghulis
    Rainer Gombos
    Steve Kullback
    Sven Martin
    Juri Stanossek

    Once Upon A Time: The Stranger
    Dale Fay
    Laura Jones
    Nathan Matsuda
    Andrew Orloff

    Falling Skies: Worlds Apart
    James Hattin
    Suzanne Maclennan
    Curt Miller
    Andrew Orloff

    Nathan Larouche
    Lon Molnar
    Geoff Scott
    Bojan Zoric

    Munsters: Mockingbird Lane
    Leslie Ekker
    Jonah Hall
    Livia Hanich
    Jason Zimmerman

    Outstanding Real-Time Visuals in a Video Game

    Call of Duty: Black Ops II
    Jason Blundell
    Barry Whitney
    Colin Whitney

    Halo 4
    Mike Cronin
    Brien Goodrich
    Kiki Wolfkill
    Jon Wood

    Dirt Showdown
    Peter Asberg
    Peter Clark
    Nathan Fisher
    Julie Mcgurren

    Forza Horizon
    Michel Bastien
    Terrance Newell
    Gareth Richards
    Andrew Sage

    Viktor Antonov
    Sebastien Mitton
    Jean-Luc Monnet
    Julien Roby

    Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

    Mark Andrews
    Steve May
    Katherine Sarafian
    Bill Wise

    Chris Butler
    Sam Fell
    Travis Knight
    Brad Schiff

    Rise of the Guardians
    Nancy Bernstein
    David Prescott
    Peter Ramsey
    Christina Steinberg

    Wreck-It Ralph
    Sean Jenkins
    Scott Kersavage
    Rich Moore
    Clark Spencer

    Hotel Transylvania
    Lydia Bottegoni
    James Crossley
    Mike Ford
    Daniel Kramer

    Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program

    Hemingway & Gellhorn
    Nathan Abbot
    Kip Larsen
    Chris Morley
    Christopher Paizis

    Boardwalk Empire: Episode 308
    John Bair
    Parker Chehak
    Paul Graff
    Lesley Robson-Foster

    Men Who Built America : Episode 2
    Glenn Allen
    Matthew Conner
    Eran Dinur
    David Reynolds

    Hell On Wheels : Blood Moon
    Matt Von Brock
    Jason Fotter
    Tim Jacobsen
    Bill Kent

    Hawaii Five-O: La O Na Makuahine
    Gevork Babityan
    Jon Howard
    Armen Kevorkian
    Ricardo Ramirez

    Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

    Pepsi: Crowd Surfing
    Martin Aufinger
    Russell Dodgson
    Abby Orchard
    Chris Redding

    Nike: Biomorph
    Rafael Colon
    Aladino Debert
    David Liu
    Nicola Wiseman

    Lady Gaga: Fame
    Kait Boehm
    Juan Gomez
    Kurt Lawson
    Greg Teegarden

    Norfolk Southern: City of Possibilities
    Chris Bernier
    Kyle Cody
    Jeff Lopez
    Boo Wong

    Call of Duty: Surprise
    Steve Beck
    Chris Knight
    Robert Sethi
    Christina Thompson

    Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture

    The Hobbit: Goblin King
    Jung Min Chan
    James Jacobs
    David Clayton
    Guillaume Francois

    The Hobbit: Gollum
    Gino Acevedo
    Alessandro Bonora
    Jeff Capogreco
    Kevin Estey

    The Avengers: The Hulk
    Marc Chu
    John Doublestein
    Cyrus Jam
    Jason Smith

    Life of Pi: Richard Parker
    Erik De Boer
    Sean Comer
    Betsy Asher Hall
    Kai-Hua Lan

    Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

    Brave: Argument
    Travis Hathaway
    Olivier Soares
    Peter Sumanaseni
    Brian Tindall

    Hotel Transylvania: Dracula
    Bill Haller
    Tim Pixton
    Jorge Vigara

    Wreck-It Ralph: Vanellope
    John Kahwaty
    Suzan Kim
    Michelle Robinson
    Tony Smeed

    The Pirates: Band of Misfits
    Will Becher
    Jay Grace
    Loyd Price

    Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial or Broadcast Program

    Ted: Jimmy Kimmel Live!
    James W. Brown
    Brad Fox
    Ross Nakamura
    Jeff Woo

    Sinbad: Episode 1
    Andy Guest
    James Moxon
    James Reid
    Greg Spencer

    Hallmark: Motherbird
    Vince Baertsoen
    Kevin Ives
    Laurent Makowski
    Joshua Merck

    Game of Thrones: Training the Dragons
    Irfan Celik
    Florian Friedmann
    Ingo Schachner
    Chris Stenner

    Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture

    The Hobbit: Goblin Caverns
    Ryan Arcus
    Simon Jung
    Alastair Maher
    Anthony M. Patti

    Prometheus: LV-233
    Julien Bolbach
    Marco Genovesi
    Martin Riedel
    Marco Rolandi

    The Avengers: Midtown Manhattan
    Richard Bluff
    Giles Hancock
    David Meny
    Andy Proctor

    Life of Pi: Open Ocean
    Jason Bayever
    Sho Hasegawa
    Jimmy Jewell
    Walt Jones

    Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

    Brave: The Forest
    Tim Best
    Steve Pilcher
    Inigo Quilez
    Andy Whittock

    ParaNorman: Graveyard
    Phil Brotherton
    Robert Desue
    Oliver Jones
    Nick Mariana

    ParaNorman: Main Street
    Alice Bird
    Matt Delue
    Caitlin Pashalek

    Rise of the Guardians : The North Pole
    Eric Bouffard
    Sonja Burchard
    Andy Harbeck
    Peter Maynez

    Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
    Matt Aitken
    Victor Huang
    Christian Rivers
    R. Christopher White

    The Avengers : Downtown Manhattan
    Colin Benoit
    Jeremy Goldman
    Tory Mercer
    Anthony Rispoli

    Total Recall: Hover Car Chase
    Daniel Baldwin
    Mattias Forsstrom
    Sam Schwier
    Joshua Wassung

    The Amazing Spider-Man
    Rob Engle
    David Schaub
    Cosku Turhan
    Max Tyrie

    Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture

    The Avengers: Helicarrier
    Rene Garcia
    Bruce Holcomb
    Polly Ing
    Aaron Wilson

    The Impossible: Orchid Hotel
    Markus Donhauser
    Patrick Lehn
    Angel Martinez
    Juergen Pirman

    Men in Black 3: Cape Canaveral/ Apollo Launch
    Craig Feifarek
    Hee-Chel Nam
    Erik Neill
    Taehyun Park

    The Dark Knight Rises: Airplane Heist
    Scott Beverly
    Alan Faucher
    Ian Hunter
    Steve Newburn

    Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

    Chris Chapman
    Dave Hale
    Michael K. O'Brien
    Bill Watral

    ParaNorman: Practical Volumetrics
    Aidan Fraser
    Joe Gorski
    Eric Kuehne
    Andrew Nawrot

    ParaNorman: Angry Aggie Ink-Blot Electricity
    Michael Cordova
    Grant Laker
    Susanna Luck
    Peter Vickery

    Rise of the Guardians: Last Stand
    Andy Hayes
    Carl Hooper
    Andrew Wheeler
    Stephen Wood

    Outstanding Created Environment in a Commercial or Broadcast Program

    James Moxon
    Lyndall Spagnoletti
    Greg Spencer
    Simon Wicker

    Rene Borst
    Thilo Ewers
    Adam Figielski
    Jonas Stuckenbrock

    Call of Duty: Eclipse - Surprise
    Chris Bayol
    Steve Beck
    Chris Knight
    Robert Sethi

    5 Gum RPM: Choose Your Energy
    Kaan Atilla
    Kevin Gillen
    Isaac Irvin
    Brandon Lester

    Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Commercial or Broadcast Program

    Toyota: Real Deal
    Adam Berg
    Niles Heckman
    Ronald Herbst
    Vernon Wilbert

    Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
    Steven Chen
    Phil Dakin
    Paul Stodolny

    Call of Duty: Eclipse - Surprise
    Chris Bayol
    Steve Beck
    Chris Knight
    Robert Sethi

    Dominique Boidin
    Léon Bérelle
    Rémi Kozyra
    Maxime Luère

    Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
    Areito Echevarria
    Chet Leavai
    Garry Runke
    Francois Sugny

    Life of Pi: Storm of God
    Harry Mukhopadhyay
    David Stopford
    Mark Williams
    Derek Wolfe

    Florent Andorra
    Willi Geiger
    Rick Hankins
    Florian Witzel

    Life of Pi: Ocean
    Jason Bayever
    David Horsley
    Scott Townsend
    Miles Vignol

    Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Commercial or Broadcast Program

    Nike: Biomorph
    Aladino Debert
    Eric Ebling
    Ken Mitchel Jones
    Jason Mortimer

    Last Resort: Captain
    Matt Von Brock
    Bruce Coy
    Junaid Farooq
    Aldo Ruggiero

    Guinness: Cloud
    Tom Bussell
    Neil Davies

    Nissan Altima: Wouldn't it be Cool
    Tim Borgmann
    David Forcada
    Aron Hjartarson
    Shayne Ryan

    Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
    Jean-Luc Azzis
    Steven Mcgillen
    Christoph Salzmann
    Charles Tait

    Life of Pi : Storm of God
    Ryan Clarke
    Jose Fernandez
    Sean Oharas
    Hamish Schumacher

    The Avengers: Hulk Punch
    Chris Balog
    Peter Demarest
    Nelson Sepulveda
    Alan Travis

    Prometheus: Engineers & the Orrery
    Xavier Bourque
    Sam Cole
    Simone Riginelli
    Denis Scolan

    Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program

    Hemingway & Gellhorn
    Nathan Abbot
    Shelley Campbell
    Chris Morley
    Christopher Paizis

    Last Resort: Captain
    Matt Von Brock
    Jason Fotter
    Aldo Ruggiero
    Brian Williams

    White Walker Army
    Falk Boje
    Esther Engel
    Alexey Kuchinsky
    Klaus Wuchta

    Hell On Wheels: Blood Moon
    Antonio Chang
    Jason Fotter
    Eric Hayden
    Josh Miyaji

    Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial

    Chevy 2012 Silverado
    Dominik Bauch
    Nicholas Kim
    Benjamin Walsh

    Norfolk Southern: City of Possibilities
    Tom Bardwell
    Chris Bernier
    Kyle Cody
    Jeff Lopez

    Call of Duty: Eclipse - Surprise
    Chris Bayol
    Steve Beck
    Chris Knight
    Robert Sethi

    Nike: Game On, World
    Daniel Marsh
    Paul O'Shea

    Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

    Despicable Me : Minion Mayhem
    Heather Drummons
    Joel Friesch
    Troy Griffin
    Chris Hummel

    SeaWorld: Turtle Trek 3D/ 360
    Timur "Taron" Baysal
    Jae Choel Hong
    Cecil Magpuri
    Michael Roderick

    Earthquake: Evidence of a Restless Planet
    Matthew Blackwell
    Tom Kennedy
    Jeroen Lapré
    Mike Schmitt

    The Ball Unleashed
    Gianni Aliotti
    Lisa Zusmer Delprete
    Marc Dominic Rienzo
    Eric Sanford

    Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

    Voile Noir
    Michael Balthazart
    Raphaël Gaudin
    Clément Granjon De Lepinay
    Quentin Sauvinet

    Sascha Geddert
    Johannes Peter
    Patrick Schuler
    Philipp Wolf

    Rollin' Safari
    Kyra Buschor
    Anna Habermehl
    Constantin Päplow

    Daniel Brkovic
    David Kirchner
    Jan-Marcel Kuehn

  • 'Ted' earns three Critics' Choice Awards nominations

    The Critics' Choice Awards have announced nominations for their 18th Annual Critics' Choice Awards.

    TED earned the following three nominations:

    Best Comedy
    Best Actor in a Comedy - Mark Wahlberg
    Best Actress in a Comedy - Mila Kunis

    The Critics' Choice Awards will be given at a ceremony at Santa Monica's Barker Hangaron Thursday, January 10 and airing live on The CW Network.

    The full list of film nominations follows:

    Beasts of the Southern Wild
    Django Unchained
    Les Misérables
    Life of Pi
    The Master
    Moonrise Kingdom
    Silver Linings Playbook
    Zero Dark Thirty

    Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
    John Hawkes – “The Sessions”
    Hugh Jackman – “Les Misérables”
    Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
    Denzel Washington – “Flight”

    Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
    Marion Cotillard – “Rust and Bone”
    Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
    Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
    Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”

    Alan Arkin – “Argo”
    Javier Bardem – “Skyfall”
    Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
    Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”
    Matthew McConaughey – “Magic Mike”

    Amy Adams – “The Master”
    Judi Dench – “Skyfall”
    Ann Dowd – “Compliance”
    Sally Field – “Lincoln”
    Anne Hathaway – “Les Misérables”
    Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”

    Elle Fanning – “Ginger & Rosa”
    Kara Hayward – “Moonrise Kingdom”
    Tom Holland – “The Impossible”
    Logan Lerman – “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
    Suraj Sharma – “Life of Pi”
    Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
    Les Misérables
    Moonrise Kingdom
    Silver Linings Playbook

    Ben Affleck – “Argo”
    Kathryn Bigelow – “Zero Dark Thirty”
    Tom Hooper – “Les Misérables”
    Ang Lee – “Life of Pi”
    David O. Russell – “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Steven Spielberg – “Lincoln”

    Quentin Tarantino – “Django Unchained”
    John Gatins – “Flight”
    Rian Johnson – “Looper”
    Paul Thomas Anderson – “The Master”
    Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola – “Moonrise Kingdom”
    Mark Boal – “Zero Dark Thirty”

    Chris Terrio – “Argo”
    David Magee – “Life of Pi”
    Tony Kushner – “Lincoln”
    Stephen Chbosky – “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
    David O. Russell – “Silver Linings Playbook”

    “Les Misérables” – Danny Cohen
    “Life of Pi” – Claudio Miranda
    “Lincoln” – Janusz Kaminski
    “The Master” – Mihai Malaimare Jr.
    “Skyfall” – Roger Deakins

    “Anna Karenina” – Sarah Greenwood/Production Designer; Katie Spencer/Set Decorator
    “The Hobbit” – Dan Hennah/Production Designer; Ra Vincent & Simon Bright/Set Decorators
    “Les Misérables” – Eve Stewart/Production Designer; Anna Lynch-Robinson/Set Decorator
    “Life of Pi” – David Gropman/Production Designer; Anna Pinnock/Set Decorator
    “Lincoln” – Rick Carter/Production Designer; Jim Erickson/Set Decorator

    “Argo” – William Goldenberg
    “Les Misérables” – Melanie Ann Oliver and Chris Dickens
    “Life of Pi” – Tim Squyres
    “Lincoln” – Michael Kahn
    “Zero Dark Thirty” – William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor

    “Anna Karenina” – Jacqueline Durran
    “Cloud Atlas” – Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud
    “The Hobbit” – Bob Buck, Ann Maskrey and Richard Taylor
    “Les Misérables” – Paco Delgado
    “Lincoln” – Joanna Johnston

    Cloud Atlas
    The Hobbit
    Les Misérables

    The Avengers
    Cloud Atlas
    The Dark Knight Rises
    The Hobbit
    Life of Pi

    Madagascar 3
    Rise of the Guardians
    Wreck-It Ralph

    The Avengers
    The Dark Knight Rises

    Christian Bale – “The Dark Knight Rises”
    Daniel Craig – “Skyfall”
    Robert Downey Jr. – “The Avengers”
    Joseph Gordon-Levitt – “Looper”
    Jake Gyllenhaal – “End of Watch”

    Emily Blunt – “Looper”
    Gina Carano – “Haywire”
    Judi Dench – “Skyfall”
    Anne Hathaway – “The Dark Knight Rises”
    Jennifer Lawrence – “The Hunger Games”

    Silver Linings Playbook
    This Is 40
    21 Jump Street

    Jack Black – “Bernie”
    Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Paul Rudd – “This Is 40”
    Channing Tatum – “21 Jump Street”
    Mark Wahlberg – “Ted”

    Mila Kunis – “Ted”
    Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Shirley MacLaine – “Bernie”
    Leslie Mann – “This Is 40”
    Rebel Wilson – “Pitch Perfect”

    The Cabin in the Woods

    The Intouchables
    A Royal Affair
    Rust and Bone

    The Central Park Five
    The Imposter
    The Queen of Versailles
    Searching for Sugar Man
    West of Memphis

    “For You” – performed by Keith Urban/written by Monty Powell & Keith Urban – Act of Valor
    “Learn Me Right” – performed by Birdy with Mumford & Sons/written by Mumford & Sons – Brave
    “Skyfall” – performed by Adele/written by Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth – Skyfall
    “Still Alive” – performed by Paul Williams/written by Paul Williams – Paul Williams Still Alive
    “Suddenly” – performed by Hugh Jackman/written by Claude-Michel Schonberg & Alain Boublil & Herbert Kretzmer – Les Misérables

    “Argo” – Alexandre Desplat
    “Life of Pi” – Mychael Danna
    “Lincoln” – John Williams
    “The Master” – Jonny Greenwood
    “Moonrise Kingdom” – Alexandre Desplat

  • 'Ted' nominated for Breakthrough Performance Behind the Camera - Seth MacFarlane

    The Phoenix Film Critics Society has announced their Top 10 List and nominations for their 2012 Awards.

    Universal Pictures' TED earned a nomination for BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE BEHIND THE CAMERA - Seth MacFarlane.

    The full list of nominations follows:

    TOP TEN FILMS OF 2012 (in alphabetical order)
    "The Avengers"
    "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
    "Les Misérables"
    "Life of Pi"
    "Moonrise Kingdom"
    "Silver Linings Playbook"
    "Zero Dark Thirty"

    Ben Affleck "Argo"
    Kathryn Bigelow "Zero Dark Thirty"
    Tom Hooper "Les Misérables"
    Ang Lee "Life of Pi"
    Steven Spielberg "Lincoln"

    Daniel Day-Lewis "Lincoln"
    John Hawkes "The Sessions"
    Anthony Hopkins "Hitchcock"
    Hugh Jackman "Les Misérables"
    Joaquin Phoenix "The Master"

    Jessica Chastain "Zero Dark Thirty"
    Jennifer Lawrence "Silver Linings Playbook"
    Quvenzhane Wallis "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
    Mary Elizabeth Winstead "Smashed"

    Robert De Niro "Silver Linings Playbook"
    Javier Bardem "Skyfall"
    Philip Seymour Hoffman "The Master"
    Tommy Lee Jones "Lincoln"
    Ezra Miller "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

    Judy Dench "Skyfall"
    Sally Fields "Lincoln"
    Anne Hathaway "Les Misérables"
    Helen Hunt "The Sessions"
    Emma Watson "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

    "Les Misérables"
    "Moonrise Kingdom"
    "Silver Linings Playbook"

    "The Master"
    "Moonrise Kingdom"
    "Zero Dark Thirty"

    "Les Misérables"
    "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
    "Silver Linings Playbook"

    "Big Miracle"
    "Life of Pi"
    "The Odd Life of Timothy Green"

    "Cabin in the Woods"
    "Jeff, Who Lives at Home"
    "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
    "Safety Not Guaranteed"
    "Sound of My Voice"

    "Wreck-It Ralph"

    "A Royal Affair"
    "The Intouchables"
    "Jiro Dreams of Sushi"

    "Jiro Dreams of Sushi"
    "Queen of Versailles"
    "Searching for Sugar Man"

    Skyfall "Skyfall"
    Suddenly "Les Misérables"
    When Can I See You Again "Wreck-It Ralph"

    "Life of Pi"

    "Les Misérables"
    "Life of Pi"
    "Zero Dark Thirty"

    "The Dark Knight Rises"
    "Life of Pi"
    "Zero Dark Thirty"

    "Anna Karenina"
    "Cloud Atlas"
    "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
    "Les Misérables"
    "Moonrise Kingdom"

    "A Royal Affair"
    "Anna Karenina"
    "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
    "Les Misérables"

    "The Avengers"
    "Cloud Atlas"
    "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
    "Life of Pi"

    "The Avengers"
    "The Bourne Legacy"
    "The Dark Knight Rises"

    Mark Duplass "Safety Not Guaranteed"
    Dwight Henry "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
    Suraj Sharma "Life of Pi"
    Quvenzhane Wallis "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

    Stephen Chbosky "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
    Seth MacFarlane "Ted"
    Benh Zeitlin "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
    Craig Zobel "Compliance"

    Isabelle Allen "Les Misérables"
    Maude Apatow "This is 40"
    Kara Hayward "Moonrise Kingdom"
    Quvenzhane Wallis "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

    CJ Adams "The Odd Life of Timothy Green"
    Jerad Gilman "Moonrise Kingdom"
    Tom Holland "The Impossible"
    Daniel Huttlestone "Les Misérables"

  • TV Trailer: Netflix’s ‘House Of Cards’

    Netflix just released first trailer for its first original series, the big-budget David Fincher-Kevin Spacey political drama House Of Cards. Based on the British miniseries, the MRC-produced House Of Cards centers on ruthless and cunning Rep. Francis Underwood (Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright), who stop at nothing to conquer everything. Kate Mara and Corey Stoll co-star. While Netflix has distributed acquired original series like Lillehammer, House Of Cards is the first show commissioned by the streaming giant when it last year outbid a host of cable networks for the property with a two-season, 26-episode order in a deal worth $100 million. The series premieres February 1, with all episodes from the first season available for streaming simultaneously.

  • Media Rights Capital's Modi Wiczyk Talks 'House of Cards,' Reveals Projects With Zemeckis, Wyatt, More (Q&A)

    The co-CEO of the TV and film powerhouse opens up about rumors of David Fincher's spending and the status of "Ted 2."

    On Feb. 1, Film and TV Studio Media Rights Capital will launch the David Fincher-helmed House of Cards on Netflix, with 13 of its first 26 episodes starring Kevin Spacey all debuting in one day. How, or even if, the digital service’s 25 million or so subscribers will consume the political drama -- Netflix’s first original series, for which it spent roughly $100 million -- remains an open question, but that hasn’t stopped a cast that includes Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara from signing on.

    Now, MRC, the artist-friendly studio behind the smash film Ted, has lured other top filmmakers -- such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Rupert Wyatt (for a mystery series with Erica Beeney writing), RoboCop's Jose Padilha (an action-thriller with Contraband's Aaron Guzikowski writing) and Flight's Robert Zemeckis (a sci-fi drama) -- to move into cable drama, too. In a THR interview, co-CEO Modi Wiczyk explains MRC's strategy.

    The Hollywood Reporter: You shopped House of Cards to a host of cable networks. Why Netflix?

    Modi Wiczyk: We went to all of the usual places in cable, but we’ve always been interested in new technologies, too. The way we met [Ted director] Seth MacFarlane was when we did a digital campaign with him and Google back in 2006. So we had talked to Netflix a few times about buying secondary rights on our shows. We showed them the script for House of Cards to see if it was something where secondary rights might be of interest, and they basically said, "We love this, and we want to make it our first original."

    THR: How did you persuade big filmmakers and stars to work for a digital service?

    Wiczyk: You're not dealing with folks who are afraid of or cowed by new things. Kevin and David are unbelievably sophisticated about technology, and we're all aware of the fact that the entire business is in flux. We had the broadest canvas possible artistically, and we had the chance to be sort of an anchor show for a network with 25 million or so subscribers. That was very attractive to everybody. Mad Men was that for AMC, FX had The Shield, Showtime had Weeds, The Sopranos did it for HBO. And Netflix was passionate enough to say, "You know what, make 26 episodes -- that's how much we love it."

    THR: I imagine you’d be hard-pressed to find a cable network interested in ordering 26 episodes sight unseen. Am I right?

    Wiczyk: We’ve had a history of going straight-to-series with multiple networks, but getting 26 was definitely the differentiator. Can you imagine having that certainty going in for an artist?

    THR: How has working with Netflix differed from working with a network like HBO?

    Wiczyk: Everyone’s got his or her strength. So far, Netflix has been really collaborative in the marketing, and David has this tremendous amount of creative input. All of the artists have had absolute freedom both from us and from Netflix. That’s pretty unique to have a show of this scale with this much commitment given that much creative room.

    THR: Fincher is known for pursuing his vision despite costs. Are the reports you've gone over budget accurate?

    Wiczyk: Nope. They've been diligent -- and he's a partner, which helps. These guys want to win, and they've been responsible. Since we started shooting, we have not had a single problem at all. Not one.

    THR: What kind of notes are you giving on House of Cards?

    Wiczyk: We’re not. That’s like giving batting lessons to Derek Jeter.

    THR: What does a Netflix note look like?

    Wiczyk: There aren't really any notes.

    THR: What are they weighing in on?

    Wiczyk: They’re preparing themselves for the distribution and marketing of the show. The marketing is all collaborative. They’re fully staffed to do it, and they’re doing it along with David. He's intimately involved.

    THR: Netflix has been a savior of sorts as a syndication option for serialized dramas. It reportedly agreed to spend $1 million per episode for the second window on Mad Men, for example. But with Netflix having the first window here, how do you think about that secondary window? And is there a world in which Netflix has the first and second window on House of Cards?

    Wiczyk: I don’t know. I mean, the secondary window is available. So we’ll see how the show does. We’re completely focused on making the first window work.

    THR: You're developing a police thriller with The X Files' Chris Carter. What's the status?

    Wiczyk: It's still percolating. I can tell you we've made deals with Rupert Wyatt, with Bob Zemeckis and with Jose Padilha. They're all show-specific deals. Our model is to fund development, support the filmmaker, help them put the package together and then go and try to find a home for it.

    THR: What's the status of Ted 2?

    Wiczyk: Everyone wants to make it. All the guys are talking about putting it together.

    THR: In 1999, you famously wrote a memo predicting that studios' power would wane and filmmakers would benefit. How accurate were you?

    Wiczyk: That memo was sort of like my high school graduation photo. You're like, "What was I wearing?" People bring it up, and I get horrified. Look, we've obviously changed and learned … but the thing that's been consistent for us is that it has always been artists and filmmakers first.

  • ‘Ted’ #1 Biggest R-Rated Original Comedy

    Ted‘s worldwide gross reached an estimated $469 million today. That puts the Universal/Media Rights Capital comedy ahead of the previous recordholder, Warner Bros’ The Hangover and its $467.5M. So that makes Ted now the #1 highest grossing R-rated original comedy of all time around the globe. Ted went over the top by opening #1 or #2 this weekend in France, Belgium and Switzerland. The Seth MacFarlane pic starring Mark Wahlberg is now open in 44 international territories. and its international total is now $250.5M (after adding $13.9M at 2,900 dates this weekend). Pic still has 4 territories yet to open - including Malaysia on October 18th, India on October 26th, Venezuela on December 21th, and Japan in January. Domestically, the film is now in Week 16 with a cume at the end of this weekend estimated to be $218.5M.

  • Netflix Launching Entire Run of David Fincher's 'House of Cards' in One Day

    The streaming content and DVD distributor's new series, starring Kevin Spacey, will launch all 13 episodes of its first season on Feb. 1.

    When Netflix launches original series House of Cards in 2013, it won't be making subscribers wait to watch each episode. The entire run will be made available in one day.
    our editor recommends

    The streaming and mail-in rental service announced Thursday that all 13 episodes of the Kevin Spacey starrer will be ready for subscribers on Feb. 1.

    Produced by David Fincher, who also directed the first two episodes, House of Cards follows Lilyhammer in Netflix's ongoing push for original content. A total of 26 episodes have been ordered.

    “House of Cards combines the best of filmmaking with the best of television," said Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos. "Beau Willimon’s compelling narrative, David Fincher’s unparalleled craftsmanship, indelible performances by Kevin Spacey and the rest of the cast unite to create a gripping story and new kind of viewing experience for Netflix members... In offering the entire season at once, Netflix is giving viewers complete control over how and when they watch the show.”

    House of Cards, a political drama from producers Media Rights Capital and based on a BBC miniseries of the same name, also stars Robin Wright and Kate Mara.

    The second season is scheduled to begin production this spring.

  • Netflix Sets February Premiere for ‘House of Cards’

    For the broadcast television networks the new season traditionally begins in September. For Netflix, it starts on Feb. 1: that’s the date it plans to introduce its high-profile original series “House of Cards,” and will make all 13 episodes of its first season available immediately on its streaming video service, Netflix said on Thursday.

    “House of Cards,” which is adapted from the BBC TV-drama of the same title, chronicles the ruthless politician Francis Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey), the majority whip of the House of Representatives, and his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), as they pursue power and all the good things that come with it in Washington. The series also stars Kate Mara, Kristen Connolly, Michael Kelly and Sakina Jaffrey.

    David Fincher, the director of “The Social Network,” “Zodiac” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and an executive producer for “House of Cards,” directed its first two episodes, which are written by Beau Willimon (“The Ides of March”). Directors of subsequent episodes include James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross”), Joel Schumacher (“Falling Down”), Carl Franklin (“Devil in a Blue Dress”), Alan Coulter and Charles McDougall. The series is produced by the independent studio Media Rights Capital.

    “House of Cards,” for which Netflix has already committed to a second season, is the centerpiece in its growing slate of original programming, which also includes a new season of “Arrested Development”; “Hemlock Grove,” a murder mystery series from Eli Roth; and “Orange is the New Black,” a comedy whose creators include Jenji Kohan (“Weeds”). Netflix did not immediately say what time of day on Feb. 1 it will release “House of Cards,” but keep your finger near the refresh button.

  • Netflix to bow 'Cards' on Feb. 1

    All 13 episodes to be available on preem date.

    The premiere strategy for Netflix's first homegrown original series "House of Cards" plays into one of the streaming service's foremost strengths: subscriber control.

    "Cards," which was produced by Media Rights Capital, will officially bow on the streaming platform on Feb. 1, with all 13 episodes of the first season available on its preem date.

    Immediate availability of season one in its entirety, as opposed to TV's traditional weekly episode rollout, en sures that Netflix subs can maintain the way they've always used the platform: watching as many episodes of serialized "Cards" as they want, when they want.

    "Right from your first viewing experience with this show, you can watch in as big of bites as you'd like," Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told Variety . "There's risk with the linear broadcast model: When you roll out a show over a period of time, there's a lot of noise and distraction in the marketplace. It creates a more casual relationship with the content."

    "Cards" is arguably the most high-profile original series to bow on digital platforms. Based on a BBC mini of the same name, drama stars Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara and centers around modern political corruption in Washington, D.C. David Fincher helms the first two episodes of the skein, delivering the look of upscale cable dramas. Beau Willimon ("Ides of March") served as scribe.

    Announcement of the "Cards" preem date arrives as auds' viewing behavior continues to evolve beyond strictly linear programming. Since the advent of streaming sites like Netflix, entire TV seasons and even complete series are available online with the click of a mouse and a low subscription fee. Unlike with televised marathons that require an arduous time investment to watch at a scheduled programming block, binge viewing allows viewers the opportunity to consume TV programs in large chunks at their convenience. Phenomenon is amplified by streaming apps' availability on computers, smartphones and tablets.

    "We actually saw binge viewing behavior a while ago," said Sarandos. "It started with DVDs. People would get DVDs of their favorite shows and watch them in one or two sittings. So, the behavior was planted on the DVD side. And from the streaming side, we've always offered complete seasons."

    Netflix is betting "Cards" will play into binge viewing habits in the same way that licensed programs like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" have. "Breaking Bad" recently embodied binge viewing in its most extreme form when 50,000 Netflix subscribers streamed the entire fourth season of "Breaking Bad" in a single day after it went live, according to Sarandos.

    Broadcast networks aren't as conducive to binge viewership given that the number of episodes in a typical broadcast season can sometimes double that of a standard 13-episode cable season. Cable dramas also more often feature serialized plotlines that encourage binge-viewing where subtle plot details are easier to track.

    Sarandos sees the non-linear model as a way to dodge the "high stakes" game that is program timeslots. "[On broadcast television], a lead-in, the timeslot, the show's marketing... they all become problems and risks in linear. 'Cards' doesn't have the performance pressure that a typical television show does. For me, if people discover 'House of Cards' late next year, it's no more valuable to me than if they start watching on February 1. We are aiming to build a base of lovers of the show, not an enormous tune-in with a giant falloff."

    "Cards" has some precedent on Netflix with "Lilyhammer," a Norwegian-American TV series that bowed on the streaming service in February after its debut on Norwegian television. For its premiere, Netflix put the full eight-episode season online at once for its North American service. Sarandos said the preem model turned out to be a success.

    "Half of the people who streamed one episode of 'Lillyhammer' ended up watching two in one sitting," Sarandos explained. "Some watched all eight episodes in 24 hours. There is a demand for this. People want to take control of when they watch content."

    Viewer data like this has become a powerful guiding tool at the company. Netflix, initially wary about diving into the original series world, saw "Cards" as a bankable opportunity after noting that key "Cards" players like Fincher and Spacey rack up notable subscriber views on Netflix, as did the BBC mini on which it was based. Mathematically speaking, Netflix saw "House of Cards" as a safe-bet entrance into a high-risk game.

    "We can also use viewer data to tweak the creative from the pitch," Sarandos noted. "It can influence casting early on. Certainly when selecting film directors, showrunners and writers, we can first identify the size of the audience and then connect with that audience through the content."

    Netflix made a 26-episode commitment to the series, and production on season two is slated to begin next spring.

    "Cards" debut is also timely, arriving right on the heels of the 2013 presidential inauguration on Jan. 21.

    "House of Cards" is executive produced by Fincher, Willimon, Joshua Donen, Eric Roth, Spacey, Dana Brunetti, Andrew Davies, Michael Dobbs and John Melfi. Drama is produced by Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Prods. in association with Media Rights Capital for Netflix.

  • MIPCOM 2012: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright to Present Netflix Series 'House of Cards'

    "Ides of March" writer Beau Willimon adapted the BBC political drama for director David Fincher.

    Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright will present Netflix's hotly-anticipated drama series House of Cards at international television confab Mipcom next week.

    Oscar-nominated writer Beau Willimon, who adapted the BBC political drama for Netflix and producer Media Rights Capital, and who acts as showrunner on the U.S. version, will also attend, giving the first sneak peak of the series.

    Spacey, Willimon and Oscar-nominated director David Fincher are executive producers on the one-hour drama series, which is set in political backrooms of Washington D.C. Fincher also directed the series pilot.

    The BBC original, which stared Ian Richardson as an ambitous British politician, ran for three, four-episode seasons. Netflix has ordered two, 13-episode seasons of the U.S. version, with the first to premiere in 2013. Netflix will distribute the series in the U.S., U.K. and select international territories while Sony Pictures Television is handling remaining international distribution on behalf of Media Rights Capital.

    Executive producers on the series also include Joshua Donen, Eric Roth, Dana Brunetti, Andrew Davies, Michael Dobbs and John Melfi. Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions are co-producing House of Cards in association with Media Rights Capital for Netflix.

  • ‘Ted’ To Pass ‘The Hangover’ Gross Abroad

    Seth MacFarlane’s R-rated comedy Ted starring Mark Wahlberg from Universal Pictures and Media Rights Capital will pass on Monday that other R-rated blockbuster The Hangover’s international lifetime total of $190+M. it now becomes the highest grossing original R-rated comedy of all time overseas. Filmmakers redubbed the pic not only by country but also by region which helped solve the problem that American comedy doesn’t always translate overseas. Combined with the domestic estimate, Ted has reached $400+M worldwide box office on Sunday. It has to amass another $60M to beat Warner Bros’ The Hangover worldwide but lso has 17 territories still to open overseas. Goes to show that raunchy teddy bears, just like raunchy bachelor parties, are universally funny. ures and Media Rights Capital’s TED passed the $400 million marker worldwide today. In North America, Ted ranks as the 2nd highest R-rated original comedy behind the The Hangover.

  • How TED Became Summer's Surprise Box-Office Superhero

    "Ted" has become the summer's unlikeliest box-office superhero. Hollywood figured the guys in tights -- the Avengers, Spider-Man and Batman -- would deliver at the box office this summer and that animated kids' films would, too. But "Ted" is by far the biggest surprise and has provided a major spark in a summer now on track to be the biggest ever.Seth MacFarlane's comedy, which stars Mark Wahlberg as a young man whose development is arrested because of his relationship with his best-bud teddy bear, has a good shot at $200 million at the domestic box office. "Dark Knight Rises" could head that off, but it's already a bona fide hit for Universal. That's rare air for an R-rated comedy. Only "The Hangover" films and 2005's "Wedding Crashers" have run up numbers that big. "Ted" added $33 million last weekend, after stunning Hollywood with its $54 million opening on June 29, the best ever for an original R-rated comedy.That big bow -- coupled with a $39 million debut from Warner Bros.' "Magic Mike" that same weekend -- helped stabilize what had been a roller-coaster summer. Also read: 'Ted' Talks Box-Office Blue Streak at $54M; 'Magic Mike' Shakes $39M Booty"'Rock of Ages' and 'That's My Boy' had just flopped," Jeff Bock, senior analyst at, told TheWrap. "Finally there was some good news that hadn't been anticipated, at least not news that good." It also showed that there was room in the marketplace for a hit that wasn't based on a comic book or a kids' film. "It not only revived the summer," editor-in-chief Phil Contrino of told TheWrap, "but it helped Universal rebound from 'Battleship' and brought a fresh face into the feature film market in Seth MacFarlane."Universal is making money on "Ted." The studio bought the project developed by MRC Films -- with whom it now has a five-year deal -- and together they produced it along with Scott Stuber and MacFarlane for around $50 million. MRC's best known films were Academy Award Best Picture nominee "Babel" and Sacha Baron Cohen's "Bruno.""We had established Seth as a young filmmaker we wanted to be in business with, and that's why we went after it so aggressively," Universal's co-president of production Peter Cramer told TheWrap Tuesday.A first feature can be tricky, even for someone as talented as TV's "Family Guy" creator, so Universal was glad to see Stuber, who had produced on its "Safe House" and "Battleship," on board from the start.There were others considered for the lead role in "Ted" before the filmmakers settled on Wahlberg.Also read: Channing Tatum, Heath Ledger Could Have Starred in 'Ted' "We found the right guy in Mark," Cramer said. "I don't think you can underestimate the impact he and Mila (co-star Kunis) had."Universal caught a break when Paramount's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" jumped off the June 29 slot to next year. Universal shifted "Ted" from July 13 -- when it would have gone against "Ice Age: Continental Drift" and faced "Dark Knight" a week later.And with "That's My Boy" misfiring, the adult comedy marketplace was left wide open for the teddy bear.Also read: 'Ted' Moves into 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' SpotCramer said those factors didn't hurt, but the comedy was going to succeed in any case."We've always tried to put a premium on originality," Cramer said. "It's worked in the past with movies like '40-Year-Old Virgin' and even the first 'American Pie,' but it doesn't always. This one was a fresh viewpoint, it had a unique concept and was executed very well." The social media marketing campaign was both true to the film's raunchy spirit and effective.Ted has a huge social media footprint, with his own Twitter account (@WhatTedSaid) with almost 200,000 followers, his own Facebook page with more than a million likes and his own Tumblr blog. Two live Twitter Q&A sessions drew more than 2,500 fan questions.That may have come with a built-in advantage, at least in the eyes of one rival studio exec."Movie stars hit the promo circuit to promote films, but not like Ted did," he said. "There was no fatigue, no entourages ... Ted was out there to do everything, and he was perfect for Facebook and Twitter." Cramer said that was partly true, sort of."Seth is Ted," Cramer said, "and we needed to make sure all the stuff we did was coordinated. He was terrific."The bulk of the overseas rollout won't come until August, but Universal executives are confident "Ted" will translate -- figuratively and literally, since the bear's rude and crude comments can be easily dubbed. It's off to a great start, with No. 1 bows in the two territories in which it opened, Australia and Taiwan. The $15.5 million first week Down Under is Universal's biggest ever in that market.And in Australia, "Ted" even topped one of those guys in tights, "The Amazing Spider-Man."

  • David Cronenberg Teaming With MRC to Adapt 'Knifeman' for TV

    The "History of Violence" Director will direct the pilot and serve as an EP on the Media Rights Capital drama project, which will be shopped to potential buyers shortly.

    Director David Cronenberg is heading to the small screen.

    The History of Violence helmer is teaming with Media Rights Capital for his first foray into television. He will direct the pilot as well as serve as an executive producer on Knifeman, based on the Wendy Moore novel of the same name.

    The drama, which will soon be shopped to potential buyers, centers on the trials and triumphs of a radical, self-educated surgeon delivering a visceral portrait of the extraordinary and unorthodox lengths he will go to uncover the secrets of the human body. Cronenberg will be a partner on the project, much as David Fincher is on MRC’s House of Cards, set to debut on Netflix later this year.

    Knifeman is being written by Emmy nominated writer-producer Rolin Jones (Friday Night Lights, Weeds, Smash) with the story by Jones and Ron Fitzgerald (Friday Night Lights). The MRC project will count Cronenberg and Jones, along with Sam Raimi, Josh Donen and Robert Zotnowski of Stars Road as executive producers. Sentient’s Renee Tab is attached as a co-executive producer as well.

    Cronenberg, who recently wrapped filing on Cosmopolis, based on the Don De Lillo novel and starring Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti and Juliette Binoche, is repped by WME, Sentient Entertainment and Behr & Abramson. His previous credits include such projects as Eastern Promises, M. Butterfly and A Dangerous Method.

  • ‘Ted’ Backer MRC In Talks To Finance Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’

    Media Rights Capital is in serious talks to take on The Dark Tower after Warner Bros declined to make what potentially amounts to three feature films and two limited run TV series. MRC’s Modi Wiczyk is a big fan of the Stephen King novel series, I hear, and the company is eager to capitalize on the positive momentum they got from developing and financing the Seth MacFarlane-directed summer sleeper hit Ted with Mark Wahlberg. MRC next has the Neill Blomkamp-directed Elysium with Matt Damon, and the company has the capital to back an ambitious project like The Dark Tower with director Ron Howard eyeing Russell Crowe as the gunslinger Roland Deschain and his quest to travel through a Western-style world woven with magic to find the Dark Tower, mankind’s only hope. Akiva Goldsman adapted the book and is producing along with Brian Grazer and Stephen King. Even though MRC was unavailable to comment, I expect this deal to make quickly. MRC has a distribution arrangement with Universal, but it’s unclear whether that studio would release the film. Universal developed it but passed on making the project before it moved to Warner Bros.

  • Box Office Milestone: TED Jumps to $200 Mil Mark in North America

    The pic is already one of the most successful R-rated comedies of all time, with numerous international markets yet to open.

    Director Seth MacFarlane's raunchy comedy Ted jumped the $200 million mark at the domestic box office this weekend in addition to scoring stellar numbers in key foreign markets.

    From Universal and Media Rights Capital, Ted has now earned $203.4 million in North America and will soon eclipse Wedding Crashers ($209.3 million) to become the No. 4 R-rated comedy of all time behind The Hangover ($277.3 million), The Hangover Part II ($254.8 million) and Beverly Hills Cop ($234.5 million).

    Ted -- starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, along with the MacFarlance-voiced teddy bear -- is rolling out slowly overseas. After enjoying big business, the comedy opened in another of other markets over the weekend for an early international total of $77.3 million.

    The pic's worldwide gross of $280.7 million lands it on the top ten list of R-rated comedies globally.

    The pic's international weekend gross was $32 million from 20 markets, including first-place finishes in the U.K., Germany, Russia, Austria Switzerland and Ukraine.

    Ted grossed $15.3 million from 508 screens in the U.K., the third-best showing ever for a Universal film behind the Bridge Jones sequel and King Kong. Germany turned in $7.4 million, the best debut of the year for a Universal title.

    The film will roll out in an additional 38 territories over the next few months.

  • Twitter Goes to the Movies: Hollywood is Digging Deep into New Ways of Using Social Media; The Selling of TED

    The teddy bear's first tweet, from an account called @WhatTedSaid set up by the Universal Pictures marketing department, was "Hello, Twitter. Kindly go f— yourself."
    The author of the greeting was Alec Sulkin, co-screenwriter of the R-rated comedy "Ted," who together with his collaborator Wellesley Wild was paid extra by the studio to build buzz on social media ahead of the film's June 29 release. Who better to embody the random musings of a foul-mouthed stuffed animal than the writers of the script? The suits left them alone.

    "The parameters were, 'Just go to town,' " says Doug Neil, Universal's senior vice president of digital marketing. The tweeting started March 30, two days before the "red band" (uncensored) trailer appeared online, depicting the namesake bear smoking weed, cuddling with co-star Mark Wahlberg and pantomiming suggestive acts for a supermarket checkout girl.

    Mr. Wild was in charge of blogging "Ted's Fuzzy Thoughts," a collection of ravings on subjects such as whether microscopic robots slathered on meat could cure cancer. Meanwhile, Mr. Wahlberg changed his Facebook cover picture to a banner saying "ted is here," and began posting content like a not-safe-for-work video birthday message from the bear for his 600,000-plus fans to share.

    It worked spectacularly. Tracking polls, which movie executives rely on to guide box office expectations, suggested an opening-weekend gross of $35 million to $40 million for the film, which was co-written and directed by Seth McFarlane, creator of "Family Guy," who also provided the voice for Ted. Instead, "Ted" generated $54 million, catching the industry by surprise.

    Hollywood is doing more than using Twitter and Facebook as mere promotional tools. After several years of experimenting, studios have thrown themselves deeply into a medium which is still barely understood. They are now developing elaborate social media campaigns early on, sometimes as soon as a film gets greenlit. Researchers are conducting deep numerical analysis on posts and tweets to guide marketing decisions, sometimes predicting box office revenue with pinpoint accuracy. They're looking not just at opening movies, but sustaining their word-of-mouth through subsequent weeks. And they are getting more surgical about targeting their ever-fickle, ever-elusive core audience of young people.

    Movie marketing has always been something of a black art. Studios typically intensify advertising the month before a movie opens, spending heavily on a barrage of television spots. Upcoming films are now surfacing on social media far earlier. On July 14, nearly a year before the release of M. Night Shyamalan's "After Earth," the producers released a video in the form of a Facebook timeline using headlines and photos to describe the historical run-up to an alien-driven apocalypse (the film stars Will Smith).

    For Paramount's coming film, "Paranormal Activity 4," the studio is working with Facebook for what it calls the "Want It" campaign, allowing fans to request a premiere in their hometown, anywhere in the world; the 25 cities with the most voting activity will get it first. For "Pitch Perfect," a comedy debuting Oct. 5 about an a cappella singing group, Universal is announcing a competition on Monday in which fans can submit videos of themselves singing Nicki Minaj's hit song "Starships." The winning clips will be spliced into a music video featuring the cast of the film and Mike Tompkins, an a cappella artist whose YouTube page has more than 500,000 subscribers.

    There is mounting evidence that promotions like this do move the dial. Last year, Paramount executives were worried about lukewarm buzz over "Super 8." They'd expected more enthusiasm for a movie with Steven Spielberg attached as a producer, and fan-boy favorite J.J. Abrams as the director. The problem, they felt, was the unusual tone of the movie, part family drama, part sci-fi horror flick. It was "hard to capture in a 30-second TV spot," says Amy Powell, Paramount's president of digital entertainment.

    The Monday prior to the film's release, as disappointing tracking numbers continued, Ms. Powell contacted Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo and revenue chief Adam Bain with the idea of using Twitter to announce, via sponsored tweets, early Wednesday screenings at 300 theaters. And they threw in free popcorn. After the tweets went out, they sold several million dollars in tickets.

    As fans emerged from the Wednesday night screenings, they tweeted mostly positive reactions with the #Super8Secret hashtag. The 11th-hour blitz paid off: the film opened to $35 million, a better-than-expected result that Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore credited to the Twitter campaign.

    No studio has been bold (or foolish) enough to completely abandon television advertising in favor of a strictly social-media approach. Studio executives say it's as yet impossible to determine how much a social media strategy actually contributes to a film's box office results. But the promise for studios is that it could lower marketing costs.

    "No matter what a film costs, if you're going to go super-wide you have to go there," says veteran distribution executive Bob Berney, referring to big TV ad spends. "The question is: by [using social media], can you do it for $10-or-more million less and get the same result?"

    Twitter now has 140 million active users, half of whom log in every day, while Facebook is the largest social network, with nearly one billion users world-wide. About a quarter of the most influential moviegoing audience—18-to-29-year-olds—tweet, nearly twice as many as in older age groups, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

    Several studios, including Paramount and CBS Films, have begun using tools devised by a five-year-old Boston company called Crimson Hexagon. Founded by a Harvard professor, the company has access to Twitter's entire "fire hose," every public tweet that's ever been written since 2010. The company's algorithm analyzes "unstructured text"—the colloquial way people speak on social media—to answer specific questions about consumers' desire for various products, including movies. For example, it can search for tweets, blogs or Facebook comments from people comparing "Ted" to "The Hangover."

    Crimson Hexagon has about 100 customers across industries, ranging from General Motors to Twitter itself, who pay more than $100,000 a year for access to its intelligence. In a conference room in a tower overlooking Boston Harbor, a team of Crimson Hexagon executives demonstrated how recent research revealed that social media comments are tightly correlated to opening-weekend box office. By looking at the volume of tweets expressing "intent to view" (such as "I'm dying to see the new Bourne film!") across seven different movies—including "The Hunger Games," "The Dictator," "Act of Valor" and others—they observed a 98.8% correlation with actual gross revenue per theater. Chief Executive Patricia Gottesman cautioned that it's unclear to what extent social media is creating, as opposed to responding to, the buzz about a given film.

    Early Interest: In addition to 'The Hobbit' (far left and fourth from left), coming movies that are the subject of anticipatory chatter on social media include 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2,' the latest James Bond, 'Skyfall,' and 'The Great Gatsby' with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.

    Fizziology, an Indianapolis-based firm that analyzes social media, examines the volume and sentiment of comments to supplement traditional tracking, advise on casting decisions and see what people are buzzing about. The company has developed some rules of thumb: 70% or more "positives"—favorable comments about a movie or its trailer—bodes well for a film's opening. Both "Ted" and "The Avengers" were hovering in that range. Negatives aren't necessarily bad—deliberately provocative horror films weather them just fine, says Fizziology Chief Executive Ben Carlson. But having mostly neutral comments can be the kiss of death. For example, "Battleship," a colossal flop, saw only 30% positive comments, with the rest being mostly neutral.

    Looking at the overwhelming (90% positive) buzz surrounding "Ted" three weeks before opening weekend, Fizziology predicted that opening weekend box office results would be between $39 million and $55 million, as opposed to the $35-40 million that the studio was expecting based on traditional tracking—closer to the $54 million that the film wound up bringing in.

    On the flip side, studios worry that once a film is released and the marketing dies down, negative comments can discourage people from buying tickets. Some 72% of social media users immediately post opinions on social sites after watching a film, and 8%, annoyingly, do so while a film is actually playing, according to a recent survey conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland for the Hollywood Reporter. "Word of mouth spreads much faster, both positive and negative, than ever before," says Ira Rubenstein, Fox's executive vice president of digital.

    Some in Hollywood have dubbed this "The Brüno Effect," after the 2009 Sacha Baron Cohen comedy about a flamboyantly gay Austrian television host. The raunchy R-rated film generated $14.4 million in its opening night, but then witnessed a surprisingly steep 39.2% drop-off in receipts on Saturday. A group of Harvard graduate students specializing in statistics in 2010 examined whether Twitter was responsible for the decline. They eventually determined that there was a relationship between the proportion of negative tweets like "Bruno movie is probably the worst I ever seen" and the decline in revenue from Friday to Saturday. "What we found is that it may be hard to put a value on word-of-mouth but that it absolutely has predictive power," says Omar Wasow, a Ph.D. candidate who worked on the study.

    Crimson Hexagon also found evidence of the Brüno Effect: in the two week period following opening weekend, the percentage of people saying that they "won't see" the film doubled to 31%. By contrast, the proportion of people who said they didn't want to see "Bridesmaids," a sleeper hit with positive word-of-mouth, remained under 5%.

    Mr. Neil says that "Brüno," which also was a Universal film, "had a great campaign and a strong opening night." Nevertheless, the opening-weekend experience was emblematic of the growing importance of "the immediate reaction" on social media sites, he says.

    To get reactions to "Ted" on Facebook, the studio posted questions like "Do you think Ted is the new Citizen Kane?" and offered apps like "My Wild Nights With Ted," that enabled people to import an image of the bear into their own photos, and post them on their personal Facebook pages. The studio even found itself embroiled in a social-media smackdown with Warner Bros., which was opening "Magic Mike," a Steven- Soderbergh-directed movie about male strippers, on the same date. After seeing an e-card posted on the "Ted" Facebook wall showing the teddy bear grasping a stripper pole and exhorting fans to "spend time with Tantalizing Ted" instead of "Magic Mike," Warners fired back, using the "My Wild Nights With Ted" app to insert "Ted" into a photo of their film's shirtless ensemble cast, writing "Even 'Ted' wants to see 'Magic Mike.' " In the comments section of the official "Magic Mike" Facebook page, "Ted" wrote—using unprintable language—that he had no interest in looking at naked men.

    Universal was also monitoring what people were saying about the film, and adjusting online content to please them. For example, soon after the first "Ted" trailer went online, Fizziology observed that a lot of the online chatter about it centered on the "Thunder Buddies" song, which Mr. Wahlberg sings with the bear while in bed. Mr. Neil's team immediately jumped on it, adding more content, like a remixed version of the song that plays on the website, e-cards with lyrics on Facebook, Thunder Buddy pajamas available via, and a 30-second video clip of the song. When the film's chief financial backer, Modi Wiczyk, heard ESPN radio use "Thunder Buddies" in a bit about the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat in the NBA finals, he asked the studio to push the song even harder.

    By the time opening weekend for "Ted" rolled around on June 29, the @WhatTedSaid account had over 200,000 followers (and is now double that), an impressive number considering that Ted's musings were so obscene that the Motion Picture Association of America refused to allow the studio to promote the account on posters. And the proportion of conversation that came from merely re-tweeting the @WhatTedSaid account had fallen by half to 19%, "indicating that more organic opinions have formed," Fizziology wrote in a memo to Universal. In other words, potential moviegoers had been exposed to enough information to form their own views, not just follow the pack.

    The film's Facebook page had about a million fans; it now has more than 2.7 million. "Talking Ted," which allows users to control the bear's movements and statements, became the No. 1 entertainment app on iTunes and was downloaded 3.5 million times. Excluding sequels, "Ted" is now the most successful R-rated comedy of all time and this weekend should surpass $200 million in domestic box-office revenue.

  • ‘Ted’ Beating ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Overseas

    EXCLUSIVE: Of course a foul-mouthed teddy bear would translate internationally since it’s a beloved global plush toy. Still, MRC/Universal’s Ted is already open in 10 international territories and was #1 in almost every territory including an outstanding run in Australia. Now Universal opens it in 10 more markets this weekend and it’s already topping the foreign box office with big grosses in Germany and Russia plus previews in the UK. There, the Seth MacFarlane/Mark Wahlberg starrer has been #1 for two days of $5.3M previews, besting Warner Bros’ and Legendary Pictures’ third weekend of The Dark Knight Rises. Universal has planned the widest-ever release for Ted‘s official opening today in the UK and Ireland. In Germany, Ted opened #1 on its first day ahead of TDKR and grossed $1.2M on Thursday, a 2012 record best for Universal in this market. In Russia, Ted had a record-breaking start as well, opening Thursday with $1.4M as the #1 film ahead of TDKR. This is a record for a Hollywood comedy. Ted‘s international total has risen to $54.5M in just 20 territories, and Universal has 38 openings yet to release in the next few months.

  • COMIC-CON 2012: 'Elysium' Footage Stuns in Hall H

    Neill Blomkamp showed a seven-minute reel of "incredibly rough" but impressive video clips.

    The world got its first look at Elysium, the follow-up sci-fi movie from Neill Blomkamp, who burst onto the film scene with District 9.

    Blomkamp introduced a seven-minute reel, cautioning it was “incredibly rough,” and saying that there's a sales aspect to the shilling of a film that he is uncomfortable with, making him wary of showing off footage to other people. But, he was OK with showing something at Comic-Con because, “it’s a true, honest thing. There’s no lies about it. It’s completely about want to seeing cool footage.”

    And see cool footage they did.

    Arguably the most impressive thing screened in Hall H so far, the reel showed a world that is overpopulated with the wealthy living in a space station orbiting the planet. The character played by Matt Damon, a steel worker living in slums, needs to get to the station, but in order to do that, must kidnap an Earthbound resident. Chases and action featuring robots ensue, as well as mechanical enhancement and Sharlto Copley as a villain.

    The footage previewed a movie reminiscent to the dystopian world seen in District 9, with its slums and garbage dumps, and filled with menacing metallic authority -- human or robotic.

    The world looks completely realized, which is something that Damon noted when talking about his first meeting with the filmmaker.

    Damon, who came on the stage with Jodi Foster, Copley and producer Simon Kinberg, said Blomkamp first showed him a graphic novel on his computer outlining a very intricate story and world.

    “It was in such incredible detail. So arresting. And there was a whole corresponding book on weaponry and a whole book on vehicles,” said Damon.

    Blomkamp also discussed the movies origins, saying it came from "an idea of a space station. In the film, the wealth was taken and separated from Earth, leaving an impoverished planet behind it."

    The team talked of shooting the movie in Canada and Mexico, with the latter offering up health challenges.

    At one point, they shot in the second largest garbage dump in the world -- with dust storms kicking up fecal matter. Blomkamp was forced to wear breaking masks; the actors… well, they were forced to endure.

    Damon recalled how he and Copley shot their fight scenes. “We would be black with dust. And we would look at each other and say, ‘This is fecal matter,’" he said. "And Neill would come over, take off his maks, and say, ‘I promise you, the photography looks great!’"

    Blomkamp also said that while his movies may feature a lot of green-screen and CGI, he is careful to limit its use to mostly background shots, leaving actors to interact with other actors.

    “The situation that gets more dangerous if there’s acting against a digital creature. Anything non-human,” he said, referencing the tennis ball, which often acts as a stand-in for what will later become a fantasy or sci-fi creation. “That’s where you can run into trouble.”

  • Bull Market for R-Rated Bear?

    'Ted' targets pic's tie-ins to alternative retailers

    When it comes to movie merchandise, retailers like to play it safe, stocking shelves with products tied to summer tentpoles like "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" with characters recognized by most consumers.
    But stores are ready to make room for a foul-mouthed teddy bear from Boston.

    With "Ted" nearing $200 million domestically and expanding overseas, Universal, which distributes the comedy, and the film's producer, Media Rights Capital, are rolling out a line of licensed products for the Seth MacFarlane film. That includes a talking plush bear, voiced by MacFarlane, that spouts a dozen phrases like, "How about a Brewstoyevski," "Come here, you bastard" and, "Stick your finger in the loop of my tag," as well as cell phone covers, mugs, hats and slogan-covered T-shirts, some too vulgar to publish.

    The products are unusual for an R-rated film. Retailers generally shy away from adult-oriented fare, especially if a film doesn't boast existing brand awareness. Moviegoers may know MacFarlane from "Family Guy," "American Dad!" and "The Cleveland Show," but "Ted" was based on an original idea by MacFarlane.

    Most of the "Ted" merchandise will roll out beginning in October, and continue through December, timed with the homevideo push for the film. Partners likely will include major retailers like Best Buy and Transworld to promote the pic's products as well as the disc.

    Burbank-based Striker Entertainment, which launched the successful line of products for Summit Entertainment's "Twilight" franchise and last year's "The Hunger Games" for Lionsgate, is heading the "Ted" licensing campaign for MRC. Striker spent a month working closely with MacFarlane and Commonwealth Toys to design four sizes of plush bears. The largest is a 24-inch version priced at $59.99. Smallest is sized for keychains. And they all talk.

    With a film about a talking toy bear, it wasn't much of a stretch to determine the centerpiece tie-in. MacFarlane approved every element of the bear's design, from the color, the shape of his nose, even the type of material used.

    "Seth has a very high level of quality expectation," says Russell Binder, president of Striker. "Everybody wanted this to be right. I salute rights holders who aren't willing to put out a product unless they're satisfied. Even though you could sell a bunch of them, (and) you've got the marketplace demanding product, do it the right way."

    While Striker isn't new to the stuffed-animal biz -- it also handles the consumer products license for Rovio's successful "Angry Birds" franchise, which has resulted in plush versions of the pigs and birds in the game -- "Ted" is hardly as family friendly.

    "Because of the nature of the property, and its R-rating, it's a very tough property to put into channels where there are kids," Binder says. "It's considered a bit too risque. It's hard for a kid not to press a bear's hand and hear him talk."

    That essentially eliminates chains like Walmart, Target and Toys R Us.

    Instead, Striker is turning to teen- and young-adult skewing mall-based retailers such as Hot Topic, FYE and Spencer Gifts, as well as Urban Outfitters and

    Online retailers, in particular, "have become a huge place for us to reach the right customer," Binder says.

    In that regard, one key partner has been online tchotchke licenser CafePress, which has quickly become a source for studios looking for "a quick solution to get product into fans' hands," Binder says, given the company's digital print-on-demand process.

    For "Ted," CafePress put considerable resources behind promoting the pic and pre-selling the plush bears, in addition to other products like mugs, cell phone covers, aprons and T-shirts. The site is taking pre-orders for the bear. Other retailers will start carrying the foul-mouthed toy by mid-August.

    Additional partners include Concept One, which is making headwear and accessories, Rippled Junction (apparel) and toymaker Funko (bobble heads and Pop! figures). Still others are making calendars and posters, while Striker is also looking to identify ways to make "Ted" tie-ins relevant year-round, especially during the holidays.

    Separately, Universal developed a "Talking Ted" app for Apple- and Google-powered devices, in which the toy bear smokes, drinks beer and can be recorded saying tame lines like "I love you," with the finished video posted on Facebook or Twitter. While there's a free version that has been downloaded more than 5 million times, the studio is charging 99¢ for an uncensored version that features more phrases.

    Such digital deals are becoming more commonplace as younger consumers increasingly turn to their tablets and smartphones to play games. The time and money they're spending on those devices is impacting the business as a whole, Binder says, which is altering the kinds of consumer products that wind up on store shelves. "There's not a toy company out there that's not trying to marry physical and digital experiences to engage with kids," Binder says. "It's hard to do just television today or just a movie. (The strategy) requires different access to different media." For skittish retailers, box office returns prove an effective decision-making model.

    "When the movie came out and crushed opening weekend, all of a sudden retailers came out of hibernation, if you will," Binder says. "When it hit, that's when the appetite turned into orders."

    As a result, most product deals are generally done after the fact, Binder says. "There's rarely a pre-movie effort to put deals together. There's always the intention for something to have merchandising potential. But given how conservative retailers are today and the amount of well-known brand properties there are coming out on a regular basis, there's not the desire to support a property until it comes out and works. We can do as many licensing deals as possible, but if it doesn't get supported at retail, there's no point."

    Striker treated "Ted" differently, however, locking down some deals before the film's bow. For some products, that's necessary, given manufacturing challenges, particularly overseas. "You can't make product and turn it around in two weeks," Binder says. "You have to design it, get it approved, produce it and ship it. That takes time."

    Universal has scored in the past with other R-rated fare, producing bowling bags and White Russian cocktail-mixing kits for "The Big Lebowski," as well as online games and apps for "Scarface," including a version of "Mafia Wars."

    Binder also has brokered merchandise deals around Lionsgate's "Saw" franchise, "Kick-Ass" and Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" in the past, including collectible vinyl figures.

    "Ted" marks "the first plush bear in my career," Binder says.

    The marketing maven may want to get used to it. Universal and MRC are pressing MacFarlane to move forward with a "Ted" sequel, but the multihyphenate is juggling animated franchises "Family Guy," "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show" for Fox.

    As he gets retailers excited for more "Ted" product, Binder also is working on licensing deals for Lionsgate's "The Expendables 2," out next month, as well as its "Hunger Games" sequel; "I, Frankenstein"; the "Twilight" finale from Summit, as well as its sci-fier "Ender's Game" and zombie pic "Warm Bodies"; Legendary's Entertainment's "Pacific Rim"; and AMC's "The Walking Dead."

    Binder and his team were drawn to "Ted" because it looked like fun, and was a different kind of property from what they normally do, he says. They also were interested in a challenge: "What we expect to be merchandisable in an R-rated space is not that obvious," Binder explains.

    With a vulgar toy bear as the most obvious tie-in, Striker had little elso to base its efforts around for "Ted."Only "The Hangover," with its wolf pack-branded products and image of a baby wearing sunglasses, and "Napoleon Dynamite" seemed to offer similar campaigns.

    But Binder , who's a fan of MacFarlane, didn't need a lot of convincing after learning who was behind the project. "The challenge was getting the people (namely licensing partners and retailer) to support it in a meaningful way for a theatrical release. The bulk of this business," he explains, "is wait and see."

  • Comic-Con 2012: ELYSIUM Footage Stuns in Hall H

    Neill Blomkamp showed a seven-minute reel of "incredibly rough" but impressive video clips.

    The world got its first look at Elysium, the follow-up sci-fi movie from Neill Blomkamp, who burst onto the film scene with District 9.

    Blomkamp introduced a seven-minute reel, cautioning it was “incredibly rough,” and saying that there's a sales aspect to the shilling of a film that he is uncomfortable with, making him wary of showing off footage to other people. But, he was OK with showing something at Comic-Con because, “it’s a true, honest thing. There’s no lies about it. It’s completely about want to seeing cool footage.”

    And see cool footage they did.

    Arguably the most impressive thing screened in Hall H so far, the reel showed a world that is overpopulated with the wealthy living in a space station orbiting the planet. The character played by Matt Damon, a steel worker living in slums, needs to get to the station, but in order to do that, must kidnap an Earthbound resident. Chases and action featuring robots ensue, as well as mechanical enhancement and Sharlto Copley as a villain.

    The footage previewed a movie reminiscent to the dystopian world seen in District 9, with its slums and garbage dumps, and filled with menacing metallic authority -- human or robotic.

    The world looks completely realized, which is something that Damon noted when talking about his first meeting with the filmmaker.

    Damon, who came on the stage with Jodi Foster, Copley and producer Simon Kinberg, said Blomkamp first showed him a graphic novel on his computer outlining a very intricate story and world.

    “It was in such incredible detail. So arresting. And there was a whole corresponding book on weaponry and a whole book on vehicles,” said Damon.

    Blomkamp also discussed the movies origins, saying it came from "an idea of a space station. In the film, the wealth was taken and separated from Earth, leaving an impoverished planet behind it."

    The team talked of shooting the movie in Canada and Mexico, with the latter offering up health challenges.

    At one point, they shot in the second largest garbage dump in the world -- with dust storms kicking up fecal matter. Blomkamp was forced to wear breaking masks; the actors… well, they were forced to endure.

    Damon recalled how he and Copley shot their fight scenes. “We would be black with dust. And we would look at each other and say, ‘This is fecal matter,’" he said. "And Neill would come over, take off his maks, and say, ‘I promise you, the photography looks great!’"

    Blomkamp also said that while his movies may feature a lot of green-screen and CGI, he is careful to limit its use to mostly background shots, leaving actors to interact with other actors.

    “The situation that gets more dangerous if there’s acting against a digital creature. Anything non-human,” he said, referencing the tennis ball, which often acts as a stand-in for what will later become a fantasy or sci-fi creation. “That’s where you can run into trouble.”

  • Sony to distribute 'House of Cards'

    Sony Pictures TV has inked a deal with Media Rights Capital to distribute David Fincher's upcoming series "House of Cards."

    The show, helmed and exec produced by Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, will be handled by Sony in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and Spain after Netflix's window on the series expires.

    "Ides of March" screenwriter Beau Willimon developed the series and will serve as showrunner. As with any prestige project, there are plenty of producers: Fincher, Josh Donen, Eric Roth, Spacey, Dana Brunetti and John Melfi will exec produce. Show is based on a BBC series of the same name produced by Andrew Davies and Michael Dobbs, who also produce. Rick Cleveland and Sarah Treem write and produce.

    The pilot is written by Willimon and helmed by Fincher.

  • TED Opens "Off the Charts" in Australia

    EXCLUSIVE: Universal‘s Ted will have a slow international rollout. But studios sources tell me that during just three days of previews in Australia its Seth MacFarlane-Mark Wahlberg comedy grossed an estimated $4.485 million at 199 locations (with only 2 day and 2 evening sessions at best). “This is off the charts and the biggest preview business Australia has ever seen,” the exec says. For context, Fox‘s Ice Age 4: Continental Divide is estimated to have grossed $4.85 in Australia for four days in official release at 280 locations. (Fox passed on Ted even though MacFarlane is BMOC at 20th TV and FBC.) Ted opens next weekend in Australia officially and Taiwan.

  • TED Tops Box Office Weekend Numbers

    LOS ANGELES — Moviegoers cuddled up to “Ted” in an unexpectedly impressive way over the weekend, turning a drug-loving teddy bear with a filthy mouth into a likely franchise star.Enlarge This ImageUniversal PicturesThe title character of “Ted,” a new film directed by Seth MacFarlane.“Ted,” the first film from Seth MacFarlane of “Family Guy” fame, took in an estimated $54.1 million at North American theaters, about 35 percent higher than the loftiest prerelease predictions. To compare, the first “Hangover” film — which raked in over $467.5 million worldwide and spawned a series — took in $48 million in its first weekend in 2009, after adjusting for inflation.Put another way, “Ted” sold more tickets in its first three days than Johnny Depp (“Dark Shadows”) and Tom Cruise (“Rock of Ages”) recently did, combined, in theirs.The R-rated “Ted,” co-starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, is a triumph for Mr. MacFarlane. He directed “Ted,” was a writer of the screenplay and performed the titular character’s voice. It is also a crucial victory for its distributor, Universal Pictures, which released “Battleship” earlier in the summer movie season todisastrous results.But “Ted” may mean the most to its financier, a quiet firm called Media Rights Capital. With roots stretching back to 2003, this production company — built to give directors, writers and stars more earning power and control of their projects — was starting to look like a tepid experiment. Releases like “Bruno” and “The Adjustment Bureau” were profitable in the end, but only slimly so.“We’ve had singles and doubles, but ‘Ted’ is our first big, fat home run,” Mordecai Wiczyk, co-chairman of Media Rights, said by telephone on Saturday. “What we are trying to do has been validated, especially for partners like Universal who believed in us from the early days.”Will “Ted” become a “Hangover”-style series?“We’re still digesting this weekend,” Mr. Wiczyk said. When pressed, he added, “Everyone’s talking about it, and certainly we would love to do it.” A spokeswoman for Mr. MacFarlane said he was traveling on Sunday and unavailable to comment.Media Rights, which is also behind David Fincher’s forthcoming “House of Cards” series for Netflix, spent about $50 million to make “Ted.” The film received a few scathing reviews, but critical notices were generally positive, and ticket buyers gave it an A-minus in exit polls.Overall ticket sales in North America totaled $202 million for the weekend, a 3 percent increase over the same period last year, according to, which compiles box office data. Steven Soderbergh’s male-stripper movie, “Magic Mike,” with Channing Tatum leading an ensemble cast, finished a stronger-than-expected second, taking in about $39.2 million. Warner Brothers released “Magic Mike,” which cost just $7 million to make.“Brave” (Walt Disney) was third, selling about $34 million in tickets, for a two-week domestic total of $131.7 million. “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection” (Lionsgate), the fifth movie in that series, placed fourth, taking in about $26.4 million, slightly above its franchise predecessor. “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” (Paramount) was fifth, selling about $11.8 million in tickets, for a four-week total of $180 million.Notably, “Ted” has little comedic competition in the weeks ahead.“Given that long runway, and the fact that there hasn’t been a strong comedy yet this summer — both ‘The Dictator’ and ‘That’s My Boy’ disappointed — ‘Ted’ should be a strong performer for weeks to come,” Benjamin Carlson, president of Fizziology, a company that monitors social media to advise movie studios, wrote in an e-mail.“Ted” was born in 2006, when Mr. Wiczyk asked Mr. MacFarlane if he had movie aspirations. “Seth said, ‘Well, I have this idea that opens up like a sweet little Disney movie and then becomes about a teddy bear that snorts coke and chases hookers,’ ” Mr. Wiczyk recalled. “And I immediately closed my office door and called my business partner and said, ‘We’re greenlighting this right now.’ ”Mr. Wiczyk was particularly excited about international potential. American comedies often fail to translate overseas, and the ones that do tend to have a single joke at their center — say, drinking too much (“The Hangover”). “Ted” does not open in most foreign markets until August or later.Universal was Mr. Wiczyk’s first studio stop; 20th Century Fox, which produces “Family Guy,” also had an opportunity to grab the film. Fox wanted “Ted” but pushed to lower the budget; Universal got the business.Hollywood’s attention now swings to two megawatt superhero franchises: Sony unveils“The Amazing Spider-Man” on Tuesday — advance interest has been quiet in the United States, but early ticket sales overseas are promising — and Warner finishes its Batman trilogy with “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20.Doug Stone, president of Box Office Analyst, estimates that “The Amazing Spider-Man” should take in nearly $325 million in its domestic run, or about 13 percent less than“Spider-Man 3” in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. “The Dark Knight Rises” has a chance to surpass $500 million in North America, on par with its 2008 predecessor.

  • Epix, Charles Target Steve Jobs with ICON Series Pilot

    EPIX and Media Rights Capital have made a team for iCON, a comedy series pilot that will be developed by Larry Charles, the Emmy-winning TV writer/producer, and the director of the Sacha Baron Cohen features Borat and Bruno.
    Charles will oversee development of the script and will direct the half-hour pilot of a series written by Dan Lyons. A technology consultant for Newsweek, Lyons created the Fake Steve Jobs blog and wrote the novel Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs—A Parody.

    The show’s lead charcter, Tom Rhodes, is a composite of Jobs and other Silicon Valley titans, and the comedy is described as a savage satire, a study of ego, power and greed.

    Deal marks the latest move by EPIX president Mark Greenberg to create original programming that will be compatible to the slates of movies that will be provided by EPIX partners Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate. iCON becomes the second original pilot for the EPIX pay channel. Sam Shepard stars in the first one, Tough Trade, and more deals are coming.

    MRC will serve as the studio and financier. The company said it had several bidders for the property, but chose EPIX because Charles could be as edgy as he wanted to be. The feeling is that the show could put EPIX on the map the way series like Mad Men did for AMC, Weeds for Showtime, and Burn Notice for USA. Charles worked with MRC on the Baron Cohen films, and he's TV royalty, with series credits that include Seinfeld, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm. While Entourage might have originally been informed by the relationship between exec producer Mark Wahlberg, his agent Ari Emanuel and manager Steve Levinson, the Doug Ellin-created show became a broader statement on Hollywood. Jobs and other titans will certainly inspire iCON at its inception, but the show will lampoon the larger hi-tech world. Charles will be swinging for the fences.

    “We are attempting to do nothing less than a modern Citizen Kane,” Charles said. “A scabrous satire of Silicon Valley and its most famous citizen. We needed a bold environment to nurture such a vision. One that was free of pre-conceived ideas. And EPIX made it clear they were that place. They asked us to make their home our home. And we have.”

  • David Cronenberg Teaming with MRC to Adapt KNIFEMAN for TV

    The "History of Violence" Director will direct the pilot and serve as an EP on the Media Rights Capital drama project, which will be shopped to potential buyers shortly.

    Director David Cronenberg is heading to the small screen.

    The History of Violence helmer is teaming with Media Rights Capital for his first foray into television. He will direct the pilot as well as serve as an executive producer on Knifeman, based on the Wendy Moore novel of the same name.

    The drama, which will soon be shopped to potential buyers, centers on the trials and triumphs of a radical, self-educated surgeon delivering a visceral portrait of the extraordinary and unorthodox lengths he will go to uncover the secrets of the human body. Cronenberg will be a partner on the project, much as David Fincher is on MRC’s House of Cards, set to debut on Netflix later this year.

    Knifeman is being written by Emmy nominated writer-producer Rolin Jones (Friday Night Lights, Weeds, Smash) with the story by Jones and Ron Fitzgerald (Friday Night Lights). The MRC project will count Cronenberg and Jones, along with Sam Raimi, Josh Donen and Robert Zotnowski of Stars Road as executive producers. Sentient’s Renee Tab is attached as a co-executive producer as well.

    Cronenberg, who recently wrapped filing on Cosmopolis, based on the Don De Lillo novel and starring Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti and Juliette Binoche, is repped by WME, Sentient Entertainment and Behr & Abramson. His previous credits include such projects as Eastern Promises, M. Butterfly and A Dangerous Method.

  • Sony to Distribute HOUSE OF CARDS

    David Fincher exec produces the upcoming series

    Sony Pictures TV has inked a deal with Media Rights Capital to distribute David Fincher's upcoming series "House of Cards."

    The show, helmed and exec produced by Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, will be handled by Sony in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and Spain after Netflix's window on the series expires.

    "Ides of March" screenwriter Beau Willimon developed the series and will serve as showrunner. As with any prestige project, there are plenty of producers: Fincher, Josh Donen, Eric Roth, Spacey, Dana Brunetti and John Melfi will exec produce. Show is based on a BBC series of the same name produced by Andrew Davies and Michael Dobbs, who also produce. Rick Cleveland and Sarah Treem write and produce.

    The pilot is written by Willimon and helmed by Fincher.

  • SYFY Developing TV Series Version of Movie THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

    EXCLUSIVE: Syfy is developing a TV series based on this year’s MRC/Universal Pictures movie The Adjustment Bureau, which was written, directed and produced by George Nolfi and starred Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Former Smallville executive producers Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin are writing the TV adaptation, which is being produced by MRC. Nolfi is executive producing with Swimmer and Slavkin, with Michael Hackett, a producer on the feature, serving as co-executive producer. The 2011 sci-fi thriller, based on Philip K. Dick’s short story Adjustment Team centered on a rising politician (Damon) whose budding romance with a dancer (Blunt) is intercepted by the Adjustment Bureau, a secret organization with special powers, which uses them to ensure that people’s lives follow the chairman of the Bureau’s plan for them. MRC doesn’t normally do traditional network development, but the deal for The Adjustment Bureau stems from the fact that Syfy is a sister network of Universal Pictures, which released the MRC-produced movie. In addition to Adjustment Bureau, WME-repped Slavkin and Swimmer also are writing a high-tech character-driven procedural for NBC and Wolf Films.

  • X-FILES Creator Chris Carter is Back to TV with Mystery Drama Produced by MRC

    EXCLUSIVE: The long-awaited return to TV of The X-Files creator Chris Carter is close to reality. I’ve learned that Carter is set to write, direct and executive produce a mystery drama with a female lead for MRC. The company, which hopes to go straight to series on the project, is expected to start pitching the show to networks in the next few weeks. Carter had had the idea for the action series for a while and earlier this year pitched it to MRC, which has been teaming with A-list film and TV auspices.

    The company most recently sold the David Fincher/Kevin Spacey drama House Of Cards to Netflix with a two-season order. Since The X-Files ended its run on Fox in 2002, ICM-repped Carter has stayed largely out of the spotlight, only resurfacing to do the 2008 X-Files movie sequel and the upcoming thriller Fencewalker. There is now talk about a potential third X-Files movie.

  • MRC Buys Black Hole Thriller for Cronenberg

    Media Rights Capital has made a pre-emptive acquisition of the Jonathan Lethem novel As She Climbed Across the Table, in a package that has David Cronenberg directing, Bruce Wagner writing and Film Rites’ Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch producing. Lethem is the author of Motherless Brooklyn.

    The novel is a love triangle among an academic, his particle-physicist girlfriend, and the black hole that comes as the result of her lab experiments to replicate the origins of the universe. The physicist dumps her boyfriend to spend all her time with the black hole — which she calls Lack — and the university professor will do anything to win her back, even confronting his rival for her affections and risking a trip down a cosmic rabbit hole. The premise has comedic and thriller elements, and Film Rites brought it first to Cronenberg, who has covered dangerous and creepy obsessions in films ranging from The Fly to Crash and Dead Ringers. The film reteams Cronenberg with Wagner. Cronenberg was exec producer on Wagner’s adaptation of his own novel, I’m Losing You.

    Media Rights Capital would not disclose whether it will mount the movie in its financing and output deal with Universal, or broker a deal to a studio before production begins. MRC is currently in production on the Neill Blomkamp-directed Elysium, the futuristic thriller that stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga and Sharlto Copley. Cronenberg is about to unveil his latest film, A Dangerous Method, on the festival circuit with Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender starring. He just wrapped the Robert Pattinson-starrer Cosmopolis, based on the Don DeLillo novel. Cronenberg is repped by WME and Sentient Entertainment, Wagner by ICM.

  • HBO Renews RICKY GERVAIS SHOW for Third Season

    HBO has ordered a third season of The Ricky Gervais Show.
    The comedy series is an animated version of the popular podcasts of the same name, which feature Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington talking about random topics. The TV show uses past recordings from the podcasts, which began in 2005.

    Pilkington recently starred in Science Channel’s travel documentary series An Idiot Abroad, with Gervais and Merchant producing.

    The second season finale airs April 15 at 9 p.m. Gervais announced the Season 3 renewal on his personal blog.

  • TRYLLE TRILOGY Film Rights Are Sold

    Has Hollywood just found another big teenage film franchise? Media Rights Capital, a prominent film financier and production company, has snapped up the rights to the Trylle Trilogy book series by Amanda Hocking, the 26-year-old self-publishing wunderkind. The company plans to make three novels into two movies, and Terri Tatchell, a co-writer of the hit science-fiction film “District 9,” is already at work on the screenplays.

    “Amanda has created such a fresh, unique, fabulous world, and I am absolutely dead set on bringing it to the screen without compromising any of that,” Ms. Tatchell said by telephone from Vancouver, Canada.

    The three novels — “Switched,” “Torn” and “Ascend” — follow an emotionally damaged high school girl, Wendy Everly, who realizes that she may not be human. With the help of a boy, Finn Holmes, she discovers the mysterious world of Trylle, which is populated by beautiful trolls.

    Media Rights Capital, which has been involved with films like “The Adjustment Bureau” and Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno,” did not disclose terms. The next step is to line up a distributor, which should not be difficult given the company’s close ties to studios like Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures.

    Ms. Hocking has developed a rabid fan base for her young-adult paranormal fiction. In the past year, she shot to stardom in the literary world for self publishing nine books that sold a total of more than one million copies, nearly all of them in e-book form, earning almost $2 million. Last week, St. Martin’s Press won a frenzied auction for her “Watersong” series.

    Ever since the “Twilight” movies hit it big — about $790 million in box office sales in North America alone, with two installments still to come — Hollywood has rushed to find new young-adult fantasies. In one prominent example, Lionsgate is working to bring “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins to multiplexes.

    Ms. Tatchell, who is married to Neill Blomkamp, the director of “District 9,” brought the Trylle books to the attention of Media Rights Capital, she said. She developed an early relationship with Ms. Hocking, e-mailing her soon after “Switched” was published. “I was mildly obsessed,” Ms. Tatchell said. “She wrote back right away, and we immediately hit it off.”

  • It's Official: Netflix Picks up David Fincher-Kevin Spacey Series HOUSE OF CARDS

    Netflix just announced that it has acquired House of Cards, a political thriller drama series from executive producer/director David Fincher starring Kevin Spacey, which will be distributed exclusively via the company's Internet subscription service. This marks Netflix's first foray into original programming.
    Netflix, which has more than 20 million subscribers at the moment, has committed to 26 episodes of the drama, which is being produced by Media Rights Capital. Its premiere is scheduled for almost two years from now, in late 2012. Over the next year, the show will work on the 13 scripts for its first season. Fincher, who is now busy directing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, will direct the first episode of House of Cards next spring. That episode will then be evaluated like a pilot, and adjustments will be made if needed before production on the remaining episodes commences. In the next 3-6 months, MRC is expected to assemble a team to support the big production. More from Netflix's release:

    A satirical tale of power, corruption and lies, “House of Cards” is based on the book and acclaimed BBC mini-series of the same name. “The gripping, serialized one hour drama has become a very important part of the Netflix experience,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “David Fincher’s unique vision, the indelible performances of Kevin Spacey and the original version of “House of Cards,” all have a big following among our members, giving the series a very good chance of becoming a fan favorite."

    Originally written as a novel by former U.K. Conservative Party Chief of Staff Michael Dobbs, “House of Cards” explores the ruthless underside of British politics at the end of the Thatcher era. Reset against the backdrop of modern-day U.S. electoral politics, the new one-hour drama follows an ambitious politician (Spacey) with his eye on the top job.

    Scripts for 13 episodes will be delivered before production on the “House of Cards” pilot begins in the spring of 2012. Production on subsequent episodes of “House of Cards” will commence several months later, allowing producers time to carefully develop the series.

    Media Rights Capital’s “House of Cards” stars Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack) and was developed by Beau Willimon (The Ides of March). David Fincher (The Social Network), Josh Donen (Spartacus: Blood and Sand), Academy Award-winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump ), along with Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti of Trigger Street Productions (The Social Network) are Executive Producers for the series. Emmy Award-winner Andrew Davies and Michael Dobbs, who produced the original BBC series, also serve as Executive Producers, with Willimon as Co-Executive Producer. The “House of Cards” pilot is written by Willimon and will be directed by Fincher.

  • Kevin Dillon to Star in CBS Comedy Pilot HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN

    CBS is adding some Drama to its comedy pilot How to Be a Gentleman. Kevin Dillon, who is wrapping his eight-season run as Johnny "Drama" Chase on the HBO comedy Entourage, has been tapped as the second lead opposite David Hornsby in the CBS comedy pilot How to Be a Gentleman. The CBS Studios/MRC project, which Hornsby wrote based on the book of the same name, is a buddy comedy about Allan (Hornsby), an uptight guy, who is learning to live his life with the help of his old high school classmate Bert (Dillon), a genial guy who retains the optimism of a teenager but doesn't quite understand the concept of boundaries. Dillon, who earned three Emmy nominations for his role as an insecure actor on Entourage, is repped by ICM and Gallant Management. The series' eighth and final season will air this summer.

  • David Fincher's HOUSE OF CARDS Starring Kevin Spacey to be Stream Instantly in North America Exclusively from Netflix

    New television series from Media Rights Capital brings the highly anticipated adaptation of the award-winning BBC political thriller to Netflix members in late 2012

    Beverly Hills, CA (March 18, 2011) – “House of Cards,” the much-anticipated television series and political thriller from Executive Producer David Fincher and starring two time Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey, will debut exclusively in the United States and Canada from Netflix, the world’s leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows.

    Netflix has committed to a minimum of 26 episodes of the Media Rights Capital drama, which is expected to be available to the more than 20 million Netflix members, beginning in late 2012. Fincher, the Oscar-nominated director of The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, will direct the pilot written by Beau Willimon (Farragut North and film adaptation, The Ides of March). A satirical tale of power, corruption and lies, “House of Cards” is based on the book and acclaimed BBC mini-series of the same name.

    “The gripping, serialized one hour drama has become a very important part of the Netflix experience,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “David Fincher’s unique vision, the indelible performances of Kevin Spacey and the original version of “House of Cards,” all have a big following among our members, giving the series a very good chance of becoming a fan favorite. We are thrilled to be working with this amazing team.”

    Originally written as a novel by former U.K. Conservative Party Chief of Staff Michael Dobbs, “House of Cards” explores the ruthless underside of British politics at the end of the Thatcher era. Reset against the backdrop of modern-day U.S. electoral politics, the new one-hour drama follows an ambitious politician (Spacey) with his eye on the top job.

    Scripts for 13 episodes will be delivered before production on the “House of Cards” pilot begins in the spring of 2012. Production on subsequent episodes of “House of Cards” will commence several months later, allowing producers time to carefully develop the series.

    Media Rights Capital’s “House of Cards” stars Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack, American Beauty, Seven) and was developed by Beau Willimon (The Ides of March). David Fincher (The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Seven), Josh Donen (Spartacus: Blood and Sand), Academy Award-winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), along with Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti of Trigger Street Productions (The Social Network, 21) are Executive Producers for the series. Emmy Award-winner Andrew Davies and Michael Dobbs, who produced the original BBC series, also serve as Executive Producers, with Willimon as Co-Executive Producer. The “House of Cards” pilot is written by Willimon and will be directed by Fincher.

    About Netflix: With more than 20 million members in the United States and Canada, Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] is the world's leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows. For $7.99 a month, Netflix members can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed over the Internet to PCs, Macs and TVs. Among the large and expanding base of devices streaming from Netflix are Microsoft's Xbox 360, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PS3 consoles; an array of Blu-ray disc players, Internet-connected TVs, home theater systems, digital video recorders and Internet video players; Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as Apple TV and Google TV. In all, more than 200 devices that stream from Netflix are available in the U.S. and a growing number are available in Canada.

    About Media Rights Capital: MRC is a leading independent film, television and digital studio. MRC film projects include The Adjustment Bureau, written and directed by George Nolfi and starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt; Ben Stiller and Red Hour’s 30 Minutes or Less directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari; TED, starring and directed by Seth MacFarlane in his feature film debut, also starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis; Elysium, the first of two new projects to be helmed by District 9 writer/director Neill Blomkamp starring Jodie Foster and Matt Damon; and “Panic Pictures”, a production and financing company in partnership with David Fincher. Television ventures include the political drama “House of Cards” which will premiere on Netflix and star Kevin Spacey, from Executive Producers David Fincher, Andrew Davies, Michael Dobbs, Josh Donen Eric Roth and Dana Brunetti; “iCON,” a Silicon Valley satire created by Larry Charles and “Fake Steve Jobs,” Dan Lyons, which will debut on EPIX; and two seasons of “The Ricky Gervais Show,” the animated adaptation of the UK podcast starring Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, and three seasons of the late-night animated comedy “The Life and Times of Tim”, created by and starring Steve Dildarian, both airing on HBO.

  • Netflix Gets Into the TV Business

    There is a new competitor for HBO and Showtime in the television landscape — and, for the first time, it is not a television network.
    Netflix, the popular online film service, said on Friday that it had licensed the exclusive rights to “House of Cards,” a show that is to be directed by David Fincher, the director of “The Social Network,” and to star Kevin Spacey.

    The deal immediately makes Netflix a player in premium television programming.

    “House of Cards,” a serialized political drama, will look and feel like a traditional TV show, but it will not be distributed that way. Rather than having its debut at a certain time and date on a TV channel, “House of Cards” will have its debut online, where there are no set showtimes. It will be marketed through Netflix’s recommendation engine. And it will probably be released in batches, several episodes at a time, since subscribers like to binge on serialized shows.

    “Just a couple years ago, this would be completely unheard of,” Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for Netflix, acknowledged in an interview. “It speaks a lot to how quickly this market is emerging and to how quickly Netflix has become a real, legitimate entertainment brand in the eyes of both consumers and content creators.”

    The deal, first previewed several days ago by, underscored just how muscular Netflix had become in the media business. By licensing “House of Cards,” Netflix is essentially selling itself to Hollywood as an alternative to networks like HBO — and indicating that it is willing to pay high prices for high-quality shows. Netflix would not comment on the value of the deal, but it was believed to be close to $100 million.

    “Netflix is the original unbundled TV purveyor — the opposite of a network,” said Terry Heaton, a new media expert and the author of the PoMo Blog. He said the Netflix move was bold and “a big loud knock on the door” for other companies.

    Analysts said that through the deal, Netflix was both striving to differentiate its service and to reduce its dependence on films and TV shows licensed from third parties. Netflix has become a target of HBO and that network’s parent company, Time Warner, as well as other major media companies, and it is likely to face much steeper costs for those licenses.

    Netflix has more than 20 million subscribers, and it is adding more rapidly, thanks in part to the proliferation of connected screens like iPads.

    Ingrid Chung, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, upgraded Netflix to buy from neutral this week. She said in an analyst’s note that about 27 percent of consumers in the United States now stream movies and TV shows over the Internet, up from 16 percent at the same time last year. Many do so through Netflix, which Ms. Chung said “now has sufficient scale to make it difficult for new entrants, given low price points and expensive content costs.”

    Netflix’s stock, which nearly quadrupled last year, closed Friday at $209.40, down $4.50.

    A small group of other companies, Hulu, the YouTube division of Google and the Xbox division of Microsoft among them, have also contemplated distribution set-ups like the one conceived by Netflix and Media Rights Capital, which is producing “House of Cards.”

    Asif Satchu, a co-chairman of Media Rights Capital, said he was shocked when he first saw how many subscribers Netflix had amassed.

    “They have a distribution platform that could rival the networks’,” he said Friday in an interview.

    Netflix is licensing the North American rights to 26 episodes of the show. That is the equivalent of two seasons of a cable television drama. That is a departure from the normal model of TV production, in which one pilot episode is completed before one season is ordered. The production company will retain international, syndication and DVD sales rights.

    On Friday, Netflix sought to tamp down talk about the risk it was taking with the show. The company already streams past seasons of hundreds of TV shows, Mr. Sarandos said; the difference this time is that “we made a commitment prior to production.”

    The show will not have its debut until late 2012, giving the producers ample time to “get the show right,” Mr. Satchu said.

    Based on a novel of the same name about an ambitious British politician, “House of Cards” was made into a BBC miniseries in 1990. The producers of that version will serve as the executive producers of the new one.

    One of the chief advantages “House of Cards” will have is the on-demand nature of the Netflix service. Because TV networks have schedules, “when a show fails, it’s because it failed to aggregate an audience at the time it was on television,” Mr. Sarandos said. “There could be a million different reasons for that failure — it’s not just because the show isn’t good.”

    He continued, “There’s nothing in our model that makes a show more valuable if it can attract a large audience at a specific time. As long as it happens in the life of the license, it’s fine by me.”

    Netflix is not in any active discussions about picking up other shows, Mr. Sarandos said, but he is prepared to bid on others in the future. He expressed a particular interest in serialized shows like “24” and “Lost,” which have enduring popularity on Netflix.

    “The economics of serialized one-hour dramas are not looking great for networks, but they’re really popular for viewers,” he said. “We can be the savior to this genre of television.”

  • ELITE SQUAD Star Wagner Moura Set for Neill Blomkamp's ELYSIUM

    Wagner Moura, the Brazilian actor who starred to great acclaim in the South American country's Elite Squad crime thrillers, will make his Hollywood debut playing the villain in Neill Blomkamp's Elysium.
    Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley and Jodie Foster are toplining the sci-fi project, being made by MRC. Sony picked up the rights to distribute project in January, eying a late 2012 release.

    Not much is known about the plot, although the setting is a future world. Social class figures into this world, and Damon's character is an ex-con.

    Moura will play the film's powerful villain, described as having a crazy sense of humor.

    Moura came to Hollywood's attention playing the conflicted and well-intentioned Captain Nascimento in the Elite Squad movies, directed by Jose Padilha. The first movie won the Golden Bear Award at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival while the second one holds the record for box office gross in Brazil, beating out even Hollywood fare.

  • Kevin Spacey set to star in David Fincher's Drama Series for MRC HOUSE OF CARDS

    Kevin Spacey has come on board to star in and executive produce David Fincher's drama series project for MRC, House of Cards. The Social Network director Fincher is executive producing the project, based on the book and British miniseries of the same name. He will also direct the pilot, marking his TV directorial debut. Also executive producing are Eric Roth, the writer of Fincher's previous movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Joshua Donen as well as Spacey and his producing partner at Trigger Street Prods. Dana Brunetti. The political-thriller novel written by Michael Dobbs, former Conservative Party chief of staff, is set at the end of Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister and follows a British politician with his eye on the top job. In 1990, it was adapted by the BBC as a miniseries written by Andrew Davies and starring Ian Richardson. It went on to win a BAFTA award for Richardson and an Emmy for Davies. MRC and Fincher's adaptation, set in the U.S., was written by playwright/screenwriter Beau Willimon (The Ides of March). The project is yet to be taken out to TV networks. Spacey was most recently attached to The Crux, a drama project for HBO written by Rod Lurie.

  • Giovanni Ribisi joins Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis in TED

    Giovanni Ribisi is attached to co-star in the laffer "Ted" with Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane.
    MacFarlane directs, and co-wrote the film with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.

    The film follows a grown man dealing with his cherished teddy bear that came to life as the result of a childhood wish.

    Ribisi will play Donny, a man who's obsessed with Ted, while Wahlberg plays the grown up.

    Mila Kunis is in final negotiations on the film. MacFarlane, Scott Stuber and John Jacobs are to produce through Stuber Films.

    Since co-starring in "Avatar," Ribisi has been busy filling his slate. Besides "Ted," he's filming "Contraband," which also stars Wahlberg, is in "Waco" and "The Rum Diaries" with Johnny Depp.

    Ribisi is repped by CAA, Management 360 and Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Richman.

  • CBS Picks Up Comedy Pilot Written By and Starring David Hornsby

    Spec scripts continue to be red-hot this January. CBS just snatched one from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia writer/co-executive producer/recurring guest star David Hornsby, which has been greenlighted to pilot. Hornsby wrote the project, How To Be a Gentleman, and is attached to star. Loosely based on John Bridges' book How To Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy, the show is described as a buddy comedy about an uptight guy learning to live his life with the help of his old high school classmate. Hornsby will play one of the two leads in the project, whose format (multi- vs. single-camera) is yet to be determined.
    Hornsby first got interested in using Bridges' book as a jumping-off point for a series several years ago. He wrote the project on spec at Media Rights Capital, which had optioned the rights to the book. It was pitched to CBS on Tuesday, and, 24 hours later, there was a deal. The pilot is being laid off at CBS TV Studios, which will produce it. Hornsby is executive producing with manager/producer Ted Schachter and MRC.

    In addition to his duties as a writer/co-exec producer on Sunny, where he is now working on the upcoming seventh season, Hornsby recurs on the FX comedy as the defrocked priest Matthew Mara, aka Rickety Cricket. He has been with the series from the very beginning, appearing in the original utra low-budget pilot. Additionally, Hornsby voices the title character on the Nickelodeon animated series Fanboy and Chum Chum and did an arc on the HBO drama Six Feet Under and.How To Be a Gentleman was sold by WME, marking the agency's seventh spec sale in the last 2 weeks.

  • MRC Ups Brye Adler to Production Veep

    Media Rights Capital (MRC) has promoted film executive Brye Adler to Vice President of Production, MRC Film. Adler will report to the independent film, television and digital studio’s Co-CEOs Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu.
    Since joining MRC’s film division in 2009, Adler has been a central player on the production team overseeing the soon-to-be-released The Adjustment Bureau, written and directed by George Nolfi and starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt; and the upcoming 30 Minutes or Less directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari. In addition, Adler assisted in the development and production of fall 2010’s Devil, the first film in M. Night Shyamalan’s three-film “The Night Chronicles” series for MRC.

    In his new role, Adler will be responsible for all aspects of creative, development and production for MRC Film. As Vice President of Production, he will also work to identify emerging and established filmmakers whose sensibilities align with the studio. Currently, Adler is supervising creative on TED, starring and directed by Seth MacFarlane in his feature film debut; and Elysium, the first of two new film projects to be helmed by District 9 writer/director Neill Blomkamp starring Jodie Foster and Matt Damon. Additionally, Adler will oversee MRC’s partnerships with David Fincher and their “Panic Pictures” production and financing company, as well as the studio’s relationship with

    M. Night Shyamalan and their “The Night Chronicles” series.

    Prior to joining MRC, Adler worked at Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, helping to cultivate a slate of more than 50 feature film projects from filmmakers including Marc Foster, David Fincher and Cameron Crowe. Adler graduated from Emory University with a degree in Sociology.

  • Sony Pictures Snaps Up Neill Blomkamp's ELYSIUM; Matt Damon and Jodie Foster Set to Star

    Sony Pictures has won the right to distribute District 9 filmmaker Neill Blomkamp's next project titled Elysium. Matt Damon and Jodie Foster are set already to star along with District 9 star Sharlto Copley. Sony clearly values the relationship it built with Blomkamp after his $30 million low-budget first film became a sleeper hit that was nominated for Best Picture and grossed $210 million worldwide. That, too, was a distribution deal.
    At the same time, MRC has signed an overall deal with Blomkamp, and has given a green light to a second movie. Titled Chappie, the film will go into production immediately after Blomkamp completes Elysium, which is now scheduled for a late 2012 release. Like Elysium, Blomkamp wrote Chappie as an original, and that picture is not part of this distribution arrangement.

    SPE’s Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton have shown a willingness to make big bets on project packages that fit their release schedule needs. That happened on such projects as Roland Emmerich’s 2012, and The Other Guys. SPE also made an MRC deal for 30 Minutes Or Less, directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride.

  • Jodie Foster Joins Neill Blomkamp's ELYSIUM

    Though it hasn't yet been shopped to studios by Media Rights Capital, Neill Blomkamp's District 9 followup Elysium is looking better and better. He's just gotten Jodie Foster to commit and join Matt Damon and District 9's Sharlto Copley to the sci-fi film he wrote and will direct as his next project. Simon Kinberg is producing. Plot is being kept under wraps. Foster most recently completed directing and starring alongside Mel Gibson in The Beaver, which Summit Entertainment will release April 11. Foster is also starring alongside Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly in God of Carnage, the Roman Polanski-directed adaptation of Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning play. Foster's repped by ICM.

  • THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TIM Named One of the Top 18 TV Shows of 2010 By The Hollywood Reporter

    See which series made the list, as ranked by The Hollywood Reporter's chief television critic, Tim Goodman.

    Instead of annotating all the qualifiers these kinds of lists truly need, let’s just cut to the chase and say that reasonable people can disagree.

    1. Breaking Bad. AMC. This riveting and audacious series about life, death and meth just continues to astonish. Brilliant writing, acting, cinematography and sound flesh out stories that are both unvarnished and funny.

    2. Mad Men. AMC. Don Draper’s existential crisis finally collapsed upon him fully – and we found out a lot about how a man rebuilds from the ruins. Intelligent, sumptuous, laden with surprises, playing out under the ominous change that’s coming.

    3. The Pacific. HBO. Following Ken Burns’ epic The War, who thought there was room for more narrative, more emotion? But this miniseries showed that the Pacific theater was a brand new kind of hell and profoundly different in its scarring and scorching of the human spirit.

    4. Treme. HBO. How do you follow up arguably the best drama ever made for television? David Simon answered with something wholly different than The Wire. Equally complicated and artful, this look at post-Katrina New Orleans was lyrical and heartfelt.

    5. Lost. ABC. It might not have ended how everyone wished, but it was a hell of a ride and massively entertaining along the way. Will broadcast ever be this daring again?

    6. The InBetweeners. BBC America. Like Freaks & Geeks shot through with punk energy and disdain, this coming of age story from England was riotously and consistently funny, showing up the best of its cross-pond cousins along the way.

    7. Boardwalk Empire. HBO. Burdened by expectations that were impossibly high, this series about Prohibition, power, booze and lust built impressively from episode to episode, laying the groundwork for our next televised epic.

    8. Men Of A Certain Age. TNT. Easily the most unexpectedly great drama of this bunch, it was also arguably the least clichéd and most accurate depiction of a man’s midlife crises put on television.

    9. 30 Rock. NBC. Furiously funny at every turn – a comedy that’s both intelligent, gaspingly juvenile and able to pull off sight gags, physical humor and beat-perfect dialogue.

    10. Terriers. FX. This season’s tragedy of great not being good enough. Successful beyond being the best buddy show in ages – it was smart, serious and touching. But also largely unseen.

    11. Modern Family. ABC. Proof that if you infuse a familiar concept with great writing, an array of interesting characters and some out-of-flavor, irony-defeating sweetness, then not only can you play ball in the big leagues, you can hit it out of the park on a regular basis.

    12. The Walking Dead. AMC. It’s not so much about the zombies as the living. A genre hit that draws in even non-horror fans because it rattles the bonds of humanity by twisting our moral compass.

    13. Sons Of Anarchy. FX. There was some complaining about the pace of the middle episodes and the detour to Ireland, but creator Kurt Sutter should be applauded for shaking things up in Season 3 – a creative necessity -- then delivering a finale that brought all the complainers back into the fold.

    14. Louie. FX. A bleakly funny and painfully honest look at one man’s midlife shortcomings – which conveniently substitute for our own. This is what happens when you mix life with honesty and funnel it through a comedian.

    15. Parks and Recreation. NBC. Of all the things NBC did wrong in 2010, not appreciating or knowing what to do with this late-blooming gem was one of the bigger ones. Comeback series of the year.

    16. Tie: The Life & Times of Tim. HBO. Ridiculously, outrageously funny. A minimalist slice of animated genius. Archer, FX. See above, sub out “minimalist” and insert “filthtastic.”

    17. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. FX. Officially one of the least appreciated great comedies on television. Do they need to kill the Big Bang Theory people to get noticed?

    18. Tie: Life, Discovery Channel; Great Migrations, Nat Geo. Breathtaking in HD and the result of passionate, dedicated people in any format. A gift to viewers.

  • Matt Damon in Talks to Join Neill Blomkamp's ELYSIUM

    Matt Damon is in early negotiations to star in Neill Blomkamp's scifi film Elysium for Media Rights Capital. Damon will join District 9's Sharlto Copley in a film that is shrouded in secrecy. While a Damon commitment--they're in the early stages of deal making right now--will make Elysium a more enticing piece of business, MRC won't take it out to distributors until next year. It will come to the market when it has its major cast.
    This will be the second MRC project for Damon, who stars with Emily Blunt in the George Nolfi-directed The Adjustment Bureau. That film, which is based on a Philip K. Dick short story, will be released by Universal in March. Damon, who starred for Clint Eastwood in Hereafter for Warner Bros, next stars in the Coen Brothers drama True Grit. He's repped by WME.

  • Mark Wahlberg in Talks for Seth MacFarlane's TED

    Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg is in talks to star in Seth MacFarlane's adult comedy "Ted," the actor's representation at WME has confirmed to TheWrap.
    Wahlberg will play an average Boston guy who, as a child, made a wish for his teddy bear to come to life. The wish came true, and the beloved bear is still the man's best friend -- except now the stuffed animal is a foul-mouthed slacker who gets in the way of his owner's commitment to adulthood and the woman he loves.

    "Family Guy" creator MacFarlane will make his directorial debut with the R-rated, live-action project, as well as provide the voice of the CG teddy bear. He also wrote the script with "Family Guy" writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.

    MacFarlane's "Family Guy" co-star Mila Kunis has been mentioned as a possibility to play Wahlberg's love interest, but the actress is expected to see an influx of movie offers thanks to her eye-opening performance in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," so she may not be available.

    Universal acquired the $65 million project in April, and MRC, will produce with MacFarlane and his manager John Jacobs, as well as Scott Stuber, whose company Stuber Pictures is based at Universal.

    Wahlberg has been earning awards buzz for his performance as Boston-bred boxer 'Irish' Mickey Ward in David O. Russell's drama "The Fighter." He next stars opposite Kate Beckinsale in Universal's thriller "Contraband," a remake of the 2008 Icelandic crime drama "Reykjavic-Rotterdam" that will be directed by the original filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur. He plans to follow that film with "Ted," as WME and Leverage are currently negotiating his deal.

    He also recently starred in the comedies "The Other Guys" and "Date Night," and he is currently weighing an offer to star in Relativity's remake of "The Crow."

  • MRC in Business with David Fincher

    Developing political drama series dubbed 'House of Cards'
    Media Rights Capital has teamed with David Fincher for a new series, "House of Cards."

    Based on the book and British miniseries of the same name, "Cards" will be adapted for U.S. audiences as a one-hour drama, with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" director Fincher executive producing with the film's writer, Eric Roth.

    The political-thriller novel written by Michael Dobbs, former Conservative Party chief of staff, is set at the end of Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister and follows a British politician with his eye on the top job.

    In 1990, it was adapted by the BBC as a miniseries written by Andrew Davies and starring Ian Richardson. It went on to win a BAFTA award for Richardson and an Emmy for Davies.

    MRC and Fincher's adaptation will be set in the U.S. but maintain focus on issues of political ambition and blackmail.

    "David Fincher, whose body of work speaks for itself, is sure to put an unforgettable stamp on the celebrated British series," MRC CEO Modi Wiczyk said.

    In addition to Fincher and Roth, "Cards" will be executive produced by Davies, Dobbs and producer Josh Donen ("Spider-Man 4").

    The project is expected to be shopped to networks soon.

    MRC's slate of TV series include "The Life and Times of Tim" on HBO, "Rita Rocks" on Lifetime, "Shaq Vs." on ABC and HBO's upcoming "The Ricky Gervais Show."

  • THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW Nominated for Primetime Emmy in Category of "Outstanding Animated Program"


    Outstanding Animated Program

    "The Ricky Gervais Show" (HBO)
    W!LDBRAIN and Media Rights Capital in association with HBO Entertainment

    "Alien Earths" (NGC)
    SkyWorks Digital, Inc.

    "Disney Prep & Landing (ABC)
    Walt Disney Animation Studios

    "The Simpsons" (Fox)
    Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox

    "South Park" (Comedy Central)
    Central Productions, LLC

  • MRC, Universal Make 20 Pic, Five-Year Pact

    Media Rights Capital and Universal Pictures closed a deal that will put up to 20 MRC-generated films through the studio distribution pipeline over a five-year period. The pact begins in 2011.
    While MRC partners Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu have done repeat business at Universal, this is a new wrinkle in their formula of assembling and funding film packages with big stars and directors, and then licensing distribution to studios on a case by case basis. Those deals were structured to give creative freedom and maximum upside to stars and directors, and eventual ownership stakes in the films when copyrights revert back to MRC years down the line.

    The Universal deal is a rent-a-system deal in which the studio will supply its marketing and distribution expertise for a distribution fee. Universal doesn't have first look at MRC projects, and MRC can pre-sell films domestically and in foreign territories. Universal can possibly opt in as an investor in these films. or not. What the deal gives MRC is a guaranteed major studio distribution outlet, to entice artists as it tries to expand its filmmaking program.
    The deal doesn't impact Universal's homegrown film slate.

    Universal has been involved in MRC's highest profile movie packages. The relationship began with the Sacha Baron Cohen-starrer Bruno, which Universal acquired for North American and some offshore territories for $42.5 million, just as buzz was growing on Borat. The film grossed $60 million domestic and $139 million worldwide. Universal then acquired The Adjustment Bureau, the George Nolfi-directed scifi pic that stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. and will be released July 30, and the M. Night Shyamalan-produced thriller, Devil. The studio most recently acquired Ted, a $65 million budget R-rated comedy that will mark the feature directorial debut of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. MRC's other prolific studio relationship has been Warner Bros, which distributed the Robert Rodriguez-directed Shorts, the Ricky Gervais comedy Invention of Lying (Universal released the film overseas) and the Cameron Diaz-starrer The Box. MRC pacted with Sony on 30 Minutes or Less, the comedy directed by Zombieland's Ruben Fleischer.

    Backed by Goldman Sachs and AT&T with JP Morgan and Comerica its credit facilities, MRC plans to expand its film output. The track record so far has been mixed, and MRC has yet to score a real breakout hit. MRC is currently prepping the next film by District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, but hasn't yet figured out which studio to place it with.

    Universal and MRC confirmed the deals and issued statements.

    "We've been continually impressed with the quality of talent that MRC brings to the table," said Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson. "By leveraging our strong marketing and distribution operations we can augment our own slate and expand our relationship with MRC, bringing more value to Universal."

    Said MRC's Wiczyk: "MRC has always had the ability to greenlight and fully finance our films. With this deal, we now have another powerful tool for our artist partners, providing them with automatic access to the marketing and distribution expertise of a major studio."

  • Jesse Eisenberg Joining 30 MINUTES OR LESS

    Jesse Eisenberg is reteaming with his "Zombieland" director Ruben Fleischer for MRC's action comedy "30 Minutes or Less."

    Eisenberg joins Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride in the project, being produced by Red Hour's Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld, which is Fleischer's follow-up to his breakthrough hit, "Zombieland."

    Written by Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan, "30 Minutes" revolves around a junior high history teacher (Ansari) and a pizza-delivery man (Eisenberg) who are forced to rob a bank when one of them is strapped to a bomb vest.

    McBride is playing one of the men looking to score some cash. Michael Pena is on board as a tatooed assassin, while comedian Nick Swardson is McBride's best friend.

    Jeremy Kramer also is producing the pic, which is eyeing a summer shoot.

    ICM-repped Eisenberg recently wrapped production on "The Social Network," the David Fincher-directed drama about the founders of Facebook that sees Eisenberg portray co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Universal Buys Seth MacFarlane's R-Rated Comedy About Teddy Bear in MRC Film Deal

    Universal Pictures has stepped up to acquire Ted, an R-rated comedy that will mark the feature directorial debut of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. The film, which was developed by Media Rights Capital, is most succinctly described as a "Hard R" comedy about a man and his teddy bear. The feature will mix live action and CG. MacFarlane will also co-star and provide the voice for the CG-generated title character. MacFarlane wrote the script with Family Guy cohorts Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, and he will produce with MRC, Scott Stuber and John Jacobs.
    I’ve heard that the intention of Universal, MRC and MacFarlane is to get the film into production this year. That is subject to delicate discussions that are taking place right now between Fox, MacFarlane's WME reps and attorneys Karl Austen and Jim Jackoway. MacFarlane will work the film around his exhausting duties supervising the animated Fox shows Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad!, and providing a majority of the voices. Fox and MacFarlane have long wanted to make a Family Guy theatrical feature, but Ted will come first. Fox apparently was reluctant to embrace the teddy bear movie because of its R-rating.

    The Ted deal expands the relationship between MacFarlane and MRC that began with Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy, an online venture that involves Google and Youtube that will culminate in the creation of 60 sponsored online cartoon creations. As is the case with all product generated through Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu's MRC movie deals, MacFarlane will get an ownership stake in Ted, with Universal essentially making a long-term licensing deal for the film. Universal has been MRC's most consistent movie customer, and the next major project coming is The Adjustment Bureau, the George Nolfi-directed adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story that stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Universal releases the film July 30.


    British comedian Ricky Gervais' third television series, after "The Office" and "Extras," is a cartoon called "The Ricky Gervais Show." Its audio is lifted from a series of podcasts, also titled "The Ricky Gervais Show," that began at the end of 2005 as a free online feature of the British newspaper the Guardian and was a successor to a radio show on London's XFM. (It moved on to a pay-to-listen "audio book" version.) It is described here as "a series of pointless conversations."

    The cartoon show, which begins Friday night on HBO -- it's Gervais' American home away from home -- is the least of his series, but it is generally amusing and pretty to watch, and I like the way it rambles. (Rambling is a quality largely absent from professional television.) It stars Gervais, Stephen Merchant (his co-writer on "The Office," and co-writer and costar in "Extras") and Karl Pilkington, a "producer" of the original radio show and now a star in his own right.

    Where Gervais dominates the original broad- and podcasts, the present version has been edited to focus on Pilkington, a man of apparently strange beliefs and spotty learning whom Gervais has declared the funniest man alive. The show exists, he says, "because I love to be in a room with Karl Pilkington," and indeed, he has largely reduced his role here to that of straight man.

    The gist of the series is this: Gervais and Merchant solicit Pilkington's opinion on a number of issues, then laughingly mock his replies. Part of the premise, if that's the word, is that Pilkington is a fool: "I've seen him blossom from an idiot into an imbecile," says Gervais, who also calls him "brain dead" and a "buffoon" and compares his observations to "the ramblings of someone in a hospital eating flies."

    But while the deadpan Pilkington may be a special sort of original thinker, who sometimes builds his theories on bad information, he is not stupid. Fundamentally, he thinks like a comedian, turning an issue on its side, noticing what seems out of place, asking questions other people would not bother to ask, whether it's about space tourism, superpowers, the homeless, monkeys (a recurring subject) or his already famous formulation, not reprintable here, of the best time of day to eat kangaroo penis. Mostly he makes a kind of sense.

    The question of his self-awareness is an open one; although Gervais insists that Pilkington is genuinely clueless, I don't quite buy it. (He's put out three books and has proved an able, interested TV interviewer on his own.) What he does seems more like the comedy equivalent of folk art, neither wholly random nor wholly calculated, something between artifice and mere honesty.

    "You are living in a cartoon world," Gervais tells Pilkington, and so they all are here. The attractive animation, by the Wildbrain studio -- who also produce the Nickelodeon kids' show "Yo Gabba Gabba!" -- smacks of classic Hanna-Barbera and UPA. Gervais is drawn sort of like the "Flintstone Kids" version of Fred Flintstone; Merchant's animated self is all grin and glasses; and Pilkington, who has the perfectly round head Gervais always accuses him of having, permanently wears the worried look he wears in life.

    On one level, the animation is just a way to get the soundtrack onto television -- to give you something to look at while the talk happens. But at its best, it points up the way that conversation works -- it can follow its twists and turns, even word for word. In doing so, in making all their stories and characters concrete, it can distract from what's being said as much as underscore it, but you can always close your eyes; the jokes will work just as well.

  • Taking the Podcast Back to a Simpler Time - THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW NY Times Review

    The podcast is the ultimate symbol of modernity, a hipster alternative to the creaky, top-down formalism of conventional television. So it’s piquant, to say the least, that “The Ricky Gervais Show,” a new animated series which begins on HBO on Friday, echoes the early days of radio and television.

    These absurd and funny cartoon sketches are podcasts reworked for premium cable. They are described as “pointless conversations” and the riffs, musings and improvisational give-and-take recall in cruder form the routines of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and George Burns and Gracie Allen.
    And also “A Star Is Born.” While Mr. Gervais and his longtime writing partner and friend Stephen Merchant are well known to fans of “The Office” (the original BBC version), the comedy rests almost entirely on the third man, Karl Pilkington, a laconic former radio producer with weird views on things like space travel, evolution, charities and, most of all, monkeys.

    In a quiet, working-class monotone, Mr. Pilkington argues that there must have been a banana dispenser on the rocket that carried the first monkey into space, that Benjamin Franklin’s phrase “waste not, want not” isn’t catchy enough, and that the homeless should collect their own donations, since they have more time on their hands. His podcast persona is a cross between the deadpan comedian Steven Wright and Cliff Clavin of “Cheers” — transposed to a Manchester pub.

    Mr. Gervais and Mr. Merchant don’t do much besides goad, taunt and mock Mr. Pilkington mercilessly (Mr. Gervais calls him a “little, round-headed buffoon”), and he just chats, without taking offense or cracking up. He says that everything worth inventing has already been invented, and that life would be better if progress had come to a halt a century ago. Airplanes, for example, haven’t done much for anyone except take passengers to places they shouldn’t visit.

    "People go on holidays to places where you’ve got to have an injection before you go there,” he says. “Forget it then.” ( His accent is hard to transcribe — pub is pronounced poob — but to an American ear he sounds a little like Ringo Starr under water.)
    At this point, after the success of “The Office” and “Extras,” his show about striving (and somewhat delusional) actors, Mr. Gervais should need no introduction, but there are plenty of people who had no idea of him until he hosted the Golden Globes award show in January. So these comedy routines, which began as a radio show and were turned into podcasts for The Guardian’s Web site ( in 2005, are a huge Internet hit that have escaped the notice of most American television viewers.

    They better get used to Web-spun programming. On Friday HBO will also begin “Funny or Die Presents,” a new half-hour series that compiles clips from the comedy video Web site that Adam McKay and Will Farrell created in 2007, It features amateur video sketches with professional comedy bits by the likes of Mr. Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis and cast members of “Saturday Night Live.”

    On his original podcasts Mr. Gervais and his colleagues sit around small rooms in front of a jumpy camera. For their debut on HBO, the producers decided to add animation. In the opener the three men walk into a recording room and sit down at a table beneath hanging microphones, then are replaced by Hanna-Barbera-style cartoon figures who utter their voices and debates. Inane ideas are illustrated in sidebars: when Mr. Pilkington delivers his addled take on dinosaurs and evolution, the screen goes to a mock Fred Flintstone clip to illustrate his thinking.

    Podcast purists may despise the cartoons as pandering — animated subtitles for slower audiences — but they don’t detract from the comedy. The series is essentially a radio show transposed to television, much like the early comedy shows of Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle.

    In real life Mr. Gervais, who acts, writes, produces and directs, is more like a latter-day Carl Reiner, a brilliant creator of comedy who keeps moving from theater to television and movies without overstaying his welcome in any one field. Mr. Gervais pulled the plug on his version of “The Office” after only two seasons because he didn’t want it to go stale. The NBC adaptation starring Steve Carell was as good in its own way as the original at first; now in its sixth season, it has lost steam.

    “Extras” also ended after only two seasons, and Mr. Gervais moved on to the radio show, stand-up comedy specials and movies like “Ghost Town” and “The Invention of Lying.”

    This latest venture, “The Ricky Gervais Show,” is another sign of his dexterity. The show is his in name only. He serves as a bullying sidekick to Mr. Pilkington and steps out of the way, letting his strange and funny collaborator take the lead. The series is not a full-blown comedy show; it’s a collection of Web-styled sketches and proof that big laughs can come in small doses.

  • Shaq Returns to ABC: Network Gives Second Season Order to VS.

    Alphabet net has given a second season order to "Shaq Vs.," its summer reality series starring basketball star Shaquille O'Neal.
    Media Rights Capital and Dick Clark Prods. are behind the unscripted series, and will produce six episodes of the show.

    "Shaq Vs." stars O'Neal as he faces off against top athletes in their respective fields. In season one, O'Neal faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger in football, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh in beach volleyball, the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols in baseball, Oscar de la Hoya in boxing and Michael Phelps in swimming.

    Despite being given a handicap advantage, O'Neal wound up losing each week.

    According to MRC's Joe Hipps, the producers plan to take O'Neal out of sports in some segments this year -- placing him in other competitions such as spelling bees or competitive eating. But the shows will still mostly focus on sports.

    "This is our third show with ABC but our first pickup," said MRC's Modi Wiczyk. "Everyone's happy with the show, and that's been incredibly encouraging."

    Hipps said the producers are already mapping out the production in order to work around O'Neal's basketball schedule. The show also already has a list of top-tier athletes who expressed interest last year in appearing on the show.

    Dick Clark Prods.' Orly Adelson, Will Staeger and Barry Adelman are exec producers, along with O'Neal, Scott Messick, Perry Rogers and Steve Nash. (Nash reportedly received the exec producer credit after protesting that O'Neal took the original idea for the show from him.)

    MRC's other TV credits include HBO's "The Ricky Gervais Show" and "The Life and Times of Tim," as well as the upcoming "House of Cards," from David Fincher.

  • A Hop for Hipps at MRC TV

    Media Rights Capital has promoted Joe Hipps to VP of production and creative affairs for its TV operations.

    As part of his expanded gig, Hipps will handle development and programming for MRC's TV department. He reports to MRC co-CEOs Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, who announced the appointment on Wednesday.

    Wiczyk and Satchu said the exec had "proven himself effective at different networks, in different formats and genres. His success with a broad range of development and production impressed us tremendously."

    Hipps joined MRC in 2008. Prior to that, he ran Dawn Parouse's 20th Century Fox TV-based shingle, and also served as director of development at Adelstein-Parouse Prods.

    Parouse, who spent time as a development exec at MRC, left last year to launch the shingle Grady Twins with Marti Noxon.

    At MRC, Hipps has worked on projects such as "The Ricky Gervais Show," "The Life and Times of Tim," "The Goode Family," and the upcoming "House of Cards."

  • Laffnet's GOODE Deal: Comedy Central Picks up FAMILY Show

    Comedy Central is turning into the Home for Wayward Animated Series, having just picked up repeats of canceled ABC toon "The Goode Family."
    Cabler will air all 13 episodes of "The Goode Family," from Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, in January.

    Separately, Comedy Central is in talks to pick up an animated laffer that quickly fizzled out in spring: "Sit Down, Shut Up," the high school-based entry from Mitch Hurwitz that ran on Fox.

    Comedy Central recently agreed to give fresh life to another canceled series, nabbing new episodes of a revived "Futurama." But insiders warned that the channel was far from doing the same with "Goode Family" and "Sit Down, Shut Up."

    In "Goode's" case, cabler likely saw an opportunity to pick up an animated show that wasn't seen by many viewers during its original run on ABC. Deal also puts Comedy Central in business with Judge -- and fits in with the net's goal of expanding its presence in the animation world.

    "Goode Family" revolves around a family attempting to live an ultra-politically correct lifestyle. Media Rights Capital produced and distributed; 3 Arts and Ternion Pictures also produced. Besides Altschuler, Judge and Krinsky, exec producers include Tom Lassally and Michael Rotenberg.

    Judge voiced the lead character, Gerald; stars include Nancy Carell, Linda Cardellini, Dave Herman and Brian Doyle-Murray.

    No deal is in place yet for "Sit Down, Shut Up." After an initial run on Sundays, Fox had more recently been running repeats of the series on Saturdays at midnight.

    Based on an Australian live-action series, "Sit Down" featured the voices of Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Kristin Chenoweth, Will Forte, Tom Kenny, Nick Kroll, Cheri Oteri, Kenan Thompson and Henry Winkler.

    Hurwitz, Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum, Josh Weinstein and Julie Meldal-Johnsen exec produced.

  • MRC Coins Next for DISTRICT 9 Helmer

    Media Rights Capital has committed to the next film by “District 9” writer-director Neill Blomkamp. The untitled sci-fier will begin production by the middle of next year. Bill Block will produce.

    Block, chief exec of QED, was first to commit funding to “District 9” before Sony’s Worldwide Acquisitions Group acquired the film based on a Blomkamp-created graphic novel. “District 9," which Blomkamp helmed under the guidance of Peter Jackson, became a breakout summer hit for Sony and established the South African-born filmmaker.

    MRC chief exec Modi Wiczyk and MRC Films prexy Tory Metzger committed to the new project on the basis of Blomkamp’s pitch.

    MRC is giving Blomkamp creative freedom and a production commitment that isn’t contingent on domestic distribution. The director and Block will get an ownership stake in the finished product.

    “MRC is letting me make the film I want to make and that is by far the most important thing here,” Blomkamp told Daily Variety. “The film will hopefully be commercial, but it is very much a singular film, (one) that comes directly from me.”

    Blomkamp will immediately start writing and preparing the visual effects. The film will be modest by sci-fi standards, but it will certainly cost more than “District 9,” which was budgeted under $30 million and grossed more than $184 million worldwide.

    MRC will shop for a distributor around the time the picture goes into production.

    Wiczyk called Blomkamp “a ferociously independent” multihyphenante who “set a high bar” for himself with “District 9.”

    “Some of the most brilliant filmmakers have worked in sci-fi, and Neill made his film with less money than most of them,” Wiczyk said.

  • MRC in Business with David Fincher: Developing Political Drama Series Dubbed HOUSE OF CARDS

    Media Rights Capital has teamed with David Fincher for a new series, "House of Cards."

    Based on the book and British miniseries of the same name, "Cards" will be adapted for U.S. audiences as a one-hour drama, with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" director Fincher executive producing with the film's writer, Eric Roth.

    The political-thriller novel written by Michael Dobbs, former Conservative Party chief of staff, is set at the end of Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister and follows a British politician with his eye on the top job.

    In 1990, it was adapted by the BBC as a miniseries written by Andrew Davies and starring Ian Richardson. It went on to win a BAFTA award for Richardson and an Emmy for Davies.

    MRC and Fincher's adaptation will be set in the U.S. but maintain focus on issues of political ambition and blackmail.

    "David Fincher, whose body of work speaks for itself, is sure to put an unforgettable stamp on the celebrated British series," MRC CEO Modi Wiczyk said.

    In addition to Fincher and Roth, "Cards" will be executive produced by Davies, Dobbs and producer Josh Donen ("Spider-Man 4").

    The project is expected to be shopped to networks soon.

    MRC's slate of TV series include "The Life and Times of Tim" on HBO, "Rita Rocks" on Lifetime, "Shaq Vs." on ABC and HBO's upcoming "The Ricky Gervais Show."

  • THE INVENTION OF LYING - Hollywood Reporter Review

    Bottom Line: One of the fall's funniest films -- honest.

    TORONTO -- The first half-hour of "The Invention of Lying," co-directed and co-written by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, is so sharply fresh, clever and laugh-out-loud hilarious that you can't help but wonder how they'll sustain it for another hour.

    To be honest, they can't.

    But even when it's merely mildly amusing, this inspired parable, set in a parallel universe where only the truth is spoken, is so wittily winsome you'll readily cut Gervais and Robinson some slack if they don't quite succeed in going the distance.

    Screened as a Special Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the tragically mismarketed Gervais vehicle "Ghost Town" was unveiled last year, "Lying" could be a hit for Warner Bros. when it opens Oct. 2.

    Before stumbling upon the power of mendacity, Gervais' Mark Bellison is your average snub-nosed fat guy who lives in a world where folks like outrageously frank first date Jennifer (a swell Jennifer Garner) are only too quick to point out those deal-breaking flaws.

    That's because absolutely no one has the ability to tell a lie, little white or otherwise, including Mark's bullying secretary (Tina Fey) and even advertising executives who tell it like it is with catchphrases like: "Pepsi. When They Don't Have Coke."

    But when Mark is fired as a screenwriter for a historical film company -- he failed to come up with anything scintillating about the Plague -- he inadvertently comes up with his first fib and witnesses his life changing in unexpected ways.

    On the surface it might sound like a more erudite "Liar Liar," but Gervais and Robinson take what might have been a cute concept comedy and elevate it to delicious heights.

    Things admittedly get clunky in the third act, when they attempt to work a convincing Gervais-Garner romance into the glib proceedings, but the truth is perfection's a minor quibble with the likes of Fey, Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Lowe, Jason Bateman, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Guest, Louis C.K. and Edward Norton providing expert comic backup.

  • THE INVENTION OF LYING - Variety Review

    While it never tops the explosive hilarity of its first 20 minutes, "The Invention of Lying" is a smartly written, nicely layered comedy that, like last year's underappreciated "Ghost Town," casts Ricky Gervais as a mild-mannered schlub who manages, in spite of himself, to make the world a better place. Set in a parallel reality where dishonesty doesn't yet exist, the pic works better as a high-concept satire than as a romantic pairing for Gervais and Jennifer Garner. But those 20 minutes, and much of what follows, are simply inspired, portending modest-to-decent biz for this Oct. 2 Warner Bros. release.

    Written and directed by Gervais and first-timer Matthew Robinson, the film unfolds in a universe where human beings have never evolved the ability to tell lies, or even fudge the facts a little. From the moment portly Mark Bellison (Gervais) arrives to pick up slim beauty Anna (Garner) for their first date -- whereupon she greets him with a sunny "Hi! I was just masturbating" -- it's clear that Gervais and Robinson have struck comic gold with their conceit of having normal, everyday people casually blurt out every thought that occurs to them, no matter how inconvenient or embarrassing.
    Embarrassment doesn't seem to have been invented yet, either -- though that doesn't make things easier for Gervais' Mark, a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who's forced to swallow the shockingly blunt yet socially acceptable insults (almost always some variation on "You fat loser") hurled at him by his peers. These include an arrogant rival scribe, Brad (a sneering Rob Lowe); sharp-tongued secretary Shelley (Tina Fey); and even Anna, who tells Mark that while she enjoys his company, she doesn't want "chubby, snub-nosed kids."

    The early reels are a marvel of sustained comic invention and verbal wit, with a dash of speculative humor that borders on science fiction. Bus ads and building signage offer priceless sight gags (a retirement home bills itself as "a sad place for old hopeless people"), while the movies Mark writes are essentially unvarnished history lessons, read directly to the camera with nary an ounce of Hollywood artifice.

    But everything changes, including the pic's tone and momentum, when Mark, fired and broke, catches a lucky break by telling the world's first lie. Shocked by his newfound powers, Mark finds himself the hero of a sort of reverse "Liar Liar," in which his every fabrication is accepted at face value. Before long, Mark is back at work, Anna renews her interest in him and -- in a twist that approaches Capra-esque levels of sentimental lunacy -- he becomes a celebrity with his revelatory, gotta-be-true insights into the nature of God, morality and the afterlife.

    Gervais and Robinson are in fascinating satirical territory here, and they stop just short of saying there's no greater lie than the idea that life has any eternal meaning or value. Yet while they offer food for thought, their approach remains disarmingly sweet, breezy and good-humored; even when the pic threatens to turn either serious or sticky, it always has a terrific gag or non sequitur up its sleeve.

    The final half-hour, in which Anna tries to decide whether Mark is the one for her, feels belabored and anticlimactic in its deference to romantic-comedy conventions, and the story's internal inconsistencies begin to show. But even the later scenes add a wrinkle to this unexpectedly thoughtful comedy: namely, that our superficial perceptions of reality may, in fact, be very far from the truth.

    Gervais' overweight-Everyman shtick shows no sign of getting (ahem) thin, while Garner has touchingly vulnerable moments as a woman who's more in Mark's league than either of them realizes. Louis C.K. offers excellent backup as Mark's best bud, while the supporting cast is an embarrassment of cameo riches, boasting brief, memorable turns from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Jason Bateman, Martin Starr and many others. Tech package is bland but sturdy.

  • It's SHAQ VS. The Future

    As he samples different sports for an upcoming ABC reality show, the basketball star says he's using the opportunity to get into peak form for what may be his last season.
    Shaquille O'Neal spent Sunday afternoon at Hermosa Beach playing volleyball against a pair of Olympic gold medalists. It was for his ABC reality show, "Shaq vs.," and the deal was, if O'Neal and gold medalist Todd Rogers lost to Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the NBA center would dash down the beach in a pink Speedo.

    Aside from learning volleyball, this off-season has provided some interesting cross-training for the 37-year-old O'Neal, whose show debuts Aug. 18. But in an interview with The Times, he said the cross-training is also part of his plan to get in the best shape of his career for what is perhaps his final year in the NBA.

    The show each week will put the 15-time All-Star center up against the best in sports other than basketball.

    "I like to think about my career as a book," O'Neal told The Times. "Imagine this book: We do a show, it gets great ratings, I'm in great shape, we win a championship, period! Shut the book, seal it, sell it. That's the goal. That's how I always look at it.

    "Train with these people, come in the best shape . . . start trouble, run it, be an MVP candidate, win the whole thing, dominate, da-da-da, win the championship, go out with a bang, see ya later. That was good. I had fun. Love you. I'm out."

    O'Neal, who has won four NBA championships, including three in a row with the Lakers, was acquired in late June by the Cleveland Cavaliers and has one year left on his five-year deal. He had said previously that he has "three years left in my career."

    Yet he said that this off-season training is part of his "legacy thought process."

    "This is my last year, contractually, so I want to come in the best shape of my life."

    When asked if he was trying to end his career in style, by getting in top shape while working out with premier athletes, O'Neal replied, "Exactly. You said it, brother."

  • 'SHORTS' - Variety Review

    More zippy, diverting fun from Robert Rodriguez's family filmmaking factory, "Shorts" delivers a shopworn moral lesson for kids and adults (be careful what you wish for!) with a more pointed contempo spin (technology is ruining human communication!). A series of cheekily interwoven vignettes, centered around a magic rock that wreaks havoc on residents of a small suburban town, the Aug. 21 Warner Bros. release has fewer marketable hooks than Rodriguez's "Spy Kids" franchise but looks to exceed the $39 million domestic haul of "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D." On homevid, "Shorts" should be a long-term performer.
    Foregoing the strenuous 3-D experiments of "Sharkboy" and the third "Spy Kids" movie, Rodriguez's latest feels like a return to kiddie basics, though there's been no accompanying dip in zany energy or infectious sense of play. A pleasing PG-rated confection tossed off between schlockfests (2007's "Grindhouse" entry "Planet Terror" and the forthcoming "Grindhouse" spinoff "Machete"), the pic once again finds Rodriguez wearing almost every hat imaginable -- director, producer, writer, d.p., co-editor, composer, visual effects supervisor, re-recording mixer -- and accommodating no fewer than six members of his family in the sprawling ensemble cast.

    Set in the fictitious town of Black Hills, these five "Shorts" are narrated, out of sequence, by young Toby "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett). Neglected at home by his workaholic parents (Leslie Mann, Jon Cryer) and abused at school by a group of bullies led by pint-sized classmate Helvetica Black (Jolie Vanier), Toe comes into possession of a rainbow-colored rock that has the power to grant wishes. Naturally, they aren't granted in quite the manner he expects.

    As the mayhem multiplies, the rock passes from one unsuspecting pair of hands to another, occasioning a series of misadventures involving the other neighborhood kids, their parents and an impressive array of visual effects. Three boys find themselves fending off cobras and crocodiles; another kid, the son of a germophobic scientist (William H. Macy), does battle with a giant booger monster; a bully is transformed into a dung beetle (twice); a baby (Rodriguez's niece, Bianca) is hilariously gifted with superhuman intelligence; and Toe's ordinarily distant parents are given an awkward lesson in forced intimacy.

    Each of these snappy tall tales combines broad slapstick, impudent verbal sparring and scatological humor, neatly garnished with an obvious moral lesson or two. One of the charming dividends of Rodriguez's anything-goes approach (which belies the script's sturdy carpentry) is that a kid-targeted cautionary tale about the importance of good hygiene ends up sharing screen time with a fairly barbed portrait of the deadening of American family life due to high-tech distractions such as cell phones and flatscreens.

    The chief villain here is Mr. Black (James Spader), father of Helvetica and CEO of the huge corporation that owns everything and everyone in Black Falls, allowing Rodriguez to gleefully satirize domestic apathy and rampant workaholism, as well as multipurpose handheld gadgets and the infomercials used to sell them. Subtle it ain't, but parents watching "Shorts" with their kids may experience an uncomfortable moment of self-recognition.

    In an ensemble that involves much adult-kid interaction, the most memorable perf belongs to young Vanier. A dead ringer for Christina Ricci circa "The Addams Family," Vanier is so lovably hateful here, she gets an "introducing" billing in the credits and even her own musical motif.

    Pro tech package has an appealingly handmade, labor-of-love quality. Opening logos and titles are preceded by an amusing one-minute short whose tyke characters reappear throughout the film as an increasingly belabored running gag.

  • ABC, Shaquille O'Neal Get Real: SHAQ VS. To Launch on Aug. 18

    ABC is getting back into business with Shaquille O'Neal, picking up the new reality competish "Shaq Vs."
    Show, which launches Aug. 18 at 9 p.m., follows O'Neal as he competes against star athletes such as Olympic champ Michael Phelps in swimming and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in football.

    Media Rights Capital is behind the series, along with Dick Clark Prods.

    Alphabet has picked up five episodes of the hourlong show, with the possibility of a sixth. O'Neal is currently talking to Lance Armstrong about participating in an extra episode.

    "Shaq Vs." is being turned around quickly: The show will start production this Wednesday.

    ABC previously partnered with O'Neal on the 2007 summer reality series "Shaq's Big Challenge," in which the basketball star coached overweight kids on how to develop a healthier lifestyle. That show didn't make much noise, however, and didn't return for another cycle.

    This time around, "Shaq Vs." will follow O'Neal and his weekly competitor as they go through the training process -- and even hold a press conference before the big day. O'Neal will train for a week leading up to each challenge; to keep the playing field level, he'll also negotiate a handicap with each opponent.

    Other athletes facing off with O'Neal include tennis champ Serena Williams; boxer Oscar de la Hoya; baseball star Albert Pujols; and Olympic volleyball gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor.

    O'Neal will exec produce, along with Scott Messick, Perry Rogers and Dick Clark Prods.' Orly Adelson, Will Staeger and Barry Adelman.

  • Emily Blunt Boards BUREAU: Actress Joins Matt Damon in Sci-Fi Thriller



    Emily Blunt has landed the female lead in "Adjustment Bureau," joining Matt Damon in the George Nolfi-directed science-fiction thriller adapted from Philip K. Dick’s short story.
    Damon will play a smooth-talking congressman whose political future is thrown in doubt by uncontrollable events and the arrival in his life of a mysterious ballerina, played by Blunt.

    Nolfi wrote the script and is producing with Chris Moore, Michael Hackett and Bill Carraro. Production begins in mid-September in Gotham. Universal acquired the film in an auction held by Media Rights Capital, the producer-financier behind "Bruno."

    Blunt recently completed "The Wolfman" alongside Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins. She also stars in "The Young Victoria," "Wild Target" and "Gulliver’s Travels."

    She’s repped by CAA and London-based Ken McReddie Associates.

  • Making a Mockery of Being Green: The Creator of BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD and KING OF THE HILL Has a New Target: Environmentalists

    Director Mike Judge’s new animated television series “The Goode Family” is a send-up of a clan of environmentalists who live by the words “What would Al Gore do?” Gerald and Helen Goode want nothing more than to minimize their carbon footprint. They feed their dog, Che, only veggies (much to the pet’s dismay) and Mr. Goode dutifully separates sheets of toilet paper when his wife accidentally buys two-ply. And, of course, the family drives a hybrid.

    On Wednesday at 9 p.m., “The Goode Family” will have its premiere on ABC and become the first animated series on the network’s prime-time lineup since 1995 when “The Critic” starring Jon Lovitz ended its second season.

    For ABC, “Goode” will be a test of the network’s ability to find new scripted television hits. ABC had only two non-reality series in the top household shows this season, according to Nielsen. ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” has been strong, but not as popular as it was two years ago.

    Although Mr. Judge’s past television shows, “Hill” and MTV’s “Beavis and Butt-Head,” have been successful on television and on DVD, some other recent animated series have fizzled. Earlier this month, Fox pulled “Sit Down, Shut Up,” an animated series with alumni from the cult-favorite “Arrested Development,” after only four episodes. Fox says the series may return in the fall. (Mr. Judge didn’t work on the show.)

    The animation process can be prohibitively expensive, costing more than $2 million per episode for a prospective prime-time project. Part of the problem is that each episode can take up to a year to create. (Shows that specialize in less-sophisticated animation, like “South Park,” can churn out shows more quickly.)

    Much as Mr. Judge’s series “King of the Hill” finds humor in the dramas of a working-class Texas family, “Goode” lampoons a liberal Midwestern household. In “Goode,” the characters are often mocked for being green just to fit in with their friends and neighbors. They are a perfect target for the 46-year-old Mr. Judge and his two longtime co-writers, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who have made careers out of finding humor in the follies and pretensions of everyday people.

    Mr. Judge says he’s always been more interested in the lives of regular folks than with celebrities—in part, because he understands them better. “I couldn’t imitate famous people,” he says of his earliest comedic efforts. “I was usually good at imitating teachers and people around me.” The work of comic-book writer Harvey Pekar (the subject of the film “American Splendor”) had an influence on Mr. Judge. “Everyday life has a huge effect on people,” he says, paraphrasing one of Mr. Pekar’s creative mantras.

    “The Goode Family” came from an idea that Mr. Altschuler had while on vacation. Mr. Altschuler’s wife observed how difficult it was to “be good”—i.e., environmentally responsible. That became the central premise for the Goode Family. Mr. Judge, who says he was inspired by the mellow tones of National Public Radio hosts, provides the voice of the bicycle-riding college administrator Mr. Goode.

    Known for his quiet demeanor, Mr. Judge commutes to Los Angeles when he needs to, but usually records voice parts at his studio near his home in the Austin suburbs. “He likes to whisper at you,” says actor Stephen Root, who’s worked with Mr. Judge on several projects. Mr. Root can recall hearing him raise his voice to actors only once—on a particularly hot day in Austin on the set of “Office Space.” “He wanted to make sure they had water,” Mr. Root recalls.

    The son of a librarian mother and an archaeologist dad, Mr. Judge was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, during a family trip. “I became more interested in [my father’s] work later on,” says Mr. Judge. “You naturally think whatever your parents did was boring.” In high school, he developed a knack for impressions, including one of a priest with a lisp.

    A string of nondescript jobs followed, including stints unloading spools of chain-link fence and work at Southern fast-food chain Whataburger, where he earned “employee of the month.” A temp position alphabetizing purchase orders influenced the on-screen job of the bespectacled, stapler-obsessed character Milton from his 1999 film “Office Space.” “I could only do that job for two weeks,” says Mr. Judge. After graduating from the University of California-San Diego with a degree in physics, and moving on to a graduate program at the University of Texas-Dallas, his interest in animation was stoked by a traveling cartoon festival. He tracked down an animation camera and started to teach himself the craft.

    In January of 1992, Mr. Judge finished “Frog Baseball,” a three-minute short about a messy game of baseball involving two characters named Beavis and Butt-Head. He finished the short on a Thursday and mailed it to several networks. By the following week, MTV offered to buy the rights to his characters. Mr. Judge dropped out of his graduate program in Dallas and moved to New York City. He was 29 years old.

    “Beavis and Butt-Head” made its official debut on MTV on March 8, 1993. A mix of music videos and Mr. Judge’s rough animation, it quickly won over fans. In 1994, just before the success of the full-length movie “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” Mr. Judge signed a two-year deal with Fox, launched the television show “King of the Hill” and turned one of his shorts, “Office Space,” into a feature film.

    While “King of the Hill” was nominated for several Emmys, Mr. Judge’s big screen career wasn’t as smooth. “Office Space” opened poorly in 1999, due in part to a small marketing budget, but it did sell more than seven million copies on DVD. Mr. Judge agreed to do a more “commercial” follow-up, he says, called “Idiocracy,” about an average man transported into a future world devastated by rampant stupidity. Starring Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph, “Idiocracy” didn’t test well before its long-delayed release in 2006, and it played in about 100 theaters nationwide. The marketing budget was so small that no poster was made for the film.

    Mr. Judge’s feature-length film “Extract,” the story of a lovelorn factory manager starring Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, and Mila Kunis, hits theaters in September.

    Recently, “King of the Hill,” which ran for 13 seasons on Fox, was canceled. (Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.) Ratings for the show had been steady and increased for the final season, putting it on par with two other animated series, “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons.”

    Mr. Judge says that he “holds no grudge” against Fox for canceling “King of the Hill” and its handling of “Idiocracy,” but would never again allow a studio, or anyone else, to own his ideas. A spokesperson for Fox says, “Mike Judge and Fox continue to maintain an excellent relationship.”

    Mr. Judge had already begun talks to make his exit from Fox as his deal was set to expire with the completion of “Idiocracy.” Fox owns the rights to “King of the Hill,” but “Goode” is owned by Mr. Judge’s production company, Ternion and Media Rights Capital, which helped finance the show. Started three years ago with Messrs. Krinsky and Altschuler, Ternion is the new business vehicle for all Mr. Judge’s projects. The members of the trio say they were tired of selling off their ideas to the studios and wanted a new way to reach consumers. With their former sound editor Glenn Lucas from “King of the Hill” raising private financing, Ternion had enough money to start production on both “Extract” and “Goode” before they had distribution in place.

    “When I turned 40, I was thinking that I’m getting too old to complain about studios. You don’t hear Steven Spielberg complaining about the man keeping him down,” Mr. Judge says.

  • 'THE GOODE FAMILY' - Variety Review

    What "King of the Hill" did for Texas rednecks, Mike Judge and crew accomplish with Prius-driving tree-huggers in "The Goode Family" -- a smart, wryly funny animated comedy that's going to need a strong word-of-mouth campaign to flourish. The sole qualifier is that the pilot chews through so many juicy storylines, the question of how fast the best plots will be exhausted represents a source of concern; still, assuming liberals can laugh at their own foibles, ABC might just have TV's first true Obama-era sitcom on its hands.

    Judge -- the vocal talent/showrunner who has already birthed limited-animation gems "King" and "Beavis and Butt-head" -- teams with former "King" colleagues John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky in crafting this half-hour about the Goodes. Gerald (voiced by Judge) and Helen (Nancy Carell) are so committed to their politically correct lifestyle that even the dog, Che, is forced to be a Vegan -- though judging by watching him salivate at the sight of small animals that keep turning up missing, the meat-free experiment doesn't quite appear to be working.

    The pair's teenage daughter Bliss (Linda Cardellini) doesn't share mom and dad's zealotry, and their attempt to adopt an African baby misfired when they brought home now-16-year-old Ubuntu (Dave Herman), who happened to be from South Africa and thus, inconveniently, white. When shopping at a big-box store is mentioned, Helen objects. "They don't even have a mission statement!" she protests.

    In virtually every respect, "The Goode Family" provides a tweaked mirror image of "King," where the nuclear-family humor flows from a general worldview/way of life -- there, Hank Hill's red-state good ol' boyishness; here, Gerald Goode's blue-state "save the whales" creed.

    Despite seeking to be constantly enlightened, however, the Goodes are equally hapless -- unsure of what to call their African-American neighbor, flummoxed by recycled shopping bags, and determined to help each other in navigating ordinary situations consistently exacerbated by the way the couple filters everyday matters through their politics.

    Ultimately, there's no substitute for amusing scenarios like the one with the dog, and clever writing, which "The Goode Family" boasts in abundance. " 'The View' is on," Gerald says trying to cheer up Helen, who's confused about what to tell Bliss regarding abstinence. "The pretty one is saying crazy stuff again."

    Capitalizing upon the show's sizable comedy footprint might represent another matter. After all, the series premieres post-Memorial Day, without a natural lead-in, following a spring in which ABC comedies were roundly ignored. Moreover, its sensibility appears more obviously suited to Fox, where the program would probably run until Obama is termed out of office.

    First things first, though, because with comedy, funny is funny. And at least based on its maiden voyage into TV's carbon-expending space, "Goode" is flat-out good.

    Co-producer, Owen Ellickson; supervising director, Wes Archer; writers, Altschuler, Judge, Krinsky. RUNNING TIME: 30 MIN.

  • Ricky Gervais Returns to HBO: Funnyman Draws Up New Animated Show

    Ricky Gervais is back in business at HBO, which has just ordered an animated series based on his popular series of podcasts.

    "The Ricky Gervais Show" features Gervais and his longtime collaborator Stephen Merchant (who were behind HBO and BBC's "Extras") -- and revolves around the world of their unusual friend, Karl Pilkington.

    Media Rights Capital is producing the show, along with Wildbrain, the animation house behind "Yo Gabba Gabba." HBO has picked up 13 half-hour episodes, which will likely bow in early 2010.

    "The Ricky Gervais Show" started out as a radio program in London; in 2005, Gervais and Merchant decided to turn it into a podcast -- and brought Pilkington, a radio producer they had met years earlier -- along. The podcasts began to focus particularly on the eccentric mind of Pilkington.

    "They find him to be the funniest person in the world," MRC's Modi Wiczyk said. "Ricky says Karl is like crack to him." According to Gervais and Merchant, "Karl is a man who believes that a sea lion is a cross between a fish and a dog. Hopefully, Karl will enter the pantheon of animated greats."

    The podcast became wildly popular -- and even scored a Guinness World Record in 2007 for being the most-downloaded podcast on the Internet.

    Fans even began animating some of Pilkington's musings themselves, uploading the shorts to the Internet. It was Wildbrain development VP Lisa Ullmann who first put the idea of an animated version in Gervais' head.

    "It's such a natural for animation," Ullmann said. "We worked closely with (Gervais) figuring out how he wanted himself to look, as well as Steven and Karl."

    Show will utilize the audio from the "Gervais" podcasts and open each week with the animated version of the trio. Then, once Pilkington begins telling one of his unusual stories, the animation will delve into those worlds.

    MRC is fully financing the show and will take it to the international market shortly. Animated series is their second at HBO, along with "The Life and Times of Tim." It also extends MRC's relationship with Gervais; the company is producing his feature "The Invention of Lying" for Warner Bros.

    Gervais, Merchant and Pilkington will exec produce, along with Wildbrain's Bob Higgins. Ullman will be co-exec producer, while Wildbrain's Craig Kellman is animation director.

    The producers expect to deliver "The Ricky Gervais Show" to HBO by the end of the year.

  • Universal, Damon Team on BUREAU: George Nolfi to Direct, Write Sci-Fi Love Story

    While Universal Pictures waits for the next installment in the "Bourne" franchise, the studio has stepped up to secure Matt Damon's next film.

    Universal is finalizing a deal with Media Rights Capital for "The Adjustment Bureau," a contemporary love story with sci-fi overtones that was written and will be directed by George Nolfi. The material is loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story.

    Nolfi will produce with Chris Moore, Michael Hackett and Bill Carraro. Production begins in September.

    Nolfi, who scripted "The Bourne Ultimatum," is also penning the next Jason Bourne vehicle for Damon and director Paul Greengrass.

    In "The Adjustment Bureau," Damon will play a charismatic congressman who seems destined for national political stardom. He meets a beautiful ballet dancer, only to find strange circumstances keeping their sparks from catching fire.Damon will star in the pic after he completes playing a South African rugby team captain in "The Human Factor," the Warner Bros. drama that Clint Eastwood is directing and stars Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela.

    Along with "The B Team," to be directed by Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, "The Adjustment Bureau" was shopped to studios last week at a most opportune time. Box office is booming right now, but because of the writers strike and de facto actors strike that has sidelined studios for the past half year, studios badly need product for 2010 and 2011 pipelines. In different ways, each project challenged the current mode of fiscal conservatism at studios.

    The Ferrell project, with a budget higher than McKay's previous two films, and 25% gross outlay, was acquired last week by Columbia Pictures, a studio gambling that an action comedy with Ferrell and Wahlberg will find an audience beyond the U.S.

    "The Adjustment Bureau" came with premiums that made studio chiefs think hard. The original offer sheet required a studio to commit to a budget near $62 million, with Damon realizing a 20% first-dollar-gross backend. The studio puts up P&A and gets worldwide distribution rights.

    That seems reasonable for a big-scale PG-13 Damon vehicle with a premise that mixes action, romance and science fiction. But Universal is essentially licensing the film for a term that will run about 20 years.

    While Sony will own "The B Team" in perpetuity, U will ultimately relinquish the copyright of "The Adjustment Bureau" back to MRC, which shares the ownership equity with the film's talent. Universal keeps distribution rights in perpetuity and has safeguards that can extend the license until the studio at least makes back its investment and P&A outlay.

    U made a similar deal with MRC on the Sacha Baron Cohen starrer "Bruno" when the studio paid $42.5 million to license the English-speaking distribution territorial rights to the Larry Charles-directed comedy, which the studio will release July 10. Ownership of that negative will eventually revert back to MRC.

    Universal changed the terms from what MRC initially sought in several areas. MRC originally called for Nolfi to get final cut, which is rare for a first-time director. In the deal, U execs will have creative input in the film, though Nolfi has some editorial protections that he'll be able to make the film laid out in his 129-page script.

  • RITA ROCKS on at Lifetime: Cable Network Renews Comedy

    Lifetime's "Rita Rocks" will roll on to a second season.

    The cable channel has placed a 20-episode order for the series, which stars Nicole Sullivan as a mom who also fronts a rock band.

    Lifetime's first original comedy in 10 years, the Media Rights Capital-produced "Rita" premiered in October to an audience of 1 million total viewers, nearly 800,000 of them women 18-49 -- up 11% uptick in that key demo compared with how the time period was performing for the channel in the month prior.

    Stan Zimmerman, James Berg, Jeffrey Hodes and Nastaran Dibai exec produce the series.

    In addition to the series renewal, Lifetime named Jane Rice senior VP of affiliate sales. Rice was most recently VP of field sales for Disney and ESPN Media Networks.

  • ABC Sets Suburbia for Monday: Saget Comedy to Follow DANCING on April 6

    ABC has given a plum Monday night berth to “Surviving Suburbia,” the orphaned Bob Saget comedy that had originally been targeted for the CW’s Sunday night lineup.

    The half-hour laffer will air on Mondays at 9:30 p.m., following “Dancing with the Stars,” starting April 6.

    ABC had previously announced that “Samantha Who,” which earned a solid following in that spot last year and this fall, is moving to Thursdays.

    “Suburbia” was originally set to air this March as part of Media Rights Capital’s Sunday night programming deal with the CW. But the show was left without a home after CW scrapped that relationship.

    ABC, which has been on the hunt for family shows in the vein of “Roseanne” and “Home Improvement,” later entered talks with MRC about acquiring the show, which has already produced 13 episodes (Daily Variety, Jan. 29).

    Kevin Abbott (“Reba”) exec produces the laffer, along with Acme Prods.’ Michael Hanel and Mindy Schultheis.

    “Suburbia,” which also features Cynthia Stevenson and Dan Cortese, revolves around Steve and Anne Patterson and their two children, all of whose lives are upended when they get new next-door neighbors.

    When the MRC/CW pact collapsed, “Suburbia” was in the middle of shooting episode six. MRC told Abbott, Hanel and Schultheis to keep shooting the rest of the show’s 13-episode order -- and then set about to find the laffer a new home.

    “When the CW deal imploded, we thought surely the show was dead,” Abbott said. “There were a few sleepless nights. But then ABC picked it up and gave us this phenomenal time slot.”

  • HBO Picks Up Second Season of TIM


    HBO has decided to pick up a second season of animated comedy series "The Life and Times of Tim."

    Created by Steve Dildarian, who also voices the skeins' title character, "Tim" tracks the life of a Gotham twentysomething who meanders through one awkward situation after another.

    Lightly promoted series scored about 300,000 viewers for its September premiere. "Tim" hails from Media Rights Capital

  • M. Night Shyamalan in for 'DEVIL'

    M. Night Shyamalan is making a deal with the "Devil." The helmer's three-film financing/production partnership with Media Rights Capital, the Night Chronicles, is launching with the supernatural thriller "Devil."

    John and Andrew Dowdle will direct and executive produce a script by Brian Nelson ("30 Days of Night") based on an original Shyamalan story. The project will be the first feature Shyamalan has written or produced without directing.

    No plot details were revealed, but Shyamalan will oversee all three films' development and production. TNC exec Ashwin Rajan will be responsible for identifying talent and will work closely with Shyamalan.

    "Devil" heads into production next year, aiming for a PG-13 rating. The Night Chronicles features set to begin production in 2010 and 2011 will also be based on his original stories.

    John Dowdle recenty directed "Quarantine," an adaptatation of the Spanish horror hit "[Rec]" he co-scripted with brother Andrew.

    "This is a dream for me. I wanted to find filmmakers that inspire me and I found them," said Shyamalan, who will co-own the films' copyrights with MRC and shop them for distribution.

    The filmmaker, who recently experienced recent critical lambasting for his $64.5 million-grossing supernatural thriller "The Happening," is now directing the 2010 Paramount family fantasy "The Last Airbender."

  • MRC, Shyamalan DEVIL

    M. Night Shyamalan and Media Rights Capital have formalized the first project in their three-picture deal to hatch fright films. They've set Brian Nelson ("30 Days of Night") to write "Devil," which "Quarantine" helmers John Erick and Drew Dowdle will direct.

    Supernatural thriller is based on an original story by Shyamalan, who'll produce with Sam Mercer under the Night Chronicles banner. The Dowdle siblings will be executive producers. The film will be PG-13 and will begin production next year.

    MRC set the Night Chronicles as a financing and production partnership with Shyamalan in July. The company's goal is to generate one genre film per year over three years, with Shyamalan hatching the ideas and overseeing the selection of talent and the creative direction. Shyamalan will co-own the film copyrights and retain artistic control while MRC makes distribution deals, as it does on all the pictures it finances.

    Shyamalan, who next directs "The Last Airbender" for Paramount and Nickelodeon, got an ownership stake in his most recent directing effort, "The Happening," in a co-financing configuration between India-based UTV and 20th Century Fox.

  • NBC Scores Green-Screen ARGONAUTS - MRC to Produce New Drama Adaptation

    NBC is developing a new take on "Jason and the Argonauts," which would be produced as the first-ever green-screen drama developed for primetime.

    Media Rights Capital is behind "Jason," which comes from exec producers Josh and Jonas Pate ("Surface").

    Peacock has given a put pilot commitment to the project, which it secured after a fierce bidding war (believed to be with Fox). MRC also just landed orders from ABC for seven additional scripts of animated skein "The Goode Family," and from Lifetime for three more scripts of the comedy "Rita Rocks."

    News comes as MRC puts its two Sunday night CW skeins on production hiatus in order to wait and see how those shows' initial eight episodes perform (Daily Variety, Oct. 14). Company also is expected to announce restructuring and expansion shortly.

    As for "Argonauts," project reps the Peacock's second stab this decade at the topic. NBC aired the unrelated Robert Halmi miniseries "Jason and the Argonauts," starring Jason London, Frank Langella and Dennis Hopper, in 2000.

    The Greek myth also has drawn interest in the feature world: Zak Penn is writing and producing "The Argonauts" for 20th Century Fox, while DreamWorks also has a project titled "The Argonauts" in the works (Daily Variety, Aug. 12).

    Separately, ABC confirmed that it has picked up an additional four scripts of "Eli Stone," which returned for a second season Tuesday night.

  • The Real Life and Times of the Man Who Isn't Tim

    When fans and advocates of Steve Dildarian speak admiringly of his distinctive voice, they are usually referring to the wry, resigned writing style that helped him get his new HBO animated series, “The Life & Times of Tim.” But his speaking voice probably helped too.

    In person, it’s hard not to imagine Mr. Dildarian, 38, a former advertising copywriter who is the creator, writer and off-camera star of “Tim,” as the subject of a cartoon. He has the mildly disheveled look of a “Peanuts” character and wide, anime eyes, and when he speaks, in an adenoidal tone that evokes a blend of Ray Romano and Jim Henson, he often sounds as if he were stalling for time, even when he knows what he’s going to say.

    Here, for example, is how he described in a recent interview the terrible day he spent working as a telemarketer, not long after graduating from college:

    “I was selling, ahhh, meat — frozen meat that people would put in their basement freezer. If people do that, I guess they do. Ahhh. Calling and saying: ‘Hey, I’m Steve from Country Fresh Farm. Ahhh. You want to buy some frozen meat?’ ”

    Now that he is well beyond such dead-end jobs, he has channeled that same halting delivery and “why me?” attitude into “Tim,” which had its premiere on Sunday. He provides the voice of the luckless but unflappable title character and subjects him to far greater indignities. When Tim attends a wedding, he somehow ends up lewdly groping the octogenarian grandmother of the bride. And when Tim’s girlfriend takes her parents home to meet him, they find him on the couch with an irate prostitute.

    “I’m always looking to write something that just has so much conflict, it’s unbearable,” Mr. Dildarian explained.

    Unlike his cartoon alter ego, Mr. Dildarian has enjoyed a life and a career relatively free of torment. His advertising portfolio includes many television commercials, like a back-to-school spot for Staples called “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” in which a father joyously tosses school supplies in a shopping cart as his dour-faced children look on.

    He has also helped create several Super Bowl ad campaigns, including a Budweiser spot about a donkey who dreams of joining the Anheuser-Busch team of Clydesdales (for which Mr. Dildarian provided the voice of the donkey), and one with the Budweiser lizards scheming to get rid of the ubiquitous Budweiser frogs. The lizards “hated them so much, kind of like we did as writers,” Mr. Dildarian said.

    On the side, Mr. Dildarian wrote a few conventional sitcom pilots, which were purchased by television networks but never produced. And he wrote a short script, called “Angry Unpaid Hooker,” about a boyfriend, a girlfriend and the title character, who won’t leave their apartment until she is compensated for her services.

    Mr. Dildarian originally conceived of “Angry Unpaid Hooker” as a short film he would direct. But in 2005 he and a couple of friends recorded the dialogue after hours in a studio at Mr. Dildarian’s ad agency; Mr. Dildarian sketched a few crude doodles to accompany the audio, and his girlfriend, Leynete Cariapa, showed him how to animate the drawings using computer programs like QuickTime and iMovie. (Ms. Cariapa is now the co-executive producer and art director on “Tim.”)

    In 2006 Mr. Dildarian entered the cartoon in the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., at which it won the award for best animated short. The short quickly attracted interest from a formidable group of industry veterans, including the producer Jimmy Miller, who also manages Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell; and Tom Werner, who was an executive producer of “The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne.”

    “The clarity of his voice stood out,” Mr. Werner said in a telephone interview. “You look at a show as well written as ‘The Office,’ but you get a sense that it’s written by a gang of people. This was the work of one person, and it was clear and clean and unique.” Mr. Werner said he could see the cartoon being turned into “an R-rated ‘Seinfeld.’ ”

    With the help of his new admirers, Mr. Dildarian sold a pilot based on his short cartoon to Fox, but the network passed on the show for its 2007-8 season. Comedy Central offered to make a six-episode series, but Mr. Dildarian’s advisers and agents instead matched him with Media Rights Capital, a fledgling studio founded by Mordecai Wiczyk and Asif Satchu. “We had a lot of confidence that there would be networks that wanted it,” said Mr. Wiczyk, whose studio is also producing new animation projects from Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”) and Mike Judge (“King of the Hill”). “We weren’t certain whether they would permit Steve’s untrammeled voice to reach the audience.”

    Mr. Dildarian was apprehensive about producing his series without a television channel to show it. “Believe me,” he said, “it’s not easy to hire people and say, ‘Oh, we’re making a show.’ ‘Oh, for who?’ ‘Nobody, we’re just making it ourselves. Trust me, someone’s going to want this.’ ”

    But before he finished production on “Tim,” the show was picked up by HBO, which saw the cartoon as a descendant of uncomfortable, cover-your-eyes comedies like “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

    “Tim is a very well-intentioned guy who gets himself in awkward, terrible situations,” said Sue Naegle, the recently appointed president of HBO’s entertainment division, who inherited the show from her predecessor, Carolyn Strauss, and HBO’s former chairman, Chris Albrecht. “There’s something about it that I think is very endearing, and we explore a lot of territory that’s similar to that.”

    So far, several critics haven’t agreed: reviewing “Tim” in The Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd wrote, “I didn’t find much of it funny, but on a kind of purely analytical level I can see how the jokes are supposed to work.” And on Slate, Troy Patterson said “Tim” was not so much animated as “complacently sketched in a stab at slacker minimalism.”

    As he completes work on the first season, Mr. Dildarian, who splits his time between Los Angeles and San Francisco, hasn’t changed his process much since the “Angry Unpaid Hooker” short. Each episode is minimally animated from his original designs (though he now has a team of artists and animators to do it for him), and he allows his voice actors to riff freely from his scripts (though he prefers to call this technique “extreme paraphrasing” rather than improvisation).

    For all the abuse and embarrassment that he heaps on his two-dimensional surrogate, Mr. Dildarian sympathizes with Tim. “Sometimes it just seems like everyone in the world is crazy except you,” he said. “How can no one see the logic that I’m seeing?”

    But mostly, Mr. Dildarian said, he enjoys putting Tim in impossible, unsolvable situations because he finds such scenes so easy to write. “It’s partly because I’m lazy, and partly because the work comes out better,” he said. “If anything’s hard to write, I don’t write it.”

  • MRC Draws Cash Despite Crunch

    Media Rights Capital has locked up the coin to fund its ambitious film, TV and digital production slate for the next three years, closing a three-year, $350 million revolving credit facility with a syndicate of banks led by JPMorgan Chase and Comerica.

    Timing of the deal is notable given the seize-up in the nation's financial and credit sectors during the past few weeks. Remarkably, MRC execs began the negotiations with banks only six weeks ago, at the start of the latest wave of tremors from the credit and mortgage meltdown crisis that has rocked Wall Street institutions such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Deal's closing gives MRC immediate access to $295 million to fund its production and marketing activities, with the remaining $55 million to close within a year. MRC has eight films set to open in the next 12 months. Company also has 10 TV series in production, including four skeins for the CW's Sunday sked that bow Oct. 5, and five major digital content initiatives, including the ballyhooed "Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy" series of animated shorts from "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane.

    "There's no way you can look at this other than to say that the banks had a lot of confidence in us," said MRC co-chief exec Asif Satchu. "They voted with their dollars at a time when anyone would have understood if they hadn't."

    Satchu said MRC pushed to get the credit facility inked, even at this rocky moment, because of the urgency in the financial markets and MRC's needs. He said none of the 10 banks with which they began negotiations last month dropped out.

    MRC was founded in 2003 with equity capital from investors including Goldman Sachs, AT&T and ad giant WPP. In recent years it had gone to the credit markets for one-off financing deals on a project-by-project basis. But as its film and TV expanded rapidly during the past year, it became clear that MRC needed a broader and more flexible line of credit, Satchu said.

  • Media Rights Capital Announces New Three-Year $350 Million Revolving Credit Facility With JPMorgan Chase and Comerica Bank

    Media Rights Capital, the leading independent film, television and digital studio has finalized a three-year, $350 million revolving credit facility that will position the company for continued growth, it was announced today by Media Rights Capital co-CEOs Asif Satchu and Modi Wiczyk. The financing was provided by the foremost entertainment lenders, led by JPMorgan Chase as administrative agent and issuing bank Comerica as collateral agent. The first closing was $295 million this past week with up to a year to close the remaining $55 million, which comes at the conclusion of the worst week in United States credit markets in more than 75 years. The new facility will be used to provide additional capital for expanded film, television and digital projects.
    "This facility is a vote of confidence from the financial community that heralds the strength of MRC’s balance sheet, management team, business model and talent and distribution partners,” said Marni Wieshofer, MRC’s SVP of Corporate Development and M&A. “In a credit climate that on its surface has completely shut down, this financing proves that there is money available to strong companies operating with sound business strategy and deliberation. The first close was oversubscribed as participating banks realized MRC’s distinctive ability to create and monetize content."

    “In less than a year, against a backdrop of debilating labor unrest in the entertainment industry and an economy that has been shaken from core capital providers to consumers, MRC has initiated production on 8 major movies, 10 television programs across the major network and cable outlets, 5 digital content campaigns, undertaken the CW Sunday night programming, and entered into a long-term international output alliance,” commented Co-CEO’s Satchu and Wiczyk. “We want to thank JP Morgan Chase, Comerica Bank, and our blue-ribbon syndicate for closing so quickly in the current economic environment and positioning MRC for an even brighter future.”

    Joining JP Morgan Chase and Comerica the syndicate includes Bank of America, Union Bank, Citibank, Royal Bank of Scotland, C.I.T., USBank, City National Bank and First California Bank. In addition to Wieshofer, the new facility was orchestrated for MRC by Scott Tenley, VP and Head of Legal Affairs and Jaime Rigal, VP Structured Finance and Operations. Michael Chapnick of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius served as outside counsel for JPMorgan Chase and Comerica, Marissa Román and Steven Fayne of Akin Gump were outside counsel for MRC on the transaction.

  • In Hollywood, Credit Remains, At Least for a Few Big Names

    LOS ANGELES — Hollywood, apparently, is still in the money.

    The crisis on Wall Street is roiling companies around the globe, but bank-financed credit is continuing to flow into the movie business, albeit on a much more moderate basis.

    On Friday, as government leaders cobbled together a historic rescue of the American financial system, Media Rights Capital, one of Hollywood’s most prominent independent production companies, closed on a $350 million revolving credit fund led by JPMorgan Chase and Comerica. The financing effort began just six weeks ago, said Asif Satchu, co-chief executive of the film company.

    “In a credit climate that on its surface has completely shut down, this deal proves that there is money available,” said Marni Wieshofer, a senior vice president of Media Rights Capital. Mr. Satchu added that “banks are still in the business of putting money to work; they’re just making many fewer bets.”

    The new financing will be used to expand the production company deeper into film, television and digital projects and will be used in conjunction with the company’s initial $425 million capitalization. Media Rights Capital has helped to finance such films as “Babel,” starring Brad Pitt, and is behind a high-profile digital video collaboration between Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the “Family Guy” television series, and Google.

    The deal follows the announcement last week that Steven Spielberg had secured $700 million in credit through JPMorgan to start a new production company in partnership with Reliance Big Entertainment of India.

    Movie companies have looked to complex financing deals with private money in the last two years to offset risk and help cover sharply higher production costs. But in recent months that pipeline has slowed to a trickle because of the credit meltdown, with even the likes of Paramount Pictures becoming unable to find acceptable financing terms.

    Last week, as the economic crisis escalated, Hollywood started to fret anew. But the Media Rights Capital deal, in partnership with Mr. Spielberg’s money, indicates that film companies considered to be low risk can continue to tap the credit market.

  • The Family Guy Goes Online

    A talking dog with a crush on his owner's wife. An American baby with a British accent. These are among the legion of cartoon characters played by Seth MacFarlane, creator of the animated hit "Family Guy." Now, the 34-year-old who could pass for one of his show's fratboy fans has stepped into a new role: multimedia mogul.

    WSJ's John Jurgensen takes a tour of the Family Guy and American Dad office in Los Angeles. He gives a behind the scenes look at the production of the two shows, which was created by Seth MacFarlane.

    A rapid ascent in television has set Mr. MacFarlane up for what will be a closely watched push onto the Web. On Wednesday, dozens of his short cartoons will start rolling out through Google to a variety of sites, making Mr. MacFarlane the first major producer to get a ride on the Web giant's network. "It's a big experiment," he says.

    The project could change the way entertainment is distributed on the Web. It also underscores Mr. MacFarlane's broader rise as a producer, writer, actor and artist with sway over coveted viewers. Among young men, only NFL football and "American Idol" outperformed "Family Guy" in the TV ratings last season, according to Nielsen Media Research. On DVD, the series has generated more than $386 million in total sales, putting it just behind such top sellers as "Seinfeld," according to Adams Media Research.

    In May, Mr. MacFarlane signed the largest TV contract in recent history, a renewed deal with his studio, 20th Century Fox Television, that will earn him more than $100 million by its expiration in 2012. The size of his haul will hinge on merchandise sales and other variables, including how a new addition to the "Family Guy" franchise will fare. A spinoff series around a black character named Cleveland Brown is in production, slated for a launch on Fox in 2009. 20th Century Fox Television is owned by News Corp., which also owns Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

    Cartoonist Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons," says, "He's laid the groundwork with this smash hit show and now, with new media opening up and Seth's specific kind of rapid-fire visual humor, how to exploit it just depends on how ambitious he wants to be."

    Mr. MacFarlane's work has also drawn criticism in the comedy world, however, where some writers have mocked "Family Guy" as derivative or gratuitously offensive.

    In the Google series, "Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy," fans of his TV shows will see some familiar themes, including celebrity takedowns and surreal scenarios. In one "Cavalcade" sketch the actor Matthew McConaughey (voiced by another actor, Seth Green) is adrift in a life raft, nattering on about his easy success and "metal-like abdominal muscles" as a fellow castaway devours him limb by limb.

    Mr. MacFarlane with cutouts of 'Family Guy' characters.

    Fifty "Cavalcade" clips will run, a new one each week, on such sites as and YouTube. In addition, using data submitted by the sites in its pervasive advertising network, Google will deliver "Cavalcade" clips to pages visited primarily by 18- to 34-year-old men. In a new twist in the way entertainment is distributed, visitors to sites including and men's magazine might see a "Cavalcade" cartoon play in a slot where a banner ad or video promo would normally appear.

    Google won't say how many sites it will be pushing the clips to, but the series' first sponsor, Burger King, has set a goal of millions of viewers. (Mr. MacFarlane created a new cartoon version of the chain's crowned mascot.) For Google, leveraging its reach is part of an effort to play middleman to Hollywood talent coming online. "We can work with more and more Seths and connect them to advertisers," says Alexandra Levy, director of branded entertainment at Google.

    Jumping online allows Mr. MacFarlane to let loose with the raunchiness that he's had to keep in check on public airwaves or reserve for his DVD releases. "We give him full creative control," says Dan Goodman, president of digital media at Media Rights Capital, the independent studio that brokered and financed the "Cavalcade" deal. In the sketches where Mr. MacFarlane has sprinkled F-words, for example, the "nonsense" standards of TV decency don't apply, the cartoonist says, "so there's no limit on how funny it can be." (Bleeped versions of "Cavalcade" clips will go to some sites based on the profile of their visitors.)

    Soon after Mr. MacFarlane's TV contract lapsed, his representatives used that window to sign the multimedia pact with MRC. "In a completely perfect world he wouldn't be able to do that," says Dana Walden, chairman of 20th Century Fox Television. However, because of the exclusivity in the TV contract Mr. McFarlane eventually signed, any TV projects that might spring from "Cavalcade" would go through Fox.

    'Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy'

    All this has flowed from "Family Guy," which first aired on Fox in 1999. A show that draws on and satirizes TV shows from "All in the Family" to "The Flintstones," "Family Guy" centers on a tubby simpleton named Peter Griffin and his family, which includes Brian, a dry-witted dog with addictive tendencies, and the gleefully sadistic toddler Stewie. Mr. MacFarlane performs the voices of these characters and many others that pop up in the non sequitur cutaway scenes that are his trademark. In one example, Mr. MacFarlane mimics a strung-out Cookie Monster who is locked away in rehab for his addiction to cookies.

    During a recent group reading of a new script in his L.A. office, he sat at the head of a long table, sporting stubble on his cheeks and mussed short black hair. He wore reading glasses and sipped from a tall cup of Throat Coat tea to soothe his vocal chords as he traded lines with actors around the table. Often Mr. MacFarlane exchanged rapid dialogue with himself, thrusting out his chin to do Stewie or squeezing Peter's New England brogue out of the side of his mouth.

    In the episode, Brian's novel, "Faster Than the Speed of Love," has been embraced by a society of mentally disabled book lovers. Peter, who turns out to be a member, is shocked to discover his own dog is the star author. "You're THE Brian Griffin!" Mr. MacFarlane squawked as Peter. In reply, he stammered in Brian's back-of-the-throat baritone, which resembles Mr. MacFarlane's real-life speaking voice.

    Actor Seth Green, who does the cracked voice of Peter's adolescent son Chris, says, "Seth could go toe-to-toe with any actor." Mr. MacFarlane recently supplied the voice of a supernatural creature with a German accent in the movie "Hellboy II."

    Stewie Griffin is Mr. MacFarlane's biggest breakout character. Stewie's ovoid head emblazons T-shirts, posters and merchandise that often match the subversive tone of "Family Guy," such as figurines outfitted in bondage gear. Total merchandise sales have climbed into the "hundreds of millions" of dollars, Fox says. Though it doesn't touch the fortune that "The Simpsons" generates with hundreds of licensees, "Family Guy" currently has 80 licensees. Discussions are underway with a brewery that would make real cans of Pawtucket Patriot Ale, Peter Griffin's brew of choice.

    After the table-reading, Mr. MacFarlane headed to the writers' room carrying a dribbling sandwich wrap. Tacked to the walls, reference drawings marked the proportions of recurring characters, such as an Evil Monkey -- always pointing an accusatory finger. About a dozen writers tipped back in their chairs, volleying cutting remarks across the table at each other. They had gauged the laughs from the guests invited to the reading, scribbling checkmarks next to lines that got strong laughs, question marks beside bits that needed work.

    On the same floor is the staff of "American Dad," a series about a paranoid CIA agent and his family. (Launched in 2005, the show has a similar style to "Family Guy" but a smaller following.) Production is also under way on the upcoming "Family Guy" spinoff, "The Cleveland Show." It centers on Peter's languid bar buddy (voiced by the show's co-creator, Mike Henry), who moves to fictional Stoolbend, Va., and takes up with new family members and neighbors, including a clan of talking bears.

    Mr. MacFarlane leads a team of about 320 producers, writers, animators and support staffers, but he oversees all aspects of production. Running late for a massage therapy appointment recently, he demonstrated how tension in his neck kept it from swiveling more than a few inches.

    With a surplus of jokes about race, religion and sexual orientation, Mr. MacFarlane's work draws a line back to insult comics like Don Rickles. But the key to Mr. MacFarlane's relevance with young viewers is the way his team mixes sophomoric shtick (poop jokes) with scattershot cultural references, from the popular (parodies of celebrities, classic TV shows and movies) to the obscure (Peter, in the nude, remarks on the symbolism in Robert Frost's "Birches"). The seventh season of "Family Guy," starting Sept. 28, will include a send-up of "The Empire Strikes Back"; it's the second "Star Wars" homage the show has done with the blessing of George Lucas.

    "We do try to walk a balance between high brow and low brow because both are indubitably funny. Woody Allen and Albert Brooks make me laugh and so does 'Jackass.' Those are legitimate laughs," Mr. MacFarlane says.

    When it comes to pop culture, Mr. MacFarlane is a crank. He says the only TV series he watches regularly is comic Bill Maher's political talk show. Musically, he's partial to Frank Sinatra and vocal groups like the Hi-Los. His iPhone rings with the overture from "South Pacific."

    "Family Guy" received an Emmy award for its music, and Mr. MacFarlane has won for his voice acting (his Stewie character). But neither of his shows has won in the bigger category of animation. This year, for the first time, he submitted "Family Guy" for contention as a comedy series, but it didn't get a nomination. (No animated series ever has.) "Our goal was to rattle people and say what we're doing is the same as what [sitcoms] do, and if you look at the ratings you've got to take us seriously," he says.

    Awards aside, Mr. MacFarlane's work has been more popular with viewers than critics or some of his industry peers. "South Park," the bawdy Comedy Central cartoon, once depicted "Family Guy" writers as manatees that poke at random "idea balls" to compile plots. "The Simpsons" has also taken shots at the show -- and "Family Guy" has returned fire.

    In a recent cutaway scene, a depraved "Family Guy" character shoots the Simpsons family off camera. (The scene didn't run on Fox, but did air on cable and will be included on a DVD release.) "I think they pushed it too far," Mr. Groening says. "If our characters are going to be killed, we'll do it ourselves."

    Mr. MacFarlane, who often talks about his friendly relationship with Mr. Groening, responds, "It has to be something really bad for him to react that way. I may have to give that a second look."

    The cartoonist grew up in Kent, Conn., in a household where his father (a teacher), his mother (a school staffer) and younger sister shared a naughty sense of humor. When he wasn't practicing piano, playing trombone in the school band or singing in the church choir, he drew. He pored over books about animation and shot crude cartoons with an eight-millimeter camera, always with an aim toward going pro, he says.

    In college, at the Rhode Island School of Design, he developed a "Family Guy" prototype called "Life of Larry." It teamed a talking dog with his boorish owner, and took abrupt tangents to riff on "Star Trek" and "West Side Story."

    After graduating, he took a job in the L.A. animation studio of Hanna-Barbera. Within a year he met Fox executives who took quick interest in his concept. They gave him about $50,000 and he came back with a seven-minute pilot. "Family Guy" got a huge push, airing after the 1999 Super Bowl on Fox. But that brilliant debut faded quickly as the show was shifted around the schedule and ratings dropped. Fox canceled "Family Guy" after three seasons.

    But during late-night reruns on the Adult Swim block on cable, "Family Guy" found its fans. The cult following fueled huge sales of the first seasons on DVD, prompting Fox to put the show back on the air in 2005, three years after it'd been dropped.

    As part of the terms of his renewed TV contract, he hopes to develop a live-action sitcom for Fox. Also on deck is a long talked-about "Family Guy" movie, plus a feature-length buddy comedy that he's planning with Mr. Green.

    With the accompanying influx of money, Mr. MacFarlane says, "I bought a house and I don't fly commercial anymore. Those are the only two things that changed." For perspective, he invokes one of his heroes, a producer of TV shows such as "All in the Family." Mr. MacFarlane says, "I'm sure Norman Lear was doing a lot better in his day."

  • Serving 3 Brands: Burger King, Google and Seth MacFarlane

    The creative types whose minds give birth to television shows and movies typically disdain the overt blending of advertising messages with their work. But Burger King found one who doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he even agreed to create the ads.

    Next month, Seth MacFarlane, creator of the “Family Guy” TV series, will unveil a high-profile new project called “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy,” an animated variety show that will be distributed solely through Google.

    The Internet giant will syndicate the new program using its AdSense advertising system to thousands of Web sites that are predetermined to be gathering spots for Mr. MacFarlane’s target audience, typically young men. Instead of placing a static ad on a Web page, Google will place a “Cavalcade” video clip. YouTube will also devote a channel to the material.

    Marketing messages will be incorporated into the clips largely through “preroll” ads, but Burger King took its involvement a step further. In a rare example of one of Hollywood’s top creative powers working hand-in-glove with a marketer, Mr. MacFarlane created and animated Burger King ads to play ahead of “Cavalcade” clips.

    “The customized lead-ins fit our personality,” said Tiana Lang, Burger King’s director of media and interactive. She added, “His fan base fits perfectly with ours.”

    Mr. MacFarlane, who teamed up with Google and Burger King through Media Rights Capital, a boutique production company, created three burger ads. In another one, apes on horseback pop out of the screen instead of Mayan warriors. The spots will play before 10 different “Cavalcade” episodes.

    How much does it cost to have Mr. MacFarlane animate material for you? None of the parties involved would talk money, but Google has said previously that the deal was among the largest ever for AdSense, which began in 2003.

  • MRC Makes Splashy Bow

    They've got money, relationships and a more attractive backend definition than any other studio in town. What's not to like?

    Hollywood creatives are increasingly pondering that question about production finance company Media Rights Capital. Already established on the film side, the Century City, Calif.-based company has come on strong in the TV biz during the past few months, and will have its primetime coming-out party with this week's network upfront presentations in Gotham.

    The shingle, founded in 2004 by Endeavor alum Modi Wiczyk and his college roommate, Asif Satchu, has lined up a slew of series commitments and pilots for broadcast and cable nets under the direction of MRC TV head Keith Samples, who founded and ran Rysher Entertainment in the 1990s.

    MRC's business proposition to talent is simple. Forgo the big upfront payday that is the norm for major studio development pacts in exchange for more creative latitude, the flexibility to sell to any outlet and most important, a larger ownership stake in the final product. Wiczyk emphasizes that MRC's creative partners are part owners of the copyrights on their work, not just profit participants.

    "You own it when you work here," Wiczyk says. "You don't get that anywhere else."

    Of course, MRC is not a bank open to anyone with a spec pilot script under their arm. Its business model dictates that the company must be highly selective about the projects and partners it takes on. As has been MRC's modus operandi on the film side, it is looking for bankable talent and properties with strong international appeal and multiplatform exploitation opportunities.

    "We're entrepreneurs, and we seek out other entrepreneurs," Wiczyk says. In another major move, MRC has struck an unusual deal with the CW to take over the net's struggling Sunday night sked. CW is essentially outsourcing its three hours of Sunday primetime real estate to MRC, which is contracted to produce two comedies and two dramas for the block.

    MRC will have a stake in advertising revenue derived from the shows, though CW's sales team will still oversee the sales. Tribune Broadcasting, which owns CW's key affils, is also partnering with MRC in handling the block.

    MRC is bankrolled through equity investments from a clutch of blue-chip heavy hitters including Goldman Sachs, AT&T, ad giant WPP and investment fund D.E. Shaw. Wiczyk established key relationships in the industry and in the global finance community through his stint at Endeavor, where he specialized in setting up film financing projects for the agency's clients. Satchu comes from a background in finance and launching Internet-based businesses.

    Wiczyk emphasizes that MRC is not a private equity fund looking to make passive investments in film and TV production with a strict timetable for recoupment and profit disbursements.

    MRC has "built a syndicate of investors who have both deep pockets and a deep understanding of our business," Wiczyk says.

    Earlier this month, the company put another major piece of its TV biz strategy in place by sealing a deal with Elisabeth Murdoch's ShineReveille Intl. to handle international distribution of its TV product.

    Industry observers say they're impressed by the strategic approach and amount of business MRC has been able to generate in a short time. Some question whether MRC's business plan will work as smoothly on the TV side as it has on the feature side, where foreign presales and post-theatrical TV and DVD sales help offset a great deal of the risk. On the other hand, there's not much aftermarket for a busted pilot, unless it's embraced by another network.

    Wiczyk says the risk involved is a matter of degrees: Feature films involve a commitment of tens of millions of dollars in production and P&A costs, while a pilot is a few million bucks at most.

    Moreover, MRC has put a lot of its focus on the cable side, where production costs are lower and the chance of a pilot making it to air is generally higher than for the Big Four broadcast nets.

    MRC's leaders are mindful of the fast rise and equally fast fall of the last indie to make a splash by using its own coin to finance shows. Nearly a decade ago, Michael Ovitz's Artists Television Group had no trouble selling shows to the networks; but when most of those shows were canceled after one season, the costs of the deficits did the shingle in.

    "They had mostly broadcast network pilot situations," MRC TV head Samples says. "For all the talk of everything we've got going, we have just one traditional broadcast network pilot (Fox comedy "Outnumbered"). ... If I was sitting on five broadcast pilots, there would be a gun to my temple. That's a tough game."

    The emergence of a new player that comes to the field ready to finance TV production in a significant way is welcomed by Hollywood's creative community, particularly at a time of great upheaval in the biz.

    One of MRC TV's first big moves was landing a 13-episode order from ABC for an animated comedy, "The Goode Family," from "King of the Hill" vets John Altschuler, Dave Krinksy and Mike Judge. Altschuler and Krinksy, who penned the Will Ferrell hit "Blades of Glory," also have several feature projects in the hopper with MRC.

    MRC "is fulfilling a very important place in the business right now," Altschuler says.

    "You have to step out into the great unknown a little bit. You're betting on yourself. There's no overall deal, they're not paying a ton of money for a blind script. They're there for people who really feel a need to do something special. ... MRC is not going to put the studios out of business. It's just filling an area that I think needed to be filled."

    Wiczyk says the long-term goal for MRC's TV biz is to become a significant indie competitor to the majors in the way that Lorimar and Norman Lear's Embassy Communications were a generation ago.

    Of course the business landscape in the post fin-syn era of vertically integrated network and studio congloms is much different than in the late-'70s/early-'80s heyday of indie-financed TV. In success, industry observers say, MRC is sure to face some strong-arming from networks to give up stakes in its shows as the price of getting on the air.

    Samples sees a wide-open opportunity in the creator-friendly niche that MRC is firmly focused on honing.

    "One of the things that's happened in the past 10 to 15 years is, as companies got bigger, it was more difficult to have the kind of relationship where everybody felt really a part of the process," Samples says. "What we're trying to do is be a sort of streamlined studio, with the sales and financing process as close to the actual production process as we can get it."

    That means keeping talent invested in every aspect of decision-making on their product, Samples says.

    "The way we do it is not for everyone," he says. "For a ton of writers and creators, it doesn't make sense. The way we structure things, you need to be entrepreneurial, (and) have that independent spirit."

    Read the full article at:

  • A Production Venture for a Film Director

    M. Night Shyamalan is venturing out from behind the camera. Media Rights Capital, an independent film, television and digital studio, has announced the formation of the Night Chronicles, a new financing and production company in partnership with Mr. Shyamalan. He will oversee development and production at the company, which plans to produce one film a year over three years. The films will be based on stories and ideas from the director of “The Sixth Sense” and most recently “The Happening.” He will also be an owner of the films’ copyrights and retain artistic control while Media Rights Capital will engage distribution for each film.

  • Media Rights Capital announces “The Night Chronicles” Three Film Producing Deal with M. Night Shyamalan

    Media Rights Capital, the independent film, television and digital studio, today announced its latest project, THE NIGHT CHRONICLES, a new financing and production company in partnership with M. Night Shyamalan. The first activities will include one film per year over a three-year span, with Shyamalan overseeing all elements of development and production. The films will be based on stories and ideas created by the acclaimed director, who will hand pick the writers and directors for each of “THE NIGHT CHRONICLE” productions.
    “Media Rights Capital was founded on the premise that great artists must always be the driver of each and every project,” said Tory Metzger, President, MRC Films. “To be in partnership with M. Night Shyamalan, one of today’s top filmmakers, as he enters the next evolutionary phase of his career is both inspiring and makes very good business sense.”

    “There are only a handful of filmmakers alive whose names are universally evocative of a genre or type of film,” said Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, co-CEO’s of Media Rights Capital. “Night has accomplished what a lot of people only talk about—he has turned himself into a beloved and respected brand. It is a privilege to join him on this next adventure.”

    Consistent with other MRC projects, Shyamalan will co-own the films’ copyrights, retain artistic control and MRC will engage distribution for each film, strategically based on the ideal channel for each particular project. Shyamalan will begin the search for writers and directors immediately, and has hired Ashwin Rajan to oversee development.

    “Filmmakers have always been my inspiration,” Shyamalan expressed. ”Working with the next wave of innovative filmmakers will teach me many things that I can bring to my own writing/directing and give my stories the opportunity to be brought to the screen in a stunning way.”

    Shyamalan’s first R rated film and recently released, THE HAPPENING, earned over $30 million in it’s opening weekend in the US, was the #1 film overseas it’s opening weekend, and is about to cross the $150 million worldwide mark.

  • Night Falls for Media Rights; Shyamalan Teams for Producing Deal

    Media Rights Capital and M. Night Shyamalan have formed the Night Chronicles, a financing/production partnership intended to generate one thriller per year for three years.

    Shyamalan will produce but not direct, marking the first time he will produce a film he didn't write and helm. Shyamalan will create the stories and ideas for the films and pick the writers and directors; MRC will finance.

    Shyamalan and MRC will co-own the copyrights and retain artistic control.

    Two factors in particular attracted MRC to the filmmaker: Shyamalan typically generates more movie ideas than he can execute, since he writes, directs, produces and often acts in the films he makes. And he has a track record of bringing his films in on budget.

    The new venture marks the first major deal for Tory Metzger since she left CAA to become prexy of MRC Films, and she expects that Shyamalan will be very hands-on with the Night Chronicles product.

    "These films will be based on ideas in keeping with what has made Night so successful, and has made him unique to his time," Metzger told Daily Variety. MRC will set up each project for distribution when Metzger and co-CEOs Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu feel it's best for the film.The projects aren't formalized, and no writers have yet been hired, but Shyamalan has at least two ideas that could become films. The Night Chronicles will be based near Philadelphia, where the filmmaker lives and works. To oversee development, MRC has hired Ashwin Rajan, a veteran UTA agent who is Shyamalan's cousin.

    The MRC deal is the second Shyamalan has made recently that gives him a copyright ownership stake. His pact with India-based entertainment company UTV on "The Happening" gave Shyamalan a 25% ownership stake in the negative; that inventive deal gave the director his usual upfront fee but traded his first-dollar gross participation for an ownership stake and 50% of the film's revenue stream, once 20th Century Fox and UTV recouped budget and P&A costs.

    While the film hasn't performed as strongly as some of Shyamalan's past hits, "The Happening" cost around $50 million and is about to cross $150 million in worldwide gross. Shyamalan is in Japan to promote the film's opening there.

    "Filmmakers have always been my inspiration," Shyamalan said in a statement. "Working with the next wave of innovative filmmakers will teach me many things that I can bring to my own writing/directing and give my stories the opportunity to be brought to the screen in a stunning way."

    Shyamalan next directs "The Last Airbender," a live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon property. Paramount has skedded the film for release on July 2, 2010.

    MRC is in the midst of its most ambitious film slate since launching. The company has completed production on a half-dozen films ranging from the Robert Rodriguez-directed "Shorts" to "The Other Side of the Truth," which Ricky Gervais co-wrote and co-directed with Matthew Robinson, and has a handful of projects in the pipeline.

    MRC also recently launched its TV production slate that includes programming a Sunday-night primetime block for CW and has hatched digital projects that include an original animated series creation by "Family Guy's" Seth MacFarlane that will be distributed by Google and YouTube.

  • Tele Muenchen Takes Screenings Haul: EASY MONEY, RITA ROCKS Among Deals

    German rights giant Tele Muenchen Group opened up its checkbook at this year's Los Angeles Screenings, signing multiyear output deals with Media Rights Capital and ShineReveille International to come home with a suitcase stuffed with new U.S. series.

    TMG's deals are for all German-language rights and include the CW's "Easy Money," "I.M. Valentine" and "F.A.T. City," Fox's "Outnumbered," the Lifetime sitcom "Rita Rocks" and two animated series: HBO's "The Life & Times of Tim" and "The Goode Family," which airs on ABC.

  • TMG Picks Up U.S. Series: Programs Come From MRC, ShineReveille

    Herbert Kloiber’s Tele Muenchen Group has picked up German-language rights to a bundle of U.S. primetime series from Media Rights Capital and ShineReveille Intl.

    Package includes the CW’s “Easy Money,” “F.A.T. City” and private eye drama “I.M. Valentine,” Fox’s family skein “Outnumbered,” ABC’s “The Goode Family,” Lifetime’s “Rita Rocks,” HBO’s slacker laffer “The Life & Times of Tim” and Comedy Central’s upcoming medieval comedy “Krod Mandoon.”

    TMG sells programming to all of Germany's major channels while also operating its fully owned German and Austrian channels Tele 5 and ATV. Company also has a 31.5% stake in RTL 2.

  • Google and Creator of FAMILY GUY Strike a Deal

    LOS ANGELES — Google is experimenting with a new method of distributing original material on the Web, and some Hollywood film financiers are betting millions that the company will succeed.

    In September, Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy” on television, will unveil a carefully guarded new project called “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy.” Unlike “Family Guy,” which is broadcast on Fox, this animation series will appear exclusively on the Internet.

    The innovative part involves the distribution plan. Google will syndicate the program using its AdSense advertising system to thousands of Web sites that are predetermined to be gathering spots for Mr. MacFarlane’s target audience, typically young men. Instead of placing a static ad on a Web page, Google will place a “Cavalcade” video clip.

    Advertising will be incorporated into the clips in varying ways. In some cases, there will be “preroll” ads, which ask viewers to sit through a TV-style commercial before getting to the video. Some advertisers may opt for a banner to be placed at the bottom of the video clip or a simple “brought to you by” note at the beginning.

    Mr. MacFarlane, who will receive a percentage of the ad revenue, has created a stable of new characters to star in the series, which will be served up in 50 two-minute episodes.

    In an interview, he described the installments as “animated versions of the one-frame cartoons you might see in The New Yorker, only edgier.”

    For a more substantial fee, Mr. MacFarlane has been working with advertisers to animate original commercials that will run with “Cavalcade.” Google and Mr. MacFarlane would not reveal any of the advertisers, but the two said that several deals are among the largest ever landed by AdSense, which went into business in 2003.

    Google, which calls the distribution service the Google Content Network, until now has only dabbled in distributing original content. In May, it announced a deal with The Washington Post to distribute real estate listings from the newspaper’s Web site in a similar manner.

    But the partnership with Mr. MacFarlane represents a bold step into the distribution business, one that, if successful, will surely send shock waves through the entertainment business. “Cavalcade” is not only from a high-profile Hollywood talent, but also carries a multimillion-dollar production price tag, by far the largest amount spent on original Internet content to date.

    “We feel that we have recreated the mass media,” said Kim Malone Scott, director of sales and operations for AdSense.

    Until now, budgets for original Webisodes have peaked in the low six figures because creators have not been able to figure out a business model that allows for higher spending. Either advertisers have not wanted to pay, or it has been too difficult to attract a large enough audience to support the cost of television or movie-quality work.

    But Media Rights Capital, a boutique production company that has the ability to invest about $400 million a year in movies, television and Internet episodes, thinks it has figured out a sustainable business model with the Google Content Network. Every time someone clicks on one of the syndicated videos, the associated advertiser pays a fee, with shares going to Mr. MacFarlane, Media Rights, Google and the Web site that generated the click.

    “We believe the revenue could be formidable,” said Karl Austen, a lawyer who worked on the deal. “What is exciting is that this is a way to monetize the Internet immediately. Instead of creating a Web site and hoping Seth’s fans find it, we are going to push the content to where people are already at.”

    Media Rights sells the advertising inventory. Asif Satchu, the company’s co-chief executive, would not reveal how much advertisers were being asked to pay, except to say that it is “significantly higher” than if they were placing the same ad via AdSense.

    Hollywood’s powerful Endeavor talent agency helped shepherd Mr. MacFarlane through the negotiations, which started during a recent gap in the animator’s contract with 20th Century Fox. Mr. MacFarlane said he wanted to take a stab at an original Internet program because he was feeling constrained by the “taste police,” a k a the Federal Communications Commission.

    Sitting in his office wearing jeans and a white T-shirt, Mr. MacFarlane described feeling stifled as a comedian by an F.C.C. crackdown in recent years on what it views as unsuitable language and situations on television. Mr. MacFarlane said he believed that the public’s appetite for raunchy humor and coarse language was only expanding and that television networks like Fox were having a harder time capturing viewers in part because they had to tread carefully or risk fines.

    “I just felt I could be a lot more honest on the Internet,” he said.

    Mr. MacFarlane started the project on the assumption that he would do 20-minute television episodes and break them into segments to dole out online.

    “But that seemed a little odd and a little pointless,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you just release the whole thing at once?”

    Google executives also provided him with stacks of data showing how people interact with Web video, including how long the average user will watch before clicking on something new. That prompted Mr. MacFarlane to scrap his original project and rebuild the idea from the ground up.

    Each installment is different, but a typical one is titled “Mad Cow Disease.” The clip, which is 38 seconds long, opens with a news anchor reporting on an outbreak of mad cow disease in a dry fashion, detailing the debilitating effects of eating tainted beef. The clip cuts to a shocked male and female cow seated in a tidy kitchen with giant steaks on their plates.

    For Mr. MacFarlane, 34, the venture is more than just adding to his already sizable fortune. (His new multiyear contract with Fox, signed this spring, is valued at nine figures.) One goal is to use the venture as a testing ground for new material and a way to ignite attention. At the very least, “Cavalcade” will become a DVD, but the hope is that part of the series will click with audiences and perhaps lead to television or even animated movie projects.

    Indeed, in a watch-what-you-want, when-you-want world, the standard processes of rolling out new television programs are breaking down. Even a decade ago, putting a new show on a network schedule would assure that it would be exposed to most of the country; people would either respond or they wouldn’t. Today, with television ratings in particular dwindling, creators like Mr. MacFarlane have to find new ways to introduce new material.

    Nobody knows how content can catch fire in unexpected ways more than Mr. MacFarlane. In 2002, “Family Guy” was canceled for poor ratings after running for three seasons. But the irreverent series continued to make new fans through DVD sales. In 2005, Fox reversed itself, citing strong DVD sales, and “Family Guy” has gone on to be one of the biggest comedy hits on television.

  • Lifetime in Tune with RITA ROCKS

    Lifetime has picked up half-hour comedy "Rita Rocks" to series. The cable network ordered 13 episodes of the series, from MRC, for a fall premiere. "Rita" stars stars Nicole Sullivan as Rita Clements, who, unfulfilled by her harried life as a married working mom, regains her identity by re-creating her glory days as a musician in a garage band. Richard Ruccolo, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Kelly Gould and Raviv Ullman also star. "Rita" will air as part of a one-hour comedy block alongside off-net sitcom "Reba." "Our loyal viewers are fans of our comedy programming, and we know they will think Rita rocks too," Lifetime president of entertainment Susanne Daniels said. Added MRC Television president Keith Samples: " 'Rita Rocks' has found the perfect home at Lifetime."

  • MRC is the Toast of the TV Business

    It's now the sixth-largest supplier of primetime television programming. Yet few in Hollywood know anything about it.

    A year after entering TV, Media Rights Capital has landed series on ABC, HBO, Comedy Central and Lifetime. In the fall, MRC -- backed by AT&T, ad conglomerate WPP, Goldman Sachs and investment fund D.E. Shaw -- will program the CW's entire Sunday lineup.

    But despite scoring more new series orders this year than any major TV studio, MRC has kept an extremely low profile.

    The company operates behind an iron curtain, aggressively guarding information about its projects and financial structure. There will be no MRC name card onscreen and no producer credit for its TV topper Keith Samples on any of its shows.

    Despite the veil of secrecy, MRC has the industry talking.

    Many are welcoming a viable indie player in a marketplace dominated by vertically integrated conglomerates, and many believe MRC has fashioned a business model that will change television. But the indie's meteoric rise also has left some wondering whether it is growing too big too fast. Could MRC be another ATG?

    After a flying start in 1999, Michael Ovitz's Artists Television Group crashed and burned two years later, a victim of backing too many expensive series right off the bat without the support of an off-network revenue stream. In its first year, ATG scored a dozen pilots at all broadcast networks, five of which were ordered to series, including the comedy "Cursed" for NBC and Darren Star's drama "The Street" for Fox. Another, CBS' "The Ellen Show," was reworked and picked up the next season.

    This year, MRC's tally includes six scripted series, including Mike Judge's animated comedy for ABC "The Goode Family," and two reality shows.

    Additionally, MRC filmed two multicamera comedy pilots for Lifetime as part of a four-for-one deal, guaranteeing that one, probably "Rita Rocks," will go to series. The company's Fox comedy pilot "Outnumbered" is in midseason consideration and was featured last month at the network's upfront.

    MRC co-CEO Modi Wiczyk, a former Endeavor agent who launched MRC more than four years ago with his Harvard Business School classmate Asif Satchu, says the perception that the company might be doing too much too fast in television is "a little miscast." "We started thinking about going into television back in 2004-05 when we started laying the groundwork by selecting our investors such as WPP and building up the staff," he says. "We're out of the gate rather quickly, but we were in the gate for a long time, very carefully preparing." As with ATG, the danger with MRC's aggressive push in TV is that if it "deficits" too many shows -- meaning it loads up on expenses with the hope of recouping down the road -- it could get stuck with big losses if most get canceled quickly, as happened with ATG. None of ATG's shows lasted more than a season.

    But there are key differences between the MRC and ATG business models. ATG spent about $60 million in upfront costs on overall deals, outbidding the major studios to snag such big-name talent as Star, Mitch Hurwitz and Tom Fontana. It also was saddled with $5 million-$7 million in overhead from hiring top-notch executives for its team, led by former Columbia TriStar TV president Eric Tannenbaum.

    In contrast, MRC has little overhead and virtually no development costs. Its small TV team is led by Samples, a somewhat unorthodox choice given that his primetime experience comes primarily from directing episodes of WB Network series and consulting top showrunners on syndication sales. A syndie veteran, he founded and ran Rysher Entertainment until 1997, when he left to focus on his writing and directing career. Samples' association with MRC first surfaced in June 2007 in connection with MRC's unsuccessful bid to acquire the off-network rights to NBC's "The Office," which Samples orchestrated.

    Samples' team consists of a couple of lesser known executives, including head of production Jim Glander and production exec Brandon Hill.

    "We're not in the development business, we're in the episodic business," says Samples, who along with Wiczyk has received high marks from TV executives for his entreprenuerial skills.

    Indeed, MRC doesn't develop TV projects internally. It often picks up completed scripts, such as the animated comedies "Goode" or "The Life and Times of Tim," originally a 2007 Warner Bros. TV pilot for Fox. With rare exceptions, including "Outnumbered," MRC doesn't make pilots, opting for more cost-efficient straight-to-series orders. That is in sync with some broadcast networks' recent shift toward straight series orders from outside suppliers. MRC also is taking on challenges that traditional production outfits won't, like supplying a whole night for the CW, where the economics are so challenging that such major studios as 20th TV and Universal Media Studios generally won't produce shows for the network. MRC already is moving to expand the CW demographic on Sunday from 18-34 to 18-49 to attract more viewers and ad revenue.

    Instead of a development staff, MRC so far employs in-house nonwriting exec producers such as former studio execs Mindy Schultheis and Michael Hanel. MRC also doesn't offer upfront money to talent but rather profit participation. "Goode" co-creators Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky are rumored to own as much as half of the project's backend.

    "Sometimes, to get your foot in the door, you have to make deals you wouldn't normally make," one industry source says. But the practice of giving substantial profit participation to networks and talent also raises eyebrows.

    "Their business is crazy," a top network exec says. "They will be lucky to survive."

    Some high-level studio execs disagree with that assessment. "They're buying their way into the business with fees above normal and backend (payments) way above normal, but they can still make money," one says. "Now they have to get lucky and get a couple of hits. If they don't, their deficits will begin piling up like Mike Ovitz's ATG."

    Even with part of the episodic deficits covered by a distribution deal with Columbia TriStar TV, ATG's costs began to add up quickly with so many series, all of them on the deficit-heavy broadcast networks. MRC, on the other hand, is limiting its financial exposure by doing a mix of broadcast shows and less expensive cable series.

    It also retains international rights to its series and is selling the six ordered shows, plus "Rita Rocks" and midseason CW hopeful "F.A.T. City," through its deal with Elisabeth Murdoch's ShineReveille.

    Additionally, industry observers suspect that MRC's aggressive initial strategy of giving away ownership of its shows could be replaced by more standard business terms after the company establishes itself. Unlike Ovitz and his $100 million investment in ATG, MRC seems to be following Max Bialystock's two cardinal rules of producing: One: never use your own money. And two: never use your own money.

    MRC gets its backing from a syndicate of big-name investors who put up a $400 million annual fund; $250 million was allocated for an ambitious eight-picture feature slate featuring projects with the likes of Robert Rodriguez, Cameron Diaz and Sacha Baron Cohen.

    The company's track record in the field is mixed so far, with the critically acclaimed drama "Babel" and flops "Sleuth" and "Deception."

    On the TV side, it's too early to predict how successful MRC will be. "You can't judge us by one year," Wiczyk says. "We're going to have a lot of programming, a lot of ups and down. Let's see where we are four years from now." MRC and Endeavor: An evolving relationship Media Rights Capital boasts blue-chip financial backing from AT&T, WPP, Goldman Sachs and D.E. Shaw. But it's talent agency Endeavor, once a nonvoting minority investor in the company, that has attracted the most attention.

    In 2003, Endeavor provided seed money to its rising indie film financing agent Modi Wiczyk to launch MRC.

    Under California law, talent agencies are not allowed to produce or maintain an ownership interest in entertainment product. So a year ago, when MRC's ties to Endeavor came under media scrutiny, reps were emphatic in stressing that the company is a financier, not a producer. "We are not producorial," Wiczyk told The Reporter in April 2007.

    Now reps for MRC and Endeavor confirm that the talent agency is no longer an investor in the company.

    The financial split is said to be mutual, as MRC didn't want to be tied to one talent supplier and Endeavor didn't want to be tied to one buyer. (As with its movie division, most of MRC's TV projects have involved Endeavor clients.) Insiders also note that Endeavor's plan had always been merely to help MRC grow into a stand-alone business. Even with potential legal obstacles minimized, MRC still won't call itself a production company.

    "We're a sales entity, a source of capital and infrastructure for phsycial production, but the productions exist on their own," Wiczyk says. However, in the press release last month announcing the CW's deal with MRC, CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff referred to MRC as "the leading independent producer of television programming." MRC's series orders

    SCRIPTED Surviving Suburbia (CW, comedy, 13 episodes) Valentine, Inc. (CW, dramedy, 13 episodes) Easy Money (CW, drama, 13 episodes) The Goode Family (ABC, ani comedy, 13 episodes) The Life and Times of Tim (HBO, ani comedy, 10 episodes) Krod Mandoon (Comedy Central, comedy, 6 episodes) Rita Rocks (Lifetime, comedy, pending) F.A.T. City (CW, drama, pending) UNSCRIPTED

    In Harm's Way (CW, 10 episodes) Name That Tune (MTV, VH1, CMT, 19 episodes)

  • Canada's Rogers Media Buys U.S. Series; CW Lineup Part of ShineReveille Deal

    Canadian broadcaster Rogers Media has bought Media Rights Capital's scripted series slate, including the CW's Sunday night lineup, as part of a deal with Shine Reveille International.

    Toronto-based Rogers acquired the drama "Valentine Inc.," from Kevin Murphy ("Reaper"), and the midseason series "F.A.T. City," "Surviving the Filthy Rich" and "Easy Money."

    Rogers, which recently acquired five youth-skewing Citytv stations nationwide, also picked up the animated series "The Life and Times of Tim" and "The Goode Family," and the comedy series "Rita Rocks," "Outnumbered" and "Krod Mandoon." Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    The Canadian multi-title deal, coming out of the Los Angeles Screenings, follows Shine Reveille, the international sales and distribution arm of the Shine Group, forming a joint venture with Media Rights Capital to distribute its product internationally.

    Earlier, Rogers Media picked up NBC Universal's "Crusoe" for Friday at 8 p.m., and a handful of Fox midseason series that didn't go to rival CanWest Media.

    Besides the Citytv stations, Rogers Media owns and operates a string of Omni-branded multicultural TV stations; Rogers Sportsnet, Canada's regional sports channel; and the Shopping Channel.

  • Duo Sells Eight Series to Rogers; ShineReveille, MRC Pact with Canuck B'Caster

    In the first big announcement since ShineReveille and Media Rights Capital formed their joint venture this month, the combo has sold eight series to Canuck broadcaster Rogers Media Television for the 2008-09 season.

    The shows are drama series “I.M. Valentine,” “Easy Money” and “F.A.T. City”; animated skeins “The Life and Times of Tim” and “The Goode Family”; and the comedy series “Rita Rocks,” “Outnumbered” and “Krod Mandoon.”

    Accord reps the first major deal ShineReveille has inked with a Canuck broadcaster and the first time it has distributed scripted content for Media Rights Capital. Rogers owns the five City-TV stations, Rogers Sportsnet and the Shopping Channel.

  • MRC Pact is Haul of Pics: Agreement is With Universal to Distribute 20 Films

    Media Rights Capital's new deal with Universal represents the biggest rent-a-studio pact with a major since Disney joined hands with DreamWorks.
    Agreement calls for Universal to distribute 20 MRC pics over five years beginning in 2011. The deal ratchets up the relationship between MRC and U, who first joined forces on "Bruno," and are next set to collaborate on "The Adjustment Bureau," set for release Sept. 17.

    Previously, MRC has secured distribution on pic-by-pic basis. Warners, for example, distributed Robert Rodriguez's "Shorts," and Sony will handle "30 Minutes or Less," the upcoming comedy from "Zombieland" helmer Ruben Fleischer.

    The arrangement gives MRC access to studio distribution at a time when it has become more precious -- and this could help MRC entice stars to its productions. The deal does not preclude MRC from preselling pics domestically or worldwide.

    U will also benefit from MRC's ability to sign big stars without having to shoulder the cost for their paydays. MRC will pay the studio a flat distribution fee, as is typically the case for such arrangement.

    The scope of the deal is noteworthy. Paramount's old deal with Marvel, for example, covered five pics.

    MRC co-CEO Modi Wiczyk said the arrangement will enable to company to offer its creative partners greater choice and security. "It's a privilege to get a major studio distribution slot," he said. "You can count on one hand the names that have done deals like this," he added, citing Regency and DreamWorks.

    U intends to use the deal to expand its slate. It will not cut into the number of pics the studio makes; the studio intends to produce and distribute the same amount of films each year.

    U already plans to release the M. Night Shyamalan horror thriller, "Devil" for MRC. The studio also released Ricky Gervais' "Invention of Lying" internationally for MRC and recently acquired "Ted," written and directed by Seth MacFarlane.

  • Media Rights Capital Partners With Digital Star Amanda Congdon to Launch ‘Sometimes Daily’ Online Variety Show

    New York, NY (May 19, 2008) Media Rights Capital (“MRC”), the film, television and digital studio, today announced that it has partnered with digital star, Amanda Congdon, to launch “Sometimes Daily,” an innovative and breakthrough digital variety show. The new show will feature an off-beat, interactive format and explore a wide range of life's themes through the eyes of Amanda Congdon and the Sometimes Daily cast.
    From her beginnings as host of popular video blog ‘Rocketboom’ to her transition into mainstream media as ABC News’ first videoblogger and contributor, Amanda Congdon has made a career of connecting with people online. In her new show, Amanda will be an active part of the Sometimes Daily community through blogging, texting and interacting with her audience about weekly topics ranging from news, politics and the environment to money, fitness and technology. The new site, will go live in late May.

    "I'm very excited to be partnering with MRC and honored to be in such extraordinary company,” said Congdon. “MRC's innovative approach to the distribution and marketing of online content was an instant draw for me. Never before have I had the freedom or resources to make a show like Sometimes Daily. I'm looking forward to whipping out a couple of old moves, and trying out a bunch of new ones. It will be an adventure."

    “Amanda Congdon is the world’s first videoblog star and has had her finger on the pulse of the digital community almost as long as there’s been a digital community to entertain,” said Dan Goodman, President of Digital Media for MRC. “Our focus for Sometimes Daily will be taking a great proven digital talent like Amanda and offering MRC’s support and infrastructure to unleash her creatively to do what she does best.”

    “Very few people have been able to start careers online and break out solely through digital media the way Amanda Congdon has – she really is the definition of digital talent,” said Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, co-CEOs of MRC. “Amanda is a digital firecracker who understands the agility of the digital arena. Our goal is to provide her with the necessary tools, build a network of distribution partnerships and creative, unique advertising opportunities, that will get her out there among a broader, bigger audience.”

    MRC will have additional distribution announcements coming soon.


    CBS just picked up three more new series: dramas Rookies, now The 2-2, which is executive produced by Robert De Niro; and The Rememberer, now Unforgettable, which stars Poppy Montgomery; and David Hornsby's comedy How To Be a Gentleman. The trio joins drama Person of Interest and comedy Two Broke Girls, which were picked up Friday.

  • Lifetime Picks Up RITA ROCKS

    Lifetime has picked up its first original comedy in a decade, the laffer "Rita Rocks." Cabler have a 13-episode order to the sitcom, which comes from Media Rights Capital. "Rita Rocks" will premiere this fall, and be paired in a one-hour block with Lifetime's off-net run of "Reba."

    Nicole Sullivan stars in "Rita Rocks" as a working mom who recaptures her youth by forming a garage band. Richard Ruccolo and Tisha Campbell-Martin also star. "We've assembled a fantastic team in front of and behind the camera," said Lifetime Entertainment topper Susanne Daniels. MRC TV prexy Keith Samples said Lifetime repped the "perfect home" for "Rita Rocks."

    Stan Zimmerman and Jim Berg created the show and are exec producers, along with Jeffrey Hodes and Nastaran Dibai.

    Cast also includes Raviv Ullman and Kelly Gould. "Rita Rocks" joins Lifetime's growing stable of original programming, including "Army Wives," which just returned for a second season to smash ratings.

  • MRC, Second City Go Into QUARANTINE

    Media Rights Capital and the Second City are set to announce Wednesday that they are partnering on an online comedy venture.

    The project, dubbed "The Second City's Quarantine," will launch this year and feature original material from the improv troupe's current roster and alumni network, which includes Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Bob Odenkirk.

    MRC digital media president Dan Goodman said the talent involved in the project is being finalized and that the site should launch with six or seven "mini-shows."

    The venture will have a stand-alone site and also be syndicated through the Web.

    Goodman said there will be more announcements coming regarding distribution.

    Goodman added that the venture also will present "interesting and innovative" opportunities for marketers, and it plans to "bring brands into the story." It's a natural fit for the Second City, he said, which has a division devoted to corporate events and training.

    "They really understand how to bring creativity and humor into the corporate environment," Goodman said.

    Formed by University of Chicago students in the late 1950s, Second City has touring companies, theaters in several cities and a TV, film and new-media division with offices in Los Angeles.

    MRC already has announced digital deals with Raven-Symone and "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane.

  • MRC Announces Tory Metzger to Lead the Studio's Film Division

    New York, NY (May 5, 2008) Media Rights Capital (MRC), the leading independent film, television and digital studio, today announced that Tory Metzger has joined the company as president of MRC film group. Metzger will supervise MRC's existing slate (including films from Robert Rodriguez, Ricky Gervais, Cameron Diaz, and Sacha Baron Cohen, Walter Salles and Bennett Miller).
    Metzger joins MRC directly from a 16-year tenure at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where she worked with artists including Tom Cruise, Ang Lee, Cameron Crowe, Peter Hedges, Robert Benton, Betty Thomas, Spike Jonze, Callie Khouri, Edgar Wright, Richard Lagravenese, James Schamus, John Wells, Nicole Holofcener, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher.

    “We are extremely proud to welcome Tory to MRC. At its heart, our business is about putting the artist first. Who better to lead our film group than someone who has fought tirelessly for, and is greatly respected by, many of the greatest artists of our generation? Combining Tory's tenacity with MRC's capital and infrastructure will ideally make MRC Films a strong, safe place for filmmakers to fulfill their vision," said Asif Satchu and Modi Wiczyk, co-CEOs of MRC.

    “I am very excited about working with the team at MRC,” said Metzger. “In the same way that I patterned my own career as agent/advisor, MRC has been built on a foundation of partnering with some of the most artistically respected talent in the movie industry and I look forward to helping build on that foundation and expanding it through the relationships I have been fortunate to develop over the past 16 years. I also want to thank all of my colleagues at CAA for helping me achieve some of my greatest career moments. They are an amazing group of people and I will miss working with them on the inside, although I have a feeling we will be speaking almost daily in my new role at MRC.”

    Prior to joining CAA, Metzger was an agent at United Talent Agency. She is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and serves on the Advisory Council for the University of California, Santa Barbara Film School. In 2006, Metzger was named to The Hollywood Reporter’s annual “Women In Entertainment Power 100” and was previously recognized in Filmmaker Magazine as one of the leading agents in the independent film industry. In her tenure at CAA, was intimately involved with the Academy Award nominated films “Brokeback Mountain”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, and “Jerry Maguire." She helped package Paramount’s “World Trade Center” and Paramount/Dreamworks' "Castaway", Warner Bros. films “P.S. I Love You” and “Freedom Writers”; and was a key dealmaker for "Hitch", “Almost Famous”, “Dan in Real Life”, “Pieces of April”, "Adaptation",“Being John Malkovich and Edgar Wright's Working Title current production "Scott vs. the Real World.”

    In her executive role at MRC, Metzger will sit on the greenlight committee, and enjoy the support of a substantial team, including Physical Production, International Sales and Marketing, and Legal Affairs. As is customary with all MRC films, Metzger will be in a position to offer meaningful ownership to artists, and custom build distribution as appropriate for each film.

  • The Second City Partners with Media Rights Capital In Online Venture Showcasing Original Comedy Content

    Chicago, IL (May TK, 2008) Media Rights Capital (“MRC”), the film, television and digital studio, today announced that it has partnered with comedy powerhouse, The Second City, in “The Second City’s Quarantine,” a new online venture that will showcase original comedy content. The new online entertainment site will feature original performances from The Second City’s current roster of talent, as well as members of its extensive alumni network. The partnership was announced by both companies today. Under the new partnership, fully scripted, high production mini-shows will be created under The Second City umbrella. The Second City has a built-in fan base that is ripe for engaging with comedy online. Its website currently receives several million visitors every month interested in new content, and The Second City’s Quarantine will capitalize on this increasing demand. “This is an exciting development and core to our strategy,” said Andrew Alexander, Owner and Executive Producer of The Second City. “We have a huge pipeline of talent in our system — literally hundreds of writers and performers in an extensive network of young artists and alumni. We’re uniquely positioned to meet the huge appetite for short form content, whether that means cross-channel efforts, promotion, or myriad other creative opportunities.” "The Second City has been delivering the best comedic talent for decades,” said Dan Goodman, President of Digital Media for MRC. “Our combined effort will bring actors and writers from their stages directly to offices and living rooms of their fans everywhere. We're thrilled to help launch a new platform for The Second City's celebrated brand, bringing its humor to a medium perfectly suited to embrace it." “As illustrated by all of our deals, MRC looks for the talent that is at the top of its field,” said Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, co-CEOs of MRC. “The Second City is not only legendary, they are a continuously evolving institution who have remained on the cutting edge of comedy. With a comedy roster that is both rooted in the Aykroyd/Belushi generation to today's creative genius of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, The Second City is the ideal partner as we enter the digital comedy landscape.” "The Second City's path to growth has been a diverse one - in areas of training and education, brand marketing and customized product development,” added Alexander. “We aren't establishing a new division with MRC, rather, we'll be able to apply a deeply strategic new media capability across all our core businesses - all of this while creating hilarious comedy representative of our unique point of view." The Second City is best known for its nearly 50-year legacy of developing improvisational talent and for the Emmy-Award winning classic television series, SCTV. The partnership with MRC will be shepherded by Lowell Mate, Executive Producer of Second City Entertainment. Production for The Second City’s Quarantine will take place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Toronto. Launch of the new site is expected in the latter part of 2008.

  • Webby Award for Film and Video Person of the Year to Seth MacFarlane for his 'Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy'


    The Webby Awards is thrilled to honor Seth MacFarlane with the Webby Award for Film and Video Person of the Year, in recognition of his Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy animated videos distributed through Google's content network and on Truly embracing the power of the Internet to reach an audience, MacFarlane has boldly stepped into the arena of original web content-meets-advertising, successfully lending his creativity and humor to a burgeoning industry.

  • Media Rights Capital and ShineReveille Intl. Announce Joint Venture for International Distribution

    Media Rights Capital (MRC), the leading independent film, television and digital studio, and ShineReveille International, the international sales and distribution arm of the Shine Group, today announced a joint venture for international distribution of their television content.
    The partnership creates the largest independent distribution stream of scripted broadcast content on the international television market. MRC's scripted and non-scripted slate for the upcoming 2008-2009 seasons includes such highlights as The Goode Family on ABC, Outnumbered on Fox, The Life and Times of Tim on HBO, Rita Rocks on Lifetime, and additional network programs that will be announced at the upfronts in New York. ShineReveille represents a programming slate from a wide array of independent producers and broadcast networks, including The Listener on NBC, The Moment of Truth on Fox, American Gladiators on NBC and MasterChef on the BBC.

    ShineReveille will unveil the company's complete line-up of shows, including several new scripted series, when international acquisition executives arrive in Los Angeles for the annual May screenings next month, when major U.S. program suppliers preview their new fall shows each year.

    "This joint venture enables us to undertake our own international distribution with partners who are like-minded about the future of the television business," said Asif Satchu, co-CEO of MRC. "This is one of those rare situations where everything about the deal makes perfect sense for all parties."

    "We are delighted to join forces with Liz, Chris and the rest of the ShineReveille team," said Keith Samples, President of MRC TV. "The production and distribution of television content is increasingly a global business and this venture creates a strong global distribution operation with a deep roster of quality programs."

    "We are proud to be partnering with MRC, an independent company that like our own understands the importance of holding on to rights for both financial and creative reasons," said Elisabeth Murdoch, chairman and CEO of the Shine Group. "ShineReveille is a producer-led distribution company and this is a natural fit for both companies."

    "This partnership cements our standing as one of the world's leading distribution organizations, not only for unscripted content, but now for network scripted series as well," said Chris Grant, president of ShineReveille International. "It allows us the unique opportunity to provide our clients worldwide with an even more diverse range of content and the best that scripted television has to offer."

    Grant will oversee sales for the joint venture beginning immediately, including select third party opportunities. Samples will continue to seek talent partners and new properties and MRC will continue to finance and develop programming.

  • Mike Judge Setting Up EXTRACT

    Mike Judge will direct and Jason Bateman will star in the comedy "Extract," the first project to be produced under Judge's new shingle, Ternion Prods., which he formed with writer-producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky.

    Ternion is fully financed to develop film, TV, digital and new-media projects through a finance and development deal with Media Rights Capital. The shingle will also produce films and TV projects through the traditional studio and network route.

    Penned by Judge, "Extract" explores what it's like to be the boss when everything seems to be shifting around you.

    Miramax will distribute in North America.

    Altschuler is producing alongside Michael Rotenberg. Tom Lassally and Krinsky exec produce.

    Ternion is bringing its first series to the smallscreen under its deal with MRC. "The Goode Family," which will air on ABC, was created by Altschuler, Judge and Krinsky, who are also exec producing along with Rotenberg and Lassally. The series is currently in production on its first 13 episodes and will bow in the first quarter of 2009.

    MRC has also preemptively acquired Altschuler and Krinsky's spec film script "Brigadier Gerard." Comedy is set in the Napoleonic era and is based on a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle. Ternion is attaching a director to shoot in 2009.

    Judge, who wrote and directed "Office Space," is the creator of "Beavis and Butthead" and "King of the Hill," which he produced with Altschuler and Krinsky.

    Altschuler and Krinsky wrote "Blades of Glory" and are penning "Brothers of Invention" in addition to finishing work on "The Jetsons."

    Bateman next will be seen in "Hancock" alongside Will Smith and in the Kevin MacDonald-helmed political drama "State of Play."

  • Ricky Gervais TRUTH Acquired by Universal

    Universal Pictures International has acquired all international distribution rights to the Ricky Gervais comedy "This Side of the Truth," from Media Rights Capital. Warner Bros. already has domestic distribution. The comedy is produced by Lynda Obst and Oly Obst. Dan Lin is executive producer.

    "Truth" stars Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe and Louis C.K., and features an all-star comedy supporting cast. The movie marks Gervais' feature directing debut ad begins shooting April 14 in Boston.

    The deal between MRC and Universal Pictures is the second in less than a year. Universal acquired Sacha Baron Cohen's "Bruno" from Media Rights Capital in early 2007 for distribution domestically and across English-speaking territories (including North America), as well as Germany and the Benelux territories.

  • Universal Pictures Acquires International Rights from Media Rights Capital

    Universal Pictures International has acquired all international distribution rights to "This Side of the Truth," from Media Rights Capital, the independent film, television and digital studio. The comedy is produced by Lynda Obst and Oly Obst. Dan Lin is executive producer. “This Side of the Truth” stars Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe and Louis C.K., and features Tina Fey, Christopher Guest, Jeffrey Tambor, John Hodgman and Jonah Hill. Gervais and Matthew Robinson wrote the script together and will co-direct, marking Gervais’ feature directing debut. Shooting begins April 14 in Boston. Jason Resnick, Universal Pictures’ Senior Vice President and General Manager, Worldwide Acquisitions, brought the project to the studio.
    The transaction between Media Rights Capital and Universal Pictures marks the second major deal between the two companies in less than a year. Universal Pictures acquired Sascha Baron Cohen's "Bruno" from Media Rights Capital in early 2007 for distribution domestically and across English-speaking territories (including North America), as well as Germany and the Benelux territories.

    The newly acquired Gervais-Robinson comedy takes place in a world where everybody tells the truth. Gervais plays a storyteller who stumbles upon his ability to lie and uses it to change his life and that of the world around him.

    Said Christian Grass, President of International Production and Acquisitions for Universal Pictures International, “Ricky Gervais is a tremendous international star and a wonderfully original comedic voice. We are very pleased to be distributing this movie internationally, where his reputation, as well as the outstanding work of the other cast members, will bring great awareness to this project.”

    "Partnering with talent like Ricky Gervais enables us to pursue the right distribution partners for our properties," said MRC co-CEO's Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu. "We have already been to the dance with Universal Pictures and know that they are the right distribution partner for this property and will take the same pride in distributing it that we and our artists partners have taken in its creation and production."

  • Hollywood's Endangered Entrepreneurs

    It’s hard to imagine New Line Cinema without Bob Shaye, its prickly paterfamilias. The company is being absorbed into Time Warner’s Warner Bros. film division, with Shaye and most of the employees being cast adrift. Long after he’d sold his company in 1993, Shaye continued to treat New Line as his personal mom-and-pop movie store.

    During the company’s “Lord of the Rings” heyday, Shaye would host a pre-Oscar party at his stylish home off Mulholland Drive. One night I found myself chatting with the New Line founder when one of his aides scurried over, eyes bright with big news. Shaye’s then boss, Time Warner chieftain Richard Parsons, had arrived. “Shall I bring him over?” the aide asked breathlessly.

    Irritated at being interrupted, Shaye waved him away, saying, “He can wait.”

    As the curtain rings down on New Line, a bigger question remains: Is there still room for entrepreneurs in today’s corporate entertainment business? One thing seems certain. The new breed of entrepreneur will look very different from the generation that produced Shaye and others like him.

    Rumpled and shaggy, rarely seen in a business suit, Shaye was unimpressed by the corporate pashas who run today’s media conglomerates. Shaye tended to trust his own instincts, sometimes for the best – being the only person in Hollywood willing to let Peter Jackson make his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy – and sometimes for the worse, hastening his demise by ducking out last year to direct a flop (“The Last Mimzy”) at a time when New Line was in a downward spiral.

    Most of the stories about New Line’s demise last week focused on the company’s recent string of failures. But New Line left us with an impressive body of work because it was run by an entrepreneur always willing to roll the dice. Aided by his longtime production chief, Michael DeLuca, who left the studio in 2001, Shaye helped create the modern-day comedy business, making stars out of Jim Carrey (“The Mask”), the Farrelly brothers (“Dumb and Dumber”), Mike Myers (“Austin Powers”), Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour”) and Will Ferrell (“Elf”).

    New Line championed a host of young African American talent, making such films as “Menace II Society,” “Set It Off” and the “Friday” series. It also showcased the work of such daring filmmakers as John Waters, Robert Altman, Terrence Malick and Paul Thomas Anderson.

    Never blessed with the glad-handing skills of Harvey Weinstein, Shaye drove Anderson away by trying to edit his last film, got sued by Jackson over profits from “Rings,” alienated the Farrellys and lost most of his comedy stars to bigger studios who offered higher salaries and fewer blunt Shaye-style critiques of their work.

    STILL, historians will look back at the last few years as a pivotal moment in the movie business. Shaye was the last of Hollywood’s true owner-entrepreneurs, bowing out just two years after DreamWorks’ founders sold their studio to Viacom and three years after Harvey and Bob Weinstein were forced out of Miramax after years of battles with the studio’s Disney owners.

    In a way, Shaye’s struggles with Time Warner weren’t so different from David Geffen’s spitting match last summer with Sumner Redstone or the Weinsteins’ bickering with then Disney czar Michael Eisner. Entrepreneurs often have seller’s remorse – just ask Ted Turner, the colorful creator of CNN, who fumed for years after selling his company to Time Warner in 1996. (Shaye would probably still be around if Turner, who bought New Line in 1993, hadn’t sold his empire to Time Warner.) When you’ve built something from the ground up, it’s hard to take orders from a corporate overlord whose priorities involve schmoozing stock analysts and boosting quarterly earnings.

    “New Line was always an extension of Bob’s own passions and desire,” says Brett Ratner, who made five films at the studio, including the “Rush Hour” series. “At other studios, I deal with people who have to report to GE or Time Warner, but at New Line, if I wanted an actor and the money wasn’t in the budget, I’d just call Bob and it was either yes or no. I was asking the guy who bought the first pencil at the company. You felt like you were making a movie for Jack Warner or Sam Goldwyn. The company had a face, and it was Bob’s.”

    A business of constant change, show business rewards new energy and fresh ideas. In the record business, the original label founders have all cashed out. The new entrepreneurs are often performers themselves, with hip-hop artists like Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and Eminem leading the way, having turned themselves into brands far more familiar than the faceless conglomerates they make records for.

    In TV, the new entrepreneurs are reality TV impresarios like Mark Burnett, who created “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” and Ben Silverman, who built a business out of hit shows imported from other cultures, notably “The Office” and “Ugly Betty,” before taking the reins of NBC Entertainment. Silverman has a kindred spirit in Roy Lee, who created a business out of selling the studios American movie remake rights to Asian thrillers, a cross-cultural adaptation process that brought us “The Departed,” “The Grudge” and “The Ring.”

    One of the boldest innovators in today’s Hollywood is Mark Cuban, whose entrepreneurial spirit led him to build a vertically integrated business with an indie film production company, a growing chain of theaters and the HDNet satellite-TV network. And where would we be without Apple’s Steve Jobs, who has created a string of potent new brands, the iPod, the iTunes music store and Pixar, whose animated films have an unparalleled record of critical and box-office success?

    What is the common denominator here? “It always seems to come back to new technology,” says Jordan Levin, former head of the WB network, who is now the chief executive of Generate, a new media production and management firm. “Whether it’s the early movie theater owners, the early broadcast TV titans and cable entrepreneurs, they were people taking risks on something new.”

    If I were picking one team of young entrepreneurs to watch over the next few years, it would be Modi Wiczyk, 36, and Asif Satchu, 37. They are the duo behind Media Rights Capital, a financing company that, having attracted a big chunk of Wall Street and private equity money, is backing a slate of ambitious pictures by such filmmakers as Robert Rodriguez, Walter Salles, Todd Field and Ricky Gervais. It has also become a leading independent supplier of TV programming and is moving into digital entertainment.

    Most entrepreneurs are people with one big idea. For Wiczyk, “it’s not when a person owns an idea so much as when an idea owns you. We’ve been talking about this company since our first year of business school, to build a partnership directly with talent so that artists can own their own work.”

    Adecade ago, Wiczyk wrote an influential memo laying out MRC’s big idea – that with studios less willing to take risk than ever, there would be room for new companies to attract financing and develop their own talent relationships, essentially making the pictures themselves. The studios would simply distribute the end product, but the talent and MRC would keep creative control as well as eventual ownership of the film.

    It’s a classic entrepreneurial play, with MRC raising independent capital and betting on their creative instincts. In a way, it’s not so different from how Shaye started 40 years ago when he was as young and restless as the MRC duo is today. In Hollywood, history keeps repeating itself. Or as Satchu puts it: “The business has a history of people crashing through the brick wall that kept them out and then building a new wall around them to keep the business going.”

    The new boys on the block look to the entrepreneurs of the past for their inspiration, whether it is the first generation of movie moguls or Rupert Murdoch, who has gone from newspapers to television to satellites to MySpace.

    “People thought Ted Turner was a lunatic when he started a 24-hour news channel, but he was just ahead of everyone else,” says Wiczyk. “So was Bob Shaye with New Line. Look at what that company achieved. It’s an incredibly strong testament to the value of being an entrepreneur.”

    Maybe that’s some consolation to Shaye: His company dies, but his spirit lives on.

  • MRC Producing Judge Toon for ABC

    After making its mark in film, indie studio Media Rights Capital is now mounting a strong smallscreen push, starting with a 13-episode order from ABC for a new animated series from Mike Judge. "The Goode Family," which is also from "King of the Hill" exec producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, reps the first animated project for Judge since "Hill" launched in 1997.

    Headlines from the deal also include a 10-episode order for an animated series at HBO, as well as a high-concept scripted laffer at Comedy Central.

    In addition, Lifetime has agreed to a blind series deal with MRC. NBC and Fox also have scripts in the works from the company; at the same time, MRC has struck business partnerships with scribes such as "The Sopranos" team of Diane Frolov and Andy Schneider.

    Most of MRC's content is being self-financed via the same mix of private equity and other investment that's driven its film slate. "We've got a $250 million film slate, millions in digital and investors like Goldman Sachs and other players," MRC co-chief executive officer Modi Wiczyk said. "We're a different kind of studio, financially equipped to capitalize on opportunity. Capital is not constrained here."

    What's more, MRC's recent interim agreement with the WGA has allowed the company to get a head start on production while most of the town has remained crippled by the strike, according to MRC television prexy Keith Samples. As a result, shows like "The Goode Family" are already back to work, even before the strike ends. "As a practical matter, signing the waiver gave us a big advantage in getting going on a lot of these things that were sitting on hold," he said. "It allowed us to start working on projects and get some traction." As for the specifics of MRC's slate, ABC's "The Goode Family" marks the Alphabet's first stab at an animated show since "Clerks." Show centers on a do-gooder family that tries to do the right thing in all facets of life. MRC will handle overseas distribution of the project. "The Goode Family's" Altschuler and Krinsky are also at work on a film project for MRC.

    HBO, meanwhile, is making MRC's "The Life and Times of Tim" its first animated series since 1997's "Spawn." Created (and voiced) by former ad exec Steve Dilderian, laffer revolves around a single, offbeat guy living in Gotham whose instincts lead him down the wrong paths in life.

    "Tim," set to begin a 10-episode run this summer, will be exec produced by Dilderian, Werner, Jimmy Miller and Mike Clements. Project was first developed by Fox and Warner Bros. TV; WBTV still maintains a passive stake in the show.

    Also getting a series order: MRC's "Krod Mandoon," a six-episode live-action laffer for Comedy Central that's slated for an early 2009 debut. Peter Knight created and will exec produce the series, a workplace comedy set in the Middle Ages.

    At Lifetime, MRC has pacted with Lifetime for a blind three-for-one series deal. Studio will shoot three comedy pilots for the cabler, which has agreed to order at least one to series this fall.

    Also in the works at MRC: Fox is developing three projects with the studio.

    "DNA" is a one-hour drama from Frolov and Schneider that's being produced in conjunction with U.K. production shingle Hat Trick. On the comedy front, Steve Levinson ("Entourage") is exec producing the scripts "Loaded" and "Pedro" via MRC.

    NBC has acquired an untitled half-hour comedy from scribe Eric Zickland and thesp Dave Koechner.

    As previously reported, MRC is behind MTV Networks' remake of "Name That Tune," which will air distinct versions on MTV, CMT and VH1 (Daily Variety, Oct. 23).

  • MRC TV Studio Announces Full Line-Up of Television Projects for Major Broadcast and Cable Networks

    MRC, the independent film, television and digital studio, today announced a broad line-up of television productions to be distributed across broadcast networks and major cable outlets. The spectrum of programming includes scripted comedies and dramas, original animated series, and a newly conceived, classic game show.
    Similar to the production financing for its film and digital content, MRC’s television production deals consist of partnerships with top creative talent, including Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky; ENTOURAGE executive producer Steve Levinson; SOPRANOS writers Diane Frolov and Andy Schneider; award-winning ad exec turned TV creator Steve Dildarian; and UK-based Hat Trick Productions.

    “This complement of productions is a reflection of MRC’s commitment to independent, creator-driven partnerships,” said Keith Samples, MRC’s President of Television. “These are great shows created by people we are excited to be partnered with.”

    MRC television studio’s major broadcast network productions include six series that have been sold to three major broadcast networks – FOX, ABC, and NBC:

    • ABC has purchased a 13-episode order of MRC television studio’s THE GOODE FAMILY, a primetime animated series, created by comedy trio Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky and executive produced by Michael Rotenberg and Tom Lassally at 3Arts.

    • DNA, a one-hour drama from SOPRANOS creatives Andy Schneider and Diane Frolov, in partnership with Hat Trick, has been sold to the FOX Broadcasting Company. MRC also has partnered with Hat Trick on a U.S. version of the hit British sitcom OUTNUMBERED. The show will be written for American television by veteran comedy writer Larry Levin.

    • Two scripted half hour programs, LOADED and PEDRO, both executive produced by Steve Levinson have also been sold to FOX. LOADED follows the lives of four young, long-time friends who suddenly become rich beyond their wildest dreams when they sell the company they have built together. PEDRO, inspired by a Spanish-language television novella, follows the life of a naive young immigrant with a heart of gold.

    • NBC has acquired a yet-to-be-titled half-hour comedy series by actor Dave Koechner and writer Eric Zickland.

    • MRC has entered into a co-production with ABC Studios for the scripted comedy HOW NOT TO LIVE YOUR LIFE, which will makes its debut on ABC later this year.

    Among cable offerings, MRC television studio announced the following:

    • Under a unique cross-network arrangement between MRC and MTV Networks, MRC is producing 19 original episodes of the classic music-themed game show NAME THAT TUNE. MTV, VH-1 and CMT will air 18 episodes – six on each network – and the series finale 19th episode, featuring the winners from each of the individual networks, will air across all three outlets.

    • A new animated comedy, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TIM, will premiere in June on HBO. The 10-episode series, created by multiple Clio Award winning ad exec Steve Dilderian, follows the offbeat life of a single 20-something guy living and working in New York. MRC will produce the program as well as distribute internationally.

    • KROD MANDOON, a scripted action comedy for Comedy Central, has received a six-episode order for late fall. The show is a Medieval-period workplace comedy centered on a misfit band on resistance fighters trying to save the Kingdom. It was created by Peter Knight who will executive produce.

    • Finally, MRC has also entered into an agreement with Lifetime Television to produce three comedy pilots for the network. Under the agreement, at least one of the three will be ordered to series for a launch this fall.

    “We are extremely proud, not only of the breadth and quality of MRC’s first television slate, but also by the presence of some of the biggest and most innovative networks among the purchasers of our programming,” said Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, co-CEOs of MRC. “We see this slate, with each offering a unique pairing of top creative talent and strategic distribution, as an apt reflection of the philosophy we have employed in film and digital content. We look forward to generating more talent partnerships for independent television content and to expanding our relationships with an ever-changing distribution network.”

  • Striking Up the MRC Brand

    Media Rights Capital has hired online-media veteran William H. Masterson III to wrangle brands for its Internet efforts.

    Masterson has joined as executive vp digital content partnerships after stints with United Online and Time Warner-owned

    In keeping with MRC's mandate to partner with talent on film, TV and online fronts, Masterson's task will be to connect brands seeking unique integration opportunities directly with the creators and performers of slated projects.

    For instance, Raven-Symone has been aligned with AT&T, an investor in MRC along with WPP and Goldman Sachs. Masterson cited a good fit between the teen-friendly star and AT&T's efforts in wireless devices that has become a fixture among that demographic.

    "We want to bring a brand in that won't just partner with Raven but can actually enhance the quality and user experience to be more relevant to the experience," Masterson said.

  • Spyglass, MRC Ink Their Own Deals with WGA

    Spyglass Entertainment and Media Rights Capital on Monday became the latest companies to sign interim agreements with the WGA, allowing writers to work on productions, effective immediately.

    WGA West president Patric Verrone said the MRC agreement is similar to the terms of the Worldwide Pants, United Artists and Weinstein Co. deals with the WGA, which offer writers 2.5% of a distributor's gross for the reuse of television productions online and 2% of a distributor's gross for reuse of theatrical films online.

    Additionally, the WGA signed an interim agreement with Spyglass Entertainment, a production company headed by Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber.

    The MRC deal is similar to the three previously announced interim contracts in giving writers a minimum for original content made for the Internet, one of MRC's main aims in several deals. MRC and Google made a deal in August to distribute exclusive original digital content from "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane online. MacFarlane was instrumental in helping forge the deal, MRC co-CEOs Asif Satchu and Modi Wiczyk said.

    MRC recently signed a three-picture distribution deal with Warner Bros. for Richard Kelly's horror film "The Box," starring Cameron Diaz; Robert Rodriguez's family fantasy "Shorts"; and "This Side of the Truth," starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner. The deal between MRC and the WGA will allow any needed rewrites on these projects, which ironically could benefit Warners, one of the major companies targeted by the WGA.

    Verrone said that, concerning the Internet part of the deal, MRC is unique among the companies making deals in that it has about a dozen Internet production deals in addition to about 10 feature films and 10 TV series that would fall under the agreement.

  • Guild Signs Interim Pact with Media Rights Capital

    The Writers Guild of America has signed an interim agreement with Media Rights Capital, a new independent film finance and production company. The company, which works with such creative artists as Larry David and Ricky Gervais, is financing various films, TV shows and several original online programs, including animated shows by "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane.

    "This is an exciting agreement that will open up opportunities for writers, especially in new media," said Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East. "We know that Guild members will be eager to be a part of the MRC creative team."

    The guild also has signed similar agreements with David Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, the Weinstein Co. and United Artists. The agreements contain terms that Hollywood's striking writers were seeking in talks with studios that collapsed last month and are intended to apply pressure on studios to return to the bargaining table.

    The agreements, however, will be superseded by any deal the guild eventually strikes with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

  • WGA and MRC announce interim agreement

    You gotta love the entrepreneurial nature of this business. First Tom Cruise's nascent production company announces a deal with the Writers Guild of America, turning on a veritable screenwriters' spigot that poured out thousands of scripts for United Artists, which Cruise co-runs with Paula Wagner. Then The Weinstein Co., which has had its own fair share of turbulence since splitting from Walt Disney, signs a deal. And now, Media Rights Capital, a burgeoning company — they like to be called a "mini-studio" but are best known for the $40 million deal they struck with Universal for Sacha Baron Cohen's upcoming Bruno feature — has inked an independent agreement with the WGA. The deal is similar to the ones signed by UA and David Letterman's Worldwide Pants and will enable the company to continue putting projects together for clients such as Cohen, Seth MacFarlane, and director Richard Kelly.
    What is unique about the timing of this deal is that MRC has three projects in the works that will be distributed by Warner Bros. Production has already begun on Kelly's The Box, starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, and now Robert Rodriguez's family film Shorts and Ricky Gervais' This Side of the Truth, starring Jennifer Garner, can get back to work with writers on board. Both movies are fully-financed MRC films, but as distributor, Warner Bros. — an AMPTP member — will also reap the benefits from MRC's deal with the WGA.

  • Writers Guild of America and MRC Announce Interim Agreement

    The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and MRC, the independent film, television, and digital studio, have reached a comprehensive interim agreement that forges a new alliance between writers, producers, and financiers in the production of feature films, television shows, and digital programs.
    "This is an exciting agreement that will open up opportunities for writers, especially in New Media," said Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West and Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East. "We know that Guild members will be eager to be a part of the MRC creative team."

    "MRC operates from two basic concepts and this agreement is a natural extension of that ethos: we treat talent as our partners and we maximize distribution across all digital, film and television platforms," said MRC co-CEO’s Asif Satchu and Modi Wiczyk. "As with all of our partnerships, we could not have accomplished this agreement without creative talent. In this case, we especially want to thank our colleague Seth MacFarlane for helping pave the way with the WGA and also to the leaders of the Guild who worked with the utmost professionalism."

    The terms of the agreement are similar to the Guild's recent deals with Worldwide Pants and United Artists. An executive summary of the Worldwide Pants agreement can be found at

  • Warner Bros. Pictures To Distribute Three MRC Films

    Burbank, CA, December 5, 2007 – Warner Bros. Pictures and Media Rights Capital, the independent film, television and digital studio, today announced that Warner Bros. Pictures will distribute three MRC films. Warner Bros. Pictures will handle worldwide distribution of Shorts, written and directed by Robert Rodriguez as well as domestic distribution of The Box, written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella; and This Side of the Truth, starring Ricky Gervais and co-written and directed by Gervais and Matthew Robinson.
    Additionally, Warner Bros. Pictures has partnered with Ted Field’s Radar Pictures to co-finance The Box and with the yet-to-be named production company formed by the Studio’s recent deal with the Abu Dhabi Media Company and Hunt Lowry to co-finance Shorts. The Weinstein Company is representing The Box in the international market and the sales process for international distribution for This Side of the Truth will begin shortly.

    “All three projects are led by talented artists who are among the most creative and diverse voices in film today, and we are honored to be working with all of them,” said Modi Wiczyk, co-CEO of MRC. “These distribution agreements ensure not only that their unique visions will be fully realized, but also that the success of their work will be rewarded as stakeholders in their own films.”

    “Warner Bros. stepped up to our plate early and with everything we look for in a partner, the right home for talent, the right territories, the right mindset in selling a film,” said Asif Satchu, co-CEO of MRC. “From our perspective, this deal makes sense at every level and we couldn’t be happier being in business with such a stellar team.”

    “These films represent a diverse entertainment package that will complement our roster with three solid genre pictures – a sci-fi thriller, a family adventure and a comedy,” said Alan Horn, President & Chief Operating Officer, Warner Bros. “More importantly though, each of these projects has a filmmaker with whom we are excited to be in business.”

    P.J. Shapiro & Sam Fischer, Attorneys at the firm of Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie & Stiffelman, negotiated the deal on behalf of MRC.

    “Shorts” is Robert Rodriguez’ return to family friendly films, in the vein of the highly successful "Spy Kids" series. The film concerns a mysterious object that falls into the hands of a group of misfit kids and their dysfunctional families who unleash its powers on an unsuspecting community, setting off a series of mythical misadventures.

    “The Box,” Richard Kelly’s highly anticipated third film, is adapted from Richard Matheson’s short story “Button, Button.”

    “This Side of the Truth” is Gervais’ full-length feature debut. The film takes place in a present day world where lying does not exist and centers on a lowly man who stumbles upon the ability to lie and uses it to change his life and the world around him.

    “Modi, Asif and everyone at MRC have been a filmmaker's dream; fun to work with, supportive, encouraging, and steadfast,” said Rodriguez. “For a long time I've wanted to work with the great team at Warner Brothers, as they have a phenomenal reputation for providing a terrific environment in which to make and release movies. I was thrilled when Jeff and Alan shared my enthusiasm and belief in what a special movie Shorts can be. I'm hoping this is the first of many films that Troublemaker Productions is able to bring to Warners and MRC.”

    "We are very happy to have the independence of working with a company like MRC and the domestic distribution of a company as prestigious as Warner Bros," said Gervais and Robinson.

    In addition to the three films sold to Warner Bros. Pictures, MRC’s 2008 slate includes Academy-Award winner Anthony Hopkins attached to star in “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” Walter Salles’ “Linha de Passe,” Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” and new films by Sacha Baron Cohen and Todd Field.

  • LINHA Sells to Several Territories

    “Linha de passe,” co-directed by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, has been sold to Diaphana in France, RAI Cinema in Italy, Cineart in Benelux, Spentzos in Greece, CLMC in Portugal and Shani in Israel.

    The pic is co-financed by Pathe Intl., which is handling foreign sales and will distribute the movie in the U.K., and Media Rights Capital, which will handle the domestic deal.

    Pathe screened the first footage at the recent American Film Market.

    “Linha de passe” is the story of four brothers on a redemptive journey through Sao Paolo’s urban jungle. It’s produced by Mauricio Ramos and Rebecca Yeldham, from a screenplay by Salles, Thomas and Braulio Mantovani.

  • MTV To Play NAME Game

    MTV thinks it can name that tune in three networks.

    In an unprecedented move, MTV Networks is developing a new take on "Name that Tune" that will play across its three music-centric cablers: MTV, VH1 and CMT.

    Basic format of the musical quizzer will remain the same across the MTV universe, but each net will produce original episodes modified to match the musical tastes of its respective target audience. That means MTV viewers will see contestants trying to identify tunes by T-Pain or Timbaland, while players on the CMT: Country Music Television version might attempt to guess a song by Shania Twain or Carrie Underwood.

    Deal marks the first time "from the outset, that we've decided to pursue (a format) jointly," said Brian Graden, president of entertainment for the MTV Networks Music Groups.

    He's ordered six episodes of the new "Tune" for each of the networks, for a total of 18 segs. Skein is expected to debut during the first half of 2008.

    Graden said he's planning "a significant reimagining" of the "Tune" format, even as he tries to retain some of the basic underpinnings of the show.

    "The play-along element of the show was so strong that it has to remain the same," said Graden. "There's something about hearing a melody and that great rush you get when you know what the song is."

    That said, "We want to reinterpret the show for the digital age we live in," exec added. Indeed, the new "Tune" will also have a major online component, as per MTV Networks' digital strategy of feeding its multiple TV brands into its singular online music business.

    "This played into our endgame, which is being able to create digital extensions," Graden said, declining to specify details of just how "Tune" will make the leap online. MTV licensed "Tune" from Sandy Frank and Media Rights Capital, both of which will get exec producer credits.

    Frank set up "Tune" at CBS last year, with Donny Osmond on board at one point to host what appeared to be a fast-track revival of the show (Daily Variety, Oct. 10, 2006). Eye ultimately opted against bringing the show back, allowing Frank to sell the rights to the net's Viacom cousin, MTV Networks.

    MTV is still searching for a showrunner -- or showrunners -- for the new "Tune" trio. Also to be determined is whether each of the shows will share a host, whether it will be a half-hour or hour and just how the three shows will be rolled out to auds.

    "The options range from each channel taking a window, or a primetime block where we feed viewers from one channel to the next," Graden said. "We could even possibly air it on all three channels at the same time." Execs from each of the three nets will oversee their respective editions of "Tune." Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley will exec produce for MTV, while Michael Hirschorn will do the same for VH1 and Bob Kusbit will handle CMT's take.

    This isn't the first time that a "Name That Tune"-like skein has landed on the MTV Networks. Under former programming chief Jeff Gaspin (now at NBC), VH1 teamed with Frank for 50 episodes of "Name That Video" in 2001.

    "Tune" first appeared on TV in the 1950s, with revivals in the 1970s and 1980s. Various versions of the skein have aired on NBC, CBS and in syndication. Producer Phil Gurin also flirted with a "Tune" revival back in 2001, planning a take that would blend musical perfs with the game format.

    Gurin now exec produces NBC's "The Singing Bee," which -- along with Fox's "Don't Forget the Lyrics" -- brought back music-themed quizzers to primetime over the summer.

  • Ricky Gervais to Star in TRUTH

    Ricky Gervais will take on the starring role in "This Side of the Truth."

    The Media Rights Capital-financed comedy shoots in the spring.

    Gervais had committed to co-direct the comedy with his co-writer Matt Robinson. Pic marks Gervais' feature directing debut and first major project since wrapping the HBO series "Extras," which begins its third season on Dec. 18. Gervais is nominated for four Emmys for the comedy.

    "This Side of the Truth" is set in a contemporary world where no one has ever lied. Gervais will play a performer who tells the first lie and harnesses its power for personal gain.

    "My character works in the film industry, where actors are really readers who tell completely factual stories," Gervais said. "My character's a loser who's about to lose his job, and who's lumbering through the 1300s. All he's got to work with is the Black Death. But once he lies and pretends he's found lost stories, he becomes the greatest storyteller in the world."

    Pic will be produced by Lynda Obst and Oly Obst.

  • Media Rights Capital Announces its Eight-Picture, $250 Million Film Production Slate

    New York, NY - Media Rights Capital, the maverick diversified media company, today announced its upcoming 2008 production slate. The approximately $250,000,000 slate includes eight highly-anticipated films by such internationally-acclaimed artists as Robert Rodriguez, Ricky Gervais, Walter Salles, Cameron Diaz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Todd Field, Ryan Murphy, and Bennett Miller.
    All eight films will be produced prior to the anticipated summer labor work stoppage.

    “Six months ago we set out to build a slate that is diverse in genre, size and target audience, but which adheres strictly to our rule of partnering with only the very best artists,” said Modi Wiczyk, co-Founder and co-CEO of Media Rights Capital. “Today, we are proud to be in business with some of the most talented auteurs and actors in the world. Each of these films would be the gem in any slate. We’re humbled and honored to have eight of them.”

    True to their own divergent business model, MRC will engage distribution for its films, strategically, based on the ideal channel for each particular project. MRC will elect whether to pursue pre-sales, renting systems, or even territorial equity partnerships for distribution of each distinct production. Moreover, MRC’s financial underpinnings allow it to assign any of these distribution avenues at any time before, during or after production.

    In addition, by locking up financing deals for the eight-film slate, Media Rights Capital has put itself in a strategically advantageous position with respect to the anticipated labor-related work stoppages in film production next year.

    “Given the uncertainty of film production for the foreseeable future there is great demand for greenlit, elite projects right now, and in our slate we feel we have not just quantity in this regard, but also outstanding quality,” said Asif Satchu, co-Founder and co-CEO of Media Rights Capital.

    In addition to the first-rate directors associated with its slate (Rodriguez, Salles, Field), MRC has signed internationally bankable stars Cameron Diaz and Sacha Baron Cohen, and Academy-Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are attached to star in ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF PSYCHO.

    “In each and every one of our films we have brought the talent in as equity partners,” explained Wiczyk. “There is no question that our ability to structure deals that place creative talent as equity partners puts us in a strong competitive position. Our track record also demonstrates clearly that we give great artists the opportunity to be commercially successful as well as to retain artistic control.”

    Wiczyk also noted the advantages of engaging distribution through both presales and renting systems. “With our deep capital base, we have the luxury of not having to pre-sell all our films,” he noted. “We have the ability to select the appropriate and optimal deal and distributor for each territory, each media and each project, something that makes us unique in the film and entertainment industry.”

  • Media Rights to Fund Top Directors

    Despite a worldwide credit crunch, equity funding is still pouring into the movie business.

    Media Rights Capital has committed $250 million to fully finance eight films from directors Robert Rodriguez, Ricky Gervais, Walter Salles, Ryan Murphy, Richard Kelly, Bennett Miller and Todd Field. Funds come from a combination of Fortune 500 companies, Wall Street money and private equity, and investors including AT&T, Goldman Sachs and WPP Group.

    The eight pics span the comedy, drama, family and horror genres, and MRC partners Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu are betting big that distributors will place a premium on high-quality fare to fill holes in their 2008 and 2009 slates. MRC will be racing against the same clock as the majors in trying to get its pics completed in advance of an expected Hollywood work stoppage next June. The MRC duo said they expect to complete production on all eight by next summer.

    Distribution rights to nearly all of the pics are available, with one exception: "Bruno," the Sacha Baron Cohen starrer based on the Austrian fashion reporter character, which, like Borat, originated on Baron Cohen's "Da Ali G Show." Universal has already committed $42.5 million to license English-speaking territories, winning a four-studio bidding battle just before "Borat" was released last year.

    While MRC has begun to expand into broadband Internet programming and is on the verge of a TV division launch, its eight-pic slate marks the company's most ambitious step since the company was formed in 2003.

    That happened while Wiczyk was an agent at Endeavor, and shortly after his Harvard classmate Satchu was looking for a challenge after selling his 2-year-old startup for $1.1 billion to software technology company Ariba.

    MRC started off with about $15 million in capital that Satchu raised, with Endeavor getting a small stake by being a ground-floor supporter and helping get films like "Babel" off the ground.

    Wiczyk left Endeavor last November to join MRC. He brought a philosophy in indie financing honed by his stints at Summit Entertainment and Endeavor, while Satchu had legitimacy on Wall Street through his track record of turning a profit for his dot-com investors. The combination has helped MRC raise a war chest of more than $400 million.

    Because of Wiczyk's tie to Endeavor and the fact that the agency continues to hold a minority stake, MRC has battled the perception that it is a financing arm for an agency trying to flout rules that prevent percenteries from producing. The new list of projects won't entirely quiet doubters, because Rodriguez, Gervais, Salles, Baron Cohen, Miller and Field are all Endeavor clients.

    Neither MRC's Wiczyk nor Satchu see it as an issue, and neither did CAA; That agency reps directors Murphy and Kelly, as well some of the high-profile talent that will headline the films, including Cameron Diaz, Anthony Hopkins and Mirren.

    Wiczyk said MRC is in business with UTA, ICM and WMA on upcoming TV and online programming ventures. He said the new films came together after a long courtship of artists he and Satchu wanted to be in business with.

    "We get up in the morning, and we call every attorney, agency and manager that we want to be in business (with), relentlessly," said Wiczyk, 35, who shares an office with Satchu, 36. While MRC has a staff of 25 (most of whom evaluate risk and crunch numbers), Wiczyk and Satchu make the ultimate call on which films they back.

    Their pitch to talent boils down to a simple concept that MRC road-tested on "Babel," and with the upcoming films "Sleuth" and "The Tourist."

    "It comes down to more money, and more control for artists, and this company's core strength, the ability to valuate films and place them for distribution in an optimal way," Wiczyk said. For talent, that means equity partner treatment, high upfront fees against gross participation and creative control. MRC doesn't develop material or take producing credits on films it bankrolls.

    Another lure for talent is an ownership deal that no studio would make. Since MRC's licensing deals give studios short-term distribution rights -- Universal has "Bruno" for only 15 years, for instance -- MRC's offer of shared copyright ownership is more meaningful than similar deals that are of lesser value because studios have tied up distribution rights in perpetuity.

    The funding cushion gives MRC the luxury of being able to carry through production on any of the eight films in the event they are not pre-sold to a distrib.

    Wiczyk and Satchu bankrolled films they feel they can match with the right distributor in deals that will give artists high upfront fees against gross participation. If MRC doesn't get what it wants, the company will rent a distribution system, Wiczyk said.

    "With our deep capital base, we have the luxury of not having to pre-sell all our films," Wiczyk said. "We have the ability to select the appropriate and optimal deal and distributor for each territory, each media and each project."

    Wiczyk added that MRC gives its filmmakers input into those decisions on distribution.

    Satchu noted that "given the uncertainty of film production for the foreseeable future, there is great demand for greenlit, elite projects right now."

    In addition to Baron Cohen's "Bruno," MRC will be financing:

    "Shorts," a film Rodriguez wrote and will direct and produce at his Austin, Texas-based Troublemaker Studios. Family-friendly project in the vein of Rodriguez's "Spy Kids" series concerns a group of kids who stumble upon a magical device.

    "This Side of Truth," a comedy that marks the feature directing debut of Gervais ("The Office" and "Extras"). Set in the present day in a world where the concept of lying doesn't exist, project focuses on a loser who changes his lot when he invents lying and uses it to full advantage to get ahead. Gervais will co-direct with co-writer Matthew Robinson, and Lynda Obst and Oly Obst are producing. Production begins in March.

    "Linha de passe," a film that "Motorcycle Diaries" helmer Salles is shooting in Brazil, is about a group of brothers who struggle to escape the slums in a variety of ways. Salles is co-directing with Daniela Thomas, who wrote the script with Salles and George Moura. Salles, Mauricio Ramos and Rebecca Yeldham are producing.

    "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho," a film that "Nip/Tuck" creator-exec producer Murphy will direct in January. Hopkins is set to play the legendary helmer and Mirren his wife and longtime collaborator, Alma Reville. Tom Thayer and Alan Barnette are producing the John McLaughlin-scripted drama.

    "The Box," a previously announced horror film written and directed by Kelly ("Donnie Darko"), will star Diaz and shoot in December, with Kelly and Sean McKittrick producing.

    "Foxcatcher" is Miller's directorial follow-up to "Capote." Scripted by E. May Frye, the drama focuses on John E. du Pont, the paranoid schizophrenic heir who, after building the wrestling training facility Team Foxcatcher on his Pennsylvania estate, shot and killed Olympic gold medal-winning grappler David Schultz. Miller will produce with Jon Kilik, with lensing set to begin next spring.

    Also on deck is an untitled drama from "In the Bedroom" and "Little Children" helmer Field. Plot's under wraps, but Field wrote the script and will produce with Leon Vitali. Production begins in the spring.

  • MacFarlane, Symone Click with Adsense

    Google Inc. and Media Rights Capital on Thursday unveiled a deal that will see Google distribute exclusive original digital content from Seth MacFarlane and Raven-Symone across Web sites in its AdSense content network.

    While the companies didn’t disclose financial details, they said in a statement that the agreement covers “multimillion-dollar” content financed by MRC.

    Under the deal, “Family Guy” and “American Dad” creator MacFarlane will offer all-new animated characters, while the star of “That’s So Raven” will produce a “How To” series.

    The programming will be bundled with banner ads and in-stream video advertising.

    “This combination allows for the creation of original content that was historically too expensive to produce for Internet distribution and connects advertisers with high-quality content,” said Kim Malone, director of online sales and operations at Google AdSense.

    Said MacFarlane: “I have always felt the Internet is a great home for what I do. MRC provided the resources and expertise and led me to a perfect partnership with Google, whose ability to reach my audience is in its own league.”

    MRC previously financed “Babel” and is funding Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming Bruno film as well as Cameron Diaz’s “The Box.”

    “We feel this partnership answers the question of how best to reach viewers online, because the Web is fragmented into millions and millions of viewing destinations,” MRC co-CEO Asif Satchu said. “AdSense connects all of those fragments and offers us access to them in one simple and powerful distribution solution.”

    He added that MRC is already applying this new distribution model to the rest of its digital pipeline.

    MRC approached MacFarlane and Symone almost a year ago and offered them full creative control and a partnership stake in the venture. It said it was drawn to their young-skewing audiences. MacFarlane’s TV programs particularly deliver the much-coveted 18-35 male demographic, while Symone speaks to the teen and tween audience.

  • Google Unveils Video Service Deal; Company Inks Pact with Media Rights Capital

    Google has announced one of the first deals in its ambitious video-syndication service. Company has inked a pact with film-financier Media Rights Capital under which "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and Disney Channel star Raven-Symone will create original content that Google will syndicate across the Web.

    MRC has made the talent deals and is funding the content; Google will distribute the content, which will be embedded on Web sites as free, ad-supported streams. Google and MRC will share in ad revenue.

    Projects will involve a set of videos for MacFarlane, who will create about fifty digital shorts centered on non-"Family Guy" characters, some of whom will recur. Symone will create how-to content in areas such as cooking and crafts; execs described it "Martha Stewart for teens and tweens. Videos will be syndicated to sites that fit the creators' demos.

    Deal offers an example of how new media cos and content providers can take advantage of online-video opportunities while staying within their areas of expertise. While portals like Yahoo have begun creating original content, and traditional entertainment congloms like News Corp. and NBC are trying to jump into the online syndication biz, Google-MRC pact allows each party to handle only one side of the equation.

    MRC digital prexy Dan Goodman said that while the deal does require that the two share revenue, Google's reach made a partnership essential. "We can produce great content but if we can't deliver big audiences out of the gate then it's going to be a huge challenge." Google Video initially had significant plans to launch a syndicated video service as parts of its AdSense Network. But those plans received a setback when a deal with Viacom cable nets was scotched in the wake of the conglom's lawsuit against Google-YouTube. MRC is known best for financing pics like "Babel" and other traditional media but is beginning to increase its original content online. "We're looking at this as a business-model, not as a pilot," Goodman said of the deal.

    Company is expected to announce other original-content pacts with Web syndicators in the coming months.

  • Media Rights Capital and Google Announce the Distribution of Original Seth MacFarlane Content On-Line

    New York, NY (August 16, 2007) Media Rights Capital (“MRC”), the film, television and digital media company, today announced that it has entered into an arrangement with Google to distribute original digital content across websites in the AdSense™ content network. The multi-million dollar content will include a universe of all-new animated characters from Seth MacFarlane, creator of animated hits Family Guy and American Dad!, and a “How To” series by Raven-Symone, star of Disney’s That’s So Raven, both developed exclusively for digital distribution. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed. MacFarlane’s and Symone’s original programming will be presented in a video box that a user clicks to begin playing. The content will be bundled with banner ads and in-stream video advertising. MRC, which is financing production of the content, will work with Google to deliver the videos to targeted websites throughout the AdSense content network. With websites of every size and in every possible category, AdSense is an efficient and effective way to distribute this content online.
    “We feel this partnership answers the question of how best to reach viewers online, because the web is fragmented into millions and millions of viewing destinations,” said MRC Co-CEO Asif Satchu. “AdSense connects all of those fragments and offers us access to them in one simple and powerful distribution solution. The scope is unprecedented – simply put, it dwarfs any other distribution option. We believe this is the best solution for the artist and for the viewer. We look forward to continuing our relationship and are already applying this model to the rest of our digital pipeline.”

    “MRC’s expertise and resources coupled with the scope of the AdSense network is a powerful combination,” said Kim Malone, director of online sales and operations for Google AdSense. “This combination allows for the creation of original content that was historically too expensive to produce for Internet distribution and connects advertisers with high quality content. This is a win for consumers, content creators, advertisers, and AdSense website owners.”

    The partnerships with MacFarlane and Symone began almost one year ago, when MRC approached them to see if they would be interested in creating original online content. As is typical with MRC projects, the talent was given full creative control and a partnership stake in the venture. From the outset, MRC agreed to finance the multi-million dollar campaigns, and then began the process of finding distribution, which ultimately led them to Google’s AdSense program.

    “The most important and unique thing we came to understand about the AdSense program is that it brings the content to the consumer – wherever they happen to be online at that minute,” said Dan Goodman, President of MRC’s Digital Group. “Given the daily expansion of sites and content on the web, it makes sense to build a model that capitalizes on the natural activity of our users and is an efficient way to maximize our distribution.”

    “I have always felt the Internet is a great home for what I do,” said Seth MacFarlane. “MRC provided the resources and expertise and led me to a perfect partnership with Google, whose ability to reach my audience is in its own league.”

    The MRC digital group has begun working with select brands to place video and static advertising around the content. MacFarlane’s television programs deliver the coveted 18-35 male demographic, nirvana for sport, fast food, and technology advertisers while Symone speaks to the highly desirable teen and tween audience.

  • BOX Is a Dark Place for Diaz

    Cameron Diaz will open "The Box," a horror thriller being directed by Richard Kelly. Sean McKittrick and Kelly are producing via their Darko Entertainment label.

    The story revolves around an unhappily married couple who receive a small wooden box on their doorstep. At the push of a button, the box brings its bearer instant wealth but also instantly kills someone the bearer doesn't know.

    Diaz will play the wife. Casting of the other key roles, including the husband, is expected shortly.

    The script, written by Kelly, is adapted from a Richard Matheson short story titled "Button, Button." The short story was the basis of a well-remembered "Twilight Zone" episode from the 1980s that Matheson adapted using a pseudonym.

    Media Rights Capital, which was behind the funding of "Babel" and Sacha Baron Cohen's "Bruno" deal, is fully financing the movie, which will be in the $30 million range.

    "Box" is eyeing a November start in Virginia. Perhaps signaling a pendulum swing in the horror genre, "Box" is aiming to be a PG-13 release, just like the recent John Cusack horror movie "1408."

    Ted Hamm is exec producing.

    Diaz reprised the voice of Princess Fiona for "Shrek the Third" and most recently appeared on the big screen in "The Holiday." She is repped by CAA and the Firm.

  • Cameron Diaz to Star in THE BOX

    Media Rights Capital has set Cameron Diaz to star in "The Box," a horror film to be directed by "Donnie Darko" helmer Richard Kelly.

    Kelly wrote the script based on Richard Matheson short story "Button, Button." Production will begin in the fall on the pic, which will aim for a PG-13 rating. Diaz will play a young woman given a mysterious box by a stranger. She's told that certain things will happen depending on which buttons she presses.

    Media Rights Capital is committed to bankrolling the entire $30 million-plus budget, as it did with "Babel" and will with Sacha Baron Cohen's "Bruno."

    Kelly and Sean McKittrick will produce and Ted Hamm will be executive producer.

    Media Rights Capital won't begin the process of pursuing distribution until the fall, though it is unclear when those deals will be made.

    MRC, which pays star salaries along with partial copyright ownership that gives talent a DVD windfall, has shown a knack for making distribution deals at the most advantageous time. That's the model it used with Universal on "Bruno," which sold during the height of "Borat" mania and secured a $42.5 million commitment to license rights in North America and certain other territories.

    The recent $20 million opening of "1408" made the star-driven, high-concept supernatural thriller "The Box" feel like a viable financial proposition.

    "The storyline has all the commerciality of 'The Ring,' but with Richard and Cameron, this film can rise to the level of 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Others,' " said Modi Wiczyk, the former Endeavor agent who founded and runs MRC with Asif Satchu.

    "My hope is to make a film that is incredibly suspenseful and broadly commercial, while still retaining my artistic sensibility," Kelly said.

  • Media Rights Capital Greenlights Production of The Box Starring Cameron Diaz


    Media Rights Capital, the film, television and Internet content-financing and monetization company, today announced its latest project, THE BOX, a horror film starring Cameron Diaz. THE BOX is slated to begin production this fall and will be directed by Richard Kelly, whose directorial feature debut was the critically acclaimed film DONNIE DARKO.
    The script for the film, a high-concept, supernatural, PG-13 thriller, was written by Kelly and is based on the short story "Button, Button" by legendary screenwriter and novelist Richard Matheson. Producers of the film include Kelly and Sean McKittrick, who also teamed on DONNIE DARKO. Media Rights Capital will pursue sales and distribution in the fall, when production of THE BOX is expected to begin. Terms of Media Rights Capital’s financing were not disclosed.

    "My hope is to make a film that is incredibly suspenseful and broadly commercial, while still retaining my artistic sensibility," said Kelly, who demonstrated his unique vision with cult hit DONNIE DARKO. "I am especially excited to be working with Cameron Diaz, an actress I have always admired."

    "The storyline has all the commerciality of THE RING, but with Richard and Cameron, this film can rise to the level of ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE OTHERS," said Media Rights Capital’s co-CEO and co-Founder Modi Wiczyk.

    With THE BOX, Media Rights Capital is leveraging the latest resurgence in PG-13 supernatural thrillers, as evidenced by the surprising $20,000,000 opening of 1408 last weekend.<> "Richard Kelly’s unique voice and vision, combined with a commercially-oriented PG-13 script, cannot help but result in an extraordinary film," said Asif Satchu, also co-Founder and co-CEO of Media Rights Capital. "We are excited to see Richard and Cameron train their extraordinary talent on making a classic supernatural thriller in the tradition of THE OTHERS, THE EXORCIST and ROSEMARY’S BABY."


    A Darko Entertainment Production

    Written and to be directed by Richard Kelly

    Producer - Sean McKittrick

    Executive Producer - Ted Hamm

    Richard Kelly and Sean McKittrick are both represented by CAA, The Firm (management), and Sloan, Offer, Weber and Dern (legal). Cameron Diaz is represented by CAA, The Firm, and Jackoway, Tyerman, Wertheimer, Austen, Mandelbaum & Morris (legal).