Tag Archives: Paramount

Spielberg, Jackson digging for ‘Tintin’

Tintin may have a new benefactor.

Filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are in the process of trying to line up a co-financing and co-distribution partner for their in-the-works trilogy of “Tintin” films, set up at Paramount Pictures. The director-producers are trying to entice Sony Pictures, which is now in discussions with Paramount, to help finance the films and take on international distribution.

Universal Pictures, which just entered into a seven-year distribution deal with the newly separated DreamWorks, of which Spielberg is a principal, last month declined to finance half of the first picture at a $130 million price tag.

At that time, Paramount quickly offered to finance the entire project, but the terms of the offer provoked the filmmakers to look for other options. Both Spielberg and Jackson, as two of the most successful and powerful director-producers in Hollywood, are accustomed to large back-end arrangements.

Should a deal close, Sony will not have a role in the creative development of the films, the first of which Spielberg is already in the process of directing. Jackson plans to direct the second.

Under the purported terms of the deal being negotiated, first reported by the New York Times, Paramount would retain distribution of the films in North America and several other English-seaking territories. This would seem to put the Melrose studio at a disadvantage given Tintin’s enduring appeal outside of the States, where he is much less well known.

Spielberg has long been trying to make films about the famously intrepid, globetrotting young reporter. The director is using motion-capture technology to bring the character, created by Belgian artist Herge, to life. It is scheduled for release in 2010.

The Spielberg camp had no comment on the potential deal.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

DreamWorks exit could hurt Paramount

Steven Spielberg aims to raise more than $1 billion in third-party financing to reinvent DreamWorks as a separate company that once again owns the movies it makes.

As for distribution, Spielberg wants to bolt his roost at Paramount for Universal, which wants to land Spielberg and DreamWorks after losing out to Paramount in that quest a couple years ago. But on recommendation from his advisers, Spielberg has allowed a bidding war to begin among studios for the rights to distribute future DreamWorks movies.

The chief suitors other than Paramount: Universal, Disney and Fox.

Warner Bros. has sat out the competition so far despite previous expectations that the studio would seek a relationship with DreamWorks if Spielberg and company were to leave Paramount. Industry betting runs heavily against Spielberg’s staying put at Paramount, with the related question of where he and the DreamWorks film label land considered a simple matter of who will offer sufficiently attractive terms to attract Spielberg, chief Stacey Snider and their brand.

“Stacey is the next generation, and Steven is very committed to her,” said one participant in DreamWorks strategy meetings.

Spielberg’s contract runs until 2010, but he can terminate it early at year’s end. Snider and DreamWorks chairman David Geffen have similar escape clauses in their deals with Par, while about 100 other DreamWorks employees theoretically would be unaffected by departures among the top execs.

Yet Spielberg will wield considerable leverage in any exit negotiations with Par and could insist on taking additional execs with him as he reconstructs DreamWorks elsewhere. Although Par owns “Transformers” and other films produced by DreamWorks while at the studio, Spielberg’s rights regarding involvement on sequels could trigger negotiations over which films he brings with him and which would remain under Par’s control.

A window in Spielberg’s personal contract with Par opened May 1, allowing him to discuss potential offers for his services from rival studios. Since then, Spielberg or such advisers as Geffen and attorney Skip Brittenham have held several meetings with prospective studio suitors and financiers.

Still, there is the argument — offered a few months back by Par execs amid early handicapping of Spielberg’s future — that early ill-will between DreamWorks brass and their Par overlords has been smoothed over. Par boosted DreamWorks’ production funding and even credit on DreamWorks/Par releases during the course of the former’s residency on the lot.

But barring a complete revision of his current arrangement at Par, only bolting the studio would allow Spielberg again to stake actual ownership claim to his future films. He participated in just that through the original DreamWorks SKG, but Spielberg at Par essentially is a producer and director of films owned by others, backend deals on individual films notwithstanding.

Even the DreamWorks name is controlled neither by Spielberg nor Par but by Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation. If Spielberg were to exit Paramount, DWA could withdraw rights to the name from Par and presumably grant them to Spielberg.

DWA’s distribution contract with Par runs through 2012.

Meanwhile, it appears that Spielberg’s hunt for financing could lead to DreamWorks securing a bank facility to fund production as well as private-equity investment.

Yet this time around, it’s likely that the latter would be much more limited than the one-time majority stake in DreamWorks SKG by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. DWA went public in 2004 and DreamWorks $1.6 billion sale to Par a year later both were prompted by Allen’s desire to cash out his interest in DeamWorks.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

In first for studios, Paramount offers snippets of movies

Paramount Pictures is chopping its feature films into short scenes, some as little as a few seconds, and distributing them free on the Internet, becoming the first major movie studio to answer consumers’ desire for repeat viewings of short-form video on such sites as YouTube.

Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, launched the service yesterday on Facebook, the popular social-networking site. The application is called VooZoo; it is a combination clip library and media player. It includes scenes from such films as “Braveheart,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “School of Rock.” The clips include a link that sends users to http://Amazon.com to buy DVDs of the movies.

Increasingly, consumers want to watch archived on-demand short video, such as skits from “Saturday Night Live” or highlights from a football game that was played weeks if not years ago.

Other movie studios may be reluctant to join Paramount, owing to complicated rights and residuals issues. Also, some directors retain “final cut” privileges over their films and may not want them sliced into scenes. The issue includes some tricky guild rules, too, that can prohibit the re-purposing of content created as one piece.

Yet the market has demanded bite-sized clips from nearly every other form of video content. And clips are so easily retrievable on YouTube that it is no longer surprising to find one. An e-mail conversation between two friends fondly remembering, say, a Phil Hartman skit from a 1992 “SNL” episode can be augmented in seconds with a link to the clip online.

Frequently, such clips are unauthorized. They have been bootlegged and posted in violation of copyright laws. Viacom is suing YouTube, which is owned by Google, over the unauthorized posting of clips from such Viacom television programs as “The Daily Show.”

VooZoo is a first attempt by a major film studio to give consumers what they want, within the law.

Derek Broes, Paramount’s executive vice president for digital entertainment, got the idea about a year ago, when he began using Facebook. He saw the popular network as “voyeuristic” and a “zoo of people,” he said yesterday, which gave him the idea for the name VooZoo.

Paramount sells its full-length movies on Apple’s iTunes. Apple not only popularized the online music store, the company recognized and answered the growing desire for a la carte entertainment.

Broes said Paramount has not yet talked to Apple about selling the movie clips on iTunes but said he probably will soon. Apple declined to comment.

Paramount and other movie studios make their money on windows of distribution for their films — theatrical release, followed by DVD sales, rental, video on demand, premium cable, basic cable and then network television. Each window is predicated on the idea of selling the entire movie.

Broes recognized the popularity of short-form video on the Internet and saw the movie clips as a way of driving more users to Facebook, thereby increasing advertising views, and using the clips as what he calls “moving emoticons”: ways for Facebook users to communicate with each other. So, instead of typing “What do you think of that?” a Facebook user may send a clip of Jack Nicholson in “Chinatown” saying, “How do you like them apples?”

For now, Broes said, the clips are streaming only, meaning they cannot be downloaded onto a device and kept. So far, the service has dozens of Paramount films in the VooZoo vault, and continues to work to add more, sifting through the studio’s library. The application could become ad-supported, Broes said.

“Our intention is to continue clipping movies and get as much product as possible out there so the consumer has a diverse collection to choose from,” Broes said.

Source: The Washington Post

Paramount seals Blu-ray sweep

All six major Hollywood studios are now in the Blu-ray Disc camp, a day after Toshiba has pulled the plug on HD DVD and Blu-ray became effectively the only next-gen game in town.

Paramount Home Entertainment quietly came onboard via a statement sent exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday: “We are pleased that the industry is moving to a single high-definition format, as we believe it is in the best interest of the consumer,” the statement reads. “As we look to (begin) releasing our titles on Blu-ray, we will monitor consumer adoption and determine our release plans accordingly.”

No further details were given.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment, in contrast, cast its lot with Blu-ray within hours of Toshiba’s announcement Tuesday morning that it was ending the format war by ceasing the development, manufacture and marketing of HD DVD players by the end of March. Universal made a big splash with its announcement, sending media outlets a statement from division president Craig Kornblau in which he said, “While Universal values the close partnership we have shared with Toshiba, it is time to turn our focus to releasing new and catalog titles on Blu-ray.”

Janet Murray, director of Georgia Tech’s masters and Ph.D. program in digital media, said a single format supported by all six major studios has a much better chance of success than two rival ones that each take only a chunk of Hollywood.

“It’s a big victory for the consumer,” she said.

Now that the studios are no longer battling each other over which format is best, Murray said, they can focus on generating awareness among consumers of the many benefits of high-definition media. Murray predicts “a standardization of extras” now that everyone’s releasing films on a single format rather than two, each with its own set of capabilities. “This will lead to a much richer experience for viewers,” she added.

Murray also foresees “much more content and much more breadth of content” now that Blu-ray is the only way to go. “When people have these higher-end screens at home, they take great pleasure in them, and this will push ahead the delivery (of movies) in high-definition,” she said.

Ironically, Universal had been exclusive with HD DVD since the format’s launch in April 2006, while Paramount had initially supported both HD DVD and Blu-ray. Paramount and DreamWorks switched to HD DVD-only in August, reportedly after receiving a $150 million payment from the format’s supporters for “promotional consideration.”

Neither studio has announced specific titles earmarked for early Blu-ray release, though both are expected to start with new theatricals coming the same day as the standard DVD, beginning in late spring or early summer.

The four other majors committed to Blu-ray are Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (along with its distributed MGM Home Entertainment label), Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video (including distributed labels New Line Home Entertainment, BBC Video and HBO Video). Mini-major Lionsgate also has been an exclusive Blu-ray backer since the start.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Paramount buys Canadian hip hop film, ‘How She Move’

PARK CITY (CP) _ Paramount Vantage has snapped up the Canadian film "How She Move," a gritty drama about the hip-hop step-dancing scene in Toronto’s notorious Jane-Finch corridor, for a hefty US$3.4 million.

Just hours after the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday night, the art house division of Paramount Pictures bought the film in a partnership with MTV Films, both likely mindful of the fact that another step film, "Stomp the Yard," is currently on top at the box office.

The purchase _ the result of a bidding war that attracted several distributors _ is considered notable because "How She Move" features a cast of virtual unknowns.

The film tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who turns to step-dancing to earn her way back into a prestigious private school and out of her crime-filled neighbourhood. It’s the first-time screenplay from Jamaican-born Annmarie Morais of Brantford, Ont., and was directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid, a Tanzanian-born filmmaker who grew up in Toronto.

Telefilm Canada partially funded the movie, which is in the World Cinema dramatic competition at Sundance.

"We are delighted," Dan Lyon of Telefilm Canada said in an interview from Montreal late Wednesday.

"Telefilm Canada was thrilled with the response at Sundance to the diversity, the quality and the quantity of the Canadian films selected for the festival. The sale of ‘How She Move’ to Paramount is very exciting and they will make a great distribution partner."

It’s the first Canadian film to be sold this year at Sundance, but Lyon says it likely isn’t the last. Other sales at Sundance and its sister festival, Slamdance, could be revealed soon.

"Our understanding is that further announcements are pending regarding the distribution of some of our other films as a result of their strong showing at Sundance and Slamdance," he said.

"How She Move," featuring 14 complex step routines and a vibrant hip-hop soundtrack with many Canadian artists, stars American actress Rutina Wesley, Toronto’s Dwain Murphy and B.C. native Brennan Gademans. Famed New York choreographer Hi Hat created the dance sequences for the film.

"’How She Move’ is a crowd-pleasing hip-hop film that has incredible dancing and a real heart," Amy Israel of Paramount Vantage said in a news release.

"Director Ian Iqbal Rashid has proven himself to be an exceptionally talented filmmaker whose work can deliver on all levels."