7 Days of Deals
Ka-ching! Who's inking on the dotted line this week
DEAL OF THE WEEK: Ousted Tribune CEO Heads to Radio: Former Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels, fired in October from the nation's second-largest newspaper publisher after his expletive-laced memos, sexually suggestive e-mails and exorbitant executive bonuses were revealed, is back in the media game. The new company he's running, Merlin Media, has acquired a controlling interest in three rock radio stations owned by Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications -- Chicago's WLUP and WKQX and New York's WRXP -- in a deal worth $110 million to $130 million. On July 19, WKQX switched to a news/talk hybrid format, and the others are expected to change. Michaels started out as a DJ in the early 1970s and rose to CEO of Jacor Communications, which was sold to Clear Channel in 1999 for $4.4 billion. He left the company in 2002 amid reports of clashes with the Mays family, which owns Clear Channel, and a slew of lawsuits. But while the "frat house-like" culture he instilled at Tribune, the bankrupt corporate parent of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, was seen as a liability, it's practically a prerequisite in the radio world of shock jocks and prank calls. According to one high-ranking radio insider, Michaels' brash move is as much about payback as it is about business. "He's an egomaniac with an agenda, and this is like collateral damage for Clear Channel," says a source. It is not lost on industry observers that WRXP was once owned by Tribune, either. Still, others claim Merlin's acquisition makes sound business sense, seeing as how, pre-recession, just one of those stations could have easily fetched $100 million. Plus, with new methodology to assess a station's demographics, the news/commentary format has emerged as an enviable one. "Everyone's thinking they could go FM with news and skew a little younger and more female," says a source who theorizes that Michaels has his sights set on loosening CBS-owned 1010 WINS' hold on talk radio in New York (indeed, Merlin has already hired WINS' former GM as its executive vp revenue). "It's a void that people are filling and a smart play. Rock is too niche for New York." -- Shirley Halperin
Enchanted Director to Mumbai
Kevin Lima, who directed Disney's animated Tarzan before transitioning to the live-action hits 102 Dalmatians and Enchanted, is returning to his roots, signing to helm DreamWorks Animation's Monkeys of Mumbai (working title). Also boarding as producers are Lisa Stewart (Monsters vs. Aliens) and Chris Chase (Enchanted). Mumbai, the company's first Bollywood-style animated musical, is a riff on Indian epic The Ramayana, which centers on a man whose wife is kidnapped by a demon king. Lima (WME) will approach the story from the point of view of two monkeys who become unlikely heroes. Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges (Bride & Prejudice, Bend It Like Beckham) are writing the script. Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) is working on lyrics, and A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) is composing the score. "Ever since Enchanted, I've been looking for a film musical," says Lima. "When DWA approached me with doing a Bollywood musical, I knew this was the one." -- Borys Kit
Paul Rudd (UTA, Brillstein, Jackoway Tyerman) is attached to star in Errol Morris' (WME, Lichter Grossman) first nondocumentary film since 1991's Dark Wind. The untitled project, written by Stranger Than Fiction scribe Zack Helm, is based on We Froze the First Man, a memoir by Robert F. Nelson, and a segment from the weekly public-radio show This American Life.
Bridesmaids co-star Wendi McLendon-Covey (John Carrabino, Morris Yorn) has been cast in the Lionsgate comedy What to Expect When You're Expecting, joining an ensemble that includes Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Anna Kendrick, Brooklyn Decker, Elizabeth Banks and Dennis Quaid.
Annie Mumolo (UTA, Thruline, Jackoway Tyerman), who co-wrote Bridesmaids with Kristen Wiig, and former Saturday Night Live writer Robert Smigel (CAA, Loeb & Loeb) have landed roles in Judd Apatow's untitled comedy at Universal starring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann.
24 showrunner Howard Gordon (WME, Gendler & Kelly) and writer-director James Wong (WME, Nelson Davis) are teaming with Alloy Entertainment for the sci-fi project 2084, which is being developed as a film and a young-adult book series with HarperCollins.
Noam Murro (CAA, Management 360, Sloane Offer) is in talks with Warner Bros. to direct the 300 spinoff Battle of Artemisia, based on Frank Miller's upcoming graphic novel that centers on Xerxes, the antagonist in 300. Zack Snyder, who directed 300, wrote the script with Kurt Johnstad.
True Blood actress Deborah Ann Woll (Paradigm, Marshak/Zachary, Stone Meyer) has joined the Fox Searchlight dramedy He Loves Me. Paul Dano, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould and Chris Messina co-star for Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
South American filmmaker Fede Alvarez (CAA, Anonymous, Jackoway Tyerman) will direct a remake of The Evil Dead for Ghost House Pictures and producers Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert, with a revise of the script by Oscar winner Diablo Cody.
Fox is negotiating to acquire the Archaia graphic novel Rust, with The Devil Wears Prada scribe Aline Brosh McKenna (CAA, Hansen Jacobson) attached to write and X-Men: First Class producer Simon Kinberg (CAA, Jackoway Tyerman) set to produce.
Ari Graynor (UTA, Principal, Lichter Grossman) and Lauren Miller will play the leads in For a Good Time, Call …, a raunchy indie comedy Miller wrote with Katie Naylon. Short-film and commercials director Jamie Travis will make his feature debut.
Adam Mazer (ICM, Inphenate, Stone Meyer), who won an Emmy for writing HBO's You Don't Know Jack, will adapt Robert Kurson's Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure and the Man Who Dared to See for Stone Village Productions and DRO Entertainment. Crashing centers on Mike May, who was blinded at age 3 and regained his vision at age 46 after an experimental surgery.
Ethan Hawke (CAA, George Sheanshang) has signed to star in Scott Derrickson's untitled horror-thriller pic from Insidious and Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum.
Julia Stiles (ICM, Untitled, Sloane Offer) will star with America Ferrera (ICM, Authentic, Jodi Peikoff) in the indie comedy It's a Disaster, which follows four couples stuck in a house as the world might be ending. Todd Berger directs.
Harry Potter producer David Heyman (Bloom Hergott) is zeroing in on his next fantastical book adaptation: Night Circus, set up at Summit. Heyman is in negotiations to board as its producer. The Twilight studio picked up the book by first-time author Erin Morgenstern in January, with the novel due in September from Knopf Doubleday.
Rapper Trey Songz (ICM, KWL Enterprises, Paul Rothenberg) has joined the cast of Millennium/Nu Image's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D.
Ted Danson (CAA, Industry, Ziffren Brittenham) is joining CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The former Cheers and Damages star replaces Laurence Fishburne as the CSI team leader.
Mike Fleiss (WME, Hansen Jacobson), creator of The Bachelor franchise, will executive produce the CW's H8R, a reality series hosted by Mario Lopez on which celebrities go head to head with civilians who hate them in an attempt to win them over.
Gwendoline Christie is joining HBO's Game of Thrones. The actress, whose credits include The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, will play Brienne, maid of Tarth.
Julie White (Paradigm, Himber Entertainment), Shia LaBeouf's mother in the Transformers movies, will play a straight-talking Las Vegas judge in the USA Network pilot Wild Card.
Encore is entering the original programming business. Its first offering is Moby Dick, Tele Munchen's $25 million reimagining of Herman Melville's novel starring William Hurt as Captain Ahab. Encore will follow with the U.S. premiere of miniseries The Take, based on a best-selling crime thriller and starring Tom Hardy, and the documentary feature Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis.
MTV has renewed Teen Wolf for a second season, ordering 12 original episodes for 2012.
Syfy has ordered a fourth season of Merlin from Fremantle Enterprises to premiere in 2012.
Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich (UTA, Koopman, Sloane Offer) have launched a YouTube live-action-meets-stop-motion animated series titled Stoopid Monkey.
Three-time Oscar nominee Debra Winger has signed with ICM. … Jake Weber, who most recently starred on NBC's Medium, has signed with Paradigm. … Hip-hop artist Aloe Blacc, whose "I Need a Dollar" is the intro song for HBO's How to Make It in America, has signed with WME. … French-Canadian actress Laurence Leboeuf, who starred on the Canadian TV drama Durham County, has signed with UTA. … Erica Cerra, whose credits include Battlestar Galactica, has signed with Kritzer Levine Wilkins Griffin.