7 Days of Deals
DEAL OF THE WEEK: Lionsgate Reunites With Founder for TV Venture: Lionsgate is back in business with Frank Giustra. The studio behind The Hunger Games and Mad Men is teaming with its founder and former chairman's Thunderbird Films to form a TV partnership to produce broadcast and cable fare. The 50-50 venture will be called Sea to Sky Entertainment, named after the Canadian highway (Lionsgate was named after a Canadian bridge).
"TV is where I want to be," says Giustra, now a global financier and philanthropist who has given millions to Bill Clinton's foundation. "In 2000, Lionsgate's TV business generated $8 million in revenue; now it's a $400 million to $450 million business. So you can see what can be done if executed properly."
The one-time investment banker turned mining magnate launched Lionsgate in 1997 to capitalize on Vancouver's growing film industry. He stepped down as chief executive in 2000 and sold most of his stake in the company three years later. "I left because I had a hunch that we were about to see a commodities boom, which we did, and so I started to focus on creating a number of companies in gold and other resources," says Giustra, 54, who returned to Lionsgate's board in 2010.
The new Sea to Sky pact comes mere weeks after Giustra became a major shareholder in Vancouver-based Thunderbird, a production, distribution and financing company that he has committed to ramping up on the TV side. Lionsgate and Thunderbird will jointly manage the venture, designed to share production and distribution costs on all scripted projects picked up to series. "Doing a deal like this enables us to stretch and diversify," says Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer.
Sea to Sky has optioned the upcoming book An Uncommon Youth, about the Getty kidnapping in Italy in the 1970s. Anne Thomopoulos (Rome, Camelot) will produce the project, pitched as an eight-episode limited series for international co-production. Other projects include an hourlong drama from Gone Baby Gone's Dennis Lehane and a deal with The War Room producer R.J. Cutler, with whom Lionsgate is already in business on the ABC drama pilot Nashville. Eight to 10 projects are expected annually.
Lionsgate has seen its stock price soar since unveiling its $412.5 million acquisition of Twilight studio Summit Entertainment in January. At press time, the company had a market value of more than $1.7 billion. As it has integrated staffs, some 80 Lionsgate employees were laid off. "That was the main cut," says Feltheimer, who is otherwise "quite pleased" with the merger. -- Lacey Rose
Warners Makes Magician Reappear
Warner Bros. has conjured movie rights to Mandrake the Magician, the classic comic strip that will be developed by Atlas Entertainment. Created by Lee Falk in 1934, Mandrake told of an illusionist who has the power to hypnotize his foes with great speed. With his companion Lothar, an African strongman, he fights gangsters and masters of disguise. Columbia Pictures made a 12-part serial in 1939, and a TV movie aired in the 1970s, but nothing has made it to screens since. Disney owned rights for a while, and Baldwin Entertainment and Hyde Park tried in the late 2000s to develop versions with directors Chuck Russell and Mimi Leder and actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Hayden Christensen. Atlas became involved in 2009 and even developed a script with David and Janet Peoples (Twelve Monkeys). Warners now wants to give the character a 21st century makeover, as it did for Sherlock Holmes, and is on the hunt for new writers. -- Borys Kit
Europe's Top Show Switches Hosts
The most-watched program in Europe has ended a months-long search for a new figurehead. German talk show host Markus Lanz will replace Thomas Gottschalk as star of Wanna Bet?, a decades-old variety show that regularly draws 10 million to 15 million viewers on German TV and is a valuable platform for A-listers including Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington when they have a movie to promote. Despite its popularity (the next-most-watched show, Germany's version of American Idol, draws just 5 million to 6 million viewers), a who's who of German celebrities said no to the hosting job, fearing Wanna Bet? could be a poisoned chalice because viewership has slipped from more than 13 million in 2005 to about 10 million in 2010. Lanz, who begins his new gig in October, is well-known in Germany, but insiders are questioning whether he can restore Wanna Bet? to its former glory. -- Scott Roxborough
The Dark Knight Rises co-star Tom Hardy (CAA, the U.K.'s United Agents) has signed a first-look production deal with Warner Bros. and is developing an untitled outlaw biker movie with producers
Art and John Linson.
Leslie Mann (CAA) and Israel Broussard (Paradigm, MC Talent) have joined Emma Watson in The Bling Ring, filmmaker Sofia Coppola's latest project.
Michael Bacall (WME, Stroock), who co-wrote Project X with Matt Drake, has been tapped by Warner Bros. to pen a treatment for a sequel.
Director Brad Peyton (Verve) and writers Brian and Mark Gunn (ICM) will return for a third film in New Line's Journey franchise. Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson and Charlotte Huggins will produce.
Reno 911! creators Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (CAA, Principato Young, Jackoway Tyerman) have sold the script Action No. 1, about the 2000 heist of Nicolas Cage's rare copy of the first Superman comic, to Lionsgate. The duo will produce with Peter Principato and Paul Young.
Hell on Wheels actor Colm Meaney (Innovative, Gold Coast, Bloom Hergot) has joined Rufus Sewell and Anne Heche in The Occult, an indie thriller set within a religious cult, from LD Entertainment.
Magical Elves (WME), the reality TV producing duo of Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, is in negotiations to direct Katy Perry's 3D concert movie for Paramount. Footloose director Craig Brewer is exec producing with Imagine Entertainment.
Tropic Thunder writer Etan Cohen (CAA, Mosaic, Lichter Grossman) is in negotiations to make his directorial debut on Paramount's horror comedy Boy Scouts vs. Zombies. Lona Williams (Drop Dead Gorgeous) is writing a new draft of the script.
Former Melrose Place star Jessica Lucas (Gersh, Thruline, Lichter Grossman) is in talks to join Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez and Lou Taylor Pucci in the Evil Dead remake being directed by Fede Alverez for FilmDistrict and Ghost House.
Writer Scott Rosenberg (WME) has been tapped for polish and punch-up duties on Pain & Gain, the dark-comedy action thriller being directed by Michael Bay.
Reese Witherspoon's Type A Films has merged with producer Bruna Papandrea (Warm Bodies) and her Make Movies banner, creating the production shingle Pacific Standard.
Magnolia Pictures has acquired Bel Ami, a retelling of the Guy de Maupassant 19th century novel that stars Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas, and will release the film June 8.
Fox Searchlight and Red Flag Releasing have acquired The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, a comedy about two adult brothers written, directed and produced by Jay and Mark Duplass. Red Flag will distribute the film theatrically in June.
Entertainment One has bought North American rights to Iron Sky, the Nazis-from-space film from Finland that bowed at the Berlin International Film Festival.
IFC Films has acquired Sleepwalk With Me, directed by and starring comedian Mike Birbiglia.
Phase 4 Films has acquired Andrew Edison's high school comedy Bindlestiffs for Kevin Smith's SModcast Pictures Presents banner.
Film Arcade and Lionsgate have acquired The Other Dream Team, a Sundance documentary about Lithuania's basketball team that competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Sigourney Weaver (UTA, Jackoway Tyerman) will make her TV series debut as a divorced former first lady on USA's limited-series drama Political Animals. Carla Gugino (CAA, Untitled, Sloane Offer) will co-star as a Pulitzer-winning journalist.
David Cronenberg (WME, Sentient, Behr & Abramson) will direct the pilot and executive produce Media Rights Capital's Knifeman, based on the Wendy Moore novel about a radical self-educated surgeon. The drama will soon go out to cast and potential buyers.
Angela Bassett (Gersh, Lighthouse, Fox Rothschild) and Julian McMahon (WME, ROAR, Bloom Hergott) will star in Fox's untitled Karyn Usher CIA drama pilot as the director of the agency and the mentor of a teen spy, respectively.
Lost showrunner Carlton Cuse (WME, Del Shaw) will executive produce and oversee The Bates Motel, A&E's planned prequel to Psycho being produced by Mark Wolper and Roy Lee.
American Horror Story's Connie Britton (WME, Untitled, Hansen Jacobson) has joined ABC's drama pilot Nashville, playing a past-her-prime singer paired with a rising star.
Felicity's Keri Russell (WME, Burstein Co., Sloane Offer) will star as a KGB spy in FX's 1980s-set pilot The Americans from former CIA staffer Joe Weisberg (Falling Skies).
Friday Night Lights' Zach Gilford (WME, Dontanville/Frattaroli, Sloane Offer) will co-star in Fox's Josh Berman/Robert Wright medical drama pilot, playing a doctor opposite Jordana Spiro.
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol villain Michael Nyqvist (WME, Magnolia, Felker Toczek) will star as an evil mercenary in ABC's conspiracy drama pilot Zero Hour, starring Anthony Edwards.
Grey's Anatomy stars Kevin McKidd (WME, Management 360, Mitchell Silberberg) and Chandra Wilson (Abrams, Station3, Jackoway Tyerman) will direct their third and sixth episodes, respectively, of the ABC drama. … Fred Savage (CAA, Jackoway Tyerman) will direct CBS' Martin Lawrence comedy pilot.
The Finder's Mercedes Masohn (Greene & Associates, Luber/Roklin) and One Tree Hill's Robert Buckley (WME, Interlink, McKuin Frankel) have joined ABC's 666 Park Avenue pilot as a couple who live in the haunted building.
Party Down's Ken Marino (IFA, Principato Young) will play the husband of Judy Greer's character in ABC's American Judy comedy pilot.
Terra Nova's Christine Adams (Innovative, Hofflund Co.) has boarded ABC's fashion drama pilot Americana, playing star Anthony LaPaglia's ex-wife.
How to Make it in America's Luis Guzman (Gersh) will co-star as a cook in the diner at the heart of ABC's comedy pilot Counter Culture.
Amara Miller (CESD, Principato Young) of The Descendants has boarded NBC's comedy pilot 1600 Penn, playing the youngest daughter of the president (Bill Pullman).
Cierra Ramirez (Corsa, Hirsch Wallerstein) has landed a role on ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager, playing a pregnant freshman.
Australian actress Peta Sergeant (TalentWorks, Magnolia, Australia's Sue Barnett) has joined the CW's drama pilot The Selection, playing a rebel leader.
Bachelorette star Ali Fedotowsky (WME, Mith Niles, Gaines Solomon) will host late-night syndicated NBC travel show 1st Look, set to premiere April 14.
FX has renewed its Timothy Olyphant drama Justified for a fourth season. … Disney Channel is bringing back the music-centric comedy Austin & Ally for a second season. … CBS has renewed daytime show The Talk for a third season. … Lifetime has ordered 20 more episodes of John Walsh's America's Most Wanted.
Hulu has struck a first-look distribution deal for its original series with FremantleMedia. More than 30 documentaries, including Morgan Spurlock's series A Day in the Life, will be exclusive to the site.
Dennis Miller (Brillstein) has signed a long-term deal with Dial Global to continue as host of The Dennis Miller Show, broadcast on more than 300 U.S. stations.
Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke has signed with management company Manage-Ment.
Chaka Khan, a 10-time Grammy winner with six platinum-selling albums, has signed with ICM.
Simon Curtis, the director of My Week With Marilyn, has signed with Anonymous Content.
Producers Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray, whose Mayhem Pictures banner has produced Secretariat and Miracle, have signed with Paradigm for television.
Sean Hood, who wrote 2011's Conan the Barbarian and is now writing Rambo: Last Stand for Millennium, has signed with APA.
NEXT BIG THING: Max Borenstein
Reps: UTA, Anonymous, Rosen Feig
Why He Matters: The hot screenwriter behind Warner Bros./Legendary's upcoming Julianne Moore/Jeff Bridges fantasy The Seventh Son has been hired by Disney to pen a top-secret space-set sci-fi adventure called Paladin.
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