The Business: Signed & Sealed
Ka-ching! Who’s inking on the dotted line this week.
DEAL OF THE WEEK: Why Stern is Still Worth $400 Million: In 2004, when Sirius Satellite Radio agreed to pay Howard Stern an ear-busting $500 million over five years, the company had only 600,000 subscribers and was in desperate need of publicity. Stern (Don Buchwald & Associates) provided it in spades, quickly quieting critics of Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin who thought the unprecedented salary made no sense. But now Sirius, since merged with rival XM, has 20 million subs — only about 10 percent of whom listen to Stern — and 90 percent of the country is familiar with the brand. So when the shock jock said Dec. 9 that he had signed a new five-year contract that Wall Street analysts valued at $60 million-$80 million a year, it begged the question: Even with the slight pay cut, why is Stern still worth $400 million? Turns out there are about 156 million reasons. If he left, he’d take about 1 million subscribers with him, according to Matthew Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities. Each of those listeners pays $13 a month, or $156 a year, meaning Stern is responsible for $156 million annually in subscription revenue alone. Add in the limited commercials Sirius sells, new opportunities for mobile content and the attention Stern brings, and $400 million seems like a steal. “The reality is that Sirius XM is uniquely able to monetize Howard Stern,” Harrigan says. — Paul Bond
Author Brings Mineo to Franco
Los Angeles-based writer-artist Michael Gregg Michaud (WME) worked for a decade on this year’s Sal Mineo: A Biography, about the enigmatic Rebel Without a Cause actor who was murdered in 1976 at age 37. Now, Michaud finds himself making a deal with James Franco, who played James Dean in a 2001 TV movie, to write and direct (though likely not star in) a film adaptation. “I’m still kind of in shock,” Michaud says. “I’m just thrilled that his interest means Sal might finally get some of the recognition he deserves.” — Kevin Cassidy
Daniels Moving to Tropics
Precious director Lee Daniels has signed to adapt Anna in the Tropics, Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer-winning Broadway play. John Torres Martinez and Joe Lamy of Austin-based Mankind Entertainment will produce. Inspired by Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Tropics revolves around a family of cigar rollers whose lives are changed by literature during the 1920s. WME Global is packaging the project, and Daniels — whose deal was made by WME before he recently jumped to CAA — will develop the script with the Cuba-born Cruz while he works on his planned civil rights project Selma. “Even though I wrote Anna as a play, I just think it has endless possibilities as a film,” says Cruz (Paradigm). — Borys Kit
Sackhoff Pic Comes From Unique Scribe
Katee Sackhoff (Gersh) has signed to star in and co-produce Sexy Evil Genius, a dark comedy to be directed by Shawn Piller, showrunner of ABC Family’s Greek. The script was written by Scott Lew, a filmmaker who has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Quadriplegic and unable to speak, Lew wrote Genius using an infrared laser strapped to his forehead that pointed to letters on a computer screen. “Writing is the only way I really get to express myself with complexity,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter via e-mail. Piller/Segan/Shepard and Launchpad Prods. are behind the movie. — Borys Kit
After more than eight months of on-and-off negotiations, Universal has acquired rights to Ricardo de Montreuil’s short film The Raven for Mark Wahlberg to produce as a feature with partner Steve Levinson. Wahlberg (WME, Leverage Management, Sloane Offer) is developing the sci-fi project about a robotic police force as a possible starring vehicle.
Andy Wachowski and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski are returning to the Warner Bros. fold with Hood, a modern, urban take on the Robin Hood myth. The Wachowskis (both WME, Circle of Confusion, Lichter Grossman), who made the blockbuster Matrix films as well as the flop Speed Racer for Warners, wrote the top-secret script and will direct. The filmmakers are reaching out to actors, including Will Smith.
Jessica Chastain has booked the female lead in The Wettest County, a Prohibition-set indie drama directed by John Hillcoat (The Road) and produced by Red Wagon. Chastain (CAA, Mosiac) is joining Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy and will play Hardy’s love interest.
Fox is developing a family adventure that follows a group of babies who break out of their day-care room to find another infant. Director Clay Weiner and producer Chernin Entertainment are on board for the untitled film. Weiner (UTA, Brillstein Entertainment, Sloane Offer) directed Fred: The Movie and episodes of the Spike TV series Blue Mountain State.
Sofia Vergara and Jessica Biel are in negotiations to join the cast of New Year’s Eve, New Line’s ensemble follow-up to Valentine’s Day. Vergara (WME, Untitled Entertainment, Cowan DeBates and Hansen Jacobson) and Biel (CAA, Management 360, Jackoway Tyerman) would join Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin and Ashton Kutcher in the Garry Marshall-directed pic.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (both UTA, Ziffren Brittenham) are in talks with Disney to develop and direct the comedy Bob: The Musical. Miller and Lord would have to work around directing Sony’s live-action revamp of 21 Jump Street, which is looking at a spring shoot with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum starring.
Neve Campbell has signed to star opposite Josh Hartnett in Singularity, the sci-fi drama being directed by Roland Joffe. Campbell (ICM, Forster Entertainment, Myman Greenspan) will play Hartnett’s wife and fellow archaeologist in the film, which is set in 1778 and 2015.
Guillermo del Toro has partnered to create Mirada, a company that aims to allow filmmakers to incubate and launch film projects. The Mexican filmmaker (WME, Exile Entertainment, Hirsch Wallerstein) has teamed with Guillermo Navarro, his longtime cinematographer, and Mathew Cullen and Javier Jaminez of commercial production house Motion Theory for the Marina del Rey-based company.
Warner Home Video has reached a deal with the estate of Charlton Heston for home entertainment rights to six films, including the Shakespearean epic Antony and Cleopatra. The titles will be released March 29 ahead of the Easter holiday.
NBC is teaming with Mark Burnett to launch a singing competition series that takes aim at Fox’s American Idol. The Peacock is near a deal to acquire a format based on The Voice of Holland, created by reality pioneer John de Mol. Since debuting this year, Holland has become the top program in the Netherlands. Burnett will produce the U.S. version. The show will premiere in the spring.
Anderson, the one-hour daily talk show hosted by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper (N.S. Bienstock), has been cleared in 21 major markets, including key hubs New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, where it will air on Fox affiliate KTTV.
Chris Brancato is taking over showrunning duties on USA Network’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent. The writer-producer (WME, Bloom Hergott) has worked on episodes of Law & Order: SVU, Boomtown and Beverly Hills, 90210. L&O franchise veteran Walon Green is leaving the show.
FishBowl Worldwide Media, the new shingle launched by Vin Di Bona and Bruce Gersh, has sold dramas to Fox and the CW. Fox bought a pitch for The Danger List, a medical thriller for Stephen Gallagher to write and produce. The CW bought Beautiful Strangers, about two thieves who become FBI informants. Veronica Mars and Party Down veteran Rob Thomas will executive produce, and Dan Thompsen will write.
Larry Hagman (Talent Works) has landed a guest-starring role on ABC’s Desperate Housewives.
ABC has set its midseason plans, scheduling the Matthew Perry (CAA, Doug Chapin Management, Surpin Mayersohn & Edelstone) comedy Mr. Sunshine and Elisha Cuthbert’s (ICM, John Carrabino Management) sitcom Happy Endings. Sunshine will get the network’s best comedy slot, taking over for Cougar Town with a Modern Family lead-in Wednesdays for nine weeks starting Feb. 9. After the new drama Off the Map has its last airing April 6, Happy Endings and a “fan favorite” episode of Modern Family will run in the 10 p.m. hour.
Foo Fighters and Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel (manager John Silva, attorney Gary Gilbert) has renewed a multiyear publishing deal with Bug Music. Sunny Day reunited in 2009 and is working on its first album in 15 years.
BET has renewed the lease for its Los Angeles headquarters on Santa Monica Boulevard. Washington D.C.-based BET will now occupy 38,127 square feet of office space at the property. The five-year deal with landlord Atria West is valued at $5.6 million. Peter Best, Lisa St. John and Owen Fileti of L.A. Realty Partners represented the landlord, and Brad Feld of Madison Partners represented BET.
The Venice, Calif., compound of the late Dennis Hopper, listed at $5.8 million, is under contract for sale to an unknown buyer at an undisclosed price.