The Business: Signed & Sealed — 7 Days of Deals
DEAL OF THE WEEK: How rich is Ryan Seacrest’s new three-year deal with Clear Channel? Depends whom you ask. The American Idol host, who also produces television and broadcasts his syndicated radio show (“On Air With Ryan Seacrest”) out of the Comcast-owned E! Entertainment building, first signed with the radio giant in 2004. The new deal, brokered by CAA and attorney Craig Jacobson at Hansen Jacobson with Clear Channel Radio chairman Bob Pittman over Thanksgiving weekend, is said to be worth a staggering $60 million. But some in the radio business say the unconfirmed numbers (neither side is offering details) don’t add up. “Deals like this are always incentive-based,” explains a major-market radio insider, who estimates the number is more likely in the range of $10 million-$12 million a year. “Seacrest does extremely well mornings in L.A., but he would have to be No. 1 in every market to pull in $20 million a year. That’s more than Howard Stern made in the heyday of terrestrial radio, and it’s a very different climate right now.” Sure, Seacrest’s deal calls for the expansion of “On Air” and an agreement to participate in corporate activities and concerts. But Clear Channel is saddled with some $1.7 billion in debt, making an expensive investment rare. Radio expert Kevin Carter, a partner at industry tipsheet RAMP (Radio and Music Pros), is surprised for another reason. “The dollar figure is secondary to the fact that it represents a huge commitment from Seacrest to radio,” he says. “Plenty of pundits speculated that he was going to make a move to TV, but radio is where he started, it’s his base, and he’s staying loyal to it.” Meanwhile, adds Carter, bold new ideas for a Seacrest-owned record company or publishing house are just that. “That part of the deal is murky. Sometimes they toss things in on the off chance that it could happen at some point.” On the other hand, Seacrest — who is in the middle of a three-year, $45 million Idol deal and is eyeing an expanded pact with Comcast — will be on billboards in every major city. “As if he needs more face time,” Carter jokes. — Shirley Halperin
HOW A SERIAL KILLER WAS BORN
In 2003, filmmaker Mark Carter was browsing at a Barnes & Noble in L.A. when his eye caught an intriguing title in the bargain bin: Serial Killer Days. Carter, who had made an award-winning short called The Ballad of Little Roger Mead, devoured the satirical 1996 David Prill novel, set in a town that celebrates the annual arrival of a serial killer with a parade and a pageant. “The macabre sense of humor was very Charles Addams-ish,” Carter recalls. He tracked the author down in Minnesota and scored the movie rights. Then, after seeing the similarly subversive Thank You for Smoking, he reached out to its co-producer Dan Dubiecki, whom Carter had met at a shorts festival. Together they overhauled the script, and it made the 2008 Black List of most-liked unproduced screenplays. After another rewrite, Dubiecki recently took it to Paramount, which released the Dubiecki-produced Up in the Air. Execs likened the tone to Scream and Disturbia. Seven years later, Carter now has a deal to write a new draft with an eye to direct. “I hope to deliver the expected genre conventions but do it in an idiosyncratic, richly layered and unexpected world,” says Carter, repped by New Wave Entertainment. “There will also be lots of blood.” — Borys kit
Disney finally has closed its sale of Miramax to a consortium led by L.A. billionaire Ron Tutor. The $660 million deal means the studio and its 700-plus film library is owned by Filmyard Holdings, a partnership of Tutor, Tom Barrack and Colony Capital. The investors, which also include Qatar Holdings (a vehicle for a Middle Eastern royal family), put up about $200 million, and a group of banks led by Barclays raised debt of about $400 million. New York investment bank Jeffries & Co. helped raise the debt, and Mesa Global was involved in valuating the assets. Ex-News Corp. exec Mike Lang will be Miramax’s CEO. Lawyers closing the deal included the Irell & Manella and Sheppard Mullin firms for Disney, Liner Grode Stein and Michael Barnes for the buyers and Cahill Gordon & Reindel for the lenders.
Robert Downey Jr. (CAA, Hansen Jacobson) is attached to star in a musical pitch that Warner Bros. bought from Brian Yorkey (WME, Anonymous Content) and Tom Kitt (WME), the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning composing team behind the musical Next to Normal. The story revolves around two failed Broadway songwriters who take jobs as counselors at the theater camp they attended as kids while they plan a big comeback. Downey will produce with Susan Downey via their Team Downey banner. Anonymous is also producing.
Ben Stiller (WME, Gang Tyre) and James Franco (WME, James/Levy Management, Loeb and Loeb) might be teaming for Noah Baumbach’s next project, While We’re Young. The actors are in whispered talks along with Cate Blanchett to co-star in the dramatic comedy, which Baumbach and producer Scott Rudin are packaging before taking out to buyers.
A deal is being negotiated to move the long-gestating Three Stooges film project from MGM to Fox. The Farrelly brothers (CAA, Lichter Grossman) still will direct, but the planned cast of Jim Carrey, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro likely will be replaced.
Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer has come aboard to helm Warner Bros.’ Gangster Squad. Fleischer (UTA, Sloane Offer) will tackle the Will Beall-scripted period pic about how the LAPD created a unit in the 1940s to keep the East Coast mafia out of the city. Dan Lin and Kevin McCormick are producing.
Channing Tatum has officially signed to star in Columbia’s 21 Jump Street, based on the Fox TV series. Jonah Hill co-stars for directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Hill wrote the treatment with Michael Bacall, who wrote the screenplay. Neal H. Moritz will produce. Tatum (UTA, Management 360, Stone Meyer) and producing partner Reid Carolin’s unnamed company also closed a two-year deal with Relativity to develop projects.
Abigail Spencer has joined the McG-directed This Means War, a Fox action comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy. Spencer (ICM, Untitled Entertainment, Sloane Offer) is coming off an extended turn as Don Draper’s mistress on Mad Men.
Ricky Gervais and Emily Blunt have signed for cameos in Disney’s upcoming Muppets movie. Gervais (WME, the U.K.’s United Agents) and Blunt (CAA, the U.K.’s Ken McReddie Associates, Sloane Offer) join Alan Arkin, Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Zach Galifianakis and Jean-Claude Van Damme. James Bobin is directing the pic.
Writer-producer Kevin Williamson (WME, Felker Toczek) is in very early stages of developing a Vampire Diaries companion series for the CW described as The X-Files meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Dan Aykroyd (CAA) will appear opposite Jim Belushi next year on CBS’ The Defenders.
Starz’s upcoming U.S. edition of Torchwood has added producer Kelly Manners (Innovative), whose credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
Cartoon Network has ordered new seasons of the Monday night toons Adventure Time, Regular Show and MAD.
Twilight’s Jackson Rathbone (Paradigm, Cutler Management, Nelson Davis), Friday Night Lights’ Aimee Teegarden (Innovative Artists, Felker Toczek) and Lost’s Rebecca Mader (Innovative, Mosaic, Bloom Hergott) will co-star in the multiplatform series Aim High for Warner Premiere, McG and Thor Freudenthal.
Longtime music manager Rob McDermott, who helped propel the Grammy-winning rock band Linkin Park to album sales of nearly 20 million in the U.S., is leaving his three-year post as a founding partner of the Collective to resurrect his own management company. Mad Mac Entertainment will be based in Los Angeles. Among his clients are heavy metal’s Wayne Static and Chicago pop-rockers the Audition.
Management company Principato Young Entertainment has renewed its lease for 15,914 square feet of office space at 9456 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. The 10-year renewal is valued at about $8 million, according to real estate industry sources.
Postproduction firm Modern VideoFilm has inked a 10-year lease for new office space at the Yahoo! Center at 2500 Broadway St. in Santa Monica. The 18,750-square-foot deal, valued at $8.8 million, is an expansion for the Burbank-based company, which will move into its new digs in June.
Paramount Pictures CEO Brad Grey has purchased the former Holmby Hills home of Frank Sinatra for $18.5 million. The deal for the seven-bedroom residence on 2.3 acres on North Carolwood Drive is one of the larger Los Angeles home sales of the year. The property was listed Sept. 8; the identity of the seller is unknown.
Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody is expected to sign with WME now that her longtime agent Sarah Self has joined the agency after departing Gersh in October. … UTA has signed Danny Pudi, co-star of NBC’s Community. … ICM has signed filmmaker brothers Josh and Ben Safdie, whose Daddy Longlegs is nominated for a Spirit Award. … Gersh is acquiring literary agency Hohman Maybank Lieb, bringing Bob Hohman, Bayard Maybank and Devra Lieb on board as partners.
Correction: The Morris Yorn law firm was identified incorrectly as Barnes Morris in last week’s column.