Week in Review: Broadway revival, indie kudos
EmptyBroadway melody: They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway ... and after a 19-day blackout, they are again. A new deal inked late Wednesday between stagehands and theater producers will raise the curtain on 26 productions closed by the strike -- the first by Local One in its 121-year existence. At the walkout's heart was producers' desire to trim the minimum number of stagehands required on productions. One source said the new deal will see that figure drop from 22 to 18 on the most elaborate productions.
Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, the warring parties were back at the table and Carson Daly was in the WGA doghouse after deciding to resume taping on his late-night talk show. The guild was "especially appalled" to find out the host had e-mailed friends and family asking for help with a bit.
What, me worry?: Who's not scared of a prolonged strike? Aat Schouwenaar, that's who. The Endemol boss, whose company is reponsible for unscripted shows like "Deal or No Deal," "Fear Factor" and "Big Brother," was all but rubbing his hands together in glee when discussing the concept at a PricewaterhouseCoopers confab this week. "If the strike goes on for several months, it will definitely have a positive effect on our 2008 numbers," he said. "We have more opportunities now because the time slots are going to be available."
Independent minded: Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" got a boost to its awards season hopes this week as it nabbed the best feature prize at the IFP's Gotham Awards in New York. The adventure tale shared the stage with Michael Moore's "Sicko," which took the group's documentary award. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the British Independent Film Awards was showering praise on Anton Corbijn's "Control." The biopic of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis claimed five nods, including best pic and director.
Root of the matter: Ah, the pursuit of "other opportunities," every exec's favorite reason for leaving a company. This week it was the reason given for Jane Root's departure as head of Discovery Channel and its sister Science Channel, both of which are enjoying double-digit ratings gains this year. So what's really up? Speculation is swirling that U.K. native Root is headed home not just for some quality family time but also as a potential contender to take the helm at BBC1. She'd replace controller Peter Fincham, out last month after the debacle surrounding the so-called Queengate scandal.
'51' pickup: Forty years into its existence, New Line is finally getting in the animation game, picking up rights to "Planet 51" from Spain-based Ilion Studios. The distributor is targeting a 2009 release and merchandising push for the $60 million feature written by Joe Stillman ("Shrek").
Someone to watch over him: A Sinatra clothing line? An Ol' Blue Eyes saloon? Tough to predict exactly what will come of it, but those are at least possibilities thanks to the creation of Frank Sinatra Enterprises. The new company is a joint venture of the Sinatra family and Warner Music Group. FSE will manage and market the Chairman's likeness and most of his music, film and stage works. WMG's Rhino unit is handling day-to-day ops.
In the money: Just how much is anyone's guess -- we've got it pegged at about $1.5 billion -- but the size of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's investment in Sony this week is a clear example of the Gulf region's growing influence in the media sector. The move, which observers believe will give the Sheikh's Dubai-based firm a few percentage points in Sony, comes on the heels of Warner Bros.' recent billion-dollar alliance with United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi and Viacom's launch this month of MTV Arabia.
Holding steady: "The Sopranos" may have left the building, but luckily for HBO, their subscribers haven't followed suit. Despite the end of its signature series and the subsequent belly flop of "John From Cincinatti," new data showed that HBO actually gained subs in the third quarter. While a 0.3% increase might not seem that exciting, flat beats heading south any day.