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DEALS OF THE WEEK: How to Make Mighty Morphin Millions: When Haim Saban launched the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the 1990s, he quickly built an empire by spinning off the kids TV series into licensed toys, apparel and much more. Since Saban reacquired the brand two years ago, he has been trying to outdo himself with the help of a new revenue stream: digital.
At the just-concluded Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, Saban touted not only a deal with Mattel for Power Rangers Hot Wheels cars but also the holiday launch of a Power Rangers video game on the Microsoft Xbox Kinect platform that allows the target group of young boys to place themselves in the middle of the action. “The boys action category has stayed consistently powerful,” says Elie Dekel, president of Saban Brands. “And the merchandise has expanded into interactive and mobile applications as well.”
Transitioning brands to new platforms was a big theme at the expo as the industry celebrated the first year-over-year increase in royalty income from North America licensing since 2006, with entertainment brands accounting for a quarter of the $5.3 billion in annual business.
Fox had its biggest presence to date, including a licensing pitch for Nat Geo shows Doomsday Preppers and Brain Games. Universal inked a major deal with Thinkway Toys for high-tech Despicable Me products.
The other Hollywood studios, including Sony, were back with movies, TV shows and games, many offering mobile apps as well as physical goods. Warner Bros. president of consumer products Brad Globe says the studio’s 2013 Superman reboot, Man of Steel, will generate products from Lego, Converse, Fisher-Price and more.
But beyond the studio properties and celebrity plays — Real Housewives star NeNe Leakes launched a fashion brand at the expo — the buzz revolved around brands with digital potential. The hit game Angry Birds generated 20,000 licenses for owner Rovio — everything from key chains to stuffed animals.
Saban drew more than 600 wannabe partners for a presentation for Power Rangers, its revival of Popples, My Pet Monster and an animated TV series based on the Paul Frank brand, including its monkey character. Says Dekel, “We’re finding more companies opening up to licensing as a way to differentiate their business.” — Alex Ben Block
Woof! Arsenio’s Back in Late-Night
Nearly two decades after The Arsenio Hall Show ended its run, the Celebrity Apprentice winner is returning to late-night with a syndicated talk show from CBS Television Distribution. “On Apprentice, Arsenio really appealed to the 35-to-55 audience, and those people were the 18-to-34 demo he had watching 18 years ago. They just aged,” CBS distribution president John Nogawski tells THR about testing for the new late-night entry. The syndicated series, through a partnership with Tribune, already has been sold in more than 52 percent of the country and will air on Tribune stations KTLA in Los Angeles, WPIX in New York and WGN in Chicago as well as CBS outlets for a fall 2013 premiere. “There’s no one in late-night that has any ethnicity, and Arsenio certainly stands out there,” says Nogawski of the entry, which will air at 10 or 11 p.m. and, like the 1989 to 1994 incarnation, feature Hall amid a “party atmosphere. The audience will come out woofing before Arsenio does.” — Lesley Goldberg
Two Sign on for Alien Adventure
Jim Parsons and Rihanna will provide the lead voices in Happy Smekday!, a DreamWorks Animation adaptation of the Adam Rex book The True Meaning of Smekday. Tim Johnson (DWA’s Antz and Over the Hedge) will direct Smekday!, which is aiming for a fourth-quarter 2014 bow. Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember (Get Smart) are writing the screenplay, and Chris Jenkins (Rio) and Suzanne Buirgy (Kung Fu Panda 2) produce. In Smekday!, a friendly alien goes on the run with a teenage girl across a post-apocalyptic America. Parsons (CAA, Principal, Hansen Jacobson) has done voice work for iCarly and Family Guy; this will be the voice-acting debut for Rihanna (WME, Rebel One). — Borys Kit
Charlize Theron (WME, One Talent, Hansen Jacobson) will produce and likely star in Murder Mystery, a comedy whodunit that John Madden (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) will direct from a script by James Vanderbilt.
Hugh Laurie (WME, the U.K.’s Hamilton Hodell, Ziffren Brittenham) will play the villain in RoboCop, MGM and Sony’s remake of the 1987 sci-fi classic. Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) stars.
Colin Farrell (CAA) is negotiating to join Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, about the creation of Mary Poppins. John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) is directing.
Ian McShane (ICM, the U.K.’s Independent Talent, Gallant, Nelson Davis), onscreen in Snow White and the Huntsman, is joining Nick Frost and Rashida Jones in the British romantic comedy Cuban Fury.
Smokehouse Pictures partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov will produce an adaptation of August: Osage County for The Weinstein Co. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts star.
Alain Desrochers (Echo Lake) will direct The Rising, a jungle vampire movie being made by Millennium/Nu Image.
Christopher Nolan (WME, Bloom Hergott) and his wife and partner, Emma Thomas, will executive produce The Dark Knight cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, an untitled thriller for Alcon Entertainment.
Hans Zimmer (WME) will compose the score for Man of Steel, the Warner Bros. Superman reboot being directed by Zack Snyder.
Brian Duffield (Gersh, Circle of Confusion) has sold to Paramount the spec script Monster Problems, about an apocalyptic road trip, for Shawn Levy (Real Steel) to produce.
Lindsay Lohan (ICM, Bloom Hergott) is in negotiations to star in The Canyons, an indie sexual thriller based on a Bret Easton Ellis script. James Deen, an adult-film actor, will co-star in the Kickstarter-funded movie, which Paul Schrader will direct in July.
Sony Pictures is near a deal to distribute Journey of a Thousand Miles, an adaptation of a memoir by Chinese pianist Lang Lang to be produced by Wendi Murdoch and Florence Sloan.
Margot Robbie (CAA, Management 360, Jackoway Tyerman) will play the female lead opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in director Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Scott Rosenberg (WME, Sloane Offer) has sold to Disney a Christmas-themed pitch, with the studio paying $1 million for the action-comedy project with John Jacobs producing.
New Line is developing a remake of the 1973 comic murder-mystery film The Last of Sheila, with Beau Flynn and his FPC banner producing.
Former Big Love star Jeanne Tripplehorn (Gersh, Brillstein) has joined CBS’ Criminal Minds as a regular, playing an FBI profiler for the upcoming eighth season.
Former Chuck star Yvonne Strahovski (IFA, McKeon-Myones) has landed a multiepisode arc on Showtime’s Dexter, playing a mysterious woman.
NBC has given an early pilot order to The Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, with writer Sascha Penn (CAA, Madhouse, Del Shaw) adapting the book by Josie Brown. Jerry Bruckheimer will executive produce.
Imagine Television has inked a new deal with Twentieth Television. The two are behind ABC’s new midseason comedy How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life), starring Sarah Chalke.
Joseph Fiennes (WME, Anonymous) will play the head of an institution for the criminally insane on the second season of FX’s American Horror Story.
Portia de Rossi (WME) will play Lily Munster in Mockingbird Lane, NBC’s remake of classic 1960s series The Munsters from Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies). Jerry O’Connell is set as Herman Munster.
Cheyenne Jackson (ICM, Schiff Co.), Rob Lowe (WME, Brillstein, O’Melveny & Myers) and Scott Bakula (ICM, Hansen Jacobson) have joined HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, the Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas.
How I Met Your Mother executive producer Chuck Tatham (WME, The Collective, Katz Golden) has inked a new deal with 20th Television to remain on the CBS comedy and develop new projects for the studio.
Terminator 2‘s Robert Patrick (Gersh, Coronel Group) has joined HBO’s True Blood for a multiepisode role, playing the father to Joe Manganiello’s werewolf Alcide.
Former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger (WME, Singh Singh Trauben) will return and replace Kelly Rowland as a judge on Simon Cowell’s U.K. The X Factor.
CBS has ordered a pilot based on the mobile game Draw Something from Ryan Seacrest Productions, Embassy Row’s Michael Davies and Sony Pictures TV.
NBCUniversal Television Distribution has renewed syndicated daytime talk shows Maury, The Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show through 2016.
TLC has brought back the unscripted My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding for a second season and ordered a reunion and potential backdoor pilot for a spinoff, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding: The Stanley Sisters.
BBC America is launching Chef Race: U.K. vs. U.S., to be produced by Jamie Oliver.
Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston will host the July 28 Television Critics Association Awards. … Regis Philbin will host the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular on NBC. … Scandal‘s Kerry Washington and Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman will unveil the Primetime Emmy nominations July 19.
Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale (WME) has signed a record deal with Hollywood Records and plans a country album next year.
London-based digital music service We7, in which music legend Peter Gabriel owns a stake, has been sold to supermarket giant Tesco for $16.8 million.
Alloy Digital, a leading media company for the 12-to-34 demographic, has acquired Clevver Media, YouTube’s top entertainment news provider.
A version of Monopoly with a Godfather twist (the Corleone Long Island Home replaces Boardwalk, for example) is coming via a deal with Hasbro and Paramount Licensing.
Spike Lee will direct Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway. The one-man show played the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and runs July 31 to Aug. 5 in New York.
Married producers Robert Cort and Rosalie Swedlin have purchased for $10.45 million a 10,000-square-foot Beverly Hills home designed by architect Peter Choate.
Julie Andrews has sold her Brentwood home for $2.705 million, more than the $2.649 million asking price.
Terry Crews, who co-starred in The Expendables and returns for this summer’s sequel, has signed with 3 Arts Entertainment.
Colin Ferguson, known for starring as Sheriff Jack Carter on Syfy’s Eureka, has signed with UTA.
Nikki Glaser, who stars with Sara Schaefer in the new late-night MTV program The Nikki and Sara Show, has signed with ICM.
Theo James, who stars in CBS’ upcoming series Golden Boy, has signed with WME.
Patrick Johnson, who plays Callie Thorne’s son on USA’s Necessary Roughness, has signed with APA.
THE NEXT BIG THING: Jeremy Jordan
Reps: ICM, Schachter. Why He Matters: After scoring strong reviews and a Tony Award nomination for the Broadway hit Newsies The Musical, the breakout actor has landed a series-regular role on season two of NBC’s Broadway drama Smash, playing a singer from Brooklyn.
THE BIG NUMBER: $374,500: Price paid at auction June 15 for one of only 50 surviving Apple 1 computers, blowing away the previous record of $212,000 paid two years ago.
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