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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Bigger Television Upfront Haul Still Disappoints the Bulls: The broadcast networks finished their upfront ad sales for the 2011-12 season with slightly less than some on Wall Street predicted. CBS, Fox, ABC, NBC and the CW booked an estimated $9 billion to $9.2 billion, compared with an estimated $8.5 billion in 2010. That would be an increase of 6 to 8 percent, not too shabby but below bullish projections. “These numbers are slightly disappointing given the expectations for 12-13 percent [rate] increases, but they still represent strong growth and recovery,” says Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible. CBS, the most-viewed network, led with ad-rate increases of 13 to 15 percent and a $2.6 billion to $2.7 billion total upfront take; other nets boast price gains in the 10 percent range. NBC posted the smallest gain at 9 percent. Up next: the big cable networks. Time Warner’s Turner Networks group has finished a majority of its upfront business, with prices up in the 12 to 13 percent range, according to sources. Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan says Viacom’s MTV Networks has also already moved “significant inventory.” He expects the total cable upfront to be up 8 to 12 percent in terms of prices and 12 percent in volume. That could leave the cable upfront market up 15 percent from last year at $9.2 billion-plus — larger than the broadcast networks’ haul. — Georg Szalai
Boiler Room Director Revs Up
Ben Younger‘s passion for adrenaline helped him write and direct the 2000 financial drama Boiler Room. Now it has nabbed the filmmaker his first major studio writing assignment, an untitled car-racing adventure for Warner Bros. and producers Jennifer Fox and Polly Johnson. It was actually the star of Younger’s first movie, Ben Affleck, who introduced him to racing with the gift of a motorcycle — which Younger promptly crashed. “[Affleck’s] insurance paid for it,” Younger tells THR from New Jersey Motorsports Park. “I hadn’t even transferred ownership.” But Younger, who also made the 2005 Meryl Streep dramedy Prime, has been racing ever since. Maybe too much: Rumors began circulating that he had quit Hollywood to drive full time. So at the behest of his reps (CAA, Ziffren Brittenham), he came to L.A. and pitched Warners exec Jon Berg his passion project, the racing drama Isle of Man. Berg passed but determined Younger was right for a project called Formula One, which had been eyed as a biopic of racing legend Ayrton Senna. Younger is reworking the story as an adventure set in the modern racing world, without the cliches of pics like Days of Thunder. (He offers John Frankenheimer‘s Grand Prix as a touchstone.) For the first time, Younger is creating scenes as big as he can dream. “I’m used to writing movies where I have to scale back,” he says. “But this is a $150 million movie. This is not the time to skimp on set pieces.” — Borys Kit
T.J. Miller (WME, 3 Arts, Jackoway Tyerman) will star in Road to Nardo, a Columbia comedy that marks the directorial debut of writer Scot Armstrong. Neal H. Moritz, Ravi Nandan and Armstrong are producing the project, which revolves around two roommates who try to save a friend who is stranded naked in Mexico.
Tom McCarthy (Gersh, Schreck Rose) has been tapped to pen Home Movies, a supernatural family comedy for DreamWorks that centers on a man who is able to revisit moments in his life through home movies and change things. Jared Stern penned the original project; Shawn Levy will produce with Bruce Nash and Robert Kosberg.
David DiGilio (UTA, Luber Roklin, Jackoway Tyerman) will pen the sequel to Disney’s Tron: Legacy and has sold a pitch for a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series to Showtime titled Last H.O.P.E.
The Killing star Joel Kinnaman (UTA, Magnolia, Hansen Jacobson) has joined Lola Versus, Fox Searchlight’s romantic comedy being produced by Michael London’s Groundswell Prods. Hamish Linklater, Bill Pullman and Debra Winger also co-star with Greta Gerwig in the Daryl Wein-directed film.
Snow White and the Huntsman scribe Evan Daugherty (UTA, FilmEngine, McKuin Frankel) will adapt the dystopian thriller Divergent, based on the young-adult novel by Veronica Roth, for Summit Entertainment. FinePrint’s Pouya Shahbazian is producing alongside Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher.
Australian actor Jason Clarke (UTA, Robert Stein, Nelson Davis) has nabbed a role in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Isla Fisher. Clarke will play George Wilson in the Warner Bros. production.
Todd Lincoln (CAA, Caliber Media, Hirsch Wallerstein) will direct and Daniel Alter and RKO will produce The Nye Incidents, based on a comic created by Communion author Whitley Strieber and Craig Spector, set in the world of alien abductees.
Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson (UTA, H2F, Hansen Jacobson) will write Paramount’s Lions, Tigers and Bears. Lorenzo Di Bonaventura is producing the project based on an Image comic book by Mike Bullock about a boy whose stuffed animals come to life.
Legendary Entertainment has formed Legendary East, a Hong Kong-based company that will co-produce one or two English-language films a year with Huayi Brothers Media, China’s largest independent film studio. Warner Bros. will distribute worldwide, and Shenzhen Huayi will focus on China.
The Weinstein Co. has acquired U.S. rights to W.E., the new feature film directed by Madonna.
Writer John Hlavin (UTA, Management 360, Jackoway Tyerman) will pen Risk, a Columbia adaptation of the Cold War-era board game. Hasbro Entertainment’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir are producing with Overbrook’s James Lassiter.
Fringe writer-producer Brad Caleb Kane (WME, Benchmark, Gang Tyre) will adapt Daredevil for Fox and Regency. David Slade (Eclipse) is attached to direct, with Chernin Entertainment producing.
Michael Pena (CAA, Management 360, Stone Meyer) has joined the cast of Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s 1940s crime drama Gangster Squad opposite Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn.
French actress Elodie Yung (Gersh, Caliber, Hamilton Hodell) is in talks to join Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum in Paramount’s new G.I. Joe movie. She would play Jinx, a member of the Joe squad.
Parks and Recreation star Adam Scott (CAA, Untitled, Ziffren Brittenham) has joined My Mother’s Curse opposite Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. He will also star in the indie See Girl Run opposite Robin Tunney.
Shrek and The Chronicles of Narnia director Andrew Adamson (UTA, Newhouse Porter) is producing a CG-animated feature adaptation of the Dark Horse comic Beasts of Burden with his Strange Weather Films partner Aron Warner and Mike Richardson of Dark Horse.
Nick Kurzon (Verve, 3 Arts, Jodi Peikoff) has sold a comedy pitch titled Best Lem to Indian Paintbrush, the film entity backed by billionaire Steven Rales.
Fisher Stevens (Paradigm, Evolution, Stephen Savva) will direct Stand-Up Guys, a comedy for Lakeshore, which Lionsgate will distribute.
Robin Wright (CAA, Anonymous, Ziffren Brittenham) is in early talks to play the female lead opposite Kevin Spacey in Netflix’s first original series, House of Cards. The hourlong political thriller is set for late 2012.
Jaimie Alexander (WME, James/Levy, Ginsburg Daniels) and Peter Stormare (ICM, the Collective) have booked guest roles on USA Network’s Covert Affairs.
Original Appalachian Artworks, which owns the Cabbage Patch Kids brand, has sold TV rights to producer Galen Walker and a company created by Carlin West, a former 4Kids Entertainment executive who is planning an animation reboot.
AMC has greenlighted a second season of its hit crime drama The Killing.
Caitlin Gerard (IFA Talent, Artists Independent) and Armen Weitzman (Principato-Young, Talent Works) have joined MTV’s Bo Burnham comedy pilot Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (UTA, Precision, Bloom Hergott), Olga Kurylenko (CAA, Tavistock Wood), Jessica Marais (UTA, RGM), Steven Strait (CAA, 3 Arts), Christian Cooke (WME, the U.K.’s United Agents, Management 360) and Danny Huston (ICM, Julian Belfrage) round out the cast of Starz’s 10-episode period mob drama Magic City. They join Kelly Lynch, Michael Rispoli and Seymour Cassel for writer-producer Mitch Glazer.
Mark Pellegrino (Domain, Framework Entertainment, True Public Relations) has joined the final season of TNT’s The Closer for a five-episode arc.
TNT has acquired off-network cable rights to the Nathan Fillion dramedy Castle, from Disney-ABC Domestic Television.
Matt Pyken (Paradigm) has been tapped to write and executive produce TBS’ hourlong comedy The Wedding Band, starring Brian Austin Green and Harold Perrineau.
Glee star Chris Colfer (Coast to Coast, Inphenate, Felker Toczek) has signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Targeting kids ages 8-12, the first book, The Land of Stories, will be released in summer 2012.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler, whose TV work includes The Sopranos and Entourage, has signed with Paradigm. She recently completed filming the indie feature Son of Morning. … Emily VanCamp, whose TV credits include Brothers and Sisters, Everwood and Glory Days, has signed with UTA. She next appears on ABC’s fall drama Revenge. … ICM has signed reality producers Jarrett Creative Group, founded by Seth Jarrett and Julie Insogna-Jarrett, producers of Biography’s Celebrity Ghost Stories. … Henry Jackman, who composed the music for X-Men: First Class and the upcoming Puss in Boots, has signed with WME. … Nip/Tuck actor John Hensley has signed with APA.
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