Lionsgate Will Distribute “Knives Out”

“Knives Out” is an original murder mystery written and directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and it’s already shaping up to be a hit. Johnson has kept the plot under wraps, saying only that it’s “his contemporary version of the locked-door mansion murder mystery,” and inspired by Agatha Christie novels.

A star-studded cast fills the screen, with Daniel Craig (Skyfall) headlining with Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger), Lakeith Stanfield (Selma), Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies), Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049), Christopher Plummer (A Beautiful Mind) and Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why), among others, making up the ensemble cast. The detectives trying to solve the crime are played by Craig and Stanfield, but the ensemble cast’s roles remain unknown.

Photo from Joblo.com

Craig was able to take on the role in “Knives Out” when Danny Boyle’s departure from the “Bond 25” set delayed production. “Bond 25” will be Craig’s final foray as the famed British spy and is set for release on Valentine’s Day 2020. Ram Bergman (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) is teaming up with Johnson once again as a co-producer on the project before they set to work on the new “Star Wars” trilogy.

Johnson sought investors for the script at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and received several offers. Media Rights Capital acquired world rights for the film at the festival and has now partnered with Lionsgate to distribute the film. Johnson and Bergman, were thrilled with the agreement.

“MRC put their trust in us when they first partnered with us on this film and Lionsgate truly champions and empowers the artist to tell the story they want to tell so we couldn’t be in better hands,” Johnson and Bergman told Deadline.

The film is set for a November 27, 2019 release date, just one day before Thanksgiving. Joe Drake, the chairman at Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, is looking forward to the film’s release.

“‘Knives Out’ redefines the detective movie genre in a cool and original way with a superstar filmmaker, an amazing ensemble cast and the perfect partner in MRC, we can hardly wait to bring this big, crowd-pleasing property to a global audience next Thanksgiving,” Drake told Deadline.

Photo from Johnson’s Twitter

The film began production on October 30, 2018, as reported by Johnson in a tweet, and is only days from wrapping.

Disney-Fox Merger Forges Ahead

Last year, Disney announced its intentions to purchase 21st Century Fox Inc. and merge it with the Disney brand. Over the past year, Disney has secured approvals for the merger from several key players, including the European Union and China. Disney will pay $71.3 billion dollars, including $35.7 billion in cash, to acquire Fox and its assets.

Through the merger, Disney will acquire Fox’s film properties — 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000 — as well as several television and cable channels. They will also gain Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox’s stake in Hulu, among other assets. A “New” Fox will be born after the merger, consisting of television channels and a studio lot in Los Angeles and will retain its stake in Roku.

Graphic from Biz Journals

By acquiring Fox’s film studios, Disney will assumed control of a number of major movie franchises and television shows, including Night at the Museum, Ice Age and Home Alone, as well as the upcoming Avatar sequels, the Marvel universe and Star Wars. Popular shows like Archer, Modern Family, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons will also join the Disney family.

Due to the international reach of both companies, Disney had to seek regulatory approval from markets around the globe before completing the deal. Antitrust regulators in the US approved the merger in June, on the condition that Disney sell the regional sports channels it acquires from Fox. Despite the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, Chinese regulators gave the merger unconditional approval in November.

The European Union recently granted conditional approval for the deal, after Disney agreed to sell its stake in the History, H2, Crime & Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels in Europe to meet competition requirements. Brazil remains a holdout, with the Brazilian Administrative Council of Economic Defense (CADE) raising concerns about a lack of competition on Brazil’s cable networks if the deal goes through. Disney has stated they are continuing to work with CADE to find a solution that will satisfy both sides.

In addition to changing television and film markets, the merger will reshape the streaming landscape as well since Disney will acquire Fox’s 30 percent stake in Hulu, giving it majority control. Comcast and WarnerMedia own the remaining shares of Hulu, 30 percent and 10 percent respectively. Disney has announced plans to take Hulu international and offer its services to more viewers to grow the platform.

Photo from Mashable

With plans to launch its own streaming service in 2019 called Disney Play, experts have raised concerns that Disney is making a mistake by choosing to support two streaming services rather than simply expanding Hulu. Others, however, argue that having both is a benefit for Disney, sinch many Hulu originals, such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” don’t fit Disney’s family-oriented brand.

Disney’s CEO Bob Iger said Disney is committed to growing Hulu alongside its own streaming platform. “We aim to use the television production capabilities of the combined company to fuel Hulu with a lot more original programming, original programming that we feel will enable Hulu to compete even more aggressively in the marketplace,” Iger told The Wrap.

Between the expansion of Hulu and the launch of Disney Play, Netflix is poised for a battle to maintain control of the market. Ampere Analysis, a London-based analyst firm, has estimated Netflix will have to triple its current spending to match the combined power of Fox and Disney’s entry to the digital content war. Netflix has successfully fought off rivals in the past, including Hulu and Amazon Prime, but the Fox-Disney merger may require new tactics. With the might of the mouse behind Hulu, and Disney Play waiting in the wings, Netflix may be in for the fight of its life.

Golden Globe Nominees Announced

Nominations have been announced for the 76th Annual Golden Globes, which will air on January 6, 2019, co-hosted by Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg. Leading the field is Vice with six nominations, followed by The Favourite, Green Book, and A Star Is Born, each receiving five nominations.

Photo from Deadline

The nominees for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy include Vice, Green Book and The Favourite. Christian Bale brings Dick Cheney to life in Vice and offers viewers a look into the second highest office in the nation. Bale received a nod for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for this performance. The Favourite falls back to 18th century England and follows a frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) as they navigate politics in wartorn England. Audiences return to the segregated south in Green Book following Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) as he works for famous African American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali). Despite their differences, the two become friends as they experience injustices during their journey.

Despite restructuring efforts over the last year, Annapurna walked away with 10 nominations for their pictures. Fox Searchlight also earned 10 nominations, including one for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Motion Picture – Animated. Last year, Fox won the Oscar for Best Picture with The Shape of Water.

Photo from Deadline

Surprises came with nominates for Amazon’s Bodyguard, the BBC’s America’s Killing Eve, and Fox’s Pose and The Americans. Some feel Hulu’s popular original drama, The Handmaid’s Tale, was snubbed since it wasn’t nominated for Best Drama Series, though Elisabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski picked up acting nods for the show. Additionally the NBC favorite, This Is Us, didn’t earn a single nomination. Other snubs included Emma Stone being passed over for her work in Netflix’s Maniac as well as Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan, stars of Best Motion Picture Nominee Black Panther, not earning nominations for their performances.

Winners of these categories and others will be announced January 6 on NBC starting at 8PM EST. View the complete list of nominees here.

Detective Pikachu Trailer Released

Live-action remakes of classic childhood animated movies have become a trend in Hollywood, with some of the most recent including Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book. Pokémon will soon join these ranks with the release of Detective Pikachu next spring, a new franchise collaboration between Legendary Entertainment and the Pokémon Company.

The film features CGI versions of the creatures and gives Pikachu the ability to speak. Legendary Entertainment purchased the rights to the movie in 2016, shortly after the release of Pokemon Go, an augmented reality game that caused a worldwide frenzy.

Official Detective Pikachu Trailer

Set in Ryme City, Pokémons and humans exist side-by-side and most Pokémon are trained by humans and used in battles. Unlike his fellow Pokémon, Pikachu wants to be a detective rather than fight. While in the past Pikachu has been known for only saying “Pika, pika,” or “Pikachu,” in the film he is voiced by Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal) and is capable of talking like a human. Unfortunately people aren’t able to understand the creature until he meets Tim Goodman, played by Justice Smith (Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom).

The film centers around Tim’s quest to find his missing father and his reluctant acceptance of PIkachu’s help. Pikachu claims to be a great detective and tells Tim the only way he’ll be able to find his father is if they work together.

The trailer has been met with controversy by some critics. From the Pokémons’ looks, such as PIkachu being fuzzy, to Pikachu’s ability to talk — in Deadpool’s voice no less — the trailer has sparked Twitter threads and even a parody video with Danny DeVito voicing Pikachu. Despite the rants that have appeared, Pokémon fans appear excited about the new film.

Parody Trailer featuring Danny Devito

Detective Pikachu is set for a May 10, 2019 release date and will be distributed by Toho in Japan and Warner Brothers outside of Japan. Rob Letterman (Goosebumps) directed the film with Joseph M. Caracciolo and Tsunekazu Ishihara serving as executive producers.

Warner Bros Wins Global Distribution Rights for “They Shall Not Grow Old”

Peter Jackson’s (The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) World War I documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old” premiered at the London Film Festival on October 16. Set for a U.K. television release on November 11, Jackson’s agent showed the film to Hollywood distributors in hopes of bringing it to the big screen. Moved by the production, Warner Bros. Pictures acquired the global distribution rights to the documentary and will likely push for a theater release by year’s end.

Photo from Deadline

Jackson’s documentary brings viewers back to the turn of the 20th century with restored and colorized historical footage and features audio recordings of veterans describing their experiences. Jackson even created a 3D version of the film, bringing audiences to the front line alongside the soldiers. Despite it being his first documentary, the film is being praised as a “technical dazzler with a surprisingly humane streak,” by Variety.

Commissioned by 14-18 NOW, a U.K. arts program, the Imperial War Museum and the BBC, “They Shall Not Grow Old” held a special appeal for Jackson, whose grandfather fought for Britain during WWI. When Jackson agreed to the project years ago, he planned to create a half hour program, but the project grew quickly since Jackson had access to 100 hours of video and 600 hours of audio recordings from British soldiers. It soon became a full length feature film and Jackson’s manager showed it to distributors in Hollywood, hoping the film may have life beyond academics. Toby Emmerich, chairman at Warner Bros Pictures Group, fell for the film and bought the distribution rights.

Peter Jackson Thou Shall Not Grow Old

Photo from Deadline

“Peter and I share a passion for WWI history,” Emmerich said. “Watching this documentary was a moving, emotional experience and will remind viewers of the bravery and sacrifice of these soldiers and their contributions to freedom. Peter has created a powerful, immersive film that will touch people and we’re proud to partner with him to bring this film to audiences around the world.”

The film will air on BBC in the U.K. on November 11, Armistice Day. This year’s Armistice Day marks 100 years since guns were silenced, ending the first World War.

Michael Jordan to Produce and Star in Lionsgate’s “The Silver Bear”

“The Silver Bear” is the first installment of the “Assassin Books” written by famed screenwriter Derek Haas (Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma). Published in 2008, the story follows Columbus, a skilled hitman, as he pieces together his past and takes out high-profile targets. Nickel City Pictures optioned the book’s rights last year and has since partnered with Lionsgate to bring the project to life. This week it was announced that Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) will headline the cast as Columbus and produce the project. Jordan’s latest movie, Creed II, hits theaters next month.

Michael B. Jordan arrives at the MTV Movie and TV Awards at the Barker Hangar, in Santa Monica, Calif2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards - Arrivals, Santa Monica, USA - 16 Jun 2018Michael B. Jordan – Photo from Variety

 

“’The Silver Bear’ is the kind of story that needs to be experienced on the big screen and Michael is the perfect movie star to inhabit the skin of this dynamic character and take us into the cinematic world of Columbus,” Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Drake told Variety. “We’re incredibly honored that Michael and Nickel City chose Lionsgate to partner with in bringing this exciting property to life.”

Told from his point of view, “The Silver Bear” follows Columbus as he plans to assassinate presidential candidate Abe Mann — also known as his father. Columbus is known in the criminal underworld as “Silver Bear,” a Russian term for an accomplished — and well paid — assassin, so given because their shots never miss. As he plots to take out his mark, Columbus begins to assemble details from his past and realizes he may soon be on the wrong end of a gun.

The Silver Bear (Silver Bear, #1)

Photo from Goodreads

Frank Baldwin (The Godmother) signed on with Nickel City Pictures to adapt the book for the big screen after they optioned the rights in 2017. Nickel City hopes to adapt the other books in the series as well and create a new action franchise.

“We are confident that the underlying work by Derek, combined with Frank’s writing style and enthusiasm, will set the stage for a successful franchise with a strong first installment,” Nickel City’s Vishal Rungta told Deadline last year.

Production will be a combined effort between Jordan’s Outlier Society Productions banner, Lionsgate and Nickel City Pictures. Vishal Rungta, Mark Fasano and Ankur Rungta of Nickel City pictures will serve as producers alongside Jordan. Derek Haas, Michael Garnett and Tobias Weymar have signed on as executive producers for the project.

David Spitz Stays With Lionsgate

David Spitz has signed a long-term agreement to remain president of Domestic Theatrical Distribution at Lionsgate. Spitz has worked on world famous films including “The Hunger Games” franchise and “La La Land.” In addition to these successes, he helped establish new brands for the company, including Pantelion and Lionsgate Codeblack Films.

Spitz began his career as a film buyer for Mann Theaters, then as a regional branch manager for MGM Distribution. In 1996, he joined LIVE Entertainment as the Western Division Manager. When LIVE Entertainment became Artisan, Spitz remained on staff and held several executive positions. When Lionsgate acquired Artisan in 2003, Spitz came along and continued moving up the ranks until attaining his current position in 2009.

 

Photo from Variety

Lionsgate has praised Spitz for his many talents, such as seeing opportunities that other studios overlook, like holes to fill in the release calendar. He also works in a variety of genres, as seen in his credits, where he has done everything from action-adventure films to musicals.

He’s also proven instrumental in expanding the company by helping build the Pantelion Hispanic film brand and Codeblack Films. Pantelion, the first Latino Hollywood studio, produced Instructions Not Included, which is now the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever released in the United States. Codeblack Films is an urban film label focusing on serving the world’s black community with a diverse portfolio of feature films.

“David’s distribution leadership is a key element in guiding our business forward,” said Joe Drake, Chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. “He has great relationships with exhibitors, talent and our studio partners and a deep understanding of the right release dates and best distribution strategies for our movies. He will continue to be an integral part of our motion picture leadership team in the years ahead.”

Spitz is thrilled with the deal and said he is glad “to be part of the most innovative and visionary studio in the business and to be surrounded by an incredibly talented group of distribution executives.”

Upcoming Lionsgate releases include “Hunter Killer,” “Robin Hood,” “Midway,” and “Parabellum,” the next chapter of the John Wick franchise.