Monday, March 18, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
Woody Allen sues Amazon for ending movie deal
In this July 15, 2015, file photo, director Woody Allen attends a special screening of "Irrational Man," hosted by The Cinema Society and Fiji Water, at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Filmmaker Woody Allen is suing Amazon for at least $68 million, saying that the company ended a four-picture movie deal last year after old accusations against him resurfaced in the press.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, says that Amazon knew about a "25-year-old" allegation before signing with Allen in 2017, but still used it as an excuse to back out of the deal.

"There simply was no legitimate ground for Amazon to renege on its promises," the lawsuit says.

Allen's daughter, Dylan Farrow, has said that Allen molested her in an attic in 1992 when she was 7 years old, which the filmmaker has repeatedly denied. The allegations were made public in 1992, and Farrow wrote about them in 2014, and then appeared in a TV interview early last year for the first time.

The lawsuit, which doesn't mention Farrow by name, says Amazon ended the deal with Allen in June 2018.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The online retailer, based in Seattle, has been producing TV shows and movies in recent years to help boost its online video streaming service.

According to the complaint, Allen finished a film called "A Rainy Day in New York" that Amazon never released, breaching its contract.

The more than $68 million Allen is seeking from Amazon includes additional payments for "A Rainy Day in New York," plus payments for the three other unfinished films.

  • Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
Stun opens DIGITAL 360 under aegis of Renee Samms
Renee Samms

Content studio and commercial production company Stun has launched a DIGITAL 360 division headed by Renee Samms who had been serving as a digital media, cross-platform strategy, branded content and influencer marketing consultnt in NY, L.A. and Barcelona, working on behalf of such clients as UnInterrupted (Spring Hill), Captiv8, Utopia, De Mille Group, The NoiseHouse, and Trap Nation (The Nations).

The vision behind the creation of Stun’s new DIGITAL 360 division is driven by a Transmedia Branding strategy--delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, and in the right place. As social and digital media have become key to success in today’s mobile-first world--with people moving across platforms every time they sign-in online--Stun’s thinking is that brand messaging should move across platforms too, in an authentic way that aligns with the organic voice of each of those mediums.

Stun’s current DIGITAL 360 clients include: Fox Searchlight/Fox Home Entertainment, Warner Brothers, the NFL, HBO Social, NBCU Snapchat Integrations, WarnerMusic Group, Sony Theatrical, Universal Theatrical, Dreamscape VR, and #SeeHer.
Mark Feldstein and Brad Roth, principals and co-founders of Stun, said that their philosophy is that content alone is no longer king, but rather content and context are king. Their plan is to keep scaling the digital division and continuing to integrate it within the full Stun suite of existing creative services to provide clients with a single, true 360-degree creative marketing agency.

During the course of her career, Samms has been instrumental in developing award-winning digital marketing solutions for such entertainment companies as Lionsgate, IMDb/Amazon, Walt Disney Company, and Maker Studios.

Samms holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Marketing and Advertising, from USC’s Marshall School of Business.

  • Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
Republic Editorial launches Threaded Pictures
Brian Hwang

Postproduction house Republic Editorial has launched Threaded Pictures, a full-service production company, and named Brian Hwang as its executive producer.

The strategic decision for Republic Editorial to make the expansion into production comes two years after its formation of design and animation sister company, Infinite Fiction, and answers the growing demand from its clients and the market to provide creative services from start to finish.

Threaded Pictures is housed just steps away from Republic Editorial’s uptown Dallas headquarters, allowing for seamless integration between all partner companies. “My vision for Threaded Pictures is to provide top-shelf production solutions for every client need,” explained Hwang. “With advertisers looking for branded content on every screen, it’s important to have an arsenal of directors who can align with the varied projects I’m bidding. I’m looking forward to working with the very talented teams at Republic and Infinite Fiction and sharing new production offerings in our market.”

Hwang brings nearly two decades of production, post and agency experience to the table, spending 10 of those years at McCann New York. Most recently at 3008 in Dallas, he served as executive producer of both post and production divisions. Currently, Hwang serves as president of AICP Southwest, a role that allows him to monitor the industry issues and trends occurring on both the regional and national levels. 
Republic Editorial partner and sr. editor Chris Gipson said of Hwang, “His unique and varied professional background is a tremendous asset, as he brings a deep understanding of the entire process from initial spot concept to final finish. He is tuned in to what agencies need and is currently assembling a strong roster, which we’ll be announcing soon.”

  • Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
Owens named chief executive behind CBS' "60 Minutes"
This 2009 photo released by CBS shows Bill Owens, who was named executive producer of "60 Minutes," on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (Heinz Kluetmeier/CBS via AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Incoming CBS News president Susan Zirinsky opted for continuity on television's most popular news program, appointing Bill Owens as executive producer of "60 Minutes" on Wednesday.

Owens has been executive editor at "60 Minutes" since 2008, and has been running it on an interim basis since his predecessor Jeff Fager was fired in September for sending a threatening text message to a colleague writing a story about him.

Zirinsky says Owens is "steeped in the storytelling style audiences have come to expect from "60 Minutes."

It was the first big appointment for Zirinsky, another CBS veteran. She was named news president last month to replace the outgoing David Rhodes.

Owens is only the third top producer at "60 Minutes," which first aired in 1968 with the show's inventor, Don Hewitt, at the helm. Fager replaced him, but was under investigation last summer amid a report that he groped women at parties and tolerated an abusive workplace. That investigation hadn't been resolved when Fager was fired for threatening a fellow CBS reporter who was reporting a story about it.

Owens has been with CBS News since starting at the network as an intern in the summer of 1988.

"I am honored to work alongside the best journalists in the business who cover the most important stories from around the world," Owens said. "I promise that will never change."

The selection has been closely watched in the television industry because of the newsmagazine's influence and at the show itself, where the staff tends to be wary of outsiders. Zirinsky, the longtime executive producer at "48 Hours," had been considered a strong candidate before being appointed as Owens' boss.

Owens has kept the engine running as interim executive producer, with the show airing interviews with President Donald Trump, new Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elon Musk, potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz and three former presidents who talked about President George H.W. Bush following his death. The show has won four Emmys and a DuPont-Columbia journalism award in the past few months.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
BAFTA suspends Bryan Singer nomination amid misconduct allegations
This Dec. 2, 2013 file photo shows Bryan Singer at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." The British Academy of Film and Television Arts says that it is suspending its nomination of director Bryan Singer amid accusations that he sexually assaulted minors. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts says it is suspending its nomination of director Bryan Singer amid accusations that he sexually assaulted minors.

Singer had been among those nominated for his work on the Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody," which he was fired from in late 2017. BAFTA says Wednesday that the organization considers the alleged behavior unacceptable and incompatible with its values and that Singer has been informed of the suspension.

The Atlantic magazine last month published an expose detailing the stories of four alleged victims who said they were seduced and molested by the Singer while underage. Singer has denied the allegations.

The film and others nominated for it will remain eligible for BAFTAs, which will be presented Sunday.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
Disney's 1st-quarter results beat expectations
In this Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, file photo, the Walt Disney Co. logo appears on a screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The Walt Disney Co. reports financial results Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The Walt Disney Co.'s first-quarter net income beat expectations as higher revenue from its media networks and theme parks helped offset a weaker movie slate during the quarter.

Disney and other media companies are facing a shifting landscape as more TV watchers switch to streaming rather than traditional cable bundles. Disney is building up its streaming offerings by buying 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets for $71.3 billion and launching its own streaming services such as ESPN Plus and Disney Plus.

CEO Bob Iger said Disney Plus and other direct-to-consumer businesses are Disney's "No. 1 priority."

The entertainment company's net income fell 37 percent to $2.79 billion, or $1.86 per share. The drop was due mainly to a hefty benefit from tax changes in the prior-year quarter.  Excluding one-time items, net income totaled $1.84 per share.  Analysts expected net income of $1.54 per share, according to FactSet.

The Burbank, California-based company's revenue slipped less than 1 percent to $15.3 billion from $15.35 billion last year. That beat analyst expectations of $15.16 billion.

In a call with analysts, CEO Iger said the deal with Fox is awaiting final regulatory approval in a few remaining markets before it closes.

Disney Plus will debut at the end of the year. No pricing has been disclosed. ESPN Plus, a $5-a-month service that offers content separate from the ESPN cable channel, continues to grow. It has 2 million paid subscribers, double what it had five months ago.

With the pending Fox deal, Disney will also take a controlling stake in streaming service Hulu, which is jointly owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and AT&T. Iger said Disney could host all three streaming services, Hulu, Disney, and ESPN, on one tech platform with one username and password. Users wouldn't have to sign up for all three services, but they might get a discount if they sign up for more than one. But he added that it was premature to discuss Hulu plans until the Fox deal closes.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
Apple's top retail exec to leave amid iPhone sales slowdown
In this Thursday, May 19, 2016, file photo, Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of Retail and Online Stores, speaks with reporters during a preview of the new Apple Union Square store in San Francisco. On Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, Apple announced that Ahrendts plans to depart Apple in April for new personal and professional pursuits. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Apple's top retailing executive is stepping down amid a slowdown in iPhone sales that has raised doubts about the company's future growth prospects.

The shake-up announced Tuesday ends Angela Ahrendts' five-year stint overseeing Apple's 506 retail stores and e-commerce operations. She is being replaced by Deirdre O'Brien, a longtime Apple executive who also runs the company's human-resources department. Ahrendts will remain with Apple until April.

During her 30 years at Apple, O'Brien also helped gauge product demand. That issue has become a problem now that customers are holding onto their current iPhones longer instead of buying the latest models. It's one reason Apple posted disappointing iPhone sales during the past holiday shopping season.

Although Apple sells iPhones and other products such as the iPad and Mac computer through a wide variety of merchants, its own elegantly designed stores have become a pivotal outlet, especially during the first few weeks after a new device hits the market.

"It was clear that Apple needed new strategies and a potential change on this front to catalyze demand in and outside the all-important retail stores," Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives.

Apple didn't give a reason for Ahrendts' departure, saying only that she is leaving "for new personal and professional opportunities."

Ahrendts, 58, joined Apple amid great fanfare in 2014 after CEO Tim Cook persuaded her to leave a glamorous job running the fashion brand Burberry. To lure her away, Apple gave Ahrendts company stock valued at $70 million in 2014. In her last full year at Apple, she received a compensation package valued at $26.5 million, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ahrendts' arrival at the Cupertino, California, company coincided with the rollout of the Apple Watch, which the company designed to be a fashion statement in addition to a wearable piece of technology.

While at Apple, Ahrendts engineered renovations of high-profiles stores in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and other cities in an attempt to transform them into hip places to hang out while shoppers checked out the company's latest innovations. Her lofty description of the stores as the equivalent of "town squares" became the subject of derision among some analysts and media commentators.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
ABC executive sees silver lining in Oscars flap: interest
In this Feb. 4, 2019 file photo, an Oscar statue appears at the 91st Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP, File)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Oscars disarray over the exit of Kevin Hart as the host of the show had an upside — people paid attention, ABC's entertainment president said Tuesday.

"Ironically, I have found that the lack of clarity ... has kept the Oscars really in the conversation, and the mystery has been really compelling," said Karey Burke, whose network is the ceremony's longtime home.

She called the interest proof that the Oscars are still relevant.

Burke's worries about the host-less Feb. 24 ceremony have vanished as it comes together with a "phenomenal" line-up of presenters, she told a TV critics meeting.

Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Evans and Constance Wu are among them.

The ceremony also has box-office hits — best-picture contenders "Black Panther," ''Bohemian Rhapsody" and "A Star Is Born" — with fans that could boost TV viewership.

The 2018 show drew a record-low 26.5 million people, a 20 percent drop from the 2017 show and the first time Oscar viewership dipped below 30 million, according to Nielsen records that go back to 1974. The best-picture winner, "The Shape of Water," only grossed $57.4 million in the U.S.

Burke also lauded the movie academy's pledge to keep the ceremony to three hours, avoiding the overtime that can drain off viewers.

The host-less Oscars was a decision that everyone involved got on board with fairly quickly after Hart withdrew in December, said Burke, who's been in the top ABC entertainment job just two months.

Hart dropped out amid criticism over years-old homophobic tweets, for which he eventually apologized.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019
ABC's "Modern Family" to end next year after 11 seasons
This image released by ABC shows, from left, Ed O'Neill, Ty Burrell, Sofia Vergara, obscured, Julie Bowen, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in a scene from "Modern Family." ABC's "Modern Family," the five-time Emmy Award winner for best comedy, will end its run next year after 11 seasons. ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke announced the end of the series about the boisterous extended family on Tuesday. (Richard Cartwright/ABC via AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

ABC's "Modern Family," the five-time Emmy Award winner for best comedy, will end its run next year after 11 seasons.

ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke announced the end of the series about the boisterous extended family on Tuesday. It will finish three seasons short of the longest-running sitcom ever, "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet."

The series produced by Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan was an immediate hit after its debut in September 2009. It began a five-year streak of winning the Emmy for best comedy a year later. Actors Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet each won two Emmys.

It's currently seen by nearly 5 million viewers a week.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019
Michelle Williams returns to TV in "Fosse/Verdon" series
Sam Rockwell, left, and Michelle Williams participate in the "Fosse/Verdon" panel during FX TCA Winter Press Tour on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Michelle Williams is returning to television for the first time in 16 years, playing dancer and actress Gwen Verdon whose career aspirations were supplanted by her marriage to choreographer-director Bob Fosse.

Oscar winner Sam Rockwell plays Fosse in the eight-episode FX series "Fosse/Verdon," debuting April 9.

Williams' last TV work was the hit series "Dawson's Creek" that ended in 2003.

She sees parallels with Verdon, who was a working mother like Williams.

Williams pointed out a long gap in Verdon's career while she stayed home to raise Nicole, her daughter with Fosse. Nicole Fosse is a creative consultant on the series.

Williams told a TV critics' meeting on Monday that such gaps are something all working mothers struggle with and something invariably suffers. She called it "a very complicated dilemma."

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