Sunday, November 19, 2017

News Briefs

Displaying 71 - 80 of 2719
  • Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017
Kate Winslet boards James Cameron's "Avatar" universe
In this Jan. 17, 2016 file photo, Kate Winslet poses for photographers at the Critics Circle Awards at a central London venue, London. (Photo by Jonathan Short/Invision/AP, File)

It's a titanic reunion — Kate Winslet is joining the "Avatar" franchise, reuniting the actress with "Titanic" director James Cameron.

A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox confirmed the news Tuesday. It was first reported by the online trade publication Deadline.

According to Deadline, Winslet will be playing a character named Ronal, but no word on just how many of the films she'll be part of. Cameron said that they had been looking to work together again for 20 years.

Four "Avatar" sequels are planned to be released in December of 2020, 2021, 2024 and 2025.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017
Film academy chooses 5 scripts as Nicholl Fellowship winners
In this Feb. 26, 2017 file photo, Oscar statuettes appear backstage at the Oscars in Los Angeles. The academy announced the winners of its annual screenplay competition on Tuesday. The four individuals and one writing duo will receive $35,000 and other academy support toward the completion of a feature-length screenplay in the next year. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

Six emerging screenwriters are the latest recipients of the film academy's Nicholl Fellowships.

The academy announced the winners of its annual screenplay competition on Tuesday. The four individuals and one writing duo will receive $35,000 and other academy support toward the completion of a feature-length screenplay in the next year.

The winners will receive the first installment of their prize money and hear actors read their work aloud at a Nov. 2 ceremony at the film academy's headquarters in Beverly Hills, California.

The organization says the global competition drew 7,102 submissions. The winning writers and scripts are: Vigil Chime, "Bring Back Girl"; SJ Inwards, "Jellyfish Summer"; Max Lance and Jen Bailey, "The Queen of Sleaze"; KG Rockmaker, "Last Days of Winter"; and Cesar Vitale, "The Great Nothing."

  • Monday, Oct. 2, 2017
Facebook to increase ad transparency
In this June 11, 2014 file photo, a man walks bast a Facebook sign in an office on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif. (AP file photo)

Facebook announced Monday that the company is planning more measures to increase transparency in advertising as the company provides Congress with more than 3,000 ads linked to a Russian ad agency.

Joel Kaplan, the company's vice president of global policy, said in a blog post that Facebook is planning to hire more than 1,000 people to staff global ads review teams. Facebook will also update its policies to require better documentation from advertisers who want to run ads related to the U.S. election, including a requirement that the advertisers will have to confirm the business or organization they represent.

The moves come as the company is under pressure from multiple congressional committees that are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Congress has recently focused on the spread of false news stories and propaganda on social media, putting pressure on Facebook and other social media companies to turn over more information and release any Russia-linked ads.

Facebook officials are turning over the ads they have discovered to the House and Senate intelligence committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday. The company already has given similar material to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russian meddling.

Kaplan said in the post that all of the ads violated the company's policies because they come from inauthentic accounts. He said the ads "run counter to Facebook's mission of building community and everything we stand for."

Facebook announced last month that it had discovered the ads, which were linked to Facebook accounts that likely operated out of Russia and pushed divisive social and political issues during the U.S. presidential election. The company said it found 450 accounts and about $100,000 was spent on the ads.

Kaplan said the company's policies already prohibit "shocking" content, direct threats and the promotion of the sale or use of weapons, but that "going forward, we are expanding these policies to prevent ads that use even more subtle expressions of violence."

Facebook plans also to strengthen enforcement against improper ads by boosting manual and automated review systems. In addition, the company will increase the requirements for documentation and share more information on bad actors with industry and government, according to Kaplan's post.

Twitter has said it found postings linked to the same Facebook accounts, and the House and Senate intelligence panels have asked both companies, along with Google, to testify publicly in the coming weeks. None of the companies have said whether they will accept the invitations.

It is unclear whether the Facebook ads turned over to Congress will eventually be released publicly. Several lawmakers — including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel — have said they believe the American public should see them.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Sept. 21 that the company would provide the ads to Congress and also make changes to ensure the political ads on its platform are more transparent. He indicated that it was up to Congress and Mueller whether to release the ads.

"As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly," Zuckerberg said then. "But we support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete."

Facebook has said the ads addressed social and political issues and ran in the United States between 2015 and 2017. The company said the ads appear to have come from accounts associated with a Russian entity called the Internet Research Agency.

Twitter said last week that it had suspended 22 accounts corresponding to the 450 Facebook accounts that were likely operated out of Russia.

Warner criticized Twitter for not sharing more information with Congress, saying the company's findings were merely "derivative" of Facebook's work. The company's presentations to staff last week "showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions," he said.

Associated Press writer Barbara Ortutay in New York contributed to this report.

  • Monday, Oct. 2, 2017
"The Great Buddha +" lands 10 Golden Horse nominations
In this Nov. 21, 2015 fie photo, actress Sylvia Chang arrives at the 52nd Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, Taiwan. Chang is among nominees in the best director category at Golden Horse Awards in November, 2017. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- 

"The Great Buddha +" led the pack Sunday with 10 nominations, including best feature film and best new director, for next month's Golden Horse Awards.

The movie is about a security guard at a factory who watches the dash camera footage of his boss's car for fun. He gets more than he bargained for when his rich boss's misdeeds begin to unravel in front of him. Originally a documentary filmmaker, "The Great Buddha +" director Huang Hsin-yao shot the movie in black and white, and wanted to highlight Taiwanese social issues with the film.

Trailing behind with seven nominations are three films, including the family drama "Love Education," the suspense thriller "The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful" and the comedy "See You Tomorrow."

Three of the top-nominated films, including "The Great Buddha +," ''Love Education" and "The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful," are nominated for best feature film. Also nominated in that category are two Chinese movies — the comedy "Free and Easy" and the coming-of-age film "Angels Wear White."

For the first time in Golden Horse Awards history, three females are nominated for best director — veteran Sylvia Chang for "Love Education," Hong Kong's Ann Hui for "Our Time Will Come" and Chinese director Vivian Qu for "Angels Wear White." Their male counterparts include Yang Ya-che for "The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful" and Geng Jun for "Free and Easy."

In the best actor category, past winner Huang Bo ("The Conformist") will face off against four first-time best actor nominees. For best actress, past winners including Shu Qi ("The Village of No Return"), Sylvia Chang, who's also nominated for best director for "Love Education," and Kara Wai ("The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful") face off against two first-time nominees.

The Golden Horse Awards, which will be handed out Nov. 25 in Taipei, are one of the most prestigious film awards for Mandarin-language cinema, with movies from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong vying for honors.

  • Saturday, Sep. 30, 2017
Industry mourns sound industry mainstay Paul Rodriguez
Paul Rodriguez

Motion picture and television sound executive Paul Rodriguez passed away September 26 in Los Angeles of cardiac arrest following a brief hospitalization. He was 65. 

Rodriguez was president of South Lake Audio Services and VP of audio services and development at Roundabout Entertainment in Burbank where he oversaw postproduction sound for projects including HBO’s Westworld. He was also a long-time board member of the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) and served as its treasurer for eight years. He produced the organization’s annual MPSE Golden Reel Awards ceremony. 

An active member of the professional sound community for more than 30 years, Rodriguez served in executive, sales and creative capacities at Todd-AO/Soundelux, Wilshire Stages, 4MC and EFX Systems. He was also co-owner of the Eagle Eye Film Company, a supplier of picture editing systems. He joined Roundabout Entertainment in 2015. Known for his infectious humor and gregarious personality, Rodriguez was a tireless ambassador for the art of entertainment sound and enjoyed universal respect and affection among his industry colleagues and friends.  

“Paul will be remembered for the energy, wisdom and true dedication he gave to the sound industry,” said Tom McCarthy, MPSE president. “His passing leaves a great void on our board and in the hearts of our members.”

Rodriguez is survived by his son Hunter, daughter-in-law Abbie and granddaughter Charlie; daughter Rachael and son-in-law Manny Wong; daughter Alexa and her partner James Gill; his former wife, Catheryn Rodriguez; and several sisters.
A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Montrose Church, 2409 Florencita Drive in Montrose, Calif. Donations in Rodriguez’s name may be made to Montrose Church, Best Friends Animal Society or Alzheimer’s Association.

  • Friday, Sep. 29, 2017
TV-gadget maker Roku's stock soars after IPO raises $219M
In this May 19, 2014, file photo, Roku CEO Anthony Wood poses for a portrait, in Saratoga, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Shares of Roku, an early player in streaming-video gadgets, soared Thursday after its initial public offering of stock raised $219 million.

The shares priced at $14 each, the top of the company's expected range, suggesting strong demand from investors and valuing the company at $1.3 billion. The shares rocketed almost 68 percent Thursday, closing the day at their peak of $23.50.

The Los Gatos, California, company is known for its boxes and sticks that let users watch Netflix, Hulu and the growing universe of streaming-video options on their TVs. It has the biggest share of the streaming-gadget market, but has deep-pocketed competitors in Amazon, Google and Apple.

Most of Roku's revenue comes from sales of its streaming players, but it's seeking to capitalize on its "platform" by building its business of showing ads to users, whether on its home screen or inside video apps.

The company is unprofitable and has amassed $244 million in losses since it was founded in 2002.

  • Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017
Film academy museum names building for donor of $50M gift
Rich Cherry, chief operating officer of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, stands at the construction site of their new museum under construction, at a media tour, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Sandy M. Cohen)

The film academy is naming its main museum building in honor of Cheryl and Haim Saban, who have donated $50 million to the project.

The historic May Company building on Wilshire Boulevard's Miracle Mile will now be known as the Saban Building, officials from the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures said Wednesday.

Walt Disney Company chief Bob Iger, who is leading the museum's fundraising campaign, called the Sabans' donation "magnificent and transformative," adding that it brings the project within $100 million of its $388 million goal.

Haim Saban is the founder and chairman of Saban Capital Group, a private investment firm specializing in entertainment and media. The Sabans are active philanthropists, with a research wing at Children's Hospital and a theater in Beverly Hills, California, bearing their name.

Iger and the Sabans were among the dignitaries appearing Wednesday at a press preview of the museum's construction site. They were joined by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer, who was tapped to head the museum's board of directors, and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who serves as chair of the Academy Museum Committee.

"We're all kind of incredulous that this could be a company town and we don't have a motion picture museum," Kennedy said. "We should have the world's most pre-eminent motion picture museum, and now we have the opportunity to have that."

Set to open in 2019, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will celebrate the history and art of film. The 300,000-square-foot facility will house two movie theaters and four floors of exhibition space, along with a massive outdoor piazza and rooftop terrace that offers views of the Hollywood sign. The museum will feature artifacts from the film academy's vast archives, temporary and permanent exhibits, screenings and lectures, and an "Oscars Experience" that allows visitors to walk a red carpet, accept an Oscar and thank the academy.

Architect Renzo Piano designed the new complex, comprising the restoration of the former May Company building and a newly built dome-like structure that will house a 1,000-seat theater and outdoor terrace.

Garcetti said the city "neglected this industry for too long," and the new museum is a celebration of its history and contributors.

"When young people or tourists from around the world step off a plane of a school bus and walk into the bones of this old building reborn and this new building imagined," he said, "...We will know that we are telling our own human stories and connecting a new generation of dreamers to the idea that they, too, can give voice to their fears and their hopes and their aspirations and to the very best of humanity."

  • Wednesday, Sep. 27, 2017
Independent Film & TV Alliance elects exec committee, board of directors
IFTA chairman Michael Ryan of GFM Films

The Independent Film & Television Alliance® (IFTA®), the L.A. headquartered global trade association of the indie motion picture and TV programming industry, announced the results of its annual elections to select the executive committee and board of directors for the 2017-2019 term. 

IFTA’s executive committee will continue to be headed by chairperson Michael Ryan (GFM Films), who was elected for a second term.  Joining him are Andrew Kramer (Lionsgate), who was elected as general vice chairperson, and Clay Epstein (FilmMode Entertainment), who was elected as vice chairperson/secretary.

Jay Joyce (Artist View Entertainment), Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Entertainment), Charlotte Mickie (Mongrel International), and Almira Ravil (Screen Media) will continue serving as members of the executive committee through the second year of their term.

The following new board members have been elected to serve a two-year term for 2017-2019: Tannaz Anisi (13 Films), Paul Bales (The Asylum), Jason Buckley (Lakeshore Entertainment), Carl Clifton (Hyde Park International), Caroline Couret-Delegue (unaffiliated), Kirk D’Amico (Myriad Pictures), Jeffrey Greenstein (Millennium Media, Inc.), Lisa Romanoff (Vision Films, Inc.), Gabrielle Stewart (HanWay Films), Jeannine Tang (The Weinstein Company), and Andrew Orr (Independent Film Sales) will serve as an alternate.

Also on the board of directors, continuing for their second year, are: Shaked Berenson (Epic Pictures Group), Tamara Birkemoe (Foresight Unlimited), Jody Cipriano (MarVista Entertainment), Alexandra Cocean (Voltage Pictures), Camela Galano (unaffiliated), Brad Krevoy (Motion Picture Corporation of America), Albert Lee (Emperor Motion Pictures), Nat McCormick (The Exchange), Michael Rothstein (IM Global) and Alison Thompson (Cornerstone Films).

IFTA’s executive committee and board of directors were elected by IFTA’s voting membership and represent companies from Europe, Asia, and North America, reflecting the global scope of the association’s services, activities, and its annual event, the American Film Market® (AFM®).

  • Wednesday, Sep. 27, 2017
NFL's Amazon deal could be test for more streaming games
This Sept. 29, 2014, file photo shows the Amazon Fire TV, a product for streaming popular video services, apps and games in high-definition, in Decatur, Ga. Amazon begins its foray into live streaming of NFL games Thursday night, Sept. 28, 2017, when the company will air the game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers on its Prime Video service as another option to the traditional broadcasts on CBS and the NFL Network. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

Amazon begins its foray into live streaming of NFL games Thursday night (9/28) when it will air a matchup between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers on its Prime Video service.

It's another option to the traditional broadcasts on CBS and the NFL Network. Amazon will stream 10 Thursday night games and one Christmas game this season, and the success of those transmissions could determine how quickly the NFL is ready to offer one of its packages exclusively to a streaming company.

The NFL's Thursday night package is being carried jointly by CBS, NBC, the NFL Network and Amazon this year, but the 2018 package will soon be up for bid. There could be substantial interest from companies like Twitter — which aired Thursday night games last year — Amazon, and potentially other tech behemoths like Google, Apple or Facebook.

"I think there will be real interest by digital-first companies and digital-first platforms in distributing NFL games on an exclusive basis and more broadly that on the single-game experience we've done in the past," said Hans Schroeder, the chief operating officer for NFL Media. "I think we're going to have some interesting options for us to look at and I think what we do with Amazon this year will be incredibly informative with how we make those decisions."

Amazon is paying $50 million for the rights to these games for its Prime Members, a marked increase from the $10 million Twitter paid last year for 10 games.

That still pales in comparison to the more than $5 billion a year the NFL gets from television partners like NBC, CBS and ESPN.

"You have to be very cognizant of where the eyeballs are. But the percentage of people who are watching on TV versus on their phone or table is extreme," said Fred Gaudelli, the producer for NBC's NFL broadcasts. "We might have over 25 million watching on TV and there are 500,000 watching elsewhere. That is a huge discrepancy."

The vast majority of NFL fans still prefer to watch games on their TVs via broadcast or cable networks. The streams on Twitter drew an average audience of about 265,800 viewers per minute, a small fraction of the audience for those games on traditional television.

Schroeder sees growth potential, though. About 3 million per week tuned in for parts of games last year, and about 80 percent of the audience was 34 or younger. In Amazon's favor, viewers are used to watching longer shows on Prime than they are on Twitter, and they can get it on their TV apps, game consoles and other devices, as well as tablets and mobile phones.

"They're bringing people into an environment where they are used to watching video for extended lengths," Schroeder said. "What we're anxious to see is how putting video into a video-first experience leads to consumption of NFL live games. We're certainly really hopeful and really confident what Amazon will deliver from an experience standpoint. We think having that access to any digital screen anywhere where they're used to watching longer-form content will really lead to an even broader engagement profile by our viewers."

Amazon has not stated targets for audience size or additional Prime customers — the streaming service costs $99 annually.

"That's not how we do it," said Jim DeLorenzo, the head of Amazon Sports. "It's really looking to see, how do our customers react to it? And that will guide our decision about whether this is successful."

Amazon's broadcast will be available in 200 countries and offer unique features. There will be audio feeds in Spanish, Portuguese and even an English language one geared toward foreign fans not as familiar with American football.

Fans can also do football trivia on their Alexa devices, and more interactive features could be added in future years after an exclusive interactive contract between Microsoft and the NFL expires.

Amazon is looking beyond the NFL, as well, and has already secured the digital rights to the Next Gen ATP finals for the best tennis players 21 and under in November. It could bid on bigger deals in the near future.

"There's already a demand for those digital services. That will continue to increase," said DeLorenzo. "We will always be looking for ways to best serve our customer. If that's by having more live sports on there that's what we'll look at."

AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report

  • Wednesday, Sep. 27, 2017
"Saturday Night Live" adds 3 new cast members for season 43
This July 9, 2017 photo provided by Zeb Wells shows new cast member, Heidi Gardner, in Los Angeles. (Zeb Wells via AP)

"Saturday Night Live" is adding three new cast members for its new season.

NBC said Tuesday that the trio will join the show when it returns Saturday for its 43rd season.

The newcomers are Heidi Gardner of Kansas City, Missouri, Luke Null of Cincinnati and Chris Redd of St. Louis.

Gardner is the voice of Cooch in Crackle's "SuperMansion" and is in the 2018 Melissa McCarthy movie "Life of the Party."

Luke Null is a Chicago-based musical comedian and performs at iO Chicago, an improvisation theater and training center.

Redd is a comedian and rapper whose credits include the 2016 film "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" and the Netflix comedy series "Disjointed."

The newcomers are stepping in after the departures of "SNL" players Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer and Sasheer Zamata.