Log Entries: 11/19/2012

AND LIKE A BOLT FROM THE BLUE, STAR WARS WAS REBORN.  On Tuesday, October 30th, the Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm Ltd., including all rights to the Star Wars franchise — which will now continue, starting in 2015 with Star Wars: Episode VII, then with Episodes VIII and IX to follow.  **(Although the deal “does” include rights to the Indiana Jones franchise, the property is said to have been left out of Disney’s valuation of Lucasfilm.  This could mean that the next Indy film is already up in the air at Paramount, or that George has other plans for Indiana Jones that have not been announced publicly.)

  • Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Billy Dee Williams have all expressed an interest in returning to reprise their respective characters. Mark Hammill even tweeted: “Congratulations to George for today’s mega-deal! Can’t comment on Ep 7 before I have all the facts which are short supply right now — Patience.”
  • However, director candidates Steven Spielberg, Zak Snyder, Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, Matthew Vaughn,Colin Trevorrow, and Brad Bird have all turned it down the job of taking on the next Star Wars film.
  • Toy Story 3 screenwriter Michael Arndt has completed what has been described by Disney head chairman and CEO Bob Iger as a, “pretty extensive and detailed treatment for what would be the next three movies, the trilogy.” Iger added, “We’ve got a lengthy treatment that comes with this that we feel really good about and the film is in what I’ll call early-stage development right now…”   Arndt also wrote Little Miss Sunshine (winning him an Academy Award) and the upcoming Tom Cruise sci-fi film Oblivion, as well as the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire.  Arndt, who is a noted fan of the Star Wars films and has publicly lectured about their merits, was actually hired by George Lucas several months ago to draft the treatments to continue the franchise storyline, decades after the events of Return of the Jedi.
  • As stated, well known Producer Kathleen Kennedy will take over as head of Lucasfilm.  Kennedy is a seven-time Oscar nominee, and is a frequent Steven Spielberg collaborator whose credits include E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984), Back to the Future (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler’s List (1993), The Sixth Sense (1999) and Lincoln.
  • The deal will make Lucasfilm owner George Lucas a significant shareholder in Disney, which will pay for the film company with $2 billion cash and around 40 million shares of its stock.
  • Fox retains certain distribution rights to the existing Star Wars films but not the new franchise films going forward.
  • Disney plans to expand the Star Wars brand into many new product categories and internationally.  Star Wars merchandise has been big business for decades, that business mostly has been domestic, Iger said. Using Marvel as a model, Disney plans to grow international marketing of Star Wars products by increasing the brand’s presence in their stores, with more toys and with other products.
  • Disney also intends to pursue the Star Wars brand in their parks, with games and, “other initiatives,” CFO Jay Rasulo said. “Being that there hasn’t been a Star Wars film since 2005, a lot of the value we attribute to the deal is to come, added Rasulo. And Iger added, “This gives us a great footprint in the consumer market, and we already had a good one.”
  • Iger feels Disney XD would be a good TV home for the franchise going forward.
  • Star Wars interactive strategy: Disney will focus more on social and mobile platforms, opportunistically on consoles.
  • Deal was 50% cash and 50% stock – $4.05 billion
  • Disney believes Lucasfilm value is comparable to value of Marvel, but valuation is only based on Star Wars alone – value of other Lucasfilm intellectual properties are in addition to this.
  • Disney plans to let ILM continue operating as it currently does.
  • Lucasfilm’s businesses include live-action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio postproduction. Disney also acquires the technologies from the San Francisco-based company, which operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light + Magic, and Skywalker Sound.
  • Disney CEO Iger also presided over the company’s acquisition of Marvel, Pixar, ABC and ESPN.  While the Disney board has approved the Lucasfilm acquisition, it is subject to antitrust scrutiny by the U.S. government.
  • While Lucas and Disney have had a long relationship, it has been most visible at the company’s theme parks, where Star Tours and other attractions have been popular for more than two decades.
  • The Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy will continue to be re-distributed in home video and cable markets through 20th Century Fox — which will now be cut out of future Star Wars and other related business. **(Although Fox already has been set to release 3D versions of the past Star Wars movies, it is unclear whether that relationship will be affected by the sale. The acquisition also raises questions about the future of Stars Wars: The Clone Wars, a highly popular series on Cartoon Network, which is owned by a Disney competitor, Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner.)
  • Future movies may not be sequels but movies that focus on fringe characters. Disney also believes there is potential for a television series.
  • Disney’s Lucasfilm purchase is the culmination of transition plans Lucas began forming several years ago as he “began contemplating a form of retirement,” Iger said. “He and I started talking about a year and half ago about it but only decided pretty recently that this is something we both wanted to do.”  Iger said they didn’t decide on a deal until very recently, just as Lucas set in motion his retirement
  • How active will Lucas be involved in shaping future Star Wars films? Iger’s answer to that question: “It’s his intention to retire.”  Kathleen Kennedy has offered that Lucas will remain an adviser and credited as “Story by,” along with “Executive Producer.”

For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said Lucas. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy (who was made the Co-Chair at Lucasfilm back in June, and will now hold the title of President of Lucasfilm and report directly to Disney co-chair Alan Horn) and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”  Lucas later added, “I’m doing this so that the films will have a longer life.  I get to be a fan now … I sort of look forward to it. It’s a lot more fun actually, than actually having to go out into the mud and snow.”

THE FIRST NINE MINUTES OF STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS will screen in approx. 500 IMAX 3D theaters before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. J.J. Abrams used Imax cameras to capture several sequences in the sequel, which opens May 15. The Hobbit, from New Line and Warner Bros., opens Dec. 14 … IN OTHER HOBBIT NEWS, AN INFORMATION SHEET has been drafted for Theaters to explain the new HFR (High Frame Rate) projection process being unveiled with the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  (Click image for larger.)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER has made a deal to reprise the title role as Robert E. Howard’s mythic character, in The Legend of Conan, an action film sequel to the original 1982 film Conan the Barbarian.   Universal has world rights on the film to be produced by Fredrik Malmberg, CEO of Paradox Entertainment, and Chris Morgan a Universal-based writer and producer whose credits include the last four Fast and Furious films, Wanted and 47 Ronin.  Morgan came up with the story for the new film, which is reportedly his dream project.  The Legend Of Conan is schedule for summer 2014.  Paradox was involved in a 2011 reboot at Millennium Films that starred Jason Momoa.  Malmberg stated that this is the version of the film that he and everybody else always wanted to see on the screen but couldn’t while Schwarzenegger was governor of California.  “The original ended with Arnold on the throne as a seasoned warrior, and this is the take of the film we will make,” Malmberg said. “It’s that Nordic Viking mythic guy who has played the role of king, warrior, soldier and mercenary, and who has bedded more women than anyone, nearing the last cycle of his life. He knows he’ll be going to Valhalla, and wants to go out with a good battle.”  There are no plans for Momoa to return.  Writer Morgan commented, “After the original seminal movie, all that came after looked silly to me.  Robert E. Howard’s mythology and some great philosophy from Nietzsche to Atilla the Hun was layered in the original film. People say, he didn’t speak for the first 20 minutes of the film, but that was calculated in depicting this man who takes control of life with his own hand. This movie picks up Conan where Arnold is now in his life, and we will be able to use the fact that he has aged in this story. I love the property of Conan so much that I wouldn’t touch it unless we came up with something worthy. We think this is a worthy successor to the original film. Think of this as Conan’s Unforgiven.”  Schwarzenegger commented: “I always loved the Conan character and I’m honored to be asked to step into the role once again. I can’t wait to work with Universal and the great team of Fredrik Malmberg and Chris Morgan to develop the next step of this truly epic story.” … BRYAN SINGER will helm X-Men Days of Future Past, instead of Matthew Vaughn.  The film will be produced by Vaughn, Simon Kinberg, and Lauren Shuler Donner.  Singer’s imagination propelled much of the first X-Men film, as well as X2.  Some of his leftover ideas were used in X-Men 3.  On the subject of the film, Singer has thus far only commented, “For those of you wondering…no leather suits.”  The script by Simon Kinberg is said to be inspired Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s comic book storyline that ran in Uncanny X-Men #141 and 142 back in 1981. “Days of Future Past” introduced the idea of an alternate future for Marvel’s mutants that grew out of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants killing an important senator, leading to a future where all mutants are hunted by Sentinels.  Days of Future Past is slated for release on July 18, 2014, and sees First Class cast members including Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence returning.  Singer’s next film, Jack the Giant Slayer, is scheduled to open March 1, 2013 … WHILE JURASSIC PARK IV remains in development, a re-release of Jurassic Park in glorious 3D is headed your way next April:

PRODUCTION OF GHOSTBUSTERS III has been pushed back until autumn 2013 due to financial issues at Sony, pushing the release date to 2014, and possibly 2015.  Original director Ivan Reitman is in place, and Men In Black 3 writer Etan Cohen has already completed the script with excises Bill Murray’s character Dr. Venkeman, in favor of Dr. Egon Spengler and Dr. Raymond Stantz as mentors to a new generation of Ghostbusters.  Director Reitman Ivan recently stated, “Well, I’d like to go forward and make new things. I think ‘Ghostbusters‘ probably should be remade, if we can get it all right. We’re working on it, so we’ll see.”  Internet rumor placed Seth Rogan as the studios leading favorite to take over Murray’s role, back in 2009.  And in fact, Seth Rogen has emerged as favourite to be cast in the movie … ELFQUEST is finally coming to the big screen after more than 30 years in development by a slew of different companies, studios, writers, and directors.  The Wendy and Richard Pini comic series will be adapted for the screen for producers Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes. Co-creator Wendy Pini said, “With their deep love and understanding of the property, they represent a new direction for ElfQuest…new creative energy and new connections in the larger media.” ElfQuest concerns a tribe of elves on the distant World of Two Moons who find themselves driven from their forest by humans, and then discover something they didn’t know existed: other elves  … AND NOW FOR AN INTERMISSION: The Big Trouble in Little China Gangnam Style Parody Video

MARK WAHLBERG has officially joined Transformers 4.  After months of internet jokes and truly false rumors.  Paramount, Hasbro, and Michael Bay have jointly elected to call the internet community’s bluff, and hire Mark Wahlberg for a central role in the next Transformers sequel.  Michael Bay himself confirmed that Wahlberg has joined the cast of the June 27, 2014 release. Said Bay, Mark is awesome.We had a blast working on ‘Pain and Gain’ and I’m so fired up to be back working with him. An actor of his caliber is the perfect guy to re-invigorate the franchise and carry on the Transformers’ legacy.”  The film, which begins production in Spring of next year, will be produced by the same team from the previous three films. “The movie is going to continue four years from the attack on Chicago,” says Bay, “which was in the last movie. It’s going to have the same lineage, but it’s going in a full new direction. It actually feels very natural how it’s going in that direction… We’re doing a lot of things that are really going to make it fresh and feel new.” Paramount and Dreamworks also jointly released the logo for the new film. EDGAR RICE BURROUGH’S TARZAN will soon swing again !  Four time Harry Potter director David Yates will helm for Warner Bros. Pictures … DIRECTOR PHILLIP (PATRIOT GAMES, SALT) NOYCE  is in talks to direct The Giver for The Weinstein Co. and Walden Media.  Based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 children’s book, the introspective fantasy take is set in a colorless dystopian society in which all memory of human history has been erased, emotion does not exist and citizens’ professions are chosen for them.  A 12-year-old boy is assigned to serve as the “Receiver of Memories” (i.e. the next Giver) and discovers that all is not as it seems.  Jeff Bridges remains will play the current Giver, the most important person in the story’s Community, and Bridges will also produce with Nikki Silver.  The script has been written by Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog.) … EUROPA REPORT, a space thriller directed by Sebastián Codero (Cronicas,) has released a teaser trailer.  In the movie, a group of astronauts, handpicked from around the world, make the arduous journey to Jupiter’s frigid, glacial moon Europa in search of extraterrestrial life. The only thing more intimidating and unpredictable than the trip itself is what the team will encounter upon arrival.  You will also hear a bit of the score by The Walking Dead and BSG composer Bear McCreary.

JOE HALDEMAN’S SHORT SCIENCE FICTION STORY, SEASONS will be brought to the big screen by Sony Pictures and director Tim Miller.  The tale, collected in the author’s anthology “Dealing in Futures,” follows an ethnographic expedition to an alien world that winds up going terribly wrong.  Miller was previously attached to direct Deadpool for Marvel and 20th Century Fox, and Gravel, based on Warren Ellis’s graphic novel, for Warner Bros.  Writer Haldeman is best remembered for his Vietnam War allegory The Forever War. That novel is planned for a feature adaptation with Ridley Scott attached to helm … ANONYMOUS CONTENT, LLC has purchased the rights to Phillip K. Dick’s Ubik. Dick, author of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” adapted for the screen as Blade Runner, and “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” adapted as Total Recall, is now considered one of the most visionary science fiction writers of his time.  Ubik, to be directed by Michael Gondry (The Green Hornet,) centers on a debt-ridden technician at a company that employs people who can ‘block’ telepaths. And suspended animation, reincarnation, moon bases, and reality shifting back in time to 1939 is just a fraction of the craziness born within the stories pages.  MEANWHILE, ELECTRIC SHEPHERD PRODUCTIONS, the production arm of Dick’s estate, is developing film and TV projects based on Dick’s works including “The Man In the High Castle,” “Now Wait for Last Year,” “King of the Elves” and “Electric Ant.” … SONY PICTURES HAVE RELEASED A STILL FOR NEILL (DISTRICT 9) BLOMKAMP’S ELYSIUM.  One word of warning, If director Blomkamp’s previous outing is any indication, Elysium is sure to be told through massive naseau-inducing, shaking camera angles. “In the year 2159, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth.  Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) will stop at nothing to preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium — but that doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in by any means they can.  Max (Matt Damon) agrees to take on a life-threatening mission, one that could bring equality to these polarized worlds.”