Sunday, September 30, 2012

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'Pitch Perfect' resonates with $5.2 million in limited release

"Pitch Perfect" did strong business in limited release this weekend.
Rebel Wilson stars in the a cappella comedy "Pitch Perfect," which did strong business in limited release at the box office this weekend. (Universal Pictures)

“Pitch Perfect” hit a high note at the box office this weekend, as the a cappella comedy did brisk business even though it premiered in only a limited number of theaters.

Playing in 335 theaters in 125 cities, the film about a college singing group collected a robust $5.2 million over the weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures.

After early word-of-mouth screenings at cheerleading camps and college campuses generated an exceptionally positive response, Universal decided in September to open the film in 335 locations a week before its nationwide expansion on Oct. 5. It was an unusual move for a major studio with a commercial film, but one that seems to have paid off. Those who saw the movie this weekend -- a 74% female crowd -- loved it, assigning it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

“It was very clear that we wanted the word-of-mouth to sell the movie -- you want everybody to feel good about it and tell their friends,” said Universal’s president of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco. “This was uncharted territory, but we took a shot at it and this is a great result.”

The film, which features Anna Kendrick and rising star Rebel Wilson, has also received positive response from critics and on Sunday had a 72% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The low-budget film should be a financial success for Universal, which co-financed the picture with Paul Brooks’ Gold Circle Films for $17 million.
Review: 'Pitch Perfect' isn't perfect, but it is fun
'Pitch Perfect' to get limited release in buzz-building move
Sony rules with No. 1 'Hotel Transylvania,' runner-up 'Looper'

Holloween came early for weeked box office

Sony rules with No. 1 'Hotel Transylvania,' runner-up 'Looper'

"Hotel Transylvania" was the No. 1 film at the box office this weekend.
A scene from "Hotel Transylvania," which was the No. 1 film at the box office this weekend. (Sony Pictures Animation)

"Hotel Transylvania" sank its teeth into the competition this weekend, as the animated film easily ruled the box office.

The 3-D monster flick, which features classic characters such as Dracula and the Mummy, had the biggest September opening ever with its robust debut of $43 million, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. It was a strong weekend at the multiplex for Sony, as the sci-fi thriller "Looper"from the studio's TriStar label claimed the runner-up position with a solid $21.2 million in ticket sales.

The only new wide release to be greeted with poor response this weekend was "Won't Back Down," the education drama starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal that tanked with $2.7 million.
PHOTOS: All-time box offie leaders

"Hotel Transylvania" far exceeded Sony's modest opening weekend expectations, but even beat industry projections, which had the film debuting with around $35 million. Previously, the highest-grossing film in the month of September was "Sweet Home Alabama," which launched with $35.6 million in 2002 but did not have the advantage of 3-D ticket sale premiums.

The film, which features celebrity voices such as Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez, was not greeted with especially warm reviews but was beloved by audiences this weekend. Those who saw the film -- a 76% family audience -- assigned it an average grade of A-, said market research firm CinemaScore.
The opening for "Transylvania" marks the biggest debut ever for Sony Pictures Animation, which spent about $100 million to produce the film, according to one individual close to the production.

(Sony insisted the budget was actually $85 million.) The animation studio's largest hit to date is "The Smurfs," which opened with $35.6 million last year and ultimately raked in $142.6 million domestically and $421.1 million more abroad. More recent releases such as"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" and "Arthur Christmas" have failed to meet equal success, so "Transylvania" is a welcome winner.

REPORT: Fall Movie Sneaks

Meanwhile, the critical darling "Looper" appealed strongly to older males this weekend, as 49% of the audience were men and 70% were over the age of 25. That crowd gave the movie an average grade of B.

The time-travel film, written and directed by Rian Johnson, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a younger version of an assassin played by Bruce Willis. The movie reunites Johnson and Gordon-Levitt, who first teamed up on 2005's indie "Brick." "Looper" will be the biggest commercial success for the filmmaker, whose highest-grossing film to date was 2009's crime comedy "The Brothers Bloom," which made only $3.5 million in limited release. "Looper" is also a needed hit for Gordon-Levitt, as the 31-year-old's upward trajectory in Hollywood hit a stumbling block this summer when his bicycle messenger film "Premium Rush" flopped at the box office.

"Looper" was financed for around $30 million by Endgame Entertainment, and FilmDistrict and Sony acquired North American distribution rights at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival based on a trailer-length promo. While the movie is performing well in the U.S. and Canada, it also had an excellent launch internationally this weekend, particularly in China. Early estimates have the film -- a co-production with China's film producer and distributor DMG -- opening with around $24 million in the foreign country.

PHOTOS: Walking Dead Hollywood Backlot

Though it sparked debate among the education community, "Won't Back Down" failed to lure moviegoers to the box office this weekend. The movie, about two parents trying to change a school for the better, was financed by Walden Media for $19 million but is being distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Though the movie was not liked by critics, the few who saw it this weekend enjoyed it, giving the adult drama an average grade of A-. Stlll, word-of-mouth would have to be exceptionally strong for the film to become as big of a hit as an issue film like "Erin Brockovich."

[Updated 12:07 p.m. Sept. 30: Overseas, "Transylvania" premiered in 13 foreign markets including Australia and the Philippines and collected $8.1 million. The film performed best in Mexico, where it sold $3.6 million worth of tickets -- more than double the opening of the studio's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" in the same country.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and

1. "Hotel Transylvania" (Sony): Opened with $43 million. $8.1 million overseas in 13 foreign markets.
2. "Looper" (Sony/Endgame/FilmDistrict): Opened with $21.2 million.
3. "End of Watch" (Open Road/Emmett/Furla/Exclusive): $8 million on its second weekend, down 39%. Domestic total: $26.2 million.
4. "Trouble With the Curve" (Warner Bros.): $7.5 million on its second weekend, down 38%. Domestic total: $23.7 million.
5. "House at the End of the Street" (Relativity/FilmNation/A Bigger Boat): $7.2 million on its second weekend, down 42%. Domestic total: $22.2 million.
6. "Pitch Perfect" (Universal/Gold Circle): Opened with $5.2 million in limited release.
7. "Finding Nemo 3-D" (Disney): $4.1 million on its third weekend, down 58%. Domestic total: $36.5 million. $1.1 million overseas in 17 foreign countries. International total: $10.2 million.
8. "Resident Evil: Retribution" (Sony): $3 million on its third weekend, down 55%. Domestic total: $38.7 million. $20.7 million overseas in 65 foreign markets. International total: $137 million.
9. "The Master" (Weinstein Co.): $2.7 million on its third weekend, down 37%. Domestic total: $9.6 million.
10. "Won't Back Down" (Fox/Walden): Opened with $2.7 million.]

Animated 'Hotel Transylvania' to scare off 'Looper'
'Looper': Sci-fi thriller knocks early reviewers for a loop
'Won't Back Down's' 'parent trigger' school story draws protest

Can over the air digital TV profit from the high cost of cable and satellite?

Digital TV widens viewer choices, broadcaster profit chances

Remember when there were only three network broadcast stations in Las Vegas and other cities, and networks held a virtual monopoly on programming? Not anymore...Digital TV, low power stations carried on cable and satellite as local signals and new stations popping up all over the dial, now increase in number and impact with the multi-band digital TV that won out over ultra high definition television as the US HD standard.

SAG-AFTRA Actors support union made products this Halloween!

Discount Tickets for Locals at Cirque Shows

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About 15 Percent of SAG-AFTRA Staff Leaving in Voluntary Buyout


SAG AFTRA One Union Logo - H 2012

The program is part of the ongoing integration of SAG and AFTRA. The union declined to provide financial details of the packages or payroll impact.

About 80 SAG-AFTRA employees will leave their jobs by Friday in a voluntary severance program, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, and an additional 20 or so will do so during the next couple months, according to several sources.
Most of the union’s 600 staff were eligible for the program, and the roughly 15 percent who opted for it was within the target 10 to 15 percent that the union’s executives had hoped for, according to a source.
The departures, and the Sept. 28 deadline that applies for most of the departures, come almost exactly six months after SAG and AFTRA voted to merge. At the time, then-SAG national executive director David White said that the union would not lay off anyone as a result of the merger, and the source stressed that the voluntary severance program was indeed voluntary.

“When you bring together two staffs with similar responsibilities and duties, there is naturally going to be some overlap and redundancy,” said White, who’s now national executive director of the merged union. “This program is helping us get our staffing levels right in a way that is respectful and reflects our priorities going forward.”
The union had no comment other than White’s statement and declined to provide any details on the size of buyout packages that staff were offered, how the packages were calculated, whether non-cash components are included, how much of an ongoing savings in payroll expenses are forecast, and how large the one-time increase in payroll costs will be for the severance program.
In a few cases, departing employees will stay on as short-term consultants. Some of the retirees have had more than 30 years of service with SAG-AFTRA and one of the two predecessor unions. According to a source, the departing employees come about equally from legacy SAG and AFTRA.
Severance programs – or, indeed, actual layoffs – are common in the corporate world when two companies merge.
 “It’s bittersweet,” said Deborah Berg, who’s leaving after 35 years of service. “SAG has been a great home for me." Berg is currently the director of knowledge management, a research and contracts function. She said she’d miss “a lot of wonderful friends” but called the severance package “kind of like a gift that’s given me the opportunity to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Shasta Iglesias, a seven-year veteran, is leaving her job as executive assistant to the union’s top elected officers and forming a nonprofit called Helping Others Through Music Experience, which will help aspiring but underprivileged young musicians develop both their talent and their business sense.
“Giving hope is important,” she said.
The voluntary severance program is not the first round of departures related to the uniting of the two unions.  Indeed, the highest-profile departure came less than three weeks after merger, when, as The Hollywood Reporter first reported, AFTRA’s Kim Roberts Hedgpeth stepped down as co-national executive director of the merged union, making White the sole national executive director going forward.
Another high-level departure came in August as former AFTRA general counsel Tom Carpenterdecamped for a position at Actors' Equity, consolidating Duncan Crabtree-Ireland’s role as general counsel and chief administrative officer.
Those two departures strengthened the power of former SAG executives in the merged union. More controversial was the retirement of about 15 former New York AFTRA staffers and others elsewhere, which came under the terms of what has been described by a source as a surprisingly rich severance package that had been put in place by AFTRA prior to a 2003 SAG/AFTRA merger attempt.
Meanwhile, White sees the voluntary severance program as “only one piece of the continuing integration of our merged union.” He added, “This also affords us a unique opportunity to improve our operational structure,” suggesting that further organizational changes might be in the offing.
According to a source, the program was requested by the joint SAG/AFTRA merger committee, the Group for One Union (G1), which spent much of 2011 negotiating the terms of the two unions’ merger.
Bookmark The Hollywood Reporter’s Labor Page for the most in-depth coverage of entertainment unions and guilds.
Twitter: @jhandel

IMDB guilty of facilitating age discrimination

Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA Deplore Age Discrimination Facilitated by and Similar Online Databases

Los Angeles (October 27, 2011) — An actor’s actual age is irrelevant to casting. What matters is the age range that an actor can portray. For the entire history of professional acting, this has been true but that reality has been upended by the development of IMDb as an industry standard used in casting offices across America.

IMDb publishes the actual dates of birth of thousands of actors without their consent, most of them not celebrities but rank-and-file actors whose names are unknown to the general public. When their actual ages then become known to casting personnel, the 10+ year age range that many of them can portray suddenly shrinks, and so do their opportunities to work.

Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strongly believe that businesses like IMDb have a moral and legal obligation not to facilitate age discrimination in employment. Entertainment industry employers who would never directly ask a potential employee’s age routinely access that information through IMDb and its professional subscription site IMDbPro. IMDb has the power to remove the temptation for employers to engage in age discrimination by accessing this information.

We are disappointed that IMDb has rejected the efforts of Screen Actors Guild, AFTRA and other entertainment industry unions, and workers to work together to reach a solution to this problem. It is time for IMDb to step up and take responsibility for the harm it has caused, and to take appropriate measures to protect entertainment industry workers, including actors, from losing jobs for the enhancement of IMDb’s financial statements.

Robby Benson, Child Actor still going strong...and "not dead yet"

Robby Benson is an actor, director, writer and educator. He is also the author of Who Stole The Funny?: A Novel Of Hollywood.
Karla DeVito/Boutique
Robby Benson is an actor, director, writer and educator. He is also the author of Who Stole The Funny?: A Novel Of Hollywood.
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September 29, 2012
Robby Benson began his career at the age of 12, on the Broadway stage, and became a teen heartthrob in the '70s, starring in films such as Ode To Billy Joe, Ice Castles andOne and One, which he co-wrote. He was also the voice behind the Beast in the 1991 Disney film, Beauty and the Beast.
But many of Benson's fans may not know that over the past three decades, he's also survived four separate open heart surgeries. He chronicles his journey in his new memoir, I'm Not Dead ... Yet! And as he tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, the title was deliberate. "I have had people come up to me and say, "I haven't seen you for a while, I thought you were dead," Benson says.

Interview Highlights

On surviving show-business as a child actor
"I was one of the fortunate ones because I grew up in the theater. So there's a huge difference between growing up in the theater or, let's say, growing up on TV, where you're supposed to look cute, memorize some lines, hit a mark and then you get paid thousands and thousands of dollars. And you lose perspective."
On how he hid his heart condition while acting in Hollywood
"My best acting was always in the doctor's office when I would get an insurance check-up. When I was in the room — and I was in the room alone, let's say putting on a gown — I would be doing push-ups and sit-ups so that when they came in it was like, 'Whoa.' They hardly even listened to my heart."
On why he never shared his secret with anyone
"John Marley, Rod Steiger, both of these men would take me aside and we'd have long conversations about this, about that, and it would eventually get very personal and they would tell me that they had heart problems. But they could never say a word about it, and it's a secret. And they said, 'You know, Robby, if by any chance you ever run into this, make sure you never tell anyone. You must keep it a secret because it's career suicide in Hollywood.' "