After the coffee. Before getting too excited about preseason football.
The Skinny: The Redskins won their first preseason game Thursday night but I won't read too much into that. Still, it beats losing! Friday's headlines include a preview of the weekend box office and the latest (which isn't much) on the Time Warner Cable-CBS fight. Have a good weekend and stay out of trouble. If you are getting into trouble, call me because I get pretty bored these days and could use the excitement.
21st Century FOX / Daily Dose: The favorite guessing game among TV news followers lately is what Fox News will do with Megyn Kelly (shown in GQ above). The cable news and talk channel has already said the popular Kelly will be moving to prime time. But Fox News chief Roger Ailes on Thursday also said all of Fox's other prime time stars are signed on and not going anywhere. Well, unless Fox News plans to extend prime time by one hour, it seems probable that Kelly will be paired with an existing Fox News show host, most likely either Sean Hannity or Greta Van Susteren.
Seeking "Elysium." It will be a busy weekend at the nation's multiplexes as four movies will battle for the top spot. "Elysium," the sci-fi thriller starring Matt Damon, is expected to take in more than $30 million. That should be enough for first place. Also new this weekend is the animated film "Planes," the raunchy comedy "We're the Millers" and fantasy movie "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters." Weekend box office previews from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.
Ian Ziering takes on a flying shark in "Sharknado." (SyFy)
'Sharknado' sequel gets a title via Twitter contest, and it's ...
Syfy has chosen the title for the sequel to its viral original film "Sharknado" from submissions on Twitter, and the winner is both silly and relatively mundane: "Sharknado 2: The Second One." There were about 5,000 submissions.
It's no surprise that Syfy would turn to social media for the sequel title. The original broadcast of the campy horror film,starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid battling a torrent of CGI sharks in Los Angeles, generated about 5,000 tweets a minute at its peak.
The social media frenzy didn't translate to especially stellar ratings, but that didn't stop Syfy from quickly announcing a sequel and midnight showings of the first one at more than 200 movie theaters.
“Since Twitter played such a huge role in the success of the original movie, we wanted to use that platform to ask our fans to name Sharknado 2," said Thomas Vitale, Syfy's executive vice president of programming and original movies, in a statement.
"The Second One," to be produced by the Asylum and aired in July next year, will be set in New York City.
Punching bags. New York City politicians got their aggression Thursday by beating up on Time Warner Cable and CBS executives during a hearing about the distribution fight the two companies are engaged in that has left New Yorkers, Angelenos and others without CBS and Showtime. The New York City Council had little sympathy for either company or patience for hearing about the intricacies of retransmission consent negotiations. The hearing will likely have little impact on the situation but it made for fun viewing. A recap from the Los Angeles Times and New York Daily News.
Nothing new here. Once again spinoffs are popular in television. A TV staple since the 1970s, this fall will see at least four shows with roots in other shows. The Hollywood Reporter looks at the trend and why networks are willing to bet on spinoffs even though the success rate is hardly one that would build confidence. For every "CSI Miami" there are 10 "Joeys."
Maybe Capital One can sponsor it. Looking to boost declining prime time ratings, MSNBC is considering a weekly show hosted by actor and Capital One pitchman Alec Baldwin. MSNBC has been losing viewers lately in large part because it has focused a lot more on talking about news rather than covering it. Not sure hiring Baldwin would solve that problem. More from Mediaite.
Writer-actress and director Lake Bell from the film "In A World..." poses for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film, which opens Friday, Aug. 9, is the directorial debut for Bell(Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File) ** Usable by LA and DC Only ** (Victoria Will / Invision / AP / August 8, 2013)
'In a World...' is a winning behind-the-mike dramady.
In a World…" Sitting on a page staring at you, the words feel flat.
Now imagine, if you will, one of those deep baritone voices pouring drama and jeopardy into each syllable, rich tones that resonate to the very marrow.
Now pull back and see headphones, the mike and the man, because it usually is a man, with a scarf warming that million-dollar instrument. The one that keeps him at the top of the cutthroat Hollywood subculture of movie trailer voice-overs.
That is the world that 30-year-old Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) wants to be in. That is the world her father, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed) rules. And that is the world — and the relationship — so humorously picked apart by Bell, who proves a triple threat as star, author and director of "In a World…"
Lake Bell's look at the quirky, cutthroat business of movie trailer voice-over work, 'In a World...,' pits her against Fred Melamed in a sly and entertaining story of father-daughter competition.
The slight and exceedingly sly indie has been a hit on the festival circuit. Its sparkling dialogue earned Bell a screenwriting award at Sundance. But mostly "In a World…" stands as a very entertaining first crack at what one can only hope will be a long career behind the camera. That is where it seems the actress can truly make her mark.
In front of it, at least in other people's films, Bell tends to play the long, lean, slightly angry intellectual type. Her role as the hard-edged beautiful second wife in "It's Complicated," withAlec Baldwin under her thumb and Meryl Streep as his much softer ex is typical.
As Carol, Bell is completely, and charmingly, out of sorts. Those long limbs are as awkward as a colt's, the long hair leans toward lank. She is still living under dad's roof and still intimidated by his overbearing, condescending assessments of her prospects. And no one overbears and condescends quite like a voice-over artist. In Melamed, the director has found an absolute virtuoso.
The interplay between the two perfectly captures the natural — and unnatural — competition between parent and child both grubbing for the same morsel. In this case, they find themselves fighting each other for the most coveted movie-trailer voice-over gig in the world, a female-centric "quadrilogy" that appears to star Cameron Diaz in a Thor-like loincloth. This film is nothing if not specific with its nitty-gritty. Also in the running is dad's younger protégé, a slick womanizer named Gustav Warner, played to deliciously decadent effect by Ken Marino.
But it will take a while for the possible power shift to begin rattling their relationship, because Bell has a few other fish she intends to fry.
Things start getting stirred up when father kicks daughter out of the house to make room for his sexy young girlfriend, Jamie (Alexandra Holden). It's all very civilized but painful.
Carol decamps to her sister's, where Dani (Michaela Watkins) and Moe (Rob Corddry) are dealing with a marriage on the decline. There will be dalliances to bedevil things, but Carol's head is so firmly in the clouds she misses the signs that trouble is on its way.
Her days are spent at the recording studio, where Louis, a delightful Demetri Martin, runs the soundboard and moons over her. She's a vocal coach, and there's a funny bit with Eva Longoria, one of a number of famous faces that turn up in the film.
Most of the action is driven by the ways in which Carol stumbles her way into the movie-trailer voice-over big time. Her rise is accompanied by some uncomfortable sex, a little fumbling flirting, a series of complicated family squabbles and the rare look at a quirky corner of the movie business.
There are also plenty of rough edges in this first film that are pretty easy to spot. But like Carol — all arms and legs and insecurities akimbo — "In a World…" is completely endearing. I can't wait to see what Bell will do next.
21st Century Fox Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey on Thursday called "a la carte" programming "a fantasy" at Fox's Investor Day in Los Angeles. Here, he's seen in a July 11 photo. (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / August 8, 2013)
Fox's Chase Carey calls a la carte programming 'a fantasy'.
Viewers could have as few as a half dozen "cable" channels offered to them if al carte programming adopted, will pay many times more for premium programming including sports and will lose the diversity that cable now offers if carriers are forced to ffer a la carte programming
21st Century Fox Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey underscored the value of sports programming and downplayed calls to end the bundling of television channels.
During Fox's Investor Day presentations Thursday, Carey splashed cold water on calls for pay-TV distributors to offer television channels separately so consumers could pick and choose which networks they wanted.
Carey said the TV industry's practice of selling bundles of channels remained a good value for consumers.
"A la carte is a fantasy," Carey told shareholders gathered at Fox's studios in West Los Angeles for a day of presentations. "Consumers want a bundle; they just want a different bundle. ... We see no meaningful evidence of cord-cutting today. People will give up food and a roof over their head before they give up TV."
The open question, Carey said, remains whether young adults in their 20s who have never subscribed to pay TV, the so-called "cord-nevers," will eventually sign up for pay TV as they become more established in their lives. "It remains to be seen," Carey said.
The value of original content was the overriding theme of Fox's Investor Day, which was held to give shareholders and Wall Street analysts a bird's-eye view of Fox's television and film strategies following the corporate breakup of News Corp.on June 28.
Fox executives said TV channels increasingly are the financial engine for the company, and the Fox movie studio is the most profitable in Hollywood.
"Let me be absolutely clear: Content is still King," 21st Century Fox Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said in his opening remarks.
"In this fragmented world, mediocre content has limited to no value because people will find something they really value instead ... on another channel, device, or medium," Murdoch said. "The value of hit content is going to continue to increase exponentially. And the most valuable content is going to be that which is truly unique."
On the eve of the company's Aug. 17 launch of its new national sports cable channel, called Fox Sports 1, Carey conceded that sports programming costs will continue to climb. However, he chalked up recent hand-wringing over escalating costs to "public posturing" by pay TV distributors and others.
"There is a reason sports costs a lot. It's the most important content on TV. Period," Carey said. "In an increasingly fragmented world, sports is the strand that binds us together."
He said the increase in fees for Fox's regional sports networks came down to about $1 per subscriber per month, which he described as hardly the straw that would break the backs of the pay-TV industry.
Carey also dismissed critics who have focused on declining broadcast network ratings. Fox Broadcasting had a particularly disappointing 2012-2013 season with 20% lower ratings. In recent weeks, company executives have initiated a campaign to demand better measurement and reporting to reflect the increasing amount of delayed viewing by consumers.
"Broadcast TV is not a business in decline," Carey said, adding that sports and other event programming, such as "American Idol," still pack in enormous audiences. Retransmission consent fees will help fuel broadcast revenue, he said, and local news remains key to Fox's TV stations.
Added Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly: "Broadcast is still firmly at the top of the food chain."
Rupert Murdoch on Thursday declined to say who might succeed him as chief of 21st Century Fox. Pictured: Murdoch arrives at the Allen & Co. annual conference on July 12, 2013, in Sun Valley, Idaho. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images /July 12, 2013
Rupert Murdoch keeps succession plan a secret.
At the end of an investor conference designed to shed light on the financial future of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, the 82-year-old media baron was asked how long he planned to stick around as chief executive officer.
Needham & Co. senior media analyst Laura Martin asked Murdoch whether he would reveal his corporate succession plan.
"No," Murdoch said, adding, "That will be a matter for the directors of the company. ...The board knows [the succession plan], and they are pretty happy."
In 2011, Murdoch signaled to Wall Street that his second-in-command -- Chase Carey, the chief operating officer -- would likely succeed him if Murdoch were unable to continue as chairman and chief executive of the global media company.
Before that 2011 disclosure, James Murdoch, the mogul's youngest son, was seen as the likely candidate for CEO should Rupert Murdoch step aside.
But James Murdoch's path to the top hit a detour after his reputation took a beating because of his handling of the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World tabloid in London. At the time, he was in charge of News Corp.'s British media unit.
James Murdoch, 40, continues in a senior position at 21st Century Fox. He is deputy chief operating officer, based in New York, specializing in the company's foreign TV businesses.
And on Thursday, James Murdoch was one of just four seniorFox executives to take the stage to field questions at the end of six hours of presentations by Fox division heads. Murdoch's presence on stage led some in the audience to observe that the younger Murdoch should not be counted out as a candidate for the top job.
James Murdoch sat beside Carey in the center of the stage, flanked by the company's new chief financial officer, John Nallen, and Rupert Murdoch.
Lions Gate's "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" has been a home entertainment success for the studio. (Doane Gregory / Summit Entertainment)
Lions Gate income, revenue rise on home entertainment, television.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. reported net income of $13.6 million for the fiscal quarter ending June 30 -- a notable improvement over the same period a year earlier, when the company lost $44.2 million despite having the blockbuster"The Hunger Games" in theaters for much of that three-month period.
Revenue rose 21% to $569.7 million. Lions Gate posted adjusted earnings per share of 10 cents, an improvement on the per-share loss of 33 cents a year earlier.
“The fact that our quarter compared favorably to a first quarter last year that included most of the domestic release of the first 'Hunger Games' film illustrates the diversity of our business," said Jon Feltheimer, chief executive of Lions Gate, in a statement.
Shares of Lions Gate rose 20 cents on Thursday to close at $34.23, not far from an all-time high of $34.70 set earlier in the day.
Lions Gate's fiscal years end March 31, making the quarter ending June 30 the company's first of its 2014 fiscal year.
The company's motion picture business segment, which includes home entertainment and international operations, posted revenue of $438.6 million -- an increase of 8% over the same quarter a year ago.
The studio was helped by the success of “Now You See Me,” a surprise hit that has grossed $233 million worldwide.
Though Lions Gate didn't benefit from a film the size of "Hunger Games" hitting movie theaters, the company said its home entertainment segment was buoyed by films including "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2," "Warm Bodies"and "The Impossible," among others. Home entertainment revenue -- including motion pictures and television -- was up 16% to $169.4 million.
The company's television production segment posted revenue of $131.1 million, more than double the sales from a year ago. Lions Gate attributed the increase to the licensing of domestic television series and international sales. Among the TV projects delivered during the quarter was the critically acclaimed new Netflix series, "Orange Is the New Black."
Lions Gate, which acquired "Twilight" franchise distributor Summit Entertainment in January 2012, is releasing the second installment of "The Hunger Games" film series in November. The first movie in the series grossed $691 million worldwide.
Also bowing in November is "Ender's Game," which, like "Hunger Games," is based on a popular series of novels aimed at young adults. The "Ender's Game" author, Orson Scott Card, has come under scrunity for his opposition to same-sex marriage and Lions Gate has disavowed Card's views.
Matt Damon stars in "Elysium," which has a shot at being No. 1 at the box office this weekend. (Sony Pictures)
'Elysium' shoule beat 'Planes,' 'Millers,' 'Percy' at crowded multiplex.
On a crowded box-office weekend, where four new films will fight for No. 1, "Elysium" may hover just above the competition.
The sci-fi flick starring Matt Damon is set to debut with a solid-if-not-spectacular $32 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
Its only real rival is likely to be the 3-D animated "Planes," a spinoff of Pixar's "Cars" franchise, which is expected to launch with a healthy $28 million.
On Wednesday, the R-rated comedy "We're the Millers" and the sequel "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" both hit theaters in an effort to get out ahead of the packed weekend.
The mid-budget "Millers," costarring Jennifer Aniston andJason Sudeikis, looks poised to collect $24 million between Friday and Sunday. The "Percy Jackson" sequel, meanwhile, is likely to gross a so-so $19 million.
The well-reviewed "Elysium," set in 2154, stars Damon as an earthbound factory worker. After being diagnosed with cancer, he tries to get to Elysium -- a luxurious world hovering above Earth where only the most fortunate reside.
The movie is the second feature film from South African native Neill Blomkamp. His first release, "District 9," became a surprise box-office success in 2009, opening with $37.4 million domestically and ultimately grossing $210.8 million worldwide.
"Elysium" was financed by Media Rights Capital for $115 million, but is being distributed and marketed by Sony Pictures. Heading into the weekend, the picture appears to be generating the most interest among older males.
As for "Planes," not only does the movie have to contend with three other debuts this weekend, it also will face competition from other animated movies still in the marketplace. "The Smurfs 2" just hit theaters last weekend and "Despicable Me 2" is still a force to be reckoned with even after a month at the multiplex.
However, Walt Disney Studios says the DisneyToon production was made for just $50 million, meaning it has a decent shot at financial success. "Planes" was initially slated to go directly to video, as most of DisneyToon's films do. However, after screening the movie for audiences, Disney decided to give it a theatrical release and is now planning a "Planes" trilogy. The film features the voices of Dane Cook,Teri Hatcher and Brad Garrett.
"We're the Millers" is almost certain to be a hit for Warner Bros. and its New Line label, which made the film for just $37 million. The movie stars Sudeikis as a drug dealer who ropes a stripper (Aniston) and two teenagers into a ruse in which they pretend to be his family members and help him smuggle marijuana out of Mexico.
Those who saw the film Wednesday enjoyed it, assigning it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The comedy is the first release for Sudeikis since leaving "Saturday Night Live" and will be a test of his draw with moviegoers as a leading man. The movie's success would also be good news for Aniston, who is coming off a flop in last year's comedy "Wanderlust."
"Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," financed by Fox and the Seelig Group for $90 million, is expected to launch with far less than the original film did in 2010. After starting off with $31.2 million in the U.S. and Canada, "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" went on to gross $226.5 million -- roughly 60% of which came from overseas.
Based on a beloved bestselling novel by Rick Riordan, the original "Percy Jackson" movie was met with lackluster reviews. So far, the sequel is faring even worse with critics: On Thursday, the film had notched a 33% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared with a 49% grade for the original.
"Sea of Monsters" stars Logan Lerman as Percy, son of the Greek god Poseidon, who sets out on a journey to heal a magical tree that protects his home. Opening-day filmgoers gave it an average grade of B+ -- the same grade the first film received three years ago.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Kenneth Turan on "Elysium." Betsy Sharkey on "Planes." Karen Black, who made a name for herself for her work in "Five Easy Pieces" and "Easy Rider" and went on to become a queen of B movies, died at 74.
Follow me on Twitter. It makes weekends better. @JBFlint.