Saturday, January 24, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 10:08 AM

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - After a record-breaking wide-release debut over the Martin Luther King holiday, "American Sniper" will loom large at the box office for the second weekend in a row. 

Analysts didn't see Clint Eastwood's look at the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle coming, so it's hard to figure out just how massive the film will continue to be now that it faces off against new projects from Jennifer Lopez and Johnny Depp.

If "American Sniper" has a sophomore weekend drop-off like the kind of traditional summer blockbuster it mirrored when it kicked off with $107 million and change over the four-day period, it should pull in roughly $45 million. In a sign of its dominance, "American Sniper" will have the biggest second weekend of any January wide release in Fandango history.

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 9:58 AM
20th Century Fox.

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "The Sound of Music," which earned five Academy awards in its 1965 debut, is returning to the bigscreen to celebrate its half century legacy.

"The Sound of Music" will show at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival on March 26, with Robert Osborne hosting a Q&A with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Twentieth Century Fox has a yearlong global campaign in place for the film's golden anniversary, including a home entertainment release beginning March 10. 

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 9:55 AM
Lionsgate.

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Should the recent surge in male facial hair as a fashion accessory stall in 2015, barbers would be within their rights to blame "Mortdecai," a perky but obstinately unfunny heist caper with a hero irksome enough to make any happily mustachioed man reconsider his life choices. Directed (but, unusually, not written) by an off-form David Koepp, the film shoots for the swinging insouciance of '60s farce, but this story of a caddish art dealer enlisted by MI5 to assist in a knotty theft case is Only particularly dedicated devotees of Johnny Depp's latter-day strain of mugging -- here channeling Austin Powers by way of P.G. Wodehouse -- will delight in this expensive-looking oddity.

Eric Aronson's script -- his first feature-length effort since 2001's little-cherished Lance Bass starrer "On the Line" -- is based on Kyril Bonfiglioli's 1973 novel "Don't Point That Thing at Me," the first in a moderately popular comic series centered on the amoral trickster Charlie Mortdecai. Mortdecai's twitchy 'stache was enough of a character trademark to feature in the title of the series' final chapter; while it might be stretching a point to call Depp's daintily upturned walrus whiskers the film's best joke, it's certainly its hardest-working one, serving as the impetus for several long-running gags. (If auds aren't tickled the first time Mortdecai's upper-lip rug triggers a woman's gag reflex, the film reasons, they'll warm to the idea with repetition.) 

If that's not much to build a comedy on, it's an even flimsier basis for a character: As presented here, at least, Mortdecai is certainly daft, but not in the singularly absurd way that makes Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster, say, a distinctly human figure of fun. Rather, he's an amalgam of easy-target toff characteristics -- a preening, lily-livered aristocrat of indeterminate provenance, forced to live by his unreliable wits as his fortune supposedly runs dry. 

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 9:50 AM
Russell Simmons attends Storytellers and the Shaping of Pop Culture: A Chat With Russell Simmons at NATPE 2015 at Fontainebleau Miami Beach on January 21, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - MIAMI -- Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons had harsh words about the business environment he has encountered in Hollywood now that he's turned his focus to producing movies, TV shows and digital content. 

"The reality is the lack of integration is deafening," he said Wednesday during a Q&A at the NATPE confab. "The segregation in Hollywood is incredible." 

In a candid 45-minute conversation with Variety co-editor in chief Andrew Wallenstein, the Def Jam founder was critical of Hollywood "progressives" who have no understanding of African-American culture, even if they are well-meaning and liberal in their political views. He said he's seen ample evidence of bias in the development process that tends to keep black creatives from working in an organically integrated way with white talent.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 11:21 AM
Actors James Franco and Seth Rogen arrive for the premiere of the film 'The Interview' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. (AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Netflix will offer Sony Pictures Entertainment's controversial comedy "The Interview" to U.S. and Canadian streaming members beginning Saturday, Jan. 24, the company announced Tuesday. 

As previously reported by Variety, Netflix in December entered into talks with Sony about licensing "The Interview" to streaming subscribers after Starz, which has an output deal with the studio, released pay-TV window rights. 

But it seems that the studio wanted to maximize digital and VOD sales first before opening up to SVOD: "The Interview" as of Sunday had generated more than $40 million in revenue via more than 5.8 million rentals and sales through digital distributors like Google Play, YouTube and iTunes as well as cable, satellite and telco TV providers, according to Sony Pictures. 

POSTED: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 11:13 AM
Actor Jamie Dornan attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - One of the most talked about scenes from E.L. James' bestseller "Fifty Shades of Grey" -- involving Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele and a tampon -- won't be featured in the film version.

"It didn't make it into the movie," says director Sam Taylor-Johnson, in an interview with Variety. "It was never even discussed." The scene is a memorable moment between Christian (played by Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) on the page. Over the summer, MTV asked: "Should 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Include The Book's Grossest Sex Scene?" 

The producers decided if it was best if it didn't. "The book needed to put you in Ana's shoes to be a successful experience," says producer Michael De Luca. "A lot of it was very literal. The movie didn't need to do that. It's a completely different medium."

POSTED: Monday, January 19, 2015, 8:43 PM
Filed Under: Movies
Bradley Cooper appears in a scene from "American Sniper." (Warner Bros. Pictures))
LOS ANGELES - Will "American Sniper's" gargantuan box office make it a surprise favorite at the Oscars? The Clint Eastwood drama about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is peaking just days before voters are about to receive their ballots on Feb. 6. The Warner Bros. release made an estimated $105.3 million over the long weekend, which is already more than any of the other best picture nominees.

The Academy is often stubbornly immune to popular sentiment, which is why "Avatar" lost to "The Hurt Locker" in 2010. And for that reason, I still think "Boyhood" is going to win best picture. It's the frontrunner that's picked up nearly every precursor award, and "Sniper" missed out on a crucial directing nomination for Eastwood. Only four films in Academy history (including 2012's "Argo") won picture without a director nomination.

But the buzz surrounding "Sniper" could help Bradley Cooper, who landed his third consecutive career acting nomination (after "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle"). Until now, the best actor race has been a two-man battle between Eddie Redmayne ("The Theory of Everything") and Michael Keaton ("Birdman"). Yet like Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side," the crowd-pleasing nature of Cooper's portrait of Kyle -- a role for which he packed on 40 pounds and learned how to fire military rifles -- could result in a last-minute surge.

POSTED: Monday, January 19, 2015, 9:33 AM
Co-host Academy President Cheryl Boone smiles during the Academy Awards Nominations Announcement at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California on January 15, 2015. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - The industry's lack of diversity definitely needs solutions. But the furor over the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards is a case of misplaced outrage. 

The protests are doomed to frustration, because Oscar voting involves secret ballots and individual tastes, which cannot be quantified. So a lot of lofty theories are being presented as fact, when the focus should be on hiring practices, which can be quantified.

The Sundance Institute and Women in Film unveiled a study done with USC/Annenberg examining the top-100 grossing films each year from 2002 through 2012 (which were often big-budget films). Only 4.4% had women directors. 

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