Starz CEO Jeff Hirsch On First Window Economics And Why The Service Shifted From Sony To Lionsgate

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May 12, 2021 2:20pm

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Starz CEO Jeff Hirsch said 50% of the movies in its sunsetting first window deal with Sony did less than $10 million at the box office, a reason it moved to a new agreement with sister company Lionsgate/Summit, whose pictures are fewer but resonate more with the Starz audience.

“Other than three movies [he mentioned Spider-Man, Venom and Jumani] they were not resounding with our viewers,” he said during a Q&A at a virtual media conference hosted by MoffettNathanson Research.

“If you take those out, none of the other movies were in the top ten” on the service.

“Based on our consumer data … on a title by title basis, we didn’t think the value was there to pay for that pay one [window]. When we looked at the 13 or 15 titles we were getting from Lionsgate, they were more impactful to our base.”

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In March, Starz closed a multiyear, exclusive first window output deal for all theatrically released Lionsgate and Summit label films when current agreements expire at the end of 2021 and the end of 2022. It includes franchises John Wick as well as Borderlands, White Bird: A Wonder Story, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds & Snake and future installments of the Saw franchise.

That replaced a deal with Sony that dated back to 2005. (A month later, in April) Sony set a new licensing deal with Netflix for theatrical titles starting in 2022.

Netflix is broader service with different needs, Hirsch said.

He noted that Starz still has Disney on the second window – so Frozen is still going great guns on the service —  and Sony in the second and third windows.

He also reiterated that original series are key to growing the service over time.

Hirsch is positioning Starz as a “B-tier” DTC platform focused on adults led by Black women, without sports news or kids’ fare, and expanding globally.

Asked if the economics of first window deals are changing along with windows, he said it’s too early to tell. “I think that has yet to be determined. It depends on how long the PVOD window is… Obviously, the closer to box office, the more economic value there is to us.”

“I think there will be mechanisms in all these deals … sooner or later … that actually change the economics based on delivery.”

He said Starz is not looking to launch an ad-supported platform as many streamers are doing. “It’s not a model we are that interested in. By adding an ad tier, you have to have the scale to compete for digital dollars with everyone else” — not just rival streaming services but Facebook and  Google.

And asked if he anticipates a wave of M&A among streamers in an increasingly crowded market, he said he sees commercial agreements with bundled services coming on first. “The more things change, the more things stay the same, and we think we can be that complementary bundling partner.”

“It’s the next phase of evolution, more commercial arrangements than consolidation. We are in this phase right now where people are in the launch phase and people are trying to figure out where they are and what they’re good at … Then after that, who knows what will happen.”

Aldis Hodge & Edwin Hodge Team On Kourosh Ahari-Directed ‘Parallel Forest’ Remake

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May 12, 2021 2:01pm

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EXCLUSIVE: One Night In Miami and City On A Hill star Aldis Hodge will star with The Purge and The Tomorrow War‘s Edwin Hodge in a remake of the award winning Lei Zheng-directed Chinese film Parallel Forest. Kourosh Ahari will direct. The siblings will play brothers in the film, and they wrote the script with Jonathan Keasey (K-Sun and My Wife Hates Your Wife). They will also produce under their newly christened Hodge Brothers Productions banner.

Ahari is coming off the debut film The Night, a horror film distributed by IFC and just released on Hulu. it made history as the first U.S.-produced film to open in Iranian theaters in decades.

Beijing Pu Luo Media Co.

Parallel Forest is a grounded sci-fi thriller that follows the journey of Vanessa, a grief-stricken woman who mysteriously finds herself navigating between parallel spaces. While on a retreat with her husband and brother-in-law, and after suffering the loss of a child, she is faced with the threat of self destruction in order to regain the life she knew before her loss. These parallel gates may hold the key to releasing her grief or trapping her forever.

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The remake will be produced by Rumble Riot Pictures’ Sean Lydiard and Jaylen Moore, along with Jonathan Keasey, and Ann Zhang of Beijing Pu Luo Media Co, latter of which made the original. The exec producers are Elliott Michael Smith, Rumble Riot Pictures, Lei Zheng and Chengxi Li. Pic is a co-production between Rumble Riot, Beijing Pu Luo Media Co and Hodge Brothers Productions.

Rumble Riot made the RZA-directed Cut Throat City, currently playing on Netflix. Led by casting director Cynthia Huffman, the filmmakers are searching for their female lead to start production in the fall.

The Hodge Brothers first appeared onscreen together in Big Momma’s House, but this is the first time they’ve collaborated as writer/producers under their new production company Hodge Brothers Productions. Aldis Hodge is currently starring in Black Adam opposite Dwayne Johnson, and Edwin Hodge most recently wrapped The Tomorrow War opposite Chris Pratt.

Said the siblings: “This is just another chapter in the story of the Hodge Brothers. We’ve been on an amazing journey throughout our careers and working together in a creative capacity has always been our goal. We started together, we’re building together, and we’ll finish together.”

The Hodge Brothers are repped by Paradigm, The Priluck Company, and Ziffren Brittenham; Keasey is repped by Circle of Confusion and Hirsch Wallerstein; Ahari is repped by Rain Management Group, Paradigm and McKuin Frankel Whitehead.

‘The Proud Family: Louder And Prouder’: Billy Porter, Zachary Quinto & EJ Johnson Join Voice Cast For Disney+ Revival

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May 12, 2021 1:00pm

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(L-R) Billy Porter, Zachary Quinto and EJ Johnson
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Disney+’s The Proud Family revival has added a trio of actors to its cast with Billy Porter, Zachary Quinto and EJ Johnson set to play new characters.

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder will pick up the story of its central character Penny Proud and also include her madcap family: parents Oscar and Trudy, twin siblings BeBe and CeCe, and her grandmother Suga Mama (and Puff!). Penny’s loyal crew Dijonay Jones, LaCienega Boulevardez and Zoey Howzer will also return for the series.

The newly-added trio will join original cast members Kyla Pratt, Tommy Davidson, Paula Jai Parker, JoMarie Payton, Cedric the Entertainer, Carlos Mencia, Maria Canals-Barrera, Alvaro Gutierrez, Karen Malina White, Soleil Moon Frye and Alisa Reyes.

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, which is currently in production for a 2022 launch on Disney+, is executive-produced by Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar, both of whom led the original series. Calvin Brown, Jr. is co-executive producer and story editor, Jan Hirota is producer, and Eastwood Wong is art director.

Emmy-winning Pose actor Billy Porter and Zachary Quinto will take on Randall and Barry-Leibowitz-Jenkins. They are the mixed-race adoptive parents to 14-year-old- activist Maya Leibowitz-Jenkins, voiced by Keke Palmer.

Rich Kids Of Beverly Hills alum EJ Johnson will take on Michael Collins, Penny’s best guy friend who is a non-conforming trendsetter, serving up fierce looks at school and on the basketball court.

See the character images below.

Zachary Quinto and Billy Porter’s ‘The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder’ characters Barry Leibowitz-Jenkins and Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins.
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EJ Johnson will play Michael Collins in ‘The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.’
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Amazon Acquires Action-Adventure Spec ‘Valor’ From Jeff Chan & Andrew Rhymer, 87North Producing

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May 12, 2021 12:52pm

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EXCLUSIVE:  In a competitive situation, Amazon Studios has picked up the original action-adventure spec script Valor from writers Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer. Kelly McCormick and David Leitch of 87North are on board to produce the feature.

In Valor, a marauding warrior from a popular video game dies in a freak accident. He is reincarnated in our world and discovers the god he’s always worshipped turns out to be a 13-year-old Asian kid from New Jersey adjusting to life with a single parent. The project is billed as a four-quadrant family movie, repping 87North’s first foray in that space. Word is Amazon picked up the project for high six figures.

Chan and Rhymer are currently writing and will direct Netflix’s Girls & Boys with Kenya Barris and Antoni Porowski (Queer Eye) producing, as well as Singles Day for New Line Cinema with Good Fear producing. Previously, they wrote and directed the romantic comedy Plus One which won the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019 and starred Maya Erskine, Jack Quaid and Beck Bennett.

87North recently produced the Universal R-rated action movie Nobody starring Bob Odenkirk and are currently in post-production on Sony’s Bullet Train starring Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock. Leitch is also directing that action movie which is based on the Japanese novel Maria Beetle by Kotaro Isaka. Bullet Train follows five assassins who find themselves on a fast-moving train from Tokyo to Morioka with only a few stops in between.

Chan and Rhymer are repped by Verve, Anonymous Content and attorney Kim Jaime.

We also told you recently that Amazon scooped up another 87North scripted project: Kat Wood’s female assassin script Ruby. 

Leitch, the director of Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde and Hobbs & Shaw, counts over $2.2 billion at the WW B.O.

IDA Appoints Documentary Veteran Rick Perez New Executive Director

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May 12, 2021 12:47pm

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One of the most important institutions in documentary film is under new leadership.

The International Documentary Association (IDA) announced the appointment Wednesday of Richard Ray “Rick” Perez as its new executive director, effective immediately. He replaces Simon Kilmurry, who had served as the IDA’s executive director since 2015.

Perez comes to the IDA with a wealth of experience in nonfiction, both as an executive and filmmaker. He most recently served as the director of acquisitions and distribution strategies at GBH WORLD Channel, curating and acquiring documentaries for the digital platform’s three original series. Before that he was director of creative partnerships at the Sundance Institute “where he developed, designed, and led artist-based filmmaking programs, including Stories of Change,” according to the IDA. He also designed and led the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Story and Edit Lab in Beijing.

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Perez’s filmmaking credits include directing Cesar’s Last Fast, a 2014 documentary about late United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. He also directed and produced the 2002 film Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.

“I am excited and honored to lead the IDA at this pivotal moment where the work of nonfiction filmmakers is increasingly vital to the health and wellbeing of societies,” Perez said of his appointment. “I look forward to leading a talented team to support and advocate for documentary filmmakers and engaging partners and collaborators across the field to foster a vibrant, sustainable, and equitable industry responsive to these times.”

Perez also serves on the board of Brave New Films, the film company founded by Robert Greenwald.

“We strongly believe that Rick is uniquely qualified to lead the IDA through these continued extraordinary times where our voice in the field, as well as the depth of resources we offer to the documentary community as a whole, will matter even more,” IDA board president Brenda Robinson noted. “We were all fortunate to have Simon Kilmurry with us during these past six very meaningful years, as his leadership has truly been transformative for the IDA. Simon has laid the groundwork for a solid foundation that all of us can continue to build upon. In that regard, he leaves a lasting legacy that truly changed the course of the IDA towards an even more promising future.”

Former IDA executive director Simon Kilmurry
IDA

Kilmurry announced last year his desire to return to documentary film production. He served as executive director of the PBS series POV before joining the IDA.

“Rick will be a tremendous leader for IDA and I cannot wait to see what he does,” Kilmurry wrote in a statement posted to Facebook. “After 6 years, I’m stepping aside and will cheer Rick from the sidelines. I am tremendously grateful to all of my colleagues, filmmakers and supporters who have helped transform IDA into an effective and growing organization that seeks to make a difference in the lives of documentary filmmakers. Now it’s time for a bit of a rest!”

Perez takes command of an organization founded in 1982 that oversees a series of educational and development programs for filmmakers. Its funding mechanisms include the IDA Documentary Enterprise Fund, the Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund, the IDA Netflix Global Emerging Filmmaker Award and the recently announced IDA+XRM Media Incubator.

The annual IDA Documentary Awards are among the most coveted honors in nonfiction film. The IDA also publishes Documentary magazine and covers the documentary field at documentary.org.

‘Annie Live!’ Musical Event Gets 2021 Holiday Season Broadcast On NBC

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May 12, 2021 12:30pm

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Previous “Annie” incarnations, 1982 and 2014
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NBC will broadcast the holiday musical event Annie Live!, with Robert Greenblatt as executive producer along with Neil Meron, who has served as executive producer on such NBC’s live musicals The Sound of Music Live! and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.

Annie Live! will be directed by Lear deBessonet, Artistic Director for New York’s revival series Encores and creator of the Public Works program at the Public Theatre, which produces community-engaged productions with as many as 200 performers.

Sergio Trujillo (Ain’t Too Proud, Memphis) will choreograph the production, Paul Tazewell will design the costumes and Jason Sherwood the scenery. Tazewell is a veteran of two NBC live musicals, The Wiz Live! and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. He recently designed costumes for film Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story. Sherwood was production designer for Rent: Live and the 2020 Oscars.

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Greenblatt brought live musicals back to NBC when he was Chairman and is responsible for some of the biggest hits on television over the last two decades, and Meron produced musicals with former partner Craig Zadan including the Oscar-winning Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert and other NBC live musicals.

Alex Rudzinski will take on the role as Live Television Director and Executive Producer as he did with Hairspray Live! and Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert. His live musical credits also include Grease Live! and Rent: Live.

The live event is being produced by Chloe Productions, and will be available to stream on Peacock following the broadcast.

Casting was not announced.

Annie, based on the classic comic strip Little Orphan Annie, features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan. The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, won seven Tony Awards and includes the now-standard songs “Tomorrow” and “”It’s The Hard Knock Life.”  The musical has been adapted for film several times, including in 1982, 1999 and 2014.

Media & Entertainment CEO Salaries Flourished In Pandemic 2020 As Industry Cratered

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May 12, 2021 12:01pm

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It was the worst of times (for the world). It was still a pretty good time (for CEO pay).

Ten top media and entertainment CEOs earned a combined $350 million last year, buoyed by hefty stock and option grants during the worst economic disruption since the Great Depression.

Members of compensation committees on boards, who set pay, explicitly altered traditional performance benchmarks at some companies in a year when theme parks, advertising and theatrical revenue tanked and production stalled.

The numbers they looked at were not profit and loss columns but rather leaned heavily on metrics committees called more “qualitative” than “quantitative,” including a pivot to streaming. Everyone got an “A” for effort.

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AMC Entertainment

Case in point: Adam Aron, CEO of struggling theater chain AMC Entertainment, saw his package more than double to $20.9 million last year on a $5 million “special incentive bonus.” The stock fell 70%, the company bled cash and furloughed all theater staff.

The bonus recognized “the extraordinary actions taken by the management team during the Covid-19 pandemic to secure the Company’s survival and preserve stockholder value,” the committee said. AMC’s compensation program is usually grounded in “pay-for-performance,” but since poor company performance last year was “unrelated to the performance by our management” it changed benchmarks, at least temporarily.

“While our response to the Covid-19 pandemic warranted uncommon actions with respect to compensation programs, our underlying philosophy has not been permanently altered or abandoned,” the committee said.

“They never make those statements to the upside. When external events lead to windfalls or high pay, you don’t see companies adjusting for that,” said Rosanna Landis-Weaver, a corporate governance and compensation expert with As You Sow, a leading shareholder advocacy nonprofit. “They generally only ever make adjustments in one direction.”

Nell Minow, vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors, which guides shareholders on how to use their rights to preserve portfolio value and diminish risk — including risk posed by excessive CEO pay – said, “Everyone agrees that if a company makes a lot of money, the CEO should make a lot of money. But if it was a tough year, they are supposed to feel the consequences. And if they steered the company through, then that will pay off for them later.” As in now, when business is improving.

Compensation, to be sure, is not only an issue in media. The optics of overall CEO pay last year were so bad that President Biden even referenced in his recent speech before Congress. He slammed lopsided “pay ratios,” which compare the pay of a chief executive to the average of a typical worker.

Pay for 2020 is being widely analyzed and criticized not only because of the broad economic fallout of Covid, but also because CEOs, after the pandemic hit last spring, seemed to want to share the pain by forgoing or reducing base salaries.

Skeptics back then called the cuts a smokescreen, or what’s called virtue signaling, and predicted minimal impact because base pay has become the smallest element of compensation. They were mostly right. Proxy statements filed with the SEC through the end of April, which list the pay of a public company’s top five highest-paid executives, showed the highest-paid media CEOs had packages of, on average, $35 million each. Six were up from 2019, four were down. (See charts below.)

“There’s a real Marie Antionette aspect to it,” Minow said.

Overall GDP fell by 3.5% for 2020, the largest decline in 74 years. At its low point in the second quarter, it was down by 34.3%, or $2.15 trillion. More than 20 million jobs were lost to Covid and over 8 million have not yet returned. “When the stock market took a really bad hit” — which it did briefly last spring — “I immediately got emails from compensation experts asking, ‘How can we prevent the CEOs from suffering?’ ” she said.

Moving goalposts shielded CEOs in ways that shareholders who took a drubbing, or employees who were furloughed or fired, were not. Minow characterized 2020 packages as: “It’s-been-a-tough-year-and-we-don’t-want-to hurt-your-feelings.”

AT&T’s compensation committee explained that it has discretion to adjust pay and did, “given the impact of Covid-19 on the company’s business and the world.” It said “the original assumptions and performance goals for the 2020 awards were no longer relevant in light of the global pandemic.” AT&T stock fell 27% last year.

“The company did have many successes in 2020,” the proxy noted, “including HBO and HBO Max subscribers exceeding their target” after the streamer’s launched in late May of last year.”

WarnerMedia chief Jason Kilar, who joined May 1, made more money last year than anyone at AT&T or on the CEO top 10  list. (He himself is not on the list because he’s a division head.)

Kilar’s debut package totaled $52 million as he presided over a highly controversial decision to release Warner Bros’ entire 2021 movie slate simultaneously on HBO Max and in what theaters were open without forewarning Hollywood. It led to lawsuits and complicated side deals to settle contractual issues with talent and reps. His package was swelled by an option award valued at $48 million. ISS, a leading shareholder advisory service, flagged the magnitude of the grant and the fact that it “lacks performance criteria and vests solely over time” — meaning it’s not linked to any specific metrics improving at the company.

The stock units vest over four years and payouts will depend on stock performance. An AT&T rep said Kilar’s “compensation is structured to be consistent with compensation practices in the media and technology industry.”

Shareholders Reject Pay

Kilar’s boss, AT&T CEO John Stankey, earned $21 million last year, down 6.5%. The company attributed the decline to a 50% reduction in his salary from July 1 through year end and a 50% limit on the payout against the target for his short-term award for 2020. The telco’s former CEO Randall Stephenson earned $29 million. Shareholders took umbrage at the trio of big payouts and socked it to the board at the annual meeting April 30. Less than 49% of stockholder votes were cast in favor of executive pay, which is a terrible tally. “Under 70% approval is when boards start taking the vote as a strong indictment against them. This is far worse than that,” said Landis-Weaver.

Shareholder votes on compensation are called “Say On Pay” and are required by law at least once every three years, though many companies hold them annually. They are non-binding, but rejection looks bad. Annual meetings are unspooling now through July for companies with a calendar year-end. So far, shareholders at a record number of companies across industries from Starbucks to GE to IBM have defied 2020 pay packages.

In a statement after the AT&T annual meeting, board chair William Kennard said that, “Over the years, shareholder feedback has helped us design a compensation program that pays for performance, is competitive for key talent, and aligns the interests of executives and stockholders. As we further engage with our owners on this important topic, the Board will carefully consider today’s advisory vote to ensure that our approach to compensation continues to reflect these principles.”

At Discovery, the compensation committee also noted tweaks to the 2020 pay formula: “As management had no influence over these macro-economic events and they were not anticipated or considered at the time the 2020 performance goals are set, the Committee felt it was appropriate to adjust performances for the impact of these unforeseen events.”

CEO David Zaslav (who earned $37.7 million) got a shout-out for transitioning employees to remote work, instituting safety protocols, cutting costs, conserving cash and keeping the business running amid challenges. Also, “Mr. Zaslav provided exceptional leadership with respect to the expansion of our direct-to-consumer business and the successful launch of Discovery+.” The streaming service launched on January 4, 2021. Discovery shares were down 6% last year.

A company spokesperson noted that the altered metrics “applied equally to bonus eligible rank-and-file employees, who benefited from the adjustment.”

Likewise, the ViacomCBS committee acknowledged that while it believes long-term performance incentives should be the most meaningful component of compensation, it limited that last year “given the uncertain environment when the awards were granted.” The committee set “the weighting at 25% with the intent to increase it in future years once the market stabilizes.”

Achievements for CEO Bob Bakish in 2020 (he earned $39.97 million) included “positioning us for the future” when CBS All Access would rebrand as Paramount+ and launch in March 2021. Bakish also realized Viacom-CBS merger synergies, sold assets and “continued to provide strategic leadership and management for our company during a uniquely challenging time of uncertainty and transition.” Viacom shares dipped 8% in 2020.

If HBO Max, Paramount+ and Discovery+ were still works in progress in 2020, longtime pure-play streaming frontrunner Netflix was in a very different place and had a huge advantage when theaters closed and most production ceased, feasting on a stay-at-home audience and adding a record 37 million new subscribers for the year. The stock surged 63%. Co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos earned, respectively, $43.2 million and $39.3 million.

At Disney, 2020 compensation reflected in part shareholder pushback from previous years and CEO Bob Chapek’s package came in at $14.2 million. He started the job in February and there’s no year-earlier figure to compare. But the compensation committee said it “considered investor feedback when making executive compensation decisions. As a new CEO, Mr. Chapek’s target compensation was set significantly lower than prior CEO target compensation, below the median for our Media and General Industry Peers.”

Executive chairman and former CEO Bob Iger, who left day-to-day operations to focus on content, earned $21 million last year, down 55% from the year before.

Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register via AP

The impressive rollout of Disney+, which led Disney shares to a 24% gain for the year, overshadowed devastation at theme parks — the hardest-hit entertainment business along with movie theaters and live events — which took a $6.9 billion hit for the company’s 2020 fiscal year ended in September.

“Mr. Iger did a tremendous job of overseeing the creative output of the Company to help fuel the successful launch of Disney+ and to position our DTC platform for future success,” the committee said. Chapek “adeptly managed the enormous disruption to the Company’s business, while at the same time restructuring Disney’s media and entertainment businesses to fuel the long-term creative and financial growth of the Company.”

Yet 31% of stockholders still voted against compensation at Disney’s annual meeting in March.

Companies defend pay packages by pointing out that stock and option awards, which are granted at an estimated value, are “at risk” if the share price falls. However, that risk has rarely materialized, quite the opposite. For much of the last decade, due to an extended bull market, the original estimate has ended up being too low compared with where the stock is trading when the grants are ultimately cashed in. Even in a year like 2020, after a short, sharp blip, the overall market surged and its momentum continues.

Experts also point out that CEOs can reap windfalls beyond annual pay packages by exercising stock options that were granted previously. Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge, for instance, realized $224 million in 2020 from previously granted option awards. Those awards were included in his pay tally when first granted so are not part of his 2020 compensation — which would be double counting. Charter shares rose 33% last year. Rutledge didn’t sell shares except what was needed to cover taxes.

The amount was much bigger than his actual 2020 pay package of $39 million, which was up 344% from 2019, swelled by an option grant related to renewing his contract last year.

Why grant new stock and option awards when there are already so many outstanding?

Every proxy makes it clear why. Compensation committees say they need to keep pay competitive to attract and retain the best talent. And they say their own CEO’s pay must to be aligned with a “peer group” of other companies, which they list in the proxy. Since they all list each other it’s a hard cycle to break, with Disney perhaps the first.

“It’s like Lake Wobegone, where all the children are above average,” Minow joked.

2020 COMPENSATION
Media and entertainment’s highest-paid public company CEOs and other executives

Greg Maffei
Liberty Media

Reed Hastings
Manu Fernandez/AP

Bob Bakish
ViacomCBS

Ted Sarandos
Banff / Netflix

Thomas Rutledge
Associated Press

David Zaslav
Discovery

Brian Roberts
Comcast

Jeff Shell

 

 

Lachlan Murdoch
Mega

 

 

Rupert Murdoch
AP

 

John Stanke
WarnerMedia

Jason Kilar
WarnerMedia

 

Randall Stephenson
AT&T

 

Adam Aron 
AP

 

Bob Chapek
Disney

Bob Iger
Evan Agostini/AP

 

Josh Sapan
AMC

 

‘Ghosts’: ‘Doom Patrol’s Devan Chandler Long Joins CBS Comedy Series

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May 12, 2021 12:00pm

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EXCLUSIVE: Devan Chandler Long (Doom Patrol) is set as a series regular on new CBS comedy series Ghosts, headlined by Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar, from Joe Port & Joe Wiseman, Lionsgate Television, BBC Studios and CBS Studios.

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Written by Port and Wiseman, Ghosts follows a struggling young couple, Samantha (McIver) and Jay (Ambudkar), whose dreams come true when they inherit a beautiful country house, only to find it’s both falling apart and inhabited by many of the deceased previous residents.

Long plays the Thorfinn. Large, hulking Viking. Bit of a neat freak. He guest-starred in the pilot and was promoted to regular when the pilot was picked up to series.

Rebecca Wisocky, Brandon Scott Jones, Danielle Pinnock, Asher Grodman, Richie Moriarty, Sheila Carrasco and Román Zaragoza co-star in the project based on the British series of the same name.

Port and Wiseman executive produce with Mathew Baynton, Jim Howick, Simon Farnaby, Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond, Martha Howe-Douglas, Alison Carpenter, Debra Hayward, and Alison Owen (Monumental Television), as well as Angie Stephenson (BBC Studios).

Trent O’Donnell was director and executive producer on the pilot. CBS Studios produces the series in association with Lionsgate Television and BBC Studios.

Long is known for his portrayal of DC Comics strongman superhero Flex Mentallo on HBO Max’s Doom Patrol. He also recently recurred on Bosch and The Rookie. Long will next be seen in Michael Bay’s new feature Ambulance for Universal where he co-stars alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. He is repped by Amsel, Eisenstadt, Frazier & Hinojosa, Inc.

‘Gordita Chronicles’ Comedy Gets Series Order By HBO Max

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May 12, 2021 12:00pm

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(L-R) Claudia Forestieri, Josh Berman and Zoe Saldana
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HBO Max has picked up to series family comedy pilot Gordita Chronicles, from Claudia Forestieri (Selena The Series, Good Trouble), Josh Berman’s Osprey Productions, Zoe Saldana’s Cinestar Pictures and Sony Pictures TV.

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Newcomer Olivia Goncalves leads the comedy, written by Forestieri and directed by Eva Longoria. Diana Maria Riva and Juan Javier Cardenas also star.

Gordita Chronicles, inspired by Forestieri’s life, centers on Carlota “Cucu” Castelli (Goncalves), a willful 12-year-old Dominican immigrant with a heart of gold. Cucu leaves her home and her parochial school in Santo Domingo to live in Miami and pursue the American Dream during the hedonistic 1980s after her father, a marketing executive with a large airline, gets transferred there. Cucu meets head-on the challenges of being an immigrant in a strange new world with humor, bravado and some really bad choices.

“We are thrilled to partner with Zoe, Eva, Josh and Sony Pictures Television to bring to life this beautiful coming-of-age story inspired by Claudia’s personal journey,” said Jennifer O’Connell, Executive Vice President, Non-Fiction and Live-Action Family Programming, HBO Max.

“HBO Max is proud to work with the powerhouse Latinx talent in front of and behind the camera for this series, which we believe will resonate with all families,” added Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max.

Cast also includes Savannah Nicole Ruiz, Noah Rico and Cosette Hauer.

“From the minute we heard Claudia’s childhood story, we knew it was not only incredibly funny, but emotionally poignant and an important story to tell,” said Jason Clodfelter, Co-President, Sony Pictures Television Studios. “Cucu and the Castellis remind us of the iconic sitcom families we grew up watching, but none of those ever captured a Dominican family’s experience of coming to America. This show changes all of that, and we are thrilled and grateful to dive back in and make a wonderful series for our friends at HBO Max.”

Brigitte Munoz Liebowitz serves as executive producer and showrunner. Berman, Chris King and Jennifer Robinson executive produce for Osprey Productions. Longoria executive produces via her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. Saldana, Mariel Saldana and Cisely Saldana executive produce for Cinestar Pictures. Forestieri is co-executive producer. Sony Pictures TV is the studio.

Robert De Niro Joins Sebastian Maniscalco In Lionsgate Comedy ‘About My Father’; Laura Terruso Directing

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May 12, 2021 11:41am

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Robert De Niro, Laura Terruso
Courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe; Micki Poklar

EXCLUSIVE: Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro has signed on to star opposite standup comic Sebastian Maniscalco in About My Father, the Lionsgate comedy loosely based on Maniscalco’s life and his relationship with his father. Laura Terruso, who directed the 2020 YA comedy Work It and co-wrote the Sally Field-starrer Hello, My Name Is Doris, has been tapped to direct About My Father from a screenplay by Maniscalco and Austen Earl.

In the film, when Sebastian tells his old-school Italian immigrant father Salvo (De Niro) that he is going to propose to his all-American girlfriend, Salvo insists on crashing a weekend with her tony parents. Though cultures clash and it seems that the two families have nothing in common, by the end of the weekend, they’ll be la famiglia. The pic reunites De Niro and Maniscalco after the two first appeared together in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

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Depth of Field’s Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, and Andrew Miano are producing the pic with Judi Marmel serving as executive producer.

“The way Sebastian talks about his father, Salvo sounds to us like the type of guy who thinks that Robert De Niro should play him in a movie. So we thought, why not?” said Nathan Kahane, president of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. “Actually, Robert De Niro is incredibly selective about the projects he chooses, so we are thrilled that he responded so strongly to this hilarious and heartfelt screenplay. He’ll make a fantastic and funny pairing with Sebastian and we can’t wait to start production later this year.”

Paul Weitz adds, “We’ve been fans of Laura’s for a while. Like Sebastian, her parents are Italian immigrants and she locked into this story.”

James Myers and Chelsea Kujawa are overseeing production for the studio.

Upcoming projects for De Niro include Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, David O. Russell’s untitled New Regency film, and James Gray’s Armageddon Time. He is repped by CAA.

Terruso, whose other directing credits include indie films Good Girls Get High and Fits and Starts, is repped CAA, Industry Entertainment and Goodman Genow Schenkman.

Greenwich Entertainment Acquires North American Distribution Rights To ‘Not Going Quietly’; Will Release Ady Barkan Doc In August

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May 12, 2021 11:24am

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EXCLUSIVE: Greenwich Entertainment has acquired North American distribution rights to Nicholas Bruckman’s Not Going Quietly, with plans to release the film in theaters on August 13.

The documentary, which won the Audience Award and Special Jury Recognition for Humanity in Social Action at SXSW, offers an intimate and inspiring look at the life of political activist Ady Barkan.

“If you didn’t already know that Ady Barkan is an incredible badass who has overcome every possible obstacle to transform our democracy for the better, soon you will thanks to Greenwich Entertainment,” said director Nicholas Bruckman in a statement.  “We’re beyond excited to be working with the passionate team at Greenwich on the release of Not Going Quietly, and to share Ady’s story nationwide at this profound and hopeful moment for our country.”

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A progressive hero and loving father, Barkan was diagnosed with ALS at age 32.  In spite of his declining physical abilities, he embarked on a nationwide campaign for healthcare reform through his organization, “Be A Hero,” speaking at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and being designated by Politico as the “most powerful activist in America.” In Bruckman’s doc, we witness the chance airplane encounter with Senator Jeff Flake that catapulted Barkan to fame, as well as his interviews with American political leaders including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren during the Democratic Primaries.

Not Going Quietly was produced by Amanda Roddy with executive producers Bruckman (Valley of Saints) and Ryder Haske of People’s Television, Mark and Jay Duplass (Wild Wild Country, Tangerine), Bradley Whitford (Get Out, The West Wing), Sam Bisbee (The Truffle Hunters), Jackie Kelman Bisbee (Hearts Beat Loud), Mel Eslyn (The One I Love), Wendy Kelman Neu (Farewell Amor), Nina Tassler and Joan Boorstein of PatMa Productions. Greenwich’s Andy Bohn negotiated the deal with ICM Partners on behalf of the filmmakers.

Bruckman’s doc is scheduled to have its New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June.

‘This Is Us’ Ending With Season 6, Fulfilling Creator Dan Fogelman’s Plan

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May 12, 2021 11:22am

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This is not news yet still a sad development for This Is Us fans. As This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman has confirmed numerous times over the last couple of years, the highly-rated NBC family drama will end with its upcoming sixth season, the final under the series’ current three-season renewal.

Fogelman conceived This Is Us as a limited-run series. It was sold to NBC as such, with Fogelman early on setting on a six-season arc. As a result, This Is Us‘ most recent pickup in 2019, which goes through next season, had been revealed to be the show’s final one, with the casts’ contracts also ending at that time.

Asked after the Season 4 finale last spring when he was already mapping out Season 5, whether his original plan for This Is Us has changed, Fogelman reiterated that the series will end with Season 6 . “That’s when the Pearson story will basically come to a close,” he said.

Spanning multiple generations of the Pearson family and multiple time periods, This Is Us was an instant hit, connecting with viewers and critics alike and bringing broadcast drama back into the TV awards conversation, landing multiple Drama Series Emmy nominations. Five seasons in, it remains NBC’s highest-rated entertainment program.

Created and executive produced by Fogelman, This Is Us comes from 20th Television. The cast of the series is led by Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, who won an Emmy for his role, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Sullivan.

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Norman Lloyd Dies: ‘St. Elsewhere’ Actor Whose Screen Career Began With Hitchcock’s ‘Saboteur’ Was 106

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May 11, 2021 2:13pm

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Norman Lloyd on Monday, and in 1942’s “Saboteur”
Courtesy photo; Everett

Norman Lloyd, the Emmy-nominated veteran actor, producer and director whose career ranged from radio and Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur to St. Elsewhere, Dead Poets Society and The Practice, died May 10 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 106. A family friend confirmed the news to Deadline.

Lloyd’s acting career dates back to Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater, of which he was the last surviving member. On television, he directed most of Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense pieces and starred on the NBC medical drama St. Elsewhere.

Deadline’s Todd McCarthy wrote an appreciation of Lloyd on the occasion of the actor’s 106th birthday and receiving the Legacy Award last year.

“With Norman at last taking his final curtain call,” he wrote, “there truly is no significant actor left who was part of the politically engaged New York theatre of the 1930s, worked with major Hollywood filmmakers whose careers stretched from the silent cinema into the 1960s, was a pioneer in television and always kept his hand in with his first love, the stage.”

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Lloyd was in his late 60s when he was cast as Dr. Daniel Auschlander on NBC’s St. Elsewhere. He was with the show for its entire six season run from 1982-88.

Lloyd’s close friend, Dean Hargrove, himself a legendary television producer, said: “Norman had a great third act, with an annual birthday party until age 105 filled with notables. He was active until the end, steeped in great stories about the early days of Hollywood and New York theater.”

Added Deadline’s Peter Bart: “Norman loved spinning stories of his encounters with Charlie Chaplin and other legendary figures with whom he interacted. I often played tennis with him until he reached 100. If he missed a shot, he would comment, “When I played with Bill Tilden, he would tell me how to improve my backhand. Feel free to do the same.’”

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Sarah Hyland Joins ABC’s Fairytale Drama Pilot ‘Epic’ From ‘Once Upon A Time’ Creators

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May 11, 2021 2:00pm

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EXCLUSIVE: Modern Family alumna Sarah Hyland is returning to ABC, joining the cast of fairytale drama pilot Epic, from Once Upon a Time creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis and ABC Signature.

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Epic, headlined by Brittany O’Grady and also starring  Eleanor Fanyinka, is described as a romantic anthology series that reinvents fairy tales for a new audience.

Hyland will play Rose. She is as princess-y as princesses come, and about to marry her Prince Charming. But her fairy tale gets upended when he has second thoughts, and trying to preserve her dreams opens her up to an unexpected world.

Epic was penned by former Once Upon a Time writer Brigitte Hales, who executive produces with Horowitz, Kitsis and Griffiths. James Griffiths is directing the pilot, which is not for fall 2021 consideration.

Hyland starred for eleven seasons on ABC’s Modern Family as Haley, the eldest of the Dunphy family children. On the film side, she starred in and also executive produced romantic comedy The Wedding Year. She currently hosts and executive produces Lady Parts with Sarah Hyland on EllenTube. Hyland is repped by WME, Richard Konigsberg and GTRB.

Lee Pace, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, and Conner O’Malley Join A24 Slasher Pic ‘Bodies, Bodies, Bodies’

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May 11, 2021 2:00pm

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Lee Pace, Rachel Sennott
Mega; AP

EXCLUSIVE: Lee Pace, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, and Conner O’Malley have rounded out the cast of A24’s slasher film Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. The film also stars Amandla Stenberg and Borat 2 breakout Maria Bakalova as well as Pete Davidson and Myha’la Herrold. Halina Reijn is set to direct.

A24 had no comment.

While plot details are being kept under wraps, sources describe the project as a “secret slasher film.” A24 is on board to finance and produce the project. While deals for Stenberg and Bakalova recently closed, A24 quietly had been been packaging the project over the past several months, waiting for schedules to come together and now that those schedules have come together, production is set to begin next week.

2AM’s David Hinojosa will produce.

Best known for his roles in Guardians of the Galaxy and the Lord of the Rings franchise, Pace can be seen next in the Apple TV+ series Foundation opposite Jared Harris. He is repped by WME.

Sennott seen on the ABC comedy series Call Your Mother. She also ecently announced the feature Bottoms in which she will star and will co-write with her Shiva Baby director Emma Seligman for MGM’s Orion Pictures. She is represented by WME and Odenkirk Provissiero.

Wonders was most recently seen in the HBO Max series Generation and also appeared in the Sofia Coppola pic On The Rocks. She is repped by UTA and Untitled Entertainment.

O’Malley recently had his acting debut in the Hulu hit comedy Palm Springs. He is repped by Range Media Partners and Rise Management.