Company Town
Hollywood & entertainment industry news
Jury awards $10.4 million in death of security guard for 'NCIS'

A jury has ordered CBS Television Studios to pay $10.45 million to the family of a 52-year-old man who was killed during production of the show "NCIS."

Julio Villamariona was working as a security guard on the set of "NCIS" in 2011 when the driver of a CBS van transporting actors passed out. The driver lost control of the vehicle and struck and killed Villamariona, a father of three children who had emigrated from San Salvador.

CBS had maintained the accident was caused by a medical emergency outside of its control. The company later admitted it was responsible for the death, but disputed the amount of money that should be paid to the family to settle the claim, according to a statement from the law firm of Panish Shea & Boyle, which represented Villamariona family.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Panish alleged that CBS should not have used the driver involved in the accident because he had a medical condition that caused him to pass out.

"I am so proud of the...

Read more
'Gone Girl' poised for big box-office weekend, Fandango says

Anticipation for David Fincher's "Gone Girl" could be building toward a big opening weekend at the box office, according to online pre-sale numbers on Fandango.

The Los Angeles-based ticketing website said on Wednesday that the thriller, based on the popular novel by Gillian Flynn, is poised to become one of the highest-selling October movies since the company launched 14 years ago. 

"Gone Girl" holds a score of 89 on the site's "Fanticipation" indicator, just behind the stranded-in-space film "Gravity" at the same point in its sales cycle last year. With the help of higher-priced 3D screenings, Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" opened Oct. 4 in 2013 and grossed $55 million in its opening.

However, current tracking for "Gone Girl" doesn't show such a big number. 

According to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys, the film could gross around $20 million to $25 million in its opening that ends Sunday. It's going up against New Line's "Conjuring" spinoff "Annabelle," which could...

Read more
Seeking female directors: Lionsgate to revive 'Twilight Saga' online

It's no secret that Hollywood has a diversity problem when it comes to gender.

According to a study released this month by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media and USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, just 7% of major film directors around the world are women.

Now, with the online revival of the popular "Twilight Saga" franchise, movie studio Lionsgate and the Facebook social network are looking for at least five more.

The companies are teaming with the nonprofit organization Women in Film and the crowd-sourcing company Tongal in a campaign to make a series of short films directed by aspiring female filmmakers and based on characters from the "Twilight" books by Stephenie Meyer.

To bring back the franchise, the studio and its partners are relying on an elaborate online contest and a hoped-for deluge of fan feedback on social media.

A panel including the likes of Meyer and "Twilight" actress Kristen Stewart will choose the five winning short films, which...

Read more
TV ratings: 'The Voice' dominates key demo; 'NCIS' No. 1 in viewers

NBC's "The Voice " boosted the network to No. 1 in viewer ratings in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic Tuesday night.

The singing competition earned a rating of 4.0 in the key demo, according to Nielsen. Roughly 13.5 million people tuned in to see contestants during another round of blind auditions.

It was the third-most watched program of the night, trailing CBS' "NCIS" and "NCIS: New Orleans."

Also on NBC, "Chicago Fire" posted a rating of 2.4 in the key demo. Though down 8% from last week's premiere, the show averaged 9 million viewers overall and rated third in the key demo.

Overall, NBC was first in the key demo with a rating of 3.5. It averaged 12 million viewers.

Meanwhile, CBS' "NCIS" was the most watched program of the night with a whopping 18.6 million viewers. It earned a rating of 2.6 in the key demo, down 10% from last week's premiere.

"NCIS: New Orleans," the third iteration of the show's franchise, retained 95% of its premiere audience but posted slightly lower...

Read more
How Netflix 'Crouching Tiger' deal sets theater chains against studios

The Netflix deal to finance Weinstein Co.'s "Crouching Tiger" sequel is opening a new front in the long-simmering conflict between Hollywood studios and theater owners.

Three of the nation's largest theater chains said Tuesday that they would refuse to screen "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend" next summer because the Weinstein film would be available on Netflix on the same day it hits Imax theaters.

"When people hear about things in the Internet world, they expect to be able to have access to it right then," said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. "The last holdout to this is movies, which are marketed sometimes a year in advance of their release."

The standoff highlights a growing challenge facing studios grappling with digital disruption.

On the one hand, studios need to open up new distribution streams because of falling DVD sales that have traditionally been their main source of profit. They're also grappling with long-term declines in ticket sales,...

Read more
Fox News Channel posts top cable ratings in third quarter

Fox News Channel topped prime-time cable ratings for the first time since October 1996.

According to Nielsen, the network averaged 1.7 million viewers a night from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the third quarter, making it the No. 1 cable news channel. 

In total day ratings, Fox News Channel was third among all cable networks, surpassing ratings for ESPN and USA. 

By comparison, CNN, which averaged 447,000 total day viewers, was No. 18. MSNBC, with 328,000 total viewers, was No. 26. 

The summer was full of hot-button news stories, including the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria. Competition from cable entertainment networks is also typically lighter in summer when high-rated hit shows are on hiatus.

The network attributes its third-quarter success to its extended prime-time lineup, which includes "Fox & Friends,""On the Record With Greta Van Susteren," "Hannity" and "The O'Reilly Factor." In October, the network will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the...

Read more
NBCUniversal announces new network group, management changes

NBCUniversal announced it will group four of its channels to form Lifestyle Network Group under Frances Berwick, president of Bravo and Oxygen Media.

Berwick will oversee Bravo, Oxygen, E! Entertainment and Esquire Network. E! Entertainment President Suzanne Kolb said in an internal memo to her team Tuesday that she is leaving the network after nine years.

The reorganization comes when E! is undergoing some changes to its lineup. Chelsea Handler signed off from "Chelsea Lately" in August to do a new talk show for Netflix. The network also recently lost Joan Rivers, its leading host of the popular red carpet gabfest "Fashion Police."

Kolb, who was tapped as president in July 2011, helped lead marketing and creative direction for some of the network's biggest hits, including the "Kardashians" franchise, " The Soup" and "Fashion Police." The network, under Kolb, also delved into scripted television with the soap "The Royals," slated to premiere in 2015. 

But with shows such as "Married to...

Read more
Nation's top theater chains won't carry 'Crouching Tiger' sequel

The nation's top theater chains are not bowing down to a new Weinstein Co. deal with Netflix and IMAX.

On Monday night, Weinstein Co. announced it will simultaneously debut a "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" sequel on Netflix and IMAX theaters on Aug. 28.

Weinstein Co. Co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said in a statement that "the moviegoing experience is evolving quickly and profoundly, and Netflix is unquestionably at the forefront of that movement."

But Regal, the nation's largest theater chain, said in an effort to continue "presenting movies on a grand scale," it will not play the film in any of its 86 IMAX theaters across the United States.

"While a home video release may be simultaneously performing in certain IMAX locations, at Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to 3 inches wide on a smartphone," said Russ Nunley, Regal's vice president of marketing and communications. "We believe the choice...

Read more
TV ratings: 'Big Bang Theory' boosts CBS to top; NBC wins key demo

CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" won Monday night's TV ratings, averaging 16 million viewers.

Though down 13% from last week's 8 p.m. premiere, the episode was still No. 1, with a rating of 4.7 in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic, according to Nielsen ratings.

With a lead-in from a "Big Bang Theory" rerun, CBS' "Scorpion" earned a rating of 3.0 in the key demo, down 6% from last week's debut. The show was the second most watched of the night, averaging 13.2 million viewers. 

In its new timeslot, CBS' season premiere of "NCIS: Los Angeles" averaged 9.4 million viewers and earned a rating of 1.9 in the key demo.

The network, which earned a rating of 2.9 in the key demo, nabbed the No. 1 spot overall, with about 12.3 million viewers. 

But with help from "The Voice" and "The Blacklist," NBC won over the key demo with a rating of 3.5. 

"The Voice" stayed even with last week's premiere and was first in the key demo with a rating of 3.9. It was third-most-watched program of the night, with...

Read more
Netflix, Weinstein Co. partner for release of 'Crouching Tiger' sequel

Netflix, already a player in original TV shows, is taking a stab at new theatrical movies.

The online video company has partnered with independent film studio Weinstein Co. for the release of a sequel to the 2000 martial arts movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Weinstein Co., based in New York, is producing the film, titled "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend." The movie will premiere on Netflix's streaming service on the same day that it opens in certain Imax theaters next year.

The movie is set to debut Aug. 28, 2015.

Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., said in a release that it is "backing" the movie, though financial details of the arrangement were not disclosed.

The companies said the follow-up is the first of several movies backed by Netflix that will launch on the streaming site on the same day it hits select theaters. 

The "Crouching Tiger" sequel is Netflix's latest move to improve its content as it faces rising competition from rivals including Amazon. It...

Read more
If Katzenberg leaves, what's to become of DreamWorks Animation?

Few executives in Hollywood are as closely associated with their companies as Jeffrey Katzenberg is with DreamWorks Animation.

Katzenberg, 63, founded the company with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994 and oversaw construction of its Tuscan-style, 13-acre campus in Glendale. He also transformed the studio into a top producer of animated movies.

More recently, he has been leading efforts to diversify the studio by expanding into television and other new businesses to reduce its reliance on animated movies.

Now, with the company seen as a possible acquisition target by Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp., the question is what will be the future of the company without Katzenberg?

"He's such a big personality, it's hard to know what happens when he goes," said Doug Creutz, a media analyst with Cowen

Read more
Union accuses Bravo of 'unfair labor practice' on 'Shahs of Sunset'

A labor dispute between the producers of the reality TV show "Shahs of Sunset" and a union seeking to represent its editorial crew escalated Monday.

In a filing with the National Labor Relations Board, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees alleged that Bravo Media committed an "unfair labor practice" after the company said it would dismiss the editorial crew.

Crew members have been attempting to join the union since Sept. 10, when they began their strike.

According to the Motion Picture Editors Guild, an entertainment labor union, preliminary contract negotiations had just begun when the company announced that it would be "unable to continue working with the editors that were previously engaged on this production.”

“If Bravo or Ryan Seacrest thinks that their problems go away because they announce that our editors have been fired, they’re sorely mistaken,” Alan Heim, president of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, said in a statement. “This is no longer just a fight...

Read more