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Hollywood & entertainment industry news
WGA issues a 'call to arms' over proposed Fox-Time Warner deal

The Writers Guild of America, West is stepping up its fight over Rupert Murdoch's proposed $80-billion offer to acquire Time Warner Inc. In an email letter to members Tuesday, the guild's leaders issued a "call to arms" in response to the offer from 21st Century Fox, saying the merger and other media deals threaten the livelihoods of writers. "As writers, we face a landscape today that the founders of our Guild would hardly recognize,"  wrote Guild President Chris Keyser and negotiating committee Co-Chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray. "For decades, there were dozens of significant buyers in television and movies. Then Federal limits on mergers disappeared." The resulting industrywide consolidation has reduced opportunities for writers, the letter added: "Fewer movies being made. Fewer development deals. Smaller TV staffs. And lower quotes ... because the industry was suddenly in the hands of only six - six! - conglomerates. And the Writers Guild, without a voice in Washington to...

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Univision's second-quarter profit soars with World Cup soccer

Boosted by the popularity of its soccer telecasts, Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications' second-quarter profit more than doubled compared to the previous year. For the quarter ended June 30, Univision posted net income of $98 million -- up from $40.7 million in the second quarter of 2013.  Revenue climbed 23% to $833.7 million for the quarter. The privately held company, owned by Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban and a consortium of private equity firms, has been steadily improving its financial performance by recruiting new TV advertisers, collecting programming fees from pay-TV operators and cutting costs. Saban and the other equity firms have been searching for an exit in their seven-year investment in Univision. However, the company's operating officers did not shed light on the ownership group's plans during an earnings call Tuesday with analysts. Instead, Chief Executive Randy Falco and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Hobson detailed the company's particularly...

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Sony Pictures executive Jeff Blake departing company after 22 years

Sony Pictures Entertainment Vice Chairman Jeff Blake is departing the company after 22 years, making him the latest notable executive to leave the studio in the last year. Blake, 61, serves as the studio's chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution. His exit is effective Aug. 1, Sony Pictures said in a statement Tuesday morning. The studio, a unit of Tokyo-based Sony Corp., did not name a successor for Blake, who led the studio's marketing campaigns for its five recent "Spider-Man" films, including this year's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." That film has grossed more than $700 million worldwide, but has not performed as well as the studio's four previous "Spider-Man" films. The company's most recent offering, "Sex Tape," fared poorly when it debuted last weekend. The Cameron Diaz-starring picture, which cost an estimated $40 million to produce, took in $14.6 million in the U.S. and Canada. Sony Pictures -- which includes Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics...

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TV ratings: 'Masterchef,' 'Ninja' rise; 'Hotel Hell' returns down

Fox's full-on night of Gordon Ramsay earned it a ratings victory for the evening, according to early numbers from Nielsen. His culinary showdown "Masterchef" earned a rating of 2.1 among 18-to-49-year-old viewers, making it the highest-rated broadcast show by that measure. Its 18-49 number surged 17% from last week. Fox's other Monday night show "Hotel Hell," which also features Ramsay, premiered its second season after a year off the air. It earned a 1.5 in the 18-49 demo, in which a ratings point equals about 1.3 million viewers. That's down about 21% from its series premiere two years ago and roughly 12% lower than the finale. Still, Fox beat its rival networks in the demographic with a 1.8 average. "Bachelorette"-fueled ABC had the most viewers overall.  The men of the "Bachelorette" were in the mood for confrontation on Monday's "The Men Tell All" special, and the episode was the most-watched overall, with 6.8 million people tuning in.  NBC's "American Ninja Warrior" jumped 12%...

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Yahoo to release Weinstein film 'One Chance' before theatrical debut

Yahoo Inc. has struck a deal with Weinstein Co. to release the film company's "One Chance" ahead of its theatrical debut this fall. "One Chance" will appear on Yahoo's on-demand video streaming service, Yahoo Screen, for 10 days before opening in theaters. The movie, based on the true story of opera singer Paul Potts, will be offered free to users during the exclusive run. The distribution pact, which was finalized July 17, is the latest in a series of moves by Yahoo that illustrate its intentions to be a major player in the digital video space. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. In June, Yahoo renewed to the television sitcom "Community" for a sixth season. The show, a cult favorite, had aired on NBC until the network canceled it in May. It will now appear on Yahoo Screen. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company also recently announced two original television series — the comedies "Sin City Saints" and "Other Space." The "One Chance" deal could be a boon for Yahoo, but it also has drawn the...

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Chinese chick-flick dethrones 'Transformers' from atop mainland box office

A quartet of Chinese gal-pals dethroned “Transformers: Age of Extinction” from atop the mainland box office last week, as “Tiny Times 3” took in $51.8 million to claim the No. 1 ranking. In its first three days in theaters, the third installment of author Guo Jingming’s female-centric novel adaptations has already outpaced the $48-million haul of “Tiny Times 2” from last year. The franchise has now cleared the 1-billion renminbi mark ($161 million -- the most of any Chinese film franchise, according to data from film consultancy Artisan Gateway). A fourth film is reportedly in the works. In second place for the week ending Sunday was domestic 3-D horror thriller “The House that Never Dies.” The movie came in second with $25.8 million in its first weekend, topping 2011’s “Mysterious Island” as the most commercially successful home-grown horror film in China's history, Artisan said. Paramount Pictures’ alien robots, though, still have a little life in them. The fourth installment in the...

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Any white knights for Time Warner? Netflix hits 50-million mark.

After the coffee. Before the joy of giving my cat a pill. The Skinny: I watched Episode 3 of HBO's "The Leftovers" last night. I think I'm done. I'm just not getting hooked and last night I found myself fast-forwarding, which is never a good sign. Today's roundup includes a look at potential white knights for Time Warner. Also, Comcast and Netflix release earnings and there's a shake-up at CBS Films. Daily Dose: The cable operator Mediacom wants the Federal Communications Commission to get involved in how programming is sold to pay-TV distributors. In a filing at the agency, Mediacom asks the FCC to make it harder for big programming companies such as Viacom and 21st Century Fox to sell their channels in big bundles. "Programmers can and do effectively force MVPDs [multichannel video programming distributors] and their video customers to purchase unwanted networks," Mediacom said. In other words, even if all you want are the popular channels, you have to carry the less popular ones....

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Comcast profit jumps 15%, fueled by Internet service growth

Comcast Corp.'s second-quarter profit increased 15% as more customers signed up for its high-speed Internet and phone service. The Philadelphia cable giant generated net income of $1.99 billion, or 76 cents a share, compared to $1.73 billion, or 65 cents in the year-earlier period. Revenue grew nearly 3.5% to $16.84 billion. NBCUniversal posted a strong quarter, buoyed by ratings gains at the NBC broadcast network, revenue growth at its cable networks, including USA and Bravo, and increased attendance at its theme parks in Orlando, Fla., and Los Angeles. However, Los Angeles-based film studio Universal Pictures turned in softer results due to a thinner film slate that produced 15% less revenue compared to the year-earlier period. "In film, we had a relatively quiet theatrical quarter," Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts told analysts on a Tuesday morning conference call. "Our focus now is on building a strong slate in 2015 and beyond." Company-wide, Roberts touted the company's...

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Fox offer for Time Warner could bring out rival suitors

Is there a white knight for Time Warner? Time Warner Inc. has made it clear that it does not want to sell itself to Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, rejecting the mogul's $80-billion offer. Still, analysts and industry insiders expect another bid from Fox that could top $90 billion. Mobilizing its defense, Time Warner board members Monday amended the company's bylaws to make it more difficult for Murdoch to mount a hostile takeover. Board members unanimously agreed to prevent dissident shareholders from convening a special meeting to try to install board members who are more inclined to accept a deal. Instead, the next meeting of shareholders will be in July 2015 — providing the company time to make its case that Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes has the best strategy for running Time Warner. The move also buys time for other bidders to jump into the fray. Now the question is whether anyone else will make a run at the entertainment giant whose assets include the Warner Bros. movie and...

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Netflix hits 50 million subscribers worldwide

Netflix Inc. has hit the 50-million member milestone. The Los Gatos, Calif., on-demand video company said Monday that 50.05 million people around the world now subscribe to its online service, after it added 1.69 million members in the quarter that ended June 30. In the United States alone, the company's subscriber count has grown to 36 million thanks to original programming such as the women's prison drama "Orange Is the New Black," the second season of which became available for users in June.  The company has drawn more subscribers by investing heavily in shows for its own service, including the political drama "House of Cards" starring Kevin Spacey and the Eli Roth-produced horror series "Hemlock Grove." Most of those new subscribers came from outside the United States. About 1.12 million overseas customers signed up during the quarter, along with 570,000 in the U.S.  "It's really this growing demand for control," said Netflix's chief executive, Reed Hastings, in an interview with...

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Laugh Factory teams with Larry King's Ora TV for new material

The Laugh Factory has found an edgy new comic force to give it a leg up in the digital age -- Larry King. In an effort to reach a bigger online audience, the comedy club chain has partnered with Ora TV, the production house and digital video network behind the veteran broadcaster's talk show "Larry King Now." The pact will result a slate of new comedy shows beginning its roll-out in the fall. Those programs will feature the 35-year-old Laugh Factory's stable of comics, and one of the new efforts will involve King. The 80-year-old interviewer told The Times that he has long been a comedy fan and that comedians have been some of his favorite interviews. After he left his longtime home CNN in 2010 after 25 years on the network, one of his next moves was a stand-up comedy tour, in which he told yarns from his life and stories about newsmakers such as Moammar Kadafi, Oprah Winfrey and Richard Nixon. "If I hadn't got into broadcasting, I would've done standup," King said, speaking from his...

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Time Warner adopts provision that makes hostile takeover tougher

In a move designed to ward off a potential hostile takeover, Time Warner Inc. approved a provision that would make it difficult for dissident shareholders to force a vote on a sale or attempt a change in the board of directors. The change in the company bylaws, approved unanimously and disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, eliminates the ability of shareholders to convene a special shareholder meeting. The next annual meeting of Time Warner shareholders will be in a year. The move, which is a common ploy for a company resisting a suitor, comes in the wake of 21st Century Fox's $80-billion offer for Time Warner. Although Time Warner's board of directors rejected the offer, another bid is expected by insiders at both companies and Wall Street analysts. Previously, only 15% of the company's shareholders were needed to call for a special meeting. Now, special meetings can only be called by the chairman and chief executive or a majority of non-employee directors. Time...

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