“SCARING PEOPLE’S BRAINS OUT”
The big story in Hollywood is the return of The Blair Witch Project. Only this time, it’s called Paranormal Activity, another film made for peanuts that’s benefiting from pre-Halloween hype. But even rival studios are salivating over the box-office potential of the Paramount pickup, which opened on September 25 and played only midnight shows, which quickly sold out everywhere. The pic did so well that Paramount expanded its screenings on October 9. That confidence was rewarded with a per-screen average of $16k.
That gave it $7 million for the weekend, from a paltry 159 locations. “It’s a little movie that’s scaring people’s brains out,” Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore told me. Plus, it’s got 93 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
This doesn’t happen that often, so I don’t blame Paramount for crowing about the freakishly good numbers for a film that was acquired by Paramount bigwig Adam Goodman, who had planned to remake it, back when he was at DreamWorks. (The hype is that Steven Spielberg was so freaked out when he first saw it that he carried it in a garbage bag. ...) But when Paramount had a preview, the movie played so well that the studio engineered a college outreach to get fans to make it their own. It will be interesting to see how big the overall fan base is after the college Facebook/Twitter folks have really embraced this film.
NOT SO GLEE-FUL!
Those morons at Jeff Zucker’s company have stepped in it yet again. It’s bad enough NBC can’t get anyone to watch its piss-poor network prime-time shows, but now NBC doesn’t want the public to watch other networks’ shows. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is known for annually including “cultural touchstones of the moment” in its broadcast, ranging from every American Idol winner (a Fox show) since the second season to the stars of High School Musical (a Disney Channel show). All done without a peep from parade broadcaster NBC.
But then, a month ago, the parade producers (who aren’t part of NBC) invited this season’s hot Fox show Glee’s cast members to march and perform during the parade. But, on October 8, Glee’s studio, 20th Century Fox TV, was dis-invited by the parade producers. “They called all mortified and apologetic. They said that after conversing with NBC they had to withdraw the invitation because NBC was forcing them to,” a 20th TV exec told me. “According to the NBC people, the parade was not going to promote a Fox show on their air.” The parade producers acknowledged to 20th TV that NBC has never vetoed a single act booked in the past. Funny thing is, Glee airs opposite NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; that’s hardly the same demographic. So what the hell is NBC’s problem?
Writers are leaving Matthew Weiner’s celebrated Mad Men series now that the third season has wrapped. So where’s the news? Start with Kater Gordon, who recently won the drama-writing Emmy with Matthew Weiner for the Mad Men episode “Meditations In An Emergency.” Here’s what I’ve learned: Weiner originally hired Gordon as his personal assistant. She was soon promoted to be his writer’s assistant, and by the end of that same season, Weiner offered her the opportunity to co-write the season finale — a particularly important show for him, as Weiner also directs the final episode of each season. Then, without requiring Gordon to generate any other spec material on her own (usually required for a writer’s advancement), Weiner promoted her to be a full-time staff writer for this past season.
So what happened? She was fired. “We think she’s done a great job, particularly for someone whose career has progressed so quickly. Now, however, Matt has reluctantly decided that their relationship has reached its full potential,” a show insider tells me. “She’ll be missed, but the series has consistently benefited from the influx of new writer talent, and there’s absolutely no doubt that Kater will continue to have unprecedented success in her career as she spreads her wings. She leaves Mad Men with our love and respect and a well-deserved Emmy.” Others say this is yet another sign, besides his arrogant Emmy speeches, that Weiner’s ego is out of control.
SHAKEUP ATOP CBS
I learned that Nancy Tellem has gone to her CBS Inc. boss Les Moonves to discuss stepping down from her longtime post as his right-hand exec. A final decision will be made any moment. But no one expects Moonves to be able to talk the tough-as-nails Tellem out of quitting, as he has done before. I’m told that Tellem, the president of the CBS Television Studios Entertainment Group, is contemplating moving into a consultancy role sometime within the next three weeks. Nobody would take her place, but President of CBS Entertainment Nina Tassler would take on more responsibilities.
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About why the 55-year-old Tellem wants out, an insider says, “She’s just done. She’s thinking about what the next chapter is for her life.”
If she’s not replaced, that leaves questions about who will succeed the 60-year-old Moonves because Wall Street doesn’t like its publicly traded corporations to lack an heir apparent. Along with ABC’s Anne Sweeney, Tellem has long been at the top among female executives in the television community and is one of the best. Throughout her more than 25 years in the small-screen biz, she has worked alongside Moonves. Relationships like that just don’t happen very often in Hollywood. Moonves and Tellem may talk by phone two or three times a day, and after so many years together, they don’t hold back. “We yell and we scream at each other, but when that’s over, she’s family,” Moonves has said.
ARI GETS HIS WAY, AGAIN
First I reported that Ari Emanuel rejected the global architecture firm Gensler, which the William Morris Agency originally hired to develop its new Beverly Hills headquarters. The problem was that Gensler designed rival CAA’s current space and Emanuel hated it. (“I heard CAA is trying for some ... white-leather, Gucci-style, 1970s grandeur over there,” Emanuel dissed CAA’s headquarters.) He convinced the Morris bigwigs that “there are better architects out there.” But now I can confirm that the merged William Morris/Endeavor (WME) won’t move into the building at all. It has to do with competitor The Gersh Agency, which in July left Beverly Hills’ Canon Drive and moved to 9465 Wilshire Blvd. That’s just 50 feet from the site of the new WME headquarters in a six-story “green” building going up at 231-265 N. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. The two agencies would have shared valet-parking services and a parking lot.
God forbid! So WME decided the situation was a lease deal breaker. (Both the new Gersh digs, and the new WME digs, are in buildings owned by the same company, George Comfort and Sons.) Not to worry: WME won’t be homeless. It will move entirely into the Endeavor headquarters at 9601 Wilshire Blvd. and find space there to expand, if necessary.