Paramount Pictures is teaming with upstart producer/financier Sister and Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King to mount a movie about The Bee Gees, the trio whose worldwide sales of over 220 million records established them as one of the biggest selling groups of all time. While Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb first began performing together in the late 1950s, much of their popularity came after they wrote songs for Saturday Night Fever that prolonged the popularity of disco and led to one of the top selling albums ever.
Paramount has purchased the life rights to the Gibb family estate on behalf of GK's King, and so will be able to use their song classics in the movie. Sister, the venture just launched by Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider and Chernobyl producer Jane Featherstone, will come aboard as either a producing partner or a co-financier.
It is the first U.S. project for Sister and the driver behind it is Snider, who became a principal in the company and head of Sister's Los Angeles division after leaving as chairman/CEO of Twentieth Century Fox when Disney completed its acquisition of that studio. Featherstone runs Sister London.
Paramount just found success making Rocketman, the Dexter Fletcher-directed drama about the rocky formative years of Elton John, a film that had strong performances by Taron Egerton who sang the signature Elton John hits and Jamie Bell as Elton's songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.
The deal gives King another music-driven drama to follow Bohemian Rhapsody, a collaboration he and the surviving members of Queen struggled to make for years. Driven by Rami Malek's Oscar-winning turn as iconic front man Freddie Mercury and the band's tunes and Live Aid set, the film grossed $903 million on a $52 million budget and got four Oscar nominations including Best Picture to become the template for a flurry of music biopics currently in the works.
The Gibb family oversees the estate of the family, whose sole surviving member is Barry Gibb, whose soaring falsettos defined the trio's disco era. None of the architects of the project would comment beyond confirming the deal. So here is some background on the group that will fuel the movie.
Maurice, left, Barry and Robin GibbParamount/Kobal/Shutterstock
Barry, Robin and Maurice began singing together as a pop music group formed in 1958. Their first rush of fame came after their father got a tape of their music to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who passed it along to colleague Robert Stigwood, who became a steady figure in their rise. Back then, Robin Gibb's vibrato lead vocals drove hits like Lonely Days and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. The trio found themselves in a career rut with the onset of disco that put pop in a corner, when Stigwood brought them in to construct a soundtrack around Saturday Night Fever. The John Badham-directed Paramount film starred Welcome Back Kotter TV heart throb John Travolta as the head of a group of Italians from Brooklyn with dead end jobs who on weekends flashed their disco dancing moves to become polyester-clad kings of the club circuit. The Gibbs are reputed to have read a rough script draft, and then over a weekend in a France hotel room, they wrote a slew of songs from Staying Alive, to Night Fever, More Than A Woman and others. Barry Gibb's falsetto became the dominant voice, and the result helped Saturday Night Fever capture the cultural zeitgeist like few movies do. It gave The Bee Gees career a second wind.
The trio was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Brian Wilson, the leader of another sibling-based harmonizing group The Beach Boys. There were personal tragedies, including the death of hitmaking younger brother Andy Gibb at age 30 of the heart condition myocarditis, and the death of Robin and Maurice Gibb later on. The brothers wrote their own songs for themselves and others, and were hailed by John Lennon and others for their musical acumen. There seems plenty here to drive a narrative film driven by those memorable songs.
They will look to quickly name a writer and get started.
Internal BBC documents have revealed how the British broadcaster conducts repeated research on its biggest stars and scores how well they are performing with audiences.
So-called BBC “talent reports” were released as part of the corporation’s legal battle with presenter Samira Ahmed, who has taken the BBC to an employment tribunal seeking £693,245 $892,442 in lost earnings as part of an equal pay dispute.
Ahmed said “it just does not seem fair” that she was paid £440 for hosting an episode Newswatch, while at the same time, male presenter Jeremy Vine took home £3,000 for recording an installment of Points of View.
She argued that both shows, which invite viewer feedback on BBC output, involve similar work and provide audiences with a similar service. The BBC disputes this characterization, arguing that Newswatch is a news show on the “relatively niche” BBC News channel, while Points of View is a BBC One brand traditionally hosted by a big-name presenter. Vine succeeded Terry Wogan, an iconic British broadcaster.
A rare window on how the BBC measures its stars
The BBC’s supporting evidence included talent reports on Vine, providing a rare window on how the broadcaster measures its biggest names and tests if they are providing value for money for licence fee payers.
A single-page report, compiled by the BBC’s marketing and audiences team in 2017, showed that Vine was recognized by 79% of roughly 500 people questioned by the corporation. This was above the average recognition score of 55% for all presenters, suggesting the BBC conducts similar research on other stars.
The report then dives into what the group of 397 people who recognized Vine think of the presenter. It is here that the document takes on a Top Trumps feel, with the BBC producing graphs scoring his recognition, motivation to watch, and likeability. The graphs also include demographic breakdowns.
So for example, Vine scored 6.4 out of 10 for likeability, rising to 6.5 among women, but falling to 6.1 among 16-34 year olds. The “all talent” average was 6.3, meaning Vine scored solidly on this particular factor. Audiences did not consider him to be a big draw, however, with only 13% saying they would be motivated to watch a show because he was presenting. This was “notably lower” than the average of 22% across all talent, the BBC report said.
Along the bottom of the page are quotes from four viewers on Vine. “Superb at explaining complex political news. Fun at a quiz and on radio. Engaging,” said a 66-year-old man. A 61-year-old woman was less keen: “Can be very arrogant, very opinionated.”
A second report on Vine from 2014 was also included in the BBC’s evidence in the Ahmed tribunal. His recognition score was lower at 63%, while his likeability was also lower at 6 out of 10. This 2014 report also showed that the BBC does do similar research on its other stars, as it mistakenly featured some data on The One Show presenter Matt Baker — including the fact that he is sometimes confused with former Doctor Who star Matt Smith.
The BBC’s “torturous” negotiations over Vine’s deal
The BBC’s supporting evidence also included a cache of internal emails relating to Vine’s contract renewal in late 2007. Like the talent reports, the emails provide a glimpse into the BBC’s fraught negotiations with agents over exclusivity deals, albeit that the conversations are more than a decade old.
The talks with Vine’s agent Alex Armitage were led by Roger Leatham, who is currently the director of business affairs at BBC Studios. They showed the BBC was under pressure to raise Vine’s salary by 63%, with alleged competing offers of close to £1M from ITV and Sky for the presenter’s services.
The emails show the BBC making a number of offers, encompassing a patchwork of TV and radio work over three years, with direct input from “Mark T,” who is likely to be the then-director general Mark Thompson. All the while, Armitage was playing hardball. After written proposals in November, the agent emailed Leatham on December 4, 2007, complaining that he was unhappy with what was on the table.
“The BBC must now stop bullying this artist and pushing him around on this deal and listen to him… Stop treating him like a chattel and pay him properly in year three and lets have some mutual respect that is not meaningless words not backed up by money,” Armitage wrote. “Stop saying there is no more money as there is money for what ever you want it for, just find it and stop treating jeremy [sic] Vine like a child as he is sick of it now.”
By December 12, a deal was done and Vine was given a job presenting quiz format Eggheads on top of radio and news work. Leatham emailed colleagues saying: “It’s been a long slog but we got there in the end! This is actually a great result for us.” Two years later, the BBC reviewed Vine’s contract, as per a clause in the deal, and Leatham emailed colleagues remarking on what a “torturous” process it had been in 2007.
Vine is no longer exclusive to the BBC, presenting the daily magazine show Jeremy Vine for Viacom’s Channel 5. He remains one of the BBC’s best-paid presenters, however, taking home more than £290,000 for his work on Radio 2.
The Samira Ahmed tribunal continues until Tuesday 5 November.
AMC Networks delivered increases in revenue and profit across its third quarter financials — helped by the growth of its international business and streaming services.
The company, which operates the eponymous network as well as BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV and WEtv, saw revenue increase by 3.1% to $719M and net income of $117M, up from $111M the year before.
Revenue from its global operations and streaming services increased 20.5% to $183M, while revenues at its domestic networks was broadly flat.
It particularly noted its success in streaming services, highlighting Acorn TV passing 1M subscribers and Shudder performing well with originals such as Creepshow. In the quarter, the company also announced an agreement with Charter Communications to launch AMC Networks' full suite of SVOD services as well as AMC Premiere to Charter's Spectrum customers and struck an international sales deal with Amazon Prime Video for the third series in The Walking Dead universe.
However, in the U.S. advertising revenues fell 2.6% to $194M, the company blaming lower delivery of shows as well as the timing and mix of original programming, thought to include Better Call Saul partially offset by higher pricing.
President and Chief Executive Officer Josh Sapan said that AMC Networks was “well on its way” to transforming itself from a cable channels company to a “premier content company”
“The underlying strategic priorities fueling our transformation have been and continue to be creating and owning great content and valuable IP, expanding our targeted direct-to-consumer services, maximizing the long-term value of our traditional linear business and diversifying our revenue by developing new avenues of content monetization,” he said.
Sapan also noted its “outsized presence” at this year's Emmy Awards with Killing Eve.
“We are optimizing the value and reach of our content in a variety of ways and executing on a plan that will enable us to thrive in a very dynamic and competitive environment,” he added.
Catherine Herridge, who has been with Fox News since 1996, the year it launched, is joining CBS News as senior investigative correspondent.
Herridge will cover national security and intelligence issues and report original investigations. She will be based in Washington, and start in November.
“Catherine Herridge is a skilled investigative correspondent who has consistently brought depth and originality to her reporting,” said Christopher Isham, Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief.
Herridge said, “CBS News has always placed a premium on enterprise journalism and powerful investigations. I feel privileged to join a team where facts and storytelling will always matter.”
Herridge has covered news from Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Northern Ireland and the former Yugoslavia. She reported from New York. on the 9/11 terrorist attacks from New York City, and from Guantanamo Bay on the military trial held for the architects of the attack.
At Fox News Channel, she covered the intelligence community, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. She also was a correspondent for the newsmagazine Fox Files and interviewed President Donald Trump after Special Counsel Robert Mueller completed his Russia investigation.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society recently recognized her reporting with the “Tex” McCrary Award for excellence in journalism. She joined Fox News after serving as a London-based correspondent for ABC News.
She also is the author of the book, The Next Wave: On the Hunt for al Qaeda's American Recruits.
Warner Bros said Wednesday that Warner Bros Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich has extended his contract with new responsibilities, while New Line president and chief content officer Carolyn Blackwood has been promoted to the newly created position of Warner Bros Pictures Group COO.
The moves were revealed by Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of Warner Bros chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff, a day after she and the rest of the WarnerMedia brass took the wraps off the HBO Max streaming service that will launch in May, with the film group’s content front and center.
As part of his new deal - details were not revealed - the studio said Emmerich, who has headed the WBPG since 2017, will expand his responsibilities to tackle a range of emerging strategic priorities within Warner Bros and WarnerMedia.
Blackwood, the 20-year company veteran and most recently New Line’s president and chief content officer, will now be responsible for the group’s day-to-day operations including Physical Production, Business Affairs and Music, while continuing with oversight of New Line and the live-stage division Warner Bros Theatre Ventures.
Blackwood will continue to report to Emmerich, as will the Creative Production/Development, Marketing, Distribution and Home Entertainment division chiefs.
“Toby is a distinguished entertainment executive whose track record speaks for itself,” Sarnoff said today in a release announcing the news. “Since my arrival at Warner Bros, he has been an extraordinary partner. I am thrilled to have him by my side as we take Warner Bros. and Warner Media forward.”
She added of Blackwood: “When you look at the terrific performance of New Line over the years, it's obvious that Carolyn's formidable leadership skills have played an integral part in its success. I am excited for her to take on this larger Pictures Group role.”
EXCLUSIVE: NBC is developing Adam & Eva, a modern-day Adam and Eve drama based on the praised Dutch series, from The Village creator Mike Daniels, producers Rob Golenberg, Alon Aranya and David Janollari and Universal TV, where Daniels and Janollari are under deals.
Your Complete Guide to Pilots and Straight-to-Series orders
Courtesy of WME/NBC
Golenberg and Aranya originally set up an Adam & Eva US adaptation at Fox two years ago through their former production company Scripted Words with a different writing and producing partners.
Written by Daniels, the new Adam & Eva is described as a funny and heartfelt drama that chronicles the epic love and lives of two complete strangers whose multiple run-ins begin to defy coincidence and lead both to believe in fate.
Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC
Daniels executive produces with Golenberg and Aranya. David Janollari Entertainment produces for Universal TV.
The original Dutch series A'dam — E.V.A.which also stands for “Amsterdam and many others”, from writer Robert Alberdingk Thijm and director Norbert ter Hall, ran for three seasons beginning in 2011. Described as 500 Days of Summer meets Tales of the City, A'dam — E.V.A. centers on Adam, a bright-eyed newcomer to Amsterdam, who leads a lonely life burying the forgotten dead for the city, but when he moves next door to the beautiful, cynical Eva, he realizes he's met the love of his life. The series was chosen as best Dutch drama series since 1990 by a jury of leading journalists, industry members and media specialists of the Netherlands. The series also was awarded the French Prix de la Fiction for best international series, the Dutch Directors Guild Award and the Best Screenplay Award from the Dutch Writers Guild. You can watch a trailer with no English subtitles below.
Through Scripted World, Golenberg and Aranya produced other US adaptations of Dutch series, including Red Widow and Betrayal, at ABC, as well as Hostages on CBS.
This is Daniels' second broadcast sale this cycle. He also has drama Bad Blood set at NBC with former The Village executive producer Jessica Rhoades and writer-supervising producer Wolfe Coleman, and Universal TV. Daniels created and executive produced ensemble drama The Village, which aired for one season on NBC. Under his Uni TV overall deal, Daniels is a consulting producer on NBC's Bluff City Law,which Janolarri executive produces, and has previously worked on Shades of Blue, Taken and freshman drama The Brave. Janollaripreviously was an executive producer on NBC's Midnight, Texasunder his Universal TV deal.