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Saturday, June 11, 2011


Star Trek, Disney Babies, Background Casting Fees, Skins, Super 8 and more


Star Trek the High Budget Video Game. Paramount Pictures is boldly going into the video game business. Marking a shift in strategy after years of licensing its movie brands to outside companies, the studio is making Star Trek the first big-budget console video game that it will finance and release. The game takes place in the same science fiction universe depicted in director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 movie reboot but has an original story. It will be released next year to coincide with the opening of Paramount’s “Star Trek” movie sequel. The game was publicly shown for the first time this week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles. Paramount has previously made low-budget video games based on its movies for digital distribution and smartphones but has never taken the plunge on a high-quality title for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3. Those typically cost tens of millions of dollars to produce. “We hope this will be the first of several movie-based games that we deliver,” said Thomas Lesinski, president of Paramount Digital Entertainment. “There hasn’t been a quality ‘Star Trek’ game in a very long time, but the franchise has great appeal to the gaming community.” Other studios and entertainment companies have taken different approaches to the video game industry. Walt Disney Co. recently cut costs in its gaming unit and shifted the focus from consoles to online. Warner Bros. operates its own mid-size publishing operation. Universal Pictures financed a console game based on its movie “Wanted” but hasn’t produced more after that title sold poorly. Other studios exclusively license their films to traditional video game publishers. Paramount began production on the Star Trek game in early 2010 with Canadian development studio Digital Extremes. The two-player game features the Starship Enterprise’s Captain Kirk and Spock, who are expected to be portrayed by the film’s stars, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. The last Star Trek console video game was released in 2007 by publisher Bethesda Softworks, which briefly controlled the science-fiction license.  In 2009, Paramount released a poorly reviewed downloadable game along with Abrams’ “Star Trek” movie.
Fighting extra fees. Extras, the unglorified folks who fill background scenes of movies and television shows, are getting a little love from state and local government. The Los Angeles Timesreports that the city attorney's office and the California labor commissioner sent a cease-and-desist letter to Central Casting in Burbank -- the largest company for extras -- ordering it to stop charging people an upfront fee the officials said violated state law. An additional 13 casting companies got warning letters. The move comes as work is getting harder to come by for extras. Notes Richard Verrier, "demand for their services has declined in recent years because of the growing use of computer-generated effects, the proliferation of reality TV shows and budget cuts by film and TV studios."
Disney to Focus on Baby Products. As part of its efforts to capture future Disney enthusiasts while they're still in the cradle, the Walt Disney Co. will open its first Disney Baby store next year at the Americana in Glendale.  
Disney Consumer Products Chairman Andy Mooney said the company plans to open two such stores -- one on each coast -- to display the best of its new infant line, a category that the licensing juggernaut does not currently dominate. 
The retail stores, particularly the one near its Glendale headquarters, would give Disney executives the opportunity to interact with the parents of newborns and refine product offerings that span apparel, nursery items and products for the bath. It's one of "a number of key initiatives to build Disney Baby as brand and business," Mooney said in a conference call before next week's Licensing International Expo in Last Vegas.


Disney baby

Disney has made a concerted corporate effort to reach younger children. 
Disney Consumer Products has worked with a company called Our365 to gain access to new mothers and their infants in maternity wards and provide a free sample of the Disney Cuddly Bodysuit as part of samples they receive in the hospital.
Disney Channel offers about 60 hours a week of programming aimed at preschoolers, and earlier this year the channel debuted new series that introduce classic Disney characters in a new way -- including a youthful exploration of the Peter Pan story in "Jake and the Never Land Pirates." Next year, Disney Junior debuts as a stand alone, 24-hour cable channel.
Upfront all done. The broadcast networks have pretty much wrapped up selling commercial inventory for the fall TV season. Numbers on the final take for all the networks combined are a little vague (vague enough to be right as one of my old editors once quipped) with Advertising Agereporting volume between $8.8 billion and $9.3 billion. The Los Angeles Times puts it at between $8.7 billion and $9.5 billion. The New York Times has its own estimates as well.
Live Nation to become quiet nation? Live Nation, the music empire that owns Ticketmasterand promotes just about every big show out there, is thinking about going private, according to theNew York Post. Guess that means it won't have to worry about scoring Springsteen tickets for its biggest shareholders.
Super weekend. Lots of guessing on how well J.J. Abrams "Super 8" will do this weekend. Here's my general rule. If I want to see a movie on the opening weekend, it's going to do well. I will go out on a limb and say more than $30 million. Projections from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.
MTV peels off "Skins." MTV canceled its controversial teen drama "Skins" after just one season. The show, a remake of a British hit, gave the Parents Television Council fits for its graphic portrayal of teen sex and drug use. Many advertisers were pressured to stay away from the program. Details fromDeadline Hollywood. The Hollywood Reporter offers up five reasons that MTV pulled the plug, but not one of them is that the show had low ratings. Trust me, if "Skins" was getting a big number, MTV would have weathered the storm and advertisers would have come around.
Where are the real men? Wall Street Journal writer Amy Chozick has gone through the TV shows that will premiere this fall, and observes that men have become wimps. She notes that several comedies "center on lead male characters contemplating their masculinity in a changing world, especially in terms of the successful women who surround them." I too noticed some sort of gender war going on in the new comedies, but more disturbing to me was how little I laughed at any of it.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: A new FCC study paints a pretty bleak picture of local news. Be sure to hit the Hero Complex Film Festival!