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Friday, March 16, 2012

Social TV. Unexpected Resignation. 21 Jump Street Lucky for Weak Movie Weekend. AMC losing on Wall Street. Magic Johnsons milti-media empire. Documentary aimed at kids and teens gets "R" ratings

Mark Burnett and Vimby executives
Producer Mark Burnett, center, is flanked by Vimby CEO Dean Waters and Vimby Chief Creative Officer David Goffin at Sony Studios in Culver City in 2011.
From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest industry news.

The Next Wave. Some technology and entertainment companies expect "social TV" to be the next wave in digital entertainment.

That means money has been flowing to start-up ventures that investors hope will become the next Facebook, Twitter or Zynga. On Thursday, Dallas technology company Youtoo (not related to YouTube) announced that Mark Burnett, the television producer behind "Survivor" and "Celebrity Apprentice," has made an undisclosed equity investment in the venture, which launched in September 2011.

Youtoo makes interactive TV and games for the television industry. Last year it launched its social network,, and Youtoo TV, a cable channel available in about 15 million homes. Users can record 15-second videos of themselves on and submit them to run on the television channel.

Youtoo CEO Chris WyattChris Wyatt, chief executive of Youtoo, said Burnett hopes to incorporate Youtoo's interactive features into some of his TV productions. Youtoo plans to license its technology to TV networks and producers so they can augment their shows with interactive elements. The additional platform is designed to serve as a vehicle for advertising.

Burnett has been getting increasingly interested in the digital entertainment space. He also invested in Vimby -- short for Video in My Backyard -- a network of producers who create original short form video for the Web, segments for television and sponsored programming for major advertisers.

"In the next few months, you are going to see an entire pipeline of producers who will be using our technology," Youtoo's Wyatt predicted.

Photo above right: Producer Mark Burnett, center, is flanked by Vimby CEO Dean Waters and Vimby Chief Creative Officer David Goffin at Sony Studios in Culver City in 2011.

MiramaxMikeLangMiramax Chief Executive Mike Lang at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images.

Unexpected Top Level Hollywood Resignation. Miramax's chief executive Mike Lang has suddenly exited the company after little more than a year on the job.

Lang, a former News Corp. executive who specialized in digital ventures, was named head of newly independent Miramax in December 2010, soon after it was acquired for about $660 million from Walt Disney Co. by a consortium that included private equity firm Colony Capital, construction magnate Ron Tutor, and the Qatari government's sovereign wealth fund.

During his brief tenure, Miramax signed a number of deals to exploit its library of more than 700 films that include "Pulp Fiction" and the Oscar-winning movies "Shakespeare in Love" and "Chicago." Those transactions included DVD distribution agreements with Lionsgate and Studiocanal and partnerships to offer its movies online with distributors including Netflix, Hulu and Facebook.
Recently, Miramax's owners were among the final two bidders on "Twilight" studio Summit Entertainment, which they intended to merge with Miramax. However, Lionsgate ended up buying Summit.

Steve Schoch, Miramax's chief financial officer, has been named interim chief executive while the company seeks a replacement for Lang. Richard Nanula, a principal at Colony and former chief financial officer of Disney, remains Miramax's chairman.

Lang was known for writing updates on Miramax's corporate blog about the company's news and sharing his views on its strategy that he signed "ML." However, there was no post Friday explaining his departure.

 "21 Jump Street" is expected to finish first at the box office this week
 Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in a scene from "21 Jump Street." Credit: Scott Garfield / Associated Press 

Jumping to top spot. Sony Pictures' comedy version of the old Fox TV teen drama "21 Jump Street" is expected to finish on top of the box office this weekend, with a take of $30 million to $35 million. There are no other wide releases this weekend, although "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" and Will Ferrell's Spanish-language "Casa de Mi Padre" will be in limited release. Box-office previews from the Los Angeles Times and Variety. Since you asked, I will be seeing "21 Jump Street," although I am disappointed that Richard Grieco was not given a cameo. 

The Daily Dose: The news continues to be bad for "Rock Center," NBC's news magazine anchored by Brian Williams. Although the network's "NBC Nightly News" is the top-rated evening newscast, Williams' popularity is not translating to prime time. This week, the show drew a record-low 2.6 million viewers, finishing behind most broadcast shows as well as some cable programs, including the Fox News show anchored by Bill O'Reilly. In a few weeks, NBC executives will decide the fate of the heavily hyped "Rock Center."

No spoilers here. "The Hunger Games," Lionsgate's film based on the popular book about teenagers engaged in a fight-to-the-death competition, is keeping much of the movie behind wraps in its promotional spots. The $45-million marketing campaign for "The Hunger Games" steers clear of violence and is spoiler-free. Given that the movie is expected to open to more than $100 million, one gets the sense that Lionsgate executives could require viewers to sit through "One for the Money" and they'd still be swimming in cash. More on the Hunger Game-free advertising campaign for "The Hunger Games" from the Los Angeles Times.

What would Don Draper do? AMC Networks, parent of AMC, the cable channel that is home to "Mad Men," "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad," may have TV critics in the back of their pocket, but Wall Street is another matter. Some analysts were less than thrilled with AMC's fourth-quarter results, which saw a writedown for the failed drama series "Rubicon" and a lower-than-expected profit. More on the numbers from the New York Post. Also, the Wall Street Journal looks at the challenges that the creator of AMC's "The Killing" will have in the show's second season after so many fans were disappointed by the final episode of Season 1.

It's Magic. Former Lakers great Earvin "Magic" Johnson already has proved his business prowess through his real estate investments. Now he's starting to look like a media mogul. He owns several magazines, dabbles in radio and will be chief executive of a new cable network called Aspire. Fortune looks at Johnson's plans to build a media empire.

No "Luck." The abrupt cancellation Wednesday of HBO's gambling drama "Luck," after a third horse died during production, is still a hot topic. Though the tragic deaths of three horses and the resulting negative publicity was certainly the main cause of the show's demise, there were a lot of other issues with "Luck" that had nothing to do with its four-legged actors. Analysis from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

Pulling out all the stops. Harvey Weinstein just won't take "R" for an answer. The head of the Weinstein Co. brought some of the people who appear in the production company's new documentary, "Bully," to the nation's capital to plead with Motion Picture Assn. of America chief Christopher Dodd to reverse the R rating the organization slapped on the film. Weinstein says the rating will keep a lot of teens from seeing the movie and that the rating system is out of whack in this case. The MPAA gave the film an R rating because of language. More from the Hollywood Reporter.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Betsy Sharkey on "21 Jump Street." That new bright-green bike lane on Spring Street (where yours truly works) isn't just making drivers crazy, movie and TV producers aren't happy about it either.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. I'm good luck.

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest industry news. 

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