MediaFile

‘The Lorax’ jumps from page to screen

Dr. Suess tale “The Lorax” comes to the big screen this weekend with Danny DeVito voicing the tree-loving creature in the 3D movie version of the classic children’s book.   Distributor Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp, projects opening-weekend sales upwards of the $38 million domestic opening for the animated “Rango” during the same weekend last year.   The weekend’s other new wide-release movie is comedy “Project X” from Time Warner’s Warner Bros. studio, which forecasts $17 million to $19 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales from Friday through Sunday.   The film about three high-school students who try to throw a party to remember — and which proceeds to careen out of control — already took in $1.5 million at midnight showings early Friday.   Elsewhere, best-picture Oscar winner “The Artist” will expand to 1,756 theaters from 966, as independent film studio The Weinstein Co. tries to spin some of that Oscar gold into green.   Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment.

from DealZone:

Boys and girls, welcome to Disney’s Marvelous Media Machine

Walt Disney's $4 billion offer for Marvel Entertainment would give it more than 5,000 comic book characters, including such mighty heroes as Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. Disney's Bob Iger told CNBC that the expanded roster will help bring more boys to the home of the Magic Kingdom, where Snow White, Cinderella and the Little Mermaid have long reigned supreme.

The cash and stock deal values Marvel at $50 per share, or a premium of 29 percent to Marvel's closing stock price of $38.65 on Friday. The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies, and since Marvel's CEO, Isaac Perlmutter, is also the largest shareholder of the company, it's likely a done deal.

Marvel's second quarter was a mighty one. It beat market estimates on strong DVD and pay TV sales of "Iron Man," sending its shares to an all-time high. This year has been a lull for Marvel, with no new film releases due until 2010, when Iron Man 2 hits screens. Thor and the first Avenger movie, as well as Sony-produced "Spider-Man 4," are slated for a 2011 release and an "Avengers" sequel is due in 2012.

Sun Valley: Do media companies still need to be conglomerates?

Media moguls and executives at Sun Valley spend a lot of time talking about how to best prepare for the challenges of Web and mobile disruption in the 21st Century.

Companies that once traded and leveraged their huge size and scale of distribution are now considering whether just being bigger might not necessarily be better in the new fragmented media world.

For example, Time Warner Inc is slimming down by spinning off its Time Warner Cable unit and AOL, its Internet division. It may also look to rid itself of its Time Inc publishing unit.

TMZ got the scoop, will it see the money?

Time Warner-owned celebrity news website TMZ may have been first in reporting the death of Michael Jackson, but is all the buzz around the site going to turn into cash?

It’s a question the LA Times asks in this article, pointing out that the Jackson scoop — the biggest in TMZ’s history — comes at a time when the TMZ’s tactics and “tabloid sensibilities” have angered publicists and government officials, made other journalists reluctant to cite TMZ, and even caused advertisers to shy away from putting their messages on the site.

In a piece last Friday, The New York Times’ Brian Stelter pointed out that even though TMZ looks good because it beat all rivals with the Jackson news, the “Jackson family said the time of death was 5:26 p.m. Eastern, several minutes after TMZ’s report, leading some to wonder whether the Web site looked accurate only in hindsight.”

Could Google buy Twitter? Ask Arrington, then ask Swisher

******We sprinkled updates into this blog. We’re highlighting them like this.******Thanks to TechCrunch, U.S. tech reporters are about to spend another weekend working instead of playing. UPDATE: Or maybe Kara Swisher at All Things D will save them!******Two sources told proprietor Michael Arrington that Google “is in late stage negotiations to acquire Twitter.” He wrote:***

We don’t know the price but can assume its well, well north of the $250 million valuation that they saw in their recent funding.

***

Twitter turned down an offer to be bought by Facebook just a few months ago for half a billion dollars, although that was based partially on overvalued Facebook stock. Google would be paying in cash and/or publicly valued stock, which is equivalent to cash. So whatever the final acquisition value might be, it can’t be compared apples-to-apples with the Facebook deal.

***

Why would Google want Twitter? We’ve been arguing for some time that Twitter’s real value is in search. It holds the keys to the best real time database and search engine on the Internet, and Google doesn’t even have a horse in the game.

The media is hungry for corporate excess

Guess where the paparazzi are training their lenses these days? For those of you who missed it, The New York Times writes that gossip rags have all but abandoned Britney Spears for the thrill of capturing corporate excesses on camera. From the paper:

The tabloid media, of course, have always peered into the excesses of the rich and famous with a mix of puritan disapproval and voyeurism. But these outlets and other news organizations are now recording troubling uses of taxpayer money at country clubs, private airports and glamorous retreats and, in so doing, explicitly tapping into a fierce populist anger at corporate America, and even pressuring Congress to hold companies accountable.

Populist indignation apart, perhaps people also feel a sense of glee when watching or reading about the severe scaling back of corporate budgets that once supported lavish lifestyles. Gawker may have captured the glee best in this biting account of The Wall Street Journal story on Goldman Sachs executives being asked to stay at Embassy Suites rather than the Ritz.

Googler jumps ship

It’s been less than a week since Google reset the price of employee stock options in order to provide “better incentives for employees to remain at Google.”

Apparently Google’s President of Americas Operations Tim Armstrong didn’t get the memo.

On Thursday, Time Warner announced that Armstrong is leaving the Googleplex to take the top job as CEO of AOL.

Who’s ready for a little dealmaking?

******Current valuations for media companies must have opened up some opportunities for dealmaking, right? It’s hard to argue that things aren’t getting cheap.******Well, two of the industry’s top dogs, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, seem to have differing views on whether the media meltdown makes for a good time to wheel and deal. Both were asked about it during presentations at the Deutsche Bank Annual Media & Telecommunications Conference.******Dauman said Viacom, owner of MTV and Paramount, wants to focus on internal growth, mentioning Nickelodeon’s international expansion and the Colors television channel in India. “I continue to believe that we are better off investing in growing our own brands than spending significant money on acquisitions,” he said “I don’t see our using huge dollars to make an acquisition anytime soon.”******Bewkes left the door slightly more ajar. He said a lot of the assets or companies out there — “you can fill in the usual suspects” — have previously been way overpriced. “Up ’til now, those things have been around at prices that just don’t provide a return,” he said.******Deals may now make more sense. “We have room for acquisitions if there are real opportunities out there that don’t represent stupid prices or acquisitions risks,” he said when asked if they were on the prowl.******Time Warner, of course, knows a thing of two about stupid prices and acquisition risks.******Speaking of which… Not surprisingly, Bewkes was asked about AOL. He provided fairly stock answers, saying he was disappointed in ad sales and would still consider a deal for the troubled web business. “We always remain open for scale combinations that put any of our businesses in a better position,” he said. “We remain open to that.”******(Photo: Reuters)

Time Warner: It’s the hits, stupid

Far be it for us to be the umpteenth person to assail Wired editor Chris Anderson’s much quoted and yet much maligned book, The Long Tail, but Time Warner would rather keep churning out more “Dark Knights” and “Harry Potters” than fiddling down its long tail, thank you very much

The Long Tail, as you may recall, argues that thanks to the digitization of content and much lower cost of distribution, content producers will see more of their sales and profits being generated by niche content i.e. the long tail of their sales graph.

But Time Warner, by many measures the world’s largest media company, says that while it is seeing more niche content sales, it would rather the humongous profits you can make with a super hit like “The Dark Knight.”

Holidays bring much-needed cheer to Hollywood

Christmas was good to Hollywood.

The top holiday movie, “Marley & Me,” sold an estimated $37 million worth of tickets during the traditional three-day weekend beginning on Friday, and overall Christmas Day sales reached $75 million, up about $10 million from last year.

While that’s good news, particularly during the downturn, it won’t be nearly enough to salvage an otherwise rough year in the movie business, as Reuters points out.

Still, Hollywood is on course for a down year. With three days left, year-to-date sales are off about 1 percent at $9.5 billion, while the number of tickets sold has slid 5.2 percent, Media By Numbers said.