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Monday, January 23, 2006

The morning news: Disney, Apple, Pixar, Atom Films, and IFC

- The New York Times focuses on Disney CEO Bob Iger as a "dealmaker in the grip of technological change." Laura Holson and John Markoff write:

    Mr. Iger, who has been chief executive for only four months, angered movie theater owners when he suggested studios needed to accommodate consumer demand by releasing movies simultaneously in theaters and on DVD. He weathered the wrath of network affiliates when ABC announced it would distribute episodes of "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" for the Apple video iPod. And bringing Pixar into Disney would probably entail a wholesale rebuilding of Disney's famed animation department and bring a new level of intrigue to a corporate board that at times was described during Mr. Eisner's tenure as passive and compliant.

    "Steve Jobs has proven that he is a visionary in technology," said Brian Grazer, the Academy Award-winning producer of "A Beautiful Mind" who is a friend of Mr. Iger's. "It is Bob's goal to control storytelling and acquire intellectual property. If you are trying to bet on the future, it seems like a pretty interesting partnership."

- The LA Times runs a profile of Steve Jobs for the Tinseltown types who may not be acquainted with him already. Dawn Chmielewski writes:

    In 1986, Jobs heard that his friend George Lucas was trying to sell his computer graphics operation. When Jobs visited Lucasfilm, he was amazed by the high-resolution images he saw on the computer screens. Sensing money to be made, he bought the company for $10 million.

    It was the savviest investment of Jobs' career, one that would make him a billionaire.

    Jobs adopted an uncharacteristically hands-off approach to Pixar. Former Disney animator John Lasseter served as Pixar's creative force, while Ed Catmull oversaw the day-to-day operations of the company.

- Finally, Atom Films says it will spend hundreds of thousands this year financing short films and series for the Web. The AP says:

    AtomFilms Studio intends to fund projects that are preferably less than five minutes long.

    "We believe in snack-sized content across all our brands," [Atom CEO Mika] Salmi said. "We think this is what consumers want for broadband entertainment across various screens."

    Atom will not have a physical studio like Paramount Pictures Corp. or Warner Bros. in Hollywood because it plans to leave film production up to the creators.

- Finally, IFC plans to announce today at Sundance that they've got six movies they're going to release simultaneously on TV, in theaters, and on DVD. Sharon Waxman writes:

    Beginning in March, the initiative, which the company is calling First Take, will place films in independent theaters while also making them available over a new video-on-demand service that will be carried by all the major cable companies, said Jonathan Sehring, IFC Entertainment's president. The company, which includes a film production and distribution arm, is expected to make the announcement at a news conference on Monday.

    "So much great film has fallen by the wayside," Mr. Sehring said. "The studios are collapsing the window between the theatrical release and the DVD. We're taking that one step further."

    The company named six films it had scheduled for simultaneous release, including "CSA: The Confederate States of America," a dark, faux documentary that envisions the United States if the South had won the Civil War; "I Am a Sex Addict," a semiautobiographical comedy about a young man who becomes addicted to prostitutes; and "American Gun," a series of stories about the proliferation of weapons across the country, starring Donald Sutherland and Forest Whitaker.


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