AMC’s Plan for Life After Mad Men

May 4, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

As Charlie Collier, president, gm of AMC, makes the rounds during this year's upfronts, one question keeps popping up over and over again: "What do you have for me now?" While it's a typical upfront query, the question has taken on an added urgency as AMC looks ahead to life without Mad Men, the series that put the network on the map—establishing it as a home for quality drama that rivaled anything on premium cable—when it debuted in July 2007. Yet Collier has no concerns about losing momentum after Mad Men airs its series finale on May 17. "It's a welcome question because AMC's never been stronger, both in terms of critical acclaim and ratings," said Collier. "It feels really good." In other words, AMC will avoid the pitfalls that have plagued other networks who lose their signature shows. When The Sopranos signed off in 2007 (a month before Mad Men's debut), HBO flailed for years with mediocre offerings like Tell Me You Love Me and Hung, until Game of Thrones, Girls and Veep finally righted the ship starting in 2011. In contrast, AMC has TV's most popular series in adults 18-49 to fall back on: The Walking Dead, which averaged 9.4 million viewers in that demo this season. Thanks to Walking Dead and its popular postshow, Talking Dead, AMC was the No. 1 cable network in February in adults (and men) 18-49 and 18-34. Even better, as Walking Dead follows the blueprint of Robert Kirkman's comic book series, it already has stories banked for seasons to come. "How many other guys can say, 'Wow, we've got the hottest show in town, and it's already written for the next four years?'" said Maxim Group analyst John Tinker. "That takes away some of those pressures." As does the arrival earlier this year of critically acclaimed Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul , which became the next prestige drama AMC had been searching for. Though Collier says he's "equally proud" of lesser performers Turn (now called Turn: Washington's Spies) and Halt and Catch Fire, which help fulfill AMC's "eclectic by design" mission, Better Call Saul gave AMC some much needed critical cachet that helps cushion Mad Men's loss. Drawing 3.7 million viewers 18-49 in live-plus-3 during Season 1, Saul also enabled AMC to expand its original programming to a third night, Mondays (most of its shows air on Sundays, but western Hell on Wheels has turned into a solid Saturday entry for fans of AMC's western movies). "We'll expand original nights beyond that, that's what we're talking about with advertisers during the upfronts," said Collier. "So you'll see Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Saturday." Collier hopes spinoff lightning will strike twice when AMC's upcoming Walking Dead companion series, Fear the Walking Dead, debuts in late summer. Set in Los Angeles with new characters and storylines, its six-episode first season (the series has already been renewed for Season 2) will lead in to The Walking Dead's return this fall. The network's biggest challenge will be to nurture Fear without damaging its ratings golden goose.

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‘Ode to My Father’ Takes Top Prize at Udine Festival

May 3, 2015  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Korean films fill top places in audience poll

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Film Review: ‘War of Lies’

May 2, 2015  |  Variety  |  No Comments

In the lead-up to the Iraq War, defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan — aka “Curveball” — became an expert at telling his interrogators what they wanted to hear, ultimately supplying the “evidence” the Bush administration needed to oust Saddam Hussein. In “War of Lies,” the notorious (mis)informer proves an equally slippery interview subject.

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Cannes: Dakota Fanning, Helen Hunt Starring in Drama ‘Please Stand By’

May 1, 2015  |  Variety  |  No Comments

In a pre-Cannes move, Dakota Fanning and Helen Hunt have been set to star in road-trip drama “Please Stand By” with Ben Lewin (“The Sessions”) directing. Embankment Films is handling international sales. CAA is handling the U.S. sale. Daniel Dubiecki and Lara Alameddine of Los Angeles-based The Allegiance Theater are producing. Todd Wagner and Mark...

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USA’s Ad Campaign for Its Hacker Drama Mr. Robot Doesn’t Mince Words

May 1, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

The marketing department at USA Network must have been worried people would think the lead character of its new hacker drama was pro-establishment—because the posters for the show, Mr. Robot, are anything but subtle. "F*ck Wall St.," "F*ck Social Media, "F*ck Society" and "F*ck the System" reads pretty much the only copy in four blustery ads that can't but evoke FCUK, except that the guy in the images, actor Rami Malek, is wearing the Mark Zuckerberg anti-fashion uniform of a hoodie (even though it turns out Facebook is now, apparently, officially The Man). USA deserves credit for not mincing words, and speaking truth to power, especially about the whole finance thing, given the sorry state of affairs—parent company NBCU's parent company Comcast has a market cap of only $149 billion. But at least in the trailer, there seems to be some grand Robin Hood caper brewing, toward the mass redistribution of wealth. (If the plebes can't have it in real life, they might as well get it in their fiction.) It was probably inevitable that someone would make a TV series about a good-looking, bad-boy hacker with a heart of gold, because everyone knows hacking is about being a revolutionary—not about old rich white men transferring their money to young white men who use it to fund fanciful whims that every once in a while turn out to be viable businesses. But in all seriousness, the show looks like it might actually have some potential—Christian Slater plays some lord of the digital underworld—so long as it doesn't include any mega virus monsters that infiltrate digital air conditioners to release a neuro gas.

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Step Aside Super Bowl: This is 2015’s Craziest Sports Weekend

May 1, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

This weekend, audiences will assemble in record-breaking numbers to cheer on an unprecedented assemblage of larger-than-life champions. And no, we're not talking about Avengers: Age of Ultron. After all, not even Iron Man, Hulk and Thor can match the combined sports powers that have converged for this weekend: a perfect storm for sports fans. There's the 2015 NFL Draft, which kicked off Thursday night and runs through Saturday on ESPN, ESPN 2 and NFL Network. Saturday brings the 141st Kentucky Derby (NBC and NBCSN). The rest of the weekend includes a Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees baseball matchup (MLB Network and ESPN), NBA first and second round playoff games (ESPN, TNT and ABC) NHL Stanley Cup second round playoff games (NBC and NBCSN) and World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play (NBC and Golf Channel). And overshadowing them all is one of the biggest sports events of all time : Saturday night's welterweight boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

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Film Review: ‘Maya the Bee Movie’

May 1, 2015  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Bee yourself — a simple message for Studio 100’s simple-minded “Maya the Bee Movie,” being the latest adaptation of Waldemar Bonsels’ beloved apian adventures, in which an anthropomorphized honeybee explores the meadow around her hive, befriending all the creatures she meets there.

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Film Review: ‘Planetary’

May 1, 2015  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Those who prefer their eco-consciousness delivered with a drop (or a full draught) of New Age-iness will have a new favorite movie.

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Film Review: ‘Above and Below’

April 30, 2015  |  Variety  |  No Comments

“Some of us fall by the wayside, and some of us soar to the stars.” So goes the circle-of-life wisdom from a certain pop Disney hit, but it could just as well be the mantra of Austrian helmer Nicolas Steiner’s poignantly down-to-earth thesis project, “Above and Beyond” — a mesmerizing plunge into the damaged psyches of five characters floating by on the margins of American society, from a couple scraping by in a Las Vegas drainage tunnel to the young woman determined to be among the first crew to colonize Mars.

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Sony Promises Return to Profits in Current Year

April 30, 2015  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Troubled electronics giant Sony reported its sixth year of loss in the past seven years, but forecasts a return to profitability in 2015-16.

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