Is Detroit Becoming the New Hollywood?

Tuesday, 21 Sep 2010 03:47 PM

By James Hirsen

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The Left oast report: A Political Look at Hollywood

A Newsmax Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Judge Judy Dethrones Oprah
2. Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘I’m Still Here’ Act a Dubious Hoax
3. Bruni Biographer Vouches for Michelle Obama’s ‘Hell’ Quip
4. Is Detroit Becoming the New Hollywood?
5. ‘Devil’ Takes Box-office Beating From ‘The Town,’ ‘Easy A’
 

1. Judge Judy Dethrones Oprah

Oprah Winfrey may have seen it coming.

Amazingly, “Oprah” has been unseated as daytime television queen by none other than “Judge Judy.”

On average, “Judge Judy” had 600,000 more viewers than “Oprah” in the 2009-10 season, according to Nielsen. It translates into the judge’s show receiving a whopping average of 6.5 million viewers, making it daytime’s top-rated program.

Lawyer and former New York Judge Judy Sheindlin, who launched “Judge Judy” in 1996, has been contracted to host the show through the 2013 season for a mind-boggling $45 million a year. Winfrey is in her farewell season on broadcast TV as she prepares to launch her own cable channel.

It seems that, in an age of moral ambiguity, viewers prefer the sense of justice that Sheindlin’s show provides to feel-good fluff.


2. Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘I’m Still Here’ Act a Dubious Hoax

Casey Affleck apparently needs to bone up on his marketing skills.

Almost immediately following the release of his new movie, “I’m Still Here,” Affleck let it be known that the film was a fake.

The movie is a so-called documentary on the bizarre transformation of actor Joaquin Phoenix.

Included in the film is Phoenix’s appearance on David Letterman’s show in 2009, when he played the role of a bearded, mind-altered, aspiring hip-hopper.

In an interview with The New York Times, Affleck called it part of “a terrific performance — it’s the performance of his career.”

He went on to describe the movie as “gonzo filmmaking,” invoking the writing of Hunter Thompson.

The problem is “I’m Still Here” desperately needed to keep its primary PR trick going, at least long enough to rack up some additional box-office numbers, and that PR trick was the element of “mystery.”

The movie, which opened in 19 theaters, brought in around $97,000 in its opening weekend and had a total gross of $146,000.

Phoenix, who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” now may have to face the difficult task of trying to regain his Hollywood footing.

Affleck claimed that only he; Phoenix; and Phoenix’s agent, Patrick Whitesell of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, were aware of the sham, leaving Letterman out of the loop.

But in 2009, Letterman writer Bill Scheft did an interview with the alternative newspaper Nuvo saying that “Dave [Letterman] knew about it, and Dave loved it because he could play along . . . It was great television.”

At the conclusion of the oddball interview, Letterman quipped, “Joaquin, I’m sorry you couldn’t be here tonight.”


3. Bruni Biographer Vouches for Michelle Obama’s ‘Hell’ Quip

When a passage about Michelle Obama from the new book about French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy hit the media, the trans-Atlantic spinning went into overdrive.

The book indicates that Michelle had characterized her life in the White House as “hell.” Her spokeswoman immediately denied that the first lady had said such a thing.

Then a spokesman from the French Embassy made the announcement that Bruni-Sarkozy “distances herself completely” from the book.

However, one significant person has a problem with the attempts at spin: Yves Derai, one of the fellows who wrote the book.

The unauthorized “Carla et les ambitieux,” which translates to “Carla and the Ambitious Ones,” recounts a March dinner at the White House during which the two first ladies compared their lives as spouses of world leaders. According to the book, Michelle said, “Don’t even talk to me about it, it’s hell. I can’t stand it.”

Derai insists that the quote is based on interviews with confidential “reliable sources.”

“In France, we have something called the ‘protection of sources,’ so I’m not repeating what Carla or others told me,” Derai told The Associated Press.

“We’ve put in the book the narratives and the information that we verified and compiled and we totally assume responsibility for it as independent journalists.”


4. Is Detroit Becoming the New Hollywood?

More than 100 film and television productions have opted for shooting locations in Michigan during the past two years.

Why? It’s simple economics, the kind that Congress could use a quick lesson in. Simply put, tax rebates attract business and jobs.

Michigan’s film incentive program offers up to a 42 percent tax rebate on any in-state expenses.

As a result, entertainment companies have spent nearly $350 million this year in the Wolverine State and are likely to pay out $650 million by the year’s end. Around 80 percent of the production work takes place in Detroit.

In July, more than 15 percent of the people in the Detroit metropolitan area were without a paycheck, so entertainment jobs are a godsend, especially the approximately 7,000 new production gigs.

Signs of the city’s Tinseltown transformation are everywhere. The old Michigan Central Station is full of technicians, extras, and actors working on sets for “Transformers 3” and the HBO series “Hung.”

A former Chrysler distribution center serves as a soundstage for ABC’s new crime drama “Detroit 1-8-7.”

Current or soon-to-be filmmaking projects in the Motor City include the Hilary Swank movie “Conviction,” the Richard Gere flick “The Double,” the Sigourney Weaver comedy “Vamps,” the Robert De Niro-Edward Norton-Milla Jovovich film “Stone,” “Harold and Kumar 3,” and “Hostel: Part III.”

A $76 million studio is being built on a 22-acre site in nearby Pontiac for Raleigh Studios, an L.A. company that is expanding into Detroit.

These projects are not brought to you by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.


5. ‘Devil’ Takes Box-office Beating From ‘The Town,’ ‘Easy A’

M. Night Shyamalan, on the other hand, may be looking for a movie bailout.

In this week’s box-office breakdown, “The Town” and “Easy A” beat Shyamalan’s “Devil.”

“Easy A” was expected to come out ahead of “The Town” in the weekend box-office battle.

Instead, Ben Affleck’s crime thriller nabbed a stronger-than-expected $23.8 million in ticket sales.

“The Town,” which Affleck stars in and directs, appeals to an adult audience, and believe it or not, that crowd was larger than the one full of teenagers flocking to “Easy A.”

It didn’t hurt that critics loved “The Town.” Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures put up $37 million for the film.

“Easy A,” a comedic twist on the classic novel “The Scarlet Letter,” came in second, with about $18 million.

Distributor Sony Pictures and its Screen Gems genre label were pumped. According to Sony, the studio was estimating about $15 million, and the movie had a production cost of about $8 million.

“Devil,” a horror entry, finished third, with a lower-than-expected $12.6 million.

Distributor Universal Pictures refused to show the movie to the press and also declined to comment on the blackout.

It could be that the studio wanted to guard against blowback from the tarnished image of Shyamalan, who produced and wrote the story for “Devil.”

The movie is about a group of people who are stuck in an elevator with Satan. Not surprisingly, the majority of critics slammed it as trite and dull, and it appears audiences didn’t think much of it, either.

Too bad Universal paid Media Rights Capital $27 million for the distribution rights.

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