Archive for category Hollywood

What’s The Verdict: Were Mike Huckabee’s anti-Hollywood phone calls more like a survey or telemarketing? Will he be held liable?

What’s The Verdict: Were Mike Huckabee’s anti-Hollywood phone calls more like a survey or telemarketing? Will he be held liable?

Just earlier today, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a lawsuit that accuses U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee along with others of violating telemarketing laws.  The lower court rejected the case, but after today’s decision, Huckabee and others will again face a class action lawsuit over millions of prerecorded  phone message delivered on behalf of the film Last Ounce of Courage back in 2012.

So, what actually happened that led to the lawsuit?

Huckabee was tapped by the film’s producers including Veritas Entertainment in an attempt to get people to a see a movie about a son of fallen U.S. soldier.  The film was Last Ounce of Courage.  To be more precise, there were about 34 million calls to residential phone lines and cells phone.  Based on the script, Huckabee was promoting the film by pitching it as ‘anti-Hollywood.’ For example, Huckabee would call residents and ask the following:

“Do you agree that traditional American values are under attack in mainstream media and by our government?” As well as, “Would you, like me, Mike Huckabee, like to see Hollywood respect and promote traditional American values?”

Two St. Louis residents, Ron Golan and Dorit Golan, filed a $5 million class action suit on behalf of themselves as well as other claiming that the calls were a violation of the Telephone Communication Protection Act and Missouri’s Do Not Call Law. Turns out that the Golans weren’t actually in their home to hear the message but were left with voicemails on their answering machine.

In May 2014, a federal judge rejected the lawsuit because the plaintiffs were unable to demonstrate an injury sufficient enough to give them standing for a law intended to crack down on robocalls.  However, the 8th Circuit judge Diana Murphy has decided to read the law more broadly than the district judge who rejected.  Judge Murphy says that the lower court judge erred in dismissing the claims.

The defendants are arguing that the calls do not fall under the category of telemarketing or advertising, but were more for information gathering with survey questions.  It is now the role of the appeals court to examine and determine the context of the calls to see if the purpose was to promote goods.  Judge Murphy states in her opinion that the messages appeared to be survey-like by asking if recipients had traditional American values, but clearly acknowledges that the producers were most concerned with getting viewers of the film rather than gathering information.

Overall, Judge Murphy recognizes that the Golans are not subject to a unique defense nor did the suffer a unique injury, but what matters for all class members (including Golans) is that the phone calls placed by Huckabee were initiated for the purposes of promoting Last Ounce of Courage.  Additionally, she does not rule on whether or not Huckabee could be “vicariously liable” and is leaving that to the lower district court.

Judge Murphy has reversed the lower court judge’s opinion, meaning the case has been revived and remanded.  The final decision will be left to a lower district court judge.

The case is Golan et al v. Veritas Entertainment LLC et al, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-2484.

What do you think the lower court judge will do this time around? Stay tuned for more updates on What’s The Verdict!

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What’s The Verdict: Will the success of Entourage mean an end to female driven storylines?

What’s The Verdict: Will the success of Entourage mean an end to female driven storylines?

Entourage may prove to be one of the biggest films of the summer, and even the year. Fandango reported that more than 50% of its online sales today have been for tickets to the anticipated film debut of the popular HBO series. The film, which aired special previews across the country this past Tuesday was already able to hit a $2 million in ticket sales record.

With these starting numbers Entourage is sure to break a couple of records. But what effect will this have on female driven films in the industry? Over the past coupe of years female driven casts have become more and more prominent. Even films that would have traditionally thought of as male driven have begun to feature strong female leads.

Mad Max, a film that was originally male driven featured several female protagonists in the remake released last month. For a while it seemed as though the trend of large ensemble cast type films was to integrate both female and male characters.

Entourage presents audiences with a change to this trend. The film is entirely male driven. While it does feature female characters and cameos the storyline, like the HBO show, will revolve around its male actors.

With the film projected to break a series of records for both summer films, and the industry in general, will its all male cast send a message to content creators? Will the industry revert back to featuring all male casts?

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Whats the Verdict: Is Binge Watching the New Normal? NBC takes the plunge!

Once reserved strictly for online content streaming platforms like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, binge watching seems to have gone mainstream, with big networks beginning to release whole seasons online. The adoption of the binge model by big networks comes precisely at the same time that platforms like Netflix are moving away from it.

Tomorrow NBC will release the the first season of David Duchovny’s new period drama, Aquarius in its entirety online, while at the same time airing one episode a week on TV. In a Hollywood reporter article, NBC Entertainment Chairman, Bob Greenblatt proclaimed this decisions would push new boundaries, while also giving the consumer what they want.

NBC’s jump into the binge party comes at the same time as other’s are begining to question its merit. On May 21, Netflix began airing its new show, Between on a week to week basis. Hulu is also questioning the model and is looking at non binge options for its lineup, and Yahoo’s sixth season of Community is also being released over several weeks.

At the root of this shift is the need to create buzz. Content creators want to be able to build buzz around their shows, that continue over a period of time. The binge model allows for much of this build up. However, once the show is released the hype plummets. Serial releasing of content, on a week by week basis allows for hype to be built throughout a season.

As big networks like NBC move to catch up to online content providers like Netflix, more and more shows will be released on the binge model. The implications of this for the industry could be huge. Networks will have to create more and more content. This means that season story lines will become much longer. This also means that Networks will have to green light more shows. If they no longer have to worry about the physical confines of airtime, networks will be able to produce more shows for online viewers.

The real question is wether or not this is what the consumer wants. Will weekly entertainment transition into becoming fourteen hour obligations to watch an entire season in one weekend? What implications will this have on hiring patterns? What does this trend mean for payouts in the industry?

What do you think the verdict will be?

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What’s The Verdict: The Weinstein Company Using Genius Products as a Personal Bank Account?

What’s The Verdict: The Weinstein Company Using Genius Products as a Personal Bank Account?

This past Thursday, a trustee for a bankrupt home video company, Genius Products, has filed a multi-million dollar multi-claim lawsuit against The Weinstein Company, with accusations of perpetrating a fraud scheme and demanding the return of more than $130 million!  It was in 2011 that Genius Products, LLC was forced into involuntary bankruptcy by World Wrestling Entertainment and two other companies over $8.5 mill in debt. According to the newest complaint from Chapter 7 trustee Alfred Siegel, by 2011 Genius Products was already in debt thanks to “onerous and one-sided” agreements forced upon it by The Weinstein Company.  Essentially, The Weinstein Company is being accused of treating Genius as its personal bank account and transforming ESPN, Discovery and Genius’ other licensors into unsecured creditors.

The attorney for The Weinstein Company says his client lists tens of millions on Genius and that Genius’ story does not align with the real story.  So, what is the story?

Weinstein formed Genius in 2005 gaining the exclusive rights to distribute Weinstein home videos in the US.  The following year, 2006, Genius would become an independent company and in accordance with an operating agreement, TWC held onto 70 percent.  Supposedly, becoming an independent company was a sham to mislead third parties, where Weinstein would have full control over Genius and distribution agreements that made it impossible for Genius to operate profitably. Another way in which Genius was allegedly disadvantaged by TWC is the requirement that it keep about 40 employees exclusively working on Weinstein titles at a cost of $2 mill per year.  Despite an exclusive right to distribute, Genius was not permitted to distribute in Blu-Ray and other new formats.

All in all, it looks like The Weinstein Company dictated the agreement terms in a way that pretty much all the revenue from the home video distribution was transferred to Weinstein and all expenses were paid the ‘Debtor’ or Genius Products. This is all said to have gone on for about 2 years, up until 2008 when Genius was seriously running out of money.   What happened next is that Weinstein transferred its majority ownership to an investment firm, Quadrant Management, Inc. as a means of removing itself from the relationship as a minimal cost.

While Genius Products claims this was a major fraud scheme, TWC claims that they were actually the victim in this whole series of events.  As litigation proceeds, there will be more to come, so, stay tuned on What’s The Verdict for updates!

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