Edward Snowden appearing live via satellite for Snowden screening

(The Guardian/Getty Images)

by Will Robinson

Snowden theatergoers next month have a chance to hear from the man himself.

Edward Snowden will appear live from Russia via satellite on Sept. 14 for a rare conversation, two days before director Oliver Stone’s thriller has its U.S. release. Stone will conduct the 45-minute interview and appear live from New York via satellite.

The NSA whistleblower has primarily remained in Moscow after leaking classified documents in June 2013 about secret global surveillance programs. Snowden was granted three-year asylum by the Russian government. Since going into hiding, Snowden has appeared via satellite numerous times, including after a Comic-Con screening of the biopic last month.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the titular former government contractor who dramatizes Snowden’s life before the leaks and their aftermath. Shailene Woodley portrays Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, and Zachary Quinto plays Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

China's richest man set to seal two billion-dollar U.S. film deals

By Matthew Miller and Shu Zhang
BEIJING (Reuters) - Real estate and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co expects to seal two billion-dollar film-related deals in the United States this year, chairman Wang Jianlin said on Tuesday, as China's richest man steps up his push into Hollywood.

After completing the acquisition of two non-production film companies - each worth above $1 billion - Dalian Wanda's next target would be a so-called "Big Six" movie studio, Wang told Reuters in an exclusive interview.

"My goal is to buy Hollywood companies and bring their technology and capability to China," Wang said.

He declined to elaborate on the two deals in the pipeline, which would further bolster Wanda's motion picture empire.

In January, Wang splashed $3.5 billion to buy a controlling stake in U.S. film studio Legendary Entertainment, behind hits such as "Jurassic World", making Wanda the first Chinese firm to own a major Hollywood studio.

Dalian Wanda, which was added to the Fortune Global 500 list this year, aims to triple revenue from its cultural division, led by entertainment, sports and tourism, to 150 billion yuan ($22.6 billion) by 2020.

Reuters reported last month that Wanda has held talks with Viacom Inc <VIAB.O> about acquiring its stake in Paramount Pictures, one of Hollywood's "Big Six" studios that also include Twentieth Century Fox <FOXA.O>, Warner Brothers <TWX.N>, Walt Disney <DIS.N>, Universal Pictures <CMCSA.O> and Columbia <6758.T>.

"We are interested not only in Paramount, but all of them. If one of the Big Six would be willing to be sold to us, we would be interested," Wang said.

"Only the six are real global film companies, while the rest are not. If we are to build a real movie empire, this is a necessary step."

Dalian Wanda is leading a slew of Chinese firms that are investing in Hollywood. They include Fosun International, which has invested in Studio 8, a production company started by former Warner Brothers executive Jeff Robinov, and Huayi Brothers Media Corp <300027.SZ>, which is producing films with STX Entertainment, a studio invested in by Chinese private equity company Hony Capital.

Dalian Wanda would also start co-investing in global blockbusters next year, Wang added.

The Chinese conglomerate, which began as a property developer in the northeastern city of Dalian, was also looking to extend the world's biggest motion picture theater network, Wang said.

Following the completion of its acquisitions of London-based Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group and Carmike Cinemas Inc <CKEC.O> in the United States, Dalian Wanda would control 15 percent of global box office revenues, Wang said, and may reach its goal of controlling 20 percent earlier than its target of 2020.

Wang, who has also bought Swiss sports marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG and World Triathlon Corp, owner of the "Ironman" franchise, said he was primarily interested in acquiring entertainment and sports companies in the United States and Europe.

"If the target company fits our appetite, there is no upper limit for budgeting," he said.

But he cautioned that too many investors were rushing into the "hot" film market.

"Most of the money invested in China, and even the global film industry, is silly money. Only a little is smart money," he said.

"As China's film industry growth slows to below 20 percent, or even 10 percent, 8 percent this year, some will be washed out. It's like Warren Buffett said, 'you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out'."

Separately, Wang said that Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co <3699.HK>, Wanda's real estate flagship, would re-list on the Shanghai stock exchange either through an initial public offering (IPO) or a backdoor listing.

Shareholders of the Hong Kong-listed firm last week approved a buy-out offer that would see the firm privatized.

The company said earlier this month it planned to de-list from the Hong Kong stock exchange on Sept. 20.

Wang said both options were on the table for the planned Shanghai re-listing. Approval for an IPO could take two or three years, while a backdoor listing would require more than a year, he added.

Mainland-listed firms typically command higher valuations than those traded in Hong Kong, helped by a large pool of retail investors.

But Wang said the "core problem" that triggered the de-listing plan was not the low valuation of the company's Hong Kong shares, but the lack of liquidity.

"We only listed 14 percent of the company in Hong Kong, which means 86 percent of shares are neither liquid nor could be pledged as collateral," Wang said. "That's not a real listed company."

($1 = 6.6533 Chinese yuan renminbi)

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg Seals $391 Million Payday

Senior Film Reporter
UPDATED: DreamWorks Animation shareholders had already cashed in on the sale of the cartoon studio in April, when Comcast’s acquisition brought them $41 a share, a near 50% premium for the company that created “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda.”

The public owners laughed all the way to the bank … or the yacht dealership. On Tuesday, executives and board members got their turn — with outgoing CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s more than $391 million cash-out leading the pack. The founder (along with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen) of one-time uber studio DreamWorks SKG turned in more than 10.2 million DWA shares and options to score the ginormous payday, a regulatory filing showed.

That lines up roughly with the $395 million that research firm Equilar forecast back at the time of the sale. It also should vanquish any lingering concern about Katzenberg being left out in the cold, since his move out of the chief executive’s suite and into a position as a consultant for DreamWorks’ online efforts — headlined by AwesomenessTV.

A friend of the man once in line for the throne at Disney (before he was jilted by then CEO Michael Eisner) confirmed Katzenberg’s eye-popping good fortune — though the friend came up with a slightly more modest $385 million total.

Sources said Katzenberg got to sell a total of 9,186,260 shares he held variously via direct ownership, a trust and a series of entities he owns with his wife Marilyn. That part of the deal netted him more than $376.6 million. He also got to exercise options on more than 1 million additional shares, priced at $24.28 a share and at $35.30 a share — bagging $14.9 million more.

Disney President Ann Daly got the second biggest payday, at just under $40 million. Like Katzenberg, the bulk of that came via the sale of shares at the full price of $41 a share. With more than 886,000 shares, that netted Daly more than $36 million. Added to nearly $3.5 million more from options sales, Daly takes home a total of more than $39.8 million.

Compared to the two top corporate dogs, the haul for a couple of other DreamWorks officers looks almost parsimonious. Chief Financial Officer Fazal Merchant received about $3 million, while Chief Counsel John Chang netted roughly $2.5 million.

Katzenberg could not immediately be reached for comment. Reports that the mogul was eyeing an offer on Disneyland’s Matterhorn, with Toontown thrown in, could not be immediately confirmed.

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Fox News Names 2 Insiders to Top Posts

The News Corporation building in New York. Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corporation and chief executive of Fox News, announced leadership changes at Fox News on Friday. Credit Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

In assuming the leadership of Fox News last month, Rupert Murdoch pledged a fresh start at a network reeling from accusations that its longtime chairman, Roger Ailes, had overseen a culture of harassment and intimidation.

But on Friday, Mr. Murdoch made clear that — for now at least — Fox’s new era will be led by its old guard.

Two veteran executives with deep ties to Mr. Ailes were named co-presidents of Fox News, the network announced, a nod toward corporate stability that was also taken as a sign that Mr. Murdoch was not yet prepared to fully overhaul management at one of his most profitable franchises.

Bill Shine, an affable Ailes loyalist who is well liked by some of the network’s longest-serving anchors, like Sean Hannity, will oversee programming at Fox News and Fox Business Network. Jack Abernethy, a trusted Murdoch hand who runs Fox’s television station group, was placed in charge of business operations, including finance and advertising sales.

The appointments are Mr. Murdoch’s first major personnel moves at the network since the ouster of Mr. Ailes, whose 20-year tenure was upturned by sexual harassment allegations by a former anchor, Gretchen Carlson. And it suggested that Mr. Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, are now focused on calming an unsettled newsroom, even as more women come forward with troubling stories about the network’s culture under Mr. Ailes.

“Anybody who expected seismic changes was wrong,” said Andrew Heyward, a former president of CBS News. “This sends a strong signal to a jittery, shaken staff that Fox News plans to stay the course.”

Mr. Murdoch, 85, who named himself executive chairman of Fox News on Friday, is expected to take a hands-on role there at least through the presidential election in November. Since becoming acting chief executive in July, Mr. Murdoch has been a constant presence in the Manhattan newsroom, piping up at news meetings and greeting employees in the hall. He recently moved into Mr. Ailes’s corner office on the second floor.

Still, the fallout from the scandal is not over: An investigation by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison into other allegations against Mr. Ailes is continuing. The inquiry has expanded into whether other executives knew of any improper behavior and failed to act on it.

On Friday, Fox also announced that its longtime chief financial officer, Mark Kranz, would retire. His departure was linked to his oversight of the network’s finances during a period when financial settlements were made with women who had complained of harassment, according to two people who requested anonymity to describe internal matters.

Fox News is a significant source of profit for its parent company, 21st Century Fox, and the Murdochs would prefer smooth operations at the cable channel during a tumultuous election season that has resulted in record ratings. The elder Mr. Murdoch has said he is committed to maintaining Fox’s “distinctive, powerful” voice, curbing the predictions of those who thought that the right-leaning views of Fox’s opinion anchors might soften in the absence of Mr. Ailes.

Mr. Shine, 53, has been with Fox since shortly after the channel debuted in 1996. He is a favored figure among some veteran anchors, including Mr. Hannity, who first recommended him to Mr. Ailes for a job. A Long Island native, Mr. Shine cut his teeth at the network producing Mr. Hannity’s program and working closely with personalities like Bill O’Reilly.

His appointment was widely viewed as a sign of stability at a chaotic time, particularly with newsroom gossip focused on whether top-tier anchors could leave in the wake of Mr. Ailes’s departure.

Since Ms. Carlson went public with her allegations on July 6, a schism has developed within Fox News between Fox News loyalists — some of whom owe their careers to Mr. Ailes — upset at his ouster and others who either did not come forward or were dismayed by those who were defending Mr. Ailes before the investigation was complete.

“I could not be happier with the new management team at Fox News Channel,” the anchor Greta Van Susteren, who also worked closely with Mr. Shine, wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Each is well liked and well respected; Thank you Rupert!”

TV Ratings: Olympic Competition Opens With 19.5 Million Viewers, Still Down From London

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Two nights in, NBC's coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics remains a dominant ratings force. A Saturday night hasn't seen a broadcast network score such highs since, well, the last Olympics.

But Friday's dips for the Opening Ceremony were not a one-off.

Among total viewers, the primetime showing for Saturday's primetime kickoff of competition coverage dropped 32 percent from the last Summer Games. An average 19.5 million viewers watched between 8 and 11 p.m. Four years ago, London was setting records with 28.7 million viewers during the same time period.

In the key demographic of adults 18-49, NBC averaged a 5.5 rating. That's off 37 percent from the first night of competition during the 2012 London Games. To be fair, marquee U.S. talent (like swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps) went head-to-head on that night.

Both numbers will see some adjustment, likely upward, when final tallies for complete coverage come in from Nielsen and the network.

It will be some time before it's clear how much of a lift NBC is getting from streaming, but early indicators (i.e. data released from coverage of the Opening Ceremony) also have online views up considerably this Olympics.