April 17, 2024

Newtown Massacre Changes Plans at Movie and TV Studios

LOS ANGELES — When news broke about the massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, the USA cable channel jumped into action. Using key words like “shooting,” “school” and “children,” executives identified problematic episodes of shows like “Law Order: Special Victims Unit” and “NCIS” that were about to run.

Jane Blaney, the executive vice president of programming, thought the episodes should be removed and made that recommendation to Chris McCumber, a co-president of USA, who agreed. Substitutes were shown instead.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to have a process like this in place because of the recent history,” Mr. McCumber said.

USA was following established procedures for a quandary that has become all too common for Hollywood: how to react with compassion to horrific acts of violence while also protecting a business that often capitalizes on violent and crude entertainment.

Movie studios and television networks used to confront this balancing act a couple times a decade. But this year alone there have been three incidents that have required a crisis response — the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida last spring; the Aurora, Colo., movie-theater shooting over the summer; and now the Newtown school massacre.

The February shooting of an unarmed Mr. Martin by a community watch participant sent 20th Century Fox racing to retool the title of a comedy unfortunately called “Neighborhood Watch.” (It was called just “The Watch” at its July release.) The July deaths at a Colorado multiplex initiated a major show business scramble, particularly at Warner Brothers, which released the Batman movie that had been playing in the theater. Newtown is proving to be even more problematic.

The national grief and outrage at the massacre — 27 people killed, most of them young children — has been so strong that many movie studios and television networks have been forced to make more changes to their publicity campaigns and nightly lineups than first anticipated. Typically, industry executives say, the fallout is contained within the first day or two and then everyone moves on. But not this time.

And even though the Connecticut massacre has no direct connection to the movie industry, as Colorado did, executives are finding that the need for sensitivity crosses into all genres, even comedies, and extends to the lavish premieres the studios orchestrate, which they now fear will appear excessive and celebratory.

On Tuesday, studios were still weighing what to do with plans for coming movies, like “Not Fade Away,” an intimate drama, and the violent period thriller “Gangster Squad.” Paramount had decided by midday to press on with a premiere for “Not Fade Away” Tuesday night. Warner said in a statement that it had reviewed “Gangster Squad” materials “to ensure we are being sensitive when horrifying events such as these occur,” but added, “we intend to go forward with our plans for its release,” set for Jan. 11.

But other movie events scheduled for Tuesday were canceled or scaled back, including a planned red carpet spectacle in Los Angeles for Quentin Tarantino’s coming “Django Unchained,” a bloody period tale of an ex-slave in the Deep South. The Film Society of Lincoln Center on Tuesday sent out an e-mail announcing refunds for people who had purchased tickets for a canceled advance screening of “Jack Reacher,” which opens with a sniper scene and arrives in theaters on Friday. (Paramount also canceled a Pittsburgh premiere for “Jack Reacher,” which stars Tom Cruise, and removed from TV commercials images of Mr. Cruise firing a gun.)

Newtown has also prompted soul searching of a more personal kind in the entertainment capital. Hollywood’s power lunches have been filled in recent days with conversations about hypocrisy, according to people in the industry: Many of those who are liberal leaning and support gun control also make their livings selling violent images.

There is also a creeping dread in Hollywood that the entertainment industry will be drawn into a governmental crackdown on violent imagery. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday said that President Barack Obama — beyond hinting at new gun-control measures — planned to look at “other ways” to address this kind of violence. While he did not elaborate, Mr. Carney mentioned mental health, education and “perhaps” cultural issues as possibly contributing to gun violence

Mr. Carney also embraced a call by David M. Axelrod, the president’s election strategist, to rethink violent video games. “Every expert on this issue would, I think, agree with that, that there are cultural issues that contribute to the broader problem,” Mr. Carney said.

But there were already pockets of people in Hollywood pushing back on Tuesday — executives who maintain that, while tragic, the Newtown massacre had nothing to do with entertainment.

“What you hear from the industry is this: violence has always been a part of entertainment, back to Sophocles and Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe,” said Martin Kaplan, the director of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society at the University of Southern California. “Why should modern entertainment deprive itself of a universal and timeless element of storytelling?’”

Mr. Kaplan continued, “Violence is both a moneymaker — audiences love it — and an artist’s tool. Of course, it can be gratuitous. For every Scorsese or Peckinpah, there’s a schlockmeister who’s only in it for the dough. But who do we want to empower to decide whether Quentin Tarantino or a Grand Theft Auto goes over the line? The government? The industry? Or the audience, which is where Hollywood wants to put the control.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 19, 2012

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a filmmaker. He is Martin Scorsese, not Martin Scorcese.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/movies/newtown-massacre-changes-plans-at-movie-and-tv-studios.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: HBO Names Plepler as Chief and Promotes Top Managers

Richard Plepler.Fred Prouser/Reuters Richard Plepler.

5:21 p.m. | Updated
HBO announced a transition in its top management on Thursday, elevating Richard Plepler to the role of chief executive, replacing Bill Nelson, who will step down at the end of the year.

The change, announced by Jeffrey L. Bewkes, the chairman of HBO’s parent company, Time Warner, amounted to a shift upward for the network’s entire top management team. Mr. Plepler had been co-president with Eric Kessler, working under Mr. Nelson. Now, Mr. Kessler will become sole president, reporting to Mr. Plepler.

Michael Lombardo, who has been president for programming since 2007, will continue in that role and will also report to Mr. Plepler.

The naming of Mr. Plepler as chief executive completes his remarkable ascension at the network, which he joined in 1992 as head public relations executive.

Mr. Nelson had a 30-year career at HBO, mainly in business affairs positions. Mr. Plepler has been more of an active public voice for the network and has been deeply involved with the creative side of the company. With Mr. Lombardo, he has been responsible for much of the programming on HBO since 2007.

Mr. Kessler, who is credited with the success of HBO’s on-demand system, HBO Go, and with expanding the network’s global reach to 100 million subscribers, will also become chief operating officer.

In praising Mr. Nelson, whom he called a “world-class C.E.O.,” Mr. Bewkes specifically cited the period since 2007 as a time when HBO was able to “re-establish its pre-eminence in programming.” He said the new management team had been the driving force behind that creative renaissance.

The most popular shows during the tenures of Mr. Plepler, Mr. Kessler and Mr. Lombardo have included “True Blood,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Game of Thrones,” “Girls” and “Veep.” All but “True Blood” have been nominated for Emmy Awards this year as either best drama or best comedy in television. The network has also continued to dominate the Emmys for television movies, and owns the favorite this year in “Game Change,” which dramatized Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential campaign.

HBO installed the previous management group under Mr. Nelson after a slow period when its previous supremacy in cable programming, led by shows like “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City,” came to an abrupt end.

Mr. Nelson had previously been chief operating officer, responsible for marketing and distribution.

Bill Carter writes about the television industry. Follow @wjcarter on Twitter.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/richard-plepler-to-replace-bill-nelson-atop-hbo/?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Carpetbagger: Sundance, Brought to You by (Your Brand Here)

At the Sundance Film Festival, volunteers are wearing salmon-ish jackets from Kenneth Cole.Jemal Countess/Getty ImagesAt the Sundance Film Festival, volunteers are wearing salmon-ish jackets from Kenneth Cole.

PARK CITY, Utah — As Sundance devotees swarmed this ski town for another orgy of indie film — required accoutrements: iPhone, messy haircut, precious-looking glasses — they encountered creatures that have been relatively scarce in recent years.

Where did all of these corporate sponsors come from?

The 2012 festival, getting under way here Thursday night, has eight new official backers: Adobe, General Electric, Sprint, Yahoo, Bertolli, Grey Goose, Time Warner and Hilton. (Honda and Trident did not return, making a net increase of six.) “We’re very fortunate,” said Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute. “At the recession’s lowest point we did see a bit of dip in sponsorships.”

A Sundance spokesman declined to discuss specifics of how much sponsors chipped in, but did say that “most” are in the “six-figure range.” (No word on how General Electric feels about Sundance’s inclusion of “We’re Not Broke,” a feisty, Occupy-tinged documentary that looks at how giant companies, including G.E., avoid paying United States income tax.)

Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival

News, features and multimedia from The Times at the Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 19-29.

Companies have long lingered around the edges of the festival in hopes some cool will rub off on their brands, but there seem to be more of them this year, in a return to the frothy pre-recession days. “It’s back to the future,” said Tom Bernard, the co-president of Sony Pictures Classics and a longtime attendee. “It feels like a scene again.”

Everywhere you look there is a corporate logo, including Kenneth Cole on the salmon-ish colored jackets (heavy on the ish) worn by Sundance volunteers. Events will take place at the Skullcandy Compound, the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet and a three-level bar taken over by Bing, the “Official Search Engine of the Sundance Film Festival.”

Other brands publicists have thrust at journalists include Ford, W Residences, T-Mobile, 7 for All Mankind jeans, Tic Tac mints, Solstice sunglasses, Patrón tequila and Ultimat vodka. As of the opening day of the festival, this reporter had received 259 unsolicited pitches from P.R. people trying to focus attention on one thing or another, on par with the 271 received by opening day last year.

“When can I call you to follow up?”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=1b0bd6698b165391cb408e43478ea867

Hewlett-Packard Board Meets on Replacing C.E.O.

The leading candidate was Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay, who was sought for her ability to run a large technology company, they said.

The surprise move revealed not only the confusion inside the company over its strategy, but also the directors’ difficulties in choosing the leadership of the company.

The directors hired Mr. Apotheker, who had earlier been fired as a co-chief executive of SAP, a major business software maker, to replace Mark V. Hurd, whom the board had fired over what it characterized as discrepancies in his expense reporting. Mr. Hurd is now the co-president of Oracle, a rival to H.P.

Ms. Whitman, who ran eBay as it grew from a start-up to a major online retailer, left the company just as growth began to stall. She unsuccessfully ran for governor of California and was hired in March by Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, a venture capital firm, as a strategic adviser.

Hewlett-Packard’s stock was up 11 percent in afternoon trading in New York.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/technology/hewlett-packard-board-meets-on-replacing-ceo.html?partner=rss&emc=rss