"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirmed impending layoffs across the studio in a memo sent Thursday afternoon to employees. Although no date or numbers were given, Deadline suggests the cuts will likely take place in the fourth quarter.
“We are doing our best to minimize staff reductions,” wrote Tsujihara, who was named CEO in January 2013. “However, and it pains me to say this, positions will be eliminated — at every level — across the Studio.”
Warner Bros.’ subsidiaries include DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, Warner Home Video and New Line Cinema. It also co-owns The CW with CBS Corporation.
Although reports earlier this week indicated the studio would offer buyouts before it resorted to layoffs, there’s no mention of that approach in the memo. In fact, it would seem buyouts are off the table, as Tsujihara’s introduction makes it clear he wanted”to set the record straight” following “misinformation in the press.”
Marvel has partnered with Disney Consumer Products to kick off “Marvel Super Hero September,” an ambitious national marketing campaign showcasing the company’s characters — and its brand. Marvelkids.com is being relaunched as part of the effort.
Timed to coincide with Marvel’s 75th anniversary celebration, the initiative encourages the public to “Power Up Like a Marvel Super Hero,” while spotlighting some of the properties that aren’t heating up the box office at the moment. It’s the first of what’s envisioned as an annual event.
Characters from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars appeared together on stage Monday for the first time ever as the entertainment giant touted its powerhouse brands ahead of the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.
According to Variety, Disney is once again the world’s top licensor, with a record $40.9 billion in retail sales last year, up from $39.4 billion in 2012. With looming films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero 6 and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, based on Marvel comics, the live-action Cinderella and Star Wars: Episode VII, plus the Star Wars Rebels animated television series, that seems unlikely to change in the near future.
Samsung on Thursday announced a partnership with Marvel designed to showcase the graphic capabilities of its new Galaxy Tab S tablets, a direct challenger to the Apple iPad.
With the July release of the Galaxy Tab S, users will receive a free three-month subscription to Marvel Unlimited, the digital service that features more than 13,000 issues from the publisher’s catalog. Over the next year, tablet owners will also receive early peeks at Marvel Studios films, including The Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as access to Marvel One-Shots and other content.
The agreement also calls for “the world of Samsung Mobile” to be seamlessly integrated into the Marvel Universe, both on the screen and on the page, which translates as product placement in films and comic books. That’s of course nothing new for movies — indeed, Marvel’s The Avengers was used to debut the new Acura supercar — but it’s not seen quite as often in comics. That said, Marvel has inserted (if not exactly “seamlessly integrated’) sponsored logos into its pages, through in-story signs, billboards and T-shirts.
The Florida Department of Citrus is hammering out a roughly $1 million deal for Marvel to give its mascot Captain Citrus a superhero makeover in an effort to market orange juice to teens and children.
The Lakeland, Florida, Ledger reports that the contract, expected to be finalized later this month, calls for Marvel to transform the cartoonish anthropomorphized orange (above) into a buff male superhero who will preach the nutritional benefits of orange juice. The company will publish 1 million comics for free distribution through schools, summer camps and the like, and create an additional two stories to be released online.
Another 2.5 million Captain Citrus inserts will be included in the Blu-ray and DVD release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which arrives Sept. 9.
As Marvel prepares for the August premiere of its biggest movie gamble to date, Guardians of the Galaxy, we’ve seen its publishing division reposition what once was an oddball, third-tier concept as a first-rate, if still oddball, franchise, first with the flagship title written by Brian Michael Bendis and next with Rocket Raccoon by Skottie Young.
As interesting as that transformation may be, I’m utterly fascinated by how Marvel’s parent company Disney has gone all in on merchandising an adaptation of a comic that, this time last year, no one outside fan circles had ever heard of. Granted, with the production budget for Guardians of the Galaxy in the neighborhood of $150 million (and probably nearly that much for marketing), the studio can’t afford to be timid.
Still, Disney Consumer Products has lined up more than 50 licensees, from Hasbro and LEGO to Mad Engine and Freeze, for what it views as Marvel’s Next Big Thing, at least as far as merchandise is concerned.
“It is always exciting to launch something new in consumer products, as we did with Iron Man in 2008,” Paul Gitter, senior vice president of licensing for Marvel at Disney Consumer Products, said in a statement. “By showcasing what is unique about this amazing new film we are able to develop a third Marvel franchise that can be at retail alongside our powerhouse franchises of The Avengers and Spider-Man. Continuing to diversify the Marvel offerings for consumers is a key strategy of ours.”
In what VentureBeat dubs an acqui-hire, digital comics distributor turned eBook distributor Graphicly will shut down as its key employees, including co-founder Micah Baldwin, join self-publishing platform Blurb.
“None of the assets per se are coming over, but we are talking to publishers who were on Graphicly,” Baldwin told TechCrunch. “We are hopeful that Graphicly users will take their content and manage it with Blurb, and maybe print their books there, too.”
A digital-comics pioneer, Graphicly was initially envisioned as “iTunes for comics,” a phrase commonly associated with competitor comiXology, which, aided by early deals with Marvel and DC Comics, came to dominate the market. Graphicly, which for nearly three years owned comics news/podcast site iFanboy, announced in April 2012 that it would move away from distributing comics on its own app and instead focus on providing visually based books and comics to eBook platforms like Apple’s iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.
“After spending four years working on digital publishing, it became clear that we were telling half the story,” Baldwin said in a statement. “Print is not dead, it’s wildly important in the natural growth of creators, but it too is only half the story for self-publishers now. Combining the best in class print platform from Blurb, with all the ebook learning the Graphicly team has accrued over the past four years, was just too compelling an opportunity to pass up.”
According to Blurb, the addition of the six Graphicly employees will double the size of its eBook team.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has unveiled the No. 88 National Guard/Superman Chevrolet SS he’ll drive Sunday at Charlotte International Speedway in North Carolina as part of a new three-year promotional partnership between DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Hendrick Motorsports.
The new paint scheme brings with it a slew of related merchandise, from die-cast miniature cars to T-shirts to drink koozies, already available on the NASCAR website.
Superman, Batman, The Flash and Green Lantern will team up with NASCAR drivers Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as part of a new promotional partnership between DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Hendrick Motorsports.
Announced today, the three-year deal is geared toward marketing NASCAR to a younger demographic with initiatives like car paint schemes featuring DC superheroes, and print and digital comics co-starring the Hendrick drivers. Continue Reading »
Kadokawa, the Japanese publisher of such manga as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sgt. Frog and Cowboy Bebop, has announced plans to acquire video game company From Software.
According to Siliconera, Kadokawa Group will purchase 80 percent of From Software’s stock — a deal expected to be finalized by May 21 — and position the developer alongside the existing Kadokawa Games to work on the company’s core properties.
Tied to last night’s official announcement of a Justice League movie, The Wall Street Journal takes another look at Warner Bros., comparing its superhero output to that of Marvel — that’s a familiar story by now — and, more interesting, highlighting the changing position of DC Entertainment within the media giant.
The studio in 2009 announced plans plans to better exploit its comics properties (across film, television, video games and consumer products) with a corporate restructuring that saw the creation of DC Entertainment, a new division overseen by Diane Nelson, a Warner Bros. veteran who headed up its direct-to-video label and served as shepherd of its Harry Potter franchise.
Oni Press has ended its business relationship with packaging supply company Uline over its CEO’s financial support of an Illinois group that went to “unseemly lengths” last year to try to block passage of that state’s marriage-equality bill.
In a letter signed by a dozen employees and posted Tuesday on its blog, the Portland, Oregon-based publisher explained that, “While our professional relationship with Uline has been a prosperous one, the fact that Family-PAC is funded in part by Uline’s CEO [Richard] Uihlein, is information we simply cannot abide or ignore.”
The Chicago-based Family-PAC, which describes itself as “the leading pro-family, anti-tax political action committee in Illinois,” was behind robocalls that targeted state Rep. Mike Smiddy for accepting $6,500 in donations from “Chicago homosexuals” and decried the alleged negative effects same-sex marriages have on children.
Bloomberg Businessweek‘s profile of Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, timed to coincide with the release this week of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, naturally focuses on the film division, but it also drops some fascinating nuggets about the company’s corporate culture and the 2009 purchase by Disney.
• “In March, Feige gave me a tour of Marvel Studios at Disney headquarters in Burbank, Calif.,” writes Devin Leonard. “The offices are furnished like a college dormitory, with threadbare couches. The hallways are decorated with cardboard superheroes hawking Pizza Hut and Burger King. There’s barely enough room in Feige’s office for a replica of Thor’s hammer.” While that description may come as a surprise to some, Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter has a well-established reputation as a penny-pincher, reusing paper, limiting the number of coffee pots and even fishing paperclips out of trashcans.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier stars Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan appeared this morning at the New York Stock Exchange, where they joined Marvel Entertainment executives to ring the opening bell, and to promote the Friday premiere of their film.
The actors also posed for photos with a costumed Sentinel of Liberty whom we can only presume is that Captain America from the 1950s — or else a trader who lost a bet.
Disney Interactive slashed about 700 jobs on Thursday, more than one-quarter of its entire staff, as part of entertainment giant’s continuing battle to make its video game and Internet division profitable. Although the cuts had been anticipated for some time, few expected them to run that deep.
The Playdom group, which produces social-media games, is believed to be hit hardest. Disney purchased that company in 2010 for $563 million, an investment that clearly didn’t pay off.
Disney also plans to dramatically scale back in-house development of games, relying instead on outside licensing, which The New York Times characterizes as “a major shift in strategy.” The newspaper reports the company, which last year released about two dozen games, will reduce its output by 50 percent, and merge Playdom with the more successful mobile games unit.