Entertainment Industry

Category: Comics

GeekChicDaily raises $1.5 million from Legendary Pictures, Joe Roth, others [Updated]

GeekChic GeekChicDaily, an e-mail newsletter devoted to comics, video games, technology and genre films, has raised $1.5 million in financing from several well-known Hollywood names including producer Joe Roth and Legendary Pictures.

The company plans to use the funds to launch a marketing campaign, expand ad sales staff and increase video production and mobile applications.

One-year-old GeekChic has about 150,000 subscribers who receive an ad-supported e-mail every morning on topics such as "The Green Hornet" and top comic book picks of the week.

Chief Executive Peter Levin said he is also looking at creating regional editions of the newsletter.

"There's a big desire from our readership to better understand what events are happening locally but still get national content," he said. Such a move would also position GeekChic to gain new advertisers aiming for a geographically targeted consumer base.

Along with Roth, the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios, and film finance and production company Legendary, those providing GeekChic's second round of funding include Allen DeBevoise, CEO of video games animation distributor Machinima.com, and Clear Channel head of media Robert Pittman, who co-founded the online newsletters DailyCandy and Thrillist. [Update, 9:08 a.m.: Kathy Vrabeck, who is exiting her post as president of digital for Legendary Pictures, is also investing in GeekChic and will represent Legendary on its board of directors.]

GeekChic previously raised about $1 million when it launched last year in an investment round that included Mandalay Entertainment CEO and former Sony Pictures Chairman Peter Guber.

-- Ben Fritz

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Image: An issue of GeekChicDaily. Credit: GeekChicDaily

How Warner and Sony's video game rivalry led to cooperation on DC Universe Online

DC Universe Online Box Art In early 2005, Sony Online Entertainment's and Warner Bros.' interests in the online gaming business were very far apart.

Warner was preparing to launch the Matrix Online, a multiplayer online gaming world based on its series of hit movies. And it was considering producing a similar game based on the super-heroes and villains from its DC Comics unit.

Sony Online, the online gaming division of the giant electronics parent company, was in advanced negotiations to create a game based on the characters from Marvel Entertainment, DC's chief rival.

By the spring, however, Sony's talks with Marvel had fallen apart, and launch of the Matrix Online was floundering. Eager to find a partner to take over management of the Matrix game, Warner turned to Sony. In the process of talking, the two companies also determined that Sony would be the right company to make a DC online video game.

Meanwhile, Marvel's game license went to Vivendi. Then when Vivendi gave up on the game, Marvel switched to Microsoft Corp. After sinking millions in licensing fees and development costs, Microsoft, too, punted. A Marvel online game is still in production, this time with a publisher called Gazillion Entertainment.

On Tuesday, DC beat its comic book nemesis to the punch. Its game, DC Universe Online, is finally launching after nearly six years in production and more than $50 million in development costs. For more on how it got made, why it took so long and cost so much, see the story in Tuesday's Times.

-- Ben Fritz and Alex Pham

Photo: A copy of the PlayStation 3 version of DC Universe Online from Sony and Warner Bros. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

The Morning Fix: TV's manic Monday and Fox's fizzling 'Lone Star'! DC moves to L.A. Blockbuster nears bankruptcy. Another MySpace remake.

After the coffee. Before wondering if the Oscar talk for "The Town" isn't just a tad premature.
 

Here we go again. Monday night marked the official start of the new TV season, but it was an old show -- ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" -- that ran away with the viewers. Still, CBS can crow about the launches of "Hawaii Five-0" and "Mike & Molly," NBC can breathe a little easier about its big-budget drama, "The Event," and Fox can ... never mind. Poor Fox might have to adopt the Boomtown Rats song "I Don't Like Mondays" as its new marketing song if things don't improve. "Lone Star," its critically acclaimed drama about a Texas con man failed to hustle up much of an audience. The 9 p.m. show barely broke the 4-million-viewer mark as more than half of the audience from its "House" lead-in fled. There is already talk that "Lone Star" might join that small list of shows canceled after just one episode. HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," which played in less than one-third of the homes of "Lone Star," got a bigger audience and was already renewed for a second season. Ratings analysis on night one of the season from the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood.

No rush on returning that DVD. Blockbuster Inc., once the king of the home-entertainment business, is expected to finally file for bankruptcy later this week. The chain has been shuttering stores for years as it has struggled to keep up with Netflix and Redbox and has a $900-million debt load it is struggling to pay off. Hard to believe that Viacom once paid more than $8 billion for Blockbuster. Then again, it's hard to believe I used to go there all the time and even its heyday didn't like the way the stores were run. Details on Blockbuster's late-fee issues from the Wall Street Journal.

Heard this before. News Corp. is once again promising a "dramatic remake" of MySpace, that other social-networking site that Hollywood isn't making a big movie about. Speaking at a conference sponsored by the Wrap, Jon Miller, the digital czar of News Corp. said the new MySpace will take the site "back to its roots of music, discovery and self-expression" and will "jar some people and excite others." As long as it excites boss Rupert Murdoch, Miller can jar as many people he wants. More on the latest do-over for MySpace from Bloomberg. For more on the other sessions at the Wrap's daylong conference, here is the roundup.

DC moves to L.A. No, not Washington, D.C., DC Comics. Warner Bros. has wrapped up its yearlong reorganization of its DC Entertainment division, otherwise known as DC Comics. The bulk of DC's New York-based operations are headed West, and about 50 people will be let go. Details on the moves from the Los Angeles Times.

Amy on the move. Amy Banse, who has been running much of cable giant Comcast Corp.'s digital operations, is exiting that post, and her job was so big it will be filled by two people, reports Peter Kafka at All Things Digital. Banse isn't expected to leave the company and, in fact, has a very close relationship with Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts and his family and could end up with a very senior position in the new Comcast after the NBC Universal deal closes.

Ready for his closeup. John Gotti Jr., son of the late New York mobster John Gotti, is participating in an effort to bring his life and relationship with his father to the big screen. Gotti told Variety, "The story's about redemption. ... My father had a hard time accepting that I ultimately didn't want to follow his path." No word on who will play Curtis Silwa, the Guardian Angel founder, radio personality and target of a shooting that Gotti Jr. was accused but not convicted of arranging.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: James Rainey on tabloid gossip and how even good things are said without attribution. Patrick Goldstein on the premature Oscar hype for "The Town." Will there be enough hooting from audiences to make "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" a hit? A former assistant to a top Disney executive pleaded guilty to charges related to insider trading. Ex-"SNL" star Norm MacDonald is developing a new show for Comedy Central.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter and at least the day won't be a total loss. Twitter.com/JBFlint

Holy legal hand grenades! Comic book creators say California game law could clobber all media

Photographers Against Censorship Can a California video game law banning the sale of violent games to minors potentially spill over to other media? The comic book world thinks so. 

In a brief filed Friday with the Supreme Court, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund urged the high court to reject the law, saying it "would undermine more First Amendment principles in a single case that any decision in living memory."

In short, the brief argues that video games are the canaries in the censorship mines. If the law is upheld, it could open the way for similar regulation of violent movies, music and other media, according to the brief.

That argument and many others are expected to be filed before Friday night's deadline for submission of "friend-of-the-court" briefs in a case that has riveted more than just those in the $25 billion U.S. video game industry.

"The first amendment is indivisible," said Robert Corn-Revere, an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine, the law firm representing the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. "If it’s weakened for one medium, it’s weakened for all. If a precedent is established for the censorship of games, it will be used for everybody else. You’ll see a lot of support for our position from different quarters."

Those quarters are expected to be the Movie Picture Assn. of America, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the several non-profit news organizations, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Radio Television News Assn.

Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction on CBS aside, the comic book industry is likely to be the most simpatico with the predicament now facing video games.

In 1949, 14 states had pending legislation to ban the sale of comic books to minors, the result of popular "moral panic" stirred by "crusaders," according to the brief from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Could the present California law, which never went into effect because of the legal challenges filed against it by the game industry, bleed into movies, music, news and even books?

Michael McConnell, a constitutional law professor at Stanford Law School and a former federal judge, says the danger is real, but remote.

"I think [the Supreme Court justices] are going to take a good hard look at this, be tempted by the common sense of the statute, but leave well enough alone," McConnell said. "Tampering with free speech doctrine carries high costs with unpredictable effects."

But McConnell added that the high court rarely grants a hearing to a case that has been unanimously rejected in lower federal courts unless its Justices have an interest in reviewing, or reversing, the prevailing case law.

"This isn’t something that’s impervious to change," he said.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Photographers Against Censorship logo. Credit: Ozma via Flickr.


'For Better or Worse' lives on

The creator of the popular comic strip "For Better or For Worse" has had a change of heart - literally and figuratively - and won't be retiring after all. Lynn Johnston  announced Wednesday that beginning Sept. 1, “For Better or For Worse” will be retold in a blending of repeat and new comic strips.

Not long ago, Johnston had planned to retire this year and run mostly reruns of her 29-year-old comic strip. But her life changed when her husband fell in love with another woman and the couple divorced.

“At this time in my life I thought I would be on a cruise ship to Panama or the Mediterranean, retired with my Tilley hats, my sneakers. But I'm a single lady now, and I want to keep working,” she says.

Come September, Johnston said, "For Better or For Worse" will be a 50-50 mix of old and new comics, but the new comics will be drawn in what she called a "retro" style.
“I want it to flow into the classic material seamlessly,” she said.

For the last year, "For Better or For Worse" has blended old and new story lines, but, Johnston said “that became very confusing. Some people really enjoyed it and some just wanted us to get on with the story,” she says.

Johnston will select material from her collection of almost 10,000 archival strips to help retell the Patterson family’s story, starting at the beginning.

But, she said she will revert to her earlier drawing style: "Over the years, Elly’s nose grew up to the size of a potato.  Now, I'm drawing it smaller again, the way it was when I first started to draw. There is a huge difference between the earlier and the later styles."

-- Sherry Stern

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