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Monday, May 29, 2023

Take One: Carsey-Werner Officially Into Feature Films

Best known for such television hits as “Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” and “That ’70s Show,” Studio-City based Carsey-Werner LLC has officially begun production on its first feature film, a buddy comedy entitled “You Are Going to Prison.” The film will be the initial effort from the company’s film division Carsey-Werner Films, which was established in 2002 by producers and company founders Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner. “We’re trying to make lower budget comedies that will distinguish themselves in the marketplace,” Carsey-Werner Films’ President Matt Berenson said. “We’re not looking to make smaller versions of the typical studio film. We think this is one of the funniest things ever and it’s fresh, it’s not like everything else. It’s the perfect first film for us.” The film is being financed solely by Carsey-Werner Films and is currently being shot in Illinois’ Joliet Prison. Based on the book by Jim Hogshire,” the film revolves around a career criminal and a self-entitled rich guy who are stuck together sharing a cell in a maximum security prison. It will star Dax Shepard, best known from the MTV show, “Punk’d” and Will Arnett, best known for his role as George “Gob” Bluth on “Arrested Development.” It is expected to come out sometime in 2006. While the film’s budget remains undisclosed, Berenson assured that it will be made more inexpensively than traditional studio fare. “While we aren’t discussing the exact terms of the budget, we can say that it is being done at well below the cost of the average studio film,” Berenson said. “When you’re making a movie independently, it’s easier to make it for a price than when you’re in the studio system.” While thus far “You Are Going to Prison” is the only film on CW Films’ slate, Berenson expects that announcements for the company’s second and third films will be made in the next several months. Buena Vista Expands Buena Vista Games, Inc. the video game arm of the Walt Disney Co. has made two significant moves designed to bolster its presence in the video game industry. In deals previously estimated to be south of $50 million, Buena Vista has purchased the Salt Lake City-based video game developer Avalanche Software as well as a start-up studio based in Vancouver. According to Jake Balzer, an analyst with Guzman & Co., the deals represent Disney’s intent to exploit the rapidly growing and highly profitable video game market. “It’s a strategic move rather than a financial one. Gaming is getting to be a bigger and bigger deal. There’s more money pouring into it. All of the major entertainment companies feel like they need to be there. Much of their core business growth has slowed down and they are looking for incremental growth drivers,” Balzer said. But Balzer maintains that the jury is still out on whether Disney can become dominant in a field historically dominated by independent video game companies such as Electronic Arts, THQ, Inc., and Activision, Inc. “All the media companies have just really started getting serious about video games in the last year. It will take them time to get their feet wet and try to figure out the best way to go about it,” Balzer said. “But they have significant resources to put into it and a lot of creative minds that they can allocate to it and a lot of content previously created that they can leverage.” Buena Vista Games had $265 million in revenue in fiscal 2004 and plans to reach $536 million in fiscal 2006. Under the conditions of the purchase, Avalanche Software will operate as a division of BVG and will continue to maintain its development studio in Salt Lake City. The Vancouver start-up studio is led by senior development and business staff who had formerly worked for Electronic Arts. The studio remains unnamed. It will focus on developing original intellectual property, as well as BVG-owned content tilted toward older core game consumers. BVG also recently announced a distribution deal with the Tokyo-based, D3 Publisher Inc. to release some of BVG Games’ upcoming titles, including “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” “Disney’s Chick Little,” and “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.” The Battling Bratz The long-time war between North Hills-based MGA Entertainment and archrival Mattel Inc. has gotten a bit more intense, with MGA’s latest salvo being a lawsuit that accuses Mattel of unfair competition, intellectual property infringement and “serial copycatting.” MGA claims that Mattel has threatened retailers and licensees with retribution if they do business with MGA and that Mattel tried to lock up the supply of doll hair. MGA’s suit comes on the heels of a lawsuit that Mattel filed at the end of last year. Mattel’s suit which was later dismissed claimed that Ronald Brawer, a former Mattel employee had left the company for MGA, in the process providing the Valley company with highly sensitive and privileged information. But MGA will have to fight an uphill battle to prove that Mattel, the makers of Barbie, had imitated the design of its Bratz dolls. According to Karen Canady, an intellectual property attorney in the Los Angeles office of Gates and Cooper LLP, such cases involve highly subjective information that is difficult to prove in a court of law. “It’s possible that the dolls in question might look alike, but if the look isn’t something that can be protected then MGA will have troubles winning. The look in question would have to be completely unique to the Bratz,” Canady said. “I think in all likelihood it’s not just about the look and feel of the stuff. Part of the problem is that the lawyers will have to focus on what components can be legally protected and what you legally cannot protect.” Either way, it would appear that with its latest move, MGA is hoping to further crush its ailing competitor. In recent weeks, Mattel has stated that falling sales of Barbie dolls contributed to a 28 percent decline in its first-quarter profit, leading its stock to decline. Sales of Barbie worldwide were down 15 percent while yearly Mattel sales have been relatively flat. Reporter Jeff Weiss can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or at jweiss@sfvbj.com.

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