Paramount’s Slate of Sequels, Animation, and Cross-Viacom Films Roars to Life at CinemaCon

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

One of the most shocked-into-silence moments for the audience at Paramount Pictures’ CinemaCon presentation came when Tom Cruise, hero of five previously released Mission: Impossible films, recapped the intensity and challenge of conducting a freefall stunt for the franchise’s forthcoming sixth installment.

“Each take is like running an 800-meter sprint,” Cruise said. “We did 106 takes.”

This blunt understatement captures just one extraordinary moment in one forthcoming film from Paramount, the resurgent studio that over the course of that two-hour presentation unveiled or confirmed new installments to its cherished franchises, sequels to some of its most popular films from new and antique vintage, an aggressive Viacom co-branded slate through its Paramount Players division, a trio of animated adventures, and new films based upon a longstanding and expanded partnership with Hasbro.

“We’re laying the foundation…to deliver to you films for every possible audience for years to come,” Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, who has spent the past year building a new management team for the studio, told the audience.

As we zoom (buckled up) toward the July 27 release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Paramount confirmed that many of its other most beloved franchises will soon get a new installment. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton will return in a new Terminator movie next November. And Transformers, which has delivered five more or less contiguous sequels, will, as previously announced, dogleg off into Bumblebee, which hits theaters this Dec. 21.

Director Travis Knight showed off the first Bumblebee clip at the event, telling the audience, “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformer franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle and explosions, lots and lots of explosions.”

Many other films will get their first sequel, including the recently released hit A Quiet Place, 2013’s World War Z, 1988’s Coming to America (look for Coming 2 America), and, as previously confirmed, 1986’s Top Gun, which also stars original Maverick Cruise.

And before he drops a fourth Cloverfield movie on us at some as-yet-to-be-announced future point, J.J. Abrams’ Overlord will transport moviegoers into a bizarro version of behind-enemy-lines World War II on Oct. 26.

Beyond the realm of the sequel, the studio will drop fans into the labrynthian world of Dungeons and Dragons and the sci-fi realm of Micronauts, both through the studio’s partnership with Hasbro (the same partnership behind Paramount’s Transformers and G.I. Joe movies).

Other standalone projects will pit assassin Will Smith against a younger cloned version of himself in Gemini Man, and cast Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as the overwhelmed adoptive parents of three in Instant Family.

Tapping Viacom’s deep content well to co-produce Paramount films has been a priority under CEO Bob Bakish, and the studio confirmed that one of Nickelodeon’s most resiliently popular characters, SpongeBob SquarePants, will return for his third big-screen adaptation, It’s A Wonderful Sponge, in 2020. The film will be one of three newly announced releases on the animation division’s slate, joining Luck – which exposes the millennia-old battle between organizations of good and bad luck – and Monster on the Hill, set in an alternative world of wrestling monsters. Additionally, the previously announced Wonder Park will debut next March.

Other top Viacom brands are joining Nickelodeon in collaborating with Paramount, through the Paramount Players division led by Brian Robbins and formed to further integrate the brands with the movie studio. In association with MTV, Eli, the story of a boy being treated for a rare disease in a clinic-cum-haunted-prison, will roll out in January 2019. BET will reconstitute the 2000 hit What Women Want with What Men Want, portraying a frustrated female sports agent who gains the power of mind-reading. Paramount Players is also working on Nickelodeon’s live-action Dora the Explorer and Are You Afraid of the Dark, both slated for 2019 release.

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Viacom Says “Yaaas” to Expansive First-Look TV Deal with Broad City Creators Abbi and Ilana

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following the signing of expansive first-look deals with Tyler Perry and with Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Productions, Viacom has inked a similar comprehensive development agreement with Broad City stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. The move, which crosses all Viacom networks and grants first-look rights to television content created or developed by the pair together or individually, underscores the company’s commitment to identifying and forging close relationships with the best creatives in the industry.

Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana may appear to be aimless and full of hair-brained schemes, but Abbi and Ilana IRL have proven to be stellar creator/writer/performer/director/producers,” said Comedy Central President Kent Alterman. “Their supreme focus on telling new stories, in new worlds, with new talent is nearly scary.”

The expanded partnership further fills out a Comedy Central lineup that was already bolstered by a long-term first-look deal Viacom sealed with Daily Show host Trevor Noah last month. The agreement includes a Paramount Pictures film adaptation of Noah’s bestselling autobiography, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has repeatedly expressed a commitment to better retaining homegrown talent, and the forming of these expansive cross-brand relationships with three of Comedy Central’s marquee names affirms that dedication.

The more intensive alignment with top talent is not limited Viacom’s current stars, however, as demonstrated by the expansive partnership the company signed last year with prolific writer, director, producer and actor Tyler Perry, granting Paramount Pictures first-look rights to his films and guaranteeing 90 episodes of annual content across BET and other Viacom networks beginning next year.

“By prioritizing efforts to work with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry, we are better positioned to deliver must-watch content across our brands and platforms,” Bakish said at the time of the Perry announcement.

Glazer and Jacobson also announced that they will end the hilarious, quirky, two-time Emmy-nominated Broad City with its upcoming fifth season.

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A Partnership Is Born: Viacom and Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Sign Feature Film, First-Look Deal

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom today announced a long-term strategic partnership with Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Productions, substantially expanding the company’s relationship with one of its most talented young stars. The deal grants Viacom first-look rights to all projects developed by Noah and his international production and distribution company across television, feature film, digital and short-form video content.

One of the first projects will be a Paramount Players film adaptation of Noah’s bestselling autobiography, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, propelling the Daily Show host into the broader Viacom ecosystem while reinforcing a key strategy of Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish to more thoroughly mine the company’s ecosystem for cross-brand opportunities.

“Working with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry is a strategic priority for Viacom, which is why we are thrilled to expand our relationship with Trevor and his creative team at Day Zero with this cross-house partnership,” Bakish said. “Trevor’s creative sensibilities and ability to drive the cultural conversation around issues that matter to our young, global audiences make him an ideal partner for Viacom across every screen we serve. We are particularly proud that Born a Crime will be produced and distributed by Paramount.”

Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong’o will star in the film as Noah’s mother, Patricia. Liesl Tommy, a Tony nominee for her work directing Nyong’o on Eclipsed and a South Africa native, will direct the film.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 28: Trevor Noah hosts Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” premiere on September 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

Viacom will also make an investment in Day Zero. “I’ve found a strong and incredibly valuable partnership in Viacom,” said Noah, who has hosted The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central since 2015 and is signed to continue hosting the show through 2022. “Our shared vision of bringing diverse cultural conversations and exciting creative projects to the forefront of the entertainment industry and to our constantly expanding audience, continues to strengthen our relationship. I couldn’t be more excited to share Born A Crime with Paramount and the very talented Lupita Nyong’o.”

The expansive partnership with Noah and Day Zero echoes a far-reaching deal Viacom signed with prolific writer, director, producer and actor Tyler Perry last year, granting the company first-look rights to feature films and guaranteeing 90 episodes of new content for BET and other networks beginning next spring.

Born a Crime is the latest project for the rapidly expanding Paramount Players, which collaborates with Viacom flagship brands Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and BET to develop films. The division’s other projects in development include Perry’s The List, starring Tiffany Haddish (who will host MTV’s Movie & TV Awards in June), which will hit theaters in November, and a Dora the Explorer live-action film in development with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes label for a 2019 release.

Coming Soon to Viacom: Tyler Perry

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fans of Viacom, BET, Paramount and Tyler Perry got some good news last week:

Beginning in May 2019, the prolific writer, director, producer, actor and playwright behind seven television series, 16 feature films and 20 plays will turn his creative energies toward producing 90 episodes of original comedy and drama each year for BET and other Viacom networks. His movies may be coming to Viacom even sooner – Paramount Pictures has exclusive first look rights to Perry’s new feature film content starting immediately.

“Today’s announcement represents an important step forward as Viacom continues to make swift progress against our new strategic plan,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, referring to the company’s February reorientation around our six flagship networks: MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., BET, and Spike (soon to become Paramount Network).

“By prioritizing efforts to work with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry, we are better positioned to deliver must-watch content across our brands and platforms. Tyler is a prolific creative force, and I’m excited that this collaboration will bring his signature humor and powerful storytelling to Viacom’s audiences while further cementing BET’s position as the leading home for bold, relevant African-American programming and scripted content.”

Perry, whose work has aired extensively on BET, cited Viacom’s vast reach and inroads with his target audience as motivation behind signing on with the company. “Viacom has a rich tradition of reaching my audience through their TV, film and digital platforms and I am excited to partner with them,” he said. “I am eager to have one home where I can leverage all of their assets to tell my stories to an even wider audience.”

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