Hollywood insiders and shareholders alike are whooping with delight now that the decade-long struggle to merge AOL and Time Warner has finally ended. Now it's just plain Time Warner and can concentrate on "creating content". That's corporate speak for movies and TV shows such as the Harry Potter franchise, HBO's The Wire, or Gossip Girl. After the applause died down at the company's last AGM, one shareholder wondered aloud why the company couldn't go the whole hog and change its name to Warner Bros. "At least we got 'AOL' out of there," Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes (above left) replied. The magnitude of that mistake clearly still weighs on the minds of shareholders, who watched the value of their shares plunge 90 per cent in the years after AOL used its over-valued stock to buy Time Warner, an event that led to a $99bn write-off.
Green at the tills
With corporations running the Hollywood studios, the rise of the "Wall Street influencer" is causing consternation in the creative community. Who wants shareholders deciding that it is worthwhile taking a $100m-plus punt on an animation about a green ogre? Or trusting that a movie about training a dragon is a better decision? That is, though, the reality for DreamWorks Animation right now. Shares fell 11 per cent recently after the studio's fourth – and final – Shrek instalment opened with weaker-than-expected weekend box-office revenue. Shrek Forever After took just over $70m, some $10m short of analysts' hopes, despite breaking the record for the widest release of a PG-rated movie stateside. Wall Street analysts branded the opening results disappointing, but expressed hope that the film would replicate the staying power of previous DWA release How to Train Your Dragon. So now DreamWorks must make green-lighting decisions based not only on 3D potential, story quality and talent attachment, but also take into account a bunch of shareholders looking to turn a profit on what remains one of life's most elusive items. It's a sure-fire box-office winner.
Scream queens to reunite
Lake Bell, Twilight actress Ashley Greene, Heroes star Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin (Twelve) are all mulling offers for Scream 4. The project reunites Wes Craven with Kevin Williamson, and original cast members Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox will also return. Williamson is already under contract to write a fifth instalment. In a town where secrets are hard to keep, Craven and production label Dimension are not sending out the script to agencies in order to protect its twists and turns. This also means that casting is taking rather longer than normal.
The violins are coming out for Vivaldi, a project written by Kevin Lund and TJ Scott. The script centres on a forbidden romance that develops between composer, priest and fiddler Antonio Vivaldi and his protégée, singer Anna Tessieri Giro, leading him to write his masterpiece The Four Seasons. Jessica Biel (above right) and Luke Evans are in final negotiations to topline the period romance, with Patricia Riggen pulling the directorial strings.
Former small-screen poster boy Jason Priestley is turning to drink. The star of Beverly Hills 90210 (first time round) is turning his hand to directing with Mud Puppy. It details the story of a playboy wine-lover battling a female environmentalist for control of a frog-plagued vineyard. Priestley co-hosts celebrity wine-tasting TV series Hollywood and Vines and co-owns a winery.