Friday, April 07, 2006

Issue #13: Heavy Deal Makers


SPIKE'S SUDS...According to our friends at Target Market News, Spike Lee has turned his talents to beer ads--Anheuser-Busch Cos. to be exact. It's all part of a company campaign called "Here's to Beer" ( Lee has directed a series of commericals that will start airing this weekend. No word on how much Lee got paid, but he'll bring home an appearance fee too--at least for the spot in which he makes a cameo. The nation's biggest brewer picked Lee to help promote their beer brands due to his "edgy" style. So is it safe to say Spike's promoting 40 ounces instead of 40 acres these days? Maybe it's some combination thereof. One thing's for sure, Spike's getting some commerical cash.

VIVE LES PANTHERS...David Hilliard, one of the first Black Panther Party members and Party chief of staff, gmailed us to let us know about a very special exhibit regarding the Panthers that just jumped off in Paris, France, at Le B.A.N.K. Galerie ( Having just opened on March 23rd, the exhibit will run until May 27th and features scores of documents, paintings, photographs and a special video all celebrating the history of this revolutionary organization. Seems what with the Mos Def Panther flick about to start production, the Party is coming back into vogue.

GOING TO CHURCH....Jeffery Clanagan, CEO of Code Black Entertainment, contacted The A-List to remind everyone that his distribution company's Preaching To The Choir ( hits theaters Easter Weekend, April 14. The ABFF winner stars Eartha Kitt, Patti Labelle, Tichina Arnold, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and is directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. Let the spirit hit ya.

LINKED boasts nearly a million views a month. That's the kind of company The A-List is keeping. We've just been linked to Founded in 2002, it's grown to become one of the most popular Urban sites in the world. It's where you can find nearly every Urban website/blog under the sun--including The A-List.

WHAT YOU TALKIN' 'BOUT...Noted Urban screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper, whose on the verge of a Hollywood re-entry with Blood on the Wall$, gave The A-List a sneak peek at another project he's been itching to get made--a feature based on the life of Todd Bridges. He completed the script--Killin' Willis--for Robert Townsend a while back but rumor has it the project may now have wings. If it flys, Bridges and Townsend will executive produce. "It's the best script I have ever written," declares Cooper. We can't wait to see.

DIGITAL DISCONNECT....By now many of you have probably heard about Morgan Freeman's very interesting venture, ClickStar ( With the mighty Intel behind the company, ClickStar is supposedly aiming to be a force in the movies-on-demand front. The A-List tried repeatedly to bring you an interview with the head of ClickStar and/or Freeman for weeks so that we can always deliver to you the best, in our style. Well, sorry folks we just had to tell you it seems we may have been flatly denied in our requests to speak to ClickStar's head honcho or merely ignored regarding chatting with Freeman. We're in limbo. Top secret frontin' seems to be at work within the chain of command. What are two sistas to do? We'd really love to bring you this story. If anyone out there has any suggestions/feedback, you know where to reach us. It's no wonder that with unexpected obstacles like this, people complain that it's often difficult for Blacks to get the inside scoop on--let alone gain access to--great business ventures the new media world.

MTV: Music Television President Christina Norman announced earlier this week that the company will add yet another channel--MTV Tr3s. Set to launch before the year ends, it will focus on Latino youth--reportedly the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. And she added, that MTV Tr3s will be programmed in English, Spanish and Spanglish. "Today the time is right for young Latinos to have a television channel that transcends gender, race and class to celebrate a unified Latino soul. MTV Tr3s will give young Latinos the voice they've been waiting for," explained Norman in a press statement. "Latino youth will be the greatest contributor to population growth over the next 10 years, reshaping this country's educational, economic and cultural foundation." MTV Tr3s will integrate American and Latino cultures by showcasing top "bicultural" performers in pop, urban and rock music. It will later include lifestyle series, customized MTV music franchises and news documentaries. MTV Tr3s will be managed by Latino executives, including MTV veterans Jose Tillián and Lilly Neumeyer, who will co-coordinate music, programming and production.




By Melissa Ross

Back in the day African Americans in Hollywood seemed worried just about being in front of the camera. Then came the "I wanna be the next Spike Lee" phrase. Now, it's all about the art of the deal--green light power. Stars aren't just flexing their acting abilities, it's all about production deal. However, some turn out to be better businesspeople than others as they spread their creative wings into the production side. So, we're going to examine the current state of black celeb-owned production companies. It's The A-List’s first annual look see at what the stars are developing--whose production companies are making films happen and who it seems, well, may just be a pretty name on offices that consist of a mere answering service. And still some who perhaps have faded to black.

HEAVY HITTER: Will Smith/ Overbrook Entertainment
PROD. CREDITS: Hitch (2005); I Robot (2004); Saving Face (2004), a film about a Chinese- American lesbian and her traditional mother; Showtime (2002), the De Niro-Eddie Murphy pairing; Ali (2001). On TV: "All Of Us." The company even produced an August Wilson play, Jitney, Off-Broadway in 2001. We aren't even going to talk about the music artists under Overbrook management.
UP NEXT: Pursuit of Happyness (2006); Monster Hunter (2007)
Will Smith’s company, through Warner Bros., is by far the heaviest hitter on our list. With films Hitch, I Robot and Ali grossing well over $800 million at the box office worldwide, it doesn't seem Overbrook Entertainment has been hitting many fouls.
HITTER STATUS: Home run hitter.

HEAVY HITTER: Forest Whitaker/ Spirit Dance Entertainment
PROD. CREDITS: American Gun (2005); First Daughter (2004); Chasing Papi (2003), The Twilight Zone (2002), Green Dragon (2001); and a few TV productions.
Has produced several features and TV productions but the Spirit has had its last dance. The Whitaker company closed its doors; it seems the mix of eclectic movies weren't in step with what American audiences have been lining up to see, ie. fun, adventure and horror flicks to thrill 13-24 year old moviegoers. His numbers may not have been exploding at the box office, but Whitaker has proved his directing chops over and over again, not to mention his willing to take a chance with his productions.
HITTER STATUS: Warming the bench.

HEAVY HITTER: Wesley Snipes/ Amen Ra Films
PROD. CREDITS: Undisputed (2002); Blade I & II (2002); Disappearing Acts (2000); The Art of War (2000); Down In The Delta (1998); The Big Hit (1998); as well as TV productions.
Amen Ra’s silence is a sad one. While their Cali offices are definitely shut, they seem to be in "virtual" existence in the form of Wildfire answering, NYC. An attempt to stay somewhat visible? Maybe. But truth be told, nothing has popped since Blade II in 2002. Is this because Snipes' star, and ultimately heavy hitting capabilities, are fading? A tough call because we believe Snipes still may have a few curve balls to throw at us.
HITTER STATUS: Headed to the showers.

HEAVY HITTER: Damon Wayans/ Wife ‘N’ Kids Inc.
PROD. CREDITS: "413 Hope Street" (1997, TV); Major Payne (1995); Blankman (1994); Mo' Money (1992)
Gone, gone and gone! Damon's hit TV show was under the Wayans Bros. collective, rather than his own, and his upcoming Homey The Clown, which we last heard will be directed and produced by Keenen Wayans--if it makes it to the screen. It's been in the works for years. With such a deep pool of talent to pull from, it makes sense for these brothers to keep it all in the family. So why Damon's separate ventures? In leaner times, we would have recommended consolidation but in today's market, there may be more than enough viable projects to go around.
HITTER STATUS: On deck warming up.

HEAVY HITTER: Keenen, Marlon & Shawn Wayans/ Wayans Brothers Entertainment
PROD. CREDITS: White Chicks (2004); Scary Movie 2 (2001); Scary Movie (2000);
UP NEXT: Little Man (2006); The Munsters (2006)
Keenen's groundbreaking "In Loving Color" TV show was under Ivory Way Productions. Now he has Wayans Brothers Entertainment, under which Damon's successful sitcom "My Wife & Kids" was co-produced (Damon and co-creator Don Reo executive produced). While Wife 'N Kids Inc. may have cooled, Keenen and et al. have got projects ready to launch. Imagine if all the Wayans in the industry started their own production company? Maybe the team concept is a great idea.
HITTER STATUS: At bat swinging.

HEAVY HITTER: The Hudlin Brothers/ Hudlin Entertainment (
PROD. CREDITS: Ride (1998); Bébé's Kids (1992)
While Reginald has directed such memorable films like House Party, Boomerang and The Great White Hype, his production company is still on the hunt for projects. But Hudlin Entertainment is alive and well. The Hudlin Brothers have been busy with other things--Warrington Hudlin is president of the Black Filmmaker Foundation and founder/chief of DVRepublic (, touted as "the liberated zone in cyberspace." Reginald meantime is now President of Entertainment for BET and is executive producer of the TV series "The Boondocks."
HITTER STATUS: Designated hitters.

HEAVY HITTER: Morgan Freeman/ Revelations Entertainment (
PROD. CREDITS: Colors Straight Up (2005); Levity (2003); Along Came A Spider (2001); Under Suspicion (2000); Mutiny (1999); Bopha! (1993)
UP NEXT: Harry and the Butler (2006); 10 Items or Less (2006); Rendezvous with Rama (2007)
The mission statement says it all: To enlighten, express heart and glorify the human experience. Mr. Freeman is definitely making it happen even though his peeps don't seem to return calls--at least not ours.

HEAVY HITTER: Danny Glover/ Carrie Productions/Louverture Films (
PROD. CREDITS: "The Law and Mr. Lee," a 2003 TV production under Carrie Productons.
It seems Carrie Productions went bye bye for reasons unexplained but Glover doesn't seem like one to give up, so early last year he launched Louverture Films. A NYC-based production company dedicated to the development and production of films of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value and artistic integrity. They will produce six independently financed features and documentary films during the next three years
UP NEXT: As we announced last week, Glover is helming Louverture Films' upcoming Toussaint, about his film company's namesake, and production starts August 2006; The Court (La cour) by noted African director Abderrahmane Sissako; Fanon, a doc about revolutional thinker Franz Fanon; Tropic of Angels; TOUTI in Harlem; No Fear; and God's Bits of Wood. No release dates yet for any announced; let's see how things develop.
HITTER STATUS: While Glover is a power hitter, his Louverture Films is a Rookie with World Series potential.

HEAVY HITTER: Martin Lawrence/ You Go Boy! Productions
PROD. CREDITS: A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996) and his TV show "Martin"
You Go Boy! hasn’t gone anywhere in years and it may very well be done. Although the Big Mama's House franchise is still buoyant, Lawrence might very well be out of the production end under You Go Boy!. But hey, if Mariah Carey can make a strong comeback after a meltdown, Martin Lawrence can definitely produce a few projects worth our chatter.
HITTER STATUS: Cooling off in the clubhouse.

HEAVY HITTER: Jamie Foxx/ Foxx Hole Productions
UP NEXT: Damage Control (2007), Blood on the Leaves (2007)
As we all know, mainstream audiences are discovering there's not much Foxx can't do. However, just to keep things objective, let's look at the plot for Damage Control: A young lawyer working for a sports agent discovers the consequences of performing the "damage control" on news stories involving some of his favorite athletes. Hmm, based on that info we aren't too sure of how much damage it'll do at the box office.
HITTER STATUS: Trading up from the farm team.

HEAVY HITTER: Denzel Washington/ Mundy Lane Entertainment
PROD. CREDITS: Antwone Fisher (2002); Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks (2000, TV); The Preacher's Wife (1996); Devil In A Blue Dress (1995); and Oscar-nominated documentary Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream (1995)
UP NEXT: The Great Debaters (2006)
Mundy Lane continues to take time and cherry pick great projects. A credit to Washington and former Mundy Lane VIP Debra Martin Chase. As sr. vp at Mundy, Chase was responsible for projects such as Tristar's Devil in a Blue Dress and executive produced TBS's Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream. She also executive produced the Fox 2000 feature Courage Under Fire starring Washington and Meg Ryan, and co-produced Disney's The Preacher's Wife. Alas, Chase exited Mundy to join Whitney Houston's BrownHouse Productions, which remade Cinderella for TV with Brandy and produced Julie Andrews' The Princess Diaries 1 & 2 before she formed Martin Chase Production Company and produced The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
HITTER STATUS: In the dugout.

HEAVY HITTER: Samuel L. Jackson/ ChubbCo Film Co.
PROD. CREDITS: Believe in Me (2005); The 51st State (2001); The Caveman's Valentine (2001); Eve's Bayou (1997)
Surprising, but Mr. Jackson’s ChubbCo is also GONE! Even despite the hype for sure winners as Eye's Bayou, it was hard, it seems to maintain ChubbCo. It’s demanding to nail a good script and bring it to the screen--let alone continue a thriving acting career.
HITTER STATUS: In the locker room.

HEAVY HITTER: Chris Tucker/ Juno Pix Inc.
The Wedding Singer (1998); Spawn (1997); Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997); Money Talks (1997); Bed of RoseHangin' With The Homeboys (1991).
This one’s strange because Tucker was riding high and then nothing – RIP Juno Pix. It's no wonder his production company would cease. It took some major convincing--and a big paycheck--to get back into the acting game for Money Talks 2. It seems Tucker has other things occupying his life.
HITTER STATUS: Out of uniform

While some have failed, it seems each time one closes it doors, another black star-driven production company pushes a bit further increasing the chances for a greater variety of Black cinema. Kudos to those doing their thing and keeping us headed to the theaters.

"Race: The Afrospanicindioasianization of America," The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." Airdate: April 5, Comedy Central.
Have you heard the one about Jon Stewart asking Americans about race? Well he did just that in this special edition of his "Daily Show." One question asked to a face in the crowd: "If you had to get of one race from the series, which would it be?" One man answered: "Asians, because they are really obnoxious on the subway." Another said: "The Mexicans, but keep Mexican food." By allowing the public to stick its foot in its sometimes all-too-big mouth, Stewart mocked and enlightened. Amazingly, in 2006 Americans are not only still ignorant of each other but less willing it seems to broaden their cultural worlds.

Stewart played it smart for this show, combining a clever mix of sarcasm, humor and self examination. During his color commentary segment he pointed out that no nation on earth is as integrated as ours... but that any nation founded by immigrants that owned other "immigrants," might have some lasting problems. And he even gave racists some airtime. We're sure the show provided much fodder for cooler talk the next morning. Hopefully, people will keep discussing not just the show, but race. Rating: B+ --Marcell Cunningham

Nina Shaw, Lola Blank, Sherri McGee and Sheryl Underwood checkin' out the premiere of Monique's Phat Girls in Los Angeles.

Shout outs to The A-List's crack contributors: Gil Robertson IV, Melissa Ross and Marcell Cunningham.

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