Category Archives: Entertainment

Sony’s head of entertainment David Bishop left in March 2014

David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures’ home entertainment division, is leaving the company in March when his contract expires, a Sony spokesman said on Wednesday.

A replacement has not been named for Bishop, who has led Sony Pictures Home Entertainment since 2006 during a turbulent time for the home video business as consumer habits changed.

“David played a tremendous role in building the home entertainment organization we have in place today: an innovative business that can compete aggressively in the evolving digital marketplace,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

This comes after a shakeup earlier this year in which Sony picked Dwight Caines as president of theatrical marketing for the company’s Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures Group. Caines assumed some responsibilities of Marc Weinstock, who was fired from his post as the studio’s head of domestic and international marketing. Longtime media relations executive Steve Elzer also left Sony this year.

The departures followed a poor box office showing from the film studio this summer. The Will Smith action movie “After Earth” made a disappointing $244 million in worldwide ticket sales, while the Channing Tatum film generated $205 million.

However, Sony has fared better with fall offerings such as  the animated sequel “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” and the Tom Hanks-starring “Captain Phillips.” “American Hustle” is performing well in limited release and expands this weekend.

Brad Pitt’s Pilm Company

Plan B Entertainment, has signed a production deal with New Regency and RatPac Entertainment — an arrangement that precipitates his company’s departure from Paramount Pictures at the end of the year.

The pact takes one of Hollywood’s hottest and best-known production banners away from the Viacom Inc.-owned studio and aligns it with crosstown rival 20th Century Fox.

Plan B’s first-look deal with Paramount expires Dec. 31. The production company has been based at the studio since 2005.

New Regency and RatPac will finance future projects from Plan B as part of a multi-year, overall deal, New Regency said in a statement Tuesday night. The company is based on the 20th Century Fox lot and has a long-term distribution arrangement with the studio.

RatPac, the film finance vehicle of filmmaker Brett Ratner and Australian businessman James Packer, will have the opportunity to co-finance projects from Plan B that are in development at New Regency.

New Regency already has a relationship with Pitt and his company, having co-financed and co-produced Plan B’s recent success, “12 Years a Slave.” The companies also are working on “True Story,” a crime drama that stars Jonah Hill and James Franco. That project, to be released by 20th Century Fox, recently wrapped production.

New Regency Chief Executive Brad Weston praised Plan B in an interview with The Times.

“We had a great experience with Plan B on ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ and next year’s ‘True Story’ and we really like each other,” said Weston, also New Regency’s president. “It was a really organic outgrowth of a great relationship.”

Plan B said in a statement that the arrangement with New Regency and RatPac is a “perfect fit.” New Regency was founded by billionaire producer Arnon Milchan, who serves as its chairman.

At Paramount, Pitt’s company made this past summer’s zombie thriller, “World War Z,” which grossed $540 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The expensive Marc Forster-directed movie, which starred Pitt, suffered from production issues, and required reshoots.

The A-list star will continue to have a relationship with Paramount: The studio is moving forward with Pitt’s “World War Z” sequel, which “The Impossible” director Juan Antonio Bayona would direct.

Paramount declined to comment.

Pitt formed Plan B in 2002 with then-wife Jennifer Aniston. He has long had a close relationship with Brad Grey, the chairman and chief executive of Paramount.

“World War Z” is by far the highest-profile movie made by Plan B that Paramount released.

Plan B produced the comedy “Year of the Dog” and the thriller “A Mighty Heart” for Paramount’s specialty film division Paramount Vantage. Both movies came out in 2007, with “Year of the Dog” taking in $1.6 million worldwide and “A Mighty Heart” topping out at $18.9 million.

However, Plan B found major success at other studios. Among the successes that Paramount missed out on were “Kick-Ass,” which was released in 2010 by Lions Gate Entertainment and grossed $96 million worldwide; the prestige picture “The Tree of Life,” which was directed by Terrence Malick and released by Fox Searchlight Pictures; and “12 Years a Slave,” an Oscar contender that also was distributed by Fox Searchlight.

“12 Years a Slave” has been a source of friction between Paramount and Plan B. The drama has been a critical and commercial hit, grossing more than $35 million worldwide, but Paramount didn’t get an opportunity to distribute it, according to a studio source with knowledge of the matter who was not authorized to comment publicly.

Paramount believes, according to this person, that Plan B violated its deal with the studio by not offering it a chance to distribute the picture, which was released in October.

New Regency declined to comment about the “12 Years a Slave” matter. Plan B did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It has been a busy few days for Paramount, which has lost one top-tier producer, but gained another. On Dec. 6, the studio announced it had inked a first-look deal with producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

As part of that three-year pact, Bruckheimer will produce “Top Gun 2” and a “Beverly Hills Cop” picture for the studio.

Plan B’s deal with New Regency and RatPac is the last company’s second high-profile film financing accord in recent months.

In September, Warner Bros. Pictures struck a financing deal with RatPac-Dune Entertainment LLC, a new entity formed by Dune Entertainnment’s Steven Mnuchin and RatPac.

Oprah Winfrey Have praised the Power 100 Women at the Entertainment Breakfast

The Hollywood Reporter’s “Power 100” Women in Entertainment Breakfast, honoring Oprah Winfrey with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, presented to her by former California First Lady Maria Shriver.

The program: TV host Jimmy Kimmel opened the ceremonies, taking note of “this sea of perfect blowouts” and suggesting “Wouldn’t it be better to rename the event the 100 most powerful people in Hollywood and just not give any of the spots to men?” He then delivered a warning to Kanye West, seated with the Kardashian clan. “Don’t even think about taking this award away from Oprah,” Kimmel said.

Next up were the Hollywood Reporter’s editorial director Janice Min, publisher Lynne Segall and Sherry Lansing. Demi Lovato followed by naming participants in the magazine’s mentoring program, a joint venture with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Los Angeles, which pairs high school girls with mentors and awards them $10,000 college scholarships. Lovato surprised the audience by announcing not one, but two winners of full four-year scholarships, valued at $200,000 each, to Loyola Marymount University.

The crowd: The affair, presented by Lifetime, took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Wednesday (Dec. 11), the day the magazine released its list of the industry’s top female power players (and coincidentally the same day Screen Actors Guild nominees were announced, including Winfrey,nominated for supporting actress for her role in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”).

The packed Beverly Hills ballroom included  Anne Sweeney, the  co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, who was named No. 1 on the list for the fourth year. Also attending were Nancy Dubuc, president and CEO A+E Networks; Amy Pascal, co-chair, Sony Pictures Entertainment; Donna Langley, chair, Universal Pictures; Sue Kroll, president, worldwide marketing and international distribution, Warner Bros.; Jennifer Salke, president, NBC Entertaiment; Stacey Snider, co-chair and CEO, DreamWorks Studios; Sandra Stern, COO, Lionsgate TV; Jill Leiderman, executive producer, “Jimmy Kimmel Live”; Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO DreamWorks Animation; “The Butler” director Lee Daniels and the film’s screenwriter, Danny Strong.

More familiar to the general public were Jane Fonda, Gayle King, Whitney Cummings, Nikki Reed, Maria Bello, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Naya Rivera, Big Sean, Allison Williams, Amber Valletta, Geena Davis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Molly Sims, Ahna O’Reilly, Candice Accola, Angie Harmon, Gillian Jacobs, Mandy Moore, Cat Deeley, Alyson Hannigan and Judy Greer.

The presentation: “The woman that we are all honoring here this morning puts the capital ‘I’ in inspiring. She also puts the capital ‘I’ in influence,” Shriver said of Winfrey, continuing with more “I” descriptors:  imagination, instruction and impact.

After reciting a list of Winfrey’s many accomplishments, Shriver asked Winfrey to think back on her life from her birthplace in Mississippi to President Obama presenting her with the Medal of Freedom last month. “Think back to how hard you’ve worked, how many mountains you have climbed, how many scary, scary things you’ve pushed through, how many people you have proved wrong, how many people you have inspired,” she said.

The acceptance: “That beats a eulogy, I gotta tell you. It really does,” said Winfrey. “I mean, good Lord. And you’re alive to hear it.”

Winfrey defined power as “strength over time. That means strength times strength, times strength, times strength equals power.”

She talked of seeing herself on the cover of the Hollywood Reporter’s “rule breakers” issue. “When I saw the title of the cover, it brought tears to my eyes because my cover line was ‘innovator.’ And I thought, ‘Is that what this was? I’m a rule breaker and an innovator?’ I just thought I was getting my [rear] kicked.”

She concluded with the importance of using power to better the lives of others. “That is the true purpose of leadership,” she said. “How do you use your life to elevate the life of somebody else? That’s what everybody in this room has been called to do.”

Legendary bought TV production company Asylum Entertainment

Legendary Entertainment is expanding its television production repertoire by acquiring Asylum Entertainment, the firm behind the biographical miniseries “The Kennedys.”

Legendary, the entertainment company controlled by film producer and financier Thomas Tull, announced Monday it had completed a deal to buy 100% of Asylum Entertainment, a 10-year-old production firm.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Asylum specializes in unscripted and scripted fare. The 2011 miniseries “The Kennedys” featured Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Tom Wilkinson and Katie Holmes. Originally produced for the History Channel, the network abandoned the project after complaints from Kennedy family members.

The independent Reelz Channel ultimately broadcast the series, which scored 10 Emmy nominations.

Asylum’s other credits include the sports documentary series “30 for 30” for ESPN and the 2013 movie “Ring of Fire” for Lifetime Entertainment with Jewel playing June Carter Cash.  Asylum is producing “Happy Valley” for A&E, which looks at how the sexual abuse scandal involving assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky seared the cultural fabric of Penn State University.

Legendary has been raising its profile in sports-themed content, producing this year’s biographical feature film on Jackie Robinson, “42.”

Asylum Entertainment’s founders, Chief Executive Steve Michaels and Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Koch, plan to stay on to run Asylum as a somewhat separate entity.  They will report to Bruce Rosenblum, the former Warner Bros. television chief who became president of Legendary’s television and digital media businesses last summer.

“This is an incredible deal that allows Asylum to scale our existing business beyond what we could have imagined,” Michaels and Koch said in a statement. “In terms of our programming philosophies and the audiences we’re trying to build and serve, Legendary is a perfect match.”

Obama praised the growth of employment in the entertainment industry

President Barack Obama put the klieg light on Hollywood Tuesday, crediting the motion picture and television industry for being an engine of growth and a bright spot in a recovering economy.

“Entertainment is one of the bright spots of our economy,” Obama told a crowd of nearly 2,000 people gathered at the Glendale campus of DreamWorks Animation SKG. “The gap between what we can do and other countries can do is enormous. That’s worth cheering about.”

Obama was hosted by DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is one of Obama’s biggest contributors and fundraisers.

A May 2012 fundraiser hosted by Katzenberg at George Clooney’s house raised nearly $15 million for the Obama campaign. And in September, Obama met Katzenberg for dinner at the Hilton Woodland Hills after an appearance the president made on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

Obama thanked Katzenberg for his support. “Jeffrey … has been a friend and supporter through thick and thin,” Obama said. “His place in the entertainment industry is legendary. I don’t need to puff him up too much. He has a healthy sense of self, but he is a great friend and somebody whose counsel and advice I value and I’m incredibly grateful to be here at this wonderful institution that he helped to build.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday that Obama chose the DreamWorks Animation site because of the studio’s track record in creating jobs, not because of Katzenberg’s fundraising. Employment at DreamWorks has risen by 50% since January 2008.

DreamWorks has generated billions in box-office revenue from its hit “Shrek,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar” movies, expanding its business in China and overseas markets and branching into television with a recent partnership with the Netflix streaming service.

Guided by Katzenberg, Obama got a lesson in how animators use motion capture to bring animated characters to life and had a funny exchange with actors Steve Martin and Jim Parsons, who were recording lines for the studio’s upcoming alien-invasion film, “Home.”

Obama greeted the actors in a small sound studio. He shook hands with Parsons but not Martin, who declined, explaining that he had a cold. Instead of shaking hands, the actor and the president did a little elbow bump.

“Are you going to sound a little nasal in your reading today?” the president asked Martin.

“I actually got the cold intentionally,” Martin joked.

“How’s the banjo playing?” Obama asked Martin. “This guy performed at the White House and was unbelievable,” he said, turning to the press. “I was a little shocked at how good he was.”

Martin said the performance had been “the biggest thrill of his life.”

“That’s how I felt about it,” Obama said. “I told Michelle: ‘Biggest thrill of my life. Inauguration, nothing; Steve playing banjo, that was big.'”

After the tour, Obama said he asked Katzenberg if he could work for the company and quipped that he felt a natural connection to the studio because his “ears were one of the inspirations for Shrek.”

The president met privately with a group of top Hollywood executives including CBS Corp. Chief Executive Les Moonves; Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; Peter Rice, chairman of Fox Broadcasting; Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBC Universal; and Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

“The meeting was an opportunity to discuss the economy and highlight the entertainment industry as a bright spot in our growing economy,” Earnest said. “The president discussed the impact that broader economic conditions has on the industry. He also touched on piracy and intellectual property rights, which are chief concerns of participating film industry leaders.”

Obama’s visit and upbeat message about the entertainment industry, however, comes at a time of widespread anxiety among the middle-class crew members in Los Angeles who work behind the scenes on film and TV sets.

Many have seen their job opportunities and incomes dwindle as more work has migrated to other states and countries such as Canada and the U.K. that offer film productions stronger incentives and tax breaks than are available in California.

“Some indicators suggest that activity in the entertainment industry is up, but that has not translated into jobs here in California,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “In fact, the number of industry-related jobs locally and in California has shown little improvement since the recession, even as industry employment nationally has increased modestly over the past couple of years.”

LA. County Many saw a 3.1% increase in entertainment work in October

Employment in L.A.’s entertainment sector rebounded last month, with the number of film and TV jobs rising 3.1% over the year before.

Employment in L.A. County’s motion picture and sound recording category — which covers the bulk of employment in the local film, TV and music industries — rose to 118,400 jobs in October, an increase of 3,600 jobs from October 2012 and nearly 2% from September, according to state employment data.

The entertainment sector fared better than L.A. County’s economy as whole. Non-farm employment in L.A. rose 1.4% in October compared with October 2012, while the number of non-farm jobs in Sept. was up 1.2% from a year ago.

The figures, compiled by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., are subject to revision and do not count those who work as freelancers or independent contractors.

Nonetheless, they represent an improvement over September’s job picture, when L.A. County lost 1,000 jobs in the entertainment category compared with the same month in 2012, a decline of 0.9 %.

Studios including Walt Disney and DreamWorks Animation, as well post-production houses such as Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain, have laid off hundreds of workers this year in an effort to cut costs. Southern California also has been squeezed by the exodus of film and TV jobs to other states and countries.

Entertaining tips

With the holiday season gearing up, more than a few of us will be hosting a festive dinner party, buffet or potluck. As pleasant as any holiday event may be, it seems like the moment someone rings the dinner bell, an otherwise civil gathering can turn into a stampede as guests mob the food table.

Much as I like to keep my buffets casual and free-form, there are a few rules I always follow to keep the meal organized. Call it a little “buffet psychology.” Here are some tips:

1. Organize the food layout, with a definite beginning and ending. Set the plates, napkins and silverware/plasticware at one end of the table near the food, so guests know where to line up. This will keep the guests from rushing the food like an NFL defensive line.

2. Consider plate size. Guests tend to fill up whatever size plate they have, be it small or large. Go with a smaller plate (8 to 9 inches in diameter) so guests don’t overfill and waste food. They can always go back for seconds.

3. Organize all of the less-expensive/greater-quantity foods at the “beginning” of the buffet, like salads and starches (rolls, rice, potatoes, etc). Save the big ticket and expensive items for the very end of the buffet (turkey, roast, fish) so guests have less room on their plates and are less likely to overfill.

The game name is music in the new Forum

Seasoned concert-goers who walk into the resurrected Forum in Inglewood after it opens Wednesday with the first of six Eagles concerts may be struck as much by what’s missing as by what’s been added to the 46-year-old former sports palace.

The overhead electronic scoreboard and basketball backboards that were integral to the Forum during its 31-year reign as Southern California’s premiere sports arena? Gone.

Hard-plastic sports-arena seats? Gone — replaced by movie theater-style high-back upholstered seats.

The blue exterior color added in 1988 when Great Western Bank secured naming rights? Gone, replaced by gleaming coats of the original shade now known as “Forum red.”

All the missing elements add up to what the revamped Forum is: a new kind of arena, one thoroughly reconfigured with music and live entertainment as the top priorities, rather than subservient to resident sports teams.

It’s the outcome of a $100-million investment by Madison Square Garden Co. as the New York firm’s first West Coast venture. In some respects, it’s a $100-million gamble as MSG rolls the dice in hopes that it can create a viable business at the arena level without a sports team to anchor the calendar, as has been the rule at arenas across the country.

“We don’t know how things are going to go,” said MSG Executive Chairman James L. Dolan, who has overseen the recent $1-billion overhaul of Madison Square Garden itself and major rehab efforts on other historic New York venues, including Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre. “But I’m very hopeful. We’ve tried to think of everything we could that would make it [work], and if it does — if we are right — I think it does change the game.”

The return of the Forum may well represent a game-changer both in the healthy concert business, if aging arenas in other cities can be profitably retooled for live entertainment, as well as for the city of Inglewood and its environs, which have struggled as fortunes faded at the Forum and neighboring Hollywood Park.

Absent any resident sports teams, the Forum has been redesigned to maximize the concert-going experience. Concrete walls and partitions have been dressed up with black fabric to absorb sonic reverberations that can wreak havoc with music.

As for the luxury corporate sky boxes that help newly built arenas pay the bills, but which push upper-deck seating for fans even farther from the stage on concert nights—the top row of the Forum is 80 feet above the arena floor, compared to 110 feet at Staples Center–they never existed at the Forum, and none have been added.

Musicians will find that in place of the athletic locker rooms they’ve often had to use as makeshift dressing rooms, the Forum has reinvented those backstage spaces as elegantly appointed artist rest and relaxation spaces. For today’s elaborate stage shows, crews will now have the ability to hang 350,000 pounds of equipment from the ceiling, to which 230 tons of steel support have been added.

Now the gussied-up Forum is positioned to compete with the venue that once stole its fire. Not that Staples Center will be rolling over.

“It’s another large venue coming into an already crowded market,” said Staples Senior Vice President and General Manager Lee Zeidman. “I don’t know how many shows they’ll have to have to make a profit, but at the end of the day, I think we still have the best artist and fan ameninties. Coupled with two hotels next door, 19 restaurants in the L.A. Live complex and three more ready to open up and our location downtown, I think Staples Center is going to continue to be the region’s preferred chioce for arena and concert entertainment.”

The Forum was designed by architect Charles Luckman (he also designed the original Madison Square Garden arena) and built by Lakers’ owner Jack Kent Cooke. After opening in 1967, it reigned as the region’s premiere sports arena for more than 30 years, until billionaire developer Philip Anschutz’s Anschutz Entertainment Group opened Staples Center 10 miles away.

During the 2000s, the Forum saw only sporadic activity while it was owned by the Faithful Central Bible Church, which sold it to MSG last year for $23.5 million.

Today, however, the Forum could take a serious bite out of its competitor’s concert business because many of Staples calendar dates are consumed by its resident NBA and NHL sports franchises: the Lakers, the Clippers and the Kings. Those teams keep Staples busy more than 120 nights a year, although Staples officials downplay any limitations sports activity presents for concert bookings.

“We put on 53 concerts last year,” Zeidman saidbesting the arena’s previous high of 38. “We’re going into our 14th year, and We’ve never had a problem routing in an artist who wanted to play Staples Center.”

Don Engel died at the age of 84, an entertainment attorney representing a big pop star

Don Engel had only a small law firm in Los Angeles — just two or three attorneys in addition to him and his wife. But a phone call from Engel could strike fear among the loftiest executives in the music business.

Engel, who represented some of the biggest pop stars of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, was a fierce, tireless and some say overbearing fighter on behalf of clients who wanted to revise or cancel their recording contracts. Among his clients were hit makers Olivia Newton-John, Donna Summer, Don Henley and the band Boston.

“He was a force,” said entertainment industry lawyer Russell Frackman, who went up against Engel several times in legal fights. “There are not many lawyers in this area, or any area, where just the fact that one man was involved would cause anxiety on the other side. He was fearless.”

Engel, who later in his career represented artists such as Luther Vandross, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and the Dixie Chicks in various battles, is credited with helping change the balance of power in the industry, giving more of it to artists.

“In many important ways, what we have come to call the artist rights movement in the U.S. started with Don Engel’s representation of artists against record companies who overreached,” said entertainment attorney Chris Castle. “Just knowing that Don Engel was a phone call away had a certain civilizing effect on our business. Whether they know it or not, both superstars and new artists alike benefit from his groundbreaking representation.”

Engel, 84, died Jan. 15 in a hospital in Redwood City, Calif. He had been battling leukemia for 17 years, said his wife, Judy.

The Engels had moved to Northern California so their physician son, Gregory, could oversee his father’s care. Until about two years ago, Don Engel was still representing clients.

Despite his pugnaciousness, many of the lawyers who did battle with Engel ended up not only admiring him, but also becoming good friends. “It was clear Don loved what he was doing,” Frackman said. “It’s one of the reasons he was so good at it.”

Friendship with Engel was probably not as popular among industry executives or judges who had to deal with him in court. “He would never back down in the face of any judge,” said attorney Mark Passin, who joined the Engel firm just out of law school. “There was one case where the judge told him to bring his toothbrush the next morning, implying that if he didn’t stop arguing a point, he would be found in contempt of court and go to jail.”

Engel didn’t make excuses for his work demeanor. “This is not a gentleman’s business,” he told the Los Angeles Daily Journal in 1985. “This is a cutthroat business where nobody gives you anything.”

Donald Engel was born Dec. 11, 1929, in the Bronx. He graduated from City College of New York and served as an intelligence officer in the Army during the Korean War. He enrolled in New York University’s law school upon his return.

He established a practice in New York focusing on the publishing industry before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s and switching to show business law. He viewed the situation in his new home city with typical candor.

“We found the caliber of attorney in the entertainment business to be far below what we were used to,” he told the Daily Journal. “We don’t even want to be called entertainment attorneys, because most of their emphasis is on the entertainment rather than the attorney part.”

In L.A., Engel earned a reputation for using novel tactics to spring pop artists from their contracts. One of his arguments was derived from the so-called seven-year-statute in California law that states some contracts can’t be extended past seven years. It was used successfully in the 1944 court case that allowed actress Olivia de Havilland to break her contract with Warner Bros. Engel argued, successfully at times, that it should also apply to record contracts.

He was able to pave the way for Donna Summer to go from Casablanca Records to Geffen Records, Sammy Hagar from Capitol Records to Geffen, Teena Marie from Motown Records to CBS and Boston from CBS to MCA.

Engel’s business got a boost in the early 1990s when superstar contracts skyrocketed, including a $40-million deal for Janet Jackson and $65 million-plus for her brother Michael. Performers who wanted to keep up with the Jacksons called Engel.

“I’m swamped,” he said in a 1991 Los Angeles Times interview. “In the last couple of months, I’ve been retained by eight artists and entered discussions with about 10 others. What we’re talking about here is major artists trying to break contracts.”

The extra work probably didn’t much faze him — Engel was known widely as a workaholic. “If you sent Don a letter that was one page long,” Frackman said, “the next day you might get a five-page reply. Nothing got past him.”

The onset of leukemia eventually forced him to slow down. The music industry changed greatly from when he was most active, in large part because of the Internet. But Judy Engel said he would have embraced the digital challenges. “I told him,” she said, ‘”you would have really enjoyed this.'”

In addition to his wife and son Gregory, Engel is survived by another son, Stephen; daughters Jacqueline Leibsohn and Laura Engel; and seven grandchildren.

Chief talks NBC Entertainment Leno, NFL and Peter Pan

NBC doesn’t want to say goodbye to “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno just yet.

“I’m very much hoping we will enter into a new relationship with him after ‘The Tonight Show,’ ” said NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena on Sunday.

Leno, who ends his run as “Tonight Show” host on Feb. 6 (with Billy Crystal as his final guest), has kept mum on his future plans, including whether he will seek another TV hosting gig. Greenblatt said he’d like to have Leno host specials for NBC down the road.

Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” will debut as host of “The Tonight Show” on Feb. 17, in the midst of its coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The network hopes that the bigger audiences for the Games will mean increased sampling for Fallon.

Greenblatt also said the network has an appetite for more football. The National Football League is soliciting offers for a potential Thursday night package of games. Greenblatt declined to comment on whether NBC, which is home to Sunday night football, had made an offer but said “we’d love to have more NFL games,” and “Thursday night games might be really interesting to us.”

One reason Thursday football would appeal to NBC is that its comedies on that night have been struggling. The network has programmed sitcoms on Thursday for decades but given its recent challenges, Greenblatt didn’t rule out going in a different direction next season. Expensive and heavily promoted new comedies starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes have failed to click with viewers, much to the frustration of the network.

“We’re really unhappy that we can’t find an audience for them,” said Greenblatt, adding that this spring the network will “have to get in the scheduling room and make some hard decisions.”

An easy decision for NBC to make was to greenlight another live musical after the surprising success of “The Sound of Music Live” last month. Greenblatt said NBC would take another crack with “Peter Pan” in December. Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who made “The Sound of Music Live” are also on board for “Peter Pan.”

NBC also said it had signed “Parks and Recreation” star Amy Poehler to a production deal and is developing a sitcom she will produce starring Natasha Lyonne (“Orange is the New Black”) as a woman who works in a senior care facility.

Networks are typically obsessed with shows about younger people, but NBC executives said this comedy will give it a chance to broaden its casting and appeal to older viewers as well.

“I’d like to see them represented,” Greenblatt said.

Other new shows in development include “State of Affairs” starring former “Grey’s Anatomy” star Katherine Heigl as a CIA liaison for the White House. The network also has a limited series in the works inspired by Frank L. Baum’s books called “Emerald City.”

Coming off a strong fall in which its average prime time audience was up 10%, Greenblatt said NBC is unlikely to change the way it develops new shows. Responding to a question regarding Fox’s plans to abandon so-called pilot season — the three month ritual in which networks frantically order scripts, hire actors and shoot trial episodes — Greenblatt said he is happy with the current model.