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Headline News ER Tussles with U.S. Distributor

From VARIETY: Struggling U.K. tyke specialist Entertainment Rights, whose properties include POSTMAN PAT and THE LONE RANGER, is taking legal action against its primary U.S. DVD distributor, Genius Products, over alleged unpaid fees.

In a trading statement to the London Stock Exchange published Wednesday, the company said it was "pursuing all available legal remedies" to obtain the unspecified amount of coin owed.

Headline News Industry Mainstay Version2 To Close Shop In 2009

Version2, the renowned New York-based editorial and visual effects/motion design house plans on closing its doors by February 1, 2009, after completing all open projects and meeting its financial obligations. Although the Version2 companies saw an overall growth in billings in 2008, DeSario has felt for some time that the boutique style-editing company model he created in 1988 is no longer viable for him personally or professionally in today's economy.

Headline News AG, Cookie Jar Deal Called Off, AG Seeks New Buyers

Via Kidscreen: On the heels of announcing an extension of its home entertainment license with Lionsgate, American Greetings Properties has confirmed the sale of its CARE BEARS, STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE and SUSHI PACK properties to Toronto's Cookie Jar Entertainment will not go through.

Headline News Time Warner Cable, Viacom Reach Agreement

Time Warner Cable and Viacom jointly announced January 1 that they have reached an agreement in principle to renew carriage for Viacom's MTV Networks. The companies expect to finalize the details of the agreement over the next several days.

Glenn Britt, President and CEO of Time Warner Cable said in a statement, "We are pleased that our customers will continue to be able to watch the programming they enjoy on MTV Networks. We are sorry they had to endure a day of public disagreement as we worked through this negotiation."

Headline News ER Confirms Takeover Talks, Shareholder Rescue Plan

From C21Media: Entertainment Rights (ER) has confirmed it is in early takeover talks, while shareholders at the debt-laden Postman Pat firm try to raise GBP 30M (US$43.6M) in an attempt to rescue the business.

ER put a statement out to the London Stock Exchange over the Christmas period confirming it was "in early stage discussions, which may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company."

Headline News Imagi Still Plagued by Financial Concerns

Hong Kong- and Los Angeles-based animation studio Imagi International is still experiencing financial problems, reports VARIETY ASIA (via Cartoon Brew).

Auditors gave the company a "going concern" qualification to the half-year results of the firm, which is currently in production on CG feature ASTRO BOY and who animated TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES for Warner Bros. and Weinstein Co. last year.

Headline News EA to Reduce Workforce by 10 Percent

Electronic Arts has announced further details on a restructuring plan which will include consolidating facilities and reducing the work force.

EA expects the restructuring plan will result in annual cost savings of approximately $120 million and restructuring charges of approximately $55-$65 million over the next several quarters.

Headline News Take-Two Signs New Deals With Top Rockstar Creative Talent

Take-Two Interactive Software has established a new incentive compensation program for the Rockstar Games label that is primarily based on a profit sharing arrangement, and at the same time has entered into new long-term employment agreements with members of the creative team of its wholly-owned Rockstar Games publishing label. The new employment agreements have an initial term ending on January 31, 2012.

Headline News Image Metrics Receives $6.5M in Funding

Image Metrics, a leading provider of facial animation solutions for the entertainment industry, has completed a $6.5 million Series B round of funding led by Saffron Hill Ventures, the company's original investor. The funds will be used to enable the development of new technologies and service offerings that will result in more cost-effective, high-quality facial animation for Image Metrics' customers. It will also be used to execute industry-focused plans for Image Metrics' recently announced video game and film divisions.

Headline News Laika Lays Off 65, Pulls Jack and Ben

Portland-based animation studio Laika has laid off 65 people and shelved its second CG film JACK AND BEN'S ANIMATED ADVENTURE, according to THE OREGONIAN.

Laika is owned by Nike founder Phil Knight, and is releasing their first film, 3-D stop-motion feature CORALINE on February 6.

JACK AND BEN was slated to come out after CORALINE, but the film's writer, former Pixar animator Jorgen Klubien left the studio over "creative differences" last year. Laika hired MULAN director Barry Cook to direct JACK AND BEN, and was moving forward with the project.

Headline News 4Kids to Lay Off 15 Percent of Staff

4Kids Ent. will cut its workforce by 15 percent across all subsidiaries and divisions in an attempt to better align its organization and overall cost structure in the current challenging economic environment.

As a result of the staff cuts, 4Kids will be incurring severance costs of approximately $375,000 in the fourth quarter of 2008. The company has also completed a comprehensive review of its operations and will be taking steps intended to reduce operating expenses by an additional $4 to $5 million in 2009.

Headline News Watchmen Trial Delayed, WB Not Backing Off Release Date

The trial to determine whether rights to WATCHMEN are controlled by Twentieth Century Fox or Warner Bros. has been delayed by a Los Angeles federal judge to January 20, reports VARIETY.

The two-week delay was set by Judge Gary Allen Feess on Monday, who noted that he is required to handle a criminal matter on January 6, the original trial date. Feess refused a pre-trial summary judgment that was requested by both sides because the contracts between Fox and WATCHMEN producer Larry Gordon are so open to interpretation that a trial is required.

Headline News Midway to Cut 180 Staffers, Close Austin Studio

Midway Games has to lay off 25 percent of its staff and has canceled several projects in early development in order to cut costs as a $150 million debt payment looms, reports VARIETY.

The January deadline for Midway's outstanding notes was triggered when Sumner Redstone sold the videogame publisher to a private investor, Mark Thomas, several weeks ago. Midway is working with advisory firm Lazard to find a way to pay off or renegotiate debt, as it is lacking the cash to pay it off.

Headline News DreamWorks Adds to Slate, Announces TV Projects

DreamWorks Animation is set for three big 3-D releases in 2010, and in the meantime is working on TV series with Nickelodeon and expanding their SHREK, MADAGASCAR and KUNG FU PANDA franchises well into the future.

The studio's CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, made the announcements at an investor's conference on Thursday.

Headline News Double Negative to Open VFX Studio in Singapore

U.K. vfx company Double Negative will open an office in Singapore by March of 2009, according to Singapore newspaper THE STRAITS TIMES.

Animators and designers in the Singapore studio will work on projects like HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRICE, and start with a staff of about a dozen. Double Negative's recent credits include THE DARK KNIGHT, QUANTUM OF SOLACE and HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY.

Headline News NVIDIA Spices up Bollywood VFX Creation

Renowned for a rich culture dating back thousands of years, India is building a new cultural legacy-the movie business. Popularly known as Bollywood, the Indian film industry annually releases 1,000 films, approximately 10 times what Hollywood produces each year.

Headline News th1ng Launches th2ng

th1ng, the mixed media and animation house, has expanded with the opening of th2ng, a new dedicated live action production company concentrating on advertising.

th2ng (pronounced "th2ng two") will be headed by long-standing SoHo producer Hannah Cooper, and anchored by the talents of experienced live action directors including Dan Lumb and only-just signed Simon Cracknell and Stuart Fryer complimenting the roster of eight directors.

Headline News Konami Takes Control of Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Cards

Konami Digital Ent. is taking over all operational and business aspects of the YU-GI-OH! TRADING CARD GAME, effective immediately.

KDE will take over distribution and customer support for the YU-GI-OH! TRADING CARD GAME from Upper Deck Ent., KDE's former exclusive distributor of the trading card game.

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