CHINESE LION?: Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co. already controls AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the second-biggest cinema chain in the United States. Now it’s in talks to buy into Santa Monica’s Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., the independent studio behind the popular “Hunger Games” film franchise. In an interview with Bloomberg, Wanda Chairman Wang Jainlin said Lions Gate owners are, for now, willing to sell only a minority stake. Wanda might be able to buy shares held by studio Chairman Mark Rachesky, who controls about one-third of the company’s shares. The news sent Lions Gate shares up 5 percent last week.
AIR REGS: Two city councilmen want Los Angeles to consider regulating popular short-term rental companies such as Airbnb, VRBO and Homeaway, which allow property owners to rent their apartments and condos online. Council members Mike Bonin and Herb Wesson asked city staff to look at regulations enacted in San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; and other cities. Airbnb and similar services can give homeowners extra income, but there have been complaints that some property owners are using the services to essentially run hotels – ones that aren’t regulated or taxed. Bonin said Los Angeles should be able to collect hotel bed taxes on rooms rented through the online services. Airbnb started paying hotel bed taxes in San Francisco in October.
WHAT PENGUINS?: DreamWorks Animation Inc.’s latest film, “Penguins of Madagascar,” disappointed over the long Thanksgiving weekend, bringing in about $36 million domestically – well below the $45 million that had been forecast. One analyst who had predicted the film would eventually bring in $200 million domestically revised that estimate to just $105 million. The film’s weak showing sent the Glendale studio’s shares down 5 percent Dec. 1, though shares regained some ground through the week. Though it can’t be called a flop just yet, “Penguins” could join a growing list of DreamWorks animated films that have cost the company big money, including 2013’s “Turbo” and this spring’s “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.”
SNOOPS: A week after it suffered a major computer security breach, things got worse for Culver City’s Sony Pictures Entertainment. The company already knew hackers had gotten their hands on several unreleased films, including the musical “Annie,” in a Nov. 24 security breach. But last week it discovered hackers had pilfered and released several internal documents – including ones that showed annual salaries for some Sony employees – as well as employees’ passwords, performance reviews and Social Security numbers. There was some speculation that the hack was sponsored by the North Korean government, which has called Sony film “The Interview” an act of terrorism. It’s a comedy about two American journalists sent to assassinate dictator Kim Jong-un.
BONDED: Downtown L.A. investment management firm DoubleLine Capital took in additional $1.2 billion in investments last month, another boost for the bond-focused firm that, like others, has benefitted from clients pulling money out of Newport Beach giant Pacific Investment Management Co., known as “Pimco.” That firm has lost billions in assets after the late September departure of founder and “bond king” Bill Gross. DoubleLine, run by star bond manager Jeffrey Gundlach, reported last week that it has taken in $8.6 billion in new investments this year, and much of came after Gross left Pimco.
SMOKED OUT: Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office is trying to sniff out unregulated weed deliveries. The office filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking an injunction to stop marijuana deliveries by Nestdrop, a Hollywood alcohol and marijuana delivery startup. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each day since the service’s Nov. 12 launch and alleges that Nestdrop is operating in blatant disregard of Proposition D, which reduced the number of marijuana businesses that can operate in the city. Nestdrop executives insist that it is operating within the law. “We’re not the beer and weed guys,” Nestdrop co-founder Michael Pyche told the Business Journal in October. “We’re the regulated product guys.”
WAIVED: The Los Angeles City Council approved a host of measures aimed at keeping film production in the city. The measures, which were drafted by a committee on film and TV production jobs chaired by Councilman Paul Krekorian, include a five-year extension on a waiver of fees charged for filming at city-owned or -controlled properties such as libraries, airports, Police Department facilities and City Hall. The waiver, which was enacted in 2006 and already extended once, had expired at the end of June.
SPRUCED: Google Inc. will spend nearly $120 million on 12 vacant acres in Playa Vista next to the hangar where Howard Hughes built his famous Spruce Goose airplane. The land is zoned for nearly 900,000 square feet of commercial space that could house offices or studios. That’s more room than Google occupies at its other offices in Los Angeles County, including its campus in Venice and its YouTube facility at another former Hughes building in Playa Vista, combined. Google is also expected to lease the 319,000-square-foot Hughes hangar, which has recently been home to soundstages for movie and TV production.
SURPRISE: The FBI seized 20 boxes of documents related to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s controversial and embattled $1.3 billion program to provide every student with an iPad. The confiscation was part of a criminal investigation into the failed effort, which is being examined by a federal grand jury nine months after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office closed its review without filing charges. Federal investigators did not reveal the target of the probe. The rollout of the iPad program was plagued by problems, including concerns about a close relationship between former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and executives from Apple Inc. and curriculum provider Pearson, the companies that won bids for the program.
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