What Matters in Hollywood Today

6:58 AM 8/2/2017

by THR Staff

Photographed By Martin Schoeller

It's magazine day! Covering the sports issue is Alex Rodriguez, the former baseball star looking for redemption in TV. Plus: New details from inside the HBO hack, how studios are fighting back against Rotten Tomatoes, and why network presidents have the "worst" job in TV. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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Leading the Sports + Media issue: Alex Rodriguez, who made $500M playing baseball before appearing on ABC, CNBC and Fox Sports, is now rebooting himself as more than a jock turned broadcaster. In the cover story, Marisa Guthrie writes:

It's nearly exactly a year since Alex Rodriguez played his last game at Yankee Stadium after a record-making, scandal-plagued major league career that began in 1994, when he was 18. "It's night and day how content and happy and proud I am," he says. "You being here, that would have never happened before."

Rodriguez, contemplating his dramatic rehabilitation — from pariah to pundit, a credible TV star with a Hollywood girlfriend — continues: "It starts with being accountable. When people can see that you're genuine, that's when they pay attention. You have to own your shit."

Today, A-Rod Corp, the holding company he started 15 years ago, includes a Miami-based real estate and construction firm, Newport Property; fitness centers in Mexico; and a real estate investment and management firm, Monument, that owns 8,500 apartments and manages 13,000 in 12 states, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest.

Plus: How an NBA player found stardom in China | Why NFL will air fewer ads.

  • What Do the Hackers Have?

    Inside the HBO hack: Though leaked full or partial episodes of Game of Thrones — the crown jewel of the cabler's lineup — would be problematic, it's the prospect of stolen text that is far more alarming, Tatiana Siegel reports: 

    On July 27, Richard Plepler's worst corporate nightmare unfolded. The HBO CEO learned that his company's network had been breached by an apparently coordinated cyberattack that experts explained could expose a staggering 1.5 terabytes of data. That would be roughly seven times the size of the epic 2014 hack of Sony Pictures.

    Sources say HBO is working with the FBI and cybersecurity firm Mandiant, which led the forensic investigation on the Sony hack (ironically, Mandiant also was targeted by hackers around the same time as the HBO breach). At press time, it was unclear what exactly the HBO attackers have, even to those investigating.

    Insiders say hackers pilfered a combination of media-rich data and text. One insider calls it "nefarious" because it was targeted to specific content and data (as with Sony) and not caught up in a trawling sweep (the Orange Is the New Black heist). Full story.

    Meanwhile, CBS meets reporters at TCA....

    ► CBS new execs hammered on race, gender, Hawaii Five-0. Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman laid out a clear plan for TV's most-watched network during their regime (marked by a drive for eyeballs, not demos) and will feature a mix of broad series and big swings. But reporters wanted to talk about their slate's comparative lack of female-fronted shows and series featuring people of color. 

    Kevin Can Wait team explains decision to kill off character. Kahl promised that Erinn Hayes' character's death will be addressed "tastefully" and used to set up the series going forward. The show's female lead was let go, paving the way for Leah Remini to join the show.

    ► Chuck Lorre: "Presume" Big Bang Theory will end with season 12. The end of the road for CBS' most-watched comedy is coming into closer focus. "One could easily presume that would be the end of the series," co-creator Lorre told THR. Meanwhile, Kahl said the network would like to keep TV's No. 1 comedy for as long as possible.

    ► CBS All Access adds Will Ferrell comedy, two dramas. Scripted comedy No Activity is the digital platform's first half-hour pickup and joins dramas Strange Angel and $1 on a slate that includes Star Trek: Discovery and The Good Fight. The news more than doubles the platform's scripted offerings.

    ► Tim Goodman: Why network presidents have the worst job in TV: "Running ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW kind of - what's the word? - oh, right, sucks. Not every day, mind you. Since they don’t really program Saturdays, maybe that's a day they feel happy.

    ^OWN plots post-Tyler Perry future: An ultracompetitive market for A-list black talent also happens to arrive amid dispiriting new diversity stats. "This is the signaling of this new era of prestige scripted content that we're moving into," says OWN president Erik Logan.

    ► Amazon plots Black America alt-history drama. The streaming giant is partnering with Will Packer to develop Black America, which envisions a timeline where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states as reparation for slavery. 

    Showtime's Benedict Cumberbatch drama adds Allison Williams. The Girls actress will guest star on the upcoming miniseries, Patrick Melrose. Williams adds her name to an already impressive cast list, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hugo Weaving and Anna Madeley. 

    TBS' The Guest Book, reviewed. TBS' anthology comedy series, which debuts Aug. 3, occasionally charms despite the dearth of guffaws. Takeaway: "The atmosphere is amiable, the laughs are few."

    In THR, Esq: Kanye West files $10M lawsuit over tour canceled due to his mental breakdown ... Fox accused of publishing fake news at Trump's behest ... ACLU responds to coal baron targeting John Oliver: "You can't sue people for being mean to you, Bob."

  • Rotten Tomatoes vs. Studios

    Courtesy Photos

    Rotten Tomatoes' power of the "Tomatometer" has reached a tipping point as movies try to avoid the dreaded green splat, Pamela McClintock reports:

    The Emoji Movie's $24.5M domestic opening over the weekend accomplished what no other movie has been able to do during a tough summer season at the box office — survive an abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score (7 percent) and open in line with prerelease tracking.

    One possible secret weapon? Sony wouldn't let reviews post until midday on July 27, hours before the pic began playing in previews before rolling out everywhere. That means screening some titles later and later for critics.

    "What other wide release with a score under 8 percent has opened north of $20 million? I don't think there is one," says Josh Greenstein, Sony Pictures president of worldwide marketing and distribution.

    Studios are now scrambling to understand what happens when their titles garner the infamous green splat. After buying Rotten Tomatoes, Fandango began featuring Tomatometer scores for every movie on its ticketing site, a practice likened to a restaurant promoting a Yelp rating.

    More recently, some studios were taken aback when AMC Theatres, the country's largest chain, adopted the same practice on its own ticketing website. AMC's site now only features a score if it is fresh, defined as anything 60 percent and above. The mega circuit declined comment.

    Elsewhere in film... 

    Wonder Woman boosts Time Warner film unit. Quarterly film unit revenue increased 12 percent to $3.0 billion due to higher theatrical and video games revenue, partially offset by lower television revenue. Details.

    Hellboy reboot adds Ian McShane. The American Gods star is joining David Harbour in Lionsgate/Millennium’s reboot, that Neil Marshall is on board to helm. McShane will play Hellboy’s adoptive father, Professor Broom. 

    ► Trailer watch: Call Me By Your Name. Luca Guadagnino's adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel stars Armie Hammer as a 24-year-old American student who has a summer romance with a 17-year-old boy (Timothee Chalamet) on the Italian Riviera in 1983. Full clip. 

    ► Whoopi Goldberg, Hill Harper join Ghetto Plainsman. Sasheer Zamata and Angelica Ross also have joined Jordan Walker-Pearlman’s adaptation of the Jarid Manos novel. Filming will kick off in late summer in Nevada and New York.

    ^Star Wars: Episode IX finds new writer. Jack Thorne will work on the script for the next installment to be directed by Colin Trevorrow, who wrote the most recent draft with Derek Connolly. The movie is eyeing a production start of January 2018.

    Andy Serkis: Shooting movies with live animals is "cruel." The War for the Planet of the Apes star is joining PETA in calling for the use of computer-generated imagery for animals. His full remarks.

    Arclight Films launches development arm. The U.S.-Australia production and distribution company has created Chinalight, which aims to build on films like Bait 3D and the upcoming Guardians of the Tomb.

    Silver Lake to star Martin Starr, Deborah Ann Woll. The Silicon Valley actor will star in the film as a man who examines his life and relationships, along with Daredevil's Woll, who will play his wife. Starr will also produce the indie, written and directed by Sean McGinly. 

    ► Black Lives Matter-inspired adaptation rounds out cast. Russell Hornsby and Lamar Johnson have been cast in The Hate U Give, Fox 2000's adaptation of the YA novel of the same name. Amandla Stenberg is starring in the adaptation that George Tillman Jr. will direct. 

    ► Schwarzenegger, Stallone get down at 70th birthday party. Arnold celebrated his milestone birthday with hula lessons, fire dancers and a nice tribute from pal Sylvester Stallone: "You don't quit, you don't quit, and you still don't quit. It's boundless energy." Video. 

     

  • How 'Sharknado' Casts Stars

    Illustration by Kyle Hilton

    A fun feature: Months before he declared himself a candidate, Trump was set to play commander-in-chief in the schlocky Syfy film that has lured everyone from Ann Coulter to regular Tara Reid (who makes a quarter of one male co-star's pay). Seth Abramovitch looks at how Sharknado casts its C-listers. 

    What else we're reading... 

    "What’s so hard about casting Indian actors in Indian roles?" Kevin Noble Maillard writes: "'Redface,' the manufacturing of ersatz images of Native American identity, has long been a problem in Hollywood." [The New York Times]

    "The Bachelorette and the empty redemptions of reality TV." Megan Garber writes: "The show’s The Men Tell All special confronted Lee Garrett for his racist tweets. Producers treated it as a productive conversation; it was anything but." [The Atlantic]

    "How Charlize Theron became the greatest action star in the world." Kevin Fallon notes: "the Oscar winner proves that no actor - male or female - can carry the physical and emotional demands of an action film with as much badassery." [The Daily Beast]

    "Aziz Ansari on quitting the internet." Mark Anthony Green's cover story: "After the smashing success of season two of his Netflix show, Master Of None, Aziz Ansari vowed to go analog." [GQ Style]

    "What if more TV shows were anthologies?" Hank Stuever asks: "Except for the very superior ongoing dramas and comedies, what if every show kept to an eight- or 10-episode arc that wrapped itself up." [The Washington Post]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Al Franken reveals which Senators are funny." [Late Show]

    + "Fred Armisen is reading the history of fingerprints." [Late Night]

    + "Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian reveals favorite post." [Jimmy Kimmel Live]

    + "Jeremy Renner chucked doughnuts at Ed Helms after breaking both arms." [Tonight Show]

    Today's Birthdays: Sam Worthington, 41, Simon Kinberg, 44, Jacinda Barrett, 45, Kevin Smith, 47, Mary-Louise Parker, 53, Joanna Cassidy, 72.

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