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10-19-2021 Daily Edition October 18, 2021

Daily Edition

‘The Last Duel’ Box Office Debacle: Hollywood’s Battle for Older Moviegoers

Only 2 percent of moviegoers turning up to see Ridley Scott’s A-list The Last Duel on opening weekend were 17 or younger, while just 17 percent were between the ages 18 and 24. Conversely, more than 80 percent of ticket buyers were 25 years old and up. The historical drama, set in Medieval France, limped […]

Only 2 percent of moviegoers turning up to see Ridley Scott’s A-list The Last Duel on opening weekend were 17 or younger, while just 17 percent were between the ages 18 and 24. Conversely, more than 80 percent of ticket buyers were 25 years old and up.

The historical drama, set in Medieval France, limped to $4.8 million domestically behind already muted expectations, a career-worst debut for the well-respected Scott. The movie’s plight underscores Hollywood’s battle to win back customers 35 and older, who, before the pandemic, were among the most frequent moviegoers and would fuel a title such as The Last Duel. No longer.

Period pics are a risky genre, and Scott’s latest feature would have faced challenges even in normal times despite major star power — Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck — and generally good reviews. Heading into opening weekend, 20th Century Studios and Disney had hoped for $8 million to $10 million.

To date, the box office recovery in the U.S. has been powered by younger patrons flocking to see a relatively steady diet of superhero movies and horror pics, upending the notion that this demo couldn’t care less about the theatrical experience. Halloween Kills, which opened opposite The Last Duel, racked up a huge $50.4 million despite a dual release on Peacock. As a way of comparison, 12 percent of Halloween‘s audience was under 13, while 35 percent were aged 17 to 24.

A parade of big-budget movies hitting cinemas this fall and winter — historically a time for adult-skewing fare — need the 25-plus set to return in force, and especially the 35-plus crowd. The first to go was No Time to Die, which MGM and Eon opened over the Oct. 8-10 weekend after numerous delays due to the pandemic (Bond films have always skewed older).

No Time to Die launched to a solid $56 million domestically. While many in Hollywood had hoped it would earn more, it did succeed in luring older demos, with 25 percent of ticket buyers saying it was the first time they’d been back to the cinema since the pandemic began.

Box office pundits credit No Time to Die for sticking to its latest release date. “Bond took one for the team,” says Ethan Titleman, senior vp at leading entertainment research film NRG. “We need more films to take a chance.” Titleman and others won’t mention other tentpoles by name, but one title that recently decided to once again delay its release because of the ongoing pandemic is Top Gun: Maverick.

No Time to Die fell an estimated 57 percent in its second outing to a solid-but-not-spectacular $24.3 million and a 10-day domestic total of $99.1 million. And it continues to ring up impressive numbers overseas, as Bond films tend to do, earning another $54 million this weekend for a foreign tally of $348.3 million and $447.4 million worldwide (and that’s without China, where it lands Oct. 29).

“Someone had to go first. We stood tall and the movie is doing well. Once people start coming back, they will keep coming back,” says Erik Lomis, distribution president at United Artists Releasing, which is handling No Time to Die in North America on behalf of MGM and Eon.

Or, as one studio executive says, “The business can’t rely on Marvel characters alone.”

Whether No Time to Die, which cost $250 million-$300 million to make before marketing, can break even remains to be seen. The latest Bond film is skewing a bit older than Spectre and Skyfall in North America, attributed in part to competition from Sony’s hit superhero sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage.

The next big test for older demos is Denis Villeneuve’s acclaimed sci-fi tentpole Dune, which Warner Bros. and Legendary open domestically on Oct. 22. There are caveats, including the fact that Dune is debuting simultaneously on HBO Max. Also, the film features a younger lead in Timothée Chalamet (the cast also includes Zendaya).

Overseas, Dune has already amassed $129 million in ticket sales.

“If a movie can’t get all quadrants, it’s like a table with three legs,” says Comscore’s Paul Dergarabedian.

“Emotions Are Running High”: IATSE Members Await Fine Print of Studio Deal Averting Strike

As talks went down to the wire over the weekend of Oct. 15 ahead of a strike deadline that would’ve resulted in an unprecedented industry walkout, studio negotiators and leadership at a major Hollywood labor guild said that they had a deal. But, without seeing the fine print, some members of the union, the International […]

As talks went down to the wire over the weekend of Oct. 15 ahead of a strike deadline that would’ve resulted in an unprecedented industry walkout, studio negotiators and leadership at a major Hollywood labor guild said that they had a deal. But, without seeing the fine print, some members of the union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), are concerned that the agreement doesn’t bring the sweeping changes they felt were needed.

While IATSE and the studio negotiators of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached a tentative contract deal on Oct. 16 that narrowly averted a strike that had been scheduled to begin Monday,  the reaction was decidedly mixed, with some members already calling loudly for a “no” vote on ratification of the three-year Basic Agreement.

On social media, a vocal section of IATSE members voiced caution about the deal announcement. But even offline, “I’m hearing really mixed things,” says writers assistant and Local 871 member Amy Thurlow of colleagues’ reactions. “I think negotiations are very emotional, especially the issues that are coming up and the stories that have been shared.” Adds fellow Local 871 member and script coordinator Colby Bachiller, “Emotions are running high because this does affect so many people’s lives.”

A Change.org petition started by a self-described Local 728 member to vote “no” to ratify the tentative agreement has, as of press time, over 1,500 signatures. “We gave them 98 percent authorization to Strike for Radical change. Our leaders said they reach an agreement and to go back to work. The outline they sent was scant on details and doesn’t nearly cover our demands. We want our leaders back at the table and put a strike back on the table. The time for change is now,” the petition reads.

A memorandum of agreement is now being drawn up with the details of the tentative agreement and would then go to the members of the 13 Locals for a ratification vote; members say it could take weeks for them to know the full details of the agreement. The date of the ratification vote hasn’t yet been set, but at that point individual members will vote, and then each Local will cast its delegate votes in a system similar to that of the U.S. Electoral College. Local 600 (International Cinematographers Guild) and Local 700 (Motion Picture Editors Guild) are the largest of the 13 locals and carry the most delegates. A union source expects leaders of the 13 Locals to recommend ratification to the 13 Locals’ boards and members.

Regarding the early response to the tentative agreement, a union representative on Monday suggested members were reacting to the announcement of, rather than the terms of, the agreement. The source adds that IATSE intends to distribute and publicize more details as soon as possible, though the source didn’t indicate a timeframe.

Further information about the tentative deal is being shared with union members as Locals that work under the Basic Agreement hold board and member meetings. (Several Locals already held meetings discussing the deal on Oct. 17.) A letter from IATSE to union members on Oct. 16 was light on details but broadly said key aspects of the tentative deal were establishing a “living wage,” ameliorating wages and working conditions on streaming projects, establishing 3 percent annual increases of scale wages that are retroactive and “employer funded benefits” during the contract, increasing meal penalties, solidifying daily 10-hour turnarounds for all and 54- and 32-hour weekend rest periods. The union had made living wages, rest periods, “sustainable benefits” and improved streaming compensation the key goals of these negotiations, though not all of the details of these areas have been revealed to members.

Several member sources who have been initially briefed on the deal say that the tentative agreement increases minimum rates for some of the lowest-paid members of IATSE from around $16 an hour currently to a rate that will begin at $23.50 an hour and gradually increase to $26 an hour by the third year of the contract. During negotiations, some union members advocated for at least $25 an hour with a 60-hour guarantee on social media.

Broadly speaking, a union insider tells The Hollywood Reporter that the deal includes additional increased hourly contribution rates (rates vary) that employers would make to the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans. The source echoed what other IATSE members initially believe, which is that new or enhanced streaming residuals are not a part of this tentative agreement.

As union members await more information, those who spoke to THR are split about the details they’ve learned about the tentative agreement so far, and many say they need more information before making a decision on their vote. “I have full faith in our membership that if it’s a bad deal, we will vote it down, and if it’s a good deal, we will ratify it,” says Thurlow. “I think it remains to be seen what the actual deal is on the table.”

“My initial thoughts are it’s not great, but it’s better than nothing, which is what [the AMPTP] offered us three months ago,” says costumer and Local 705 member Eric Johnson. “It is, I believe, the best we can get out of the other side.”

Max Schwartz, a studio electrical lighting technician and the Local 728 Young Workers Committee co-chair, notes that he’s still waiting on his Local to give a full picture of the agreement. For now, he writes in a statement, “While people may argue that this is a historic victory, and for some Locals like 871 it is, it fails to live up to the situation before us. Never again in history will our union have the leverage against mega-corporations like it has now to create deep, sustainable structural change to the film industry that reflects value and decency to the people that generate their wealth, and whose lived experience gifts the AMPTP the talent that makes their projects so successful.” Schwartz says he will advocate for members to vote “no” unless he hears from leadership that “we have won proper streaming residuals for our healthcare and pension plans.”

Several members say they believe there’s a divide between what a subset of members and negotiators hoped to emerge from the bargaining table this year. COVID-19 refocused the priorities of many workers, and as negotiations wore on over the summer, IATSE members began getting increasingly candid about difficult work conditions and poor pay on the Instagram account IA Stories and via the hashtag #IALivingWage. As the union began preparing to strike while talks stalled, media outlets, union advocates and members lumped its actions in with larger labor trends, such as the “Great Resignation” (describing a recent surge in worker resignations) and “Striketober” (characterizing the over 100,000 workers that are striking or threatened to strike in October).

Editor and Local 700 member Kyle Gilman says he experienced “a real sense of whiplash” when the deal was announced just as he was texting fellow Editors Guild members to remind them to sign up for picketing shifts. Describing IATSE negotiators’ initial aims as “extremely modest goals” that met “completely unreasonable counter-offers from the AMPTP,” he writes in a statement, “It seems that most of the things IATSE negotiators wanted were finally granted as part of this deal, which must have felt like a win at the negotiating table, but when we were asked to authorize a strike it was reasonable for us to expect that some spectacular gains were possible.”

Sound mixer and Local 695 member Victor P. Bouzi says that members seem to be split between those who have faith in union leadership and want to wait and see what the deal holds and others who don’t feel the union’s demands were strong enough and need to take advantage of a historic moment: “This is not a morality tale, I’m not accusing folks of being bad people or not caring, but there is a disconnect between what IATSE negotiators are calling a ‘win win’ TA [tentative agreement] and what younger IATSE members are calling weak,” he says in a statement.

If a strike had been called, it would have impacted projects produced under the union’s and the AMPTP’s Basic Agreement, Area Standards Agreement and Videotape Agreement, which have all expired, and prompted around 60,000 workers to withhold their labor. (The Area Standards Agreement is still being negotiated, IATSE said on Saturday.) AMPTP president Carol Lombardini was the lead negotiator for the AMPTP, while IATSE international president Matthew D. Loeb and international vp Michael Miller led IATSE’s end of the talks. They had been back in negotiations since Oct. 5, when IATSE returned to the table armed with a strike authorization vote overwhelmingly approved by its members.

Dawn Hudson to Exit as Film Academy’s CEO After Contract Expires in 2023

Dawn Hudson, the chief executive officer of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who has presided over a decade of controversial transformational change at the organization, will be vacating her position when her current contract expires in 2023. Deadline broke this story, which The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. The 65-year-old Hudson is a […]

Dawn Hudson, the chief executive officer of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who has presided over a decade of controversial transformational change at the organization, will be vacating her position when her current contract expires in 2023.

Deadline broke this story, which The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The 65-year-old Hudson is a Harvard alum who made her name as the CEO of Film Independent, joining the Academy in 2011, tasked with overseeing a staff of more than 400 spread across offices in Los Angeles, New York and London. She took early heat for her management style (numerous high-level employees departed or were forced out) and for her spending (most notably for an expensive redecoration of the Academy’s Wilshire Blvd. headquarters).

But she was applauded in many circles for leading the Academy’s efforts to diversify its workforce and membership. (The number of women and underrepresented ethnic/racial communities with Oscar votes more than doubled during her tenure). She also oversaw the creation of Aperture 2025, an initiative that, among other things, established “inclusion standards” for Oscars eligibility, which has proven more divisive.

Other notable changes during Hudson’s time at the Academy have included the phasing out of paper Oscar ballots and the phasing in of online Oscar voting; the phasing out of hard-copy screeners and the phasing-in of the Academy Screening Room streaming service; and the Academy stepping in to serve as the middle-man — for a fee — for all communications sent to its members.

But Hudson’s legacy at the Academy will probably be tied most to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opened to the public in September. A dream of the Academy’s founders nearly a century ago, it finally began to come together under Hudson’s watch — taking considerably longer and costing considerably more than originally anticipated, but ultimately proving to be a widely-lauded establishment.

“After more than ten years and the incredibly successful opening of our new museum, I’ve decided, when this term concludes, it will be time for me to explore other opportunities and adventures as this can hardly be topped,” Hudson said in a statement. “We’ve achieved so much together that’s been most important to me — our ongoing commitment to representation and inclusion, adapting the Academy into a digitally sophisticated global institution, and creating the world’s premier movie museum that will be the destination of film fans for decades. The Board of Governors and I are mutually committed to a seamless transition to new leadership. I’m excited for what the future holds, for both the Academy and for me.”

Added Academy president David Rubin: “Dawn has been, and continues to be, a groundbreaking leader for the Academy. Advancements in the diversity and gender parity of our membership, our increased international presence, and the successful opening of a world-class Academy Museum — a project she revived, guided and championed — are already part of her legacy. I know the Board of Governors joins me in looking forward to our collaboration with Dawn in the many months ahead, as we map out a plan for succession.”

The search for Hudson’s successor will begin shortly.

‘Black Panther,’ ‘Indiana Jones’ Sequels Push Back Release Dates

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is on the move. Disney on Monday made a number of changes to Marvel’s upcoming slate that, for the most part, sees titles delayed by several months or more. Those titles include the Black Panther sequel, which moves from July 8, 2022, to Nov. 11, 2022. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse […]

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is on the move.

Disney on Monday made a number of changes to Marvel’s upcoming slate that, for the most part, sees titles delayed by several months or more.

Those titles include the Black Panther sequel, which moves from July 8, 2022, to Nov. 11, 2022.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness kicks off the reshuffling in relocating from March 25, 2022, to May 6, 2022, a date previously occupied by Thor: Love and Thunder.

Other studios wasted no time in taking advantage of the changes. Paramount quickly announced it will now launch romantic action-adventure The Lost City, starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt, on March 25, 2022, instead of April 15, 2022 (the project was previously titled The Lost City of D).

The next chapter in Marvel’s Thor series will open on July 8, the Black Panther sequel’s previous launching pad.

The Marvels moves from Nov. 11, 2022, to Feb. 17, 2023, which bumps Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania to July 28, 2023.

Disney’s live-action studio also revealed that it is pushing back its untitled Indiana Jones reboot by almost a year, from July 29, 2022, to June 30, 2023.

Studio insiders say the Marvel shifts are primarily due to various production delays, as well as finding the best dates for movies as the film industry emerges from the pandemic.

The shuffling was announced hours before the world premiere of Marvel’s Eternals, which opens in theaters Nov. 5.

Oct. 18, 10:10 a.m. Updated with The Lost City’s new release date.

Mel Gibson Boards ‘John Wick’ Prequel Miniseries at Starz

Starz and Lionsgate’s long-developing John Wick prequel series, The Continental, has its first actor booked: Mel Gibson. The Oscar winner has signed on to the series, which is set 40 years before the events of the film series starring Keanu Reeves. It’s set at the titular hotel, a gathering place for international assassins. The three-part […]

Starz and Lionsgate’s long-developing John Wick prequel series, The Continental, has its first actor booked: Mel Gibson.

The Oscar winner has signed on to the series, which is set 40 years before the events of the film series starring Keanu Reeves. It’s set at the titular hotel, a gathering place for international assassins.

The three-part series, which has tapped Albert Hughes as its lead director, will center on the young version of Winston Scott, played by Ian McShane in the films. The character is pulled back into a world he thought he’d left behind and takes on a harrowing attempt to seize control of the hotel.

Gibson will play a character named Cormac. Other details of his role are being kept under wraps.

Lionsgate TV, whose sister movie studio produces the film series, is producing The Continental. The series has been in development since 2018, when Starz (which is owned by Lionsgate) broached the idea of setting an ongoing series at the hotel.

Greg Coolidge and Kirk Ward (Wayne) are writing and will serve as showrunners. They executive produce along with John Wick screenwriter Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski, Thunder Road Pictures’ Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee, David Leitch, Shawn Simmons, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese.

For Gibson, The Continental will be his first series work since his recurring role in the 2004-05 ABC comedy Complete Savages, which he also exec produced. His recent film credits include Fatman, Dragged Across Concrete and The Professor and the Madman. He’s repped by APA and attorney Leigh Brecheen.

News of Gibson’s casting in The Continental sparked a backlash on social media Monday, as many people noted the actor and director’s history of anti-Semitic comments (including following a DUI arrest in 2006) and his no contest plea to battery on former partner Oksana Grigorieva in 2011.

“It’s not that Mel Gibson proves cancel culture isn’t a thing,” reads one representative comment on Twitter. “It’s that hiring Mel Gibson shows society actively doesn’t care about [domestic violence], racism, or antisemitism.”

Deadline first reported the news.

ABC’s ‘Queens’: TV Review

Eve, Brandy, Naturi Naughton and Nadine Velazquez star as members of a hip-hop group that was big in the '90s. Two decades later, the women reunite and try to reignite their music careers.

When the leads of Queens get to talking about what it felt like to be on top of the music world circa 1999, their words carry special weight: Three of them are played by women who actually were climbing the Billboard charts that decade, namely Eve, Brandy and Naturi Naughton. And when these women get to making music together, the experience is riveting enough to carry Queens over any bumps and snags that might otherwise get in the way of a good time.

Created by Zahir McGee, the hourlong drama chronicles the reunion of the Nasty Bitches, a (fictional) all-female hip-hop group that exploded the late ’90s, 20 years after they imploded at the height of their success. In one of those annoying coincidences of timing, this is also more or less the plot of Peacock’s Girls5eva, down to the fact that both groups get the idea to return when their biggest hit is featured on a younger artist’s single. But Queens takes a much different tack to the premise — more serious and searching but also much soapier, albeit with plenty of room left over for hugs and jokes.

The premiere episode crams an impressive amount of backstory into its 44 minutes, starting with a music video that serves as an efficient encapsulation of exactly who these women used to be. The lavish production checks all the boxes of an MTV hit from the era: a yacht, a mansion, a long line of shirtless hunks, an obviously CG explosion and the Nasty Girls winking and sneering at the camera in front of all of it. But the video is intercut with scenes that show who these women are now.

The confident “Professor Sex,” for example, is now just Brianna (Eve), a busy mom of five whose life soundtrack these days is “Baby Shark.” One by one, the other band members get similar intros: “Da Thrill” is now Jill (Naughton), a prim and proper church lady; “Xplicit Lyrics” is Naomi (Brandy), a struggling singer-songwriter; and “Butter Pecan” is Valeria (Nadine Velazquez), a morning show host and the only one of the quartet who’s managed to hold on to some semblance of fame.

Queens‘ early promise lies in the magic of its leads. All four feel fully formed from the jump, whether it’s in the rigidness with which Jill carries herself, or the heavy regret that seems to be weighing on Naomi’s shoulders. Each has her own struggle, and each combination of characters their own dynamic — some warm, some bitter, some in between.

Collectively, they share an easy chemistry bolstered by strong, specific dialogue. Queens doesn’t just ask you to take its word that these women were BFFs in their youth — it shows us one woman opening up over mimosas about her problems with an unfaithful man, and the others responding with goofy jokes about his penis. (Upon hearing that he still has a penis at all: “You have changed.”) The same scene veers into more pained personal thoughts about what makes it so hard to leave. It is, in short, exactly the kind of intimate, free-flowing conversation a woman might have with friends she feels bonded to for life, even if she hasn’t seen them in a while.

And these women are rarely better than when they’re freestyling together in the studio. Considering the cast’s combined musical experience and Swizz Beatz’ role as executive music producer, it’s little surprise that Queens is blessed with an all-bangers soundtrack that’s heavy on hip-hop icons (Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj, Remy Ma) but omnivorous enough to include the likes of Portishead. That the original music credited to the Nasty Bitches manages to hold its own in such company is no small feat, but their signature track, “Nasty Girl,” is as earworm-y as any of the preexisting songs used in the episode. (Well, maybe not “Baby Shark.”)

Queens‘ cast and soundtrack are strong enough that the show would seem worth a look even if all it offered were scenes of these women rehearsing in the studio or coming up with new songs together. But the premiere also seeds several dramatic arcs that promise to play out over the course of the season, including a domestic drama, a love triangle and a coming-out story.

The most promising is the Nasty Bitches’ relationship with Lil Muffin (a disarming Pepi Sonuga), an up-and-coming rapper in whom they see a reflection of their own highs and lows at her age. It’s in that storyline that Queens gets most candid about not just what the music industry can do for women but what it can do to them, and the limitations of the power that even a superstar can wield in that context.

Less confident are the shifts in tone among some of these plotlines. At times Queens takes on the rhythms of a bouncy comedy, even in storylines that are otherwise played straight and somber. Other times, it cranks up the sensuality with neon lighting and a moody song. Depending on the scene, you might take it for a melodramatic tragedy or a dishy soap — the latter particularly when Velazquez’s Valeria is eating up the screen. Combined with a plot that bounces all over the country in the first episode, picking up new threads everywhere it goes, Queens can feel like it’s trying to spin a few too many plates at once.

Or maybe it just feels like a show that’s so bursting with potential it hardly knows where to begin. The rest of the season will reveal which way Queens is headed: toward hair-pulling drama or industry critique, lighthearted hijinks or explosive intrigue, or some combination thereof. But it’s starting from the rock-solid assumption that it’s a delight to see these queens basking in the limelight again — even if the Nasty Bitches never existed in our reality in the first place.