2020-12-04 Print

Warner Bros. Smashes Box Office Windows, Will Send Entire 2021 Slate to HBO Max and Theaters

by Aaron Couch and Pamela McClintock
Images from films that will be sent to HBO Max and theaters simultaneously.
Courtesy of Macall Polay/Warner Bros; Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.(3)

Warner Bros. is plotting a sweeping response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered movie theaters around the country. After announcing that Wonder Woman 1984 will go to HBO Max as well as theaters Dec. 25, the studio has laid out a similar path for its 2021 slate amid uncertainty about when moviegoing will get back to normal.

The studio announced Thursday day-and-date releases for its 17-film slate, which will hit HBO Max for a one-month window that starts the same day they will be available in U.S. theaters.

The studio's 2021 slate includes projects such as The Suicide Squad, The Matrix 4Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong and Space Jam: A New LegacyOther films include Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In the Heights, Reminiscence, Malignant, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard and Cry Macho.

The unprecedented move is likely to catch theater owners off guard and upsets a model that has been in place for decades. Warner Bros. stresses that these are pandemic-only rules, but once something is broken, can you really put it back together again? This also raises serious concerns about the landscape of moviegoing in 2021.

Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman, argued the move would be good for the theatrical business in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

"It allows us to do a global release and a national release in what we think is going to be a checkerboarded theatrical market place for the bulk of 2021," Emmerich told THR. "We think where theaters are open, and consumers can go, that a lot of people will choose to go to the theater, especially for big movies."

Despite word of coming vaccines, the company decided to put the entire 2021 slate on HBO Max after consulting with epidemiologists. Emmerich said the move was "to guarantee as many movies as we could for the year for the global theatrical marketplace."

Sources say these discussions were kept close to the vest and not shared with many exhibitors. Warner Bros. will likely have to agree to far more generous terms with theater owners to avoid them boycotting their films. Insiders say the Wonder Woman 1984 split of ticket sales is far better for exhibitors than normal. Sources also say the studio did not inform partners such as Legendary, which has Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong, that their films were included in this plan.

Emmerich would not comment on possible terms the studio might give theaters to show these films. He also noted he was excited for other studios to share their own plans, saying, "having movies out there is good for cinemas."

In a statement announcing the news, Ann Sarnoff, CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, cited "unprecedented times" that "call for creative solutions."

“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do," said Sarnoff. "We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021. With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films. We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances.”

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a statement, “After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months. More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.”

Kilar expanded upon his thinking in a blog post Thursday.

Emmerich said in a statement, “This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021. We have a fantastic, wide-ranging slate of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers next year, and we’re excited to be able get these movies in front of audiences around the world. And, as always, we’ll support all of our releases with innovative and robust marketing campaigns for their theatrical debuts, while highlighting this unique opportunity to see our films domestically via HBO Max as well.”

HBO Max is only available in the United States, and Warners' 2021 slate will roll out internationally in theaters as planned. The move comes after Warners released Christopher Nolan's Tenet in theaters this summer amid challenges faced by the pandemic.

Universal has already shortened theatrical windows via its unique VOD plan, which was put in place because of the pandemic.

When asked how long it took to get to this decision and to gain the support from across the company, Emmerich noted, "It took a minute as a company."

"We have these movies just sitting on the shelf," said Emmerich. "Consumers are starved for content."

"It's a Bloodbath": Layoffs Underway at Disney

by Lesley Goldberg
Peter Rice

Peter Rice

John Sciulli/Getty Images

"It's a bloodbath." That's how two longtime Disney staffers have described the wave of layoffs happening at the company Thursday.

The staff reductions are taking place in Disney's General Entertainment Content unit, overseen by Peter Rice, and Dana Walden's Walt Disney Television division, including ABC and studio 20th Television. Sources say more than 100 staffers have been impacted by Thursday's layoffs. "I'm sure Disney's seen worse, but it feels pretty significant," said one longtime executive familiar with the cutbacks. Disney declined comment. (THR will update this post with more information as it becomes available.)

Longtime ABC exec Vicki Dummer, who has spent nearly a quarter-century at Disney and most recently served as head of current for the broadcast network, is among the senior executives who have been impacted by the layoffs. ABC's exec vp scheduling Andy Kubitz, an eight-year network veteran, is also among those who lost their jobs Thursday. Kubitz most recently patched together ABC's schedule after the scores of holes were created when the pandemic forced production to shut down.

On the studio side, Dan Kupetz — who joined 20th TV in January to fill the void created by longtime studio co-chief Howard Kurtzman's retirement — was also let go.

At Disney-owned National Geographic, Geoff Daniels is out. Daniels most recently was promoted two  years ago to global exec vp of unscripted entertainment. His duties will be absorbed by Nat Geo CEO Courteney Monroe. Daniels had been with Nat Geo for nearly two decades and was promoted in 2018 ahead of the deal that brought the company into the Disney fold.

Another source noted that Hulu executives are also among those worried about their jobs after Disney earlier this week gave Hulu head of originals Craig Erwich oversight of ABC as well. Disney continues to restructure and consolidate its workforce to better position the company for the streaming future while eliminating staff redundancies for cost-saving purposes. The changes are the latest in a wave of structural repositioning across Disney that started Oct. 12 when new CEO Bob Chapek shifted the company's priority to streaming. As part of the effort, Chapek tapped former consumer products president Kareem Daniel to oversee a new Media and Entertainment Distribution Group. That gave greater content control to studio leaders, including Rice, while handing Daniel oversight of distribution, ad sales and such other business functions as budgets. The changes created what one top literary agent dubbed a "content czar and Supreme Court of buyers" at Disney.

As part of the moves, Rice centralized departments including marketing, publicity, scheduling and media planning into three distinct groups overseen by Shannon Ryan (Hulu and linear networks), former Twitter head of global creative Jayanta Jenkins (Disney+) and Stephanie Gibbons (FX/FX on Hulu). That means that networks like Freeform and ABC will no longer have dedicated teams overseeing areas including scheduling.

This week, Walden reorganized her group and folded Touchstone Television (formerly Fox 21) into 20th Television. ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke was tapped to oversee 20th TV, bumping Carolyn Cassidy to the No. 2 at the former Fox studio and sending longtime Fox 21 president Bert Salke back to producing.

With Erwich expanding his purview to include Hulu and ABC, and Burke now at the studio, it's unclear how the development process at Disney will work going forward. The restructuring empowered studio chiefs to develop content across Disney's portfolio. Still to be determined is if Disney will merge creative development teams — i.e., heads of current, drama, comedy and so on — into one larger group that oversees all content and could effectively end the age-old process of getting notes from both the studio and network side.

Such a move would position Disney similar to the changes that have taken place this year at NBCUniversal, which centralized business functions under Frances Berwick and entertainment content under Susan Rovner. The duo together oversee a portfolio that includes NBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen and E!, among others. NBCUniversal continues to have its studio counterparts, with separate leadership of Universal Television and Universal Content Productions.

Thursday's layoffs are the latest to come at Disney, which like other entertainment titans, is under tremendous financial pressure as a result of the novel coronavirus. With Disneyland in Southern California remaining shuttered and most movie theaters pinched by the pandemic, Disney this month announced additional furloughs for theme park employees and executives. That unknown tally will join the 28,000 park employees who were laid off in September. Disney reported a $3.1 billion third-quarter loss this month, following a $4.7 billion hit during Q2. Other Disney brands, including ESPN, have also been impacted by layoffs as the pandemic touches every corner of the entertainment sector and upends Hollywood's old way of life.

Updated Dec. 4: Added Nat Geo exec.

'Superstore' to End With Season 6 on NBC

by Rick Porter
SUPERSTORE
Greg Gayne/NBC

NBC is getting ready to close the doors on Superstore.

The network announced Thursday that the show's current season will be its last. The workplace comedy set at a big-box store will end next year after six seasons and 113 episodes.

"Superstore has always been a signature NBC series that has never failed to make us laugh while also thoughtfully examining important issues people care deeply about," said Lisa Katz, president scripted content at NBC. "This has been an amazing group of writers, producers, actors and crew to work with and we are incredibly grateful for all their contributions. This show will forever hold its place among the top workplace comedies for which we have a cherished history."

News of Superstore's end comes not long after the departure of lead actress America Ferrera. She had been slated to exit the show at the end of last season, but after the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down production in March, she agreed to return for the first two episodes of this season to close out her character's story.

"We're grateful to Universal Television and NBC for letting us make 113 episodes of a show we're so proud of, and for giving us the chance to work with such an incredibly talented group of actors, writers and crew," said executive producers Justin Spitzer, Gabe Miller and Jonathan Green in a joint statement. "We're thankful most of all to the viewers who've stuck with us for the past six years (or discovered us somewhere along the way). We'll do our best to go out strong and give you the satisfying ending you deserve."

Added Universal TV president Erin Underhill, "We are incredibly proud of this show and the stories we were able to tell within the walls of Cloud 9. We want to thank Justin Spitzer, who created this show, current showrunners Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller, all the writers, cast and crew. Not only did they bring us a comedy full of heart and humor, but Superstore also became one of the most socially impactful series on television."

Superstore is currently on hiatus and is set to return Jan. 14. The series finale will air in the spring.

Spitzer, Miller and Green — all of whom have overall deals at Universal TV — executive produce with David Bernad and Ruben Fleischer.

'Grey's Anatomy' Brings Back Another Original Star

by Lesley Goldberg
video-4100638-image

[This story contains spoilers from the Dec. 3 episode of Grey's Anatomy.]

Grey's Anatomy
has delivered a second blast from its past.

Original series star T.R. Knight returned to the ABC medical drama a whopping 12 seasons after his beloved character, George "007" O'Malley, was shockingly killed off.

In continuing with coronavirus-focused 17th season, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) saw her friend and former intern classmate in a dream as the beloved character continued her battle with COVID-19. As Patrick Dempsey's Derek Shepherd did before him, George appeared to Meredith during a beach sequence designed to symbolize Meredith's reunion in death with the people she's loved and lost.

"It's not real," as Derek has said repeatedly since Dempsey's stunning return in last month's return. George and Meredith in Thursday's episode also debated who gets to go when and if anyone really gets to make the choice themselves. In a tearful nod to his own death, George noted he didn't get to make the choice. The episode ended with Meredith getting into a clinical trial as she was pulled between life and death. The promo for next week's episode (watch that, below) shows Meredith improving but another doctor taking a downturn following repeated positive tests for COVID-19.

"George O'Malley will always claim my heart," Knight wrote Thursday night on Instagram. "Thank you to Ellen, Chandra [Wilson], Jim [Pickens], Krista [Vernoff], and all the familiar faces for once again sharing your beautiful light."

Grey's showrunner Krista Vernoff has said the beach motif "will continue" beyond the season 17 premiere. The trailer for Thursday's episode, the fourth of the season and fittingly titled "You'll Never Walk Alone," revealed that "another person" from Meredith's past would return to her on the beach.

Knight's George was one of Grey's Anatomy's original intern class. Pompeo's Meredith is the lone member from that intern class still on Grey's and, alongside Chandra Wilson (Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Richard), the last of its original stars. Knight, following a public outing during a feud between Dempsey and former star Isaiah Washington (Burke), asked to be released from his contract early. George was killed off after being hit by a bus in a bid to save a woman's life. (Washington, who was fired in season three after calling Knight a homophobic slur, made a surprise return in season 10 as part of Sandra Oh's departure.)

Knight and Dempsey's returns are all part of a larger storyline in which Grey's is shining its spotlight on first responders during the pandemic. Pompeo and Vernoff have said that season 17 is dedicated to the frontline health care workers. "We hope our show inspires you to wear your masks to protect [front-line health care workers] and each other," the showrunner said in a Nov. 12 statement after Dempsey's return was revealed.

Vernoff, who also serves as showrunner on Grey's spinoff Station 19, initially balked at the idea of writing the pandemic into Grey's Anatomy. Instead, producers opted to tell a powerful story that reaches a vast audience. Pompeo is the face of Grey's, which has a global audience and is licensed in more than 250 territories around the world. "We saw an opportunity to dramatize and illuminate [health care workers'] plight through the incredibly well loved and well-known character of Meredith Grey," Vernoff told THR of the decision to give Meredith COVID. "Doctors and nurses are fighting for us and falling for us. The least we can do is wear a mask, socially distance and stay home whenever possible. Meredith has a real fight ahead of her. And … she has that beach. Darkness and light. It’s a powerful season. Stay tuned."

The events of season 17 started in April as Grey's seeks to follow the pandemic and its impact on medical professionals, patients and their respective families. To that end, two doctors on Grey's — including Meredith — have been diagnosed with COVID-19. "We have been trying to strike a balance between our characters contracting COVID and the rate at which health care workers are contracting it," Grey's exec producer and writer Zoanne Clack, a doctor who doubles as the show's medical expert, told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview this week. "Historically, people will be able to watch this season of Grey's and see the medical story of our lifetime unfold."

"COVID is No. 1 on the call sheet," Clack told THR. As part of the storyline, Dempsey — and presumably Knight — will continue to appear throughout the season as Meredith fights for her life.

And because we're feeling sentimental, too, check out some of George's best moments in the clip below. Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC.

Marvel's 'Hawkeye' Enlists Vera Farmiga

by Borys Kit and Aaron Couch
Vera Farmiga
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Vera Farmiga is targeting Hawkeye, the upcoming Marvel/Disney+ series that recently began production.

The series stars Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, the Avenger known as Hawkeye. Hailee Steinfeld joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as fan-favorite character Kate Bishop, who in the comics eventually takes the mantle of Hawkeye after training under Barton. Black Widow actor Florence Pugh is also involved in the new series.

Directors for Hawkeye include Bert and Bertie, as well as Saturday Night Live director Rhys Thomas. Jonathan Igla (Mad Men, Pitch) is writing.

Farmiga earned an Oscar nomination for 2009's Up in the Air and is well-known in the genre space thanks to roles in The Conjuring series, in which she plays Lorraine Warren, and TV's Bates Motel.

Marvel is making its Disney+ series a priority, with WandaVision rolling out in January, to be followed by Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki. Other series in the works include She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Moon Knight.

Women, BIPOC Remain Underrepresented on TV, Nielsen Study Finds

by Rick Porter
Nielsen's 2020 TV Inclusion Report
Courtesy of Nielsen's 2020 TV Inclusion Report

A study by Nielsen found that women and people of color are underrepresented on television relative to their share of the overall population.

The study by the ratings service looked at not just how many people from various identity groups are cast on TV series, but how often and how long they appear. That metric, which Nielsen calls Share of Screen, shows that women and people of color fall short of their real-world population numbers on screen.

Women, for example, make up 52 percent of the population of the United States but only received 38 percent of screen time on the top 300 shows on broadcast and cable networks and streaming platforms in 2019. People of color represent 39.5 percent of the total population but just under 27 percent in the Share of Screen metric.

"At Nielsen, we believe that the audience is everything and that inclusion is a prerequisite of a healthy media ecosystem, ensuring all communities and individuals are heard and seen," said Tina Wilson, executive vp media analytics and marketing outcomes at Nielsen. "The call for inclusive programming that breaks traditional stereotypes and gives a voice to underrepresented groups has never been louder."

Among intersectional groups — e.g., Black men, LGBTQ women and Hispanic/Latinx men — people who had on-screen representation in line with or above their percentage of the overall population overwhelmingly tended to be male. On broadcast programming, for instance, only Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander females were represented above their population level.

White characters of any gender have an 81 percent Share of Screen across all platforms, the study found, while making up only 60.5 percent of the population as a whole.

Black and Asian people are represented in proportion with their percentages of the U.S. population, though the study notes that Black women lag behind Black men, particularly in news and LGBTQ-themed programming. Hispanic/Latinx representation, however, is poor, with just a 5.5 percent Share of Screen across all platforms despite making up almost 19 percent of the total U.S. population. Latinx people are most visible on streaming, where they have a 10.1 percent Share of Screen, per Nielsen.

Nielsen calculated its Share of Screen by looking at the top 10 recurring cast members by identity group for shows that aired in 2019, multiplied by the number of episodes people belonging to that group appeared in. It then multiplying that by the total viewing minutes for that program for the year. Percentages add up to more than 100 as one person could be counted in multiple identity groups.

FBI Unseals "Con Queen of Hollywood" Indictment

by Scott Johnson
The Hollywood Sign
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

On Thursday morning the Department of Justice and the FBI unsealed a 7-page Grand Jury indictment against Hargobind Tahilramani, 41, the so-called Con Queen of Hollywood, outlining eight federal charges including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The indictment, which dates back to early October, sheds new light on the extent of the elaborate Con Queen scam, namely the scope and range of people whose identities the Con Queen adopted. “Tahilramani and his co-conspirators would falsely claim to be, among others: well-known entertainment industry executives; individuals who worked with the entertainment industry executives; and family members of the entertainment industry executives,” the indictment states, “Tahilramani and his co-conspirators would falsely claim that they wanted to hire the entertainment industry professionals to work on films and other projects purportedly based in Indonesia, when in fact, no such films or other projects existed.”

Early in the morning on Nov. 26, police in the northern English city of Manchester arrested  Tahilramani, an Indonesian man and convicted felon. The arrest ended a years-long investigation by agents from the FBI and private investigators from K2 Integrity (formerly K2 Intelligence), a New York-based corporate security firm.

"The defendant has been arrested in the United Kingdom based on a request for his provisional arrest submitted by the United States with a view towards his extradition. We will have no further comment," read a statement by the FBI.

The unnamed co-conspirators are identified as a driver and an individual who collected cash payments from people who traveled to Indonesia.

Law enforcement officials believe Tahilramani, who was going by the name of Gobind Tahil at the time of the arrest, impersonated powerful female figures, including several Hollywood notables like Amy Pascal and Kathleen Kennedy, and then used these personas to convince people building their careers in the creative arts to travel to Indonesia on the promise of work. Once there, the marks paid cash for logistical services such as driving and fixing, with the promise of reimbursement on the backend. The projects never materialized and the money vanished.

The indictment also alleges that on a few occasions Tahilramani threatened violence if people “questioned Tahilramani’s assumed identity or tried to withdraw from an agreement.” In those instances, the indictment alleges, Tahilramani would threaten to “dismember the entertainment industry professional” or send “pictures of the entertainment industry professional’s children.”

The indictment also alleges that the co-conspirators deposited the cash payments they received into “a bank account controlled by Tahilramani.”

Beginning as early as 2015 and continuing largely unimpeded for the next five years, Tahilramani allegedly lured scores of victims into a series of impersonation scams. Over time, he adapted the con to suit his needs as he expanded and diversified his roster of potential victims.At the most basic level, the scams were sophisticated catfishing operations. Highly skilled with accents and voices, Tahilramani allegedly passed himself off as several powerful female executives.

By 2017, he was impersonating former Sony chair Amy Pascal, Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy and former Paramount boss Sherry Lansing.In addition to Hollywood notables, Tahilramani also sought out highly visible people in other areas, including media, politics and international business. He duped his marks into believing he was Wendi Murdoch, the wife of Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, and Christine Hearst Schwarzman, the intellectual property lawyer and wife of billionaire Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman (he also briefly ran President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum).

By late last year, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down global travel, he was still luring people to Indonesia by successfully impersonating the prominent Singapore business magnate and so-called “Boss of Bond Street,” Christina Ong.

By 2016, Tahilramani had set up shop in the United Kingdom, where he attempted to reinvent himself. That year, as he was continuing to impersonate people as part of the Indonesia travel scheme, he began a secondary persuit as an Instagram influencer specializing in London food culture. Tahilramani was the host of “Purebytes,” an Instagram account which boasted over 50,000 followers by January of 2019.

On Purebytes, which had as its tagline “Every Meal Has A Story,” Tahilramani presented himself as a footloose foodie writer and adventurer who had spent his childhood between Indonesia and the United States. Tahilramani never identified himself by name, and adopted a distinct and very convincing American accent. Yet his alleged scams continued: As recently as last month, Tahilramani was continuing to convince people to send him money.

“Two years ago, we identified our subject and began building a meticulous case against one individual. Now, we have reached one incredible outcome: justice for the victims,” wrote Nicoletta Kotsianas, the K2 investigator who worked most closely on the case, in the statement.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom Announces Regional Stay-at-Home Order

by Ryan Parker
Governor Gavin Newsom 1 - May 27 2020- Publicity -H 2020
Courtesy of Governor Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday unveiled the structure of a new regional stay-at-home order due to skyrocketing cases of COVID-19 in California.

The order will be enacted for three weeks in regions where ICU capacity falls below 15 percent. The regions are the Bay Area, greater Sacramento, Northern California, Southern California and San Joaquin Valley. Newsom said that no regions have been placed into the regional stay-at-home order at this time. The order will go into place once that 15 percent threshold is met.

Once that happens, hair salons, personal services and bars will all be closed, while retail stores will be limited to 20 percent capacity. Schools will remain open. Restaurants may stay open for takeout and delivery.

All nonessential travel is now temporarily restricted statewide, the governor added.

"If we don't act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed … we'll continue to see a death rate climb," Newsom said. "Remember: This is temporary. Hope is on the way. Relief is on the way. A vaccine is coming — with first doses arriving in the next few weeks. We can get through this — together."

California on Wednesday reported more than 20,000 new novel coronavirus cases, the most ever in a single day.

While talking about the initial rounds of a vaccine on the way to the state, Newsom noted that the wealthy and famous will not be allowed to cut in line. The first doses will be doled out to high-risk groups including front-line medical workers. Newsom later tweeted that the state will be receiving 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in mid-December.

On Wednesday night, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a city order, telling people to remain home.

"My message couldn't be simpler. It's time to hunker down. It's time to cancel everything. And if it isn’t essential, don’t do it," the mayor said. "Don't meet up with others outside your household. Don't host a gathering. Don't attend a gathering. And following our targeted 'Safer at Home' order, if you're able to stay home, stay home."

Film and television production is seemingly not impacted, as it is largely considered "essential" work. The Wednesday night Los Angeles stay-at-home order includes production as exempt from new business restrictions.

Joe Biden to Ask Americans to Wear Masks for 100 Days Among First Acts as Presidency

by Sharareh Drury
US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris - Getty-H 2020
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden said Thursday during his first joint interview with vice president-elect Kamala Harris that he will ask for Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president.

Jake Tapper spoke with both Biden and Harris in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware — the same theater where the President-elect revealed several top members of his administration.

"On the first day I'm inaugurated, I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days" Biden told Tapper, adding he feels the move will result in a "significant reduction" in COVID-19 cases.

Biden also shared he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay on in his administration as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the nation's top infectious-disease expert and a role Fauci has had "for the past several presidents."

The president-elect added that he asked Fauci to be a "chief medical adviser" as well as part of his COVID-19 advisory team.

Both Biden and Harris confirmed they would get a coronavirus vaccine, with the president-elect adding he'd do so publicly. Three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have said they would get vaccinated publicly to show it is safe.

"People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work. Already the numbers are really staggeringly low, and it matters what the president and vice president do," Biden said.

The vice president-elect noted while she will get the vaccine, it is important that "the people who need it the most are going to be a priority." Harris shared how over the Thanksgiving holiday, she and Biden made a call to a number of nurses who described "horrendous conditions."

Turning attention to Biden's commitment for a diverse cabinet, Tapper pressed on whether the president-elect would appoint a Black attorney general following this year's swell of Black Lives Matter protests and calls of justice for Black people killed by police.

Biden said he understands that groups like the NAACP and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus want to "push me" on the diversity commitment and it is his duty to "keep my commitment." He shared he is meeting with the NAACP and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus next week and plans to ensure "both in the White House and outside in the Cabinet is going to look like the country."

When asked by Tapper about possible pardons President Trump has suggested for himself, Rudy Giuliani and his adult children, Biden said they concern him because of the "kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks [at] us as a nation of laws and justice."

However, Biden and Harris said they would not tell the Justice Department what to do on the matter. "I'm not going to be saying, 'Go prosecute A, B or C.' I'm not going to be telling them," he told Tapper. "That's not the role. It's not my Justice Department, it's the people's Justice Department. So the persons or person I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted, who doesn't."

Harris agreed with Biden's statements, adding that as a former attorney general elected in California "that any decision coming out of the Justice Department ... should be based on facts, it should be based on the law, it should not be influenced by politics, period."

Lighter moments of discussion in the interview included Biden explaining his recent hairline fracture injury caused by playing with his dog Major and Harris laughing over how some of her husband's friends have jokingly called him "the second dude."

While confirming that the newfound and proper term for Doug Emhoff is "second gentleman," Harris clarified for her, it'll remain "honey."

'A Christmas Carol': Film Review

by Stephen Dalton
A Christmas Carol
Frith Street Films

Christmas Eve in Victorian London. While the poor shiver in snowy streets, a phantom menace stalks the fancy homes of the rich and shameless. Who you gonna call? Charles Dickens, of course, whose ghostbusting 1843 novella A Christmas Carol has been adapted, updated, rebooted and lovingly spoofed more than any other festive holiday classic. At least 70 big- and small-screen versions have been filmed to date alongside countless stage productions, operas, ballets, radio plays and graphic novels.

Billed as a "radical retelling," this new artisan twist on A Christmas Carol from British writer-director duo Jacqui and David Morris is certainly formally inventive, blurring the genre lines between live-action drama, animation and ballet. But after a heavyweight screen legacy that includes George C. Scott, Albert Finney, Bill Murray, Patrick Stewart, Jim Carrey, Mickey Mouse, Michael Caine and the Muppets, does the world need yet another outing for miserly grinch Ebenezer Scrooge and his spooky home invasions?

Impressively, the Morris siblings have secured a stellar vocal cast for A Christmas Carol, one that includes Martin Freeman, Carey Mulligan, Daniel Kaluuya and Andy Serkis. Even so, there are flaws at the heart of their treatment that no amount of gold-star acting talent can remedy. The packaging may be lightly experimental and the color-blind casting is a pleasingly modern touch, but the film's underlying aesthetic is still stifled by stuffy traditionalism, with bloodless performances and a voiceover narration that incorporates hefty chunks of undiluted Dickens text. Opening in U.K. cinemas this week, this lukewarm Christmas pudding is unlikely to enter the hallowed pantheon of canonical Dickens movies.

A lot of work has gone into the film's striking look, a multimedia blend of Gothic Victoriana and Expressionist design that is inescapably indebted to Tim Burton in places. As a conceptually fuzzy framing device, we the viewers are notionally witnessing 19th century children staging a version of the Scrooge story inside a cardboard-cutout toy theater, with their grandmother (Sian Phillips) providing narration. Plastered with vintage illustrations and news stories from the era, the visual backdrop is a pointedly artificial stage set, an intriguingly Brechtian distancing device that more ambitious filmmakers might have exploited further.

Heavily choreographed and close to pure dance at times, the performances are the most radical element in A Christmas Carol, but also the most problematic. While the physical roles are mostly handled by dancers who never speak, their dialogue is delivered offscreen by the vocal cast. Hence Scrooge is voiced by the venerable Shakespearean stage actor Simon Russell Beale but embodied onscreen by Michael Nunn; Scrooge's long-lost love, Belle, is spoken by Mulligan but played by Grace Jabbari; Bob Cratchit's voice belongs to Martin Freeman but his face is that of Brekke Fagerlund Karl; and so on. Serkis, Kaluuya and screen legend Leslie Caron voice Scrooge's ghostly visitors.

While these dual performances are stylistically interesting, they also feel stilted and alienating, dampening the story's emotional force and social-justice message. Which is ironic, because director Jacqui Morris and her screenwriter brother, David, take unusual care to stress the squalor, poverty, street violence and exploitative sex work of Dickensian London with more conscientious fidelity to their source material than many previous adaptions. But sadly their stylized treatment undermines these worthy intentions, sacrificing gritty realism to theatrical artifice.

A slight scare before Christmas, this tame Tim Burton-lite tale also falls flat as supernatural ghost story, never quite mustering the terrifying sense of mortal dread and moral jeopardy that shake Scrooge to his senses in the book. Alex Baranowski's syrupy, twinkly score does little to alleviate this sense of muted drawing-room restraint. For all its high-caliber talent, A Christmas Carol ultimately feels like peering into a dusty Victorian music box: beautifully crafted but a mostly mechanical, lifeless experience.

Production company: Frith Street Films
Cast: Sian Phillips, Michael Nunn, Carey Mulligan, Simon Russell Beale, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Andy Serkis, Leslie Caron
Director: Jacqui Morris
Screenwriter: David Morris, from the novella by Charles Dickens
Producers: Jacqui Morris, David Morris
Cinematographer: Michael Wood
Editor: Gary Forrester
Production designer: Darko Petrovic
Art director: David Kharaishvili
Costume designer: Aneta Kharaishvili, Stevie Stewart
Music: Alex Baranowski

95 minutes