What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:16 AM 2/28/2018

by Ray Rahman

What's news: Our Oscar picks are in. Who will win — and who should win? Plus: Comcast's latest moves could launch a bidding war, Apple lands another TV project with a big name attached and THR looks back at Harvey Weinstein's troubling early days. — Ray Rahman

On the cover: The Oscars issue. Who will win? Who should win? Scott Feinberg and Todd McCarthy pick 'em:

BEST PICTURE

Will Win: The Shape of Water. Even before considering the preferential ballot's effect (which is intended to produce a winner most people at least like), this is tough. But Shape seems the most widely admired (among its field-leading 13 noms are three for acting, negating SAG's snub) and could benefit from reverse coattails (its director is winning). Should Win: Call Me by Your Name. It's a sign of something when the best gay-or-otherwise picture of the year is perhaps seen as too "conventional" by newer Academy members, who might actually push Get Out into the winner's circle.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will Win: Allison Janney. Laurie Metcalf did well with critics groups, and Lesley Manville has her admirers, but Janney swept the industry awards. Should Win: Laurie Metcalf. Effective as Janney is as Unsupportive Mother of the Decade, there was something almost Saturday Night Live-ish about the one-note foulness. For me, Metcalf's distressed, limited and fearful mother of a daughter about to leave the nest clearly stands above the rest for its vivid portrait of violently conflicting emotions. See the full list.

+ Brutally honest Oscar ballot: A voter from the Academy's producers branch thinks The Florida Project "got fuckin' screwed," wishes he'd seen the Kevin Spacey version of All the Money in the World and says Gary Oldman gets his vote even "if he hit his wife with a telephone" (Oldman denied the claim and was never charged). Read the full anonymous ballot.

+ What if the Oscar were a woman? THR commissioned A-list artists, sculptors and designers to reconceive the coveted gold statuette as a female. See the new statues.

+ Inside the Governors Ball, where 1,500 VIPs will party: The Academy's official afterparty is filled with 850 service and support staff, 13,000 glasses for beverages, 4,800 small plates, 4,500 ramekins and verrines and 6,000 cocktail forks. Read more.

  • Sky Wars

    AP Photo/Susan Walsh

    Will Comcast's Sky offer lead to a bidding war? Georg Szalai writes:

    Wall Street hotly debated the issue Tuesday following Comcast's unveiling of its unsolicited bid for Sky, in which Fox owns a 39 percent stake and offered to take full control in a deal that U.K. regulators have continued to review. 

    "Markets are currently anticipating a counterbid, with Sky shares trading above Comcast's offer price," RBC Capital Markets analyst Jonathan Atkin noted in a report. 

    "It's an attractive 16 percent premium being offered over the Fox offer of 10.75 pounds, but it will not be enough," Cenkos analyst Alex DeGroote tells THR about Comcast's planned Sky bid. "The market is predicting a much higher offer."

    Liberum Capital analyst Ian Whittaker was among those observers who don't expect a counterbid: "We think the simplest — and best — thing for Fox to do is accept the bid, and it is likely Fox will now walk away." Full story.

    Fox: "21st Century Fox remains committed to its recommended cash offer for Sky announced on 15th December 2016,” the company said in a statement. “We note that no firm offer has been made by Comcast at this point." Sky made a similar comment.

    WSJ: "Comcast is betting that it will have a far easier time winning over regulators than Fox, whose proposed Sky transaction has run into a lengthy review in Britain," the paper reports. "Comcast also views Sky’s expertise in direct-to-consumer offerings — including its Now TV streaming service — as a major asset as it formulates plans to challenge Netflix globally, according to people familiar with the situation."

    Could Comcast make a run at Disney's Fox bid? If so, they’re not telling: “We're here strictly to talk about Sky," Comcast senior vp and CFO Michael Cavanagh said during an morning analyst call as he and CEO Brian Roberts were asked about persistent Wall Street chatter over a potential new Comcast takeover offer for parts of Fox.

    Netflix CFO talks producer mega-deals...

    "Not everyone gets one": That's what David Wells said during an interview with investors yesterday. "Ryan has been a very successful and prolific producer of television that has been very commercially successful," he added, referring to the $300 million deal Netflix inked with Ryan Murphy. "These deals are going to be rarer than you think.”

    What Netflix looks for: A prolific producer with global popularity who "generates a lot of customer joy,” Wells explained. He also noted that the company will have 700 projects — including TV shows, movies, stand-up specials and more — this year.

    Marketing strategy: As Netflix spends more on content, it has also begun to increase its marketing budget. This year, the company is expected to hit $2 billion. In the past, "every additional incremental dollar was best spent on content," Wells said. "Now it's mostly spent on content but also spent on marketing." 

    Speaking of Netflix: The streamer is teaming up with Steve Martin and Martin Short for a new comedy special based on their current tour; Lorne Michaels will produce. 

    CBS streaming milestone...

    5 million: That's how many subscribers Les Moonves says the company's two primary streaming services, Showtime OTT and CBS All-Access, have — 1 million more than he expected by this time. CBS Interactive "may be the most important part of our company going forward,"  he said. "We're in pretty good shape to expand the over-the-top offerings as we go forward and, once again, we are going to be able to offer them together and sort of build a CBS all-platform where you can get it all."

    On the NFL: "We love football — on Sunday," Moonves said, referring to his decision not to outbid 21st Century Fox for Thursday Night Football since CBS has Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon on those nights. "We generally win Thursday night after football is over." He added: "We're happy the Olympics are over.… When you're up against the Olympics, it's tough."

    Amazon beefs up India streaming portfolio...

    Deal: Amazon Prime Video and Disney India on Wednesday unveiled an exclusive content deal that will allow Amazon to stream seven new and upcoming shows (including Inhumans and Runaways) from Marvel and ABC in India immediately after they premiere in the U.S. The deal also covers past seasons of ABC hit series Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, Desperate Housewives, Scandal and Scrubs.

    TiVo evaluates future...

    Weighing options: "TiVo has begun a process of evaluating a wide range of strategic alternatives to realize long-term shareholder value," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "These options range from transformative acquisitions that would accelerate our growth, to combining our business with other leading players, to becoming a private company."

    ITV's 2017 profits drop...

    "Refresh": The U.K. TV giant reported its financials for the full year, saying ad revenue dropped 5 percent and the profit at its TV production unit stayed unchanged, with overall earnings down. "We are very focused on our strategic refresh,” said new CEO Carolyn McCall. “This will enable us to define a clear strategy and priorities that will highlight the opportunities and address the challenges that we face in an increasingly competitive media landscape."

    Ryan Seacrest responds to accuser...

    Statement: "This person who has accused me of horrible things tried to buy her silence by asking for money on multiple occasions — I refused," Seacrest says.  “I don’t want to accuse anyone of not telling the truth but in this case, I have no choice but to again deny the claims against me, remind people that I was recused of any wrongdoing, and put the matter to rest." Full statement.

    E!: The network, which Seacrest points out has already concluded its investigation and found "insufficient evidence to support the claims," says Seacrest will still host this Sunday's Oscars red carpet as planned.

    Alec Baldwin's new show...

    Sundays With Alec Baldwin: That’s the name of his new weekly talk show on ABC, which will be modeled after the interviews Baldwin has done for years on his popular WYNC podcast. The network has ordered eight episodes and, in an early vote of confidence, plans to air a version of the pilot immediately following Sunday's Oscars.

    His first guests: This week’s episode, billed as a sneak peek rather than a premiere, will feature in-depth interviews with Baldwin's longtime friend Jerry Seinfeld and his SNL co-star Kate McKinnon.

    The rest of the series: ABC's still staying mum on a timeline or air dates for future episodes, but each one will have a similar format — two lengthy interviews stretched over an hour.

    Baldwin: "I'm excited about this show and grateful to ABC for taking a chance on me in what is, admittedly, a crowded field. I’ve enjoyed doing my podcast for WNYC and look forward to the challenge of doing a show on camera."

    Jimmy Fallon goes to Washington...

    March: Returning to The Tonight Show after being off for two weeks for the Olympics, the host announced that he, his wife and two children will join the Parkland, Fla., students in their upcoming March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. "This is a real revolution." Fallon said. "I just want to say I stand behind you guys. I’ll see you March 24."

    WGA takes on agents...

    Why are agents producing shows? WGA West executive director David Young wants to know. He's planning to initiate an April renegotiation of a key document — the "franchise agreement" between the guild and the Association of Talent Agents — that governs the relationship among writers and agents, says a well-placed source. The focus of these talks: packaging fees and "ownership," a buzzword that covers scenarios in which talent agencies engage in production or financing or are affiliated or owned in whole or in part by companies that do. Full story.

    New series ratings...

    Up and down: NBC's Good Girls opened well, winning the 10 p.m. time slot with a 1.5 rating in the demo. CBS' Living Biblically wasn't as hot, brining in a mediocre 0.8 demo rating (but a solid 5 million viewers).

    Apple's latest big score...

    M. Night Shyamalan: Apple beat out multiple competitors to land an untitled psychological thriller from Shyamalan. The half-hour project was given a 10-episode, straight-to-series order, with Shyamalan attached as executive producer and director for the premiere; series creator Tony Basgallop will also exec produce.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Adam Scott will be back for Big Little Lies season 2: He closed a new deal with HBO to reprise his role as Ed Mackenzie, in case you were worried.

    TNT's new Snowpiercer showrunner is... Graeme Manson, who co-created and produced BBC America's Orphan Black. He replaces Josh Friedman, who developed the Snowpiercer series but was said to be pushed out by TNT over creative differences.

    Denis Leary enters TNT's Animal Kingdom: The actor will reunite with network president Kevin Reilly, who developed Rescue Me during his time at FX, with a recurring role on the gritty TNT summer drama.

    Blumhouse teams up with SundanceTV: They will partner on an unscripted true crime series tentatively titled No One Save a Thing, focusing on an unsolved death in small-town America (though the exact case has still not been confirmed).

    ABC's sunken-treasure pilot finds its leading man: Toby Kebbell, currently starring in Whitney Cummings' The Female Brain, will topline ABC's drama pilot Salvage.

    Mark Moses joins Katie Holmes' Fox drama: The actor known for his roles on Desperate Housewives and Mad Men (Duck!) joins the cast of the untitled FBI drama pilot from Ilene Chaiken and Melissa Scrivner, which boasts Holmes as its star. 

    Logan Paul update: His ads are back. YouTube has reinstated ads to Paul's channel, but the streaming service is still putting him on probation for 90 days.

    [icon:esq] Fox News wins appellate showdown against service that facilitates sharing of TV clips. In the blockbuster ruling, the court comes to the conclusion that TVEyes, a media monitoring service, went too far by giving its customers the ability to watch virtually all of Fox News' content. Read more.

  • Imax Earnings

    China Photos/Getty Images

    The latest numbers from Imax...

    Tax hit: Imax reported net income of $4.83 million for the three months leading to Dec. 31, 2017, compared with a year-ago profit of $8.9 million. The bottom line was hit by the Toronto-based company posting a one-time tax charge of $9.3 million, associated with the recent U.S. corporate tax reform, and a $2.5 million charge stemming from cost reductions.

    But higher revenues: Fourth-quarter revenue was $125.6 million, up from a year-earlier $107 million and beating the analyst consensus forecast of $121.2 million. CEO Richard Gelfond said the early results from playing more digital 2D versions of Hollywood movies domestically, given a preference by consumers for 2D in North America, "have been encouraging."

    Alibaba Pictures posts 2017 figures...

    Mixed results: Surging revenue and a small profit at its content production division weren't enough to save Alibaba Pictures Group from reporting a $150 million (950.3 million yuan) loss, attributable to the owners of the company, for 2017. Still, the film and TV production division of Jack Ma's movie studio posted its first modest full-year profit of $650,000.

    Devin Faraci's new site...

    "Buddhist perspective": Per IndieWire, Devin Faraci, the former Birth.Movies.Death editor in chief who was ousted from the Alamo Drafthouse entity amid sexual assault allegations, has launched a new film site called Cinema Sangha, billed as "film from an occasionally Buddhist perspective."

    Hollywood vet exits White House...

    Out: Josh Raffel, who previously ran public relations for Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, is leaving his communications job at the White House’s Office of American Innovation, where he was also a key adviser to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. "The White House won’t be the same without him," Ivanka said in a statement.

    Elsewhere in film...

    The Imitation Game writer's next movie: Studio 8 is picking up Naked Is the Best Disguise, a sci-fi thriller that'll mark Oscar-winning screenwriter Graham Moore's directorial debut.

    RIP, Benjamin Melniker: The prolific producer behind Warner Bros.’ many Batman projects and a longtime former MGM exec (he started at the company in 1939), has died at 104.

    RIP, Lewis Gilbert: The Oscar-nominated British film director behind more than 40 films, including Alfie and three James Bond titles, has died at 97.

  • Young Harvey

    Long before he was a Miramax movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein was an "artsy-fartsy" student, a savvy concert promoter and, it turns out, a budding abuser and sexual predator. Scott Johnson and Stephen Galloway retrace his moves in Queens and Buffalo, N.Y., and interviews dozens of former friends and associates to examine the formative years of Hollywood's most infamous figure:

    At 28, Weinstein had begun to make a name for himself as a swashbuckling concert organizer who'd put Buffalo on the map by bringing in acts like Jethro Tull and the Rolling Stones. The Burning was his first foray into film producing, and so he spent a lot of time on set. Paula Wachowiak, an intern based in the production offices, didn't see him much; in fact, she saw more of his brother, Bob, 25, the quiet one whom nobody really noticed, who "seemed trustworthy, like somebody you'd talk to."

    One day, a production accountant asked her to take a folder of checks to Harvey's room in a modest hotel. Wachowiak went upstairs and knocked on his door. When it opened, she says, she found him naked, except for a small towel draped around his waist. Half-hidden as he was by the door, she didn't quite realize what was going on until she was inside the room and the door had closed behind her.

    "My first response was, 'Oh my God!'" she recalls. "Then I thought, 'This is fine. I'm just going to look at his face, get the checks signed and get out of here. These are sophisticated people, they do this all the time.'" Read more.

    + Weinstein's creepy yearbook inscription: The disgraced movie mogul "didn't date," say childhood friends, but he did sign a female classmate’s yearbook with a now-eerie inscription: "New York State Prison 3553333369." 

    + Harvey's and Bob's directorial debut: "An absolute bloody disaster." The brothers learned something invaluable from their experience co-directing the 1986 comedy Playing for Keeps — to never do it again. Full story.

    + U.K. police are now investigating a complaint from a 10th alleged victim. The latest allegation of sexual assault — one of 15 now lodged against the disgraced producer — was received Feb. 8 from a woman who claims Weinstein assaulted her in the London borough of Westminster in the mid-1990s. It is the first to have been received in 2018. Read more.

    + Weinstein's ex-assistant sues in New York after federal judge tosses her complaint. Sandeep Rehal's legal fight against Weinstein is moving to state court after being dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by a federal judge.

    What else we're reading...

    —  "The cast of Atlanta on Trump, race and fame." Joe Coscarelli writes: "Retitled Atlanta Robbin’ Season for its darker second run, alluding to the time of year before the holidays when “everybody gotta eat” (“or be eaten”), the show builds on an idiosyncratic foundation without becoming too predictable in its unpredictability." [The New York Times]

    — "How Moonlight's Oscar win blew another hole in the definition of "best picture." Justin Chang writes: "Even if last year’s Oscars ceremony hadn’t ended with the most embarrassing gaffe in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ nearly 90-year history, the announcement that Moonlight had won best picture still would have come as an industry-rattling shock." [L.A. Times]

    — "Can a release date predict an Oscar winner?" Zack Kram writes: "Conventional wisdom holds that Christmas is the peak season for awards movies — but the past decade of winners proves differently. Here is what 83 years of data reveal about Oscar release dates." [The Ringer]

    — "CNN vs. Fox: Why these two cable networks can't stop talking about each other." Paul Farhi writes: "The crossfire has taken on new intensity in the Trump era. Hosts at CNN and Fox now trade blows almost daily about whose coverage or commentary about President Trump is more distorted or unfair." [The Washington Post]

    — "Until Fox's post-Disney future becomes clearer, some TV writers may keep their distance." Jason Lynch writes: "Many of the questions won’t be answered until some execs — including Walden, Newman and Fox Networks Group CEO Peter Rice — decide whether they’ll stay with the network and New Fox, follow 20th Century Fox TV to Disney or pursue other opportunities outside both companies." [Adweek]

    — "YouTube's brand-safety efforts are forcing YouTube networks to cut small channels." Sahil Patel writes: "Fullscreen, which Otter Media owns, and Bent Pixels were among the YouTube network operators that said they will release creators with demonetized channels from their contracts." [Digiday]

    — "Good Girls is the ultimate Joan Holloway revenge fantasy." Anna Silman writes: "Like Joan, Beth’s domestic-goddess charms are what make her so effective in the more typically “macho” pursuits she finds herself embroiled in (tough-talking in the boardroom on later seasons of Mad Men; a life of criminality here)." [The Cut]

    — "Papa John's is no longer the official pizza of the NFL." Daniel Rapaport writes: "In October, Papa John's founder John Schnatter blamed NFL players' protests during the national anthem for the chain's decrease in sales." [Sports Illustrated]

    "Steve Bannon is hatching his comeback." Ben Schreckinger talks to the man about "why the #MeToo movement amazes him, why the Chinese enrage him, and why his secret new venture — a project to "weaponize ideas" — excites him. [GQ]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Kal Penn talks about his time working in the White House." [Late Night]

    + "Bruce Willis reveals how the Die Hard 6 script is shaping up." [Tonight Show]

    + "Gordon Ramsay was kicked out of his twins' birthday." [Late Late Show]

    + "Ava DuVernay: Wrinkle in Time is "about polar opposites in our life — darkness and light." [THR]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Sam Rockwell: Interview." The Oscar favorite on years of side jobs, failed auditions and landing the role of a lifetime. [Awards Chatter/THR]

    + "Why Katie Couric left Yahoo." The journalist tells all to Kara Swisher. [Recode Decode]

    [icon:birthday] Today's Birthdays: Ali Larter, 42, Sean Leonard, 49, John Turturro, 61, Gilbert Gottfried, 63, Bernadette Peters, 70, Alan Horn, 75.

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