What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:15 AM 7/13/2017

by THR staff

The Walking Dead - First Look at AMC's The Walking Dead Season 2 - 2011
Courtesy of AMC

What's news: It's Emmy nominations morning, but before the reveal, crazy new details have emerged in the massive legal battle over The Walking Dead. Plus: The new Batman director scrapped Ben Affleck's script, Game of Thrones takes over L.A. for its premiere and it could be a close box office battle stateside this weekend between Apes and Spider-Man. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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New! Confidential documents shed light on huge Walking Dead lawsuit and creator Frank Darabont's battle. 

Eriq Gardner writes: What’s been revealed — thousands of pages of summary judgment arguments, depositions, redacted profit participation statements, expert testimony, and even details about the financials for other AMC shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul — represent a huge exposure of Hollywood financial secrets. Full feature. 

Background: The summer of 2011 was a trying time for Frank Darabont, the Oscar nominated writer and director of The Shawshank Redemption who adapted Robert Kirkman’s post-apocalyptic graphic novel. Darabont worked hard to get the show on the air — NBC once had it in “turnaround” and other networks like Fox and Turner passed — but once Walking Dead came out, the series about middle America citizens struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse earned instant adoration. So Darabont was stunned by AMC's decision to slash the budget.

What’s more, after Darabont decided that a single set location — a Georgia farmhouse — would be the solution to the financial crunch, AMC executives demanded to see all of the season’s scripts up front before shooting. According to Darabont, AMC's Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan told him “it’s unheard of” to have scripts delivered so early in the process of producing a season.

Pressure was mounting for Darabont, who felt he was wrestling a giant alligator on a daily basis. And after footage came in, Darabont wasn’t liking what he saw — and he wasn’t shy about expressing his distaste in a highly obscene way, according to the newly revealed documents in his lawsuit against AMC.

More stories to come at THR, Esq: The volume of newly released information is perhaps surpassed only by its magnitude. For in an industry that is witnessing both technological changes as well as consolidation, Darabont’s lawsuit addresses how creatives (and their agents) get compensated when studios producing content share a parent company with the outlet distributing the content. The shocking emails. 

  • Box-Office: 'Apes' vs. 'Spider-Man'

    A close battle is shaping up at the North American box office this weekend for the top two titles, Pamela McClintock forecasts:

    The critically acclaimed War for the Planet of the Apes, the final installment in 20th Century Fox's refurbished trilogy, opens everywhere in North America tomorrow. Prerelease tracking suggests the tentpole will launch to $55M or more, but that might not be enough to beat holdover Spider-Man: Homecoming.

    If Sony and Marvel Studios' Spider-Man reboot falls only 50 percent in its sophomore outing, that means a weekend tally of $58.5M. But if it declines 55 percent or more, it will land in the low $50M range.

    A key test for specialty films: The Big Sick, from Amazon Studios and Lionsgate, will up its theater count from 326 locations to more than 2,500 this weekend. The romantic comedy scored the top location average of the year to date ($84,135) when opening in five theaters on its way to grossing a strong $7.7M through Tuesday.

    Elsewhere in film... 

    ? Batman director scrapped Ben Affleck's script. The filmmaker revealed that he dropped a script by Affleck and DC's Geoff Johns. In the original script, Deadstroke was the villain, with Joe Manganiello cast, but Reeves did not say if he still plans to use him in the new version. 

    Blake Lively to star in thriller from Bond producers. Espionage thriller The Rhythm Section, from EON Productions and IM Global, is an adaptation of the first book in Mark Burnell’s four novel series. Production will begin later this year. 

    ? Universal's Scarface reboot loses director David Ayer. The Suicide Squad director's take on the script was "too dark" for the studio's taste, sources say. Diego Luna is still attached to play the West Coast Latino gangster. Dylan Clark will produce.

    ? Mamma Mia sequel adds Lily James. The Baby Driver actress will star in Universal's Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, which was written and will be directed by Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). The sequel is planning for a July 20, 2018 release.

    ^Universal's Girls Trip, reviewed. Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah play college friends reuniting for a New Orleans weekend in the film opening next Friday. David Rooney's takeaway: "This is how you do an R-rated female comedy."

    + Early takes: EW: "delightfully outrageous," IndieWire: "truly wild summer comedy." IGN: "the balance of serious elements and humor never feels right."

    ? Box office: Wonder Woman's staying power stateside. Domestically, the film will earn roughly 3.8 times the $103.3M it collected when it launched over its opening weekend, the best multiple for the genre in decades. The film's multiple is 3.6, slightly ahead of the first Spider-Man.

    ? Los Angeles film, TV shoots drop in latest quarter. On-location film and TV production in the greater metropolitan area dropped by 4.7 percent in the second quarter of 2017 compared to the second quarter of 2016, FilmL.A. said. Full chart.

    ? Snowden exec producer to oversee Red Granite during tumult. Douglas Hansen will oversee the company for 30 days (to start) while it continues settlement talks with the U.S. government stemming from a Malaysian embezzlement investigation.

    Plus: Who's getting the best union contract deal? Jonathan Handel looks at the new agreements for the actors, directors and writers guilds, noting that while all three agreements secured nominal annual wage increases of 3 percent, the DGA and WGA contracts were subjected to carveouts in major television wage categories. The breakdown

  • At the 'Game of Thrones' Premiere

    Even without a single drop of actual snow in sight, Los Angeles nevertheless played the role of a wintery Westeros last night, hosting HBO's world premiere of the fantasy drama's seventh season, Josh Wigler writes: 

    The event, which included red carpet interviews with cast and crew as well as the world's first look at a new episode of Game of Thrones since season six wrapped more than a year ago, was held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles. Given the venue, it was only fitting that Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi would be on hand to conduct a special live performance ahead of the premiere episode.

    Following the red carpet, attendees settled into their seats inside the hall, where HBO president of programming Casey Bloys spoke a few words before the gathered crowd. "I just want you to know that speaking at Walt Disney Concert Hall is not intimidating at all," he said, "because I've decided this is the bar-mitzvah I never had as a child." Many more premiere details/photos I Cast previews season. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Weinstein TV, Tamron Hall plan daytime talk show. The former Today co-host is partnering with the company for a new show with no network attached. Currently in development, the untitled project will feature a mix of current events and human-interest stories.

    Jerry Bruckheimer TV inks overall deal with CBS. The company has returned to the studio system after leaving its longstanding relationship with Warner Bros. Television. The pact brings Bruckheimer back to CBS TV Studios, with whom they produced CSI.

    ? TNT renews Claws for season two. The series, which was initially developed for HBO, hails from Warner Horizon Television and will return in 2018. With seven days of DVR, it averages 1.1M viewers in the demo and 6.3M gross viewers.

    ? A&E picks up Live PD for 100 more episodes. That accounts for 300 more hours of programming and will keep the series on the air through at least 2018. The series averages 1.4M viewers with seven days of delayed viewing factored in.

    Amazon appoints new comedy, drama heads. The original programming arm of e-commerce giant Amazon has named Nick Hall as head of drama and has upped Gina Kwon and Ryan Andolina to co-heads of comedy.

    ^Netflix's Friends From College, reviewed. Despite familiar stars like Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders and Fred Savage, this is one group of friends you won't want to spend time with. Takeaway: "Dreadfully unfunny comedy or ambitious anti-comedy?"

    + Early takes: Newsday: "rare Netflix misfire." Washington Post: "makes embarrassingly poor use of a cast that deserves to be in a better show." SF Chronicle: "it may not be the worst show of the year ... but it certainly is the most annoying."

    ? ABC pilot watch: The Mayor. Daniel Fienberg takes a closer look at the pilot showing how an aspiring rapper (Brandon Michael Hall) accidentally becomes a mayor. The takeaway: "The pilot belabors the premise, but it's a good and workable premise."

    ? Fox renews Beat Shazam for season two. Jamie Foxx and his summer musical game show will be back for more. Airing first-runs on Thursdays at 8 o'clock, the show averages a multiplatform audience of 4.4M viewers.

    ? FX Productions inks overall deal with Atlanta producer. Veteran scribe Paul Simms will stay on at the critically adored comedy, simultaneously developing new TV projects for the studio and FX networks.

    ABC sets new premiere date for Bachelor in Paradise. The Bachelor spinoff, originally planned for Aug. 8 but temporarily suspended after a misconduct allegation, will return with a two-night premiere on Aug. 14 and Aug. 15, featuring the wedding of two previous contestants. 

    Also: Shia LaBeouf apologizes for arrest and racist rant. The actor has apologized for his recent erratic behavior just days after he was arrested on suspicion of obstruction, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness: "My outright disrespect for authority is problematic to say the least."

  • Films Glamorizing Women Binge-Drinking?

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's latest column: From Girls Trip to Bachelor in Paradise, the cultural critic and NBA great takes a sobering look at why women are "keeping up with the guys" when it comes to boozing backfires by portraying female characters as "insecure and needy."

    What else we're reading... 

    "Christopher Nolan’s latest time-bending feat?" Cara Buckley writes: "Instead of wormholes and dreams within dreams, he is plunging audiences into World War II. But no Nolan movie is that straightforward." [The New York Times]

    "Authenticity in casting." Jessica Gelt's feature: "Everyone knows someone who was better for the part. But lately that criticism has taken on an unapologetically political ... bent that reflects both a need for diversity and a new demand for 'authenticity.'" [The Los Angeles Times]

    "CNN’s mobile app is under siege." Max Willens notes: "Over the past week, waves of one-star reviews written by users accusing CNN of disseminating fake news, propaganda and falsehoods have battered the broadcaster’s mobile app." [Digiday]

    "AI and 'enormous data' could make tech giants harder to topple." Tom Simonite writes: "A new record-breaking research paper is a reminder that AI could make Google, Facebook, and Amazon more immune to competition." [Wired]

    Reminder: What to look for in today's Emmy nominations. Just ahead of the unveiling, Scott Feinberg has a full outline of the trends that we'll likely be seeing today from "this season's Game of Thrones," colliding costars and late-night wars. Emmys guide.

    Today's Birthdays: Colton Haynes, 29, Michael Mando, 36, Ken Jeong, 48, Cameron Crowe, 60, Harrison Ford, 75, Robert Forster, 76, Patrick Stewart, 77.