What's news: The Academy is expanding its ranks, unveiling a record 928 new members. Plus: The Grammys are making category changes ... Behind Sumner Redstone's fateful meeting ... Alamo Drafthouse is the latest to test a MoviePass-like service. — Erik Hayden
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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has issued 928 invitations to new members — surpassing the 774 invitations sent out in 2017, Gregg Kilday notes:
+ Prior Oscar names: Among the new members, 17 are Oscar winners, while 92 are Oscar nominees, including recent acting nominees like Timothee Chalamet and Daniel Kaluuya.
+ Gender breakdown: Forty-nine percent of the class of 2018 are female, and, should all accept membership, that will bring overall percentage of women in the Academy to 31 percent. Thirty-eight percent of the new invitees are people of color, which, should they all accept, would bring their overall percentage of the Academy to 16 percent.
+ The executive branch sent out 41 invitations, which include offers to Tony Vinciquerra, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman; Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei, founders of China's Huayi Brothers Media; Tessa Ross, who left her post as head of Britain's Film4 in 2016 to create her own company, House Productions; and Diane Nelson, who recently stepped down as president of DC Entertainment.
+ Trivia stat: At least four actors who regularly lend their voices to The Simpsons made the cut: Yeardley Smith, who voices Lisa; Julie Kavner, aka Marge; Harry Shearer, aka Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner; and Hank Azaria, who plays everyone from Apu to Moe. Full story + all 928 names.
+ Grammys expand top category nominees from 5 to 8. "In one of the most sweeping changes since the introduction of the Grammy Awards in 1959, the number of nominations in the record, song and album of the year and best new artist categories will expand from five to eight. The change takes effect immediately with the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019," Melinda Newman reports. [Billboard]
+ Spotify hires Dawn Ostroff. "The former CW network president joins Spotify after seven years leading Condé Nast Entertainment," Marc Schneider writes. [Billboard]
? Wanda plans $1.78B merger of film assets. Wanda's U.S. film companies, AMC Entertainment and Legendary Entertainment, aren't included in the proposed deal, which aims to bring together domestic Chinese film holdings.
? Alamo Drafthouse to test MoviePass-like service. The chain is light on details, but it says the beta users will be testing a variety of plans, suggesting that the promise made of "unlimited movies" might not apply to everyone.
? STX developing Mile 22 sequel. The first film doesn't hit theaters until August, but Black List writer Umair Aleem has been hired to pen the sequel of the feature team-up of Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.
? Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly Cinema may reopen in months. The historic revival theater, one of the oldest in the region, closed in January for upgrades and enhancements. Update: "If everything goes as planned, we are looking at a December 2018 re-opening."
^Meet the Berlin Film Fest's new artistic director. Ariston Anderson writes: For those speculating about what Carlo Chatrian will mean for the fest, expect the unexpected. He plans to stick to his curatorial instincts when it comes to picking films for Berlin. He lives for the thrill of surprising audiences and discovering talent. Interview.
? New Line adds to It: Chapter 2 cast. Teach Grant is set to play bully Henry Bowers and joins an ensemble cast that includes Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader. Bill Skarsgard will also return for the sequel.
? Netflix adds more names to Eddie Murphy starrer. Hip-hop artist turned actor T.I., Wesley Snipes, Mike Epps and Tituss Burgess also joining the biopic of Rudy Ray Moore biopic, starring Murphy.
? Rebel Wilson plans comic book adaptation. The actress has optioned the rights to Crowded, an upcoming Image Comics book, with the goal of starring in and producing the movie adaptation.
? Sally Hawkins next drama rounds out cast. Billie Piper, Penelope Wilton, Alice Lowe and David Thewlis have joined Craig Roberts' second feature, Eternal Beauty, starring Hawkins. The film is now in production in Wales.
? David Henrie to make feature directorial debut. Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Group is behind the coming-of-age feature, titled This Is the Year, which is set to begin filming in September in Alabama.
Exclusive: In new book King of Content, Wall Street Journal reporter Keach Hagey takes us to the fateful 2016 meeting between Redstone and Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman that set in motion the fight that will determine the fate of Redstone's empire after his death. The set-up:
In February 2016, Viacom chief executive Philippe Dauman drove through the heavy metal gates of the exclusive Beverly Park neighborhood overlooking Beverly Hills, past the Olympian estates of movie stars like Sylvester Stallone and Eddie Murphy, and up to the sprawling, butter-colored mansion of his longtime boss and mentor, Sumner Redstone.
Such visits had long been a monthly routine for the lifelong Manhattanite, who ran the New York-based public company that the 92-year-old Sumner overwhelmingly controlled. Usually the two former lawyers would mix business talk with reminiscences of their past corporate conquests, watch a little baseball or CNBC, and gaze at the giant aquariums of Sumner’s beloved saltwater fish. But on this day, Dauman had come to discuss a particularly delicate matter. Full book excerpt.
Elsewhere in TV...
? CBS, NFL extend deal to stream games. The deal, first inked for the 2016 season, will now run through the 2022 season. Starting this season, CBS All Access subscribers will be able to watch games on mobile phones and tablets.
? Showtime casts Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes. The eight-episode limited series is based on Gabriel Sherman's book, The Loudest Voice in the Room, and hails from Tom McCarthy and Jason Blum.
? HBO's website blocked in China. John Oliver's Last Week Tonight appears to have struck a nerve with a segment critiquing China's human rights record and Beijing's weird censorship of Winnie-the-Pooh.
^Netflix's GLOW season two, reviewed (premieres Friday). The charmer grows, even if it hasn't yet found a way to take full advantage of its excellent cast of characters. The takeaway: "Still strong, still fun."
? Netflix casts An Unbelievable Story of Rape. Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever have been enlisted to star in the eight-episode project based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning article by the Marshall Project and ProPublica.
? Hulu inks deal for Viacom shows. The deal includes streaming rights to a variety of MTV and Nickelodeon shows, including Daria, My Super Sweet 16, Nathan for You and Big Time Rush.
? Sean Spicer developing TV series. Trump's former spokesman is teaming with Debmar-Mercury and Pilgrim Media Group to develop a talk show called Sean Spicer's Common Ground. A network is not yet attached.
*R.I.P., Deanna Lund. The actress, who played one of the seven castaways trying to survive on the 1960s ABC series Land of the Giants, has died. She was 81. Full obit.
It's a deal: Will Smith buys licensing giant Telepool. The star, along with director Marc Forster, are acquiring the German rights group with an eye to repurposing the company as a a development, financing and distribution vehicle for their own projects. Details.
Annapurna CEO Megan Ellison sold 1 Electra Court to luxury developer Woodbridge Group of Companies LLC for $35 million in September — but that was before the SEC started an investigation into the company, Peter Kiefer reports. Full story.
What else we're reading...
— "AT&T plots marketplace for TV, digital video ads." Lara O’Reilly writes: "Following acquisitions of AppNexus and Time Warner, telecom giant wants to do more than capitalize on its own content." [Wall Street Journal]
— "YouTube’s top creators have gripes but few better options." Tim Peterson writes: "Digital video creators’ frustrations with YouTube ... has created an opening for competing platforms." [Digiday]
— "The real reason you use closed captions for everything now." Jason Kehe notes: "Sure, subtitles are great for shows with heavy accents or lots of jargon - but they've become a defense against a world of chaos." [Wired]
— "Find free (old) feature films online." J. D. Biersdorfer notes: "Like books that have lost copyright protection, thousands of movies are in the public domain - to watch on your computer or mobile device." [New York Times]
— "I delivered packages for Amazon and it was a nightmare." Alana Semuels writes: "Amazon Flex allows drivers to get paid to deliver packages from their own vehicles. But is it a good deal for workers?" [The Atlantic]
From the archives...
+ 55 years ago today: On June 26, 1963, Universal unveiled, in color, the 91-minute feature King Kong vs. Godzilla in theaters stateside. The title had been billed in ads as "the most colossal conflict the screen has ever known!" Flashback review.
Today's birthdays: Ariana Grande, 25, Aubrey Plaza, 34, Jason Schwartzman, 38, Nick Offerman, 48, Paul Thomas Anderson, 48, Sean Hayes, 48.