What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:05 AM 11/16/2017

by Ray Rahman

Justice League Still 9 - Ben Affleck Batman- Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.,

What's news: Awards season contenders are finding out how much damage they've endured from Hollywood's harassment epidemic. Plus: Weinstein Co. is hit with a class-action suit, Justice League tries to overcome poor reviews at the box office and the scoop on Paramount's failed China deal. — Ray Rahman

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  • Trophy Strife

    In a daringly unprecedented 11th-hour move, Ridley Scott is erasing Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World as scandal threatens to overshadow this year's race. Stephen Galloway looks at the awards landscape:

    As recently as February, reports that Casey Affleck had settled sexual harassment claims failed to derail his best actor win for Manchester by the Sea — though it might derail the Oscarcast producers' plans to have him present the best actress trophy at the 90th awards, if the controversy kicks in again. 

    But with the sheer volume of scandals this year and the sense that a host of other high-profile men may be poised for a fall, nobody is standing by alleged culprits.

    They may have learned from Fox Searchlight's failed efforts on behalf of 2016's The Birth of a Nation, whose actor-writer-director, Nate Parker, saw his awards hopes plummet when it was revealed that he'd stood trial for rape. Though he was found not guilty, the tawdriness of the tale, and Parker's failed attempts to address it, left Birth stillborn. Full story I Roundtable video. 


    The Weinstein Company hit with racketeering class action. "Weinstein’s widespread sexual misconduct did not occur without the help of others," states the complaint, filed by an anonymous Jane Doe.

    Warner Bros. nabbed TWC's rights to Paddington 2 ... Natasha Henstridge detailed her Weinstein and Brett Ratner encounters on Megyn Kelly Today ... Gal Gadot also spoke on Today about Ratner and Wonder Woman ... Tom Sizemore was dropped from horror film The Door amid a sexual misconduct claim.

    ? A Kevin Spacey investigation at the London's Old Vic found "20 personal testimonies" of alleged misbehavior ... FYF Fest founder Sean Carlson was accused of sexual misconduct by four women; the festival promoter Goldenvoice has ended its relationship with the him ... Andy Dick, accused of sexual harassment, is playing a a sexual harasser in an upcoming film.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? What is Get Out? Every awards season, people start pondering which movies and TV shows are dramas and which are comedies and/or musicals. Get Out, like The Martian before it, is going the comedy-or-musical route for the purposes of the Golden Globes, and the move is raising a lot of eyebrows.

    + Jordan Peele, for one, doesn't seem thrilled. "Get Out is a documentary," the movie's director, who apparently wasn't consulted on the decision, tweeted. Later during a lunch event, he said the movie couldn't "be put into a genre box" and asked, "What are you laughing at?" Then last night on Colbert, he said, "The movie is truth ... so for me, it's more of a historical biopic."

    ? The Golden Globes team reads the room. The HFPA has decided to retire its annual and old-fashioned "Miss Golden Globe" title and replace it with "Golden Globe Ambassador" — just in time for Dwayne Johnson's daughter Simone Garcia Johnson, who'll become the first celebrity offspring to take on the newly named role.

    ^DC vs. Marvel: Why the rivalry is bigger than Justice League. The companies' friendly rivalry has turned sour as star comics writer Brian Michael Bendis defects and Warner Bros. insiders fret about its A-list superhero team-up being overshadowed by Disney's "B character" in Thor: Ragnarok.

    + "If a B character from Marvel shuts down ?and outperforms the A team from DC, that’s an embarrassment," a Justice League insider says, adding, "It’s going to be a stressful weekend for some [Warners] ?execs." Full story. 

    ? Box office preview: Despite currently harboring a 43 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, Justice League is on track for a healthy start, writes Pamela McClintock:

    + Clearing $110 million in its North American box office debut would mark a strong (but not superheroic) start for a big-budget tentpole that once hoped to emulate the success of Marvel Studios' Avengers franchise. Full report.

    + Coco became the all-time top-grossing movie in Mexico when it crossed the 827 million pesos mark ($43 million) on Wednesday. The Disney/Pixar movie opens on Nov. 22 in the U.S.

    ? Gary Oldman to be honored at Santa Barbara Film Fest. The fest's highest honor, which will be presented to Oldman on Feb. 2, is annually presented to "an individual who has enriched our culture through his/her multifaceted accomplishments in the motion picture industry."

    ? In the works: Florida Project breakout Brooklynn Prince in talks to join Angelina Jolie in The One and Only Ivan ... Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan in talks to join Nicole Kidman in Destroyer ... Wonder writer-director Stephen Chobsky signs on to tackle the Disney fairy tale Prince Charming ... The Come From Away musical is being developed into a feature at the Mark Gordon Company.

    Which lighthearted films will shine at the Golden Globes? “As usual, the Globes will get to spotlight a number of lighter films that are not currently among the best picture Oscar frontrunners,” Scott Feinberg writes. Read more.


  • Watching Facebook

    Facebook Watch seeks more than viral clips as it aims to fully finance higher-quality projects, a notable strategy shift for the social network, writes Natalie Jarvey:

    Less than three months after Facebook began rolling out its video tab, Watch, the social network is rethinking how it will work with media companies to bring new shows onto its platform.

    Several digital media executives tell THR that they expect Facebook to stop partially funding videos from publisher and producer partners as it focuses on buying projects outright. The move is expected to provide more funding opportunities for shows that keep viewers coming back and watching for longer periods of time, as opposed to one-off viral hits.

    These fully funded projects, known internally as "hero" shows, include more ambitious TV-style series such as recent pickups Five Points, a teen drama exec produced by Kerry Washington; Skam, a drama from Simon Fuller; and premium shortform and midform series. Shows that Facebook already has renewed for second seasons include comedy Strangers, docuseries Ball in the Family and Mike Rowe's unscripted Returning the Favor. Full story.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Sean Hannity punts. Was it all a ratings stunt? On his Tuesday broadcast, Hannity said he was giving Roy Moore one day to explain himself — otherwise, the Fox News host hinted that he would ditch the politician. Twenty-four hours and one "open letter" from Moore later, Hannity ended up deciding last night not to issue a judgement at all, saying that it's up to the people of Alabama to decide for themselves.

    + Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley and Jeremy Stahl have a simple explanation for the twist: "Sean Hannity was lying."

    ? Amazon reportedly scraps skinny bundle. A story from Reuters says the company has canceled its plans to launch a service that would've competed with cable packages. The reason? Unclear, but most likely the cost of paying networks to offer their content. 

    + Time Inc. is launching Sports Illustrated TV on Amazon Channels. The brand's new subscription streaming service will contain original programming and 30 for 30-like documentaries as well as movies like Bad News Bears and the first five Rocky films.

    ? Veep's final season will work around Julia Louis-Dreyfus' cancer treatment. "We’re obviously postponing production of the show — we were supposed to have started now — while she’s in treatment," exec producer Frank Rich said. "The expectation is that we will shoot again. We have one more season we’re doing, which we’re incredibly excited about." 

    ? You're the Worst gets fifth and final season from FXX. Stephen Falk's critically acclaimed comedy will air its final episodes in 2018. 

    ^Funny or Die CEO on the secret to viral video and the future of Billy on the Street. Mike Farah discusses the evolution of digital content, partnering with AMC and charting an independent path. Natalie Jarvey writes:

    Under Farah's leadership, the 110-employee private company founded in 2007 by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy is making more comedy than ever before. American Vandal (Netflix) and Brockmire (IFC) both have been renewed for second seasons; Sarah Silverman's I Love You, America is in its first season on Hulu; cop comedy No Activity just premiered on CBS All Access; and Billy on the Street was nominated for an Emmy in September before ending its run on TruTV.

    Meanwhile, the company continues to churn out 30 digital videos per month, recently striking a deal with Amazon to produce original shortform series. "I'm definitely further removed from the creative process," laments Farah. "But now I feel like I get to produce the whole company." Q&A.

    ? Viacom reports higher quarterly earnings, flat U.S. ad revenue. The entertainment conglomerate, still controlled by the Redstone family but led by CEO Bob Bakish, posted a lower film unit loss than in the year-ago period, while TV affiliate fee revenue dropped.

    + Melissa McCarthy's comedy Nobodies is moving from TV Land to Viacom's upcoming Paramount Network. The show joins Heathers and American Woman as TV Land series that are moving to Viacom's forthcoming general entertainment network, which will be rebranded from Spike in January.

    ? NatGeo orders a Silicon Valley series from Ariana Huffington and House of Cards creator Matthew Carnahan. Titled Valley of the Boom, the six-part limited series will explore the rapid rise and the spectacular fall of the 1990s tech bubble. The twist: It's a scripted drama but it'll also be supported by select documentary elements, taking a page from the network's hybrid space series Mars.

    ? In the works: FX is adapting Crimetown — a popular serial podcast about mob influence in Providence, RI — into a series, with The Jinx creators set to write and Ted Melfi (The Help) attached to direct ... Jenna Elfman joins Fear the Walking Dead as a season 4 regular ... NBC is developing the German sitcom Danni Lowinski for American audiences, with Glee and Scream Queens co-creator Ian Brennan attached ... House of Cards alum Michel Gill enters Chicago Med for a recurring role ... Amazon has acquired the Stana Katic drama Absentia.

  • Paramount's China Mystery

    Why did Paramount's $1 billion financing deal fall apart? The slow — and then sudden — death of a murky billion-dollar pact between the studio and Shanghai-based Huahua raises questions about how real it was in the first place, writes Patrick Brzeski:

    The failed Paramount pact joins a scrap heap of aborted deals totaling billions, including China buyouts of Dick Clark Productions, Voltage and Millennium. Under the terms of the financing agreement, SFG and Huahua, which previously came together to invest in Paramount titles like Jack Reacher 2 and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, were to each have covered $500 million of the pact.

    Shanghai Film Group, a state-backed film studio traded on the Shanghai stock exchange, is believed to have been prevented from moving a large amount of capital overseas because of Beijing regulators' crackdown on capital outflows.Sources close to Huahua, by contrast, claim that the company has abundant offshore capital, out of reach from regulators, and could have followed through with the deal — if it cared to. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — "No Hollywood ending for Alibaba." Li Yuan writes: "Alibaba’s Jack Ma is burnishing his fame by starring in a martial-arts film that topped 100 million views online in just a few days. But his internet stardom won’t be enough to rescue his struggling entertainment business, which is losing money and market share." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "The Gal Gadot next door." Caity Weaver writes: "Wonder Woman has brought me the egg sandwich wrapped in cellophane, and when she arrives, she delivers it to me as confidently as if I had specifically requested it." [GQ]

    — "Do the Koch Brothers want their own media empire?" Peter Kafka writes: "They're putting more than $500 million into a bid for Time Inc. Why?" [Recode]

    — "Leonardo da Vinci painting sells for $450.3 million." Robin Pogrebin and Scott Reyburn write: "There were gasps throughout the sale, as the bids climbed by tens of millions up to $225 million, by fives up to $260 million, and then by twos. As the bidding slowed, and a buyer pondered the next multi-million-dollar increment, Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer, said, 'It’s an historic moment; we’ll wait.'" [New York Times]

    — "James Corden lives in the moment." Ben Svetkey writes: "Wearing a cardigan and jeans and slouching on his office sofa on a cool September morning, the 39-year-old British stage actor turned talk-show host looks like he could sorely use a seven-minute nap." [Fast Company]

    — "Nashville made the Bluebird Cafe famous. But few people know the venue's real story." Emily Yahr writes: "Now that the Bluebird has received international recognition, Nichols and others are trying to capitalize on its new fame — and 35th anniversary — with Bluebird: The Movie." [Washington Post]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "The future of comedy." [Full Frontal]

    + "Colin Farrell and Jimmy Kimmel reveal childhood crushes." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Kim Kardashian West has a name idea for James Corden's baby." [Late Late Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Jake Tapper: Interview." [The Atlantic Interview]

    + "Game On (With Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford and Joshua Malina)." [West Wing Weekly]

    + "James Franco: Interview." [Awards Chatter / THR]

    Today's Birthdays: Pete Davidson, 24, Maggie Gyllenhall, 40, Missi Pyle, 45, Martha Plimpton, 47, Lisa Bonet, 50, Marg Helgenberger, 59.