What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:11 AM 11/2/2017

by Ray Rahman

What's news: A room full of superproducers — including Judd Apatow, Amy Pascal and Ridley Scott — sit down to discuss the problems facing the industry. Plus: more Brett Ratner and Kevin Spacey fallout, new World Series ratings, Nielsen's Netflix strategy, and Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump memoir. — Ray Rahman

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  • Producers Get Real

    Charles W. Murphy

    This year's film roundtable series kicks off today with a room full of superproducers — Judd Apatow, Amy Pascal, Jason Blum, Eric Fellner, Seth Rogen and Ridley Scott — debating tough decisions, surprise successes and sexual harassment in Hollywood, Matthew Belloni writes: 

    "It's a tragic situation for our industry," says Amy Pascal, addressing the Harvey Weinstein-sized elephant in the room.

    It's been only two days since the first sexual harassment and assault allegations against Weinstein were reported by The New York Times, followed by more shocking claims in The New Yorker and from dozens of women since, and the onetime Sony Pictures chief and now producer (Molly's Game, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Post) has joined five of her peers for a discussion about filmmaking, politics and, yes, the shame of sexual harassment.

    "This is a bad dude," says Seth Rogen (The Disaster Artist) adding that he decided after filming 2008's Zack and Miri Make a Porno never to work with Weinstein again. But with a legend at the table like Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World, Blade Runner 2049, Murder on the Orient Express) a disrupter in horror king Jason Blum (Get Out) and two of Hollywood's most prolific producers — Judd Apatow (The Big Sick) and Working Title's Eric Fellner (Baby Driver, Darkest Hour and Victoria and Abdul) — the discussion touches on all the thrills and frustrations of modern filmmaking, from the granular (how did Baby Driver sync up all those songs?) to the grand. "Movies absolutely can change or push a conversation," notes Fellner, "but only if they're good." Full story.


    Harassment fallout: Brett Ratner and Warner Bros. severed ties not long after the director was hit with numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment yesterday. That includes taking his name off the upcoming film The Goldfinch, which was the only active Ratner-produced film on the studio's slate ... Playboy also iced their Hugh Hefner biopic, which Ratner was going to direct ... Meanwhile, Ratner has decided to sue a woman who claimed on Facebook that he raped her more than a decade ago. Ratner's counsel says the woman's allegations are completely false ... Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, who just last weekend presented Ratner with an award for his philanthropic work in Israel, said she feels "extremely distressed" by news of the allegations. Gal Godot had been slated to do the presentation but backed out of the gala shortly beforehand, so Jenkins took her place.

    + Harvey Weinstein and Disney have been named in a lawsuit by a Toronto actress over two alleged sexual assault claims from 2010. Disney owned Weinstein's Miramax at the time ... Weinstein is contesting his termination from Weinstein Co. in arbitration ... Lana Del Rey said she would retire her Harvey-inspired spong "Cola" from live performances ... Filmmaker Barry Avrich said he's going to rework his 2011 documentary on Weinstein in the wake of the scandal ... and an effigy of Weinstein will be burned alongside one of Guy Fawkes in the U.K.

    + Dustin Hoffman was hit by a second sexual harassment allegation from a TV producer who worked with him in 1991 ... Kevin Spacey said he would "seek evaluation and treatment" following multiple claims against him ... Jeremy Piven has been accused of "predatory behavior" by Longmire actress Cassidy Freeman ... Also: Roy Price's now-canceled November wedding was originally scheduled to have Woody Allen and his jazz band perform. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    Beyoncé joins The Lion King. It's not often that Queen Bey is put on the same list as Seth Rogen, and yet here we are. Disney officially announced the full voice cast for Jon Favreau's 2019 The Lion King remake, featuring Beyoncé as Nala and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. They'll be joining Donald Glover's Simba, Billy Eichner and Rogen's Timon and Pumbaa, and a lot more.

    New Star Wars teaser puts Luke Skywalker in the Millennium Falcon. For 45 glorious seconds during last night's World Series game 7 (sorry, Dodgers), a new Last Jedi teaser gave fans what they wanted. It's the first time Luke's been seen in Han Solo's ship since 1980's The Empire Strikes Back.

    New female spy films go beyond Bond. Mia Galuppo writes: Will Blake Lively, Jennifer Lawrence and Keira Knightley lead a new spy movie boom? After Wonder Woman, studios are seeing ever greater potential in femme-focused action thrillers.

    Producers are shopping star-driven spy packages with filmmaker attachments to studios. This summer, while audiences were waiting to see whether Daniel Craig would return for Bond 25, the company behind the series was planning its first non-Bond feature: an adaptation of Mark Burnell's thriller The Rhythm Section, starring Lively and directed by The Handmaid's Tale helmer Reed Morano. The film is dated for Feb. 22, 2019.

    "People would tell me, 'Well, they kind of did this with La Femme Nikita,'" recalls producer Barbara Broccoli, who has been trying to get The Rhythm Section greenlighted for the past seven years. "Which is a movie I love, but it was in 1990, and there were 10 of these a week being released with men in them." Full story.

    ^Box office preview: Thor to the rescue. After a dismal October, the U.S. box office will get a jolt this weekend thanks to Marvel and Disney's critical darling Thor: Ragnarok, writes Pamela McClintock:

    Directed by acclaimed New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, the threequel starring Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett is looking at a $100 million-plus weekend, well ahead of the first two films. Thor: Ragnarok currently boasts a 97 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — the top score of any film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (sorry, Iron Man and Captain America).

    The other major new offering is STXfilms' A Bad Moms Christmas, which opted to open the sequel on Wednesday to provide some distance from Thor. Going after women, the R-rated comedy is expected to post a five-day debut in the $22 million-$25 million range from 3,615 theaters, on par with the first Bad Moms ($23.8 million). Full story.  

    Theater stocks tumble after report that Disney will take big slice of Last Jedi sales. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Disney is demanding theater owners give 65 percent of the ticket money to the studio, and that if they do not show the film in their biggest auditoriums for at least four weeks, then Disney's share jumps to 70 percent. This caused Regal Entertainment shares to drop 3.7 percent, now putting it off 21 percent on the year. 

    I, Tonya gets a red-band trailer. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney get explicit in the new preview for the upcoming Tonya Harding film. The movie hits theaters in New York and L.A. on Dec. 8.

    Casting news: Julianne Moore will portray Gloria Steinem in a film adaptation of the feminist icon's memoir My Life on the Road ... This Is Us star Chrissy Metz will play a nurse with a checkered past in the psychological thriller The Will O Wisp, described as Signs meets Misery ... Fellow This Is Us-er Milo Ventimiglia joins Jennifer Lopez in the rom-com Second Act ... Rebecca Ferguson is in talks to join Hugh Bonneville in a Roald Dahl/Patricia Neal biopic.

    ► Anonymous Content names Matthew Velkes as COO. The former Village Roadshow COO will take on the newly created position at Anonymous, where he will be responsible for overseeing strategic elements of the company’s growth, working closely with the partners of the production/management company and reporting to founder and CEO Steve Golin.

  • Nielsen Takes On Netflix

    Courtesy of Netflix

    A new measurement service, already being used by eight media giants, gives first-ever insights into who is watching streamers — and how those audiences stack up to linear TV, Michael O’Connell writes:

    The curtain is lifting on Netflix's mysterious viewership data, so says Nielsen Media. The godfather of TV ratings recently launched SVOD measurement in earnest and plans to go out with viewership statistics on big-swing originals Mindhunter and Stranger Things 2 in the coming weeks as it courts additional clients to the new service.

    "It's about shedding light on a large area of viewership that people have been blind to," says Brian Fuhrer, senior vp of product leadership at Nielsen. "We've gone public with some insights already, but the logical thing you'll see next is how all of these big Netflix launches rank against linear TV."

    Among those stats floating around are for House of Cards. Now set to end with its sixth season, the show had 4.6 million viewers for its May premiere by standards comparable with the live-plus-7 ratings window, according to Nielsen. Eight media companies, including Disney-ABC, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros., already are paying for those numbers — which, like traditional Nielsen measurements, come from audio codes within programming. Full story.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    World Series finale ratings down from 2016, still second-best in years. The 2016 World Series was always going to be a tough act to follow, but this year's Fall Classic did a remarkable job trying to live up to those ratings highs. Play culminated during Game 7 on Wednesday night, with the Houston Astros handily overtaking the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1, and early returns from Nielsen Media have the game shedding a quarter of last year's record haul.

    + But Game 7 still averaged a 18.8 overnight rating among metered market households, easily a best for this series. It's still early, but Game 7's numbers will likely make this series the most-watched overall since 2009.

    CBS bumps Me, Myself & I for Man With a Plan. What's good for Matt LeBlanc is bad for Bobby Moynihan: CBS announced Wednesday that it’s bringing back LeBlanc's Man With a Plan on Monday, Nov. 13. As a result, freshman comedy 9JKL will move back an hour to 9:30 p.m. beginning Nov. 6, and push fellow first-year entry Me, Myself & I off the schedule until a later date.

    BBC boss: British content is "under serious threat" from U.S. streamers. The future of British-made TV shows, such as Sherlock and Broadchurch, is "under serious threat” amid the rise of Netflix, Amazon and Apple and other industry changes, BBC director general Tony Hall will say in a speech this evening. The BBC made a copy of highlights of the speech available ahead of time, because they assumed you’d be streaming Broadchurch on Netflix later tonight.  

    Review: Marvel's Runaways. "With a 16-character ensemble, Hulu's new Marvel series has to lay a lot of foundation, but it's still a promising start for this comic book dramedy,” writes Daniel Fienberg. Full review.

    Female-led 24 spinoff in the works at Fox. The network is working on a new 24 franchise series that will center on a female lead from the criminal justice world as she tries in real time to uncover a conspiracy plot. 24 EPs Howard Gordon and Brian Grazer are set to produce alongside Jeremy Doner (The Killing).

    ^ABC News chief James Goldston talks Megyn Kelly, Good Morning America and the disruption of TV news. “One has to recognize that habits are changing in the morning,” Goldston told Marisa Guthrie when asked about GMA’s decline in ratings. “The first button that everyone would push, up until relatively recently, was to turn on their television. Now the first button everyone pushes is on their phone. That's a big, systemic change. The show's doing a good job of adapting to that. But we have to recognize that some of those basic functions in the morning have changed.” Q&A.

    ► Tommy Mottola, Thalia set quinceañera documentaries at HBO. The network will debut 15: A Quinceañera Story, a collection of four short documentary films, on Dec. 19-22. The films follows five Latina girls from different cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds as they transition to adulthood, all observing the traditional rite of passage of the quinceañera, a celebration of their 15th birthdays. 

    American Crime Story: Versace gets a premiere date. Ryan Murphy's FX follow-up to the acclaimed People v. O.J. Simpson will debut Jan. 17. And in other Murphy news, the producer has (surprise) put together an all-star cast for a Boys in the Band Broadway revival, which will be led by Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannells.

    + Sarah Paulson gets frank about her performance in AHS: Cult, and the "challenging" role and process of putting together the upcoming season of ACS: Katrina.  

  • Baldwin Writes Trump

    Courtesy of Penguin Random House

    One year after Trump's election, actor and Emmy-winning Donald Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin teams up with Kurt Andersen to channel the commander-in-chief in a fake memoir that delves into everything from Ivanka's neck rubs to White House decor (needs "more Abu Dhabi, less Alabama”). An excerpt:

    My inauguration, the actual legal takeover of the government with the Bible and then the speech, felt totally fantastic. Everybody watching, everybody listening, not just the 2 million or 3 million there on the Mall but like a billion people all over America and all over the world, on TV and online — probably on radio in Africa and India — so many watching, so many listening, no laughing, no talking (just me talking), total respect, even the haters terrified into a kind of respect, everyone focused on President Donald J. Trump. It would've been perfect if I hadn't had to read the speech, because reading always brings down my mood, both in public out loud and by myself. But they wouldn't let me wing it. Still, incredible, amazing, phenomenal.

    One thing I've always known is that the great ups in life never last very long. Usually not even a minute, often just a few seconds. It's "Oh, yeah!" — and then, gone, bye-bye, not happy anymore. It's true after you put out a great tweet. It's true after you have that great moment with someone you love. It's true after you eat a great dessert, like the superb three-layer Trump chocolate cake at the Mar-a-Lago Club. I was lucky to learn this lesson young.

    In fact, learning it is my earliest memory, and it also involves cake. My third birthday party, fantastic time, leaning over the Carvel cake to blow out the candles, my hair catches on fire. Mom yells, "Fred, no," just as Dad pushes my face into the cake to put it out and starts laughing like a maniac, one of the only times I remember him laughing. The other thing I know is that you always remember the downs much, much more clearly and much, much longer than the ups, like each one is one of those video jiffies from Twitter playing over and over and over in your mind, and you can't delete them. 

    Now I'm president. I won. I won. I won. My first morning at the White House. Day one. Read more.

    (From You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody) by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen, to be published on Nov. 7 by Penguin Press. © 2017 by Alec Baldwin.)

    What else we're reading...

    — Why movie-ticket surge pricing is a bad idea. David Sims writes: "Charging audiences more to see popular films won't halt sliding theater revenues. But Regal Cinemas is trying anyway." [The Atlantic]

    — Michelle Pfeiffer: 'I'm always afraid of failing.' Melena Ryzik writes: "Returning to movies after years off to raise her children, the actress said she had to tell herself, “You cannot bomb in front of Judi Dench." [New York Times]

    — The Moonlight effect: A new wave of gay coming-of-age stories hits theaters. Tim Stack writes: "Young love is a timeless Hollywood tradition — if the characters are straight. But after Moonlight claimed best picture earlier this year, a new wave of gay coming-of-age stories is following in its wake." [EW

    — The world according to Jeff Goldblum. Anna Peele writes: "Jeff Goldblum lives the life we all want to live when we’re 65 and impossibly handsome. And a clotheshorse. And a massive flirt. Meet your delightfully weird (and weirdly delightful) new hero." [GQ]

    — Yes, Breitbart News has a fashion critic. Ruth La Ferla writes: "John Binder has a bone to pick with his fellow fashion chroniclers." [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Hillary Clinton: What Happened and what comes next for America." [Daily Show]

    + "Nicole Kidman forgot Stephen Colbert was also in Bewitched." [Late Show]

    + "John Kelly is NOT the adult." [Full Frontal]

    + "Channing Tatum's guest host monologue." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    What else we're hearing... 

    + Marc Maron is very needy: Interview. [2 Dope Queens]

    + Janice Min on the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, and the future of celebrity journalism. [Bill Simmons Podcast]

    + Mindhunter's Jonathan Groff on his most life-altering roles. [Fresh Air]

    Today's Birthdays: Jon Chu, 38, David Schwimmer, 51, k.d. lang, 56, Peter Mullan, 58.