What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:13 AM 6/20/2018

by THR Staff

Photographed by Ruven Afanador

What's news: Disney has raised the stakes, bidding $71.3 billion in cash and stock for most of Rupert Murdoch's empire. Plus: AMC challenges MoviePass with a subscription plan, behind the internal rifts at ESPN, Disney picks its new animation leaders and Fox News is creating headaches for Fox entertainment. — Erik Hayden

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On the cover: Amy Adams. As the five-time Oscar nominee goes dark in Sharp Objects for her next starring role, she joins the women behind the limited series — novelist Gillian Flynn and creator Marti Noxon — for a pointed conversation with Lacey Rose about the #MeToo movement and female antiheroes: 

+ Behind HBO's Sharp Objects. When the series premieres July 8, it enters a landscape in which such darkness traditionally has been reserved for male leads. In fact, conversations about whether audiences were ready or willing to see a woman maim herself have been had more than once at the premium cable network. And, per its programming president, Casey Bloys, for good reason. "I can't think of a more complicated female lead."

+ Amy Adams on her TV star turn. "I felt like I had residual pain from her more than pain playing her. I also tend to be a sufferer of, like, 2 to 3 o'clock in the morning insomnia, and that's when [playing] Camille would catch up with me. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and have like unexplained terror or self-loathing and I'd have to work my way out of it."

+ Book to screen. "No one wants to read a book about difficult women," Flynn was told over and over when she initially pitched the manuscript to publishers back in 2005. Ultimately, Crown bit — "but barely," she jokes. It wasn't until Noxon stepped in, in early 2014, and convinced rights holder Jason Blum to let her reconceive it as a TV series.

+ A limited series or more? "My characters always go on in my imagination. They have full working lives in there, and I keep in touch with all of them," Flynn says, adding: "I would never say no [to another season]. I know exactly what happens to them." Full story I Sharp Objects review. 

  • Disney Ups Fox Bid

    Illustration by Jamie Coe

    New: Walt Disney has raised the stakes, boosting the value of its takeover agreement for large parts of 21st Century Fox to $71.3 billion in cash and stock, following Comcast’s $65 billion all-cash offer, Georg Szalai writes: 

    + Rupert Murdoch applauds Disney: "We remain convinced that the combination of 21st Century Fox's iconic assets, brands and franchises with Disney's will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world."

    + Soaring value: The new Disney-Fox deal is worth $38 per share in cash and stock, or $71.3 billion. Disney will also assume about $13.8 billion of Fox's net debt, which would boost the total transaction value to approximately $85.1 billion.

    + Comcast's spin: The company has pointed out in memos that a Fox-Disney movie studio would command 50 percent of the domestic box office. Disney would enjoy the potential to dictate higher terms to theater owners, and regulators could balk at giving one company such a huge share of the market. Comcast also has indicated that Fox's regional sports networks are problematic for Disney because they represent a "complete overlap" with ESPN. New bid I Analysis. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    Disney picks Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee to lead animation. Docter is stepping up at Pixar Animation Studios, where he has directed such films as Up and Inside Out, and Lee will head up Walt Disney Animation Studios, where she wrote Frozen. The two will succeed John Lasseter. Details. 

    AMC Theatres directly challenges MoviePass. The cinema giant is launching a discounted movie ticket program, AMC Stubs A-List, where members can see up to three regular movies a week for $19.95 a month and receive discounts on concessions and other benefits.

    + MoviePass stock spikes. Shares of MoviePass parent Helios and Matheson Analytics on Tuesday rose 27 percent to 45 cents per share. Meanwhile, after the closing bell, the company said it is seeking a reverse split of its shares and if investors don't approve the plan, it risks delisting from Nasdaq.

    Netflix shares reach new high. The streamer's shares closed 3 percent higher to a new high of $404.98, even as the broader markets fell, after three analysts raised expectations on the stock, the most bullish of them upping his price target to $500.

    ^Rom-coms have become a priority for Netflix. The streamer, which just released Set It Up (above), is in production on an Ali Wong and Randall Park penned feature Always Be My Maybe and acquired The Second Summer, starring Riverdale break-out KJ Apa, from Gulfstream Entertainment. Another original rom-com acquisition Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, which came to Netflix by way of Black Label, is due out in September. Full story.

    MGM unveils Creed II trailer. The teaser returns Michael B. Jordan to fighting form in the sequel that also stars Sylvester Stallone as former heavy weight champ Rocky Balboa and Tessa Thompson as Bianca. Watch.

    Warner Bros. enlists Robert Zemeckis to direct The Witches. The filmmaker will also produce and pen the script for the Roald Dahl adaptation. Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro are producing the fantasy.

    Universal's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom cut lesbian reveal. Star Daniella Pineda said in an interview with Build that a line of dialogue that was cut from the film would have revealed her character Zia Rodriguez was a lesbian.

    Dennis Quaid to play Ronald Reagan in indie biopic. Jon Voight also has a role in the film, which is produced by Mark Joseph, who associate-produced Max Rose. The movie, dubbed Reagan, is executive produced by Ralph Winter.

    Kevin Spacey film Billionaire Boys Club to hit select theaters in August. The movie's distributor Vertical Entertainment says the rest of the cast shouldn't be penalized because of the disgraced actor and that the decision was "neither easy nor insensitive."

    *R.I.P., Dick Delson. The Hollywood publicist and awards consultant who worked for Disney, Universal, Miramax and others during his half-century in the entertainment business, has died. He was 81. Full obit.

    Also: John Travolta's Gotti calls critics "trolls." The film, which was branded with a rare zero percent Rotten Tomatoes rating when it arrived in theaters on Friday, has declared war on the critics, and that, in turn, has triggered dueling conspiracy theories.

  • Battle for ESPN

    Illustration by: Matt Collins

    Trouble in Bristol: As the network eyes a new Monday Night Football deal amid NFL protests and Trump culture wars, new chief Jimmy Pitaro faces warring factions inside the company, Marisa Guthrie writes:

    + SportsCenter controversy. When Jemele Hill, who became a lightning rod with critics dubbing the show "WokeCenter," left in February, Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vp and executive editor of studio production, quipped in front of a room full of people: "One down, one to go." Four ESPN employees tell THR that Dave Roberts, ESPN's vp content, was heard characterizing the show as "too black." (Through a spokesperson, Roberts, who is African-American, vehemently denies saying this.)

    + Political misconceptions. “The network itself takes a terrific knock for being some kind of pinko lefty operation,” says a veteran senior executive. "At this point, Bristol, Connecticut, is not a bastion of liberalism. And it's laughable that that's the perception."

    + The focus on right-leaning agitators is frustrating, say staffers. "Anybody who is getting an ESPN paycheck right now - outside of the communications department - who is spending their time trying to debunk the narrative that ESPN is losing subscribers because of a political agenda should be punished," says James Andrew Miller, who co-wrote an ESPN oral history. "It's been litigated to death." Full story.

    Elsewhere in TV... 

    Endemol Shine hires banks to explore sale. The outfit behind the Masterchef and Big Brother franchises, as well as high-end drama series including Black Mirror and Peaky Blinders, has enlisted Deutsche Bank and Liontree to evaluate a possible sale.

    HBO holds town hall with new WarnerMedia boss. Sources say John Stankey, once onstage, emphasized subscriber growth during the hourlong event. There was a sense of relief, per two in attendance, that he said "all the right things." 

    Apple orders immigration comedy from Big Sick writers. Four months after putting Little America into development, the tech giant has handed out an eight-episode series order for the anthology from duo Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.

    + Kristen Wiig exits Apple comedy. The actress has dropped out of her planned starring role in Apple's untitled comedy inspired by Curtis Sittenfeld's upcoming short-story collection You Think It, I'll Say It. Sources say that the planned schedule overlapped with filming for the Wonder Woman sequel, where she will play the villain.

    Quoted: "Female relationships are often depicted on film as contentious ... and somehow that narrative penetrated my own way of thinking. The only way to get a seat at the table is by elbowing other women out of the way. This business can feed into that falsehood." — Sarah Paulson, writing in a new guest column.

    ^Office visit: Telemundo chairman talks World Cup frenzy. With his network's first FIFA championship fanning the flames of ratings competition, Cesar Conde opens up about sports rights, scripted strategies and the one concession he's willing to make to the competition. Q&A

    Netflix options Friday Night Lights-like soccer story. The streamer has optioned the rights to Amy Bass' One Goal, the story of how a mix of Somali refugees and native-born white kids in Maine won the state high-school soccer championship.

    ► CBS TV inks Alex Kurtzman to $25M deal. The new Star Trek: Discovery showrunner extends his CBS deal for five years and will expand the Trek TV franchise, receiving a sizable back-end on new projects. Details.

    ► Bloomberg Billionaires Index adds Oprah Winfrey. The media mogul's fortune has increased $427 million this year due to her partnership with Weight Watchers. Winfrey bought a stake and began to pitch for the brand in 2015.

    Universal TV ups Kiersten Robinson to senior vp. The longtime NBCUniversal employee will serve as senior vp current programming, reporting to recent International Studios import JoAnn Alfano. 

    TV Critic Awards nominations unveiled. Killing Eve led the nominations with five, The Americans followed with four and FX led the pack among networks with 10.

    + Nominations by network. FX – 10 Netflix – 9 NBC – 7 BBC America – 6 HBO – 6 PBS/PBS Kids – 4 Hulu – 3 Amazon – 3 CBS/CBS All Access – 3 Starz – 2 Showtime – 2 Disney Channel/Disney Junior – 3 VH1 – 1 Lifetime – 1 MSNBC – 1 CNN – 1 The CW – 1 TBS – 1. Full list.

    New Awards Chatter podcast: Jimmy Fallon. In an in-depth chat with Scott Feinberg, the host shares how Lorne Michaels recruited him to Late Night (despite opposition from network suits) and how his infamous 2016 interview with Donald Trump has - and hasn't - changed him and his show. Listen.

  • Fox News Effect?

    Amanda Edwards/Getty Images; John Lamparski/WireImage

    Fox News border coverage fallout: Steve Levitan's overall deal with 20th TV is up in July, while Seth MacFarlane's expires in June 2019. Both could soon be employed by Comcast or Disney — if they don’t leave for another studio in protest, Lesley Goldberg writes: 

    + Seth MacFarlane's deal. The Family Guy creator's comments — as well as his $2.5 million donation to NPR and KPCC — come as his deal with 20th TV expires in June 2019. Per multiple sources, he’d been taking meetings all over town well before the latest Fox News drama transpired. The multihyphenate said to be high on the wish list at Netflix. 

    + Steve Levitan's deal. While Levitan might not have the same output and thus the same top-dollar appeal as Ryan Murphy or MacFarlane, he did deliver a rare billion-dollar asset — on a single-camera comedy, no less — and is believed to be having his own set of exploratory conversations as his pact expires in July. Those conversations likely got more interesting following Tuesday’s comments. Full story. 

    What else we're reading...

    "Josh Brolin fears the summer of Josh Brolin." Taffy Brodesser-Akner: "He’s starring in the two biggest blockbusters of the season, cleaned up his life and has clout he never dreamed of. And that’s the problem." [New York Times]

    "Why can’t you get a decent meal at the movies?" Hannah Goldfield writes: "As box-office numbers suffer more theatres are attempting to make theatre-going both as comfortable as being at home and as exciting - and expensive - as going to a restaurant." [New Yorker]

    "Why Lyft is trying to become the next subscription business." Jessi Hempel writes: "After months of testing its fledgling membership program, Lyft is betting that the model that built loyal followings for Netflix and Spotify can also work for transit." [Wired]

    "In Cannes, a marketer backlash to influencers is growing." Shareen Pathak notes: "The early days of the Cannes Lions festival saw some strong words against so-called influencers and influencer marketing from top chief marketing officers." [Digiday]

    From the archives...

    + On June 20, 1997, Julia Roberts brought My Best Friend's Wedding to theaters, where it would become a summer box-office smash. Flashback review.

    Today's birthdays: Christopher Mintz-Plasse, 29, Tika Sumpter, 38, Mike Birbiglia, 40, Josh Lucas, 47, Robert Rodriguez, 50, Nicole Kidman, 51, John Goodman, 66, Brian Wilson, 76.