What's news: A #MeToo story involving claims against Russell Simmons, an Extra host and vetting by NBC News. Plus: Sony's Sicario sequel arrives during a dicey border policy debate, tracking Apple's TV programming moves and new troubles ahead for the Weinstein Co. sale. — Erik Hayden
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Look for the dinos and a family of animated superheros to stomp past this weekend's two new nationwide entries, Pamela McClintock forecasts:
+ Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Sony's $35 million sequel, starring Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, is hoping to lure adults who are looking for an alternative to popcorn fare. The film is tracking for $10M to $13M.
-> Soldado marketing amid border crisis. The studio has neither leaned into the hot-button coverage of America’s border nor pulled TV ads that might be seen as opportunistic given the depictions of real-life suffering. Promo plans.
+ Uncle Drew. The Lionsgate/Summit, which movie boasts an impressive roster of real-life NBA greats, is also looking at the $10M-$13M range.
+ Holdover giants. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom could easily earn $60M-plus in its sophomore outing after debuting to $148M. Incredibles 2 is likewise expected to be a major player in its third session after grossing $80.4M last weekend. Full preview.
Elsewhere in film...
► California extends film tax credits to 2025. The $330M a year in credits represent the state’s effort to keep projects from decamping to New York, Atlanta, Canada and the U.K. Program changes.
► Sony plans new Spider-Man spinoff film. Jared Leto is set to star in Morbius, the studio's latest entry into its Marvel-based universe. Daniel Espinosa will direct the feature, based on the vampire character. Details I What's Morbius?
+ Sony adds Jumanji sequel to calendar. Following through on studio chief Tom Rothman's promise, the sequel is set to hit theaters Dec. 13, 2019, setting up a match-up with Star Wars: Episode IX, which arrives days later.
► Weinstein Co. sale at risk. The sale to private equity group Lantern Capital was originally approved in May, and while the sale price was subsequently reduced from $310M to $287M, the parties are now threatening to sue each other as they argue over the millions in profit participant payments owed to various creditors.
+ Stars owed: Behind the scenes, celebrities and their attorneys have been trying to figure out who will pay them money they say they are owed. Robert De Niro could be owed about $940K for work in Silver Linings Playbook. Others that may be owed money include George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence. Details.
Quoted: "The very idea of any person auditioning to be in a relationship is so demeaning. I refuse for anyone to spread the idea that I lack the integrity to choose my own relationships. Only a man aka Brendan Tighe would come up with a crazy story like that." — Scarlett Johansson, denying a claim on Megyn Kelly Today that she auditioned to date Tom Cruise.
^Marvel's Ant-Man and the Wasp, reviewed (opens next Friday). Peyton Reed's sequel stars Paul Rudd as the titular superhero, along with Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer. The take-away: "An enjoyably goofy respite from Marvel's A-list musclemen."
► Paramount searches for key Top Gun 2 character. Nicholas Hoult, Glen Powell and Miles Teller are the frontrunners to play the son of Tom Cruise’s wingman and best pal, Goose. Producers, who include Cruise, Jerry Bruckheimer and Skydance’s David Ellison, have been testing actors for several weeks. Details.
► Warner Bros. unveils first look at Wonder Woman 2 villain. Director Patty Jenkins shared a still of the character Barbara Minerva, played by Kristen Wiig. The villain was introduced in the comics in 1987. Photo.
► Universal enlists Paul Feig for holiday film. Paul Feig and Emma Thompson are teaming for Last Christmas, a London-set romance feature that Thompson wrote with Bryony Kimmings.
► Fox's Ford v. Ferrari movie rounds out cast. Paul Sparks is joining Christian Bale and Matt Damon in the James Mangold-directed title. The untitled film will shoot this summer in Los Angeles.
► Producer David Bergstein gets eight years in prison for fraud. "U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan said he wanted to send a message that anyone convicted of a similar crime will pay a steep price," the Associated Press reports.
► Abigail Disney backs new Hollywood misconduct database. She is investing in the Rotten Apples website via Level Forward, the new female-led venture she runs alongside Hollywood veteran Adrienne Becker.
What's the plan? Apple's moves for how — and when — it plans to roll out its star-studded content remains shrouded in mystery. Lesley Goldberg has a snapshot at all the tech giant's programming so far:
+ Scripted Originals: Amazing Stories, Are You Sleeping, Calls, Central Park, Dickinson, Little America, Little Voice, See, Untitled morning show drama, Untitled Damien Chazelle drama, Untitled Hilde Lysiak drama, Untitled M. Night Shyamalan drama, Untitled Ron Moore drama, Untitled comedy based on You Think It, I'll Say It.
+ Unscripted Originals: Home, Carpool Karaoke Scripted Development Pipeline: Foundation, Swagger, Shantaram Content deals: Oprah Winfrey, Sesame Workshop, Kerry Ehrin.
+ In short: The world's biggest company is aggressively pursuing top creators and TV packages with its $1 billion budget, but its still unclear how or when any of these premium series will be released. Guide + series summaries.
Elsewhere in TV...
► Disney-Fox deal approved by Department of Justice. The DOJ greenlighted Walt Disney's partial merger with 21st Century Fox, but said Disney must sell Fox's regional sports networks as those, coupled with ESPN, could form a monopoly in sports broadcasting.
-> Analyst take, part I: Netflix to hit 90M U.S. subscribers in 10 years. Todd Juenger of Bernstein commissioned a survey to determine, "Who in the U.S. does not subscribe to Netflix," and the results say that there are still 80 million adults in the country who have the internet but don't subscribe.
-> Analyst take, Part II: Amazon should buy CBS to compete with Netflix. "Prime Video appears to be lagging in both usage and reach," wrote Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson. Rather than build out the service over time, Amazon, led by CEO Jeff Bezos, should embrace a "buy-it model," he writes.
^Netflix's Kiss Me First, reviewed (premieres tomorrow). The new virtual reality drama from the co-creator of Skins starts out as a capable exploration of online identity before falling apart in the end. The takeaway: "Frustrating finale erases five hours of solid development."
► Fox orders more from Gordon Ramsay. The chef turned TV personality’s latest at the network, 24 Hours to Hell and Back, has been renewed for a second season after just two episodes.
► Hulu enlists Oprah for Handmaid's Tale cameo. Winfrey, who recently inked a content deal with Apple, supplies a brief but pivotal voice cameo in the latest episode of the Hulu drama, titled "Holly."
► Netflix enlists Piper Perabo to star with Idris Elba. The Covert Affairs grad has been cast as the female lead in Turn Up Charlie, the streaming giant's Elba scripted comedy series.
► ABC casts Grace Park in Million Little Things. Nearly a year to the day after the actress quit Hawaii Five-0 following a salary parity talks, Park has booked her first series regular role since her stint on the CBS reboot.
► AMC doubles down on studio business. As part of a push to own more of its programming and supply originals to outside buyers, Ben Davis has been promoted to lead programming at AMC Studios.
► Viacom promotes MTV CMO to digital studios role. Marketing executive Jacqueline Parkes will get an expanded role that now also includes oversight of digital content and social media for MTV, VH1 and Logo.
In THR, Esq: AMC's Fear the Walking Dead is target of copyright lawsuit. Dead Ahead author Mel Smith filed suit against AMC Networks, Robert Kirkman and others associated with the series, claiming infringement on the copyright on Smith's own zombie comic series. Details.
New: Sil Lai Abrams was ready to go public with MSNBC’s Joy Reid about horrific claims against Russell Simmons and Extra host A.J. Calloway. But as the vetting process dragged on and Reid accused her employer of "slow walking" the story with "stupid" requests, Abrams feared being "silenced," Kim Masters reports:
+ Backstory: In mid-December, MSNBC's standards and legal departments began putting Abrams through a grinding vetting process. She responded to their requests, providing documents from years earlier, including several court orders issued in New York against Calloway.
+ Vetting: Abrams supplied contact information for sources who could verify aspects of her past, including some who had been told of the alleged assaults in the immediate aftermath. In January, Reid taped an on-camera interview with Abrams at MSNBC's New York studio. But a process that had begun in December dragged on frustratingly for weeks and then months. Full report.
What else we're reading...
— "Gospel according to Kendrick Lamar." Lisa Robinson's cover: "As Compton’s favorite son headlines this summer’s blockbuster Top Dawg Entertainment tour, he grants an intimate look at what drives him." [Vanity Fair]
— "How saying #MeToo changed their lives." Feature: "Months after accusing powerful men of sexual abuse and harassment, Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and 18 others reveal what happened afterward." [New York Times]
— "Apple eyes streaming bundle for TV, music and news." Jessica Toonkel reports that the tech giant "is considering creating a single subscription offering that would encompass its original TV shows, music service and magazine articles." [The Information]
— "Google reins in workplace debate." Douglas MacMillan writes: "Internet giant bans 'trolling' on internal message boards and ad hominem attacks against co-workers." [Wall Street Journal]
— "25 Golden Age movies edited by women." Samantha Ladwig notes: "Despite the number of female editors during the Golden Age, these women have been largely forgotten as the industry has progressed." [Vulture]
From the archives...
+ On June 28, 1985, Columbia unveiled St. Elmo's Fire, an angsty, R-rated post-college drama, in theaters nationwide: "Performances under Joel Schumacher's intelligent direction are spirited and on-the-mark." Flashback review.
Today's birthdays: Jon Watts, 37, Felicia Day, 39, Mike White, 42, Elon Musk, 47, John Cusack, 52, Kathy Bates, 70, Mel Brooks, 92.