What's news: With diminishing returns for Star Wars in China, Lucasfilm is facing a dilemma. Plus: Discovery locks up overseas golf TV rights for $2 billion, Jon Stewart defends Daily Show alum Samantha Bee and global star Fan Bingbing has her pay contracts leaked. — Erik Hayden
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With each Star Wars release, the Force is growing weaker for Disney and Lucasfilm in China, Patrick Brzeski writes:
The problem: Solo is unlikely to crack $20M in the Middle Kingdom, making it one of the poorest performing Hollywood tentpoles of recent memory there. Even the biggest studio bombs of 2017 — Passengers ($45.2M), Ghost in the Shell ($29.3M), Assassin's Creed ($22.4M) — earned markedly more.
The background: The original films in the franchise, coming long before China was a force at the global box, never received a wide release in the country. Young Chinese filmgoers have thus tended to find Disney's new installments a rather confusing chore, thanks to their sprawling backstory, multigenerational cast of characters and nostalgia-geared storytelling.
The challenge: Given the passion of Star Wars fans in North America and much of the West, cutting down on the references and Easter eggs, and tailoring the films to be more newbie-friendly in China could come with considerable risks. The report.
Elsewhere in film...
► Box office: Solo disappoints stateside too. The space adventure attracted an estimated $29.3M in North America, down 65 percent from the $84.7M in claimed in its first three days. The film’s domestic tally currently stands at $148.9M.
+ Decent opener: STX Entertainment and Lakeshore’s lost-at-sea adventure Adrift, starring Shailene Woodley, opened to $11.2M from 3,015 theaters for a third-place showing. The film, which was produced for $35M and was shot mostly in Fiji, earned a B CinemaScore. Box office wrap.
► Fox theatrical marketing exec exits. Jonathan Helfgot has left the studio and it is unclear what his next role will be. His last day with the company was Friday, and the split was amicable.
► Warner Bros. casting Godzilla vs. Kong. Julian Dennison, the breakout star of Deadpool 2, has joined the cast of the upcoming monster feature that includes Van Marten and Ziyi Zhang.
^Top Chinese actress Fan Bingbing has pay contracts leaked. The first indicated that she had been paid $1.56M for four days work on the upcoming Huayi Brothers film Cellphone 2, directed by Feng Xiaogang. The second suggested that she had been paid an additional $7.8M for the same work.
+ Creates industry crisis. The claim is that the dual contracting was provided so that Fan could submit only the first to the tax authorities while hiding the full extent of her hefty compensation. In 2017, regulators intervened in the market by ordering companies to limit actors' paychecks to no more than 40 percent of a film's total production budget. Full story.
► Brian De Palma plans Weinstein-inspired horror film. In an interview with French publication Le Parisien, the director said he is writing a screenplay about the scandal. "My character won’t be named Harvey Weinstein, but it will be a horror film, with a sexual aggressor, and it will take place in the film industry," he said.
► Tom Cruise ramps up Mission: Impossible marketing. The actor on Sunday shared a behind-the-scenes video on Twitter detailing the dangerous "HALO jump" stunt from his upcoming film Fallout. Watch.
► BAFTA appoints new chair. Pippa Harris, the veteran U.K. executive who co-founded Neal Street Productions, will succeed Jane Lush at the British Academy. Details.
*R.I.P., William Phipps. The prolific character actor, who starred in sci-fi movies of the 1950s and provided the voice of Prince Charming in the Disney classic Cinderella, has died. He was 96. Full obit.
Airing tonight: Julianna Margulies is back on the small screen as a series regular on Monday night, in the AMC drama Dietland, Hilary Lewis writes:
After she finished seven seasons as the star of CBS' The Good Wife, Julianna Margulies insisted she would never again be the lead in a TV show with a 22-episode season, as is often the case with broadcast series.
So it's no surprise that when she returns to the small screen as a series regular on Monday night, it's on a show with a much lower episode count. And, unlike on broadcast dramas, Margulies was able to read the scripts for five episodes before signing on to the series. Q&A I Dietland TV review.
Elsewhere in TV...
► Discovery strikes $2B deal for PGA golf. The company, which owns European sports network Eurosport, is taking a further step in its global push into live sports programming, striking a a 12-year deal to air PGA Tour golf outside the U.S.
► Channel 4 plans Lockerbie drama. Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald has teamed with British network Channel 4 on a drama series based around the 1988 Lockerbie, Scotland, bombing and the alleged conspiracy around it.
► Jon Stewart defends Samantha Bee over Ivanka Trump slur. Per The Daily Beast, Stewart was asked about Bee during a Q&A at S.F's Clusterfest, and answered: “Please understand that a lot of what the right does, and it’s maybe their greatest genius, is they’ve created a code of conduct that they police, that they themselves don’t have to, in any way, abide."
*R.I.P., Robert Mandon. The veteran television actor who starred as Chester Tate on the ABC daytime-serial spoof Soap, has died. He was 86. Full obit.
^Emmys: 33 supporting actors pose for star-studded class photo. At a massive garden party shoot, top supporting contenders — from Lakeith Stanfield to Kate Bosworth to Brendan Fraser — reveal their toughest scenes, the roles they'd love to play and their teen TV crushes. Full photo shoot I Story.
New: Top TV creatives Dan Futterman, Courtney Kemp, Peter Morgan, Bruce Miller, David Shore and Lena Waithe open up about race in the writers room, shooting awkward sex scenes and killing off favorite characters: "I was crying while I typed their demise." Full roundtable.
What else we're reading...
— "America's top doc." Carl Swanson's profile: "The Good Doctor’s Freddie Highmore is now ABC’s No. 1 star, and he comes with zero negative side effects." [Vulture]
— "Bollywood streaming service looks past Netflix." Ameya Karve writes: "Shemaroo aims to grow its movie catalog 3 to 5 percent every year, and is looking to license out its library to other online platforms." [Bloomberg]
— "More books are selling, but retail’s future worries publishers." Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg reports: "the struggles of Barnes & Noble are raising fundamental questions for the book business, publishing executives say." [Wall Street Journal]
— "Don't get mad, get humorous." Chris Barton writes from Clusterfest: This weekend, the S.F. comedy fest "was in danger of being overtaken by the debate over comedy’s role in a divisive political climate." [Los Angeles Times]
— "Can Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre create a new version of sports talk TV?" Bryan Curtis writes: "The producing guru behind Pardon the Interruption and Highly Questionable is doing everything he can to make it happen." [The Ringer]
Today's birthdays: Oona Chaplin, 33, T.J. Miller, 38, Angelina Jolie, 44, Russell Brand, 44, Keith David, 63, Bruce Dern, 83.