What's news: After bold posturing, Wanda billionaire Wang Jianlin is retreating from the theme park biz with a $9.3B sale. Plus: TNT is trying its luck with an edgier Shakespeare series, the Comic-Con party list so far is thinner this year and, surprise, the Baywatch reboot is huge in Germany. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman
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Spider-Man: Homecoming opened to $117M at the North American box office over the weekend in a major victory for Sony Pictures, Pamela McClintock writes:
The critically acclaimed tentpole exceeded expectations in a needed boost for the ailing summer box office, passing Wonder Woman ($103.3M) to boast the third-best North American opening of the year so far behind Beauty and the Beast ($174.8M) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($146.5M). It becomes only the eleventh superhero pic to open to $100M or more, and narrowly marks the second-biggest three-day launch of the franchise behind Spider-Man 3, not adjusting for inflation.
+ Edgar Wright's heist thriller Baby Driver — Sony's second summer win — followed at No. 3 in North America with $12.8M from 3,226 theaters for a pleasing 12-day total of $56.9M against a modest $34M net budget. The pic fell a relatively modest 38 percent in its sophomore outing.
+ Among new specialty offerings, filmmaker David Lowery's A Ghost Story, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, scared up a strong $108,067 from four cinemas for a theater average of $27,017, the top average of the weekend. A24 is releasing the unique film, made on a shoestring budget of $100,000. Full weekend wrap.
Elsewhere in film...
? Box office surprise: Germany loves Baywatch. The film is riding a tidal wave of popularity in Germany, earning a huge $16M to date. It's by far the best showing of any foreign market, possibly thanks to original Baywatch star David Hasselhoff's popularity in the country.
? China box office: Despicable Me 3 breaks animation records. The Universal and Illumination Entertainment threequel opened to a historic $66M, according to Chinese box-office tracking company Entgroup. It was the biggest launch ever for an animated film in the country.
? Wanda retreats from theme park business. Dalian Wanda Group says it has reached a landmark deal to sell its theme park business to Sunac China for $9.3B. Under the terms of the deal, Wanda is selling a 91 percent stake in nearly all of its current and planned tourism projects, including three recently launched theme parks, and 72 of its 102 hotels in China.
+ Flashback: Just last year, the company's billionaire chairman Wang Jianlin boasted that his "wolf pack" of theme parks would drive the Walt Disney Co. out of China.
? Spider-Man: Homecoming screenwriters talk spoilers. Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley look at the film's pivotal moment: "It's fun to hear that audible reaction from the audience." Full chat here.
^Going to Comic Con? Here's the party guide. But Lesley Goldberg notes: It isn't as burgeoning as it once was as several film studios — and regular TV players — are opting out of the pop culture confab. Full list.
+ Gone this year is HitFix's (now Uproxx) annual Wednesday night opener. Also joining many of the major film studios on the sidelines is The Walking Dead, with the zombie drama and comic book series skipping a San Diego bash in favor of one in L.A. a week before SDCC.
? Ant-Man sequel adds Randall Park to cast. The Fresh Off the Boat star has joined Ant-Man and The Wasp as an unnamed character in the Peyton Reed film hitting theaters in 2018.
? Saban lands new Arnold Schwarzenegger film. The studio has acquired rights to Taran Killam’s Killing Gunther, in which he stars alongside Schwarzenegger, Bobby Moynihan, Hannah Simone, Cobie Smulders and Paul Brittain.
? Little Crusader wins top prize at Karlovy Vary fest. Vaclav Kadrnka's psychological drama stars Karel Roden as a knight forced to confront his own deepest inner fears when his young son goes missing after running away from home. Winners list.
? R.I.P., Miriam Marx Allen. The eldest daughter of Groucho Marx, who worked on his quiz show You Bet Your Life and turned letters that she received from her famous father into a revealing book, has died at 90. Full obit.
? New! Oscars column: No sure-fire contenders so far. Scott Feinberg delivers his annual assessment of Oscar prospects from the first half of the year. The verdict? "I don't think we've seen a best picture Oscar nominee yet, but there are many elements from the films that we have seen that could register in other categories."
Tonight, TNT premieres a new series, an ahistorical look at William Shakespeare's lost years, to viewers with Will. Critic Daniel Fienberg's review is mixed:
Relying on a mixture of thin facts, extremely generous extrapolation and whole-cloth fabrication, Will creator Craig Pearce has crafted an early biography for Shakespeare that seems both ridiculous and thematically plausible.
As long as Will is having lively fun with the absurdity of its premise, the show is entertainingly dumb, but by the third and fourth episodes sent to critics, that commitment has lapsed into something much blander.
+ Early takes: LAT: "always good to look at, if not always to watch." NYT: "rife with bacchanalia and back-stabbing." Vox: "designed to shock everyone in the year 2000." Boston Globe: "rock ’n’ roll Shakespeare."
Elsewhere in TV...
? Starz beefs up programming offerings. The premium TV company, owned by Lionsgate, plans to grow its app, on-demand and OTT content offerings by 40 percent to 7,700 titles by year's end.
? CW's Supergirl replaces Laura Benanti with Erica Durance. The actress, who played Lois Lane on Smallville, is taking over the role of Alura, the mother of Melissa Benoist's Supergirl. Benanti departed "due to work commitments in New York."
? HBO's Game of Thrones unveils episode titles. What lies ahead in "Dragonstone," "Stormborn" and "The Queen's Justice"? Here is a close look at season seven's first three episode titles and descriptions.
? CBC's Burden of Truth loses showrunners. Noelle Carbone and Adriana Maggs have stepped down on the legal drama that stars Kristin Kreuk. The show is set to shoot 10 episodes in Winnipeg this summer. No replacements have been named.
? R.I.P., Nelsan Ellis. The actor, best known for starring on HBO's True Blood as Lafayette Reynolds, died "after complications with heart failure." He was 39. Full obit.
? R.I.P., Ji-Tu Cumbuka. The actor, who appeared on Roots, Bound for Glory, Bachelor Party and Volunteers, has died after illness. He was 77. Full obit.
? Rep Sheet: Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya signs with Shelter PR, as has Pitch Perfect star Anna Camp … Awkward alum Ashley Rickards signs with Paradigm … Shannara Chronicles star Malese Jow signs with Abrams, Mach 1 Management and Platform PR. More here.
Natalie Jarvey writes: Thirteen years after the release of the first podcast, the medium is still largely dominated by talk shows and true crime. But the team behind drama series Limetown is hoping to break through with new musical podcast 36 Questions. Quote: "It should feel like the Before Sunset of musicals."
What else we're reading...
— "Tiffany hunts for path to regain 'cool.'" Suzanne Kapner notes: "Historic jeweler’s former chief failed to turn around sales amid reliance on lower-priced baubles; tricky shift from Audrey Hepburn to Lady Gaga." [The Wall Street Journal]
— "Why some online video stars opt for Facebook." Daisuke Wakabayashi writes: "celebrities gravitate to the mass audience of YouTube. But some others are carving a niche on the worlds biggest social network." [The New York Times]
— "Science fiction’s under-appreciated feminist icon." Gabrielle Bellot writes: The French comic series Valérian and Laureline ... gave the genre one of its first protagonists to powerfully own her womanhood." [The Atlantic]
— "Hollywood is whitewashing the US civil war." Steve Rose notes: The Beguiled "deletes the story’s only African-American character – but it’s not the only film to sideline black historical experience." [The Guardian]
— "How the new Twin Peaks made television strange again." Rachel Syme writes: "David Lynch wanted to create a small-town Marilyn Monroe. He came up with Laura Palmer." [The New Republic]
What's ahead this week...
Monday: Fox holds War of the Planet of the Apes premiere in N.Y. ... TNT premieres Shakespeare series Will ... AMC premieres tech dramedy Loaded.
Tuesday: Freeform premieres magazine-centered series The Bold Type.
Wednesday: ESPN/ABC's ESPY Awards held in L.A. ... CBS premieres summer event series Salvation.
Thursday: Emmy nominations unveiled by TV Academy in L.A. ... Universal holds Girls Trip premiere in L.A.
Friday: Disney holds D23 convention in Anaheim ... Fox's Apes sequel, Broad Green's Wish Upon hit theaters in wide release ... Netflix premieres comedy series Friends from College.
Today's Birthdays: Wyatt Russell, 31, Jessica Simpson, 37, Chiwetel Ejiofor, 40, Cary Fukunaga, 40, Sofía Vergara, 45, Phyllis Smith, 66.