What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:11 AM 8/22/2017

by THR Staff

Getty Images

What's news: Studios and major platforms like Apple and Amazon could launch a $30 movie rental service next year. Plus: The MPAA wins a copyright case in China, The Weinstein Co.'s Mary Magdalene moves to Easter and NBC's Xena: Warrior Princess reboot has been scrapped. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

[Note: To sign up to receive this Today in Entertainment briefing by email each day, click here.]

  • Studios Mull $30 Movie Rentals

    Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox; Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    If studios get their wish, a new premium video-on-demand service could finally be introduced with this likely scenario: Consumers would pay $30 to rent a movie only 30 to 45 days after the film has opened in theaters, Pamela McClintock reports:

    That’s less aggressive than some studios might want — there have been suggestions of making a movie available for $50 after 17 days — but the more modest $30 price point could help to soothe the frayed nerves of theater owners, as well as lure more consumers to hit the “buy” button.

    Now, Amazon, Apple and Comcast — parent company of Universal — must strike deals with individual studios, since antitrust laws prevent the studios from discussing terms among themselves. The goal is to have one price point, so as to avoid consumer confusion. That means everyone would have to agree to the $30 plan.

    A major sticking point: Exhibitors want the studios to agree to keep the PVOD window the same for five or 10 years, as well as the traditional 90-day window. For years, theater owners have decried early home viewing as the death knell of moviegoing.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ► MPAA wins copyright infringement case in China. A Chinese court in Shenzhen found Xunlei Networking Technologies Co., a large online video company based in southern China, guilty of infringing upon the copyrights of over two-dozen U.S. movie titles.

    Hellboy reboot enlists Deadpool's Ed Skrein. The actor is in negotiations to join David Harbour, Ian McShane and Milla Jovovich in the cast of Lionsgate and Millennium’s reboot, set for a September start shooting in the U.K. and Bulgaria. 

    ► Bryan Singer's Bohemian Rhapsody casts Queen bandmates. Joining Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello will play his fellow band members in the biopic from Fox, New Regency and GK Films.

    ► The Weinstein Co.'s Mary Magdalene moves to Easter Weekend. The feature, which will hit theaters March 30, 2018, reunites Lion's Garth Davis and Rooney Mara, with Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. It will now open opposite Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One.

    ^Netflix's Deathnote, reviewed. Blair Witch director Adam Wingard's original movie, out this Friday, co-stars Nat Wolff, Lakeith Stanfield and Willem Dafoe. The takeaway: "A too-tentative effort."

    + Early takes: Indiewire: "a colossally bad idea." Polygon: "suffers from an unsolvable identity crisis." IGN: "a flawed take on the beloved manga."

    Lionsgate taps Kerry Phelan for global franchise management. The exec's promotion follows the studio licensing The Hunger Games and The Twilight Saga as outdoor attractions at a South Korea theme park.

    Sony's The Equalizer sequel adds Pedro Pascal. Denzel Washington is returning to star in the follow-up to the 2014 film. Antoine Fuqua, who directed the original, is also returning for the sequel that currently set for release on Sept. 14, 2018.

     Sci-fi movie Intelligent Life taps Stranger Things director. Rebecca Thomas has been hired to direct Amblin Entertainment's film, which centers on a U.N. employee who makes contact with a beautiful woman who may be an alien. 

    Following criticism, Joss Whedon fan site shuts down. A day after the director was criticized as a hypocrite "preaching feminist ideals" by his ex-wife, architect Kai Cole, a popular fan site decided to say farewell after 15 years.

    ► Warner Bros. hires former Google marketing exec. Formerly head of industry at Google, Andrew Hotz will oversee digital marketing teams, working with the broader marketing team on the design and deployment of campaigns to support the studio’s releases. Details.

  • 'Xena' Reboot Dead at NBC


    After parting ways with writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach a few months ago, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke said the proposed revival in its most recent form isn't happening, Lesley Goldberg reports: 

    "Nothing is happening on that right now. We looked at some material; we decided at that point that it didn't warrant the reboot," Salke tells THR. "I'd never say never on that one because it's such a beloved title, but the current incarnation of it is dead."

    Xena: Warrior Princess was poised to get the revival treatment — with a new actress taking on the role made famous by Lucy Lawless. Xena co-creator Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi were on board to oversee the NBC International Television Studios entry via their Ghost House Pictures banner. Grillo-Marxuach announced that he had exited the project in April, citing creative differences.

    His vision for a Xena revival suggested that he would have explored the romantic relationship that existed between Xena (Lawless) and her sidekick, Gabrielle (played by Renee O'Connor in the original).

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ► CBS orders comedy from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. The network is teaming with Gary Sanchez Productions to adapt Ben Schwartz and Laura Moses' book Things You Should Already Know About Dating, You Fing Idiot as a single-camera comedy.

    ABC plots CIA drama from The Catch producer. Titled Romeos & Juliets, the project is Julie Anne Robinson's first sale through her overall deal at Universal Television and centers on an elite CIA division that uses sex and charm as weapons.

    Fox plots Labor Of Love reality series. The network is developing an unscripted series about women in their 30s and 40s who made the decision to have a child, some of which who consider finding a sperm donor. 

    China's Tencent inks exclusive deal to stream NFL games. The Chinese internet giant will be the online destination for American football for the next three years in the country, airing games live and on-demand, including the Super Bowl. 

    ^Star Trek cast didn't get residuals for original series. The original crew of the starship Enterprise parlayed their work into a decade's worth of movie deals, convention adoration and other riches. But they have never received residual payments from their time on the 1960s show, William Shatner told IGN. Details.

    Fox pilot watch: The Gifted. The new Marvel pilot is "well-directed by Bryan Singer and the central family isn't bad, even if the mutant underground storyline is rather wooden," writes critic Daniel Fienberg.

    Netflix renews Friends From College for season 2. The comedy, produced in-house at Netflix, revolves around a group of friends from Harvard, starring Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Annie Parisse, Nat Faxon, Fred Savage and Jae Suh Park. 

    ► CNN debuts daily Snapchat show. The show will offer a rundown of the biggest stories of the day featuring videos from reporters around the world. The Update comes as part of a $100M content deal with Time Warner announced in June.

    R.I.P., Jon Shepodd. The actor, who played the family patriarch Paul Martin on CBS' Lassie, has died. He was 89. Full obit.

    In THR, Esq: Media just got more bad news in Gawker bankruptcy. Eriq Gardner notes: A New York judge decides that California's free speech statute conflicts with federal rules. It's a decision that could have the effect of making it easier to sue media. What's at stake.

  • Early Emmy Winner Picks

    Courtesy of HBO; Courtesy of NBC; Courtesy of Hulu

    Scott Feinberg takes a hard-headed look at the stats and the voter landscape, while Tim Goodman follows his heart (though they both predict a first win for Elisabeth Moss and a record-breaking eighth victory for Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Who should win, who will win Emmys

    What else we're reading... 

    "Netflix is using The Defenders to understand its audience." Angela Watercutter notes: "Netflix has never brought stars from four shows together in an ensemble cast before, and the experiment could help determine whether it should do it again." [Wired]

    "Darren Aronofsky doesn’t want you to know anything about Mother!" Abraham Riesman talks with the director about his Jennifer Lawrence film. “It’s a cruise missile shooting into a wall, this film,” Aronofsky says. [New York]

    "How Georgia became a southern entertainment hub." Alison Herman writes: "The state’s tax incentives encourage robust production even beyond Atlanta - just don’t call it 'Y’allywood.'" [The Ringer]

    — "Are 'vapor wake' dogs the future of concert security?" Steve Knopper reports: "A new breed of bomb-sniffing canines may detect a suicide bomber within a stadium of 50,000 people." [Rolling Stone]

    "Finding a groove for indie musicians." Ethan Varian notes: "Boutique licensing firms help up-and-coming artists get their work in TV shows, movies and on streaming sites." [The Los Angeles Times]

    Home news...

    + THR, SAG-AFTRA team for Emmy nominees night event. Marking the first major Hollywood event to be held at Jean-Georges Beverly Hills at the new Waldorf Astoria hotel, the celebration on Sept. 14 will serve as the unofficial kickoff to Emmy weekend. Details.

    Today's birthdays: James Corden, 39, Kristen Wiig, 44, Richard Armitage, 46, Ty Burrell, 50, Rick McCallum, 63, David Chase, 72.