What's news: As Annapurna Pictures' bold Detroit opens, the fledgling production house gets a much closer look. Plus: Sony's Dark Tower series gets a showrunner, the solved mystery of an L.A. billboard diva is making waves and is the golden age of 3D films over? — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman
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Big question: Can Hollywood's millennial mogul make it as a studio head?
Kim Masters' new feature: Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit will neither make nor break Megan Ellison or her company, Annapurna Pictures, but the film has special significance. It is the first that Annapurna is distributing on its own — though how that came to be is a curious tale — as part of a bold attempt to transform a company known as a prolific financier-producer of Oscar-bait projects into a full-fledged mini-major.
One veteran executive who has worked with Annapurna says he believes Ellison's goal is to compete with what Harvey Weinstein was in his heyday. But Weinstein is a showman, while Ellison isn't, and costs have shot up. Industry sources estimate overhead for Annapurna, which has about 120 employees, runs several million dollars a year. Far more burdensome is the cost of marketing the company's films, which likely will require several hundred million dollars over the next, say, three years.
Can she make it work? At this point, the challenges facing the business generally and the kind of art house movies that Ellison favors in particular are such that even some who have hit rough patches with her are hoping for the best. Full story.
The long-gestating film adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower shouldn't have trouble topping the box-office chart this weekend, even if its debut is relatively modest, Pamela McClintock forecasts:
From Sony and MRC, the $60M movie is projected to gross in the low $20M range. The Dark Tower — starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey — will begin playing in 2,750 theaters on Thursday evening before expanding to a total of 3,449 locations on Friday.
Sony is confident that Dark Tower will have a strong run, although it may not be able to reverse the downturn at the North American summer box office, where revenue is running 8 percent behind the same period last year.
Elsewhere: Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit expands nationwide and may gross $13M, while Halle Berry's Kidnap finally hits the big screen and may land around $8M; Al Gore's Inconvenient Sequel makes a major push at the specialty box office in 100 theaters.
? Dark Tower, reviewed. THR: "decent but uninspiring." The Guardian: "a uniquely flavorless slog." USA Today: "topples under the weight of its mediocrity." EW: "a movie that's embarrassed of itself." Tomatometer: 16 percent.
? Kidnap, reviewed. THR: "Berry delivers in an entertaining actioner." Screen Daily: "both preposterous and entertaining in equal measure." Indiewire: "the worst movie of the summer." Tomatometer: 71 percent.
Elsewhere in film...
? Broad Green shuts down production division. After a string of troubled releases, the company will lay off about 15 of its 75 employees and put around 50 of its projects into turnaround. Gabriel and Daniel Hammond founded the production and distribution company in 2014.
? Chiwetel Ejiofor in talks to voice Scar in Lion King. The traitorous villain in Disney’s re-imagining could take on the voice of Ejoifor, who would join a cast that includes Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Seth Rogen and John Oliver. Jon Favreau is directing.
? Book of Life director developing Lego film. Jorge Gutierrez has come aboard to develop a new movie in the Lego series with the working title of The Billion Brick Race. The project was originally in the hands of Jason Segal and Drew Pearce, based on an idea of Pearce's.
^Is the golden age of 3D over? Carolyn Giardina writes: As Imax scales back and box office diminishes, insiders say blame for the retreat of the once mighty format rests with Hollywood. In 2016, when 3D revenue amounted to $1.6 billion, it was down 8 percent from 2015. That's despite the fact that overall box-office revenue hit an all-time high of $11.4 billion.
? Anthology film Berlin, I Love You adds Mickey Rourke. The actor is the latest to join a series that already includes Diego Luna, Orlando Bloom and Jared Leto. Patrick Dempsey and Renee Zellweger will also star and make their directorial debuts.
? Damien Chazelle's The Claim finds director. Ericson Core is helming the thriller, which was penned by Chazelle. The Black List script centers on a single father with a criminal past whose daughter gets kidnapped by another couple who claims her as their own.
? Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston Intouchables remake gets title. The Weinstein Co's English-language remake of the French film, The Upside, will hit theaters on March 9, where it will open opposite Disney/Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle In Time.
? Trailer watch: Charlie Sheen's 9/11 movie. The new preview begins with an archival voiceover by George W. Bush and introduces the families of the five people trapped in a World Trade Center elevator. Whoopi Goldberg is also in the cast. Full clip.
? It's a deal: WME-IMG takes on $1.1B in outside money. That investment will put the agency’s value at $6.3B, up from its $5.5B valuation last year. Silver Lake Partners, the private equity firm that owns a significant stake in WME-IMG, unveiled the deal in a letter to investors.
How costly is the new American Idol? "The show is not more expensive than its competitors," says FremantleMedia Group CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz as she discusses with Michael O'Connell the dealmaking for its judges:
Ultimately, ABC struck a deal to bring Idol back in 2018 with original host Ryan Seacrest, $25M judge Katy Perry and, producers hope, some respectable fraction of the show's peak of 37M viewers.
Now, Frot-Coutaz can turn her attention back to the rest of FremantleMedia's global purview: the world's biggest reality formats (see megahit America's Got Talent), a growing number of niche scripted plays (HBO's The Young Pope and Starz's American Gods) and an estimated $1.6 billion in annual revenue and rising profits.
But, sitting in the spartan glass box she's using as an office during a July visit to Los Angeles, the French-born executive readily acknowledges what people want to hear about. "I spent the best part of the last five years trying to diversify our business," says Frot-Coutaz, with a mix of a smile and a sigh. "But it always comes back to American Idol, no matter how hard I try." Full Q&A.
Elsewhere in TV...
? HBO CEO says hack likely hasn't compromised email system. Richard Plepler told staff in a note on Wednesday that "we do not believe that our e-mail system as a whole has been compromised, but the forensic review is ongoing."
+ Tatiana Siegel writes: The statement comes as the network deals with a major data breach that took place last week, with staffers expressing concern that their emails may have been caught up in the hackers' net. At the same time, HBO is going on the offensive, attempting to prevent internet users from finding any stolen content that has already been made available.
? Sony's Dark Tower series gets showrunner. As the film gets set for theaters, Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) will take the reins of the project, which is in development through Media Rights Capital and Sony Pictures Television.
? Starz lands Divergent franchise. The premium cable network is developing Ascendant, what was to be the fourth movie in the Divergent franchise. Adam Cozad is attached to pen the script as Lionsgate looks to mine its library on the premium cable network.
? NBC plots Miami Vice reboot from Vin Diesel. The project, which has been in the works for months, is the first effort to come out of Diesel's first-look deal with Universal Television. Peter Macmanus (Spike TV's The Mist) will pen the script.
? ABC's The Middle to end with season 9. The network said that the upcoming ninth season of the family comedy will be its last. The single-camera has long been used as the anchor for Wednesday, which now sees The Goldbergs serving in the same capacity.
? CW chief aims to retain female viewers with new slate. At TCA, Mark Pedowitz highlighted Valor and Dynasty as new fall series (along with Life Sentence and Black Lightning) meant to broaden the CW pallet beyond its superhero niche and retain its female viewership.
^Viceland's What Would Diplo Do?, reviewed. James Van Der Beek's oddball lead performance is a highlight in a comedy still trying to find its own identity (premiering tonight). Takeaway: "Worth taking for a spin."
? TNT's mystery drama to star Amy Brenneman. Deadlier Than the Male, exec produced by Big Little Lies' Bruna Papandrea, centers on a trio of characters, including Brenneman as a grieving mother. The drama is being produced in-house by Turner's Studio T banner.
? Freeform's Black-ish spinoff adds trio to cast. Chris Parnell and Trevor Jackson will reprise their roles from the backdoor pilot in Grown-ish, with Emily Arlook also joining. Previously titled College-ish, the comedy follows the Johnson’s eldest daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi).
? MTV's TRL revival finds its host. The Viacom-owned cable network has enlisted social media star Liza Koshy to provide on-air hosting duties to Total Request Live. As part of a larger first-look overall deal, Koshy also will develop new projects for the cable network.
? A&E's The Lowe Files, reviewed. This bizarre vanity project on A&E showcases Rob Lowe's charms, but offers little else in terms of entertainment. The takeaway: "Lowe should have kept this a strictly family affair."
? L.A. TV production dips in 2016-17 season. According to a report from FilmL.A., 173 pilots were produced during the development cycle, more than two dozen fewer than the previous year. But the city still remains the top filming location.
An L.A. feature making waves: Angelyne is an enigmatic blond bombshell, famous for being famous way before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, perpetually driving the streets of Hollywood in that pink Corvette. But her true identity has remained secret all these years until now, Gary Baum finds.
What else we're reading...
— "Want a look at Netflix's future? Follow the anime." Brian Barrett writes: "You won’t get a much better road map for where the world’s biggest streaming company is headed." [Wired]
— "What’s fact and what’s fiction in Detroit." Aisha Harris writes: "Even with [a] closing disclaimer, however, you still might walk away wondering how much of this harrowing movie is based in truth." [Slate]
— "The Samuel L. Jackson method." Jon Caramanica's style section feature: "He builds downtime into a schedule of near-constant work. Call his agent if you have a problem with that." [The New York Times]
— "I watched Die Hard for the first time." This appears to be part of a series: "This month, Richard Brody reviews classic action movies from the nineteen-eighties that he’s never seen before." [The New Yorker]
— "There’s a musical devoted to Bob Dylan, and it’s brilliant." Benedict Nightingale writes: "Girl From the North Country is a dark play about fractured human relationships. Furnished with the songs of Bob Dylan, it has become a London theatrical hit." [The Daily Beast]
What else we're seeing...
+ "Dave Chappelle updates his 'give Trump a chance' statement." [Late Show]
+ "Fred Armisen is hosting a helicopter BBQ in the air." [Late Night]
+ "Michael Che finally pays back the $1,000 Tommy Hilfiger loaned him." [Tonight Show]
Today's Birthdays: Evangeline Lilly, 38, Michael Ealy, 44, John C. McGinley, 58, John Landis, 67, Martha Stewart, 76, Martin Sheen, 77, Tony Bennett, 91.