What's news: Guillermo del Toro's fantasy The Shape of Water is the latest Venice Film Fest title getting lauded by critics. Plus: ABC plans layoffs, Millennium Films' $100M deal gets scrapped and movie theater chains stock gets thrashed during a dismal summer. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman
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Woe unto those who have owned stock in movie theaters this summer, as their investments have been thrashed even in a bull market, the impetus being lousy attendance in the past three months, Paul Bond reports:
Even with It and Kingsman: The Golden Circle yet to come, when final third-quarter numbers come in FBR Capital Markets analyst Barton Crockett predicts a domestic box office of $2.36B, which would be nearly a 21 percent slide compared with the year prior.
The largest chain, AMC Entertainment (1,009 theaters) has been hit hardest, its shares dropping a dramatic 45 percent since Memorial Day. Regal Entertainment (566 theaters) has seen shares plunge 28 percent in the same time frame while shares of Cinemark Holdings (529 theaters) have dropped 18 percent. Owners of Imax watched their shares plunge 31 percent while owners of National Cinemedia, the company most responsible for putting advertising on movie screens, saw their shares shed 25 percent of their value since Memorial Day.
+ Box office preview: Tumbleweeds. Pamela McClintock notes: For the first time in a quarter of a century, there won't be any new major nationwide release on the holiday marquee, capping off a rough-and-tumble summer and an especially brutal August.
The Weinstein Co.'s Tulip Fever, starring Alicia Vikander, has been pushed to a Labor Day release date, but the period drama is only getting a moderate release in some 600 locations. Holdover The Hitman's Bodyguard is almost assured of remaining atop the chart in its third weekend with $5M-$7M.
Elsewhere in film...
► Avi Lerner's $100M Millennium Films deal is scrapped. The indie maverick had unveiled the agreement in February, saying he would offload 51 percent of the studio, known for The Expendables and Olympus Has Fallen franchises, to Recon subsidiary Wenyuan Cable Co.
+ Patrick Brzeski writes: The deal included Millennium’s library and gave Recon the option to buy out the remaining shares of Millennium at a later date. But the Chinese firm reported to the Shenzhen stock exchange late Wednesday that the agreement had failed to meet an Aug. 31 deadline and was being aborted.
► Miramax lays off 20 more employees. The independent film studio, started by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, is planning a reorganization, with the majority of the layoffs coming from the support staff. An additional 20 staffers were laid off in May.
► Telluride film fest lineup unveiled. World premieres include Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ Battle of the Sexes, Scott Cooper’s Western Hostiles, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. Details.
► Spider-Man: Homecoming writers returning for sequel. Screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers are in final negotiations to write the sequel to the Sony Pictures-Marvel Studios hit. Jon Watts is in talks to return to the director’s chair.
► Warner Bros. plans female-centric Lord of the Flies. Scott McGehee and David Siegel will write and direct the take on the iconic William Golding novel. It is the latest addition to a gender-bending remake streak including Splash starring Channing Tatum, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at MGM and an Overboard reboot.
► Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder reteam for romantic comedy. With an onscreen partnership that began back in 1992, the actors are pairing up once more for Destination Wedding, to be directed by Victor Levin (5 to 7) from his own script.
^Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, reviewed. Sally Hawkins stars as a mute cleaner at a U.S. government aerospace facility who bonds with an amphibious creature in this Cold War romantic fairy tale. David Rooney's takeaway in Venice: "Awash with constantly surprising pleasures."
► First Reformed, reviewed. Ethan Hawke plays a troubled pastor and Amanda Seyfried a parishioner who comes to him for help in Paul Schrader's new drama screened in Venice. The takeaway: "Easier to admire than to enjoy."
► Kate Winslet leads voice cast for anime. The actress, along with Jim Broadbent, Ruby Barnhill, Louis Ashbourne Serkis and Ewen Bremner, will voice the English-language version of Mary and the Witch's Flower, the first feature from Studio Ponoc.
► Amy Schumer comedy I Feel Pretty rounds out cast. Aidy Bryant, Sasheer Zamata, Busy Phillips, Dave Attell, Tom Hopper, Adrian Martinez and Lauren Hutton are joining Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski and Rory Scovel on the STXfilms project.
► Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong biopic adds Jon Bernthal. Ahead of the film's fall shoot, the Punisher actor has joined the growing cast of First Man, which reteams the La La Land helmer and star Ryan Gosling.
► J.R.R. Tolkien biopic adds Lily Collins. Collins will play Edith Bratt, Tolkien's wife who inspired the elven princess characters in the Lord of the Rings saga. Nicholas Hoult stars as the author in Chernin Entertainment and Fox Searchlight's biopic.
► Nazi thriller Operation Finale enlists Fauda's Lior Raz. The co-creator and star of the Israeli political thriller Fauda is joining Oscar Isaac in MGM’s story of the capture of Nazi Adolf Eichmann. Chris Weitz is directing the drama with Ben Kingsley set to star as Eichmann.
► Joel Edgerton's gay conversion drama adds cast. Flea and Xavier Dolan are the latest to join Boy Erased, which will be led by Lucas Hedges. The story follows the son of a Baptist minister that is outed by his parents and forced into conversion therapy.
It's a deal: WME-IMG acquires majority stake in Bloom. The sale comes right before the start of the Toronto film fest, where the company will be taking its various projects to market. Bloom's upcoming slate includes Suburbicon, Dragged Across Concrete and The Book Club. Details.
It appears to be in the early planning stages, but Disney-ABC Television Group is looking to make cuts, Kate Stanhope reports:
The company, led by Ben Sherwood (pictured), is aiming to reduce costs by 10 percent by the end of the fiscal year. The cutbacks could mean staff reductions and restructuring for the group that includes broadcast network ABC, as well as cable channels ESPN, Freeform, Disney Channel and Disney XD.
The news comes weeks after ABC Studios lost one of its most important pieces of talent: prolific showrunner Shonda Rhimes, who left her home of 15 years for a lucrative overall deal with Netflix. However, since then, the studio has signed other key pieces of talent, such as Lost co-showrunner Carlton Cuse and Ryan Seacrest.
Another pricey endeavor for the network? The upcoming American Idol reboot, for which judge Katy Perry will earn a whopping $25M. (In addition to his daytime gig at the network, Seacrest will also earn north of $10M to return as host.)
Elsewhere in TV...
► Fox Entertainment chief exits. Three years into the job, David Madden is stepping down, and will be replaced by 20th Century Fox TV veteran Michael Thorn. He will assume all responsibility for scripted programming and development as well as oversee casting at the network.
+ Lacey Rose notes: The move marks the first high level executive shakeup of Fox Television Group chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden’s tenure, though insiders say it was ultimately Madden's move. According to sources, he is expected to announce soon that he'll be taking the top job at AMC, which has been left vacant since Joel Stillerman's departure.
► Fox's longtime Simpsons composer exits show. The series is parting ways with Alf Clausen, who has served as composer on the long-running hit for the past 27 years.
► Fox News hires Tomi Lahren as contributor. The conservative pundit will opine on the news and will work on "an FNC digital product currently in development." Lahren has hosted shows for Glenn Beck's The Blaze and One America News Network.
► FX Networks looks to strike down Olivia de Havilland's Feud lawsuit. The network is attempting to use the anti-SLAPP statute to strike the 101-year-old actress' claims that her publicity and privacy rights were violated through her depiction in Feud: Bette and Joan.
► NBC's Law & Order: SVU to tackle Charlottesville riots. Showrunner Michael Chernuchin explained why the show will address the issue: "Everybody's political now and everything is political now and we want to deal with that."
^Netflix's Narcos star Pedro Pascal previews "insidious" season. Ahead of the debut Sept. 1, the actor explains why viewers should prepare themselves for the gentlemen of the Cali KGB: "You’re just not going to believe the shit that went down."
► FX's American Horror Story: Cult, reviewed. Sarah Paulson shines in Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's satirical look at the aftermath of the 2016 election and how it relates to a masked gang of killer clowns. The takeaway: "Not subtle, but often disturbing and clever."
► Amazon's Goliath season 2 casts Mark Duplass. The filmmaker-actor has been cast as a series regular in the Billy Bob Thornton-led legal drama, created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro.
► USA unveils trailer for Mr. Robot season 3. The war between Rami Malek and Christian Slater's feuding personalities intensifies in the new trailer for the drama, returning Oct. 11. Watch.
► Starz's J.K. Simmons' thriller Counterpart unveils trailer. The Oscar-winning actor stars in the upcoming series about espionage across parallel universes, bowing in winter 2018. Watch.
► HBO to air Lena Dunham's short starring Elisabeth Moss. Tokyo Project, which stars Moss and Ebon Moss-Bachrach (aka Desi from Girls), had its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. The short film will air Oct. 14.
► CBS' Survivor early look at new season. Josh Wigler visited the show's shooting location in Fiji, where Jeff Probst previewed the 18 new castaways battling it out for the million dollar prize when the network hit returns.
► R.I.P., Larry Sherman, The first publicist Donald Trump ever hired and a ubiquitous presence in New York-based films and TV shows like North by Northwest, Midnight Cowboy and Law & Order, has died. He was 94. Full obit.
Prediction: It will be CNN headed to Supreme Court in defamation battle. Eriq Gardner writes: Forget about Sarah Palin's case. Focus on what CNN is facing in Georgia - a dispute that's getting quite messy. Details.
New: For years, those around filmmaker Nick Stewart have been unsettled by his videos, which depict a misanthropic ladies’ man named "Nick." Now several actresses have come forward to talk about his disturbing practice of getting physical in bizarre scenes — as well as off-screen — without consent, Gary Baum reports.
What else we're reading...
— "The age of 1,000 streaming services is upon us." Ben Fritz writes: "Streaming was supposed to save us money, but Americans could end up paying more than their old cable bills to get all the new services coming online." [The Wall Street Journal]
— "Can the onslaught of TV reboots and revivals survive in 2017?" Rebecca Nicholson notes: "Will & Grace, Roseanne and Curb Your Enthusiasm arrive in a very different small screen landscape, making their success far from guaranteed." [The Guardian]
— "Why is John Denver’s music in so many movies this year?" Karen Han notes: "Denver’s music seems to function as a musical shorthand, preaching empathy and working to provoke feelings of sentimentality in the audience." [Vulture]
— "Close Encounters' was when the movies got new-age religion." J. Hoberman looks at "a movie in which Truffaut himself appeared as a scientist exploring the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and which was initially greeted with something like religious awe." [The New York Times]
— "Coming soon to Facebook Watch: sponsored shows." Sahil Patel reports: "One agency executive said he’s had 'more serious' conversations with about 10 Watch content partners about doing branded shows." [Digiday]
Today birthdays: Joe Swanberg, 36, Sara Ramirez, 42, Marc Webb, 43, Chris Tucker, 46, Zack Ward, 47, Richard Gere, 68.