What Matters in Hollywood Today

6:59 AM 8/9/2017

by THR staff

Austin Hargrave

What's news: An in-depth look at Donald Glover's extraordinary rise (including nabbing Emmy noms for Atlanta) leads the issue. Plus: Disney makes big plans to rival Netflix, Wonder Woman has secret investors, Time Warner's new boss gives his first interview and how WME-IMG is spending some of its $1.1 billion in outside money. — Matthew Belloni and Erik Hayden

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On the cover: The red-hot writer, producer, director, musician and now movie star talks about his Hollywood takeover with Lacey Rose. But, first, a few details about that secret Star Wars sit-down with Billy Dee Williams (in disguise): 

On a crisp afternoon in late January, Donald Glover arrived for the kind of meeting his younger, nerdier, Star Wars-loving self would never have dreamed possible. Having been cast three months earlier as Lando Calrissian in the eagerly awaited Han Solo spinoff movie, he was there, incognito with a pair of shades and a fake nose, to sit face-to-face in Los Angeles with Billy Dee Williams, the original Lando, for a top-secret torch-passing arranged by Lucasfilm.

Glover found himself frazzled and running behind, as he often is, and was more than a little nervous. Once the formalities were out of the way, he threw himself feverishly into a dissection of Calrissian and his possible virtues: "I was like, 'I've always felt like this character could do this, and he represents this, and I kind of feel like he comes from here, and it's very obvious he has a lot of taste, so maybe he grew up seeing that from afar? Because I'm like that. Maybe he saw it from other planets and was like, 'I want to be that.'"

Glover is full-on laughing now as he re-enacts the exchange. "He just let me ramble on and on, and then finally I was like, 'So, what do you think?' And he goes, 'Yeah, I don't know about all that. Just be charming.'" Full story. 

  • 'Wonder Woman' Secret Investors

    Dia Dipasupil (David), Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce/Reuters/Newscom (Charles), Istock (Suits); Courtesy of Clay Enos/Warner Bros. (Wonder Woman)

    Surprise: The Koch brothers have been a silent investor in Warner Bros.’ slate of movies for four years, Tatiana Siegel finds: 

    Sources say Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch — who are who are worth a combined $96.2B and wield enormous power in political circles as major backers of right-wing politicians — took a significant stake valued at tens of millions of dollars in RatPac-Dune Entertainment. As part of a $450M deal struck in 2013, now-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brought the brothers in as investors — a move that was never disclosed because RatPac-Dune is a private company.

    Though Mnuchin is no longer involved with the slate financing facility, having recently put his stake into a blind trust in order to avoid conflict of interest, the Koch brothers continue to be stakeholders in such films as Wonder Woman, Dunkirk and Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Ready Player One. A RatPac spokesperson didn’t respond to a request. A spokesperson for Koch Industries says, “Charles Koch, David Koch and Koch Industries do not have any involvement with this investment.”

    As for why the Kochs have kept their involvement secret, a source familiar with the deal says it’s simple. "They’re in it to make money. They’re not in it for the recognition," says the source.


    ^Big deal: Disney plans to pull movies from Netflix, launch streaming service by 2019. Paul Bond notes: 

    + To help do all that, Disney will acquire a majority of BAMTech, the streaming technology company owned by MLBAM, the internet company owned by Major League Baseball. Disney already owned a stake in BAMTech but will pay $1.58 billion for an additional 42 percent. 

    + Details of the Disney streaming service are sketchy so far, with CEO Bob Iger saying that if a movie is Pixar- or Disney-branded, it will probably appear exclusively on the new service — including content made specifically for the service — but the jury is still out on Marvel and Star Wars films.

    + ESPN has been losing TV subscribers for a few years and an online stand-alone product has been predicted for months, but ending a distribution agreement with Netflix beginning with the 2019 theatrical slate caught investors off-guard and Netflix shares quickly sunk 4 percent on the news in after-hours trading. Iger called the initiatives "a strategic shift in the way we distribute our content." Full story. 

    Elsewhere in film... 

    How WME-IMG will spend its $1.1 billion cash infusion. Tatiana Siegel writes: The plans for the new funds, which include investment in theater, signal an aggressive push into owning intellectual property.

    + Co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell are putting a sizable chunk into financing films, TV series and plays. Insiders say the agency is backing client Michael Moore’s Broadway show The Terms of My Surrender and client Steve Harvey’s new syndicated daytime talk show, Steve.

    Rob Friedman to oversee IM Global, Open Road Films. The former co-chair of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group has joined Tang Media Partners as CEO of a newly formed division overseeing all of TMP’s entertainment properties. Details I Interview.

    Lionsgate, CBS Films renew film slate deal. The studio will handle distribution for all of CBS Films' wide releases for another three years. First up as part of the slate deal is American Assassin, an adaptation of Vince Flynn's book series.

    Chris Pratt's Cowboy Ninja Viking gets release date. The Universal film, which has been in the works since 2014, is finally a go, with Michael De Luca joining as one of the producers alongside Guymon Casady, Mark Gordon and Pratt. It will hit theaters on June 28, 2019.

    Jennifer Garner in talks for revenge thriller. The actress is in talks to star in the Lakeshore flick Peppermint. Additionally, STXfilms is in talks to distribute the film worldwide, after an arrangement with Lionsgate has fallen through.

    Selena Gomez joins Woody Allen's next movie. The actress is joining Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning in the director's upcoming film. The logline for the currently untitled project, which will be released by Amazon Studios, is being kept under wraps.

    ► Surprise! How John Bailey was elected Academy president. Scott Feinberg writes: The veteran cinematographer, who first was elected to the board in 1996, defeated casting director David Rubin in a two-person race after actress Laura Dern declined her nomination. Details.


  • Meet Time Warner's New Boss

    Illustration by Cam Cottrill

    The full story: AT&T entertainment group chief John Stankey reveals his post-merger synergy strategy in his first interview. Kim Masters writes:

    Among the many questions surrounding the Time Warner acquisition, the overarching one is: What will AT&T do with a company — home to HBO, the Warner Bros. studio, Turner Broadcasting and CNN — that outgoing chairman Jeff Bewkes has trimmed down and managed in preparation for a sale? There are two schools of thought.

    Some high-level industry observers believe AT&T will strengthen the assets, for example, by using its data on consumer habits to help the Turner networks withstand competition from giants Facebook and Google, or by increasing HBO's roughly $2 billion programming spend to help it keep pace with Netflix and Amazon. Others suspect that whatever AT&T may say now, it will eventually squeeze Time Warner like a lemon, offering its content at a discount to hold on to existing customers and wringing out cash to pay dividends. Stankey dismisses the latter scenario.

    "This is an awful lot of overhead just to do that," he says. "I categorically disagree with the perspective that our goal is simply to run it and harvest cash flows." Instead, Stankey says the acquisition will help both AT&T and Time Warner thrive despite the rapid changes in their respective businesses.

    And he says that might give consumers of entertainment some more appetizing options, such as ads that are more relevant to individual viewers and less frequent. "We can't continue to jam an ever-increasing amount of advertising down consumers' throats in a 30-minute block," he says. About Peter Chernin's potential role. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Netflix plans David Letterman's return to TV. The former Late Show host is set to topline a new talk show for the streamer with an untitled six-episode series premiering in 2018. Each hourlong episode will feature Letterman chatting with a single guest. Details I Interview.

    HBO's hacked emails pose unique problem. The network had kept the leaks contained by deploying an army of bots, automated programs that search the internet to identify and pull down leaked content. But with the introduction of pilfered emails, the network has fewer options to fight the spread.

    Showtime's Purity adaptation delayed. The limited drama based on the novel of the same name from author Jonathan Franzen will not begin production until after Daniel Craig has completed work on the 25th installment in the James Bond feature film franchise.

    CBS buys Judge Judy library in big deal. After shopping her library around the industry for as much as $200M, Judy Sheindlin's stable of more than 5,200 episodes has landed back at CBS. Sheindlin, who makes $47M a year, has also agreed to churn out another season.

    Tribune Media second-quarter loss narrows. Programming costs at the firm, which Sinclair has agreed to buy, rose, including $20 million of "additional expense related to the strategic shift toward more profitable original programming at WGN America."

    Fox may revive King of the Hill. Fox TV Group CEO Dana Walden says the network has had "preliminary" talks with creators Greg Daniels and Mike Judge. Walden: "they're working on a lot of different things individually, so it's about finding time."

    ^Cord-cutting is accelerating. Analyst Craig Moffett estimates a whopping 941,000 subscribers cut the cord during the quarter, up from 809,000 in the same time frame a year earlier. Wall Street is spooked from second-quarter earnings reports.

    Epix' Get Shorty, reviewed. Chief critic Tim Goodman writes: "Epix launches its best series yet with this charming, addictive adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel and 1995 film." It premieres Sunday. 

    HBO renews Insecure and Ballers. The renewals, for seasons four and three of the Dwayne Johnson and Issa Rae comedies, come midway through the half-hours' current summer runs, where they are airing behind Game of Thrones.

    WGN America adds three crime dramas. Swedish drama 100 Code, starring the late Michael Nyqvist, as well as Shoot the Messenger and Pure join a lineup including recently acquired Bellevue as the cabler shifts from pricey originals.

    Fox's A Christmas Story live enlists Maya Rudolph. The Saturday Night Live alum has signed on to play Ralphie Parker's mother in the telecast. Marc Platt, who exec produced Fox's Grease Live in 2016, will serve in the same capacity on A Christmas Story.

    Discovery Channel orders Garage Rehab series. The greenlit show follows Richard Rawlings, from Fast N' Loud, as he sets out to help struggling shop owners get their businesses back on track. It hails from Craig Piligian's Pilgrim Media Group.

    ► In THR, Esq: Disney discloses $177M settlement in aftermath of ABC trial. Eriq Gardner notes: In Disney's latest quarterly earnings report, the Mickey Mouse company reports a $177 million expense related to the settlement of litigation. Was it the price for getting Disney's ABC News unit out of the "pink slime" defamation lawsuit?


  • "You Have People That I Love"

    Nati Harnik/A.P. Photo (Trump); iStock (Sky, Television)

    The above quote is from President Trump, who, as he wages war against "fake news," has been elevating friendlier conservative media to fill the void. One outlet getting more attention? The Christian Broadcasting Network, Jeremy Barr writes. CBN CEO: "We seem to be getting the big guests."

    What else we're reading (it's cover story day)...

    — "Jennifer Lawrence on her new movie, new relationship." Jason Gay's cover story, with photos from Annie Leibovitz: "Blunt is still a fair word to describe Lawrence, and it’s delightful to experience." [Vogue]

    "Robert Pattinson is alive again." Taffy Brodesser-Akner's cover story: "The Twilight heartthrob seemed damned to be a brooding ex-vampire forever. But then he drove a stake through his career and got to work resurrecting it." [GQ]

    "Kendrick Lamar: the greatest rapper alive." Brian Hiatt's cover story: "On his latest, this year's DAMN., he switched lanes, managing to make an LP that's just as smart and conceptual, but tighter, hookier and more accessible." [Rolling Stone]

    "Susan Wojcicki’s response to the controversial Google anti-diversity memo." The YouTube CEO pens a new op-ed and poses the question: "what if we replaced the word 'women' in the memo with another group?" [Fortune]

    "Fox is said to have declined to settle suits for $60 million." Emily Steel's latest on the scandal: "A lawyer sought to settle several disputes with Fox News and 21st Century Fox, two people familiar with the matter said." [The New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    "Billy Crystal used Donald Trump's words against a Trump supporter." [Tonight Show]

    "Chris O'Dowd raised money for fake endangered species." [Late Show]

    "John Boyega & Harrison Ford's close encounter." [Late Late Show]

    "John Singleton's Snowfall is his 'ghetto Game of Thrones.'" [Late Night]

    Today's birthdays: Bill Skarsgård, 27, Anna Kendrick, 32, Audrey Tautou, 41, Kenya Barris, 43, Eric Bana, 49, Gillian Anderson, 49, Sam Elliott, 73.