What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:26 AM 9/14/2017

by THR Staff

Curtis Baker/Netflix

What's news: Stranger Things has created a surprise licensing business for Netflix as the streamer readies the series for season two. Plus: James Murdoch says he's "confident" about a Fox-Sky deal approval, Bob Greenblatt makes the case for why broadcast is "stronger than ever" and there's a new must-read about a con man in Hollywood's backyard. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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  • 'Stranger Things' Unexpected Riches

    Illustration By Matt Collins

    With Stranger Things nominated for 18 Emmys and season two set to drop Oct. 27, the series is pulling Netflix into a new business and into a new negotiation with key players, including the show's child stars, Kim Masters reports: 

    After the homage to 1980s horror movies became a surprise sensation in summer 2016, Netflix made quick licensing deals with clothing company Hybrid Apparel and retailer Hot Topic. The streaming giant subsequently began a search for an executive to run a licensing effort and in August hired Jess Richardson, WWE's former licensing vp for North America, as director of global licensing, merchandising and promotions.

    A source says that Netflix is making deals for the second season of Stranger Things that will dwarf the efforts of the last one. With the show returning the week of Halloween, costume sales likely will be boosted, but the main focus is the holidays. (Sources say the deals in place include agreements with Funko for collectibles, Trends International for posters and paper goods, McFarlane Toys for action figures and Hybrid Apparel for clothing.) Netflix declined comment.

    Meanwhile, knowledgeable sources say Netflix faces a possibility that some if not all of the Stranger Things child stars will band together to negotiate deals for upcoming seasons of the show. One source says kid actors Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin each got $30,000 per episode for the first and second seasons with a bonus — less than six figures — once it became clear that the show was a phenomenon. While the cast is signed for six years, talent reps say a renegotiation will happen early next year.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ^Bob Greenblatt: Broadcast TV is doing just fine. In a guest column,  the NBC network chairman writes that "the reports of the death of network television are greatly exaggerated. Things have changed dramatically since 2011, and broadcast television — with NBC No. 1 in the demo again — has changed along with it."

    + Greenblatt: "While broadcast TV may not be the zeitgeist business that digital technology is, the networks are stronger than ever due in part to the fact that we've embraced digital. In this new age of great content, powerful data and ubiquitous technology, we are far from wheezing dinosaurs on their way to extinction."

    James Murdoch "confident" about Sky deal approval. The 21st Century Fox CEO on Thursday expressed optimism about the company's bid for full control of pay TV giant Sky amid an extended review process in the U.K. and was "confident that it goes through."

    Leslie Moonves takes shots at Disney, ESPN. "When ESPN or Comcast announce they are losing subs, that is a good thing for us," said the chairman and president of CBS at an investor conference in New York on Thursday.

    + The exec said those abandoning expensive cable and satellite TV packages are not a concern because "cord-cutters aren’t going into the woods and avoiding television, they’re just going to other services.”

    Study: TV ad spending to shrink 10 percent by 2021. Research firm eMarketer expects the number of cord-cutters in the U.S. to grow to 22.2 million this year, an increase of 33 percent. Full report. 

    ► Hurricane telethon pulls 15.7M viewersAmerica's Got Talent fell in its move to a later time slot Tuesday due to the "Hand in Hand" telethon that aired across the Big Four. The telethon pulled a combined 2.7 rating in the demo across NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox. 

    ► HBO's The Deuce premiere draws 2.2M viewers. Roughly 830,000 viewers tuned in for the '70s-set porn drama's linear premiere Sunday. That number jumped to more than 1.1M with a 12:15 a.m. encore telecast, on par with the 2016 launch of The Night Of

    E! taps GSN's Amy Introcaso-Davis as head of programming. A week after head of programming Jeff Olde stepped down from his post, E! has found his replacement. In her new role, Introcaso-Davis will lead unscripted development and production, reporting to Adam Stotsky. 

    ABC plots comedy with Phil Lord, Chris Miller. The Last Man on Earth creators have sold single-camera comedy We Can Do Better to ABC. The comedy revolves around a soccer mom who deals with her newly "woke" life in the South.

    ^Profile: Ariel Winter. The Modern Family actress opens up to Strawberry Saroyan about family turmoil, social media shaming and why she won't be joining a sorority at college. "I went through a really bad chapter," says the 19-year-old actress. Full feature.

    Syfy nabs George R.R. Martin's Nightflyers. The pick up of the drama based on the Game of Thrones creator's novella arrives as Syfy is fresh off rebranding its on-air look as part of a greater push to focus on science fiction.

    Netflix renews Atypical for season 2. The Jennifer Jason Leigh-starring autism drama will expand from eight to 10 episodes in its sophomore season. The drama launched Aug. 11 to decent reviews.

    TBS renews trio of comedies. The cable network has ordered new seasons of People Of Earth, Wrecked and The Guest Book. The summer shows join the networks previously renewals, which include Angie Tribeca and The Detour.

    MTV's Scream season 3 to star Keke Palmer. The retooled season three will also star RJ Cyler, Giorgia Whigham, Jessica Sula and Giullian Yao Gioiello. Season three revolves around a local star running back whose tragic past comes back to haunt him. 

    Starz orders Latino drama Vida. A year and a half after putting three Latino-themed projects in development, Starz is moving forward with one of them, tapping Veronica Osorio and Melissa Barrera to star. The series is inspired by a Richard Villegas Jr. short story.

     NBC's SNL brings back Alec Baldwin for season premiere. While promoting his book, You Can’t Spell America Without Me, Baldwin told Ellen DeGeneres that he plans on continuing to impersonate Trump on the NBC late-night show when it returns Sept. 30. 

    ► R.I.P., Frank Vincent. The actor who played the vicious mob boss Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos has died. He was 78. Full obit

  • Box Office: Surviving 'It'

    Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and RatPac-Dune Entertainment; CBS Films; Paramount Pictures Entertainment

    The film adaptation of Stephen King's novel is expected to win the weekend with $50M-plus after scaring up a record-shattering $123.4M debut last weekend, Pamela McClintock forecasts: 

    The horror film, from Warner Bros. and New Line, has become a water-cooler sensation, amassing nearly $145M in its first six days. It, which cost $35M to make, is well on its way to earning north of $300M domestically and becoming one of the top-grossing horror films of all time, even when adjusting for inflation.

    New entries mother! and American Assassin are expected to do more modest business in the $12M-$15M range (no one is sure how much It will cannibalize other films). Marc Forster’s All I See Is You, starring Blake Lively and Jason Clarke, was also set to open nationwide on Friday, but Open Road Films pulled the film earlier this week and has set a new release date of Oct. 27.

    New offerings at the specialty box office include Mike White's Brad's Status, starring Ben Stiller, Michael Sheen, Jenna Fischer, Luke Wilson and Austin Abrams. The dramedy marks the second release from Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures. The film premiered at Toronto last weekend and will open in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

    + How Blade Runner 2049 is tracking so far. Alcon Entertainment's long-gestating sequel to Ridley Scott's iconic 1892 sci-fi epic is pacing to open to $40M or more in North America when it hits theaters on Oct. 6, according to early prerelease surveys. 

    Execs talk box office at Goldman Sachs conference...

    + Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi: "I think the box office for 2017, if I had to guess, will be somewhat flat, against a record-year in 2016." He argued the major studios shuffling their movie release dates, rather than anything "systematic," is what's to blame for the summer box-office slump. Full story. 

    + 21st Century Fox exec Lachlan Murdoch: "The short answer is that movies aren't compelling. People felt they didn't have to see these movies in the theaters. … But if you take the four top animated films [from 2016 and 2017], that makes up for 90 percent of the drop in box office." Full story.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ^Thor: Ragnarok writer denied credit by WGA, cries foul. A Writers Guild of America credit arbitration committee has denied Stephany Folsom a “Story by” credit despite her work on the film, and Folsom isn’t sitting idly by.

    + Folsom: “Marvel gave me ‘story by’ credit on THOR RAGNAROK and the writers’ guild me the credit due to guild regulations ... There’s something very wrong when a major corporation is doing more to protect your interests than your own guild." Full story.

    The Expendables writer joins Wonder Woman 2 writing team. Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns have been working on a treatment for several months and Dave Callaham will now join to pen the script. The move comes just days after Jenkins officially closed her deal.

    STXfilms' Happytime Murders adds Elizabeth Banks. The actress joins Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph in the puppet comedy, directed by Brian Henson. The film began production in Los Angeles earlier this week, and will be released on Aug. 17, 2018.

    ► Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk taps newcomer to star. Kiki Layne will star as Trish in the adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel. More than 300 young women reportedly were considered for the role, for which Layne auditioned. Annapurna is financing. 

    Western comedy to star Ron Perlman, Martin Starr. Jake McDorman and George Sample III also star in Yale Productions' Escape of Prisoner 614, which marks Zach Golden's feature directorial debut.

    ► Netflix lands concert doc Long Time Running. The feature doc chronicles the lead-up and the final concert for the the Tragically Hip after frontman Gord Downie‘s terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

    30WEST nabs thriller Beast. Michael Pearce’s film stars Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn and Geraldine James. The deal marks the third at Toronto inked by Dan Friedkin and Micah Green's company, which also struck for I, Tonya and Super Size Me: Holy Chicken!

    Fantastic Fest staffer quits over rehiring of controversial blogger. A lead programmer, Todd Brown, has resigned in response to the revelation on Tuesday that Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League has quietly rehired movie blogger Devin Faraci as a copywriter for the company 10 months after being accused of sexual assault.

    The Race: Toronto's latest contenders. Scott Feinberg writes: Breathe, which once would have been called a four-hanky picture, could return Andrew Garfield to the Oscars as a best actor nominee. Meanwhile, for The Upsidea nom or two at the Golden Globes is a likelier possibility. 

  • Con Man In Hollywood's Backyard

    Illustration by Alex Williamson

    A must-read: The Pacific Palisades, an affluent L.A. neighborhood full of Hollywood players, was turned upside down in July 2015 when police discovered Jeffrey Lash’s decomposing body, hundreds of guns and $230,000 in crisp bills. Then the story got weirder, Scott Johnson writes: 

    Lash was a disturbingly skilled con man, duping at least ten women with a narrative that he was a covert anti-terrorism operative who had experienced interplanetary travel. And now two of his former lovers are battling in court with Lash’s cousins over his multimillion dollar gun stash and the rest of his estate.

    Meanwhile, his victims, who faced unimaginable abuse and lost their life savings, are trying to recover from a life-changing ordeal. In the words of a woman who spent 30 years thinking he was her true love (and spent $1.8 million supporting him), "He had this way of making you feel like the only person in the room, to respond to your heart — you can’t fake that. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t evil." Full feature. 

    What else we're reading...

    — "The battle for Blade Runner." Michael Schulman's feature: "[Ridley] Scott, star Harrison Ford, screenwriter Hampton Fancher, and others - tell the story of the original film’s contentious journey to the screen." [Vanity Fair]

    "A new wave of highbrow horror." Ellen Gamerman writes: "Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is one of many ‘social thrillers’ from A-list directors that go beyond slasher and gore movies." [The Wall Street Journal]

    "The silent film returns - on social media." Amanda Hess writes: "Though we may still pop headphones in to watch a YouTube rant, social media has cultivated its own mute visual culture." [The New York Times]

    —  "Will anyone save us from the waking nightmare of director Q&As?" Caspar Salmon's take: "The growing trend for film-makers to discuss their work with the audience after a screening is ruining the cinemagoing experience." [The Guardian]

     "If Hilary Clinton had won: The New Yorker cover." Timed to Clinton's new press tour, the magazine posts the cover art that they "would have published had Clinton defeated Donald Trump to become the first female Commander-in-Chief." [The New Yorker]

    — "The David Carr generation." Mikaela Lefrak writes: "I spoke with over a dozen of the writers, thinkers, artists, and family members who benefited from Carr’s guidance." [The Atlantic]

    Today's birthdays: Nas, 44, Andrew Lincoln, 44, Bong Joon-ho, 48, Tyler Perry, 49, Melissa Leo, 57, Michael Patrick King, 63, Sam Neill, 70.