Are you paid what you're worth? The annual Salary Report has arrived. Plus: Alcon gambles its future with a $150M Blade Runner sequel, Tom Cruise's American Made may not top Kingsman at the box office and tributes pour in for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman
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The Salary Report: From the executive suite to the craft services table, THR surveys the salary ranges of everyone from actors to studio chiefs to key grips with the annual preview of industry paychecks. Selections:
TOP DOLLAR WME-IMG bumped its valuation up to $6.3 billion in August, following a $1.1 billion infusion of outside funds. Just how that trickles down to co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell is a closely guarded secret, but these two — along with CAA's Richard Lovett, Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd, who each pocketed $40 million when TPG took a majority stake in the agency in 2014 — may be the only agents in Hollywood making eight figures annually.
MIDDLE DOLLAR Veteran agents with high-earning clients can double their base salary with bonuses in a good year, taking home a total of mid- to high-seven figures. An average range is $300,000 to $500,000 a year.
BOTTOM DOLLAR Newbie agents fresh from the mailroom barely clear $50,000 at smaller boutiques, while the bigger agencies offer starting deals at around $60,000, with a significant renegotiation after the third year. Assistants make between $30,000 and $40,000 typically.
TOP DOLLAR Movie studios will pay $131,068 per year for experienced talent, per guild rules.
MIDDLE DOLLAR TV shows will pay at least $35.87 an hour, or about $59,000 a year (for a 40-week year).
BOTTOM DOLLAR Low-budget movies pay $25.50 an hour, or about $41,000 a year.
TOP DOLLAR Seasoned writers can fetch upward of $15,000 an episode, unless, of course, they're also the showrunner, in which case they make tons more.
MIDDLE DOLLAR The average working scribe on a network show makes between $5,000 and $10,000 an episode, depending on experience.
BOTTOM DOLLAR A first-time staff writer gig pays about $4,000 a week, which is the latest WGA scale. "They will pay you as little as they possibly can to get you, which means guild minimums," says one scribe. Full title-by-title feature.
"This is a chips-in-the-center-of-the-table exercise," says producer Andrew Kosove of the long-awaited (and risky) film follow-up to the iconic sci-fi drama. Pamela McClintock writes:
Producers Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove — who met at Princeton University before convincing FexEx founder Fred Smith to help them launch the film company Alcon Entertainment 20 years ago — are candid. They admit that Alcon's future depends on Blade Runner 2049.
After a string of box-office wins — most notably, The Blind Side in 2009 — Kosove, 47, and Johnson, 50, arrived at a moment of reckoning. Alcon, with a staff of 45, no longer wanted to subsist solely on smaller, one-off movies. The company, which has a long-term distribution deal with Warner Bros., needed to be in the tentpole franchise business.
"We were sitting on a substantial balance sheet," adds Kosove. "Normally, we would have refinanced the business and taken the shareholder money off the table. We would then make new movies with other people's money. But the high-water mark coincided with the financial crisis. The capital markets were tied up. We had two options — go home or take the company to the next level."
That meant bigger but riskier bets. "If you don't have repetitive cash flow, which is a fancy way of saying being in the sequel business, you are going to be in trouble eventually." Blade Runner 2049 cost a net $150M to make, and was co-financed by Alcon and Sony (each committed to spend $90M before rebates and tax incentives brought down the budget).
Is it a winning strategy? Says Johnson: “If it works, it transforms what we do.”
Elsewhere in film...
► Coming to America sequel in the works. Jonathan Levine and Kenya Barris are teaming for Paramount's follow-up. Eddie Murphy is involved (though there is no deal yet in place) and is expected to star.
► Denis Villeneuve in talks to direct Sony's Cleopatra movie. The long-embattled film, at one point rumored to star Angelina Jolie, is back on track with the Blade Runner 2049 director. David Scarpa penned the screenplay.
► Jude Law in talks to join Blake Lively spy thriller. The Emmy-winning Handmaid's Tale helmer Reed Morano is directing The Rhythm Section, produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of the Bond movies. Lively will portray the heroine.
► Avatar 2 adds young castmembers. James Cameron's sequel will introduce seven new castmembers who will take a trip to Pandora, including three children from the Sully family (the offspring of Zoe Saldana's Neytiri and Sam Worthington's Jake).
► Mudbound helmer Dee Rees finds her next project. The director will tackle the Joan Didion-penned political thriller The Last Thing He Wanted, which follows a journalist thrown into the world of arms dealing. Marco Villalobos will adapt the book.
^Box office preview: Tracking for Tom Cruise's American Made suggests the action-drama will open in the $15M range, likely not enough to beat holdover Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which debuted to $45.5M last weekend. Meanwhile, the Flatliners remake is tracking to debut domestically to $10M-$12M.
+ Fox Searchlight's awards contender Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, expands across the country into a total 1,200 theaters after launching in 21 cinemas last weekend. Opening in select markets is Sony Pictures Classics' Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. Full preview.
► Ike Barinholtz to make feature directorial debut. The actor and comedian will direct and star in The Oath, a satirical thriller which he wrote. QC Entertainment (Get Out) is financing and producing the indie.
► Michelle Williams in talks for Spider-Man spinoff Venom. Character details weren't revealed but Tom Hardy and Riz Ahmed are also starring in Sony’s movie project about the villain. The project will be directed by Ruben Fleischer.
► Trailer watch, Annihilation. The film's first look shows Natalie Portman's character, an unnamed biologist on a special mission. Ex-Machina director Alex Garland adapted the novel from Jeff VanderMeer. Watch.
► Louis C.K.'s I Love You, Daddy gets release date. The Orchard will roll out the John Malkovich and Chloe Grace Moretz-starrer Nov. 17, before the dark comedy goes wider Dec. 1. The film premiered in Toronto.
► Bleecker Street nabs rights to Disobedience. Another pick up from the Toronto fest: Sebastián Lelio directed the relationship drama, starring Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz, that is loosely based on author Naomi Alderman's novel.
► Sony Classics buys rights Glenn Close's The Wife. Sony Pictures Classics has acquired all North American rights to the adaptation of the Meg Wolitzer novel, directed by Bjorn Runge. Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater and Annie Starke also star.
► CAA spins off marketing business. CAA Marketing's Jae Goodman will become CEO of the yet-to-be-named organization, which will be majority-owned by Stagwell with a minority stake held by the agency. Its work includes Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” and “The Scarecrow” animated shorts. Details.
Amid concern about long workdays and a CW Riverdale star's late-night auto wreck, writer-producer Alexi Hawley offers a five-point plan for showrunners:
1. Let everyone in production know that safety matters to you. No one should get in trouble for saying something if they don't feel safe. An open-door policy for the showrunner will demonstrate that you mean it. In addition, make it a policy that if someone is tired, they get a room or a ride no matter how many hours they worked.
2. Language matters. Altering the language of production so we don't call a day that really lasts 15 hours a "12-hour day" will make a difference.
3. If the studio doesn't have a mandated plug-pull at 14 hours, give the line producer the mandate to set one anyway.
4. When you're creating the production schedule with the studio, push to get a weeklong hiatus (or two) built in. Not only will it help you catch up if you fall behind on scripts, but it also will give the cast and crew a much-needed break during a long season.
5. This is the big one, and the hardest to adhere to: If you can't produce your show within the budget and days the studio gives you, then you have to push back, not overextend production. I've worked on plenty of scripts that posed production challenges, and I'm guilty of trying to "make them fit" into the schedule. But sending an episode into production that's unmakeable won't solve the problem. It will only put unfair pressure on the director and crew, exhausting everyone in the process.
Elsewhere in TV...
^New union study finds increase in minority TV director hiring last year. The Directors Guild of America's television diversity efforts appear to be bearing fruit, with the percentage of ethnic minority first-time TV helmers more than doubling from 2009-10 to 2016-17. The report.
► NBC's This Is Us still reigns supreme in ratings. When the drama returned for its sophomore season, it topped premiere week's Tuesday efforts with an average 3.8 rating among adults 18-49 and 12.6M viewers. In the key demo, that's an easy series high — up 12 percent from the spring finale.
► Hulu, NBCUniversal sign massive SVOD deal. As part of the pact, Hulu gets 30 Rock and Parenthood, and will also premiere the new Paul Reiser period comedy There's Johnny, set against the backdrop of the Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.
► ABC Studios, Black-ish duo ink overall deals. Courtney Lilly and Peter Saji, both co-exec producers on the comedy, have inked overall deals at the studio ahead of Black-ish's season four launch.
► CBS' Young Sheldon scores full-season order. Two days after it launched with the most-watched premiere on any network since 2011, CBS has handed out a total of 22 episodes for the Big Bang Theory prequel.
^CBS' SEAL Team, reviewed. David Boreanaz is a confident leading man in CBS' new military drama, which should play well for the network's core audience, if not for critics. The takeaway: "Proficient, if not special."
► Syfy cancels The Mist after one season. The freshman drama based on the Stephen King novella launched in late June to solid sampling but ratings continued to decline. It had been part of Spike's push to re-enter the original scripted space.
► ABC teams with Meghan Trainor for girl group drama. The artist is set to exec produce and provide original music for Broken Record, which landed with a sizable put-pilot commitment with the Mark Gordon Co. attached to exec produce.
► Syfy, Russo Brothers adapting Deadly Class comic. The graphic novel adaptation from Sony Pictures Television Studios and Universal Cable Productions is based on the Image Comics title from Rick Remender and Wes Craig.
► Hulu's Beau Willimon space drama adds Natascha McElhone. The actress will join Sean Penn in The First, while also continuing her series-regular role on Designated Survivor. The show begins production later this year for a 2018 premiere.
► BBC plots Dublin Murders with Room producer. Crime novelist Tana French's The Dublin Murders will be an eight-part series with Sarah Phelps (The Casual Vacancy) adapting.
► CMT orders Music City docuseries. The Hills creator Adam DiVello is returning to TV with a new eight-episode Nashville-centered docuseries that will follow young up-and-coming artists.
► Facebook adds home improvement show. The social giant is bringing Win This House! to its lineup with a new video series on Watch. The show, which will run for eight weeks, is hosted by former HGTV stars Andy and Candis Meredith.
Hugh Hefner, who parlayed $8,000 in borrowed money in 1953 to create Playboy, the hot-button media empire renowned for a magazine enriched with naked women and intelligent interviews just as revealing, died of natural causes Wednesday at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. He was 91. Full obit I Life in photos I Style appreciation.
+ What's next for Playboy? Just last month, Gary Baum wrote an in-depth profile of the son of Hefner, Cooper Hefner, who outlined his plans for remaking the brand for a new generation.
+ "Yes, there are lifestyle components to Playboy, but it's really a philosophy about freedom," Cooper said in August. "And right now, as history is repeating itself in real time, I want Playboy to be central to that conversation." Full profile.
+ R.I.P., Anne Jeffreys. The elegant actress, who was Dick Tracy's girlfriend in the movies and starred opposite her husband Robert Sterling as "the ghostess with the mostess" on television's Topper, has died. She was 94. Full obit.
What else we're reading...
— "The Kate McKinnon report." Lili Anolik's cover story: "With a resurgent Saturday Night Live providing weekly catharsis for a politically obsessed America, Emmy-winning Kate McKinnon has hit a new level of fame." [Vanity Fair]
— "How an online rap competition dominated Chinese entertainment." Li Yuan notes: "Breakout success The Rap of China shows how internet companies are dictating trends once defined by television." [The Wall Street Journal]
— "Long-lost letter to Jack Kerouac reaches its final destination." Jennifer Schuessler notes: "The rambling letter by Neal Cassady that inspired On the Road, lost for more than 60 years, has been acquired." [The New York Times]
— "How Busy Philipps became the breakout star of Instagram stories." Marisa Meltzer's profile: "Frustrated with her own career in Hollywood, the actor has turned her life into a sitcom." [The New Yorker]
— "Broadcast news audiences continue to shrink." Stephen Battaglio writes: "ABC and NBC claimed ratings crowns ... in the 2016-17 TV season that ended last week, but their kingdom of viewers is still getting smaller." [The Los Angeles Times]
What else we're seeing...
+ "Liam Neeson reveals Steven Seagal insulted him." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]
+ "Jared Leto filmed all of his Blade Runner 2049 scenes blind." [Tonight Show]
+ "Seth reflects on his relationship with football." [Late Night]
Today's birthdays: Keir Gilchrist, 25, Hilary Duff, 30, St. Vincent, 35, Naomi Watts, 49, Janeane Garofalo, 53.