What's news: The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off today, with Shia LaBeouf's tennis drama Borg/McEnroe opening. Plus: It is tracking for a September box office record, Veep is signing off after next season and Gal Gadot shares her post-Wonder Woman life. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman
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Big Q: Are Apple and Facebook next to bid on movies? In Toronto, Tatiana Siegel writes: When it comes to the most in-demand festival films, traditional distributors are being forced to overspend in order to compete with streaming giants Amazon and Netflix.
And now Apple, Facebook and other tech giants are poised to step up to the plate. The stage has been set, with YouTube Red picking up Nick Cannon's King of the Dancehall out of Toronto in 2016, while Google Play nabbed the Peter Dinklage starrer Rememory at Sundance in January. Both were seven-figure deals. With $1 billion earmarked for content, Apple would seem the most promising new buyer.
"They're moving in that direction. We can all sense it," says UTA's Yale Chasin. "Whether it happens now or later is an unknown." But other sellers are skeptical that Toronto 2017 will see any major movement from the tech giants.
"All of these people have been active in varying forms. Is it now expanding? Are they going to put up $10 million and buy a movie at this festival like Amazon does? No," says WME Global's Graham Taylor. "They're at these festivals to sit with filmmakers and say, 'Come into a long-term film and television deal.'" Full story I Hot list I Festival travel.
Thank Stephen King for kicking off the fall box office in fine style following a dismal summer, Pamela McClintock forecasts:
If prerelease tracking is right, the film adaptation It looks to scare up a record opening for the month of September. Tracking services show the New Line and Warner Bros. release opening between $65M-$75M domestically.
Insiders at Warner Bros. are being more conservative in suggesting $60M-$65M, noting the movie's R-rating. The current record-holder for best September opening is Hotel Transylvania 2 ($48.5M).
The weekend's other new nationwide offering is the romantic comedy Home Again, starring Reese Witherspoon. Hallie Meyers-Shyer directed and wrote the movie, with her mother, filmmaker Nancy Meyers, producing. Tracking suggests Home Again will debut in the $10M range for Open Road Films.
Elsewhere in film...
► Suicide Squad 2 finds director. Gavin O’Connor, who directed Ben Affleck in The Accountant, will write and direct the DC sequel. The move caps off months of Warner Bros. courting multiple directors for the job, including Mel Gibson and Jaume Collet-Serra.
+ Jared Leto on Warner Bros. Joker plans: "I’m a little confused, too ... I love the Joker. He’s a great character and really fun character to play. But it’s a big universe and when you play the Joker, there’s no ownership there," the actor told On Demand Entertainment.
► Neal Moritz moves first look deal to Paramount. The producer (mastermind behind Fast & The Furious) and his Original Film production company has signed a multi-year agreement with Paramount, leaving his longtime deal at Sony Pictures.
► MGM relaunches Orion Pictures. Orion Pictures, now a stand-alone U.S. theatrical marketing and distribution company, will be headed by John Hegeman. The plan is that Orion will market and distribute four to six modestly-budgeted films a year.
► Q&A: How Aaron Sorkin staged a star-studded poker room for Molly's Game. The screenwriter, who makes his directorial debut with an adaptation of the 2014 memoir, explains why he chose not to "dish" on any of the names (from Leo DiCaprio to Ben Affleck) involved.
^Seth Rogen, James Franco star in short film by L.A. teens. The duo appear alongside Michael Pena and Nick Kroll in Dumpster Divers, the pilot effort of a new program called And Action! meant to give kids opportunities to break into the movie business. Watch the short.
► L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti making movie acting debut. Garcetti, who has appeared in episodes of The Closer and Major Crimes, has been cast in the reboot of one of his favorite '80s classics, Valley Girl.
► Netflix's The Pope casts Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins. The Game of Thrones actor will play Pope Francis, while Hopkins will play Francis' predecessor Pope Benedict. Fernando Meirelles will direct the feature.
► Parker Posey, Ken Jeong to star in indie dramedy. Elsewhere, which also stars Aden Young (Rectify), Beau Bridges, Jacki Weaver and Jackie Tohn, tells the story of Bruno (Young) who is evicted from the seaside cottage that he and his late wife built together.
► Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody adds Lucy Boynton. The rising star has joined Bryan Singer's film as Freddie Mercury’s lifelong companion, Mary Austin. Rami Malek already is attached to portray Freddie Mercury. The film is slated for U.S. release on Dec. 25, 2018.
► R.I.P., Murray Lerner. The filmmaker, "who captured Bob Dylan going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and preserved legendary music acts like Jimi Hendrix and Leonard Cohen forever on film, has died, said his son, Noah. He was 90," the Associated Press reports. Obit.
Oscar watch: Who's getting honorary awards. The Board of Governors of the Academy will present honors to writer-director Charles Burnett, cinematographer Owen Roizman, actor Donald Sutherland and director Agnès Varda at the Governors Awards. Details.
Veep, HBO's acclaimed comedy, Emmy powerhouse and arguably the funniest comedy on television, will end its run with a final seventh season in 2018, critic Tim Goodman writes in his news scoop:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus just called to tell me the news, and I just told her she's killing me. But it's clear that she and fellow executive producer David Mandel thought long and hard about when it would be right to say goodbye — next season? One after that? — and they've let the story dictate a finale they could feel good about.
"It became clear that this season should be the last season," Louis-Dreyfus says. "We don't want to repeat ourselves or wear out our welcome. The story has a finality to it that feels end-of-series."
Separately, both Louis-Dreyfus and Mandel say that as they mapped out the arc of the seventh season, not repeating themselves and staying true to the often daring twists of the story were paramount. "It was just a very natural thing," Mandel says. "We don't want to repeat ourselves or be boring. It's bittersweet but it's right." More details.
► Hulu and Spotify to launch new streaming bundle. The companies said that they will start offering Hulu with limited advertising and Spotify Premium for $5 per month. That's a discount of $13: typically, Hulu charges $8 per month and Spotify charges $10 per month.
► 21st Century Fox promotes Peter Rice to president. The exec will take on the additional role of president, a newly created position where he will work with leadership on "key strategic initiatives." He will remain chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group.
► UTA promotes David Kramer and Jay Sures to co-presidents. The duo, who both began their careers as assistants to UTA co-founder Peter Benedek, have served as managing directors alongside CEO Jeremy Zimmer since 2010. Statements.
► HBO renews Real Time With Bill Maher through 2020. The pay cabler has reupped the weekly series, now in its 15th season, for two more seasons, a deal which also includes a stand-up special and a retrospective.
► Netflix orders Cuckoo's Nest prequel from Ryan Murphy. Sarah Paulson will star in the 18-episode series Ratched from exec producer Michael Douglas. The series landed at the streamer following a competitive bidding process with Apple and Hulu among the bidders.
^Fox's The Orville, reviewed. Seth MacFarlane's sci-fi series, debuting Sept. 10, is an earnest, rarely effective Star Trek-inspired dramedy, not a Family Guy-style sitcom or a Galaxy Quest parody hybrid. The takeaway: "More a so-so experiment in homage than a distinctive sci-fi comedy."
+ Early takes: USA Today: "less a parody than a poor knockoff of Trek." Newsday: "a high-minded spitball thrower that can’t quite figure out the right balance between love and parody." TVLine: "Sci-fi dud crashes and burns."
► ABC casts surprise fan-favorite as The Bachelor star. The network has tapped race car driver Arie Luyendyk Jr. to lead season 22 of the reality dating show. He had stepped away from the franchise spotlight since his 2012 stint on The Bachelorette.
► CBS, The CW sets up immigration dramas with Gina Rodriguez. CBS' Mercy, based on the German format Dr. Illegal, follows a Latina doctor who immigrates to Miami. The CW's lighter drama Illegal centers on bumbling high schooler Rafael. Rodriguez will produce both.
► Nat Geo casts Antonio Banderas as Picasso for Genius season 2. Banderas will make his series regular TV debut in the drama. Production on the 10-episode second season, which chronicle the life and work of the Spanish painter, begins in the fall for a 2018 bow.
► Syfy's Blood Drive canceled after one season. The grindhouse drama has been canceled after one season, series creator James Roland announced Wednesday in a lengthy blog post following the season one, and now series, finale.
New column: "Confessions of an NFL football hypocrite." Gavin Polone writes: TV's most popular sport kills its players - everyone knows that now (including the networks that sell $3.5 billion in ads a year) - so how can an intelligent fan rationalize a deadly game?
New Gal Gadot podcast: The 32-year-old Israeli who played DC Comics' most iconic female character in the hit of the summer discusses at length with Scott Feinberg her unusual road to Hollywood, trolls and her film's critical, commercial and social success. Listen here.
What else we're reading...
— "Back from the brink." Kyle Buchanan's profile: "Dylan O’Brien was groomed to be Hollywood’s next young leading man. Then a tragic accident made him question everything." [New York]
— "Attacked by Rotten Tomatoes." Brooks Barnes asks: "should reviewers from Screen Junkies and Punch Drunk Critics really be treated as the equals of those from The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker?" [The New York Times]
— "WME|IMG deal for Bloom shifts movie financing horizon." Jeremy Kay writes: "The development also raises the prospect of other Hollywood agencies following suit and buying sales companies." [Screen Daily]
— "Apple reaches music deal with Warner, eyes Sony pact." Lucas Shaw, Alex Webb report: "Apple plans to pay record labels a smaller percentage of sales from Apple Music subscribers than it did under its first deal for the streaming service." [Bloomberg]
— "The sweet life and rock & roll faith of America's biggest band." Josh Eells' cover story: "Dave Grohl goes deep on bro-ing down with Justin Timberlake, missing Chris Cornell and his band's star-studded new LP." [Rolling Stone]
— "A movie tests how envious you are of your successful friends." John Jurgensen notes: "Brad’s Status, starring Ben Stiller, explores career envy in the age of social media." [The Wall Street Journal]
Today's birthdays: Evan Rachel Wood, 30, Alex Kurtzman, 44, Leslie Jones, 50, Toby Jones, 51, Diane Warren, 61, James Schamus, 58, Julie Kavner, 67.