What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:27 AM 1/2/2018

by Ray Rahman

Getty Images

Happy New Year! What's news: Matt Lauer's replacement has been selected, and it's Hoda Kotb. Plus: A deep dive into what 2017's total box office numbers mean (including China's comeback year), Hollywood's women team up to battle sexual harassment and James Andrew Miller's column on the big mystery at ESPN. — Ray Rahman

[Note: To receive this Today in Entertainment newsletter by email each weekday, click here.]

  • It's Hoda


    Hola Kotb officially joins Savannah Guthrie for the 7-9 a.m. hours of NBC's Today show and will also continue to co-host the 10 a.m. hour with Kathie Lee Gifford, write Georg Szalai and Jeremy Barr:

    Hoda Kotb has been named co-anchor of the early hours of the Today show, joining Savannah Guthrie, the NBC morning show unveiled Tuesday. Kotb will replace Matt Lauer in the seat.

    Kotb has been filling in for Lauer since he was abruptly fired on Nov. 29 for "inappropriate sexual behavior." With Guthrie and Kotb co-hosting, the morning show has consistently led the competition in total viewers, leading some to suggest that Kotb's role be made permanent.

    The announcement of her appointment as Lauer's permanent replacement was made early Tuesday by NBC News chairman Andy Lack and announced on the air. "This must be the most popular decision NBC News has ever made," Guthrie said. "I'm pinching myself," Kotb said. Full story.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Gretchen Carlson's new role: The former Fox News anchor (and 1989 Miss America) has been tapped to serve as chair of the Miss America Organization's board following the recent email scandal that brought down the group's CEO. 

    "I think we're very respectful of this president": Fox News's Jay Wallace, who oversees news programming at the network, sits down with Jeremy Barr for a rare Q&A, discussing everything from Fox's news-opinion divide to Trump's preference for the channel. 

    Murdoch's fractured empire: A New York Times report delves into the factors that led Rupert to break up his company and sell to Disney, including business tensions with his sons. 

    + "Fox News, the company’s financial engine, has been the source of family friction. James [Murdoch] has privately expressed embarrassment about some elements of Fox News ... a stance not shared by his more conservative brother and father."

    + James, the story notes, "got on board rather quickly" when Rupert told his sons about Disney's proposed takeover. Yet his future at either Fox or Disney is still unclear.

    + Lachlan, meanwhile, is still Rupert's choice to eventually run "New Fox" (a.k.a. the stuff Disney didn't buy, such as Fox News).

    + "As for Rupert, he may now turn his attention to buying local television stations to buttress New Fox and compete with Sinclair Broadcast Group."

     YouTube star Logan Paul apologizes for posting video of apparent suicide victim: The social media personality uploaded a clip of himself in Japan's so-called "suicide forest," where he found a body hanging from a tree, sparking outrage.  

    ^Inside ESPN's shocker: Former network president John Skipper cited "substance addiction" as the reason for abruptly stepping down in December, but there may be a different narrative, writes James Andrew Miller.

    If Skipper was contemplating an exit, the smart and easy path was to have simply said yes to Disney CEO Bob Iger’s invitation/urging to bring over to ESPN one of Iger’s most trusted lieutenants, Jimmy Pitaro, currently chairman of Disney's products division. 

    But Skipper, in his most audacious move as president of ESPN, gave a Southern, polite “No thanks" to his boss. A cynical view was that he didn’t want to have a clear successor in place, thereby guaranteeing his own longevity. Or so he thought. Full column.

    Netflix renews She's Gotta Have It. "There's going to be a second season," Spike Lee said in a video announcing the news.

    Amazon's Rose Parade coverage was poorly reviewed ... on Amazon. A vocal number of viewers didn't love (or get?) Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon's ironic interpretation of the New Year's Day event, and they voiced their criticisms with over a thousand one-star reviews.

    Black Mirror spinoff? The director of the new season's popular "USS Callister" episode says there's more story to tell

    ► Report from the L.A. to Vegas plane. "Fox flew roughly 150 executives, reporters and influencers on a roundtrip chartered 757 to a whirlwind party at the Bellagio," Michael O'Connell writes. "Two episodes screened mid-air, as tiny bottles of scotch and vodka rolled back and forth under the seats. Tray tables were not stowed for landing." Read more.


  • Winners and Losers

    From left to right: Courtesy of Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

    With 2017 fully in the rearview mirror, the box-office picture has become clearer. Pamela McClintock takes a look at how the Christmas flurry of commercial, wide releases fared over the holidays:

    Winner: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It may have taken 27 years, but Sony has finally successfully rebooted Jumanji. In a major win for the studio, the reboot came in well ahead of expectations with a projected domestic haul of nearly $187 million through New Year's Day.

    Loser: All the Money in the World. Many thought that Ridley Scott's bold decision to replace disgraced actor Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer at the 11th hour — requiring last-minute reshoots and a new marketing campaign — would spark interest among moviegoers. So far, that hasn’t been the case: The film finished New Year's Day with a tepid domestic total of $14 million-$15 million. See the rest.

    + Year in review: Movie attendance in North America hit a 27-year low, but higher ticket sales (and, you know, Star Wars) helped lift the global box office to a record $40 billion. Full story.

    + China's big year: The Chinese box office returned to robust growth in 2017, hitting $8.6 billion. The country is back on path to overtake North America as the world's largest film market within the next several years.  

    + Hong Kong's dip: Meanwhile, box office revenue in the special administrative region shrank for the second year running, largely due to differing movie tastes from mainland China. Report.

    Elsewhere in film...

    "I'm calling it the Purge": The New Yorker's Dana Goodyear reports out a lengthy feature detailing how Hollywood's reckoning is affecting the industry's women — and men. 

    + "It's all this town is talking about," says one female showrunner, who describes going to a birthday party where all the men were "in a circle having a come-to-Jesus moment."

    + "Cathy Schulman, an Oscar-winning producer and the president of Women in Film, said that lately, when she walks into a man’s office and tries to close the door, he objects. 'It’s happened at least ten times in the past two months.'"

    + "Men are living as Jews in Germany": Needless to say, many of the (mostly unnamed) quoted men in the story are shaken by the recent upheaval. 

    Time's Up: Three hundred prominent Hollywood women — including Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon, Ashley Judd, America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Kerry Washington — have launched an initiative called Time’s Up to fight systemic sexual harassment in the workplace.

    + The plan includes a legal defense fund to help women in blue-collar industries protect themselves from sexual misconduct, support for the “50/50 by 2020” effort to bring gender parity to the executive suites at Hollywood studios and talent agencies, and the call for women to wear black to the upcoming Golden Globes.

    Playboy's new strategy: From the Wall Street Journal’s new report: “'We want to focus on what we call the ‘World of Playboy’ which is so much larger than a small, legacy print publication,' said Ben Kohn, a managing partner at Rizvi who took over as Playboy Enterprises’ chief executive in May 2016. 'We plan to spend 2018 transitioning it from a media business to a brand-management company.'”

    + The move means the magazine, which has lost "as much as $7 million annually" in recent years, may shutter altogether soon, per the Journal

    The Holly Hunter interview: The Big Sick actress sits down with THR to reflect on her decades-spanning career, her decision not to do sequels and her first big break in 1987's Raising Arizona. Full Q&A.

    R.I.P., Peggy Cummins. The petite blond actress who played the carnival sharpshooter turned murderous bank robber in the sexually charged 1950 film noir classic Gun Crazy has died. She was 92. Full obit.

    [icon:therace] The Golden Globes party guide: From Esquire's Maserati-sponsored shindig at a private home to Netflix's VIP-ready Beverly Hills blowout at the Waldorf Astoria, here's your running list of all the major parties of Golden Globes week. Full guide. 

  • Obama's Best of '17

    Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Former president Barack Obama shared a list of 12 books and 22 songs that he would recommend from the past year, writes Kate Kilkenny:

    With what he called "extra time on my hands this year" since he ended his two terms as president, Obama selected 12 books and 22 songs to recommend in 2017. The list is diverse, with reading titles including the 1,104-page Ron Chernow biography of Ulysses S. Grant, Grant, Corey Taylor's memoir of her terminal illness Dying: A Memoir and Shea Serrano's NBA book Basketball (And Other Things).

    Among former president Barack Obama's favorite songs this year are several chart toppers from artists like Rihanna and Kendrick Lamar, a song from a group of all-female west African musicians and a single from the elusive Frank Ocean. The former president also cited the blues version of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." from the singer's 2017 Broadway show, Change The Rapper's "First World Problems" and "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness" by The National as favorites from 2017. Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "'Oh my God, this is so f---ed up': Inside Silicon Valley's secretive, orgiastic dark side." This snippet from Emily Chang's upcoming tell-all book Brotopia is NSFW. [Vanity Fair]

    — "Mariah Carey's miraculous New Year's Eve comeback saves us all." Kevin Fallon writes: "If the diva’s notorious New Year’s Eve meltdown set the tone for 2017, then her triumphant redemption Sunday night means that this next year is looking up." [Daily Beast]

    — "Pop star videos make sweet music for Vevo." Anna Nicolaou writes: "Music executives say it has never been easier or faster to get songs to people around the world, as fans in countries from Brazil to Japan can watch videos online for free." [Financial Times]

    — "Marijuana is legal in California now. Will an Uber-for-pot gold rush follow?" Eric Johnson reports on what could be the state's next big business. [Recode]

    — "Welsh gold mine behind three generations of royal wedding rings to reopen after 20 years." Anita Singh writes: "A gold wedding ring became fashionable when the Queen Mother chose it for her nuptials in 1923. It has since become a royal tradition, followed by the Duchess of Cambridge when she wed in 2011 using gold given to Prince William by the Queen shortly after the couple became engaged." [The Telegraph]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Jake Gyllenhaal: Interview." The Stronger actor chats with Scott Feinberg about his career, lessons learned from the Prince of Persia flop and his recent string of great performances.  [Awards Chatter / THR]

    + "The Boss Baby." The comedic podcast tears into what it deems one of 2017's worst films. [We Hate Movies]

    Today's Birthdays: Kate Bosworth, 35, Dax Shepard, 43, Lucy Davis, 45, Taye Diggs, 47, Renée Elise Goldsberry, 47, Christy Turlington, 49, Cuba Gooding Jr., 50, Todd Haynes, 57.