What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:30 AM 12/1/2017

by Ray Rahman

Roy Moore_Jimmy Kimmel _Split - Getty - H 2017
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What's news: Jimmy Kimmel accepts Roy Moore's fight invitation. Plus: The New York Film Critics Circle adds to the Oscar conversation, the Russell Simmons fallout continues, Hollywood adjusts its China expectations and the 18 shows we're most excited about in 2018. — Ray Rahman 

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  • The New China Strategy

    Gone are the billion-dollar buyouts, the free-flowing cash and eternal optimism among Hollywood dealmakers. But China's not over for Hollywood —a more sober and strategic approach to the world's second-biggest market is now about long-term sustainability, writes Patrick Brzeski:

    Drunk on the allure of China's fast and easy cash, the thinking goes, Hollywood studios and prominent independents had grown distracted by dreams of fast exits at high multiples or generously structured slate financing deals — neither of which were ultimately sustainable. "The current restrictions have caused some companies to drop out, but I don't think that's a bad thing for the cooperation between China and Hollywood because those left in the market will be people who want to cooperate on producing good films rather than money speculators," says James Wang, CEO of Huayi Brothers Entertainment. 

    So while the studios struggle to adapt to China's new regulatory environment, other players are beginning to put forward promising solutions to the challenge of how the two culturally distinct industries can come together to produce commercially successful content. "In the past, many tried to co-produce a film that can work in all markets, but it is very difficult to bridge Chinese and Western cultures," says Song Ge, chairman of Beijing Culture Media, currently one of the hottest studios in Beijing. "Now we are taking a more targeted approach and thinking more strategically about how we collaborate." Full story.

    + The China Power List: Meet the ten industry players whose decisions drive the Middle Kingdom's entertainment economy.

    + How to close the deal: If you're new to Beijing, expect to make some quick adjustments to the local lay of the land. "You'll always be late to your first meeting since traffic time will be double what you estimated," says Michael Ma, CEO of WME-IMG China. "And industry people are usually dressed casually, surprising people who show up in suits and ties." Read more.

    + How China consumes movies. Women rule the box office, Leo's out of the top ten and no love for romance films — see the full data breakdown, including this list of the country's most profitable U.S. stars in China: 

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Christmas box office preview: What will the holidays bring the season's non-Star Wars contenders? Pamela McClintock writes:

    Christmas looks to be very merry for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (out. Dec. 20), which is tracking for a six-day debut of $60 million, according to early prerelease surveys. That's an especially strong number considering it'll have to compete with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Dec. 15). Sony insiders are being more cautious and suggesting $45 million.

    The female-skewing comedy sequel Pitch Perfect 3 (Dec. 22) likewise looks like a Christmas winner, projected to post a four-day bow in the $30 million range, according to one major tracking service.

    If tracking is correct, one pic that could find coal in its stocking is Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World (Dec. 22), which no longer stars disgraced actor Kevin Spacey. One service shows the film taking in $6 million for the four days. Full story.

    ? Lady Bird named best picture by New York Film Critics Circle. The critics group also named Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish best supporting actress and handed two awards to The Florida Project, one for director Sean Baker and another for supporting actor Willem Dafoe. See all the winners.

    + Haddish's win has prompted buzz about whether or not the 2017 breakout might find her way into the big race. "It's time to take Tiffany Haddish seriously as an Oscar contender," writes Daily Beast's Ira Madison III. "The South Central native may be our only hope." 

    + THR awards columnist Scott Feinberg notes that the early awards given out so far have helped highlight work that the Academy might have otherwise overlooked, from Haddish to Call Me By Your Name.

    ^Oscars: Why "big idea" campaigns might not connect to voters. Stephen Galloway writes:

    When Fox Searchlight screened Battle of the Sexes for the first time at this year's Telluride Film Festival, audiences and pundits alike seemed to agree that the studio had a bona fide hit. The movie, about tennis great Billie Jean King's famed fight with self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs, was light, bright and sparkling, without necessarily being deep. And yet it seemed unusually relevant to an era when male chauvinism is at the forefront of the national conversation.

    So who could blame Searchlight for bringing out the real-life King, whose presence was ubiquitous on panels and in interviews and gave the movie gravitas, reminding audiences that this wasn't just a piece of entertainment; it was an Important Work of Art. Guess what? The movie tanked. Since its September opening, it has grossed a mere $12.6 million. 

    As awards season proper kicks into high gear, other contenders would do well to avoid Battle's scars. Voters, like general audiences, want to support a worthy cause, but they don't want to be bashed over the head by it. Read more.

    ? Eight Oscar-contending directors break down their toughest scenes. Helmers from Darren Aronofsky to Greta Gerwig discuss getting the shot just right.

    ? In development: Warner Bros. picks up Michael B. Jordan legal drama Just Mercy, directed by Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) ... Linda Cardellini joins Mahershala Ali in the real-life drama Green Book ... Logan filmmaker James Mangold is developing an adaptation of the children's book Crenshaw for Fox ... Fox Searchlight nabs thriller Ready or Not.

    Judd Apatow name checks real-life agent in The Disaster Artist. In a cameo in the film, the producer brushes off James Franco's Tommy Wiseau by telling him to send his résumé to his rep, UTA's David Kramer. Full report.


  • 2018 Lookbook

    The 18 most anticipated TV shows of 2018. Breaking through in a Peak TV world of more than 500 scripted originals is a challenging task, so top showrunners and stars continue to be in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming platforms look to cut through the cluttered landscape with familiar faces, writes Lesley Goldberg: 

    The Chi (Showtime, Jan. 7) Fresh off her Emmy writing win for Netflix's Master of None, Lena Waithe returns with a coming-of-age ensemble drama about a group of characters navigating the South Side of Chicago. Waithe created the series, with Common also exec producing.

    The First (Hulu, 2018) From House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, the space drama marks the small-screen series regular debut for Oscar winner Sean Penn. Picked up straight to series, the eight-episode drama is set in the near future and explores the first human mission to Mars and interplanetary colonization. 

    Sharp Objects (HBO, June) Based on the book by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, Amy Adams stars in the eight-episode drama about a reporter, fresh from a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital, who faces a troubling assignment: She must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Marti Noxon serves as showrunner, with Big Little Lies favorite Jean-Marc Vallee on board to direct. See the full list.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Russell Simmons fallout: Following new accusations of sexual misconduct against Simmons, HBO announced they would be removing the prolific music and TV producer's name from the stand-up series All Def Comedy, set to premiere tonight. "Russell Simmons will not appear in the new series and we will be removing his name from the show moving forward," the network said. 

    + Simmons' fashion interests: Phat Farm died creatively (and perhaps actually) some time ago, but his new line Argyleculture hasn't found much life either. Will the allegations against him be the brand's death knell? J.C. Penney has already dropped the line. Read more.

    + How will this affect Simmons' high-end yoga studio? A report from the inside. 

    ? Jimmy Kimmel vs. Roy Moore: It all started when Moore tweeted at the late-night host: "If you want to mock our Christian values, come down here to Alabama and do it man to man."

    + Kimmel responded in kind on his show last night: "I accept the invitation. There is no one I would rather fight. I will put my Christian values aside to fight you. I’ll wear a Girl Scout uniform, so you have something to look at. Whoever wins the fight, we’ll donate the money from tickets we sell to whatever charity we want. I’ll donate mine to the women who claim you molested them." Watch the video.

    ? Samantha Bee takes shots at Trump, Kendall Jenner and more at Ad Council awards dinner. “Can someone get rid of all the mistletoe in Alabama? And in Hollywood? And in Matt Lauer’s old office?” Full report.

    ^Ron and Clint Howard pen a touching farewell to their father Rance. The Hollywood siblings remember their actor father Rance Howard, who died of West Nile virus last week at 89:

    “Having Opie sass back to Andy might get a few laughs but it hurts the father/son relationship,” said Rance Howard.

    Aaron Ruben, Sheldon Leonard and Andy Griffith were surprised. Where did this 32-year-old father of child actor Ronny Howard find the nerve to chime in and pitch changes to their new CBS sitcom? Where did this guy come from?

    Our dad Rance, born Harold Beckenholdt on November 17, 1928, was an Oklahoma farm boy who caught the acting bug at age twelve, performing in a Christmas pageant in the town’s one-room schoolhouse. Read more.

    ? Jim Nabors, known to many as Gomer Pyle, dies at 87. Nabors, who starred as Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and on his own sitcom before retiring the character at the height of his popularity, died Thursday morning at his home in Hawaii.

    + Looking back: The late actor was a key part of one of The Andy Griffith Show's most memorable moments.

    ? In the works: Bobby Cannavale joins Julia Roberts in Homecoming , the upcoming Amazon drama from Sam Esmail ... Kevin Williamson's fairy-tale thriller Tell Me a Story lands a straight-to-series order from CBS All Access ... The team behind Limitless got a 13-episode order from CBS for an action-adventure series called Blood and Treasure ... USA is developing an untitled limited series about Ronald Reagan, produced by his daughter Patti Davis ...  Tom Hopper was among the five new cast members announced for Netflix's Umbrella Academy ... Netflix gives Mindhunter a second season ... Prominent superhero voice actors are teaming up to develop and sell an animated series titled The Gang's All Here.

    Bruce Evans replaces Vernon Sanders as head of current programming at NBC. Evans was most recently senior vp current and daytime programming, responsible for overseeing series including The Blacklist, Blindspot and Days of Our Lives


  • Inside Media

    Yesterday, during Business Insider's Ignition conference in Manhattan, a cadre of high-profile media figures gathered to discuss the issues facing the industry. Jeremy Barr emails with a report:

    CNN President Jeff Zucker made news when he called the allegations against Matt Lauer "incredibly sad" and "incredibly heart-breaking," and said: "I didn't know this Matt." And, despite being his one-time executive producer on the Today show and knowing him for 25 years, Zucker said once again that he was totally unaware of Lauer's alleged conduct: Full story.

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson was interviewed by BI's Nicholas Carlson, and was his normal, testy self, pushing back strongly against some less-than-strong questioning. Asked whether he and his colleague Sean Hannity are essentially playing characters on Fox News, Carlson said: "I'm totally the person you see on TV. I don't have the disc space for that level of artifice. ... Everything I say on TV, I sincerely believe." While he said the allegations against Matt Lauer — and other prominent TV personalities — are "awful," he also said, "It shouldn't surprise you that famous people who bask in public attention all day long behave poorly when the cameras are off."

    Washington Post editor Marty Baron and New York Times editor Dean Baquet, the top two newspaper editors in the land, discussed the torrent of sexual assault allegations chronicled by their and other newspapers. "I suspect that there will be many more of these cases," Baron said. Discussing the Times' coverage of Harvey Weinstein and other men like him, Baquet said: "The first thing they want to do is come in and talk off-the-record, which I refuse to do. I don’t think that subjects of investigative stories should be allowed to go off the record. Which frustrates them because they're powerful people ..."

    What else we're reading...

    — "How Spielberg's Post came to life at lightning speed." Richard Turner writes: "Late last year, an aspiring screenwriter named Liz Hannah finished a script that turned into The Post, which Steven Spielberg made at a pace more suited to a daily newspaper than a studio movie." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "Will Hollywood lawyer Martin Singer's pitbull tactics work in a post-Weinstein era?" Jeffrey Fleishman writes: "As accusations against Ratner, Harvey Weinstein and a seemingly ever-widening cast of others increase, Singer’s hard-edged style is colliding with a sudden cultural shift toward empowering women (and men) to speak out about abuse." [Los Angeles Times]

    — "As red carpet rolls out, spotlight stays on harassment." Brooks Barnes writes: "There are concerns that it will be primarily women who are expected to spend the next few months talking about sexual misconduct while men are given a pass by reporters. 'If white male creators get to talk about their craft and women are expected to discuss sexual harassment, that is not acceptable,' said Dee Rees, the director and co-writer of the screenplay for Mudbound, a drama about racism in rural Mississippi that some see as a best picture contender." [New York Times]

    — "Can Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales fix the news?" John Thornhill writes: "Traditional media is broken, the tech entrepreneur says. But will his new reader-funded service be any better?" [Financial Times]

    — "Vetting young talent with a Hollywood casting director." Rebecca Flint Marx writes: "Perhaps the biggest shift Harriet Greenspan has witnessed in almost two decades of casting is with the types of teens that are now in demand. 'Years ago, it was all beautiful and skinny,' she says. 'Today, we look for a real kid, a real person, somebody everybody can relate to, including Middle America.'" [California Sunday Magazine]

    — "Good Girl in revolt." Anna Silman writes: "Camp has built a career playing characters that seem — at least at first — like perfectly coiffed avatars of all-American femininity: the self-righteous church lady, the ice-queen trophy wife, the type-A a capella squad leader." [The Cut]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Geraldo Rivera, the lone Matt Lauer sympathizer." [Late Show

    + "Allison Williams reveals what white people ask her about Get Out." [Late Night]

    + "Kumail Nanjiani's dad sends him every article about The Big Sick." [Tonight Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Judd Apatow's unwavering love of comedy." [Larry Wilmore Black on the Air / The Ringer

    + "Who's there: Abbie Cornish & Lucas Hedges?" [Who? Weekly]

    + "The first awards of awards season are here." [Little Gold Men / Vanity Fair]

    Today's Birthdays: Zoë Kravitz, 29, Janelle Monáe, 32, Riz Ahmed, 35, Akiva Schaffer, 40, Emily Mortimer, 46, Sarah Silverman, 47, Joe Quesada, 56, Larry Charles, 61, Bette Midler, 72, Woody Allen, 82.