What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:22 AM 12/12/2017

by Ray Rahman

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Still 26 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

What's news: Will the Fox-Disney deal happen this week? Plus: Star Wars: The Last Jedi's huge box-office outlook, our critics' top films of the year, Golden Globes deep dives and little Billy Kimmel's TV debut. — Ray Rahman

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  • 'Star' Performance

    Box office preview: The only film daring to go up against Star Wars: The Last Jedi is Ferdinand, an animated title targeting young tots and their parents. Pamela McClintock guesses which one will win:

    Disney and Lucasfilms' Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins opening in select foreign markets mid-week before blasting off in North America and other major territories on Friday. That excludes China, where the tentpole doesn't roll out until Jan. 5.

    By all accounts, the film should gross $425 million-plus by Sunday to secure one of the five best worldwide openings of all time, not accounting for inflation. That includes a North American take in the $200 million range, the best opening of the year so far and a feat few movies have achieved. All of Hollywood is counting on The Last Jedi to narrow the year-over-gap in domestic revenue, which is currently running roughly four percent behind last year's record $11.4 billion.

    Meanwhile, tracking suggests Ferdinand will open in the mid-teens to $20 million range. Read more.

    In other news...

    ? Golden Globes analysis: "Don't expect the Academy to follow Hollywood Foreign Press' lead," writes THR's awards columnist Scott Feinberg. Surely, that's good news for the likes of Get Out and The Big Sick — not to mention all the female directors shut out of the Globes.

    + On the TV side, the comedy race was upended while the drama nominees were steady as they go, notes Michael O'Connell. Meanwhile, critic Daniel Fienberg parses the meaning of all it, including streaming's strong performance and Christian Slater's "inexplicable" nomination.  

    + The sexual harassment effect: From Kevin Spacey to Pixar to Louis C.K., the issue was unavoidable across multiple categories. Here's how the Globes handled it

    + Fox, for what it's worth, got more nominations than Disney

    + In tangential news: CAA announced that it would cancel its annual Golden Globes party to help establish a legal defense fund for sexual harassment cases. The agency was named in a Dec. 5 New York Times story about Harvey Weinstein's "complicity machine." 

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Some people are upset at Netflix for a tweet that seemed to mock at least some its customers. "To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?" the streaming service tweeted, leading many to wonder why the company was publicly shaming its viewers and who has access to its data. 

    ? AMC theaters is setting its sights on Saudi Arabia. The company announced it signed a "non-binding Memorandum of Understanding" to explore building theaters in the country hours after the Middle Eastern kingdom announced it will allow cinemas for the first time in 35 years.

    ^Top tens: THR's film critics pick the best movies and performances of 2017, including chief film critic Todd McCarthy on his favorite of the year, Downsizing: 

    Alexander Payne's film addresses one of the weightiest subjects there is, that of humanity's long-term viability on the planet, and does so as a humane comedy-drama without an ounce of pretension. A sort of Everyman tale like Hollywood used to make, this one zeroes in on Matt Damon's average Joe as he voluntarily joins the ranks of the miniaturized and embarks on an odyssey that is dramatic, picaresque, packed with unusual characters and quite impossible to predict. See the full best films list here | See the top performances here

    ? The 2017 Black List is here. The annual list of favorite unproduced screenplays based on an industry survey was unveiled Monday morning. The most mentioned film? The post-World War II film Ruin, followed by the Wendy Davis-inspired Let Her SpeakSee the full list.

    ? And Ryan Reynolds' Detective Pikachu release date is... May 10, 2019. Production is set to begin mid-January. 

    ? Creed sequel gets a new director: It's Steven Caple Jr., the indie director behind 2016's The Land. It was also confirmed that Tessa Thompson will be returning for the new Rocky installment. 

    ? Seth Rogen as Walter Cronkite? That's what moviegoers can expect thanks to David Gordon Green's upcoming film Newsflash, which recounts how television news stations raced to report the facts of the JFK assassination.

    ? Harry Potter gets a new video game: A new 1980s-set mobile game called Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery promises to turn users into Hogwarts students. The game, planned for a spring 2018 release, comes from the company behind Marvel Avengers Academy.

    Matt Kaplan departs Awesomeness Films, launches ACE Entertainment. Kaplan is leaving Awesomeness after two years helming its film division to establish his own production company, which will focus on making films, television series and digital content for youth audiences.


  • Billy Kimmel Live

    Last night, after taking a week off for his son’s surgery, Jimmy Kimmel returned to the air with little baby Billy in tow. And they had a message, writes Lauren Huff:

    Thanking his guest hosts who took over the show last week, a visibly emotional Kimmel joked, "Daddy cries on TV but Billy doesn’t. It’s unbelievable." He then thanked the doctors and nurses at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles who "treated Billy — and not just Billy, [but] many kids, with so much caring and compassion — children from every income level, whose health is especially threatened right now because of something you probably never heard of. It’s called CHIP."

    “This program is literally life and death for American kids, and has always had bipartisan support. But this year, Congress let the money for it expire while they work on getting tax cuts for their millionaire and billionaire donors," he said. 

    Kimmel, who said he's "had enough of this … If these were potato chips they were taking away from us, we would be marching on Washington with pitchforks and spears right now.” Read more.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Comcast clears the way: The cable giant exited from the Fox sweepstakes yesterday, a decision that leaves Disney alone in its pursuit of a deal estimated to be worth between $40 billion to $60 billion. 

    + Breaking: CNBC reports that Fox and Disney are on track for an announcement this Thursday

    ? CNN suspends Ryan Lizza. The news came after the star political journalist was fired from The New Yorker yesterday for what the magazine called "improper sexual conduct." Lizza characterized the publication's decision as "a terrible mistake."

    ? Steve Edwards, a longtime presence in Los Angeles TV as the host of Good Day LA, was fired from Fox affiliate KTTV after allegations of sexual harassment. 

    ? NFL Network handed out suspensions to several of its personalities accused of misconduct: Marshall Faulk, Heath Evans and Ike Taylor are all off the air pending an investigation. Also named in the complaint was former exec Eric Weinberger (currently at The Ringer) and former analyst Donovan McNabb, currently at ESPN. 

    ^Seeing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle through the lens of The Crown: Stars Vanessa Kirby and Matt Smith talk to THR about how Princess Margaret and Prince Philip would have felt about the royal engagement:

    “Can you imagine today if they were like, ‘Oh sorry Harry, you can't marry her because she's already been married to someone else whom she doesn't want to be with anymore,’" Kirby says. "It makes me more angry for [Princess] Margaret really, because she should have had a totally different life.” Read more.

    + Victoria, the royal TV drama starring Jenna Coleman as a young Queen Victoria, will return to PBS and ITV for a third season. 

    ? Kenya Barris and Alec Baldwin team for family comedy at ABC. The project is being developed as a possible starring vehicle for Baldwin, though the actor (who is also developing a talk show with the network) is said to be keeping his options open. Written by Barris and Grown-ish scribe Julie Bean, the show centers on an opinionated, aging TV star who has to move in with his liberal daughter, her girlfriend and their child.

    Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Awkwafina, more call for Asian-American leaders in Hollywood. “It’s amazing that a few of you white people are here as a minority for once!” joked Maggie Q while being honored at the Unforgettable Gala in Beverly Hills, celebrating Asian American trailblazers in the entertainment industry. Also in attendance: Grace Park, Leonardo Nam, Justin Chon, Ross Butler and Chloe Kim, among others. Full report.


  • Healing Hollywood

    Guest column: How embracing female sexuality can help heal Hollywood post-Weinstein. Author Wednesday Martin on why feminist writer Nancy Friday, who died Nov. 5, and her startling vision of women's "perverse" desires could positively impact a male-dominated industry:

    "What are you thinking about?" a man asked a woman as they had sex in the early '70s. The woman described a stranger taking her from behind at a football game. The man dressed, then stormed out as she tried to explain. "He's just imaginary! I love you!" The relationship ended. And Nancy Friday — travel journalist, Southerner and total pistol who stood nearly 6 feet tall in heels — found her life's work. Rejected for having a sexual imagination, she produced three books — My Secret Garden (1973), Forbidden Flowers (1975) and Women on Top (1991) — about female sexual fantasies.

    I first encountered My Secret Garden, which sold 2 million copies and made Friday famous, as an adolescent. Hidden high on a shelf in our den, it was a mind-blowing read, a collection of more than 400 responses to an ad Friday placed: "Female sexual fantasies wanted by serious female researcher. Anonymity guaranteed." Friday organized her first book's fantasies by theme: "Anonymity," "Rape," "The Thrill of the Forbidden," "Incest" and "The Zoo" (yep) were a few. It was an education. Read more.

    + Gabrielle Carteris on changing the culture: "It Begins With Collaboration.” The president of the SAG-AFTRA union writes that the entertainment industry needs to work together "on the stories we choose to tell and how we choose to tell them, recognizing the enormous impact we have on our society.” Full column.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Disney-Fox deal might cause high-level Fox execs to jump ship." Meg James writes: "Walt Disney Co.’s planned acquisition of much of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox media company — a deal that is expected to be completed as early as this week — could prompt a brain drain of high-level Fox executives in the coming months." [L.A. Times]

    — "Ashley Judd is just getting started." Adam Grant writes: "The woman who helped kick off a social revolution talks about finding the courage to speak up and why taking on the patriarchy is good for all of us." [Esquire]

    — "Anthony Bourdain's war on creeps." Amy Zimmerman writes: "The chef has, thanks to his partner Asia Argento, become one of the most outspoken famous guys when it comes to calling out bad celebrity men." [The Daily Beast]

    — "The Walking Dead stumbles into a serious surprise." Ben Lindbergh writes: "An unexpected midseason twist finds the series at a crossroads." [The Ringer]

    — "Defining the decade of pop." Craig Jenkins writes: "The sound of modern pop peaked this year — and now it needs to change." [Vulture]

    — "Cat Person in The New Yorker: A discussion with the author." Jonan Engel Bromwich interviews the writer behind the short story the internet is obsessing over. [The New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "3 ridiculous questions with George Clooney." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Matt Damon explains why Good Will Hunting has so much cursing." [Late Show]

    + "Star Wars characters sing 'MMMBop.'" [Tonight Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Godless creator Scott Frank says he wanted to embrace every single Western cliché." [Fresh Air / NPR]

    + "Margot Robbie in I, Tonya; a Disney-Fox deal?; Miami's art expo." [The Frame / KPCC]

    + "California's future in the age of wildfires." [On Point / WBUR]

    Today's Birthdays: Lucas Hedges, 21, Mayim Bialik, 42, Mädchen Amick, 47, Jennifer Connelly, 47, Regina Hall, 47, Sheila E., 60, Billy Nighy, 68, Bob Barker, 94.