What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:26 AM 2/1/2018

by Ray Rahman

What's news: Who wants to buy Lionsgate? Plus: Time Warner delivers some good news, former CEO Dick Parsons reflects on the company's latest moves, BAFTA brings back black and Helen Mirren heads to the box office on Super Bowl weekend. — Ray Rahman

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  • Hunting Lionsgate

    Illustration by: Matt Collins

    As Disney and AT&T bulk up and potential suitors swirl, the mini-studio could prove irresistible for a giant like Verizon — or even the Murdochs. Etan Vlessing and Georg Szalai write:

    Deal chatter has grown louder in recent days after Lionsgate's vice chairman Michael Burns told CNBC he's "very interested" in consolidation. So is the company predator or prey in 2018?

    So far, Wall Street observers haven't quite made up their minds. Still, a large pool of potential suitors circle, led by Verizon, Amazon and Comcast, plus a likely combined version of CBS and Viacom and even the Murdochs' pared-down 21st Century Fox, looking to rebuild after the Disney deal. And according to sources, CEO Jon Feltheimer is looking longingly at the landscape. Read more.

    Why it's so attractive ...

    Film: As major studios focus on big-budget tentpoles, the post-Hunger Games Lionsgate has emerged with a slew of mid-budget hits like La La Land ($446 million worldwide on a $30 million budget), the Julia Roberts drama Wonder ($265M/$20M) and the John Wick movies ($260M/$60M).

    TV: The Kevin Beggs-led TV arm has seen scripted programming revenue skyrocket thanks to a strong production roster that includes Orange Is the New Black, Nashville and Dear White People.

    $$$: With a current market cap of about $7 billion, it would be a relatively small content play for a major. As Burns himself said on CNBC, "We're a pint-sized bite for some of these giant market cap companies … so we would talk to anybody at any time and see if a deal makes sense."

    Elsewhere in film ...

    Time Warner's big numbers: Jeff Bewkes says Warner Bros. had "its best year ever at the global box office," grossing more than $5 billion thanks to hits like Wonder Woman, It and Dunkirk. HBO did well too, delivering "its highest increase in domestic subscribers ever in 2017."

    + The numbers: Time Warner reported adjusted operating income of $1.92 billion for the period ended on Dec. 31 ($2.66 per share) compared with $1.76 billion in the year-ago period ($1.25 per share).

    + Warner Bros. quarterly earnings were down, while the Turner cable networks unit grew by 20 percent to $1 billion. HBO's adjusted operating income in the fourth quarter increased 12 percent to $483 million thanks to a 16 percent gain in subscription revenue.

    Box-office preview: Helen Mirren vs. Tom Brady. As the only new movie daring to open over the historically comatose Super Bowl weekend, Mirren's spooky Winchester is poised to take in $7 million-$9 million, enough to unseat Maze Runner for the top spot.

    + Fox Searchlight's Oscar play(s): Banking on Oscar bumps, the distributor is upping the theater count for best picture nominees Shape of Water (from 1,854 to 2,305+) and Three Billboards (1,457 to 1,700+).

     Solo: A Star Wars Story at the Super Bowl? The much-observed movie, which saw a director change last summer when Ron Howard replaced Phil Lord and Chris Miller, is expected to run its first preview during the game, which would help end a lot of the mystery surrounding the film's status.

    Call Me By Your Name tops Dorian Awards: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics named Call Me film of the year while doling out its top acting prizes to Timothee Chalamet and Sally Hawkins. Greta Gerwig won director, while Jordan Peele took home screenplay. See the full list.

    BAFTA blackout: Following Hollywood's lead, British stars are planning to wear black to the London awards show (Feb.18) in solidarity with the Time's Up movement. 

    WGA West's new sexual harassment policy: "Zero tolerance." However, the union also says it won't expel members based on accusations or even legal adjudications regarding sexual harassment, emphasizing: "A writer achieves or retains membership despite any personal criminal history” — a notable break from the Academy's stronger language. Full statement.

    Casting director found guilty in pay-to-play audition scam: Lindsay Chag was found guilty of a misdemeanor for violating California’s Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, making the first jury trial in the L.A. City Attorney office's sweeping crackdown.

    Tom Hardy's tattoo: "Leo knows all." Yes, that Leo — it's the result of a bet he lost to DiCaprio. Check it out.

    Fantastic Beasts director on handling Dumbledore's sexuality: “Not explicitly,” David Yates told EW when asked if the upcoming sequel makes it clear that Dumbledore is gay. “But I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other.”

    ^SXSW movie lineup: The John Krasinski-directed Emily Blunt-starring horror thriller A Quiet Place will open the fest with a world premiere. Also on the docket: Kay Cannon's Blockers (starring John Cena), Stanley Tucci's The Final Portrait (Geoffrey Rush) and Shana Feste's Boundaries (Christopher Plummer). Full lineup.

    Jim Parsons will be in the Ted Bundy movie: He joins the annoying-to-type Bundy film Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil, and Vile as Larry Simpson, the lead prosecutor in the 1979 trial that finally convicted Bundy (who will be played by Zac Efron). 

    Chris Pratt's Cowboy Ninja Viking finds a director: Michelle MacLaren, known for award-winning work on Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, will direct the action flick, slated for a June 2019 release. She beat out Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda) and Rick Famuyiwa (Dope) for the job.

    K.J. Apa cast in a rom-com: Riverdale's Archie actor will play the lead role in the high-school indie romantic comedy The Last Summer.

    A Mario movie is coming: Nintendo is working with Illumination Entertainment on a feature based on the famous plumber, with legendary creator Shigeru Miyamoto set to produce with Illumination head Chris Meledandri. Still no details on a title, release date or storyline, but Universal Pictures will handle distribution worldwide.

    + The last one: 1993's live-action Super Mario Bros., widely panned by critics and a huge box-office flop, reportedly scared Nintendo away from the movie adaptation business for years, so a lot could be riding on this new one.

    Sundance deal: The Orchard has acquired North American rights to Jeremiah Zagar's coming-of-age drama We the Animals.

    Netflix picks up Canadian zombie movie Les Affames. The movie, from writer/director Robert Aubert, earned best first feature prize at Toronto Film Festival. It'll debut on Netflix March 2 (though not until 2019 in Canada).

    ► #OscarsSoWhite meets #MeToo at Sundance: It started at a chance meeting at the coat check, where April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, ran into Tarana Burke, the civil rights activist who launched the #MeToo movement. Read more.

     

  • Pilot Season Trends

    Courtesy of Photofest

    What will the nation's DVRs look like in the near future? Lesley Goldberg writes:

    The return of multicamera comedies: With NBC’s Will and Grace revival connecting with viewers and ABC’s Roseanne still to come, multicam comedy orders already are nearing a seven-year high halfway through the broadcast pilot season: Fifteen of the 21 comedies ordered to pilot or series at press time are multicam, compared with just seven of last year’s 33 comedy pilots.

    #MeToo and Time's Up make an impact: ABC is remaking Get Christie Love, still one of the few dramas to feature a black female protagonist, as well as The Greatest American Hero, this time with an Indian-American woman at its center; The CW is making a “feminist” version of Charmed; while CBS is rebooting Cagney and Lacey. Female scribes are behind all of those and more, having written or co-written 26 of the 58 pilots ordered thus far this season. 

    Reboots! Good news for Murphy Brown fans: With originals poised to top 500 this year, the networks are again looking to proven intellectual property in a bid to cut through the increasingly cluttered scripted landscape. Read more.

    Elsewhere in TV ...

    McGowan talks to Colbert: Rose McGowan sat down for a Late Show interview last night, and when Harvey Weinstein came up, she told Stephen Colbert she was “the architect” behind his downfall. The interview in general is an ... interesting watch, filled with bleeps, cult talk and, at one point, McGowan telling Colbert, "Don't make your khaki-pants mind my problem." Watch.

    + Her memoir: Brave is out this week, and it's full of insights, ranging from her Dickensian childhood to being sexually assaulted during her first days in film. Key takeaways.

    Charlie Walk out at The Four: The judge on the Fox reality show has left after two new sexual misconduct allegations emerged. He's set to appear in tonight's already-taped episode but will be absent from next week's finale. 

    ► Stormy Daniels cancels on The View: Daniels, who brought big Tuesday-night ratings to Jimmy Kimmel Live!, has decided to skip today's scheduled appearance on The View after guest panelist S.E. Cupp criticized her on the show last week.

    DirecTV adds 161,000 subscribers: AT&T announced the unit's user gains in the most recent quarter, although total subscribers are still down 1 percent year-over-year. The DirecTV Now streaming service, meanwhile, added 368,000 streamers after passing the 1-million mark last month.

    YouTube scores soccer deal: The streamer signed a multiyear deal to become the official live TV partner of the MLS team Los Angeles Football Club, giving them exclusive rights to locally televised, English-language matches.

    The case of the missing Twitter followers: Per The New York Times, Clay Aiken, John Leguizamo, Lisa Rinna and other prominent figures have lost more than a million followers after the paper ran an expose on the practice of buying fake followers.

    ^HBO's Here and Now: This Is Us with sex? Tim Goodman sums it up: There's potential inside Alan Ball's new drama, starring Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins, but it needs to get past the hot-mess family presentation and decide what kind of show it wants to be. Full review.

    Katherine Heigl Suits up: With Patrick J. Adams and Meghan Markle on their way out, the USA show brings on Heigl as a series regular starting season eight. She'll play a new partner who challenges the status quo. 

    Grey's Anatomy enlists Candis Cayne for a major trans story: Cayne will play a transgender patient who comes to Grey Sloan for what is being described as a "groundbreaking" vaginoplasty surgery in a multiple-episode arc.

    NBC's Downton Abbey play: The network handed a 10-episode order to The Gilded Age, a period drama from Downton creator Julian Fellowes slated for a 2019 debut.

    + Prose from the official description: "The Gilded Age in 1880s New York City was a period of immense social upheaval, of huge fortunes made and lost, and of palaces that spanned the length of Fifth Avenue." But can the network match the prestige-y production values of Downton and The Crown?

    Fox's latest comedy pilot: The network has ordered a pilot for Dan the Weatherman, a comedy about a white man at a Spanish TV station, from Steve Dildarian (HBO's The Life and Times of Tim.)

    Kurt Sutter and Fox re-up: The Sons of Anarchy creator renewed his multiyear pact with 20th Century Fox Television/Fox 21/FX, keeping him around for Sons spinoff Mayans MC as well as additional projects.  

    + Carmichael Show showrunner Danielle Sanchez-Witzel also renewed her overall deal with Fox.

    Catherine O'Hara will be saluted at the Oscar Wilde Awards: She joins Mark Hamill, Paula Malcomson and Barry Keoghan as honorees at the 13th annual Oscar Wilde Awards, taking place March 1 at the Bad Robot offices. O'Hara earned praise for her introduction of Martin Short last year, so in a sense the favor is being returned.

    New York Times signs with Anonymous Content: The production company will represent the paper on potential TV and film projects.

  • Dick Parsons Reflects

    Lorenzo Pesce

    Parsons, who as CEO steadied Time Warner after its disastrous 2000 merger with AOL, sounds off to Stephen Galloway about his former company's bid to unite with AT&T and the belief among some peers that Trump is good for corporate America: 

    On AT&T-Time Warner: "I certainly get the theory of the case," he says. "It is to some extent an AOL Time Warner redo. [You have] AT&T, a major communication company, but basically a distribution company. What do they need? They need content. So the theory, I get completely." And the practice? "It can work, but it's not going to be as easy as the articulation of the concept.

    AT&T has a totally different compensation philosophy, and it's not easy to run a business where you have people who get paid enormous sums for what doesn't seem to be a whole lot of work [from the point of view of] people who climb [telephone] poles."

    On Trump: "I'm not a huge fan. He is, by almost any measure that you want to identify, ill-equipped to be the president of the United States. He doesn't know what he doesn't know. He's clueless in terms of things he is ignorant about and thinks he knows things he doesn't." Is he at least good for corporate America? "He's not good for any America." Full profile.

    + From Time Warner to Tuscany: Parsons lets us in on his 20-acre Italian vineyard, where he produces about 18,000 cases of wine a year. Read more.

    What else we're reading ...

    — "Justin Timberlake's glaring Time's Up hypocrisy." Ira Madison III writes: "This year’s Super Bowl halftime performer threw Janet Jackson under the bus and works with accused sexual predators like Woody Allen without anyone so much as batting an eye." [Daily Beast]

    —  "My Woody Allen problem." Film critic A.O. Scott reexamines his relationship with the director's work. [New York Times]

    — "My four days at sea with New Kids on the Block and 3,000 everlasting fans." Billy Baker takes the cruise so you don't have to." [Boston Globe]

    — "Facebook really wants you to come back." Sarah Frier writes: "The social network is getting aggressive with people who don’t log in often, working to keep up its engagement numbers." [Bloomberg]

    — "The problem with Annihilation's messy release." David Sims writes: "Paramount, the studio behind the upcoming sci-fi thriller, has taken the unusual step of selling its international rights to Netflix." [The Atlantic]

    What else we're seeing ...

    + "The actual State of Our Union." [Full Frontal]

    + "Katie Couric reveals what Amy Schumer left out of her anal prank text story." [Tonight Show]

    + "Jamie Dornan on his wee-bag and Dakota Johnson." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    What else we're hearing ...

    +  "What a classic '50s Western can teach us about the Hollywood blacklist." Author Glenn Frankel discusses High Noon. [Fresh Air / NPR]

    + "Why isn't Steven Soderbergh's Mosaic a bigger deal?" Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald talk about the HBO murder mystery. [The Watch / The Ringer]

    Today's birthdays: Harry Styles, 24, Heather Morris, 31, Ronda Rousey, 31, Lauren Conrad, 32, Abbi Jacobson, 34, Big Boi, 43, Michael C. Hall, 47, Lisa Marie Presley, 50, Pauly Shore, 50.