What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:15 AM 2/12/2018

by Ray Rahman

Universal Pictures

What's news: The New York Attorney General's office is suing The Weinstein Co. Plus: Comcast takes another look at Fox, Get Out and Call Me by Your Name top the WGA Awards and Fifty Shades Freed wins big at the box office. — Ray Rahman

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  • Weinstein Co. Lawsuit

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    New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office has filed a lawsuit against The Weinstein Co., alleging the company violated numerous New York civil rights, human rights and business laws. Patrick Shanley and Pamela McClintock write:

    The suit is the result of an ongoing four-month investigation by the AG's office. The 38-page action was lodged Sunday against Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and TWC, and is based on numerous interviews with former TWC staffers.

    The suit paints a damning portrait in alleging that Harvey Weinstein ran roughshod over his employees as he pursued his sexual conquests. The AG's office alleges any enforcement by the human resources department at TWC was virtually nonexistent, and that Bob Weinstein, Harvey's brother, and the board were complicit.

    + In the suit: "A years-long gender-based hostile work environment, a pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment, and routine misuse of corporate resources for unlawful ends that extended from in or about 2005 through at least in or about October 2017...."  Details.

    + "Wing women": The suit claims that there was a group of female employees with the primary job of accompanying Weinstein to events where they were expected to facilitate his sexual conquests; a second group of predominantly female assistants were required to take various steps to facilitate his sexual activity, including maintaining space on his calendar; and a third group, while their primary job was film or TV production, were required to meet with Weinstein's prospective victims.

    + Harvey Weinstein's response: "While Mr. Weinstein's behavior was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality, and at the end of the inquiry it will be clear that Harvey Weinstein promoted more women to key executive positions than any other industry leader and there was zero discrimination at either Miramax or TWC."

    + TWC board response: "We are disappointed that the New York Attorney General felt it necessary to file today’s complaint. Many of the allegations relating to the board are inaccurate and the board looks forward to bringing the facts to light as part of its ongoing commitment to resolve this difficult situation in the most appropriate way."

    + Sale talks stalled: The sale of TWC to an investor group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, which was expected to wrap up Sunday, has been stalled in light of the lawsuit. According to sources, Schneiderman and his team have serious concerns about a proposed sale of TWC, including the fact that current COO David Glasser would be appointed CEO.

    + Schneiderman: "Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched." Full story.

    Elsewhere in film...

    WGA winners: Get Out won the top prize for original screenplay, while Call Me by Your Name took the adapted screenplay prize. The big winners in the TV categories were The Handmaid's Tale (drama series and new series), Big Little Lies (longform – adapted) and Veep (comedy series). See the full list.

    + The ceremony: Patton Oswalt brought out Congressman Adam Schiff; Kathy Griffin delivered a monologue that had some squirming and others cheering; and, yes, there were Trump jokes aplenty. Scene report.

    Box office: Fifty Shades Freed grossed $136.9 million worldwide, propelling the female-fueled franchise past the $1 billion mark in global box-office ticket sales to become one of the most profitable series in studio history. The movie easily won domestically with $38.8 million, the top opening of the year to date. Women made up roughly 75 percent of the North American audience.

    + The rest: Sony's Peter Rabbit came in No. 2 with an estimated $25 million, earning an A- CinemaScore from moviegoers. Meanwhile, The 15:17 to Paris took in a muted $12.6 million after getting derailed by critics; the movie boasts a 20 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, the worst of Eastwood's career.

    WME enlists law firm to investigate partner. William Morris Endeavor has hired an independent law firm to investigate workplace harassment claims against partner Philip Raskind. The agency hired the Fromholz Firm, an L.A.-based firm that specializes in employment issues, and an investigator has contacted multiple people this week to discuss Raskind's workplace behavior. According to sources, the investigation involves claims of sexual misconduct and fellow employees. Full story.

    + WME's statement: "We do not comment on individual HR matters, however we do treat all claims of misconduct seriously, and take action based on the findings of a thorough investigation.”

    + Among Raskind's clients: Logan filmmaker James Mangold and directors Kevin Smith and McG.

    SAG-AFTRA's new code of conduct: Billed as "a call to action" to the guild's 160,000 members, the updated code defines sexual harassment and other prohibited conduct in the workplace and sets forth employers’ legal obligations under both the union’s contracts and the law, including the need to provide ways in which members can safely report workplace harassment. 

    Dylan Farrow blasts New York Times columnist for questioning Woody Allen claims: "To presume I invented this story & convinced myself of it is no less insulting than calling me a liar," Farrow wrote in a tweet directed at the always-controversial Times columnist Bret Stephens, who recently published an op-ed titled "The Smearing of Woody Allen."

    Michael Haneke does not like the #MeToo movement: "This new puritanism colored by a hatred of men, arriving on the heels of the #MeToo movement, worries me," the director said, adding: “As artists, we’re starting to be fearful since we’re faced with this crusade against any form of eroticism.”

    Rose McGowan breaks silence on Jill Messick suicide: "For Jill: May your family find some measure of solace during this pain. That one man could cause so much damage is astounding, but tragically true. The bad man did this to us both," McGowan wrote on Instagram. "May you find peace on the astral plane. May you find serenity with the stars."

    Call Me by Your Name wins USC Scripter Awards: The best picture Oscar nominee took home the top prize on the film side, while The Handmaid's Tale won in the TV category.

    Guillermo del Toro will be the president of this year's Venice Film Festival competition jury: The Shape of Water director will preside over the competition at the event's 75th edition, which kicks off Aug. 29.

    About that Marlon Brando-Richard Pryor rumor... Despite the Quincy Jones-revealed tidbit being confirmed by Richard Pryor's widow, the son of Marlon Brando, Miko, says there's nothing to it, telling TMZ: "The Marlon Brando family has heard the recent comments by Quincy Jones and we are disappointed that anyone would make such a wrongful comment about either Marlon Brando or Richard Pryor."

    ^How Canada became a springboard for female directors. Multiple government initiatives are pushing for gender parity in the film business by 2020, writes Etan Vlessing:

    Well before the #MeToo and Time's Up movements — Telefilm Canada, the powerful, well-funded film financing arm of the Canadian government, unveiled an ambitious drive to achieve gender parity in the film sector by 2020. The goal was clear: The agency would choose which films to finance based on whether projects were directed by, or revolved around, women (among other criteria).

    The initiative already is having an effect: A 2017 Telefilm study shows a 27 percent increase in agency-backed projects directed by women since 2015. Read more.

    + Six Canadian directors to watch: Two former actresses and a pair of still-photographer brothers are among the up-and-comers from the Great White North. See the list.

    + How the movie Stockholm turned a Toronto suburb into the Swedish capital: The heist flick was shot mostly in Hamilton, Ontario, where the locations were so effective that Ethan Hawke was the only actor to travel to the real Stockholm to capture exterior shots.

    + Guillermo del Toro's love of Canada: "Ever since he did Pacific Rim, Guillermo has been here," says Shape of Water producer J. Miles Dale. "He lives here and his family lives here. He’s really embraced the community, and he really feels he’s found a filmmaking home in Toronto. I think he likes the Canadian sensibility." Read more.

    ► Producer roundtable: Watch the full, unfiltered conversation with Judd Apatow, Amy Pascal, Seth Rogen and more. Video.

  • Comcast Eyes Fox

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    Could Comcast make a run at certain Fox assets? Abid Rahman and Georg Szalai write:

    Comcast Corp. may look to revive its bid to acquire parts of 21st Century Fox despite the cable giant's bowing out of the process in December just before the Walt Disney Co. unveiled its $52.4 billion deal for various of the company's businesses, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

    Fox accepted the Disney deal, which included the 20th Century Fox movie and TV studio, all the international pay TV properties including its stake in Sky, as well as a number of other assets. Comcast's bid was reportedly higher at $60 billion, but Fox didn't fully engage in final talks due to worries over anti-trust issues. Read more.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Fox offers concessions to close the Sky News deal: In a bid to satisfy U.K. regulators, 21st Century Fox is proposing an independent editorial board for Sky News as part of what it calls "firewall" remedies that it argues should help seal its planned deal to take full control of European pay TV giant Sky. Fox also reiterated "a commitment to Sky-branded news services in the U.K. for at least five years with similar levels of investment."

    ► Winter Olympics ratings: Pyeongchang's first Saturday held up well versus 2014's Sochi ratings. While the tape-delayed Opening Ceremony on Friday night brought in 28.3 million viewers across platforms, the first night of primetime competition earned a 15.2 overnight rating; the final numbers should be on par with 2014's.

    + A gaffe already: NBC Sports apologized to the people of Korea for having made an "incorrect and insensitive" comment during the Opening Ceremony. The offense came from correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramo, who, as MSN reported, "said that 'every Korean' respected Japan for their recent achievements as a nation, insinuating that South Korea had forgotten about the 35 brutal years of Japanese rule that ended after World War II."

    + Leslie Jones is having the best time: See her best Twitter reactions to the Games so far.

    Omarosa is back in the Big Brother house: Manigault received medical attention and temporarily left the CBS reality series following an asthma attack, her castmates said on the show's live feed. However, she's now back in the saddle.

    Stranger Things season 3: Only eight episodes? According to TVLine, that's all fans will get from the Netflix show's next installment. Production is slated to begin mid-April.

    ^Pilot season 2018: Meet the overachievers. These people are going to be extremely busy for the next couple months, writes Lesley Goldberg:

    Greg Berlanti (four shows): Warner Bros. Television-based Berlanti already holds the record for the most scripted series currently in production at the same time (11) and could add to that with ABC multicam Most Likely To, CBS dramas God Friended Me and The CW's Spencer, the latter of which is being produced by his husband, Robbie Rogers. For the sake of comparison, Berlanti had the same number of pilots picked up last season (with The CW's Black Lightning and ABC's Deception moving forward).

    Liz Meriwether (three): After wrapping production on the final season of Fox's New Girl, 20th TV-based Meriwether is hard at work readying her next project. She co-created (with New Girl's J.J. Philbin) ABC single-camera comedy Single Parents, which she'll executive produce, and Fox's Lake Bell off-cycle vehicle Bless This Mess, which she'll write. On top of that, she's exec producing Fox's Erin Foster starrer Daddy Issues. See the full list.

    Homeland in Trump's Washington: Series showrunner and co-creator Alex Gansa opens up about his 2017 field trip to a very different D.C. and how he came to make the drama's fictional president its primary foe. Says Gansa: "From the very get-go, we created a president who was at odds with the international security establishment."

     That Star Trek: Discovery finale twist: What does it mean? Showrunners Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts break down Sunday's big season ender: "As we were charting out this season and what we wanted to do next season, we thought, 'Let's tell this story now.'"

    ► Rep Sheet Roundup: Vincent Cirrincione has shuttered his eponymous management company after allegations of sexual harassment.… Marc Maron has signed with 42West.… Politico has signed with ICM Partners, as has Joachim Trier’s screenwriter Eskil Vogt.… “Havana” rapper Young Thug has signed with UTA, as has political commentator Symone Sanders. More here.

  • Cinema World


    Why are international companies buying U.S. cinema chains? Amid soft box office and declining stocks, overseas exhibitors are seizing the opportunity to get a piece of the U.S. theatrical market, writes Georg Szalai:

    What's been driving the foreign acquisition wave? Experts cite the combination of Hollywood's glamour and the chance to develop a foothold in the largest film market for attractive prices. After all, the fact that U.S. exhibition stocks took a hit last year amid a softer box office made deals more affordable for buyers. One banker said that it also applies to privately held companies as their businesses and valuations are seen as affected by the same trends as their publicly listed peers.

    "I think internationals are looking to buy now because valuations are lower than we have seen in a couple years," MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler says. "Timing is right, plus the U.S., while mature, is still the largest market in the world." Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Inside the two years that shook Facebook — and the world." Nicholas Thompson's and Fred Vogelstein's massive feature: "How a confused, defensive social media giant steered itself into a disaster, and how Mark Zuckerberg is trying to fix it all." [Wired]

    — "Clint Eastwood's new film could free the ISIS villain." Erin Zaleski writes: "By replaying the attack on a high-speed train to Paris in 2015 with the real protagonists, Eastwood may compromise the investigation and prosecution of a would-be mass murderer." [Daily Beast]

    — "Mirai Nagasu becomes first American woman to land triple axel in Olympics." Amazing stuff! [Washington Post]

    — "At this film institute, the course material is killer." Erik Pipenburg writes: "The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in Brooklyn is examining the new golden age of horror, as films like Get Out strike the raw nerves exposed by Black Lives Matter and #MeToo." [New York Times]

    — "Are you there, God? It's me, The Good Place." Laura Turner writes: "It's a rare show — a cultural phenomenon that gets us talking about the afterlife." [The Outline]

    — "Podcasting is the new soft diplomacy." Bryan Curtis writes: "How American values find their way around the globe and into international ears." [The Ringer]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Planet Monet." The relationship between art, money and storage. [Planet Money/NPR]

    + "Hockey in North Korea, Skiing in Vermont, Curling in Tampa." The program takes a timely look at winter sports. [Only a Game / WBUR]

    What's ahead this week...

    Tuesday: Annihilation holds its premiere in L.A.... Black Panther holds a screening in New York. 

    Wednesday: The Bachelor Winter Games premieres on ABC.

    Friday: Black Panther hits theaters nationwide.... Everything Sucks! debuts on Netflix.... The Humanitas Prize event takes place in L.A. 

    Today's Birthdays: Gucci Mane, 38, Christina Ricci, 38, Darren Aronofsky, 49, Josh Brolin, 50, John Michael Higgins, 55, Arsenio Hall, 62.