What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:30 AM 2/17/2018

by Ray Rahman

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Weekender: Marvel's Black Panther is living up to pre-release hype, launching even bigger than expected in the U.S. Plus: Weinstein Co. exec David Glasser gets fired "for cause," a look at shady L.A. real estate, a report from the Berlin film market, and unsolicited advice for the Oscar ceremony producers. — Ray Rahman

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  • Shady Lanes

    Illustration by Luke McGarry

    Your weekend read: How to spot a sketchy L.A. real estate broker. The city's red-hot market can be a magnet for dodgy agents (no, the other kind) looking to squeeze out every dollar, ethically or not. A THR investigation reveals dangerous levels of potential fraud, writes Peter Kiefer:

    It's a boom time for real estate brokers. For Los Angeles' top firms, the past 12 months have been a head-spinning time of record-breaking profits. In fact, pick nearly any well-known Hollywood-serving brokerage and you'll find the trappings of explosive growth, whether that's an expansion into new markets (The Agency taking on Malibu), a newly opened state-of-the-art headquarters (Hilton & Hyland's on Canon Drive) or a $1.8 billion evaluation (Compass).

    Adding to the backslapping cheer is the fact that less than a decade ago, many observers were predicting — some quite gleefully — that it was just a matter of time before disrupters like Redfin and Zillow would render brokers obsolete. Instead, the number of licensed real estate agents in California climbed by more than 13 thousand in the last three years.

    Of course, where there is opportunity, there is greed, and with greed comes fraud — or at least its potential. Full story.

    ^House arrest: Sonny and Cher's old home is at the center of an alleged Ponzi scheme. Kiefer writes:

    Two years. That’s all it took for luxury brokerage firm Mercer Vine to establish itself as a major player in L.A.’s cutthroat luxury real estate market. Eight-figure listings. Pedigreed listings like Marilyn Monroe’s former home in Brentwood.

    The 55-agent boutique brokerage even claimed it had breached the billion-dollar mark in sales volume in 2017. But after allegations emerged late last year that the firm’s financier was running a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, it took less than a month for the company to shut its doors. Read more. 

  • 'Black Panther' Power

    Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Box office: Black Panther is going to be even bigger than people predicted. How big? Pamela McClintock writes:

    The Disney/Marvel movie is making history at the U.S. box office, where it's pacing to take in $205 million or more over the long Presidents' Day weekend after earning a rare A+ CinemaScore from audiences.

    The tentpole's projected Friday haul is a mighty $70 million-plus, including $25.2 million in Thursday evening previews. Since it's so early in the game, Disney insiders are erring on the side of caution in projecting a $190 million-$205 million domestic weekend.

    Black Panther is set to score the top February opening of all time and possibly the best showing of any superhero pic ahead of fellow Marvel title The Avengers ($207.4 million), not accounting for inflation. Full story.

    + Letitia Wright becomes a Marvel breakout: The actress who plays T'Challa's scientist sister Shuri recognizes this is a special role: "I grew up seeing so many stereotypes on TV and I didn't want to play that as well." Read more.

    + How Ryan Coogler subverts the spy genre. The director doesn’t simply reclaim aspects of Bond in the name of black identity, he also reclaims the Bond girl in a way that becomes more familial. Read more.

    ^The big show: Unsolicited advice for Oscar producers. Gregg Kilday offers 7 tips to making a memorable show:

    1. Don't sweep last year's fiasco under the rug. The show should acknowledge right up front that Moonlight's moment of triumph was shortchanged. In fact, why not borrow the convention used by television's episodic dramas and begin with a quick video recap of last year's show as host Jimmy Kimmel intones, "Previously, on the Oscars …"

    2. Speaking of Pricewaterhouse, the firm will be back this year, albeit with new accountants and an extra layer of backstage double-checking. But ditch the obligatory introduction of the PwC team, one of the Oscars' hoariest traditions. It's always awkward and has led to some of the broadcast's worst bits — remember that 2016 joke that fell flat when the accountants were played by Asian kids? After last year, the accountants don't need any face time of their own. See the rest.

    + Oscar presenters! The first batch of names has been released, and it includes Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Mahershala Ali and more. See the list.

    + Feinberg Forecast: Where does the race stand now? Scott Feinberg checks in one week before voting begins. See the standings.

    ^Red Sparrow, reviewed. John DeFore writes: Striking a sometimes uneasy balance between trust-no-one espionage and sensationalism, Sparrow seems likely to attract a fairly large audience but leave few moviegoers fully satisfied. The takeaway: A pervy premise and top-flight cast yield a mixed-bag spy flick. Full review.

    Weinstein Co. chaos...

    TWC board ousts COO David Glasser "for cause": In a surprise development, the board of the Weinstein Company has voted to fire COO David Glasser, it was announced late Friday. "The Board of The Weinstein Company has unanimously voted to terminate David Glasser for cause," the board said in a terse statement, without offering further explanation. Glasser could not be immediately reached for comment.

    + Glasser's ouster comes just days after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a sweeping civil lawsuit against TWC, raising serious questions about a proposed bid to buy the company by a group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet that would have elevated Glasser to CEO of a renamed version of what remains of TWC with a female majority-led board. Read more.

  • When in Berlin

    Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    As the scene at the Berlin Film Fest kicks into high gear, Scott Roxborough emails a report from the city: 

    The European Film Market in Berlin kicked off in a buzzy and upbeat mood, with international buyers happy at (finally!) having a few high-profile new titles to bid over. Roland Emmerich flew in to pitch his $60 million period piece Maya Lord, which Voltage has selling; Lionsgate attracted attention with Mahershala Ali/Viggo Mortensen starrer Green Book and Bloom got people talking with the full-on cheese of action spoof Kung Fury, which boasts an impressive cast including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Fassbender.

    Sony Pictures Classics scored the first major domestic deal in Berlin, picking up Rupert Everett's directorial debut, The Happy Prince, for both North and Latin America just ahead of its Berlin bow on Saturday. The movie about Oscar Wilde's final days, which Everett also wrote and stars in, originally debuted at Sundance.

    + Robert Pattinson talks #MeToo: "If you feel you've been wronged and don't have the right to tell people and have been bullied into silence, it's one of the most awful things in the world," Pattinson told the Berlin Film Festival press ahead of his latest film, Damsel. "It's kind of amazing when any dam breaks and people feel they have the numbers and will be safe to say what has happened to them." Read more.

    Extra! Today's fest daily newspaper has arrived. For industry insiders, there's 44 pages of deals, news, exec interviews and reviews along with a screening guide and a first look at Stephen Dorf and Melissa George's new film Don't Go. Download here.

  • 'Big Little' Update

    Courtesy of HBO

    ^They're back: Some key cast members have confirmed their return to Big Little Lies, writes Lesley Goldberg:

    Season one stars Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz have officially signed new deals to return to the award-winning drama series. They will reprise their roles as Jane Chapman, Renata Klein and Bonnie Carlson, respectively.

    Given that season one was designed as a closed-ended limited run, the cast's contracts did not have options to do more episodes, and HBO is having to make new deals with the stars. Sources say the castmembers also scored sizable raises upon their return.

    Woodley, Dern and Kravitz join returning stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman in season two, which added Meryl Streep as a series regular to play Perry's (Alexander Skarsgard) mother, Mary Louise Wright. Casting is also underway for Bonnie's father, sources say, among other new roles for season two. Skarsgard is also expected to return in some capacity, despite Perry's fate in season one. Full story.

    ^Females are strong as hell: The #MeToo movement will have a presence in the upcoming fourth season of Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, reports Hilary Lewis:

    "Our characters are not fully aware exactly of what's going on in the world, for various reasons," co-showrunner Robert Carlock tells THR. "But [the #MeToo movement and wave of sexual misconduct claims are] very present, especially in the first half of the season as we've talked about it. Kimmy [will be] confronting some things in a workplace. It's the first time she's ever been in a workplace and that changes the rules."

    Continues Carlock, "That movement, whether we talk about it expressly or not, is very present in how Kimmy looks at the world and you talk about someone who represents the relief of that happening and [the sense that] hopefully it's not too late for other people." Read more.

    In other TV news...

    Charlyne Yi accuses Marilyn Manson of harassment: The former House actress made the accusation on Twitter after Manson had a reported meltdown during a concert in New York. Yi says that Manson visited the House cast as a fan while they were filming the final season and "harassed just about every woman asking us if we were going to scissor, rhino & called me a China man."

    Harry Connick Jr.'s syndicated talk show canceled: NBCUniversal Television Distribution has decided to end the daytime talker Harry after two seasons. The show will continue to tape new episodes and air through September.

    ► The Looming Tower cast brings 9/11 series to Washington, D.C. “I’m really proud to be a part of something that raises questions that need to be heard,” Peter Sarsgaard said at a screening at The Washington Post — although clearly not everyone in Washington wants those questions raised. The CIA flatly refused to cooperate with the show’s writers or even answer questions.

     

  • Going Robe

    Peter White/Getty Images

    ^Fashion Week: Will robe dressing catch on in the post-Weinstein era? Booth Moore writes:

    If there is a single item of clothing that has come to symbolize the sexual harassment scandals that sparked the #MeToo movement, it is the bathrobe.

    In recent months, several pundits have even gone so far as to suggest that men’s bathrobe-wearing days are over. ("Time to put your big-boy pants on!," writes Slate's Heather Schwedel.) But looking at the runways at New York Fashion Week, women’s bathrobe-wearing days are apparently not over.

    The robe is alive and well for fall 2018, rendered in sumptuous orchid silk and worn over a silky pajamas at Bottega Veneta’s gorgeous “Art of Living” show focused on the comforts of home, in fluid green silk over matching pants at Jason Wu, and in burgundy faux fur at Christian Siriano, where the designer opened his 10 year anniversary runway spectacular with not one but four scarlet-red robe coats. Read more.

    + London Fashion Week: Where's Meghan Markle? She's just one of the many subjects of chatter as Britain's fashion bonanza kicks off. Also on the agenda: feminist frills and wonder bras. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Apple's new spaceship campus has one flaw - and it hurts." All those geniuses are walking into glass walls. [Bloomberg]

    — "What a big LACMA exhibition has to say about L.A.'s ongoing search for civic identity." Christopher Hawthorne writes: "The debate about how Los Angeles might establish a coherent civic identity, and the extent to which that identity should copy or break from older cities like Chicago, New York or London, is one we've been engaged in for more than a century." [Los Angeles Times

    — "The transgressive appeal of the comedy murder podcast." Amanda Hess writes: "These comedy podcasts help listeners process the true crime genre itself. As much as these stories appeal to women, they also seem designed to keep them in a state of anxiety, to exaggerate the dangers they face, and even to call into question their freedom to move about the world." [New York Times]

    — "Why the zombie craze still has our undying attention." Neda Ulaby talks to a "preeminent zombie scholar" about the still-ongoing pop-culture trend. [NPR]

    — "An oral history of Bob Costas having pink eye at the Olympics." Kelly Conaboy talks to Costas, Meredith Vieira, Jim Bell and more about an iconic moment in sports history. [Vulture]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Tessa Thompson is what the future of sci-fi looks like." The actress talks to Larry Wilmore about her breakout sci-fi roles, the Time's Up movement and more. [Black on the Air / The Ringer]

    + "The case for Dunkirk to win best picture." An evaluation of Christopher Nolan's war film. [Little Gold Men / Vanity Fair]

    Today's Birthdays: Ed Sheeran, 27, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 37, Paris Hilton, 37, Jason Ritter, 38, Jerry O'Connell, 44, Billie Joe Armstrong, 46, Denise Richards, 47, Michael Bay, 53, Larry the Cable Guy, 55, Michael Jordan, 55, Lou Diamond Phillips, 56, Rene Russo, 66.