What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:12 AM 2/26/2018

by Ray Rahman

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times/Polaris

What's news: The Weinstein Co. is making a decision. Plus: Netflix eyes India for its "next 100 million" subscribers, John Oliver and HBO beat Big Coal in court, Tim Goodman asks if critics are making it harder for TV writers and a look back at the biggest mix-up in Oscars history. — Ray Rahman

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  • Weinstein Bankruptcy

    From left to right: Paul Morigi/WireImage, Neilson Barnard, Duffy-Marie Arnoult, all Getty Images

    TWC dropped a bombshell Sunday night, write Pamela McClintock and Gregg Kilday:

    No choice: The Weinstein Co. appears headed for bankruptcy four months after Harvey Weinstein was brought down by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and assault. The board of TWC said it has no choice but to pursue bankruptcy in a sharply worded letter rebuking potential buyers Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle, who were part of a group of investors looking to redeem the film and production company.

    The letter: "While we deeply regret that your actions have led to this unfortunate outcome for our employees, our creditors and any victims, we will now pursue the Board’s only viable option to maximize the Company’s remaining value: an orderly bankruptcy process. We must conclude that your plan to buy this company was illusory and would only leave this Company hobbling toward its demise to the detriment of all constituents."

    Last gasp: One source close to sale talks says New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's lawsuit delayed matters to the point where TWC was running out of money. "In the end, it was nearly impossible to get a deal done," says another insider. Full story.

    Kevin Smith heart attack...

    "After the first show this evening, I had a massive heart attack," the director tweeted early this morning along with a hospital selfie. "The Doctor who saved my life told me I had 100% blockage of my LAD artery (aka 'the Widow-Maker'). If I hadn’t canceled show 2 to go to the hospital, I would’ve died tonight. But for now, I’m still above ground!"

    Black Panther can't stop, won't stop making money...

    Another box office record: Ryan Coogler's superhero pic continued to defy all expectations in its sophomore outing, grossing an estimated $108 million from 4,020 theaters to score the top second weekend of all time behind 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

    The title reached the $400 million mark domestically in only 10 days after dropping a narrow 47 percent in its second weekend. That's one of the smallest declines ever for a superhero title.

    Lifting all boats: Thanks to Black Panther, domestic revenue year-to-date is now up a dazzling 12.5 percent over the same period in 2017 after running behind by more than 1 percent two weeks ago, according to comScore.

    Disney's POV: "The movie continues to play ahead of our modeling," says Disney's film distribution head Dave Hollis. "It has become a cultural phenomenon. This is a movie audiences were hoping for, and that delivered beyond expectations." Full story.

    Everyone else: Among a trio of new films, New Line's R-rated comedy Game Night fared the best this weekend. The movie took home a solid $16.6 million, while Alex Garland's sci-fi pic Annihilation opened to a muted $11 million. YA film adaptation Every Day notched a $3.1 million.

    Ava DuVernay talks Hollywood diversity...

    Broken system: "We sit on top of a broken system," the Wrinkle in Time director said at an intimate, mostly female gathering Friday. "I’m an anomaly. Ryan Coogler is an anomaly, Barry Jenkins is an anomaly, Dee Rees is an anomaly. When you can name us all on two hands, that’s not change."

    Berlin Festival winners...

    Golden Bear: Touch Me Not, a provocative film about sexuality and intimacy that features long stretches of graphic nudity, won the the top Golden Bear prize for best film. 

    Wes Anderson: The Isle of Dogs helmer was named best director. Bill Murray accepted the prize on behalf of the filmmaker, saying, "I never thought I'd go to work as a dog and come home with a bear" before paraphrasing John F. Kennedy: "Ich bin ein Berliner Dog." Full winners list.

    Netflix's win: The streamer scored all English-speaking rights to Alexey German Jr.'s Silver Bear-winning Dovlatov, an intimate look at a week in the life of Russian novelist Sergei Dovlatov.

    Cinema Audio Society Awards...

    Dunkirk wins the battle: Christopher Nolan's WWII epic won the top prize at the sound mixing awards ceremony Saturday night in L.A.

    But what about the war? In only five of the last 10 years has a team collected this CAS honor on its way to winning an Oscar in sound mixing. (Last year was one of the occasions that they didn't match, with La La Land winning the CAS Award and Hacksaw Ridge collecting the Oscar.)

    The other winners: Coco in the animated feature category; Jane in the documentary; and Game of Thrones, Black Mirror and Silicon Valley in the TV categories.

    Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards...

    Churchill wins: Darkest Hour topped the feature competition with two trophies — for best special makeup effects and best period and/or character makeup. Pitch Perfect 3, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and I,Tonya also won one award apiece.

    Elsewhere in film...

    FilmStruck adds Warner Bros. library movies: The subscription streaming service operated by Time Warner’s Turner unit is adding to its library of art house, indie and foreign films, by partnering with Warner Bros. Digital Networks to present classic Hollywood titles from the Warner Bros. film library.

    + Some of the titles U.S. subscribers can now stream include: Casablanca, Rebel Without a Cause, Singin’ in the Rain, Citizen Kane, The Music Man, An American in Paris and more.

    Was Mute a missed opportunity for Netflix? Josh Spiegel thinks so: "Whatever originality that exists in Mute, the film as a whole feels like the product of a studio that greenlights movies without being too invested in what those movies end up looking like." Read more.

    ► The Race: Watch our full, uncensored cinematographer roundtable with Roger Deakins, Rachel Morrison and more. Video.

  • Netflix's 'Next 100 Million'

    Getty Images

    Reed Hastings knows where they are...

    India: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during a visit to the country that the streaming video giant’s next 100 million subscribers will be "coming from India" given the fast growth of Internet connectivity and usage. He sees the country’s "phenomenal" Internet growth driving future expansion as estimates say that the streaming video giant currently has just over half a million subscribers in India.

    Netflix's first Arabic original series: The streamer unveiled Jinn, a six-part supernatural contemporary teen drama that'll be shot in Jordan and feature Middle Eastern talent.

    In other streaming news...

    Hulu's Looming Tower win: Per the New York Times: When the Looming Tower team walked into Hulu for a meeting, "their expectations were not high. 'It was a meeting we considered discretionary,' said Lawrence Wright. Hulu execs surprised them by offering them the works. A straight-to-series order, with no lengthy development process? Done. A promise not to buckle under pressure from the federal agencies who may not like how the series would portray them? Done. The biggest dollar commitment? Done."

    Jeff Daniels: “The money feels the same. The production value feels the same,” the show's star said of Hulu. “You got all the trucks that a big movie does. Somebody’s spending money on this. We’re filming in, what, four or five countries? That’s not cheap.”

    John Oliver versus Big Coal...

    And the winner is: John Oliver. He and HBO emerged victorious from a legal fight with the subject of one of the host's Last Week Tonight segments.

    Backstory: Robert Murray, Murray Energy and other associated coal companies had sued both the cable network and Oliver last June, arguing the host created a "villainous" portrait of the coal baron. Ultimately, the court found that Oliver was within his First Amendment rights to criticize a coal baron and his company and dismissed the defamation suit.

    Omarosa out...

    Bye: After nearly 30 days of fighting, silly costumes and competitions, asthma attacks and a hospital stint, the former political aide and notorious reality TV villain's time on Celebrity Big Brother came to an end during the show's season finale. And her exit was almost as dramatic as her firing from the White House.... Read more.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Amazon re-ups on Lore: The streamer has renewed the unscripted anthology series based on the popular true horror podcast. There'll also be a new showrunner this time: Sean Crouch (The Exorcist).

    AMC networks is acquiring RLJ Entertainment: AMC on Monday said it will acquire 100 percent of the Robert Johnson company behind Acorn TV and the Urban Movie Channel and will take it private.

    ► Rep Sheet Roundup: Scandal’s Bellamy Young, who will star in the ABC drama pilot False Profits, has signed with UTA.… Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz has signed with ICM Partners.… Jane the Virgin’s Jaime Camil has signed with Zero Gravity Management.… Superstar DJ Tiesto has signed with PR firm Rogers & Cowan, as have Iggy Azalea and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child star Jamie Parker. More here.

    Let's talk Walking Dead...

    Chandler Riggs talks: "It was bittersweet in a way because I really loved my time on the show and it was really unfortunate to go," Riggs said of filming his final episode. "But I'm also excited to go do other things. I made the decision to move to L.A. and do more of my own thing, like movies and things like that.... It was unfortunate that I had to leave but I was still excited for what comes next." Full Q&A.

    Andrew Lincoln on Rick's future, Lauren Cohan: "It doesn't look good," he said of that final flash-forward scene. As for the prospect of co-star Cohan leaving the show, Lincoln said: "My goodness. That makes me terribly sad but at same time I'm absolutely thrilled because she's a friend and a good actress. But I don't know what that looks like." Read more.

    Showrunner: Is outgoing Walking Dead showunner Scott Gimple going to kill Rick this season? "I don't want to say either way, but we will be finding out definitively what that is toward the back half of the season." Full Q&A.

    + Exec producer Robert Kirkman weighs in as well. "I've said from the very beginning that no one is safe," he says. "I do strongly feel like the show could survive without a Rick Grimes.

    This Is Us preview...

    Better times: Co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker promises a happier end to season two and new flash-forward scenes, acknowledging that the past two episodes were "perhaps the two saddest episodes we've ever done on this show, so it was very important to us to return with something a bit lighter and a bit more celebratory."

    Sin City: For the next episode (airing tomorrow), "We're going to Vegas," he says. So things definitely get a little crazy.... Overall, the episode has a fun-ness to it and it has a lightheartedness to it that we have not had in our last two as we said goodbye to Jack."

    Back to the future: "It's not a one-time thing. We didn't just do that to be splashy during the Super Bowl episode.... Now that we've visited that time, nothing's off the table and we will certainly be returning there in the future." Read more.

    Critic's notebook...

    Tim Goodman asks: Do critics make it hard to produce great TV? Is nitpicking over issues of dramatic credibility and plausibility part of the TV critic's job, or does it stifle writers' creativity? Read more.

  • Envelopegate Oral History

    Al Seib / Los Angeles Times/Polaris

    Twenty-nine key players open up (many for the first time) about the onstage chaos, backstage bickering and who's really to blame for the 2 minutes and 23 seconds that La La Land beat Moonlight...

    Justin Hurwitz: "A stage manager came up onstage and grabbed the envelope out of my hand — I was holding the envelope for the score award [one of two Oscars he won that night]. When he took it I said, 'That's my envelope.' And he said, 'I need all the envelopes!'"

    Jordan Horowitz: "That person was going around saying, 'Where's the envelope? Where's the envelope?!' And I said, 'I have the envelope.' This was while Marc was speaking. He came over to me, opened the envelope and it said Emma's name on it. I knew Emma had her envelope because I'd seen it. I remember thinking that someone had somehow, like, stopped time."

    John Legend: "Then people start whispering, 'Moonlight won.' For some reason, I thought they were saying it was a tie between Moonlight and La La Land and we were sharing the award." Read the full oral history.

    Best picture strengths and weaknesses...

    Call Me by Your Name, Strengths: A lush, idyllic summer romance, it's a feast for the senses — you can practically taste the cheese, the pasta and the wine, to say nothing of that peach. It boasts the excitement of a rising young star in Timothee Chalamet. Weaknesses: Director Luca Guadagnino and supporting actors Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg all were left off the nominations list. Its most passionate fans fear the heartbreak of another Brokeback Mountain-like loss.

    Phantom Thread, Strengths: Given that it was the last major awards contender to be unveiled this season, and that Daniel Day-Lewis — who insists that he plans to retire from acting — is famously reticent, this mysteriously introverted melodrama has to be considered a true word-of-mouth phenomenon. Weaknesses: It's far from a traditional boy-meets-girl love story, even if it's all dressed up to the nines. And it has had limited box-office appeal, grossing less than $20 million domestically, one of the lowest totals for any of the nominated films. See the full breakdown.

    Auteurs are back...

    Todd McCarthy: The Oscars are finally rewarding auteurs in the best director category. "There is not a hired hand in the bunch," writes THR's chief film critic, as he reflects on the five nominees who all, for the first time in history, also wrote or co-wrote their films. "I can't think of an Oscar year in which the five directorial nominees were as representative of the notion of the cinema d'auteur." Read more.

    Oscars party guide...

    Vanity Fair, Barneys New York and Sony Pictures Classics celebrate Call Me by Your Name Chateau Marmont, Wednesday: a private cocktail party for cast, filmmakers and friends of the film.

    Netflix Private residence, Thursday: Ted Sarandos and wife Nicole Avant open their Hancock Park home for a private, invite-only affair to celebrate the streamer's nominations including nods for Mudbound, Strong Island, On Body and Soul and Heroin(e).

    A24 Sunset Tower, Thursday: The indie distributor hosts a private, invite-only celebration for its breakout nominees Lady Bird, Disaster Artist and The Florida Project heading into an awards weekend that also includes the Spirit Awards. See the full party guide.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Oscars production team looks back at last year's snafu and ahead to this year's show." Josh Rottenberg writes: "While it's safe to predict that returning host Jimmy Kimmel will make a joke or two about it, the hope is that the audience can shift its focus back to the movies." [L.A.Times]

    — "Monica Lewinsky: Emerging from 'the house of gaslight' in the age of #MeToo." Lewinsky pens an essay on the 20th anniversary of the Ken Starr investigation. [Vanity Fair]

    —  "Donald Glover can't save you." Tad Friend's profile begins: "Donald Glover sat behind the wheel of the Nissan Sentra, his door ajar, and lit a joint." [New Yorker]

    — "Inside McDonald's new Serial-style podcast telling its side of the Szechuan sauce story." Kristina Monllos writes dives into the restaurant's rocky history with Rick and Morty fans. [Adweek]

    — "WWE is laying the smackdown on the world." Felix Gillette and Kim Bhasin write: "World Wrestling Entertainment is setting revenue records with a prescient network strategy and a new generation of female and international stars." [Bloomberg]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Annihilation and why smart sci-fi can be hard to sell." The gang breaks down the Natalie Portman-starring genre film. [Mothership/USA Today]

    + "In defense of soundtracks. And Fergie." Black Panther, The Greatest Showman and America's favorite anthem singer. [Popcast/NYT]

    What's happening this week...

    Monday: Good Girls debuts on NBC.... The Voice season 14 premieres on NBC.... Living Biblically debuts on CBS.... McMafia debuts on AMC.... iZombie season four premieres on The CW.... UnReal season three premieres on Lifetime.

    Tuesday: Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. debuts on USA.

    Wednesday: The Looming Tower debuts on Hulu.... Survivor season 36 premieres on CBS.

    Thursday: Atlanta season two premieres on FX.

    Friday: Red Sparrow and Death Wish hit theaters nationwide.... Flint Town debuts on Netflix.

    Today's Birthdays: Teresa Palmer, 32, James Wan, 41, Drew Goddard, 43, Erykah Badu, 47, Michael Bolton, 65.