What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:33 AM 2/27/2018

by Ray Rahman

Illustration by Bartosz Kosowski

What's news: Is the Weinstein sale dead? Plus: Comcast makes a bid for Sky News, CNN responds to its town hall critics and a look at what the Disney deal means for Fox's upcoming superhero movies. — Ray Rahman

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  • Weinstein Sale Still Not Dead?

    Getty Images

    TWC update from Pamela McClintock...

    Maria Contreras-Sweet: "Regrettably, it appears that this transaction has now ended," the lead investor in talks to buy The Weinstein Co. said in a statement issued Monday afternoon, not long after the company said it would begin bankruptcy proceedings.

    Not dead yet? It's still unclear whether Contreras-Sweet is walking away from the sale for good. "Maybe. Maybe not. It's not clear at this time," says one insider familiar with the proceedings.

    Eric Schneiderman: The New York Attorney General's office said it was disappointed to learn the sale was in jeopardy, saying in a statement: "Over the past two weeks, we had very productive discussions with both parties about accomplishing the Attorney General’s goals of compensating victims, protecting employees, and rooting out those who enabled years of sexual abuse at the Weinstein Company." Full story.

    What about the victims? The L.A. Times writes: "Some victims' rights advocates worried about whether Weinstein's accusers will be left in the lurch.... Bankruptcy would also halt numerous lawsuits against the company from women who accused the studio of negligence or facilitating Weinstein's abuses."

    Black Panther talk...

    When will African-American films no longer be considered unicorns? Marc Bernardin writes: The idea of filmmakers of a specific ethnicity getting to tell their tales isn't entirely revolutionary: Try to imagine The Godfather or Goodfellas from directors without the intimate knowledge of Italian family dynamics that Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese brought to bear. Or Schindler's List in the hands of a filmmaker who didn't feel the tonnage of history the way Steven Spielberg did. Read more.

    Wakanda World? Disney CEO Bob Iger said during an investor conference yesterday that there's a one-hour line to meet Black Panther walk-around character at Disneyland. When asked about an official ride, Iger said: "No. We haven't had a chance to build a ride. Though I'm sure there are people who are working on it." 

    Speaking of Disney...

    Will Disney disrupt Fox's X-Men plans? Execs say they're "going 100 miles per hour" on a slew of spinoff projects with Silver Surfer and Doctor Doom, but privately, many fret over whether their films will be affected by merger plans with a squeaky-clean company.

    Still on the way: Channing Tatum's long-in-development Gambit is still looking for a director. And the horror-themed New Mutants will undergo a round of additional photography this summer that will insert a new character into the thriller, which is dated for Feb. 22, 2019. X-Force, a Deadpool spinoff from Drew Goddard, is set to begin shooting in October, with Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin expected to star.

    Fox's view: Phrases like "it's business as usual" reverberate in conversations with agents and execs. "We actually have way more in development and production in Marvel IP than at any point in the history of the studio," says one Fox insider. "There's been zero slowdown on that front given Disney. Full story.

    Avid scandal...

    Fired: Avid, the maker of popular film editing and sound postproduction tools widely used in Hollywood, has terminated its CEO, Louis Hernandez Jr., citing "violations of company policies related to workplace conduct." President Jeff Rosica has been named as his replacement. 

    Portugal wants your movies...

    Rebate program: In an effort to attract film and television production, Portugal is introducing a new incentive program, offering substantial rebates of 25 percent of the cost of production up to $5 million per project. Says the country's tourism secretary of state: “Portugal has been a little bit sleeping in the past years in terms of the film industry. So we decided that we wanted to have the best incentive in Europe...."

    Gina Rodriguez alert...

    Heading to Netflix: The Jane the Virgin and Annihilation actress has signed on to star in and produce Someone Great, a romantic comedy that Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (creator of MTV's Sweet/Vicious) is directing for Netflix. The movie is described as being about loss, growing up and above all the everlasting bond of female friendships.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Gemma Chan joins Captain Marvel: Perhaps best known for starring in AMC's Humans (though soon it'll be Crazy Rich Asians), Chan will appear alongside Brie Larson in the upcoming Marvel film. She'll play Captain Minnerva, a geneticist from the alien race Kree — and one of Marvel's antagonists in the comics.

    The live-action Dora the Explorer movie gets a release date: It'll hit theaters nationwide Aug. 2, 2019.

    Queen Latifah's next gig: She'll star in Hope's Wish, an inspirational true-life drama from Alcon Entertainment. The movie will be directed by Laurie Collyer, who helmed the Maggie Gyllenhaal drama Sherrybaby.

    There's going to be a Coco Day: L.A. City Councilmember Gil Cedillo has declared Feb. 27 as "Coco Day in L.A." in order to celebrate the animated film at City Hall. (The movie's Blu-ray/DVD release is the same day.) The film’s producer Darla K. Anderson, director Lee Unkrich and actor Anthony Gonzalez will be in attendance at the ceremony, and a band will perform songs from the film.

    Congresswoman Stacey Dash? Maybe: The Clueless star (and former Fox News contributor) is running as a Republican in California's 44th Congressional district. 

  • Comcast Reaches for Sky

    Getty Images

    Well, this just got interesting...

    Outbid: Cable giant and NBCUniversal owner Comcast has outlined an unsolicited $31 billion (22 billion pounds) takeover bid proposal for European pay TV giant Sky, offering more than Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox. NBCUniversal's parent company unveiled the "possible" all-cash offer of 12.50 pounds per share ($17.48) to Sky's shareholders early Tuesday London time. That marks a 16 percent premium to Fox's existing bid of 10.75 pounds per share.

    Comcast chairman: "Comcast intends to use Sky as a platform for growth in Europe," said CEO Brian Roberts. "We already have a strong presence in London through our NBCUniversal international operations, and we intend to maintain Sky’s U.K. headquarters."

    What people are saying: "The good is that Comcast would get additional distribution for NBCU content in Europe and some European content to distribute in the U.S.," says one analyst. Says another: "It absolutely shows the ambition for international expansion." Read more.

    Discovery-Scripps update...

    Good news: Discovery Communications on Tuesday reported better than expected fourth-quarter earnings and said it has received clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice to acquire Scripps Networks Interactive. 

    David Zaslav: "We are pleased to have passed this significant regulatory milestone on our path to acquire Scripps Networks Interactive," the Discovery CEO said. "We look forward to combining these two great companies to the benefit of our enthusiast audiences around the world."

    What's left: The closing of the proposed transaction remains subject to the completion of a review in Ireland and other closing conditions. Discovery said Tuesday it expects to close it by the end of the first quarter.

    Olympic ratings update from Michael O'Connell:

    Pretty good: Averages from Nielsen Media and NBC have the primetime audience averaging 19.8 million over two-plus weeks of coverage. That number, a combination of live NBC telecasts on both coasts, delayed NBC coverage in Pacific and Mountain time zones, NBC Sports Network coverage and streaming, is only off 1.5 million viewers from the comparable Sochi stat.

    It's still the lowest ever...but that was always going to be the case. The first of three Olympics set in Asia had to fight time zone delays, spoilers and people's general lower interest in the Winter Games. So the fact that NBC's primetime coverage only shed 8 percent of the audience from Sochi is actually quite a feat. Full story.

    CNN responds to town hall critics...

    "They'll get over it": CNN's top exec and star anchor talk to Jeremy Barr about the ambitious town hall event as the high-rated forum for Florida shooting survivors becomes a flashpoint for the new era of media wars. "However offended anybody was at the passion in the town hall, and however upset they were at mean words that were said to Sen. Rubio or Dana Loesch, they'll get over it," says Jake Tapper. "And the people in that stadium, they won't."

    "Left-wing advocates"? That's how prominent conservative Matt Schlapp characterized CNN's position on the gun debate. Jeff Zucker begs to differ: "That criticism is silly. The fact is we were there, we presented both sides. People who want to criticize are looking to just criticize before they even think about it." Full story.

    Jeffrey Tambor's assistant talks...

    "I stand by my truth": Van Barnes, the personal assistant whose claims of sexual harassment and abusive behavior against her former boss, is breaking her silence: "For Mr. Tambor to now characterize this investigation as 'biased' and 'politicized' is an insult to the numerous people he has worked with through the years.... Tambor’s lengthy abuse and harassment of me continues to haunt me and is a clear indication of how we got to this point." 

    Gretchen Carlson's next project...

    She's back: The former Fox News anchor, whose lawsuit against the late Roger Ailes set off a wave of departures from the network, will executive produce and serve as correspondent on season two of Epix's America Divided series.

    The Omarosa exit interview...

    Her TV future: "Let me be crystal clear! I love doing television," Omarosa tells THR. "And I enjoy doing television. So I'm open to all offers!" She also warns the public they'll be seeing a lot more of her in the near future: "Baby, I'm booked!"

    Yvette Nicole Brown's next sitcom...

    Staying at ABC: The Community and, most recently, The Mayor actress has been tapped to star in Most Likely To, written by Diablo Cody and produced by Greg Berlanti. The comedy revolves around Liz Cooney (uncast) and Markie McQueen (Brown), who, 20 years after high school, are reunited under the same roof as single moms and unlikely housemates.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Callie Hernandez will topline Fox's Mixtape: The actress, who recently completed two seasons of Epix comedy Graves, will star in the romantic musical-drama pilot from Josh Safran (Quantico, Smash).

    That Purge TV show has found its leads: Gabriel Chavarria (War for the Planet of the Apes) and Jessica Garza (Six) will star in Syfy's and USA's upcoming scripted adaptation of the film franchise.

    Fahrenheit 451 trailer: Michael B. Jordan burns some books, Michael Shannon scowls. Watch.

    Comedy Central re-ups Corporate: The show, which has performed well in the network's core men 18-34 demo, will return for a second season. 

    New York Times TV: The newspaper is working with production company Left/Right, which produces Showtime's This American Life and multiple episodes of PBS' Frontline, to develop "an ambitious television news series that seeks to combine the range and authority of Times journalism with immersive storytelling, innovative visuals and best-in-class production values."

    CBS launches 24/7 digital sports network: It's called CBS Sports HQ, and it'll feature live sports news and highlights — but not live games. The service comes ahead of the launch of the ESPN Plus streaming service for live competition.

    Bachelor talk...

    Uh-oh: Will this season bring about the worst heartbreak in Bachelor franchise history? Jackie Strause thinks so: "Arie Luyendyk Jr. broke the cardinal Bachelor rule one week out from his finale: He told both of the final two women that he loved them...." Read more.

  • Paglia on Movies and #MeToo

    Illustration by Skip Sterling

    Social critic and academic Camille Paglia questions special protections for women and prescribes classic films to "inform the alluring rituals of attraction" amid Hollywood's harassment crisis:

    It’s open sex war — a grisly death match that neither men nor women will win.

    The big question is whether the present wave of revelations, often consisting of unsubstantiated allegations from decades ago, will aid women’s ambitions in the long run or whether it is already creating further problems by reviving ancient stereotypes of women as hysterical, volatile and vindictive.

    My philosophy of equity feminism demands removal of all barriers to women’s advancement in the political and professional realms. However, I oppose special protections for women in the workplace. Treating women as more vulnerable, virtuous or credible than men is reactionary, regressive and ultimately counterproductive. Full guest column.

    Oscars week, day 2...

    Looking ahead: What projects are next for this year's nominees? Timothee Chalamet: The Call Me by Your Name star will be seen in Woody Allen's A Rainy Day in New York and in the meth drama Beautiful Boy, co-starring with Steve Carell. He'll also star as Henry V in Netflix feature The King. Margot Robbie: Nominated for I, Tonya, Robbie will next play Queen Elizabeth I in Focus Features' drama Mary Queen of Scots and will reprise her Suicide Squad role as Harley Quinn in Warner Bros.' DC projects. See the full list.

    Looking back: Hey, what ever happened to 2017 Oscars breakout Gary From Chicago? Turns out, it's been an up-and-down year for the viral star. Read more.

    Turmoil in the documentary branch? Heavy political projects knock crowd-pleasers out of the nominations, including Brett Morgen's acclaimed doc Jane, which also represents a "missed chance to celebrate a symbol of female resistance," writes guest columnist Adam Benzine.

    Plus! Today's Oscar party guide...

    Emily’s List “Resist, Run, Win" Panel and Brunch, Four Seasons Los Angeles: The Washington, D.C.-based political action committee dedicated to electing more pro-choice Democratic women is presenting this special Chelsea Handler-moderated event featuring the likes of Padma Lakshmi, Kathryn Hahn, Constance Wu and more.

    An Unforgettable Evening, Beverly Wilshire Hotel: Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson will receive the Nat King Cole Award, Emmy nominee Sofia Vergara will accept the Courage Award and Grammy winner Pitbull will perform. See the week's full party guide.

    And now for our ninth edition of...

    ↱The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: David Robinson, head of Morgan Creek productions.

    Morgan Creek has a long history in film production, but now the studio seems to moving in new directions, as with Fox's The Exorcist. What prompted the shift? The times have changed — just being a film studio, you can't survive making only feature films for theatrical release. So over the last seven or eight years, we've gotten into TV, film and any other multimedia, including video games. So we've broadened our horizons — instead of just focusing on film.

    The studio's been working on a lot of reboots from its library, but has yet to bring back the Ace Ventura or Major League franchises. Any chance of that? We're talking, but nothing as of yet. Look, both of those are iconic, so we just want to make sure whatever we do, they expand on the original but keep them up to what an audience in 2018 would want to see.

    What do audiences in 2018 want that they didn't want back then? It's more about how people are consuming the content nowadays. People may not be going to theaters as much for certain comedies or dramas, because they're seeing it at home, whether it's on TV or on Netflix. They're definitely consuming a lot of more content, just in different formats.

    What else we're reading...

    — "We polled new Oscar voters: How are they changing the way the Academy thinks?" A look into how the younger, more diverse voters of the organization feel about the nominations." [Vulture]

    — "Asian-American women say it's twice as hard for them to say #MeToo." Susan Chang writes: "Harvey Weinstein’s fall from power may have opened the floodgates in Hollywood, but Asian-American actors and producers say a lack of representation makes it harder for them to speak up." [BuzzFeed]

    — "FX and other networks involved in the Disney-Fox deal won't alter their upfront strategies." Jason Lynch writes: "Until the transaction clears regulatory hurdles and closes, most of the networks won’t — and can’t — plan for a future in which that has occurred." [Adweek]

    — "Tiffany Haddish's onstage experiments." Hilton Als writes: "Superior performers know what works in a theatrical sense — and how not to let the conscious mind interfere with their impulses." [New Yorker

    — "Why Lisa Simpson matters." Darryn King writes "an ode to the beating heart of The Simpsons, a role model to a generation of women — and to Yeardley Smith, who’s been bringing Lisa to life for 30 years." [Vanity Fair]

    — "24 hours in Bachelor Nation." Carla Correa writes: "Just as the internet can act as a (very dangerous) political echo chamber, it can also function as a Bachelor hall of mirrors, wherein the franchise’s offshoots become unavoidable." [The New York Times]

    — "All the futuristic technologies in Black Panther, and how close they are to becoming reality." Kaylee Fagan assesses real-world alternatives to magnet-powered subways and vibranium. [Business Insider]

    *Yes, Vanity Fair's new Jennifer Lawrence cover does look like the THR Jennifer Lawrence cover from December. And the New York Post reports the VF cover almost looked a LOT like THR'sRead more.

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Jennifer Lawrence and Stephen kick off their shoes." [Late Show]

    + "Kelly Clarkson didn't know she auditioned for American Idol." [Tonight Show]

    + "Jimmi Simpson's family is tired of him playing creepy characters." [Late Night]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Jennifer Lawrence." The Red Sparrow star talks about Kentucky, Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell and more. [WTF With Marc Maron]

    + "Zoe Kravitz is witchy AF." The actress talks about her experience of tokenism in Hollywood and what a lifetime of fame feels like. [2 Dope Queens/WNYC]

    Today's Birthdays: Kate Mara, 35, Josh Groban, 37, Chelsea Clinton, 38, Donal Logue, 52, Noah Emmerich, 53, Timothy Spall, 61.