What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:20 AM 2/9/2018

by Ray Rahman

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

What's news: The Winter Olympics have kicked off, complete with a geopolitical show of unity at the Opening Ceremony. Plus: Quentin Tarantino apologizes, Jennifer Garner teams up with Lena Dunham and MoviePass reaches another big number. — Ray Rahman

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  • Winter Games

    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Winter Olympics kicked off with its opening ceremony in Pyeongchang early this morning — but not everyone here in the States is happy about the way things have been going. Abid Rahman writes:

    John Moody, executive editor and executive vice president at Fox News, published an op-ed that blasted Team USA for making the Olympics less about "faster, higher, stronger" and more about "darker, gayer, different."

    He began his column by quoting a USOC official who was proud that this was the most diverse U.S. team at the Winter Olympics. Moody wrote that the official went through a "embarrassing laundry list of how many African-Americans, Asians and openly gay athletes are on this year’s U.S. team. No sport that we are aware of awards points — or medals — for skin color or sexual orientation." Read more.

    + Opening Ceremony: Two Koreas show historic unity. In freezing temperatures that dropped to 27 degrees, Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, unexpectedly shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in as the Games officially kicked off in Pyeongchang. (The ceremony aired live on NBC's digital platforms this morning, but will re-air during primetime on NBC tonight.)

    + How to watch the Winter Olympics: Due to the big time difference and NBC's wide range of TV and digital platforms, it could be trickier than you think. Read our guide.

    + The Olympics on Uber? NBC is teaming up with companies like Snapchat and Uber — not to mention shooting immersive VR footage — to find new ways to get Olympics content to people. Full story.

    + "The Fallon 5": A mini version of The Tonight Show will air during the last portion of the Games, broadcasting in five-minute chunks from Monday, Feb. 19 to Friday, Feb. 23.

    Elsewhere in TV ...

    TV pilot season, by the numbers: 45 dramas, 12 single-cam comedies, 16 multi-cams. By the networks: ABC, 22; CBS, 18; Fox, 11; CW, 9; and NBC, 14. See the full breakdown.

    Alan Ball opens up: The prolific showrunner behind HBO's upcoming Here and Now talks with THR about returning to family drama (albeit with a mystical element) after True Blood and Six Feet Under. Q&A.

    ^Homeland season seven, reviewed. Daniel Fienberg writes: "The premiere captures the uncertain, unsteady mood of the nation, without any especially perceptive pieces of headline-ripping." The takeaway: Not an explosive season opener, exactly, but fairly tense. Full review.

    Jennifer Garner will star in a Lena Dunham series at HBO. It's called Camping and it comes from Girls team Dunham and Jenni Konner. The eight-episode limited series follows a wife-and-husband duo whose marriage gets tested on a weekend nature trip with friends. It'll be Garner's first regular TV role since Alias.

    Pod Save America heads to HBO: The former Obama staffers behind the blockbuster political podcast and Crooked Media empire are getting a series of TV specials timed to the midterm elections. Between them, John Oliver and Bill Maher (not to mention Vice programming), HBO will be quite the political destination this fall.

    Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon are working on Apple's next TV show. The Big Sick pair is working with Alan Yang (Master of None) and Lee Eisenberg (SMILF) to develop an immigration-themed half-hour anthology series called Little America for the tech giant.

    + Apple's TV talent so far: Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Damien Chazelle, Kristen Wiig, Ron Moore and Steven Spielberg — to name a few.

    Fox is developing a Bad Moms series: Already with two movies under its belt, the Bad Moms universe is about to expand in the form of an unscripted series currently in early development stages at Fox, with STX set to produce.

    More The Four: Fox picked up a second season of the reality competition. And they want it fast: The series, which concluded its first season last night, will be back on the air this summer.

    + It isn't a ratings blockbuster, but The Four's steady numbers have quietly made it Fox's strongest-performing unscripted freshman series in four years.

    The Killing stars Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos will reunite on Amazon. The former AMC stars have been tapped to headline the streamer's adaptation of Hanna, Joe Wright's high-concept 2011 action film starring Saoirse Ronan. David Farr, who adapted AMC's The Night Manager, penned the script.

    Lisa Harrison inks first-look deal with FX: The WME alum's deal comes as she sets her first project: a small-town thriller called The Body, produced by Fargo's Noah Hawley.

  • Oscar Stakes

    Illustration by Læmeur

    What's at stake for the studios behind the best picture nominees? Under pressure for their survival, the specialty labels need every bit of help they can get, Stephen Galloway and Gregg Kilday write: 

    FOCUS FEATURES Two years ago, after experimenting with genre movies with middling success, Focus underwent a course correction under then-new chairman Peter Kujawski, who promised to return Focus to its prestige-label roots. It bounced back this season with Darkest Hour ($46.4 million at the domestic box office, more than $100 million overall). An Oscar for Gary Oldman could add further lucre and counterbalance the financial disappointment of The Beguiled and The Book of Henry.

    SONY PICTURES CLASSICS Amid the ups and downs of their rivals, the veteran duo of Tom Bernard and Michael Barker has maintained a remarkably consistent course, relying on shrewd acquisitions rather than sinking money in pricey productions. They enter the Oscars with six nominations: four for Call Me by Your Name and two for foreign-language nominees Loveless and A Fantastic Woman. With parent Sony Pictures Entertainment looking like a prime target for acquisition by an internet giant, especially after Kaz Hirai's departure as CEO, they'll need to prove that their modest returns have added dividends. Read more.

    Elsewhere in film ...

    Jill Messick, producer and former Rose McGowan manager, dies at 50. Messick, a veteran studio executive and producer who once worked at Miramax and Paramount's Lorne Michaels Pictures, died by suicide in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The exec was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been battling depression for years. She was 50.

    + Her family issues a blistering statement on Harvey Weinstein and McGowan: "Seeing her name in headlines again and again, as part of one person’s attempt to gain more attention for her personal cause, along with Harvey’s desperate attempt to vindicate himself, was devastating for her," the Messick family said. Full statement.

    LAPD submits three Weinstein sex-assault cases to district attorney: They are now "under review," a D.A. spokesman confirmed. Last month, the Beverly Hills police submitted two cases to the D.A. for review.

    Quentin Tarantino apologizes: Finding himself in increasingly hot water for a variety of issues, the director apologized to Samantha Geimer, who at the age of 13 was raped by director Roman Polanski in 1977 — for comments he made in a 2003 interview with Howard Stern saying the incident was "not rape" and that Geimer "wanted to have it."

    + His apology: "I want to publicly apologize to Samantha Geimer for my cavalier remarks on The Howard Stern Show speculating about her and the crime that was committed against her. Fifteen years later, I realize how wrong I was. Ms. Geimer WAS raped by Roman Polanski. When Howard brought up Polanski, I incorrectly played devil's advocate in the debate for the sake of being provocative. I didn't take Ms. Geimer's feelings into consideration and for that I am truly sorry."

    ► MoviePass hits two million: The service announced that it exceed 2 million subscribers yesterday, but also walked back comments about driving viewers to Oscar movies they may otherwise skip. The numbers were slightly exaggerated — $26 million for the top Oscar contenders, versus the company's $128 million "halo effect" claim.

    + Biggest beneficiaries: Shape of Water has seen $3.6M of its $46.3M domestic total come from MoviePass; for Three Billboards, it's $3M/$42.8M.

    Lionsgate earnings: The studio beat expectations, recording a net income of $191.1 million — up from the year-earlier loss of $31 million due to one-time Starz merger costs. 

    The real Black Panther premiere: According to reports, the Marvel film will screen in Lupita Nyong'o's Kenyan hometown of Kisumu for advance screenings before it opens globally. The local news has even taken to referring to Black Panther as "the Lupita movie."

    ^Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker? He's currently the top choice to play the villain in the upcoming stand-alone movie from Hangover director Todd Phillips.

    Netflix's next play: Extinction. After seeing success from its surprise Cloverfield strategy, the streamer has acquired another troubled sci-fi thriller, this one starring Michael Pena and Lizzy Caplan. The movie was pulled from Universal's schedule two months ago, but it'll find a new life on Netflix later this year. Could this become a pattern?

    David Goyer out of the running to direct Masters of the Universe. The seasoned superhero-movie writer (Dark Knight, Batman v. Superman) will remain a writer and exec producer on the He-Man reboot, but scheduling concerns and big-budget rustiness (he hasn't helmed a feature since 2009) will keep him from directing.

    Could Warner Bros. get Michael Bay to direct a Lobo movie? Maybe: The studio is currently at work developing a stand-alone movie for the foul-mouthed DC Comic antihero, with a current script that would see the film cost upwards of $200 million — a number too high for both Warners and Bay. 

    Amblin Partners picks up WWII drama: Steven Spielberg's Amblin has preemptively optioned Daughters of the Resistance: Valor, Fury, and the Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos, a book proposal by Judy Batalion. The project will be produced under the DreamWorks Pictures label.

    Taylor Schilling thriller: The OITNB star will topline Descendant, which tells the story of a young mother who thinks her 8-year-old son's disturbing behavior may have supernatural ties.

  • Star Building

    Getty Images; Michael Tullberg/Getty Images; Mike Marsland/WireImage; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

    A new documentary called Miracle on 42nd Street — premiering today at the Santa Barbara Film Fest — takes audiences inside Manhattan Plaza, the iconic property where Alicia Keys was born and Samuel L. Jackson worked security. Chris Gardner writes:

    Larry David lived there next door to a man named Kenny Kramer (yes, that Kramer), Alicia Keys was born there, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were always stopping by to visit pal Jack Warden, and Samuel L. Jackson earned a paycheck as the building's first security guard.

    It didn't take long for Manhattan Plaza — the massive 1,689 unit federally subsidized apartment complex that opened in June 1977 on a city block between 42nd and 43rd at Ninth Avenue — to establish itself as a creative hive filled with actors, singers, musicians, dancers, choreographers and comedians. Other tenants included Terrence Howard, Tennessee Williams, Angela Lansbury, Mickey Rourke, Patrick Dempsey and casting director Mary Jo Slater, the latter of whom teamed with director Alice Elliott and producer Ken Aguado to put it on film. Read more.

    And now for our fourth edition of ...

    ↱The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: Keith Kimbell, the movies editor at the review-aggregation site Metacritic.

    A lot of people have grumbled about the Rotten Tomatoes effect having the power to sink a movie at the box office. Does Metacritic worry about that? We have talked about it. I personally feel we have less influence than what people are making it out to be. People are seeking us out more because there are way more releases each year, and there's an explosion in production on TV obviously, so people need something to sort out what we're going to spend time on. So it's an easy thing to latch on to, to blame review aggregators. But I do think it's a good thing for studios to make films that critics see as better, because most likely more people will actually enjoy those films.

    You're in a good position to spot movie trends. What has jumped out to you in the recent year? One big thing is the popularity of horror films. That's been covered a lot, but it's definitely a trend that you can see, with Get Out and It and so on. Even on TV, with Stranger Things 2. It's kind of taken on a life of its own, beyond being just horror — they've become something the culture has really grabbed on to. It's something that, since I've been on at Metacritc, wasn't a huge focus before.

    What gets more clicks — bad movies, or really well-reviewed movies? For us, really well-reviewed movies get clicks, for sure. There's no doubt about that. But if you have that super low score ... it's rare for us for a film to have below a 10 score, but if it does, they're going to get a lot of hits. Same with a really big release that has above a 90.

    What else we're reading ...

    — "The man who bets Tencent's 'moonshot' money." Alyssa Abkowitz writes: "David Wallerstein is guiding Chinese internet giant’s investments in electric flying cars, agriculture startups." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "Altered Carbon and TV's new wave of transhumanism." Devon Maloney writes: "Nobody wants these dumb meat-sack bodies anymore. Now TV is asking if what replaces them will be any better. " [Wired]

    — "Can Bill Murray bring bell-bottoms back into fashion? He's about to try." Robert Klara writes about the actor's new pants brand: "Like all the items in his line, these flared slacks sprang from the fertile imagination of Murray himself, who also selected various fabric prints for them." [Adweek]

    — "What Angelina Jolie is fighting for now." John Kerry (yes, that one) interviews the star activist. [Elle]

    — "Jimmy Buffett does not live the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle." Taffy Brodesser-Akner's profile begins: "Jimmy Buffett awoke one morning last year in one of his many homes — he can’t remember which one, there are a lot of them — and a panic gripped him in his throat." [New York Times]

    — "The Olympics' never-ending struggle to keep track of time." Alan Burdick writes: "The fact is that it takes time to measure time; the challenge of Olympic timing through the decades has been to make that measurement as quickly as possible." [New Yorker]

    What else we're seeing ...

    + "Stephen Colbert pokes fun at Omarosa's Trump warning on Celebrity Big Brother." [Late Show]

    + "Ellen Pompeo on her new baby and the Patriots loss." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Andrew Garfield puked in Prince's bathroom after the Golden Globes." [Tonight Show]

    What else we're hearing ...

    + "NBC's Olympics bet; James Ivory" John Horn looks at the Peacock's sports strategy and talks to Call Me By Your Name's screenwriter. [The Frame / KPCC]

    + "From I, Tonya to Cat Person, is 'based on a true story' better?" The team breaks down pop culture's recasting of reality. [Radio Atlantic]

    Today's birthdays: Michael B. Jordan, 31, Tom Hiddleston, 37, Charlie Day, 42, Judith Light, 69, Mia Farrow, 73, Joe Pesci, 75, Carole King, 76.