What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:07 AM 3/12/2018

by Ray Rahman

Tye Sheridan - Ready Player One Come With Me Trailer Still - H 2018

What's news: Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One debuts to critics at SXSW. Plus: A Wrinkle in Time comes up short, a Scientology network is on its way and the Stranger Things creators respond to a controversial allegation. — Ray Rahman

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  • 'Wrinkle in Time' Tally

    The weekend's results are in, Pamela McClintock writes:

    Second place: Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time was unable to top Black Panther after opening to a muted $33.3 million from 3,980 theaters in North America over the weekend.

    And yet: For Disney, the weekend was a double-edged sword, since its Black Panther was the weekend’s top film with $41.1 million. Wrinkle, which cost $103 million to make before marketing, is the first major miss domestically for the studio since The BFG and Alice Through the Looking Glass in 2016. 

    Who went: According to comScore/Screen Engine, Wrinkle's audience was 17 percent African-American. Caucasians made up the largest share of the audience (56 percent), followed by Hispanics (20 percent), Asians (5 percent) and Native American/other (3 percent). Nearly 60 percent of ticket buyers were female, while a hefty 57 percent were under the age of 25. Full story.

    Oscar bump: Over in the specialty market, best picture and director winner The Shape of Water enjoyed a boost, bringing in $2.4 million from 1,552 theaters — a 63 percent jump — for a domestic total of $61 million and a global tally of $148 million.

    The hot indie: Armando Iannucci's critically acclaimed The Death of Stalin did impressive business in its four-theater launch in New York and L.A., grossing $181,308 for a per-screen average of $45,327 — the second-best average of the year to date behind Black Panther

    Over in China: Black Panther completed the final leg of its global victory tour with a heroic opening weekend in China, pulling in $66.5 million from Friday to Sunday — the market's fifth-biggest debut ever for a superhero title, according to Disney data.

    The powerful performance may be the final nail in the coffin for the pernicious myth that movies led by all-black casts can't perform well internationally, particularly in East Asia. Globally, the movie passed the billion-dollar mark on Saturday.

    Elsewhere in film ...

    ? Charlie Plummer's busy year: The All the Money in the World star is set to play the lead role in the indie Words on Bathroom Walls, adding to an itinerary that already includes the upcoming films Lean on Pete and Gully.

    The Jennifer Lawrence question ...

    Stephen Galloway: "The A-list actress' recent stumbles with Red Sparrow, mother! and Passengers are no reason to gloat. Most of us should be concerned. The death of the movie star is bad news for everyone in Hollywood. If a star as bright and brilliant as Lawrence can’t sell tickets, who can?" Read more.

    The Love, Simon rollout ...

    How to market a teen (gay) romance now: Fox 2000 has been promoting the $17 million title more like a rom-com than a release about a closeted high schooler coming out. That is, in part, thanks to super-producer Greg Berlanti — who says he asked the studio to "sell it as they would any other teen rom-com, the same size and scope" and "not hide or obfuscate in any way what the movie is about." Read more.

    Rep Sheet Roundup: Insecure's Jay Ellis has signed with UTA, Rise Management and Hansen Jacobson. … MacArthur "Genius Grant"-winning documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson has signed with WME, as has Dolly Parton. ... Wolfgang Fischer, whose refugee drama Styx won the European Cinema Label prize at Berlin, has signed with Gersh and Echo Lake. ... Happy Death Day screenwriter Scott Lobdell has signed with Abrams and Zero Gravity. More here.


  • SXSW Buzz

    A lot going on in Austin ...

    Westworld: SXSW attendees got two surprise treats during the HBO show's panel Saturday night. First: a sneak peek at the highly anticipated second season that featured the newly named Shogun World. And then: a special appearance by Elon Musk, friend of co-creator Jonathan Nolan. The crowd went wild at both. Read more.

    SXSW soundbites ...

    Elon Musk: "Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to night clubs," he told the crowd. "Mars should really have great bars." Musk added that his SpaceX will "be able to do short flights, sort of up and down flights [to Mars], probably sometime in the first half of next year" and that he intends to die on Mars — "just not on impact."

    Ta-Nehisi Coates: "He's like Barack Obama," Coates said of Captain America. "I want to clarify that. I don't mean that as praise or criticism. He's somebody who believes in the ideal of America — really, really believes in it."

    Lena Dunham: "It’s funny because these articles come out, 'Lena Dunham apologizes for the 87th time,'" the Girls creator said during her panel. "That was how I was raised by a feminist mother, who said, 'We try and we fail and we try again and we rethink the problem from another angle and we grow.'"

    Ready Player One premiere ...

    Review: "A rollicking adventure through worlds both bleak and fantastic, Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One makes big changes to the specifics and structure of Ernest Cline's best-selling novel but keeps the spirit and level-up thrills intact," John DeFore writes of the movie, which had a "surprise" screening at the festival. The takeaway: "A much-loved fanboy novel gets the movie it deserves." 

    What the room thought: Despite some technical hiccups, the film received a standing ovation from the audience as the credits rolled. And critics, many initially skeptical of the movie beforehand, found themselves rapt by Spielberg's work: "In terms of pure spectacle, it's the most astonishing thing he's done," Eric Kohn of IndieWire tweeted. Full story.

    Reactions: "Joyous and thrilling for the people who it's designed to joy and thrill," tweeted Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com.

    Fandango editor Erik Davis wrote that the film was "classic Steven Spielberg," with "charm, the heart, the humor."

    Director Robert Rodriguez loved it too: "Can't wait to see it again," he tweeted.

    The rest of the reviews ...

    Blockers: "The directing debut of TV producer and Pitch Perfect co-screenwriter Kay Cannon, the film plays to the strengths of its performers, from screen novices to the comic vet of the cast, Leslie Mann, who may never have had this good a showcase." The takeaway: "A guffaw-stuffed comedy." Full review.

    A Vigilante: "The timely revenge fantasy — starring Olivia Wilde as a woman who narrowly escapes an abusive household — will earn support on the fest circuit and likely fare well in art houses." The takeaway: "Worth a hundred Eli Roth Death Wishes." Full review.

    Galveston: "A seedy but sincere and strikingly attractive movie adapted from the novel by Nic Pizzolatto, starring Ben Foster and Elle Fanning as strangers running together from their crimes and the powerful man." The takeaway: "An atmospheric on-the-lam thriller." Full review.

  • Streaming Scientology

    The Church of Scientology is getting its own network, writes Michael O'Connell:

    Launch day: The controversial group, headed by David Miscavige, is poised to launch a channel on DirectTV, as well as platforms Apple TV and Roku, today.

    Details: Evidence of the network is already on Apple's app store, where "Scientology TV" is available for download from The Church of Scientology International. Running the app reveals a placeholder announcement that content will officially launch at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. P.T. There's also a website that features an ominous countdown clock and one simple question: "Curious?"

    Stranger Things controversy ...

    Abuse? "I guess there’s no better day than #nationalwomensday to say #timesup and announce that I will not be a part of the filming of season three of Stranger Things," Instagram user @peytonnbrown, a self-described "lady grip" from Atlanta, posted Thursday. "I personally witnessed two men in high positions of power on that set seek out and verbally abuse multiple women. I promised myself that if I were ever in a situation to say something that I would."

    Duffers response: “We are deeply upset to learn that someone felt uncomfortable on our set," the brothers said. "Due to the high-stress nature of production, tempers occasionally get frayed, and for that, we apologize. However, we think it is important not to mischaracterize our set, where we believe strongly in treating everyone fairly regardless of gender, orientation, race, religion, or anything else ..." Full story.

    Trump vs. Chuck Todd ...

    Trump: During a rally in Pennsylvania this weekend, the president called NBC's Meet the Press "a show now headed by 'sleepy eyes Chuck Todd" before going on to say: "He’s a sleeping son of a bitch, I'll tell ya."

    Todd's response: "I bring my kids up to respect the office of the presidency and the president. I don’t allow them to say anything negative, ever, about the president," Todd said in an interview. "Him doing that, it creates a challenge to all parents when he uses vulgarities like that." 

    About that O.J. special ...

    Critic's notebook: "Watching Simpson delivering his usual smooth-talking performance in the special (why wasn't he this good an actor when he was actually acting?) will only make you hate him all the more," Frank Scheck writes of Fox's O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?, which aired last night. "What's amazing is that the confession is not even the most infuriating part of the interview." Read more.

    Elsewhere in TV ...

    ? Dirk Gently goes off into the good night: Exec producer Arvind Ethan David announced on Twitter that the BBC series, axed in December, was not able find a new home for a third season.

    ? Dancing With the Stars gets a new showrunner: Reality veteran Andrew Llinares will take over the forthcoming all-athletes cycle of DWTS for its 26th season.

    ? Walking Dead-Lauren Cohan standoff update: "Pay the woman," Khary Payton, known to TWD fans as King Ezekiel, posted a photo on Instagram along with an image of Cohan behind bars in character as Maggie. 

    ? David Chang's new media platform: The Momofuku food icon has launched Majordomo Media, a business he says will create content like TV shows and podcasts about "food and culture in a way nobody has ever tried." Former Wired editor-in-chief Scott Dadich will serve as the umbrella for the podcast, television development slate and editorial platform. Details.

    NBC's Rise debuts tomorrow ...

    Jason Katims: "I did see some connectivity between Rise and Friday Night Lights," the Rise creator tells THR of his new high school drama. "I was drawn to the fact that this was a school in a small town that was facing some challenges economically and otherwise and thought we could approach it in a similar way ..." Full Q&A.

    60 Minutes spotlight ...

    Stormy is coming: Per The New York Times, the CBS news show plans to air an interview it conducted with Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels), who spoke to Anderson Cooper for the show last week. The question now is: Will Trump's lawyers seek to prevent it?

    A prince is coming, too: Norah O’Donnell spent a week in Saudi Arabia reporting on a piece that will examine the social, economic and political changes roiling the country — and include an interview with Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old crown prince. It's a coup that O'Donnell spent years working on, and it'll begin airing this Wednesday on CBS This Morning and then on Sunday's 60 Minutes. Read more.

  • Mueller's Hollywood Connection

    The Robert Mueller probe expands to Hollywood as Trump arrives for an L.A. fundraiser, write Gary Baum and Scott Johnson:

    Elliott Broidy, the deputy national finance chairman of the Republican National Committee who has been linked to two ongoing political scandals, is set to preside over a $35,000-per-person fundraiser for Donald Trump on Tuesday night at an undisclosed location in Beverly Hills.

    Broidy and his wife, attorney Robin Rosenzweig, a discreet but powerful couple in Republican fundraising circles, have been tied through a trove of leaked documentation received by media organizations to the multi-billion-dollar Malaysian graft scheme that has entangled actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Miranda Kerr, the model and wife of Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel.

    The documents also reveal a series of connections between Broidy and U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into foreign influence-peddling of the Trump administration. Read more.

    What else we're reading ...

    — "Hollywood's latest power brothers hunt for the next China-backed blockbuster." Erich Schwartzel writes: "Joe and Anthony Russo, who are putting the finishing touches on next month’s Avengers: Infinity War, also are in the early days of running Agbo, a production company backed by China’s largest private film company, Huayi Brothers Media." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "After closing Scripps deal last week, Discovery sets unified upfront strategy." Jason Lynch writes about the combined company's seven-city strategy. [Adweek]

    — "Collateral is essential – and timely – TV." Alison Herman writes that the Netflix show "is to a post-Brexit United Kingdom what recent seasons of American Horror Story: Cult, American Crime, and even Broad City are to a post-Trump United States." [The Ringer]

    — "Meghan Markle's first public appearance with the Queen comes with extra significance." Katie Nicholl writes: "The Commonwealth Day ceremony may be a preview of Markle and Prince Harry’s post-wedding plans." [Vanity Fair]

    — "Wolverine's got a podcast, and sound design has never mattered more." Charley Locke writes: "But Marvel’s first scripted podcast doesn’t sound like a comic." [Wired]

    — "CNN's Jim Acosta: The Trump trolls who want me dead." Lloyd Grove writes: "CNN’s Jim Acosta is not just abused by the president and his staff for his reporting, but also by Trump’s most abusive fans online." [Daily Beast]

    What else we're hearing ...

    + "A Wrinkle in Time." The NPR gang chews on the movie. [Pop Culture Happy Hour]

    + "Ted Danson." The TV legend opens up. [WTF With Marc Maron]

    What's happening this week ...

    Monday: Jane will air on National Geographic.

    Tuesday: Rise debuts on NBC ... For the People debuts on ABC.

    Thursday: The Tattoo Shop debuts on Facebook.

    Friday: Love, Simon and Tomb Raider hit theaters nationwide ... Benji drops on Netflix.

    Today's birthdays: Dave Eggers, 48, Aaron Eckhart, 50, Titus Welliver, 57, Courtney B. Vance, 58, Lesley Manville, 62, James Taylor, 70, Liza Minnelli, 72.