What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:17 AM 3/19/2018

by Ray Rahman

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

What's news: The Time Warner-AT&T merger trial begins as the future of media consolidation hangs in the balance. Plus: Tomb Raider stumbles at the box office, the BBC has another pay gap controversy on its hands and Filmart kicks off in Hong Kong. — Ray Rahman

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  • 'Raider' Down

    From left to right: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate

    The weekend box office contained some surprises, writes Pamela McClintock: 

    The winner: Black Panther continued to make history in its fifth weekend at the domestic box office with a haul of $27 million, burying Tomb Raider ($23.5 million) and becoming only the seventh film ever to cross the $600 million mark in North America.

    The runner-up: Raider's performance was a disappointment for Warner Bros. and MGM, with the $90-million film earning a mediocre B CinemaScore that potentially hurt word of mouth. Yet the movie did make up ground overseas, topping the foreign weekend chart with $84.5 million from 65 markets for an overseas tally of $102.5 million and $126 million globally. That includes a first-place finish in China with $41.1 million.

    The surprise: The faith-based indie film I Can Only Imagine vastly overperformed with $17.1 million, enough to come in at No. 3 and mark the biggest opening in Roadside Attractions' history. The movie skewed heavily female (67 percent) and older, with 80 percent of the audience over the age of 35.

    The rest: Coming in at No. 4, Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time declined 50 percent in its second weekend to $16.6 million, a relatively big drop for a family title. And Fox's YA adaptation Love, Simon disappointed in its opening, taking fifth place with $11.5 million. Full story.

    Time's Up update ...

    Steven Spielberg: "It's been a rich and diverse year for film and for gender and for race, and for speaking out," the director said as he collected the Legend of Our Lifetime award at Sunday night's Empire Awards in London. "Thank you, Time's Up. We were very much on board from the very beginning, my wife, Kate, and I. This is more important than any of us can ever really realize."

    Cy Vance: Time's Up has written an open letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate the state's handling of historical sexual harassment and assault allegations made against Harvey Weinstein. The letter specifically calls for Cuomo to "launch an independent investigation of the New York County district attorney, Cyrus Vance, and the office of the district attorney to determine the facts related to the decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for sexual abuse crimes against one of his accusers."

    Galloway on film...

    Let Aaron Sorkin's To Kill a Mockingbird adaptation move forward: "Great works survive any attempt at mutilation in another form," Stephen Galloway writes of the Harper Lee estate's attempt to block Sorkin's play. "God knows how many stage and screen versions there’ve been of pivotal texts from Tolstoy to Tennessee Williams, from J.M. Barrie to J.K. Rowling. No matter how bad, the original endures. I’ve seen versions of Romeo and Juliet where the actors mangled their lines, the audience fell asleep, people walked out and even booed; I’ve seen motion picture renderings as varied as Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. The play lives on. Won’t Mockingbird, too?" Read more.

    Elsewhere in film ...

    First look: Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland. Principal production for the upcoming biopic Judy has already begun, which means you can already glimpse Zellweger as the late star. See it here.

    Ellen Barkin's shot at Terry Gilliam: "My hard won advice: never get into an elevator alone with terry gilliam," Barkin tweeted. When a follower posted a GIF of a person looking concerned and creeped out, Barkin responded, "you got it, my friend." Her remark comes one day after Gilliam's controversial remarks about the #MeToo movement.

    ► Rep Sheet Roundup: Benjamin Bratt has left WME for CAA. … Gina Torres, who will topline USA’s untitled Suits spinoff, has signed with PR firm 42West. … Veteran music agent Joel Roman has left Paradigm for ICM Partners. … Daniel Persitz and Devon Kliger, who wrote 2017 Black List script Key of Genius, have signed with APA. More here.

  • Trial Time

    Illustration by: Mario Wagner

    The Time Warner-AT&T merger trial begins today, and the stakes couldn't be higher, writes Eriq Gardner:

    The combination envisioned by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes wouldn't just create a $225 billion colossus, it likely would open the floodgates for a new wave of media consolidation. By contrast, a scrapped deal would call into question everything from Amazon's aggressive acquisition strategy to Disney's planned purchase of most of 21st Century Fox.

    "I look at [AT&T-Time Warner] and think, 'If you are going to stop this merger, do you also break up Comcast-NBC?'" asks BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield. "Should Disney be allowed to own Hulu? It opens up a Pandora's box." Read more.

    What if the Justice Department wins? That was the question The New York Times toyed with over the weekend. One possible conclusion: "While some think the deal being blocked will scare off potential suitors, there are many analysts who are convinced that Time Warner is too attractive to sit alone for long. For example, could HBO and Warner Bros. be sliced off and sold to companies like Apple or Amazon? The networks TNT and TBS to an entity like Viacom?"

    David Zaslav's view: “I think it’s important for the ecosystem, the media ecosystem, that this deal goes through. For the first time in the history of this business you have these massive global companies — Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Google — of a scale we’ve never seen. ... In order to have to real stability, the great cable companies, mobile and satellite companies need to be able to compete with these global-scale companies.”

    Another angle: The Financial Times also took a look at the issue, writing: "The case will resonate beyond the media and tech sectors. A former senior FTC official says the trial will determine the future of several pending mega deals, including retailer CVS' $69bn acquisition of health insurer Aetna and the $67bn takeover of pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts by Cigna, another healthcare insurer."

    Will & Grace forever ... 

    Renewed: NBC announced that it has committed to a third season of the revived sitcom (to run in the 2019-20 TV calendar), which will bring the show's overall running tally to 11 seasons. This early order comes before production has even begun on the second season of the popular revival. The new seasons will be for a total of 18 episodes each, up five from this year's run.

    The numbers: Season-to-date, the new Will & Grace ranks as NBC's No. 1 comedy and the No. 2 comedy, overall, on TV. (With an average 3.1 rating among adults 18-49, it is tied with Modern Family for runner-up status to Big Bang Theory.)

    Weekend update ...

    New SNL impersonations: A busy political week inspired some impressive new impressions out of the 30 Rock crew — namely Kate McKinnon as Betsy DeVos and guest star John Goodman as Rex Tillerson. Also notable: Host Bill Hader bringing back his beloved character Stefon, complete with a John Mulaney cameo.

    Coming up: The show also announced that Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman will host on April 7, when he'll be joined by musical guest Cardi B. 

    Last night's Last Week Tonight ...

    Oliver vs. Pence: John Oliver devoted a segment of his show to Mike Pence last night, and things culminated with the announcement of Oliver's new children's book (available immediately on PDF) titled A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo — which tells the story of the Pence family rabbit falling in love with another rabbit and how, despite the odds and bigotry, they marry. (It's a response to the Pence family's book Marlon Bundo's Day in the Life of the Vice President.)

    Committed to the joke: There is even an audio version of Oliver's book, featuring the voice talents of Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ellie Kemper, RuPaul, and John Lithgow.

    The Crown update ...

    Pay gap: A new petition is circulating that calls on Matt Smith, who made more than Claire Foy on The Crown, to donate the extra salary he received to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund — a move that would echo Mark Wahlberg's $1.5 million donation to Time's Up during the All the Money in the World controversy.

    Another pay-gap controversy ...

    At the BBC: Martina Navratilova says John McEnroe earns at least 10 times what she makes her for punditry work during Wimbledon. "It was a shock because John McEnroe makes at least £150,000 ($210,000) ... I get about £15,000 ($21,000) for Wimbledon, and unless John McEnroe’s doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon he’s getting at least 10 times as much money," she told the BBC's doc series Panorama in an episode entitled "Britain's Equal Pay Scandal."

    BBC's response: The network defended the pay difference, claiming that McEnroe's role was of a "different scale, scope and time commitment," to Navratilova, adding that McEnroe was considered "the face" of its Wimbeldon coverage. "He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences, and his contract means he cannot work for another U.K. broadcaster without our permission," a representative told the program.

    Hannibal Buress silenced ...

    Cut off: Hannibal Buress' microphone was cut off during a performance at Loyola University in Chicago after he made a joke about the Catholic Church's history of child abuse, the college's student paper reported. He walked off the stage shortly after, according to the paper, but eventually returned to the stage to finish his set.

  • Best of SXSW

    Quantrell D. Colbert/Universal Pictures

    THR film critics' favorites from the fest include a studio sex comedy, a two-part Elvis doc, a Wisconsin-set character study and more:

    Blockers: Parents played by Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz set out to ruin prom night for their daughters in Kay Cannon's directing debut, a riotous sex comedy that plays to the strengths of its performers — from screen novices to the vet of the cast, Mann, who may never have had this good a showcase. 

    Support the Girls: Andrew Bujalski's very fine latest focuses on the solidarity of the all-female waitstaff at a sleazy sports bar. The filmmaker gives two plum leads to excellent African-American actresses (Regina Hall and musician Shayna McHayle), but the easygoing workplace comedy never feels like it's prioritizing politics over storytelling. See the full list.

    Hong Kong Filmart kicks off this week, writes Patrick Brzeski:

    Optimism: Global film buyers and sellers will be descending on Hong Kong Filmart, Asia's largest and most influential movie market, in ebullient spirits this week. And for good reason: China's theatrical box office is back to roaring growth, and the country's fiercely competitive streaming-video giants are desperately hungry for quality content, both domestic and international.

    "It's going to be a very busy market," says Chinese industry veteran Ronan Wong, who recently joined WME-IMG China as vp film and television. "The Chinese market is more energetic than it has been in years — both box office and video platform subscription numbers — and Filmart always sets the trends for the year ahead." Full story.

    The hot list: From star-driven-crime dramas like Andy Lau's Drug Lords to the latest in the blockbuster Ip Man franchise, genre fair with wide commercial appeal will draw strong interest at Asia's biggest film market. Here are the eight titles not to miss.

    In other news ...

    Facebook controversy: The social network came under fire over the weekend as it faced questions about how it protects its user data. The increased scrutiny comes after an expose that revealed how a Trump campaign-linked political firm harvested information from more than 50 million profiles.

    What's next: Politicians in both the U.S. and the U.K. are demanding answers, promising that the story will continue to rage on during the week.

    What else we're reading ...

    — "Saudi Arabia lightens up, building entertainment industry from scratch." Ben Hubbard writes: "The kingdom is lightening up with comic book festivals, dance performances, concerts and monster truck rallies." [New York Times]

    — "What Hope Hicks knows." Olivia Nuzzi's cover story: "Over the course of three years, she’d spent more time with Trump than anyone, more than his own children and his wife, and she acknowledged his flaws and idiosyncrasies." [New York Magazine]

    — "The name's Hader ... Bill Hader." Andrew Gruttadaro profiles the comedian: "If you think about it, Bill Hader’s long and successful career can be traced back to the day he took his SATs — or, rather, the day he chose not to take his SATs." [The Ringer]

    — "TV's radical, bisexual comic-book antihero." Peter Nagy writes: "Characters who are attracted to both men and women are rare enough in pop culture. But DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has done something unique with John Constantine." [The Atlantic]

    — "Before Love, Simon: Coming out and coming-of-age at the movies." Glen Weldon writes: "Coming out is an affirmation of Queer Identity, but it's bound up inextricably with Queer Desire. Yet movies keep artificially separating the two to focus on one over the other." [NPR]

    — "Facebook strikes new music licensing deals." Anna Nicolaou writes: "These deals will cover user-generated content on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Facebook-owned messaging apps and Oculus, its virtual reality unit." [Financial Times]

    — "Welcome to Power Mountain — a utopian club for the millennial elite." Paul Lewis writes: "When these young entrepreneurs bought a remote ski resort in Utah, they dreamed of an exclusive, socially conscious community. Is this the future, or Mt. Olympus for Generation Me?" [Guardian]

    What else we're hearing ...

    + "Anthony Scaramucci: Trump has secret admirers in Silicon Valley." Kara Swisher interviews The Mooch. [Recode Decode]

    + "Tomb Raider and the do's and don'ts of reboots." The crew breaks it all down. [Mothership / USA Today]

    What's happening this week ...

    Wednesday: Krypton premieres on Syfy ... Face the Wild premieres on Facebook.

    Thursday: Portlandia airs its series finale on IFC.

    Friday: Pacific Rim: Uprising hits theaters nationwide.

    Today's birthdays: Jorma Taccone, 41, Bruce Willis, 63, Glenn Close, 71, Philip Roth, 85.