What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:09 AM 4/11/2018

by Ray Rahman

Avengers : Infinity War Still 17 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Avengers: Infinity War

What's news: Inside the CBS-Viacom deal's fight for supremacy. Plus: Avengers: Infinity War looks to outdo Black Panther, Mark Zuckerberg spars with Congress and Michael Wolff reveals his lessons from the Fire and Fury frenzy. — Ray Rahman

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  • Moonves vs. Redstone

    Kim Masters goes inside the poisonous war for control of CBS and Viacom:

    The dispute over price pales in comparison to the control issue. Hypothetically, both sides agree that Les Moonves should be CEO of a combined company — at least for now. But Shari Redstone wants to install Viacom CEO Bob Bakish as the No. 2 and eventual successor, while Moonves is adamant about keeping his CFO, Joseph Ianniello, in that role.

    "If you're Les at this point in his career, you're not looking to have a new boss, to get a new partner," says an executive with ties to both sides of this argument. "It's not that shocking for someone who's been as successful as he has to say, 'I'm not willing to accept a radical change in the environment.'"

    Redstone's POV: Redstone is letting it be known that she feels CBS has been so negative about Viacom that Moonves may not be an effective leader of a combined company. Certainly the conflict has become poisonous. Some in the CBS camp suspect Redstone of undermining their leader with a campaign of leaks about her dissatisfaction with the supposedly entrenched CBS board and an alleged lack of strategic planning.

    Team Moonves: CBS insiders also think Team Shari is spinning a fairy tale that Bakish has presided over some kind of turnaround at Viacom that would make it a good buy for CBS. Where, they ask, is the evidence of that turnaround? Full story.

    Fox offices get raided in London...

    Investigation: The London offices of 21st Century Fox's channels business Fox Networks Group were raided Tuesday by European Commission investigators as part of a probe over a suspected cartel into sports rights distribution in the region. A Fox Networks Group spokesman told THR that the company "was cooperating fully with the EC inspection."

    The EC: “The commission has concerns that the companies involved may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices,” the European Commission said in a statement, adding that such raids weren't an admission of any guilt. Read more.

    Sinclair battles CNN...

    Attack videos: Sinclair is accusing CNN of being "hypocritical and dishonest," and is running a four-minute video attacking the network at the top of every one of its affiliate websites. The right-leaning broadcaster has been under fire recently for mandating that local news anchors read a prewritten script about "biased and false news" that some have likened to corporate propaganda. Video.

    CBS after Charlie Rose...

    Addressing workplace issues: CBS News has formed a "working group" to address complaints and suggestions about the company's workplace environment, according to an email sent to employees Tuesday. The group will begin the listening process with a series of small group meetings next week. Eventually, employee recommendations will be passed on to management.

    The email: "We'll start by asking you, 'What would you like to have happen at CBS News to make this a better place to work?'" employees were told in the email by director of standards and practices Karen Raffensperger, who is heading up the initiative. "We want to listen to your thoughts on workplace issues, to learn about practices and customs that are in our way, to find out what we're doing right and where we need to do better." Full email.

    The chances of a 30 Rock reboot...

    Maybe! "[A revival] would be a dream come true," Jane Krakowski tells THR. "We all had the greatest time on that show...there's definitely been talk and conversations. I know it's something the fans would love and we would love." NBC definitely hasn't shied away from reboots lately....

    Peabody Awards nominations...

    The long list: The board of jurors have selected a slate of 60 nominees, half of which will become winners to be celebrated at the organization's May 19 gala. Among the contenders: The Handmaid's Tale, Saturday Night Light, Star Trek: Discovery and more. Full list.

    Gimlet's new podcast slate...

    More scripted: Following on the success of drama podcast Homecoming, the Brooklyn-based startup is prepping the launch of Sandra, a new scripted story starring Alia Shawkat as a new tech-company hire and Kristen Wiig as a voice assistant named Sandra — who's real. Full details.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Big Little Lies casting: The HBO drama is bringing in Martin Donovan to play Martin Howard, the father of Zoe Kravitz's Bonnie.

    ? Paramount Network nabs Roseanne reruns: The reruns, which had already been airing on Viacom sister networks TV Land and CMT, will air weeknights from 4 to 6 p.m. ET beginning Tuesday, capitalizing on the nostalgia the recent ABC relaunch has invigorated.

    ? NBC orders royal wedding special: The network says that it will "lift the curtain on the most talked-about nuptials of the year" with the hourlong Inside the Royal Wedding: Harry and Meghan, hosted by Today anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. The special airs May 16.

    ? Comedy Central will roast Bruce Willis: The special will take place in Los Angeles, with a tape and premiere date to be announced later. "This ain't the first time I'll be tied to a chair and held hostage by a group of humorless assholes for a couple hours,” Willis said in a press release.

    ? Hulu expands Spotify bundle to wider audience: Existing subscribers to Spotify's premium music streaming service can now add a subscription to Hulu's on-demand streaming offering, which features some advertising, to their monthly bill. The option was previously available to college students.

    MIPTV trends...

    Breaking down barriers: If globalism is out — in the age of Trump, Brexit and Chinese-American trade wars — the international TV industry didn't get the memo. Instead, the message out of this year's MIPTV, the global TV market that runs in Cannes through April 12, was one of breaking down borders: between cultures, territories or business models.

    The hottest titles: Those include Harlan Coben’s Safe, an eight-part thriller from the American author featuring Dexter star Michael C. Hall; Endeavor Content's female-focused espionage drama Killing Eve; and My Brilliant Friend, an adaptation of Elena Ferrante best-selling novels set in 1950s Naples. Read more.

    VR: Director Robert Rodriguez's latest action film, The Limit, is pushing the envelope on the next big thing in cinema tech, virtual reality. "It's like you're really inside an action movie,” he says. Q&A.

  • Just How Big Will 'Infinity War' Be?

    Probably big enough to top Black Panther, writes Pamela McClintock:

    New leader? With roughly two weeks left to go before the movie's opening, online ticketing service Fandango reports that Avengers: Infinity War is on course to presell more tickets than any other superhero title in history, supplanting Black Panther. Sales for Infinity War are outpacing those for Black Panther by more than two-to-one during the same point in time.

    Fandango: "Infinity War has built up such unprecedented anticipation that it’s pacing to break records, the likes of which we have never seen before for a superhero movie,” says Fandango's Erik Davis.

    Estimated debut: Hollywood's tracking services show Infinity War launching to north of $200 million in North America. Just how much north is the big question.... Read more.

    The breakout indie...

    I Can Only Imagine: The faith-based film, which has grossed $71 million so far on a $7 million budget, has been a boon to Roadside Attractions and its investors. In fact, the Dennis Quaid starrer has become the specialty label's highest-grossing film ever, far eclipsing its previous high-water mark Manchester by the Sea.

    How it happened: Sony originally developed the faith-based film — which chronicles the true story behind MercyMe’s chart-topping song of the same name — but walked away from the project in 2015. So producer Kevin Downes bought the rights and — along with directors Andrew and Jon Erwin — raised the film’s $7 million budget and $12 million prints-and-advertising spend through a network of wealthy and anonymous Christian investors.

    Downes: “When we shopped it around, we didn’t have many takers because most of the distributors in town thought that a Christian music biopic wouldn’t exactly sell,” says the producer. “We respectfully disagreed.” Read more.

    Moviegoing lessons from 2017...

    Tentpole diversity: Pamela McClintock notes: Look no further than the roar of Black Panther to highlight the success a Hollywood tentpole can achieve at the box office when playing to a diverse crowd in North America. African Americans made up 35 to 40 percent of the film's audience, an unprecedented showing.

    While the Motion Picture Association of America's new 2017 report finds overall gains — global revenue up 5 percent year-over-year to a record $40.6 billion — domestic revenue dipped to $11.1 billion, down 2 percent. The study shows that Hollywood has a long way to go to win over all segments of the population.

    What MoviePass wants to do with Moviefone...

    Interview: MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe says he envisions Moviefone as a user-generated Rotten Tomatoes: "We find our subscribers have a slightly different and, in fact, a more positive rating of movies. We want to be able to do our own presentation for our subscribers from fellow MoviePass subscribers that gives them more reflection of people like them, who love movies." Lowe also discussed AMC, Landmark and data collection. Full Q&A.

    Cannes corner...

    New poster: The annual film festival has unveiled the poster for its 71st edition, borrowing imagery based on Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 film Pierrot le fou, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina.

    Courting young people: As IndieWire reports, the festival "will introduce free 'Three Days in Cannes' passes, set aside especially for 18-to-28-year-old cinephiles...applicants must submit a letter demonstrating that they are 'passionate about film,' but airfare and lodging are not included."

    What is T.J. Miller doing...

    In trouble: The actor was taken into custody this week at New York's LaGuardia Airport for allegedly "intentionally conveying to law enforcement false information about an explosive device on a train traveling to Connecticut.

    According to authorities, the 36-year-old comedian allegedly called 911 and told the dispatcher he was on an Amtrak rain traveling from Washington, D.C., toward Penn Station in New York City and that a female passenger “has a bomb in her bag.” He was released on a $100,000 bond. Details.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Damian Lewis as...Rob Ford? The actor is set to portray Ford, the controversial former mayor of Toronto who died in 2016, in Run This Town, a drama currently shooting in Toronto. The actor is reportedly being fit with a prosthetic to play the former mayor.

    ? Melissa McCarthy's and Ben Falcone's next action comedy: The married duo will once again collaborate on the film Super-Intelligence, with McCarthy as the movie's star and Falcone directing.

    ? Matthew McConaughey's White Boy Rick gets release date: Jeff Robinov's Studio 8 has pushed back the movie's release by one month to mid-September — the beginning of the fall awards season. The drama, previously slated for August, will now open in select theaters Sept. 14 before expanding nationwide a week later, Sept. 21.

    ? Alex Garland's next film finds a home: TriStar Pictures has landed The Toymaker’s Secret, the CG/live-action fantasy project from the sought-after filmmaker. Garland wrote the script but helming duties will go to Paloma Baeza, a BAFTA and Annie Award winner (and Garland's wife).

    ? Inner Workings director Leo Matsuda sells pair of projects to DreamWorks Animation: One is titled Sputnik and is based on a children’s book by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth. The studio also purchased an original idea of Matsuda's titled Yokai Samba, which he will write and direct. Details.

    Crooked Media's first feature film: The media company behind popular political podcast Pod Save America will co-produce director David Modigliani's feature documentary that will follow Congressman Beto O'Rourke as he runs to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections.

    Saudi Arabia's film revolution...

    Who benefits? The fact that Black Panther is set to break Saudi Arabia’s 35-year cinema ban (immediately followed by Avengers: Infinity War) is a sure sign that Hollywood will play a significant part in Saudi Arabia’s film future. One regional distributor predicts that the country will likely “give space only to tentpole tites," and U.S. studio fare is likely to dominate. Full story.

  • The 'Fire and Fury' Diaries

    What does the media still get wrong about Trump? Best-selling author and columnist Michael Wolff writes:

    In Washington, a small number of news organizations (ever fewer as the media constricts), each competing with the other but all, lemming-like, mindful of the parameters of the game set by one another, dominate the form and sensibility of political coverage. While we see this as "journalism" — often with the criticism that it's weighted to liberal journalism — we might as much see it as another kind of bureaucracy, weighted to protecting its own interests.

    Not part of that bureaucracy — indeed without an employer — I slipped into the White House this past year and got a close-up look at a West Wing operating at historic levels of managerial and intellectual impairment. Read more.

    Facebook saga continues...

    Zuck faced the Senate: The short version — Mark Zuckerberg battled Ted Cruz, talked regulation, wore a suit, and frequently got defensive during his grilling. The long version.

    Cazzie David's letter to New York...

    "Can someone please give New York an Ambien?" David, executive producer of Amazon's Half-Empty (and daughter of Larry), writes: "When I tell people how much I hate New York, they say, 'You just haven't had the New York experience yet.' First of all, I've had the experience, and I hope to never experience it again." Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Mariah Carey: My battle with bipolar disorder." The singer opens up in a People cover story. [People]

    — "The 'Despacito' YouTube hack was probably pretty simple to pull off." Lily Hay Newman writes: "The removal of YouTube's most popular video this week was likely the result of a low-cost phishing scam rather than sophisticated hacking." [Wired]

    — "As John Hughes' films face criticism, Love, Simon marks a new era for teen movies." Kate Erbland writes: "As the world grapples with the dated sexual politics of '80s teen romances, new classics are taking their place." [IndieWire]

    — "Laura Ingraham is Fox News' problem, and its way forward." Daniel D'Addario writes: "Fox News is in an interestingly existential moment." [Time]

    — "With Solo, Disney is changing up the Star Wars marketing machine." Chris Thilk writes: "There's a subtle shift to promoting actors, not just characters." [Adweek]

    — "Which of these 33 characters will die in Avengers: Infinity War?" Kyle Buchanan plays the MCU odds. [Vulture]

    — "The Last O.G., High Maintenance, and the Brooklyn show in 2018." Alison Herman writes: "Two recent series set out to capture the latest iteration of the ever-changing borough; that task, like its inspiration, is more complicated than it appears." [The Ringer]

    — "A love letter to Nick Miller, the goofball prince of New Girl." Brian Grubb writes: "The saving grace of it all is the performance of Jake Johnson." [Uproxx]

    — "Ferragamo, once cobbler to the stars, stumbles." Eric Sylvers writes: "The 90-year-old Italian fashion house famed for outfitting Hollywood stars from Marilyn Monroe to Sophia Loren, is struggling to regain its footing amid falling profit and management and design upheaval." [Wall Street Journal]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Jon Hamm does a spot-on impression of Ray Romano playing golf." [Tonight Show]

    + "Tucker Carlson stole Stephen Colbert's Panda bit." [Late Show]

    + "Eva Longoria on pregnancy, delivery plans and Desperate Housewives reboot." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Which professional wrestlers are box-office champs?" Asking the question in a week where John Cena and The Rock have new movies. [Mothership/USA Today]

    + "Barry." The gang discusses Bill Hader's HBO comedy. [Pop Culture Happy Hour/NPR]

    Today's Birthdays: Matt Ryan, 37, Tricia Helfer, 44, Vincent Gallo, 57.