What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:19 AM 4/17/2018

by Ray Rahman

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah_Sean Hannity - Screengrab - H 2018
Screengrab/The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

What's news: Netflix added 7.4 million subscribers in the first quarter of this year, beating expectations. Plus: Sean Hannity finds himself in hot water, AT&T and Time Warner CEOs may take the stand soon and a look at the comedy club scene after #MeToo. — Ray Rahman

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  • Netflix's Big Quarter

    The streaming giant has a lot to be happy about, writes Paul Bond:

    Always growing: Netflix added 7.4 million new customers to its streaming service in the first quarter, besting the company's projection that it would add 6.35 million on a worldwide basis, the company said Monday.

    Foreign lift: Netflix's growth in the quarter was due mostly to its expansion into foreign markets, as it added 5.46 million international subscribers while analysts expected roughly 5.02 million.

    As the Financial Times reports, "international revenues [are expected] to exceed sales from its home market of the US for the first time in the current quarter."

    Revenue: Netflix posted $3.7 billion in revenue, just slightly ahead of the projections of analysts. Adjusted earnings per share of 64 cents was about what Wall Street had projected.

    Outperforming tech peers: “We’re very different from the ad-supported businesses and we’ve always been very big on protecting all of our members’ viewing,” Reed Hastings told shareholders. “I think we’re substantially inoculated from the other issues that are happening in the industry.”

    On the Cannes impasse: “We regret our films not being able to compete at this year’s Cannes film festival,” Netflix top brass also said in the letter. “The festival adopted a new rule that means if a film is in competition at Cannes, it can not be watched on Netflix in France for the following three years. We would never want to do that to our French members."

    More Hastings: "Last year, we expanded our efforts in original programming to unscripted shows across several genres," the exec went on. "Our output in this area is now comparable to similarly focused U.S. domestic cable networks."

    "Shows like Queer Eye and Nailed It are great examples of our ambitions in this area: engaging, buzz-worthy shows that drive lots of enjoyment around the world." Full story.

    AT&T-Time Warner trial update...

    Taking the stand: Ready for some courtroom drama? The Wall Street Journal reports that "Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes could testify as soon as Tuesday to explain why the owner of Cartoon Network and HBO wants to sell itself to the country’s biggest pay-TV distributor. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson will likely have his chance on Thursday, when he takes the stand to dispute the Justice Department’s allegations that the deal would raise the cost of cable- and satellite-TV service."

    The Sean Hannity situation...

    How about that: President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen was reluctant to name one of his other clients during a Monday hearing — but, after pressure from a New York federal judge, it was revealed that the mystery client is Fox News host Sean Hannity.

    What Hannity's saying: He told his radio show audience that he's occasionally had "brief discussions" with Cohen about legal issues that he wanted "his input and perspective on." But, he added, "Michael never represented me in any matter. I never retained him in the traditional sense of retaining a lawyer. I never received an invoice from Michael." He also stressed that no third party was involved. 

    Conflict of interest? Yes, according to a number of observers, including Anderson Cooper, who said last night: “Not disclosing a business or legal relationship with someone you report on and have had on as your guest at least 16 times since Donald Trump declared his presidency, that doesn’t sound either fair nor balanced."

    Alan Dershowitz agrees: “I really think you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen,” Dershowitz told Hannity — on Hannity's Fox News show, no less.

    Late night: You can guess which side those guys were on. Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel all had a ball with the news — watch.

    Fox's Sky bid...

    "Political assault"? British regulators are engaging in a "political assault" on 21st Century Fox over its desire to purchase the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own, the group general counsel of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled company charged Monday. "The sustained effort by some to politicize the Sky review should raise concerns not only for those who want to invest in the U.K. but, more fundamentally, for all who cherish the rule of law," Gerson Zweifach wrote in an opinion published in the Financial Times.

    Barry Diller talks, part two...

    On his L.A. gondola project: "Time will tell, but we are starting the first phase of the project which is really — we’re funding the discovery phase, which is feasibility. We have encouragement from the administration of the Los Angeles Mayor's Office, so we are going to see. The early work says it is feasible. It’s going to take a while — and God knows it’s not an easy project — but it’s also a juicy, wonderful idea."

    On the mega-deals-for-super-producers trend: "It’s inevitable these things are going to continue. Netflix in particular has so many subscribers go in the opposite direction, which inevitably they will. For now, everybody should enjoy it." Full Q&A.

    MSNBC's bold change...

    No more news ticker: As of yesterday morning, MSNBC dropped its news ticker. "We’re removing the scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen for a cleaner view that puts our reporting more front and center," a network spokesperson said. "As a network, we focus on up-to-the-minute breaking news showcasing our team’s smart reporting and in-depth analysis, and we want viewers to get the best possible experience.”

    The late-night wars...

    Update: It's getting pretty lopsided, Vulture reports. Per Nielsen ratings for the year’s first quarter, Colbert averaged 4.02 million DVR-adjusted viewers — a massive 20 percent leap compared with the same time frame in 2017 — and well ahead of both Fallon (2.76 million) and Kimmel (2.35 million)." Colbert's margin of victory a year ago was 300,000 — now it's 1.26 million.

    From CBS to Lionsgate...

    Exits: Prolific producers Eric and Kim Tannenbaum are leaving broadcast's studio system. The married producing duo have exited their deal with CBS Television Studios, their home of nearly a decade, for a first-look, overall pact with studio Lionsgate Television. Sources say the duo's deal with the studio was up and the split was amicable. Read more.

    The Westworld premiere was last night...

    Inside the Hollywood party: Bartenders and wait staff were outfitted in dark uniforms branded with the word "Delos," the same company that runs the show's parks. A DJ controlled the upbeat music from a balcony station high above the main floor, surrounded by robotic vultures and multicolored horses. Drone hosts lorded over several different corners of the space, and iconography from the series (including Arnold's maze) were studded throughout the party as well.

    Spotted: In addition to cast and creators (including Jonah Nolan and Lisa Nolan Joy), the party drew the likes of Christopher Nolan and Liam Hemsworth (both of whom were supporting their respective brothers, Jonah and Luke). Also in attendance: Lea Thompson (Back to the Future), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), James Tupper (Big Little Lies), David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer) and Silicon Valley stars Martin Starr and Thomas Middleditch. Read more.

    ABC's Goldbergs spinoff...

    Picked up: The Disney-owned network has handed out a 13-episode series order for the 1990s-set spinoff formerly known as Schooled. Additionally, former Goldbergs series regular AJ Michalka (Barry's ex-girlfriend Lainey) has joined the cast of the untitled spinoff, which has been retooled after original star Nia Long was no longer available.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? The Big Bang Theory's big guest stars: Mark Hamill and Kathy Bates will be joining the show's May 11 season finale, which will focus on the marriage between Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik). Also on the guest list: Lauren Lapkus, Jerry O'Connell and Teller.

    ? Showtime orders James Corden's comedy pilot: The network has given a pilot commitment to The Wrong Mans, a half-hour, single-camera effort from Bad Robot based on the BBC series created by James Corden and Matthew Baynton. Ben Schwartz is slated to star in the new iteration.

    ? Hulu is going to Fyre Festival: The streaming service has picked up a multipart doc about the ultra-luxury music festival gone wrong, to be developed by Billboard, Mic and The Cinemart. The untitled docuseries, slated for 2019, will examine what really happened behind the scenes and the ongoing investigation into the failed music festival

    ? Starz takes on Seeso's leftovers: The premium cable network has inked a licensing agreement with NBCUniversal Television that includes Cameron Esposito's and Rhea Butcher's critically praised series Take My Wife. Also included in the pact are Night Train With Wyatt Cenac, Skylar Brothers: Hipster Ghosts, The UCB Show and more. Full list.

    ? Peabody Awards: Among the winners are Oscar nominee Last Man in Aleppo, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise and Time: The Kalief Browder Story. The winners and finalists will be celebrated at a gala event May 19 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. See the full list.

    ? RIP, Harry Anderson: The Night Court actor died Monday morning in Asheville, N.C., at the age of 65. In addition to his role on the NBC sitcom, Anderson appeared on Cheers, starred as humorist Dave Barry on the 1990s show Dave's World and played Richie Tozier in the 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's It. Read more.

  • How Bankable is Amy Schumer?

    Her upcoming comedy I Feel Pretty is tracking to open behind her previous efforts, writes Pamela McClintock:

    According to the major services, Schumer's new movie won't match the openings of her past two big-screen comedies, Trainwreck (which launched to $30.1 million) and Snatched ($19.5 million), when hitting theaters this weekend, according to those with access to the surveys.

    Forecasts show I Feel Pretty — about a woman who thinks she looks like a supermodel after she bumps her head during a spinning mishap — debuting in the $13 million to $15 million range domestically. The film is from STX Entertainment, home of the Bad Moms series.

    Caveat: Those with access to tracking say that unaided awareness is just one point behind Snatched and three points behind Trainwreck, meaning Pretty could overperform. In terms of definite interest, another key metric, Pretty is one point ahead of Trainwreck and two points behind Snatched.

    One big difference: Both Trainwreck  and Snatched were rated R, while Pretty sports a friendlier PG-13 rating in hopes of enticing younger teen girls in addition to older femmes. Full story.

    Schumer's potential next role: a boxing biopic? The comedian is in talks for Christy Martin, a boxing drama based on the life and career of the titular world-champion fighter who pushed for women's place in the sport. Katherine Fugate, the writer behind Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, will direct from her own script.

    The pay-to-play prosecutions...

    L.A. City Attorney finishes his task: Mike Feuer has completed his prosecutorial effort against more than two dozen offenders, a mix of acting workshop owners and casting professionals who accepted plea deals for violating California’s Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act.

    Feuer: “The idea of these cases is not to be punitive for the sake of being punitive. We’re trying to stop a problem. The idea is to change behavior and this is a fantastic outcome. We made an impact.” Read more.

    News from Cannes...

    Directors' Fortnight lineup: Nicolas Cage's and Gerard Depardieu’s latest are among the films set for the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar at this year’s festival. Guillaume Nicloux’s Les Confins du Monde (The Confines of the World), which sees him working again with his regular collaborator Depardieu, and Cage-starrer Mandy, directed by Panos Cosmatos and co-starring Andrea Riseborough, are among the lineup titles. See the full list.

    Over at Tribeca Film Festival...

    The jury is set: This year's group of jurors consists of esteemed directors, actors, producers and storytellers, including Justin Bartha, Josh Charles, Ray Liotta, Sheila Nevins, Chris Messina, Zosia Mamet, Lakeith Stanfield and Norman Reedus. The jurors will honor the new works of members within the creative community with cash prizes and unique art awards. See the full list.

    Pet Sematary remake finds its star...

    It's Jason Clarke (probably): The actor, fresh off of Chappaquiddick, is in negotiations to star in Paramount’s new adaptation of the Stephen King novel. Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch, the duo who co-directed the 2014 fantasy horror feature Starry Eyes, are helming the project.

    Blumhouse's next big project...

    Comic book adaptation: Oscar winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) is poised to bring his most notable comic book creation to the big screen: He will write and direct an adaptation of his 2017 series The American Way: Those Above and Those Below for Blumhouse. Details.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Mindy Kaling nabs Hugh Dancy and John Lithgow: The duo will join Kaling's film Late Night, in which she stars alongside Emma Thompson; Veep star Reid Scott and I, Tonya actor Paul Walter Hauser also are among the cast.

    ? James Gray will direct the terrorism thriller I Am Pilgrim: The Lost City of Z director replaces Kingsman: The Secret Service helmer Matthew Vaughn, who was earlier attached to the MGM project, adapted from Terry Hayes' spy novel franchise.

    ? Mel Gibson starrer Boss Level nabbed by Entertainment Studios: The action-thriller, which stars Gibson, Frank Grillo, Ken Jeong and Naomi Watts, will receive a wide release in 2019 by Byron Allen's distribution outfit.

    ? Domhnall Gleeson joining Elisabeth Moss? He's in final negotiations to join her in The Kitchen, New Line's adaptation of the DC/Vertigo female-fronted crime comic book series. The cast already includes the likes of Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Margo Martindale. 

    ? Danny Boyle's Lily James-Kate McKinnon comedy gets a release date: The untitled Universal comedy will hit theaters in the U.S. on Sept. 13, 2019. Richard Curtis wrote the script, which is keeping its logline close to the vest; it's known to be musically themed and set in the 1960s or '70s, with McKinnon playing a talent agent and James playing a teacher.

    ? Patricia Arquette's and Angela Bassett's Netflix comedy: The actors are in talks to star in the comedy film Otherhood. Based on the 2008 book Whatever Makes You Happy by William Sutcliffe, the movie will follow three suburban moms who show up to the New York City homes of their sons unannounced; Sex and the City writer Cindy Chupack will direct.

    ? New Criterion Collection titles coming: Bull Durham, Sex, Lies, and VideotapeDragon Inn and A Matter of Life and Death are among the films that will be getting the prestige Criterion treatment. 

    THR, Esq.: Guilds express concern over residuals payments amid The Weinstein Co. bankruptcy. SAG-AFTRA, the DGA and the WGA on Monday filed a reservation of rights, explaining that TWC pays several million dollars each year in residuals to guild-represented employees and to related pension and health plans. Read more.

  • Comedy Clubs After #MeToo

    Cultural changes are trickling down to ground zero of the stand-up firmament, with female comedians arguing, "Stand-up is still one of the most sexist fields." Stuart Miller writes:

    While the sexual scandals that engulfed comic legends Bill Cosby and Louis C.K. got all the press, #MeToo is also having a real impact on grass-roots stand-up — at the New York clubs where much of the nation's comedy is honed. Comics are changing their jokes, adapting to new audience sensitivities and trying to figure out how to behave with one another.

    "Women are more empowered now, both onstage and in the audience," says veteran comic Christopher Titus. "The things guys used to say about them, women can now say back. Meanwhile, every guy checks himself a little bit. Manifest destiny is over." Full story.

    + Louis C.K.'s path to a comeback likely runs through comedy clubs. Fellow New York stand-ups and club owners debate how the disgraced comic could return to the stage...and the spotlight. Read more.

    In other news...

    Pulitzer time: The New York Times and the New Yorker shared the award in the Public Service category of the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes, announced Monday, for their coverage of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Other notables: Kendrick Lamar became the first hip-hop artist to win a Pulitzer and Cost of Living won the drama award. 

    And now for our 16th edition of...

    ?The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: Alex Blumberg, CEO and co-founder of Gimlet Media, which just announced its new slate of shows.

    You guys recently announced a new podcast slate. Tell me about the new titles and why Gimlet’s excited about them. It’s a couple of firsts for us. We’re doing our first binge release with The Habitat and SandraSandra is our second scripted fiction. We’re also doing our first sports-focused podcast, called We Came to Win, about the secret history behind the World Cup. And The Habitat, especially, is unlike anything anybody has ever released.

    Gimlet made some waves by announcing that it was launching a division solely dedicated to TV and film adaptations. How’s that process coming along? The renaissance is happening in the form of TV. There’s so many shows being made, there’s so much content, and we can play a really key and exciting role in that as generators of storylines or content or IP that has a proved audience and a proved track record of quality. Everybody’s always looking for ideas. I think of us as sort of like Marvel, where we’re generating a lot of unique IP that can then find homes in television and film.

    Homecoming is turning into an Amazon series with Julia Roberts and Sam Esmail involved, but ABC’s sitcom Alex, Inc., based on Startup, is the first Gimlet podcast to turn into a scripted TV show. How much ownership does Gimlet have over the creative and commercial success of its adaptations? It varies. Alex, Inc. was our very first deal when we were a brand-new company and were just like, “I don’t know, yeah!” We didn’t ask for much creative input because we were too busy trying to get the company off the ground. As we’ve matured and this has become a bigger part of our ambitions, we are now taking a much more creative role in the projects that we’re part of.?

    What else we're reading...

    — "Apple is planning to launch a news subscription services." Mark Gurman and Gerry Smith write: "The move is part of a broader push by the iPhone maker to generate more revenue from online content and services." [Bloomberg]

    — "'I'm going to destroy you': Employees who worked at YouTube say violent threats from volatile creators have been going on for years." Greg Sandoval reports on the recently attacked company. [Business Insider

    — "In conversation: Isabella Rossellini." David Marchese interviews the actress about "evolution, #MeToo's moral complexity and the good parts of aging." [Vulture]

    — "With Lost in Space, Parker Posey finds an unlikely home in serial TV." Dave Itzkoff writes: "Posey, a longtime star of independent films, puts her stamp on the villainous Dr. Smith." [The New York Times]

    — "Why pop culture links women and killer plants." Amandas Ong writes: "Botany is seeing a mini-revival as a plot device, adding a transgressive edge to recent films like Phantom Thread and Annihilation." [The Atlantic]

    — "Billions has become TV's sharpest critique of toxic masculinity." Alison Willmore writes: "The Showtime series has snapped into focus from being a blurry series about power to an infinitely sharper one about gender." [BuzzFeed]

    What else we're seeing...

    +  "Michelle Wolf dares Trump to attend WHCD." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "John Dickerson outlines how Hannity can keep his job." [Late Show]

    + "How Timothy Olyphant supports pay equality." [Conan]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Down for its former glory, The Walking Dead is still a hit." A discussion of the show's fortunes. [Screen Grab/KCRW]

    + "D'Arcy Carden from The Good Place." The comedian sits down for an interview." [It's Been a Minute/NPR]

    Today's Birthdays: Rooney Mara, 33, Jennifer Garner, 46, Adam McKay, 50, Liz Phair, 51, Sean Bean, 59, Nick Hornby, 61.