What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:29 AM 4/21/2018

by Ray Rahman

Westworld Season 2 - Split - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of HBO

The Weekender: Natalie Portman breaks her silence on declining an honor in Israel. Plus: Hollywood's fight against the NRA, a preview of the new Westworld season and a deep dive into the Avengers: Infinity War marketing campaign. — Ray Rahman

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  • Can LED Change Moviegoing?

    What's next: Studio execs and American Society of Cinematographers members are starting to demo a new system that could change filmmaking and how we go to the movies. Carolyn Giardina writes:

    The first LED cinema screen in the U.S. was unveiled Friday at Pacific Theatres Winnetka in Chatsworth, a suburb of Los Angeles, where Warner Bros.’ Ready Player One will be the first movie offered on this exhibition system, starting Saturday. The Samsung LED Cinema Screen marks a radical shift from the theater projection systems that have been used since the birth of cinema. Instead, the LED screen is more akin to a giant television screen, and its use would render the projection booth a thing of the past.

    Will the public care? It remains to be seen whether the non-expert eye of the average moviegoers will see a noticeable difference, and whether audiences would then be willing to pay a premium for it. At launch, Pacific Theatres Winnetka is not charging a premium for the LED auditorium. But, in time, theaters may choose to charge a premium ticket price.

    The barrier: The biggest hurdle to a rollout could come down to the cost. Samsung said the cost of a screen could run anywhere from $500,000-$800,000, a hefty price for a theater owner. Top of the line laser projectors are generally estimated to cost between $150,000 to $300,000. Full story.

  • 'Infinity' Marketing Blitz

    Ad-vengers: A look at the yearlong marketing blitz, hype and strategy behind the film billed as "the most ambitious crossover event in history." Chris Thilk writes:

    It’s hard to miss the sense of finality that pervades the marketing campaign for Avengers: Infinity War. At every turn, Disney and Marvel Studios have made it clear to the audience that this is the end. This is the moment the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, launched in 2008 when Samuel L. Jackson appeared at the end of Iron Man to mention the “Avengers Initiative,” has been building toward.

    If you look back at how Warner Bros. sold the two parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the studio used the “It all ends here” message directly but also made it clear the finale was being presented in two parts. So audiences knew from the outset that the first film would not contain a conclusion to the story. A close read.

    ^Portman responds: The actress breaks her silence after deciding not to accept an Israel honor and canceling her trip to the country:

    In a statement, Natalie Portman says her reasoning for declining to receive an honor in Israel has been mischaracterized: "Let me speak for myself. I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it..."

    She continued: "Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. ... Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power." Full statement.

    Stars vs. NRA: Alyssa Milano, Alec Baldwin and Amy Schumer helped launch an anti-NRA campaign, writes Katie Kilkenny:

    Less than a month after March for Our Lives, a group of Hollywood stars have partnered with Parkland, Fla., students, activists and policy experts to launch a new initiative aimed at advocating for gun control and reducing the political influence of the National Rifle Association.

    The No Rifle Association initiative (#NoRA) announced its formation and goals in a letter to NRA executive vp Wayne LaPierre. It was signed by over 130 celebrities and activists including Parkland shooting survivors David Hogg and Cameron Kasky, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, Ashley Judd, Don Cheadle, Minnie Driver, Jon Favreau, Nathan Fillion, Jimmy Kimmel, Julianne Moore, Patton Oswalt, and Constance Wu.... Read the letter.

    In other film news...

    ? Weekend box office update: Amy Schumer catching up? In a surprise twist, Schumer's I Feel Pretty is catching up with A Quiet Place and Rampage, according to early Friday returns.

    Pretty's projected Friday gross of $5.5 million-$7 million, including $1 million in Thursday previews, means it has a shot to overtake Dwayne Johnson's Rampage with a debut in the $17 million-$20 million range. Read more.

    ? Universal wins the bidding war for Stephen King's Tommyknockers: The studio beat out Sony and Netflix, both of whom made aggressive overtures. James Wan of the Conjuring movies, and Roy Lee, one of the producers behind the adaptation of King’s It, are producing with Larry Sanitsky, who exec produced the 1993 TV miniseries version.

    ? Angry Birds 2 cast grows: Leslie Jones, Rachel Bloom, Sterling K. Brown Zach Woods, Brooklynn Prince and more are joining the animated sequel. Jones will voice the film's villain. See the full cast.

    ? Mel Gibson's new co-stars: Selina Lo and Michelle Yeoh are joining the Joe Carnahan action-thriller Boss Level, starring Gibson, Frank Grillo, Naomi Watts and more. 

    ? Clea DuVall's same-sex romantic comedy: TriStar Pictures has picked up Happiest Season, a same-sex romcom from DuVall and Mary Holland. DuVall will helm the project, which will be produced by Marty Bowen and Isaac Klausner of Temple Hill.

    ? Imagine CEO out: Charlie Corwin, who joined Imagine Entertainment as its CEO a little over a year ago, has exited the company and is planning to put together a media company of his own.

    THR, Esq: Harvey Weinstein appears in bankruptcy court. Harvey Weinstein has finally made an appearance in the bankruptcy of The Weinstein Co. On Friday, he submitted a motion aimed at forcing the debtor to hand over his personnel file. He says his discovery request will allow him to "exonerate himself." Read more.


  • 'Westworld' Weekend

    Wild, wild country: What should we expect from the HBO show's second season? The cast and crew (sort of) talk: 

    “The ways in which we manipulate time will be a little more aboveground this season because [the hosts are] aware now that they're a little lost in time,” co-creator Lisa Joy tells THR, adding, "But they're still lost."

    Yet the show's stars are just as in the dark as the general public. “[The scenes] were filmed in a sequence designed to completely disorient me,” Jeffrey Wright said at the Tribeca Film Festival. Evan Rachel Wood concurred: "I felt more confused [during] season two, when I was supposed to have more information.”

    But Joy helped fill in some blanks: “What is essential to the story is the feeling of both perfection and also of tragedy ... When the hosts get power. they're not gonna spend a lot of time naked on a stool.” Read more | THR's review.

    In other TV news...

    ? Ratings:Scandal finale pops for ABC: The series ender for the Shonda Rhimes drama averaged a 1.3 rating among adults 18-49 and 5.4 million viewers, making it the highest-performing episode in two months, improving a substantial 44 percent in the key demo from its penultimate episode.

    ? Grey's Anatomy news: The ABC medical drama is brining back Geena Davis for the penultimate episode of season 14, possibly for Jessica Capshaw's farewell.

    ? Ash vs. Evil Dead canceled at Starz: The network is axing Bruce Campbell and his small-screen offshoot of the Evil Dead films. The Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert gore-filled comedy's April 29 season three finale will now serve as its series wrap-up.

    ? Noah Emmerich teams up with Sacha Baron Cohen: The Americans star Emmerich has been tapped to star opposite Cohen in the Netflix series The Spy, a six-episode drama centered on an Israeli spy in 1960s Syria.

    ? Smallville actress Allison Mack arrested in alleged cult sex trafficking case: The actress, along with NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere, also known as “Vanguard,” was charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Details.

    ? Robert Durst has regrets: In a jailhouse call that was played for the court Thursday, accused killer Robert Durst told a friend he regretted doing the HBO documentary The Jinx, the Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Tribeca Tales

    Best of the fest:The Tribeca Film Festival headline generator is now in full swing, complete with a splashy reunion:

    Scarface, 35 years later: Scarface fans didn't need mounds of cocaine to pump themselves up to see Al Pacino; Michelle Pfeiffer; director Brian De Palma; and co-star Steven Bauer, who played Pacino's character's gangster sidekick Manny, at an anniversary screening of the beloved drug kingpin drama.

    The packed, sold-out audience cheered throughout a postscreening discussion with the cast (and booed at one poorly worded question from the moderator, writer Jesse Kornbluth) and even gave Pacino a standing ovation as he took the stage. Read more.

    John Legend talks Broadway (and Kanye West): The musician reunited with his Jesus Christ Superstar cohort (and fellow singer-songwriter) Sara Bareilles for a wide-ranging talk. "If I do it, I'd probably do it like Sara did it," Legend said of the prospect of a future on Broadway. "I would want to write the music and do it that way." Read more.

    Sarah Jessica Parker's new movie: The actress stars — and sings — in her first film in three years, Blue Night, which had its world premiere. Parker confessed that she found the prospect of singing in the film "theoretically terrifying." Read more.

    Chanel party: Sarah Jessica Parker, Zosia Mamet and Justine Bateman are among the filmmakers joining Jane Rosenthal and Paula Weinstein at the French label’s annual luncheon at The Odeon. Details.

    ^Club kids: Inside the Jane Club launch event, with Charlize Theron, timeshare jokes and more. Chris Gardner writes: 

    "What exactly is The Jane Club?" June Diane Raphael asked the group of well-heeled guests. (Aside from a male photographer and this Rambling Reporter, the room was filled with only females.) "Probably just a group of alarmingly attractive women — and yes, that’s true — but also, The Jane Club is a work space where women can work, write, think, answer emails, learn lines, record voice overs, read scripts and do their work." Details from the event.

    In other news...

    Swedish DJ Avicii dies at 28: "It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii," his publicist said Friday. Read more | Music world mourns | His most memorable songs | A look back.

    + Social media rankings: Chris Evans tops actors list | D.L. Hughley tops comedians list | Mike Huckabee tops TV personalities list

    What else we're reading...

    — "Reed Hastings, the Netflix CEO who is filling the world's screens." Matthew Garrahan profiles: "Netflix’s push into original production has turned it into one of the entertainment industry’s biggest players but its chief admits to not being very preoccupied with Tinseltown." [Financial Times]

    — "Is there such a thing as too many movies?" Sean Fennessey writes: "A recent surge in new movies added to the service has made Netflix the biggest producer of original films in America. But if most of them are completely ignored, does it matter how many the company makes?" [The Ringer]

    — "Inside the tragedy and triumph of Disney genius Howard Ashman." Joanna Robinson writes: "Ashman was grappling, at first secretly and then openly, with AIDS throughout the process of creating The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and a good portion of Aladdin." [Vanity Fair]

    — "Term of affection? Ethnic slur? Theater union decides that 'gypsy' must go." Michael Paulson writes: "The union that represents stage performers announced this week that it would cease using the title 'Gypsy Robe to describe one of its most cherished insider rituals." [New York Times]

    — "Tragically and fashionably, The Crow turned superhero cinema into a death dance." Tom Breihan looks back at a superhero movie from well before the age of the MCU. [AV Club]

    — "Inside Hollywood's prop food wonderland." Alexandra Ilyashov writes: "LA’s Prop Heaven houses all the diner decor, bar stools, and fake food a set decorator could want." [Eater]

    Today's Birthdays: Gubu Mbatha-Raw, 35, James McAvoy, 39, Rob Riggle, 48, John Cameron Mitchell, 55, Andie MacDowell, 60, Tony Danza, 66, Patti Lupone, 69, Iggy Pop, 70, Queen Elizabeth, 92.