What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:35 AM 4/26/2018

by Ray Rahman

Kanye West - Getty - H 2018
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for adidas

What's news: The summer box office could be in for a rebound this year. Plus: Tom Cruise teases the next Mission: Impossible movie, A Quiet Place gets a sequel, Time Warner posts earnings despite dips in the entertainment divisions and Kanye West is ... doing something to his brand. — Ray Rahman

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  • Summer Box Office Watch Begins

    Following last year's brutal returns, studios are rolling out their big guns in a bid to reverse the 2017 curse, writes Pamela McClintock:

    Hollywood's hoping that last summer's brutal box office — moviegoing hit a 25-year low in the U.S. — will be forgotten as this season kicks off with one of the most powerful collections of tentpole brands (Star Wars, Avengers, Jurassic World, etc.) ever assembled.

    "If the tentpole films don't crowd out the second-tier titles, then we have a good shot at a record summer," says one analyst. Female movie­goers could provide the swing factor with titles like Mamma Mia!, Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians.

    Tom Rothman: "It will be a very big summer overall," predicts Sony's movie chief. Each of these big films will inevitably eat some portion of the one before its lunch. But they are big lunches, so the number will be great nonetheless." The five key weekends to watch.

    Marc Bernardin on Marvel's strategy ...

    Marvel Studios must forget its past: "Kevin Feige's shared universe changed franchise films," writes Bernadin, "but as Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters, Disney should heed what happened to the comic-book industry in the '90s and ditch the interlocking storylines."

    Lessons from history: "The ongoing story that builds, periodically, to a giant crossover event was the same approach that almost destroyed comics in the 1990s. ... What Black Panther did so well, among many things, was act as a beginner's Marvel movie." Read more.

    The Harvey Weinstein story hits the big screen ...

    Adaptation: The story of Pulitzer-winning New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and their roles in taking down the movie mogul is getting the Hollywood treatment — Plan B and Annapurna have teamed to pick up the screen rights from the reporters and the Times.

    The gist: The aim is not to tell the tale of Weinstein or his purported crimes, but rather how the reporters faced down threats and intimidation to push through with the story; movies like All the President’s Men and Spotlight will serve as touchstones.

    A key Fox-Disney question ...

    Smoking or non-smoking? That's one of the issues facing no-onscreen-smoking Disney as it takes over the "much more permissive" Fox, Brooks Barnes writes in The New York Times.

    Writes Barnes: "Now anti-smoking advocates want Mr. Iger to extend that rule to all future youth-rated films (G, PG, PG-13) made by Fox and its Fox Searchlight specialty label ..."

    A Quiet Place sequel update ...

    There will be one: Paramount is moving ahead with a sequel to John Krasinski's hit horror film, Jim Gianopulos announced at CinemaCon

    News from CinemaCon ...

    What's been happening: Jason Blum discussed Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman. ... Jamie Lee Curtis debuted Halloween reboot footage. ... Cher performed ABBA's "Fernando" to promote the Mamma Mia! sequel. ... Hailee Steinfeld showed off a sneak peek of Bumblebee. ... Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic director Mimi Leder confirmed that RBG "loves" the movie. ... Tom Cruise teases new Mission: Impossible stunt: "It took a year to figure this sequence out ... I felt like I was in Top Gun."

    Speaking of Tom Cruise: Last night, Leslie Odom Jr. paid tribute to Cruise with a live performance to celebrate the actor receiving the Will Rogers Pioneer of the Year award.

    Said Cruise: "I grew up going to the movies and it really was my life, my escape. I learned about the world and it made me dream. I wanted to make movies since I was 4 years old, no lie." Read more.

    The next Stephen King adaptation ...

    The Long Walk: New Line Cinema, which made the big-screen version of It, is staying in the King business, setting its sights on adapting his novel The Long Walk. James Vanderbilt, who was behind the Robert Redford-Cate Blanchett drama Truth, has written the script to adapt the book, which King wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.

    Elsewhere in film ...

    ? Amy Adams's new thriller: The actress will star in The Woman in The Window, a thriller adaptation that Darkest Hour helmer Joe Wright will direct for Fox 2000.

    ? Guy Pearce and Vicky Krieps' art forgery drama: The pair, along with Claes Bang and Roland Moller, are starring in Lyrebird, a drama that reteams the producers of All the Money in the World, Imperative Entertainment and Ridley Scott.

    ? Harrison Ford, Tiffany Haddish join Secret Life of Pets 2: The duo have joined the voice cast for the sequel of the Universal and Illumination animated film, which will also see the return of Kevin Hart and Jenny Slate.

    ? Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifianakis also have an animated film: All three of them will topline a new, still-untitled animated movie from Laika, the animation house behind Kubo and the Two Strings and Coraline. Chris Butler (ParaNorman) is directing; Annapurna will distribute in the U.S.

    ? Amber Heard joins Elisabeth Moss: She's star alongside Moss in Alex Ross Perry's upcoming indie Her Smell.

    ? Paramount's new animation slate: The studio revealed two new projects: Monster on the Hill, which is being produced in partnership with ReelFX and Walden Media; and Luck, produced in partnership with Skydance Animation.

    ? Chicken Run sequel in the works: Aardman Animations is officially working on a follow-up, with StudioCanal and Pathe on board. The 2000 original is still the most successful stop-motion animated feature of all time.

  • The Megyn Kelly Question

    Did NBC make a bad bet? 

    Joe Flint's latest Wall Street Journal story says yes: NBC's "three-year, $69 million bet to woo Ms. Kelly from her conservative primetime perch at Fox News is backfiring," writes Flint, citing sinking ratings and high production costs.

    Numbers: "Since joining Today, Kelly is averaging 2.4 million viewers an episode, 18 percent below what the hour was pulling in last season ... ratings have declined sharply for the past two months, dipping to a low of 1.9 million."

    Losing ground: "The performance of Megyn Kelly Today has allowed its chief rival, Walt Disney Co.’s syndicated chat show Live with Kelly & Ryan, to more than double its lead over NBC in that hour to 747,000 viewers."

    Discontent: "Some of NBC’s affiliate TV stations are unhappy with the drop in viewers, and staffers on other NBC News shows have been grumbling about Ms. Kelly’s lofty budget."

    Kelly's take: “I need to introduce myself to people who don’t know me or know some bastardized version of me that they’ve gotten from a website or a TV show,” she told Flint. “There are definitely some who only know me through some caricature they learned about on The Daily Show.”

    “Our show is a baby. We’re six months old,” she continued. “Morning TV is obviously new to me and I’m figuring it out as we go … I think any show needs about a year to just find its footing." Read the full WSJ piece.

    The Viacom-CBS merger ...

    New report: "What seems to be driving Shari Redstone is familial score-settling," William D. Cohan writes in Vanity Fair, "a quest for victory over her father, who never wanted her to have a role in either Viacom or CBS." Cohan adds this quote from a source: "It’s the story of a person who was mistreated by her father."

    The state of Sumner Redstone: He "is increasingly out of the picture," Cohan continues. "He communicates partly through an iPad programmed with his voice with, reportedly, three responses: yes, no and fuck you. But even those may be a challenge — according to someone who saw him recently, 'he’s non compos mentis.'" 

    Roseanne ratings update ...

    Even the reruns are winners: The network took a week off from originals of the revived comedy, airing four back-to-back repeats instead. It was enough to deliver a Tuesday demo victory for ABC — two of the episodes even managed to tie an original Voice on NBC for status as the night's top program. Details.

    Earnings reports ...

    AT&T: The company, fighting a court battle to acquire Time Warner for $85.4 billion, posted first-quarter earnings that fell shy of Wall Street's expectations. The good news: DirecTV overall added 125,000 users to 25.4 million — though that's thanks to 312,000 DirectTV Now additions; the traditional service was down 187,000 subs.

    Time Warner: The entertainment conglomerate beat Wall Street estimates with higher-than-expected first-quarter earnings — despite profit declines at all units, including Warner Bros., Turner and HBO. Time Warner won't hold an earnings call due to its planned takeover by AT&T.

    Facebook: Despite the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook generated $12 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2018, up 37 percent year-over-year. The social networking giant also grew its monthly active users to 2.2 billion as of March, up 13 percent from the same period last year. Read more.

    AMC Networks: In a regulatory filing, the company revealed that CEO Josh Sapan received compensation worth $29.6 million in 2017, down 3 percent from $30.5 million in 2016.

    Golden Globes rule changes ...

    "The Big Little Lies rule"? The HFPA, perhaps aware of the controversy surrounding Big Little Lies' entry as a limited series last year (the show has since turned into a regular series), offers this:

    "A television limited series that is later renewed for an additional season shall be classified as a series or again as a limited series in that later season depending on the degree of continuity in theme, storyline, main characters and production supervision from the original limited series to the later year of the series." See the other changes.

    A show about sex trafficking cult Nxivm is in the works ...

    Already: Annapurna Television has optioned the rights to reporter Barry Meier's 2017 New York Times expose "Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded" that explores the group fronted by Keith Raniere. Actress Shannon Woodward (Westworld) is attached to executive produce the drama alongside Annapurna's Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle and Susan Goldberg.

    Elsewhere in TV ...

    ? HBO cancels Alan Ball drama Here and Now: The little-watched critical misfire, starring Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter, will not return for a second season.

    ? Forest Whitaker's new crime drama: Epix has handed out a 10-episode, straight-to-series order for scripted drama Godfather of Harlem, based on the true story of 1960s crime boss Bumpy Johnson and starring and exec produced by Whitaker.

    ? Nickelodeon brings back Double Dare: The network has ordered 40 new episodes to premiere this summer. Nickelodeon says the revival will "feature appearances from blasts from the past, longtime Double Dare fans and stars from today" to be announced at a later date.

    ? Disney Channel's live-action Kim Possible movie finds its stars: Sadie Stanley and Sean Giambrone (The Goldbergs) will star as Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable, respectively, in the movie set to debut in 2019.

    ? Netflix plans BuzzFeed-set docuseries: The weekly shortform series, called Follow This, will follow the journalists at BuzzFeed News as they report a variety of stories. Each of the more than 20 episodes will clock in at around 15 minutes; the show premieres July 9.

    ? BBC World News sets Vice compilation show: The network will air a "new" weekly series, titled Vice News This Week, that'll be compiled from segments that air on HBO's Vice News Tonight.

    TV critics debate: The art of the successful sophomore season ...

    Tim Goodman: I think Handmaid's Tale is definitely going to hit a fatigue factor in its second season that Westworld will not. The first two episodes [of Handmaid's] have what I think are ridiculously pointless bits tossed in to spin the wheels in a showy spectacle while not advancing the plot. Worrisome.

    Daniel Fienberg: You bring up a very important distinction that every show faces as it extends or elongates its run — namely the difference between wheel-spinning and world-building, one which is clearly in the eye of the beholder. 

    These are big questions and they may be why Stranger Things was able to not face such a prohibitive backlash in its second season ... see the full debate.

    Cobra Kai premiered at Tribeca ...

    Review: "YouTube Red's Karate Kid sequel may be a one-joke premise, but thanks to Ralph Macchio and William Zabka's likable work, it's more entertaining than you're probably expecting," writes Daniel Fienberg. Full review.

  • What Is Kanye West Doing?

    Did Kanye West just kill his brand? Booth Moore writes:

    After an extended social media silence, the rap star turned Yeezy fashion mogul has been on a Twitter tear, pledging his support on the social media platform for President Donald Trump, something that has gotten many brands in hot water in a time when consumers vote with their dollars. He also dropped his longtime star manager Scooter Braun.

    What he wrote: "You don't have to agree with trump but the mob can't make me not love him." He also posted a photo of a signed Make America Great Again hat, and Trump tweeted back at him in approval: "Thank you Kanye, very cool!" (Trump reiterated his Kanye support on Fox and Friends this morning.)

    Brand down? “People like him for being a bit crazy and erratic,” says Stacy Jones of entertainment branding firm Hollywood Branded. “His fans forgive him for being dehydrated, leaving a show for Kim or canceling a tour for his health. But ... sharing his enthusiasm and love of our president, when much of his fan base does not at this point in time, that could indeed hurt his brand.” Full story.

    Trump book frenzy gains momentum ...

    Gold rush: "All presidents generate their own train of books, but Trump has been unusual in being so divisive right out of the gate," says longtime conservative publisher Adam Bellow, who points to the pace of personnel change in Trump's White House. "In Trump's case, the revolving door is spinning off the hinges, resulting in a bonanza for publishers."

    More on the way: The latest deal is an oral history of the 15 years leading up to the launch of Trump's winning presidential campaign in 2015. Vanity Fair contributor Allen Salkin and former New York Post reporter Aaron Short's The Method to the Madness will be published in 2019 by Bellow's St. Martin's Press imprint and will include new information about Trump's fixer/lawyer Michael Cohen as well as Trump's time on The Apprentice ... Read more.

    In other news ...

    Rape lawsuit against Russell Simmons dropped: Jennifer Jarosik, the aspiring filmmaker suing Simmons for an alleged sexual assault, has dropped her claims, according to a stipulation of dismissal filed Wednesday.

    FBI investigating alleged Joy Reid hack: Reid claims that foul play was responsible for a series of decades-old homophobic blog posts that look to have been written by her, well before her cable news career began. Now, the FBI is formally investigating the accusations, her lawyer said. Details.

    The Golden State Killer and Patton Oswalt: Oswalt was quick to respond on Wednesday when authorities said his late wife Michelle McNamara's work chronicling the Golden State Killer did not help with the apprehension of suspect Joseph James DeAngelo.

    "It did," Oswalt wrote, "but #MichelleMcNamara didn’t care about getting any shine on herself. She cared about the #GoldenStateKiller being behind bars and the victims getting some relief. She was Marge Gunderson in Fargo, not Chilton in Silence of the Lambs."

    What else we're reading ...

    — "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Book Club cater to audiences usually neglected during the summer." Amy Kaufman writes: "Summer has long been considered a dry period for films for the over-40 set — especially older females." [Los Angeles Times]

    — "Phoebe Waller-Bridge talks a walk on the droid side in Solo." Emily Zemler writes: "When the British actress-producer was asked to read for the role of a droid in Solo, the upcoming Han Solo spinoff film, she wasn't entirely sure what a droid even was." [Los Angeles Times]

    — "Michelle Wolf's next gig is hard work: Making Washington laugh." Dave Itzkoff profiles this weekend's WHCD host: "Wolf is no fan of President Trump’s, and was relieved when it was announced that for the second year, he would not be attending the dinner." [New York Times]

    — "The Kanye West delusion." Sean Fennessey writes: "No one wants to deal with this." [The Ringer]

    — "From femme fatale to complex superhero: The evolution of the MCU's Black Widow." Caroline Siede writes: "After Iron Man 2, Black Widow seemed destined to be as much a male gaze fantasy as a superhero in her own right." [AV Club]

    — "Superheroes don't wear ponytails, and yes, it's sexist." Rebecca Jennings writes: "The women of Avengers: Infinity War are the latest superheroes saddled with flowing hair." [Racked]

    What else we're seeing ...

    + "Patton Oswalt talks about the Golden State Killer." [Late Night]

    + "Henry Winkler will one day play Michael Cohen." [Late Show]

    + "Infinity War cast reveals what they stole from the set." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Inside L.A.'s Little Door, a favorite of Laurence Fishburne and Jim Carrey." [THR Eats]

    Today's birthdays: Jemima Kirke, 33, Channing Tatum, 38, Stana Katic, 40, Melania Trump, 48, Kevin James, 53, Jet Li, 55, Giancarlo Esposito, 60, Carol Burnett, 85.