What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:24 AM 4/27/2018

by Ray Rahman

Bill Cosby_Courthouse_April 26_1 - Getty - H 2018
Mark Makela/Getty Images

What's news: The Bill Cosby verdict, its aftermath and what's next. Plus: Avengers: Infinity War breaks records internationally, Amazon raises the price of Prime and the Hollywood PR industry undergoes a sea change. — Ray Rahman

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  • Guilty

    After 14 hours of deliberation, the second jury to hear the Bill Cosby's case found Cosby guilty in what many see as the first big conviction in the #MeToo era. Ashley Cullins and Eriq Gardner write:

    Bill Cosby has been found guilty of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand in 2004. On Thursday, a Pennsylvania jury returned a verdict after 14 hours of deliberation and held Cosby responsible for rape on all three counts brought by prosecutors.

    After the guilty verdict was read and jurors left the courtroom, Cosby launched an expletive-ridden tirade and called District Attorney Kevin Steele an "asshole." As Steele argued to revoke bail, Cosby stood up and shouted, "I'm sick of him!"

    What mattered this time: This jury got a taste of the wide-ranging allegations against Cosby. Five women who accuse the comedian of drugging and assaulting them were allowed to testify — last time, only one was allowed to take the stand.

    Punishment: Each of the three counts carries a prison term of up to 10 years, although the judge could impose the sentencing time concurrently. There will likely be an appeal from Cosby's team, citing a violation of due process rights. Full story.

    Gloria Allred: "Justice has been done!" said the attorney, who represents 33 women who have accused the comedian of sexual misconduct, after the verdict. "After all is said and done, women were finally believed, and we thank the jury so much for that." Watch.

    What happens to The Cosby Show? Reruns of the sitcom are being pulled from the air by the Bounce TV network "effective immediately," the network said Thursday in a statement.

    Late night: It was another stand-up comic — Hannibal Buress — who brought Cosby's misdeeds back into the spotlight. What are comedians saying now? "He can't do anything now except for maybe run for president," said Trevor Noah, while the likes of Jimmy Kimmel and Jordan Klepper also weighed in. Watch.

    Tom Brokaw accused...

    Report: Two women have accused veteran broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw of inappropriate workplace advances in a Washington Post story about the aftermath of #MeToo accusations at NBC News.

    Former NBC correspondent Linda Vester and an anonymous source who claims to have been a production assistant allege that the NBC News special correspondent made unwanted advances and acted inappropriately toward them in the 1990s, when Brokaw was an NBC Nightly News anchor. Read more.

    Your next Emmy hosts...

    Weekend Update: NBC has tapped SNL's Colin Jost and Michael Che to host the 2018 telecast. In a sense, it's been a long time coming: The network hasn't had an SNL personality helm the show since Eddie Murphy did back in 1983, instead relying recently on late-night hosts (like almost every other awards show).

    Amazon earnings...

    Strong: One week after revealing the number of people who pay for Prime subscriptions, the company reported first-quarter sales of $51 billion, up 43 percent over the same period last year. Net income grew to $3.27 per share, compared with $1.48 per share in the first quarter of 2017.

    The music factor: On Thursday, Amazon said it has "tens of millions" of paid customers who use its Amazon Music and Amazon Music Unlimited subscriptions, up more than 100 percent in the last six months.

    Increasing the price of Prime: The company will start charging $20 more for its membership program, bring the total to $119, which goes into effect May 11 for new subscribers. Existing members will be charged the higher price beginning June 16 as their accounts become eligible for renewal. Details.

    More Thursday Night Football: Amazon also renewed its streaming rights deal with the NFL to deliver a live digital stream of Thursday Night Football to Amazon Prime subscribers worldwide over the next two years. 

    Asia content strategy: "India has so much potential. It is the fastest growing region in terms of Prime members growth," he said. "The pricing is just about right, we're not just catering to the top one percent," said Amazon Prime Video head of content, Asia-Pacific James Farrell. Read more.

    Charter earnings...

    Cut cords: The cable operator reported that it lost 112,000 net pay TV subscribers in the first quarter, compared with a loss of around 89,000 in the year-ago period. First-quarter profit amounted to $168 million compared with a year-ago profit of $155 million.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Facebook's new talk show: Facebook Watch is partnering with entrepreneur/podcaster Lewis Howes for a new series called Breakthrough With Lewis Howes, scheduled to debut this year. The show will feature town hall-esque interaction between Lewis and an audience, with a focus on human interest pieces.

    ? Netflix's new space drama: Battlestar Galactica alum Katee Sackhoff has been tapped to star in space drama Another Life, which has been ordered straight-to-series at Netflix. The 10-episode series revolves around astronaut Niko Breckenridge (Sackhoff), who leads a crew on a mission to explore the genesis of an alien artifact.

    ? The end of Trollhunters: Netflix also announced that the Guillermo del Toro Emmy-winning animated series will end with season three, which has added Tatiana Maslany, Diego Luna and Emile Hirsch to its voice cast.

    But that's not all: Maslany and Luna will reprise their Trollhunters roles in Del Toro's follow-up animated entry Tales of Arcadia, which will be followed by two additional series: 3 Below, in 2018, and Wizards, in 2019.

    ? Showtime wants more Billions: The financial world drama will return for a fourth season.

    ? Bradley Whitford joins Anna Paquin TV series: The Get Out star and West Wing vet will return to TV to join Pop TV's upcoming Flack, a six-part dramedy following London-based publicity connoisseur Robyn (Paquin).

    ? Jurnee Smollett-Bell will star in HBO's Lovecraft Country: The actress will reunite with Underground showrunner Misha Green and star in the latter's Jordan Peele- and J.J. Abrams-produced HBO drama series, based on the 2016 novel from Matt Ruff.

    ? Disney Channel's new Star Wars series: The network has ordered Star Wars Resistance, an animated series revolving around a young Resistance pilot. Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie will reprise their characters as guest stars; BB-8 will be featured as well.

    ? Gabriel Iglesias inks Netflix deal: The stand-up comedian and actor has landed a 10-episode, straight-to-series order for a multicamera scripted comedy on the streaming giant. As part of the pact, the comedian is guaranteed two stand-up comedy specials as well.

    Steve Harvey's big plans...

    Interview: "I'm gonna have the biggest television production company in Hollywood," Harvey says of his five-year plan. "I'm gonna be producing more hits than any production company in the industry. And I'm going to own a huge organic food business. I'm going to help people reshape the way they eat." Full Q&A.

  • The MoviePass Democracy

    The controversial all-you-can-watch service could help bring marginalized groups to theaters, writes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    With few exceptions, like Black Panther, black movies have been ghettoized into narrow categories of turgid melodramas, slapstick comedies, feel-good triumphs over historic racism and whatever Tyler Perry wants to do.

    But all that could be about to change thanks to an unlikely Great Emancipator: MoviePass. It has the potential to bring about more diversity in films by changing moviegoing demographics. The conventional wisdom is that it makes sense to make movies for people who pay to see them. If mostly white middle class and up are buying tickets, then it's those people's stories that Hollywood will tell. Read more.

    + Is MoviePass already ending the idea of 30 tickets for the price of one? The subscription service famous for supplying a movie ticket per day for just $9.95 a month hasn’t been offering that wildly popular package since April 13. Full story.

    Avengers blasts off...

    Big start: Infinity War launched overseas Wednesday with a mighty opening-day gross of $39 million from 21 markets. The film placed No. 1 everywhere it debuted, setting industry records in numerous territories — including South Korea's top opening day of all time. Read more.

    Deadpool 2 tracking...

    Looking good: The Ryan Reynolds superhero flick is shaping up for a huge $150 million opening in North America over the May 18-20 weekend, well ahead of the first film's $132.4 million launch.

    Sony earnings...

    Up: Sony Corp.'s film unit, boosted by the likes of the Spider-Man and Jumanji movies, recorded a full fiscal-year operating profit of $376 million (41.1 billion yen), while the group logged profits of $4.42 billion (491 billion yen). Revenue at Sony Pictures Entertainment in the fiscal year through the end of March was up 12 percent to $9.25 billion (1.011 trillion yen).

    CinemaCon news...

    What's happening: Stacey Snider took the stage for an emotion-tinged presentation that could be her last as chairman of Fox film with the Disney merger looming.... Rami Malek debuted the first Bohemian Rhapsody trailer.... Amazon and Luca Guadagnino shocked the crowd with severed-woman footage from Suspira.... Jamie Foxx and Taron Egerton previewed their new Robin Hood movie.

    Over at Tribeca...

    The latest: Nancy Meyers discussed the signature look of her films and credited her "strong will" for her long career.... Awards were given: Kent Jones' Diane won three, including the founders award for best narrative feature, while Nia DaCosta's Little Woods won the Nora Ephron prize.

    New Cannes initiative....

    Sexual harassment hotline: The film festival is partnering with French women’s equality minister Marlene Schiappa to set up a sexual harassment phone line for victims or witnesses to report incidents.

    In her announcement, Schiappa noted that Harvey Weinstein, the one-time "King of Cannes," committed many of his alleged offenses during the film festival: "One of the rapes that Harvey Weinstein is accused of happened at Cannes, and so the festival cannot not act."

    "Netflix for cinema"...

    New venture: Digital cinema tech supplier GDC Technology is launching a new app that aims to use crowdsourcing to help cinemas fill more seats. Called GoGoCinema, the booking app will allow users to effectively schedule a screening via consumer demand. Details.

    A Choose Your Own Adventure Movie....

    From Fox: Kino Industries' Ctrl Movie, a technology company billed as a "collaborative cinematic experience," is partnering with 20th Century Fox for a Choose Your Own Adventure film that'll allow in-theater audiences to control character actions via an app.

    Depending on the audiences' choices, the film will have a different plot, ending and even running time; Greg Berlanti is among the producers. Read more.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie join David Copperfield: The pair are set to star alongside Dev Patel in The Personal History of David Copperfield, Armando Iannucci’s fresh take on Charles Dickens' classic. The ensemble cast also includes Ben Whishaw.

    ? Jude Law and Carrie Coon enter The Nest: They're both set to star in director Sean Durkin's film, a family psychodrama and Durkin's first film since 2011's Martha Marcy May Marlene. Details.

    ? Colin Firth, Julie Walters join The Secret Garden: The latest adaptation of the classic children's novel reunites Paddington producers StudioCanal and Heyday Films and will be introduced to buyers in Cannes.

    ? Star Trek 4's director: Sources say Paramount is deep in the hunt for a female director, a mandate that comes from the top, including producer J.J. Abrams, to helm the film. S.J. Clarkson, the woman who directed the pilot for Netflix’s Jessica Jones, is currently in talks.

    ? Naomi Watts' new family drama: She and Sophia Lillis are set to take lead roles in writer-director Claire McCarthy's drama Burning Season, which follows a mother-daughter relationship set against the landscape of Madagascar.

    ? AFI fetes Rachel Morrison: The cinematographer will be honored by the American Film Institute, which has selected her to receive the 2018 Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal, to be presented at the Life Achievement Award Tribute to George Clooney on June 7.

    Documenting the New York Times...

    Interview: "When something is under attack, people stop taking it for granted," documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus says of The New York Times, the subject of a new four-part documentary series, The Fourth Estate, debuting at Tribeca tomorrow. "So I was trying to figure out 'How do I respond?' Nothing felt quite right." Full Q&A.

  • Hollywood's Publicist Upheaval

    In a generational shift, a cadre of young, ambitious personal publicists are betting that smaller is better and breaking away from their powerful mentors to strike out on their own. Stephen Galloway writes: 

    After two decades of consolidation and buyouts by much larger corporations, the showbiz PR industry is unbundling, shifting toward smaller, independent and more mom-and-pop-style operations.

    For those who have operated in the field of personal PR for some time, this is a generational realignment of a sort not seen since the late 1990s and early 2000s, when dozens of publicists fled PMK (as it was then called), the dominant celebrity-PR house of the era, after its purchase by Interpublic Group and its subsequent merger with BNC.

    That older generation discovered the benefits of entrepreneurship the hard way, but this new generation has learned from its predecessors' history that it's OK to break away, that the move can be stimulating and even lucrative. Read more.

    In other news...

    Abba is back: The band has announced that its members reunited and have even recorded two new songs, their first new material in 35 years. 

    And now for the 18th edition of...

    ?The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: Amy Emmerich, chief content officer of Refinery29.

    Refinery debuted Fabled as well as shorts from the Shatterbox series at Tribeca this year. What led to the decision to bring content to theaters? We got some insights from our audience — 60 percent of them did not feel represented in mainstream media. So we started wondering what we could do to really battle that? And I thought messaging, from the bus stop to the movie theater, really needed to change who we are as complex individuals, as women.

    You have a background in film and TV. What was the transition to more publishing-oriented work like for you? I kind of started to get a little antsy — I'm a bit of a risk taker, and within the television model, I was a bit stuck. So when I first started in publishing at Vice, I kind of loved the Wild West of what was happening. I feel like it was opening your mind to possibilities rather than working within existing structures.

    What are the benefits versus the TV model? This is a holistic approach. You really have to believe the quality comes with the right kind of video. I think unfortunately in the media landscape, it comes down to dollars, but we always look at it as: Where is the story being told? Where is the audience consuming it? The shorter answer is: The audience is my boss. I have a direct relationship with her, and she tells me quickly when she's happy or not.?

    What else we're reading...

    — "Bill Cosby's conviction is an unexpected win for #MeToo. But there's a long way to go." Dan D'Addario writes: "Cosby losing his power on Thursday didn’t indicate, specifically, a victory for a movement that gained steam years after news of Cosby’s misdeeds first reached critical mass." [Time]

    — "The galvanizing shock of the Bill Cosby verdict." Jia Tolentino writes: "To be surprised at this verdict is disheartening, destabilizing. After all of this, are our expectations still so low?" [New Yorker]

    — "Cliff Huxtable was Bill Cosby's sickest joke." Wesley Morris writes: "If a sexual predator wanted to come up with a smoke screen for his ghastly conquests, he couldn’t do better." [The New York Times]

    — "Charlie Rose doesn't deserve a second act." Erin Gloria Ryan writes: "Not understanding something has never prevented a man of Rose’s overconfidence from plowing ahead, and so he is reportedly plotting a comeback show." [Daily Beast]

    — "YouTube's plan to clean up the mess that made it rich." Lucas Shaw and Mark Bergen write: "Extremist propaganda, dangerous hoaxes, videos of tasered rats—the company is having its worst year ever. Except financially." [Bloomberg]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Chris Hayes on Bill Cosby and the #MeToo movement." [Late Night]

    + "Rachel Weisz makes baby news." [Late Show]

    + "Alexis Bledel reveals Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 3 is in the works" [Tonight Show]

    Today's Birthdays: Jenna Coleman, 32, Sally Hawkins, 42, Matt Reeves, 52.