Disney Fires Back At Scarlett Johansson Over ‘Black Widow” Lawsuit, Says It Shows “Callous Disregard” For Covid-19 Pandemic — Update

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July 29, 2021 2:19pm

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UPDATE, 2:10 PM PT: The Walt Disney Co. fired back at Scarlet Johansson’s lawsuit over the release of Black Widow, in a biting statement in which it said that the litigation showed a “callous disregard” to the Covid-19 pandemic and even revealed that she has so far received $20 million from the project.

A Disney spokesperson said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”

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In her lawsuit, filed on Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Johansson claims that the day and date release of Marvel’s Black Widow on Disney+ and in theaters was a breach of her contract. The lawsuit contends that the Disney+ release siphoned potential theatergoers, costing her potential compensation tied to the movie’s theatrical revenue.

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Disney’s reference to Covid-19 referred to what the company has said has been a motivating factor for the day and date release, given the limitations on theatrical moviegoing because of the pandemic. The company’s revelation of Johansson’s compensation also was an unusual, on-the-record disclosure of star movie pay.

PREVIOUSLY: Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney on Thursday, claiming that the studio breached her contract by releasing the Marvel movie Black Widow on Disney+ at the same time it was released in theaters.

The breach of contract lawsuit (read it here) was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and takes aim at a new phenomenon of the studio streaming wars: day-and-date releases in theaters and on the streaming platforms.

The lawsuit claims that, by steering audiences to Disney+, the media conglomerate wanted to grow its subscriber base and boost its stock price. Yet that was at the expense of Johansson, whose compensation would “largely be based on box office receipts,” according to the lawsuit, while she “extracted a promise from Marvel that the release” of Black Widow would be a theatrical release.

The lawsuit also claims that “Disney’s financial disclosures make clear that the very Disney executives who orchestrated this strategy will personally benefit from their and Disney’s misconduct,” as it identifies Disney CEO’s Bob Chapek’s equity grants “totaling 3.8 times his $2.5 million base salary” in 2021, with the “primary justification” for that award being the launch of direct-to-consumer services. The lawsuit also notes that Disney executive chairman Bob Iger received the “overwhelming majority” of his $16.5 million compensation in the form of stock grants, with the company’s annual report citing the growth of Disney+.

‘Black Widow’ Posts Steepest 2nd Weekend B.O. Drop For Disney MCU Title; Studio Silent On PVOD Update As Piracy Impacts Pic

“In short, the message to – and from – Disney’s top management was clear: increase Disney+ subscribers, never mind your contractual promises, and you will be rewarded,” the lawsuit states.

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Johansson’s attorney, John Berlinski of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, said in a statement: “It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price – and that it’s hiding behind Covid-19 as a pretext to do so. But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court. This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts.”

Spokespersons for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the filing of the lawsuit.

Theatre Owners Blast Disney’s ‘Black Widow’ Day & Date Strategy For Undermining Marvel Pic’s Box Office & Future Revenues

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and names the Walt Disney Company as the sole defendant. The claims are that the media conglomerate intentionally interfered with its Marvel subsidiary’s contract with Johansson and induced Marvel to breach it. It cites a provision of her contract spelling out that there would be a “wide theatrical release of the Picture i.e., no less than 1,500 screens.”

The lawsuit contends that both parties understood that meant it “would initially be released exclusively in movie theatres, and that it would remain exclusively in movie theaters for a period of between approximately 90 and 120,” the industry standard in 2019, when Johansson’s agreement was finalized.” When Johansson’s representatives attempted to negotiate with Marvel after the day-and-date plans for Black Widow were announced, their efforts were ignored, according to the lawsuit.

Johansson in ‘Black Widow’
Disney

Even though Black Widow posted the best Covid-era domestic opening at the box office with $80.3M, many in the industry believe money was left on the table with Disney not only crushing the theatrical and PVOD window, but leaving the Marvel movie open up for piracy — and pirated it was.

Black Widow, according to TorrentFreak, has been the No. 1 pirated movie since its opening on July 9. Disney attempted to herald the pic’s opening weekend revenue, saying it made a combined global theatrical and Disney+ Premier PVOD take of $218M ($60M worldwide PVOD plus $158M global box office debut). Disney plans to trumpet similar PVOD and theatrical stats this coming weekend for its Dwayne Johnson-Emily Blunt movie Jungle Cruise, which also is available on Disney+ Premier for $29.99. However, Black Widow dropped 68% in its second weekend, the worst ever for a Disney/Marvel movie, indicating that piracy and PVOD had cannibalized the title. The results prompted the National Association of Theatre Owners to slam Disney publicly for crushing the window. Black Widow will be lucky to make $350M at the worldwide box office, a far cry from the $700M that Universal’s traditional theatrical-windowed global release F9 is set to do. Marvel movies have had a streak of clearing $1 billion at the global box office in recent years.

Disney’s Day-And-Date ‘Black Widow’ & ‘Cruella’ Decision Creates Aftershock In Industry Aching For Box Office Normalcy

Disney announced further crushing of windows this week, with Black Widow getting a 33-day theatrical window (with Disney+ Premier) before the pic’s August 10 arrival digital platforms, followed by a DVD and Blu-Ray release on September 14 and the Johansson title being completely available for free to Disney+ subscribers on October 6. This is a different window practice from Warner Bros, which has its new movies in theaters and on HBO Max for the first 30-something days, then exclusive to theaters for another month before any ancillary home windows occur.

Meanwhile, exhibition hasn’t gotten a discount on rental terms on Disney’s day-and-date releases, many theater owners tell us. This compared to Warner Bros, which I’m told has been generous on terms with theaters given its pandemic-era simultaneous theatrical HBO Max release plan, whereby its streaming subscribers get access to current theatrical movies for free.

Still TBD is whether Disney continues this same day theatrical/Disney+ Premier strategy. The rest of its upcoming theatrical slate, which includes 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy and Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is expected to debut in an exclusive theatrical window.

Disney will argue that the global pandemic and lopsided offshore markets forced it to release Black Widow and Jungle Cruise on Disney+ and theaters and that it’s not giving the movie away for free in homes like HBO Max is with its movies. NATO asserts that this practice simply moved PVOD money up slightly but will damage all downstream monies on Black Widow going forward.

‘Jungle Cruise’ Review: Dwayne Johnson & Emily Blunt Are E-Ticket Teaming In Special Effects-Heavy Movie Based On Disneyland Ride

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Meanwhile, we hear that the Johnson and Seven Bucks camp don’t plan a similar attack on Disney like Johansson as they stood alongside the studio in the dynamic window plant for Jungle Cruise to get it before as many people as they could during Covid. Johnson even announced the theatrical-Disney+ Premier release on his social media channels about Jungle Cruise. That movie is set to open to $65M this weekend at the global box office.

Big exhibition bosses like Imax’s Rich Gelfond, who spoke during his company’s 2Q earnings call, are hopeful that this whole dynamic window tentpole plan for Disney is temporary moving forward. Knock on wood.

In the end, we could have seen that the writing was on the wall for Disney and Johansson’s Black Widow before this lawsuit.

During the pic’s release, the twice-Oscar-nominated actress told Fatherly: “I have no plans to return as Natasha. I feel really satisfied with this film. It feels like a great way to go out for this chapter of my Marvel identity. I would love to be able to continue to collaborate with Marvel in other ways because I think there’s just an incredible wealth of stories there.”

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer’s Pay Jumped More Than 70% To $19 Million In FY 2021

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July 29, 2021 1:59pm

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Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer saw his total compensation rise by 73% to $19.2 million for the company’s fiscal year ended in March on a bigger bonus and higher option awards.

The executive earned $11.1 million the year before, according to a proxy statement filed Thursday with the SEC that lists salaries of a company’s top five highest paid execs.

His base salary of $1.5 million was unchanged. His bonus was bumped to $10 million from $6.3 million and his option awards to $6.7 million from $1.5 million. Stock awards fell by about half to $700,000.

Vice chair Michael Burns earned $8.5 million from about $6.4 million.

The proxy noted new employment agreements with Feltheimer, Burns and general counse Corri Berg during fiscal 2021. “Accordingly, the compensation for these executives reported in the table for such fiscal year was significantly higher than the compensation reported for the other fiscal years covered by the table. The increase was also higher, in part, due to the inclusion in fiscal 2021 compensation of equity awards granted for fiscal 2020.”

Feltheimer’s contract runs through August 21, 2023, giving the company the right to extend the term by either one or two additional years. Burns’ term ends October 30, 2023 with the company’s right to extend by one year.

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Most companies work on a calendar year-end and filed proxies for 2020 last spring. As Deadline reported, the ten top media and entertainment CEOs earned a combined $350 million last year, buoyed by hefty stock and option grants — during the worst economic disruption since the Great Depression. The list didn’t include Feltheimer although he would have ranked in there between top Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei at $47 million (the highest compensation) and AMC Networks chief Josh Sapan at $11.8 million.

 

‘Suicide Squad’ Director David Ayer Torches Studio Cut & “Shockingly Personal Criticisms” Of His Work, Says He Supports Sequel

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July 29, 2021 1:41pm

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Suicide Squad director David Ayer has taken to Twitter to give his perspective on the 2016 Warner Bros. feature, responding at the same time to those who continue to criticize it.

In a three-page letter posted to his account Thursday, titled “My Turn,” Ayer disavowed the studio’s cut of the film as well as a “10 week director’s cut,” saying that he can’t take credit for either.

“The studio cut is not my movie. Read that again,” he wrote. “And my cut is not the 10 week director’s cut – It’s a fully mature edit by Lee Smith standing on the incredibly [sic] work by John Gilroy. It’s all Steven Price’s brilliant score, with not a single radio song in the whole thing. It has traditional character arcs, amazing performances, a solid 3rd Act resolution.”

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Ayer shared that “a handful of people” have seen his cut of the film, adding at the same time that “if someone says they have seen it, they haven’t.”

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“I put my life into Suicide Squad,” he continued. “I made something amazing – My cut is [an] intricate and emotional journey with some ‘bad people’ who are sh*t on and discarded (a theme that resonates in my soul).”

The director subsequently noted that what he was sharing was not the whole story, with regard to his experience on Suicide Squad.  “I never told my side of the story and I never will. Why?…I keep my covenants. I’m old school like that,”” he wrote. “I kept my mouth shut and took the tsunami of sometimes shockingly personal criticisms. Why? That’s what I’ve done my whole life.”

Ayer’s post came in response to a Tweet from Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson, who had recently reviewed James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. The anticipated DC sequel has drawn praise, with some comparing it favorably to Ayer’s 2016 film. “Well, here’s something I didn’t expect to write: I really loved THE SUICIDE Squad,” wrote Grierson. “Many times while watching the new movie, I thought, ‘Yeah, David Ayer should just abandon the idea of that director’s cut.’”

Ayer noted in his post that he fully supports the sequel, along with writer/director James Gunn and all others involved.

“I’m so proud of James and excited for the success that’s coming. I support WB and am thrilled the franchise is getting the legs it needs,” he wrote. “I’m rooting for everyone, the cast, the crew. Every movie is a miracle. And Jame’s [sic] brilliant work will be the miracle of miracles.”

He closed out his note by saying that he “will no longer speak publicly” about Suicide Squad.

The Suicide Squad is set for release in theaters in the U.S. and on the HBO Max streaming platform August 6. Warner Bros. Pictures’ action-adventure pic will see super-villains Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena) and other criminals at Belle Reve prison join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X after they’re dropped off at the remote island of Corto Maltese.

Check out Ayer’s Twitter post, also touching on his upbringing in South LA and more, below.

My turn… https://t.co/E5uumAwvdp pic.twitter.com/ckr9kzeGFD

— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies) July 29, 2021

California Covid Cases Surge To 5-Month High As Delta Variant Spreads Among The Unvaccinated

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July 29, 2021 1:30pm

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There are 18 million unvaccinated people in California, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard. State health officials say it’s those residents who are driving the new surge in Covid-19 cases across the state.

On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health released figures showing, in early July, case rates among unvaccinated residents were 600% higher than those among the vaccinated. What’s more, more than 90% of the patients hospitalized with Covid in the state are unvaccinated.

On July 4, the 7-day average number of cases per 100,000 was 4.6. On Wednesday, that number had risen to 12.7. Just 24 hours later, it had pushed to 14.2. The rise is being driven by the Delta variant spreading among unvaccinated. For the week of July 14-20, the average case rate among unvaccinated Californians was 20.7 per 100,000 per day. The average case rate among vaccinated Californians was significantly lower at 3.5 per 100,000 per day. That gap has likely widened even further as the overall average of cases per 100,000 has risen considerably since then.

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In terms of raw new cases, Thursday’s count of 7,457 is the highest that number has been in five-and-a-half months, since February 10, 2021. And it’s reached that total even with about 55% of the state’s total population vaccinated.

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The state’s test positivity rate — another trusted indicator of spread — was up over 20% in 7 days, from 5.1% to 6.2% on Thursday. On June 15, the day the state threw off Covid restrictions, it was .9%. What’s more, the line on the graph charting test positivity is becoming increasingly vertical.

CDPH

Covid-related hospitalizations, often called a lagging indicator, have also begun to rise. The number is increasing by a couple hundred a day and, at 3,977 on Wednesday, its the highest they’ve been in over four months. Likewise, ICU bed supply has slowly begun shrinking.

Tech Companies Rethink Return-To-Office, Vaccine Rules Amid Covid Variant Surge; Google, Facebook Say All Employees Must Get Jabbed

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July 29, 2021 1:27pm

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Tech giants are revising their strategies and policies as Covid-19 cases surge again thanks to the Delta variant, fine-tuning return-to-office and vaccine plans.

Facebook and Google on Wednesday said all of their employees, including anyone wanting to spend time on their campuses, would need to be vaccinated. In a memo to employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in a note that he hoped the move would offer “greater peace of mind” to the company’s 135,000 workers. “Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy,” he wrote.

Google has also postponed its planned September return to offices to mid-October.

The Centers for Disease Control this week revised its stance on masks, formally recommending face coverings in many settings, even for those who have been vaccinated. Schools, which will be back in session for most of the country by next month, are a particular area of focus for the latest CDC guidelines.

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Twitter, which had opened its New York and San Francisco offices, closed them again and paused other planned reopenings after the CDC issued its latest guidance.

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Microsoft-owned LinkedIn said it will now permit workers to choose fully remote work, a reversal of a prior plan to require half-time office work by October.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, did not address LinkedIn specifically but spoke more broadly about the new view of office and remote work in an appearance at a CNN online forum.

The company’s main headquarters in Redmond, WA, has been slated to reopen in September. Given the many variables, Nadella said, “We’ll take the best practices around how to open, with flexibility.”

Asked about requiring vaccines, Nadella said the company is “studying” that scenario. “There will be some combination of vaccines, testing — and some exceptions to that.” He mentioned the company has entered a “soft open” phase, noting he was speaking from the Microsoft offices.

About 70% of employees in internal surveys have indicated “they want the human connection” that comes with working in the office, the CEO said. At the same time, 70% want “extreme flexibility.” That duality is a “paradox we need to navigate,” Nadella said.

Endeavor Content Senior Associate William Lowery Launches Brigade Media Capital

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July 29, 2021 1:26pm

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EXCLUSIVE: Talent agency veteran William Lowery has departed Endeavor Content to launch Brigade Media Capital, Deadline has learned.

The new media advisory practice, which is focused on a portfolio of entertainment ventures, is already financing post-production on two films, including the Rose Byrne-Dolly Parton production Seriously Red (which Deadline first told you about) and Murder at Emigrant Gulch starring Thomas Jane and Richard Dreyfuss.

Brigade Media Capital will provide services that include capital management strategy, content financing and sales, as well as creative marketing services for brand optimization. The firm counts offices in Austin, Nashville and Atlanta, and will announce new hires in the coming weeks.

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BMC has additional projects in development with Seven Bucks Productions, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the PBR (Professional Bull Riders). Brigade also owns or advises a portfolio of entertainment assets that include FilmHedge Media Lending, A to Z Sports Network, Fivestone Studios, Real Music TV and others.

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“I am extremely grateful to the leadership team at Endeavor, having the pleasure of working with some incredible thought leaders,” shares Lowery. “And I am proud of what we accomplished, especially during this difficult last year.

“BMC intends to operate as a disruptive, optimization practice moving alongside an ever-changing media landscape, and now is the perfect time to launch the company with some amazing partners,” Lowery adds.

Prior to forming BMC, Lowery was a senior associate at Endeavor Content, advising its asset base across production, music and sports departments with an emphasis on the middle American region. Based in Nashville, he worked closely with the WME country music roster, Endeavor-owned PBR (Professional Bull Riders) and oversaw the agency’s faith-based division which financed Blue Miracle, a recent Top 5 trending movie on Netflix.

Lowery is also the sitting chairman of the Tennessee State Entertainment Commission and serves as co-chair for the state advocacy for Economic Development. A former All-SEC Academic football player at Vanderbilt, he recently participated in Music City “Rumble on the Row” charity boxing tournament. He is an adjunct professor at Belmont University, and sits on the board of the Nashville Film Festival.

 

Amazon Stock Tanks 5% On Quarterly Revenue Miss In Debut Of New CEO Andy Jassy

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July 29, 2021 1:25pm

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Amazon saw second quarter net sales of $113 billion, up 27% but below expectations, dinging the shares, which fell more than 5% in late trading. Net profit came in at a strong $7.8 billion, or $15.12 a share — up from $5.2 billion or $10.30.

Subscriptions services, which includes annual and monthly fees associated with Amazon Prime memberships, as well as digital video, audiobook, digital music, e-book, and other non-AWS subscription services, grew revenue by 32% to $7.9 billion. Prime — which offers members unlimited free fast delivery and access to Amazon Prime streaming — is now available in 22 countries with the latest addition of Portugal.

The company’s “other” segment, which primarily includes sales of advertising services, surged 83%, in line with strong digital advertising trends seen in this earnings round at Snap, Twitter, Google and others.

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This was CEO Andy Jassy’s first quarter at the helm of the e-commerce giant after founder Jeff Bezos stepped into the role of executive chairman earlier this year.

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The report follows the company’s announcement of a deal to buy MGM for $8.45 billion to bolster its video offering and expand Amazon Prime. The FTC, with a renewed focus on antitrust, is scrutinizing the agreement closely. The company has called for FTC chief Lina Khan, who has written in the past on Amazon’s “antitrust conundrum,” to recuse herself from the review.

Bezos lauded MGM’s content library and IP when the deal was announced in last May. There was no mention of it today in Amazon’s earnings press release (documents that are famously long and crowded with haphazard information) but a conference call is planned for 5:30 ET.

The Commission is also probing Amazon for its alleged use of third-party seller data to develop its own Amazon-branded goods to compete with them.

Some entertainment highlights touched on in the earnings report:

-Prime Video released new Amazon Original movies for customers worldwide, including Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, starring Michael B. Jordan, and The Tomorrow War, starring Chris Pratt, both of which were the No. 1 streamed movie on their opening weekends. Prime members also enjoyed new and returning Amazon Original series and specials such as THEMSolosThe Underground RailroadPanicFlackMary J. Blige’s My Life, and the Prime Day Show, as well as the seventh and final season of Bosch, the longest-running Amazon Original series to date. Additionally, Prime Video debuted over 20 local originals internationally, including Dom (Brazil), Chivas: El Rebaño Sagrado (Mexico), Clarkson’s Farm (UK), La Leyenda de Sergio Ramos (Spain), Mixte (France), and Head Above Water (Australia).

-Amazon earned 20 Emmy Award nominations, including Amazon Studios’ first-ever category nominations for a drama series (The Boys) and limited series (The Underground Railroad). Amazon also received two nominations in the TV movie category (Uncle Frank and Sylvie’s Love), along with nominations for writing (All In), choreography (Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2), cinematography (Small Axe), visual effects (Vikings), interactive program (Welcome to the Blumhouse), and commercial (Michael B. Jordan’s Alexa ad).

-Prime Video announced streaming deals with sports leagues around the world, including: the National Football League (NFL) Thursday Night Football beginning in 2022, a year earlier than previously announced; 16 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) games per season and the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game; the Premier League in the UK; the Premiere channel to watch soccer in Brazil; and 300+ Ligue 1 soccer matches per season in France. Prime Video also streamed the first-ever French Open night matches and the Australian Swimming Trials globally.

-Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, is now available on Fire TV and Fire tablet devices. Customers can use Alexa to start watching Peacock by saying “Alexa, open Peacock.”

-Prime Video and IMDb TV announced an exclusive, multi-year licensing deal with Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (UFEG). Beginning in 2022, Prime Video will be an exclusive subscription video partner for UFEG’s slate of live-action films in the U.S., bringing films such as Jurassic World: DominionThe 355, and Ambulance to Prime Video soon after theatrical release. With this deal, IMDb TV will be the first advertising-based streaming service to secure a major studio network window, which traditionally goes to broadcast or cable networks.

-IMDb TV announced 12 original series and development projects including a new half-hour drama from Dick Wolf, a home renovation project with Jeff Lewis, a docu-series with country superstar Luke Bryan, and a dramedy from Clea DuVall and Tegan and Sara Quin.

Commenting on the impact of Covid on the company, Jassy noted that, “Over the past 18 months, our consumer business has been called on to deliver an unprecedented number of items, including PPE, food, and other products that helped communities around the world cope with the difficult circumstances of the pandemic.”

“At the same time, AWS has helped so many businesses and governments maintain business continuity, and we’ve seen AWS growth reaccelerate as more companies bring forward plans to transform their businesses and move to the cloud,” said Jassy, referring to Amazon Web Services, the division he used to run.

“Thank you to all of our passionate, innovative, mission-driven employees around the world for continuing to stay focused on delivering for customers—I am very excited to work with you as we invent and build for the future.”

Covid Vaccines Mandated For Broadway Workforce In New Actors’ Equity Agreement With Producers

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July 29, 2021 1:14pm

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Actors’ Equity Association and the Broadway League have announced an agreement on safety protocols that includes mandated vaccines and weekly testing for the Broadway workforce.

“This is an important milestone on the path to getting all our members safely back to work,” said Mary McColl, executive director for Actors’ Equity Association, while League president Charlotte St. Martin called the “secure return of our casts, crews and employees” a “top priority” for the trade organization representing producers and theater owners.

The agreement on safety protocols covers Production Contract shows on Broadway and in sit-down productions across the country. Key provisions of the agreement include:

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  • Improved HVAC standards;
  • Mandated vaccines for the workforce, with the exception of those who cannot do so for reasons such as age or risks to their health;
  • Weekly testing for employees;
  • Allowance for modifications to the protocols where necessary for individual shows or locations.

This agreement comes as Pass Over, the first Broadway play set to resume performances, moves into the August Wilson Theatre today for rehearsals.

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The Broadway industry has yet to announce whether venues will, as an across-the-board rule, require audience members to be vaccinated. Both Springsteen on Broadway (currently running) and Pass Over (beginning previews Aug. 4) have set proof of vaccination for attendance, as has the Roundabout Theatre Company for its upcoming productions Trouble in Mind and Caroline, or Change.

Regarding the agreement between Equity (the union representing actors and stage managers) and the League, McColl said, “We are grateful to the League for their partnership on these protocols. We all feel this plan is robust, adaptable to changing conditions and in line with the science. Vaccines work, and those who are vaccinated will protect both themselves and those who can’t be at this time.”

Said St. Martin: “The secure return of our casts, crews and employees is our top priority. The Broadway League and Equity, faced with ever-changing COVID related variables, have agreed on health and safety protocols for actors and stage managers returning to Broadway. We will continue to partner with our union colleagues as we work together towards raising all of our curtains again.”

 

Joe Biden To Announce Covid-19 Vaccination Requirement For Federal Workers

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July 29, 2021 1:09pm

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President Joe Biden, seeking to curb the spread of the Delta variant, will announce a new mandate for the federal workforce that requires them to attest to having a Covid-19 vaccination or to undergo a regimen of testing and face other restrictions.

Biden also plans to announce that he is directing the Defense Department to look into adding Covid-19 vaccinations to the list of shots required by members of the military.

The new policy also will apply to onsite federal contractors, and Biden also is seeking to extend the requirements to all such workers.

The effort is the latest White House attempt to boost vaccination rates, which stalled this month as surveys show large chunks of the population refuse to get the shots. As of Thursday, 49.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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But a dramatic reemergence of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, primarily among the unvaccinated, has led the CDC to recommend indoor mask wearing, regardless of status, in certain areas with high case surges. That includes Washington, D.C., where new mask requirements have returned on Capitol Hill and the White House.

The Biden administration’s more aggressive approach to vaccinations comes as major corporations, restaurants and live event venues are making proof of the shots as mandatory to gain access to workplaces and public sites. The White House so far has relied on a softer sell of vaccinations, via celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo and a nationwide campaign of public service announcements.

The White House plans to continue with a carrot and stick approach, as Biden also will encourage local and state governments to offer $100 each to those who get vaccinated, using funds from the American Rescue Plan. Biden also plans to announce that small- and medium- sized businesses will be reimbursed for offering employees time off to get vaccinated, and will promote vaccinations among adolescents. He will call for school districts to host pop-up vaccination clinics as the new school year approaches.

ICM Partner Steve Alexander Departs Agency Following L.A. Times Exposé

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July 29, 2021 12:59pm

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ICM Partners partner Steve Alexander, who repped such talent as Tatiana Maslany, John Travolta and Josh Hartnett, has left the agency, Deadline has confirmed. Alexander will reportedly launch his own management firm.

Among the serious allegations in a May 5 Los Angeles Times article relating to Alexander, he had drinks with a film finance exec at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2016 and exposed himself as the exec drove him to his car. According to the Times, the exec reported it to a senior member of the agency and it was addressed internally, with Alexander being placed on temporary leave. Alexander denied the incident to the newspaper, and the Times doesn’t note any comment from the agency. Attempts by Deadline to verify were unavailing at the time.

Alexander had been at ICM since 2014. He previously worked at Resolution and CAA. ICM declined comment on Alexander’s departure.

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In a statement to the L.A. Times at the time of its report, ICM Partners asserted that the firm “does not tolerate harassment, bullying or other inappropriate conduct. HR investigates all reports received and addresses each with appropriate disciplinary measures.”

The L.A. Times May 5 piece interviewed more than 30 former and current ICM employees who said that they endured a hostile work environment, where women and people of color were subjected to harassment, bullying and other inappropriate conduct. Over the last four years, close to a dozen women reported allegations of mistreatment by male agents and managers company wide to ICM Partners’ HR or senior leaders according to the report.

Comedy Writer Robb Chavis Inks Overall Deal With CBS Studios

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July 29, 2021 12:59pm

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EXCLUSIVE: Black-ish co-executive producer Robb Chavis has signed an overall deal with CBS Studios. Under the pact, he will develop new half-hour series for the studio.

This marks a return to CBS Studios for Chavis who worked as Executive Story Editor on its CBS comedy series Superior Donuts.

“We really enjoyed working with Robb four years ago and have been intent on getting him back on the lot ever since. He has a unique and impressive resume,” said Kate Adler, EVP of Comedy Development, CBS Studios. “From now on maybe we should require that all comedy writers attend Harvard Law School and pass the Bar.”

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2001, Chavis practiced law for a decade before switching careers with a job as a segment producer on Bunim-Murray’s pop culture newsmagazine series Brkdwn.

He segued to scripted TV with back-to-back yearlong staff writer stints on the NBC/Universal TV comedy series Bad Judge and Truth Be Told before he landed the Executive Story Editor position on the CBS/CBS Studios’ Superior Donuts, starring Jermaine Fowler, which he held for the sitcom’s two-season run.

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Chavis went on to work as co-executive producer on ABC/ABC Signature’s Black-ish where he has been for the past three years. The praised comedy series is now headed to its eighth and final season.

“CBS gave me a critical opportunity early in my career,” Chavis said. “I’m excited to return to the fold at ViacomCBS, and I’m looking forward to creating something special with their incredible team.”

Chavis is repped by WME, Artists First and Hansen Jacobson.

‘Jaws’-Themed Musical ‘Bruce’ Targets Seattle For 2022 Opening

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July 29, 2021 12:45pm

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Courtesy Production

Bruce, a previously announced new musical based on Jaws screenwriter Carl Gottlieb’s 1975 memoir The Jaws Log, is resurfacing: Seattle Rep will stage the world premiere next May, the regional theater company announced today.

Featuring music by Richard Oberacker and book and lyrics by Oberacker and Robert Taylor (the team behind the 2017 Broadway musical Bandstand), Bruce tells the story of a virtually unknown 26-year-old director named Steven Spielberg who in 1974 sets out to film an adaptation of the best-selling novel Jaws.

Reads the musical’s synopsis: “While invading a sleepy fishing island off Cape Cod to shoot on the open ocean, he faced several challenges including weather, water, hostile locals, an exploding budget, endless delays, and a highly dysfunctional mechanical star named Bruce, to bring his vision to life in what proved to be one of the biggest success stories in film history.”

The musical, to be directed and choreographed by Stratford Festival’s Donna Feore, was to have made its debut this summer at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, but of course world health events larger than a Great White Shark muddied the waters.

Bruce will begin previews at Seattle Rep’s Bagley Wright Theater on May 27, 2022, with an opening night set for June 1. The engagement will run through June 26, 2022.

Cast and creative team will be announced soon.

Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi To Step Down At Year-End, Staying On Board As COO Sean Gamble Takes Reins Next January

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July 28, 2021 2:04pm

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Sean Gamble, left, will succeed Mark Zoradi as CEO of Cinemark in January 2022.
Cinemark

Cinemark, the No. 3 U.S. exhibitor, said CEO Mark Zoradi will retire at the end of 2021, staying on the board and handing top-exec reins to CFO and COO Sean Gamble.

Zoradi, who had a lengthy run as a Disney distribution exec before crossing over to the theater side, will stay on the company’s board until 2024. At that point, he will become eligible for election in the manner of all members of the board, who are selected at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

Gamble has been named president as of today, the company said, and Zoradi will work closely with him as well as other executives to ensure a smooth transition.

An EVP and CFO at Universal Pictures before joining Cinemark, Gamble also held several exec posts at General Electric earlier in his career. Working with Zoradi, he has helped solidify Cinemark’s financials and putting it in a more advantageous position than debt-laden AMC or other circuits, which has helped it weather Covid-19.

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The search for Gamble’s successor as CFO is currently underway, the company said.

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“Serving as Cinemark’s CEO during the past six years has truly been the highlight of my career,” Zoradi said. “While I’ve been in the industry for more than four decades, the vast majority was spent on the studio side of the business. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed participating in all aspects of theatrical exhibition and will treasure the time spent and deep connections established with the Cinemark team, as well as the many other industry relationships formed around the world.”

Zoradi called Gamvke a “tremendous partner in overseeing Cinemark’s operational execution and strategic vision, as well as effectively navigating the prolonged effects of Covid-19.”

With the exhibition industry on the path to recovering from the worst of the pandemic’s damage, Zoradi said, he felt the timing was right to pass the baton. “I have full confidence in Sean’s leadership abilities,” he added, “particularly with the strength and depth of the executive team, and I look forward to continuing our relationship in my board director capacity.”

Lee Roy Mitchell, Cinemark founder and executive chairman, said. “We are grateful for Mark and the significant impact he has made on our company, and our industry, during his tenure as CEO. Mark reinvigorated a culture of innovation and evolution in our company, challenging the teams’ line of thought and rationale, all while staying steady at the helm when our industry needed him most. We are thrilled that Cinemark will continue to benefit from Mark’s background, business expertise and perspective as an ongoing member of our Board.”

As CEO, Gamble said, “I will aim to continue building upon Cinemark’s over 35-year history of growth, industry leadership and entertaining guests through an unparalleled cinematic experience. I look forward to continuing to work closely with our exceptional leadership team and Board of Directors as we drive a wide range of consumer-facing and productivity initiatives that will position Cinemark for ongoing success in the evolving media and entertainment landscape.”

Along with the change at the top, Cinemark upped Wanda Gierhart Fearing to Chief Marketing and Content Officer, Damian Wardle to EVP Theatre & Technology Operations, and Sid Srivastava to EVP Human Resources, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Former ABC & Condé Nast Exec Jon Koa To Head Comedy At CBS

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July 28, 2021 2:00pm

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Courtesy of Cliff Lipson/CBS

CBS has hired Jon Koa as EVP, Comedy Development following the departure of veteran exec Julie Pernworth.

Koa was most recently SVP, Scripted Television for Condé Nast Entertainment, where he has spent the last six years. He was previously Executive Director, Comedy Programming and Development, for the ABC between 2009 and 2015.

Koa will start at the broadcast network soon and reports to Kelly Kahl, President, CBS Entertainment, and Thom Sherman, Senior Executive Vice President, Programming, CBS Entertainment.

He will oversee all comedy development for the net’s primetime programming.

During his tenure at Condé Nast Entertainment, he oversaw the development of the independent production entity’s series for network, streaming and cable and mined IP from publications such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, GQ and Vogue for film and TV. He scored series orders at USA Network, Discovery ID and Sky Atlantic and developed projects for a slew of platforms.

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Prior to joining Condé Nast, he was part of the team that launched series including Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat and The Goldbergs and was involved in shows such as Happy Endings, Dr. Ken and Scrubs. He began his career in the drama development department at Universal Television.

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Deadline revealed last month that Pernworth, who developed series such as Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, Mom and The Big Bang Theory, was leaving after 21 years.

“Jon is a tremendously experienced television executive with an obvious passion for the development process,” said Kahl. “His reputation among his peers and the creative community is impeccable and he will be an extraordinary addition to the CBS team.”

Sherman added, “It was imperative we find just the right individual to lead our comedy team. Jon has tremendous creative chops and a keen eye for spotting writing that resonates. I look forward to working closely with him.”

Teyana Taylor To Star in A.V. Rockwell’s Directing Debut ‘A Thousand And One’

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July 28, 2021 1:41pm

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EXCLUSIVE: Teyana Taylor is set to star in A.V. Rockwell’s feature debut A Thousand And One, from Sight Unseen, Hillman Grad Productions, Makeready. Production is underway in New York City.

The film follows Inez (Taylor), who kidnaps six-year-old Terry from the foster care system. Holding onto their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their home, as well as their identity and stability, in a rapidly changing New York City.

The film is produced by Sight Unseen’s Eddie Vaisman and Julia Lebedev, Hillman Grad Productions’ Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani, and Makeready’s Brad Weston. Sight Unseen’s Oren Moverman and Rachel Jacobs and Makeready’s Negin Salmasi are executive producing. Focus Features will distribute the film in the U.S. and Universal Pictures International will distribute internationally.

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Taylor was most recently seen in Amazon’s Coming 2 America in her scene stealing role as Bopoto. In addition to Coming to America 2, Taylor’s other film credits include Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming and Tyler Perry’s Big Happy Family. Additionally, she will next be seen starring alongside her husband, Iman Shumpert in E!’s unscripted series We Got Love Teyana and Iman, which premieres August 18th.

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Taylor is a singer-songwriter, actress, dancer, choreographer, director and model. She has worked with and written records for artists such as Kanye West, Usher, Chris Brown and Omarion. Her production company, “The Aunties,” recently just won the 2020 BET Award and BET Hip-Hop Award for Director of the Year. Her album, “The Album,” debuted at #8 on the Billboard Hot 200. That album includes the music video for “Lose Each Other” ft. Elton John that she directed and choreographed. She was also just on the cover and number #1 for the Maxim Hot 100 this year. Taylor is the first African-American female ever to receive this. Taylor is represented by WME.