Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav: “We Will Fully Embrace Theatrical”


August 4, 2022 2:06pm

Warner Bros.

In a complete about face from the business strategy employed by former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, Warner Bros. Discovery Boss David Zaslav made it firm today that the new merged entertainment conglomerate “will fully embrace theatrical”. Period.

“We have a different view on the wisdom of releasing direct to streaming films. And we have taken some aggressive steps to course correct the previous strategy,” said Zaslav commenting on the previous 2021 pandemic model which was implemented to spike HBO Max subs.

The CEO expressed his belief in the theatrical window business model today on the conglom’s Q2 earnings call.

No theatrical day and date experimentation with the HBO Max streaming service, nada. And as we’ve seen recently, Zaslav has gone to great lengths to course correct the previous administration’s production plan to make movies straight for the streaming service, pulling the plug on the $70M Batgirl, which was in post-production, and Scoob! Holiday Haunt. Zaslav even put the brakes on a DC HBO Max movie centering around the Wonder Twins starring Riverdale‘s KJ Apa.

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Warner Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels gave a shoutout to that trio of films on the earnings call saying that they’re “examples that don’t fit in the streaming approaching.”

“For example, we will fully embrace the attributes as we believe it creates interest and demand provides a great marketing tailwind, and generates word of mouth buzz as films transition to streaming and beyond,” said Zaslav about the theatrical window model and its downstream ancillaries.

“When you’re in theaters, the value of the content and the overall viewing experience is elevated,” he continued.

“Then when the same content moves to PVOD, and then streaming it is elevated again. As films moved from one window to the next, their overall value is elevated, elevated, elevated. We saw this clearly demonstrated with the Batman and Elvis,” he added.

Batman, the first movie which returned Warners to a purse theatrical release strategy after its 2021 experiment, went on to gross $369.3M domestic, $771M WW. Meanwhile Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis has brought adults back during the Covid era in a big way, earning $131M domestic, $237M WW.

“With respect to streaming, our main priority right now is launching an integrated SVOD service,” said Zaslav.

“There’s been a lot of experimentation in our industry and we are all smarter for it. At Warner Brothers Discovery we believe strongly in the importance of preserving optionality and driving returns to a strategic mix of distribution and windowing options,” said the CEO.

The theatrical day and date pandemic plan whereby movies played in theaters simultaneously on HBO Max during their first 28 days (before going completely theatrical in their second month) began with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas 2020 when a majority of cinemas, including the NYC and LA theaters were shuttered. The grosses, natch, were horrible with $46M domestic, and under $170M WW. However, even when theaters greatly reopened during Q2 2021, and other studios returned to a theatrical model, Warners continued with its day-and-date model on HBO which did zero favors for movies at the box office: James Gunn’s DC title The Suicide Squad died with $55.8M stateside vs. the previous installment’s $325.1M domestic gross. Only two movies made it past $100M in U.S./Canada — Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong — and the greater industry thinking is that these movies could have grosses substantially more despite Kilar and Co’s pom-poming that the business decision spike HBO Max subs.

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Warner Bros. Discovery: HBO Max & Discovery+ Combined Streamer To Launch In U.S. In Summer 2023


August 4, 2022 2:02pm

90 Day Fiancé // Hacks
Warner Bros. Discovery

Warner Bros. Discovery expects to launch its combined HBO Max/Discovery+ streaming service in the U.S. next summer.

JB Perrette, CEO and President, Global Streaming and Interactive at WBD, revealed the news on the company’s earnings call Thursday.

“Our primary focus for the rollout will be in the markets where HBO Max has already launched,” he said. “We plan to launch the service sequentially starting in the U.S. next summer. Latin America will follow later in the year. European markets with HBO Max will follow in early ‘24, with additional launches and key Asia Pacific territories and some new European markets coming later in 2024.”

He added that as it gets more of the development work and testing done, it also will explore ways to accelerate this rollout.

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Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav: “We Will Fully Embrace Theatrical”

He said that “there’s much work to be done over the coming months”, pointing to retooling the tech platform and migrating customers. “There’s lots to do, we’re determined to get it right, which will take a bit of time,” he said.

Perrette said that it anticipates adding more than 40M subscribers by 2025, taking its total to around 130M global subs.

He said that the two services are “unique” and “complementary”. But he admitted that the two services are very different in terms of how subscribers engage with content.

He pointed to HBO Max being more about appointment viewing with shows such as Succession and upcoming series House of the Dragon, while Discovery+ is more about “comfort viewing”, which drives subscriber retention.

“These are two critical and powerful components of a strong and sustainable subscription business. Coupled this with our world class collection of globally recognized brands franchises and characters, it is truly an unprecedented combination in an already crowded market,” he added.

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Jaime Pressly Joins ‘Welcome To Flatch’ As Series Regular For Season 2 Of Fox Comedy


August 4, 2022 2:00pm

photo: Tiziano Lugli

Emmy winner Jaime Pressly (Mom) has joined the cast of Fox’s comedy series Welcome To Flatch as a series regular for its upcoming second season. She will play a new character named Barb Flatch.


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Pressly’s casting stems from the Season 2 pitch by showrunner Jenny Bicks for a major new character to be played by a big-name talent who would join Welcome To Flatch‘s established star, Seann William Scott, as well as the series’ up-and-coming cast. That pitch, along with a restructuring of lead studio Lionsgate TV’s original deal for the show, clinched Welcome To Flatch a Season 2 renewal despite modest linear ratings.

Barb Flatch (Pressly) grew up a Flatch, in Flatch. She has returned to her hometown after a bad divorce to start a new chapter as the town’s realtor. She believes in second chances and wants to give Flatch the glow up it deserves, one margarita at a time.

Written and executive-produced by Bicks and directed and executive-produced by Paul Feig, who also wrote two episodes of season one, Welcome To Flatch is inspired by BBC Studios’ BAFTA-winning BBC format, This Country. When a documentary crew set out to explore the lives of residents in a small American town – their dreams, their concerns – they stumbled upon the midwestern town of Flatch, which is made up of many eccentric personalities. It’s a place you want to visit and maybe even stay. If there was a decent motel. Which there is not.

In addition to Scott, the series stars newcomer Holmes, Sam Straley, Aya Cash, Justin Linville, Taylor Ortega and Krystal Smith. Season 2 premieres Sept. 29.

Welcome To Flatch is produced by Lionsgate, BBC Studios’ Los Angeles production arm and Fox Entertainment. It is executive produced by Perkins Street Productions’ Bicks, Feigco Entertainment’s Feig, BBC Studios’ Angie Stephenson and Charlie Cooper and Daisy May Cooper, who created the original BBC series.

Pressly recently starred as Jill Kendall opposite Allison Janney on the long-running CBS comedy series Mom, a role that earned her a Supporting Actress In a Comedy Series Emmy nomination. She is also known for for her Emmy-winning role as Joy Turner on NBC’s My Name Is Earl. Pressly is repped by Gersh Agency, Artists First, David B. Feldman, Esq. at Brecheen Feldman Breimer Silver & Thompson

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Ellen Pompeo Would Like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ To Be “Less Preachy” About Social Issues


August 4, 2022 1:53pm


Grey’s Anatomy does not shy away from tackling social issues, but star and executive producer Ellen Pompeo believes the long-running ABC medical drama should adjust the way it approaches those issues.

“I think if I had any desire honestly it would be to be less sort of preachy in one episode about certain things,” Pompeo said on the latest episode of her Tell Me podcast. “It’s like, we do one episode about let’s see … Asian hate crimes is one that we did this past season that was really moving. I think I’d like to see things happen a little more subtly and over time. You know, consistently and less sort of hit you over the head for just one hour and then we never talk about it again.”

She added, “I wish we could touch on these social issues that are important and have them be threads throughout.”

As we reported Wednesday, Pompeo is scaling back her work on Grey’s after taking on a starring role in Hulu’s Orphan limited series. She will appear in her role as Meredith Grey in eight episodes of the upcoming 19th season, which is now starting production. She will continue to narrate (but may not do voiceover in every episode) and will remain an executive producer on the show, which remains ABC’s top scripted series.

Created and written by Katie Robbins (The Affair), the Hulu limited series is inspired by the true story of Ukranian-born Natalia Grace and her US adoptive parents who claimed that she was an adult “sociopath” pretending to be a child. Pompeo will executive produce, as well as star in the series.

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Warner Bros. Discovery Posts DTC Subscribers Of 92M In First Quarterly Report Since Merger; $2B Net Loss Includes Hefty Restructuring Charge


August 4, 2022 1:33pm

Newly minted Warner Bros. Discovery posted hefty losses and $9.8 billion in revenue at its landmark first earnings report since Warner Media and Discovery formally tied the knot.

That April 8 deal marks a major shift in the media landscape with the combined company publicly starting to take shape today. CEO David, Zaslav, CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels, and global streaming chief JB Perrette will present the business and strategic contours and take questions from Wall Street on a webcast beginning at 4:30 ET that could run for several hours with details or thinking on bringing together HBO Max and Discovery+; on film (including why WBD just shelved Batgirl in the final stages of post-production); on impending layoffs to eliminate redundancies amid $3B in planned cost savings; on IP, news and sports. It’s a lot of ground. In a running start, WBD earlier today announced a new CNN Originals streaming hub on Discovery+, and Magnolia Network moving to HBO Max.

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Here are some financial highlights:

-Q2 total reported revenues were $9.8 billion. Pro forma combined revenues decreased 1% excluding foreign exchange) compared to the prior year quarter.

-Net loss of $3.4 billion includes $2 billion of amortization of intangibles, $1 billion of restructuring and other charges, and $983 million of transaction and integration expenses.

-Adjusted EBITDA was $1.664 billion.

-Cash provided by operating activities increased to $1 billion and reported free cash flow increased to $789 million.

-Ended Q2 with $3.9 billion of cash on hand, and gross debt of $53 billion.

-Ended Q2 with 92.1 million global DTC subscribers, an increase of 1.7 million versus 90.4 million subscribers at the end of Q1, as adjusted for the company’s new DTC subscriber definition. The new definition resulted in the exclusion of 10 million legacy Discovery non-core subscribers and unactivated AT&T mobility subscribers from the Q1 subscriber count.

“We’ve had a busy, productive four months since launching Warner Bros. Discovery, and have more conviction than ever in the massive opportunity ahead,” said CEO David Zaslav.

“We have the most powerful creative engine and bouquet of owned content in the world, as highlighted by our industry leading 193 Emmy nominations, and we intend to maximize the value of that content through a broad distribution model that includes theatrical, streaming, linear cable, free-to-air, gaming, consumer products and experiences, and more, everywhere in the world. We’re confident we’re on the right path to meet our strategic goals and really excel, both creatively and financially, and couldn’t be more excited about the future of our company.”


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Yara Shahidi Extends Overall Deal At ABC Signature In Partnership With Onyx Collective


August 4, 2022 1:15pm

L to R: Yara Shahidi, Keri Shahidi
Courtesy of Ally Green, Nathalie Gordon

ABC Signature extended its deal with Yara Shahidi and her 7th Sun Production Company to include a partnership with Onyx Collective.

The Grown-ish star, her business partner and mother, Keri Shahidi, and their production company will continue to develop and produce scripted and alternative television projects for cable, streaming, and broadcast under the exclusive deal.

The Onyx Collective’s roster also includes Ryan Coogler, Destin Daniel Cretton, Prentice Penny, Natasha Rothwell, and Erika Green Swafford.

“It is every creative’s dream to be seen and heard and to do so with colleagues who align with your vision and your soul. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to continue to create with our Disney family and be grounded in the work that Onyx Collective is doing to meet the moment,” said Yara and Keri Shahidi in a joint statement.

“It is an exciting time to be leading Onyx Collective. When we opened our doors just over a year ago, we set out to nurture imaginative storytelling, creating disruptive, inclusive and wildly entertaining narratives that would spark conversation and forward the culture,” said Tara Duncan, president of Onyx Collective and Freeform. “That vision is materializing in ways we could have only dreamed of, and we remain grateful to have a clear lane at Disney General Entertainment, a company that has empowered our work from day one.”

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Swizz Beatz Car Show, Alisa Reynolds Cooking Series & Annie Mae Aquash True-Crime Docuseries Lead Onyx Non-Scripted Slate


August 4, 2022 1:15pm

Swizz Beatz
Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Onyx is doubling down with non-scripted with three new series.

The Disney-owned brand is launching true-crime docuseries Ring of Fire: The Life of Annie Mae Aquash (w/t), The Untitled Swizz Beatz Project and Searching for Soul Food.

It comes after the brand won an Oscar for its Questlove-directed feature documentary Summer of Soul.

The orders were unveiled by Onyx President Tara Duncan at its virtual TCA presentation. All three shows will premiere on Hulu.

Ring of Fire: The Life of Annie Mae Aquash, directed by Yvonne Russo, examines the extraordinary life and unravels the decades-old mystery behind the murder of Annie Mae Aquash.

A Mi’kmaq woman from Nova Scotia, Canada, Annie Mae is a mother, a teacher and a revolutionary who fought for Indigenous rights and whose death went unsolved for almost 30 years, becoming one of Indian Country’s most infamous cases. Set between the sweeping landscape of American politics in the volatile 1970s and the present‐day quest for answers lead by Annie Mae’s daughter, this is a story of murder, intrigue, love and betrayal that contextualizes Annie Mae’s case within the current day epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

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The series is produced by Laylow Pictures in association with Nine Stories Productions  and is executive produced by Amy Kaufman, Caroline Waterlow, Yvonne Russo, Ezra Edelman and Riva Marker.

Swizz Beatz is fronting a car series. The hip-hop producer, who Kanye West once dubbed the “best rap producer of all time” and is married to Alicia Keys, is a noted car collector. The series will see him visit car-loving destinations, where he’ll examine the area’s distinctive car culture and bring together two otherwise disparate car clubs over a shared love of all things automotive and an appreciation for what it’s like to beat the odds through sheer drive alone

The series is produced by Jay Brown and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith of Ty Ty and Jay Brown Productions, Raymond Garcia of Major TV, Emmet Dennis of Black Drive Originals, and Christian Sarabia of 51 Minds.

Finally, Alisa Reynolds, owner of LA restaurant My Two Cents, is hosting Searching for Soul Food. It will follow the celebrity chef as she discovers what soul food looks like around the world. As she seeks out the food, she’ll also explore the stories, the people, and the traditions of each place she visits, bringing her own flavor right along with her. She will visit Mississippi, Oklahoma, Appalachia, South Africa, Italy, Jamaica, Peru and Los Angeles.

The series is produced by All3Media’s Woodman Park Productions De La Revolucion and Ventureland, is directed by Rodney Lucas and exec produced by Melina Matsoukas, Jacob Cohen-Holmes and Ali Brown with Traci Curry as showrunner.

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James Franco To Play Fidel Castro In ‘Alina Of Cuba’; Mía Maestro Also Set Opposite Ana Villafañe


August 4, 2022 1:09pm

James Franco and Fidel Castro

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar nominee and 2x Golden Globe winner James Franco will play Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Miguel Bardem’s Aline of Cuba with Imagen Award winner Mía Maestro set to play Natalia “Naty” Revuelta, the Cuban-born socialite he has a passionate love affair with.

Mia Maestro
Unit Production Publicity/Gabriel Machado

They join previously announced actress Ana Villafañe who is portraying Alina Fernandez aka Castro’s Daughter. The screenplay from Oscar-nominated scribe Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) and Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz, follows the true-life story of Cuban exile turned social advocate, Fernandez, whose birth was the result of the tryst between Revuelta and Castro. Revuelta sacrificed her and her physician husband’s personal belongings and finances to help fund the start of the communist revolution. Fernandez learned that she was Fidel Castro’s daughter at the age of 10 when after years of secret visits to her home, her mother finally revealed that “El Comandante” was her biological father. Alina grew to become one of Castro’s most outspoken critics, arrested on more than one occasion for trying to leave, and was classified as a dissident forbidden to travel outside of Cuba. Ultimately, she defected to Spain in 1993, an event that drew headlines from every major news network around the world, before she made Miami her permanent home.

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Rounding out the supporting cast are Alanna de la Rosa, Maria Cecilia Botero (Encanto), Harding Junior, and Cuban-born actors Sian Chiong and Rafael Ernesto Hernandez.

The movie is being shot entirely on location in and around Cartagena and Bogota, with Colombia’s colonial Spanish architecture and design playing for Castro-era Havana, Cuba. Cameras roll on Aug. 15.

John Martinez O’Felan, the project’s lead creative producer of Austin-based Mankind Entertainment, says, “Since the inception of the film, our focus has been to produce an artistic piece of modern Hispanic history, with the vision for the project as being truly inclusive through uniting actors and creatives from both intergenerational and recent Latin roots from the U.S, Latin America, and the world. That said, casting Ana and Mia were no-brainers because, besides the trajectory of their past work, one represents modern Cuban-America and the other Argentina. After watching Ana’s reel and auditioning her, it became evident she was perfectly suited and had a great voice to carry the material, and Mia’s work in the past with Jose spoke for itself and screamed writer/actress reunion.”

O’Felan adds, “Finding and convincing James Franco to play Castro, was a fun and challenging process and has been the collaborative work of the universe, because our director’s original order was to find an actor who holds a close physical resemblance to the real Castro to build from, along with finding someone Alina Fernandez would strongly endorse. To get there on such a tough look to cast, we used Fidel Castro’s ancient Galician heraldry as our focal compass, and then combed through the entire ranks of actors with Latin roots in Hollywood to find someone who has a similar facial structure. In executing a close search into our hopefuls through the eye of Spanish and Portuguese genealogy which the Galicians held, we found that James, by far, had the closest facial likeness of our Industry’s leading actors, meaning that the focus would be to build out his character accent and we’d have a stunning on-screen match to intrigue audiences and bring the story to life with true visual integrity. Altogether, working with such a supportive and exciting cast has been a true blessing to our team and project.”

As part of the film’s media package, O’Felan also launched the fully financed companion documentary Revolution’s Daughter, which is being filmed on-location alongside Alina of Cuba with Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director Thaddeus D. Matula at the helm. In addition to incorporating a behind-the-scenes look at Alina of Cuba, Revolution’s Daughter will explore the historical and modern look at Cuban history and Alina Fernandez. The documentary will be sold as part of the total feature film package.

Franco received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for 127 Hours in 2011. His portrayal of absurdist filmmaker and cult indie star Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist earned him a Golden Globe win for Best Actor – Comedy or Musical, Best Actor in a Comedy at the Critics Choice Awards, and a SAG Nomination for Best Actor. His feature credits include the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man trilogy, Spring Breakers, Milk, Eat Pray Love, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Pineapple Express, and This Is the End among several other titles. He was the EP and star of the HBO series The Deuce, and he counts numerous feature directing credits including The Disaster Artist, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, The Long Home among others. Franco also won a Golden Globe in 2002 for his portrayal of James Dean in the TV movie of the same name in the Best Actor Miniseries/Movie category. The actor, who is of Latin-Portuguese heritage, received the support to play Castro by the Cuban leader’s own daughter, who is serving the production on the set as a creative and biographical consultant.  Franco is represented by Anonymous Content and UTA.

Maestro recently wrapped the Apple+ anthology series Extrapolations, starring opposite Edward Norton, as well as the lead in Domenico De Feudis’ Italian feature Il Legame (aka The Binding) for Netflix, produced by Academy Award winner Paolo Sorrentino. Maestro recently starred in the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival premiere The Cow That Sang Into The Future. She is known for her roles in Carlos Saura’s Oscar-nominated feature Tango, Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries, Julie Taymor’s Frida, as well as her recent role in FX’s hit series Mayans M.C. She is repped by Paradigm and Luber Roklin Entertainment.

Ana Villafañe
photo: Emilio Hernandez

Deadline previously reported that Villafañe was cast as Fernandez. She is best known for her breakout role in the Broadway musical On Your Feet, in which she portrayed Cuban pop icon, Gloria Estefan. She later starred as Nina Rosario in the Kennedy Center’s 2018 production of In the Heights. 

The producers of Alina of Cuba are Austin-based Mankind Entertainment’s O’Felan and Joe Lamy, along with Academy Award-nominee Celine Rattray (The Kids Are Alright) and BAFTA-nominated Trudie Styler (Still Alice, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Moon.) for Maven Screen Media. Additional producers include husband and wife team Allen Gilmer and Rikki Rushing, founders of Austin-based Redbud Studios. Emmy-winner Javier Gonzalez is executive producing with Bogota-based production services company Jaguar Bite and Colombian EPs Juan Pablo Solano and Simon Beltran. EPs also include Luis Mandoki and Thaddeus D. Matula.


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Riki Lindhome & Natasha Leggero Dating Comedy ‘Buffalo Tens’ In Works At Fox


August 4, 2022 12:55pm

Riki Lindhome, left, and Natasha Leggero
Elisabeth Caren/Matt Sayles

EXCLUSIVE: Buffalo Tens, a single-camera comedy, written, executive produced and potentially starring Another Period creators Riki Lindhome and Natasha Leggero, has been set up at Fox for development. Lindhome and Leggero are executive producing the project with fellow Another Period executive producer Debblie Liebling as well as James Lassiter. Lindhome and Leggero are expected to play the leads in the comedy, produced by Fox Entertainment, if it is picked up to series. (Under its modified development model, Fox often skips the pilot stage and goes script-to-series for both drama and comedy.)

In Buffalo Tens, when two brash 40-something matchmakers (Lindhome, Leggero) in Buffalo, NY, are unexpectedly dumped by their husbands, they’re forced to put their ‘tried and true’ dating regimen – The Buffalo Tens Commandments – to the test for themselves. While out in the dating scene for the first time in 20 years, they’ll realize the antiquated methods they’ve recommended to clients won’t actually help at all, and they may have to question everything they know about dating, relationships and love. But it’s going to be a long journey for these two characters who avoid introspection like the plague.

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Lindhome and Leggero created, wrote, executive produced and starred in Another Period, which ran for three seasons on Comedy Central.

Lindhome also is one half of the musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates and co-created their self-tiled show on IFC. She has written songs for animated movies including Lego 2, The Addams Family and The SpongeBob Movie and TV shows including Waffles and Mochi, Duncanville and The Big Bang Theory. Her acting credits include Knives Out, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, Under the Silver Lake, Kidding and Brooklyn 99. She’ll next be seen in Tim Burton’s Wednesday on Netflix. Lindhome is repped by 3 Arts and Ginsburg Daniels.

Leggero will next be seen on the big screen in Fox’s MarVista and Paper Kite’s First Time Female Director alongside Chelsea Peretti. On TV, she recently appeared in Broke on CBS, as well as Modern Family, Key and Peele and Comedy Bang Bang. Most recently, Leggero completed work on her book The World Deserves My Children, a collection of essays on motherhood in our post-apocalyptic world, which will be published by Gallery Books Nov. 15. Leggero is repped by CAA, Artists First and Shreck Rose Dapello Adams Berlin & Dunham.

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Kevin Spacey Must Pay $31 Million In Damages Over ‘House Of Cards’ Firing, Sexual Misconduct, Confirms Judge


August 4, 2022 12:23pm

Kevin Spacey in ‘House of Cards’

Kevin Spacey must pay House of Cards producer MRC nearly $31 million for alleged sexual misconduct behind the scenes of the Netflix show, a judge ruled today, saying it was not even a “close case.”

Spacey, now 63, played Frank Underwood on House of Cards and was cut from the series after allegations surfaced he sexually preyed on young men. The accusations, which included the alleged groping of a production assistant, caused MRC to conduct an investigation and ultimately terminate his acting and producing contracts.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana today confirmed an award handed down previously by an arbitrator in October 2020 in MRC’s favor consisting of some $29.5 million in damages and the remainder in costs and fees. The arbitrator found that Spacey’s conduct constituted a material breach of his acting and executive producing agreements.

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Even in a close case, the arbitrator’s award must stand, Judge Recana wrote in his 14-page ruling.

“Here, [Spacey] fails to demonstrate that this is even a close case,” the judge said.

The judge noted that a November 2017 article on CNN.com contained allegations that Spacey engaged in a pattern of sexually predatory behavior directed at young crew members on the set of House of Cards and that once MRC became aware of the accusations, it suspended the actor, investigated, wrote Spacey out of the show’s final season and ended his acting and executive producing contracts.

Spacey attorney Jonathan E. Phillips argued that the award should be vacated, alleging the arbitrator exceeded the scope of his powers when he considered external evidence in deciding damages.

The arbitrator concluded that Spacey breached the agreements through his interactions with five specific crew members, who only came forward as part of MRC’s solicitation of allegations against Spacey, including the internal investigation MRC initiated only after Netflix made the decision to exclude Spacey from season six, Phillips and Spacey’s other attorneys further alleged in their new court papers.

While Spacey disagrees with the arbitrator’s factual findings and maintains that he did not sexually harass anyone, he understands and accepts that the arbitrator’s findings on that issue “are entitled to deference,” Spacey’s lawyers stated in their court papers.

“However, because the arbitrator committed — namely, the damages awarded to [MRC] are not rationally related to the specific breaches found by the arbitrator — [Spacey] is entitled to an order from this court vacating the award,” Spacey’s attorneys said in court papers.

But Judge Recana wrote that he was “not compelled to infer that the arbitrator’s award was not based on the breach of the parties’ agreements or that it was based on an [external] source.”

PREVIOUSLY in November: An arbitrator has ruled in favor of MRC, the production company behind House of Cards, in its case against Kevin Spacey over his firing from the show as he faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

The ruling, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, awarded MRC $29.5 million in damages and $1.4 million in attorneys fees and costs. MRC had sought the damages for lost revenue due to Spacey’s exit.

Arbitrator Bruce Friedman’s 46-page ruling was made final in October of 2020 and remains confidential, but its results became public on Monday when MRC filed a motion in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to confirm the award. (Read it here) A three-judge arbitration panel also rejected an appeal from Spacey and his production entities, Profitt Productions and Trigger Street Productions.

In a statement, MRC said, “The safety of our employees, sets and work environments is of paramount importance to MRC and why we set out to push for accountability.”

In MRC’s motion, it said that Friedman “found that Spacey—as a result of certain conduct in connection with several crew members in each of the five seasons that he starred in and executive produced House of Cards— had repeatedly breached his contractual obligations to provide his services ‘in a professional manner’ and ‘consistent with [MRC’s] reasonable directions, practices, and policies,’ including MRC’s Harassment Policy—all without the knowledge of MRC.”

MRC’s attorney, Michael Kump of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump Holley LLP, said, “It was a privilege representing MRC in this matter. MRC stood its ground, pursued this case doggedly, and obtained the right result in the end.”

An attorney for Spacey did not immediately return a request for comment.

House of Cards was one of Netflix’s early breakout hits, establishing the streamer’s strategy of dropping all episodes at once and making Spacey almost indelibly linked to his Machiavellian character Frank Underwood. He was set to do season six of the series, but that those plans were derailed as sexual misconduct allegations against him came to light.

In October, 2017, Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making unwanted sexual advances when Rapp was 14. Spacey apologized, and in a statement on Twitter and said that he was “beyond horrified to hear his story.” “I want to deal with this honestly and openly, and that starts with examining my own behavior,” he wrote.

But CNN also published a report with allegations from eight anonymous crew members, complaining of harassment, groping, MRC suspended production to conduct an investigation. Based on the findings of a workplace investigator, MRC concluded that Spacey breached his acting and producing agreements “that set standards for his workplace conduct, including by breaching MRC’s Harassment Policy,” according to MRC’s filing.

The series went for one more season with Robin Wright in the lead, but MRC pursued a claim against Spacey in 2019, contending that it lost money by forcing rewrites of the entirety season six and truncating it from 13 episodes to just eight.

According to MRC, the arbitration hearing included 8 days of live testimony and 20 hours of videotaped deposition testimony.

“With one exception, the Arbitrator found the third party witnesses to be credible, and found the allegations against Spacey to be true,” according to MRC’s filing.

Spacey  also filed a counterclaim, alleging that he was owed money after he was dropped from the series and that he did not breach the contract. But that claim also was rejected in the arbitration. In recent years, Spacey has taped a series of Christmas Eve messages that he has posted on social media.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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‘First Kill’ Showrunner Blames Netflix Show’s Cancellation On Marketing That Never Went Beyond Teen Lesbian Vampire Element


August 4, 2022 12:10pm

‘First Kill’: Sarah Catherine Hook as Juliette, Imani Lewis as Calliope

On Tuesday, Netflix put a stake in First Kill after just one season. Today, showrunner Felicia D. Henderson went public with her thoughts about why the show was not given a new cycle.

First Kill was based on a short story by Victoria “V. E.” Schwab and executive produced by Emma Roberts.

In the series, teenage vampire Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) sets out to make her first kill so she can take her place among a powerful vampire family. She sets her sights on a new girl in town named Calliope (Imani Lewis). But much to Juliette’s surprise, Calliope is a vampire hunter, from a family of celebrated slayers. Both find that the other won’t be so easy to kill and, unfortunately, way too easy to fall for.

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“I so enthusiastically signed on to this show [because] it has something for everyone,” Henderson said in an interview today with the Daily Beast, “strong women leads, supernatural intrigue, an epic, Shakespearean battle between warring families, and a prominently featured Black family in the genre space, something Black viewers crave and a general audience needs to be treated to.”

But, she said, while the marketing materials for the show were compelling, they were a bit reductive.

“The art for the initial marketing was beautiful. I think I expected that to be the beginning and that the other equally compelling and important elements of the show — monsters vs. monster hunters, the battle between two powerful matriarchs, etc. — would eventually be promoted, and that didn’t happen.” See a poster for the show below.

A poster for ‘First Kill’ from Netflix

Released June 10, First Kill made the streamer’s weekly Top 10 for English-language TV series in its first three days. It ranked No. 7 with 30.3M hours viewed. It peaked at No. 3 in its first full week of release with 48.8M hours viewed, trailing only Stranger Things Season 4 and Peaky Blinders Season 6. The series easily cleared 100M hours viewed in its first 4 weeks on the service.

TV Series Cancellations 2022: Photo Gallery

Henderson maintained, “The show is kick-ass and we were in the top five globally and domestically for three of the first four weeks. I was very hopeful [of a second season].”

According to Deadline’s reporting, the series did not have the staying power of most Netflix hits and did not meet thresholds for viewing and completion of episodes.

“When I got the call to tell me they weren’t renewing the show because the completion rate wasn’t high enough, of course, I was very disappointed,” said Henderson. “What showrunner wouldn’t be? I’d been told a couple of weeks ago that they were hoping completion would get higher. I guess it didn’t.”

Henderson did credit Netflix for giving the show a shot in the first place.

“They licensed the IP, paid for a pilot script, and gave it a healthy production budget,” she acknowledged.

Henderson executive produced First Kill alongside Schwab as well as Roberts and Karah Preiss through Belletrist Productions.

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Hollywood’s Unions Praise Gov. Newsom’s Pledge To Sign Bill Extending California’s Film & TV Tax Incentives Program


August 3, 2022 2:08pm


California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promise to sign a bill that would extend the state’s $330 million-a-year film and television production tax credit program until 2030 is receiving high praise from the Entertainment Union Coalition, whose members include SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, the California IATSE Council, Teamsters Local 399 and Laborers International Union of North America Local 724.

The bill – SB 485, authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino – would extend the annual $330 million in tax incentives to qualified film and TV productions, which is set to expire in 2025.

“Today Governor Newsom gave the 163,000 women and men we represent who work in the California film and television industry a lifeline,” the EUC said in a statement. “With the announcement that he will sign SB 485 into law, extending the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program to 2030, Governor Newsom has assured a future where our members can continue to work at jobs they love, in the state they call home, and be present as members of their families and communities.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom

“We thank Governor Newsom for his longstanding support of working families, culminating in his announcement today. We thank the bill’s author, Senator Portantino for his steadfast commitment to keeping this industry and those who work in it in California. We look forward to working with Go Biz Director Dee Dee Myers and the Administration to protect the jobs we have now and bring more of these good jobs home.”

The bill, which already has passed the state Senate, was heard today in Assembly Appropriations and next will go to the full Assembly. If approved, as is expected, it would be signed by the governor later this month.

In announcing that he will sign SB 485, the post-Roe v. Wade abortion debate clearly also was on the governor’s mind.

“As other states roll back people’s rights, California will continue to protect fundamental freedoms for all and welcome businesses that stand up for their employees,” Newsom said in a statement today. “Extending this program will help ensure California’s world-renowned entertainment industry continues to drive economic growth with good jobs and a diverse, inclusive workforce.”

Today, Hollywood will wake up to this ad.

Time to choose.

You can protect your workers, or continue to support anti-abortion states that rule with hatred.

We’re here for you. We’re extending tax credits for those that come home to the Golden State.

Choose freedom.
Choose CA. pic.twitter.com/9Bcmc6zpdu

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) August 3, 2022

According to the governor’s office, the tax incentives program has been shows to generate $24 in economic activity for every $1 invested, “spurring tens of billions of dollars in economic output, helping create over 110,000 jobs, and bringing shows and films to California. Extending the Film & Television Tax Credit Program will help the state’s ongoing efforts to retain its status as the world’s film and TV production capital, a status long earned due to its superior crews, talent, infrastructure, weather, locations, and a host of other attributes that lead to business and creative success.”

The governor’s office noted that his announcement “comes as hundreds of showrunners demand that production companies implement protocols to protect pregnant employees in states where abortion is outlawed.”

Responding to Newsom’s announcement, California Film Commission said that it “stands ready to help all projects – including those that reject states where fundamental rights are under assault – make the most of all that California has to offer.”

“The Governor’s actions today speak to the values held by so many people across the film and TV production industry,” said Colleen Bell, the Film Commission’s executive director. “More than ever, California offers the best value and the best values.”

Bell also noted that the creative community has unique influence and therefore, unique responsibility. “Working in and supporting a state that violates basic freedoms is antithetical to the industry’s core values,” she added. “It’s also bad business.”

“California is the entertainment capital of the world, and it is exciting and appropriate for the state to invest in keeping and expanding its impact,” Portantino said. “The economic benefit from extending the Film and Television Tax Credit Program creates thousands of jobs for talented crafts people and generates significant revenue for our budget. I am grateful to Governor Newsom for his unwavering support and leadership for enhancing this historic industry – which is unique to California. Talent and industry need certainty to compete with other states and the tax credit program extension does just that.”

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‘Days Of Our Lives’ Moving From NBC To Peacock


August 3, 2022 2:05pm

(l-r) Deidre Hall as Marlena Evans, Drake Hogestyn as John Black

Huge news in the daytime world: Days of Our Lives is moving from NBC to Peacock.

Starting Sept. 12, Peacock will become the exclusive home of the sudser, which has already produced two spinoffs for the platform dubbed Beyond Salem. For the first time ever, all new episodes of the 58-time Emmy Award-winning drama will debut on Peacock daily with the show’s library already available to stream for Peacock Premium subscribers.

NBC will fill the DOOL slot with NBC News Daily, which NBC News promises will “provide signature world-class reporting and breaking news coverage in a first-of-its kind, live in most markets mid-day news offering. The hour-long program will be anchored by Kate Snow, Aaron Gilchrist, Vicky Nguyen and Morgan Radford and offer “up-to-the-minute national and international news, with the option for NBC stations to add local news.”

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NBC News Daily will also be streamed simultaneously on NBC News NOW and Peacock.

“This programming shift benefits both Peacock and NBC and is reflective of our broader strategy to utilize our portfolio to maximize reach and strengthen engagement with viewers,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, in a statement. “With a large percentage of the ‘Days of Our Lives’ audience already watching digitally, this move enables us to build the show’s loyal fanbase on streaming while simultaneously bolstering the network daytime offering with an urgent, live programming opportunity for partners and consumers.”

The demise of daytime dramas on broadcast networks has been slow but (sadly) predictable. For a time, it seemed like the bleeding had stopped once ABC in 2011 canceled One Life to Live and All My Children. (And ironically, Prospect Park tried to keep those shows alive by offering them online couldn’t make the deals work). More than a decade went by with the soaps on ABC, CBS and NBC flourishing — with DOOL even successfully expanding the franchise by offering the Beyond Salem spinoff on Peacock.

With DOOL headed for the streamer, only three daytime sudsers will exist on ABC and CBS — General Hospital, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. Y&R remains the most-watched sudser in daytime.



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SXSW Documentary ‘The Pez Outlaw’ Acquired By Gravitas Ventures


August 3, 2022 2:02pm

Gravitas Ventures

EXCLUSIVE: Gravitas Ventures has acquired U.S. rights to the 2022 SXSW award winner The Pez Outlaw, from directors Amy Bandlien Storkel and Bryan Storkel, with plans for a day-and-date release on October 21.

The fish-out-of-water story follows the adventures of Steve Glew, a small-town Michigan man, who boards a plane for Eastern Europe soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His mission is to locate a secret factory that holds the key to the most desired and valuable Pez dispensers. If he succeeds, he will pull his family out of debt and finally be able to quit his job of 25 years. Steve becomes the hero of his own adventure, smuggling the rarest of goods into the U.S. and making millions in the process. It was all magical, until his arch-nemesis, The Pezident, decided to destroy him.

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The Pez Outlaw made its world premiere at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, claiming its Special Jury Prize before going on to claim the Adrienne Shelly Foundation Excellence in Filmmaking Award at the Nantucket Film Festival. The film was produced by the Storkels’ Sidestilt Films, in association with Library Films, Fostered Films and Paragraph Films. Chris Smith (American Movie, Tiger King) exec produced alongside Theo Love, Nate Larson and Jonathan Ignatius Green.

“We are so excited that Gravitas is helping us share our film with audiences across the country,” the Storkels told Deadline. “On the surface this is a fun and quirky adventure story, but the heart and soul of the film is what we think audiences will really connect with. We had a blast making this documentary and we hope everyone has as much fun watching it as we had making it.”

“Gravitas is thrilled to be bringing THE PEZ OUTLAW to theaters and into homes this fall,” said the company’s Senior Director of Acquisitions, Bill Guentzler. “Amy and Bryan Storkel have combined a globe-trotting heist caper with a true crime comedy to create an exciting, original and entertaining David vs Goliath story that is as delightful as the PEZ candy itself.”

Bryan Storkel and Amy Bandlien Storkel are a husband-and-wife team who together have produced and directed award-winning documentary films and series including The Legend of Cocaine Island (Netflix), the News & Documentary Emmy-winning Alabama Snake (HBO), the ESPN 30 for 30 film The Bad Boy of Bowling, and an Emmy-nominated episode of HBO’s State of Play. Their company Sidestilt Filmsmost most recently produced the Reading Rainbow documentary, Butterfly in the Sky, which premiered at Tribeca 2022.

Gravitas Ventures is a distributor of indie features and documentaries founded in 2006, which sold to multi-platform media company Anthem Sports & Entertainment last November, and recently announced the launch of the new theatrical release label, Gravitas Premiere. Recent releases from the company include Michael Lembeck’s Queen Bees; Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Our Friend, starring Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson and Jason Segel; Vanguard, directed by Stanley Tong and starring Jackie Chan; and Andy Tennant’s The Secret: Dare to Dream, starring Katie Holmes. Its upcoming wide theatrical releases include the Diane Keaton dramedy Mack & Rita, which it will distribute through Gravitas Premiere on August 12.

Guentzler joined Gravitas Ventures’ Founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher in negotiating the deal for The Pez Outlaw on behalf of the company, with Submarine’s Josh Braun, Matt Burke and Ben Schwartz on behalf of the filmmakers.

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Idris Elba-David Leitch Pic ‘Bang!’ In Works As Netflix And Dark Horse Entertainment Extend Partnership


August 3, 2022 2:00pm

Netflix; Dark Horse Entertainment

Netflix and Dark Horse Entertainment have inked a multi-year, first-look film and TV deal extending their creative partnership, at the same time announcing the launch of development on two new projects—a film titled Bang! and a series called Mind MGMT.

In the former spy thriller, based on the comic series by Matt Kindt and Wilfredo Torres, a terrorist cult sets out to start the apocalypse with a series of novels meant to brainwash their readers, with the world’s most celebrated spy then being sent to track down and kill the author responsible. Idris Elba (The Harder They Fall) will star in the film, written by Kindt (Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe) and Zak Olkewicz, which reunites the latter with director David Leitch following their work on Sony’s actioner Bullet Train. Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg will produce for Dark Horse, along with Leitch and Kelly McCormick for 87 North, and Elba.

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Mind MGMT is a series adaptation of the comic book series by Kindt in which a young woman stumbles onto the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the man who was MIND MGMT’s greatest success – and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees? Curtis Gwinn, the Emmy-nominated writer-producer best known for his work on Stranger Things, will exec produce the series, along with Dark Horse’s Richardson and Goldberg.

Netflix most recently collaborated with the film and TV production arm of the storied Dark Horse Comics on the third season of The Umbrella Academy, which in its first four weeks reached the Netflix Global Top 10 in TV in 91 countries, with 283.55M hours viewed. A third, previously announced project that the companies are developing together is the drama series Revenge Inc., focused on a secret, underground company that specializes in revenge. Matthew Arnold is serving as showrunner for that project and exec producing alongside Richardson, Goldberg and Chris Tongue. Also in the works is the feature Lady Killer—an action-thriller about a 1950s housewife leading a secret life as a highly-trained killer for hire. Blake Lively will produce and star in that pic, based on the comic series by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich.

Previous Dark Horse Entertainment releases include the Netflix film Polar, starring Mads Mikkelsen; the Netflix animated series Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles, returning later this year for its second season; and the animated film Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness, which recently spent four weeks on the Netflix Film (English) Top 10.

Elba is represented by The Artists Partnership in the UK, WME, M88 and Johnson Shapiro Slewett & Kole; Leitch by CAA and Johnson Shapiro; Olkewicz by CAA, 3 Arts and Felker Toczek Suddleson; Gwinn by WME, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Lev Ginsburg; and Kindt by Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston.

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