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Hollywood Chatter: Weinstein Co. in Trouble?, TV Networks Lost $60 Billion in 3 Days, Re-Evaluating Late-Night Monologues

Film Industry News for August 14, 2015

THR’s Gregg Kilday talked to Harvey Weinstein about rumors of his company experiencing a money crunch. After Relativity Media’s bankruptcy, everyone is on high alert as to which mini-major film studio might be the next to go. At the moment, The Weinstein Co. is a curious candidate.

The house that Harvey Weinstein built lists Southpaw, Paddington, The Imitation Game and St. Vincent among its recent hits and Big Eyes, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Vampire Academy and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom among its recent misses. Harvey and his brother go way back to the indie cinema boom of the 90s with Miramax and Dimension Films, and last year they partially reclaimed the rights to many of the old Miramax titles they left behind when they created TWC. However, in the past year multiple high-level executives have jumped ship from TWC, including the COO.  Then, in the course of a single week TWC lost its senior VP of television and co-presidents of production for the boutique label Radius. Is this just the standard turnover for a Hollywood studio? Or does this mass exodus combined with TWC’s recent failure to sell its TV division to the British broadcaster ITV add up to trouble?

“We got our ass kicked in 2008,” Weinstein admits in an interview with THR to address rumors about TWC’s health. “But, no bullshit, I think the company financially is the best it’s ever been right now.” Weinstein, 63, says he has moved quickly to staunch the executive bleeding, promoting a half-dozen execs and beginning a search for a new COO. But observers wonder if the exodus is a sign of broader issues at the company, which has not been as active a buyer as usual on the festival circuit.

As evidence of TWC’s viability, Weinstein trumpets his ramped-up TV slate. Scream and Marco Polo have been renewed by MTV and Netflix, respectively. Project Runway (Lifetime) has produced three spinoffs. And TWC is partnering with ITV to co-finance a 10-part series, Mafiya, about Russian gangsters in Moscow in the 1990s. But for many of its shows, TWC functions as a producer-for-hire rather than the owner of the lucrative format, limiting the financial upside.

Some sources say Harvey pegged his future on the ITV pact and that the company has been slow to pay up on talent deals, but the outgoing COO, who joined Weinstein in the interview, jumped in to say, “When you’re in the acquisitions business, that’s just standard protocol. You don’t see us sitting out there with 20, 10 or even one vendor in a legal dispute, so I don’t know where that stems from.”

Disney, Viacom, 20th Century Fox, AMC, Time Warner and several of the other corporate conglomerates responsible for most of the TV networks in the United States lost roughly $60 billion on the stock market in a three day period, coincidentally enough right as the networks were hyping their new fall programming at the Television Critics Association Press Tour. What the heck happened? Well, Disney warned investors that it expected slower growth in its media networks business, and the stock market saw this as a sign of weakness in the entire TV business and punished all of the TV companies, especially Viacom since its share price went down 17%. What should be done?

Market analyst Todd Juenger argues that “TV networks essentially outsourced the on-demand viewing business to the SVODs, starting with Netflix,” a company now sporting a $52 billion market cap built on content from Viacom, Disney and others. Solution? Stop it. “At all costs, you must protect affiliate fees and the bundle,” wrote Juenger in an open letter to 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch on July 31. The letter was a plea to save television. “Please take back all the on-demand rights to your content and make on-demand access freely and easily available to pay TV subscribers as a privilege of their pay TV subscriptions. Signal what you are doing, and why, clearly to all your peers.”

Juenger also suggests that Hulu owners Comcast, Fox and Disney stop charging $8 for Hulu Plus and instead make it available to pay TV subscribers. Also, give all content to Comcast’s Xfinity service to keep it away from Netflix. “It doesn’t matter how much Comcast pays for it, if anything … just don’t force viewers outside of the bundle to watch your content on-demand.” If the networks make on-demand viewing easier for pay TV subscribers, “consumer complaints about being forced to overpay for a bundle will greatly dissipate,” writes Juenger. “Netflix is a bundle, too. You can’t only buy House of Cards and nothing else, and we don’t hear anybody complaining about that.”

Apparently people have really strong feelings about the opening monologues on late night talk shows, as indicated by the ongoing argument Seth Meyers sparked when he decided to drop the monologue in favor opening his shows from behind a desk and doing something closer to a modified Weekend Update from SNL. He’s doing it for a two-week trial run. Personally, the only late night talk shows I watch are James Corden on CBS and The Graham Norton Show, and I always fast-forward through the monologues. In my lifetime, I’ve probably watched more episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report than The Tonight Show, and I’m too young to remember when Johnny Carson was the king of the monologue. I instead remember Jay Leno meekly asking, “Have you heard about this story in the news today?”  So, I really don’t care about late-night monologues.

On the internet, some have applauded Meyers, declaring “Down with these outdated monologues!” Others have pointed out, “We need our traditions!” A couple even cared enough to recall how brilliantly anarchic Craig Ferguson’s unscripted monologues were. Vulture talked to Seth Meyers about what’s it like being the center of the storm:

In a world where people are making jokes about what’s happening all day on Twitter, do you think the monologue is still important?
I do, because I still feel like, whereas people like yourself and I spend the whole day on Twitter looking at people making jokes, there are a lot of people who don’t. Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, they’re doing very modern monologues. For people who don’t have time, it’s a way to sit down and look at a Twitter feed being performed for six to eight minutes, which is like a nice collection of jokes about what’s happened during the day. In no way, shape, or form am I abandoning a standing monologue because I think there’s anything stale about it. I really like doing it, and for those who do it well, I’m really, really impressed.

I probably should let you go. I feel like you have to talk to about a million more people about sitting down.
It’s amazing. Who would have thought sitting down would draw so much attention?

Will Smith is reviving The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire because it had been a while since Twitter could mock him for casting his kids in things (assuming the new “Prince” will be either Willow or Jaden).

On a related note, Will Smith might not actually be in those two – two! – Bad Boys sequels Sony announced last week.

On a further related note, the trailer for Ride Along 2 looks a lot like a goofier version of Bad Boys:

If the post-Jurassic World dino-mania holds up long enough, Marvel might have an awesome dinosaur movie on its hands with Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur, an old comic book which they have tasked the Rocket Girl creators to revive. It looks adorable, and will be available sometime in the fall.

If you are on the lookout for some awesome film/TV/entertainment podcasts but you don’t know where to start, check out the 2015 Parsec Awards Finalists.

Article Of the Day:

io9’s Esther Inglis-arkell pretty much nailed it with “7 Reasons Horror Movie Sequels Can Only Get Less and Less Scary”. Here’s a sample:

3) After a Certain Amount of Sequels, No One is Even Trying to Make a Good Film

Say what you want about reboots, at least the people who reboot a franchise are trying to make a good movie—a movie that will get people excited and update the core concept. Sequels don’t do that, and sooner or later, that’s so obvious that the light goes out of them entirely. After a certain number of sequels, horror movies just stop being good. That number varies from franchise to franchise, but it always exists. After that point, there’s no recovery. No one looks at the movie as an artistic project. They look at it as a product in which the costs have to stay a specific amount below the expected returns, and that’s it. It might as well be Ikea furniture. All it needs is a poster or DVD cover that makes it look better than staring at a wall for 90 minutes.

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