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James Franco Lawyers Call His #MeToo Accusers “Attention Hungry”

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  • James Franco’s lawyers filed a demurrer in response to a lawsuit that accuses Franco of sexually exploitative and inappropriate behavior.
  • His lawyers accused the women who filed the suit, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Tina Gaal, of taking advantage of the #MeToo movement by falsely bringing down Franco, who they maintain is innocent.
  • They called the Tither-Kaplan and Gaal “attention-hungry” and said they were jumping on the bandwagon to “ruin the next celebrity.”
  • Tither-Kaplan and Gaal’s lawyer said that Franco’s new effort to play the victim is a “tactic commonly used by perpetrators of wrong-doing” that makes it harder for women to bring accusations forward.

Lawyers File Demurrer

James Franco’s lawyers are alleging that the two women accusing him of sexually exploitative behavior in a lawsuit are taking advantage of the MeToo movement in hopes of seeking public attention.

His lawyers filed a demurrer on Friday, which was obtained and shared by Variety Monday. They claimed that while Franco himself is a supporter of the MeToo and Times Up movements, these accusations are false and without legal grounds. 

“The #MeToo and Times Up movements have made tremendous and important contributions to improving not only the culture of the entertainment but also the world as a whole,” the demurrer said. “Unfortunately, while these movements have rightly brought down a number of reprehensible individuals, they have also ensnared an innocent man, James Franco.”

The lawyers continued to say that allegations against Franco “made great tabloid fodder, but like most tabloid stories, they are false and inflammatory.” They believe their purpose was to grab “as much publicity as possible for the attention-hungry plaintiffs.”

What Was in the Lawsuit?

The plaintiffs, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Tina Gaal, filed a suit back in October saying that when Franco ran a film an acting school called Studio 4 between the years of 2014 and 2017, he engaged in sexually exploitative behavior with students. One of the advantages Franco touted about his classes was that students would have chances to get roles in his upcoming projects.

They claimed that he, along with two other men involved with the school who are also listed as defendants in the suit, “opted to sexualize their power and fame by dangling the opportunity to aspiring actors of employment in film and television in exchange for explicit nudity, sex, and as Franco put it, the ‘pushing of boundaires.”

They claimed that the school was fraudulent and that opportunities for women increased if the women agreed to “overt sexual acts” or scenes involving nudity and sex. The lawsuit said that Franco was “looking to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.”

Franco has maintained his innocence since allegations first arose against him. His lawyers further defended him in their demurrer. They claimed that prior to this lawsuit, Tither-Kaplan had spoken words of praise for Franco and the school. The document accused her of jumping on the bandwagon to “ruin the next celebrity.” It also said that Gaal’s complaints were “personal grievances” that had no place in a lawsuit.

A lawyer for Tither-Kaplan and Gaal, James Vagnini, gave a statement to USA Today suggesting that this action only furthered Franco’s guilt. He said that in filing this demurrer, Franco was putting forth an “aggressive effort to position himself as the victim and smear the reputation of the survivors who have come forward is, unfortunately, a tactic commonly used by perpetrators of wrong-doing.”

“It is one of the many reasons that so many survivors are still afraid to speak publicly about their experiences,” Vagnini added.

Background on Allegations

Major allegations against Franco involving his acting classes were first brought forward in a Los Angeles Times report in 2018. Five women spoke to the outlet, each alleging their own experiences with Franco that were inappropriate. 

Tither-Kaplan was one of the women who said she was chosen to appear in one of Franco’s projects. She said she was asked to do a “bonus” scene that would involve her and other actresses simulating an orgy with Franco. She claimed that during this scene, Franco removed the protective plastic vaginal guard the actresses had on and simulated oral sex without protection. His lawyers claim this is false. 

Several actresses said that either in class or in his personal projects, Franco would ask women to take their tops off. In some instances, they said he was angry if they refused. They also said that when roles were actually offered to people in the class, they were either small extra parts or scenes that required nudity. 

Katie Ryan, another actress that spoke to the Times, said that Franco would “always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.”

Franco has consistently denied wrongdoing but has still encouraged women to speak up. In a Seth Meyers appearance in 2018, he said that the accusations he had seen so far were not accurate, but he still supported their right to speak out. 

“One of the things that I’ve learned is that this is a conversation that needs to be had. There are people and women and others that have not been a part of this conversation,” he told Meyers. “So I support them” 

“If I have done something wrong. I will fix it — I have to,” he said in a separate 2018 statement.

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Variety) (Vanity Fair)

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Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19

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  • Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
  • The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
  • “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

Chappelle Tests Positive

Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.

“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.

“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.

Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle

Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.

Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.

Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.

“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)

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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Paramount+ To Launch March 4

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  • ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year. 
  • The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection. 

Paramount+ Gets Launch Date

ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year. 

It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.

More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news. 

“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”

State of the Streaming Wars

Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”

The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television. 

ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (CNBC)

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