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Streaming Sites May See Boosts as Theaters Close, but New Projects Could Suffer

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  • Universal is taking four of its in-theater pictures and putting them on video on demand. The Hunt, Emma, and The Invisible Man will be available Friday, and Trolls World Tour will be available on April 10, the same day it hits theaters.
  • The box office saw a two-decade low over the weekend as people stay home because of the coronavirus. Big chains like AMC and Regal have also announced temporary nationwide closures.
  • While theaters are taking the hit right now, streaming could see a 60% boost, according to data tracking firm Neilson.
  • But, in the long-term, more remains uncertain as productions are shutting down and financial losses overall for Hollywood are predicted to be incredibly high.

Studios Pick VOD as Theaters Close

As major movie theater chains temporarily shut down nationwide, streaming and video on demand services have the opportunity to see a big boost from quarantine binge-watching. 

On Tuesday, AMC and Regal announced they would be temporarily closing their locations as movie theaters see empty seats during the coronavirus pandemic. This comes just a day after Universal opted to take some of its current releases, The Hunt, The Invisible Man, and Emma, and put them on video on demand by the end of the week. 

“Given the rapidly evolving and unprecedented changes to consumers’ daily lives during this difficult time, the company felt that now was the right time to provide this option in the home as well as in theaters.,” Universal said in a statement. The pictures will be available on Friday for a $19.99 48-hour rental. Trolls World Tour will also get to VOD treatment on April 10, the same day it is set to hit big screens. 

Audiences Respond

Trolls Star Anna Kendrick praised the move online, saying she was “happy we can spread the joy while everyone stays safe.”

Many others were also excited that these selections would be made available at home. 

Some, on the other hand, were surprised by the price tag.

Universal is not alone in this strategy. Warner Brothers also announced plans to make Birds of Prey available on VOD early as well. Disney+ decided to release family hits like Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on the platform sooner than scheduled. Fans are also calling for Onward, Disney-Pixar’s current release, to hit streaming or VOD early so viewers can get the chance to see it. 

Box Office Lows

These choices come as Hollywood has been shaken up by the coronavirus outbreak. It started with big pictures like Mulan and No Time to Die getting delayed, but was quickly followed by a blow to the box office. Last weekend was the worst in two decades, with the box office raking in only roughly $55 million. 

Usually, just one movie could probably pull that kind of cash in on its own. For comparison, in mid-March of last year, the highest grossing movie was Captain Marvel, and it made almost $68 million during one weekend. The top five highest grossing movies in mid-March made $113.8 million in one weekend. But theater closures and the practice of social distancing now make those kinds of numbers unattainable. 

Streaming Boost

While all of this means doomsday for theaters and the box office, it does give the upper hand to streaming. According to information from Nielsen, a data measurement firm, staying at home can lead to a 60% increase in media consumption, a figure that directly translates to streaming and television. 

Nielsen also says that people who work from home consume, on average, three more hours of television than someone in-office. So, with more employees being told to work remotely, this could create more TV consumption. 

Disney+ alone has a lot to gain from this situation, as reports indicate that half of the home in the United States with children under the age of 10 have already subscribed to the service. Not only is this number expected to go up because of quarantines, but the amount children will be consuming because they are home from school is likely to increase as well.

Industry’s Future in Limbo

In the long run, the outbreak could lead to bad news for most facets of the industry. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon, and other TV and film giants like HBO, Disney and more have halted the productions of their upcoming content. This leaves uncertainty for their slates of new programming and could lead to further delays. 

The full impact of this right now is unknown, but according to Wired, Hollywood is on track to lose $20 billion. This number is likely to get even higher the longer this lasts.  

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

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Netflix Launches “Fast Laughs,” a TikTok-Like Feed of Funny Clips

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  • Netflix has created a TikTok-style feature it calls “Fast Laughs,” which is currently only available on its iOS mobile app in select countries.
  • Executives described it as a “new full-screen feed of funny clips from a wide variety of Netflix titles, ranging from films and series to our deep bench of stand-up specials.”
  • The clips can be shared on social media, and if users stumble across something they want to see more of, they can save that title to watch later or play it immediately. 

Netflix Announces “Fast Laughs”

Netflix is now the latest platform to introduce its own TikTok-like feature.

On Thursday, the company announced “Fast Laughs,” which is currently only available on its iOS mobile app in select countries.

It essentially looks like TikTok, but Patrick Flemming, director of product innovation at Netflix, told The Verge it is a “new full-screen feed of funny clips from a wide variety of Netflix titles, ranging from films and series to our deep bench of stand-up specials.”

In its announcement blog post, Netflix said, “You access the feed through your bottom navigation menu by clicking on the Fast Laughs tab. Clips will start playing – when one ends another begins, to keep the laughs coming.

If a user stumbles across a scene they want to see more of, they can save that title to watch later or play it immediately if they’d like. They can also share the clips individually on Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Could It Really Rival TikTok?

Adding this TikTok-style feature may seem surprising since Netflix is a streaming service rather than a social media platform.

However, Netflix’s last few earnings reports have actually referenced TikTok as a major competitor. It’s not because they make the same style of content but instead because people are spending more time on TikTok – which for some means less time on Netflix.

While “Fast Laughs” might not compete with TikTok the way some other copycats hope to, some believe it’s an interesting way to highlight the huge library of content the site offers.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Tech Crunch) (USA Today)

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Court Sides With Sofia Vergara, Says Ex Cannot Use Embryos Without Permission

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  • A Los Angeles court sided with actress Sofia Vergara on Tuesday, ruling that her ex-fiance Nick Loeb cannot use their embryos without her consent. 
  • The court cited a document the former couple had signed agreeing that both parties needed to approve the use of the embryos, arguing that the document could not be void. 
  • In a response, Loeb appeared to plug his new movie, saying the judge was “clearly influenced by Hollywood, which is a pattern I expose in my upcoming film Roe v. Wade.”
  • Loeb had been trying to obtain custody of the embryos for many years and even argued in a Louisiana court that they should be treated as humans with rights, though the case was dismissed. 

Court Sides With Sofia Vergara 

Los Angeles County Superior Court sided with actress Sofia Vergara Tuesday, ruling that her ex-fiance could not use their embryos without her permission. 

Vergara has been involved in a court battle with her ex, Nick Loeb, for several years. The two split in 2014 and had reportedly undergone in vitro fertilization within a year before their break up. 

Loeb had been fighting to use those embryos on his own via a surrogate. According to TMZ, he at one point tried to take custody of them through a trust and named the embryos in a lawsuit. He also argued in a Louisiana court that the embryos should be recognized as humans with rights. The court dismissed that case in January and said Loeb was “forum shopping” for a court that might agree with his argument. At the time, his team said he would appeal their decision.

People Magazine obtained court documents from the Los Angeles court’s ruling, which granted Vergara’s request for a permanent injunction preventing Loeb from using the embryos “to create a child without the explicit written permission of the other person.”

Loeb Responds to Ruling

The court cited a document the former couple both signed at a fertility clinic, agreeing that both parties had to approve of any use of the embryos. Loeb tried to argue that he signed it under “duress” but the court still said that their agreement was not voidable based on that defense. 

Loeb also tried to argue that he and the Modern Family actress had an “oral agreement” that would allow him to use the embryos on his own terms, but court said there was no “material fact” to support this.

According to People, Loeb issued a statement that plugged his new movie after the ruling. He said the judge “was clearly influenced by Hollywood, which is a pattern I expose in my upcoming film Roe v. Wade.”

“It’s sad that Sofia, a devout Catholic, would intentionally create babies just to kill them,” he continued. 

Vergara’s team has not yet issued a statement on the case.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (People) (Entertainment Tonight)

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Chris D’Elia Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography in New Lawsuit

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  • Comedian Chris D’Elia was sued in California on Tuesday for sexual exploitation and soliciting nude photos from a minor.
  • The lawsuit alleges that D’Elia “constructed a manipulative, controlling, and abusive dynamic” in order to get dozens of nude photos from a girl he knew was 17 at the time.
  • It also says he invited the minor to his hotel room before one of his shows, where she performed sexual acts at his request.
  • D’Elia’s spokesperson denied the accusations, which come just two weeks after D’Elia addressed months-old claims that he had sexually harassed underage women. He claimed sex “controlled” his life and admitted to having “a problem” but maintained all his relationships had been consensual and legal.

Chris D’Elia Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography

A federal lawsuit filed in the Central District of California on Tuesday accuses comedian Chris D’Elia of sexual exploitation and soliciting nude photos from a minor.

The allegations stem from 2014 when Jane Doe, now 24, was just 17-years-old. The lawsuit says D’Elia, who would have been 34 at the time, “constructed a manipulative, controlling, and abusive dynamic” in order to solicit the photos and pressure Doe into sexual encounters. 

According to Doe, their interactions began in September of that year when she contacted him on Instagram, thinking he would never reply. D’Elia, however, allegedly responded to her message right away and asked her to come to one of his shows. When she agreed to see him perform at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, she says they exchanged information on Snapchat. 

Once the two started communicating on Snapchat, the lawsuit claims that the messages D’Elia sent “became sexual very quickly.” He allegedly started to ask for nude photos of her, and if she did not reply, he would persist. While she tried to avoid sending the photos, the lawsuit claims he was “aggressive.” She eventually sent him 5-10 explicit photos before she met him. 

According to the lawsuit, when D’Elia came to perform in Connecticut in November, he invited Doe to his room before the show. Because she was nervous about the situation, Doe brought a friend with her, but D’Elia allegedly demanded that the friend leave or else he would not let Doe inside. 

Doe’s friend left and the lawsuit claims that D’Elia then began to request sexual favors from Doe within minutes of her arrival. It alleges that the two had sex while D’Elia knew her age. It even adds that during the acts, he repeatedly asked her to tell him she was 17 and still in high school, with him allegedly saying that this was “hot.”

Doe says that he invited her back to his hotel after the show and they had sex again. After this, she says she left feeling “disgusting and defeated.” The lawsuit says this was her first sexual encounter of any kind and she had not even kissed anyone prior to meeting him, leaving her unsure what to think or do in the situation. 

Over the following months, the lawsuit claims that D’Elia would limit his communication with Doe as a tactic to pry more photos out of her. It says he would demand she send explicit photos or he would unfollow her on social media until she compiled. The lawsuit says that over the course of six to seven months, she sent him over 100 explicit photos and videos, roughly half of which were taken while she was a minor. 

The lawsuit says Doe “suffered significant emotional, physical, and psychological harm as a direct result of Defendant D’Elia’s predatory conduct.”

D’Elia Says He “Has A Problem”

These allegations come nearly nine months after several women accused him of sexual harassment and predatory behavior. Many said they were underage at the time he harassed them. 

After months of silence, D’Elia recently addressed those allegations in a 10-minute video on February 19. He apologized and said he had been seeking help. 

“I mean sex, it controlled my life,” he said. “It was the focus, my focus, all the time. And I had a problem. I do have a problem.” 

However, he denied ever breaking the law in his sexual encounters. 

“I stand by the fact that all my relationships have been consensual and legal,” he said. 

A spokesperson for the comedian told the Los Angeles Times that the accusations in the lawsuit are false. 

“Chris denies these allegations and will vigorously defend against them in court,” they said. 

Jane Doe is seeking unspecified damages. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Hollywood Reporter) (USA Today)

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