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Disney Prioritizes Streaming as Theater Industry Falls Further Behind

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  • Disney announced major restructuring plans Monday aimed at prioritizing streaming, a major move to come from one of the most powerful studios in the entertainment industry.
  • Under its new structure, Disney will form a whole new arm called Media and Entertainment Distribution Organization, which will be responsible for distribution and ad sales as well as overseeing the company’s streaming services.
  • CEO Bob Chapek says this is in line with how consumers want to take in content. While many see it as a knee-jerk reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, he said the decision was actually more of an effort to move towards the future of content viewing.
  • Regardless of the reasons behind it, Disney’s move towards streaming is a blow to theaters, which are already suffering during the pandemic. Early Tuesday, AMC predicted it could be out of money by the year’s end as studios continually choose to push back their movie release dates, or release them through VOD or streaming platforms.

Disney Prioritizes Streaming

Disney announced major restructuring plans Monday aimed at prioritizing distribution and content creation for its streaming platforms. 

The company is forming a new Media and Entertainment Distribution Organization, which will be responsible for distribution and ad sales as well as overseeing the company’s streaming services. On the content creation side, responsibilities for funneling programming to distribution will fall on three divisions at Disney.

Studios will focus on branded theatrical and episodic content based on franchises for theatrical exhibition and streaming services like Disney+; general entertainment will work on episodic and original long-form content for streaming, cable, and broadcast; and sports will focus on live sports and other related content.

The Media and Entertainment Distribution Organization will be headed up by Kareem Daniel, who has been working at the mouse house. Disney CEO Bob Chapek said this new strategy will support its plans to accelerate its direct-to-consumer business. 

“Managing content creation distinct from distribution will allow us to be more effective and nimble in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the way they prefer to consume it,” he said in a press release. 

This is a huge announcement to come from one of the leading box office giants. Putting streaming ahead of movie theaters is a grave sign for theaters, which are already severely struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. However, while speaking to CNBC, Chapek claimed that COVID-19 complications were not the driving force in this decision, consumer preferences were. 

“Right now, [consumers] are voting with their pocketbooks and they’re voting very heavily towards Disney+. What we want to do is make sure we’re going to go the way that consumers want us to go,” Chapek explained.

“As you mentioned, COVID-19 impacted all of our traditional distribution businesses, but this is even more than reactionary, this is really progressive, this is looking out with a vision towards where we see the world going and to where we see consumers interacting with Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu and where it’s going to go in the future.” 

Chapek believes this strategy allows Disney to make more objective decisions when it comes to distribution, as opposed to seeing content as predetermined to either land in theaters, on a network, or elsewhere. 

Streaming Becomes Dominant

Disney is also not the first major studio to recently shift to prioritizing streaming. Back in August, WarnerMedia announced a huge management shakeup as well as the departure of top executives all in an effort to put their streaming service, HBOMax, first. 

Movie theaters are not exactly pleased with moves like this since they are banking on studios for new content so they can stay alive through the pandemic. But studios have constantly been either delaying films far down their release calendars, or opting to release them through VOD or streaming, something that those in the theater industry have been vocally against.

Disney recently faced backlash from The International Union of Cinemas after announcing that one of its biggest ticket pictures, the new Pixar film “Soul” would be going directly to Disney+. 

“The decision on Soul is doubly frustrating for operators who were counting on the release after the film was previewed at a number of key European film festivals,” the union wrote in a statement. 

“Decisions to postpone titles, to bypass cinemas and the value they create are extremely disappointing – and concerning – and will only delay the day that the whole industry is able to put this crisis behind it,” the union continued.

“It is not only cinemas and audiences who are missing out – this situation must surely also be deeply frustrating for the creators and talents who want to see their films on the Big Screen.”

Issues for Movie Theaters

The fight theaters are being forced to confront cannot be understated. The pandemic is making it nearly impossible for the industry to rebound from its financial losses. On Tuesday morning, AMC said in a public filings report that it could run out of money by the year’s end. 

“Given the reduced movie slate for the fourth quarter, in the absence of significant increases in attendance from current levels or incremental sources of liquidity, at the existing cash burn rate, the Company anticipates that existing cash resources would be largely depleted by the end of 2020 or early 2021,” the top movie chain wrote. 

AMC said that theatergoing at its sites is down 85% compared to this time last year. On top of social distancing requirements meaning that theaters can only be partially filled, the desire to go to theaters is also lacking. A poll from Variety showed that as of October, just over 20% of adults in the U.S. feel very or somewhat comfortable going to the movies. While this is an increase from how many felt comfortable earlier in the pandemic, it is still not enough to fill seats.

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

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Affidavit Outlines Alleged Events That Lead Up to Fatal Shooting on “Rust” Set

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Before the tragic incident that resulted in the death of the film’s cinematographer, actor Alec Baldwin was allegedly assured that the gun he was handed on set was not loaded.


Details of Events Leading Up to Shooting

An affidavit alleges that actor Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene that involved him pointing a gun at the camera when he misfired the weapon last week, killing the production’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and injuring director Joel Souza. 

Multiple outlets obtained the affidavit from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday. The document details the alleged events that resulted in Thursday’s tragedy on the set of “Rust.” Souza told investigators that during a firearms safety announcement, he heard the prop weapon referred to as a “cold gun,” a term that means the gun is not loaded.

According to Souza, the guns on set were usually checked by two people: armorer Hannah Guttierrez-Reed and assistant director Dave Halls. Halls was in charge of giving the guns to actors, though sources said both Guttierrez-Reed and Halls did so at various times.

The affidavit said that Halls handed the gun to Baldwin while announcing it as a “cold gun.” Investigators say investigators that Halls got the revolver from a tray set up by Gutierrez-Reed.

Souza said the crew had spent part of the day preparing for a scene in a church and later left to take a lunch break at another location. He said he was unsure if the firearm had been checked again after returning from lunch. 

When the accident happened. Souza said he heard what “sounded like a whip and then loud pop.” He first noticed Hutchins grabbing her midsection and stumbling back before realizing he had been hit in the shoulder. 

The incident came after six camera crew workers reportedly walked off the set in protest of unfair and unsafe working conditions. According to the affidavit, a replacement crew had quickly been hired, but production on the day of the accident was off to a late start because of related issues. Regarding general on-set behavior, Souza claimed that “everyone was getting along” and that there had been “no altercations” to his knowledge.

The affidavit’s walkout claim backed up previous reporting from The Los Angeles Times. Sources from the set of “Rust” told the outlet on Friday that half a dozen workers left the set because they were frustrated by safety issues, long hours, long commutes, and a long wait for their paychecks. 

Safety Issues on Set of “Rust”

According to the report, standard industry safety protocols “were not strictly followed,” and at least one worker complained specifically about gun safety. Some sources told The Times that there had already been at least two accidental discharges of a prop gun. Around a week before the fatal accident, Baldwin’s stunt double allegedly fired two rounds after being told a gun was cold. 

“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” one source told the outlet.  “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”

Another source told The Times that “corners were being cut” on set. 

The report also claimed that Hutchins was among those advocating for her team to have safer work conditions. 

Rust Movie Productions released a statement saying safety “is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company.” 

“Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down,” the statement continued. 

Baldwin, for his part, sent his condolences to Hutchins’ family on Friday. At the time, he said he was cooperating with the ongoing investigation. 

Vigils have been held in New Mexico and Hollywood to honor Hutchins. The American Film Institute also made a memorial scholarship in her name.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (The New York Times) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Ruby Rose Details Abusive and Unsafe Work Conditions on Set of “Batwoman” Series

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Rose said she and other crew members were seriously injured while filming, but executives insisted that production continue.


Ruby Rose Details Injuries During “Batwoman” Production

Actor Ruby Rose alleged in Instagram Story posts Wednesday that she and other crew members on the set of CW’s “Batwoman” series were seriously injured and subjected to abusive treatment during production.

Rose, who uses she/they pronouns, exited the series in 2020 but did not give explicit details as to why at the time. Now, they are accusing showrunner Caroline Dries, producers Sarah Schechter and Greg Berlanti, and former WBTV executive Peter Roth of fostering a toxic and dangerous work environment.

The original star of “Batwoman” tagged Dries, Schechter, and Berlanti in her Story posts, writing “enough is enough.”

“I’m going to tell the whole world what really happened on that set,” Rose continued. “I will come for you so what happened to me never happens to another person again. And so I can finally take back my life and the truth. Shame on you.”

Rose shared a video of a doctor detailing rib injuries she received on set. She claimed she had enough footage to make an hour-long documentary about these injuries, which allegedly also included a “broken neck,” a “rib split in two” and a “tumor.” In a later post, Rose wrote that in another instance she “got cut in the face so close to my eye in a stunt I could have been blind.”

Rose also shared footage of a surgery they underwent, claiming they had to return to set just 10 days after the operation otherwise “the whole crew and cast would be fired.”

Rose Claims Executives Fostered Dangerous Workplace

“Please to my dear, dear fans stop asking if I will return to that awful show,” Rose continued. “I wouldn’t return for any amount of money nor if a gun were to my head…NOR DID I QUIT. They ruined Kate Kane and they destroyed batwoman, not me.”

Rose added that they were not the only one who sustained traumatic injuries during filming. Rose claimed that the series “lost two stunt doubles” and that one crew member received severe third-degree burns all over his body while the cast and crew watched.

“We were given no therapy after witnessing his skin fall off his face,” Rose wrote. 

Rose even wrote that a woman “was left quadriplegic” during an accident but executives tried “to blame it on her being on her phone.”

“She’s a PA, they work via phones,” Rose continued. “Her accident occurred because our show refused to shut down when everyone else did because of Covid.”

Rose’s allegations regarding mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic continued from there. She wrote that Dries only visited the show’s set four times a year, but still insisted that production continue as COVID posed a threat. Rose said “Batwoman” continued running while other sets, including those of CW productions, were shutting down. 

“[Dries] has no heart and wanted us to finish the season throughout the pandemic and I told her it was a bad idea,” Rose wrote. “I told her everyone was too distracted, constantly checking Covid updates checking on friends.”

Rose claims that when production did finally halt, it was not because a production assistant had been severely injured but because “the government pulled it.”

Separately, Rose accused Roth of having young women steam the crotch area of his pants while he was wearing them. She also alleged that Roth sent a private investigator after her and that Dries encouraged her to comply with him. 

Rose admitted that they “fought people” on set, but claimed they only did so to advocate for safety. Rose said they never raised their voice, unlike fellow actor Dougray Scott, who they accused of going on abusive tirades.  

“Dougray hurt a female stunt double,” Rose claimed. “He yelled like a little bitch at women and was a nightmare. He left when he wanted and arrived when he wanted he abused women and in turn as a lead of a show I sent an email out asking for a no yelling policy, they declined.”

WBTV responded to the allegations Wednesday. The network gave a statement to Deadline accusing Rose of sharing a “revisionist history” that implicates “producers, the cast and crew, the network, and the Studio.”

“The truth is that Warner Bros. Television had decided not to exercise its option to engage Ruby for season two of Batwoman based on multiple complaints about workplace behavior that were extensively reviewed and handled privately out of respect for all concerned,” the statement continued.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (The Wrap) (Screen Rant)

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Netflix Reinstates Employee Who Crashed Director-Level Meeting After Criticizing Dave Chapelle

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Terra Field had publicly accused Chappelle of making transphobic remarks in his new stand-up special “The Closer” just days before she was suspended.


Netflix Reinstates Terra Field

Netflix reinstated a transgender employee who was critical of Dave Chappelle’s new stand-up special after suspending her for attending a director-level meeting without an invitation. 

Terra Field tweeted on Tuesday that she was reinstated once the company determined “there was no ill-intent in” her decision to attend the meeting.

“I’m going to take a few days off to decompress and try to figure out where I’m at,” she added. “At the very least, I feel vindicated.”

Field also shared an email Netflix sent her regarding her suspension being lifted. 

“Our investigation did not find that you joined the QBR meeting with any ill intent and that you genuinely didn’t think there was anything wrong with seeking access to this meeting,” the email said. “Additionally, when a Director shared the link it further supported that this was a meeting you could attend.”

Field’s suspension came just days after she tweeted a viral thread criticizing Chappelle’s latest program on Netflix, “The Closer.” She was one of many activists who claimed Chappelle’s set was transphobic and encouraged Netflix to take action. Field wrote that his comments attacked “the very validity of transness.” Netflix insisted those tweets had nothing to do with her suspension. 

Field reportedly attended the director-level meeting with two other employees who were also suspended. A spokesperson for Netflix told Deadline that those two staffers have likewise been reinstated and the company “will be distributing broader guidance about meetings and clarifying which are for which people.”

Netflix’s Response to Dave Chappelle Controversy

Netflix, for its part, has defended Chappelle and rejected calls to remove “The Closer” from the streaming service.

“It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Srandos wrote in an internal memo. “You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.”

“We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line,” he added. “I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”

Among other things, Chappelle took time in his special to defend author J.K. Rowling, who previously faced backlash over a series of transphobic remarks she made. Chappelle said he agreed with Rowling.

“I’m team TERF,” he added. “I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact.”

Chappelle went on to make jokes about Caitlyn Jenner before comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.

Many employees at Netflix are still frustrated with the way the platform has handled the controversy surrounding “The Closer.” According to The Verge, a trans employee resource group is planning a walkout on Oct. 20.

“Trans Lives Matter. Trans Rights Matter,” the group said in a memo. “And as an organization, Netflix has continually failed to show deep care in our mission to Entertain the World by repeatedly releasing content that harms the Trans community and continually failing to create content that represents and uplifts Trans content. We can and must do better!”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Deadline) (The New York Times)

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