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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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Lil Nas X Starts Bail Project Fund After Releasing Prison-Set Video for “Industry Baby”

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The singer said he is working to address “the disproportionate impact that cash bail has on the black community.


Lil Nas X Starts Bail X Fund

Following the release of his latest single “Industry Baby,” Lil Nas X launched a partnership with The Bail Project that aims to cover bail funds for people across the country. 

The music video for the song took place in the fictional “Montero State Prison,” a reference to the title of his upcoming album and the singer’s real name. While Lil Nas X spent much of his time online promoting the video with memes, he put a pause on the jokes Saturday to announce the Bail X Fund and bring attention to issues regarding incarceration in the United States. 

“On a serious note, I know the pain that incarceration brings to a family,” Lil Nas X tweeted. “And the disproportionate impact that cash bail has on the black community. That’s why I teamed up with @bailproject to create the Bail X Fund.”

The Bail Project aims to eliminate cash bail in the U.S.  It has posted over $47 million in free bail for over 17,000 low-income people across the country. It also provides post-release support and services to those who need them.

“Music is the way I fight for liberation. It’s my act of resistance,” Lil Nas X wrote in a statement on the fund’s website. “But I also know that true freedom requires real change in how the criminal justice system works. Starting with cash bail.”

The Fight to End Cash Bail

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, like many issues within the criminal justice system, cash bail disproportionately harms Black Americans. The group claims that Black and brown defendants are somewhere between 10% to 25% “more likely than white defendants to be detained pretrial or to have to pay money bail.” It also argues that Black men are 50% more likely to be detained pretrial than white defendants, and says Black and brown defendants generally “receive bail amounts that are twice as high as bail set for white defendants – and they are less likely to be able to afford it.”

Lil Nas X said he is “doing something” to address these issues and invited his fans to join him. He hopes that his efforts will encourage other artists to use their platforms to likewise speak about these injustices.

“Ending cash bail is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time,” he wrote. “Donate what you can to the Bail X Fund. Let’s bring people home & let’s fight for freedom and equality.”

A donation tab was attached to the song’s music video, where it says nearly $44,000 has been raised for the Bail X Fund. The video has blown up on YouTube, racking up over 31 million views. It remains the number one trending video in music as of Monday morning. 

The song has likewise found success on Spotify, where it debuted at number two and eventually reached the number one spot.

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (NBC News) (A.V. Club)

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Fire at Home Reportedly Owned by Beyoncé and Jay-Z Under Arson Investigation

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Officials said there were no injuries or evacuations during the fire, which was put out in around two hours.


Fire Breaks Out at Famed Couple’s Reported Residence

A Wednesday fire at a historic home in New Orleans, Louisiana believed to be owned by music titans Beyoncé and Jay-Z is being investigated as a possible arson. 

On Thursday, a New Orleans Police Department spokesperson confirmed to multiple outlets that it had received a tip about a suspicious person in the area. Further details about the suspicious person and the cause of the fire have not been revealed.

Neighbors told local media that there is an unlocked gate on the property that outsiders sometimes use to gain entry.

Officials told The New York Post that it took 22 firefighters over two hours to extinguish the blaze, with no reported injuries or evacuations. The extent of the damage currently remains unclear, but a spokesperson told The Post that given the age of the residence, the situation could have been far more severe. 

“If [the firefighters] didn’t get there when they did, it could have been much worse,” the spokesperson said. “It’s a historic home.”

About the Home

The building was first built in the Garden District neighborhood of the city in the 1920s as a church. It was later used as a ballet school and then became a high-end residence in 2000. Realtor.com says it is currently valued at $3 million.

The home was purchased in 2015 by Sugarcane Parkin LLC. According to The Washington Post, this company has the same registered address as other entities owned by Beyoncé. Sugarcane Parkin is also allegedly managed by Beyoncé’s mother, Celestine Lawson, better known as Tina Knowles.

Representatives for the “Lemonade” singer and her husband have not issued any public statements about the incident, nor have they confirmed that the home is owned by the couple. 

In March of this year, storage units in Los Angeles belonging to Beyonce were burglarized. According to TMZ, over a million dollars of goods were stolen, including expensive dresses and handbags.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Post) (NOLA)

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Cleveland’s Baseball Team Changes Name From Indians to Guardians

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The move marks the team’s first name change since 1915, and it comes after decades of criticism from Native Americans. 


Name Change Announced

Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team said Friday that it will change its name after the 2021 season from the Indians to the Guardians.

The team announced the name change with a just over two-minute video narrated by actor Tom Hanks.

“You see, there’s always been a Cleveland — that’s the best part of our name,” Hanks says in the clip. “And now it’s time to unite as one family, one community, to build the next era for this team and this city.”

This marks the team’s first name change since 1915, and it comes after decades of criticism from Native Americans. 

Despite long-running calls to change racist and offensive team names — including the Washington Redskins — such campaigns did not gain significant momentum until the nationwide racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd.

Why Guardians?

Officials behind the Cleveland team first pledged to change the name last year and previously removed the “Chief Wahoo” logo, a caricature of a Native American character, from its uniforms following the 2018 season.

It toyed with several options before ultimately landing on Guardians, which draws from Cleveland’s architectural history. 

“We are excited to usher in the next era of the deep history of baseball in Cleveland,” team owner and chairman Paul Dolan said in a news release. 

“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity. Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders.”

“‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us while drawing on the iconic Guardians of Traffic just outside the ballpark on the Hope Memorial Bridge. It brings to life the pride Clevelanders take in our city and the way we fight together for all who choose to be part of the Cleveland baseball family. While ‘Indians’ will always be a part of our history, our new name will help unify our fans and city as we are all Cleveland Guardians.”

Guardians will be the fifth name in franchise history, joining Blues (1901), Bronchos (1902), Naps (1903-14), and Indians (1915-2021).

See what others are saying:(ESPN)(Axios) (Cleveland)

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