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Legendary Entertainment May Challenge Warner Bros. Over HBO Max Releases

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  • Legendary Entertainment may legally challenge Warner Brothers’ choice to release its 2021 films to HBO Max and theaters simultaneously, according to Deadline.
  • Among the films set to follow this model are “Dune” and “Godzilla Vs. Kong,” which Legendary financed over half of. The company was allegedly given no notice that Warner would be putting those films on streaming before the news went public.
  • Critics of the Warner Bros.’ release strategy say it will hurt theaters, which are already suffering because of the pandemic, and argue that it will not be profitable for the studio in the long term.
  • WarnerMedia CEO says he does “absolutely believe in the theatrical marketplace,” but the company currently “focused on getting through this pandemic like any business is.”

Warner Bros. Stuns Industry

Just days after Warner Bros. announced it would be releasing its 2021 films to theaters and HBO Max simultaneously, Legendary Entertainment is poised to legally challenge that decision.

Warner Bros. 2021 release calendar includes big pictures like “Dune” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Legendary Entertainment paid for 75% of the former film’s $165 million budget, and covered a similar amount for the latter. Because of this, the production company “either has or will send legal letters to Warner Bros as soon as today,” per a Monday report from Deadline

Deadline also reported that Legendary was ready to hand “Godzilla vs. Kong” to Netflix for $250 million before that deal was blocked by Warner Bros.

Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr, who broke the news in a column for the outlet believe that Legendary has the right to bring this forward, especially since “Dune” – directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya– was set to be the first film in a major adaptation series. 

“Will the long-term viability of the franchises be tarnished by starting out as an HBO Max offering?” they asked in the column before noting that Hollywood in general is not happy with Warner Bros. because of its 2021 release model.

Legendary was allegedly given no advance warning of the big shakeup before the news went public. Others in the industry were similarly caught off guard. Vulture quoted executives who messaged each other about the news, saying things like “This is ridiculous that they wouldn’t even make one phone call,” and “They didn’t even try to reach out. And they just assume that we would go along with this.”

On top of this move impacting the wider entertainment industry, it also will likely impact quite a few paychecks. According to Vulture, Gal Gadot was set to see $10 million for “Wonder Woman 1984” which will have a dual release on Christmas day.

However, the cash depends on a back-end component that would only kick in when the movie earned a certain dollar amount at the box office. With this release model, it is far less likely the sequel will rake in that amount, and Gadot is far from the only person with a clause of this nature in her contract, meaning a lot of people will not be getting their anticipated paydays. Warner Bros, might have to buy out every deal like this, which is an expensive endeavor. 

Financial Implications

Overall, experts are questioning if this HBO Max model is financially stable. Vulture estimates that this decision would have to give the streamer a 15-20 million subscriber boost to make sense. In normal times, many of the movies getting simultaneously released could have made a ton at the box office, and it’s not easy to make that kind of money from streaming films.

While it also is not easy to make that kind of money in the theaters during a pandemic, a vaccine is just around the corner, meaning theatergoing is on track to resume at some point in the near future. 

One high-up but unnamed executive told Variety that WarnerMedia has “parted with easily $2 billion in assets, gift-wrapped for HBO Max, that will see absolutely no return.”

AMC President Adam Aron also said that prioritizing streaming could lead to a profit loss. 

“Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up,” he said in a statement. 

“As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense,” he added in defense of his company, which is a theater-going giant. “We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business. We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.”

His reaction was more optimistic than others in the industry. Many think this is the beginning of the end of moviegoing as we know it. One executive told Variety that “movie theaters will just be Halloween stores now.”

“If Disney follows this template in any capacity, movie theaters are done,” another told the outlet. 

The timing of this announcement is devastating and theaters probably feel like they are being kicked while they are already down. AMC lost $900 million in its third quarter because of the pandemic. Cineworld cut 45,000 employees. 

Warner Responds

Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar maintains that this 2021 strategy is just about the pandemic, not about hurting theaters for the sake of streaming.

“We’re here for the long term, in terms of theatrical exhibition and obviously in investing heavily in motion pictures,” he said in an interview with Deadline.

“I absolutely believe in the theatrical marketplace,” Kilar added. “I say that with conviction because I know fans care about it….Our focus, candidly, is on the here and now. We’re focused on getting through this pandemic like any business is, and we’re putting a lot of brain cells against what the right thing is to do to serve fans and to serve partners and to serve ourselves.”

According to Kilar, data shows that consumer behavior will be impacted by the pandemic through much of 2021, which “has absolutely shaped this decision.” He also defended the economic impacts, saying that while this is a big change, it does allow the company to pull from two revenue sources at once, all while doing what they think is best for fans, talent, and exhibitors.

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

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“Emancipation” Producer Apologizes, Hopes He Did Not “Distract” From Film’s Message By Bringing Photo of Enslaved Man to Premiere 

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He said he plans on donating his collection of historical images to appropriate institutions.


McFarland Brings “Whipped Pete” Photo to Premiere 

“Emancipation” producer Joey McFarland apologized on Sunday after facing backlash for bringing the original 1863 photo of the enslaved person the film is based on to the premiere. 

“I wholeheartedly apologize to everyone I have offended by bringing a photograph of Peter to the Emancipation premiere,” he wrote in a statement on Instagram. “My intent was to honor this remarkable man and to remind the general public that his image not only brought about change in 1863 but still resonates and promotes change today.”

The photo, frequently dubbed “Whipped Peter,” is one of the most famous images depicting the gruesome realities of slavery in America. He is facing away from the camera, revealing the severe scarring all across his back. According to the Library of Congress, the formerly enslaved man was actually named Gordon. Will Smith plays him in “Emancipation,” which follows his escape from slavery.

While walking the red carpet of the film’s premiere, McFarland carried the photo with him.  

“I have the photo. This is the original photograph from 1863,” he told Variety. “I wanted it to be here tonight. I wanted a piece of Peter to be here tonight.”

While lamenting the fact that so many historical artifacts have not been properly preserved, McFarland told Variety that he “took it upon [him]self to curate and build a collection for future generations.” He said his collection will be donated after he dies. 

His remarks were met with swift criticism from those who thought it was inappropriate for McFarland to not just own the picture, but to bring it to a Hollywood event. 

“Why do you own the photograph? Why did you bring it to a movie premiere if the intent is to preserve it respectfully?” The Black List founder Franklin Leonard tweeted.

“I don’t know, man, but bringing ‘a piece of Peter’ that you ‘own’ to the red carpet of a movie that’s personally enriching you so that you can collect more slave memorabilia that you’ll keep until your death,” he added along with a giphy of Kenan Thompson saying “yikes.”

McFarland Acknowledges Historical Photos “Belong to the World”

Others argued that the photo should belong to Gordon’s family. 

“Being in possession of a symbol that reflects our trauma is exactly what our oppressor would do. He is his ancestor’s child,” another person added. 

In his apology, McFarland said that he hopes his actions “don’t distract from the film’s message, Peter’s story and just how much impact he had on the world.”

Throughout the development of “Emancipation,” McFarland said he discovered many photos of overlooked individuals with important historical stories. He said he always planned to donate them and believes “there is no better time to begin that process than now.”

“These photographs, which existed before me, will be around long after I am gone; they belong to the world,” he wrote.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Daily Beast)

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Joe Rogan Holds Spot As Top Podcaster on Spotify in 2022

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Earlier this year, some threatened to boycott the platform over Rogan and the health misinformation he shared on his show. 


For the third year in a row, “The Joe Rogan Experience” was the number one podcast on Spotify, the company revealed in its yearly “Wrapped” feature on Wednesday. 

“The Joe Rogan Experience” became exclusive to Spotify in 2020 after the host signed a lucrative deal with the audio streaming platform. “Call Her Daddy” by Alex Cooper, also a Spotify exclusive, followed Rogan on the charts. “Anything Goes With Emma Chamberlain,” which will become exclusive to the service next year, came in third.

Rogan’s podcast has made several headlines over the last year as the podcaster faced backlash from medical professionals and major musicians for touting COVID-19 misinformation. Niel Young asked to have his music removed from Spotify in protest of the company’s deal with Rogan, and several other artists soon followed. 

Just a few days later, several clips resurfaced of Rogan using a racial slur. Many called to boycott Spotify for platforming Rogan, but his popularity did not seem to fade by the year’s end. 

There are over four million podcasts available to stream on Spotify and over the last year, the platform has expanded into new markets. 

It also has started launching podcasts from several high-profile figures, including Kim Kardashian’s “The System,” and Meghan Markle’s “Archetypes.” Both of those debuted mid-year and did not crack the annual top-five list.

See what others are saying: (Spotify) (Variety) (Forbes)

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Comedian Gives David Beckham Ultimatum: Exit Role at Qatar World Cup Or £10K in Donations Gets Shredded

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“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded,” Joe Lycett said in a video.


Pressure on Beckham

Comedian Joe Lycett posted a video on Sunday saying he would shred £10,000 if soccer star David Beckham does not pull out of his deal to be an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup. 

Ahead of the event, which kicks off on Nov. 20, many have been raising concerns about human rights abuses in Qatar. The country criminalizes homosexuality, and it can be punishable by death. 

Beckham’s deal to represent the country was reportedly worth £10 million, and many are frustrated that the athlete took such a big check from a country with known anti-LGBTQ laws. In his video, Lycett noted that Beckham has been openly supportive of his gay fans and was the first premiere footballer to do a photoshoot with a gay magazine. 

In an attempt to get Beckham to bow out of his role, Lycett, who is pansexual, offered an ultimatum.  

“If you end your relationship with Qatar, I’ll donate this £10,000 of my own money, that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting, to charities that support queer people in football,” he stated. “However, if you do not, at midday next Sunday, I will throw this money into a shredder.” 

“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded.” 

Beckham’s Reputation “Shredded”

Lycett said he would livestream the money shredding if that’s what the situation comes to. If Beckham does not back out of the World Cup, Lycett noted he will be forced to “commit what might be a crime,” as destroying legal tender is against the law in the U.K.

“Although even then, I reckon I’ll get off more lightly than I would if I got caught whacking off a lad in Doha,” Lycett quipped.

Lycett then linked to a website titled https://benderslikebeckham.com/, which includes a written version of his message, as well as a countdown to when he will either shred the cash or send it to a non-profit. 

Lycett is not the only U.K star to raise concerns about issues in Qatar. Singer Dua Lipa shut down speculation that she would be performing at the World Cup over the weekend by saying she has no intentions to visit the country until “it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host” the event. 

Other stars, however, including BTS’s Jung Kook, are slated to take the stage. 

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

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