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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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Dave Chappelle Decides Against Having Former High School’s Theater Named After Him

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“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” the comedian reportedly said.


Theater Named Announced

Comedian Dave Chappelle opted on Monday to not have the theater at his alma mater high school named after him, according to a report from The Washington Post

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. previously planned to name its theater in honor of Chappelle, as he is a distinct alum and donor. While Chappelle formerly said such a gesture would be “the most significant honor of [his] life,” he announced during Monday’s naming ceremony that it would bear a different title. 

The school’s theater will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. 

A naming ceremony was initially set to take place in November, but was postponed after the comedian began facing backlash for transphobic jokes in his Netflix special “The Closer.”

Among other things, he said he was “Team TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. He also made a joke about Caitlyn Jenner and remarks comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.

The jokes embroiled Chappelle in controversy, and reports claimed that some students at Duke Ellington took issue with the comments. When Chappelle ended up visiting the school amid the scandal, Politico reported that one student told the comedian, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.”

Chappelle Defends Controversial Special 

According to The Post, Chappelle said the criticism against him “sincerely” hurt, but added that “the Ellington Family is my family.” He claimed he did not want the theater being named after him to distract students. 

“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” he said according to Josh Rogin, a columnist for the outlet.

Rogin also tweeted that Chappelle took time out of the ceremony to slam the criticisms levied against him, accusing upset students of promoting someone else’s agenda. 

“These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” he reportedly said. 

“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,” Chappelle continued while denouncing the press coverage of his Netflix special. 

According to David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic who attended the ceremony, Chappelle suggested he was open to potentially adding his name to the theater at a later date when the community is ready. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Variety) (The Atlantic)

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Chris Evans Says People Upset With Same-Gender “Lightyear” Kiss Are “Idiots”

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The kiss was previously removed from the film until a surge of backlash from Pixar employees prompted Disney to reinstate it. 


Chris Evans Supports “Lightyear” Scene

“Lightyear” star Chris Evans is standing against people who have criticized the same-gender kiss scene in the upcoming Pixar film. 

“The real truth is those people are idiots,” the actor told Reuters this week when discussing negative reactions to the scene’s inclusion. 

“The American story, the human story is one of constant social awakening and growth and that’s what makes us good,” he continued. 

Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and more have banned the release of “Lightyear” over the kiss, which is between two women. Right-wing pundits in the U.S. have also slammed it, and user reviews for the picture on websites like IMDB have claimed that movie-going has “become an avenue for political propaganda.”

Evans argued those opinions are outdated. 

“There’s always going to be people who are afraid and unaware and trying to hold on to what was before. But those people die off like dinosaurs,” he said. “I think the goal is to pay them no mind, march forward and embrace the growth that makes us human.”

“Lightyear” hits theaters on Friday starring Evans as the titular Buzz Lightyear. Evans, however, is not playing the action figure made famous in the “Toy Story” movies and is instead playing an animated human astronaut who inspired the toy.

Kiss Scene Almost Never Made it to Big Screen

According to outlets that have reviewed the film, the same-gender kiss is between Alisha Hawthorne, a character voiced by Uzo Aduba, and her wife. 

Multiple reports have stated that Disney was always supportive of depicting a gay couple in the picture, but was more hesitant about showing an on-screen kiss between the two. The studio previously had the scene removed from the film until a swell of backlash prompted it to reinstate the kiss.

The decision came in March amid criticisms over Disney’s slow response to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. At the time, a group of Pixar employees wrote an open letter claiming that they have pushed for more inclusion in their films, but “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest.” 

Now that the scene made the final cut of “Lightyear,” it has been a large topic of conversation leading up to the film’s release. On Monday, Evans told Variety that the inclusion of the scene makes him “happy,” but he hopes one day, scenes like this will be considered standard. 

“It’s tough to not be a little frustrated that it even has to be a topic of discussion,” he said. “That it is this kind of ‘news.’ The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is.”

See what others are saying (Reuters) (Variety) (IndieWire)

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YouTube Shorts Hits 1.5 Billion Monthly Logged-In Users 

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The company says the success of Shorts is bringing more viewers to its long-form content.


YouTube Shorts Reaches Milestone

Less than two years after its launch, YouTube Shorts is reaching 1.5 billion logged-in users every month, according to reports from TechCrunch and Variety on Wednesday.

YouTube launched its Shorts feature to compete with TikTok, the social media app that has taken over the internet with its bite-sized content. Its effort appears to be successful, as these new numbers put YouTube Shorts on track with the Gen Z-beloved app. 

In September 2021, TikTok announced it had reached one billion monthly users. It has not released updated data since, but analysts projected it could reach 1.5 billion sometime in 2022. 

While Shorts were created to rival the trending content on TikTok, YouTube has remained committed to the long-form content that has served as the platform’s bread and butter. In its announcement, the company touted that Shorts served as an entryway for viewers to watch more of this long-form content and discover new creators along the way. 

In a release, YouTube said the synergy built by this expansion has allowed for “the rise of the multiformat creator.”

“Long-form content remains the best way for creators to deeply engage and develop long-term relationships with their audiences,” Tara Walpert Levy, YouTube’s Vice President of the Americas, said in a statement. “But Shorts offer an exciting, new way to be a part of a viewer’s journey and to introduce themselves and their whole portfolio to new audiences. This approach is yielding real results; channels uploading both short and long-form content are seeing better overall watch time and subscriber growth than those uploading only one format.”

The Competition Posed by TikTok

For its part, YouTube put a lot of effort into making Shorts thrive on its platform. Among other measures, the company created a $100 million fund incentivizing creators to make the quick videos. 

The Google-owned video giant is far from the only social media company to try to wrestle with TikTok’s success. Facebook and Instagram began rolling out Reels two years ago while TikTok was experiencing a surge of pandemic users. 

In turn, TikTok has also made changes to its app to keep up with other social platforms. Recently, it extended its maximum video length to ten minutes, meaning its short-form content may not always be so short. 

By using short videos to drive more power behind longer content, YouTube is hoping to cover both bases. Neal Mohan, YouTube’s Chief Product Officer, said that even though the company is only at “the beginning” of its journey with Shorts, he knows “the product will continue to be an integral part of the YouTube experience moving forward.”

See what others are saying: (TechCrunch) (Variety) (The Verge)

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