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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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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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Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch May Have Abandoned Plans To Participate In TikTok NFT Program

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Lil Nas X’s TikTok NFT was scheduled to debut a week ago and is still not available to the public.


Creators Allegedly Leave TikTok’s NFT Program

Musicians Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch may have quietly exited TikTok’s new NFT collection, according to a report from Rolling Stone.

TikTok first announced the line, which is called “TikTok Top Moments,” at the end of September. It involves a series of creator-led NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which are unique and tradeable digital assets. TikTok’s NFTs can be purchased with the cryptocurrency Ethereum. According to a press release, the money will “largely go directly to the creators and NFT artists involved.”

TikTok said that creators like Poarch, Lil Nas X, Grimes, Curtis Roach, Brittany Broski, and more would be participating in the program. The company called NFTs an “empowerment tool” that will allow these creators to “be recognized and rewarded for their content.” It planned to debut the collection on Oct. 6 with Lil Nas X’s NFT, but that token has still not been made available. A source told Rolling Stone that it may never be released. 

NFT Rollout Described as “A Mess”

The outlet also reported that Poarch is “actively contemplating pulling out of the program due to worries about its execution.” According to Rolling Stone, three sources familiar with the rollout of the program have described it as “a challenge,” “a mess,” and “a complete joke.”

Those sources claimed that in order to secure Poarch’s initial participation, TikTok offered her marketing support worth potentially $4 million for her next release. The company also allegedly promised to use one of her songs in an end-of-year campaign. A spokesperson for TikTok, however, described these claims as “not accurate.”

Neither Poarch nor Lil Nas X has commented on their participation yet. Meanwhile, TikTok declined to answer Rolling Stone’s questions about the status of their NFTs. 

Some of TikTok’s announced NFTs have gone public, though. Throughout Tuesday, Roach’s “Bored in the House” video was up for auction on the platform Immutable. 

NFTs took the internet by storm in early 2021, but their popularity peaked in May and declined throughout the summer. Celebrities, tech moguls, and everyday people featured in viral memes have hopped on the trend and made millions doing so. 

According to Rolling Stone, TikTok has valued some of its own NFTs at $1 million. Now, it’s unclear if those tokens will ever hit the market.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Dexerto)

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Ariana Grande, Bella Hadid, and Others Honor World Mental Health Day

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A slew of stars acknowledged the day by sharing personal stories and making hefty donations to organizations that offer mental health resources.


Celebrities Donate to Mental Health Organizations

Major celebrities honored World Mental Health Day on Sunday by speaking candidly about their mental health struggles and donating to nonprofits.

Singer Ariana Grande announced that she is donating $5 million worth of free therapy through the online counseling platform Better Help. The star previously partnered with the company over the summer to give $1 million in therapy to fans and opted to throw more money at the program following its success. 

“I acknowledge that there are very real barriers when it comes to accessing mental health resources, and while this is only one small gesture (and a much larger systemic problem remains) I wanted to do this again with @betterhelp in hopes of bringing access to a few more people and perhaps inspiring a few of you to try something new and prioritize your own healing,” Grande wrote on Instagram. 

Those interested can sign up for a free first month of Better Help and get an additional 15% off the second month. 

Model Bella Hadid also pledged to donate to mental health resources. She teamed up with the beverage company Kin Euphorics, which will donate 10% of its October sales to Gurls Talk, a nonprofit that gives adolescent girls a space to talk about mental health, along with various educational tools to aid those discussions. Hadid will match those donations.

“Dealing with mental illness for most of my life, bringing awareness to the education of mental health through my platform is something that I will continue to do until our mental is just as respected as our physical,” Hadid wrote. “I want everyone who struggles daily to know that you are not alone.”

Stars Share Resources and Personal Stories

Meanwhile, actress and singer Selena Gomez used her new makeup brand Rare Beauty to share statistics about the prevalence of mental illness and the efforts to combat it. The company, which has previously focused on several mental health initiatives, shared that just 1.3% of philanthropic investments go towards supporting mental health.

The company additionally cited information from an American Psychological Association report, which revealed that young people are particularly vulnerable to mental health struggles. It found that seven out of 10 Gen Z adults are more likely to report experiencing depression symptoms compared to other generations. 

Gomez shared Rare Beauty’s post to her own story as well. 

Singer Olivia Rodrigo similarly opened up about mental health and therapy during an interview with CBS that aired Sunday. In it, she said she has been in therapy since she was 16, which she believes has helped her both personally and professionally.

“That was a really big, life-changing moment,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about myself.” 

“I think there’s sometimes a stigma around it, too, like I was saying,” the singer continued. “Sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, you don’t need that. You have so much. Your life is so great. What are your problems?’ I think that’s definitely a thing that sometimes older people can do to younger people to kind of trivialize what they’re going through.” 

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (E! News) (Complex)

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