The first shows for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” begin tonight, and there’s every expectation that is will be the biggest-opening, top-grossing domestic release of 2017. At a minimum, we’re looking at a $200 million opening, with $225 million very likely.
With strong holiday playtime following the first 10 days of release, a multiple of at least three times its opening is possible, which could propel to the domestic take to around $700 million.
Yes, it’s going to be huge — but there’s a few records it might not beat. Here (with adjusting numbers to 2017 values) are some comparable numbers that “Jedi” will easily best, and a few that seem unlikely.
Best domestic gross for the “Star Wars” franchise: MAYBE
This includes reissues. “Star Wars” is the #2 film of all time, while “The Force Awakens” is the biggest success in the last 20 years. To be as high as fifth on the all time “Star Wars” list, “The Last Jedi” would need to do 78 percent of the total for “The Force Awakens,” and significantly better than “Rogue One.”
Total Box Office
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Empire Strikes Back
The Return of the Jedi
The Phantom Menace
“The Fate of the Furious”
Top international grosses for 2017: NO
The two most recent “Star Wars” films weren’t top among overseas release in their years. In 2015, “The Force Awakens” was second to “Furious 7,” though it did gross over $1 billion overseas. “Rogue One” was eighth best among 2016 releases, grossing $524 million. Expect “The Last Jedi” to gross somewhere in between, unlikely to be better than third best for the year.
The Fate of the Furious
Wolf Warrior 2
Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism Co.
Despicable Me 3
Beauty and the Beast
Pirates of the Caribbean:
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Top worldwide grosses for 2017: YES
This looks entirely doable. “The Force Awakens” made over $2 billion, “Rogue One” a little over $1 billion; expect this to do more, both at home and overseas.
Whittling down this year’s record 92 foreign-language Oscar submissions to a shortlist of nine was a challenge for the Academy which, under the leadership of new president John Bailey, instituted voting changes for the disparate group of Academy volunteers commandeered by foreign-language committee chair Mark Johnson.
Eight of the films were well-known from festival play and have been racking up awards, most notably European Film Awards winner “The Square.” Two lesser-known films that were not widely predicted made the cut, “Félicité” from Senegal and “The Wound” from South Africa. Steady as they go for Sony Pictures Classics and Magnolia Pictures, which lead the field with three and two films, respectively.
Cannes critics raved over Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev’s moving, intense family drama which took home a Cannes jury prize and played well at Telluride and Toronto. For the third time the Russian Oscar committee selected a film by independent-minded Zvyagintsev, despite the way he shows an unflattering mirror up to a society overrun by ministers demanding upbeat portraits of their culture.
“On Body and Soul” (Hungary, Netflix)
Alexandra Borbely won European Actress for Ildikó Enyedi’s slaughterhouse romantic drama, which started out the year winning Berlin’s Golden Bear.
Ruben Östlund’s hilarious Palme d’Or winner swept the European Film Awards. The art-world satire shot in majority Swedish with some English from Danish Claes Bang, American Elisabeth Moss, and Brit Dominic West. Östlund has another Oscar shot after the surprise omission of “Force Majeure” in 2015.
“First They Killed My Father”
Notably snubbed was “First They Killed My Father” (Cambodia, Netflix), director Angelina Jolie‘s well-reviewed 70s Cambodian-language Khmer Rouge wartime drama, as well as two entries from The Orchard, “BPM: Beats Per Minute,” Robin Campillo’s moving portrait of the ’80s AIDS epidemic in France that took home the Cannes Grand Prix, and “Thelma” (Norway), Joachim Trier’s sci-fi thriller about a young woman falling in love who has fantastic powers. Michael Haneke’s dour Austrian entry “Happy End,” reuniting “Amour” stars Jean-Louis Trintignent and Isabelle Huppert, was also overlooked.
Voting changes included widening and diversifying the Academy’s foreign-language committee, which draws from all 17 branches of their voting pool. These members (who now include the once-barred marketing and distribution people who also represent many of the submissions) could watch the official screenings at two theaters, the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills or the Linwood G. Dunn in Hollywood. They also got credit for movies they watched on other big screens in commercial or festival showings.
“You have to have seen them theatrically,” Johnson told IndieWire. “In theory, you can never set foot in Beverly Hills. As long as you are an Academy member who has seen enough to qualify, your votes would count.”
Each foreign-language committee voter signed up for one list of about 15 films. The general committee voted for the top six films, while Johnson’s hand-picked executive committee picked the final three. (Sources inside the foreign committee have told me that several eventual Oscar winners were added by Johnson’s executive committee.)
Johnson will invite more than the usual Academy foreign language voters to watch the shortlist of nine films at screenings in London, New York, Los Angeles, and for the first time San Francisco, to come up with the final five nominees to be revealed January 23.
The entire Academy gets to vote on the final five.
The FCC just voted 3-2 along party lines to dismantle the set of protections that go by the shorthand “net neutrality,” and it’s bad news for consumers, media-lovers, and small internet businesses alike.
Completely reversing all of net neutrality is a huge departure from what consumers are used to, and in the long run the consequences could be absolutely disastrous. But there’s a lot of confusion and a lack of clarity about how the demise of net neutrality will happen and hurt individuals.
Although the Commission just voted to kill the rules, the internet won’t immediately be split into tiered bundles today or even this year. If it net neutrality does end up doomed, the reality of “how” is slower, more complicated, and more insidious than that. But the good news is, it still may not be doomed at all. Here’s the reality of whether we’ll get there, and when.
What actually is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is, at its core, a simple idea: Your internet service provider doesn’t get to pick and choose which content you get to see.
The FCC codified that in the Open Internet Order of 2015. That Order applies to both traditional broadband carriers like Comcast and Charter, as well as to mobile carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon, and it put into place three bright-line rules:
Your ISP may not block your access to lawful content, apps, or services.
It doesn’t matter if the video-streaming app you’re using is a direct competitor to the company that owns your internet connection; they have to let you connect to it the way you request.
Your ISP may not impair or degrade (throttle or slow down) any lawful site, service, or app you’re trying to access just based on what it is or does.
It doesn’t matter if the app you’re using is a direct competitor to the company that owns your internet connection; they have to let you get content from it at the speed at which it is delivered.
Your ISP may not favor some kind of internet traffic over other internet traffic in exchange for financial consideration.
This is the ban on paid prioritization, or the split into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.” Your ISP can’t charge Netflix an extra fee in order to not have their connection to customers throttled to the point of uselessness.
Outside Netflix’s headquarters in Los Gatos, California
Courtesy of Netflix
What’s happening to the rules right now?
We had a very big political transition when the Obama administration ended and the Trump administration began, and that affects the agencies, too. Current FCC chair Ajit Pai was one of the commissioners who voted against the 2015 rule at the time, and he’s been gunning to have it thrown out ever since. On Thursday, he succeeded.
Pai released the final draft of a new rule to kill off the 2015 Order right around Thanksgiving. The new text (200-page PDF) is a full rollback of everything in the 2015 rule (which already survived a court challenge) did and does, and would permit throttling, blocking, and paid prioritization, among other shenanigans.
The Commission voted on the new Order during its regular monthly meeting session on Thursday, Dec. 14 and, as predicted, the measure passed 3-2. Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr joined Pai in approval, and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel dissented (their statements).
When the FCC adopts an Order, it doesn’t become law immediately. The process takes time.
Before becoming effective, the new rules will first have to appear in the Federal Register, a process that can take anywhere from days to months. Then once the new rules are in the Federal Register, the date they take effect will be publicly known.
In 2015, for example, the FCC voted to adopt net neutrality on Feb. 26. It was another six weeks before the Order was published in the Federal Register in mid-April, and the rule finally took effect in June of that year.
If the 2017 ruling follows a similar timeline, then we would look for it to land in the Federal Register around Feb. 1.
But more importantly: As soon as the new rule appears in the Federal Register, the lawsuits will begin.
Several groups are already gearing up to file lawsuits.
Public-interest organization Free Press was first out of the gate and has already announced its intention to jump into the fray. It is likely to be joined by several other public interest, civil rights, and digital rights interest groups, and possibly some trade (lobbying) groups like the Internet Association, which represents pretty much every major internet company you’ve heard of (including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Reddit, and plenty of others).
Some states’ attorney generals will also be hopping on board the lawsuit express. New York AG Eric Schneiderman’s office has vowed to lead a multistate lawsuit against the FCC.
Other groups that don’t necessarily participate in the suits will still file amicus briefs in the case: these are friend-of-the-court letters, added to the pile of claims and evidence, that say why someone has a stake in a case and why it should go a certain way. So for example, we might see civil rights and consumer interest groups like the ACLU, EFF, or Consumers Union file amicus briefs in favor of upholding net neutrality and throwing out Pai’s rule — and we might also see trade groups like USTelecom, which represents ISPs, filing amicus briefs in favor of trashing net neutrality and maintaining Pai’s rule.
Gizmodo recently explained in depth how the court cases will be formed, consolidated, and heard. Overall, the full process will most likely take anywhere from 12-24 months.
What happens while that’s all going on?
The first really important step in the court process determines what the world is like for everyone while the case is happening.
The organizations filing the suits will first request a stay on the new rules’ implementation. Basically, they’ll ask for a pause button: Please don’t put this in effect or change anything until after we’ve all argued it out in court.
If the court grants a stay, then nothing changes while the cases are still being worked over and argued out.
If the court denies a stay, then net neutrality is already dead, even while lawyers are arguing that it shouldn’t be killed.
What happens if there’s no stay?
The most likely case is that in the short term, the large ISPs — Altice, AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Verizon, and so on — would still make no real changes to their behavior, or only very small changes, so that it would be much easier to argue in court that they have no incentive to do any harm. What they do more than 18 months out depends on how the lawsuits go.
What if the FCC loses?
Depending specifically how and why the court rules against Pai, we either go back to having the 2015 rule, or the Commission gets sent back to the drawing board to rewrite part or all of its 2017 rule.
But the timeline and the politics matter. By that point we would almost certainly be in early-to-mid 2019, with the 2020 election breathing down everyone’s backs. It is possible the Commission would move slowly on a rewrite, kicking the can to 2021 to see first which way the next administration leans.
What if the FCC wins?
Ajit Varadaraj Pai, left, Jessica Rosenworcel, center, and Brendan Carr, right.
This is the path to a “we’re all screwed” scenario.
If the Court of Appeals upholds the FCC’s 2017 rule, the groups that filed and lost the lawsuits would likely try to take it to the Supreme Court, or convince Congress to rewrite the law. But in the meantime, we would no longer have net neutrality.
With the pressure of an active lawsuit off, ISPs would be free to start making changes that hurt subscribers and businesses alike.
It’s unlikely you’d immediately see Comcast, the nation’s largest ISP, start breaking up the internet into tiered content packages, although it’s possible you might see a small local or mobile carrier pilot that kind of billing strategy. As The Verge noted recently, there are very few legal barriers to setting up that kind of scheme right now, if someone wants to.
Instead, we’d probably see something more insidious that slowly snowballs into something big, coming from the other end. ISPs would be more likely to charge fees to the internet services to avoid being throttled than they would be to charge customers to access them, at least at first.
We can call that an educated guess, because it’s happened before. Back in 2014 and 2015, Netflix had a problem: Its service to Verizon and Comcast customers was awful and getting worse, and customers — thinking Netflix was the issue — were complaining and cancelling.
The issue wasn’t on Netflix’s end, though. It was on the ISPs that were allowing Netflix traffic (of which there is lots) to bottleneck. In the end, Netflix paid up to Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable (now Charter) and others — and lo, customers’ service improved.
But any money a company loses in one area, they try to recoup in another. What do you think happens to the amount subscribers have to pay Netflix every month if Netflix has to pay ISPs more every month just to serve those subscribers? Prices increase.
It’s a process that will probably be slow — until suddenly it isn’t. And it’s a self-reinforcing cycle: If the incumbent needs to pay to access customers, they will raise the rates on those customers to compensate… but a newcomer won’t be able to compete and break in, because it won’t be able to afford what it costs to access customers.
That’s what net neutrality supporters are afraid of. Not that two years from now you’ll have to pay an extra $1 per month to get Netflix, but that ten years from now innovation and competition will have ground to a halt and the existing giants of the internet will be the only game on the internet. And you’ll pay more, every day, to access less than ever before.
But Congress — yes, that Congress — could solve the problem once and for all.
Net neutrality’s saving grace may actually be the fact that it’s now a political issue.
Recent surveys show incredibly high support for net neutrality: More than 80% of Americans support the rule and don’t want it repealed — and yes, that is a bipartisan sentiment.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has already announced his intention to roll back the FCC’s rollback with a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act. A CRA not only kills a rule, but prevents the agency in question from creating the same rule again — so it would be a blunt weapon that stops the FCC from investigating the question again in the same way.
Although Democratic proposals rarely get traction in Congress as it stands in 2017, the broad support for net neutrality protections from the far right, the far left, and everyone in between could make net neutrality one of the rare issues the parties agree to work together on.
Of course, we’re also about to careen directly into 2018, and another kind of political chaos: the midterm elections. By this time next year, the political landscape may be completely different, and the Congress of 2019 could craft entirely new law for the FCC to implement.
In the completely chaotic political environment we’ve got, it’s harder than usual to game out and predict who will be doing what, where, by then. But if you’d like your lawmakers to act, best let them know how you feel.
After weeks of speculation, Disney is officially set to buy a majority of 21st Century Fox’s properties in a $52.4 million deal. The purchase includes 21st Century Fox’s movie studio, 20th Century Fox, and the company’s regional sports channels. Disney is also taking ownership of television cable channels FX and National Geographic and is getting Fox’s stakes in Hulu and Sky.
21st Century Fox is keeping the Fox broadcasting network, Fox News, Fox Business Network, and several national sports networks in the deal and is expected to spin them off into a new company. The 20th Century Fox movie studio lot in Culver City will remain with its original parent company and be used for the spinoff company.
“The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before,” said Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger. Iger has extended his contract with Disney through 2021.
“We’re honored and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building, and we’re excited about this extraordinary opportunity to significantly increase our portfolio of well-loved franchises and branded content to greatly enhance our growing direct-to-consumer offerings,” he continued. “The deal will also substantially expand our international reach, allowing us to offer world-class storytelling and innovative distribution platforms to more consumers in key markets around the world.”
The purchase is the latest high profile buy from Disney after the likes of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. The company is planning to launch a streaming platform to rival Netflix, and the Fox purchase gives them even more franchises and film titles to profit from, including the lucrative “X-Men” and “Deadpool” series.
“This is the purge, right?” Will Smith asked the crowd. “This is the cleanse, this is what happens. This is the natural reaction to the amount of light that came into the world when Barack Obama was the president.”
It was the day after Doug Jones’ stunning win in Alabama and Smith was in a Four Seasons conference room with Joel Edgerton and director David Ayer, promoting their Netflix film, “Bright.” Presumably in a nod to the film’s setting of dystopian Los Angeles, Netflix dressed down the Beverly Hills location with traffic cones, a rusty gate, and an upturned grocery cart.
While Smith never mentioned Jones or President Trump by name, he clearly had the current political climate in mind as he warmed to his subject. “We had to expect that [the pendulum] was going to go the other way,” he said. “As a cleanse — this is the darkness before the dawn.”
When that happens, he said, “I feel very, very strongly that we are shifting into what the next age of humanity is going to be right now,” he said. “It’s just the shit has to get stirred up, in a way. We’re seeing it all.”
Will Smith and Joel Edgerton promote “Bright” with their director, David Ayer, earlier this week at Comic Con in Sao Paulo, Brazil
The two-time Oscar nominee concluded, “It’s going to be really interesting to see how humanity reacts to it, and it’s going to be a fucking mess. It’s going to be a mess, but it’s the mess in the cleanup. It’s the mess and the purge before that new, real light shows up.”
It’s not the first time Smith’s gone off on political tangents; his sentiments were similar to ones he expressed while promoting his prior collaboration with Ayer, “Suicide Squad,” less than three months before President Trump’s 2016 election. “As painful as it is to hear Donald Trump talk and as embarrassing as it is to hear him talk, I think it’s good,” he told a Dubai press conference. “We get to hear it, we get to know who people are, and now we get to cleanse it out of our country.”
“Bright” is a Max Landis-penned script that Netflix acquired in Spring 2016, reportedly investing more than $90 million into the project, the most it’s spent on any feature. Smith and Edgerton play an interspecies cop duo tasked with stopping dark magical forces. Watch the trailer below, ahead of its December 22 release.
In a lengthy post linked to on his Twitter just now, Morgan Spurlock reveals that a woman he slept with in college “believed she was raped” and that he now realizes he’s “part of the problem.”
“As I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions,” begins his post, “I don’t sit by and wonder ‘who will be next?’ I wonder, ‘when will they come for me?'”
“When I was in college, a girl who I hooked up with on a one night stand accused me of rape,” he continues. “Not outright. There were no charges or investigations, but she wrote about the instance in a short story writing class and called me by name. A female friend who was in the class told be about it afterwards.”
Spurlock was “floored” by this. “‘That’s not what happened!’ I told her. This wasn’t how I remembered it at all. In my mind, we’d been drinking all night and went back to my room. We began fooling around, she pushed me off, then we laid in the bed and talked and laughed some more, and then began fooling around again. We took off our clothes. She said she didn’t want to have sex, so we laid together, and talked, and kissed, and laughed, and then we started having sex.”
According to the post, the “Super Size Me” director also settled a sexual-harassment allegation “around 8 years ago” stemming from remarks he would make to his then-assistant; Spurlock also says he’s “been unfaithful to every wife and girlfriend I have ever had” and he hasn’t “been sober for more than a week in 30 years.”
He isn’t sure whether this stems from “the sexual abuse [he] suffered as a boy and as a young man in my teens,” the fact that his father left his family when Spurlock was a child, or his drinking problem, but he does repeat several times that he’s “part of the problem.”
“But I am also part of the solution,” he says. “By recognizing and openly admitting what I’ve done to further this terrible situation, I hope to empower the change within myself. We should all find the courage to admit we’re at fault.” Read his full statement here.