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Does the world need another superhero franchise? No, probably not, but at least the upcoming “Venom” sounds cooler than most of its predecessors. Tom Hardy will play the villain of the title, a journalist who begins terrorizing Spider-Man and everyone else in New York after bonding with the alien lifeforce/suit known as the symbiote.
Due out later this year, “Venom” is currently filming. Here’s what you need to know about it before then.
The cast inspires confidence.
Hardy is playing the eponymous supervillain, AKA Eddie Brock, who for reasons that have yet to be made entirely clear was previously portrayed by Topher Grace in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3.” He’s joined by Michelle Williams as Ann Weying, better known as She-Venom, plus Riz Ahmed in a to-be-announced role. Many are hoping he’ll play Carnage, an even more psychopathic character, but nothing has been confirmed.
Matt Smith, Pedro Pascal, and Matthias Schoenaerts are said to have been up for the same role, and Jenny Slate was in talks to join the film late last year.
Spider-Man won’t be in it.
“Venom” will be unusual in that it’s a movie about a superhero’s archnemesis that doesn’t actually feature said hero, which means we won’t be seeing Tom Holland anytime soon. Hopefully the villain-centric approach works out better than it did in “Suicide Squad.”
The director wants to tap into Venom’s dark backstory.
Ruben Fleischer, late of “Zombieland” and “Gangster Squad,” is handling “Venom” — and sounds excited about it. “There’s a dark element to [Venom] and a wit that has always appealed to me,” he told Variety last year. Fleischer also added that he wants to explore the Jekyll-and-Hyde dynamic between Brock and Venom.
“They become almost a third being, which is what Venom is,” Fleischer added. “There’s a famous quote: ‘You’re Eddie Brock. I’m the symbiote. Together we are Venom.’”
The screenwriters have previous “Spider-Man” experience.
Jeff Pinkner was a co-writer of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the second of two web-slinging movies starring Andrew Garfield, whereas did uncredited work on Sam Raimi’s first “Spider-Man” movie. Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks,” “Fifty Shades of Grey”) completes the trio.
There’s more where that came from.
This being 2018 and all, the studio (Sony, in this case) isn’t simply planning for a one-off. The plan is for a whole series — or cinematic universe, if you will — of interconnected movies about Spider-Man-adjacent villains. Whether these plans come to fruition will likely depend on the success of this maiden voyage.
It’s rated R and is set for release this fall.
“Venom” is due in theaters on October 5.
— Sony Pictures (@SonyPictures) May 19, 2017
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Burning TV Questions For 2018: Will Fox Survive, What’s Next For #MeToo, Does Netflix Stumble? And More
It turns out 2017 was just the appetizer. The TV industry is undergoing a dramatic evolution, and in 2018, the courses are about to get much larger. On this year’s menu: Massive consolidation, including already-announced deals such as AT&T/Time Warner, Sinclair/Tribune Media, Discovery Communications/Scripps Networks and Disney/20th Century Fox; the potential demise of one of the Big 4 networks, along with the closure of many more smaller networks; and the long-anticipated launch of Apple’s ambitious TV programming.
It will be disruptive, but it will also make for a fascinating year for anyone who keeps tabs on the television business. Here are a few questions to ponder as the year kicks off:
What happens to the Fox Broadcasting network should the Disney/20th Century Fox deal happen?
There are dozens of unanswered questions about what might happen once Disney takes control of the 20th Century Fox film and TV studios, as well as networks like FX and Nat Geo. But the biggest one swirls around the biggest property left behind in the transaction: The Fox network, which almost everyone agrees (including Rupert Murdoch) will be dramatically different once it’s separated from the studio. With no immediate scripted pipeline, Fox is expected to focus more on news, sports and unscripted fare, along with potentially buying programming from other studios.
Will Fox downsize its staff, as a result? What happens to 20th shows on Fox like “The Simpsons” and “Empire”? Will Fox Television Group chairpeople Dana Walden and Gary Newman stick around? And most immediately, as the networks pick up pilots for fall, will Fox still be in the game this spring? What will its fall schedule look like?
What might AT&T shed in order to secure its acquisition of Time Warner?
There are legitimate concerns over consolidation and the behemoth that will result when Time Warner and AT&T merge. And there are surely some officials inside the Department of Justice who regret the decision to approve the Comcast/NBC Universal merger a few years ago, and don’t want to make the same mistake again. But the Donald Trump DOJ’s decision to file a civil antitrust lawsuit to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner appears more politically motivated than a desire to protect consumers.
Trump, of course, is highly critical of Time Warner’s CNN and never passes up a chance to attack his “enemies” through any means necessary. “[This] stretches the reach of antitrust law beyond the breaking point,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said. AT&T will likely look to make concessions to get approval before heading to the courtroom, but Stephenson has said that dropping CNN to seal the deal is a “nonstarter.” More likely, pundits believe AT&T might even be willing to sell DirecTV in order to get the acquisition approved. Then it will see whether the DOJ was truly concerned about AT&T’s market power, or if it’s really about CNN.
What other deals might happen in 2018?
Following the Fox/Disney news, the sky appears to be the limit in terms of how many other companies may opt to merge and get bigger in order to survive this digital age. CBS, Sony, Lionsgate, Viacom and others are said to be on the table. Then there are the big Silicon Valley companies flush with cash: Citi analysts made headlines this week by suggesting that there is now a “40 percent likelihood” that Apple will acquire Netflix.
Will audiences be interested in a revived ABC version of “American Idol”?
No one was asking for an “American Idol” revival this fast, just two years after its Fox finale in 2016 — except for producer FremantleMedia North America. The production company was worried about losing the brand’s power if it sat on the shelf too long, and so now it’s back — premiering Sunday, March 11, at 8 p.m. Besides FremantleMedia, the only real constant is host Ryan Seacrest, who’s back to oversee the proceedings with new (pricey) hosts Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. By the end of its run on Fox, “Idol” — the most powerful show on television for much of the 2000s — was still a decent performer among adults 18-49, but a shell of former self, having been overshadowed by NBC’s “The Voice.” Curiosity might help open the new “Idol,” but the music space is still saturated by both “The Voice” and also Fox’s new “The Four,” which gets a jump on the “Idol” return by premiering on Jan. 4.
How will Apple launch its stable of TV programs, what will it cost and how will viewers respond?
Apple spent 2017 firming up its new TV team, hiring away Sony’s Jamie Erhlict and Zack Van Amburg to head up its video operations, as well as WGN America’s Matt Cherniss to oversee development. Among the projects in the works: A space drama from Ronald D. Moore; a new take on “Amazing Stories” from Amblin TV, Bryan Fuller and Hart Hanson; and a scripted peek inside the world of morning TV starring and produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. It’s not clear whether any of these shows will be released by the end of 2018, but at the very least, we’ll have a better idea how these shows will be released and marketed. Via Apple Music? A new streaming platform?
Who will run Amazon Studios/Prime TV and will its new strategy work?
Even before Roy Price’s exit from Amazon, the streaming service had been rethinking its programming strategy. Despite a string of critically lauded series, the service failed to make inroads with buzz or many awards, and even its acclaim started to falter. Now, the focus is on big-budget event-style series, including Guillermo del Toro’s “Carnival Row,” starring Orlando Bloom; Julia Roberts in the political thriller “Homecoming”; Matt Weiner’s anthology series “The Romanoffs”; and a new TV series take on “Lord of the Rings.” Amazon has almost completely shuffled the heads of its programming teams, with Sharon Tal Yguado now in charge of scripted series and Heather Schuster running unscripted; now the search continues for Price’s replacement. Albert Cheng is currently running Amazon Studios on an interim basis, but names floated around to take the job permanently include Walden, A&E’s Nancy Dubuc, YouTube’s Susanne Daniels, Paramount TV’s Amy Powell, NBC’s Jennifer Salke and 20th Century Fox Film’s Stacey Snider.
What will Netflix’s and Amazon’s signature shows, “House of Cards” and “Transparent,” look like when they return?
Hollywood’s sexual harassment scandals were the top entertainment story of 2017 — and the overall #MeToo movement was the nation’s biggest news of the year. (No small feat, given the insanity happening under this new White House.) As 2018 begins, the industry is expecting more revelations, while TV shows rocked by the news are undergoing their own evolutions. When Netflix’s “House of Cards” returns for its final season, it will be with Robin Wright as the show’s sole lead — as star Kevin Spacey was forced to exit in the wake of multiple allegations of harassment over the years and even on the set. Meanwhile, the status of Amazon’s “Transparent” also remains up in he air following several allegations against star Jeffrey Tambor. Although at first it appeared that Tambor had quit the show, he later claimed that he did no such thing. Amazon has not yet revealed how the show will handle Tambor’s presence — or lack of presence — as Maura Pfefferman when production resumes.
What are the long-term host plans for “Today” and “CBS This Morning”?
Similarly, on the news side, NBC and CBS haven’t yet finalized their post-Matt Lauer and post-Charlie Rose plans. Both morning hosts were fired in the wake of sexual harassment revelations, and for now “Today” is continuing with Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, while Rose’s co-anchors Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King have anchored as a duo. “Today” has actually improved its standing vs. “Good Morning America” in the weeks following Lauer’s exit, and “CBS This Morning” has held steady — leading plenty to note that neither show ultimately needed those expensive male anchors. Given the fact that ratings have held steady, there’s also perhaps a chance both shows simply continue as they are now.
Will we finally learn audience and ratings information for Netflix shows and other streaming services?
We ask the same question every year. Services like Netflix are awash in data; how has none of that information ever leaked out? Beyond the drips and drabs that Netflix occasionally shares (mostly as fun trivia), the industry has had to rely on numbers from outside sources like Nielsen. But that data is limited to what audiences watch on their TVs, leaving out a large chunk of audience consuming programming on their mobile devices. And Netflix is quick to pooh-pooh that data anyway. But it’s the best we have, and Nielsen data mostly confirms what we probably already knew anyway: This year’s hits included Season 2 of “Stranger Things,” while “The Crown” had a smaller following.
Speaking of Netflix, does its dominance continue, unabated?
There’s no shortage of Schadenfreude in Hollywood, as rivals secretly (and not so secretly) root for Netflix to stumble. But other than a few cancellations, Netflix has continued to grow in size, stature and acclaim — and even those execs rooting for a misstep can’t help but be in awe of the streaming service’s power. But especially in Hollywood, nothing gold can stay forever. Netflix is spending $8 billion this year in programming, but that also means it’s become so large that some of its content will just naturally fall by the wayside. And with competition growing — including the aforementioned Apple, a renewed competitive rival in Amazon and Disney’s coming offerings — there’s always a chance that Netflix is MySpace. Unlikely. But 2018 will be a pivotal year in the streaming game.
Can Viacom join the elite ranks of premium basic cable networks like FX and AMC with its rebranded Paramount Network?
Spike TV, the network that was once TNN and The Nashville Network, is undergoing yet another transformation: Paramount Network launches on January 18 as Viacom’s premium basic cable network, with a high-end programming strategy on par with FX and AMC. Beyond shows making the transition, like “Lip Sync Battle” (which will help christen the relaunch with a special live edition), Paramount will bow with the six-part event series “Waco,” starring Michael Shannon, Taylor Kitsch, John Leguizamo and Melissa Benoist. Later, Paramount has the Kevin Costner drama “Yellowstone,” a long-awaited series remake of the cult film “Heathers,” and the John Wells comedy “American Woman.” But in an age where major cable entertainment networks are experiencing declines on par with the broadcasters, introducing a new network will be a challenge.
How many more classic TV shows will be revived or rebooted?
The successful returns of “The X-Files,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Full House” (rebranded as “Fuller House”), followed by this fall’s hit rebirth of “Will & Grace,” has only encouraged the revival trend. Recent successful remakes and reboots include Netflix’s new take on “One Day at a Time,” and CBS’ new “MacGyver” (paired with its earlier redo of “Hawaii Five-0”). Now, even more are on the docket: Next up, ABC’s return of “Roseanne” this spring, NBC is kicking around a new “The Office,” while Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt are mulling a return to “Mad About You” and a remake of “Magnum, P.I.” is in development at CBS. Is this how NBC eventually brings back “Must See TV”?
Will any of us survive what promises to be an even more tumultuous year than 2017?
Brace yourself. And prepare a stiff drink.
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Daniel Talbot, a distributor and exhibitor of enormous influence over specialized exhibition and distribution as well as the international film world, died Friday in Manhattan. He was 91. A memorial was held Sunday, December 31 at the Riverside Memorial Chapel with a capacity audience including many leading New York specialized players. Talbot’s wife and business partner, Toby Talbot, as well as daughters Nina, Emily and Sara attended the memorial, where the family spoke fondly about Talbot’s love for the comedian W.C. Fields.
Another more public post-holiday event marking the closing of the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas is scheduled on January 28 in New York. The last few weeks have seen Talbot’s legacy celebrated with reaction to the unexpected announcement that the six-screen Upper West Side theater would close at the end of January, at the expiration of its lease. Milstein Properties, who have been the Talbots’ co-partners in the theater since its opening in 1981, has stated that it hopes to reopen the theater after structural work to the building, with programming in line with Talbot’s legacy.
Talbot was seen at the theater within the past week to watch “Happy End,” Michael Haneke’s most recent film. Haneke, the acclaimed Austrian-German director, was typical of the kind of international auteur who Talbot as an exhibitor and founder of New Yorker Films celebrated.
In a tweet, New York Times critic Janet Maslin begged the Academy not to forget Talbot at the Oscars:
It’s still only December. You have more than enough time to make sure that this year’s “In Memoriam” montage honors Dan Talbot, whose nearly 60-year career exhibiting and distributing great art films influenced generations. Please give him his due.
— Janet Maslin (@JanetMaslin) December 30, 2017
After an early career in book publishing, Talbot took over the New Yorker Theater in 1960. He programmed it as a repertory theater showing older films. That was not uncommon at the time, but he added a level of curation and care as well as the ability to reach an audience that were hallmarks of his exhibition career.
The theater, which championed both foreign art films as well as domestic studio fare, soon became the training school for many budding cinephiles and directors (Peter Bogdanovich was a regular attendee). Talbot soon founded New Yorker Films, which early on with masterpieces like Robert Bresson’s “Pickpocket” and Bernardo Bertolucci’s early “Before the Revolution” extended his business into distribution.
He also just before his foray into distribution produced Emile de Antonio’s seminal documentary, “Point of Order” about the Army-McCarthy Senate hearings. Ironically, it was distributed by Continental Releasing, owned by Walter Reade, whose chain of theaters at the time was central to both New York and national art house cinema.
To look back at the titles New Yorker championed is to see as significant a collection of contemporary titles and directors as any American distributor ever handled. Without Talbot it is likely they might never have seen showcased so prominently. By 1970, key films by Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda, Jerzy Skolimowsky, Chris Marker and other cutting edge European directors deemed less viable by other art house distributors bore the New Yorker imprimatur. After Talbot acquired and showcased in New York such then unknowns as Senegalese Ousmane Sembene, Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet, as well as key American independents, from Robert Kramer to Jim McBride, they went on to screen nationally in more daring venues (often campus film societies projecting 16mm).
As invaluable as the handling of these and other films (from such auteurs as Robert Bresson, Jacques Rivette, Nagisa Oshima and Jean Eustache), New Yorker — which often acquired films more than a year after initial showings — came into its own as a mainstream specialized player in the mid-1970s with its championing of new German cinema. It became the primary source for early films from Werner Herzog (“Even Dwarfs Started Small,” “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”), Rainer Werner Fassbender (“Merchant of Four Seasons,” “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul”) and Wim Wenders’ first American success “The American Friend.”
Those films elevated New Yorker to a major player in the specialized scene, which was then dominated by subtitled films. Wider-appeal titles like the Brazilian “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands,” Claude Chabrol’s “Violette,” Errol Morris’ early “Gates of Heaven,” and the Australian “The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith” broadened their draw while major efforts like Fassbender’s “The Marriage of Maria Braun” and Godard’s “Every Man for Himself” continued earlier relationships. Established arthouse directors like Fellini (“City of Women”) and Rohmer (“The Aviator’s Wife”) also joined Talbot’s pantheon.
But perhaps the most unlikely hit came in 1981 with Louis Malle’s “My Dinner With Andre.” The straightforward filming of a dinner conversation between writer friends Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory became, after a slow start, the company’s biggest success. It grossed the equivalent of $16 million in 2017 ticket values. Later that decade, Claude Lanzmann’s monumental Holocaust documentary “Shoah” became a sensation (with its nearly ten-hour running time, primarily at non-theatrical locations).
The early 80s saw a growth spurt in the specialized industry, parallel to an increased interest in American independent film. By the mid-1980s, multiple new distributors were entering the market, and New Yorker faced more competition for acquisitions. But New Yorker continued to stick to top-end directors, adding more to its incredible catalog as its non-theatrical arm helped to sustain the operation for some years. But at a time when the independent film world was fueled by home video revenues, foreign language titles began to show less appeal.
Talbot sold New Yorker Films to up and coming Madstone Productions (I was the film buyer for Madstone Theaters during this period), which ended up shutting down with the collection scattered and Talbot’s days as a distributor over.
But he remained a leading exhibitor until his death. By the 1970s, he took over the Cinema Studio on upper Broadway (later twinned), which became a leading first run specialized theater for both New Yorker and other distributors’ titles. At that point, most first-run exclusive subtitled films opened on the Upper East Side towards midtown. This led to Talbot’s long partnership with Milstein Properties with the Lincoln Plaza Theaters in the basement of a new apartment complex across from Lincoln Center.
It eventually grew to six screens, and quickly became the dominant uptown Manhattan art house. And post-New Yorker Films, the theater remained beyond question the most important venue for releasing subtitled films (along with other demanding and acclaimed specialized titles). In recent years, most titles also opened at a downtown location, but with less competition and a younger audience not as attuned to foreign films, the Lincoln Plaza remained the one essential theater in New York to book (the Royal in Los Angeles is its closest equivalent).
The recent announcement of its temporary closing brings no guarantee of its return as a theater with the same risk-taking, personal booking policy that Dan Talbot showed until the end.
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