Welcome back from the weekend, and we hope that everyone was able to relax a bit despite the pall of COVID hanging over all of us as number continue to increase. That’s a cheery way to start today’s news, isn’t it? Many states are starting to crackdown and reinstating lockdowns that we thought we were past, and we’re only a few weeks away from seeing whether production will be able to resume safely in 2021 after the regular holiday shutdown.
The latest show to have to hit pause is CBS‘s Young Sheldon, which hit the pause button on Friday when a test for one of the production teams came back positive through the mandatory testing process. The person with that test was asymptomatic, and they’re currently in isolation, and production was just paused for a single day for contact tracing and deciding how to proceed this week. The fourth season of the Chuck Lorre Productions and Warner Bros TV series began production on September 22 in Los Angeles, having previously been shut down for a day in October for the same reason.
As far as how COVID is impacting the country and California overall, state officials issued a new stay-at-home order in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley regions, since officials are worried about hospitals becoming overrun by cases. The number of ICU beds in those regions has dropped to below 15% availability, which was a problem that caused many deaths in areas like New York and Italy earlier in the year. The regions included in the order are Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura. All non-essential businesses will have to shut down starting today so that restaurants are back to only offering take-out, while nail salons, museums and other indoor spaces are closed until further notice. Production is still considered essential business in California, so it’s not likely to affect production further, although obviously, it’s best to proceed with the utmost caution to not replicate some of the worst delivered by COVID earlier in the year.
The Academy of Television announced its new Emmy rules for the 2021 awards, some of the main ones, like re-combining Variety Talk and Variety Sketch back into one category maybe not having as much impact on below the line and craft as others. Categories for achievements in variety series will now include both talk (such as Last Week with John Oliver) and variety sketch (like Saturday Night Live).
Television Academy Chairman and CEO Frank Scherma said, “Our annual review of Emmy rules and procedures is more important than ever. Our Awards Committee and Board of Governors undertake this annual evaluation with a very thoughtful and analytical approach to ensure that the Emmys remain relevant and in step with our industry’s ongoing evolution.”
As far as the changes that directly affect below the line and crafts, here are some other changes:
• Combine all interactive category awards into one category – outstanding interactive program.
• Sound editing and sound mixing for nonfiction/reality programming: An individual credited as a sound editor and a sound mixer for the same nonfiction or reality program can enter as a sound editor or sound mixer, but not both.
• Outstanding costumes for variety, nonfiction or reality programming has been converted to a juried award.
• Period and/or character makeup and hairstyling categories have been converted to area awards.
• Music composition for series and for a limited or anthology series, movie or special will have a two-step voting process to determine nominations.
• The outstanding choreography for scripted programming award has been modified to allow for nominations.
Further developments on production under COVID includes a new agreement between the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) with the Directors Guild (DGA), IATSE and the Teamsters as far as back-to-work COVID protocols, including testing, which brings the protocols more in line with the agreement for film and television production signed in September. This new deal includes a zoning system that will help protect actors and background from unnecessary contact, paid COVID-19 sick leave, a mandatory on-set COVID-19 compliance manager and more.
The repercussions of last week’s announcement by Warner Media that its entire 2021 film slate will get a simultaneous release on its streamer service, HBO Max, as well as in theaters, haven’t fully been realized yet. I still have something to write about how the studios’ shift to streaming might affect production, specifically budgets.
In the meantime, Variety‘s head critic Owen Gleiberman shared some of his own thoughts, many of which mirror my own thoughts on the subject:
“It’s several years down the line, and we’re in the middle of the streaming future. Theaters are becoming a marginal experience (a lure for nostalgic fuddy-duddies like myself), and movies now premiere in the place that most people want to see them: at home! Well, guess what? You’re not going to be seeing movies like “The Matrix 4,” “Dune,” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” I mean, you might be seeing some version of those movies, but it’s not going to be like the version that would have been made for the big screen. It doesn’t need to be — and it wouldn’t justify the budget. Lavishly scaled entertainments like that are based, economically, on a grand scale of viewing (i.e., millions of people around the world paying to see them in theaters). That’s why they cost as much to market as they do to make. You can call that expenditure decadent, but in good movies the money is on the screen. And good movies swing for the fences. Movies made for the at-home experience swing for…fences that are a lot closer.”
That’s what it comes down to. How much money will studios spend on movies that most people will gladly watch at home rather than go out to get the theatrical experience? Will productions need to hire top-tier creatives when much of their work might be lost on anyone watching their entertainment on a tablet? This story is developing, and I’m sure we’ll have more to say on the subject.
Composers and music supervisors might want to check out some of the panels from Variety‘s “Music for Screens Week” that had four days of music-related panels last week. Some of the highlights were a panel with director Steve McQueen and a few of the individuals responsible for the music on his Small Axe Anthology — Below the Line spoke to McQueen briefly about the subject a few weeks back but the panel is far more in-depth — a keynote conversation with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross who scored David Fincher‘s Mank and Pixar’s upcoming Soul, separate panels for composers and music supervisors, and more.
You can watch replays of most of these panels over at Variety, and there were some terrific revelations for those just breaking into the music side of the industry.
There isn’t a ton to say about the weekend box office, since the post-Thanksgiving weekend is normally bad, but DreamWorks Animation‘s The Croods: A New Age remained on top with a 55% drop to $4.4 million, and it might remain there through Christmas with few strong offerings. With just $20.3 million grossed so far, the animated sequel is already the second highest-grossing film since movie theaters reopened in September. (Now, go back and read what Mr. Gleiberman said about how studios might react to the lack of movie theater patrons.)
Comcast’s Focus Features and Universal Pictures both tried to bring in some business without either movie having name stars. The buddy comedy Half Brothers took second place with a measly $720,000 in 1,369 theaters, while the romantic drama All My Life made about half that amount in 1,502 theaters for fourth place. Universal’s horror-comedy Freaky dropped to third place with $460,000 with $7.7 million total. Attempts to rerelease movie classics like Elf, Die Hard, Frozen and The Grinch haven’t helped matters as theaters continue to falter.