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HomeIndustry SectorFilmOver the Weekend 8/2/21: Yet More Covid Shutdowns, Tom Hanks Joins Wes...

Over the Weekend 8/2/21: Yet More Covid Shutdowns, Tom Hanks Joins Wes Anderson, and More


Happy Monday, and also Happy August, as we shift into the last month of the summer movie season.

S.W.A.T. (CBS)

Unfortunately, we’re going to have to jump right into COVID, because cases are going up due to the Delta Variant, and it’s affecting production all across the planet. Although the UK was getting hit pretty bad, things are now coming closer to home, as California production is being affected with quite a few shutdowns. Not quite the case with the latest in California is CBS‘ S.W.A.T., which was at the center of a small outbreak with five cases being reported, although that didn’t cause a production shutdown. That follows HBO‘s Westworld and Ryan Murphy‘s FX anthology, American Horror Story, both of which had to shut down over the past few weeks to positive COVID tests.

Other areas of the country aren’t immune, because Will Smith‘s Emancipation shut down for five days after moving to Louisiana due to the restrictive Georgia tax laws instituted earlier this year.  The slave thriller, directed by Antoine Fuqua for Apple Studios, was moved to the location where the original story took place, but it has suspended filming after a number of positive tests were returned from some of the crew. The hiatus is said to be for five days out of an abundance of caution, two weeks into the movie’s production. Smith is playing the real-life slave, Peter, whose brutal whipping was the subject of a famed picture called “The Scourged Back,” published by The Independent in 1863, which provided proof of the brutality of slavery.

Things haven’t improved over in the UK either as the Sky drama, The Midwich Cuckoos, starring Keeley Hawes, was hit by a temporary delay after a crew member tested positive for COVID. The production took a two-day hiatus and resumed on Monday, August 2, after the crew member had a positive result after routine testing, the shutdown being used to conduct further PCR tests. Ms. Hawes was recently announced to headline and exec. produce Crossfire, a BBC One mini-series about a hotel shooting.

“Throughout this time, the safety of our colleagues and customers remains our number one priority,” a Sky spokesperson told Deadline“The Midwich Cuckoos production was temporarily suspended with a single crew member, who did not come into close contact with others, now self-isolating after testing positive for Covid. Production has resumed today (Monday 2 August).”

Walt Disney Studios has become the second major movie studio to require vaccination among its salaried employees and non-union hourly employees, as well as requiring indoor masking at all its U.S. parks.  I feel like we’ll be seeing more of this thing in the coming months.

Black WIdow
Black Widow (Marvel/Disney)

The big story last week was Scarlett Johansson vs. Disney, as the A-list superstar sued the latter for “breach of contract” after Disney’s decision to release her movie, Black Widow, simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+, which presumably affected the royalties she was expected to receive based on box office receipts, since the streaming release presumably cut into what the actress was expecting to earn. Disney responded in kind, calling out Johansson’s “callous disregard” for the pandemic

A number of follow-ups were released late last week, including a statement from Johansson’s agent, Bryan Lourd, the co-chairman of  agency CAA, who released the following statement:

“I want to address the Walt Disney Company’s statement that was issued in response to the lawsuit filed against them yesterday by our client Scarlett Johansson. They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t.

Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions. The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of. Scarlett is extremely proud of the work that she, and all of the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the Marvel creative team have been a part of for well over a decade.

This suit was filed as a result of Disney’s decision to knowingly violate Scarlett’s contract. They have very deliberately moved the revenue stream and profits to the Disney+ side of the company leaving artistic and financial partners out of their new equation. That’s it, pure and simple.

Disney’s direct attack on her character and all else they implied is beneath the company that many of us in the creative community have worked with successfully for decades.”

It was also reported that a couple other actresses who have done films for Disney, including Emma Stone (Cruella) and Emily Blunt, who stars in this week’s Jungle Cruise, were looking into their own contracts and options in regards to the day-and-date decision. (You can read how the latter did in our box office report below.)

Not quite as dramatic was the news that Paramount Pictures has delayed its Clifford the Big Red Dog movie again, presumably due to COVID, and the fact that kids under 12 (a big audience for the movie) still can’t get vaccinated. No new date has been announced, but this is a little concerning for those who remember all of the movie delays last year due to COVID.

Also, late-breaking news that Reese Witherspoon has sold her banner, Hello Sunshine, to the unnamed private equity giant Blackstone Group-backed venture run by former Disney execs. Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs. Witherspoon’s company was valued at $900 million by The Wall Street Journal a few weeks back, and Hello Sunshine CEO Sarah Harden will join Mayer and Staggs’ new company and continue to run the production company.

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks in Greyhound (Apple)

Starting off our casting news today with a big one, as Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks has joined Wes Anderson‘s yet-untitled next movie, which will be filming in Spain with Adrien BrodyBill Murray, and Tilda Swinton already on board Anderson’s follow-up to The French Dispatch, which will be released on October 22. Hanks is probably the biggest star to appear in an Anderson production, maybe since George Clooney provided his voice for Anderson’s Oscar-nominated animated feature, The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

According to Deadline, the indie feature, The Re-Education of Molly Singer, directed by Andy Palmer (Witness Infection), is in production with a cast comprised of Britt RobertsonJaime PressleyNico Santos, Holland RodenTy Simpkin, and Wendie Malick. In the movie written by Todd Friedman and Kevin Haskin, Robertson plays the title character, Molly Singer, a former college party girl turned lawyer who botched her biggest case due to her partying lifestyle. Rather than firing her, Molly is tasked by her overbearing and controlling boss Brenda (played by Pressley) to re-enroll at her old alma mater, to befriend her socially awkward son, Elliot (Simpkins), and guide him through an already tumultuous freshman year. Equipped with her quick wit, years of experience and her best friend Paulie, Molly discovers that college has certainly changed since her glory days, and maybe it really is time to move on from the best four years of her life to a new journey.

Coming off directing episodes of M. Night Shyamalan‘s Apple series Servant and Netflix’s recently-renewed Sweet Tooth, Director Alexis Ostrander has signed on to direct the Screen Gems psychological thriller, Delilah, written as a spec by Harrison Query and Tommy Wallach. Said to be “in the spirit” of Gone Girl, the project remains in development with Scott Glassgold and Ground Control Entertainment producing after Scott Strauss and Michael Bitar brought the project to Screen Gems through Dan Primozic.

You can keep on top of all these projects and more by subscribing to our Production Listings.

Shifting over to some quick TV hits, it was reported that Co-Showrunner Stephany Folsom has exited the Amazon series, Paper Girls, based on the comic books written by Brian K. Vaughan.

The planned Criminal Minds revival at Paramount+ seems to be dead according to actor Paget Brewster, who responded to a query about the planned project on Twitter, responding, “No, and sadly, we think it’s dead. I’ll let you know if there is any progress but it seems unlikely. Which is a bummer.” Criminal Minds EP and Showrunner Erica Messer was expected to lead the creative team for the 10-episode revival.

Late last week, Hulu announced that it has renewed the popular series, Love, Victor, for a third season, while Showtime also just renewed its popular drama The Chi, created by Lena Waithe, for a fifth season, following its Season 4 finale last night.

Marlee Matlin, who will be seen in the Sundance-winning Coda later this month, is looking to headline the NBC workplace comedy  To Headline Workplace Comedy From Ben Shelton & Kapital Entertainment In Works At NBC

Jungle Cruise
Jungle Cruise (Disney)

At the box office over the weekend, Disney opened its Jungle Cruise movie, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, in over 4,300 theaters as well as on its Disney+ streamer with Premier Access for $29.99. As of Sunday, it had grossed $34.2 million (estimated) in domestic theaters, another $27.6 million overseas (in 47 markets), and $30 million globally from its Disney+ viewings (so that’s about a million people worldwide chose to view the movie at home). That’s a decent $91.8 million global opening for the action-adventure based on the Disney theme park ride, and we’ll have to see if the well-received movie with an “A-” CinemaScore is able to convert its word-of-mouth into further box office over the coming weeks.

A24 released its widest release for the year so far, David Lowery‘s The Green Knight, starring Dev Patel, into 2,790 theaters, where it managed to gross an estimated $6.8 million to take second place. That’s the highest placement at the box office for the relatively new distributor that has only been releasing movies for roughly eight years.

Stillwater, the new movie from Oscar winner Thomas McCarthy and actor Matt Damon, was released by Focus Features into 2,531 theaters, where it grossed an estimated $5.1 million to take fifth place.  That’s about where it was expected to end up, and it seemed to pick up business over the weekend despite a call to boycott the movie by Amanda Knox, who believed the crime at the center of the movie took liberally from her own ordeal.

This morning, Sony Pictures released the second full trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, its superhero sequel starring Tom Hardy as Venom and Woody Harrelson as his arch-enemy, Carnage. The original Venom opened in October 2018 and was able to gross $213 million domestically and $642. million overseas. The sequel is directed by Andy Serkis.

Netflix released the first trailer for its limited series, Brand New Cherry Flavor, which will hit the streamer on August 13. It stars Rosa Salazar, Catherine Keener, Eric Lange, Jeff Ward, and Manny Jacinto.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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