Hopefully, everyone had a great weekend. Hollywood didn’t rest on its laurels, as a number of big announcements were made this past weekend.
The most recent and biggest piece of news took place just a few hours ago, and it was more on the business side of things, as AT&T split off its Warner Media entertainment assets, which includes Warner Bros. Studios, HBO, CNN, HGTV, TBS, TNT, The Food Network, Animal Planet, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, and more, and merged them with Discovery into a new streaming entity. This yet-to-be-named standalone streaming service boasts of having a library that includes 200,000 hours of programming.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav will lead the joint venture as CEO, saying in a press conference that the new venture plans to spend $20 billion a year in content. AT&T is reportedly getting $43 billion in the deal that will close in 2022 after going through the usual regulatory approval.
In a statement about the deal, AT&T said, “The new company will be able to increase investment and capabilities in original content and programming; create more opportunity for under-represented storytellers and independent creators; serve customers with innovative video experiences and points of engagement; and propel more investment in high-quality, family-friendly nonfiction content.”
This announcement leaves many people, both employees of the various entities and others, with more questions than answers, since it doesn’t explain what will happen with the recently launched HBO Max streamer, which incorporated many of Warner Media’s entertainment properties, or Discovery+, which launched two months earlier with a library of other AT&T/Warner Media properties. Will the two streamers merge into one that’s far more expensive to subscribers? What will happen to DC Comics, the publishing entity that has delivered so much source material for Warner Media over the years? These questions and others will likely be answered over the next year, but it’s a little daunting that less than a year since AT&T/Warner Media launched HBO Max, the company is already backtracking and trying something new. It’s possible that some of the groundbreaking ideas like doing day-and-date with theatrical or the cost to make Zack Snyder’s Justice League just didn’t pan out the way expected.
This is breaking news but it’s news that will likely affect everyone in the industry, right down to crew, in some way. (You can learn more about the merger via Deadline‘s recap of the hour-long press conference done in conjunction with the announcement.)
Netflix, seemingly the queen of streamers, doesn’t seem to be having any of these concerns, as the streamer announced that its popular Shondaland period drama, Bridgerton, would be spinning off into a second limited series, a prequel that would follow the rise to power and love life of Queen Charlotte, as played by Golda Rosheuvel. The prequel would also be written by Shonda Rhimes, who will serve as Executive Producer, along with Betsy Beers and Tom Verica. Queen Charlotte is not a character from Julia Quinn‘s novels, which will allow Rhimes a little more freedom in writing the limited series that also plans to tell stories about the young Violet Bridgerton and Lady Danbury.
It was also announced on Friday that Shondaland regular, Writer/Producer Jess Brownell, would be taking over as Showrunner for Bridgerton Seasons 3 and 4, taking over from creator/Executive Producer Chris Van Dusen, who is currently in production on Season 2 in the UK. Brownell worked on the first two seasons of Bridgerton, as well as another Shondaland/Netflix production, Inventing Anna, as well as Rhimes’ series Scandal.
Netflix Head of Global TV Bela Bajaria said, “Shonda and her team are thoughtfully building out the Bridgerton universe so they can keep delivering for the fans with the same quality and style they love. And by planning and prepping all the upcoming seasons now, we also hope to keep up a pace that will keep even the most insatiable viewers totally fulfilled.”
Rhimes, the CEO of Shondaland, added “As we continue to expand the world of Bridgerton, we now have the opportunity to devote even more of the Shondaland fold to the Bridgerton-verse. We’ve worked with Jess Brownell for over a decade and have long wanted to find the right project to place in her hands. When it came time to pass the baton, I knew this unique voice was vital to the future of the show.”
Van Dusen and Brownell also commented on the changes with the flagship show: ”With Bridgerton, I set out to make the period show I always wanted to see. I never could’ve anticipated how much the rest of the world also wanted to see it,” said Van Dusen. “I’m deeply proud of this remarkable cast and incredible crew, and I’m so grateful for the enduring support of Shonda, who I’ve worked alongside for 17 years. Shondaland is where I learned how to make TV, craft incredibly complex characters and how to tell stories. And while it’s been an incredible journey, I have my sights set on a few new stories to tell. To that end, I’ll continue as showrunner — writing and producing season two of Bridgerton and look forward to seeing Jess continue the magic in seasons three and four. I’d also like to thank Julia Quinn and her passionate fans — for embracing my vision for bringing these beloved books to the screen. See you in Grosvenor Square!”
Brownell remarked, “It’s been incredibly rewarding working alongside Shonda, Betsy, and Chris Van Dusen on the first two seasons of Bridgerton. And now, as these beloved characters are entrusted to me, I cannot wait to lend my unique vision to the next two seasons. I feel so fortunate to have found a home at Shondaland and to have the support of Shonda and Betsy as I move forward into this new chapter.”
Despite the annual television upfronts being a far more low-key affair in previewing what was to come and what was to go from the various networks, three of the network mainstays announced their plans for the 2021-2022 television season starting in the fall.
NBC – Law and Order: Organized Crime was renewed for its second season, while Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s final season will be scheduled after the 2021 Summer Olympics on the network, which is a huge boost for a series that is coming to an end after eight seasons. As mentioned last week, NBC’s flagship drama, This Is Us, will be coming to an end with its sixth season.
ABC – Black-ish was renewed for its eighth and what will be its final season. The Rookie, The Conners and A Million Things have all been renewed for their fourth seasons. Home Economics was renewed for its second season, and the long-running sitcom, The Goldbergs, is getting a ninth season.
Call Your Mother was canceled after just one season as was Katie Sagal‘s Rebel. Mixed-ish was canceled after two seasons, while American Housewife ends its run after five seasons. For Life was also canceled after two seasons but will be shopped to other networks.
CBS – The Unicorn and All Rise have both been canceled after two seasons, but the newer Chuck Lorre shows B Positive and The United States of Al have both been renewed for second seasons. Clarice will be ported from CBS over to the streamer Paramount+, as will SEAL Team, led by David Boreanaz, which will air a few episodes of its fourth season on CBS before shifting over to the streamer. (This is an interesting tactic by Viacom to get viewers hooked on “free” network TV and then get them to subscribe to the streamer, which will start offering a huge library of Paramount Pictures films next month.)
As far as the most recent casting news, Russell Crowe is reported to star in the Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury) thriller, Poker Face, in which he’ll play tech billionaire Jake, who gathers his childhood friends to his Miami estate for a high stakes poker game, that’s meant to disguise his mad Hoster plan to get justice over them before a murderous home invader joins the game. Arclight Films is financing and producing from a script written by Stephen M. Coates with producers Gary Hamilton, Addam Bramich, Ryan Hamilton, Jeanette Volturno, Jason Clark and Keith Rodger all on board.
Actors Boyd Holbrook (The Predator) and Shaunette Renée Wilson (Black Panther) have joined Harrison Ford in the fifth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise that dates back to 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Holbrook reunites with Director James Mangold after appearing in his previous franchise film, Logan, and the duo joins the already announced Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Mads Mikkelsen. The sequel is slated to be released by Walt Disney Pictures on July 29, 2022.
Bruce Willis and John Travolta are reuniting for the first time since Pulp Fiction 27 years ago, according to Deadline, with Paradise City, directed by Chuck Russell (The Mask, The Scorpion King), beginning production in Maui, Hawaii today. Willis will play bounty hunter Ryan Swan, who must “carve his way through the Hawaiian crime world to wreak vengeance on the king who murdered his father,” the latter played by Travolta. Actress and model Praya Lundberg has scored the lead female role. Although this will be the fourth time that Willis and Travolta have appeared in a film, the two Look Who’s Talking movies had Willis in a voice acting role, while they only had a couple of short scenes together in Tarantino’s classic second film.
You can read about all the projects mentioned above in BTL’s Production Listings, which are updated daily.
Movie theaters saw a huge boom of new wide releases on Friday, and yet, none of the new movies did particularly well with Lionsgate‘s Spiral: From the Book of Saw, a high-profile reboot of the horror franchise starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, failed to make a mark, opening with an estimated $8.7 million in 2,811 theaters, which is the lowest opening for the entire franchise. The movie’s $3,100 per theater was actually the highest average in the top 10, which possibly points to a slow movie weekend as people were likely getting out and enjoying the weather with mask regulations being reduced last week. Guy Ritchie‘s action-thriller, Wrath of Man, dropped to #2 with $3.7 million, down 55% from its opening weekend. Angelina Jolie and Taylor Sheridan teamed for the action-thriller, Those Who Wish Me Dead, which only took in $2.8 million in 3,188 theaters, the widest release of the weekend, for third place.
Zack Snyder‘s Army of the Dead, which will stream on Netflix this Friday, opened in 430 theaters and though no official box office was reported by the streamers, estimates reported ranged from $780,000 to $900,000. Either way, that would put the $80 million action movie starring Dave Bautista in the bottom part of the top 10.
Neither of the other two new movies, Focus Features‘ thriller Profile, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, nor the romantic Finding You from Roadside Attractions, managed to scrape together more than a million this weekend with the latter making an estimated $954,000 in 1,312 theaters and the former making $670,000 in 2,033 theaters. Clearly, the lack of new movies is not the problem getting people back to the movie theaters, but it’s more about the quality of the offerings and general interest. As of now, there are no big studio releases until Memorial Day weekend when Paramount’s horror sequel, A Quiet Place Part II, will take on Disney’s Cruella,
Over the weekend, Paramount Pictures also released the first teaser trailer for Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, the franchise spin-off/sequel starring Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) as the popular title character from Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toys, cartoons and movies. The film is directed by Robert Schwentke (RED, The Divergent Series) and will be released theatrically on July 23.