About some of those Oscar ‘In Memoriam’ folks

Robert Osborne, who made an Oscars “In Memoriam,” in the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Over the weekend, the BAFTAs came out with its “In Memoriam” segment. Diana Rigg didn’t make it, apparently because the BAFTAs considered her a mere “television actor.” Meanwhile, the general public sometimes gets upset when familiar actors don’t make the cut for the “In Memoriam” segments of the BAFTAs and Ocars while insiders do.

To keep this post manageable, here are a list of Oscar “In Memoriam” entries largely unknown to the general pubic from recent Oscars telecasts.

2020 Oscars: Gerry Lewis, “marketing executive”: Lewis was “the British marketing and publicity expert who promoted such films as AlfieLove Story and The Godfather before spearheading international campaigns for Steven Spielberg efforts from Duel to Ready Player One,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

2019 Oscars: Pierre Rissent, “an important behind-the-scenes figure at the Cannes Film Festival and, as a result, an influential shaper of cinematic trends and directors’ careers for half a century,” according to The New York Times. Also, Paul Bloch, a publicist “adept at putting out fires in Hollywood,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

2018 Oscars: Robert Osborne, TCM host and earlier writer for Hollywood trade publications. He acted a bit including a small part in the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies (a TV show, not a movie). Also, Joe Hyams, a long-time Warner Bros. publicity executive, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

Daniel Craig benefits from tech company valuations

Daniel Craig is the original Knives Out

Daniel Craig is about to get a huge post-Bond payday, in part because “tech companies” play by different rules than other businesses.

It has been reported by The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix will pay almost $470 million for two sequels to the film Knives Out. Now, Netflix resembles a studio (it makes original movies and TV shows). But it’s classified as a tech company because its productions primarily are shown on streaming, though its movies sometimes get theatrical releases.

If you’re a tech company, investors treat you differently. Your stock price often goes crazy and investors will throw money at you.

Netflix isn’t alone. Amazon is essentially a retailer but because it’s viewed as a tech company, it’s much more valuable. Ditto for Tesla, which makes electric vehicles but enjoys the tech company label, much to the consternation of established automakers.

Enter Daniel Craig, the five-time film James Bond. He starred in the original Knives Out, a 2019 mystery, as a project he squeezed in amid No Time to Die delays. Reportedly, he and Knives Out writer-director Rian Johnson may pocket $100 million each as part of the new Netflix deal.

Craig made plenty of money playing James Bond. His No Time to Die payday was a reported $25 million.

But that was under the old rules — release a movie to theaters, charge admission, then shift to home video and on-demand TV.

Netflix plays under new rules, which emphasize streaming. Others, including Walt Disney Co. and AT&T (owner of Warner Bros.) want in on that action.

The original Knives Out had a global box office of $311.4 million on a budget of $45 million. That’s nice but hardly the billion-dollar-plus blockbuster in theatrical release, which had been the industry standard. However, the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the traditional movie theater business.

Variety, in a follow-up story, described how things are changing:

Then again, the world of entertainment has changed so significantly, and the measure of success for streamers is not dependent on box office dollars but on signing up new subscribers.

“It’s a whole new equation,” as one of my sources put it.

No doubt it’s an equation to Craig’s liking.

M:I 7’s theatrical window shortened

A stunt from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Mission: Impossible 7 will go to the revamped Paramount Plus service after just 45 days of theatrical release, Variety reported. The traditional theatrical window has been 90 days.

The move covers other Paramount movies, according to Variety.

The development is yet another example of the crumbling of the traditional 90-day theatrical window between a movie’s debut and it becoming available in some form of home video.

AT&T’s Warner Bros. for its theatrical releases this year is making new movies available simultaneously in theaters and AT&T’s HBO Max. Other studios are trying to figure out how to deal with the tsunami of streaming that’s engulfing the movie business.

Here’s an excerpt from Variety’s story about Paramount:

Those films will debut exclusively in theaters as planned. However, the studio has newly shorten the amount of time they will play exclusively on the big screen. After 45 days, new Paramount theatrical films will debut on the streaming service Paramount Plus. As part of the arrangement, Paramount has adjusted its pay TV output deal with Epix in order to bolster movie offerings on the nascent streaming service. Along with new releases, Paramount Plus will offer a deep library of more than 2,500 films.

Epix is a premium channel owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

You shouldn’t read too much into this. MGM is in hock to the tune of almost $290 million for No Time to Die. MGM has its own hard decisions in the new era — all while the studio is up for sale.

Rather, you should view this news as yet another indicator of how the movie business is in turmoil generally.

A modest proposal about U.N.C.L.E.’s future

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

The future of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., if it has one, needs to be different because of changes in the movie and television industry.

Traditional over-the-air networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) face increasing pressure and programs face tight windows to prove themselves or get canceled.

U.N.C.L.E.’s last try as a feature film in 2015 wasn’t a big hit. A sequel always was a long shot and with each passing year the odds get longer.

U.N.C.L.E.’s best chance at a revival may be as a series on streaming television. Marvel Studios is extending its universe of characters to series on Disney Plus. An initial effort, WandaVision, is getting a lot of attention, with outlets doing episode-by-episode recaps.

Corporate leaders such as those at Walt Disney Co. (Marvel’s parent company) and AT&T (parent company of Warner Bros.) are going all-in on streaming.

U.N.C.L.E. is a Warner Bros. property. So if U.N.C.L.E. went streaming it would be ticketed for AT&T’s HBO Max. In 2021, AT&T is using Warner Bros. films as a loss leader to drive traffic to HBO Max. The movies show up on the streaming service and theaters (those that are open) at the same time. The films stay on HBO Max for about a month.

Of course, where U.N.C.L.E. is concerned, things are never easy. If Warner Bros. is even interested, how do you cast about for a showrunner to oversee an HBO Max version of U.N.C.L.E.? Is there someone out there who can retain the core of U.N.C.L.E. while updating it for modern audiences?

U.N.C.L.E. had an overall optimistic center (agents of all nationalities, an American was paired with a Russian). The original series, though, in its fourth season showed that could be adapted to darker storylines.

Also, do you recast? Answer: Likely. The most recent movie was actually filmed in the fall of 2013. It’s hard to maintain momentum with actors audiences haven’t seen in the roles of Solo and Illya for years.

One of those actors, Armie Hammer, is fighting for his professional life because of controversy involving a sex scandal. Who knows if the other, Henry Cavill, is still interested. You get the impression he’s waiting around to see if he can be cast as James Bond in the future.

What’s more, if a showrunner was new to U.N.C.L.E. (a strong possibility if such a streaming show happened) that person would likely want to cast the leads. A fresh start makes sense.

The streaming route raises a lot of questions. But hoping for a sequel to the 2015-released film seems like a dead end. For U.N.C.L.E. to have a future, streaming may be the way to go.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse strikes again

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) teaser poster

Years ago, the blog discussed The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse — a series of mostly unrelated events with one thing in common. Namely, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

There were genuine tragedies. Sam Rolfe, who developed the original show, died of a heart attack while trying to come up with a new made-for-cable-TV version in the 1990s. More of the “curse” involved promising new versions that would never see the light of day.

The “curse” has reared up its ugly head with the two stars of the 2015 movie, the most recent (and perhaps final) version of U.N.C.L.E.

The biggest impact is being felt by Armie Hammer, who played Illya Kuryakin in the 2015 movie.

To put it simply, Hammer’s career is in freefall. Here’s an excerpt of a Variety story via the Chicago Tribune.

The new year kicked off with what will likely be the most bizarre celebrity story of 2021: Armie Hammer — the genetically blessed movie star of “Call Me by Your Name” and “The Social Network” fame, and heir to the Hammer family oil fortune — began trending online for being a cannibal.

Hammer is not a cannibal.

What, what? It’s a long story. And it’s not really worth telling in detail here. The problem is Hammer has been dropped by his talent agency and his publicist because of isues with his personal life. Also, he hasn’t had many hits. So, suddenly, he’s seen as radioactive. He has dropped out of projects and his future is in doubt.

Also facing future questions is Henry Cavill, who played Napoleon Solo in the 2015 film.

In the early 2010s, Cavill was cast as Superman. His solo Superman film, Man of Steel, came out in 2013. It was supposed to be the first step in creating a film universe based on DC Comics characters, similar to the Marvel Cinematic University.

Unfortunately for Cavill, he only got the one solo movie. He appeared in Batman v Superman (2016) and Justice League (2017), but took a back seat to Ben Affleck’s Batman

At one point, had U.N.C.L.E. been a box office success, he could have been part of two film franchises. But U.N.C.L.E. was a disappointment and Warner Bros. clearly isn’t hurrying to bring out any new Cavill versions of Superman. His last hurrah may be a Zack Snyder-cut of Justice League due to come out on the HBO Max streaming service.

When Cavill began his Superman career, he was the young and up-and-comer. Now he’s pushing 40 (he’ll turn 38 in May) with an uncertain future.

Oh, well. At least, Cavill has the streaming show The Witcher streaming series to fall back on.

About that Christopher Nolan directing a Bond film thing

Christopher Nolan

There are a number of Hollywood types upset with Warner Bros.’s plans to debut its 2021 film slate simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming service as well as theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And one of the most prominent is writer-producer-director Christopher Nolan.

Nolan directed a financially successful trio of Batman movies released by Warner Bros. He also shows up as a favorite among some James Bond fans to direct a Bond film at some point.

After all, he’s worked in Bond-inspired bits among his Batman films as well as 2010’s Inception and this year’s Tenet. Meanwhile, Bond films such as Skyfall (2012) and SPECTRE (2015) had Nolan influences. A marriage made in heaven, right?

In a statement to THR, Nolan made clear how unhappy he is about the HBO Max news. The streaming service will show the Warner Bros. movies for 31 days. It’s a way to boost HBO Max.

“Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak,” Nolan said. “They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.”

So here’s the question: Does this mean that Nolan is looking for the exit from his long-standing Warner Bros. relationship?

If so, does this make it more likely he might direct a Bond movie in the future? Or does it show he’s more than willing to bite the hand that feeds him?

Nolan had a pretty good deal at Warners. Nolan’s Syncopy company produced his movies. Nolan’s wife, Emma Thomas, gets a producer credit on his films.

That’s a lot to walk away from. Bond fans who clamor for Nolan to direct Bond say he likes Bond so much he might well turn away such perks. He’d surely be happy to work for Eon Productions, so the thinking goes.

Who knows? It’s still early days of the shakeup that’s going on in the movie business. And when might Bond 26 get off the ground?

Bond 25 questions: The cinema uncertainty edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

So, one major studio, Warner Bros., says it will release its 2021 film slate simultaneously in movie theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service. Also, the costs of No Time to Die, the 25th James bond films continue to balloon.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What does all this mean for No Time to Die?

It reinforces how No Time to Die was a pre-COVID-19 movie that will debut, one way or another, in a post-COVID-19 world.

What’s different? Really different?

Both Walt Disney Co. (Disney +) and Warner Bros. (HBO Max) are really committed to their corporate streaming services. The Warner Bros. announcement supposedly is temporary for 2021. But few believe this is a short-term step.

To be sure, HBO Max is available mostly in the U.S. But AT&T, the owner of Warner Bros., appears committed to streaming.

Yes, but No Time to Die has no tie to AT&T and Warner Bros., right?

True. The James Bond film franchise is tethered to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, one of the weakest Hollywood studios that doesn’t have a streaming service.

What does that mean?

It remains to be seen how streaming affects the Bond franchise. MGM reportedly reached out to other streaming services to license No Time to Die. Nothing came of it (as far as we know). But MGM is on the hook for a lot of money and loans related to No Time to Die.

How much?

B25 Ltd., a company formed by Eon Productions to make No Time to Die, said in a Dec. 1 U.K. regulatory filing that the film’s costs were approaching $290 million.

The traditional business model called for a wide, worldwide theatrical release, followed by a home video release. But COVID-19 has changed things. Movie theatres have been closed in multiple markets.

And now?

Everything is in flux. Netflix is putting pressure on traditional studios. Disney and Warner Bros. are trying to compete with Netflix with their own streaming services.

MGM, meanwhile, doesn’t have a streaming service. Reportedly, streaming services including Apple + considered a one-year license for No Time to Die but found MGM’s asking price too steep.

For now, No Time to Die is tied to the traditional business model.

Warner Bros. bets big on streaming for 2021

Warner Bros. logo

Warner Bros. plans to make its 2021 film slate available on the HBO Max streaming service the same day the movies are released in theaters, Variety reported.

The movies will be on HBO Max for 31 days. After that time, they will be only available in theaters until the normal home video window opens up, according to the entertainment-news outlet.

The films involved include a new version of Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve (a one-time contender to direct No Time to Die); The Matrix 4; and Suicide Squad.

Warner Bros. is doing something similar with Wonder Woman 1984. That film opens in international theaters in mid-month but will be on HBO Max and theaters in the U.S. starting Dec. 25.

AT&T owns Warner Bros., HBO and HBO Max, the latter intended as a streaming competitor to Netflix.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of the James Bond films, reportedly had shopped No Time to Die to streaming outlets. No leasing deal took place. The 25th James Bond film currently has an April 2021 release date in theaters.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has played havoc with movie release plans, with many films being delayed multiple times.

WW 1984 becomes 1st ‘tentpole’ to debut via streaming

Wonder Woman 1984 publicity still

Warner Bros. blinked, becoming the first studio to debut a big-budget “tentpole” film, Wonder Woman 1984, via streaming in the United Sstates.

The studio will release the sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman on Dec. 25, both in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service, Variety said. The movie will be shown in theaters internationally ” wherever theaters are open on Dec. 16,” Deadline: Hollywood said.

During this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, studios have played a game of chicken, with nobody wanting to debut their biggest movies while the coronavirus rages. COVID-19 has intensified this fall in the U.S., a major movie market.

As a result, the studios have delayed their big films repeatedly, including No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film. The Bond adventure was pushed back from April 2020 to November 2020 and again to April 2021.

The conventional wisdom is the big budget movies need a theatrical release and can’t debut on streaming services.

But, as the pandemic has dragged on, inhibiting theater attendance, there has been more financial pressure on studios. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, reportedly explored leasing No Time to Die to streaming services. For now, there’s no sign that will happen.

There are promising COVID-19 vaccines being developed but there are questions how quickly they can be deployed.

HBO Max is the streaming service being marketed by AT&T, parent company of Warner Bros. and HBO. AT&T is looking to HBO Max to compete with Netflix.

Trade group chief says Bond will remain a theater product

No Time to Die poster

The head of a movie theater trade group predicted to Variety that James Bond films will remain a theatrical product first.

“The backers of the Bond movies have told us that they really want the movie to play theatrically,” John Fithian, chief of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in an interview with the entertainment-news outlet.

“We believe that franchise will continue being a theatrical one and we look forward to selling a ton of tickets for ‘No Time to Die.'”

Fithian made the comment in response to a question concerning reports last month that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, sought bids from streaming services, including Apple Inc.’s service, for No Time to Die.

Details of the reports varied. One of the most detailed appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. THR said Oct. 27 that Apple considered an offer of $350 million to $400 million for a one-year license for No Time to Die but that wasn’t enough for MGM.

The studio has said No Time to Die isn’t for sale. Meanwhile, MGM reportedly is incurring interest expense of $1 million a month while the 25th James Bond film figuratively sits on the shelf.

No Time to Die had been scheduled to come out this month. It was delayed until April because of COVID-19.

“There’s a reason I don’t think blockbusters like Bond are going to debut on streaming services,” the trade group official told Variety. “Our challenges are dire in the short term, but in the long term we know this business is going to be healthy again. The model works best for studios and they make the most money when they release movies in theaters first.”

Fithian expressed concern in the Variety interview about the lag between Warner Bros.’s planned Christmas release of Wonder Woman 1984 and No Time to Die.

“There are a bunch of movies in January, February and March, but Bond is the next biggie” after Wonder Woman, Fithian told Variety.

“If ‘Wonder Woman’ sticks with its Christmas Day opening and people come out for that, we hope that other studios will move titles from later in 2021 into the first quarter,” he said. “That’s certainly the hope. We need movies to get back into business.”