What's news: Wonder Woman 1984 will hit HBO Max the same day it hits theaters, inside Mark Burnett's disruptive reign at MGM, WME accuses Writers Guild of interfering in IPO, layoffs hit NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and AMC Networks, what to expect from Joe Biden's FCC, Black Lives Matter co-founder on administration expectations. Plus: Angelina Jolie to direct a war photographer biopic, and Fox rebooting Name That Tune. --Alex Weprin
'Wonder Woman 1984' Will Fly To HBO Max The Same Day It Hits Theaters
➤The final tentpole has fallen. With a second wave of COVID-19 impacting many parts of the globe, Warner Bros.' Wonder Woman 1984 is all but giving up on a traditional theatrical release and will instead bow in whatever cinemas remain open on Dec. 25 as well as stream on HBO Max in the U.S. for one month beginning on Christmas Day. In international markets where HBO Max is not available, the film starts rolling out on Dec. 16.
--WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar outlined the company's thinking in a memo to staff: "I find it fascinating that we will be measuring the performance of this movie in an entirely new way. To use a line from The Wizard of Oz, we’re not in Kansas anymore. While we will pay attention to theatrical revenues, our expectations are clearly adjusted due to COVID-19."
"In parallel, we will be paying close attention to the numbers of families and fans diving into HBO Max, as we certainly anticipate that a portion of fans will choose to enjoy Wonder Woman 1984 that way on opening day and beyond. To provide a comparable, a little over four million fans in the U.S. enjoyed the first Wonder Woman movie on its opening day in 2017. Is it possible for that to happen again this Christmas with Wonder Woman 1984 between theaters and HBO Max? We are so excited to find out, doing everything in our power to provide the power of choice to fans." The story.
+Meanwhile: Cineworld, the world's second largest exhibitor after AMC and the owner of Regal Cinemas in the U.S., is considering a major insolvency process used to cut costs in the U.K. aimed at helping see it through to its reopening and the return of major new releases in 2021. More.
➤"He makes you feel like you're questioning your sanity": Mark Burnett's disruptive reign at MGM. Five years after joining the studio as chairman of worldwide television, the reality uber-producer has not only failed to deliver a hit, he has become an agent of chaos at a leaderless company in search of a buyer, Kim Masters reports.
--"Sources say Burnett’s tendency to plunge — usually briefly — into situations in which he has no defined role, and to badger and criticize some staffers and executives, has led to high-level exits or threatened departures and at least one HR complaint. One former exec says Burnett has created within the company a version of his first huge hit, Survivor. 'If he has enough people yelling at people, it makes him feel like he’s in charge,' says another."
--Some accounts hold that [former CEO Gary] Barber had set about seeking a sale without authorization. But MGM veterans think Burnett agitated for his ouster... MGM’s spokesperson says it is 'untrue' to suggest that Burnett played a role in Barber’s departure, saying the board dismissed Barber and 'Mr. Burnett is neither a board member of MGM nor does he control board member decisions.' But a former high-level insider says Burnett as a general rule has tremendous sway with Ulrich, adding, 'The board really meant nothing because what Kevin says goes. And Mark is bringing him to parties.'” The story.
➤WME accuses Writers Guild of interfering with IPO plans. Less than 24 hours since CAA asked a judge to end a writers' boycott, WME made its own motion for a preliminary injunction on Wednesday. In the fight over packaging fees and affiliate production, WME alleges that the Writers Guild of America wants nothing less than "to put WME out of the business of representing writers no matter what WME agrees to do to address the Guilds’ pretextual concerns about conflicts of interest."
--The court papers also accuse the WGA of tortuously interfering with the talent agency's planned IPO and also allege that the guild's leadership is attempting to force the abandonment of in-progress projects for clients. The story.
➤Layoffs have begun in the entertainment business side at NBCUniversal. Sources say fewer than 5 percent of the total employees in Frances Berwick's recently reorganized division will be impacted. The cutbacks, which had been expected, will impact staffers that are vp level or below in such areas as PR, marketing, acquisitions and finance. Another round of layoffs is expected to come early next year in Susan Rovner's recently unveiled entertainment content unit. The story.
+There was also another round of layoffs at ViacomCBS. Sources say 100 employees from across the combined company are being impacted. The cutbacks are focused primarily in shared services (finance, legal, technology) though reductions are said to have touched every department, including ad sales and creative functions. More.
+AMC Networks too: CEO Josh Sapan told staff Wednesday that the company would cut approximately 100 jobs, amounting to 10 percent of its workforce, as it restructures around streaming.
The Biden Administration and Hollywood
➤How Joe Biden may reshape the FCC. The new administration will likely expand broadband access, review media ownership rules and focus on "governing instead of de-governing" the airwaves, Eriq Gardner writes. The story.
+Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors on what she expects from the next administration. The activist and producer on the fight for racial justice in 2021, how Hollywood can leverage its power to help, and reaching out to the Biden-Harris team: "We have not heard back." The interview.
+Hollywood women praise "newfound representation" with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Viola Davis, Lilly Singh, Gabrielle Union and more share their praise for the vice president-elect and what hopes her position will offer to young women of color. More.
➤Framestore CEO on how Company 3 deal alters VFX landscape: "This is an exercise in one plus one equals more." Sir William Sargent shares how the deal came together, how the VFX business is evolving and his strategy for the combined companies. The story.
+S&P Global Ratings has cut its debt rating on the Walt Disney Co. amid the financial challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, which means its theme parks and film units "continue to be severely affected." "We forecast that Disney's operating performance at its two hardest-hit segments (theme parks and movie studios) will not begin to normalize (return to 2019 levels) until fiscal [year] 2022, ending Sept. 30," S&P analysts Naveen Sarma and Jawad Hussain wrote in their Wednesday report. The story.
In other business news...
+John Malone's Liberty Media is launching a SPAC. Liberty Media Acquisition Corp. is seeking to raise $500 million in an IPO, with the proceeds used to find a target company in the "media, digital media, music, entertainment, communications, telecommunications and technology industries."
+Discovery's streaming plans. Discovery Inc. said Thursday that it will unveil its global streaming service and strategy on Dec. 2 in an investor presentation. More.
+Verizon "leaning into" cord-cutting "unequivocally," exec says. Ronan Dunne describes the telecom giant like neutral Switzerland and says it doesn't have "content that another division of my business is creating, which may or may not be very good, which I am trying to barter with Disney or other people." More.
+Up north: Canadian media giant Rogers Sports & Media has undergone another round of job cuts as it drives into the streaming and digital entertainment spaces. More.
➤Netflix's Malcolm & Marie, with Zendaya and John David Washington, drops into Oscar race. Netflix, which acquired the black-and-white film for $30 million in September following a screening of select footage which resulted in bidding war between several distributors, will release it worldwide on its streaming platform on Feb. 5, 2021, and plans to wage a full-fledged Oscar campaign on its behalf, Scott Feinberg reports. The story.
In other film news...
+Angelina Jolie has signed on to direct Unreasonable Behaviour, a biopic about the legendary British war photographer Sir Don McCullin, based on his critically acclaimed autobiography of the same title. The story.
+Awkwafina will join Mahersala Ali and Naomie Harris in Apple drama Swan Song. Plot details are scarce but, according to the studio, the movie is "a genre-bending drama set in the near future that explores how far someone will go, and how much they’ll sacrifice, to make a happier life for the people they love." More.
+Billy Porter is set to make his feature directorial debut with What If?, the first feature produced under the recently relaunched MGM label Orion Pictures. Described as being in the vein of Booksmart and Love Simon, the logging reads: "When high school senior Khal posts on r/relationships about his crush on Kelsa, a trans girl at his school, the internet encourages him to go for it. What follows is a modern coming-of-age story as the two navigate a high school senior year relationship that neither could have expected.” More.
➤Hulu's Palm Springs and HBO's Lovecraft Country lead the nominations for the inaugural Critics' Choice Super Awards, the more pop culture and genre-oriented version of the Critics' Choice Awards. The awards promise to honor the movies and television shows that power most of the current entertainment industry, the one that fall into the superhero, science fiction/fantasy, horror, action, and animation space. The nominees.
➤Fox truly cannot get enough of music. The network has ordered its fourth series in the genre, slating a revival of Name That Tune for January. For those not familiar with the format, the one-hour game show tests contestants’ music knowledge in an assortment of challenges — like an old-school Beat Shazam. 30 Rock star and Broadway vet Jane Krakowski will host the series, with American Idol's Randy Jackson serving as the band leader. The story.
+The beloved 1995 movie Waiting to Exhale is getting the reboot treatment at ABC. The network has given a script commitment with penalty to a project from writers Tembi Locke and Attica Locke and executive producer Lee Daniels. The show is set up at ABC's Disney sibling 20th Television, where Daniels has an overall deal. More.
+Cybill Shepherd is headed to Showtime. The Golden Globe winner will star in I Love This for You, a comedy pilot created by and starring Saturday Night Live alum Vanessa Bayer. SNL veteran Molly Shannon also stars. More.
+Two television series are relocating production to California. Amazon war crime drama Hunters and Disney+ historical drama The Right Stuff are moving filming to the Golden State for their respective second seasons. Hunters, which previously shot in New York and The Right Stuff, which filmed in Florida, will both take part in the California Film Commission's film and television tax credits program. More.
+The long run of A Charlie Brown Christmas on over-the-air TV will continue, at least for this year. Apple — which earlier this year snapped up the rights to the classic holiday special, along with other parts of the Peanuts catalog — has cut a deal with PBS under which A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will air on the public broadcaster. The deal ensures that viewers without access to Apple's TV+ streaming platform can still see the two specials. More.
➤Nominees for the seventh annual Game Awards were revealed Wednesday. The annual show, which honors the best in both studio and independent video games, handed out a slew of nominations to the year's top titles. Leading the pack is The Last of Us Part II with 10 nominations, Hades with eight nominations and Ghost of Tsushima with seven nominations. The nominees.
+Epic Games' Tim Sweeney: Apple small business program "not awesome" for consumers. In an appearance at the Dealbook 2020 Online Summit, the CEO of the Fortnite developer said that the cost of Apple's 30 percent App Store commission is still being passed on to consumers in most cases. More.
➤TV review: Inkoo Kang reviews The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reunion for HBO Max, writing that "the obligatory clips reveal the younger actors to be just as outrageously talented as you remember, and the more seasoned performers making the most of their less-showy roles. Though the actors appear as themselves, rather than their characters, the charisma and chemistry they evinced as the Bankses is in full view, as is their obvious and bone-deep fondness for each other." The review.
Casting roundup: Netflix's limited series about the life of Colin Kaepernick has castMary-Louise Parker and Nick Offerman as the NFL quarterback and activist's adopted parents... Michael Shannonis joining the Brad Pitt assassin movie Bullet Train... Lisa Ray, co-star of Amazon Prime's Four More Shots Please series, has joinedR Culture, a #MeToo drama by director Alexa Polar for Butterfly Angel Entertainment... Colin Hanks, Diane Guerrero and hip hop star Nelly have joined the cast of Clear Lake, the Buddy Holly-inspired biopic to be directed by Bruce Beresford...
Revolving door: Writer-director David Gordon Greenhas signed with Cinetic Media for management... The IATSE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee has elected its co-chairs, Kimberly Butler-Gilkeson, trustee of Local 764 (theatrical wardrobe); and Liz Pecos, president of Local 48 (stage and picture operators)...
In other news...
--Naya Rivera's July 8 death in Lake Piru has sparked a wrongful death lawsuit against Ventura County, CA on behalf of her young son, who was on the water with her that day.
--In another sign of how industry trade groups are adapting their 2021 convention plans amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, its been announced that the Audio Engineering Society fall convention will co-locate with the National Association of Broadcasters Show, Oct. 11–13, 2021 in Las Vegas.
--Tory Lanez on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to charges he allegedly shot fellow musician Megan Thee Stallion, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. He is due back in court Jan. 20, 2021.
What else we're reading...
--"A Trump memoir would sell. Will publishers buy it?" [NY Times]
--"Bally's buys SInclair RSN naming rights as part of sports betting push" [Sportico]
--"Why WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal should merge, even if they aren't ready yet" [Lightshed TMT]
--"Why isn't Susan Wojcicki getting grilled by Congress?" [Wired]
--"How Michaela Coel turned trauma into hope with I May Destroy You" [WSJ]
Today's birthdays: Jack Dorsey, 44, Meg Ryan, 59, Ted Turner, 82, Jodie Foster, 58, Larry King, 87.