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Giving Hollywood the Business.  Before you lunch in this town again. 
Richard Rushfield, Editor-in-Chief

To The Tower!

Welcome to this Beta edition of Hollywood's own up and coming daily newsletter.  Here you'll find your morning  round-up and dissection of the day's parade in the business, featuring news, gossip, amazing tidbits and fearless, pointed analysis.  If you like or don't like, or really hate what you see, let us know.  richard@theankler.com And please if you enjoy The Ankler pass this email on to your friends and colleagues! 
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1. DOG AND SONY SHOW

One embarrassment down, one to go in  the march of Tom Rothman’s Poop Cinematic Universe.

It would be nice to think that The Emoji Movie might represent a permanent low in mindless pursuit of IP, but we in Hollywood know that no low can last.  Three years from now, we’ll be looking back and saying, “Remember when movies had real stars! And they are about real characters! Can you believe Poop hasn’t worked in a year?” Maybe all this is Rothman's brilliant three dimensional chess, setting the stage for the Poop Reboot to come.

In the meantime, the second leg of the studio’s late-summer war on audiences is about to hit the ground.

The 88’ish minute, Dark Tower will launch to begin a new 1000 year tentpole for Sony, to stand proudly alongside the discount Marvel Spiderman Universe and the discount-discount Marvel Valiant Universe (for another week at least) in the studio’s Hall of IP Giants.

Tracking for Dark Tower is all over the place, which is better than it could be. Screen Engine apparently is seeing a decent upside potential of a $41 million weekend. 

Here’s the latest NRG #’s for what it’s worth:

But at some point, the rubber is going to hit the road on what Rothman's wrought – decreeing a sci-fi epic at the price tag of a couple episodes of Girls. ($65 million I’m told), taking an already very difficult piece of IP and leading it through a Byzantine script process that produced another Akiva Goldsman special.

That point however, is not going to come until the last possible moment. We’ve been looking forward to the experiment to witness in real time what happens when a film that is chugging along in tracking meets the boulder of a Zero Percent Rotten Tomatoes score.  It could happen!  (Side bet: can anyone find another time when a studio released two films in back to back weekends both with scores in the single digits? I can’t!  We may be on the bring of Rotten Tomatoes history here.)

The press will get their first official look at Dark Tower on Wednesday night (a sign of enormous confidence). The reviews won’t start coming in until Thursday morning and it will be midday before RT’s got enough of them to produce a first score. By which time, the King hardcore will have bought their tickets for Thursday night and probably Friday and it will be a question of weekend fall off.

So all may not be tears for Sony yet.  That said, given the wreckage of a studio they are trying to pull themselves out of, what they need is not a “squeaked out a not-complete disaster of a weekend” but something big to build on, which was the point of the Dark Tower project in the first place.

And next up: the showdown on the Valiant deal? In the face of this, is there any chance Rothman gets to green light another bargain basement universe after all this?

Are singles on errors going to be enough to save Rothman’s contract when it comes up mere weeks from now? Does film newcomer Tony V have any better idea?

2. HOME BLAHS OFFICE PART 1: HACK OF MY TEARS

As the another corner of the Time Warner empire prepares for the arrival of the Telephone People, things are not going as planned.

Over at HBO, despite another big basket of Emmy nominations, this is not shaping up as a great month for the cable network. 

For starters, someone left the door open on Game of Thrones:

Hackers have broken into the networks of HBO and reportedly leaked unreleased episodes of a number of shows, as well as the script for next week’s “Game of Thrones” episode. Altogether, they have reportedly obtained a total of 1.5 terabyte of data.

HBO confirmed the intrusion in a statement sent to Variety.

“HBO recently experienced a cyber incident, which resulted in the compromise of proprietary information,” the networks said. “We immediately began investigating the incident and are working with law enforcement and outside cybersecurity firms. Data protection is a top priority at HBO, and we take seriously our responsibility to protect the data we hold.”

This is the latest example in the ongoing saga of Hollywood completely defenseless before the cyber-criminals of the world. One (of many) downsides of the ongoing reign of the Baby Boom’s deathgrip on the reins of Hollywood might be that the generation is still waking up to the idea that computers are here to stays.  For all Disney’s success, for example, finding a digital strategy still doesn’t seem a major priority, so given that, why would we expect they’d be anymore serious about hacking?

But seriously folks, it isn’t just HBO’s future on the line here. The entire future of media more or less rides on the back of Game of Thrones now.  This isn’t like they stole an episode of Basketball Wives; this is the crown jewels of the entire entertainment industrial complex. Why isn’t every piece of GoT kept on the top of a 200 story tower with every adult who can carry on gun doing shifts to stand guard over it?

3ALL THE TIME CARDS EVER USED ON SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS
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4. HOME BLAHS OFFICE 2:  WHY DID HBO LEAP INTO THE FURY? AN ANKLER



It isn’t every day that HBO, the network home for institutional Hollywood liberalism, comes under attack for romanticizing slavery, but this week, that is what they are getting.

I’m told that the insane rush to announce a show that won’t air until 2019 at earliest came in response to hearing that Amazon, where alt-history reins, has a similar, what if we still had slaves project in the works. Throw into that the looming “What’ve you got next?” questions from the Phone People, eyeing the end of GoT, and one can see how a network could race a press release out the door without thinking that, before you go cannonballing into slavery waters these days, you best have your story down.

And now they’ve got their own Hashtag to condemn it, and Oscar gadfly April Reign turning her agitation on them.

As of this weekend, the network’s response continues to be the perfectly reasonable, but now totally inadequate request that people wait to see the show, or at least get a tiny glimpse of what it is before they condemn it.

They said in a statement this weekend, “The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.”

Awwww...that's almost sweet. I’m sure the mobs will do exactly that. Now that they’ve gotten the world’s media attention on them, since HBO has given their word, they’ll just put away their pitchforks and wait for all the facts to come in. Maybe they’ll give it a few seasons, just to make sure Benioff and Co have a chance to find their voice and really show audiences where they are going with their artistic vision.

As the Academy and HBO have now learned, no one has immunity anymore. At least no one at the top of Hollywood. If you’re looking for the benefit of doubt, get a dog.

5. SAG SACKS

The SAG ballots are here! So actors looking for a chance to give their stamp of approval to the team that just negotiated a new agreement locking into place the death of the middle class actor (to follow the death of the working class actor) now’s your chance!

Cast your vote while there’s still a profession left standing.



 

6.  THUNDER DOWN UNDER

Some Australians are upset that their government is funding Hollywood productions.  The ingratitude! 

Worse still, the Oz gov’t appears to be giving Hollywood money it has taken away from local filmmakers. From an op-ed in the Australian news:

Over a five-year period, the Australian Government has cut funding for our major film funding agency Screen Australia by more than $51 million. Instead, it has given at least $70 million over the same period to American producers to enable American blockbusters to be made in Australia, as well as providing generous tax breaks.

These unremarkable films include Thor: Ragnarok, Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and coming up, Aquaman. While this subsidy may provide temporary employment for technical crew members and other support people, (and Aquaman will star Nicole Kidman, alongside Amber Heard) it generally does not provide work for Australian filmmakers; be they writers, actors, editors, or directors.

Most importantly, diverting scarce film funding to Hollywood prevents an Australian film (or several Australian films given the size generally of their budgets) being made. As an example, the wonderful Last Cab to Darwin received less than a million dollars in government funding and nevertheless made $8 million at the box office.

How dare these little islanders question the cultural importance of Pirates 5 or the Alien reboot! 

And when it comes to money, don’t they know, there are literally dozens of dictators who would be  pay that in a heartbeat just to have Johnny Depp come to his daughters wedding. And they get him hiding in his trailer for weeks in their country!

But seriously, time for the industry to start throwing some money around and endowing hospital wings in Melbourne. If “Not Handing Out Our Money to Hollywood” were ever to become an international, where would we be then?

7. THE GREATEST CAT SCENES IN MOVIE HISTORY
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8. CABLE PRESIDENT DECLARES THE CABLE RECKONING AT HAND

This year's TCA officially marked the end of the Peak TV era. (And possibly the end of the TCA Era, with the two biggest forces in TV production right now – Netflix and Amazon – giving it a pass.)

But if there were any question of the bad days ahead, no less than Turner Pres Kevin Reilly made clear that the pain is not far away. THR's Tim Goodman quotes

Kevin Reilly, President of TNT and TBS — who has been around the block several times with stints at FX, NBC and Fox, and who is also very visionary about the industry — said critics would still be covering an unrelenting amount of series but from fewer entities. (This is something I've already written about, so I concur). When pressed he was blunt.

Question: "So what does that mean? Are you saying that networks are just going to drop off the map or stop doing.."

Reilly: "Yes."

Question: "…original programming because they can't afford it?"

Reilly: "Yes."

Well, OK then.

For clarity, Reilly mostly means cable networks (the terms "channel" and "network," like grander English words before them, are now hopelessly mangled), and not broadcast networks. Then again, who knows on that front? The networks will wobble in here soon enough to defend themselves.

If you're anyone other than a mid-range cable employee, the move from mid-range cable producers to streaming networks might be no terrible thing. But never forget the history of reliance on tech bubbles, and what they tend to leave behind when they pop.
9. THE DAILY WELLS
"It’s not disrespectful to note that Moreau was the first older actress about whom I had erotic fantasies. Past her physical prime but breathtaking in the sack. In my head she was a world-class MILF, well before the term had been invented." from HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE
THE ANKLER'S GOT PEOPLE TALKING!







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