Posts tagged with "Variety"

Will ‘The Crown’ address Queen Elizabeth’s death?

September 14, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully on Sepember 8  at the age of 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, her family verified in a statement. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow,” the announcement revealed, reports Bustle.

The news led to an outpouring of responses from royals, celebrities, and “man-on- the-street interviews” around the world.

But, if you got to know the royal family (as many viewers did) through the Emmy-winning Netflix series, The Crown, you may be wondering: How the popular series will deal with the Queen’s death?

The show doesn’t claim to be a completely accurate retelling of Queen Elizabeth II and her family’s lives, of course. A Netflix spokesperson once told Variety it’s “a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events.” But it does try to get close with the help of “a dozen exceptionally bright researchers, script editors, and historians,” showrunner Peter Morgan told The Hollywood Reporter.

In other words, an event as significant as Queen Elizabeth II’s death would definitely be explored in detail by The Crown — if the show had plans to cover this portion of history, that is. However, Morgan never intended for The Crown to get so close to the modern era. “I try to keep focused on history and not the present day,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I like to make sure there is at least a generation between the events I’m writing about and what’s going on all around me.”

The Crown, Season 5, which is scheduled to debut in November, will reportedly include the death of Princess Diana in 1997— and Season 6 will reach as far as the early aughts, according to Deadline. The sixth and final season “will not bring us any closer to present day,” Morgan reiterated to the outlet. “It will simply enable us to cover the same period in greater detail.”

While you can be sure that Morgan isn’t rushing to make any edits or script changes, The Crown may still be affected by Queen Elizabeth II’s death in a major way. A source recently told The New York Post that the show has its “own version of Operation London Bridge”—referencing the protocol (which was discussed in The Crown) of what should happen after the monarch dies.

“This is particularly pertinent for if we are filming,” the source added. “Filming will shut down immediately if we are in production, for at least a week. There would also be lots of discussion about when to restart.”

This indeed seems to be the plan for filming Season 6, as Morgan told Deadline in a September 8 email. The Crown is a love letter to her and I’ve nothing to add for now, just silence and respect,” he wrote. “I expect we will stop filming out of respect too.”

Even though Season 5 is just two months away, The Crown’s reported Operation London Bridge could feasibly include other changes, too, like postponing the season premiere out of respect for the royal family. It wouldn’t be the first time a project related to the royals has been pushed back for this reason.

Last year, for example, Netflix indefinitely postponed the premiere of the UK Channel 5 documentary, Diana: The Interview That Shocked The World, following the death of Prince Philip —and today, the doc is not streaming on Netflix. Granted, this was not a Netflix original like The Crown is, but it still shows that the streamer treads carefully when the royal family is involved.

Research contact: @bustle

‘Variety’ exclusive: Will Smith’s Q scores reveal Oscars slap severely damaged his reputation

August 25, 2022

Four months after the slap seen around the world during the Academy Awards, formerly A-list actor Will Smith may be feeling the pain more than comedian and actor Chris Rock , reports Variety.

Data provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform by Q Scores—the longtime industry standard for quantifying celebrities’ star power and appeal—indicates Smith’s numbers tanked months after the March 27 Academy Awards ceremony, when the actor smacked presenter Chris Rock on live TV.

Before the incident, Smith consistently ranked among the country’s top 5 or 10 most positively rated actors in Q Scores’ semiannual surveys (fielded every January and July), which poll 1,800 U.S. consumers ages six and up. This placed him alongside such beloved figures as Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, according to Henry Schafer, EVP of Q Scores.

But between Q Scores’ January survey, conducted before the Oscars, and its July polling (the first following the slap), Smith’s positive Q Score plummeted from a stellar 39 to 24, which Schafer characterized as “a very significant and precipitous decline.” (A positive Q Score of 24 means 24% of those surveyed who know of Smith count him as one of their favorite personalities.)

At the same time, Smith’s negative rating (those surveyed whose opinion of him was “fair” or “poor”) more than doubled, from less than 10 to 26. The average negative Q Score, according to Schafer, is about 16 or 17.

Nor was the fallout limited to one Smith: Jada Pinkett Smith, the actor’s wife, also saw significant damage to her public image in recent months. Her positive score, already low at 13, fell to 6, and her negative score jumped from 29 to 44.

In contrast, Rock saw no effect. Between January and July, his positive and negative scores remained at 20 and 14, respectively. However, his ranking on a separate Q Scores scale, one gauging a celebrity’s level of public awareness, leaped from 66 to 84. 

Smith’s updated numbers, showing consumer sentiment months after the incident, confirm that one of Hollywood’s most likable performers has seriously damaged his reputation—and potentially his career—as a result of his Oscar outburst. More than four months later, the impact of the slap still lingers — a point unlikely to be missed by studios or marketers weighing future collaboration with Smith, whose once thriving career has been effectively put on hold since the assault.

Still, Smith’s decline is “not as bad as I’ve seen for other celebrities who have experienced antisocial events,” Schafer says, citing Tiger Woods’ 2009 infidelity scandal as an example. (Ironically, he adds, Johnny Depp emerged from recent allegations of domestic abuse and April-to-June defamation trial “unscathed,” with a positive score of 35.)

Smith’s updated score varied across demographic groups, with both women and non-Black respondents rating him more negatively than men and Black respondents. Among the latter, Smith’s negative score rose just 9 points, from 7 to 16— again, the average level for a negative Q Score. However, the size of his positive drop-off was essentially the same for both groups: from 49 to 35 among Black respondents and 35 to 22 with non-Black respondents.

As Q Scores are only measured twice a year, it’s difficult to say how fast opinion on Smith fell—or how much it may have rebounded since the slap. The actor has apologized for his behavior in the aftermath: He issued a written statement on social media the day after the Oscars, apologizing to Rock, the Academy, and “all the attendees and everyone watching around the world;” and he resigned from his Academy membership less than a week later. Afterward, the Academy banned Smith from the Oscars for a period of ten years; he responded with a statement saying, “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”

From there, Smith was publicly silent until late last month, when he posted another apology in the form of a YouTube video. In the five-minute clip, Smith again apologized to Rock, as well as Rock’s mother and brother, and to Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who won the Oscar for Best Documentary moments after the slap.

“There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment,” Smith says in the video. “There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.”

It remains to be seen whether the apology video will mitigate the damage, but it’s likely the road to recovery will not be a swift one, as it takes on average about three years for celebrities’ Q Scores to rebound from scandal. Still, Schafer says, “A lot depends on personality and how they pursue the resurrection of their image.”

Much, then, could depend on how the actor is positioned in the promotion of “Emancipation,” his next film, which is currently in post-production and yet to be officially dated for release by distributor Apple.

Research contact: @Variety

Heimat gym is made for Hollywood

July 19, 2022

Getting in shape in Los Angeles just got a lot more luxurious with the opening of Heimat, RSG Group’s five-floor, 75,000-square-foot “concept” gym and spa complex on La Brea Avenue, reports Variety.

The Los Angeles locale is the company’s first—but is not intended to be the last: New facilities are planned for San Francisco, Dallas, and Berlin.

According to the company, “Our first [La Brea] location …  offers all the amenities of a Private Member Club …. These include an innovative fitness concept; a spa; a rooftop pool; coworking and event spaces; and Mother Tongue, a restaurant in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina. First-class service, high-end aesthetics, and distinctive design round out the offerings. Site-specific enhancements such as the integration of personal training, beauty or wellness amenities are also possible.”

The monthly rate is about $350 and gives members access to an abundance of free weights, machines, and cardio equipment—as well as classes including spinning, boxing, boot camp, barre, dance cardio, Kinesis, TRX, yoga and Pilates.

“Los Angeles to us is one of the most competitive fitness markets in the world,” RSG Group North America CEO Sebastian Schoepe tells Variety. “It’s the birthplace of physical fitness, and a lot of trends have started in L.A. … We created Heimat to disrupt what people thought a fitness club could be. Whereas most gyms connect with their members by preaching sacrifice and discipline to reach their goals, Heimat takes a more holistic approach.”

A rooftop pool features a Jacuzzi, an outdoor bar and views of the Hollywood Hills. The spa offers hydrafacials, nail care, massages and IV wellness treatments, and the locker rooms are designed with marble, brass accents, and mood lighting. There are also several private workspaces that can be reserved in advance.

Murals throughout the 1930s building were commissioned from artists such as Albert MaciasJessalyn Brooks, and Sophie Dherbecourt.

With Netflix and Sirius offices and the Paramount lot nearby, expect a big industry presence. Is it any surprise that the spinning studio can be easily transformed into a screening room?

Research contact: @Variety

Elmo gets his first COVID vaccination shot

June 30, 2022 

Elmo just got a COVID-19 vaccine shot—in a public service announcement from Sesame Workshop aimed at persuading human parents to get their young kids COVID shots, too, reports Variety.

 The beloved red Muppet is three-and-a-half-years-old, according to Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. That means he recently became eligible for a COVID shot—now that the vaccines have been federally approved for children five and under.

 “Yeah, there was a little pinch. But it was OK!” Elmo says in the spot, which also features his dad, Louie.)

 “Was it safe? Was it the right decision?” Louie says in the PSA. “I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice. I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors, and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love.”

Elmo’s shot comes after other Sesame Street characters have also gotten COVID vaccines. In November, Big Bird—who is six years old — got a vaccination and was featured in a PSA. At the time, anti-vax conservatives accused Sesame Workshop of trying to “brainwash children” with the campaign.

In a tweet  sent on Tuesday, June 28, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lashed out at Sesame Workshop—complaining that the latest PSA shows “@elmo aggressively advocat[ing] for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.” Cruz had previously called the Big Bird PSA “government propaganda.”

 Sesame Workshop collaborated on the Elmo PSA with the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative.

 The spot encourages parents and caregivers to get informed about the COVID-19 vaccines following the announcement earlier in June of the FDA’s emergency use authorization and CDC recommendation of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for children ages 6 months and older. The PSA also was produced in partnership with the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

 “Many parents understandably have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines for young children, and we want to encourage them to ask questions and seek out information,” Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, SVP of U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop, said in a statement. “With help from Elmo and his dad Louie, we want to model real conversations, encourage parents’ questions, and help children know what to expect.”

 Kids under five will be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with two doses of the Moderna vaccine (a quarter of the dose for adults) four weeks apart; or three doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine (a tenth of the dose for adults), with the first two doses given three weeks apart and a third dose administered at least eight weeks after the second dose.

 Sesame Workshop is directing viewers who want more information about COVID-19 vaccines to, and

 Research contact: @Variety

Obamas to end exclusive deal with Spotify

April 22, 2022

Higher Ground, the media company started by former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, is ending its exclusive podcast deal with Spotify and is shopping for other partners in the podcasting space, reports Variety.

The Obamas are exiting their exclusive pact with Spotify, originally inked in 2019, after being frustrated with the company’s exclusive terms: They want to have their podcast programming distributed as widely as possible, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Higher Ground also has disagreed with Spotify over how many of its shows would feature the former POTUS and FLOTUS, as first reported by reported by Bloomberg.

Higher Ground’s current deal with Spotify runs through October. According to one source, Spotify declined to make an offer to renew the agreement.

Podcasts that Higher Ground has produced for Spotify will continue to launch on the streaming platform through the fall, according to the Bloomberg report. But the company is currently in talks with other audio distribution companies, including Amazon-owned Audible and iHeartMedia, in hopes of reaching a nonexclusive deal for its podcast content.

Higher Ground’s first podcast for Spotify was “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” released in mid-2020, which at one point had ranked as the most-listened-to Spotify original to date. The company also produced “Renegades: Born in the USA,” a series of conversations between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen, released on Spotify last year.

In January, Higher Ground’s “The Big Hit Show,” focused on transformational moments of pop culture, premiered on Spotify. The company also released “Tell Them, I Am,” a podcast collection of universal stories from Muslim voices on the platform.

Spotify will retain certain distribution rights to “The Michelle Obama Podcast” and other Higher Ground shows in perpetuity. In addition, wherever the Obamas take their next podcast deal, it is likely that those new projects would be distributed on Spotify on a nonexclusive basis.

Separately, Higher Ground has a pact to produce films and TV shows exclusively for Netflix. The company’s first film, “American Factory,” won the 2019 Oscar for best documentary feature.

Reps for both Spotify and Higher Ground declined to comment.

Research contact: @Variety

Flashpoint of the Oscars: Will Smith slaps Chris Rock

March 29, 2022

In the room, it felt like a skit at first, reports Variety.

Late into the Oscars ceremony on March 21, actor  Will Smith stormed the stage as comic Chris Rock was presenting best documentary feature—and slapped Rock in the face.

The loud thud echoed through the top mezzanine floors of the Dolby Theatre, almost sounding like a sound effect from an action movie.

Many in the auditorium initially thought that Smith was pretending to be upset that Rock had made a joke at the expense of his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who was seated by his side. The presenter had improvised a joke on the spot, asking whether Pinkett Smith was going to be in “G.I. Jane 2” because of her shaved head.

“Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Rock said, stunned at what had just happened. But then Smith kept going, and it became clear that this wasn’t a sketch. As the “King Richard” actor returned to his table, just a few feet from the stage, he started yelling at Rock. “Get my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth,” Smith said.

“Wow, dude,” Rock said. “It was a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke.”

Smith yelled back at Rock, repeating the same words but louder. Rock managed to move on and award the prize, but the exchange—an act of violence from the night’s eventual best actor winner—cast a shadow over the 94th Annual Academy Awards. (Smith has so far declined to comment, but he did apologize to the Academy and to his fellow nominees—although notably, not to Rock—in his acceptance speech.)

As the telecast—which had been drawing laughter from hosts Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall—continued on, the Oscars turned into two shows. Onstage, the in memoriam segment paid tribute to a list of Hollywood legends who’d died in the last year, including Sidney Poitier and Betty White. But all eyes inside the Dolby were on Smith.

At the next commercial break, Denzel Washington came to his table to talk. Smith’s publicist, Meredith O’ Sullivan, also quickly made her way to his side. Although she disappeared when the ceremony resumed, she resurfaced at the next two commercial breaks, speaking to him intensely until the best actor category came along.

Smith held hands with his wife for the rest of the night. When Jane Campion was named best director a few minutes later for “The Power of the Dog,” Smith stood up and applauded, with a wide grin on his face. But he seemed to have taken all the air in the room. Campion’s win—as the third woman to ever triumph in the category—didn’t feel as special as it should have, as attendees were still whispering about Smith.

At the next commercial break, Nicole Kidman came to Smith’s table and gave him a hug. Oscars producer Will Packer also came over to say a few words to him.

When Smith’s name was later announced as the best actor winner, he was showered with a standing ovation. At the end of his speech, some actors stood up again for him, but the applause was more muted.

Unlike the other winners from the night, Smith didn’t take questions in the press room. He returned to his table, where he hugged his co-star Aunjanue Ellis with his statue and watched “CODA” take the best picture prize.

This year’s ceremony was already controversial because of the producers’ decision to award eight below-the-line category off camera, and then splice moments from those speeches into the live telecast. It was also historic, as Apple Studios’ “CODA” became the first streaming movie to win the top prize—a moment that shined a spotlight on the deaf community.

But as the night ended, this year’s Oscars will probably be remembered for Smith slapping Rock (who has decided not to press charges, according to the LAPD).

Not surprisingly, Smith was the talk of the after parties. “Twitter went insane,” said “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Garcelle Beauvais at the Elton John party. “And yes, that was real.”

Research contact: @Variety

January 6 militants allegedly met beforehand with WH staff and legislators, were promised pardons

October 27, 2021

bombshell report from Rolling Stone magazine alleges that organizers of the January 6 protests—which escalated to violence when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol—met numerous times with White House staff and members of Congress to strategize in the days prior, Variety, a sister publication, reports.

At least three organizers of the Stop the Steal rally are speaking with the House panel investigating the riot, with one saying that Representative Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) even promised them a “blanket pardon” in advance.

“Our impression was that it was a done deal,” the organizer said. “That he’d spoken to the president about it in the Oval … in a meeting about pardons and that our names came up. They were working on submitting the paperwork and getting members of the House Freedom Caucus to sign on as a show of support.”

According to the organizers, the representatives woh eithert spoke with the organizers or sent high-level staffers to join also included Representatives Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

Two of the three organizers also said they interacted with members of Trump’s team, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

As for why these organizers are speaking to the House panel? “It’s so important is that—despite Republicans refusing to participate … this commission’s all we got as far as being able to uncover the truth about what happened at the Capitol that day. It’s clear that a lot of bad actors set out to cause chaos … They made us all look like sh*t.”

Research contact: @Variety

‘No Time to Die’ opens to $6.3 million in previews–best ever for a Bond movie

October 11, 2021

Audiences are showing up in force to send British actor Daniel Craig off in style, Variety reports.

MGM’s “No Time to Die”—which marks the actor’s last stint as James Bond and his fifth movie in the series—opened to $6.3 million in previews on Thursday, October 7—the best-ever take for a Bond film. The previous record for an 007 opening night was “Spectre’s” $5.3 million in 2015, and before that “Skyfall” made $4.6 million from advance showings.

Indeed, according to Variety, Craig’s fifth and final Bond film is on pace to earn between $60 million to $70 million in its opening weekend, but projections are difficult to make because of the COVID of things, which could depress turnout. “No Time to Die” needs to make bank. All those exotic locales and action set pieces don’t come cheap, after all. The film carries a massive $250 million budget and cost more than $100 million to market and promote.

The spy thriller already has gotten off to a fast start internationally. It earned $121 million last weekend from its first 54 international markets, which includes the U.K., Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Spain.

Reviewers have mostly embraced the film, giving Craig’s farewell to the role an 82% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman was one of those fans—writing in his review, “‘No Time to Die’ is a terrific movie: an up-to-the-minute, down-to-the-wire James Bond thriller with a satisfying neoclassical edge.”

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (“True Detective”) is getting most of the credit for injecting that edge. The cast includes Bond veterans Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes and Christoph Waltz, who are joined by Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch, as two new agents; and Rami Malek as the main antagonist.

Research contact: @Variety

Angelina Jolie sells stake in French wine estate, capping fight with Brad Pitt over Miraval

October 7, 2021

Actress Angelina Jolie has sold her stake in a French château and winery business to a third party—capping a yearslong fight in which she and ex-husband Brad Pitt battled over the future of their assets, reports The Wall Steet Journal.

The couple bought the Château Miraval estate in southern France in 2008, and they were married there in 2014. While the two have since divorced; they both retained equal ownership of the estate and the wine brand Miravalknown for its rosé.

Jolie in July sought to lift temporary restraining orders put in place during the couple’s divorce proceedings, which would allow her to sell her half of the estate. A declaration filed by one of her lawyers in Superior Court of Los Angeles County said she wanted to remove herself from being a “disregarded business partner with her ex-husband,” according to court documents.

Tenute del Mondo, the third party that acquired Jolie’s 50% stake, is a wine division and subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Stoli Group. It co-owns wines brands, including Luce and Masseto, with the Frescobaldi family.

Terms of the deal, announced on Tuesday, October 5, weren’t disclosed. A legal representative for Jolie didn’t respond to a request for comment. A representative for Pitt didn’t have an immediate comment.

Pitt will keep his stake in the estate, according to a spokesperson for Stoli Group.

Research contact: @WSJ

Mike Richards is frontrunner to become permanent host of ‘Jeopardy!’

August 11, 2021

Answer: Who is “Jeopardy!” Executive Producer Mike Richards? According to an exclusive report by Variety, Richards—who guest-hosted the venerable quiz show for two weeks in February and March of this year— is in advanced negotiations with Sony Pictures Television to become permanent host.

If and when the deal is done, Richards would take the reins of the syndicated powerhouse that was fronted by Alex Trebek for 36 years.

After Trebek’s death at the age of 80 in November 2020, Sony initiated a series of guest hosts, some of whom were hoping to land the permanent slot. Richards, who joined the show just last year as executive producer, impressed Sony Pictures brass with his command of the fast-paced game and easy on-air manner.

A Sony Pictures spokesman said discussions were ongoing with several potential candidates. He would not comment specifically on Richards’ status. A source close to the situation cautioned that there’s no certainty that the sides will close a deal and that other candidates remain in the mix, although Richards is clearly the front-runner.

Richards previously hosted the series “Divided” and “The Pyramid” for Sony Pictures’ Game Show Network (GSN) cabler.

Earlier in his career, Richards served as host of reality shows “High School Reunion” on The WB network and “Beauty and the Geek” for The CW. He joined “The Price Is Right” in 2008 as a co-executive producer. The following year he became executive producer and also helped sell the revival of “Let’s Make a Deal” to CBS, which he also executive produced.

Indeed, Variety notes, by the time he took the reins of “Jeopardy,” Richards had produced more than 4,000 hours of game shows.

Richards came to Sony as executive producer of the celebrity edition of the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” specials for ABC.

Other guest hosts that have fronted the show since the final Trebek episodes aired in January include Mayim Bialik, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Bill Whitaker, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Ken Jennings, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, LeVar Burton, Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Aaron Rodgers, and former contestant Buzzy Cohen.

Former contestant Jennings was long seen as the front-runner to succeed Trebek. Jennings holds the record for the most consecutive “Jeopardy” wins with his 74-game streak from 2004. He also ranks as the show’s highest-grossing winner with $2.52 million in regular-play winnings (which doesn’t include later tournaments).

“Jeopardy!” is one of the few remaining powerhouse syndicated series that ranks as television institution, in large part thanks to the enduring popularity of Trebek. The competition to replace Trebek was fierce. It’s understood that Bialik and Cohen were among the standouts who also have been strongly considered for the permanent job.

Research contact: @Variety

Editor’s note: CNBC reported on August 11 that Mike Richards and Mayim Bialik have been named as the new hosts of “Jeopardy!,” Sony revealed Wednesday. Richards, an American television producer, will host the long-running daily syndicated program while Bialik will host primetime and spinoff series.