The Fast Five: Wrapping the 'Tumultuous Tens' In Film and TV News
January 6, 2020
The last thing anybody wants to do on their holidays is pay attention to the news. Let’s be honest, nothing overly good was in the news in 2019, and thankfully it’s behind us. Now we’re in the Roarin’ Twenties, a decade with a much cooler nickname than the Tumultuous Tens, and I’m here to help you play catch-up with a super-sized edition of Fast Five—let's call it Tumultuous Ten.
THE GOLDEN GLOBES® HANDS OUT TOP AWARDS TO 1917 AND ONCE UPON A TIME... IN HOLLYWOOD
The Golden Globes® awarded Best Motion Picture - Drama to 1917, a movie that isn’t actually in theaters until Friday. So I imagine there will be a lot of confused movie-goers in the cinemas this week. The Hollywood Foreign Press then nominated their second favorite drama as a comedy so that Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood could also get an award, much to the chagrin of the actual comedies in the category. On the TV side, the two major awards went to HBO’s Succession and Amazon’s Fleabag.
One interesting thing to look out for in the future is the Netflix backlash. The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes only managed one award between them despite receiving a combined fifteen nominations. Some anonymous Academy voters have admitted they will never vote for a Netflix movie out of spite, so we’ll have to see if Oscar® follows the same playbook of multiple nominations for Netflix, but awards them to other movies.
THE ANNUAL BLACK LIST IS HERE TO GIVE SOME WRITING CAREERS A BOOST
While the industry’s media was in full “Best of the Decade” mode, the industry itself released its own “best of” lists, focused on unproduced screenplays. While many of the choices are political and used by studios to boost their own projects—let’s not forget Disney's Hovercar 3D made the list—they can still be incredibly beneficial to the careers of upstart writers. Getting a script on the Black List immediately gives a writer credibility and puts them on the map for executives and producers who may otherwise never read their material. The Black List’s official website has a complete rundown of every script with loglines, producers and representatives. Looking at the list can be helpful for aspiring writers to give them an overview on the types of scripts that were popular this year, as well as management companies that are representing newer writers.
This year’s top screenplay was Ken Kobayashi’s Move On, about a guy and his ex-girlfriend trapped in a world where everybody is frozen in time. The year’s highest ranked script without a producer attached is Lillian Yu’s Cicada, about a hacker recruited to join a mysterious organization, and the year’s highest ranked script by an un-repped writer is Patrick Cadigan’s Grandma Wants to Die, about a guy who funds his wedding by agreeing to assist his own grandmother’s suicide. If nothing else, the annual Black List can be used as a useful tool for learning how to write loglines. In many cases, the success of your entire project will depend on your ability to get someone to read it—a decision based entirely on your logline. A strong logline can open doors and a weak one can slam them shut. Here are over 60 that were voted the best of the year, so study up!
CARRIE JOINS THE STEPHEN KING TV GOLD RUSH
Reviewing the history of Stephen King adaptations is a great way to track the evolution of storytelling. Every decade or two, the author’s work comes back in waves that studios and networks are eager to cash in on. The first was in the post-The Shining early 80s, when seven different studios released a Stephen King adaptation into theaters from 1983-1986. King himself got in on the action by writing and directing Maximum Overdrive, a movie about evil toasters trying to kill Emilio Estevez. When the mini-series became event television in the 90s, networks discovered that the medium leant itself to some of King’s longer novels, and audiences were treated to one mini-series a year from 1990’s It until 1995’s The Langoliers. Now, we’re in a world where the It franchise has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide and a new Stephen King gold rush has been launched in today’s most popular form of entertainment: long-form television.
The Audience Network already airs Mr. Mercedes and Hulu just wrapped up season two of Castle Rock, which follows multiple characters from King’s universe. HBO’s Richard Price-created The Outsider will launch early next year and adaptations of Lisey’s Story, The Stand and Jerusalem’s Lot are in development at Apple+, CBS All Access, and Epix respectively. FX just announced it’s getting in on the trend by developing Carrie as a series. Long-form television allows writers to flesh out the characters and world the way King does in his novels; an opportunity to examine the lore in a way that isn’t possible in film.
VR AND PUBLISHING MERGE FOR A NEW STYLE OF IMMERSIVE STORYTELLING
A good story can transcend boundaries and live in many forms of media. This is a fact that Baobab Studios hopes to take advantage of when it launches a VR adaptation of The Magic Paintbrush in partnership with Penguin Random House. Penguin will publish a series of young reader books alongside the animated virtual reality series. Studios are often looking for new ways to engage an audience and spreading out a narrative across multiple forms of media allows fans to consume a story in the way that’s most convenient for them. VR still hasn’t penetrated the way studios were hoping, but by building an audience through print, Baobab can create a fanbase of people who don’t yet have access to VR so that when they finally do, the first show they’ll bring up is The Magic Paintbrush.
DISNEY’S BILLION DOLLAR YEAR
It’s no surprise that Disney had a good 2019. We all knew it would stack the deck in its favor to help the launch of its streaming platform, Disney+. It’s still amazing to see just how good the year was. As of this writing, the studio has the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth highest grossing movies at the domestic box office. Every one of them except for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, with Star Wars expected to cross that mark by week’s end. The studio already shattered its record gross of $7.6 billion, hitting $10 billion before it even released Star Wars, and finished the year with $11.1 billion worldwide. It would seem 2020 will be all the more disappointing for the studio that recently purchased Fox for $71 billion. With no high profile movies on the schedule after Star Wars wraps up and the Marvel Cinematic Universe reboots, the studio’s gross may seem like a disappointment in comparison. Especially now that audiences know all Disney movies will show up on Disney+ six months after their theatrical release. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if the studio can still get a billion dollars out of Mulan, The Eternals and Onward, as well as the Fox movies its inheriting in the X-Men, Kingsman and Hercule Poirot franchises.
When networks compete, creatives cash in. Right now, streaming services are in an intense competition with themselves and cable networks, resulting in a really good year for A-list talent. The elusive $1-million-an-episode club has quickly become the standard if a show wants to get a movie star on its network, like Apple+ did by paying Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon more than $1 million and Steve Carrell around $750,000 an episode for The Morning Show. Reese Witherspoon entered the $1 million club with season two of Big Little Lies and will maintain her residence through Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere. Other actors cashing in include Harrison Ford with $1.2 million for The Staircase, Kerry Washington with $1.1 million for Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere, Jeff Bridges with $1 million for FX’s The Old Man (which will premiere on Hulu) and Steve Carell with $1 million for Netflix’s attempt to keep The Office fans happy with Space Force. It’s amazing to see how far things have come in the five years since Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson told movie stars it was okay to come to television when they starred in HBO’s True Detective. They each received $200,000 an episode, a number that has skyrocketed along with the streaming revolution.
ANNE RICE SHOPS AN INTERESTING TV DEAL
Anne Rice had set up a huge series at Hulu based on her entire “Vampire Chronicles” book franchise that includes Interview with the Vampire, which she previously adapted into a movie starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The new series is not going ahead at the streaming service, and the rights held by Paramount Television and Anonymous Content have lapsed, giving Rice the option to shop the series around. And like a game show contestant in the early 90s, she’s planning to shop till she drops. Apparently, Rice isn’t just looking to set up the series at a new home, she’s planning to unload the rights to the entire franchise and may even bundle it with the Mayfair Witches as well. For a large upfront fee, any studio can now own the rights to Anne Rice’s most popular books in perpetuity. Brand acquisitions have been increasingly common as studios are more likely to invest in building a franchise world that can live forever if they don’t have to worry about it going to a competitor down the line. Does “Vampire Chronicles” have the same brand appeal as other acquisitions, like Marvel or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? Only time will tell.
OWNER OF REGAL CINEMAS MOVES INTO CANADA WITH THE PURCHASE OF CINEPLEX
Canadian Cinemagoers watched theater operates come and go, until Galaxy Cinemas bought Cineplex Odeon, Famous Players, and many of Empire Theaters locations, along with both AMC and Cinemark’s Canadian theaters, to create a Cineplex monopoly at the multiplex. Well, now that monopoly will be British with the Cineworld Group announcing its acquisition of Cineplex for $2.8 billion. Cineworld bought the American chain Regal Cinemas last year, the new acquisition turning them into the largest cinema chain in North America. One perk of the sale is that Cineworld plans to roll out a subscription ticket service much like the one offered at Regal and many other American cinema operators, something that previously hasn’t been an option for Canadians. The company expects to keep the Cineplex branding and loyalty programs that are already in place, hoping for a smooth transition that will go unnoticed.
TV TAX CREDITS CAN HELP DECIDE WHICH SHOWS GET RENEWED
California’s tax credit system for productions filming in the state works differently than almost anywhere else in North America. California uses a lottery system to decide which projects will receive the $150 million in subsidies, but the interesting thing is that a project doesn’t have to film in the state to qualify. It doesn’t even have to get made. Studios can submit shows they haven’t renewed and movies they haven’t announced, with the tax credit as a deciding factor on whether the project moves forward. Receiving the tax credit is basically a guaranteed renewal, so why not submit? This year, some major shows had new seasons announced by the tax credit system, including two Warner Horizon shows for Netflix, Special and You. Special will actually have to relocate from Texas to take part. CBS All Access’s new Star Trek show Star Trek: Picard hasn’t even released its first season, but season two was just approved for $20 million in credits, so it won’t be long before the next season is officially announced. And now we pour one out for the shows whose futures depended on winning this lottery, as they shuffle off the mortal coil that is competitive television.
HOLLYWOOD TOURS MAY DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH
Have you been dying to see the entrance security gate and decorative shrubbery of your favorite TV star’s Beverly Hills home? You better book your ticket fast, because new legislation could put an end to celebrity sightseeing tours for good. Council members have proposed new rules that would ban large vans and buses from driving through residential neighborhoods and pointing out to tourists where Ben Affleck used to live, while the current residents look on in confusion. The movement is likely to get full support from celebrities who don’t want strangers knowing where they live, as well as all the non-celebrities who have to maneuver around parked tour buses when they drive their kids to school. The rules have been proposed, but there’s no word on when they will be accepted, so if you want a selfie with Jim Parsons’ mailbox, you better head to California soon.
Written by: Conrad SylviaConrad Sylvia is the creator of the The Week in Television, a private industry newsletter that recaps the week's television news in a humorous and unique manner. Throughout the years he has developed projects for studios and production companies and continues to provide freelance research on the current television landscape and international marketplace. He is also a fan of drinking in the bathtub. A full tub if he's happy, an empty tub if he's sad.