International Insider: Black Widow Vs Disney; Netflix’s Vaccination Expectation; Venice ReinvigoratedJuly 30, 2021
Hello, and welcome to International Insider! Jake Kanter here, guiding you through another busy week in global film and TV. To get this delivered every Friday, sign up here.
Scarlett Takes Aim At Disney
Leading the day: A potentially game-changing lawsuit pitting Black Widow herself Scarlett Johansson against Disney. Johansson is suing the mighty House of Mouse, claiming that releasing Black Widow on Disney+ as well as in theatres breached her contract and deprived her of box office earnings. Disney lashed back, saying the legal writ is “sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.” The company, not known for backing down from legal battles, also took the unusual decision to reveal Johansson’s $20M pay packet for the Marvel feature. Our full story.
A bellwether case: The Black Widow beef is kinda unique given that Johansson’s character is (spoiler alert) dead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the actress has made clear she has no plans to reprise the role. In short: she has little to lose in taking on Disney. But if she wins or extracts a settlement, the case could become a bellwether for other actors looking to make similar claims. And there could be a lot of them, given studios have embraced streaming while cinemas have been shut. “This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts,” Johansson’s attorney said. Grab the popcorn as this one unfolds.
Watch on Deadline
Making headlines this week: We’re now starting to see some major global employers mandating Covid vaccines for staff. Silicon Valley is leading the way, with both Facebook and Google soon to start insisting that employees are double jabbed before they step foot in the office. Google is rolling out the policy to international outposts, meaning we could see YouTube originals executives in London, for example, being asked for their vaccination status.
In the film and TV world, Netflix was the first major studio to make a move. My colleague Nellie Andreeva revealed that the streamer will require cast and key crew to have Covid protection before filming in America. A day later, I revealed that Netflix is considering extending the policy to other territories, with the UK being looked at particularly closely. There are two reasons for this: firstly, the UK is Netflix’s biggest production market outside the U.S. Secondly, there is high vaccination take-up in Britain, where 37.8M people are now double jabbed.
Why it matters: As we discussed on International Insider last week, the Delta variant is punching holes in production safety protocols. Netflix had to shut down its most successful show ever, Bridgerton, in the UK because of a coronavirus outbreak. I hear that it could be weeks before full filming resumes, with producers sticking to exterior work for now. Vaccines alone will not stop people from getting Covid, but synchronize jabs with masks, bubbles, or ventilated sets and you start to strangle the virus. Experts call it the Swiss cheese model: a single slice of holey cheese is not a sufficient layer of protection, but stack a few slices up and you begin to build a fortress.
Italy calling: The Venice Film Festival unveiled a blockbuster lineup for its 78th edition, which takes place September 1-11. After Hollywood largely steered clear of the event last year as the pandemic raged, studios will be out in force in 2021. Representing will be Universal (with Halloween Kills, Last Night In Soho, and The Card Counter), Warner Bros (Dune), and Disney (The Last Duel). Netflix, which has a cozy relationship with Venice, will also have a strong presence in Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand Of God and Jane Campion’s The Power Of The Dog. Venice chief Alberto Barbera is expecting “a lot of guests and talent” with the red carpet potentially being rolled out for the likes of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who star in The Last Duel (extra points if Affleck brings JLo); Kristen Stewart for Pablo Larrain’s Spencer; and Oscar Isaac, who has three projects in the selection including Duel and HBO series Scenes From A Marriage. Here’s the full line-up.
The one that got away: Nancy Tartaglione asked Barbera if there was one feature he didn’t nab that he’d have liked to have in the lineup. “Like every year, there is something you can’t get because it’s not ready in time or it’s postponed. My main regret is Guillermo del Toro [with Nightmare Alley]. He really wanted to be on time for Venice,” where Shape Of Water debuted in 2017. Nevertheless, Barbera’s hoping to boast more Oscar bait after Nomadland premiered in the City of Water last year. “I think we’ll see someone go from the red carpet in Venice to the Oscar red carpet next March.” Read the full interview.
Covid protocols remain: Venice garnered plenty of praise last year for the grace with which it handled coronavirus safety measures. After setting a high bar for how to organize a festival during a global health crisis, much of what went before will remain. That means a 50% capacity cap on cinemas and socially distanced seating, with specific places reserved for movie-goers. There will be no opening night dinner for the second year in a row. Delegates will carry Green Passes to access theatres, while Venice will offer swab testing for free in several spots. That will be a relief for Cannes 2021 veterans who endured the dreaded spit test. Tom Grater has more.
ITV Overcomes Covid
On the up: UK commercial broadcaster ITV declared on Wednesday that the worst of the pandemic is now in the rear-view mirror. In earnings for the first half of the year, ITV revealed that total revenue was up by more than a quarter to £372M ($516M), while EBITA rocketed 98% to £327M. Full story.
The reason for the rally: The ad market is vibrant again after a near-existential wobble early in the health crisis. Indeed, ITV recorded its best June on record amid a Euro 2020-fuelled advertising bonanza. In other good news, the majority of ITV Studios’ shows are back in business and the Love Island producer has even delivered some shows ahead of schedule.
Channel 4 deal? Such is ITV’s resilience, the broadcaster is being touted as a potential suitor for Channel 4, which is likely to be put up for sale by the UK government. ITV CEO Carolyn McCall kept schtum about a possible bid for its rival, but did reveal that ITV is not exactly enthusiastic about risking a major acquisition, shutting down speculation of a deal for BT Sport. “We still see uncertainty ahead [amid the pandemic], it’s not the kind of acquisition we would do,” she said. More here.
Over at Sky: Comcast’s European pay-TV giant is also enjoying a Covid bounceback. For the six months ended June 30, Sky’s revenue increased 18.9% to $10.2B, compared with $8.6B over the same period in 2020. Like ITV, it benefited from a return to form in the ad market. In the UK, Sky is reshuffling its channel portfolio, retiring Sky One after nearly 40 years and replacing it with Sky Showcase. It’s an acknowledgment that traditional TV remains a potent discovery tool.
John David Washington On ‘Beckett’
On the run: Ahead of the Netflix global release of Beckett, the story of an American man being chased across Greece by corrupt authorities, Deadline sat down with star John David Washington and director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino to chat about putting together their manhunt thriller. Washington also takes the time to talk us through stepping out from his dad Denzel’s shadow, giving up his pro football career, and how it felt to be the star of two of 2020’s most high-profile releases: the theatrical blockbuster Tenet and lockdown-shot streaming pic Malcolm & Marie. Read the full interview.
Brisk Business For Banijay
Major deals: Banijay enjoyed a brisk week of business after clinching two major format deals in India and China. The super-producer will revive Survivor in India after a 10-year hiatus, bringing the adventure series to Tamil streamer ZEE5 after it originally screened on Disney-owned StarPlus. Over in China, Banijay will work with Long Qing Media to adapt Lego Masters for Shenzhen TV. Read our story.
Reality bites: Banijay has been keen to talk up the resilience of its tent-pole unscripted series during the pandemic. Sources at Banijay told Deadline in April that the company weathered the coronavirus crisis better than some rivals after leaning into shows like Survivor, which is being produced in a record 22 territories this year. Banijay’s EBITDA dropped 13% to €334M in 2020 amid steeper declines at other major international studios.
Perfect storm: Lucas Green, Banijay’s global head of content operations, said there is a “perfect storm” for unscripted. In an interview last week, he explained that the genre is more resilient to Covid than drama and can adapt to social movements quicker. He added that streamers are increasingly in the market for reality shows after hits including Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle. Here’s the full chat.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Small Axe breakout Micheal Ward (pictured above, right) has been set to join Olivia Colman in the Searchlight drama Empire of Light with Sam Mendes directing. The film will be produced by Mendes and Pippa Harris’ Neal Street Productions. Justin Kroll had the scoop.
🌶️ Another one: Bodyguard star Keeley Hawes has been set to headline and executive produce Crossfire, a major BBC One miniseries about a hotel shooting from the producer behind The Salisbury Poisonings. Our full scoop.
🍿 International box office: F9 drove well past $600M worldwide this session to cume $621.3M. That’s the first Hollywood movie to hit that mark since the 2019 Christmas release Jumanji: The Next Level got there in January 2020. Nancy Tartaglione has the details.
👩⚕️ Doctor discharged: The BBC has finally confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in television: Jodie Whittaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall are quitting Doctor Who. Full story.
😔 RIP Dieter Brummer: A former star of iconic Australian soap operas Home and Away and Neighbours died at the age of 45. Full obit.
🇪🇸 San Sebastian update: Then San Sebastian Film Festival has unveiled the Spanish titles that will comprise its official selection this year, including Fernando León de Aranoa’s The Good Boss, a tragicomedy starring Javier Bardem. More here.
🚚 On the move: YouTube has appointed Pedro Pina as VP, responsible for all aspects of the business across Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Go deeper.
🎦 Trailer dash: Here’s the first footage from Mad God, the experimental animation 30 years in the making from Phil Tippett, the Oscar-winning VFX artist with credits including the original Star Wars trilogy. Watch it.
God speed: Everyone at Deadline wishes Bob Odenkirk a speedy recovery after he collapsed on the set of Better Call Saul on Tuesday. His reps confirmed that he suffered a “heart-related incident,” but is in a stable condition. “He’s going to be okay,” his son, Nate Odenkirk, tweeted with palpable relief on Wednesday. Odenkirk’s work on AMC’s Better Call Saul and its predecessor, Breaking Bad, is revered well beyond his homeland. “The immediate outpouring of affection and concern from fans around the world is a clear reflection of his immense talents and ability to both move and entertain people,” AMC said. Here’s hoping Bob will be back on set soon, uttering the immortal words, “S’all good, man.”
Tom Grater contributed to International Insider.
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