Month: July 2021

Disney rejects Scarlett Johansson’s complaint over ‘Black Widow’ streaming release

Scarlett Johansson, star of the Marvel superhero movie “Black Widow,” sued the Walt Disney Co on Thursday, alleging that the company breached her contract when it offered the movie on streaming at the same time it played in theaters.

Disney said there was “no merit” to the lawsuit, saying it had complied with her contract. It added in a statement that the release of the movie on its streaming platform had “significantly enhanced her (Johansson’s) ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date.”

Johansson’s complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, argued that the dual release strategy of “Black Widow” had reduced her compensation, which was based partly on box office receipts from what was supposed to be an exclusive run in cinemas.

“Black Widow” debuted on July 9 in theaters and for a $30 charge on the Disney+ streaming service. Disney has been testing the hybrid pattern for some films during the coronavirus pandemic as the company tried to boost its streaming service while many movie theaters around the world were closed.

Johansson’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Disney wanted to steer audiences toward Disney+, “where it could keep the revenues for itself while simultaneously growing the Disney+ subscriber base, a proven way to boost Disney’s stock price.”

“Second, Disney wanted to substantially devalue Ms. Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself,” the lawsuit said.

The suit seeks unspecified damages to be determined at trial.

The outcome could have broad ramifications in Hollywood as media companies try to build their streaming services by offering premium programming to lure subscribers.

The Disney statement said the lawsuit was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Black Widow,” the story of the Russian assassin turned Avenger, pulled in $80 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices over its debut weekend. The movie also generated $60 million through Disney+ purchases, Disney said.

Johansson has played the character in nine Marvel films.

Other movie studios including AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros. have negotiated payments to actors and others involved in films that were originally planned for theaters only but also offered on streaming during the pandemic.

Johansson’s suit said her representatives approached Disney about resolving the issue but were “largely ignored.”

The actress topped the Forbes magazine list of the world’s highest-paid actress in 2018 and 2019. Johansson’s pre-tax earnings totaled $56 million from June 2018 to June 2019.

Disney also is offering a same-day streaming release starting Friday for “Jungle Cruise,” an action-adventure movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #Film #KevinSpacey @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Bob Dylan, UMG defeat ‘Desire’ co-writer’s claims over catalog sale

Bob Dylan and Universal Music escaped claims on Friday brought by the estate of songwriter and theater director Jacques Levy — who co-wrote the majority of songs on Dylan’s 1976 album “Desire” — seeking a share of Dylan’s $300-million sale of his songwriting catalog to UMG late last year.

New York State Judge Barry Ostrager ruled that Dylan and Levy’s contract didn’t entitle Levy’s estate to any proceeds from the sale of Dylan’s copyrights because the contract only granted him specific royalties from the songs.

“As we said when the case was filed, this lawsuit was a sad attempt to profit off the recent catalog sale,” Dylan’s attorney Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher said. “We’re glad it’s now over.”

Levy’s estate’s attorney Aaron Richard Golub didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Levy co-wrote ten songs with Dylan, seven of which were on “Desire”, including its most famous song “Hurricane”. His widow Claudia Levy sued Dylan and UMG on behalf of his estate in January, arguing their contract entitled him to 35% of “any and all income” earned by the compositions from several sources.

Levy argued this included proceeds from Dylan’s landmark December sale of his catalog to UMG, which The New York Times said “may be the biggest acquisition ever of the music publishing rights of a single songwriter.” Levy had asked the court for at least $1.75 million from the sale and $2 million in punitive damages.

But Ostrager said that the contract was “clear and unambiguous” in granting Dylan complete ownership of the copyrights and limiting Levy’s compensation to 35% of what were mostly licensing royalties — which he said UMG agreed to continue paying — “and in no way can be construed to include a portion of Dylan’s sale of his own copyrights.”

Ostrager discounted Levy’s estate’s “voluminous opposition papers” as well as the opinion of its music copyright expert Bob Kohn, who argued the songs were works of joint authorship. Kohn’s evidence was inadmissible because the agreement was unambiguous, and was also “unpersuasive as it distorts the plain language in the Agreement,” Ostrager said.

“Bob Kohn improperly usurps the Court’s function to interpret the Agreement by cherry-picking words and phrases and assigning them meanings that ignore the surrounding words and are inconsistent with the 1975 Agreement when read as a whole,” Ostrager said.

The case is Levy v. Zimmerman, Supreme Court for the State of New York, New York Count, No. 650402/2021.

For Levy: Aaron Richard Golub of Aaron Richard Golub PC

For Dylan and UMG: Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #BobDylan #Music @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Britain’s ITV says ‘no current plans’ for another ‘X Factor’ series

British broadcaster ITV said it has “no current plans” for another series of music talent show “The X Factor”.

The singing competition, created by British music mogul and television personality Simon Cowell, debuted on UK screens in 2004 and kick-started the careers of chart toppers such as Leona Lewis, One Direction and Little Mix.

Its last series aired in 2018 before going on hiatus.

“There are no current plans for the next series of The X Factor at this stage,” an ITV spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday.

Once hugely popular, the UK show has seen ratings fall over the years.

Newspaper The Sun reported late on Wednesday Cowell was axing the series “for at least five years”. 

The show, in which aspiring singers aim to win a recording contract and are mentored by celebrity judges, has been exported around the world and has had various spin-offs, including a celebrity version in 2019.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #XFactor #Music @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

‘Jungle Cruise’ movie pairs spirited heroine with pun-slinging skipper

In Walt Disney Co’s new “Jungle Cruise” movie, Emily Blunt plays a determined explorer on a mission to find an ancient tree that offers great potential to cure many of humanity’s ills.

Blunt co-stars with Dwayne Johnson in the big-screen adventure, which debuts on Friday and was based on a Disney theme park ride known for groan-inducing jokes.

The actress described her action-hero character, scientist Lily Houghton, as an “adventurous, spirited girl” who will not conform to society’s expectations of women in 1917.

For one, Houghton dares to wear pants, a defiant choice at the time. Plus, she “ventures into the Amazon jungle in a pretty reckless way,” Blunt said.

“She is a really important character for girls and boys to see because she was a trailblazer,” the actress said in an interview. “Trailblazers are always a bit eccentric, and they do crazy things.”

Blunt liked that Houghton veers from many traditional on-screen roles for women.

“I always tell writers just write me as a guy and leave the girl stuff to me,” Blunt said in an interview. “Just write me as multi-layered and full of faults, and full of the downfalls of what it is to be a human being.”

To play Houghton, Blunt said she was inspired by Indiana Jones, the iconic adventurer portrayed by Harrison Ford. “He’s not a slick action star,” she said. “He falls on his face. He’s scared of stuff.”

Disney is releasing “Jungle Cruise” simultaneously in theaters and for purchase on the Disney+ streaming service, a hybrid release plan the company has used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If “Jungle Cruise” is successful, it could spawn a franchise like the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, which also were inspired by a Disney ride.

Johnson plays Frank Wolff, the riverboat skipper Lily hires to take her and her brother (Jack Whitehall) on the perilous trek down the Amazon River. Frank is the “cheapest, most untrustworthy” option, Johnson said, but “very capable on a boat.”

And like the Disney ride operators, Frank revels in telling corny, pun-laden jokes. “He’s got sharp timing,” Johnson said, calling himself a “new-age pun slinger.” One joke in the movie: “The rocks you see here in the river are sandstone, but some people just take them for granite.”

“That’s the charm of the skippers,” Johnson said, “They tell these very bad puns that are so bad, they’re good.”

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #Film #JungleCruise @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Britney Spears’ lawyer seeks to oust singer’s father from conservatorship

An attorney for Britney Spears on Monday asked a Los Angeles court to remove her father as conservator of her roughly $60 million estate following the pop singer’s allegations that he had used the arrangement to mistreat her.

Mathew Rosengart, newly appointed as the performer’s personal legal representative, requested in legal filings that the court replace Jamie Spears with certified public accountant Jason Rubin as the overseer of the singer’s finances.

The matter will be discussed at a hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court scheduled for Sept. 29, Judge Brenda Penny said.

Britney Spears, 39, was placed under a conservatorship that controls her personal and financial affairs in 2008 after she suffered a mental health breakdown. The details of her mental health issues have never been revealed.

The “Stronger” singer recently told the court she wanted her father immediately removed and charged with conservatorship abuse.

In new court filings, Rosengart called the conservatorship a “Kafkaesque nightmare” that had grown “increasingly toxic and is simply no longer tenable.”

He billed the proposed removal of Jamie Spears as an “initial narrow step” that might be followed by a bid to end the conservatorship entirely.

“There might well come a time when the Court will be called upon to consider whether the conservatorship should be terminated in its entirety,” Rosengart’s petition said.

Public support for Britney Spears has swelled since her emotional address to the court in June in which she called the conservatorship abusive and humiliating. Among her many claims, the singer said had been forced to perform and take medication against her wishes. A group of fans using the hashtag #FreeBritney has urged that all limitations imposed on her be removed.

An attorney for Jamie Spears did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. He has said in previous statements and court filings that he loves his daughter and is looking out for her well-being. His lawyer, Vivian Thoreen, earlier this month said many of Spears’ allegations were untrue.

Also on Monday, judge Penny agreed to a request that the parties have more time to discuss whether Britney Spears’ estate will pay for around-the-clock security for Jodi Montgomery, who is the conservator of the singer’s personal affairs. Montgomery has said she receives death threats due to her involvement in the case.

That issue also will be discussed on Sept. 29.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #BritneySpears #Music @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Chloe Zhao joins fellow Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho on Venice festival jury

“Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao will join fellow Oscar-winning filmmaker Bong Joon-ho on the main jury at this year’s Venice International Film Festival, organisers said on Wednesday.

The judging line-up for the 78th edition of the festival held in the Italian lagoon city will also include “Widows” and “Harriet” actress Cynthia Erivo and filmmaker Alexander Nanau, a nominee at this year’s Oscars for documentary “Colectiv”.

Virginie Efira, star of this month’s Cannes Film Festival contender “Benedetta”, actress Sarah Gadon, known for “Alias Grace” and “Enemy”, and Italian director Saverio Costanzo complete the line-up.

The festival earlier this year had already announced “Parasite” director Bong as the president of the jury, which hands out the event’s main Golden Lion prize. “Nomadland” won the award at Venice last September.

This year’s festival runs from September 1-11.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #ChloeZhao #Oscar @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Kanye West teases new music ahead of ‘Donda’ album release

Kanye West will release his 10th solo studio album “Donda” on Friday, teasing his new music in an advert during the NBA Finals featuring U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who missed out on the Olympics after being suspended for a positive cannabis test.

The 44-year-old rapper will premiere the record on Thursday at a listening event in Atlanta, which will be streamed live.

West previewed new song “No Child Left Behind” in an advert airing during Game Six of the NBA Finals.

The commercial, scored and edited by West, shows Richardson, who had been expected to be one of the biggest draws at Tokyo 2020, at a track at night. The 21-year-old has said she used the cannabis to deal with the death of her mother.

West, who was married to reality TV star Kim Kardashian for seven years before she filed for divorce in February, shared a clip of the ad on his Instagram page.

The album, named after West’s late mother Donda West, follows 2019’s Grammy Award winning “Jesus is King”.
IVOX NEWS by Reuters #Music #KanyeWest @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

‘Cinderella’ musical in London won’t open due to COVID rules

Musical theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber on Monday cancelled the opening of his new London production of “Cinderella” and said he had no idea when it would go ahead, blaming “impossible conditions” imposed by the British government.

Lloyd Webber said one person in the cast had tested positive for coronavirus, but the rules around quarantine and isolation for the remainder of the actors – all testing negative – meant the show could not open as planned on Tuesday.

“I have been forced to take the heart-breaking decision not to open my ‘Cinderella’,” Lloyd Webber said in a statement.

“The impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the government’s isolation guidance mean that we cannot continue,” he added.

The modern twist on “Cinderella” was a high-profile new musical following the closure of theatres for almost 18 months because of the pandemic.

Lloyd Webber said he had no idea when “Cinderella” might go ahead. “I can’t answer,” the composer told journalists. “We will open here, but who knows? 2084?”

Lloyd Webber, the creator of hit shows including “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera,” is one of the most influential and successful figures in the theatre world and had been a key voice urging support for theatre during the pandemic.

With music by Lloyd Webber and a story by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell, “Cinderella” had already suffered several delays due to changing restrictions ordered by the British government around quarantine, social distancing, and capacity in indoor entertainment venues.

“Theatre is now on its knees,” Lloyd Webber said. “We can’t isolate every time somebody may or may not have it.”

The government on Monday ended https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/pm-johnson-pleads-caution-freedom-day-arrives-england-2021-07-18 over a year of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in England but the so-called Freedom Day was marred by surging infections, warnings of supermarket shortages and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own forced self-isolation.

“Freedom Day has turned into closure day,” Lloyd Webber said in his statement.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #Cinderella #Musical @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Box Office: ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Beats ‘Black Widow’ in Surprise Victory

The Tune Squad ruled over the court and box office charts this weekend. In an unexpected win, “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” which sees LeBron James team up with the animated Looney Tunes crew, dunked on the competition with $31.6 million in ticket sales.

The Warner Bros. sequel to 1996’s “Space Jam” surpassed forecasts, which projected the film would bring in $20 million in its first three days of release. Critics rebuffed “Space Jam: A New Legacy” (it holds a bleak 31% average on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences appeared to embrace the movie, awarding it an “A-” CinemaScore. “Space Jam 2” played in 3,965 cinemas in North America, while being available on HBO Max at no extra charge to subscribers.

“The marketing on this movie really looked fun, and it helped alert audiences everywhere,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution.

The better-than-expected start for “Space Jam 2” pushed last weekend’s champion, Disney and Marvel’s “Black Widow,” to second place on box office charts. The superhero adventure, starring Scarlett Johansson, brought in $26.3 million in its second weekend, representing a huge 67% decline. So far, “Black Widow” has generated $131 million in North America and $264 million globally.

Despite concerns over the Delta variant and its hybrid release on HBO Max, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” landed the largest debut for a family film during COVID. Earlier in the pandemic, movies geared toward younger audiences — such as “The Croods: A New Age” and “Tom and Jerry” — had been the biggest moneymakers. But summer offerings like “The Boss Baby: Family Business,” “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” and “Spirit Untamed” had each fallen flat with family crowds. “Space Jam 2,” which arrived 26 years after the original, is the first film in some time to bring moviegoers with kids back to theaters. Males accounted for 53% of sales, while 52% of ticket buyers were under the age of 25.

“This weekend is a positive indication that the family audience is alive, well and, according to ‘Space Jam 2’s’ enthusiastic audience scores, still thrilled by the big screen,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.

Sony’s “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” opened in third place with $8.4 million from 2,815 locations. Though on par with industry expectations, its three-day debut marks a steep decline from its predecessor, 2019’s “Escape Room,” which debuted to $18 million and ended its box office run with $57 million. The sequel cost $15 million to produce, an increase from the first film’s $9 million price tag.

At No. 4, Universal’s “Fast and Furious” sequel “F9” pulled in $7.6 million in its fourth weekend of release, bringing its overall domestic tally to $154 million. Another Universal title, “The Boss Baby: Family Business,” rounded out the top five, generating $4.7 million over the weekend. In total, the animated sequel to 2017’s “Boss Baby” has made $44 million in theaters while playing simultaneously on the nascent streaming service Peacock.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #SpaceJam #BlackWidow @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Cannes awards pick wide open after film festival’s crowded comeback

A Moroccan film about hip-hopping youth in Casablanca, a hero’s tale by Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, and a wildly imaginative French movie featuring sex with a car are among contenders for the top Cannes Film Festival award on Saturday, in one of the more unpredictable contests in years.

The world’s biggest film festival returned to the French Riviera after a 2020 hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, drawing a host of movie stars, from Bill Murray and Matt Damon to Sharon Stone, to the red carpet.

The 12 frantic days of premieres and late night dinners were more subdued than usual. Attendance was lower, and gone were many of the yacht parties held off the Cannes coast.

However, the competition was as intense as ever, with 24 films vying for the top Palme d’Or for best movie, up from 21 in 2019.

Critics said there were few sure-fire winners this time, in a contest that can depend on quirks of the jury – headed up for this edition by “Do The Right Thing” director Spike Lee.

South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho won in 2019 with darkly comic social satire “Parasite”, a frontrunner from the get-go, which went on to win an unprecedented Oscar for best film for a non-English-language entry.

Iran’s Farhadi, who has impressed Cannes juries before but never won the Palme, is among those generating buzz with “A Hero”, about an indebted prison inmate faced with a quandary when his girlfriend finds a bag of gold coins.

“Drive My Car” by Japan’s Ryusuke Hamaguchi, a tale of heartbreak, loss and new connections adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story, was also praised by critics. And many warmed to Joachim Trier’s modern love story “The Worst Person in the World”.

Some said more unconventional outings such as 37-year-old French director Julia Ducournau’s messy and violent serial-killer movie “Titane”, deserved attention.

Renan Cros, a journalist and cinema professor at Esec University, said “Titane” was a daring attempt to push the boundaries of genres.

“If Spike Lee and his jury want to celebrate the future, it’s clearly Julia Ducournau,” he said.

Cros also picked out “Casablanca Beats” by Morocco’s Nabil Ayouch, about Moroccan youth trying to find their voice, as a contender.

Winners will be announced on Saturday night at a ceremony starting at 1725 GMT, with the top prize usually broadcast a few hours in.

“Memoria” by Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and “Paris 13th District” by Jacques Audiard have also made shortlists of possible runners and riders.

Some of the most star-studded entries have failed to generate awards buzz, including Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch”, which received mixed reviews, and Sean Penn’s “Flag Day”.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #Cannes #Oscar @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com