A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
An unexpected Planes, Trains... remake!
ALSO: Is Tenet going to flop at the movies? AND: Hollywood actually died 20 years ago. Sorry New York Times.
This is a bit of a weird Always Be Watching newsletter this morning. I have a couple of news stories for you up top, along with shorter TeeVee Snacks, and trailers, but then… I wrote too many words.
First off is my original ABW article that looks at the lack of interest in advance ticket sales for Tenet in Australia. Then there’s a very lengthy response to a fascinating New York Times column from yesterday about this past week marking the “death of Hollywood”.
Are those pillows?
Will Smith and Kevin Hart are set to co-star in a remake of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Brooklyn Nine Nine / The Carmichael Show / Woke writer-producer Aeysha Carr will make her directorial debut on the film.
Something about remaking this film just seems a little bit hinky. To my mind: Remaking Planes, Trains, and Automobiles : trite and not wanted Will Smith & Kevin Hart in a movie about two mismatched guys on the road trying to help each other get home for a family holiday : that could be fun.
Tim Kasher, frontman of the band Cursive, paid famed TV postman and Cheers barfly John Ratzenberger to film a PSA to support the US Postal Service.
Supernatural starts its final run of 7 COVID-delayed episodes from Oct 8. Source: TVLine
Finally… a TV series set in the world of fencing. This is based on an idea Greta Gerwig had for a film. Source: Deadline
Apple TV+’s For All Mankind, one of my favourite shows of this past year, is back in production for its final two episodes of season 2. Source: Deadline
The Conners is also re-entering production this week. The sitcom will film without a studio audience. Source: Deadline
Reese Witherspoon is producing a global country music talent search competition show for Apple TV+ called My Kind of Country. Source: TVLine
Coastal Elites is a socially-distanced production debuting on HBO Sept 12. It stars Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, Issa Rae, and Kaitlyn Dever.
Earth To Ned is a new talk show featuring famous humans interviewed by a Jim Henson puppet alien. It debuts on Disney+ Sept 4.
New HBO drama Lovecraft Country started yesterday. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s to come:
Kathryn Ryan’s comedy series The Duchess debuts on Sept 11.
Things aren’t looking great for Tenet
Tickets to Tenet are on sale. It starts this Saturday in Australia where the film is screening ahead of everywhere else in the world.
That should be a big deal, right?
This movie is believed to be THEBIG MOVIE of the year. Tenet is expected to kickstart ticket sales and revive Hollywood.
Tickets should be selling well, right?
Adding to scarcity, cinema seats in Australia are restricted. At major chain Event Cinemas, for every (single) ticket sold it is the equivalent of 7 seats taken - Event are not selling the two seats to the left and right of your ticket seat selection, or the seats directly in front and behind. That reduces the number of tickets that can be sold per session.
It should be hard to buy a ticket, right?
This is the first session of the day to this highly anticipated movie. 9:45am at Bondi Junction on Event Cinemas BIGGEST screen:
This is 7:40pm at night:
If you don’t know Bondi Junction, know that this is in a densely populated area. Affluent. Young.
Know that ticket sales aren’t any better at Parramatta or Liverpool in Sydney, or in Chermside in Brisbane.
COVID transmission rates in Australia are relatively low - but Tenet doesn’t seem to be enough to get people out there taking the risk. Let’s see how ticket sales improve at the end of the week…
The death of ‘Old Hollywood’?
One of the must-read’s every week has been Ben Smith’s media column for the New York Times. This week he looks at the events of the past fortnight and labels it as the ‘week old Hollywood finally actually died’. The events he’s linking together was the radical sweeping out of Execs at WarnerMedia and the death of Viacom founder Sumner Redstone.
What frustrates me about this article is…
Actually… let’s first pull out a few choice quotes…
“We’re in the brutal final scenes of Hollywood as people here knew it, as streaming investment and infrastructure take precedence,” -Janice Min, former THR, former Quibi
[The changes ar WarnerMedia] comes as Hollywood power is conspicuously absent from the national conversation. Washington is consumed by TikTok, the Chinese-owned video-sharing app that’s the most successful new content platform in the world. TikTok has succeeded as Quibi — Hollywood’s premium alternative to user-generated content — struggles to find an audience.
The corporate shifts at WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal in recent days signal that the technological shift you’ve been reading about for years is finally taking concrete form, accelerated by the pandemic.
WarnerMedia’s Mr. Kilar [the new CEO, birther of Hulu] told me in an email that his cuts and reorganizations were aimed at pushing company “from a wholesaling mind set to a retailing mind set” — that is, from the old studio hitmakers’ handshake deals with distributors to a techie’s focus on user-friendly streaming interfaces and subscriber retention.
“This is the difference between people who got into the movie business and people who are in the content business” -Terry Press, former CBS Films Chairman
All of this is right, but what frustrates me about the article is two-fold:
The first thing is that the article acts as though the power-brokers of Hollywood were always of film, while the new power-brokers are of tech. This ignores the other huge business shifts in the industry like the introduction of big finance players [largely international] in the industry during the 80s, the first wave of tech and telco’s buying into TV (see: AOL buying TimeWarner in 01, Comcast buying NBCUniversal in 09), and the massive cultural shift present in Hollywood across the past decade as movie studios chased after money from China.
But the thing that frustrates me most is that the death of ‘old Hollywood’ really is just its skewed perspective. I totally get where Smith is coming from with the article. But the events of the last fortnight isn’t the death of Old Hollywood - it’s the week that the industry has pulled its collective head out of the ground and realised what they saw as Hollywood was long gone.
‘Old Hollywood’ died for the industry twenty years after ‘Old Hollywood’ died for viewers.
If I were to pinpoint a week where the industry, as it once existed, died, it would be the week of May 9, 2000.
It went not with a bang, but a whisper.
What happened on May 9? 20th Century Fox released the complete first season of The X-Files on DVD. To my understanding, this was the first time a major TV series was released with a full season on DVD (and not just a compilation of episodes). It cost US$148.99 for the 7 disc set of 24 episodes plus bonus episodes.
That’s right. Almost $150 bucks for just one season of TV.
Where Hollywood looked at DVD as a panacea for the industry, creating a major new revenue stream, it was really the industry ceding control to viewers. Now, viewers could completely bypass established distribution channels and consume content on their own terms. (Mostly) ad-free. DVD gave viewers the training wheels needed to learn how to binge content and easily adapt to Netflix just a decade later.
That release of The X-Files season box set was the line in the sand. Viewers now had permission to take their viewing away from what had come before. Their relationship with Hollywood went in an entirely new direction from that day.
The industry may have seen Old Hollywood die this week, but viewers threw roses on that casket long ago.
Horror streaming service Shudder has now officially launched in Australia and NZ, with apps available for both. Users can get 20% off an annual subscription with the code SHUDDERANZ - something I wish I had known before signing up last week.
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