Welcome to another round of behind-the-scenes insights (for a longer version, check out my hollywood101.substack.com newsletter, which comes out every Wednesday and is now available to subscribers with archive access and bonus content!), or what’s up took place behind closed doors in Hollywood last week.
Brawl for Paramount
In the paid section, an article about the history of Paramount appeared on Monday, at the end of which I speculate about a possible offer from David Ellison’s Skydance, but apparently the whole thing will be an order of magnitude more interesting, because Byron Allen of the Allen Media Group has just officially offered $30 billion for all of Paramount Global. In essence, they are trying to sweeten the sale to shareholders with the right to vote in the supervisory board (they will receive 50% above the market value), which was to be expected, the market predicted something similar for Ellison, the bonus for the possibility to control the company through votes in the boards is usually in the tens percent, possibly up to twice the market value.
But there is, of course, a catch. Byron Allen had previously offered Paramount $3.5 billion for the BET television channel. Again, an offer above market value, but the deal has not yet been closed. So far, Ellison has been speculated to buy only National Amusements, which is the “head” of Paramount, which gives Shari Redstone control of all of Paramount without owning it (details in the mentioned article). However, Byron would buy everything outright, thereby avoiding the risk of potential lawsuits from small shareholders and other headaches.
But maybe it’s just a show to lure Ellison and other interested parties into action. Shari Redstone needs at least a tentative deal by March because her loan repayments are coming up. Ellison is waiting for now, and he only wants to buy a piece of cake. In theory, Byron could be just a smoke screen and get better terms later in the BET sale for his bluff. It’s just speculation, but all indications are that the sale of Paramount will be the source of a lot of behind-the-scenes fighting.
Introverts have taken over the American economy
They go to pubs, bars and cinemas less. They like to throw a party at their house right after work and see off the last guests at nine in order to catch an episode of their favorite VOD series before going to bed. American economists felt that the delayed return to evening and nighttime entertainment in big city centers was due to coyness after the global pandemic, but the newly stalled economy is seducing a new generation that does not smoke, drink or have sex.
You have certainly already seen some similar research on Gen Z, and I would not like to just parrot the distorted optics that people in their forties (these are the researchers and subsequently journalists who write about the results of their studies) and twenty-somethings look at themselves through the generation gap. However, some conclusions cannot be overlooked. In New York, the city that never sleeps, the most popular time for reservations has shifted from eight in the evening to six thirty in the early evening. People get together less on weekends and spend more time at home, where especially the younger generation (18-29) spends time playing video games and watching movies and series.
The big change cited in the study, which tracks developments over the past twenty years, is the shift away from linear TV to streaming. In the US, in the last decade, thanks to TiVo and similar toys, viewers got used to postponing watching series to a time that suits them better, so they stopped being a slave to the TV program, but only when the stream finally freed their hands. On the weekend or in the evenings, they can catch up or binge on their favorite titles, immersing themselves in an endless sea of content. In 2003, the time devoted to “screens” was estimated at 4+ hours, last year it was almost 7 hours.
The label Introvert Economy is a bit misleading, but the research shows a shift towards a healthier (and actually more frugal) lifestyle. This does not bode well for movie theaters, when we return to the themed tracks of our newsletter, but unlike nightclubs and expensive restaurants, they can adapt, much like city bars, which attract regulars to sports events, themed drinks and other added value.
Catalog above gold
The American agency Nielsen has released an overview of the most watched (most streamed) shows for last year, and the results probably won’t surprise you. They confirm what we have been writing about here for quite a few months. People (not only Gen Z) go to VOD not for original work, but to catch up on feature films and series. It is logical that Netflix makes/buys Originals, because, unlike the others, it does not have a film studio through which it first sends films to theaters and then presents them on its VOD.
Cinema premieres are undeniably successful when released on VOD, but Suits and Supernatural are clearly ahead of all others in the number of minutes streamed. There is no contemporary original work in the top ten series, followed by the animated blockbuster Bluey, the endless procedural NCIS, The Big Bang Theory, Friends, Gilmores, in short, the usual suspects.
In movies – we are talking purely about the American market – the situation is even more pronounced, because in many families Disney+ is like a water tap that turns on when children need to “drink” and parents need to rest. That’s why Disney and Pixar movies clearly lead in minutes streamed. Moana, Encanto, Super Mario Bros., Elemental, Minions…etc etc etc.
Answer the question for yourself, how many times after many minutes of aimless scrolling have you clicked on a favorite or a few years old – already seen – movie, instead of some news that the carousel tried to stuff down your throat? I know the answer, no matter how hard Netflix tries to convince everyone that there’s a lot of interest in the news. Full and interesting catalogs will be fought to the last breath and last dollar in the coming years.
Road House full of battles
The preview for the many-times-postponed and busy reboot of the 1980s B-movie Road House certainly pleased many people. Jake Gyllenhaal prepared conscientiously for the role and will fight MMA star Conor McGregor in the finale. One would like to say on the silver screen, but Amazon thinks differently. Although it has a distribution platform under the thumb of MGM, Road House will go straight to Prime Video at the end of March. And director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, Agent Without a Past) is mildly unhappy about it.
He signed up for the project back in 2021, when MGM was still a traditional Hollywood studio. But he had to wait for Gyllenhaal, who was filming Covenant with Guy Ritchie. Meanwhile, MGM bought out Amazon, and Liman now complains that he left blood and sweat in a film that was supposed to go primarily to theaters. He will see the silver screen only as part of the gala premiere at the SXSW festival, but Liman will not go there because he considers Amazon’s behavior to be a violation of the agreement. All the more so since Prime Video has committed to releasing 12 to 15 films a year. Why isn’t Road House among them, Liman asks.
His version? Road House scored higher in test screenings than his earlier films (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Agent Without a Past). Amazon/MGM reps were also excited. And the hunger for the film is also proven by the enthusiastic response after the premiere of the preview and the number of views. However, Liman’s statement already looks like a definitive sigh, not an attempt to settle or save something. Amazon is determined to improve its streaming menu with this movie (perhaps it has to do with the current introduction of a more expensive subscription for those who don’t want ad inserts). Let this be a warning to other filmmakers that next time they may be deprived of a theatrical release and their film may become just one of many titles in an endless online vortex of moving images.
Madam Web as an ingenious web of film marketing
What, on the other hand, will definitely arrive in cinemas? On Valentine’s Day, you can look forward to the first comic book of the year, which will be Madam Web from Sony. The studio is already backing off a bit on building an alternate Spidey universe, hinting that Madam Web and the later Kraven the Hunter will be separate stories that may or may not continue to develop within the larger whole, but Madam Web is already here with its sloppy trailers, posters, banners and actually mocked by everyone almost as much as Morbius was in his time. Dakota Johnson apparently switched agents for the project, but she may have moved on because she poked fun at the film on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live. It was similarly ironically “promoted” by Sydney Sweeney in an episode of the online phenomenon Hot Ones, which is a possible way to get people into theaters. Fans of the mentioned superwomen will go to see the shapely curves, others can rely on hate-watch, i.e. they will come to see that it is really so futile.
Or maybe they won’t come and Sony will get caught on the plums like with Morbia? No one knows how it will turn out. And that’s the most interesting thing about it. But someone should get a statuette for that ridiculously messed up marketing. Either it’s subtle trolling or simply a clique, but more and more millions of impressions are generated by subsequent mocking on social networks.
Taylor Swift is responsible for your po… lives!
Artificial intelligence showed itself in its true light when “authentic Taylor Swift nudes” flooded the Internet a few days ago. You’d expect THIS to be the biggest and most important news regarding the pop star who many consider the most influential person in the world. But no… her boyfriend’s team has made it to the league finals and is going to play in the Super Bowl, causing an unexpected political firestorm. According to Fox News, everything is prearranged, the Kansas City Chiefs are already promised a win, and the happy couple will support Biden in a post-game interview.
The talking heads went so far as to recall the covid-era conspiracy theory that the Pentagon hired Taylor Swift as the ultimate disinformation weapon. The Democrats have her as a puppet to occupy the youth so that they do not succumb to the seductions of Internet disinformation. If such fantasizing appeals to you, you may have also caught on to the guaranteed news that Taylor Swift has written the script for Matthew Vaughn’s new film Argyll: Secret Agent, or that she has a role in the third Deadpool. Wherever Taylor appears, similar rumors begin to abound.
The media readily jumped on this roller coaster. As soon as it became clear that Kelce would be playing in the Super Bowl with the Chiefs, the calculation began as to whether Taylor would make it to the game after his concert in Tokyo. Flight traffic over LA was handled similarly when she was supposed to jump from soccer to the Golden Globes. Logically, this bothers some sports fans, but during the last game, the cameras “smiled” at Taylor only twice in the three-hour footage, in a total footage of forty-four seconds. Taylor is at the center of political and show business events purely because marketers are aiming for the number one target. Anyone looking for a conspiracy in this needs a break of at least a few days from all the headlines and displays.