TheWrapWaxword – TheWrap Covering Hollywood Thu, 21 Jun 2018 05:54:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Unbearable Darkness of Trump – South of the Border Edition Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:56:31 +0000 Sharon Waxman President Chaos strikes again. The entire national media – not to say the entire nation itself – is focused on a few dusty border towns in Texas where American federal agents are busy with the essential work of ripping children from the arms of their mothers.

Foreign children from foreign mothers who crossed into this country illegally. So, you know.

No one saw this particular Trumpian curve ball coming, but we might have expected it. President Chaos and Captain Evil (Attorney General Jeff Sessions) have decided that the best way to spend the summer is to spin the country into a heart-rending, sanity-testing tailspin, where we endure audio recordings of Latino children screaming, “Papi!” and can’t do a thing about it except scream and feel like we’re going insane. While the Trump gaslighting machine insists that those Democrats ought to fix that mess they made.

Now we learn that our government has not just separated families, but actually separated mothers and babies, parents from toddlers. Put them in something called “tender age” detention centers.

This was too much for even the no-nonsense Rachel Maddow, who broke down crying on the air on Tuesday night as she tried to read the AP headline. The following hour, Stephanie Ruhle — mother of three — barely fought back tears as she lectured viewers about American values and what it means to be part of the sisterhood of mothers everywhere.

We’re unhinged, again, because Trump is crashing through civilized norms, again, because that’s what he likes to do.

As I have written before, when we experience the cognitive dissonance of the Trump administration — condoning white supremacism, embracing dictators, lying with abandon and now arresting babies — we must remember that the shock is calculated. That the disorientation caused by the jettisoning of our democratic values by our government is a feature of the Trump presidency, not a bug. Somewhere in the West Wing, Stephen Miller is smiling.

For those of us who are working to elevate the conversation around women, promoting leadership and gender equity, it is hard to process all of this and put it in context.

Just last week in Washington DC and New York, TheWrap highlighted the courageous work of women photographers for National Geographic, people of talent risking their lives to chronicle sex trafficking in the Philippines and illegal animal poaching in Africa. We showcased the work of activists and mothers like Shannon Watts, seeking to end gun violence alongside advocates like Shenee Johnson, who lost her son to a gun. We heard the delightful Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recite the Dr. Seuss-style poem that got her old white guy colleagues to let Senator Tammy Duckworth bring her baby to the Senate floor.

But to be honest, the sisterhood of powerful women does not feel so powerful when the state brings its awesome power to bear on defenseless women who have fled violence in Honduras and El Salvador to save themselves and their children.

So we howl into the maw of Twitter and Facebook. Now protesters have gathered, the media has been pulled into that 24-hour crisis vortex, and I swear we are all walking around with persistent nausea in the pit of our stomachs, the echo of that little boy ringing in our ears, “Papi! Papi!”

This is what it’s like to watch the state abuse its power, without the mandate of its citizens and in shameless defiance of our democratic norms. Trumpsters tell us it’s the law, but it’s not. They tell us it’s necessary to create order, but it’s not.

Soon they will tell you that it’s all somebody’s fault. Maybe they’ll fill in the blank with — you know, anybody who’s not Russian.

But it’s our own fault. We chose this. Now we must own it, and all we want to do is make it stop.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Morning Joe' Hits Trump Over Border Separation Policy: 'As if George Wallace Won in 1968'

Facebook Helps Raise Millions to Reunite Families Separated at the Border

'Morning Joe': Immigrant Kids Detained on the Border Are 'Being Taken Hostage'

Ann Coulter Calls Crying Immigrant Kids Detained at Border 'Child Actors' (Video)

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Senator Amy Klobuchar, Women Photographers and Iranian Feminist Author Join Power Women Breakfast Washington DC! Thu, 07 Jun 2018 20:50:42 +0000 Wrap Staff WrapWomen is pleased to announce exciting additions to the Power Women Breakfast in Washington, D.C. next Wednesday, June 13, including a panel of award-winning photographers, Iranian feminist and author Masih Alinejad and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

A panel of award-winning female photographers will discuss their work  “The Female Gaze: Photographers, Storytellers and Explorers.” Susan Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of National Geographic, will moderate a panel discussion including:

* Asha Stuart, Documentary Photographer and Filmmaker

* Beverly Joubert, Wildlife Filmmaker and Conservationist

* Erika Larsen, Photographer

* Hannah Reyes Morales, Documentary Photographer

* Jess Cramp, Shark Researcher and Marine Conservationist

Wrap Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman will interview feminist author and activist Masih Alinejad, whose memoir, “The Wind In My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran,” was released last week. She will be joined by Michèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for the Obama administration and founding partner of WestExec Advisors.

Alinejad is an award-winning Iranian journalist, broadcaster, blogger and founder of the My Stealthy Freedom movement, which encourages Iranian women to express their personal freedom. Alinejad has been forced to live in exile in Brooklyn, New York following her criticism of the Iranian regime. She currently reports and presents a weekly TV segment on VOA, called Tablet, where she mixes hard news and satire.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Senate Judiciary, Rules and Commerce Committees, will make welcome remarks.

They join a full program on women’s leadership, including “#TimesUp: How a Hollywood Moment is Becoming a National Movement,” with Amber Tamblyn, author and actress, Hilary Rosen, political commentator, CNN & Partner and Managing Director, SKDNickerbocker and Sharyn Tejani, Director of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, moderated by Washington Post reporter Sarah Ellison.



TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast series is connecting and inspiring the leading influential women of entertainment, media, technology and brands in the key cities where those women work, create, gather, network and connect.

All ticket proceeds go directly to benefit women’s leadership programs and gender equity initiatives via WrapWomen Foundation.

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Roseanne Confessed, Too Late, to ABC After Racist Tweet: ‘I Was Stupid’ Wed, 30 May 2018 05:47:14 +0000 Sharon Waxman After having tweeted a racist remark and then apologizing for it on Tuesday morning, actress Roseanne Barr got on the phone with a group of executives who would decide her fate.

The group included her longtime agent John Burnham, her manager James Moore, Disney-ABC Group President Ben Sherwood and “Roseanne” executive producer Tom Werner.

They wanted to know something simple: what was she thinking in comparing former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes” on her Twitter account?

Barr admitted that she was wrong. “I was stupid. Ignorant. It was a mistake. I feel terrible,” she told them, according to an individual with knowledge of the call.

But Barr did not seem to understand that her fate — or that of her show — hung in the balance. “She did not appreciate the gravity of the situation, for sure,” said the individual, noting that Barr dismissed her own remark as “comedian s—.”

Indeed, she seemed to think she could apologize and move on.

The ABC executives were hoping that Barr might have some better explanation for what they considered a wholly unacceptable remark — intoxication, a medical problem or maybe even that Russian hackers had taken over her account. Barr has since said that she was “Ambien tweeting” at the time.

Because in the absence of that, Disney and ABC executives knew quickly that they were not going to be able to move on from this exchange.

The top executives in charge — Sherwood, Disney CEO Bob Iger and ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey — awoke Tuesday to learn that in the middle of the night the star of their number one-rated show had gone off on a rant against Chelsea Clinton, journalist Chris Cillizza and — bizarrely — Valerie Jarrett.

All agreed that the “Planet of the Apes” tweet was abhorrent, unacceptable. And after the group call with Barr, they circled up and discussed whether there was a punishment that would measure up to the offense, if there were steps Barr or the network could take to move forward.

There wasn’t.

“It was quite clear, calm, and … not nearly as dramatic as you’d expect,” said an executive with knowledge of the internal decision. “ABC canceled the number one show on television, but there was no wringing of hands, it was very clear and calm.”

To Iger, the principle was important. If any Disney employee had tweeted something similar, they’d have been fired, he told his staff. Sherwood saw it as a important teachable moment for his own children — what would be unacceptable at their school should be unacceptable at the network.

And to Dungey, the first African-American woman to run ABC Entertainment, inclusivity and diversity were values on which she staked her leadership. She wanted ABC to be a place where a show about the working class could have a home, as well as a place for female lead characters and boisterous African-American families.

There were no major meetings, no calls with advertisers and no second guesses. Dungey put out a statement that the show was canceled.

“At a certain point it’s antithetical to the network. There’s no explaining that,” said the network insider. “It was an insult to everyone who believes in tolerance, decency, not to mention everybody who believes in Islam.”

ICM also dropped Barr as a client soon after the phone call.

The media world exploded with the story all day, as the swift decision by ABC rung loudly across the cultural landscape. By the end of the day, 200 people who worked on the show were out of work, and ABC had lost a hit and a moneymaker.

With no apparent regrets.

“As of 10:00 this morning I don’t know if anyone was looking back and saying this was a mistake,” said the executive. “Everyone was very clear and centered. It’s painful for all involved, it’s tough for the fall schedule, it’s tough for ABC which has not had a number one show in 24 years.” As for the cast, “They’re gutted, they’re devastated by this. But there’s also relief that this doesn’t reflect who they are.”

A spokesman for ABC declined to immediately comment for this story.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Roseanne Barr Says She Was 'Ambien Tweeting' About Valerie Jarrett

21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch Says 'Roseanne' Cancellation Was 'the Right Thing'

Here's Everyone Who Dumped Roseanne Barr Today

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The Day Harvey Weinstein’s Comeback Fantasy Ended Fri, 25 May 2018 18:05:39 +0000 Sharon Waxman For months now, Harvey Weinstein has been pretending that this whole #MeToo thing was going to blow over, that eventually he’d be back, somehow.

On Friday that fantasy came crashing in with the force of a thousand news cameras. It’s probably a day Harvey Weinstein thought would never come. But it did. He was marched into the New York criminal court like some low-level thug — like some mob operator, like some drug dealer, like some terrorism suspect — charged with three felonies, saddled with an ankle monitoring device and forced to hand over his passport.

And then marched out in handcuffs.

So after months at an Arizona spa where no one knew him, he is now confined to New York and Connecticut, where everyone, everywhere knows him. Where the media will stalk him like the click-bait he is, where restaurants won’t take his reservation, where people will hiss if he goes to the theater, where every corner holds the reminder of the power and glory he once had and that is now gone. It will be much harder to hide.

He entered Manhattan’s first precinct clutching a book about Elia Kazan, a famous director exiled from Hollywood for ratting on Communist colleagues, as a slim ray of hope that he might see a way through it all. Kazan eventually won an honorary Oscar in 1999 and we study his masterpieces like “On the Waterfront” in universities.

But this isn’t the Red Scare. It’s rape. And the victims are not one or two colleagues, but dozens of women. There isn’t a path forward for Weinstein anymore. It is stunning to say and believe this since he reigned as a force of nature for close to four decades.

One year ago, Weinstein was swanning around the Cannes Film Festival as he always did, his posse of minions and executives around him, talking up his movies, making deals, hanging on yachts with billionaire pals and movie stars.

He even stopped by a Wrap event with the director of “Bend It Like Beckham,” Gurinder Chadha. On this day last year he was at his favorite lair, the Hotel du Cap in Cap d’Antibes, for the AmFar AIDS gala, with Georgina Chapman, the fashion designer who is no longer his wife.

He knew then what the rest of us did not, that a storm was brewing in two investigative projects, at the New York Times and the New Yorker. I’m sure he believed then that he’d find a way through any thicket of accusations — because he always had in the past.

When I tried to write about Weinstein keeping on the Disney payroll a man who served essentially as his pimp (Weinstein was then a Miramax chief, owned by Disney), he tried everything from cajoling me with movie stars to paying a personal visit to the New York Times executive editor to legal threats to keep it out of print.

He didn’t kill my story, but it landed like a tree in the forest. Utter silence. So he bought more time. (He never tried buying me off with a book deal, and I still keep on a bulletin board in my office what he told one of his directors about me: “That dame won’t play ball.”)

He won that round like he won most rounds.

At this month’s Cannes Film Festival, Weinstein accuser Asia Argento correctly called the festival his “hunting ground.” (She and others who came forward on the record knew Fabrizio Lombardo, the aforesaid procurer, who was often by Weinstein’s side at parties in Europe.) And she stood at Cannes’ closing ceremony and swore Weinstein would never return.

But Weinstein probably didn’t believe it. For months I’ve been hearing from multiple sources that he was not standing down. You could tell this was true because he would insert himself into public debates when he should have been hiding in shame — apologizing to Meryl, defending himself from Lupita N’yongo.

If he ever planned to flee the country, he didn’t act like it. Now that he’s surrendered his passport it’s too late to try the Roman Polanski route — which can lead to its own set of heartbreaks.

Up until his arrest this week, I suspect he really believed that eventually he’d fight his way back into Hollywood’s good graces. Maybe not to his former status, but that he’d at least have a fighting shot at a comeback.

At this point, though, it’s hard to imagine Harvey Scissorhands cutting a happy ending for his own story.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Harvey Weinstein's Bizarre Arrest Day Reading List Includes Bio of Hollywood Pariah Elia Kazan

Rose McGowan on Harvey Weinstein Arrest: 'The World Could Use That Face Being Gone'

Harvey Weinstein Scandal: A Timeline of a Hollywood Mogul's Downfall (Photos)

Harvey Weinstein Arrested on Sex Crime Charges in New York City

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Letter From Paris: With Democracy in Decline, What Will Replace It? Sun, 20 May 2018 16:00:29 +0000 Sharon Waxman On my way back from Cannes I stopped in Paris and went to meet my old friend Marek Halter — writer, political activist, militant for peace — and found that he had moved on from old paradigms.

“Democracy is over,” he declared, which alarmed me a little. We were sitting near his house at a restaurant on the Place des Vosges, a very beautiful, very old square in Paris, where Victor Hugo once lived. “It does not work for everyone… We are entering a different world. We can’t be too tied to our past. The past is the past.”

Halter was referring to the resurgence of virulent nationalism across Europe, and the abject failure to bring democracy to a place like Iraq, despite all the blood and money expended by the United States. He was referring to the dizzying changes brought by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the strengthening of dictators around the world — the Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — and of course the chaotic mess that the Trump presidency represents. What does it mean that the most powerful democracy on earth could elect someone of Trump’s level of inexperience and opacity — and that he continues to govern?

Halter said this not in a pessimistic or even sad way, but more as an observation. And his saying so gave me pause, not because I agree with him, but because I’d never considered this before.

Now 82, Halter has lived through the titanic clashes of Communism and fascism, and seen the results. He fled Poland under the Nazis as a child with his family and went to Russia, where at one point he was chosen to present flowers to Joseph Stalin. But Communism — no.

After the war he returned to Poland, then ended up in Paris. He lived in Argentina and militated on behalf of those who disappeared under the military junta. He has been deeply involved in trying to bring peace to Arabs and Israelis, and for decades has spoken on behalf of preserving the memory of the Holocaust and other genocides.

Halter also remains on good terms with Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader funded a university project that Halter established two decades ago after the fall of communism, and Halter will join French President Emmanuel Macron at an economic summit in Saint Petersburg this week. He is part of the French intellectual class, and his ideas carry weight.


“A human being is unable to live without hope,” Halter observed. And in the absence of a political ideology that inspires hope, religion is resurgent. (I pointed out to him that religion is not resurgent in the United States, where church-going remains in decline.) Technology, he said, does not offer hope, and it does not bode well for the future of democracy.

He seemed surprisingly unworried about this. I told Halter that I did not agree that democracy is an experiment that has run its course. It may be facing a difficult pass, but living in a free society is not something we outgrow. To me it is a system worth fighting for, one that requires investment in education to sustain and build it abroad, and vigilance to adapt to the sinister uses of technology at home.

The fact that Americans and Western Europeans has been fed fake news over the new tools of mass communication is not a reason to throw in the towel.

Halter said none of that mattered. History has moved on, and a new system — as yet undefined, needed to arise. “Today we have nothing to propose,” he said. “But we will find something. I believe in the genius of human beings.”

I ran this past a couple of journalist friends, and they were even less receptive than I was. That may be because France is in a good place for the first time in decades (despite crippling transit strikes that are nothing new in this town).

The just-turned-40-year-old Macron has brought an energy and optimism to France that is palpable. He created a political movement modeled on the template of a start-up — his party appeared virtually overnight. With the United States turning inward and England mired in Brexit, it has allowed France to take a leading global role.

In fact, Macron’s biggest misstep — according to the media class — was in failing to win concessions from Trump on issues like Iran or the environmental accord on his recent visit, while appearing to fall victim to Trump’s bromantic charm.

If the future is uncertain, this weekend Europe was on the whole a happy place. The sun shone down on Paris and London, and the world tuned in to watch Prince Harry marry his divorced, African-American former actress Meghan Markle.

Spike Lee won a big award in Cannes, as did a gentle movie about an impoverished Japanese family, “Shoplifters.”

The women in Cannes raised their voices, and Weinstein survivor Asia Argento declared from an official Cannes podium that the mogul who she has accused of raping her at this festival would never again darken its door.

While that doesn’t mean that democracy isn’t under assault, it does mean that unexpected moments of redemption do arise, moments of unity, of love, of common values.

And on a spring weekend in Europe, that does offer hope.

For the record: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Kim Jong Un’s country.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'SNL': Baldwin's Trump Celebrates the Anniversary of the Mueller Investigation with a 'Sopranos' Parody (Video)

Trump Roasted for Misspelling First Lady's Name in Tweet: 'Who the F— Is Melanie?'

Bill Maher: Congress 'Wouldn't Turn on Trump If They Found Out He Was Using the Eternal Flame to Light Farts' (Video)

Asia Argento Condemns Harvey Weinstein During Cannes Awards: 'This Festival Was His Hunting Ground' (Video)

Is the Cannes Film Festival in Decline? Not to the French

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Judith Light, #TimesUp Leaders, Mayors of Compton and Oakland to Headline Power Women Breakfasts Mon, 14 May 2018 22:19:51 +0000 Sharon Waxman TheWrap on Monday announced a lineup of speakers for three Power Women Breakfast events in Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco.

On June 13, National Geographic Global Networks CEO Courteney Monroe will co-host a Power Women Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

The event, to be held at the W Hotel, will also feature a panel focusing on next steps in the #TimesUp Initiative with political strategist Hilary Rosen, National Women’s Law Center president and CEO Fatima Goss Graves and members of TimesUp Legal Defense Fund — an organization that helps individuals find legal representation after experiencing sexual misconduct including assault, abuse or harassment in the workplace.

Emmy- and Tony-winning actress Judith Light will be a featured headliner at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast New York on June 15 to discuss her longtime advocacy for LGBTQ issues as well as the goal of achieving 50/50 gender parity in the entertainment industry by 2020.

The star, who has received two Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe nomination for her role in Jill Soloway’s “Transparent,” and who is garnering critical raves for her powerful performance as Marilyn Miglin in FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” will join in conversation with TheWrap Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman at the event, held at the Time Warner Center.

Then on July 12, Aja Brown and Libby Schaaf, the mayors of the California cities of Compton and Oakland, will share the stage at Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco for a conversation about their progressive visions for elevating and improving the lives of citizens.

The three events are part of TheWrap’s ongoing series of Power Women Breakfasts to help build a broad network and power base of professional women who are decision-makers and mothers, leaders and wives, innovators and activists.

The WrapWomen initiative is gearing up for the Power Women Summit on November 1-2 in Los Angeles, continuing to help women address the challenges of gender equality and to seek solutions to build a more fair and balanced workplace for all.

TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast series is connecting and inspiring the leading influential women of entertainment, media, technology and brands in the key cities where those women work, create, gather, network and connect.

For the first time in the series history, tickets are available on a donation basis to attend the Power Women Breakfast Series with 100 percent of proceeds go directly to benefit women’s leadership programs and gender equity initiatives via WrapWomen Foundation.

Courteney Monroe oversees all aspects of entertainment and business operations for National Geographic Global Networks, which includes National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo People and Nat Geo MUNDO.

In April 2017, she launched the network’s first-ever scripted anthology series, “Genius,” which nominated for 10 Emmys; and propelled by the tremendous success of the first season, this spring, the network premiered season two “Genius: Picasso,” starring Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso.

Fatima Goss Graves, who has served in numerous roles at NWLC for more than a decade, has spent her career fighting to advance opportunities for women and girls. She has a distinguished track record working across a broad set of issues central to women’s lives, including income security, health and reproductive rights, education access, and workplace fairness.

Hilary Rosen is a well-known Washington, D.C., strategist who navigates the intersection of communications, media and politics. She is an on-air CNN political analyst and a partner at SKDKnickerbocker, the 2016 Holmes Report Public Affairs Agency of the year.

In addition to her work on “Transparent,” Judith Light recently finished filming the CBS All Access drama series “The Good Fight,” by the creators of “The Good Wife,” and the upcoming Lifetime film “Nellie Bly” opposite Christina Ricci. She also appears in the upcoming indie movies “Ms. White Light” and “Hot Air” with Steve Coogan.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was inaugurated in January 2015 and launched an agenda to elevate one of America’s most diverse and progressive cities into an equitable and resilient city. Born and raised in Oakland, Schaaf has led new initiatives to offset the cost-of-living crisis, reduce crime, improve transit and infrastructure, and expand educational and career opportunities for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Aja Brown made history at the age of 31 when she was elected as the youngest mayor in the Compton. Her hands-on approach to governance has garnered national recognition and a home in the hearts of change-makers across the globe.

Her 12-point ‘New Vision for Compton’ revitalization strategy has guided improvements in quality of life, economic development, infrastructural growth, policy reform, and strategic partnerships. As a millennial mayor, she has attracted several Fortune 500 companies and notables like Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and the Williams Sister to reinvest in the social fabric of the city.

Related stories from TheWrap:

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Study: Male Indie Filmmakers Outnumber Women 2 to 1 at Major US Film Festivals

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CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, ‘Girls Trip’ Producer Will Packer to Keynote at TheGrill 2018 Thu, 03 May 2018 23:04:20 +0000 Wrap Staff CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves and Will Packer, producer of blockbusters like “Ride Along” and “Girls Trip,” will headline the 2018 edition of TheGrill, TheWrap’s annual media and leadership summit.

The ninth annual event, which runs October 1-2 in Los Angeles, will consist of two days of hard-hitting conversations, high-level networking and industry icons discussing the convergence of content and technology — led by TheWrap founder and editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman.

Tickets are on sale at the early bird rate starting now until June 8.

Among the topics that will be in focus at the conference are new digital distribution models; cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in entertainment; subscription services in theatrical exhibition; the latest in virtual and augmented reality; fake news and the impact on the upcoming election.

Moonves will be the keynote interview in a year when CBS and Viacom are in the news for a pending potential merger. The chief executive has distinguished CBS as a producer and seller of world-class content across all mediums, helping CBS grow in value, revenue and market share while identifying and developing key new revenue streams for future growth.

Under Moonves’ direction, the CBS Television Network has been No. 1 in viewers for 14 of the last 15 years, and currently has television’s No. 1 comedy/scripted program, “The Big Bang Theory”; No. 1 new comedy, “Young Sheldon”; No. 1 primetime news program, “60 Minutes”; No. 1 late night show, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”; and No. 1 daytime drama, “The Young and the Restless.”

At the same time, the company’s premium cable service, Showtime Networks, has generated millions of new subscribers on the heels of its successful owned series, such as “Ray Donovan,” “Billions,” as well as the critically acclaimed, Emmy- and Golden Globe Award-winning series “Homeland.”

Packer has achieved unprecedented success with nine consecutive No. 1 films, and one of the most successful R-rated comedies of all time, last summer’s blockbuster Girls Trip.

As founder and CEO of Will Packer Media, Packer is leading a first-of-its-kind media company, producing episodic scripted and unscripted series across TV and digital platforms, compelling content for brand clients and its own operated platforms.

Prior to founding Will Packer Media, the Emmy-nominated producer established himself as one of Hollywood’s blockbuster hit makers with nine of his films opening number one at the box office.

In 2013, Packer signed first-look production deals with Universal Pictures and Universal Television. Under both deals, he develops new projects for the studios under his Will Packer Productions banner. Packer’s No. 1 films include “Ride Along,” “Ride Along 2,” “No Good Deed,” “Think Like a Man” and “Stomp the Yard.”

Packer’s 2017 comedy, “Girls Trip,” had the best start for an R-rated comedy in two years, and grossed more than $100 million domestically. It was the first film to do so produced, directed, written by and star African Americans. In August 2015, he served as an executive producer on “Straight Outta Compton,” which grossed more than $201 million.

TheGrill leads the conversation on convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age. Diverse programming anchored by versatile talent and supported by big brands has always been the hallmark of Hollywood.

As technology brings new models to the fore — in production, distribution, display and monetization — TheGrill is a platform for the leaders, the deciders and the disruptors to explore this reconfigured landscape as it continues to transforms around us.

For more information, click here. See last year’s speakers below!

Related stories from TheWrap:

Les Moonves Is Hollywood's Top Paid Executive and Other Takeaways From TheWrap's Report

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CBS Chief Les Moonves Earned Less in 2017, Still Made $69 Million

'Truth Be Told's' Will Packer on Mark-Paul Gosselaar's 'White Guilt' and Why 'Roots' Doesn't Hold Up

Will Packer Renews Universal TV Deal Through 2017

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The ShortList Film Festival 2018 Submissions Now Open Wed, 02 May 2018 19:29:35 +0000 Wrap Staff

TheWrap is pleased to announce that submissions to the 7th Annual ShortList Film Festival,  highlighting the best in short filmmaking from around the world, are now open.

The Festival will stream online for two weeks from August 8 to 22, 2018 with the winners announced at a ceremony in Los Angeles on August 23, 2018.

Filmmakers interested in submitting their films can do so here

The ShortList Film Festival, now in its seventh year, elevates the best in short filmmaking as the format has exploded across every device in the age of streaming.


The contest selects 12 of the best award-winning short films that have premiered at a major festival in the past year, making this the most highly competitive film festival of its kind. The festival awards the Jury Prize and the Audience Prize, each of which award $5,000 to the winner.

ShortList finalists and winners have frequently gone on to greater recognition within the entertainment industry. The 2016 Jury Winner, “Maman(s),” won the Cesar award for best short film. The 2015 ShortList Audience and Jury winner, “Bear Story,” won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

The Award-Winning Shorts Competition is for films up to 20 minutes in length that have received an award during the past year.

Tthe festival has also added a student category, for the second year in a row. The top 10 film schools on TheWrap’s ranking of film schools have been invited to submit their top student films, and will participate in this year’s competition. The films will also be voted on by TheWrap’s audience.

Find Out More Here!

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Les Moonves Is Hollywood’s Top Paid Executive and Other Takeaways From TheWrap’s Report Mon, 30 Apr 2018 14:18:10 +0000 Brian Welk CBS Chairman, President and CEO Leslie Moonves is Hollywood’s top paid executive, earning $69.3 million in 2017.

In an annual study of Hollywood’s highest paid executives, TheWrap analyzed filings from the SEC and found that Moonves earned $20 million more than the next largest earner in Hollywood, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, and nearly twice the amount of Disney chief Bob Iger.

TheWrap’s report analyzes Hollywood’s top earners as well as the percentage change in their salary from 2016. The list will also be updated as additional major media companies report their take-home pay for their top executives.

Here are some other highlights from the study:

  • Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen saw a 41 percent increase in his earnings from 2016 after losing the title of CEO in December.
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook had a 51 percent in his earnings after the company closed 2017 with its biggest quarter ever, earning $88.3 billion in revenue.
  • Viacom CEO Bob Bakish made $70 million less than his predecessor Philippe Dauman did in 2016.
  • Discovery President and CEO David Zazlav earned $42.2 million in 2017 after the company acquired Scripps for $15 billion.
  • Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Reed Hastings saw a big uptick in their earnings after the company added 20 million subscribers in 2017.

The “Hollywood’s Highest Paid Executives” analysis is an annual feature conducted by TheWrap dating back to 2008, and past reports are available for comparison for each year.

Read the full story here.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Hollywood's Highest Paid Executives: Who Made Bank, Who Sank in 2017 (Updating)

Executive Compensation 2017: Top TV, Film and Tech Bosses Ranked by Pay (Photos)

CNN Executive Says He's 'Shocked and Disappointed' After Gender Pay Gap Revealed

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7 Takeaways From CinemaCon 2018: Change Is Everywhere, Movies Endure Fri, 27 Apr 2018 05:47:38 +0000 Sharon Waxman The movie exhibition business wrapped its annual CinemaCon gathering in Las Vegas this week, and there was plenty to learn about the state of the entertainment industry and the change that is convulsing the entertainment business.

One studio had an entirely new executive team, another had to address the elephant in the room — its pending acquisition by another huge conglomerate — and the bar for entertaining the room was raised by a marching band, a video skit starring a studio mogul and … Cher.

One thing I’ll say for the movies overall — the ones coming down the pipeline about music and musicians and their journeys seem the ones with the most heart. Here are my takeaways

Marvel Studios

1. Disney is a monster.

There’s no denying the dominance of this content-creating, brand-defining machine led by Bob Iger and Alan Horn on the movie side. Never was the strategic brilliance of Iger in acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm more clearly on display than at this year’s presentation (last year the studio barely bothered to show, it felt so confident).

Disney consistently leads the Hollywood pack in market share, has had 12 films hit $1 billion at the box office in the last six years, and looks poised to continue to do so with upcoming films including this weekend’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and the new Star Wars installment, “Solo.”

And while Marvel is a hit machine, spinning off one global superhero hit after another, the other pillars of the Disney palace are also incredibly strong – besides the “Star Wars” saga, Pixar with another “Incredibles” franchise coming, traditional animation and a whole lot of interesting realistic computer graphic-drawn movies. The one most intriguing to me is “The Lion King,” with real animals. Any excuse to bring that beloved title and music to the screen seems like a good idea. Things to worry about: what will happen to animation if John Lasseter doesn’t come back?

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2. Suddenly, Paramount has come back to life.

After years of moribund production and morale-sucking boardroom battles and family strife, this iconic studio finally seems to have some energy, direction and pulse. New CEO and chairman Jim Gianopulos got everybody’s attention by opening with a self-deprecating video skit, in which a “Vegas Air” flight attendant criticized the mogul for having too many vowels in his name and then did her own imitation of “A Quiet Place,” the studio’s stealth horror hit.

It was a savvy way to win over the crowd since a lot of the upcoming films on Paramount’s slate would not be out until 2019 and an entirely new executive team — Wyck Godfrey, Brian Robbins, Mireille Soria — was being introduced. The studio is counting on good will and a little patience but the overall message was clear — Paramount has a plan, is making movies at a steady clip once again and has its head back in the game.

My only real quibble: Tom Cruise spent waaaaay too much time on stage explaining his latest death-defying stunt jumping out of an airplane for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” but that’s because he’s Tom Cruise. At least he didn’t jump on a couch.

3. Universal brought the delight of movies to the room.

Universal offered a mix of drama (“First Man” is about Neil Armstrong’s journey to the moon), horror (“Halloween” with an irrepressible Jamie Lee Curtis), fantasy (Peter Jackson’s “Mortal Engine” is creating new worlds that, he promises, are like nothing we’ve ever seen) and thrillers (M. Night Shyamalan has a new one coming with Bruce Wiillis and Sam Jackson).

But even though he wasn’t in the room, it was Dwayne Johnson’s new action movie, “Skyscraper,” that seemed like something that you need to see on a massive screen, and that is likely to make your heart stop. That guy is a movie star, can we just say that?

Universal ended it all with a surprise live performance by Cher of “Fernando” by ABBA. She plays the grandmother in the sequel to “Mamma Mia.” The original was an unwatchable mess of a movie with the cheesiest performances on the planet that made a bajillion dollars. I’ll probably watch the sequel.

4. Warner Bros. needed help, a lot of help.

The studio is in transition, now under former New Line head Toby Emmerich, and his newness showed. The presentation dragged on as one troupe of movie stars followed another, making small talk and pretending to be relaxed around stilted emcee Will Arnett. (Why bring Anne Hathaway on stage for “Ocean’s 8” if you’re not going to talk to her?)

And if “Life of the Party” with Melissa McCarthy seemed like one too many versions of the movie we’ve already seen her do (clueless fish out of water, this time she’s a mom going back to college), the ensemble film “Tag” — drama? comedy?  thriller? mystery? — about a group of friends who play a highly aggressive form of tag for a month every year was simply a hot mess.

“Crazy Rich Asians” looks like it could be a big winner, though the trailer made it hard to tell. But wait! There’s one huge redeeming movie on the Warner slate that made all of it worthwhile. Bradley Cooper brought “A Star Is Born,” his remake of the famed Barbara Streisand – Kris Kristofferson love story. And the trailer unveiled of Cooper and Lady Gaga was a revelation. The film promises a full-on love story with Gaga dropping all the makeup and pretense and bravada. Which brings us to…

5. Music movies rule. 

There are so many wonderful films this year about music and musicians that it’s worth pointing it out. As mentioned, “A Star Is Born” looks like it will deliver. Cooper learned to play an instrument well enough to perform.

But Fox’s upcoming “Bohemian Rhapsody” appears to be a similarly strong take on the legendary Freddy Mercury, an epic performer and rule-breaker, played by Rami Malek. And did I mention that the “Mamma Mia” sequel has Cher in it?

6. 3-D is dead.

Over four days and dozens of movies that were presented to the exhibitors in Vegas, only one movie — ONE — was in 3-D, a technology that was all the rage four or five years ago. The lone exception was “Alita,” a largely CG action movie by technology diehard James Cameron about a young female cyborg given a superhuman body. (I think that’s what it was about.)

Robert Rodriguez directed it, and I’m not entirely sure if the 3-D adds all that much to the story. But what was once supposed to be the salvation of movie theaters — adding a premium ticket price to their weekend box office haul — has mostly fizzled. Calling Jeffrey Katzenberg, who predicted otherwise.

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7. And finally: Fox.

Who knows if the studio will be at CinemaCon next year? If the Disney acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox goes through, it won’t. So studio chief Stacey Snider wisely used the moment to remind the thousands of exhibitors in the room that she knew no more than they did about the future of her studio, but that she was committed to delivering great movies in the meantime.

And she backed it up with an emotional reel of Fox movies over the last 80 years, from “Titanic” to Shirley Temple to “12 Years a Slave,” reminding everyone what a contribution Fox has made to the culture. “Let’s wear our heart on our sleeves,” she urged the packed hall, choking up (and she wasn’t the only one). “Let’s celebrate the humanity that comes from discovering that we are more alike than different.”

Her words managed to overshadow the bravura, hilarious opening of the Fox presentation with Deadpool leading dancers to the song “One” from the Broadway classic “A Chorus Line.” And it was a fitting reminder that if Fox goes away, we may all be the poorer.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'A Star Is Born': Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga Nail High Notes With Trailer Debut

Fox Film CEO Teases Uncertain Future With Looming Disney Acquisition: 'We Face a New Transition'

Lionsgate Trots Out Blake Lively and 'Blindspotting,' But Identity Crisis Looms

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Will Publishers Stop Fearing Facebook and Start Demanding Change? Mon, 23 Apr 2018 03:16:08 +0000 Sharon Waxman Thanks to Nellie Bowles’ reporting for The New York Times this weekend, we have a window into the obscure role played by the head of news partnerships at Facebook, Campbell Brown.

Bet you didn’t realize Facebook had a head of news partnerships, right?

There’s a lot of fresh intelligence in this well-reported piece about what goes on inside the Facebook fortress, but the upshot is that Brown’s clout inside the organization is unclear at best. She and Anne Kornblut — a former Washington Post reporter turned aide-de-camp to COO Sheryl Sandberg — are meant to promote relationships with publishers, with Brown convening salons and cocktail parties for the Manhattan media elite to make everybody feel better about all the money Facebook isn’t sharing with them.

But as far as impacting Facebook’s self-awareness around its impact on the news ecosystem, Brown appears to be more outward-facing PR, and less an influencer of policy. “Almost all question what influence she has at a company where the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has viewed news — both making it and displaying it — as a headache,” writes Bowles.

And despite plans by the platform to spend $90 million on news shows, Bowles writes in this revealing passage:

“When it comes to decisions related to publishers, the power at Facebook has traditionally been more with the product staff, who tend to be aligned more with Mr. Zuckerberg and cloistered from meetings with partners, according to several media executives. Google, in contrast, has a similar power dynamic but, publishers said, a more robust partnership structure and easier contact with product teams.

“She’s smart, but we’re different beasts,” Richard Gingras, the vice president for news at Google, said of Ms. Brown. “I’m in a fortunate position where I’m involved with the product. I can make change. I feel for her, I really do.”

Mr. Gingras, please save your sympathy for us publishers, ignored and disrespected. And Facebook — how about you keep your cocktail parties and start meaningfully revenue sharing with those of us who inform your users and keep our democracy alive?

The power brokers in my circles of entertainment and media are scared to call Facebook what it is — naïve, duplicitous, opaque, unaccountable and arrogant.

They’re afraid because Facebook is so powerful, a monopoly for all practical purposes that has already brought down or fatally diminished many digital publishers, that it’s been better to wait and see if the company will ever begin to share significant revenue as it has repeatedly promised. (And hasn’t.) And as far as entertainment, Facebook has billions to spend and has only just started down that path — why should Hollywood piss them off?

Just a few months ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg dealt a harsh blow to publishers when he adjusted the feed for his 2.2 billion users to downplay news and favor content by friends and family. That was billed as a return to Facebook’s roots of community, but actually it was a transparent reaction to the trouble Zuckerberg has had dealing with all that fake news we’ve seen in those congressional hearings.

Quite apart from failing to protect the private data of 50 million — no, sorry, make that 87 million, no wait, maybe it’s more — from politically motivated groups like Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has also worked hard to avoid accountability as a publisher. Indeed, only recently — in those congressional hearings — has Zuckerberg made public noises to take responsibility for the content on his platform.

For what it’s worth, last November I practically begged Facebook to join a panel conversation about the dangers to the First Amendment that are facing our country in the age of Trump… and Facebook. I wrote Sheryl Sandberg and stalked the head of corporate communications. I finally got some polite responses but zero buy-in. I am told this is commonly the case when Facebook is invited to be part of this conversation.

But well before that pivot in its feed, Facebook mounted a brilliant, years-long bait and switch with publishers and so-called influencers. The company lured us all to its platform, then gradually cut off access to our own subscribers unless we paid. The instructive research paper “How to Boil a Frog” (which I’ve cited before) chronicles this insidious process.

The company convinced publishers to put all our content into “Instant Articles” so its users could have easy access to the news we create — and also would never leave the social platform — and then offered to pay us a pittance. Facebook touted video and more video — but there’s no money for those creating the video.

I can count back three years and as many social media and business development folks in my organization who would regularly show up to meetings and say they just talked to Facebook, and we should expect a monetization strategy to come together in about three months. Every three months.

Meanwhile, Facebook made $40 billion in revenue last year, and $16 billion in net income. 

So Campbell Brown, good luck fighting the good fight at a place like Facebook. Unlike the journalists who put their news on your platform, your company has no credibility to be a “news partner.”

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Evan Rachel Wood Is ‘Just Now’ Receiving the Same Pay as Male ‘Westworld’ Co-Stars (Exclusive Video) Tue, 17 Apr 2018 00:20:36 +0000 Jennifer Maas

It’s hard to argue that anyone’s face is more strongly associated with “Westworld” than Dolores Abernathy’s (Evan Rachel Wood).

But the actress who plays the robotic rancher’s daughter in HBO’s sci-fi hit tells TheWrap that her paycheck didn’t match her status for the series’ first two seasons. At least, it wasn’t equal to what the leading men were raking in.

“I think I’m just now to the point where I’m getting paid the same as my male co-stars,” Wood said in a recent interview with Sharon Waxman, TheWrap’s founder and CEO.

With the sophomore installment about to premiere, Wood found out she was getting a bump for Season 3 equal to the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris — the men of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s drama (well, the latter still is, as of that messy freshman year finale).

“I was just told that, you know, ‘Hey you’re, you’re getting equal pay.’ And I was like [gasp]. And I almost got emotional,” Wood said. “I was like, ‘I have never been paid the same as my male counterparts … Never, never.'”

“I found out … I’m always fighting for that,” Wood added. “And I have turned down projects — “Westworld,” it’s like, I get it a little more,” she said laughing. “It’s like, ‘Well, you’re Anthony Hopkins or Ed Harris.’ But I think now we’re all doing equal amounts of work and really hard work.”

Wood said up until now, she has been making “pretty much the same amount of money on things for years.”

“I have not moved,” Wood said. “And I’m not saying I’m in like dire straits. I’m very lucky … It’s more about if you’re getting paid fairly, or the same, or if you’re getting paid less simply because you’re a woman, that’s not fair.”

“There’s a lot of politics, but there’s a lot of things that are now being talked about in a different way,” Wood added. “There is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. There is a lot of trying to make things equal and trying to make things fair. I don’t know, there is a lot of stuff. But this is the first time that somebody made a point of being like, ‘Hey you’re getting this. And you deserve it.’ And that was nice.”

Earlier this month, HBO boss Casey Bloys addressed the topic of pay parity at the premium cabler following comments made by an exec who said the bump in salaries the cast of “Big Little Lies” received for Season 2 “short of raped” the network.

“One of the things that’s come out of thinking about the movement and some conversations with Reese [Witherspoon], who’s really at the forefront, is something we’ve done recently,” Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter. “We’ve proactively gone through all of our shows — in fact, we just finished our process where we went through and made sure that there were no inappropriate disparities in pay; and where there were, if we found any, we corrected it going forward. And that’s is a direct result of the Times Up movement.”

Bloys added that pay parity “becomes more of an issue when you get into Season 2 and Season 3, assuming the show is a success.”

“When you’re putting a show together, people come in with different levels of experience and maybe some people have won awards or something that makes them stand out. But when you get into Season 2 or 3 of a show and the show is a success, it is much harder to justify paying people wildly disparate numbers, and that’s where you have to make sure that you’re looking at the numbers — that they don’t end up just on the path they were on from the pilot stage. So, the thing that has been interesting about the whole movement is that it really is reminding everybody to do what’s right, and I think it’s retraining all of our thinking.”

HBO declined TheWrap’s request for comment on this story.

Watch the full interview above.

“Westworld” Season 2 will premiere Sunday at 9/8 c on HBO.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Westworld' Stars Jimmi Simpson and Simon Quarterman Portraits (Exclusive Photos)

UnWrapping 'Westworld' Season 1 With Jimmi Simpson and Simon Quarterman (Exclusive Video)

'Westworld' Creators Just Trolled All of Us and It's Glorious (Video)

'Westworld' Offers Spoilers, but Fans Aren't Sure They Want Them

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About That Saudi Tsunami That Just Washed Through Hollywood Thu, 05 Apr 2018 22:34:48 +0000 Sharon Waxman The verdict is in about the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia after four days of top-level dinners, lunches, meetings and audiences in Hollywood: He’s smart, he’s charismatic, he’s charming — and we just hope nothing bad happens to him since he lives in a dangerous neighborhood.

On that thought, apparently the 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman is surrounded by more security than any leader on the planet. A mogul I spoke to this week said: “I’ve met presidents and heads of state for decades, I’ve never seen this kind of security — you couldn’t get near him.”

Those who got to visit the potentate (monarch, dictator, benevolence) at his mansion up on Coldwater Canyon were non-plussed at the phalanxes of bodyguards, armed security, machines and body searches to which esteemed visitors were subjected.

Still, many were impressed at MbS’ vision for a more open and modern Saudi Arabia. “He’s a big believer in the spread of culture around the world,” said one power player who spoke to him for more than an hour. “He talked a lot about culture being brought to Saudi Arabia — with cinemas being opened, and women driving. Some people would define these as small steps, others would define them as bold steps. I would say some of the steps are pretty bold.”

Personally, I have to suppress every urge I have to ask: What took you guys so long? As a country, Saudi Arabia has wasted decades of precious time, billions of dollars and countless human resources in the service of super-luxury consumerism and rigid traditionalism (which most citizens were more than happy to cast off as soon as they were outside the borders of the kingdom).

And also: this big plan to spend $80 billion to build entertainment infrastructure is no panacea. Driving change at lightning speed has its hazards. Trying to buy your country culture is not as easy as writing a check.

Real, authentic culture comes at a cost. Sure, money and bandwidth and determination helps. But by its nature, creating culture takes time. Roots have to be put down. They need to be watered and tended.

Authentic culture requires an ability to tolerate opposing opinions, differing perspectives and sometimes uncomfortable points of view. Saudi Arabia does not currently have that in its plans.

Sure, you can build cineplexes and show “Black Panther.” What other movies will Saudi Arabia be prepared to exhibit? And what movies will Saudi  Arabia be prepared to make? One skeptical mogul who met MbS told me: “He wants to make ‘Lawrence of Arabia.'”

Great. But his young people will probably want to see “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

I’ve seen this movie before. A decade ago, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and Qatar were racing one another to build massive cultural and entertainment infrastructure. I visited the emirates a few months before launching TheWrap to see for myself: a branch of the Louvre, a Guggenheim, theme parks, universities, artificial islands (one of which was given to then-power couple Brad and Angelina).

When I landed at the Dubai airport and was handed a map, about half of the emirate was listed as “U/C”: under construction.

Then the economic downturn hit in 2008, and many of those planned projects never happened. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have pulled through the worst of the economic downturn, but they are not the cultural crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa that they intended to be.

And let’s not even talk about the women issue. I’ve never visited Saudi Arabia, though I’ve spent time in nearly every other country in the Middle East. Why would I want to visit a country that advertises its disdain for women? For what it’s worth, I didn’t see a single Saudi woman at Wednesday’s Hollywood presentation at the Four Seasons, either on stage or in the working entourage. (Updae: I’m told that there were a couple of women on the later panels.)

Dear Crown Prince: Hollywood and the rest of the world is working toward 50/50 gender equity. Maybe you need to invite Lady Gaga to a big concert.

For me, I can’t ignore the deep cognitive dissonance between the big plans being dreamed by the Saudi crown prince and what it takes to create a society amenable to change, embracing culture at all levels and with arms open to the world (including half its population).


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Saudi Crown Prince Charms Haim Saban, Jonathan Nelson, Dan Senor at Private Dinner (Exclusive) Wed, 04 Apr 2018 18:17:05 +0000 Sharon Waxman The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia continues his charm offensive in Hollywood, dining privately on Tuesday evening with Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban, Republican strategist Dan Senor and private equity media investor Jonathan Nelson, TheWrap has learned.

According to an individual with knowledge of the meeting, the four-hour dinner had Mohammed Bin Salman al Saud expounding on his vision of an economically diverse, culturally significant Saudi Arabia, a message he has been selling hard in a jam-packed trip to Hollywood and later in the week to Silicon Valley.

The evening was more intimate than some of the other events this week, including those hosted by Rupert Murdoch or Brian Grazer. It took place at the crown prince’s Beverly Hills mansion, and was limited to the four men. (A fifth invitee, billionaire and Los Angeles civic philanthropist Eli Broad, fell ill and did not attend, the insider said.)

Saban is a noted Democratic donor and devoted Israel supporter. Senor is an investor, author and former foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. And Nelson is the founder of the $40 billion private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, which has invested in media companies including Hulu, The Chernin Group, Warner Music Group and Univision.

The crown prince, according to the insider, talked about bringing culture to Saudi Arabia. Dalian Wanda-owned AMC announced Wednesday it would open the first two cineplexes in the country’s modern history, and the laws have been loosened to soon allow women to drive.

The 32-year-old monarch has embarked on a strategy to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy as oil becomes less reliable, and to open the country’s harsh Islamic restrictions.

The Tuesday dinner combined learning and promotion by the crown prince, who was described by the insider as “visionary” and “super-smart.”

The conversation turned, not unexpectedly, to Saudi relations with Israel, as this is a major concern for Democratic donor Saban, who also holds Israeli citizenship.

The crown prince suggested the time had come for a new era of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the insider said, and that a “rapprochement” could happen once there is “significant progress at the Palestinian-Israeli level,” though he did not specify what that would mean.

The crown prince has won points with Israel in recent weeks by allowing Israeli flights to India to pass through Saudi air space — something that had previously been forbidden and extended flights by several hours.

According to the individual with knowledge of the dinner, there was no discussion of any political opening in the Saudi kingdom nor of the crown prince’s recent moves to shut down rivals by arresting members of the royal family.

The Saudi consulate and Saban had no comment. Senor did not respond to a message requesting comment. Nelson could not be immediately reached for comment, and his office said they would get back to TheWrap.

Oh, right — and the menu for the meal? Italian.


Related stories from TheWrap:

Kristen Stewart, Chloe Sevigny Crime Drama 'Lizzie' Picked Up by Saban Films

Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'Killing Gunther' Snagged by Saban Films

AMC to Open Saudi Arabia's First Movie Theater

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Buys Out Four Seasons Hotel for Hollywood Visit (Exclusive)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Meet With Hollywood Executives, But Protesters Aren't Impressed

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Fired Universal Executive Josh Goldstine Kept Mistress on Payroll, Inquiry Found (Exclusive) Thu, 29 Mar 2018 23:38:28 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman Universal Pictures executive Josh Goldstine was fired after an internal inquiry found that he had employed a mistress as a consultant, insiders told TheWrap exclusively.

The reason for Goldstine’s firing from the studio — where he promoted films including “Jurassic World,” “The Mummy” and “Get Out” — has not been previously detailed. But three insiders said the inquiry found that the married former president of marketing hired the woman as a consultant to advise on Universal’s slate. One said the woman had also worked as a consultant for Goldstine in his previous role at Sony Pictures.

Goldstine and Universal Pictures had no comment.

Universal employees told investigators they were often confused about the woman’s role and unsure of what purpose she served, two of the individuals said.

Evidence of the relationship was uncovered during the three-week inquiry, the three insiders said, a previously announced probe into “inappropriate conduct.”

The studio announced it was investigating Goldstine on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day — the same day it dismissed an employee who reported to him, Seth Byers, who had also worked with Goldstine at Sony. Goldstine was fired March 7, after the investigation was completed.

One insider said Goldstine was dismissed without compensation and had four years left on his contract.

In a memo to staff at the time of Goldstine’s firing, film division president Donna Langley and chairman Jeff Shell said they had “no tolerance for harassment or other disrespectful behavior, and we will be taking any necessary steps to ensure that actions that violate our core values are dealt with swiftly and decisively.”

Goldstine spent two decades at Sony Pictures before he joined Universal in 2011 as president of domestic marketing. He was promoted in 2014 to oversee worldwide marketing.

In 2001, Sony suspended Goldstine and a second executive for 30 days without pay after they were found to have invented fictional critics to write gushing poster blurbs for films such as “Hollow Man” and “A Knight’s Tale.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Universal Fires Marketing President Josh Goldstine After Accusations of 'Inappropriate Conduct'

Josh Goldstine Takes Over Worldwide Marketing at Universal

Universal Names Josh Goldstine President of Marketing

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Judd Apatow on the ‘Deep Spiritual Underpinning’ to Garry Shandling Mon, 26 Mar 2018 22:37:48 +0000 Sharon Waxman I’ve often wondered why the name Garry Shandling sparks a near-worshipful reverence from his fellow comedians. Within the profession, Shandling is regarded as a trailblazer, but also as someone who reached back to help the careers of his fellow artists.

Shandling, who died on March 24, 2016 at age 66, was the star of the fourth-wall breaking sitcom “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” on Showtime from 1986 to 1990. He also starred on “The Larry Sanders Show,” an HBO hit that ran for six seasons from 1992 to 1998, and sent up the late-night talk-show format. His neurotic persona on both shows paved the way for other sitcoms like “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and The Sarah Silverman Program.” Not to mention Apatow’s own recent show, “Crashing,” about the stand-up scene.

Apatow relied on Shandling’s personal diaries to create a two-part documentary airing on HBO. Apatow credits Shandling with giving him his start as a prolific and multi-talented comedy writer and director.

WaxWord spoke to the director as the two-part doc was going up on HBO.

Why is Garry Shandling so beloved among comedians?

One reason is he was the funniest. And the most innovative and daring. From a creative standpoint everybody has always looked up to him. He did something that most people would like to do but find very difficult to do,  which is he carved his own path, he always seemed like he was in his own category. He played by his own rules, he didn’t follow trends.

Actually, he created trends in comedy, right? The comedian starring as his own alter ego came from Shandling…

He did “The Garry Shandling Show” for Showtime when in it was in its infancy, then it was picked up by Fox in their infancy. And “The Larry Sanders Show” was one of the first groundbreaking shows HBO did. It indicated the type of programming they wanted to do in the future.

As a friend, he was always available to everybody, both personally and professionally. There are not many people out there who are that generous.


From the outside, he seemed rather cantankerous. Wasn’t he?

He was everything. In production, he was very intense. He was obsessed with making something of the highest possible quality, and of the deepest depth. If things didn’t look like they were going to come out well, he wasn’t happy. But he could also be fun, and hysterical to hang out with.

He seemed to have a much more easygoing relationship with the actors than the writers. He was very supportive of his cast, and more of a boss with the writers.

So you started out with him on his writing staff?

I started writing jokes for him when he hosted the Grammys. I was doing “The Ben Stiller Show,” and when that was cancelled he asked me to write for “The Larry Sanders Show.” Then he asked me to direct, which I had not done before. He gave me my big break, but he gave me the confidence to believe I could do it. I was probably 28. I had avoided it for a long time out of terror. The week I did it, he basically co-directed the episode with me. The episode came out well, and it gave me a lot of confidence going forward.

How did he influence you in your writing?

He felt the most important thing writers should do is search for truth.  To create as much complexity as possible when creating characters, and that everything would flow out of that. If it’s people in an office, they’re well-drawn characters with specific problems and wounds that help him illuminate his theme.

Which is?

The way peoples’ egos prevent them from being as kind and loving as they should be. That’s what he was interested in writing about. It’s as if he’d seen so much selfishness in show business, and in himself, and he wanted to satirize the way ego screws everything up.

He used to say, the difference between him and Larry Sanders is Larry Sanders couldn’t write “The Larry Sanders Show.” He didn’t have enough self-awareness to do it.

A lot of what I’ve done has been about looking at my life, the lives of people around me, blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. “Funny People” is clearly inspired by Garry’s work, “Crashing” follows and is inspired by “Larry Sanders” — in the way a comedian follows his spiritual life in a sometimes treacherous business.

Garry was kind of fearless in making himself look like an ass.

He had a very clear message in his work. He was interested in religion and Buddism, and he found a way to express those ideas in all the ways that people have trouble in their work and personal lives, because they’re valuing the wrong things. So when he shows Larry Sanders obsessed with his ratings, his point is – he should be more obsessed with being kind.

He would talk about that explicitly?  

He talked about it all the time. For instance, there was an episode where Hank (Jeffrey Tambor) was trying to get a raise. And he wanted Larry to support him in his contract negotiatins.  To Garry that was about friendship, and how hard it is to find out if people are actually your friends. So it was really about: Is this person really a friend? Am I just an employee, or does he really care? That’s what he wanted to explore. It’s a show that took place in an office, but to Garry it was about how people treat each other.

There’s a deep spiritual underpinning to the show. It’s about a man who’s conflicted. At some level he knows he needs to leave the show or he won’t evolve, but it’s really hard. There was a season when he moved to Montana. But ultimately he couldn’t resist the spotlight and came back.

Garry started the show before Letterman and Leno had their drama. He anticipated all of this before it happened. When all of that was going on, “The Larry Sanders Show” was just starting its second season.

The jockeying for these talk show jobs — these machinations are accurate today. Just as we saw Larry get pushed off his show by Jon Stewart at the end of the last season of the show.

How did you know about his diaries?

Garry had begun a project where he was considering using his diaries as a jumping off point. So I knew about them. He knew there was something that would be educational and inspiring.

The documentary is so personal because we are able to show his thoughts in his diaries. It’s not just about his comedic evolution, it’s about his personal evolution. And how through the course of his life he grew into being a mentor, and to value other people above all else.

Were you shocked when he died?

I was. I didn’t see it coming at all. I had been speaking to him a lot before then, because he was trying to get “The Larry Sanders Show” bought by HBO so they could run it on their streaming services. He was very concerned about making sure it had a permanent home. And I had done a bunch of shows on stage with him at Largo we would just chat and he was as riotous as ever.

Garry was informed they closed the deal with HBO and he died that same morning.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Judd Apatow Justifies 4-Hour Garry Shandling Doc: 'OJ Got 7 Hours and He Murdered People'

How Garry Shandling's Dying Wish for 'The Larry Sanders Show' Was Granted

How Garry Shandling Helped Conan O'Brien Move on After Losing 'The Tonight Show' (Video)

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Scene From the March for Our Lives in Santa Monica – Anger, Passion, Hope Sat, 24 Mar 2018 19:31:59 +0000 Sharon Waxman On a brightly sunny March day, thousands of people in Santa Monica joined one of the many March for Our Lives demonstrations across the country to demand legislative change in gun laws. These are some images that speak for themselves, I think.

Related stories from TheWrap:

How to Watch Saturday's March for Our Lives in Washington D.C.

Fox News Contributor Asks Shooting Survivor If March for Our Lives Is 'Just a Way to Goof Off' (Video)

Justin Bieber to Amy Schumer: Stars Throw Their Support Behind #MarchForOurLives

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Inside Gary Barber’s Ouster: MGM Board Clashes, Planting Sale Rumors Wed, 21 Mar 2018 22:18:07 +0000 Sharon Waxman and Matt Donnelly Rising tension between the MGM board and CEO Gary Barber was behind the executive’s sudden ouster this week, individuals with knowledge of the relationship told TheWrap.

The industry veteran was cut loose abruptly on Monday night after a new clash before the weekend led the board to conclude that Barber would hint to Wall Street that MGM was for sale, according to two knowledgeable individuals.

“He was about to pull that lever,” said one of the insiders. “Whenever Gary gets frustrated and feels out of sync, he is able to press a button and put the company into play. No one wants that distraction.”

The board of directors, led by Anchorage Capital CEO Kevin Ulrich – the company’s largest shareholder – unanimously decided to let Barber go, an unusual move given that no immediate deal was in play and no successor was prepared. The abrupt dismissal came just five months after Barber’s contract was renewed through 2022 and fueled speculation across Hollywood. Internally, employees said they were blindsided by the news, as was Barber himself.

Barber is a longtime producer and widely respected executive, and in the age of #MeToo, predictable gossip has spread.

But the executives with knowledge of the situation said that Barber’s conservative approach to growing MGM led to the high tension with the board, which had been pushing him to set a riskier strategy – including seeking new acquisitions and leveraging the May 2017 acquisition of Epix to bigger goals.

From left: Alicia Vikander, Walton Goggins and Gary Barber nine days ago at the Hollywood premiere of “Tomb Raider”

“Gary resisted TV and digital. He did a great job fiscally managing MGM, but he’s not the guy to take it to the next double value,” said another person with inside knowledge of the company. “He micromanaged everything, refused to have an heir apparent or big time president… he has wanted to sell the company whereas Kevin (Ulrich) thinks there is a double” value to be gained.

Barber did not respond to TheWrap’s request for response. A rep for Ulrich did not immediately respond.

Epix has underperformed since MGM acquired the digital asset last year and another executive said Barber lacked a general knowledge of the OTT and streaming video space.

Another flash point was the poor relationship between reality TV kingpin Mark Burnett, who has served as president of MGM TV since 2015 when Barber purchased a majority stake in Burnett and Roma Downey’s prolific company  — the producer of long-running hits like “Shark Tank,” “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.”

Burnett did not respond to a request for comment.

With a wave of consolidation sweeping the entertainment industry, ultimately Ulrich and other board members believed that Barber did not have the right temperament for MGM to continue as a standalone company and fend off acquisition battles.

“The DNA has to be as risk-leaning, creative, digitally savy as possible to ensure MGM can remain independent, ” said the first individual with knowledge of the board’s thinking.

Ulrich was particularly irked that Barber would use his contacts in the investment community when the board pushed him. “Every time things would come to a head, remarkably, magically, the company would end up for sale.”

“The decision to make a change was not driven by Mr. Ulrich.  It was a unanimous decision of the non-executive directors on the Board,” an MGM spokesperson told TheWrap.

MGM hit its third year of record profits in 2016. Last fall, MGM reported a major Q3 gain with $114 million in earnings, up from $12 million year-over-year.

Under Barber, MGM pulled off a stunning reversal of fortune. He took over the same year the studio filed for bankruptcy in 2010, fighting off challenges from its majority investor Carl Icahn and continuing the hot streak of its most valuable intellectual property — James Bond — with Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes.

The studio also churned out hits like Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” to the tune of over $280 million worldwide, a respectable reboot of the Western “The Magnificent Seven” led by Denzel Washington and co-released with Sony, and just relaunched Angelina Jolie’s namesake action franchise “Tomb Raider” with Alicia Vikander.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Gary Barber Exits Abruptly as MGM Chief Executive Officer

MGM Pulls 'Valley Girl' Remake With Embattled YouTuber Logan Paul From Release Schedule

MGM Ups Kristin Cotich to Communications EVP

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Power Lunch With Heather Graham: ‘It’s Exciting That People Are Listening to Us’ (Exclusive Video) Mon, 19 Mar 2018 19:00:32 +0000 Sharon Waxman

Every day seems to bring something new around here. The latest new thing is totally fun and inspiring, and allows me to use the word “totally” in my lead paragraph. Which is also new.

Here’s the gig: I get to go to lunch with a group of smart and talented women in the entertainment industry and you get to watch us do it. Seriously, the conversation is right on the edge of what’s happening, because entertainment is what makes the change, right? And women in Hollywood are leading the way, right?


Heather  Graham has directed her first feature, “Half Magic,” a comedy about dating and love, from the perspective of the women. (Roller Girl is all grown up, and Heather took it in stride when I made that terrible joke.)

“I wanted to write a movie that was empowering to women and I wanted to empower women,” said Graham during the lunch. “And I wanted to find humor in all these thigs that had upset me – bad relationships, sexism in Hollywood.”

She, like the rest of us, feel like the moment is right to see women rise to a position of equity in the industry.

“It’s just exciting that people are listening to us,” she said.

Check out the video above. And stayed tuned for our next episode featuring Dakota Fanning!

Related stories from TheWrap:

BE Conference 2018 Portraits: Rachel Bloom, Andrea Razzaghi and More Mentors (Photos)

What I Learned at TheWrap's BE Conference on Mentorship

'Half Magic' Director Heather Graham Explains the Power of Making a Wish (Exclusive Video)

Heather Graham Says Israel Horovitz Forced a Kiss After She Dated His Son, Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock

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Mark Zuckerberg Is Russia, Trump and Cambridge Analytica’s Useful Idiot Mon, 19 Mar 2018 04:08:02 +0000 Sharon Waxman What I’d like to know is why any of us are on Facebook anymore.

I’d also like to know when we are going to stop treating Mark Zuckerberg like some benevolent potentate in the magical land of Tech, and start holding him responsible for what he is, and what he has done to our democracy.

This weekend the New York Times revealed that Cambridge Analytica, the data science firm funded by right-wing ideologue Robert Mercer and hired by the Trump campaign to run social media campaigns and analysis in 2016, snookered Facebook into handing over the private information of 50 million users.

“The firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history,” wrote the Times, God bless those investigative reporters every one. “The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.”

How’d they do it? Per the Times:  “Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.”

Said researcher is — wait for it — a Russian-American!!

And how did we learn all this? Did Facebook conduct an internal inquiry into how the platform may have been inappropriately or illegally used to influence the 2016 election? Since we already know that it was?

Haha: I’m joking, of course.

The Times said Facebook “downplayed the scope of the leak” as its reporters pressed for answers. And when the social media giant actually checked — suddenly they were really alarmed! (There are also lots of other questions: Why would Facebook release this to an academic anyway? Wouldn’t an academic who could pay for that kind of scaled information raise alarm bells?)

“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement to the Times, adding that they’d suspended both Cambridge Analytica and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan.

In the words of Russian spyspeak, Zuckerberg now counts — like our president — as a “useful idiot.” He has contributed, and apparently continues to contribute, to the corruption of our democratic process. The Times reports that Cambridge Analytica still has “most or all” of the data.

Meanwhile, Facebook rakes in billions of dollars in profit each quarter — $7.3 billion in the last quarter of 2017 — while sucking advertising dollars away from digital media companies that do actual journalism, like Vox and Mic and Buzzfeed.

Do I sound furious? I am.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind anybody that when the government asked Facebook to check on Russian-backed ads during the presidential election, Zuckerberg at first said he didn’t think it was a thing. The notion that fake news on Facebook influenced the election is “a pretty crazy idea,” he said in November 2016. (No, really: Watch the video.)

Then Facebook checked and found that hundreds of fake Facebook accounts, probably run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads about divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. By now we’ve all seen those ads trotted out in Congressional hearing rooms.

Once again we must thank the Fourth Estate, in this case the New York Times, for digging out information that Facebook would rather not have shared.

Mark Zuckerberg, the Times has exposed you for your naivete and cowardice. We, your users, need to take action — like getting off your platform.  Your actions are tepid, late and lacking in credibility.

Sheryl Sandberg, you know better, what are you doing to fix this?

I’m not a fan of government regulation in general, but we need it here, and now comes word of a U.S. Attorney General investigation. That’s a start. We need our legislators to step in and regulate Facebook. Stick their nose in. Pass rules. Make Facebook accountable, because for the moment, it’s just a wild oligopoly driven by mad growth and madder profit.

Public accountablity becomes harder when our government is paralyzed, divided and utterly broken. And it is that way — in part because of the divisions that foreign actors sowed on Facebook during our election.

Our democracy is precious. It is strong, but it has fault lines that Russia has clearly exploited. The geniuses of Silicon Valley, changing everything in our world, need to get a lot more transparent, a lot more thoughtful and a lot more accountable for what they have wrought.

Until they do, I recommend we give Facebook a wide berth.

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What I Learned at TheWrap’s BE Conference on Mentorship Wed, 14 Mar 2018 02:54:26 +0000 Sharon Waxman I’ve come away from TheWrap’s second conference to mentor millennial women in entertainment and media hugely inspired, and more convinced than ever that we are in the midst of real change on behalf of women’s leadership.

We were 250 millennials and about 30 mentors digging deep into what holds women back from success and what keeps them from being their best, and hearing from some of those who have overcome obstacles to achieve incredible things. Looking back on the experience, here are the lessons I learned.

  1. Things worth doing are tough. The fear will be there. Do it anyway.

Across the dozen or so keynotes and panels, there was a common thread: Everybody feels fear when facing challenges. Even the former sheriff of Dallas County, Lupe Valdez, who is now the first female, Latina, gay person to run for Governor of Texas.

Valdez was the daughter of farm workers, and now at age 70, she said she decided to run for governor despite the odds stacked against her and the lack of historical precedent. Throughout her life in public service people were “mean, hateful and conniving” and she would go home and cry, she said. And then she’d get up the next day and do it again.

Or as New York City Public Advocate Letitia James put it in her one-on-one interview: “Don’t be paralyzed by fear. Put your high heels on, turn your red bottoms up, and just go seize it. I don’t want to quote rap right now, but I ‘started from the bottom, now I’m here.'”

If you ask me, James — someone who probably inspires fear in her political adversaries — is calling it like it is: “We have too many men in Congress who are pale, male and stale,” she said. “It’s time to change that.”

  1. #MeToo happened to Rachel Bloom.

I expected to have a fun, smart conversation with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star and co-creator Rachel Bloom about blazing a trail in comedy with the show that combines musical theater with her particularly dark strain of funny. Instead, Rachel came ready to call out two men she says sexually harassed her a decade ago. The men had been her mentors when she was at college at New York University, but instead wanted to sleep with her. Except Bloom put it more bluntly, a whole bunch of times. (That girl is an excellent curser.)

It took the #MeToo movement for her to realize that what she experienced at age 19 was in fact harassment. At the time it was Bloom, not the men, who paid the price; she was removed as the head of the Tisch sketch comedy group she was part of, while the men went on to become widely known in the comedy world today. (She chose not to name them. We can wonder… or we can Google her year at Tisch.)

Bloom said she finally called the other men in the troupe just last week, and confronted them about this. To their credit, she said, they immediately copped to the situation and apologized.

Bloom also did not name someone else in the industry who inappropriately touches her even now. Bloom said that when this happens at cocktail parties, she shrinks inside.

Point is: even a successful, ballsy broad like Rachel Bloom questions herself when she feels boundaries are overstepped, instead of calling out the man in question.

  1. Lean on other women. There is strength in sisterhood. And sometimes, a career.

We also had three incredible women from the Baroness von Sketch Show, who recounted that they were, individually, destitute and down to their last dime(s) before their comedy troupe came together five years ago.

Jennifer Whalen said she had a great career when she was in her 20s and early 30s as a comedy writer, and the guys thought she was cute. They didn’t think she was cute after she turned 40, and no longer wanted her in the writer’s room.

But when she met Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill and Aurora Browne, the Baronesses von Sketch were born.

Two brave survivors of Harvey Weinstein attacks, Jessica Barth and Sarah Ann Masse, were also present to share their truths, and to counsel other women about how to prevent the experiences they had in Hollywood.

We talked about confidence, and body image, and how to build an empire as an entrepreneur. We talked about marketing and Matt Lauer with Katie Couric. We talked about political activism. (Choice line from LA Women’s March organizer Emiliana Guereca, when critics called her march a “bitchfest”: “So,” she shot back, “Are you coming?”) We learned to reach for the stars with NASA astrophysicist Andrea Razzaghi, and to listen quietly to the beauty that makes up the gift of sound with Dolby chief scientist Poppy Crum.

Here’s what else I learned: the rising millennials are full of ambition and smarts. They are eager to learn and they want mentors.

Here’s some of the coverage, and I invite you to read it and get inspired too.

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Scene at TheWrap's Power Women Breakfast Austin 2018 (Photos)

Lili Reinhart Calls Out Cosmo Philippines for Photoshopping Her on International Women's Day

'Jessica Jones' Costume Designer Says #MeToo Movement Supports 'Women Dressing for Women'

NY Times Belatedly Publishes Obits of Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Brontë and Other Women It Ignored at the Time

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WrapWomen Launches Power Women Summit for 1,000 Leaders in Media and Entertainment Sun, 11 Mar 2018 17:49:33 +0000 Sharon Waxman AUSTIN, Texas – WrapWomen, the producer of TheWrap’s Power Women breakfast series, will convene a summit of 1,000 women in media and entertainment in November to inspire and empower them across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives.

Actresses Mira Sorvino and Olivia Wilde along with A&E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc and #MeToo Movement Founder Tarana Burke are among the speakers who will participate in the first ever Power Women Summit on November 1 & 2, 2018 in Los Angeles.

The Power Women Summit ( will take place in Los Angeles on November 1 & 2, 2018.

“We seek to connect the leading women of our Power Women Breakfasts nationwide and extend the spirit of achievement and excellence created at those boutique events at a national level,” said TheWrap’s Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman, speaking at the Power Women Breakfast in Austin during SXSW.

The Summit, produced under the auspices of WrapWomen will provide a full day of education, mentorship, workshops and networking to promote women’s leadership in entertainment and media and related professions.

The spirit of 5050by2020 is a driving force in all of the Summit’s programming and messaging.
An advisory board of influential women who represent the many facets of the entertainment and media industries will support the planning and programming of the event. They are:
  • Cathy Shulman, President, Women in Film

  • Stephanie Allain, Founder, Homegrown Pictures

  • DeeDee Myers, EVP, Worldwide Public Affairs, Warner Bros

  • Nina Shaw, Partner, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka

  • Keleigh Thomas Morgan, Partner, Sunshine Sachs

  • Melissa Silverstein, Founder & Publisher, Women and Hollywood

  • Cindi Leive, former Editor, Glamour

  • Susan Brooks, Founder, Forefront Partners

  • Kelly Bush Novak, CEO, ID

  • Beatriz Acevedo, Founding Partner and President, mitú

A number of non profit industry organizations have come on board to support the Power Women Summit including Women in Film, Women and Hollywood, Time’s Up, We Do It Together and International Women’s Media Foundation.

The Power Women Summit will integrate a significant philanthropic component to raise up women who would benefit from an extended hand.  WrapWomen will donate 10% of net proceeds to Times Up and other significant women-oriented nonprofits.

For more information about the conference including participation, programming or sponsorship please contact

Contact: Kathy Selim
(424) 248 0662


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TV Powerhouse Rachel Bloom Joins BE Conference at SXSW 2018! Tue, 06 Mar 2018 18:09:27 +0000 Sharon Waxman Rachel Bloom, the co-creator and star of television hit comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” will join TheWrap’s BE Conference for mentorship in a special one-on-one spotlight interview at SXSW on March 12.

The second annual BE Conference for millennial women takes place on March 11 & 12 during SXSW.

Also newly added to the BE Conference lineup is the talented duo, writer-director Julia Hart and producer Jordan Horowitz (“La La Land”), with their film “Fast Color” which is premiering at SXSW.

They join a stunning lineup of inspiring women and mentors at TheWrap’s conference, including:

  • Award-winning journalist Katie Couric
  • Aurora Browne, Jennifer Whalen, and Meredith MacNeill of the Baroness von Sketch troupe;
  • New York City Public Advocate Letitia James;
  • Activists and Harvey Weinstein accusers Sarah Ann Masse and Jessica Barth;
  • Pussyhat movement cofounder Jayna Zweiman and many others.

Check the full list of mentors and speakers at

Rachel Bloom is a rare multi-talented star, a performer, writer, director and improv and musical comedienne. She recently wrapped her third season starring in the CW show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” for which she has won a Golden Globe and has been thrice nominated for the Emmy. The series stars Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a successful, driven, and arguably crazy young woman who impulsively gives up everything – partnership at a prestigious law firm, an upscale apartment in Manhattan – in a desperate attempt to find love and happiness in suburban West Covina, California.

Bloom’s film “Most Likely to Murder,” written by Dan Gregor (her husband) and Doug Man, will premiere at SXSW. She costars in the dark comedy about a cool kid returning to his hometown 15 years after high school graduation.

Julia Hart is an up and coming female filmmaker with a passion for women’s issues. Hart directed “Fast Color,” which stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorraine Toussaint & David Strathairn. The film is produced and co-written by Jordan Horowitz.

Horowitz is an Academy Award nominated producer who most recently produced “La La Land.” At the 2017 Academy Awards, Horowitz entered the history books when he handed the Best Picture Oscar to Barry Jenkins after his film was mistakenly called as the winner. “La La Land” was nominated for a record 14 Oscars and won 6, including Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Actress for Emma Stone. Hart & Horowitz, partners in marriage and business co-founded the film and television production company Original Headquarters.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

VIP tickets can be purchased for BE Conference 2018 and include exclusive access to mentors and entrance to Power Women Breakfast SXSW in Austin. More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

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At the Oscars’ Governors Ball, Relief at a Break From All the Scandal Mon, 05 Mar 2018 22:03:21 +0000 Sharon Waxman The relief was palpable for a scandal-worn Hollywood at the Governors Ball on Sunday night —  at the familiarity of the Oscar ritual, at the results of the awards. Finally tradition was back and respected and for a minute no change was needed.

The industry needed a moment to catch its breath after the laserlike scrutiny of the media around #TimesUp, and from nonstop waves of business consolidation and cultural criticism. And, hey, it was nice to have a telecast with a minimum of catastrophic screw-ups.

There was lots of love in the room for Guillermo del Toro, winner for both Best Picture and Best Director. He said all the right words at the podium, and it’s undeniable that he has become a beloved figure across the industry through this awards season.

“It’s justice,” said Alejandro Innaritu, who has himself twice won Best Director and Best Picture, for “The Revenant” and “Birdman,” and is one of Del Toro’s closest friends. He was beaming with pride, even though it wasn’t his win.

“The guy has been giving himself and his imagination and curiosity and his heart in every film,” he went on. “And after 25 years he’s recognized in this way — something came back.”

There were deep sighs of joy, and relief too, around the Fox Searchlight table. The arthouse studio released both “Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and had a well-deserved moment of triumph — playing to win at the Oscars without the resources of the bigger competitors (including parent company Fox).

The studio’s many wins on Oscar night might dissipate, at least a little, the nimbus of anxiety that hangs over its future as it heads toward a new owner in Disney. Nancy Utley, Steve Gilula and all their executives seemed practically bent over from joyful exhaling, and hovered like happy parents around their winners and nominees – including Richard Jenkins and Sam Rockwell. Even past Fox studio chief Jim Gianopulos (now running Paramount) couldn’t stay away.

We buttonholed Frances McDormand who responded with a sharp – “What are you looking for?” – before we could get out “Congratulations and what about this inclusion rider?”

She paused to explain: “It’s a contractual thing that’s been in place for a long time. I didn’t know about it and I’ve been in the business for 35 years. But anyone negotiating a contract – director, writer, actor – we can have an inclusion rider saying we ask for at least 50 percent diversity in the cast and the crew.”

Can that be achieved when so many movies don’t have an equal number of roles for men and women?

The balance can be spread, she explained.

“Just look a little bit closer, you’ll find not tokenism but you can find someone ready to step into that role who is diverse,” she said.

There’s a question of whether or not this is practical in the tough negotiating byways of the business — but “that’s the hope,” said her agent Brian Swardstrom, acknowledging that it probably can’t happen overnight.

Meanwhile, business rivalries were spread across the room, unspoken and present. Bob Iger and his team — who won Oscars for “Coco” and its song, and whose “Black Panther” rules at the box office — was on one side of the ballroom. Meanwhile, Comcast chief Brian Roberts stood with the Universal and Focus team on the other side. The two chieftains are effectively facing off over the European cable behemoth, Sky, which Comcast just swooped in to try and buy out from under Rupert Murdoch, who is in the middle of a deal to sell his movie and TV assets to Disney.

Meanwhile, grocery billionaire Ron Burkle — who supposedly bought The Weinstein Company last week with Maria Contreras-Sweet — didn’t want to talk. “I’m just here to have fun with my friends,” he said, begging off business chat.

Everyone seemed to have the same idea. Exhaustion from the business mano-a-mano and the do-not-call-him-by-his-Harvey-Weinstein name was like a spell spread all around the room.

For an hour or two, it was like movie heaven.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Oscars Viewership Drops to All-Time Low of 26.5 Million

Seth MacFarlane Thinks There's Too Much Drama at the Oscars

Emma Watson Sports 'Time's Up' Tattoo After the Oscars (Photo)

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OscarsSoWoke: Can Hollywood Celebrate in Year of Behaving Badly? Sun, 04 Mar 2018 17:32:57 +0000 Sharon Waxman This year’s Oscars will go down as the sober year, the year when everybody was chastened and behaved and vowed to be part of a new Hollywood.

It’s the first year in decades in which Harvey Weinstein won’t be present. There will be no Kevin Spacey or Brett Ratner, anywhere. Casey Affleck has discreetly bowed out of presenting at the telecast, feeling unwelcome after past accusations about his behavior. Other guards have changed as well: For the first time in years, Graydon Carter will not preside over his Vanity Fair party for the glitterati.

And all anyone in the vast media machine covering the Oscars wants to know is: Will nominees on the red carpet talk to Ryan Seacrest? And how will they show their fealty to #TimesUp?

(I’m going to pause here to say: I’m a supporter of #TimesUp. Thanks and troll away if you like.)

The movies themselves seem to be relegated to the province of the film nerds. It seems that unless there’s a rah-rah politically woke message to be had — the message of womanhood in”Ladybird,” of racial diversity in “Get Out” — we don’t seem to care all that much.

But Greta Gerwig’s work should be celebrated because she is a gifted filmmaker whose story packed a punch of pure authenticity, not because she’s a woman. And “Get Out” writer-director Jordan Peele’s sly storytelling — a sneak attack of conscience wrapped in a horror film — just plain works, and not because it’s a “black” story.

For the record I would like to say that Paul Thomas Anderson — a white male — is a genius and his gorgeous, trance-making film “Phantom Thread” a gift to world culture, for the ages. In addition, I would like to say that Guillermo del Toro — either a white male or a Mexican-Canadian, depending on your filter — is a poet and in “The Shape of Water” has given us a fable to dream about for decades to come.

But on with the real focus: Are you wearing black? Will you let Seacrest ask a question?

The movies took a back seat to social politics and morality. And the words Hollywood and morality don’t go together very well.

As a fan of what movies contribute to our quest to be human, it’s a shame to let the skin-deep politics of race or gender overwhelm what we celebrate at the Oscars.

Hollywood has deep, serious work to do in changing — but that work must be done at the level of its power structure. Women and people of color need to take their place at the levers of decision-making. We in the media err when we make it all about gotcha moments on the red carpet.

The change in Hollywood needs to happen where it matters, and the Oscars are not that place.

Related stories from TheWrap:

No-Win Oscars: Will Hollywood Scandals Upstage a Great Best Picture Race?

All the Oscar-Nominated Movies You Can Watch at Home Right Now

Oscars Party Report: Brad Pitt, J.J. Abrams and Allison Janney as a Winner in Waiting (Photos)

The Last 15 Oscar Hosts Ranked From Worst to Best (Photos)

Oscars 2018: Our Predictions in All 24 Categories (Photos)

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The Opportunity In Being A Woman (Part 2) Sun, 04 Mar 2018 07:06:37 +0000 Sharon Waxman Being a woman is an extraordinary gift. 

We are creators, dream-weavers, and community builders. 

We embody joy, courage, compassion, strength, and love. 

In spite of possessing these powerful qualities, many women struggle with the feeling of not being enough. We struggle with internal questions: are we enough for our companies, our families, our partners, our colleagues, our society, and even ourselves? We’ve been told from a young age to be careful about what we say, how we look, and to tread lightly into male-dominated spaces.

Well…#TimesUp. It’s 2018 and women are more fierce, focused and ready for action than ever.

Sheryl Sandberg famously asked us to “lean in” on our greatest fears, dreams, and desires to become better leaders.

And you can do that at the BE Conference on March 11 & 12 in Austin during SXSW.

BE is a place to find your mentors, your sisters, your tribe. It’s a space where sharing the challenges you face creates room for expansion.

More than 200 women and 40 mentors have signed up to be part of what promises to be a unique experience of sharing and mentoring in Austin. They include remarkable leaders like journalist Katie Couric, NASA astrophysicist Andrea Razzaghi, Billionaire entrepreneur Cindy Whitehead, New York Public Advocate Letitia James.

I invite you to join them. Step into the VIP experience at BE and get:

  • Reserved front-row seating during invite-only Power Women Breakfast Austin on Sunday, March 11, 2018 and throughout all BE sessions
  • Invitation to the VIP Dinner and Executive Networking on Sunday evening  (Seating is limited.)
  • beGlammed Makeover and Portrait Photo Package

The connections you make at BE will become your community to lean in and to lean on when you don’t feel like you are enough. At BE Conference you will hone the tools you need to be strong.

I can’t wait to hear about all the life-long connections and career path growth that will be made during this unforgettable event and to be part of a movement that is shaping how women show up in the world. Join us.

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A Special Message on Mentorship (Part 1) Sun, 04 Mar 2018 06:53:50 +0000 Sharon Waxman “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” –Madeleine Albright

The Future is Female
The Women’s March
and now….the BE Conference for the next generation of empowered women, who are game-changers in their prospective industries.

I’m constantly in awe of the all of women I’ve met in my life. They are CEOs, politicians, producers, activists, scientists and entrepreneurs and much more. But first and foremost, they are just like you. They all started young and ambitious, looking for ways to make a difference and get ahead in a male-dominated society.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the mentors who graciously imparted their wisdom, guided me with tough love and gave me a shot. Helping others take the next steps in their career is the most meaningful move I can make right now beyond the journalism we do every day at TheWrap.

Among women striving to succeed, mentorship feels more potent when it comes from another woman who has been there.

The Women’s Movement is powered by those who uplift each other and who understand that as a collective team, we are a force for good and uplifting everyone.

That’s why I started BE conference. To create a space for like-minded women who want to connect, mentor, be mentored and collaborate with one another. It’s become my passion to give back to the next generation of young professional women. My vision is to see all the attendees of the BE Conference, no matter your industry or skill set, meet with powerful and accessible role models you need to get to the next step and absorb the inspiration to dream big. I’ve gathered my executive level friends and colleagues to raise up the next generation of empowered women for 2 days of empowerment among 300+ women.

And this is just the start.

At BE, we’ll be hosting fireside chats, remarkable keynotes, breakout sessions, networking and mentorship sessions, and  many other ways for our attendees to get inspired and connect.

“BE” is about being the best possible version of yourself. When you are surrounded by others who see your vision and believe in you, this comes effortlessly. We are looking forward to learning more about each and every one of you and finding ways to make your dreams a reality. 

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Weinstein Co Rejects Sale, Says It Will File for Bankruptcy Mon, 26 Feb 2018 04:21:54 +0000 Sharon Waxman The Weinstein Company board members said Sunday night they were dropping a sale process and instead pursuing bankruptcy, blaming the decision on bad faith by prospective buyers Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle.

“As has been publicly reported, The Weinstein Company has been engaged in an active sale process in the hopes of preserving assets and jobs,” the board said in a statement.

“Today, those discussions concluded without a signed agreement, as reflected in the attached letter. While we recognize that this is an extremely unfortunate outcome for our employees, our creditors and any victims, the Board has no choice but to pursue its only viable option to maximize the Company’s remaining value: an orderly bankruptcy process.  Over the coming days, the Company will prepare its bankruptcy filing with the goal of achieving maximum value in court.”

The letter attached to the statement, addressed to bidders Contreras-Sweet and Burkle, accused them of failing to provide “interim funding” that had been promised last week.

“Your plan to buy this company was illusory,” it said.

The board also seemed put out by what they said was an attempt to revive the role of COO David Glasser, who the board recently fired.

“You added all new contingencies relating to David Glasser, the former employee of The Weinstein Company who was recently terminated for cause,” the board complained in its letter, saying that the financial plan submitted “will fail.”

Contreras-Sweet, who was backed by Burkle in her bid for the company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The once-powerful independent film company was expected to sell for a $500 million purchase price, divided between assumption of debt and including about $250 million in cash. The deal has teetered on the brink of collapse since New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the company this month, seeking to block the sale.

Last week, the bidders and Schneiderman met to figure out a path forward. The move by the board means that any number of prospective buyers might bid for the company’s library as well as completed film and TV projects, including Benedict Cumberbatch’s “The Current War.”

Here is the full letter to Contreras-Sweet and Burkle:

Ron, Maria,

In a meeting with New York’s Attorney General on February 21, you asked The Weinstein Company to work with you as “partners” toward the common goal of saving the Company, preserving jobs and establishing a victims’ fund. Given the Company’s financial condition, you urged that “time is of the essence” and represented that you were prepared to enter an agreement promptly. That agreement, we were told, could no longer impose any closing obligation or reverse break-up fee; instead, Maria assured us that the Company could – and must – rely on buyer’s good-faith intention to sign and close the deal. We mutually agreed that parties should have open and free communication with the Attorney General’s office, and any other governmental body with an interest in the transaction.

In the four days since that meeting, we and our advisors have worked tirelessly to finalize an agreement to present to the Attorney General for his approval. While acceding to virtually every demand you imposed, we made clear that the one thing the Company needed in furtherance of your good faith was interim funding to run our business and maintain our employees – employees who have remained dedicated to the Company even amidst great uncertainty. During this time, we waited patiently for you to deliver the terms you represented would save this Company from certain bankruptcy.

Instead, late last night, you returned to us an incomplete document that unfortunately does not keep your promises of February 21, including with respect to the guiding principles set forth by the Attorney General. Nowhere, for instance, is there any provision for the “gold standard” human resources policies you promised; instead, you added all new contingencies relating to David Glasser, the former employee of The Weinstein Company who was recently terminated for cause. Likewise, there is no provision for necessary interim funding to ensure your future employees were paid; instead, you increased the liabilities left behind for the Company, charting a financial path that will fail. Other new conditions make clear that a closing, if one were to happen at all, could take many months (or longer). In short, the draft you returned presents no viable option for a sale.

We have believed in this Company and in the goals set forth by the Attorney General. Based on the events of the past week, however, we must conclude that your plan to buy this company was illusory and would only leave this Company hobbling toward its demise to the detriment of all constituents. This Board will not let that happen. Despite your previous statements, it is simply impossible to avoid the conclusion that you have no intention to sign an agreement – much less to close one – and no desire to save valuable assets and jobs. That is regrettable, but not in our power to change.

While we deeply regret that your actions have led to this unfortunate outcome for our employees, our creditors and any victims, we will now pursue the Board’s only viable option to maximize the Company’s remaining value: an orderly bankruptcy process.

The Board of Representatives of The Weinstein Company

Related stories from TheWrap:

David Mamet Tackles Harvey Weinstein and 'Ungovernable Genie of Sexuality' in New Play

Harvey Weinstein Apologizes to Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep for Using Their Statements

Jennifer Lawrence Rips 'Predator' Harvey Weinstein, Says She 'Was Not Victimized Personally'

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Inside the STX Mess and the End of Sophie Watts’ Odd Couple Executive Pairing (Exclusive) Thu, 01 Feb 2018 01:17:16 +0000 Sharon Waxman STX Entertainment, one of the few independent movie companies to launch in recent years, started with an unusual partnership between a blue-blood finance executive and a charismatic business ingénue from the British music scene, neither of whom had deep roots in Hollywood’s tricky landscape.

One of those partners, president Sophie Watts, suddenly exited this month amid a cloud of accusations that, according to multiple STX insiders, her CEO Robert Simonds was “obsessed” with his subordinate, attempted to control her movements and that the company failed to respond to her numerous complaints about his behavior.

No new president has been named to replace her, and Watts — who was billed as an STX co-founder in a company bio from 2016 — has been erased from the STX website and even on Wikipedia.

It’s a sudden and mysterious turn of events for a company that prided itself on seeking to shake up the way Hollywood does business.

After declining to respond to TheWrap despite numerous requests, STX issued this statement on Wednesday:

“We direct you — once again — to the joint STX-Sophie Watts press release issued on January 16, 2018 and Sophie’s internal personal memo to employees.”

The statement, which can be found below in full, did not address the specific question of Simonds’  relationship with Watts but it did stress that STX  regularly reviews and updates “our internal policies and procedures to protect and nurture our people.”

A spokesman declined to say whether any internal measures had been taken in response to the reports of harassment, and again referred reporters to the company’s written policy.

Unusual Origins

Many things about the origins of STX are unusual: its investment from China and private equity fund TPG with a promise to spend $1 billion a year on content, its reliance on a network of close friends from Yale University, its ability to hire veteran Hollywood executives including former Universal chief Adam Fogelson, former Disney marketing head Oren Aviv and many others.

But nothing was more unusual than Simonds teaming up with the then-26-year-old Watts in 2012 to lead an entertainment company when her only experience was as a financier or executive producer on two 2011 documentaries, “Bully” and “Sarah Palin: You Betcha.”

From the start, many even inside STX remarked on the odd pairing. Simonds was a strait-laced, married, wealthy, middle-aged man with a finance background, taking as his partner a loud and proud lesbian 25 years his junior, whose friends were the likes of singer Ariana Grande and hipster DJ Samantha Ronson.

Watts had short, bleached blond hair, a British boarding school accent and an unmistakable personal style. “She’d wear the most expensive silk blouse but way too low cut, without a bra,” said one former employee. “She’s got that fashion model thing.”

Simonds, scion of a wealthy family from Arizona, had been a producer on broad comedies like Adam Sandler’s “Big Daddy” and “The Water Boy,” and Steve Martin’s family movie “Cheaper by the Dozen.”  (On the STX website he is billed as an “accomplished businessman.”)

His closest friends at Yale, Bill McGlashan and now-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, were also at the intersection of finance and entertainment. Watts came to Hollywood by way of London and the music business.

Her mother, Tessa, was an early member of Richard Branson’s team at Virgin Records and became a respected executive who helped to create legendary music videos like “Sledgehammer,” and to launch MTV in Europe. She died of cancer just months after STX was founded in March 2014.

Both McGlashan and Simonds found Watts unusually riveting as she spun a vision of creating a digital-age entertainment company making mid-budget movies at a time when Hollywood studios largely did not, the insider said. While Watts grew up in the fast lane of British pop music, that did not necessarily give her credibility in Hollywood. A longtime associate of Simonds’ said that his long-held “dream” was to run a studio making mid-budget movies with established stars, and that the concept for STX did not originate with Watts.

Regardless, Simonds was not deterred. He made Watts president and introduced her in public as a co-founder.

“She was focused and smart and could move him [Simonds] forward,” said another former employee. “She brought something to the table he didn’t have — a big personality and luster. Without her — we used to talk about it — [STX] was a bunch of old men. She was the only one who made it look forward-thinking.”

Still, optically the pairing was jarring to many, especially as the two were inseparable as co-executives — he the CEO, she the president — who shared an office and went everywhere together in style, including on private planes to China, where STX’s leading investors Tencent and Hony Capital were based.

In meetings, Simonds praised his young charge as an agent of change and a visionary executive to a point that made employees uncomfortable – particularly given her lack of experience.

“It became an unhealthy obsession of his,” said one of the former employees, using a term echoed by multiple people interviewed for this story. “It was common knowledge. “They had some kind of friendship that was peculiar to everybody, because it made no sense why she was being anointed the way she was.”

From left: Mila Kunis, Bob Simonds, Annie Mumolo, Kathryn Hahn and Sophie Watts attend the New York premiere of “Bad Moms” in 2016. (Photo: Getty Images)

Relationship Sours

Even as STX was rolling out its first theatrical releases, insiders say that Simonds and Watts maintained at best an arms-length role in the moviemaking process. (Watts didn’t present the studio’s slate at 2016’s high-profile CinemaCon presentation, but she did shmooze with “The Free State of Jones” star Matthew McConaughey at Mr. Chow atop the Caesar’s Palace afterward.)

“She was everybody’s boss. Technically we all reported to her. But we never talked to her. We didn’t intersect with her,” said one of the former employees. Movies were acquired and put into development, while Watts focused on other projects, such as tapping friends in the gay music community to start a short-lived digital platform.

Watts eventually hired former Yahoo marketing chief Kathy Savitt to run digital, thought she exited after just eight months, in May 2016.

Despite flops like “Free State of Jones,” the company scored its first big hit in summer 2016 with the comedy “Bad Moms” — which grossed $184 million worldwide on a modest $20 million budget — and also secured strategic investments from the Chinese technology giant Tencent and Hong Kong-based telecommunications firm PCCW.

In addition to its original capitalization, the company had access to about $700 million in new capital for a planned expansion and was worth roughly $1.5 billion.

But in the office, three former employees reported seeing heated exchanges between the two top executives. The relationship between Watts and Simonds began to visibly fray. Two insiders said that Watts was pushing back on Simonds’ unwelcome interest in her – such as asking to move to a separate office – and reported her displeasure to General Counsel Noah Fogelson, begging for protection.

“They’d be alternately lovey-dovey and hysterically angry at each other,” said one of the former employees. “It was a common sight to see Sophie in Noah Fogelson’s office broken apart in tears.”

Said another former employee: “I saw them fight a lot. I saw them clash.”

Said a third insider: “Watts called Noah Fogelson asking for help for years. We have glass walls and offices…. We heard her calls and their arguments and helped her when we could.”

On Wednesday, TheWrap received the following statement from STX regarding this report, and its initial report on Jan. 16:

We [STX] direct you–once again–to the joint STX-Sophie Watts press release issued on January 16, 2018 and Sophie’s internal personal memo to employees. Both of these communications clearly demonstrate STX’s gratitude to Sophie for her contributions to the company’s success and, in Sophie’s own words, her pride at building up STX and the reasons for her decision to leave the company. Unfortunately, the Wrap chose to disregard this unequivocal, on the record, joint statement in favor of its uncorroborated and contrary thesis, relying on unnamed sources.

STX is proud to have built a safe working environment that encourages employees to share their concerns. We have consistently taken all reports seriously regardless of the source, and we regularly review and update our internal policies and procedures to protect and nurture our people.

STX sent a statement announcing Watts’ departure 20 minutes after TheWrap published the initial report — and nearly 24 hours after it was contacted for comment.

As TheWrap previously reported, Watts complained repeatedly about the unwanted attention, and Simonds’ wife suspected a sexual relationship, calling the office to complain that the two were engaging in oral sex, according to two knowledgeable individuals.

In September 2016, an outside attorney was brought in who recommended that a bodyguard be present when the two were alone in the office, and that they not fly to Asia together without others present, one of the insiders said. STX attorney Bert Deixler said: “There was no bodyguard, there was no recommendation. That’s not true.”

By the fall of 2017, the conflict became more than Watts could handle. She ceased coming to the office, and in January her exit was attributed to her desire to start a new venture. When TheWrap reached Watts for the original report she merely stated, “I can’t comment on any of this.” Since then her cellphone has been out of service.

The Future of STX

Even as Watts was withdrawing from STX, the company was moving forward on with its many media divisions, to varying degrees of success.

Last November’s “Bad Moms Christmas” grossed only $72 million domestically, and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” — which STX distributed for EuropaCorp — was a costly flop. The studio has multiple movies on deck for 2018, including “Gringo” starring David Oyelowo in March and “Adrift’ starring Shailene Woodley and Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty,” both in June.

The company’s TV division has been mostly quiet, producing Katherine Heigl’s short-lived NBC “State of Affairs” and lining up a few cable projects, including Matthew Carnahan’s ’90s tech-boom drama “Valley of the Boom” at NatGeo.

Also showing little traction are the company’s digital and VR ventures, including the VT company Surreal it acquired in 2016 on the strength of interactive content for YouTube stars and live events like the 2016 Emmy Awards. According to two individuals familiar with the operation, it’s mostly thought of as a value add for big-name talent looking to diversify the platforms on which fans receive them. (The division took meetings with Mark Wahlberg to entice him to sign on for the STX thriller “Mile 22,” one insider recalled.)

Despite the spotty track record, John Malone’s Liberty Global invested an undisclosed amount of money last November and placed an executive on STX’s board. And recent reports have suggested that STX may be close to an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock exchange.

How the departure of Sophie Watts may bear on all this remains to be seen, and the company’s reticence to shed light on the situation, along with her excision from its history, leaves more questions than answers.

“I think she believed that [with] a married straight guy, she could use his affections to get what she wanted,” said one of the former employees of Watts’ relationship with Simonds. “And at a certain point probably, whatever temptations she led him into, I’m sure it got out of control.”

Matt Donnelly contributed to this report.

Related stories from TheWrap:

STX President Sophie Watts Exits Over CEO Robert Simonds' Alleged Harassment (Exclusive)

STX Gets Investment From John Malone's Telecom Giant Liberty Global

'Bad Moms' Studio STX Plans 2018 IPO on Hong Kong Stock Exchange

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Katie Couric, Baroness von Sketch Comedians to Headline Power Women, BE Conference at SXSW 2018! Thu, 25 Jan 2018 19:23:35 +0000 Sharon Waxman Award-winning journalist Katie Couric and the founders of IFC’s Baroness von Sketch Show will be featured in keynote conversations at TheWrap’s Power Women event and BE Conference for mentoring millennials at SXSW in March 2018 .

Aurora Browne, Jennifer Whalen, and Meredith MacNeill, three of the co-creators and executive producers of the Baroness von Sketch troupe will be featured speakers at BE Conference, while Couric will be interviewed at Power Women by Wrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman. The Power Women Breakfast will kick off two days of events that include the BE Conference for millennial women presented by TheWrap during SXSW on March 11-12.

TheWrap is proud to be an officially affiliated event at SXSW for the first time this year.

Other speakers include New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, Actress Sasha Alexander, activists and Harvey Weinstein accusers Sarah Ann Masse and Jessica Barth, Pussyhat movement cofounder Jayna Zweiman and many others. Check the full list of  mentors and speakers at

Couric is a celebrated journalist, Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) co-founder, and New York Times best-selling author. SU2C has raised over $500 million to fund scientific research teams. She launched her production company, Katie Couric Media in 2015 and is involved in a number of scripted and unscripted projects. Her eponymous podcast on Stitcher, features conversations with names in politics, media and popular culture. Couric’s documentaries include: “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric,” for National Geographic; “Under the Gun,” which aired on EPIX; and “Fed Up,” available on Netflix. Couric’s upcoming six-part National Geographic series, “America Inside Out with Katie Couric,” premieres on April 11.

Fast-paced and irreverent, IFC’s Baroness von Sketch Show and its all-female cast draws upon 15 years of comedy experience and multiple collaborations to present an insightful, emotionally grounded series that captures the banalities and humor that comes from just trying to get along in the world.

The show is created, written by, and stars Meredith MacNeill and Second City alumni Carolyn Taylor, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen, who also all serve as executive producers alongside Jamie Brown. Browne and Whalen will share their inspiring story of how they’ve broken through the comedy glass ceiling and gone on to great success.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

VIP tickets can be purchased for BE Conference 2018 and include exclusive access to mentors and entrance to Power Women Breakfast SXSW in Austin. More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

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TheWrap Presents Live Interviews, Photos at the Acura Studio At Sundance 2018 Fri, 19 Jan 2018 16:24:53 +0000 Wrap Staff

For Immediate Release

PARK CITY, Utah–January 19,2018–The Wrap is pleased to announce its annual live interview studio during the Sundance Film Festival 2018 welcoming top talent including Octavia Spencer, Peter Dinklage, Claire Danes, Idris Elba and many others for four days of news-making conversations about independent film.

The space will be headquartered at the Acura Studio located in Park City where the 10-day festival takes place. TheWrap’s editorial team will conduct four days of video interviews and photography with the leading actors and directors appearing in competition at the festival.

They include:

Octavia Spencer (A Kid Like Jake), Keira Knightley (Colette), Elle Fanning (I Think We’re Alone Now), Nick Offerman (Hearts Beat Loud), Aubrey Plaza (An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn), Jim Parsons (A Kid Like Jake), Claire Danes (A Kid Like Jake) John Cho (Search), Debra Messing (Search), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Kindergarten Teacher) Ethan Hawke ( Blaze), and Jon Hamm (Beirut). They will be interviewed by TheWrap’s deeply knowledgeable editorial team including editors Sharon Waxman and Steve Pond, and reporters Matt Donnelly and Beatrice Verhoeven.

In addition, TheWrap is pleased to partner with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) for a panel discussion about ‘How to Get Your Film Out There- The Digital Experts Weigh In’ hosted by Youtube.

Leading industry figures including Angela Courtin, Head of Marketing at Youtube TV & Originals; Aneesh Chaganty, director of “Search;” Youtuber, Anna Akana and Grace Royer, Agent, UTA Independent Film Group and Joe Pichirallo, chair of the Undergraduate Film & Television program in the Tisch School of the Arts Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University.  The panel will take place on Saturday January 20th, 2018 from 3-4:30 p at the Claimjumper located at 573 Main Street. The event is open to Sundance badge holders and invited guests.

TheWrap will also be hosting its annual Influencer Dinner in partnership with Cinedigm, bringing together thought leaders for a robust conversation about the future of independent film.


The Wrap News Inc. is the leading digital news organization covering the business of entertainment and media.  Founded by award-winning journalist Sharon Waxman in 2009, The Wrap News Inc. is comprised of the award-winning, industry-leading website with its high-profile newsbreaks, investigative stories and authoritative analysis; it also includes premium, magazines with stunning original photography and editorial, distributed to entertainment industry professionals; Wrap Events, a series of high profile gatherings of thought leaders including the Power Women breakfast series, Awards & Foreign screening series, Emmy Screening Series,  TheGrill, an executive leadership conference centered on the convergence of entertainment, media and technology and most recently added BE women’s conference.

Acura is a leading automotive luxury nameplate that delivers Precision Crafted Performance, representing the original values of the Acura brand – a commitment to evocative styling, high performance and innovative engineering, all built on a foundation of quality and reliability

The Acura lineup features six distinctive models – the RLX premium, luxury sedan, the TLX performance luxury sedan, the ILX sport sedan, the 5-passenger RDX luxury crossover SUV, the seven-passenger Acura MDX, America’s all-time best-selling three-row luxury SUV and the next-generation, electrified NSX supercar as a new and pinnacle expression of Acura Precision Crafted Performance.


For press studio inquiries contact:

Kathy Selim

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STX President Sophie Watts Exits Over CEO Robert Simonds’ Alleged Harassment (Exclusive) Tue, 16 Jan 2018 22:29:46 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman STX Entertainment President Sophie Watts is leaving her role at the entertainment company after complaining of harassment by her boss CEO Robert Simonds, according to two individuals with knowledge of the situation.

Watts has been absent from STX since at least December. She resigned officially on Tuesday.

Reached for comment, Watts said, “I can’t comment on any of this.”

TheWrap attempted to reach Simonds by email and phone, with no reply. Company spokeswoman Patti Rockenwagner also did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls ahead of publication seeking response.

Update: 30 minutes after the publication of this story, STX sent a press release announcing Watts’ departure. It said she would “focus on new business opportunities.”

Second update: A lawyer for STX contacted TheWrap after publication and called the story “inaccurate in many respects,” but did not address the harrassment allegation directly.

The situation is highly unusual in that Watts, one of the top women executives in Hollywood, is openly gay. Simonds, who is married and heterosexual, is accused by Watts, his subordinate, of systematic harassment.

Simonds’ relationship to Watts, who co-founded the company with him in 2012, was described by the two individuals with knowledge of the situation as “obsessive.”

From left: Producer Suzanne Todd, Sophie Watts, Susan Sarandon

“It became an unhealthy obsession of his,” said one former employee. “It was common knowledge. They had some kind of friendship that was peculiar to everybody, because it made no sense why she was being anointed the way she was. He refused to let her have her own office. They had two desks facing each other. They traveled everywhere together…  [In meetings] he complimented her every second — and inappropriately so — even if she hadn’t said a word or wasn’t there.”

Both individuals with knowledge of the relationship said that Simonds insisted that Watts keep her desk in his office. When she asked to move, no other space was made available except on another floor, where she was cut off from meetings and the information flow until she moved back to Simonds’ space, one of the individuals said.

The STX lawyer Bert Deixler said: “It is true that she regularly worked at a desk in Mr. Simonds’ office, but she had her own office.”

Watts complained repeatedly about the unwanted attention, according to both individuals. In September 2016, an outside attorney was brought in who recommended that a bodyguard be present when the two were alone in the office, and that they not fly to Asia together without others present, one of the insiders said. Deixler said: “There was no bodyguard, there was no recommendation. That’s not true.”

Neither recommendation was followed, the insider said, and Watts again found herself alone on 15-hour private flights to China with Simonds.

The two individuals also said that Simonds’ wife, Anne, believed the CEO and Watts were having sex. “Bob’s wife would call and scream, ‘Get Bob on the phone, or is he with Sophie?” She then asked if the two were having oral sex in the office,  the former employee said. The second individual cited the same comment by Simonds’ wife.

Neither insider said they knew of a sexual relationship between Simonds and Watts.

STX was founded by Simonds, Watts and Bill McGlashan of TPG Growth in 2012.

The fledgling company landed the Chinese film company Huayi Brothers as a co-production and slate-financing partner, raising $1 billion to spend on acquisition titles and mid-budget original films in an industry increasingly reliant on tentpole films.

STX Chairman and CEO Bob Simonds

In media appearances, the untested Watts was touted as a sharp young visionary paired with Simonds, an experienced finance professional. In early meetings, Simonds boasted about his young charge  — and he showed off their shared office to demonstrate the progressive company culture.

Said a third person, a former STX employee with knowledge of their dynamic: “They were super close. They relied on each other in a business sense. The psychological thing was — Sophie came in without a lot of experience. Bob would listen to her opinion. And people would think: ‘What does she have on him? Why would he listen to her above people who have experience in this field?'”

The studio struggled initially, with pricey flops like Matthew McConaughey’s “Free State of Jones” and the $60 million tween sci-fi film “The Space Between Us,” which grossed only $8 million in the U.S. The studio’s lone  true hit was the 2016 Mila Kunis-Kristen Bell comedy “Bad Moms,” which took over $180 million worldwide on a $20 million budget.

STX has seen a series of high-profile executives depart, including president of production Cathy Schulman and president of marketing Jack Pan. Before him, president of digital Kathy Savitt remained in the position for less than a year. Chief content officer Oren Aviv was demoted to a producer on the family franchise “Ugly Dolls.”

One of the two people who said Watts felt harassed by Simonds spoke to Watts in October at a women’s leadership event, and said she was distraught.

“She said it was horrible and she had to leave,” the individual said. “She said, ‘I can’t have a life without him. He ruins every relationship I have.'”

But the final straw appears to have occurred at Variety’s Power of Women event on Oct. 13. One witness said Watts showed up and was seated next to Simonds, although men do not typically attend the event. Watts looked pained and left abruptly, the witness said. STX’s attorney Deixler said: “She left to go to a business meeting in the ordinary course of events. She didn’t leave abruptly.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

STX Gets Investment From John Malone's Telecom Giant Liberty Global

'Bad Moms' Studio STX Plans 2018 IPO on Hong Kong Stock Exchange

STX Films Names Mike Viane Head of Theatrical Sales

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Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Close to Investment by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince (Exclusive) Tue, 16 Jan 2018 02:15:21 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman WME’s parent company, Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor, is poised to get a significant investment from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, an individual familiar with the discussions told TheWrap on Monday.

Bin Salman has been seeking to open up Saudi Arabia to new forms of industry as oil is increasingly regarded as a diminishing asset over time in an energy-conscious world.

The investment would represent a minority share in the company, which comprises the WME talent agency, the sports franchise Ultimate Fighting Championship and the fashion and live events megaproducer IMG.

The crown prince has drawn international scrutiny to the oil-rich kingdom for a harsh crackdown on corruption, involving mass arrests of 200 relatives in an “anti-corruption” sweep.

The individual with knowledge said that Endeavor CEO Emanuel visited Saudi Arabia twice in 2017 to discuss the prospect. He was there in the spring and again near the end of the year, including for a conference in Riyadh. The investment would come through the kingdom’s public investment fund. The investment is expected to close in the next two weeks. Some Hollywood insiders speculated that Emanuel was actually seeking an outright sale of Endeavor, but a knowledgeable individual said that categorically was untrue.

Endeavor is expected to go public at some point, having acquired IMG for $2.3 billion in 2013, and UFC for $4 billion in 2016. The company got a $1 billion cash infusion in August 2017 from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Government of Singapore Investment Fund.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Graham Taylor, Chris Rice Named Co-Presidents of WME and IMG's New Division Endeavor Content

WME-IMG Owner Renames Parent Company Endeavor

Legendary Hires Former Endeavor Agent Greg Siegel to Develop Digital Series

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Viacom and CBS Are Seeking to Merge, Insiders Say (Exclusive) Fri, 12 Jan 2018 20:43:03 +0000 Sharon Waxman and Matt Donnelly Viacom and CBS vice-chairwoman Shari Redstone is pursuing a merger of the two media companies that split more than a decade ago, according to multiple insiders who spoke to TheWrap.

With the Hollywood landscape quickly shifting, Redstone, president of the privately-held National Amusements that controls both media companies, has concluded that a bigger footprint is necessary for the companies to thrive. CBS’ core business is broadcast television along with multiple digital properties, while Viacom holds cable channels like Nickelodeon and Comedy Central along with the Paramount movie studio.

A time frame for any potential merger is unclear, but three individuals with knowledge of the companies said that Redstone is actively moving in that direction, which represented another shift in her back-and-forth mindset on the matter.

Viacom and National Amusements declined to comment, and CBS had no immediate response to a request for comment.

CBS chairman Les Moonves, who has long resisted talk of recombining the companies, is now open to the possibility, the insiders said. He would be the most likely person to run the merged companies, though Redstone is considering other candidates, according to two insiders.

An individual close to Moonves acknowledged the process to TheWrap: “He’s having active discussions with Shari and the board on a wide variety of issues all the time, including this one. And those discussions continue with regard to looking to merge the two companies.”

One insider told TheWrap that Redstone was looking at other candidates because Moonves was demanding an ownership stake and she thought his demands were too rich. The individual close to Moonves disputed this, saying: “At no time has he asked for an ownership position.”

The move to merge the companies represents another reversal for Redstone, who directly appealed to CBS and Viacom to merge in September 2016, then retreated from this in the following months, presumably because of Moonves’ opposition.

In a letter in September 2016 to both boards from her parent company National Amusements, she touted the potential of “substantial synergies” that a merger would bring. She called on the boards to “respond even more aggressively and effectively” to combat the challenges they both faced.

Redstone later reconsidered after ousting Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and replacing him with Bob Bakish — whom she installed after successfully wresting control of Viacom in a bruising boardroom and legal battle over succession plans involving her father, Sumner Resdstone.

“We talked about it, and what became apparent to me very quickly was that our assets were severely undervalued, which I had understood, but what I didn’t understand at the time was the significant upside that existed in our businesses once we had a good management team in place and the culture came back,” Redstone said at last May’s re/code conference.

The new merger talk comes amid a new period of consolidation in the entertainment and media industry. In December, Disney announced plans for a $52.4 billion acquisition of the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s movie and TV assets, while telecom giant AT&T is attempting to complete the $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner announced more than a year ago.

Meanwhile, the rise of streaming giant Netflix — whose $83 billion market cap far exceeds both Viacom and CBS combined — as well as the ambitious moves by tech giants like Amazon and Apple into the entertainment content space have set off a period of strategic change in the sector.

The market cap of Viacom is $12.7 billion, while the market cap of CBS is $23.2 billion.

In February 2016, the then 92-year-old Redstone stepped down as chairman of both Viacom and CBS amid questions about his age and mental competency. Moonves assumed the chairman title at CBS, while Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman was ousted and ultimately replaced by Robert Bakish.

Viacom and CBS had merged into a single company in 1999, which Sumner Redstone split in 2005 in an attempt to maximize shareholder value.

The Redstones control both the CBS and Viacom through their supervoting shares held by National Amusements.

As of December 2016, National Amusements, directly and through subsidiaries, holds approximately 79.8 percent of the Class A (voting) common stock of Viacom Inc., constituting 10 percent of the overall equity of the Company, and holds approximately 79.5 percent of the Class A (voting) common stock and 2.4 percent of the Class B (non‐voting) common stock of CBS Corporation, constituting 9.1 percent of the overall equity of the Company.

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Inside the Warner Bros Shakeup and What It Means for AT&T Merger Wed, 10 Jan 2018 02:50:46 +0000 Sharon Waxman The shakeup at Warner Bros. on Tuesday seems aimed at making the studio nimble enough to deal with the uncertainty in its immediate future: corporate merger, standalone sale or none of the above.

But, for the record, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara went out of his way to deny that this was the case.

“It has zero to do with AT&T,” he told TheWrap in an interview after the restructuring was announced. “It has nothing to do with the contemplation of the merger happening or not happening — it’s what we thought was in the best interest of Warner Bros. short-term and long term.”

What is indisputable is that a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the studio because of the lawsuit by the Department of Justice against AT&T’s $85 billion bid to buy Warner Bros. parent company Time Warner. This necessarily means the studio has to prepare for conflicting eventualities in the near future.

An individual close to the company told TheWrap that there is no internal clarity over whether the merger will happen or not. But if the merger fails, this executive said, Time Warner is expected to be broken up into parts and sold separately as Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

Another individual told TheWrap that the fact AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently went out of his way to praise President Trump’s tax bill, citing the creation of thousands of jobs for his company, was significant. This knowledgeable observer suggested that Stephenson’s statements were an olive branch intended to facilitate a settlement with the Department of Justice.

No one involved in the deal seems to believe that divesting CNN is in the cards. An AT&T spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s own future is unknown, and he has two more years on his contract. He placed the studio under the clear leadership of Toby Emmerich, who made his reputation at Warner’s New Line Cinema division where he found low-budget cultural hits like the Stephen King adaptation “It.”

By transitioning studio marketing-distribution veteran Sue Kroll to a producing deal — she was in the running for the top job as well — he removes the possibility of political gamesmanship among his senior team.

The new executive configuration may well reflect the most streamlined version of the film studio to make it attractive to potential buyers. There was a sense that a previous triumvirate structure involving Emmerich, Kroll and former production president Greg Silverman left too much uncertainty about who was leading the studio.

With increased autonomy, Emmerich will be expected to stabilize the studio’s DC Films unit. It’s a content shop responsible for at least six superhero tentpoles in active phases of development, production and postproduction, including Jason Momoa and Nicole Kidman’s “Aquaman,” due this December, and a planned 2019 sequel to Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman.”

It will take time for Emmerich to fully realize his increased influence and marching orders for the studio’s slate, but Tsujihara is sure of at least one thing — his company cannot and does not want to be Disney.

“Warner Bros. needs to continue doing what it’s always done: producing the biggest, most diverse slate in the business. That’s what’s made us successful. We can’t do what Disney’s done,” he said.

“It’s worked really, really well for them, but it’s not who we are,”  Tsujihara said. “We need to continue to create a balanced slate of all types of movies and all genres.”

Matt Donnelly contributed to this post.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara: 'We Face Headwinds in Every One of Our Businesses'

Warner Bros Leadership Shake-Up: Toby Emmerich to Run Studio, Sue Kroll Steps Down

'Animaniacs': Hulu, Warner Bros. Partner on '90s Cartoon Reboot

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A Wolff in the West Wing – How ‘Fire and Fury’ Was Reported Sat, 06 Jan 2018 20:05:46 +0000 Sharon Waxman I’m still trying to wrap my head around this image: Michael Wolff, middle-aged, bald-headed guy with screaming “I’m a New York media elite” glasses sitting on a crumb-strewn couch in the West Wing hallway, taking notes.

Not one day, not two days, but according to his account, week after week over the first eight months of the Trump administration. Sitting, watching, more than occasionally getting briefed on the soap opera going on around President Chaos. And (did I mention) taking notes?

“Shortly after January 20, I took up a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing,” he writes in the introduction to his book. “Since then I have conducted more than 200 interviews.”

Hmm. No chance somebody — say Kellyanne Conway, or Hope Hicks, or Sean Spicer — buttonholed the guy with the notebook and the vaguely familiar face who was not in the White House press corps and asked, “So, dude, what exactly are you doing here?”

There are a lot of layers to unpeel in the saga of how Wolff’s new — and now notorious — book came to be. The most significant single takeaway of the book is the terrifying conclusion that Trump’s own advisors believe that he is not fit for the presidency. “Semi-literate,” in Wolff’s words, someone who doesn’t read, who makes policy off of Fox television talking points, who blindly believes in his own untested instincts on matters of global importance.

It’s not an utter surprise to learn this, but to hear so many of those on Trump’s team — along with the likes of Rupert Murdoch — confirm this impression while privately calling him a “moron” and “idiot” is certainly sobering. The book opens with Roger Ailes pressing Steve Bannon on whether Trump gets it, and Bannon saying Trump “gets what he gets.” 

We should not lose sight of the importance of this insight and what it brings to the national conversation. It should light a fire under efforts to bring stability and sanity to our highest office, and by the way, it’s an incredibly saddening reality.

But the book is also a microcosmic look at the vicious New York media game displaced to Washington DC and, of all places, The White House. In that world, friends and enemies are all the same thing. Murdoch and Trump are buddies and supplicants, and Trump — even once elected — is still the supplicant, in Wolff’s telling. In this ecosystem, Hillary goes to Trump’s wedding, Trump gives her money for every campaign until he decides to run against her, then calls to lock her up when it’s convenient. That’s the game.

And Michael Wolff — the man who invites Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon to dinner and takes notes for his hit job book after the baba au rhum is finished — is just the man to do it. (Calling Tom Wolfe. Different wolf. Same bonfire of the vanities.)

That is the very Murdoch-Ailes-Trump-Kushner feedback loop that runs through Wolff’s book, in which the players as often dump on one another as vacation on each others’ yachts – an insight that is frightening and nauseating at the same time. (This just in passing caught my eye: Ivanka and Jared were on uber-Democrat David Geffen’s yacht in Croatia when they were called back to serve in the campaign in summer of 2016, the book tells us.)

It’s a world where media careers live on a par with the national interest. From the book: “Trump’s longtime friend Roger Ailes liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future.” That was during the campaign, when Trump was intending to lose.

Except the New York games that risked careers and fortunes now risk national security and millions of citizens. They now have a nuclear button.

The fact that Michael Wolff — not Bob Woodward, not Doris Kearns Goodwin – gets to be the stenographer, er, chronicler of it all tells you everything you need to know about that through-the-looking-glass cultural shift.

With all that, I am riveted by the idea that someone could, on the basis of a loose friendship/acquaintance with the president, get the kind of access and cooperation that Wolff did.

In the book’s introduction and interviews, Wolff assures us that he did not do anything particularly noteworthy to achieve that. He just showed up to the White House.

In an interview on Saturday he said: “I literally think you go in there and say, ‘I’m writing a book,’ and they go, “‘Oh. A book.’ It’s like a cloak of invisibility. And then also they would do this thing that would be like, ‘Oh, this is off the record.’ And I would say, ‘I would like to use it for the book.’ And they would say, ‘Well, when does that come out?’ And I would say, ‘Next year.’ ‘Oh, oh, yeah, OK, fine.'”

Wolff and Trump deserve each other in every way. They are both symptoms and products of the toxic sick ward where the values are money and fame, and hubris and backstabbing are the norm. The crown jewel is a winning headline in Page Six.

In one of his savviest passages in “Fire and Fury,” Wolff points this out:

“Media is personal. It is a series of blood scores. The media in its often collective mind decides who is going to rise and who is going to fall, who lives and dies. If you stay around long enough in the media eye, your fate, like that of a banana republic despot, is often an unkind one — a law Hillary Clinton was not able to circumvent. The media has the last word.”

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Letitia James, Shelley Zalis, Sarah Ann Masse Join BE Conference 2018 as Speakers, Mentors Thu, 04 Jan 2018 20:08:27 +0000 Sharon Waxman Letitia James, the public advocate for the City of New York and a rising star on the Democratic political scene, joins TheWrap’s 2018 BE Conference at SXSW in Austin on March 11-12, 2018 as a featured speaker.

Also joining the stellar line-up of speakers and mentors are:

  • Girls Lounge Founder Shelley Zalis
  • Actress and Harvey Weinstein Accuser Sarah Ann Masse
  • Best-selling Author Karen Walrond
  • Elastic Minds Founder Claudia Carraso

Zalis, Walrond and Carraso are all returning for the second annual conference, which TheWrap launched in 2017 to allow outstanding millennial women to be mentored by leaders in entertainment, science, politics, media and business on how they can push boundaries, innovate and be game changers.

As the Public Advocate for the City of New York, Letitia James is the second highest ranking elected official in the City and the first woman of color to hold a citywide position in New York City history. “Tish” her nickname, is a strong advocate for criminal justice reform and led the push for police body-worn cameras in the NYPD. Throughout her lifelong commitment to public service, she has distinguished herself as an advocate and leader on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Shelley Zalis is CEO, The Female Quotient and Founder, The Girls’ Lounge. She has gone against the grain most of her career, starting in 2000 when she left the corporate world to pioneer online research. Her most recent endeavor includes launching The Female Quotient and Girls’ Lounge which supports and mentors women to find their voice, embrace their feminine leadership powers and work together to transform corporate culture. Shelley is also the host of a new Bloomberg series titled “Walk The Talk” focused on gender equality and the critical importance of women in executive leadership.

Karen Walrond is an author, speaker & photographer. Her bestselling book, “The Beauty of Different,” is a chronicle of imagery & essays on the concept that what makes us different makes us beautiful. She’s the creative mind behind the award-winning website Chookooloonks, an inspirational source for living with intention, creativity & adventure. Her second book, “Make Light,” will be released Spring 2018.

Claudia Carraso is a communications management consultant, creative director, and marketing leader with more than 20 years’ experience in developing major global brand platforms, growing dynamic start-up companies, and advising NGOs on communications policy, issues and challenges. She is currently founder and managing partner of Elastic Minds, LLC, a consulting group based in Los Angeles with presence in San Francisco and New York City.

Actor, Writer, Producer, Comedian, Singer and Activist, Sarah Ann Masse is a hilarious woman on a mission; not only is she continuing the trend of breaking stereotypes and proving that females are funny but doing so as she sites unhealthy social norms and boxes society places women in. In 2017, Sarah Ann joined the #MeToo movement as a survivor of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein and an activist for change.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

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Hollywood in 2018: The Old Order Ends, a New One Rises Sun, 31 Dec 2017 17:27:40 +0000 Sharon Waxman Three months ago, I wrote that the change that has been years in coming to the entertainment industry was upon us.

“The new world has been a long time coming, but it seems to be here,” I wrote at the opening of TheWrap’s annual Grill conference on October 1. “The outlines of the new entertainment ecosystem are becoming clear… The next 12 months will be decisive in defining the contours of what the content industry looks like for decades to come.”

As we face 2018, those changes are about to come barreling through the established order of Hollywood, leaving companies in pieces, shattering long-accepted norms, scattering talented executives to the winds and anointing a new set of power brokers.

It will be a time of disruption and transition, and I am not referring to Harvey Weinstein (more on that later). Here is what looms on the horizon.

1. The End of the Major Studios

Two major mergers are hanging in the balance — the AT&T acquisition of Time-Warner and Disney’s purchase of Fox’s movie and TV assets. Both signal an end to the major studio system that has reigned for more than 50 years, and a new era of consolidation at the topmost levels of entertainment and media.

The significance of Rupert Murdoch’s decision to sell the precious pieces of his carefully built entertainment empire to Disney’s Bob Iger, rather than bequeath them to his sons Lachlan and James, cannot be overstated.

To some observers, this represents a kind of surrender by one of the most combative and ambitious media titans of our time. To others, it reflects a canny assessment of the media landscape and a bold move to cut the losses of a mammoth operation that lacks the technology prowess to compete over the long term with the new power players.

Up for discussion are whether CBS and Viacom will ultimately re-merge and whether Sony will let its own entertainment assets go. As the new order rises, these changes will matter less.

2. The New Order

We know who the emerging power players are: Facebook, Google, Netflix, Apple, Amazon. For years, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has led a rising challenge to Time-Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. Now Bewkes is set to retire as soon as the AT&T deal closes and Hastings just got a $30 million stock grant to keep his growth going.

In the last three months, Netflix has continued to swell in size, with a market cap now at $83 billion, making it bigger than any media company besides Disney, including Time Warner. Just as important, the streaming service has signed deals with some of the most talented showrunners in Hollywood, Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan, women who are on the cutting edge of where pop culture is going. Netflix also signed a deal with Jerry Seinfeld in the past week — and I hear that guy is pretty good.

The other new tech challengers in the entertainment space will have to play catch up to Netflix, but no one doubts that they have almost limitless means to do so. The only question is: How big are their ambitions?

In 2017, Facebook announced plans to invest $1 billion in new entertainment content and has been busy striking deals across town. Apple has done the same with the same initial 10-figure investment, a figure that everyone seems to believe is a drop in the bucket of what they intend to spend on programming in the future.

In my opinion, though, Amazon is the one to watch. Jeff Bezos has utterly cleaned house at his eight-year-old Amazon Studios division, kicking out studio head Roy Price, comedy chief Joe Lewis and head of alternative Conrad Riggs. (Price resigned shortly after a series of sexual harassment accusations surfaced; the other exits appear to be coincidental.)

With the imminent changes at Fox and Warner Bros., Bezos has a rare opportunity to dip into a deep talent pool to restaff and reboot his content operation. Word on the street is that he has been looking to hire top female executive talent. And thanks to the recent corporate upheavals, there may soon be some heavyweights in play, including Fox TV honcho Dana Walden, Warner Bros. marketing/distribution wiz Sue Kroll, Fox film head Stacey Snider and HBO/Annapurna TV veteran Sue Naegle.

So what does the new power landscape of Hollywood look like when all this shakes out? I believe there will be about six major players dominating the space, led by Comcast, AT&T, Netflix and Disney. I’ll leave blank spots for one more technology titan and one wild card because you just never do know.

Another thing: These so-called  “technology” firms need to be recategorized as media and content companies, since they both distribute and/or create the stuff of popular culture. They also need to shoulder the same responsibilities that the old order did — enforcing standards and practices, serving the community and offering accountability to not just shareholders but to consumers.

3. The Indies

In the world of independent studios, the business models are scary and the future rocky.

Lionsgate has already merged with Starz after completing an earlier merger with Summit (which gave the company the now-dormant “Hunger Games” franchise). It’s unclear if this new move makes that company big enough to compete.

The Weinstein Company, already financially challenged, is effectively over — the new incarnation will face serious hurdles (Lionsgate is one bidder to buy the outfit, mostly for its library and development slate).

It’s unclear if Fox Searchlight will survive the move to Disney, which already once declared its disinterest in art-house film and is clearly (and correctly) focused on launching its own streaming service to challenge Netflix head-on.

That leaves Focus at NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Classics and the unknown unknowns around A24.

4. Women and the Future

As should be obvious by now, the culture of Hollywood shifted in 2017. The casting couch, the permissive atmosphere on sets, the casual and constant sexual assaults and harassment of the (apparent) past are no longer tolerated as we look to 2018.

Dozens of bad individuals were drummed out of the entertainment and media industry in 2017. (TheWrap’s rogue’s gallery now has a stunning 68 people in it, all men.) The shock waves of the most heinous behavior are still reverberating, spilling over to harm the reputations of icons like Meryl Streep or companies that canceled every Louis CK sketch ever created.

The pendulum is still swinging far to one side, as the latest round of “he tapped my butt/she tapped by butt” nonsense suggests, and eventually it will swing back, hopefully coming to rest somewhere around the midpoint of decency and common sense.

But “the reckoning,” as it is aptly called, has been necessary. Like all revolutions, it has been painful and not always just.

There are calls across the industry for gender parity, not just equity, in the decision-making suites and behind the camera. There are early signs that the savviest of companies — such as United Talent Agency — are adopting these goals or considering doing so. This year’s biggest box office hits — “Beauty and the Beast,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Wonder Woman” all had female leads — a positive sign for the future.

Hollywood in 2018 will be about change. Disruption — both on the business side and the cultural side of the entertainment business — will be the guiding theme. Happy New Year.

Related stories from TheWrap:

At TheGrill 2017, A Tipping Point: Tech Platforms Have Arrived on the Shores of Content

Disney's 'Star Wars' Movies Have Already Earned Back $4 Billion Lucasfilm Investment at Box Office

9 Biggest Billion-Dollar Entertainment and Media Deals in 2017 (Photos)

20 Biggest Movie Letdowns of 2017: From 'Life' to 'Justice League' (Photos)

2017 Box Office Hits and Misses, From Marvel Blockbusters to Matt Damon's Many Duds

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Sasha Alexander, CAA-GBG’s Kendra Bracken-Ferguson Among Speakers at 2018 BE Conference for Millennial Women Tue, 19 Dec 2017 22:28:42 +0000 Wrap Staff Actress Sasha Alexander, CAA-GBG Chief Digital Officer Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and Women’s March LA Foundation founder Emiliana Guereca are among the speakers and mentors who will participate in TheWrap’s 2018 BE Conference at SXSW in Austin on March 11-12, 2018.

In addition, NASA scientist Andrea Razzaghi and PrismWork Founder & CEO Lisen Stromberg will return for the second annual conference, which TheWrap launched in 2017 to allow for outstanding millennial women to be mentored by leaders in entertainment, science, politics, media and business on how they can push boundaries, innovate and be game changers.

Sasha Alexander is a talented and versatile actress in both film and television, a director and producer known for playing Dr. Maura Isles on TNT’s hit drama “Rizzoli & Isles,” and for her role as Special Agent Caitlin Todd in the first two seasons of the popular drama “NCIS.”

She is also heavily involved with the UN Foundation and their programs for empowering and educating young women around the world, including GirlUp and the Shot@Life Campaign.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson is chief digital officer for CAA-GBG and an expert in navigating digital space. Prior to creating The BrainTrust, she co-founded Digital Brand Architects, which has grown into the go-to firm for influencer management.

Emiliana Guereca is the founder of Women’s March LA Foundation. She is also an award-winning event producer who devotes much of her time to advocacy programs for women’s rights, Latino education and gender equality. In 2016, she founded the Women’s March LA Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was the driving force behind last January’s official Women’s March in Los Angeles.

Andrea Razzaghi is deputy director of Astrophysics, NASA Science Mission Directorate overseeing the Agency’s research programs and missions necessary to discover how the Universe works and to explore how the Universe began. Among many roles, she manages a portfolio of over 20 NASA missions and/or international partnerships including the U.S.’s great space observatories Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer, which have transformed an understanding of the cosmos.

PrismWork Founder & CEO Lisen Stromberg is an author, culture innovation consultant, and widely regarded speaker who empowers people and companies to reimagine the future of work through work/life success.

She and her team at PrismWork partner with companies, leaders, and advocates, to ensure women and millennials thrive in the workplace. She is currently serving as the acting COO of the 3% Movement, committed to changing the ratio of women in leadership roles in the advertising industry.

BE is focused on connections, experience and mentorship, matching industry leaders with young female professionals to help them connect and grow and succeed in their professional lives.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Scene at BE Conference 2017: Kristen Bell, Soledad O'Brien, Mentors and More (Photos)

Watch Kristen Bell Talk Entrepreneurship, Kick Off BE Conference (Exclusive Video)

TheWrap and BE Conference Aim to Expand Opportunity for Women

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Behind the Disney-Fox Merger: 7 Things We Still Need to Know – and 3 We Already Do Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:10:23 +0000 Sharon Waxman The merger of 21st Century Fox’s main entertainment assets with The Walt Disney Company announced on Thusday is one of those deals that come around once in a generation.

It signals a major change in the balance of power in Hollywood, as well as serves as a reflection of the seismic shift that has happened over the past decade with the rise of technology platforms.

WaxWord will weigh in on that a bit later, but in the meantime, here are seven questions that weigh on our minds with this mega-merger:

1. What happens to top executives?
Dozens of top-notch executives are thrown into limbo by the merger, a talent pool the likes of which has not been available for decades.

Will streaming giants Amazon and Netflix swoop in to poach Fox executives? I think yes. Among the chief targets are studio chief Stacey Snider, production chief Emma Watts, Fox 2000 lead Elizabeth Gabler, marketing veterans Pam Levine or Julie Rieger — all on the movie side alone.

And it’s anybody’s guess the next corporate home for the unique management and programming skills of Dana Walden and Gary Newman — partners of two decades — not to mention the couple dozen of top rated television chiefs who work for them.

2. What about Peter Rice?
Rice, president of 21st Century Fox as well as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fox Networks Group, is one of the top executives at Fox.

He has been Rupert Murdoch’s favored non-biological son for two decades, often seen as someone who could lead the company. Will he be left in the cold, or groomed to succeed Bob Iger?

3. What exactly happens to Hulu?
Hulu is sticking around. Iger has made clear that whatever Disney’s new streaming service is — it’s not this. So now Disney will own a 60 percent stake in Hulu — the combined stake of Disney and Fox — and will need to decide about the future of the streaming service.

The streaming service has had some significant success in the past year but has also been plagued by infighting among the owner-parents — which also include Comcast (through NBCUniversal) and Time Warner (through Turner Broadcasting).

4. Does Fox Searchlight have a future?
The prized indie film studio, which won Best Picture with “12 Years a Slave” and has a major Oscar contender this year with “The Shape of Water,” is a source of prestige but not great revenue or profits at Fox.

Will Disney keep it as a standalone label after its rocky 17-year experience with Miramax, which it sold in 2010? Will it be relegated to making movies for the streaming service?

5. Will Disney have an appetite R-rated fare?
Fox has built the model for R-rated superhero action with “Deadpool,” and fan-friendly horror fare like Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” Can this comfortably live with the Disney brand of filmed entertainment? Fans are going to hope so.

6. Will this media mega-merger pass muster with Donald Trump’s regulators?
With the Trump-era Department of Justice suing AT&T over its planned acquisition of Time-Warner, many will want to see the same scrutiny of this mega-deal.

It seems Rupert Murdoch’s friendship with Donald Trump might smooth the path, although many will be watching the space closely. (Personally I see zero chance of Donald doing anything to discomfit Rupert’s plans. He needs Fox News too much.)

7. How will exhibitors react?
This move further weakens theatrical exhibition, since it creates fewer sources of movie content and thus diminishes their leverage. The struggling chains are now being confronted with the pressure of MoviePass — a flat fee subscription service — and now the overwhelming force of Disney plus Fox.

The three things we know are:
• Hulu is staying put for the moment.

• X-Men and the Fantastic Four are likely to hook up with other Marvel superheroes in the not-too-distant future.

• Rupert and Donald will stay tight buddies, and Bob Iger ain’t running for president next cycle.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Writers Guild West Warns Fox-Disney Merger Will Be at 'Expense of Creators'

Why the Disney-Fox Deal Won't Be Good for Nerds, or Anyone Else (Commentary)

X-Men, Fantastic Four Fans Rejoice at Prospect of Mega-Avengers Movies With Disney-Fox Merger

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