All posts by William Tobias

Cannes Marche Debates How to Keep Co-Productions Afloat during COVID-19

With many activities starting to recover since the lockdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic, co-producers have started putting several measures in place as Film Productions restarts.

In a session with Cannes Marche, while addressing Co-Production in COVID-19 Times, Finola Dwyer – founder of Wildgaze Films stated that her company has made a decision to postpone any filming shoots in the United States and Canada and instead are now focusing on local production. Finola also added – “We’re sticking to what we’re doing, holding our nerve and keeping an eye out on U.K. projects that are more self-contained – because this virus is going  to be with us for quite a while.” 

She also revealed that her company currently working on some projects including one with British screenwriter and novelist Nick Hornby.

Also speaking on the issue, Executive Producer Mike Goodridge also said, “Just having to restart preproduction can be a costly process, so there has been a considerable uptick in budget but our co-production partners, our private equity, our bond companies and the banks have all been very understanding, We are all pulling together to get best the result.”

Before the coronavirus lockdown that was imposed around the world, Mike Goodridge was working on co-producing “Triangle of Sadness” – a film starring Woody Harrelson and is being directed by Ruben Ostlund. 

In the session, Goodridge expressed optimism about the shoot saying it was only 37% complete before the lockdown and that they were fortunate the Swedish insurance policy on the film covered them for the pandemic.

While many of the co-producers present in the session were optimistic, some of them were confident they would restart co-production with ease. 

GFG Films’ Matthew Metcalf who produced Dean Spanley and Love Birds are one of the co-producers who are confident it is business as usual for them. He said: “On a domestic level, New Zealand is effectively out of it now – I can go to work in my office – there is lots of work – but everything is more difficult than it was.” He continued, “The irony is that while we can’t travel all the relationships that I have forged over 20 years have been through jumping on planes and nurturing relationships. That’s enabled me now to reach out on Zoom and keep on going.”

Another producer who sees the lockdown as a mixed blessing is Scottish based Victoria Thomas who founded The Polkadot Factory and had to spend the lockdown in Edinburgh. 

She said: “Since lockdown there do seem to be a lot more people who are around and willing to answer their emails at least!” She also added that her company was working on a documentary before the lockdown but it has since been overtaken by other world events. In her words, “The project cover kids in France and police brutality – so we’re now looking at that narrative in the context of what’s been happening.”

Claudia Steffen who is the Managing Director of Pandora Film, a company based in Cologne, however, expressed concern about the financial positions of crew members and said how well each crew member depends on the level of support their government provides for them. 

In her words, “Each country is thinking of its own people and own costs. The German Government came through quickly to support the crew –they can apply for a grant, which covers 60% of what they earn for a whole year. France has also been supportive. Yet we hear of crew from the U.K. that don’t get anything – or their contracts have been canceled. It’s difficult when you start a film and have mix of crew with no security and others who are completely secure.”

She added that other governments need to provide some level of support to stimulate production saying “It’s the cheapest form of funding they could provide.”

Warner Bros. Moves fourth Matrix Film to 2022

Off the back of moving Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 to new release dates, Warner Bros. has announced the change in date of another upcoming highly anticipated movie.

This was announced in line with the huge changes Warner Bros. has been making. Matrix 4, which was initially scheduled to release May 21, 2021, is now scheduled for April 1, 2022.  This decision came as a result of the pause in production which was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Filming of the movie was carried out in Germany before the pandemic and is proposed to start next month.

Many of the original casts of the franchise such as Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Neil Patrick Haris are back for the fourth installment of the movie. The franchise’s co-creator, Lana Wachowski, also remains one of the directors of the movie.

In other news, Warner Bros. has removed “Witches” from its scheduled release date and is yet to announce a date for the movie. The movie which stars Anne Hathaway is directed by Robert Zemeckis and was initially scheduled for release on October 8, 2020.

In addition, the sci-fi action movie “Godzilla vs Kong” is now scheduled by Warner Bros. to release May 21, 2021; the date which was originally scheduled for Matrix 4 release. Also, Warner bros. moved its upcoming live-action comedy film, “Tom and Jerry” to March 5, 2021, from December 23, 2020.

 The Hollywood studios also announced it will be releasing one of its untitled horror movies on Jun. 24, 2020 while also removing another untitled Warner Bros. event film originally scheduled for Oct. 16, 2020, to a date later to be announced.

All in all, the studio changed the release dates of 6 of its upcoming movies while also removing two other ones from their scheduled release date with no date yet to be announced. 

Cineworld backs away from $2.1 Billion Deal for Canada’s Cineplex, cites deal breach

U.K based enterprise, Cineworld announced earlier this week that they are no longer working on the proposed $2.1 billion deal to acquire Canada’s Cineplex after Cineplex appears to have breached some of the agreements backing the deal.

Cineworld is U.K ‘s leading multiplex Cinema chain with over 9518 screens in 11 countries. Cineworld Cinemas made the shocking announcement after evidence and proof of breaches from Cineplex Inc.’s end of the deal surfaced.

In a statement responding to the announcement, Cineplex said: “As a consequence of these matters and Cineplex’s unwillingness to cure the breaches, Cineworld has notified Cineplex that it has terminated the Arrangement Agreement with immediate effect. The Acquisition will therefore not proceed.”

In addition, Cineworld claims Cineplex denied breaching the terms of the deal and that there was no material adverse effect from their end. In their statement, they said: “Cineworld has complied with all of its obligations under the Arrangement Agreement and it is entitled to terminate the Arrangement Agreement. It will therefore vigorously defend any allegation to the contrary.”

Cineworld’s acquisition agreements with Cineplex was announced back in December 2019. The deal would have seen Cineworld acquire the 1695 screens in 165 cinemas that are operated by Cineplex – one of Canada’s biggest theatrical brand.

Cineworld is currently in a $3.6 billion deal with Regal Entertainment Group and has planned to combine the operations of the Regal Entertainment Group and Cineplex Inc. thus making them the largest cinema chain in North America. Had the Cineplex deal gone through, Cineworld would be operating 11,204 screens ins various cinemas globally and 8,906 screens in Canada and the U.S.

“Gone With The Wind” Screening in Paris Canceled by Warner Bros.

It just won’t stop. Warner Bros. yet again makes changes to their scheduled dates. This time, the Hollywood studios announced “Gone with the Wind” which was scheduled for screening on June 23rd at the Rex Theater will no longer be released.

The Romance-Drama movie was scheduled for theatrical release on June 23 to celebrate the reopening of Cinemas in France after they were all shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Having been scheduled to release in France’s biggest theater, HBO Max temporarily pulled the Oscar-winning movie from their website following John Ridley’s featured article in the Los Angeles Times Newspaper. In the op-ed, John Ridley urged the streaming service to remove the movie from its library due to the way the film “romanticizes the horrors of slavery.

The award-winning classic was released in 1939 and has gone on to win eight (8) Academy awards but has always been partially criticized for its depiction of Slavery and black people as a whole. The movie starred Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, and Clark Gable and tells the story of the love between the daughter of a plantation owner and a southern aristocrat.

Realizing what releasing the movie would mean in light of the ongoing protests, HBO Max, released a statement while simultaneously pulling the movie from its website. In the statement, the streaming service said the Civil war epic would return and be available for people to watch. The service also added that it would be releasing a discussion about the historical context of the movie as well as their opposition towards the racist acts depicted in the movie.

“Gone with the Wind is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American Society. These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible. These depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMedia’s values, so when we return the film to HBO Max, it will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions but will be presented as it was originally created because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. If we are to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history”.

The move does not come as a surprise considering the ongoing Black Lives Matter #BLM protests in light of George Floyd’s death. Re-releasing such a movie would only rile more people up.

2021 Oscars Postponed by two months due to Coronavirus Pandemic

With the world adjusting to the Coronavirus pandemic with various events being canceled and the deployment of several health guidelines, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced its 93rd Academy Awards event has been postponed.

The announcement came last week the 2021 Oscars which was scheduled for Feb. 28 will be delayed by two months and the new date being April 25, 2021. This announcement is in line with Variety’s report in May in which the report said the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was planning on delaying the upcoming event due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement released by Dawn Hudson (CEO) and David Rubin (Academy President), they said: “For over a century, movies have played an important role in comforting, inspiring, and entertaining us during the darkest of times. They certainly have this year. Our hope, in extending the eligibility period and our Awards date, is to provide the flexibility filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone’s control. This coming Oscars and the opening of our new museum will mark a historic moment, gathering movie fans around the world to unite through cinema”.

Also, the academy announced that the annual Governors Awards gala scheduled to take place in November has been postponed with a date later to be announced. Also, the opening of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures building in  Los Angeles, California has been pushed back to April next year.

Alongside postponing the date of their major events, the organization also updated its eligibility rules for the 2021 Oscars Academy Awards. In the new rules, feature films that want to be nominated for an award must have a release date between Jan. 1, 2020, and Feb 28. 2021. The new submission deadline for specialty categories has been pushed to Dec. 30, 2020, while submission deadline for general categories (such as Best Picture, Original song, Best Actor and Actress, etc.) is now Jan. 15, 2021.

The novel Coronavirus outbreak has caused a lot of changes in the entertainment industry. Many studios have turned to digital distribution platforms for the release of some of their movies due to the shutdown of movie theaters. Some other studios however decided to postponed their upcoming blockbuster movies with dates to be announced when movie cinemas reopen.

There is still no certainty what the future holds for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Awards telecast but we will definitely keep you updated. 

Pete Davidson’s ‘King of Staten Island’ pulled from theaters after Universal Picture ‘error’

With only two days left to the theatrical premiere of Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson’s comedy movie, “The King of Staten Island”, the movie was abruptly pulled from theatres much to the chagrin of fans who have already bought tickets to see the movie.

Director Judd Apatow also took to twitter and tweeted “This is an error. The King of Staten Island is only opening on VOD Friday. It is not opening in theaters”.

The comedic drama which is a semi-autobiographical film of Pete Davidson was initially scheduled to debut in select few drive-in theatres still open during the COVID-19 pandemic while also simultaneously launched digitally on premium video-on-demand platforms.

The news prompted outrage from the theaters that have been promoting the movie and selling tickets both offline and online. Most of the reason for the outrage was due to the fact that they now have to refund those that already bought tickets and try to find new movies to show.

New Zealand Eases Covid-19 Border controls After Avatar Crew Allowed Entry

Following the New Zealand government’s decision to allow award-winning director James Cameron and his filming crew into the country, many from the opposition party have accused the government of double standards. Responding to this anger and outburst, the government announced it will ease its Covid-19 border controls.

Like every other country in the world, New Zealand was forced to close its border to non-residents and non-citizens in early March after recording cases of people being down with the coronavirus. However, as of Monday this week, a new rule is now being enforced. The new rule gives “high-value workers” with “projects or assignment of national or regional significance” access into New Zealand.

Earlier before the latest rule change, two athletes competing for America’s Cup were denied access to enter the country. Coupled with the rule change for high-value workers, arrivals are to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. This means James Cameron and his crew of 55 are currently in lockdown in their Wellington hotel rooms.

As of the time of this writing, New Zealand is yet to record a new Covid-19 case in 28 days. In addition, there are no active cases in the country

ABC News Exec Barbara Fedida Placed on Administrative Leave after Report of racist Comments

In light of the recently published article by Huffington Post, ABC News has placed Barbara Fedida, one of its senior executives, on Administrative leave following disturbing racist statements and insensitive comments brought forward by several unnamed sources.

Barbara Fedida who is currently the network’s Senior Vice President of Talent and Business Affairs is said to have made derogatory remarks about some ABC News staff including claims of a racist comment about Robin Robert’s ”Good Morning America”. The article, which cited 34 sources that comprised of current and former ABC News staff, also reported Fedida had once given derogatory remarks about Sunny Hostin and Kendis Gibson.

Fedida re-joined ABC News after she was brought in by Ben Sherwood, former president of ABC News’ Talent and Business Affairs department. Her position gave her strong say on any appointment ABC News made. Her role also gave her influence over the career paths of various journalists and correspondents on the network. Over the years, many of the staffers have come to see Fedida as the lieutenant of the other senior executives in ABC News.

Following the release of the post by Huffington Post, ABC news immediately placed Fedida on leave and released a statement to address the issue. The statement reads: “There are deeply disturbing allegations in this story that we need to investigate, and we have placed Barbara Fedida on administrative leave while we conduct a thorough and complete investigation. These allegations do not represent the values and culture of ABC News, where we strive to make everyone feel respected in a thriving, diverse, and inclusive workplace”.

Fedida in a statement sent to Huffington Post by her attorney said: “Throughout my career, I have been a champion for increased diversity in network news. Building a news division where everyone can thrive has been my life’s mission. I am proud of my decades of work hiring, supporting, and promoting talented journalists of color. And, unlike these heartbreaking and incredibly misleading claims about me, the track record is well-documented and undeniable”.

Before rejoining the network in 2011, Barbara Fedida had worked as a producer for a couple of years at ABC News. She also worked as the Vice President of talent and development at CBS News for four years. Fedida has reported and developed specials and stories on trending news while working as a producer and many of the broadcasts have won both Emmy and Peabody Awards.

While investigations are still ongoing, it is safe to say Barbara Fedia is on thin ice right now.

‘No Time to Die’ Release Date Changed AGAIN

No Time to Die, the latest installment in the James Bond franchise is now scheduled to release earlier than expected.

Originally scheduled to release April 2020 but then rescheduled with a new release date of November 25, the long-awaited movie will now be released five days earlier in U.S. theaters.

The new release date was made official last week on the franchise’s official Twitter account. The account tweeted to reveal No Time to Die will premiere on November 20 only in the United States.

The tweet read: ‘The return of old friends in NO TIME TO DIE. In Cinemas 12th November UK, 20th November U.S.’

Asides being the latest movie in the James Bond franchise, the movie will also be Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond.

No Time to die is not the only highly anticipated movie whose original release date was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Other blockbuster movies like Disney’s Mulan (July 24), Paramount Picture’s ‘A Quiet Place II’ (Sept. 4), Pixar’s ‘Soul’ (Nov. 25), and Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ (Nov. 6) all had summer releases before being forced to reschedule their release dates.

The new release date is as a result of the changes Warner Bros. has been making to several of their upcoming movies. Other Warner Bros. movies have also been moved up and down to give the movies the best possible publicity they can get. Christopher Nolan’s upcoming spy film has been delayed from its initial release date by two weeks and is now scheduled to release July 31. Wonder Woman 1984’s initial release date of August 14 has also jumped to Oct. 2.

Universal Moves Tom Hanks’ Post-Apocalypse Movie ‘Bios’ Back to 2021

Following the different release date changes and adjustment the coronavirus pandemic has forced the entertainment industry to make, Universal Pictures has decided to move Tom Hank’s ‘Bios’ from its initial release date of Oct. 2, 2020, to April 16, 2021.

‘Bios’ starring Tom Hanks and directed by Miguel Sapochnik is a post-apocalypse sci-fi movie written by Craig Luck and Ivor Power. The executive producers are Adams Merims, Craig Luck, Zemeckis, Miguel Sapochnik, and Andy Berman.

The movie follows the journey of an ailing inventor who is one of the remaining survivors on earth after a cataclysmic solar event almost wiped out all of mankind. Whilst living in his underground bunker and with time running out due to his terminal illness, the inventor builds a robot to protect his dog when he dies. The robot, though built to protect his ailing creator’s dog soon learns about friendship, love, and what it means to be human. Caleb Landry Jones plays the robot in the movie.

The new release date was announced shortly after Warner Bros. moved eight of their upcoming movies to new dates with Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman 1984 now scheduled for release on Oct. 2.

In other news, Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions’ psychological horror movie, ‘You Should Have Left’, is set to release digitally via premium video-on-demand instead of its planned theater release. The release date is set for June 18, 2020 (U.S.). This is not the only Universal Pictures movie set to be released on digital rental services. “The King of Staten Island” directed by Judd Apatow which was originally scheduled for a theatrical rollout, was also dropped for rent via premium video on-demand services.

Other upcoming Universal Picture movies including Fast and Furious’ latest installment, Minions 2, Sing 2 have all been rescheduled to release in 2021.