Hollywood Torrent: Villains and Heroes Seldom Act Alone
Good afternoon from Los Angeles, wherever you may be. What a week. Harvey Weinstein has been expelled from his company and from the motion picture academy, for alleged sexual harassment and rape. It’s one of the most stunning and rapid falls from grace we’ve seen in recent memory.
One of the most powerful figures in media is running out of people willing to defend him. His board members fired him, and then quit the board. His wife left him. His advisers and lawyers are dropping like flies. Not even the spokespeople are speaking for the company.
Meanwhile, David Glasser, Weinstein’s long-time #2, and Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s brother, have publicly disavowed Harvey in separate interviews with Hollywood trade publications. Someone senior in the company told the Wall Street Journal that the company has no future.
Everyone is saying the right things about changing the culture of Hollywood, but this… this is where I get nervous. Weinstein’s closest associates are claiming ignorance. They are painting Harvey’s alleged predations as a solo job, and trying to walk away with no blood on their hands.
If you read the interview with Glasser — you can skip the first 10 questions — Glasser says he has six or seven job offers on the table. He may be lying — it wouldn’t be the first time an executive did that — but his comments suggest he will suffer very little for epidemic harassment at a company he ran.
As for Bob, Bob is trying to keep the company afloat by claiming that he has been running a separate company for five years. That he and his brother have long since stopped being close. He wants to release the movies on his slate, secure financing from the bank and pretend as if this whole scandal is a thing of the past.
I don’t know what Glasser or Bob Weinstein knew. I don’t know what their deputies knew. We’ve reached out to both of them for comment, and await a response. But the people who worked for them and the people who sat on his board received a lot of signs that Weinstein was guilty of more than adultery. And they did nothing.
Weinstein’s alleged harassment of Gwyneth Paltrow forced Brad Pitt to confront Weinstein about two decades ago when Bob and Harvey were still working side-by-side. Courtney Love knew enough to tell people to avoid Weinstein years ago. Heck, Seth MacFarlane made a joke at the Oscars a couple years ago when Glasser was running the company.
It strains credulity to believe that one man could cover up decades of misconduct. You just need to read some of the stories out there. The Washington Post spoke with 67 people about Weinstein’s past behavior. Many of the women who spoke to the New York Times or New Yorker either complained to Weinstein Company human resources, the police or a friend. This was not a secret, but a cover-up.
If we decline to punish those who enabled Harvey’s behavior, we are doomed to a sequel. Weinstein’s alleged crimes are not a reflection of a one vicious man, or even the culture of one industry. This isn’t a Hollywood problem; it’s a societal problem, one in which most of us bear some culpability.
We still struggle to reform centuries of subjugation if we fall for the easy trope of the rogue actor. Hollywood has perpetrated the image of the cowboy, soldier or superhero confronting an entire army, the one dissenter who stood up for justice and the one journalist who chased a story. The image of solitary hero or villain makes for good copy, but it’s almost never accurate. Legal cases, wars, big stories, sports matches and elections are won by a team.
Is this a turning point? Will we root out Hollywood’s casting couch culture. We may, but only if we recognize the full scale of the problem.
By the way, kudos to the team at the New York Times and to Ronan Farrow for dogged reporting on Weinstein, and hats off to Kim Masters for her relentless pursuit of the Roy Price story.
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CBS’ Star Trek Experiment
Forgive a shameless plug, but I wrote a feature for the latest issue of Businessweek on Star Trek, and the future of CBS. A brief excerpt:
This fall, CBS Corp. is rolling out the first new Trek series in more than a decade. Unlike the five series preceding it, ``Star Trek: Discovery’’ won’t be on traditional TV. The pilot aired on the network on Sept. 24, but subsequent episodes can be viewed only on CBS All Access, a streaming app that costs $5.99 a month. ``Discovery’’ is set in a time of galactic war, and it arrives at a similarly fraught moment in TV. After years of denying the threat from Silicon Valley, media conglomerates are now, with varying levels of urgency, trying to figure out how to survive in the era of Netflix and YouTube.
CBS has a head start on its peers and lots of cash to woo the growing hordes of cord cutters; in 2016 it had $1.6 billion in net earnings on $13.2 billion of revenue. At the moment, the company still makes the bulk of its money from traditional TV. But since it introduced All Access in 2014, CBS has worked to turn the app into a profitable revenue stream, improving the underlying technology, adding to its library of on-demand programming, and dabbling in creating shows targeted to paying subscribers.
With Discovery, CBS is breaking out the photon torpedoes. Production of the 15-episode first season will cost as much as $120 million, making it one of the most expensive series ever created for the internet. If it succeeds, Discovery could help All Access outpace a crowd of similar apps from Disney, Discovery Communications, and Time Warner, among others. If it fails, it could further scare investors already concerned about CBS’s inability to attract young audiences.
Leslie Moonves, the chairman and chief executive officer of CBS, is clear about Discovery’s importance. “Looking at the future of CBS, streaming and OTT” — over-the-top content, industry jargon for internet-only media — “is a very important part of it,” he says. “There’s real upside for our company to have All Access be successful. There’s a lot riding on Star Trek.”
Top of the Charts
Spanish singer + Pop Star = Hit. Beyonce’s appearance on J Balvin’s ``Mi Gente’’ has propelled that song to the third spot on the Billboard charts. Call it ``Despacito’’ the sequel. The song was a hit before Justin Bieber got involved, and the Biebs pushed it over the top.The original ``Mi Gente’’ peaked at #19. I don’t see ``Mi Gente’’ topping the charts for months like Despacito, but the blessing of Queen Bey sure helps.
Meanwhile, Demi Lovato continues her slow climb up the charts. ``Sorry Not Sorry,’’ the lead single off her new album, climbed to the number eight spot.
Out this week: New albums from Beck and St. Vincent.
Horror wins again. ``Happy Death Day’’ topped the box office this weekend with $26 million. ``Blade Runner 2049 slumped to second place, and suffered a 54 percent drop from its first weekend. The scien’’ce fiction film inched past $100 million this weekend, buts producers Alcon Entertainment and Sony can’t be happy.
For the record: I erred last week when I said Warner Bros. sank $150 million into the movie (and deserved credit for the good reviews). Warner Bros. is distributing the movie, but it didn’t put up the money for it.
The win for ``Happy Death Day’’ is a win for Universal, which sits just behind Disney in market share this year. Three studios — Warner Bros., Disney and Universal — account for more than half the box office receipts this year.
We once talked about the six major studios. But only four studios have claimed more than 10 percent market share three years in a row: Disney, Universal, Warner Bros. and Fox. This may seem like a minor point, but it represents a major sea change in the industry. Sony and Paramount are lagging way behind their peers, with no remedy in sight.
By the by, you can skip the multiplex and still see a couple good movies at home. Critics raved about Noah Baumbach’s ``The Meyerowitz Stories,’’ which is available on Netflix. The film is
``funny, moving and psychologically complex,’’ according to the L.A. Times’ Kenny Turan, a slightly lighter exploration of one of Baumbach’s favorite topics: dysfunctional families. (I saw it Friday in lieu of going to the theater.)
All hail Jimmy Kimmel! Jimmy Fallon lost even more ground in the late-night ratings race. Fallon has already surrendered his spot as the most-watched host in late-night to Stephen Colbert. Now he’s in danger of falling behind Jimmy Kimmel, whose ratings have increased in recent weeks.
Kimmel has drawn added attention in recent weeks for his political activism. First he attacked the Republicans for trying to repeal Obamacare, reserving special loathing for senator Bill Cassidy. Then he pleaded for Congress to pass some kind of gun control after the massacre in his hometown of Las Vegas.
Kimmel isn’t experiencing a massive surge. Instead, he’s just not losing ground. His ratings mirror those of Stephen Colbert, who has similarly benefitted from his mockery of the president. Fallon, busy hawking a children’s book, is also losing his appeal among young viewers. His lead in the 18–49 demo, once seemingly insurmountable, has shrunk to 29 percent.
Out this week: ``Mindhunter,’’ David Fincher’s latest collaboration with Netflix, and ``White Famous,’’ Showtime’s new comedy starring former SNL castmember Jay Pharoah. Showtime could use a fresh hit. It hasn’t had one since Billions.
The Week That Was
1. Viacom and Charter Square Off. Viacom’s contract with Charter, the nation’s second largest cable operator, expires today. From my story this week: Almost a year into the mission to turn around Viacom Inc., Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish has good news to share. The beleaguered owner of MTV and Nickelodeon is projected to report its first annual sales increase since 2011.
Yet a dispute with Charter Communications Inc., the second-largest cable operator in the U.S., is undermining Bakish’s feel-good story. Viacom’s stock has plummeted 30 percent this year, largely due to concern that the value of its networks has diminished in the eyes of pay-TV companies.
2.The U.S. men’s national team won’t play in the 2018 World Cup. That’s a huge blow to Fox Sports, which ponied up $400 million for the rights to the world’s biggest soccer event. Fox is going to miss out on millions in advertising dollars due to decreased viewership.
Surprising fact: Americans watch more of the World Cup when the U.S. team is playing.
3. ESPN suspended Jemele Hill, co-host of the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, for a series of tweets about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, advertisers and the ongoing debate about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
Jones has barred his players from kneeling in protest of police brutality, and Hill said irate fans could communicate their displeasure by protesting Jones’ advertisers. This violates a couple no-nos at ESPN: don’t mess with NFL owners, and don’t mess with our advertisers.
Former ESPN writer Bill Simmons has a good take on why ESPN is having such a hard time in an era where everything has been politicized. Perhaps that’s because ESPN didn’t know how to handle him either.
4. Spotify’s sales reached $2.2 billion in the first half of this year, a 40 percent improvement from a year ago. The company is still losing money, but its profit margins have improved.
5. Eminem attacked President Donald Trump in a freestyle rap on BET. Plenty of rappers have criticized Trump before, but none with the following of Eminem, perhaps the most popular rapper in music history.
Some figures in the music industry have complained to me about the lack of political activism among musicians. This may be true in most genres, but not rap.
6. Bruce Springsteen’s new one-man Broadway show earned a rave review in the New York Times. ``Springsteen on Broadway” is a painful if thrilling summing-up at 68: a major statement about a life’s work, but also a major revision of it.’’
7. Fandango acquired Movietickets.com, consolidating its control of the online film ticketing marketplace.