Netflix, Disney, Hollywood Jump on ‘Black Lives Matter’ Bandwagon Following George Floyd Protests

With many major U.S. cities under curfew due to civilian unrest and riots following the death of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day, Netflix, Disney, Hulu and several other Hollywood studios have taken to social media in support of peaceful protests.

Joining the SVOD services include Amazon Studios, Quibi, Lionsgate, HBO, Starz and Paramount Pictures, whose CEO Jim Gianopulos reportedly denounced the country’s systemic racism in a memo to staff.

“Too many members of the Black community have had their breath stolen from them through racial injustice,” Gianopulos wrote.

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On its Twitter page, Netflix May 30 wrote that to say nothing about the issue would be akin to being complicit about the injustice.

“Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up,” the streaming video pioneer wrote.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek, executive chairman Bob Iger and chief diversity officer Latondra Newton May 31 released a joint statement to Disney employees.

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“The recent killing of George Floyd as well as other instances of lethal attacks and harassment of unarmed black citizens in our nation continue to drive outrage and calls for action by people of all cultural backgrounds, including many of our employees,” they wrote. “Feelings of grief and anger cause us to confront the inscrutable idea that the lives of some are deemed less valuable — and less worthy of dignity, care and protection — than the lives of others.

“We intend to focus our efforts and resources to compassionately and constructively talk about these matters openly and honestly as we seek solutions. We intend to keep the conversation going, not just today, but for as long as it takes to bring about real change.”

Google-owned YouTube pledged $1 million to help fight social injustice. “We stand in solidarity against racism and violence. When members of our community hurt, we all hurt,” YouTube tweeted.

Hulu, whose former CEO Jason Kilar issued a separate staff memo on the topic at WarnerMedia, issued a social media post proclaiming support for social justice.

“We support Black lives. Today, and every day. You are seen. You are heard. And we are with you,” Hulu wrote.

HBO highlighted the late Black novelist James Baldwin regarding ignorance on the issue. “Neither love nor terror makes one blind: Indifference makes one blind,” wrote Baldwin.

“We stand with our Black colleagues, employees, fans, actors, storytellers — and all affected by senseless violence,” HBO wrote.

“Color of Change and the NAACP are among the organizations taking the lead in the fight for racial justice in America. We support them in their mission and you can too,” Starz tweeted.

Amazon’s video platform Twitch wrote on Twitter that black people “have been suffering under the oppressive weight of racism in America for far too long.”

“We cannot delight in the creative contributions of the Black community on Twitch and remain silent while they are in pain. We’re asking you to come together to and stand up for Black lives whether it’s through your time, treasure, or talent. Don’t let today’s injustice stop us from creating a better tomorrow for our community,” Twitch wrote.

HBO Max Acquires U.S. SVOD Rights to ‘Young Sheldon’

HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s newly launched streaming platform, has acquired the exclusive U.S. SVOD rights to the comedy “Young Sheldon” in a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

HBO Max is also the streaming home of the entire library of “The Big Bang Theory,” which introduced the character of Sheldon Cooper.

“We now feel like our ‘Big Bang’ offering is complete,” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max and president TNT, TBS and TruTV, said in a statement. “We are so proud to be the home of this beloved franchise and the place where new and existing fans can learn about young Sheldon Cooper’s roots.”

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“In order for Sheldon Cooper to visit his younger self, he would need to manipulate spacetime. All you actually need is HBO Max,” said “Young Sheldon” creators/executive producers Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro. “We are so pleased that ‘Young Sheldon’ will once again be reunited with his future self on HBO Max, and we are excited for fans, new and old, to be able to binge both ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Young Sheldon’ for the first time.”

‘A Thousand Miles Behind’ Motors to VOD and On Demand June 9 From Level 33

The road movie A Thousand Miles Behind will travel to VOD and on demand June 9 from Level 33 Entertainment.

From writer-director Nathan Wetherington (“True Detective”), the drama features the Scrambler Ducati, the L-twin-engined roadster motorcycle made by Ducati. It follows a grieving man who sets out on a solo trip across California after a motorcycle mysteriously turns up on his doorstep.

The film stars Greg Evigan (made-for-TV movies Once Upon a Holiday, Mail Order Bride and Poison Ivy: The Secret Society, ABC’s “General Hospital,” “Deepstar Six,” NBC’s “My Two Dads,” “B.J. and the Bear”), Jeffrey Doornbos (new Fox series “9-1-1: Lone Star,” TV Series “Wake Up, It’s Tuesday!”), Bre Blair (Last Vegas, CBS’s “S.W.A.T.,” NBC’s “Game of Silence”), Jeffrey Nicholas Brown (Nickelodeon’s “Henry Danger,” “True Blood,” “Arrested Development”) and Vanessa Campbell (Garfield the Movie).

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The film won the Best Picture Grand Jury Prize at the Portland International Motorcycle Film Festival; Best Feature Film Jury Prize at MOTOTEMATICA — Rome Motorcycle Film Festival; Best Dramatic Feature at the Rome Independent Cinema Festival; and Best Feature Film and Best Director at the Good Grain Film Festival, among other accolades.

Apple TV+ to Bow ‘Hedy Lamarr’ Starring Gal Gadot

“Hedy Lamarr,” an eight-episode limited series starring and executive produced by Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman” franchise), will premiere globally on Apple TV+.

The series is written and executive produced by Golden Globe Award winner Sarah Treem (“The Affair,” “House of Cards,” “In Treatment”).

Hailed as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” Hedy Lamarr was first exalted and iconized, then destroyed and eventually forgotten by American audiences, all the while keeping her brilliant mind active through a series of inventions, one of which became the basis for the spread spectrum technology used today. The series will follow the life story of the Hollywood glamour girl, spanning 30 years from Hedy’s escape from prewar Vienna, to her meteoric rise in the Golden Age of Hollywood, to her fall and eventual disgrace at the dawn of the Cold War.

The notion for the historical drama originated from Gadot and producing partner Jaron Varsano (“My Dearest Fidel”), who then partnered with Emmy and BAFTA Award winner Warren Littlefield (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Treem, the latter of whom created the series, according to an Apple release.

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In addition to Gadot and Treem, “Hedy Lamarr” will be executive produced by Littlefield and Katie Robbins (“The Affair”). Gadot and Varsano will produce through their production company, Pilot Wave. Adam Haggiag (Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story) and Alexandra Dean (Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story) will serve as co-producers, with Hedy Lamarr’s children Anthony Loder and Denise Deluca consulting on the series.

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Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, select Samsung and LG smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, as well as at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. The Apple TV app will be available on Sony and VIZIO smart TVs later this year, according to the release.

Anti-First Amendment Lawsuit Against Fox News Thrown Out of Court

A Washington state judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a left-wing activist group claiming Fox News isn’t entitled to First Amendment protections on coverage with which the group disagrees.

A group known as the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) filed suit in April claiming Fox News opinion hosts were spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, and sought an injunction of coverage under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.

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Fox News filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that there is a distinction in its coverage between its news division, which emphasized the coronavirus threat, and the opinions of its commentators, who were expressing recommendations for policy. In either case, the network argued it was protected by the First Amendment’s rights to free speech and a free press.

WASHLITE countered that First Amendment protections didn’t extend to Fox News because they were a cable channel and not a newspaper, and that the editorial freedoms they were claiming were actually enjoyed by cable providers such as Comcast or Spectrum that carried the channel (WASHLITE’s amended case against Fox News dropped cable carriers as parties to the action).

The Internet and Television Association, which represents cable programmers and distributors, filed an amicus brief in support of Fox News in the case.

As part of its motion, Fox News listed numerous instances of other press outlets downplaying the significance of COVID-19 as it began to spread out of China in December, January and February, though none of the other outlets were targeted by WASHLITE. Fox News frequently draws the ire of left-wing activists for providing a larger degree of conservative access to its coverage than other news outlets.

Following a hearing May 21, Superior Court Judge Brian McDonald May 27 granted Fox News’ motion to dismiss, citing that the First Amendment protections afforded to cable news channels as press outlets are clearly established and that WASHLITE’s claims were baseless.

“Using a false portrayal of Fox News Channel’s commentary, WASHLITE attempted to silence a national news organization to settle a partisan grievance. This was not only wrong, but contemptuous of the foundation of free speech and we are both pleased the court dismissed this frivolous case and grateful to the First Amendment community that rallied to our side,” Fox News stated following the dismissal.

WASHLITE has vowed to appeal.

Dan York Named CEO of Cox Media Group

Dan York, former chief content officer at DirecTV and MediaPlay News “Digital Driver,” has been named CEO of Cox Media Group.

York will be responsible for all aspects of managing the company’s media platforms and will oversee CMG’s long-term strategic priorities.

Steve Pruett, who was interim CEO, will continue as executive chairman of CMG. He said York’s success in media, content, distribution, operations, and successfully leading large organizations, makes him essential.

Dan York

“Most importantly, [York] embraces contemporary thinking as the media landscape continues to evolve,” Pruett said in a statement. “We have full confidence he is the right person to lead CMG in the next phase of the company’s growth.”

As CCO at DirecTV, York developed a reputation for being a hard negotiator, including driving programmers to tears during all-night contract proceedings, according to a 2016 Los Angeles Times profile.

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York helped build AT&T’s video business over the past 15 years from a start-up to one of the nation’s largest pay-TV provider and the world’s largest licensor of content. During his tenure he oversaw all content activities, including licensing, operations, strategy, investments, original content, compliance, and ran AT&T’s ad sales and regional sports networks.

Indeed, it was York who allegedly was instrumental in preventing DirecTV from picking up the Los Angeles Dodgers’ regional cable channel, SportsNet LA, which is controlled by the former Time Warner Cable (now part of Charter Communications). The heavy-handed tactics resulted in the Justice Department lawsuit against AT&T-owned DirecTV.

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“We all negotiate hard to get good deals,” a veteran TV executive told the Times. “But Dan mashes your face into the cement.”

DirecTV and other AT&T cable systems finally ended the Dodgers blackout in April 2020.

HBO Max Greenlights ‘Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020’

WarnerMedia’s newly launched streaming service HBO Max has greenlighted Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020.

Laura Benanti (Photo by Jenny Anderson)

Inspired by Tony Award winning actress Laura Benanti’s (“Younger,” “Supergirl,” “Nashville,” and Broadway’s “My Fair Lady” and “She Loves Me”) online movement #SunshineSongs, in which she offered to be an audience for the students around the country whose spring musicals were canceled because of COVID-19, the show will give students the opportunity to sing and dance from the safety of their homes.

Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020 will explore themes of classic teen movies through the lens of a world turned upside down by the global pandemic. The cast, featuring a diverse group of student actors with compelling backstories, will play seniors from the same high school. While the pandemic may have shut down their school, the drama and romantic intrigue live on.

“As a mom of teenagers, I know that this time has been a struggle for them. High school seniors in particular have been hit hard by this pandemic, their dreams of homecoming, prom, spring performances and even graduation being cancelled,” Jennifer O’Connell, HBO Max EVP, original non-fiction and kids programming, said in a statement. “Laura’s brilliant idea to give these kids an audience and a platform has blossomed into this unique opportunity for us to not only celebrate their talent, but to entertain many other families across the country sharing their experience.”

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“Our school shows are more than just entertainment,” Benanti said in a statement. “At the very least, they bring our communities together to revel in the talent of our young artists. At their best, they are a life changing experience that these kids will bring with them into the rest of their lives. I am thrilled that the #SunshineSongs initiative has put the spotlight on so many incredible young performers; grateful to World of Wonder for its grand vision and to HBO Max for providing a global platform on which America’s youth can shine.”

Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020 is executive produced by Benanti along with Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey and Tom Campbell for World of Wonder Productions (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”). Leland (Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) will write and produce the original songs and score.

Subscriptions to HBO Max are $14.99 per month.

Netflix and American Cinematheque Join Forces to Preserve Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre

Netflix and the American Cinematheque are joining forces to ensure the long-term future of the Egyptian Theatre, according to the streaming service.

The theater is the site of the first Hollywood movie premiere and the long-time home of the American Cinematheque.

The collaboration will enable the nonprofit American Cinematheque to expand the scope and diversity of its movie and event programming, its filmmaker-centric festivals and its educational outreach at the theater, according to the release.

The Egyptian Theatre will remain the home of the American Cinematheque, established in Los Angeles in 1984 as a nonprofit member-supported cultural organization, with the organization’s curation team continuing to program Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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Netflix will invest in the theater’s renovation and will use the revitalized space for special events, screenings and premieres during the week.

“The Egyptian Theatre is an incredible part of Hollywood history and has been treasured by the Los Angeles film community for nearly a century,” Scott Stuber, head of Netflix Films, said in a statement.  “We’re honored to partner with the American Cinematheque to preserve the theater’s storied legacy and continue providing remarkable film experiences for audiences. We look forward to expanding programming at the theater in ways that will benefit both cinema lovers and the community.”

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“The American Cinematheque was honored to bring the Egyptian back to life in 1998, and together with Netflix we are thrilled to continue this stewardship by restoring it once again for a new generation of film fans to experience movies on the big screen,” chairman of the American Cinematheque Rick Nicita said in a statement. “The Egyptian Theatre remains our Hollywood home and we are grateful to both the City of Los Angeles and the Attorney General of the State of California as we accept this incredible opportunity that will greatly benefit the American Cinematheque.”

“Love for film is inseparable from L.A.’s history and identity,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “We are working toward the day when audiences can return to theaters — and this extraordinary partnership will preserve an important piece of our cultural heritage that can be shared for years to come.”

“The Netflix and American Cinematheque partnership at the Egyptian Theater is a win-win for film, historic preservation, and the arts,” said Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell of the Los Angeles City Council’s 13th District.  “The collaboration ensures the cultural destination remains in the Heart of Hollywood for decades to come.”

The Egyptian Theatre was originally built in 1922 during the silent film era. A fixture in Hollywood’s Golden Age, the Egyptian was the site of the first Hollywood movie premiere, for Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks. At the premiere, Fairbanks was joined by Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie Chaplin, Jesse L. Lasky and Mary Pickford. Other notable Silent-era premieres held at the Egyptian included Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1923), Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925), and Don Juan (1926), starring John Barrymore and Mary Astor.

In 1996, the City of Los Angeles sold the building to the American Cinematheque as part of the City’s Hollywood Revitalization project. The Cinematheque then raised the funds to renovate and restore the theater to its original grandeur and reopened it as a movie theater showcasing the longtime organization’s celebrated public programming.

In 2016, with the support of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Turner Classic Movies and The Film Foundation, the projection booth at the Egyptian Theatre was retrofitted to begin screening 35mm nitrate film and is now one of only four theaters in the United States capable of showing this rare, fragile and flammable film stock. Part of the new plans include upgrading equipment to enhance the audience experience and renovating and restoring the theater.

The Cinematheque will continue to program and operate a second historic theater, the Aero in Santa Monica.

‘Pretty in Pink’ Making Blu-ray Debut June 16 Through Paramount Presents Line

Paramount Home Entertainment June 16 will re-release the 1986 teen comedy Pretty in Pink on Blu-ray Disc for the first time as part of its Paramount Presents line.

Designed for collectors and fans, Paramount Presents showcases notable films from the studio’s library in collectible slipcases that include a foldout image of the film’s original theatrical poster.

Produced and written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch, Pretty in Pink stars Molly Ringwald as a girl from a working class family and Andrew McCarthy as the rich heartthrob who asks her to the prom. But as fast as their romance builds, it’s threatened by the painful reality of peer pressure. The cast also includes Jon Cryer, James Spader, Harry Dean Stanton and Annie Potts.

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The Blu-ray offers the film ewly remastered from a 4K transfer supervised by Deutch. Extras include a new “Filmmaker Focus” featurette with Deutch and, for the first time, the film’s isolated score track from composer Michael Gore. Also included is the previously released featurette “The Lost Dance: The Original Ending.”

HBO Max Tweaks ‘Currently Available’ Content List

In the rush to launch HBO Max, WarnerMedia announced a “currently available” list of movies accessible on day 1 (May 27) of SVOD platform’s existence. Turns out the list was a bit wishful thinking.

Max bowed claiming more than 10,000 hours of original and largely catalog content. Some of that included movies such as The Dark Knight, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 13 Going on 30 and The Matrix. While many are Warner Bros. titles, they are not yet available due to existing third-party rights issues. Other titles not available include Man of Steel, “Gossip Girl,” The Iron Giant and “The West Wing.”

First reported by The Verge, the mix-up underscores ongoing growing pains for the upstart high-profile service hoping to attract maximum early attention in a competitive over-the-top video market. About 90,000 people downloaded the Max app on the first day — an unremarkable tally considering Disney+ generated 4 million app downloads on its first day.

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Regardless, Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy has been key to Max pre-launch marketing materials — despite the fact none of the director’s movies are actually available to stream on the service. The animated Harley Quinn” TV series was expected to be on Max. Instead it’s on DC Universe, a separate $8 monthly streaming service owned by WarnerMedia.

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Separately, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which is now available on Max, will reportedly be leaving the platform for an undisclosed period of time. The pending director’s cut is making a high-profile debut on Max in 2021.

“[We are] updating this [‘currently available’] section and will post again once it’s complete,” a Max spokesperson said in a statement.