‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Theatrical Release Delayed to August

Warner Bros.’ tentpole title Wonder Woman 1984 has had its theatrical release pushed back from June 5 to Aug. 14, the studio disclosed on March 25.

With theaters shuttered and interest in home entertainment spiking due to quarantine measures taken to thwart the spread of the coronavirus, the sequel to the 2017 box office and home entertainment hit Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, had been speculated as a possible marquee title when WarnerMedia launches the HBO Max streaming service in May.

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But studio executives pushed back on idea considering the film’s reported $200 million production budget and high-profile traction among moviegoers.

“When we greenlit [Wonder Woman 1984] it was with every intention to be viewed on the big screen and are excited to announce that Warner Bros. Pictures will be bringing the film to theaters on Aug. 14th,”  Toby Emmerich,  Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group chairman, said in a statement. “We hope the world will be in a safer and healthier place by then.”

Warner, which has released several theatrical titles early into retail channels, said it was also delaying the theatrical releases of Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights, animated feature Scoob!, and horror movie Malignant from their original box office debuts.

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Streaming Services Have Home Field Advantage

With the increased calls for Americans to stay home during the coronavirus outbreak, many see home entertainment — especially streaming services — as a big winner. Indeed, consumers confined to their homes may give the industry a boost, but not all streaming services are equal.

Netflix, which has pretty much maxed out its U.S. subscriptions, may not necessarily benefit monetarily, as subs pay a monthly fee that doesn’t go up with increased viewing.

New and pending SVOD services, however, seem to be poised to benefit. Disney+ is approaching 30 million domestic subs, according to exiting CEO Bob Iger, and its growth may help off-set the hit taken by the Walt Disney Co., headed up by new CEO (and home entertainment alum) Bob Chapek, as its theme parks close during outbreaks. The service will launch in Europe March 24, where social distancing is taking hold as well, perhaps giving Disney+ a boost abroad. Indeed, the studio has ramped up SVOD efforts domestically and internationally. Chapek announced that hit Frozen II would be available on the service March 15 in the United States and March 17 in certain international territories — three months early. Ahead of the impending launch in Europe, the media giant has rolled out promotional offers with mobile carriers T-Mobile and O2 in Germany and the United Kingdom, respectively.

Meanwhile, HBO Max, coming in May, and Comcast’s Peacock, which launches April 15, it seems couldn’t have picked a better time to enter people’s homes.

Another big winner may be free ad-supported services such as ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV, Xumo (newly aquired by Comcast) and Tubi (rumored to be a Fox acquisition target). In-home captive audiences will be a ripe target for their advertising and easily accessible free VOD content.

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While industry events, theme parks and productions may be taking a hit, home entertainment seems poised to increase its audience.

HBO Max Orders Doc Series on Mark Wahlberg

HBO Max has ordered an eight-episode documentary series, “Wahl Street,” which will follow the life of star and businessman Mark Wahlberg.

The series will cover his successes and failures and allow viewers to “glean powerful business and life lessons while also getting to know the cast of colorful characters that make up Wahlberg’s real-life entourage,” according to the service, which launches at $14.99 a month in May.

The series began production in December.

“This series will be an intimate exploration behind the drive that makes Mark Wahlberg one of the most unique stars in entertainment,” said Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of original nonfiction and kids programming, HBO Max, in a statement. “Mark’s entrepreneurial spirit is fun to watch and we hope to show both the struggle and triumphs of what it takes to succeed.”

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Each episode of “Wahl Street” will follow Wahlberg as he directs his business portfolio, ranging from a line of activewear to all-natural, high-performance sports nutrition supplements to television and film production companies, and even a Chevrolet dealership, according to the service. Each episode will include a diverse group of entrepreneurs and inventors pitching Wahlberg new opportunities.

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“We’re documenting the ups, the downs, the hits and the misses. It’s all the real stuff that’s happening while I’m growing my businesses,” said Wahlberg in a statement. “We’re pulling back the curtain and hopefully it’s an opportunity to inspire other entrepreneurs.”

 

HBO Max Inks Deal With Children’s Author Mo Willems

HBO Max has inked an exclusive, multiyear deal with children’s author Mo Willems, an Emmy-Award winning writer, New York Times bestselling author and illustrator.

Willems is HBO Max’s very first artist in residence, according to the SVOD service, launching at $14.99 a month in May.

As part of the two-year deal, HBO Max has acquired streaming rights to Willems’ first live-action special Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! from Greg Silverman’s media company StampedeVentures, which will produce all additional content under the deal. HBO Max has committed to additional live-action “Storytime” specials, as well as multiple animated specials based on Willems’ children’s books. The first animated special will be based on the New York Times bestseller Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.

“Mo is a special talent with a profound ability to connect with children and families alike,” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max and president of TNT, TBS and truTV, said in a statement. “We are so happy Mo and Stampede Ventures chose to partner with us at HBO Max.”

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“We are so lucky to be able to work with the multi-talented Mo Willems, whose work is authentic, inspiring and truly impactful,” Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of original non-fiction and kids programming at HBO Max, said in a statement.

“HBO Max is the perfect home for me to work on fun and experimental ways to bring my book characters and theater work to the screen because we share the goal of creating exciting shows and series that bring families together,” Willems said in a statement. “My focus is making stuff that amuses, entertains and sparks creative play after the screen is powered down. Having the creative teams of HBO Max and Stampede Ventures with me means that we’ll get to create meaningful work and have fun doing it. We’re so excited we even created a new logo for the occasion. Banana!”

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Previously announced and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime!, shot over the summer at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., is a live-action family comedy special featuring Willems and the “Story Time All-Stars,” a group of celebrities, comedians and actors, performing live readings and sketch comedy inspired by Willems’ work, as well as musical guests. Celebrity guests include Anthony Anderson (“black-ish”), Yvette Nicole Brown (“Community’) and Rachel Dratch (“Saturday Night Live”).

 

‘Friends’ Cast to Reunite for Special on HBO Max

The “Friends” cast will be reuniting exclusively for an untitled unscripted special for HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer offering debuting in May 2020.

The subscription streaming service will cost $14.99 a month.

Series stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer will return to the comedy’s original soundstage, Stage 24, on the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank for a celebration of the show. The unscripted cast reunion special, along with all 236 episodes of the Emmy-winning series, will be available to subscribers at the launch of HBO Max.

“Guess you could call this the one where they all got back together — we are reuniting with David, Jennifer, Courteney, Matt, Lisa, and Matthew for an HBO Max special that will be programmed alongside the entire Friends library,” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TBS, TNT, and truTV, in a statement. “I became aware of ‘Friends’ when it was in the very early stages of development and then had the opportunity to work on the series many years later and have delighted in seeing it catch on with viewers generation after generation. It taps into an era when friends — and audiences — gathered together in real time and we think this reunion special will capture that spirit, uniting original and new fans.”

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Ben Winston will direct the special and will executive produce along with “Friends” executive producers Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane. Aniston, Cox, Kudrow, LeBlanc, Perry, and Schwimmer will also executive produce the special.

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To get caught up on original “Friends” episodes, sister WarnerMedia network TBS recently announced that for the next four weeks every episode of “Friends” will air on TBS and livestream on the TBS app, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additionally, the network has curated an experience for fans offering the best of the series on their digital platforms.

WarnerMedia Ups Michael Quigley to Lead Content Acquisitions

WarnerMedia Entertainment, in a restructuring, has promoted Michael Quigley to spearhead the media company’s direct-to-consumer business as well content acquisitions.

Quigley, who was EVP, content acquisitions, will now lead the unit with other promoted executives, Jonathan Melber, SVP of content acquisitions at HBO Max, and Royce Battleman, SVP of content acquisitions for HBO, Cinemax, TNT, TruTV and TBS, reporting to him.

“Michael and his team have the breadth and depth of experience required in today’s competitive marketplace to both land defining content and rewrite our rules for how content will move through all exhibition windows going forward,” Kevin Reilly, COO, HBO Max, and president, TBS, TNT and TruTV, said in a statement.

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Reilly credited Quigley and his team for enabling HBO Max to launch in May with coveted series such as “Friends,” “South Park,” and “Doctor Who,” among others.

Other changes in the content acquisitions include HBO executives Leslie Cohen and Chris Grunden handling movies, while Valerie Meraz, SVP, content acquisitions & strategy at Turner in Atlanta, joins the two reporting to Battleman.

Elizabeth Bannan Atcheson, senior director of content acquisition at Turner, reports to Melber from Atlanta.

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“Our networks will continue to have hit series like ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ as well as many of the most coveted major studio [titles], such as Joker and Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” Reilly said in a statement.

WarnerMedia Inks Distribution Deal With YouTube TV

WarnerMedia Entertainment and YouTube TV Feb. 20 announced a comprehensive distribution relationship that will deliver the media company’s entertainment, sports and news network portfolio to YouTube TV’s more than 2 million online TV subscribers.

The pact expands upon the existing 2018 carriage agreement between the two companies for WarnerMedia networks TBS, TNT, truTV, CNN, HLN, Turner Classic Movies, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network to add access to the HBO and Cinemax services to the YouTube TV for the first time.

As part of a new deal, YouTube TV has also committed to distributing WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, the company’s upcoming direct-to-consumer offering debuting in May with 10,000 hours of curated content. HBO Max will offer programming for everyone in the home, bundling the entire HBO service, a slate of new original series, key third-party licensed programs and movies, and catalog fare from WarnerMedia’s library.

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“As consumers’ media consumption habits continually evolve and the landscape becomes more and more dynamic, our goal remains constant, and that is to make the portfolio of WarnerMedia networks available as widely as possible,” Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution, said in a statement.

Both linear and on-demand HBO and Cinemax content will debut on YouTube TV this spring for the first time. Included will be HBO’s extensive array of programming, which features titles such as “Watchmen,” “Big Little Lies” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” current and returning hit dramas “Succession,” “Westworld” and “The Outsider,” comedies “Barry, “Insecure” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and classics like “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Sex and the City.”

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Upcoming HBO releases this spring include returning favorites “High Maintenance” and “My Brilliant Friend” and upcoming limited series, “The Plot Against America,” “The Undoing” and “I Know This Much Is True.”

Cinemax will offer its slate of original series including “Strike Back,” which recently began its seventh season, along with “Trackers” and “Gangs of London”. Theatrical hits debuting on the network this spring include Boy Erased, First Man and Bad Times at the El Royale. 

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with WarnerMedia to deliver their family of networks that are popular among our members, as well as introduce HBO, Cinemax and HBO Max to our growing line-up of premium content,” said Lori Conkling, global head of partnerships at YouTube TV.

HBO Max Orders Competition Series Featuring Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel

HBO Max has ordered eight episodes of “The Big Shot with Bethenny” (working title), a new competition series from MGM Television, Mark Burnett, and reality TV veteran, and producer Bethenny Frankel and her B Real Productions.

In each half-hour episode, the contestants will compete for a chance to be second-in-command to business tycoon and Skinnygirl founder Frankel and win a position working on her executive team. Through a series of real-life tasks and challenges, each aspiring mogul will be tested to see how far they can push their creativity and determination to rise to the top.

“I first met Bethenny when I put her on the first season of ‘The Real Housewives of New York City’ and she’s always both impressed and entertained me,” said Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of original non-fiction and kids programming, HBO Max, in a statement. “It’s incredible to see her empire continue to grow and I know that candidates will be clamoring to work for her.”

“Bethenny is that rare talent whose creative instincts are equal to her business acumen and working with her to create this series has been an amazing collaboration,” said Barry Poznick, MGM’s president of unscripted and alternative television and Orion Television, in a statement. “We’re giving fans what they want, access inside Bethenny’s businesses so they can see how she runs her empire, all while offering one fan the chance of a lifetime to join her executive team. We’ve found the perfect home in HBO Max to bring this exclusive opportunity to viewers.”

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“Aside from motherhood, what truly defines me as a person is being a driven, passionate and hard-working woman determined to make the impossible possible,” said Frankel in a statement. “My mantra is to come from a place of ‘yes’ and to find and create the solution. I am an executor of visions, and I share and impart that information to those who work with me. MGM has been neck-in-neck with me with ideas and their execution. I couldn’t be more thrilled to continue my longstanding relationship with Mark Burnett on this series and pay this American Dream story forward.”

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Frankel is a self-made businesswoman, TV producer and multiple New York Times bestselling author. A frequent collaborator of MGM Worldwide Television Group Chairman Mark Burnett, Frankel appeared as a shark on two seasons of ABC’s series “Shark Tank,” and was the series’ highest-rated guest shark to-date. Frankel is the founder and CEO of Skinnygirl, a lifestyle brand offering practical solutions to women, and former star of the popular Bravo series “The Real Housewives of New York City.” In 2011, she was named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Celebrities by Forbes.

“The Big Shot with Bethenny” is produced by MGM Television, B Real Productions and Big Fish Entertainment. Executive producers are Mark Burnett, Barry Poznick, Bethenny Frankel, Dan Cesareo and Lucilla D’Agostino.

HBO Max Launches Video Ad Touting Content

Heading into the May launch of the $14.99 HBO Max subscription streaming service, WarnerMedia Entertainment has begun running ads on social media touting the platform’s content and the fact the series are not available on Netflix or Hulu.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner) has spent a billion dollars securing license rights away from third parties to “Friends,” “South Park,” “The Big Bang Theory,” The Matrix, Wonder Woman and The Lego Movie, among others.

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Notably missing: the “Harry Potter” franchise, which is under contract through 2025 to NBCUniversal. AT&T has said it plans to spend upwards of $4 billion on original Max content over the next few years. Netflix is spending more than three times that in 2020.

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AT&T Content Chief Dan York Leaving

AT&T has confirmed that longtime entertainment executive Dan York is leaving the telecom, effective March 1. His position will be assumed by Rob Thun, SVP of content and programming.

York, who had been chief content officer at DirecTV since 2012, transitioned over to AT&T after the telecom acquired the satellite TV operator.

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“We appreciate Dan’s many years of service,” Thaddeus Arroyo, chief executive of the company’s consumer and communications unit, told the Los Angeles Times in a statement. “His contributions significantly shaped our content strategies and we are grateful for his leadership and commitment to providing our customers with their favorite live sports and entertainment.”

Dan York

York, a former “Digital Driver” at Media Play News, was known for his negotiating skills with content holders. Yet, in recent years, DirecTV has lost millions of subscribers as AT&T transitions focus on WarnerMedia Entertainment and HBO Max.

York was responsible for securing DirecTV’s exclusive “NFL Sunday Ticket,” a multi-game programing deal that reportedly costs the satellite operator $1.5 billion annually in license fees.

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