‘The Northman’ Among Trilogy of New Releases at the Domestic Weekend Box Office

In the typical lull before the opening of what is expected to be a monstrous blockbuster, Disney’s May 6 release of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse, three niche films are battling it out at the North American box office this weekend.

The showdown is something of a test to see whether smaller films can still draw audiences to theaters, amid lingering hesitancy from the COVID-19 pandemic and the proliferation of new movies on streaming services.

The Northman, a Viking epic from Focus Features and New Regency Pictures, stars Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem Dafoe, and was directed by Robert Eggers, who previously won praise for the horror films The Witch (2015) and Lighthouse (2019). The Northman has already been hailed for its production values — not surprising, given its estimated budget of up to $90 million — and enjoys an 88% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes as of Friday (April 22) morning. The film also earned just under $1.4 million in Thursday night previews, more than the two other new releases, Dreamworks Animation’s Bad Guys (just under $1.2 million) and the latest Nicolas Cage film, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent ($835,000), from Lionsgate.

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Bad Guys is an animated family film with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%. The film marks the directorial debut of Pierre Perifel and is based on the children’s book series of the same name by Aaron Blabey. The voice cast includes Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, and Anthony Ramos. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times hailed Bad Guys as “a great-looking film with terrific performances, some lovely messaging and a steady parade of solid laughs — some the kids will enjoy and just as many targeted squarely at the grown-up kids in the audience.”

And The Unbreakable Weight of Massive Talent is a satire with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 89%. Cage plays a fictional version of himself, who has to accept a $1 million offer to attend a not-quite-right superfan’s birthday party. To make things worse, he’s recruited by a CIA operative (played by Tiffany Haddish) and is forced to channel his own iconic characters to save the proverbial day.

All three films are projected to finish behind two big-budget, high-profile holdovers: Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the third installment in the “Harry Potter” spinoff franchise, which opened to $43 million over the Easter weekend, and Paramount Pictures’ Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which generated $30 million its sophomore weekend. The film’s total domestic take, according to Box Office Mojo, is nearly $129 million.

Samba TV: Viewers Covet Fictional Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz Movie Over Real-Life Doc

New data from Samba TV finds that viewers seem more interested in Being the Ricardos than the actual ones.

Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem’s fictional portrayal of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the real-life married couple behind the iconic “I Love Lucy” TV series, is more popular among Amazon Prime Viewers than the “Luci & Desi” documentary from actor-comedian Amy Poehler. Both programs are exclusively available on the streamer.

“Lucy & Desi” was seen by 230,000 U.S. households from its premiere on March 4 through March 10, according to Samba TV, which tracks linear and streaming viewership across its addressable footprint of 46 million opted-in devices worldwide. That’s less than a quarter of the households that watched Being the Ricardos, which was seen by 1.1 million U.S. households during its Dec. 21 – 27, 2021 debut.

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The U.S. audience for “Lucy & Desi” skewed wealthy ($200,000+ +16%), female (+9%), older (65-74 +33%), and white (+15%).

The audience was similar to Being the Ricardos, where U.S. households with older viewers over-indexed compared to overall viewership, 55-64 (+14%), 65-74 (+23%), 75-100 (+22%). Households with white viewers also over-indexed (+12%).

“I Love Lucy” ended its national broadcast run 65 years ago.

Female-Driven Anthology Series ‘Roar’ Debuts on Apple TV+ April 15

The female-driven anthology series “Roar” will debut globally with all eight episodes on Apple TV+ April 15.

Based on a book of short stories by Cecelia Ahern, the series is the first to be released under “Roar” creators and co-showrunners Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive’s (“Glow”) overall deal with Apple TV+. It stars Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae, Merritt Wever, Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Meera Syal, Fivel Stewart and Kara Hayward.  

“Roar” offers an insightful, poignant and sometimes hilarious portrait of what it means to be a woman today, according to the Apple TV+ release. Featuring a unique blend of magical realism, familiar domestic and professional scenarios, and futuristic worlds, the eight stories mirror the dilemmas of ordinary women in accessible yet surprising ways.

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In addition to starring, Kidman executive produces alongside Per Saari and their Blossom Films. Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky and Allie Goss executive produce on behalf of Made Up Stories. Author Cecelia Ahern executive produces through Greenlight Go. and Theresa Park executive produces for her Per Capita Productions. “Roar” is produced for Apple by Endeavor Content.

Samba TV: 1.1 Million Amazon Prime Households Stream ‘Being the Ricardos’

Being the Ricardos, the Amazon Studios’ biopic written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, about the relationship between “I Love Lucy” stars Lucille Ball (played by Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javiar Bardem), generated more than 1.1 million Prime Video households in its first week of release (through Dec. 26), according to new data from Samba TV.

The data firm tracks more than 46 million opted-in televisions globally, including 28 million in the U.S.

With the “I Love Lucy” comedy series originally airing in the 1950s, the Prime Video demo skewed older than normal, with U.S. households aged 55-64 (up 14%), 65-74 (up 23%), 75-100 (up 22%) among the streamers. White households also over-indexed (up 12%) as well.

In international markets, 29,000 U.K. households watched the movies, 3,000 German households, and 6,000 Australian homes watched the film during the same period.

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Being the Ricardos

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Amazon Prime Video;
Drama;
Rated ‘R’ for language.
Stars Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, Clark Gregg, Christopher Denham, John Rubinstein, Linda Lavin, Ronny Cox.

Leave it to Aaron Sorkin to chronicle the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz while making “I Love Lucy” from the perspective of the show’s writers.

The entertaining docudrama Being the Ricardos provides a thorough look at the challenges of television production, focusing on a week behind the scenes of the iconic sitcom while Ball tries to save her marriage while dealing with the potential fallout of being accused of being a communist in the 1950s.

Writer-director Sorkin uses a number of narrative tricks at his disposal, beginning with a framing device involving older versions of the show’s three primary writers — Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll — played by John Rubinstein, Linda Lavin and Ronny Cox, respectively as if being interviewed for a documentary (Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat and Jake Lacy play the younger versions).

The trio end up telling the story of how Lucy (Nicole Kidman) met Desi (Javier Bardem), navigated the tricky waters of show business, got married and created an iconic show that changed the course of TV history.

During the week in question, tensions run a bit higher than usual. As Ball wonders if her career is about to end over HUAC, she argues with the writers over jokes in the show and deals with rumors of Desi’s womanizing. Meanwhile, the couple also wants to turn her impending pregnancy into a storyline, much to the chagrin of network executives at CBS, as Desi appeals to the show’s sponsor to force the issue.

It’s a lot to process in two hours, but Sorkin keeps it pithy with his trademark crisp dialogue, and the performances are terrific throughout. One clever conceit involves peering into Ball’s comedy mind as she imagines a scene coming to fruition, allowing Sorkin to re-create moments from the sitcom in black-and-white.

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Unlike with his previous film, The Trial of the Chicago 7, which was dripping in political commentary, Sorkin manages to keep any overt politicization of the subject matter at bay, hinting at the debate between the theories and realities of communism without delving too deeply into the particulars (though in interviews he likens the hysteria to modern cancel culture). He also isn’t so uncouth as to point out how “I Love Lucy” was sponsored by the Philip Morris tobacco company, and both Lucy and Desi would eventually die of illnesses known to be exacerbated by smoking.

The particulars of the story are mostly accurate in the aggregate, though in typical Hollywood fashion Sorkin has changed some details and rearranged the timeline for dramatic effect. For instance, the episode shown being produced, “Fred and Ethel Fight,” was the 22nd episode of the series, not the 37th as stated in the movie. And the communist controversy came about a year later, apparently around episode 68, months after Little Ricky was born. The episode in particular was likely chosen because its topic paralleled Lucy and Desi’s own marital troubles in the film, and provided a nice insight into Lucy’s penchant for physical comedy.

On another note, the casting as Lavin to play the older Pugh is a nice touch, as Pugh and Carroll were among the executive producers of the sitcom “Alice” that starred Lavin.

 

 

Amazon Unveils Trailer for ‘I Love Lucy’ Film ‘Being the Ricardos’

Amazon Studios on Oct. 19 dropped a trailer for Being the Ricardos, a behind-the-scenes look at the famed husband-and-wife team behind the iconic “I Love Lucy” sitcom, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

The film, which opens in theaters on Dec. 10 and starts streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 21, stars Nicole Kidman as Ball and Javier Bardem as Arnaz — known on the show as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the film also stars Jake Lacy, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, and Alia Shawkat.

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It follows Ball and Arnaz through a single production week on the set of “I Love Lucy,” as they contend with shocking personal accusations, a political smear and cultural taboos.

The film was produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch of Escape Artists. Executive producers include Ball and Arnaz’s two children, Desi Arnaz Jr. and Lucie Arnaz, alongside Stuart Besser, Lauren Lohman, and Escape Artists’ Jenna Block and David Bloomfield.

AMC Theatres Hires Nicole Kidman in $25 Million Marketing Campaign

AMC Entertainment has hired Nicole Kidman as its pitchperson in a $25 million marketing campaign aimed at jumpstarting moviegoer interest in returning to enjoy the theatrical experience.

The 15-, 30- and 60-second “We Make Movies Better” spots  feature Kidman encouraging people to return to the cineplex and relive box office magic.

“As we have said repeatedly of late, thanks to the billions of dollars we have raised this year, AMC is strong, and it is time for AMC to play on offense again,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

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The price of the marketing campaign is noteworthy considering AMC a year ago was on the brink of bankruptcy as its screens and others remained largely shuttered due to the pandemic.

Following the record $90 million domestic Labor Day box office for Marvel Cinematic Universe release Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, AMC is spreading its wings.

HBO’s ‘The Undoing’ Arriving on Blu-ray and DVD March 23

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the six-episode limited series The Undoing on Blu-ray Disc and DVD March 23, 2021. It is available now through digital retailers.

The Undoing stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant as a married couple whose lives are upended by a violent death and a chain of terrible revelations. Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, The Undoing was written and produced by David E. Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier. The cast also includes Edgar Ramirez, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe, Noma Dumezweni, Sofie Gråbøl, Matilda De Angelis, Ismael Cruz Córdova and Donald Sutherland.

Extras include the featurettes “Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant Introduce The Undoing,” “Creating The Undoing” and “The Undoing Revelations.”

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Amazon’s ‘Truth Seekers,’ Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Top TV Time Charts

Amazon’s “Truth Seekers” was the top rising show and Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” the top binge on the TV Time charts for the week ended Nov. 1.

“The Queen’s Gambit,” which debuted on Netflix Oct.  23, is a coming-of-age story following a young Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s, who discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children. The title landed at No. 8 on the rising show chart.

No. 1 rising show “Truth Seekers” debuted on Amazon Prime Video Oct. 30 in time for Halloween. The horror comedy follows paranormal investigators who set out to film ghost sightings and uncover a conspiracy that could bring about Armageddon.

Coming in at No. 2 on the binge chart was “Emily in Paris,” created, written and executive produced by Darren Star (“Sex and the City”). It debuted Oct. 2 on Netflix and follows Emily (Lily Collins), an ambitious 20-something marketing executive from Chicago, who unexpectedly lands her dream job in Paris when her company acquires a French luxury marketing company.

Taking the silver on the rising show chart was HBO’s “The Undoing,” which premiered Oct. 25. From writer David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies), the new limited series focuses on Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman), a successful therapist, her devoted husband, Jonathan (Hugh Grant), and their young son, who attends an elite private school in New York City. A chasm opens in Grace’s seemingly perfect life: a violent death, a missing spouse and a chain of terrible revelations.

TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Nov. 1 by Share of Binges:

  1. “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix) — 2.25%
  2. “Emily in Paris” (Netflix) — 1.90%
  3. “Modern Family” (ABC) — 1.86%
  4. “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (Netflix) — 1.83%
  5. “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC) — 1.72%
  6. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.69%
  7. “The Office” (NBC) — 1.47%
  8. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.44%
  9. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.43%
  10. “Lucifer” (Netflix) — 1.25%

 

Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Nov. 1 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Truth Seekers” (Amazon Prime Video) — 99.9%
  2. “The Undoing” (HBO) — 99.8%
  3. “Il Collegio” (Rai 2) — 98.3%
  4. “Suburra: Blood on Rome” (Netflix) — 93.7%
  5. “Perdida” (Netflix) — 91.6%
  6. “The Mandalorian” (Disney+) — 89.7%
  7. “American Housewife” (ABC) — 84.2%
  8. “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix) — 78.8%
  9. “Super Dragon Ball Heroes” (YouTube) — 74.4%
  10. “This Is Us” (NBC) — 68.7%

 

HBO Max Meets Troubled Times With ‘A World of Calm’ Series

WarnerMedia’s SVOD service HBO Max has ordered the 10-episode “A World of Calm,” a TV experience that combines mesmeric imagery with narration by stars — including Mahershala Ali, Idris Elba, Oscar Isaac, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Lucy Liu, Cillian Murphy and Keanu Reeves.

HBO Max’s first project in the health and wellness space, “A World of Calm” is the result of a collaboration between the makers of Calm, the app for sleep, meditation and relaxation, and Nutopia, the team behind Nat Geo’s series “One Strange Rock.”

“A timely antidote for our modern lives, each half-hour episode takes audiences on an immersive visual journey into another world,” according to the press release.

“Building on Calm’s Sleep Stories — bedtime stories for grown-ups with more than 250 million listens — each relaxing tale is designed to transform how you feel,” the release states. “Transporting the viewer into tranquility through scientifically-engineered narratives, enchanting music and astounding footage, to naturally calm your body and soothe the mind, each story is brought to life by a different iconic voice.”

“With the considerable amount of stress and chaos we are all experiencing at this particularly challenging time, we could all use a bit of guided relaxation and ‘A World of Calm’ is here to help,” Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of non-fiction and kids programming for HBO Max, said in a statement. “With soothing imagery and tranquil narration, this is one HBO Max original that we hope becomes part of your daily routine.”

“We are thrilled to work with such amazing partners as HBO Max and Calm for this new cutting edge endeavor,” Nutopia CEO and founder Jane Root said in a statement. “Although this collaboration has been in the works for many months, this series has been entirely created during quarantine using Nutopia’s worldwide network of award-winning cinematographers and filmmakers. We hope this series of serene stories will bring a sense of much needed calm to audiences.”

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“Calm started life as a meditation app but the brand has evolved far beyond that,” Calm co-founder and co-CEO Michael Acton Smith said in a statement. “We are delighted to bring the magic behind our audio Sleep Stories to the screen for the first time.  These experiences are visual Valium and will help people relax and unwind during these stressful times.”

The series is co-produced by Calm and Nutopia with Root, Nicola Moody, Smith and Chris Advansun serving as executive producers, and Sara Brailsford and Fiona Caldwell as co-executive producers.

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