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Month: April 2020

Live-Action ‘Hercules’ in the Works at Disney

No chance. No way. I won’t say I’m NOT completely excited about this news from Disney. Today it was announced that Disney is working on a Live-Action remake of Hercules.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Joe and Anthony Russo will be producing the film. The studio has hired Dave Callaham, the action scribe who launched The Expendables franchise and wrote Marvel’s upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, to pen the script.

The 1997 original follows Hercules as he strives to become the hero he was born to be despite the Hades’s evil plan to overthrow his brother, Zeus, and rule Olympus. At this time, no actors have been cast to replace the original voice actors. There has been significant buzz about who should take on the roles made famous by Danny DeVito, James Woods, Susan Egan, and Tate Donovan.

Fans are eager to see who will be cast in the lead roles and if the film will follow the lead of the original source material or be loosely interpreted much like the upcoming Mulan that will no longer be a musical.

For a little refresher, you can view the trailer for the 1997 animated film below.

Hercules 1997 Trailer

What are your Hercules casting ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

AMC Theatres Refuses to Play Universal Films in Wake of ‘Trolls World Tour’

The threat came in the wake of comments made by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell regarding what the on-demand success of the family film means for the future.

Trolls World Tour

AMC Theatres on Tuesday delivered a blistering message to Universal Pictures, saying the world’s largest cinema chain will no longer play any of the studio’s films in the wake of comments made by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell regarding the on-demand success of Trolls World Tour and what it means for the future of moviegoing post-coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in the day, Universal revealed that Trolls World Tour racked up an estimated $100 million in premium VOD rentals in its first three weeks in North America, more than enough to put the film on the road to profitability, according to the conglomerate. That’s not far behind the $116 million grossed by the original Trolls in its first three weeks at the 2016 domestic box office on its way to topping out at $153.7 million in the U.S. and Canada and nearly $347 million globally, not adjusted for inflation.

Universal sent the animated family film straight to PVOD amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and widespread theater closures.

“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the numbers. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

AMC Theaters

In a strongly worded letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron said Shell’s comments were unacceptable. AMC is the largest circuit in the world.

“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East,” Aron wrote.

“This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat,” he continued. “Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes. Currently, with the press comment today, Universal is the only studio contemplating a wholesale change to the status quo. Hence, this immediate communication in response.”

It didn’t take long for Universal to respond. The studio issued an evening statement saying it remains dedicated to moviegoing, and that Shell’s comments were misconstrued. (The statement also took a dig at AMC and the National Association of Theatre Owners for trying to “confuse” matters.)

“We absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary. As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theaters, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense. We look forward to having additional private conversations with our exhibition partners but are disappointed by this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO to confuse our position and our actions,” Universal said.

“Our goal in releasing Trolls: World Tour on PVOD was to deliver entertainment to people who are sheltering at home, while movie theatres and other forms of outside entertainment are unavailable. Based on the enthusiastic response to the film, we believe we made the right move,” the statement added.

AMC has been particularly hard hit because of its debt load heading into the pandemic. Following the closure of all AMC locations in the latter half of March, Wall Street analysts predicted that the circuit would be forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but grew more bullish after the company issued a $500 million debt offering earlier this month (Aron himself is among the corporate staff furloughed because of the closures).

Added Aron in his letter to Langley: “Universal’s unilateral pronouncements on this issue are unpalatable to us, as has always been the case, AMC is willing to sit down with Universal to discuss different windows strategies and different economic models between your company and ours. However, in the absence of such discussions, and an acceptable conclusion thereto, our decades of incredibly successful business activity together has sadly come to an end.”

Aron’s letter capped an afternoon of high drama regarding Shell’s remarks. NATO weighed in first, saying that while Universal may be pleased with the PVOD results of Trolls World Tour, this outcome should not be interpreted as a sign of a “new normal” for Hollywood.

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases,” said NATO president and CEO John Fithian. “Theaters provide a beloved immersive, shared experience that cannot be replicated — an experience that many of the VOD viewers of this film would have participated in had the world not been sequestered at home, desperate for something new to watch with their families. We are confident that when theaters reopen, studios will continue to benefit from the global theatrical box office, followed by traditional home release.”

In a later statement responding to Universal, NATO vice president and CCO Patrick Corcoran added “unfortunately Universal has a destructive tendency to both announce decisions affecting their exhibitor partners without actually consulting with those partners, and now of making unfounded accusations without consulting with their partners.”

For the most part, Universal — like the other major Hollywood studios — has delayed its event films so that they can have a theatrical release, including 59 and the next Minions

Trolls World Tour, along with Warner Bros.’ Scoob! and Disney’s Artemis Fowl, are exceptions.

Cinema owners have said they understand why some movies may need to go straight to home entertainment, but Shell’s comments struck a nerve. “Universal has taken the first step toward changing the paradigm,” says a studio executive at another company, noting that film distributors have have wanted to test early PVOD for years.

The current hope is that theaters will be open by July 17 in time for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, followed by Mulan on July 24 and Wonder Woman 1984 in mid-August.

Click here to read additional detail at The Hollywood Reporter.

Natural mood regulation low or even absent in people with depression

University of Oxford) Periods of lockdown during the COVID-19 situation likely to exacerbate problems with mood regulation, say experts at the University of Oxford.

Mood varies from hour-to-hour, day-to-day and healthy mood regulation involves choosing activities that help settle one’s mood. However, in situations where personal choices of activities are constrained, such as during periods of social isolation and lockdown, this natural mood regulation is impaired which might result in depression. New research, published today in JAMA Psychiatry, from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford suggests a new target for treating and reducing depression is supporting natural mood regulation.

This new study looked at 58,328 participants from low, middle and high income countries, comparing people with low mood or a history of depression with those of high mood. In a series of analyses, the study investigated how people regulate their mood through their choice of everyday activities. In the general population, there is a strong link between how people currently feel and what activities they choose to engage in next. This mechanism — mood homeostasis, the ability to stabilise mood via activities — is impaired in people with low mood and may even be absent in people who have ever been diagnosed with depression.

Guy Goodwin, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said, ‘When we are down we tend to choose to do things that cheer us up and when we are up we may take on activities that will tend to bring us down. However, in our current situation with COVID-19, lockdowns and social isolation our choice of activity is very limited. Our research shows this normal mood regulation is impaired in people with depression, providing a new, direct target for further research and development of new treatments to help people with depression.’

One in five people will develop major depression at some point in their life. The current lockdown strategies used by different countries to control the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cause even more depressions. About 50% of people will not see their symptoms improve significantly with an antidepressant and the same applies to psychological treatments. The total annual cost of depression in the UK is about £8 billion. A key priority for mental health research is therefore to develop new treatments or optimise existing ones for depression.

Maxime Taquet, Academic Foundation Doctor, University of Oxford, said, ‘By training people to increase their own mood homeostasis, how someone naturally regulates their mood via their choices of activities, we might be able to prevent or better treat depression. This is likely to be important at times of lockdown and social isolation when people are more vulnerable to depression and when choices of activities appear restricted. Our research findings open the door to new opportunities for developing and optimising treatments for depression and this could potentially be well adapted to treatments in the form of smartphone apps, made available to a large population which sometimes lack access to existing treatments.’

Using computer simulations, this study also showed that low mood homeostasis predicts more frequent and longer depressive episodes. Research suggests that by monitoring mood in real time, intelligent systems could make activity recommendations to increase mood regulation and such an intervention could be delivered remotely, improving access to treatment for patients for whom face-to-face care is unavailable, including low and middle income countries.

Importantly, some associations between activities and mood were highly culture-specific, for example, exercise led to the highest increase in mood in high income countries, whereas religion did so in low and middle income countries. Interventions aimed at improving mood regulation will need to be culture specific, or even individual specific, as well as account for people’s constraints and preferences.

On a global scale, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression and the majority of cases, 80 per cent, are in low and middle income countries despite the scarcity of research performed in those countries. Major depressive disorder is a more important cause of disability worldwide than diabetes or lung cancer (in terms of disability-adjusted life years).

This research is supported by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre and the Royal College of Psychiatrists

Top E.R. Doctor Who Treated Virus Patients Dies by Suicide

By  Ali WatkinsMichael RothfeldWilliam K. Rashbaum and Brian M. Rosenthal

A top emergency room doctor at a Manhattan hospital that treated many coronavirus patients died by suicide on Sunday, her father and the police said.

Dr. Lorna M. Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died in Charlottesville, Va., where she was staying with family, her father said in an interview.

Tyler Hawn, a spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, said in an email that officers on Sunday responded to a call seeking medical assistance.

“The victim was taken to U.V.A. Hospital for treatment, but later succumbed to self-inflicted injuries,” Mr. Hawn said.

Dr. Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said she had described devastating scenes of the toll the coronavirus took on patients.

“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” he said.

The elder Dr. Breen said his daughter had contracted the coronavirus but had gone back to work after recuperating for about a week and a half. The hospital sent her home again, before her family intervened to bring her to Charlottesville, he said.

Dr. Breen, 49, did not have a history of mental illness, her father said. But he said that when he last spoke with her, she seemed detached, and he could tell something was wrong. She had described to him an onslaught of patients who were dying before they could even be taken out of ambulances.

“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” he said.

He added: “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”

In a statement, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia used that language to describe her. “Dr. Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department,” the statement said. “Our focus today is to provide support to her family, friends and colleagues as they cope with this news during what is already an extraordinarily difficult time.”

Dr. Angela Mills, head of emergency medical services for several NewYork-Presbyterian campuses, including Allen, sent an email to hospital staffers on Sunday night informing them of Dr. Breen’s death. The email, which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not mention a cause of death. Dr. Mills, who could not be reached for comment, said in the email that the hospital was deferring to the family’s request for privacy.

Aside from work, Dr. Breen filled her time with friends, hobbies and sports, friends said. She was an avid member of a New York ski club and traveled regularly out west to ski and snowboard. She was also a deeply religious Christian who volunteered at a home for older people once a week, friends said. Once a year, she threw a large party on the roof deck of her Manhattan home.

She was very close with her sisters and mother, who lived in Virginia.

One colleague said he had spent dozens of hours talking to Dr. Breen not only about medicine but about their lives and the hobbies she enjoyed, which also included salsa dancing. She was a lively presence, outgoing and extroverted, at work events, the colleague said.

NewYork-Presbyterian Allen is a 200-bed hospital at the northern tip of Manhattan that at times had as many as 170 patients with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. As of April 7, there had been 59 patient deaths at the hospital, according to an internal document.

Dr. Lawrence A. Melniker, the vice chair for quality care at the NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, said that Dr. Breen was a well-respected and well-liked doctor in the NewYork-Presbyterian system, a network of hospitals that includes the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the Weill Cornell Medical Center.

“You don’t get to a position like that at Allen without being very talented,” he said.

Dr. Melniker said the coronavirus had presented unusual mental health challenges for emergency physicians throughout New York, the epicenter of the crisis in the United States.

Doctors are accustomed to responding to all sorts of grisly tragedies, he said. But rarely do they have to worry about getting sick themselves, or about infecting their colleagues, friends and family members.

And rarely do they have to treat their own co-workers.

Another colleague said that Dr. Breen was always looking out for others, making sure her doctors had protective equipment or whatever else they needed. Even when she was home recovering from Covid-19, she texted her co-workers to check in and see how they were doing, the colleague said.

[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Here’s what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.]

Article may be edited for content

TV Ratings: Cable-News Views Soar During Pandemic

5/07/18 Chris Cuomo Primetime

Viewership for all three of the nation’s main cable-news outlets soared in April as viewers tuned in at all hours for information on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

While Fox News captured the most viewers during the month, CNN notched the biggest audience gain across its total day, scoring an increase of 179% in viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programs. Fox News, which had the most viewers in the category, saw an increase of 83% among viewers between 25 and 54, while MSNBC notched a gain of 54%.

The surge lent CNN its best month in the demo since 2005.  At MSNBC, viewership in the advertiser demo in daytime programming was at its highest levels since April 2003.

You can read additional details at Variety.

Theater Owners Decry Universal’s ‘Trolls World Tour’ On-Demand Significance

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell is taking a victory lap for the decision to debut Trolls World Tour on premium VOD instead of waiting for cinemas to reopen post-coronavirus pandemic, saying it could herald a permanent change in how Universal Pictures releases its movies.

Trolls World Tour racked up an estimated $100 million in on-demand rentals in its first three weeks of play in North America, more than enough to put the film on the road to profitability, according to the conglomerate. That’s not far behind the $116 million grossed by the original Trolls movie in its first three weeks at the 2016 domestic box office on its way to topping out at $153.7 million in the U.S. and Canada, not adjusted for inflation.

“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the figures. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

Trolls World Tour Official Trailer

The National Association of Theatre Owners responded with its own statement, saying that while Universal may be pleased with the PVOD results of Trolls World Tour, this outcome should not be interpreted as a sign of a “new normal” for Hollywood.

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases,” said NATO president and CEO John Fithian. “Theaters provide a beloved immersive, shared experience that cannot be replicated — an experience that many of the VOD viewers of this film would have participated in had the world not been sequestered at home, desperate for something new to watch with their families. We are confident that when theaters reopen, studios will continue to benefit from the global theatrical box office, followed by traditional home release.”

NATO also noted that consumer behavior over the last decade and a half shows that transactional video is in secular decline. Sales and rentals of individual titles were $24.9 billion in 2004 and shrank 62 percent to $9.3 billion in 2019.

Troll World Tour

Nor are Wall Street analysts quick to conclude that Trolls World Troll proves that premium VOD is a panacea. “There is limited information,” says Eric Wold of B. Riley FBR.

Universal did not release any preliminary international numbers for Trolls World Tour, which is presently available in a handful of European markets. The original 2016 film, like many Hollywood movies, made the majority of its money overseas, or nearly $194 million.

“What Universal did made sense for this movie. They had all the promotional deals in place that they couldn’t recreate a year from now. But I don’t think they can say this is now the reality for every film. It will be very film-specific. This won’t replace going to the theaters,” said Wold, noting that it isn’t clear whether the regular home entertainment window will be diminished by a premium VOD run.

For years, NBCUniversal and several other Hollywood studios have wanted to collapse the traditional three-month theatrical window and make titles available more quickly in the home for a premium price (the cost of renting Trolls World Tour for 48 hours is $19.99).

The Hollywood majors proposed several tests over the years — including Universal with 2011’s Tower Heist — but were always waylaid by fierce opposition from cinema chains.

Studios get to keep a far larger share of on-demand revenue than they do of box office revenue, or 80 percent. In this case, that equals nearly $80 million for Universal, slightly more the studio received back for the entire domestic run of Trolls ($77 million).

Overseas, the first Trolls earned $193.5 million for a global tally of $346.9 million. Universal has yet to release any premium VOD stats for a handful of European markets where Trolls World Tour is being offered. The family film will roll out in a number of other market this fall, whether in theaters or on digital.

You can read additional details at The Hollywood Reporter.

Surprise, Universal’s Pete Davidson Movie Is Heading Straight To Homes

As the current climate of world events has thrown off the release strategy for many of 2020’s potential released, some films have stayed the course by getting creative. Universal Studios is one of the pioneers of that strategy, as their early VOD release of films like The Invisible Man and The Hunt, as well as the VOD debut of Trolls: World Tour have pivoted what could have been a disastrous scenario into an opportunity. Which makes the news that the hotly anticipated Judd Apatow/Pete Davidson movie The King of Staten Island will be going straight to VOD this June an even bigger deal.

In the vein of traditionally funny yet touching Apatowian comedies, The King of Staten Island is loosely based on Davidson’s own life experiences. Originally, the film was supposed to debut at this year’s South by Southwest festival, which then turned into a Tribeca Film Festival world premiere. But with both festivals cancelled, it looked like the film would be scrapped for the foreseeable future.

That changed today, as Universal officially announced that June 12th would be the release date. And with that announcement came a pretty hysterical video chat between Pete Davidson and Judd Apatow, celebrating the occasion in an Instagram post:

View this post on Instagram

#thekingofstatenisland #petedavidson

A post shared by Judd Apatow (@juddapatow) on

If there was ever an appropriate manner to announce The King of Staten Island going to VOD, it has to be Apatow and Davidson riffing over the internet, adlibbing a conversation about what they should be doing with their film. Naturally, when you’ve got comedians like these guys in front of the camera, there’s bound to be something hysterical captured by the cameras.

You can read additional details on Cinemablend.

‘Little Women: Atlanta’ star Ms. Minnie dies after car crash

(CNN)Reality television star Ashley Ross, known as Ms. Minnie on Lifetime’s “Little Women: Atlanta,” died Monday from injuries sustained in a car accident, her publicist Liz Dixson told CNN.Ross was involved in an accident in Atlanta around 11 p.m. Sunday and died nearly 24 hours later at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Dixson said. She was 34 years old.Ross is survived by her mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle and other family members, according to Dixson.”Ashley was a sweet and kind person with a big heart. She was an advocate for St. Jude and young women,” Dixson said. “She will be remembered for her contagious smile.”

Zoom taps Oracle for cloud deal, passing over Amazon, Microsoft

By Senior Editor Cedric Nettles

It is amazing how COVID-19 impacted how we do business and interact with one another. So as filmmakers and creatives we have to position ourselves to be able to operate into a pandemic weary society. Zoom appeared to be just another video conferencing software company…Now their branding name is synonymous with COVID-19 alongside the doors it opened up. My fellow scribes,actors, videographers, let’s prepare for this new Brave World and learn to move with the subtlety and practicality of a house cat and the aggressiveness and agility of a roaring lion. Zoom saw something years ago, and they are in for big wins. Perhaps as creatives we will see a new genre of creativity under platforms like this.

(CNBC) Zoom selected Oracle to provide its Cloud Infrastructure service on Tuesday, bypassing major cloud leaders Amazon Web Services, Alphabet’s Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We recently experienced the most significant growth our business has ever seen, requiring massive increases in our service capacity. We explored multiple platforms, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure was instrumental in helping us quickly scale our capacity and meet the needs of our new users,” Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said in a press release. “We chose Oracle Cloud Infrastructure because of its industry-leading security, outstanding performance and unmatched level of support.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed many companies and schools to remote work, which allowed Zoom to emerge as a key player. The videoconferencing software company last week surpassed 300 million daily users, up from 200 million in just weeks. 

Oracle said in a release that Zoom chose its service for Oracle’s “advantages in performance, scalability, reliability and superior cloud security.” It’s a surprising move from Zoom, as it chose Oracle over its larger competitors. According to research firm Canalys, Amazon had the largest cloud market share at the end of 2019 with 32.4%, followed by Microsoft (17.6%) and Google (6%). 

Oracle stock was little changed following the announcement.

Zoom’s massive growth has also raised security questions around the service. After several security snafus, the company said it would focus on beefing up its security over the next few months instead of rolling out new features it had planned.

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