Welcome back, Insiders. Jesse Whittock here. Christmas is just around the corner now but the news doesn’t let up. Let’s begin.
Way Of The Box Office
Coming to a cinema near you: Much has been said of people’s propensity to return to cinemas as the world has stepped out of the Covid-19 pandemic and this is being put to the test this coming weekend with Avatar: The Way of Water’s global opening. Per a string of analysis pieces from our Box Office gurus Nancy Tartaglione and Anthony D’Alessandro, James Cameron’s sequel 13 years on from its record-breaking predecessor is on track for $525M in what is Disney’s widest global release ever at 52K screens, surpassing Avengers: Endgame. A reminder: The first Avatar took $2.9B worldwide, which to this day remains the highest-grossing release of all time. Things are very different nowadays and Anthony points out in a piece about The Way of Water’s Thursday takings that fans will flock to the film via appointment viewing, which will mean the movie holds weekend to weekend. “Moviegoers seeing Avatar 2 want the perfect seat, perfect time, perfect format,” he writes. Premium format viewings are understood to be hard to come by in LA, NYC and Phoenix. Of that $525M, around $350M is predicted to come from overseas, with $100M of this chunk in China. As Covid-19 lockdowns are finally eased following a string of major protests, China is pushing the movie heavily and rereleased a limited promotional run of Cameron’s first Avatar to get people in the mood, remastered in up to 80 cinemas across the nation. One to keep an eye on for sure. And for Deadline Editor-At-Large Peter Bart’s take on the Titanic commitment afforded to the pic, click here.
Global projections: It felt timely therefore that Nancy put out her annual roundup of Gower Street Analytics’ Box Office projections this week, with topline figures forecasting a 12% gain next year to $29B. The past year showed further post-pandemic recovery but there were teething problems in the shape of a severely depressed China, cost of living crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which led to U.S. studios not releasing films in Russia. If the early 2023 projection holds, Gower says it would suggest the industry will need to wait until at least 2024 to see a full return to pre-pandemic global levels, but progress is being made nonetheless. Dive deeper here.
Messi situation: The noise around the Qatar World Cup has quietened as the controversial tournament has gone on, but on the pitch the narratives have been loud, passionate and often sensational. We’ve likely seen the last World Cup appearance of Piers Morgan’s pal Cristiano Ronaldo, who actually spent most of his competition ostracizing his Portugal teammates and frowning, and more evidence of the incredible skill of French superstar Kylian Mbappe, whose performances led to record-breaking TV ratings in France. In the UK, France’s 2-1 win over England drew a year-high 21.1M viewers. But it’s the swansong of Lionel Messi, almost certainly the greatest footballer of all time, that has everybody stuck in front of their TVs. The Argentina attacker, now aged 35, has the weight of history and his entire nation on his back but has been nothing short of spectacular, pulling his team through to the final, where they will face Mbappe’s France on Sunday. We’ll report on the winner over the weekend and then provide you with more ratings analysis next week as the Middle East’s first World Cup draws to a breathless close.
Prebble, Prebble: Max had a chat with Lucy Prebble, Succession writer and creator of the quite brilliant Billie Piper drama I Hate Suzie, ahead of Suzie’s return on Sky and HBO Max next week. It’s been two years since the first season landed with a real bang, with Doctor Who star Piper channelling her former life as a popstar to play a dysfunctional singer on the downward spiral. Anxiety, fame, family, disability and drugs were all mused upon and the new run, I Hate Suzie Too, promises more of the same, with Piper’s character Suzie Pickles taking part in a Dancing with the Stars-style dance competition series to make some money. The show has switched from an eight-part format to three hours but Prebble promised it will be “funnier and angrier” and that while the format is “more traditional… the content is more daring,” with “brighter highs and darker lows.” Prebble has emerged as one of the UK’s smartest and punchiest writers, but she told Max that comes at a price. With work continuing on Jesse Armstrong’s fourth season of Succession, she has found little time to do anything but write the two HBO shows. “It has basically destroyed any other life of mine for the past year,” she said. Don’t worry, Lucy, you should get a few days off at Christmas, and no one works on New Year’s Day. More here.
Bectu And Pact Make Up… Finally
Intense negotiation: Britain feels just a bit broken right now, with nurses, postal workers and train staffers all striking in the run up to Christmas and beyond, but one minor industrial dispute that has been resolved with a happy ending is in the world of TV drama. Broadcasting union Bectu and indie trade body Pact have been negotiating intensely over the UK TV Drama Agreement for almost a year now, since Deadline revealed a rift in February over an agreement that governs areas such as working conditions, hours and wellbeing. After three ballots, open letters and multiple rows, some of which spilled out into the media, 60% of Bectu voters accepted the conditions Monday and the agreement will now be pushed through. Sources on both sides struck a positive tone in conversations with Deadline, stating that a compromise had been reached handing freelancers the extra flexibility and power they craved while keeping drama production steady. Read Max’s roundup here.
Mesmerizing Scenery: I sat down with Isidoor Roebers and Lea Fels, partners at Dutch producer Scenery, to learn how this small doc-focused producer is making waves in Hollywood and landing business from the likes of Netflix. They explained how soft money-raising expertise allowed them to retain more rights, and why teaming with part-owner Banijay offered emerging European filmmakers a way to creative freedom. Read more. And for my inside scoop on the indie’s new feature doc on the United Ukrainian Ballet Company, see here.
🌶️ Hot One: What do Wu Tang’s RZA, City of God filmmaker Fernando Meirelles and DJ Jayda G have in common? They’re teaming for environmental feature doc Blue Carbon.
🌶️ Hot, hot, hot: Michela Scolari’s debut English-language film Sicilian Holiday wrapped its shoot, as per Mel’s exclusive.
🎡 Exec merry-go-round: Ex-HBO Max exec Christian Wikander became Global Head of Scripted at Banijay as Lars Blomgren moved to Media Res to head up international.
🚪 Exiting: Simon Dickson, Co-Founder of BBC Hospital producer Label1, is leaving the indie he set up in 2015.
🚫 Suspended sentence: Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger landed a six-month suspended jail sentence and a fine over anti-trust misdeeds.
❄️ On ice: Channel 4’s documentary series on former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, which was supposed to launch last year.
🏪 Setting up shop: YouTuber Brandon B’s Studio B shingle and its YouTube chat format This Interview Will Self Destruct. Max had the scoop.
🏪 Setting up a different shop: Emmy-nominated casting director Julie Harkin partnered with casting director Nathan Toth to form Harkin & Toth Casting.
⛺ Festivals: Pete Doherty checked in to Les Arcs Film Festival and gave a surprise performance, per Mel’s report.
🏆 Awards latest: The Banshees Of Inisherin and Everything Everywhere All At Once head the nominations for the 12th edition of the AACTA International Awards.
🎥 Trailer: Israeli/U.S. Henry Winkler-featuring comedy-drama Chanshi from up-and-comer Aleeza Chanowitz.
Max Goldbart contributed to this week’s International Insider.