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Plus: A Spaghetti Western, Assigned!
The week’s most surprising story—aside from Top Gun: Maverick putting up enormous numbers throughout the week after having the smallest second weekend drop for any movie to have grossed more than $100 million in its opening weekend—is the C-suite drama at Disney.
The short version, via the Hollywood Reporter, is that embattled Disney CEO Bob Chapek fired Peter Rice, Disney’s head of entertainment and programming, more or less out of nowhere this week. Chapek told a stunned Rice that he wasn’t a good fit for the new Disney culture, Rice asked what the hell that meant, and Chapek told him to pack his bags.
This sort of internal drama is one of the reasons I’m glad I subscribe to a variety of entertainment industry newsletters. The obvious read here is that Chapek saw Rice as a potential threat to his job, given that Chapek has hit some turbulence in recent months between stumbling stock prices and front-page fights with Ron DeSantis in Florida. But Richard Rushfield notes that this move has been in the works for some time, despite the fact that Chapek’s predecessor, Bob Iger, demanded Rice come to Disney as part of the deal with 20th Century Fox.
Meanwhile, Matthew Belloni hears from the investing class that this is just one more sign of instability and might signal a moment for serious people to get involved more actively:
“It’s time for an activist investor to get involved,” one of Disney’s sophisticated shareholders emailed me today. “This was a horrible move. Disney has become uninvestable for me after this event.”
This is all doubly interesting because, theoretically, Disney should be better positioned than just about any other entertainment company at the moment. Disney has a diversified portfolio—theme parks are up and running again; cruise lines are filling up; their streaming service is the closest thing to a Netflix killer out there; and they remain the only studio to have a whole stable of movies that can top a billion dollars at the box office at any given moment—and the areas of greatest instability (namely, unsureness about ESPN’s fortunes in a post-cable world) weren’t really under Rice’s purview.
Meaning that if Disney’s on the brink of chaos … well, the rest of the industry can’t be far behind, now can it?
I wrote about two very different projects—David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future and David Simon’s We Own This City—this week that have an oddly similar root question: What is the purpose of art? I can’t help but see We Own This City as a challenge to people in the government who said they loved The Wire but did nothing to alleviate the problems The Wire documented. And Crimes of the Future obliquely asks what the indie filmmaker’s role in an age of blockbusters should be. Again: very different projects, but asking very similar questions.
On The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood this week I had a very, very fun time talking with Ruth Vitale about a topic that drives me absolutely nuts: movie piracy! As the CEO of CreativeFuture, Ruth has spent a ton of time thinking about the ways in which theft of IP hurts everyday workers on movie sets. Not the stars, but the gaffers and grips, the stuntmen and makeup artists. Stop stealing movies!
I defy you to explain this sentence to someone from the recent past, like, 2006: “Seth Green's ‘kidnapped’ Bored Ape has been returned to its original owner, ending weeks of frantic speculation as to its whereabouts and the intentions of its alleged abductor, a pseudonymous NFT collector known as ‘Mr Cheese.’”
I think there’s a decent chance that Glen Powell, aka Hangman, is going to be the breakout star from Top Gun: Maverick. Dude just looks like a movie star. He’s come a long way since his brief turn opposite Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises.
Assigned Viewing: Django (Arrow)
I’ve had some single-parenting time this week, which means evenings are when I catch up on the physical media purchases that have piled up. One such film was Django, the 4K release of which from Arrow is absolutely gorgeous. You can stream it on Arrow’s video service, and I strongly recommend you do: the greatest of the non-Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns, Django has one of the best scores in movie history. Period. Full stop. Just brilliant from start to finish. I need it on vinyl, stat.