‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ was a hit at the box office and on HBO Max, and it shows why the post-pandemic terms between studios and theaters are far from settled

godzilla vs kong warner bros
“Godzilla vs. Kong”

  • Experts say “Godzilla vs. Kong’s” pandemic-best opening shows promise for theaters, but urge caution.
  • The movie was also a hit on HBO Max, but WB plans to abandon day-and-date releases after this year.
  • Still, a studio exec said WB is in talks with exhibitors to shorten the theatrical window.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After more than a year, the US theatrical industry finally had some good news.

“Godzilla vs. Kong,” the new monster battle royale from Warner Bros. and Legendary’s “MonsterVerse,” earned $48.5 million at the domestic box office in its first five days, and $32.2 million over the three-day Easter weekend – a pandemic-best opening. It’s so far made more than $285 million worldwide (it cost $200 million to produce).

It’s more impressive considering the movie, like all of Warner Bros.’ movies this year, also debuted on WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max on the same day it arrived in theaters.

Does that suggest that moviegoers will still see films in cinemas whether they’re streaming or not?

“Many audiences actively seek out the big screen, big sound, and shared experience [of movie theaters],” Jeff Goldstein, the Warner Bros. president of domestic theatrical distribution, told Insider. “With the right properties, theatrical exhibition can significantly ignite a cultural moment and increases the entire value chain.”

But while the numbers signal some hope for movie theaters that have been rocked by pandemic-related closures, experts caution that the industry isn’t out of the woods just yet.

“It’s difficult to determine anything concretely from just one film, especially after the year we’ve had,” said Jeff Bock, the Exhibitor Relations senior media analyst.

He added that theaters “just have to keep providing a safe and compelling environment for audiences, as ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ certainly shows folks are ready to return for the right film.”

“While the film experienced a huge increase in box-office performance relative to ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ we are still well below how films had performed pre-pandemic and concerns remain that a meaningful portion of moviegoers now prefer streaming at home,” said Joe McCormack, an analyst with the research firm Third Bridge.

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the largest movie-theater trade group, cautioned that while theaters in the US are heading in the right direction, markets in Canada, Europe, and Latin America are still struggling.

“We are a national and a global industry, and we need many of those markets to recover to ensure the biggest box-office potential for global hits,” a NATO spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

While theaters still have a long road to recovery, the movie does suggest that theatrical and streaming distribution strategies can coexist.

godzilla vs kong
“Godzilla vs. Kong”

Theatrical windows may never be the same

“Godzilla vs. Kong” wasn’t just a box-office hit. HBO Max said that the movie had the largest audience in its first four days of any title since the service launched last May.

In response to “Godzilla vs. Kong’s” performance, some analysts praised WarnerMedia’s day-and-date release strategy, which received backlash from Hollywood after it was announced in December.

Lightshed Partners’ Rich Greenfield noted on Twitter that Max was the No. 1 app in the Apple app store on Sunday and said “the future is day and date releases.” B. Riley Securities analyst Eric Wold upgraded his stance on shares of AMC Theatres, the world’s largest theater chain, from “neutral” to “buy.”

Warner Bros.’ strategy reflects a big shift in film distribution amid the pandemic.

But NATO, the theater trade group, isn’t convinced it will have lasting consequences.

“Exhibitors are, of course, concerned about meaningful changes to release models, including the length of the exclusive theatrical window,” the NATO spokesperson said. “It is important to understand that pandemic release models, driven in part by the studios’ need for revenue right now, may bear little resemblance to what comes after, when the theatrical market can operate at full capacity. A large piece of the studio movie output simply does not make sense – or profit – without a robust theatrical performance.”

Still, there are already signs that the traditional theatrical window, typically 75 to 90 days before the pandemic, could be a thing of the past. Warner Bros. isn’t the only movie studio to embrace streaming during the pandemic and it could have lasting ramifications for movie theaters.

Major studios like Warner Bros., Universal, and Paramount have struck deals with exhibitors to dramatically shorten the window beyond 2021. That doesn’t mean day-and-date releases like what Warner Bros. is doing now, but it does mean movies could wind up on streaming or digital-rental platforms earlier than ever before.

Warner Bros., for instance, struck a deal with Cineworld (which owns Regal Cinemas) to shrink the window to 45 days beginning in 2022. Goldstein, the studio’s head of domestic theatrical distribution, told Insider that Warner Bros. is in talks with other exhibitors for similar deals.

He suggested that the day-and-date model is for 2021 only, which Warner Bros. had previously stressed.

“Our day-and-date strategy was right for us given the hobbled marketplace at this point in time,” Goldstein said. “Our plan for 2022 makes sense for that period of time.”

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‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ earned $48 million at the US box office over the weekend, the best opening during the pandemic

godzilla vs kong
“Godzilla vs. Kong”

  • “Godzilla vs. Kong” earned $48.5 million in its five-day opening weekend at the US box office.
  • It’s the best opening yet for a movie at the domestic box office during the year-long pandemic.
  • It signals hope for movie theaters, though the industry still has a long road to recovery.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” beat the odds over the weekend at the box office.

The new monster movie from Warner Bros. earned $48.5 million at the US box office in its first five days (it opened in theaters on Wednesday), and $32.2 million over the three-day Easter weekend from 3,064 theaters.

It’s the best domestic opening yet for a movie during the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the theatrical industry over the past year. The movie grossed $121 million during its international opening last month, which was also a pandemic-best. Its global total is now $285 million.

The movie’s predecessor, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” earned $47.8 million domestically over its first three-day weekend in 2019. It went on to earn $110.5 million domestically and $386 million worldwide.

It’s more impressive considering that “Godzilla vs. Kong” debuted on WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max for no additional fee to subscribers on the same day it hit theaters in the US, as are all of Warner Bros.’ movies this year.

Theaters across the country are also operating at limited capacity, including in New York City, one of the biggest theatrical markets in the US that finally opened last month after a year of being shut down.

While the numbers would normally be underwhelming for a blockbuster that cost $200 million to produce, “Godzilla vs. Kong’s” strong start signals hope for movie theaters – though they still have a long road to full recovery.

The last pandemic-best domestic opening was Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman 1984” in December with $16.7 million. The movie also debuted on HBO Max simultaneously with theaters. While it would ultimately slow at the box office with a $45 million domestic total (and $165 million worldwide), data showed that it boosted HBO Max signups.

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New Jersey tried luring Netflix, Disney, and other Hollywood studios after Georgia passed its controversial voting law

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sent a letter to Hollywood studios like Netflix and Disney on Thursday.
  • Murphy wanted to lure studios to the state after backlash to Georgia’s new voting law.
  • Some media companies like ViacomCBS and AT&T have issued statements opposing the controversial bill.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New Jersey wants to be in business with Hollywood.

The state’s governor, Phil Murphy, sent a letter to major Hollywood studios like Disney, Warner Bros., and Netflix on Thursday in an attempt to lure business away from Georgia after it passed a controversial voting law, according to several outlets that obtained the letter, including The Wall Street Journal and The Hollywood Reporter.

Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed the sweeping elections bill into law on March 25, which has been met with backlash from Democrats and civil-rights groups who say it targets Black communities. Among the most controversial aspects of the bill are changes to absentee voting and banning volunteers from delivering food, water, and other items to people waiting in long voting lines.

Murphy wrote that “restricting the right to vote is more than just wrong, it’s un-American” and that the “vast majority” see the law as “an attack on people of color by a Governor and Legislature willing to do anything to stay in power.”

Georgia offers attractive tax incentives that have made it a major Hollywood production hub. Murphy emphasized New Jersey’s 30% tax credit on film projects and a 40% subsidy for any brick-and-mortar studio development, according to THR.

“Our new $14.5 billion economic incentive package makes the Garden State just as competitive as Georgia to attract film and television production businesses,” Murphy wrote. “One thing is clear: when it comes to social policies, corporate responsibility, and – not to be overlooked – economic opportunity, New Jersey is now a top contender for your business.”

Some media companies have issued statements condemning the Georgia law, but have not called for a boycott of the state.

ViacomCBS, the parent company of Paramount Pictures, was the first major media company to speak out: “We unequivocally believe in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right.”

Comcast, NBCUniversal’s corporate parent, and AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, Warner Bros., and Atlanta-based CNN, followed with their own statements.

Comcast said: “Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We believe that all Americans should enjoy equitable access to secure elections and we have long supported and promoted voter education, registration and participation campaigns across the country to achieve that goal. Efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values.”

AT&T’s CEO John Stankey said in part: “We believe the right to vote is sacred and we support voting laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote in free, fair and secure elections. We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage.”

Disney and Netflix have not released statements regarding the Georgia voting law.

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How the major Hollywood movie studios are collapsing the theatrical window

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“Black Widow” will stream on Disney Plus for an additional fee the same day it hits theaters.

  • The pandemic has resulted in movie studios renegotiating theatrical windows with exhibitors.
  • Shorter windows will last after the pandemic and change distribution strategies for years to come.
  • Insider laid out how each major Hollywood studio is collapsing the theatrical window.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Hollywood and the theatrical industry have faced significant changes during the pandemic, and the results will last long after it’s over.

Movie studios have embraced streaming in unprecedented ways over the last year. Warner Bros. is releasing its entire film slate simultaneously to theaters and on parent company WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max this year. Disney announced last week that “Cruella” and Marvel’s “Black Widow” will premiere this summer in theaters and on Disney Plus for an additional $30 fee on the same day, following other “Premier Access” titles like “Mulan” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

But those strategies don’t eliminate the theatrical experience. Studios and movie theaters will just have a very different relationship going forward and consumers will have more options to watch movies than ever before.

Day-and-date releases, in which a movie is available to rent or stream the same day it hits theaters, may not be a regular occurrence after the pandemic like they are now. But the traditional theatrical window, in which theaters played movies exclusively for 75 to 90 days, will no longer be the industry standard for many movies. Some studios have already struck deals with major theater chains to considerably shrink the window and release movies to streaming or digital-rental platforms earlier.

“I think the old window concept was so outdated,” Harold Mintz, the president of the movie-grading company CinemaScore, told Insider last month. “The pandemic forced it [to evolve], but it was bound to happen eventually … most movies are played out [in theaters] after three weeks so it just makes sense.”

Here’s where each of the five major movie studios stand on the post-pandemic theatrical window:

the batman
Warner Bros.’ “The Batman” comes to theaters next year.

Warner Bros. and Cineworld struck a deal for a 45-day window.

Last week, Warner Bros. and the theater chain Cineworld, which owns Regal Cinemas, announced a multiyear agreement beginning in 2022 that Warner Bros. movies will play exclusively at Cineworld theaters for 45 days before being made available to stream or rent online.

The deal follows other studio/theater agreements that hint at the new normal.

Warner Bros. did not return a request for comment on whether it is negotiating with other theater chains to shrink the window. Cineworld, for its part, said on Thursday that it’s in active talks with with other studios about the evolving window.

Adam Aron, the CEO of the world’s largest chain, AMC Theatres, said in December that AMC “will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business” in response to Warner Bros.’ 2021 distribution strategy.

Universal was the first to shrink the window after a feud with AMC Theatres.

Universal was ahead of other studios at nearly every step throughout the pandemic. It was the first to move a major tentpole release, “Fast and Furious 9,” by an entire year. It was the first to release a movie, “Trolls: World Tour,” straight to digital-rental platforms.

And it was the first to strike a deal with a major theater chain to shrink the theatrical window for all of its movies.

Universal’s “Trolls: World Tour” decision rubbed AMC Theatres the wrong way after NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said in April last year that the studio would release movies to both theaters and digital platforms after theaters reopened. Aron, the AMC CEO, said in a statement after Shell’s comments that the chain would not be playing future Universal movies.

The feud was short-lived.

In July, Universal and AMC reached an agreement to shorten the window to just 17 days, at which point Universal can choose to release movies to digital-rental platforms. It has since reached a similar agreement with Cinemark (movies that gross $50 million or more in their opening weekends will have 31-day windows under this agreement).

a quiet place 2
“A Quiet Place Part II”

Paramount will stream some tentpole movies after 45 days in theaters.

Paramount’s parent company, ViacomCBS, launched the rebranded and expanded version of CBS All Access this month called Paramount Plus. And with it came a look at the company’s future plans for the theatrical window.

Paramount will move upcoming tentpoles “A Quite Place Part II” (in theaters May 28), “Top Gun: Maverick” (July 2), and “Mission: Impossible 7” (November 29) to Paramount Plus after a 45-day theatrical window. Other titles will have a 30-day window.

A Morning Consult and Hollywood Reporter survey of 2,200 US adults, conducted from February 18 to February 21, found that 29% of respondents were likely to subscribe to Paramount Plus. But 35% of respondents would be more likely to subscribe to Paramount Plus to watch “Mission: Impossible 7.”

Disney and Sony have yet to announce new theatrical-window deals with exhibitors.

Disney has reorganized around its streaming business amid the pandemic and Disney Plus, which has surpassed 100 million subscribers since launching in November 2019, will be a major part of the company moving forward.

But Disney hasn’t announced any new windowing agreements with theater chains beyond its decision to release some movies, like “Black Widow,” to Disney Plus and theaters simultaneously. The company has said that theaters will still be a major part of its business going forward, but has hinted at shorter windows in the future.

“The consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before, particularly since now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said earlier this month. “So, I’m not sure there’s going back. But we certainly don’t want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run.”

Disney declined to comment for this story on its future windowing plans.

Sony is the other major studio that has not announced any new windowing deals. It doesn’t have a streaming component like the other major studios, but has embraced streaming in some cases (it sold the Tom Hanks movie “Greyhound” to Apple last year).

But the studio doesn’t see the traditional window as outdated, according to a person familiar with Sony’s thinking. The studio isn’t having wide-ranging conversations with theaters at this time, the person said, and plans to evaluate movies on a case-by-case basis.

In other words, if a Sony tentpole like “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is a box-office smash, it may not leave theaters early.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The top 9 movies on Netflix this week, from ‘The Last Blockbuster’ to ‘Yes Day’

the last blockbuster
“The Last Blockbuster”

  • “The Last Blockbuster” documentary was among the most popular movies on Netflix this week.
  • Streaming search engine Reelgood keeps track of Netflix’s daily top 10 lists.
  • It provides Insider with a rundown of the week’s most popular movies on Netflix every Friday.
  • Visit the business section of Insider for more stories.

Last year’s “The Last Blockbuster” documentary, about the fall of Blockbuster and its last remaining location, is now on Netflix and it didn’t take long for the movie to become one of the streamer’s most popular titles.

The new Netflix original “Yes Day,” starring Jennifer Garner, was also a hit.

Every week, the streaming search engine Reelgood compiles for Insider a list of which movies have been most prominent on Netflix’s daily top-10 lists that week. On Reelgood, users can browse Netflix’s entire movie library and sort by IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

Netflix counts a view if an account watches a movie or TV show for at least two minutes. Netflix’s daily lists are based on the previous 24 hours.

Below are Netflix’s 9 most popular movies of the week in the US:

9. “Training Day” (2001)

training day movie cbs

Description: “A rookie cop with one day to prove himself to a veteran LAPD narcotics officer receives a crash course in his mentor’s questionable brand of justice.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 73%

What critics said: “Marred slightly by an unsatisfactory climax, this is a cracking cop drama anchored by great performances and intelligent direction from Fuqua.” — Empire

8. “Safe Haven’ (2013)

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Safe Haven 2012

Description: “When a mysterious woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, she begins a new life but remains haunted by a terrifying secret.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 14%

What critics said: “Keeping up with the movie’s inane plot twists makes for a capricious good time, but an unimaginative denouement turns the whole thing into a fool’s errand.” — Chicago Reader

7. “The Last Blockbuster” (2020)

the last blockbuster

Description: “This nostalgic documentary reveals the real story of Blockbuster’s demise, and how one last location in Oregon keeps the spirit of a bygone era alive.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 70%

What critics said: “The film proves timely in its warning about how a brave new digital world can claim casualties in terms of existing businesses and social interaction.” — CNN

6. “I Care A Lot” (2021, Netflix original)

i care a lot netflix

Description: “A court-appointed legal guardian defrauds her older clients and traps them under her care. But her latest mark comes with some unexpected baggage.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 81%

What critics said: “The trouble with ‘I Care a Lot’ is not how cynical it seems but how pleased it is with that cynicism, forever straining to top its own tastelessness.” — New Yorker

5. “Savages” (2012)

savages movie

Description: “With the help of a shady DEA agent, two weed entrepreneurs take on a merciless cartel leader who wants in on their business and kidnaps their lover.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 50%

What critics said: “While Savages aims for provocative and dynamic, it comes off as predictable and strained.” — USA Today

4. “The Dark Knight” (2008)

the dark knight

Description: “As Batman, Lt. Gordon and the district attorney continue to dismantle Gotham’s criminal underground, a new villain threatens to undo their good work.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 94%

What critics said: “Watching the first dizzying, vertiginous overhead shot of the glittering skyscrapers and minuscule streets, I literally forgot to breathe for a second or two, and found myself teetering forward on my seat.” — Guardian

3. “Bigfoot Family” (2021, Netflix original)

bigfoot family

Description: “Bigfoot’s now a big deal. So when he goes missing, his shy but tech-savvy teen son must take on an evil CEO to save his family and a wildlife preserve.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said: N/A

2. “Parker” (2013)

parker

Description: “Parker is a thief — but he has scruples. So when his crew double-crosses him, Parker teams up with an unlikely partner to even the score.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 40%

What critics said: “A B-picture in the classic mold: unambitious but precise.” — ScreenCrush

1. “Yes Day” (2021, Netflix original)

yes day netflix

Description: “A mom and dad who usually say no decide to say yes to their kids’ wildest requests — with a few ground rules — on a whirlwind day of fun and adventure.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 44%

What critics said: “Dad is chased by vindictive birds, Mom picks a fight at a theme park and the kids come to appreciate that, sometimes, adults are right to say no to things — like this movie.” — New York Times

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Reddit’s Wall Street Bets founder signed with a Hollywood talent agency that reps Jessica Alba and Kevin Hart

WallStreetBets
  • Wall Street Bets founder Jaime Rogozinski signed with a Hollywood talent agency, Bloomberg reported.
  • United Talent Agency represents stars like Jessica Alba, Kevin Hart, and Seth Rogen.
  • Hollywood is trying to capitalize on the recent GameStop saga with various movies planned.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Reddit’s Wall Street Bets founder Jaime Rogozinski signed with a Hollywood talent agency as the entertainment industry looks to capitalize on the GameStop saga, Bloomberg reported.

United Talent Agency, which represents big names such as Jessica Alba, Seth Rogen, and Kevin Hart, is adding the Reddit star to its catalog after investors on his thread, r/wallstreetbets, forced a historic rally in GameStop shares that hurt short sellers. GameStop stock has since fluctuated in price, but its gains remain near 1000% year-to-date, Markets Insider data shows.

United Talent Agency did not immediately respond to Insider’s request to confirm the news about Rogozinski. With UTA, Rogozinski may appear in podcasts and speak at a conference in the fall, Bloomberg reported.

Read more: GENERATION ROBINHOOD: How the trading app conditioned its inexperienced users to obsessively play the market

Hollywood has been picking up on the GameStop frenzy. MGM, for example, bought the film rights to a proposed book that will cover the saga. And last month, Deadline reported that Netflix is in talks to make a movie about what happened. That’s just two of the nine projects already in the works about GameStop, Bloomberg reported.

Rogozinski founded the Reddit group, r/wallstreetbets, in 2012, while he was working as an IT consultant. But the group only recently became popularized, as its members have helped pave the way for a frenzy in meme stocks, such as GameStop, AMC Entertainment, Blackberry, and Bed Bath & Beyond. In an interview, Rogozinski said seeing the GameStop rally was like watching a trainwreck in real-time.

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How a small social app played an essential role in making ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ a reality

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Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Zack Snyder on the set of “Justice League.”

  • “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” debuts on HBO Max on Thursday.
  • The social app Vero was Snyder’s platform of choice to connect with fans leading up to the movie.
  • Vero’s CEO explained how the app played an essential role in making the “Snyder Cut” a reality.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Ayman Hariri walked onto the set of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in 2015, he had no idea what the experience would mean for the next six years of his life.

Hariri is the founder and CEO of the social platform Vero, which played an essential role in making “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” a reality. The movie, which debuts on HBO Max on Thursday, was born out of calls from Snyder’s devoted fans to see his version on screen after the theatrical cut of “Justice League” disappointed financially and critically in 2017. Vero was Snyder’s go-to platform to connect with those fans.

But when Hariri won a role as an extra in Snyder’s “Batman v Superman” in 2015 through a charity auction, Vero hadn’t launched yet (it would launch later that year).

After meeting Snyder, though, Hariri gave him a peek at the app and the two quickly formed a close friendship (a representative for Snyder confirmed this account). After Vero launched, Zack became one of its biggest users, and his passionate fanbase followed him.

zack snyder justice league
“Zack Snyder’s Justice League”

Snyder exited “Justice League” late into production after his daughter Autumn died by suicide in March 2017. Joss Whedon was brought in for significant reshoots, which fans say altered Snyder’s original vision. Fans’ appetite for the “Snyder Cut” intensified as Snyder regularly teased behind-the-scenes images and concept art on Vero, and the “Release the Snyder Cut” movement was born.

For instance, in October 2019, Snyder confirmed on Vero that his initial plan for actor Harry Lennix’s character was for him to become the superhero Martian Manhunter. That December, he fanned the flames even more by posting an image on Vero that said “Is it real? Does it exist? Of course it does” referring to his cut of “Justice League.”

“I choose to be on Vero because it allows me an honest and real interaction with my fans,” Snyder told Insider through a representative.

Ayman Hariri vero
Ayman Hariri.

Users can choose to publish individual posts to Vero publicly, in which all of a person’s followers can see that content. They can also label connections as close friends, who can see everything, or friends and acquaintances, who see less. Hariri said that Vero also has a chronological feed rather than one based on an algorithm, which he said attracted Snyder.

Hariri said that Vero has over 5 million users. It’s a small platform compared to social giants like Facebook and Twitter. But Hariri pushed back on the notion that it’s a “niche” platform. He said it’s not being built as a niche app, but “with niches in mind.”

“I’d love to have more creators, whether filmmakers or other, come on Vero,” Hariri said. “It’s a part of how we think and the strategy of the company.”

But even if Vero caters to creators, couldn’t Snyder have just brought his audience to another platform and reached more people?

“I think there is a lot of noise on a lot of different platforms,” Hariri said. “Those would present challenges for somebody wanting to create a certain momentum … All I know is that Zack and [his wife and producing partner] Deborah both believe that Vero played a role in getting [‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’] made.”

A representative for Snyder confirmed to Insider that the filmmaker regards Vero as being essential in getting “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” off the ground.

Restoring the SnyderVerse? Not so fast

As the “Release the Snyder Cut” movement gained momentum online, “Justice League” stars began joining calls for Snyder’s movie to see the light of day.

Aquaman actor Jason Momoa was the most vocal, saying in August 2019 that he had seen the cut and that it was “sick.”

Warner Bros., the studio behind “Justice League,” repeatedly denied the movie’s existence or that a cut would be released. But in May 2020, Snyder announced after a “Man of Steel” watch party on Vero that his cut of the film would debut in 2021.

Now the four-hour movie, which Snyder assembled from footage he shot before departing the project, will premiere on HBO Max on Thursday.

“It’s very exciting to see him achieve his vision, especially after what he and his family have gone through,” Hariri said.

zack snyder's justice league
Ben Affleck as Batman in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”

Hariri said he hasn’t seen the movie yet and is waiting to watch it with his kids. In the meantime, Vero is celebrating the movie’s release with a cosplay contest judged by Snyder and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” costume designer Michael Wilkinson that runs through April 22.

But even with the release of the movie, fans are still clamoring for more.

The “#RestoretheSnyderVerse” hashtag has made the rounds on social media, referring to Snyder’s original vision that his “Justice League” be a two-part movie and lay the groundwork for the rest of the “DC Extended Universe.” “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” even ends on a cliffhanger.

But Warner Bros. and parent company WarnerMedia have moved in a different direction with its DC movie franchise, and Snyder has expressed in interviews that he won’t be involved in anymore DC movies.

“They [WarnerMedia] are 100% moving away,” Snyder told The New York Times. “They consider the theatrical cut of ‘Justice League’ as canon. That’s their decision. I wish them all the best, and I hope the whole thing is a giant blockbuster on top of blockbuster on top of blockbuster.”

Hariri isn’t sure what Vero’s involvement in any sort of continued movement would be. But as a fan, he wants to see more.

“Zack would be in charge of how he wants to move forward, but as a fan, I hope he continues because he has a vision and I’d love to see that vision continue,” Hariri said.

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Gina Yashere on her Chuck Lorre collaboration, diversifying their writers’ room, and bringing Nigerian culture to American primetime

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Comedian Gina Yashere at the opening night of the African Film Festival in New York in 2018.

  • Gina Yashere has championed Black and African actors and writers in Hollywood.
  • Chuck Lorre asked her to consult on his CBS show “Bob Hearts Abishola.” Days later, she became a co-creator.
  • “There’s a lot more me’s out there waiting for a good opportunity,” she told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When comedian Gina Yashere was first brought in as a consultant on the CBS show Bob Hearts Abishola she was skeptical, even after her first meeting with series creator Chuck Lorre.

The show is about a middle-aged white man who falls in love with his Nigerian immigrant nurse, Abishola, while recovering from a heart attack. Lorre, who created the mega-hit shows Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, needed someone to help bring authenticity to his show idea and Abishola’s character.

Lorre googled “female Nigerian comedian” and discovered Yashere on YouTube. She’s well known in the United Kingdom as a comedian whose bits cover her experience as a Nigerian lesbian woman who left her native U.K. for the United States. Lorre watched her set as host of Live at The Apollo in London, and wanted to meet her.

“So, originally, I was brought on as a consultant on all things African. It sounded weird to me,” Yashere told Insider, recalling her meeting with Lorre. “Once I got in the room with the guys, I began to really like them. I could see that they were trying to make a really good show, and it wasn’t really an exploitative thing.”

The pairing worked, and she was promoted to co-creator of the show after two days.

“She flew over from England to spend a couple days with us to just talk us through what she thought we could be doing,” Lorre said during a panel discussion promoting the show “And after a couple days, we just went, let’s see if she’ll stay with us… Don’t leave!”

She eventually became an executive producer, writer, and actress — playing Yemi, Abishola’s best friend. “I got in the room with them and just started helping them create an overall sort of template for the sitcom, giving them character names,” she said.

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Gina Yashere and Chuck Lorre in 2019 discussing their show Bob Hearts Abishola.

Bringing her in could easily be the best decision Lorre and his other co-creators, Eddie Gorodetsky and Alan Higgins, made when creating the show. In its first season, Bob Hearts Abishola, was CBS’s highest-rated new sitcom with over 5 million viewers consistently every week, though reviews have been mixed. Now in its second season, the ratings are still consistent, and the show was renewed for a third season in February.

But Yashere, who has been living in the U.S. for over 13 years, isn’t an overnight success. Her IMDB page is proof of that with acting, producing, and writing credits starting back in the early 2000s. Her self-funded comedy specials Skinny B*tch and Laughing to America were sold to Netflix and are available now. She became a regular on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as the show’s British correspondent in 2017.

“THIS IS A BLACK SHOW NOW”

Yashere was able to have an impact from early on. “I know you’re used to doing things a certain way, but technically in the eyes of the world, and in the eyes of CBS, this is a Black show now.” The storyline of Abishola and her family, which is based on Yashere’s life, naturally meant at least half of the cast, and a number of writers would need to be African and Black.

“Abishola’s life story is based on my mother’s story,” Yashere said “My mother had us kids in England with my dad, then my dad couldn’t get good work in England. He was a qualified lawyer, my mom was a qualified teacher, but they couldn’t get work because England in the 60s and 70s was super racist.”

Like Abishola’s husband in the show, Yashere’s dad moved back to Nigeria when she was a child, leaving her mom in East London as a single mother. Yashere based the character she plays, Kemi, on her aunt and aspects of her mother.

“Kemi is was kind of an amalgamation of those two, the fun side, the outspoken, you know, not giving a crap side, and does what she wants to do,” she said about the comic relief character she created for herself.

Yashere also had a hand in choosing which actors to cast, and said she was mindful of her own experience auditioning for black and African roles in Hollywood and how demoralizing it can be. “I made sure I was in all the auditions to make sure that, when those black actors walked in that room and saw me, they could relax and enjoy the audition knowing that they’re not going to be asked to do any kind of coonery.”

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Gina Yashere, (left) as Kemi and Folake Olowofoyeku as Abishola on the set of “Bob Hearts Abishola”

She was also adamant that they cast a dark-complexioned, Nigerian actress to play Abishola, knowing that proximity to whiteness is usually the Hollywood standard, even with African roles.

“You’d watch movies with African characters, and the actors were completely wrong,” Yashere said. “Their style of dress was completely wrong, or you have an entire family and every one of them has got a different accent from a different country within Africa.”

They ended up casting the actress Folake Olowofoyeku to play Abishola, a Nigerian nurse with braids, who has created a life for herself and her son, while being estranged from her husband, with the help of friends, family, and community in Detroit. The show’s fluency with Nigerian and Black American culture makes it stand out among other sitcoms.

“You can tell research was done, and it speaks to what actually happens in a Yoruba family. It’s refreshing,” said Dolapo Adedapo, a Nigerian nonprofit consultant and radio show host, who was included in an NPR story about the show when it first aired.

Yashere was also a force behind making sure that half of the show’s eight-person writer’s room was Black. She invited Lorre, Gorodetsky, and Higgins to comedy shows around Hollywood to intro uce them to other Black comics. “She’s a writer too, you should hire them,” she would tell them whenever she noticed an act had gone over well.

All of this has brought positive attention to CBS, which has been criticized for its lack of diversity in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Last summer, the network announced that by 2022-23 season, half of its writers would be non-white. The announcement came after the Writers Guild of America West’s Committee of Black Writers released an open letter calling on the industry to “revolutionize the way our industry hires writers.”

“A LOT MORE ME’S OUT THERE WAITING”

Yashere’s success with Bob Hearts Abishola has left her convinced she can do more. “Being able to book black actors and book black writers has given me a new passion. So moving forward, I want to carry on executive producing and bringing through other talent,” she said.

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The creators and lead actors in “Bob Hearts Abishola” (from left) Chuck Lorre, Gina Yashere, Billy Gardell, Folake Olowofoyeku and Al Higgins attend The Paley Center For Media in 2019. (Photo by

As her career continues to unfold it never escapes her that there are more people like her- women, black, LGBTQIA, immigrant, etc- waiting for an opportunity to break into the business. Understanding that she can’t do it alone she also plants seeds to the people in power around her.

“You know, I said to Chuck, recently, you guys discovered me, but there’s a lot more me’s out there waiting for a good opportunity.”

She is also a new author. Her book Cack-handed, a memoir about her life before she moved to the U.S., hits bookshelves in June. Cack-handed, which means left-handed, and hence awkward and clumsy, in British slang, represents for Yashere how non-traditional her rise in Hollywood has been. She started off as an engineer, a path that she says delighted her immigrant mother, but decided to become a comedian after taking off a summer to act in a community play.

Now with “Bob Hearts Abishola” she’s showing that a left-handed professional can hold sway in a world built for right-handers.

“I’ve never wanted to push myself into a box that they put me in. I’ve never wanted to do things that are against my core principles,” she said. So because of that, it took me a lot longer to make it. But it feels a lot sweeter now because I’m making it on my own terms.”

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Hollywood is losing out on $10 billion in revenue every year by underfunding work by Black creators

Michaela Coel I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel created, wrote, co-directed, and starred in “I May Destroy You.”

  • A McKinsey study found that Hollywood is losing out on $10 billion because of racial biases.
  • Black-led projected often receive less funding, but earn “higher relative returns.”
  • The study found from 2015-2019, 11% of leads/co-leads in films were portrayed by a Black person.
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A recent study conducted by the consulting firm McKinsey found that Hollywood could see a boost in annual revenue by $10 billion, bringing revenues to more than $150 billion every year, if the industry addresses the racial inequalities that persist in film and television.

The McKinsey study found that “fewer Black-led stories get told, and when they are, these projects have been consistently underfunded and undervalued, despite often earning higher relative returns than other properties.”

For many black creatives in Hollywood there is an ongoing struggle that persists when it comes to being equally represented on-screen and behind the camera. The McKinsey study found that from 2015-2019 only 11% of leads/co-leads in movies were portrayed by Black people. In comparison to 89% of those roles portrayed by other races.

There are “financial and social barriers, as well as racial bias” that contribute to the ongoing disparities, McKinsey found, with economic inequality being one of the main reasons for less Black representation in Hollywood.

For Black families in the US, they typically earn $150,000 less than the median income for white families, according to McKinsey. “The result: low or no pay excludes many Black Americans from Hollywood from the start,” the study said.

Those biases and inequalities affect Black people seeking management and leadership roles within the TV and film industry, not just those on screen or behind the camera.

“I was one of few women and definitely few Black women there period, let alone in leadership, so there was no one to look up to,” one Black agent told McKinsey. “You learn to try not to take up too much space and speak only when you have something important to say. But then peers and others behind you get promoted ahead of you even when you are bringing more in.”

Black creatives within the TV and film industry have shifted their talents in recent years from traditional network television to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. Producer Shonda Rhimes reportedly ended her $10 million deal with ABC in 2018 to sign a four-year deal with Netflix, worth an estimated $150 million. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay signed a deal with Netflix that same year for an estimated $100 million, The Guardian reported.

Despite the influx of Black creators, Netflix still struggles with diversity on and off screen, though it has made some progress. In Netflix’s first diversity and inclusion study, released in February, the company revealed that the percentage of underrepresented leads/co leads overall increased from 26.4% in 2018 to 37.3% in 2019. The study also found that Black women represented just 6.2% of the 23.6% of women directors in the company’s projects.

And the lack of diversity goes beyond production companies. Ahead of this year’s Golden Globe Awards, the Los Angeles Times published a damning report about the diversity of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the body that determines the show’s nominees. In addition to the HFPA’s lack of diversity, the awards also came under intense scrutiny for overlooking successful Black-led films and television projects, such as Michaela Cole’s “I May Destroy You,” the Amazon Original film “One Night In Miami,” and “Judas and The Black Messiah.”

The Netflix original “Emily in Paris,” which was largely panned by critics, earned two Golden Globe nominations. The Times reported that members of the HFPA were flown to Paris by the show’s producers ahead of it being considered for nomination.

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LA movie theaters could reopen as soon as this weekend, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom

tcl chinese theater amc los angeles la movie hollywood boulevard
This Tuesday, March 31, 2015 photo shows the interior of the TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Chinese Theatre, one of the largest Imax theaters in the world, is one of more than a dozen locations that Imax expects to outfit with laser projection this year.

  • Los Angeles, America’s largest movie market, could re-open movie theaters as soon as this weekend.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom said theaters could re-open if certain COVID-related goals are met.
  • If allowed to re-open, LA theaters will still have to limit capacity to just 25%.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Los Angeles isn’t just where movies are made, it’s also the largest movie-going market in America.

And during the last 12 months, LA movie theaters have been closed due to the ongoing pandemic. That could finally end this weekend, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

If Los Angeles County meets two critical metrics for new cases and vaccinations, Los Angeles movie theaters will be able to re-open with 25% capacity starting this Saturday.

In order to meet the criteria, LA County would need to have fewer than 1,000 new cases per day, CNBC reported. Additionally, statewide, 2 million vaccine doses must be administered to underserved populations.

During an address on Wednesday, Newsom said both metrics were on track to be met before the weekend.

Vehicles are parked at the first drive-in movie theatre for people to enjoy movies while keeping social distancing amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
The first drive-in movie theatre amid the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Movie theaters in other parts of the US have already begun reopening as vaccines protecting against COVID have begun to roll out. New York City, for instance, reopened theaters last week at 25% capacity.

And some states, including Texas and Connecticut, have cleared theaters and other businesses for even larger reopenings without low capacity requirements.

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