As the streaming wars near a fever pitch and viewers are targeted from every vantage point — Disney Plus has the Marvel and Star Wars brands! HBO Max counters with "Game of Thrones" and DC superheroes! — Apple TV Plus could be cast as the highly pedigreed and improbable underdog.
While the venture counts Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg among its first wave of talent, Apple TV Plus launches Friday with just a handful of original programs. It also lacks a warehouse of old shows and franchise films that can reliably draw nostalgic viewers and produce spinoffs, such as "The Mandalorian" for Disney Plus and HBO Max's newly announced "Game of Thrones" prequel, "House of the Dragon."
Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, the former Sony Pictures Television presidents who are heads of worldwide video for Apple, say they are undaunted by the comparisons and optimistic about the streamer's future.
"We are working with some of the most tremendously talented people we've ever met working in entertainment today," Van Amburg said, and he sees them rising to the challenge of building an enterprise in general and for tech giant Apple in particular. "There's an expression that we use here across the board at Apple: 'Come to Apple and do the best work of your life.' That's actually what we ask of everyone who comes here."
There's both opportunity and anxiety in being part of such a launch, said Kerry Ehrin, showrunner for the Jennifer Aniston-Reese Witherspoon drama "The Morning Show."
"It's a huge amount of pressure, but you can't really live in that space," Ehrin said. "You drive yourself crazy ... because you start creating for, 'Oh, is this right, or is that gonna work?' instead of just creating what you find compelling and entertaining."
Aniston, who's also a producer for the series, calls it "refreshing and exciting to be a part of something that's just beginning. ... We're building it all together."
Besides "The Morning Show," the service's starting lineup includes Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard in the futuristic drama "See," Hailee Steinfeld in "Dickinson," a revisionist take on poet Emily Dickinson, and the wildlife documentary "The Elephant Queen." Upcoming fare includes Spielberg's revival of "Amazing Stories"; a book-focused series and other projects from Winfrey; the psychological thriller "Servant" from M. Night Shyamalan and "The Banker" drama series starring Anthony Mackie and Joe Morris.
A subscription costs $4.99 a month, with usage allowed for up to six family members. Buyers of new Apple devices such as the iPhone and iPad get the streamer free for a year. Among the competition, Disney Plus (launching Nov. 12) is $6.99 monthly, HBO Max (May 2020) is $14.99 and, among the existing services, it's as low as $5.99 a month for Hulu and $8.99 each for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (which is included with a $119 annual Amazon Prime membership).
There are deals to be had. Buyers of new Apple devices get a free year of Apple TV Plus and a seven-day trial is available without charge to all, enticements that mirror those of its competitors. For the new services, free promotions are key to building a subscriber base, while retaining them will be another challenge .
To break out from the pack, streamers are touting their wares with carnival barker-like gusto. In a presentation Tuesday for HBO Max, part of AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, executives emphasized the hits it will draw from the WarnerMedia library, including the full 10-season run of "Friends" (which it's retrieving from Netflix), and newly purchased series including "South Park."
Van Amburg and Erlicht , who in their long tenure at Sony were involved with some of the shows their competitors stream, including Netflix's Emmy-winning "The Crown," brush away concerns about being library-less. Instead, the executives stress a bonus they're offering consumers in this dauntingly prolific television age. The Apple TV app, which houses Apple TV Plus and is available on iPhones, iPads and other iOS devices, also functions as a sort of Grand Central Terminal to efficiently access everything streaming, including from competitors (to be paid for accordingly).
"We want to make it easy for the user to find all the things that they watch," Erlicht said.
Viewers, especially cord-cutters seeking to escape hefty cable and satellite TV bills, likely will be choosy. A new study found that 70% of the 4,816 respondents believe there will be too many streaming services and even more, 80%, worry the streaming habit will become too expensive to maintain, according to the findings from TV Time, a movie and TV tracking platform, and United Talent Agency's data and analytics group, which joined in the study .
According to the research firm Magid, consumers are willing to subscribe to an average of four streaming services and pay an average of $42 a month for them.
The budget for the streamers themselves? Based on reports, Apple Plus TV is spending $1 billion for its first year of programming, with Disney Plus at slightly under that and HBO Max budgeted for about $2 billion. By comparison, Netflix, with its deep bench of movies and buzzy original series including "Stranger Things," shelled out a hefty $15 billion this year.
If Apple is serious about the service it will have to open its wallet wider, said analyst Daniel Ives of Wedbush Securities. The lack of a library is another significant drawback, one that could force Apple into the acquisition of a major studio and its creative assets as early as in 2020, said Ives. He offered a bullish prediction for Apple TV Plus of possibly 100 million customers within three to four years, given its loyalists and the 1.4 billion Apple devices worldwide.
Streaming leader Netflix has about 160 million subscribers worldwide.
Apple, however, has long struggled to crack the TV market, said Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeffrey Wlodarczak. While it has plenty of capital to throw at Apple TV Plus and a built-in consumer base, he said, it remains to be seen if its new service ultimately is among the survivors of streaming's fierce contest. Major companies can't always break into another sector, he said, citing Google's attempt to compete against Facebook with Google Plus.
"Just because you have a lot of money doesn't mean you're necessarily going to be successful," Wlodarczak said.
Superstar singer Taylor Swift will receive the artist of the decade award at the American Music Awards next month.
Dick Clark Productions announced Wednesday that Swift will be honored during an ABC live telecast on Nov. 24 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. At the show, she has a chance to break Michael Jackson's record for most wins.
Swift has won 23 AMAs and has five nominations this year; Jackson holds the record for most wins with 24 trophies. Swift has won more awards at this show than anyone else during this decade.
To celebrate her career, Swift is also expected to hit the stage to perform some of her biggest hits.
Swift, Post Malone, Ariana Grande, Drake and Halsey are nominated for artist of the year.
Comedian Kevin Hart says his "world was forever changed" after he suffered a serious back injury when the vintage muscle car he was riding in crashed nearly two months ago in California.
In a video posted Tuesday night on Instagram, the 40-year-old thanked his family and friends and reflected on how he now sees life differently.
Hart says not to take today for granted.
The video shows Hart struggling to walk and doing physical therapy with a scar on his back.
Hart says he's "thankful for life" and is looking forward "to an amazing 2020."
The California Highway Patrol said the man driving Hart's 1970 Plymouth Barracuda accelerated recklessly and lost control on Sept. 1. The car careened down an embankment and slammed into a tree. No one was wearing seatbelts.
New York, Oct 29 (AP/UNB) — Robert Evans, the protean, fast-living Hollywood producer and former Paramount Pictures production chief who backed such seminal 1970s films as "Chinatown," ''The Godfather" and "Harold and Maude," has died. He was 89.
Evans publicist, Monique Moss, confirmed that Evans died on Saturday. No other details Monday were immediately available.
His career was a story of comebacks and reinventions. Evans had launched a successful women's clothing line with his brother, Charles, and was visiting Los Angeles on business when actress Norma Shearer saw him sunbathing by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She persuaded producers to hire the handsome, dark-haired 26-year-old to play her late husband, movie mogul Irving Thalberg, in "Man of a Thousand Faces," a film about horror movie star Lon Chaney.
After acting roles faded, Evans re-emerged at Paramount and quickly converted the studio from a maker of mediocre films to the biggest hit machine in Hollywood, home to "The Godfather" and "Love Story" among others.
For decades, and with many flops in between, the ever-tanned, large glasses-wearing Evans was one of Hollywood's most outsized and flamboyant personalities, encapsulating the romance of a now bygone movie era where films were greenlit more on instinct than market research. He was married and divorced seven times. He was the model for Dustin Hoffman's petty-minded Hollywood producer in the 1997 satire "Wag the Dog."
"The higher you get, the lower you can fall," Evans mused in a 2003 interview. "You pick yourself up at the count of nine, you come back and win and be done with it. I believe in being a survivor."
The title of his 1994 memoir, "The Kid Stays in the Picture" (later turned into a 2002 documentary) came from an early story of his improbable success.
After he appeared in "Man of a Thousand Faces" Darryl Zanuck signed Evans to a contract at Twentieth Century Fox and cast him as a bullfighter in "The Sun Also Rises." The filmmakers insisted the young actor wasn't right for the role, so Zanuck went to Mexico City, where the film was being made, to see for himself. His verdict: "The kid stays in the picture."
It was Evans who optioned "The Godfather" while Mario Puzo was writing it. As Paramount chief, Evans presided over Francis Ford Coppola's production but his role in the movie, itself, has sometimes been exaggerated — including by Evans, himself. But Coppola, recalled Evans fondly on Monday, recollecting the producer's "charm, good looks, enthusiasm, style and sense of humor."
"He had strong instincts as evidenced by the long list of great films in his career. When I worked with Bob, some of his helpful ideas included suggesting John Marley as Woltz and Sterling Hayden as the Police Captain, and his ultimate realization that 'The Godfather' could be 2 hours and 45 minutes in length," said Coppola, also noting Evans' contributions to "The Cotton Club."
"May the kid always stay in the picture," added Coppola.
Evans was born Robert J. Shapera in New York, the second son of Archie Shapera, a dentist, and his wife, Florence, a homemaker. He began acting in radio while in junior high school, going on to appear in more than 300 shows.
After "The Sun Also Rises," Evans left Hollywood to join his brother in the clothing business, but was lured back in 1966 when Zanuck offered him a three-picture contract as a producer. That same year Paramount Pictures hired him to head production.
From 1966 to 1974 Evans presided over such hits as "The Odd Couple," ''Rosemary's Baby" and "Goodbye, Columbus." He was a pivotal figure not only restoring Paramount but in a halcyon period of auteur-driven moviemaking, backed storied directors including Sidney Lumet, Hal Ashby and Peter Bogdanovich.
Albert Ruddy, who won an Oscar as producer of "The Godfather," credited Evans with filling an essential role in the picture's success. When Paramount's head of distribution objected to the nearly three-hour running time, Evans backed up the filmmakers and insisted that the movie not be cut.
"He said, 'I'll quit before I cut the movie,'" Ruddy said Monday. "He saved the movie."
Evans didn't share in Paramount's prosperity, however. He wasn't granted any bonuses, and his string of marriages and divorces drained away much of the money he did make. After brief marriages to actresses Sharon Hugueny and Camilla Sparv, he married MacGraw, who became a star with her performance in "Goodbye, Columbus." She gave birth to Evans' only child, Joshua.
MacGraw became a superstar after "Love Story," then went off to Texas to spend four months making "The Getaway" with Steve McQueen, with whom she had one of Hollywood's more notable affairs. She and Evans divorced in 1972 and he married former Miss America Phyllis George in 1977. They split a year later.
Meanwhile, Evans had formed his own production company, and he quickly turned out one of the biggest hits of 1974, Roman Polanski's "Chinatown." It earned Evans his lone Oscar nomination.
The next decades brought a period of failures, however, including Coppola's "The Cotton Club," and the "Chinatown" sequel "The Two Jakes" and the thrillers "Sliver" and "Jade." In 1980 he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and was placed on a year's probation.
In 1983, he was called to testify at a preliminary hearing in the murder of a "Cotton Club" investor, Roy Radin. On the advice of his lawyers, Evans pleaded the Fifth Amendment. Although he was never connected to any wrongdoing, his refusal to testify to avoid self-incrimination further sullied his reputation.
He had a near-fatal setback in 1998 when he suffered a stroke in a Hollywood screening room.
"A bolt of lightning shot through my body," he told a reporter later. "I thought I had died. I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing 'It's a Wonderful World.'"
Evans underwent a grueling rehab, but still found time for his fifth wedding, this time to Oxenberg. The marriage barely lasted longer than the couple's five-day courtship. "My fault," Evans said afterward. "My brain wasn't working right."
Wedding No. 6 occurred in 2002. The bride was Leslie Ann Woodward, a model and actress. Divorce followed a little more than a year later. In 2005, Evans married Lady Victoria White, a socialite 33 years his junior. At the time he had just finished his second memoir, "The Fat Lady Sang," and he told Time magazine that with this marriage, "I finally found the last chapter." But he and White also divorced, in 2006.
Evans' last movie as a hands-on producer was a hit: the 2003 romantic comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."
"That's the problem with today's business," Evans told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. "It's not an art form, it's a barter form. The studios are run by committees of MBAs, but I've never seen an MBA who knows how to make people cry."
New York, Oct 29 (AP/UNB) — Move over, Rocky, there's a new stairway to climb.
A set of outdoor steps in the Bronx has become a tourist attraction in recent weeks since the release of the movie "Joker."
The stairs are between two buildings on Shakespeare Avenue, about a half-mile from Yankee Stadium.
In the movie, lead actor Joaquin Phoenix dances as he goes down the steps, wearing a bright red suit and clown makeup.
These days, neighborhood residents using the steps are being joined by tourists trying to recreate the scene.
The visitors have been taking selfies, and some have even shown up in costume.
Coming to the stairs is "really immersive," said Oliver Bonallack, visiting from Brighton, England.
"You never really get to experience a film first-hand," he said. "I feel like it is so iconic."
Not everyone is thrilled with the upsurge in popularity.
"We live in the neighborhood, it's taking up all of our time, we're all being inconvenienced," said Bronx resident Cathyrine Spencer. "Every day when I come down the stairs, I have to go through a barrage of people."
The stairway joins the ranks of well-known movie settings, like that of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art seen in "Rocky."