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With ‘Knives Out’ Deal, Netflix Signals It’s in the Franchise Business

“The pandemic has really put the streamers head to head with theatrical distribution,” said James Moore, chief executive of Vine Alternative Investments, an asset manager focused on the entertainment industry. “Now you’re seeing the economics really accelerate towards the streamers, and they have both the wherewithal and the strategic need to retain those gains.”

“Knives Out,” with a cast led by Daniel Craig and Chris Evans, earned $311 million at theaters, close to half of it in international markets — the biggest growth opportunity for streaming services. It was one of the few box office winners in the past few years not based on a comic book or on existing intellectual property that was tied up in a lengthy studio deal.

(John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place,” from 2018, is another example. But that R-rated horror film was owned by Paramount, and it was such a box office boon that its sequel was one of the few films the studio held on to during the pandemic. It is scheduled to come out in theaters on Memorial Day weekend.)

For the original “Knives Out,” Mr. Johnson’s representatives at Creative Artists Agency negotiated a one-film licensing agreement with the film’s distributors, MRC and Lionsgate. That deal gave Mr. Johnson and his producing partner, Ram Bergman, control of the franchise and the right to shop future iterations to other parties. (Mr. Craig, who played the arch Southern detective Benoit Blanc in the film, is also an equity participant in the deal.)

The movie is part of a tried-and-true genre — the star-studded whodunit — that has been reinvented in recent years. “Murder Mystery,” starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, was a hit for Netflix in 2019. Kenneth Branagh’s reimagining of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” in 2017 worked well for Disney’s Fox division, pulling in $352 million, including $250 million from the international market. (A follow-up, “Death on the Nile,” has been pushed to 2022, partly because one of its stars, Armie Hammer, has been tarnished by a recent sex scandal.)

The “Knives Out” deal also highlights how much easier it is for a streaming service to exploit an already known title than to build one itself. While Netflix scored big with the 2018 Sandra Bullock film “Bird Box” — it said 89 million households had tuned in to watch the film within four weeks of its release — it is just now gearing up for a sequel, a Spanish-language version that won’t feature the original star.

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Fyre Festival Ticket Holders Win $7,220 Each in Class-Action Settlement

Nearly four years after an infamous festival that was billed as an ultraluxurious musical getaway in the Bahamas left attendees scrounging for makeshift shelter on a dark beach, a court has decided how much the nightmare was worth: approximately $7,220 apiece.

The $2 million class-action settlement, reached Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York between organizers and 277 ticket holders from the 2017 event, is still subject to final approval, and the amount could ultimately be lower depending on the outcome of Fyre’s bankruptcy case with other creditors.

But Ben Meiselas, a partner at Geragos & Geragos and the lead lawyer representing the ticket holders, said on Thursday that he was happy a resolution had at last been reached.

“Billy went to jail, ticket holders can get some money back, and some very entertaining documentaries were made,” Meiselas said in an email mentioning Billy McFarland, the event’s mastermind. “Now that’s justice.”

is serving a six-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges. In 2018, a court ordered him to pay $5 million to two North Carolina residents who spent about $13,000 apiece on VIP packages for the Fyre Festival.

“I cannot emphasize enough how sorry I am that we fell short of our goal,” McFarland said in a 2017 statement, though he declined to address specific allegations. “I’m committed to, and working actively to, find a way to make this right, not just for investors but for those who planned to attend.”

The festival, billed as “the cultural experience of the decade,” had been scheduled for two weekends beginning in late April 2017. Ticket buyers, who paid between $1,000 and $12,000 to attend, were promised an exotic island adventure with luxury accommodations, gourmet food, the hottest musical acts and celebrity attendees. Influencers including the models Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid promoted it.

Hulu and Netflix.)

Fyre has attributed its cancellation to a combination of factors, including the weather. But some Fyre employees later said that higher-ups had invented extravagant accommodations like a $400,000 Artist’s Palace ticket package, which included four beds, eight V.I.P. tickets and dinner with a festival performer, just to see if people would buy them. (There was no such palace.) Production crew members stopped being paid as the festival date neared.

Mark Geragos, another lawyer at the firm that represented ticket buyers in Tuesday’s settlement, filed the initial $100 million class-action lawsuit days after the event, which stated that Ja Rule and McFarland had known for months that their festival “was dangerously underequipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance.” McFarland faced a second class-action lawsuit two days later.

A hearing to approve Tuesday’s settlement is set for May 13.

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Televisa will sell its content and media business to Univision.

More than a decade ago, Grupo Televisa of Mexico and Univision of the United States, giants in the world of Spanish-language media, set aside years of hostility to strike an alliance. Now, the two companies are deepening their bonds to better compete in the streaming era.

Televisa agreed on Tuesday to sell its media, content and production assets to Univision for $4.8 billion. The deal includes SoftBank and Google as financial backers.

It is the latest evolution in the ties between Televisa and Univision, whose relationship has been strained at times: They battled in court over Televisa’s attempt to end a 25-year contract with Univision to make telenovelas, crucial programming for the Spanish-language market, settling just before Televisa’s chairman was set to testify.

The two have grown closer in recent years, beginning with a licensing deal in 2010. Televisa, which produces much of the programming that airs on Univision, owns just over a third of the company.

Together, the two companies dominate the Spanish-language broadcast markets in the United States and Mexico. Their traditional business has held up, with Univision’s ratings rising last year, but executives said they believed that creating a dominant streaming service was the future.

There is room for growth: Executives of both companies estimate that just 10 percent of the 600 million viewers in the Spanish-language media market use an online video service, compared with 70 percent of the English-speaking population.

But competing with services like Netflix required much bigger scale, prompting the two companies to consolidate further. The new business, to be called Televisa-Univision, will have an enormous content library — Televisa produced 86,000 hours of programming last year — broadcast and pay-TV channels and stations and a movie studio. The new business will also control the two companies’ online video services, PrendeTV and Blim.

“We had to gain scale and unify the media rights to compete against the giants,” Bernardo Gómez Martínez, one of Televisa’s co-chief executives, said in an interview.

The executives said that beyond the sheer amount of resources Televisa-Univision will have, the new company also has an advantage that others like Netflix do not: a foundation in the Spanish-language market.

“Those companies are first and foremost English-language companies,” said Wade Davis, Univision’s chief executive. “At the core of it, their core offering is not Spanish language first.”

As part of the deal, Univision and Televisa are bringing in $1 billion in new investment to their venture. Among the investors are SoftBank’s Latin America Fund, Google and the investment firm Raine Group.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year, pending approval by regulators in the United States and Mexico and by Televisa’s shareholders.

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Will Smith’s Production Pulls Film Out of Georgia, Citing Voting Laws

Will Smith and the director Antoine Fuqua said on Monday that they were pulling their upcoming film production “Emancipation” out of Georgia because of the state’s new voting law, which has been denounced by activists as an effort to make voting harder for the state’s Black population.

The slavery-era drama, which is being produced and financed by Apple Studios, is the first major production to cite the law as a reason to leave the state, which offers generous tax incentives to Hollywood productions and has become a major hub for Marvel Studios, Netflix and other industry heavyweights.

“At this moment in time, the nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice,” Mr. Smith and Mr. Fuqua said in a joint statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

In the film, set to begin production this summer, Mr. Smith was set to play the real-life enslaved man named Peter, who emancipated himself from a Southern plantation and joined the Union Army. His story became famous after photographs of his back, scarred by whippings, appeared in the pages of Harper’s Weekly.

outrage over the new law.

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The Week in Business: Amazon Defeats the Union

Good morning. Here are the top stories in business and tech to know for the week ahead. — Charlotte Cowles

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Large companies are often good at dodging taxes to maximize profits for their shareholders. But President Biden wants to make that harder with a new tax code that would raise tax rates and close loopholes for American corporations with annual incomes exceeding $2 billion. The plan is intended to bring in enough tax revenue to fund Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. If it gets through Congress (and that’s a big if), what’s to stop companies from moving profits overseas to tax shelters like the Cayman Islands? The Biden administration has a plan for that, too: a global minimum tax rate that would apply to multinational corporations regardless of where they’re located.

Amazon won its fight against the biggest push for unionization in the company’s history. The tally of votes showed that workers at its giant warehouse in Alabama had decided against forming a union. The results will need to be certified by federal officials. But it’s a big blow to union organizers and Democrats who believed that the timing was right for organized labor to gain momentum around the country. It’s also a major victory for Amazon, which has been accused of union-busting in several states.

New jobless claims were up for the second consecutive week, a sign that employment gains, while still promising, will be uneven for a time. Even though employers added an impressive 916,000 jobs in March, the economy is still 8.4 million jobs short of where it was before the pandemic. And many sectors that were almost totally wiped out — like travel, restaurants and bars — are only now starting to come back.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Coinbase will become the first publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange in the United States when it posts its shares to the Nasdaq this Wednesday. It has become the biggest American cryptocurrency company by making it easy for people to buy and sell Bitcoin and other digital tokens. (The firm charges a fee each time a customer places a trade order.) Last week, Coinbase said it expected a first-quarter revenue of about $1.8 billion. That’s a whopping increase of about 847 percent from the previous year, mostly thanks to Bitcoin’s recent rally.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is suing the federal government to allow cruise ships to resume sailing from the state’s ports. The boats must meet requirements put in place last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before they can take passengers, but the industry says that the directions lack clarity. Separately, several cruise lines have announced plans to resume operations from other ports in the Caribbean and Bermuda, often with requirements that all passengers be vaccinated. But Mr. DeSantis has prohibited Florida businesses from asking patrons to show proof of vaccination.

As the coronavirus pandemic caused shutdowns, undocumented immigrants were hit especially hard. Their communities suffered disproportionately from high death rates, and they were largely ineligible for unemployment insurance and other pandemic aid. Until now, that is. In New York, the government is offering one-time payments of up to $15,600 to undocumented immigrants who lost work during the pandemic and could not get access to other jobless benefits. The money will come out of a $2.1 billion fund in the state budget, which critics say should have gone to legal New Yorkers who are struggling.

struck a five-year deal to give the streaming giant exclusive rights to its films once they leave theaters. In France, Ikea is facing a new lawsuit over a decade-old case in which its executives spied on employees and customers. And more bad news for Boeing: The company has told airlines to ground some of its troubled 737 Max jets — the same model that was grounded for over a year after two deadly crashes — because of an electrical issue.

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Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ Changed Prince Philip’s Image

Prince Philip’s death is affecting millions today, many of whom only knew of him from Netflix’s “The Crown.”

Since 2016, the hit show has taken viewers inside the British royal family, showing it in all its glittering — and frequently grubby — glory. And for Prince Philip, it’s fair to say the show transformed his image, at least in Britain.

For most younger people here, Prince Philip has long been known as simply a liability, an old man prone to gaffes, often racist ones.

But in “The Crown,” Matt Smith, the British actor, showed a far more vital and complex man who’d played a key role in modernizing some aspects of royal life even as he snarled at its constraints. In the show’s first seasons, covering the 1940s to 1960s, Smith portrayed Prince Philip as “a castrated alpha male,” Tim Lewis wrote in The Guardian, who frequently came across as a “whining, childish husband,” Mike Hale wrote in The New York Times.

seeing the absurdity of the trappings of royalty, even as he remains committed to the institution and its traditions.

In the most recent season, Prince Philip was also pivotal in convincing Prince Charles, his son, to marry Diana Spencer.

What was it like playing Prince Philip? Smith and Menzies have given hints in interviews. (Jonathan Pryce assumes the role next season.)

“What an example of a roguish, brilliant man,” Smith said in a 2017 interview with The Guardian.

“He’s provoking at times, not scared of an opinion but there’s a real energy to him, a kind of heat,” Menzies last year told The Evening Standard, a British newspaper.

Neither actor today responded to interview requests. But Menzies issued a statement that gives a little insight into Prince Philip’s character — or his pride, at least. “If I know anything about the Duke of Edinburgh I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t want an actor who has portrayed him on television giving their opinion on his life,” Menzies said.

“I’ll leave it to Shakespeare,” Menzies added, then quoted a line from the play “As You Like It.”

“O good old man! How well in thee appears,” it reads, “The constant service of the antique world.”

“Rest in Peace,” Menzies added.

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Prince Philip, Style Icon

There is a moment in the first season of “The Crown” when the actor Matt Smith, as the perennially tetchy consort of Queen Elizabeth II, bristles at the constraints of his job. With a case of lockjaw severe enough to cause concern for his molars, Mr. Smith portrays the Duke of Edinburgh (whom the queen would not make a prince until five years after she succeeded to the throne) as an arch complainer, a man who views the 20th-century monarchy as little more than “a coat of paint” on a crumbling Empire.

Prince Philip, who died at age 99 on April 9, may have been wrapped in a cloak of dramatic hooey to become a character in the hit Netflix series. Yet the role, as written, is rooted in established fact.

Headstrong by reputation, opinionated, notoriously brusque (and often, in public, misogynistic and racist), Prince Philip was also in important ways the model of a company man. By the time he stepped down from his official royal duties in August 2017, he had spent seven decades obediently working for the Firm, a term for the royal family credited to the Queen’s father, King George VI. Fulfilling the requirements of a job for which there is no precise standard, unless you consider second fiddle a job description, the prince slogged through a staggering 22,219 solo public engagements over his long lifetime. In doing so, he navigated the most challenging of corporate dress codes for more than 65 years.

The brief was clear from the outset: The queen’s consort should be impeccable yet unassuming, irreproachable in style without drawing your eye away from the one of the richest, and certainly the most famous, woman on earth. If the clothes Queen Elizabeth II wore in public were engineered to meet programmatic requirements — bright colors and lofty hats to make this diminutive human easy to spot; symbolically freighted jewelry (the Japanese pearl choker, the Burmese ruby tiara, the Obama brooch!); symbols and metaphors embroidered onto her gowns — those of Prince Philip were tailored to keep him faultlessly inconspicuous.

As a clotheshorse, he had certain natural advantages, of course.

“He was staggeringly good-looking, tall and athletic,” said Nick Sullivan, the creative director of Esquire. “That never does any harm when it comes to wearing clothes.”

Beyond that, though, were a series of confident and knowing choices. For decades, the prince’s suits were made for him by John N. Kent, a Savile Row artisan who began his tailoring apprenticeship at 15. The prince’s shirts came from Stephens Brothers, his bespoke shoes from the century-and-a-half old boot maker John Lobb. In the neatly folded white handkerchief Prince Philip habitually squared off in his breast pocket (another was kept in his trousers) could be seen a telling contrast with the dandyish puff of silk favored by his eldest son.

Unlike other members of the royal family whose tastes run to costly baubles and fine Swiss timepieces, Prince Philip habitually wore “a plain watch with a brown leather strap,” as the Independent once reported, and a copper bracelet intended to ease arthritis. He left his large hands free of jewelry and roughly manicured.

If he looked best in sporting clothes, it was because he was a true sportsman, captain of both the cricket and hockey teams at boarding school in Scotland, a polo player well past his 40s, an active participant in international coaching competitions until late in life.

He was also the only member of the Firm’s inner circle before Meghan Markle to have been foreign-born. This, too, may have given him a style advantage since it is often true that outsiders can bring a fresh eye to staid sartorial conventions, both enlivening and improving them. (It took the Japanese to explain denim to Americans and the Neapolitans to demonstrate for the English how to perfect English style.)

Search online and you will not find an image of Prince Philip committing a style solecism. There is never a novelty tie or a funny hat. For that matter, and except on obligatory state occasions, there is little enough of the comic operetta regalia beloved of Prince Philip’s uncle, Louis Mountbatten, the First Earl Mountbatten of Burma — no braiding, no frogging, no sashes or fringed and gilded epaulets.

The paradox of Prince Philip’s life may have been that, as the husband of a queen and father of a future king, he was essential to power although insignificant to its workings. And he often jokingly disparaged himself as the “world’s most experienced plaque unveiler.” Yet it was probably in that role that he did his best work for the family business, since a glimpse of this elegant and diffident man was the closest most Britons would ever come to royalty’s attenuated realities and burnished grandeur. In that sense, Prince Philip was never “dressed,” in any conventional manner so much as he was outfitted for purpose.

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For a U.K. Satirist and His Online Fans, Comedy Is Catharsis

LONDON — He is the hyperbolic news anchor with an agenda, the disgruntled Meghan Markle skeptic vying for Piers Morgan’s job, the British aristocrat insisting he is simply middle class — and those are just a few of the characters in Munya Chawawa’s arsenal.

But during a Zoom interview last month, Mr. Chawawa, 28, speaking from his London apartment in a neon hoodie, was exploring his own persona.

“I make content because I need to express how I’m feeling about the world,” he said of his comedy. “You have to have some form of catharsis when the world throws stuff at you, otherwise you’ll just go crazy.”

Mr. Chawawa’s dry sketches about racism, classism and everyday life in Britain had already found an audience before the pandemic. But in lockdown, his potent combination of singing, comedy acting and rapping has helped establish him as a sardonic voice of progressive young people in an increasingly diverse nation who are unimpressed by elitism and skeptical of the establishment.

appears in promotions for Netflix U.K.

In such a year, “humor has been a much-needed tonic,” Mr. Chawawa said. And the string of successes has fueled an ambitious goal: “I’m working toward being one of the country’s most respected satirists.”

Satire, to Mr. Chawawa — whose comedy heroes are John Oliver, Andy Zaltzman and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others — feels “like a superpower.” That’s not only because of the challenge of execution but also because of satire’s ability to extract humor from situations that are not supposed to be funny at all, he said.

“Anything you laugh at can’t haunt or hurt you as much as it used to do,” he said.

Given the state of the world today, there is plenty of material for him to work with.

When critics called food packages for poor children too meager, Mr. Chawawa was ready with a sketch about a wealthy lawmaker scrambling to respond: “We can’t feed them but we could put them in a film — ‘The Hungrier Games.’” He has parodied British journalists brainstorming headlines about the Duchess of Sussex using the game Cards Against Humanity (“Meghan Kidnapped Peppa Pig,”) and a security guard letting rioters into the U.S. Capitol upon hearing they are white: “You’re already wearing your pass! It’s called white privilege.”

debate over U.K. drill — a subgenre of hip-hop music that British authorities have tried to censor, blaming it for a rise in knife crimes in London.

For many young Black men and women, drill was an important form of self-expression, Mr. Chawawa said, giving voice to the frustrations and realities of life in a period of austerity. Mr. Chawawa said he was disturbed by the appropriation of the genre, with “posh white kids singing the lyrics” as it filtered into private schools.

Born in Derby, England, Mr. Chawawa spent his childhood in Zimbabwe, his father’s birthplace, before his family moved to a small village near Norwich, England. His first exposure to comedy was through his grandfather, whose jokes over the dinner table made him the center of attention.

In England, where his was one of the few families of color in the area, Mr. Chawawa stifled his natural extroversion, which had been encouraged in Zimbabwe. “Slowly, I stopped putting my hand up,” he said.

In college, he studied psychology but found himself spending all his time in the student radio hub. He also worked as a waiter at a high-end restaurant in Norwich, where customers sometimes complimented his English. There, he picked up useful insights into the ways of the ultrawealthy. It struck him when he moved to London that this world could be a mine of comedy gold.

is real,” he said, grinning. He said he would welcome the opportunity for the character to “get some real cultural insights.”

For now, Mr. Chawawa is enjoying the chance to lean into that natural extroversion. “My dad always used to say to me, ‘When you were in Zimbabwe you were so bold.’” Being a satirist now, he added, is “a resurgence of the guy I used to be.”

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Netflix and Sony Sign Four-Year Streaming Deal

In another sign of Netflix’s growing dominance, Sony Pictures Entertainment has signed a five-year deal that will give the streaming giant the exclusive U.S. rights to Sony’s films once they leave theaters and premium video-on-demand services.

The deal, which begins with the studio’s 2022 releases, builds on Netflix’s existing partnership with Sony Pictures Animation and replaces the agreement Sony, one of the few major studios without its own streaming service, has had with Starz Entertainment since 2005.

That means that upcoming films like “Morbius,” which features Jared Leto playing the Marvel vampire, and “Uncharted,” starring Tom Holland in an adaptation of a Playstation game, will become available on Netflix after they complete their theatrical and on-demand runs. As part of the deal, Sony will make two to three direct-to-streaming movies a year for Netflix, expanding Sony’s slate and giving Netflix exclusive films for its service.

“This not only allows us to bring Sony’s impressive slate of beloved film franchises and new I.P. to Netflix in the U.S., but it also establishes a new source of first-run films for Netflix movie lovers worldwide,” Netflix’s head of global films, Scott Stuber, said in a statement on Thursday.

Sony emphasized that the arrangement would not alter its theatrical strategy. Before the pandemic, the studio released 15 to 20 films a year in theaters, a plan it intends to resume now that theaters are reopening. Films made for Netflix will be in addition to the theatrical releases, it said.

With the pandemic shutting down movie theaters for much of last year, Sony Pictures, like most studios, pushed many of its films into 2021. It also sold a handful to streaming services, including “Greyhound” with Tom Hanks to Apple and the upcoming animated comedy “The Mitchells vs The Machines,” from the creators of Sony’s Oscar-winning film “Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse,” to Netflix.

(An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Sony signed a four-year deal.)

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