Opinion
August 7, 2020

Have you watched this week's new teasers for Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 yet? Admittedly, it's a little hard to get excited about them. Tenet is now in its 13th month of promotion, after its first teaser debuted ahead of Hobbs & Shaw last August, and it's been more than two years since director Patty Jenkins showed a brief clip of the Wonder Woman sequel at Comic Con.

Both Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 were among a handful of movies that were in the midst of major marketing campaigns when COVID-19 shuttered theaters around the globe this spring. But as the pandemic now threatens the fall, distributors have struggled to find ways to keep their long-delayed forthcoming blockbusters feeling relevant. The result? Endless marketing campaigns and slow-drips of teasers, which may be doing more to lessen excitement than build it.

Campaigns for major blockbusters used to begin about a year ahead of release, but the industry has trended toward shorter marketing windows. Disney, for example, spent three-plus years promoting 2010's Tron: Legacy; now "executives are moving in the opposite direction, tightening efforts to as little as four or five months for major releases like Aquaman [or] Avengers: Endgame," The New York Times reported last year. That's because distributors found "when you can watch anything anytime, you're less likely to get excited about a movie coming out in a year," as Digital Marketing News puts it. Hype has a short lifespan.

Movie marketing is also absurdly expensive; generally, it runs about half the total cost of production, meaning Wonder Woman 1984, Mulan, and Tenet — which ranged from $175 to $205 million to make — likely had earmarked campaigns of about $100 million. All three movies have now passed their intended release dates, though. Each delay "could amount to losing $200,000 to $400,000 in marketing fees," executives estimated for Variety, and "that number could increase to just under $5 million."

Now that Tenet and Mulan have seemingly nailed down assured release dates, their marketing campaigns can begin to ramp up in earnest (the biggest pushes come about two weeks ahead of release). But after hearing about both movies for years now, new trailers feel like wearying obligations to watch, rather than buzzy cultural moments.

Wonder Woman 1984, meanwhile, has made a renewed marketing push ahead of its new Oct. 2 release date, with a clip that shows Kristen Wiig's transformation into the villainess Cheetah. The timing feels boldly optimistic; might want to save that one until late September, at least. Jeva Lange

11:09 a.m.

Vaccinated health care workers are headed to next month's Super Bowl.

The National Football League said Friday it will allow a total of 22,000 fans to attend Super Bowl LV, which will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, CNN reports. The league said it made this decision following "discussions with public health officials, including the CDC, the Florida Department of Health, and area hospitals and health care systems."

Approximately 7,500 health care workers who have received their COVID-19 vaccine are scoring free tickets to the game from the NFL. The league posted a video Friday showing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sharing the news with one group of health care workers.

"We can't thank you enough, and we hope this program will be a small way to celebrate you, honor you, and most importantly, thank you," Goodell says in the video.

The NFL says health officials have "reviewed and provided feedback on the NFL's comprehensive plans that will enable the league to host fans and the vaccinated health care workers in a safe and responsible way," and it plans to "enhance the already rigorous COVID-19 protocols" it has been using, including mandating mask-wearing. The Raymond James Stadium "has a capacity of around 65,000," the "plan is that for each pod of non-vaccinated fans, a group of vaccinated health care workers would be seated in the row behind, staggered to the side, throughout the stadium," The Washington Post writes.

Super Bowl LV is scheduled for Feb. 7. Brendan Morrow

10:29 a.m.

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is facing an internal resistance after splitting from her party on former President Donald Trump's impeachment.

Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, was one of only a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in inciting the Capitol riot. More than a majority of GOP House members have since indicated they'd support ousting Cheney from her leadership spot, while at least two other Republicans have lined up to replace her, Politico reports.

At least 107 House members — more than half the caucus — privately support removing Cheney from power, multiple GOP sources involved in the effort told Politico. Meanwhile New York Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, who defended Trump during both of his impeachments, are reportedly looking to replace her.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have said they don't intend to remove Cheney. But McCarthy also echoed Republicans' reported anger that Cheney voiced her support of impeachment the day before the House vote, giving Democrats time to use her views in their own arguments. "Questions need to be answered," such as the "style in which things were delivered," McCarthy told reporters Thursday.

Many other Republicans, including some who voted against impeachment, meanwhile don't want Cheney removed just for "vot[ing] her conscience," as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) put it. Others argue removing Cheney would fly in the face of the party's unification message in the post-Trump era — something Cheney herself is trying to counter by making "making calls to all corners of the conference to hear lawmakers out," Politico reports. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:57 a.m.

After admitting to feeling "uncomfortable" about unscientific statements made under former President Donald Trump, Dr. Anthony Fauci says a lack of candor and facts during the previous administration "likely" cost lives in the pandemic.

Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and chief medical adviser to President Biden, spoke with CNN on Friday after pledging in a White House briefing that the new administration will make all of its decisions on the pandemic "based on science and evidence." He implied this is a change from Trump's administration, and when CNN host John Berman asked if a previous "lack of candor" and "lack of facts" in 2020 cost lives, Fauci said he believes so.

"It very likely did," Fauci said. "I don't want that, John, to be a sound bite, but I think if you just look at that, you can see that when you're starting to go down paths that are not based on any science at all, and we've been there before — I don't want to rehash it — that is not helpful at all."

At Thursday's White House briefing, Fauci said it's a "liberating feeling" to be able to now "let the science speak" without "repercussions" under the new president. He also said he felt "uncomfortable" by certain baseless assertions that were made about COVID-19 during the previous administration. In addition to sometimes contradicting Trump himself, Fauci was known to clash with controversial former COVID-19 adviser Scott Atlas.

"It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact," Fauci said at the briefing. Brendan Morrow

9:10 a.m.

Fifteen minutes after President Biden was sworn in Wednesday, the Vatican released the text of the warm congratulatory telegram Pope Francis had sent the second Catholic U.S. president, after John F. Kennedy. Such telegrams are traditional for the pope — he sent one to former President Donald Trump at his inauguration, too. But Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), also published a letter to Biden, and it was less warm and evidently unprecedented.

"By Wednesday afternoon, a flurry of statements from some bishops seemed to take sides between the USCCB statement from Archbishop Gomez and the pope's statement," the Jesuit magazine America reported.

Gomez, in his letter, insisted that "Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation's politics," but said he felt obliged to "point out that our new president has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender," but also "the liberty of the church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences."

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, a key U.S. ally of Pope Francis, issued a rare public rebuke of a fellow bishop, saying the USCCB's "ill-considered statement" for Biden's inauguration "came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released," and bypassed the "collegial consultation" process normally used for "statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops." He added that the USCCB must address this "internal institutional failure."

The Vatican was also reportedly displeased with Gomez's letter. A senior Vatican official told America the statement was "most unfortunate" and could "create even greater divisions within the church in the United States."

The odd thing about Gomez's "tone deaf" and "churlish statement," Michael Sean Winters argues in a National Catholic Reporter column, is that Biden had "the most Catholic inauguration in history." A priest gave the invocation, Lady Gaga and poet Amanda Gorman — both Catholic — stole the show, and Biden, who started the day at mass, gave an inaugural address that "was a better articulation of Catholic ideas about governance than any recent document from the conference," Winters said. "And Biden quoted St. Augustine!"

Read the pope's message to Biden, Gomez's letter, and Winters' critique. Peter Weber

8:23 a.m.

Mira Furlan, the actress known best for her performances on Babylon 5 and Lost, has died at 65.

A statement posted to Furlan's Twitter account announced her death on Thursday night, according to Variety. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski confirmed the news in a statement, in which he said "we've known for some time now that Mira's health was failing." He did not disclose a cause of death.

Furlan starred as Minbari ambassador Delenn on Babylon 5, and on Lost, she had a recurring role as Danielle Rousseau, the "French woman" who was already stranded on the island when the series began.

Straczynski in his tribute noted that Furlan, who was from the former Yugoslavia, had previously been "part of a touring theater group that continued to cross borders of the disintegrating country despite receiving death threats from both sides in the civil war," and he reflected on this "fiery, fearless side" of her that "fought ceaselessly for her art."

"Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news," Straczynski wrote, going on to add, "As much as this is a time to grieve, it is also a time to celebrate her life and her courage." Brendan Morrow

7:22 a.m.

Comedian Dave Chappelle has gone into quarantine and canceled his upcoming shows after testing positive for COVID-19.

A representative for the comedian confirmed to TMZ and Deadline he received a positive test result and is now quarantining. Chappelle on Wednesday performed the first of five shows planned through Sunday in Austin, Texas, the rest of which have been canceled, TMZ reports.

Last June, Chappelle released a surprise stand-up special about the killing of George Floyd, for which he had a socially-distanced, outdoor audience, and he has recently been performing in Texas.

"Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter," his representative said in a statement, per Deadline. "Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus."

The comedian's representative added he does not have symptoms. As TMZ points out, Chappelle was seen in an Instagram photo earlier this week standing alongside Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, and Grimes. Brendan Morrow

6:41 a.m.

"C'mon, give me a break, man," President Biden told a reporter Thursday, when asked if his goal of getting 100 million Americans vaccinated in his first 100 days is too modest. "It's a good start, 100 million." Biden was right that when he "first made this pledge, it was an ambitious goal," Politico's Renuka Rayasam writes. "But now it's only a modest bump from the pace of vaccinations that he inherited," and experts agree it won't cut it anymore.

"At a pace of 1 million doses a day, the virus wouldn't be contained until sometime in 2022," Politico reports. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, said the U.S. needs to vaccinate 2-3 million people a day to quash the pandemic by September, and the sooner the better, given the rise of new, more contagious variants. "We've blown every other opportunity," Hotez said. "This is all we have left."

"I love that he set a goal, but a million doses a day?" Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told The New York Times. "I think we can do better," and actually "we are going to have to if we really want to get on top of this virus by, say, summer."

Currently, U.S. vaccination efforts are constrained by supply shortages and inefficient distribution of the two approved vaccines, from Modern and Pfizer/BioNTech. "States are expected to run out of doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine within days," Politico says. But both companies are ramping up production, and Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine is expected to hit the shelves by the end of February, so there should be amply supply to significantly exceed Biden's current goal by April.

In the meantime, Biden's administration should focus "on fixing the hodgepodge of state and local vaccination centers that has proved incapable of managing even the current flow of vaccines," the Times reports, citing experts. Biden has requested $20 billion to vastly expand vaccination centers, and he wants to hire 100,000 health care workers to administer the vaccines. If he can do that, former FDA director Dr. Mark McClellan tells the Times, it should "push the number beyond a million doses a day and probably significantly beyond." Peter Weber

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