Hardball
April 29, 2020

AMC Theatres announced late Tuesday that it will no longer show any movies by Universal Pictures, effective immediately. AMC, the world's largest movie theater chain, cited Universal's decision to release Trolls World Tour directly to on-demand rentals as theaters were shuttered and people were stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. The studio said Tuesday that the Trolls sequel had brought in $100 million since its premium video on demand (PVOD) release April 10. Studios typically wait 90 days after a movie's release to offer it digitally.

"The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD," NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell told The Wall Street Journal. "As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats." AMC chairman and CEO Adam Aron cited Shell's comments in his letter to Universal chairman Donna Langley.

"AMC believes that with this proposed action to go to the home and theaters simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies," Aron wrote. "This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat," Aron wrote. The ban applies to all AMC theaters in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Upcoming Universal movies include the latest Fast & Furious film F9, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Sing 2, and Jurassic World: Dominion. Peter Weber

March 5, 2020

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow sat down with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday, after his disappointing Super Tuesday, and she wasn't lobbing softballs. "I feel like your argument for your electability is flawless," she said. But actually "expanding the electorate" and "trying to reach a diverse coalition" is "not happening in your campaign, and it's not happening in your campaign more so in your campaign now than it did in 2016. And I want to know if you have any analysis yourself of why that's not improving?"

"We're trying to transform this country, not win an election, not just beat Trump," Sanders said. "So it's a different type of campaign, and we're doing quite well within that context."

Maddow pressed Sanders on his persistent weakness among black voters, especially in the South. Sanders said that he won about 39 percent of people of color — Latinos, Asian-Americans, and black voters — in California, but Maddow pointed out that even in California, Sanders is "being well outpaced by Joe Biden among black voters."

"Well, we're running against somebody who has touted his relationship with Barack Obama for eight years," Sanders said. "Barack Obama is enormously popular in this country in general, and in the African American community. Running against Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton was enormously popular." Some polls have him beating Biden among black voters, he said, so "it's not that I'm not popular," but Biden's ties to Obama are "working well" for him.

Sanders told Maddow that "if Biden walks into the convention, or at the end of the process, has more votes than me, he's the winner." Maddow asked if it's "100 percent impossible to imagine a unity ticket" with Biden. "You mean two old white guys on the ticket?" Sanders asked. "Well, probably not. ... One old white guy is probably one too many for some. I think we need a little more diversity than that."

How about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as his running mate? "It's too early to talk about that, but certainly I have a lot of respect for Sen. Warren and would love to sit down and talk with her about what kind of role she could play in our administration," he said. When asked, Sanders said he is "absolutely aghast and disgusted with any kind of vitriol online" directed at Warren by his supporters. "I condemn that, you know, it's ugly stuff." Peter Weber

April 24, 2019

House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week, and repeated on MSNBC Tuesday, that President Trump's "White House has refused to hand over any documents or produce any witnesses for interviews" this Congress. Trump, in fact, is suing Cummings to thwart some subpoenas and told the Post on Tuesday he doesn't want any of his current or former aides to testify before Congress.

Faced with this aggressive resistance to congressional oversight from Trump administration officials, Bloomberg reports, "some Democrats want to make them pay" — literally. "At a meeting of House leaders earlier this month, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler [D-N.Y.] suggested fining officials personally if they deny or ignore subpoenas," Bloomberg says, the idea being "to put teeth in his party's numerous investigative queries. ... Nadler even mentioned jailing administration officials as a consequence for contempt of Congress, though he surmised such a plan might be unrealistic."

House committees can vote to hold administration officials in contempt and take them to court, setting up a lengthy legal battle. But the House could also revive a mechanism called "inherent contempt" — voting in a new rule that allows it to fine people outside the court system for defying subpoenas. That process got its name "because courts have said the power is an inherent part of Congress' legislative powers," Bloomberg reports, though it "was mostly mothballed in recent years because it was politically unpalatable."

Now, given White House stonewalling, "it's political suicide to allow this to continue," said Morton Rosenberg, a longtime Congressional Research Service official who has proposed fining recalcitrant officials. Congress used to jail people it held in contempt, and the Supreme Court said that was fine, but Cornell University law professor Josh Chafetz tells Bloomberg that Congress has other remedies, like cutting funds for departments or individual federal officials who defy subpoenas. You can read more about House Democrats' options at Bloomberg. Peter Weber

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