June 10, 2019

What went wrong with Dark Phoenix?

That's the question on everyone's mind after the latest and likely last installment in the main X-Men franchise took in just $33 million domestically in its opening weekend, giving it the worst showing of the series and putting it on a path toward losing more than $100 million, Deadline writes. This came after the film received the worst reviews of any X-Men installment.

Numerous factors were likely at play in Dark Phoenix's box office failure, insiders who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter suggested. For one, after 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse underperformed, Fox executives reportedly chalked this up to the film having an "excessive amount of explosions and scale, the Reporter writes.

The result was a film that was intentionally smaller in scope, and one not thought of as being a summer blockbuster, an insider told the Reporter. But it was forced to compete in the summer anyway after being pushed from February to June, a decision sources told the Reporter was made because James Cameron was concerned Alita: Battle Angel would bomb in December due to heavy competition. So Fox gave Dark Phoenix's February date to Alita, moving the X-Men movie to June. The film being delayed twice gave it toxic buzz that Deadline notes the studio was unable to properly manage.

One source specifically pointed the finger at former 20th Century Fox CEO Stacey Snider, telling the Reporter that Fox's Emma Watts and others "begged her" not to delay the movie. Deadline also reports on the release date being blamed, while sources they spoke to also criticized the movie's marketing campaign.

Regardless of Dark Phoenix's performance, X-Men was already expected to be rebooted after Disney acquired the franchise in its Fox acquisition. But had this merger not happened, one former Fox executive told the Reporter, "some of these people would be worried about their jobs." Brendan Morrow

January 28, 2019

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, added to his weighty portfolio by becoming Trump's point man on negotiating an end the government shutdown. He "was confident in his ability as a good-faith negotiator who could find a compromise," maybe even a grand immigration bargain, "buoyed by his success in helping pass a criminal justice bill," The New York Times reports. But a generous epitaph after Trump temporarily reopened the government with no border wall money might be "Jared Tried."

It turned out that "negotiating a broad immigration deal that would satisfy a president committed to a border wall as well as Democrats who have cast it as immoral proved to be more like Mr. Kushner's elusive goal of solving Middle East peace than passing a criminal justice overhaul that already had bipartisan support," the Times reports. Democrats also never believed Kushner could speak for Trump or get around his immigration backstop, Stephen Miller.

Kushner consistently misread the politics, too, assuring "colleagues that public opinion would move to their side and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi would emerge as the one who looked unreasonable and intransigent," the Times says. Similarly, Kushner "inaccurately believed that moderate rank-and-file Democrats were open to a compromise and had no issue funding a wall as part of a broader deal."

Kushner's divide-and-conquer-the-Democrats plan "sounds insane" in this case, New York's Jonathan Chait writes. In fact other White House advisers called it insane, even "delusional." Not that this is over. Ultimately, "Trump was willing to table debate over wall funding because he is convinced he can win support from some Democratic lawmakers over the next three weeks," The Washington Post reports. And Kushner, the Times adds, has told Trump "he should spend the next three weeks trying to achieve a broader immigration package."

You can watch Capitol Hill reporters deliver an early postmortem on the shutdown and Kushner's efforts on MSNBC. Peter Weber

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