September 24, 2018

In Beating Disney for Sky, Comcast Remains in the Game

Indeed, the most stinging loss may belong to the Murdoch family, which has been fighting for control of Sky for the better part of a decade. Mr. Murdoch, 87, co-founded the satellite TV company in 1989 to compete with the British Broadcasting Corporation. Sky, which has 31,000 employees and generated about $17 billion in revenue last year, ranks as one of the most popular TV brands in Europe. It creates its own original shows, runs an influential news channel and has exclusive partnerships in Europe with HBO, Showtime and Warner Bros.

After losing out to Disney in the battle for 21st Century Fox, getting Sky became an imperative for Comcast. It was, by some measures, the only way for the Philadelphia-based cable company to stay squarely in a media game now dominated by supertankers like Disney-Fox and ATT, which recently completed its $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner.

Mr. Roberts and his advisers began looking at Sky as an acquisition as early as July 2017, long before engaging in the bidding war against Disney for 21st Century Fox assets. Fox’s 39 percent stake in Sky was the primary reason that Mr. Roberts went after the company, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.

For Comcast, pursuing Fox was always about building its international businesses. Mr. Roberts cared much less about other assets that the Murdoch family was selling, including the FX and National Geographic cable networks. Cable companies like Comcast, which primarily operates in the United States, have grappled with a decline in pay-TV subscribers who have flocked to streaming services like Netflix. Mr. Roberts, who fashions himself as his company’s principal dealmaker, identified Sky as one way to keep Comcast growing.

He was particularly taken with Sky’s technology. The British broadcaster sells a set-top box that streams its programming over a broadband connection and includes apps like Netflix or Spotify. Sky built the technology to become its key engine for delivering programming, a setup similar to Comcast’s Xfinity program.

Sky also owns valuable sports rights, including a large chunk of the English Premier League. That was seen as a nice fit with Comcast since its NBCUniversal division owns the American rights to those matches. In addition to sports, the deal gives Comcast some Disney and Fox content. Sky owns streaming rights to films from both studios for the European markets in which it operates for the next two to three years.

The British government supervised the weekend auction for Sky, which involved three rounds of blind bidding. Going into the process, analysts like Amy Yong of Macquarie Research put the chances for each side to succeed at 50-50. Commentators on Twitter debated whether the better moniker was SkyBattle or BattleSky.

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‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls’ Is No. 1 as ‘Life Itself’ Fizzles

The weekend box office boiled down to a competition between two very different kings: Steven Spielberg, who has reigned over the film business for more than 40 years, and Jeff Bezos, the Amazon titan who would love to add Hollywood to his list of conquered lands.

It was not a happy outcome for Amazon, to put it mildly.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls,” produced by Amblin Entertainment, Mr. Spielberg’s company, was the No. 1 movie at North American theaters, taking in roughly $27 million and surpassing prerelease analyst expectations. The PG-rated movie, which cost about $42 million to make (not including marketing costs) and was released by Universal, harkens back to Amblin hits from the 1980s like “The Goonies” and “Harry and the Hendersons” — live-action movies in which ordinary children find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

Starring the young Owen Vaccaro as an orphan and Jack Black as a secretly benevolent warlock, “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” was directed by Eli Roth, who is known for R-rated films like “Hostel” and “Death Wish.” Cate Blanchett co-stars.

[Read our review: “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” is demented fun]

But audiences rejected the weekend’s other new wide-release movie: “Life Itself,” which was booked into 2,609 theaters by Amazon Studios, arrived in 11th place, with ticket sales of about $2.1 million, according to comScore, which compiles box-office data. “Life Itself,” a romantic drama, was written and directed by Dan Fogelman, the creative force behind the hit NBC drama “This Is Us.”

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Michelle Obama’s Big Book Rollout: ‘It’s Like You’re Looking at a Madonna Tour’

The tour is to begin in Chicago, Mrs. Obama’s hometown, at the United Center. The arena, the home of the Chicago Bulls, has a usual seating capacity of 23,500. After wending its way through venues of similar size in Inglewood, Calif., Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Denver, San Jose, Calif., and Dallas, the monthlong run will end in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center (seating capacity: 19,000).

On its website, Live Nation said that Mrs. Obama’s show would “feature intimate and honest conversations between Mrs. Obama and a selection of to-be-announced moderators, reflective of the extraordinary stories shared in the wide-ranging chapters of her deeply personal book.” Because of high demand during the pre-sale period, which ended on Thursday, the promoter recently added second shows in Washington and Brooklyn.

Other authors have had book tours that resembled concert tours. Anthony Bourdain promoted his 2016 book, “Appetites,” with a 15-city jaunt that had him doing stand-up-like sets at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods (seating capacity: roughly 2,000) in Mashantucket, Conn., and the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco (roughly 3,000). But there has been nothing like this.

Mrs. Obama’s rollout is also bigger than the promotional effort undertaken by Hillary Clinton for her 2017 book, “What Happened,” during which the former presidential candidate appeared at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University in Chicago (seating capacity: 3,875) and the Warner Theater in Washington (1,875). Ticket prices ran upward of $2,000 for a V.I.P. package that included choice seats and selfie opportunities.

Emily Bender, Live Nation’s public relations director, said 10 percent of the tickets for each of Mrs. Obama’s shows would be donated to charities, schools and community groups in each city.

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Jeff Bezos Cites a Big Number, but Few Details, in Plan for Low-Income Montessori Preschools

With little else to parse, Montessori leaders pored over Mr. Bezos’ brief statement, which described the planned schools as “Montessori-inspired.” The term “Montessori” is not copyrighted, and any school can choose to describe itself as such.

Some research, however, shows that Montessori classrooms that hew closest to the original principles of the movement’s founder, Dr. Maria Montessori, are more effective at raising student achievement than programs with a looser approach.

Mr. Bezos attended a Montessori preschool in Albuquerque in the 1960s and is one of several tech industry leaders with personal ties to the method. The Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have attributed some of their success to their Montessori educations. Dr. Montessori’s reframing of child’s play as “work,” driven by the child’s choices and interests, is, in many ways, a natural fit for Silicon Valley’s culture of founder-driven entrepreneurship and innovation.

But the movement has always faced challenges in appealing to parents who desire a more traditional education for their children. In a classic Montessori school, teachers generally do not lecture in front of the classroom and instead impart lessons on phonics or counting by engaging students individually or in small groups. They may invite children to participate in an activity, but do not require them to do so.

That is counterintuitive for many traditionally trained educators. “Instead of having one lesson plan, you have 24 different lesson plans, one for each child in the classroom,” said Katie Kitchens, a Montessori specialist at a public school in Austin, Tex., and the vice president of Montessori for Social Justice, which seeks to expand the movement’s reach. “It’s a really humbling process. You’re no longer the center of that conversation anymore, the keeper of all the information. It’s this constant process of stepping back.”

Montessori has the image as “this cultish thing” for middle-class and wealthy families, Dr. Whitescarver acknowledged. But the movement has long tried to serve a more diverse group of children. In 1907, Dr. Montessori opened her school Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, in a poor neighborhood in Rome.

The first Americans to embrace Montessori were in fact affluent, white suburbanites. But by the 1960s, black and Latino parents were opening Montessori schools in many cities, attracted by the idea that a child-centered education could combat racism. Those programs often had trouble winning the philanthropic support they needed to survive, according to Mira Debs, executive director of the education studies program at Yale.

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Sony Extends Colorful Movie Chairman’s Reign, Citing Turnaround

But the slate of films that Mr. Rothman served up during the company’s last fiscal year, which ended in March, generated the highest profit of any Sony slate in over a decade, the company has said. One film, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which cost $90 million to make, collected nearly $1 billion worldwide.

Mr. Rothman’s track record at Sony has not been perfect, and whether Sony can compete with the likes of the Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. over the long term remains to be seen. Many analysts think that Sony must merge with another studio in the years ahead. And Mr. Rothman remains a divisive figure in Hollywood, where devotees chuckle at his showman ways — he rides around the Sony lot on a bicycle with a little personalized license plate: “ROTHMAN” — and detractors complain that he wields too strong of a hand.

Even so, Sony appears poised for further success. A “Jumanji” sequel has been scheduled for next year, when Sony will also deliver the follow-up to “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and try to reboot the studio’s “Men in Black” and “Charlie’s Angels” franchises. Next summer, Sony will also release Quentin Tarantino’s much-anticipated “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is set in 1969 and stars Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.

In the coming weeks, Sony will roll out “Venom,” a dark superhero movie, and the animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Both are stirring substantial advance interest from ticket buyers, according to box office analysts.

“We feel pretty great about how far we have come, but know that there is still more to do,” Mr. Rothman said in a statement. He thanked Mr. Vinciquerra and “Yoshida-san,” referring to Kenichiro Yoshida, chief executive of Sony Corporation, and added, “This job is a privilege.”

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New York Review of Books Editor Is Out Amid Uproar Over #MeToo Essay

After rumors about it began appearing on social media, it was published online last Friday, causing immediate furor, with some criticizing what they saw as a self-pitying tone, and soft pedaling of the accusations against him, which included slapping and choking, and had ultimately been brought by more than 20 women, rather than “several,” as Mr. Ghomeshi wrote.

In an interview last week with Isaac Chotiner of Slate, which was posted not long after the piece, Mr. Buruma, who was named top editor of The New York Review of Books in 2017, defended his decision to publish Mr. Ghomeshi’s piece, noting that while “not everyone agreed,” once the decision was made the staff “stuck together.”

In his interview with Slate, when pressed by Mr. Chotiner about the several accusations of sexual assault against Mr. Ghomeshi, Mr. Buruma said: “I’m no judge of the rights and wrongs of every allegation. How can I be?” He also noted that Mr. Ghomeshi had been acquitted and said there was no proof he committed a crime, adding, “The exact nature of his behavior — how much consent was involved — I have no idea, nor is it really my concern.”

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Mr. Buruma, who was born in Netherlands, took over at The New York Review of Books just after Labor Day last year, following the death of its longtime editor, Robert Silvers, who founded the magazine in 1963 with Barbara Epstein. Mr. Buruma, had contributed to the magazine as a writer since 1985, and he was close to Mr. Silvers and Ms. Epstein.

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Understanding the times: How to Tell Us a Secret

“With WhatsApp, it’s as simple as sending a text message — but it’s encrypted,” Mr. Dance explained.

SecureDrop and encrypted email, on the other hand, take more time for the average user to set up, and can be slightly more complicated to use.

Still, each of the channels has helped deliver useful information. Audio from a speech Hillary Clinton gave during a closed-door gathering in the wake of the 2016 presidential election arrived the same day the tips page debuted; a series of questions posed to the State Department by Mr. Trump’s transition team showed up a few weeks later; and the story about the F.B.I. raid of Michael Cohen’s office started with a tip.

The response from tipsters has been so positive that the newsroom created a searchable database to help its journalists handle the overwhelming volume.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Mr. Dance said.

In that respect, The Times isn’t alone — not anymore, at least. Shortly after Ms. Sandvik and Mr. Dance opened the tips page, BuzzFeed followed suit with a similar page of its own. The Guardian and The Washington Post also provide channels for secure communication with tipsters.

The journalists who make up The Times’s tips team expect that the project, when fully realized, will fundamentally change the newsroom by opening up valuable and searchable information to reporters and editors.

What won’t change, though, is the way that information is handled.

“Each tip, be it from a submission or from a source, is rigorously vetted and probed,” Mr. Dance said.

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Books News: Stormy Daniels’s ‘Full Disclosure’ Book Will Likely Rattle White House

The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.

“Full Disclosure” is the latest damaging tell-all book in a succession of them, coming just after Omarosa Manigault Newman’s “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House” and Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which sold more than 1.1 million copies in its first week.

Mr. Trump’s presidency has proved to be an unexpected boon for the publishing industry, which has unleashed a barrage of juicy insider accounts. In a typical presidency, pundits and journalists have to wait years for administration insiders to spill the details. Out of either deference or self-preservation, government officials often hold off until a new administration is in place to offer their insider account. But the chaos and turmoil within the Trump administration has upended the usual Washington publishing cycle, as disgruntled ex-staff members and officials who have been pushed out or resigned churn out books at a breakneck pace, at least by the normally glacial standards of publishing.

Many of these accounts have shot to the top of the best-seller lists, often after the White House disputes the revelations or threatens legal action, prompting a fresh round of news coverage.

“The ideal thing is to have a book that Trump attacks, because that all but guarantees you best-seller status,” said Matt Latimer, a literary agent and co-partner at Javelin, which represents James Comey.

In the heated competition for the next political blockbuster, Macmillan, which owns St. Martin’s, Henry Holt and Flatiron Books, among other imprints, has often prevailed. The company has published Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” which has nearly three million copies in circulation, and the former F.B.I. director James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty,” which has sold more than a million copies. On Tuesday, St. Martin’s announced that it had acquired a book by the former F.B.I. deputy director Andrew McCabe, who has been a regular target of Mr. Trump’s ire on Twitter. Mr. McCabe’s book, “The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” is due out this December, and covers his role in leading politically sensitive investigations into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server and Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election.

Publishers have had to become more nimble to stay relevant at a chaotic and hyperpartisan moment.

“The challenge that it poses is that the news cycle changes every day; it’s like a Ping-Pong match trying to figure out where the country’s attention is going to be,” said Jennifer Enderlin, executive vice president and publisher of St. Martin’s.

“No matter the volatility of the news cycle, there are some authors and books that will make the public stop and pay attention, and we think we have two of them,” she added, referring to Ms. Clifford’s and Mr. McCabe’s forthcoming books. “It seems fair that they get to tell their story, since Trump has the biggest megaphone in the country and he gets to say all kinds of things about them.”

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Annette Michelson, Film Studies Pioneer and Journal Founder, Dies at 95

Not everyone was a fan. The conservative social commentator Roger Kimball, writing in 1988 in The New Criterion about the newly published compilation “October: The First Decade,” called the journal a leading example of a phenomenon in which “arcane, pseudo-philosophical jargon and radical sentiment compete to forestall genuine engagement with aesthetic or intellectual issues.”

Detractors aside, the journal remains influential, and Ms. Michelson’s writings, Professor Liebman said, “became formative, ‘must’ reading for the first generation of film studies scholars.”

In 2015, when Ms. Michelson donated her papers to the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, Thomas W. Gaehtgens, its director, said she had “played a hugely significant role in the advancement of scholarship in avant-garde visual culture, especially film, around the world.”

She leaves no immediate survivors.

Ms. Michelson did not just write about films; in 1980 she acted in one, Yvonne Rainer’s “Journeys From Berlin/1971,” playing a woman undergoing psychoanalysis.

Professor Krauss recalled another time when Ms. Michelson displayed her exploratory side.

“Working closely with Annette has been a continual broadening of my own horizons,” she said. “At one point Annette became fascinated with the Structuralist paleontologist Leroi-Gourhan” — André Leroi-Gourhan, who studied cave paintings. “That summer Annette and I drove through southern France to many of the caves.”

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Annette Michelson, Influential Film Writer, Is Dead at 95

Her family eventually moved to Brooklyn, where Annette, a voracious reader, spent many hours in the public library. She commuted to Hunter College High School in Manhattan, then attended Brooklyn College, graduating in 1945. She pursued graduate studies in art history and philosophy at Columbia University. She left New York for Paris in 1950, continuing her studies at the University of Paris and immersing herself in the city’s artistic life.

Ms. Michelson initially hoped to become an actress. Professor Liebman said she fell in with a circle of theater people around the director Roger Blin and had the opportunity to observe his rehearsals of the world premiere of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” first staged in early 1953.

At the Sorbonne, she heard lectures by the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whose writings about perception and aesthetics influenced her, and by Claude Lévi-Strauss, whose ideas on Structuralism — a school of thought in which universal “structures” were believed to underlie all human activity — she would later help bring to the United States.

While in France she wrote and edited for several publications and translated the essays of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and others. She returned to New York in 1966 and, the next year, helped start a program in cinema history and criticism at New York University’s Graduate School of the Arts and Science.

Ms. Michelson taught at N.Y.U. for decades, leading courses, seminars and conferences on a wide range of topics. She was named a professor emerita in 2004.

“She was for 50 years — in her writing and teaching — in the forefront of repositioning the study of film from being a subset of literature to being a discipline in its own right, in dialogue with the visual arts,” Ms. Taubin said.

Ms. Michelson became an associate editor of Artforum in 1966, and she wrote for and helped plan numerous issues over the next decade. She was not given to write about popular movies of the day, but an exception was her 1969 Artforum essay on Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which had been released the year before.

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