Each year, thousands of Viacom employees around the world unite for Viacommunity Day, helping to rebuild and revitalize their local communities with a series of service projects. At Paramount Pictures – which for the past two years has had the highest percentage of employees from any Viacom company division participating in projects – the day has special resonance.
To commemorate the titanic efforts of their employees at last year’s event, Paramount’s social responsibility team put together A Day for Unity, a rousing video recap of the landscaping, painting, organizing, and volunteering at zoos, community centers, soup kitchens and food distribution centers that took place across the Los Angeles area on Viacommunity Day 2017.
This video testament to Paramount’s efforts is now part of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship International Corporate Citizenship Film Festival, an annual event that honors the best in corporate social responsibility. Click here by Feb. 19 to vote for Paramount’s submission.
Viacom is off to a sensational start for 2018: we soared across our brands (especially CMT and Comedy Central).
But as we move into the new year, it’s worth looking back at the most popular blog posts of 2017, each of which highlighted a different part of Viacom’s business. Many touch upon themes that Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, includes in his vision for success: leading the industry in diverse, innovative storytelling; focusing on our “Flagship Six” core brands; creating a socially responsible company culture housed in a visually progressive workspace.
Check out the top 10 blog posts below, which highlight some of Viacom’s best content, the talent that brought it to life, and the remarkable spaces they created it in.
“You know how Hollywood doesn’t make original movies anymore?” asks Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. “Well, Downsizing is here to fix that.”
The movie indeed presents as a highly original concept: an everyone-wins-the-lotto fantasia, a hypothetical near-future where every middle-class worker drone with fifty thousand in the bank can shrink themselves and relocate to a miniaturized consumerist paradise where everything is cheap and easy. And the shrunken crowds, with their shrunken environmental footprint, get to save the world in the process.
That’s what gets our attention, but what keeps it is a vividly accurate parable on class struggle and the inherent unfairness of global imbalances in rights and status. This turn happens when hero Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) – left behind by his wife (Kristen Wiig), discontented with his new world’s opulence – stumbles into a miniature tenement outside the walls of diminutive mansion-dotted Leisureland and discovers an underclass of refugees who have been downsized against their will.
Galvanized, Safranek sets off to find the meaning that financially amping up his lifestyle could not deliver. Cue the critics:
“Downsizing … is the rarest thing in today’s movie industry: a big movie for big people — adults, you could call them,” writes Jake Coyle in the The Associated Press.
He’s not the only one who was impressed. Here are some highlights:
Director Alexander Payne continues his record of excellence
“It’s hard to say what’s better about the first half of Alexander Payne’s wonderfully weird – or is it weirdly wonderful? – Downsizing: the audacity of its premise, or the delicious skill with which Payne executes that premise, detail by comically ingenious detail,” Jocelyn Noveck writes for The Associated Press.
Payne has directed six previous feature films, including Paramount’s Academy Award-nominated Election and Nebraska, as well as the Academy Award-winning Sideways and The Descendants (both won for Best Adapted Screenplay).
Matt Damon and Director Alexander Payne on the set of Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.
“Alexander Payne is one of those rare filmmakers who’s never made a bad movie, and he’s not about to start now,” writes Micah Mertes in the Omaha World-Herald. “…in its sense of place, in its existential dread, in its deadpan comedy and late-inning optimism, Downsizing is an on-brand continuation of a career still running strong more than two decades in.”
Supporting actress Hong Chau is remarkable
Chau, who plays a Vietnamese refugee shrunken against her will and forced to labor as a Leisureland maid after losing a leg to gangrene, delivers a Golden Globe-nominated performance as a supporting actress.
“Hong Chau, best known from Inherent Vice and HBO’s Treme, achieves nothing less than an acting triumph,” writes Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “Her Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild are just the start of the honors coming her way.”
Hong Chau plays Ngoc Lan Tran and Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.
One thing that drew Chau to the role was a high-concept framework that acted as an approachable vector for important issues.
Downsizing doesn’t hit theaters until Dec. 22, but the Alexander Payne-directed fantasy about a resource-starved future, in which citizens shrink themselves to conserve resources, is already creating enough buzz to earn a Golden Globe nomination.
Hong Chau earned a spot on the list of contenders in the Best Supporting Actress category, becoming just the third person of East Asian decent to earn that distinction since 1970, according to EW.com.
“This is the type of character who’s always in the background,” Chau told EW about the significance of her prominent role in the film. “I hope filmmakers will go back and take a look at people whom they thought they couldn’t mine drama or entertainment from. There are a lot of characters that have been underdeveloped because people aren’t interested or are afraid of attempting to tell their stories.”
On the television side, Viacom scored an additional nomination, for the Paramount Television-produced Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Katherine Langford, who plays the tragic Hannah Baker – a high-schooler driven to suicide by the behavior of her fellow students on the hit series – is a finalist in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama category.
Paramount Television, which is a division of the Paramount Pictures Hollywood film studio and is behind hits such as USA Networks’ Shooter and Epix’s Berlin Station, is an increasingly important part of Viacom’s business. On the company’s fourth-quarter and full-year earnings call on Nov. 16, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish noted that the studio had tripled revenues in just the last year alone and has an aggressive slate planned for 2018.
Seth Meyers will host the 2018 Golden Globes, which will air live on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 7, 2018, broadcast from the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton.
Now, thanks to the studio that brought you the explosive Transformers film series and the tech magic-makers at virtual reality (VR) group Viacom NEXT, fans of the heroic Autobot can play as Bumblebee in Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard, a free experience launched today to coincide with the 4K Ultra HD release of the five-movie collection on iTunes.
Cade’s Junkyard, created in augmented reality (AR) using cutting-edge VR technology from Apple, incorporates content from Transformers: The Last Knight – the latest installment of the blockbuster franchise – to transport users to the virtual junkyard of protagonist Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg).
“We’re excited to give fans the opportunity to get in the driver’s seat and take Bumblebee for a ride,” said Howard Hsieh, vice president of Paramount Home Media Distribution.
The experience overlays eye-popping 3D graphics onto your surrounding physical space, allowing you to maneuver around (or into) barrels, wooden crates, rusted-up jalopies, gas tanks and all sorts of other obstacles at breakneck speeds in the iconic automobile. Careful you don’t drive off your desk, though. The action really heats up when you transform into Bumblebee and show those pesky barrels who’s boss. Blowing stuff up with your phone has rarely been this fun. And in case you’re more of a builder than a demolisher, the app allows you to choose and place objects to expand the virtual world wherever you wish.
Smashing up Viacom’s New York City offices with an augmented reality app created by Viacom NEXT.
The sharp gameplay is the product of putting Apple’s new ARKit platform in the hands of the expert engineers and developers at Viacom NEXT. This is the group’s second time building an AR experience with ARKit – in September, Viacom NEXT released ARQUA!, an artistic building game in which users transform their physical environments into rainbow-colored aquariums.
They survive by speaking in signs, by padding their footsteps with painted and powdered trails, by rolling dice on folded blankets. They survive by never making a sound.
In the floodlit dystopia of A Quiet Place, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt cautiously guide their family through a terrifying landscape where something vicious stalks them. And everything will be OK – if they can just keep quiet.
Directed by Krasinski, the film also stars Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds. A Quiet Place will be in theaters April 6, 2018.
Even in the storied history of Paramount Pictures, Titanic stands out.
It is the second-highest grossing film of all time. It won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. That its heart-rending coda is predestined from the film’s outset has not dampened the appeal of the Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet tale over time.
Now, 20 years after its original theatrical release (and 105 years after the vessel sank into the North Atlantic), Paramount is teaming up with AMC Theaters to re-release the film at 87 Dolby Cinemas locations. The weeklong run will begin Dec. 1, and will include screenings in 20 3D theaters.
The Dolby experience should prove novel even for hardcore Titanic fans. Count Director James Cameron among them. “When we mastered Titanic in Dolby Vision, I was stunned,” said the legendary director. “It was like seeing it for the first time.”
Paramount regularly mines their deep library of iconic films to bring them to fans in new ways. Earlier this year, the studio released an Omertà edition of its Godfather trilogy, 45 years after the first film debuted in theaters.
Gnomes, those kitschy ceramic ornaments dotted about the suburban lawnscape, are seldom associated with anything more exciting than neighborhood battles over lowered property values. “…the humble garden gnome can … deter many buyers,” warns The Telegraph.
And then along comes Paramount Pictures’ Sherlock Gnomes, a rollicking animated mystery threading through the parks, sewers, waterways and rowhouses of sprawling London. When a backyard’s worth of spunky gnomes vanishes, Gnomeo and Juliet – returning from their eponymous 2011 film – enlist the services of Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) to track them down.
Directed by John Stevenson, the film stars James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Ashley Jensen, Matt Lucas, Stephen Merchant and Mary J. Blige. Sherlock Gnomes will hit theaters on March 23, 2018.
The program kicked off with an exclusive Rapid Fire event in Hollywood. We matched five teams of Viacom and Paramount volunteers with one of five local nonprofit organizations to take part in a two-hour brainstorm, exploring solutions to each nonprofit’s challenges. All five teams then shared their solutions, forging connections with their colleagues and local nonprofits. Each organization left with clear next steps and tools to overcome their challenges and move closer to achieving their missions.
Viacom volunteers and their community partners met to explore solutions to the organization’s concerns at Viacom’s new Hollywood facility in October 2017.
The participating organizations and their respective challenges were as follows:
Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest legal organization advocating through impact litigation and public policy work for the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV. The organization’s premier L.A.-based annual event, the West Coast Liberty Awards, attracts more than 400 supporters to honor advocates, activists and companies whose work complements Lambda Legal’s mission. Lambda Legal seeks to elevate their visibility as a Hollywood “influencer” so they can appeal to a new, younger audience.
My Friend’s Place assists and inspires homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives in Los Angeles. In 2018, the organization will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a spring gala and special campaign, complemented by storytelling that communicates and celebrates their heritage. The group needs creative thinkers to brainstorm inventive ways of sharing that history through unique storytelling that will drive engagement with their anniversary celebration.
Brainstorming sessions between Viacom volunteers and community partners at the Viacom Hollywood office.
Dog lovers working on the Paramount Lot in Hollywood got a barking bonus on Friday, Oct. 20 – in honor of World Animal Day, the studio hosted its first Take Your Dog to Work Day. Paramount invited responsible dog owners to bring their furry best friends to perk up the office environment. From the photo below, it looks like canine and human alike were happy to be together for the day.