Please, forgive my assumption that most Hollywood people have dispersed around the globe to enjoy long holidays, because the film news was particularly drab this pasy week. That's not to imply an absence of news - no, the cycle was typically ceaseless - but that the week's stories were either rumours, which I try not to repeat, or the kind of inconsequential or non-specific reports that I typically relegate to The Weekly Regurgitation section of this article. In other words, it was mostly fucking tedious. In fact, even the news that elicited a brief rush of excitement - such as the story that the wonderful Greta Gerwig will make her debut as a writer-director with Lady Bird - were shorn of the necessary detail to sustain a single paragraph (that won't bore you to tears, anyway). Indeed, that's why I write The Weekly Regurgitation, because, honestly, most film news rarely justifies anything more substantial than a headline-like summation such as: "suchandsuch has been cast in filmything, the new movie from fuckknows director whatshisname." And anyway, it's unlikely that you'll be able to recall most of those stories in a week, if only because most of them are about films that are two or three years away.

So, when confronted with weeks such as this one, suffused as it was with insubstantial and/or inconsequential news stories, I have to panic and ramble about nothing like a prick in order to fill space. There was thankfully one story of enough interest to justify substantial reporting this week, but I feel that we're getting closer to a week in which nothing actually happens and I have a meltdown. Anyway, that story.

Universal Studios Records the Highest Annual Gross by a Hollywood Studio

In flagrant disregard of it being August, the news broke last week that Universal Studios has crushed the record for the highest annual gross ever taken by a Hollywood studio. Which is not to say they broke some kind of sacred, longstanding record - 20th Century Fox only set it December of last year when they took $5.52 billion. But, regardless, it must be acknowledged how impressive an achievement it is to break such a record - one that I must stress accounted for the entire year of 2014 - a mere seven months after it was set (the figures appear to have come from the end of July, hence seven months). When the story circulated last Wednesday, Universal' annual gross was reported as $5.53 billion, a tidy figure that clearly delineates the breaking of Fox's record, and in the time since they have inevitably made even more money. Universal also has five months of releases that will significantly add to their takings, including Crimson Peak (2015) and Straight Outta Compton (2015), but amazingly they may not even end the year as the highest grossing studio, as Disney has Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) yet to come. Big studios make big money, who knew?

Quite obviously, Universal's astonishing success this year can be predominantly attributed to Jurassic World (2015) and Furious 7 (2015) - the former of which grossed $1.58 billion worldwide, and the latter $1.51bn (and, importantly, is the highest grossing film in China). Then, of course, there's Minions (2015), which has grossed $912 million worldwide and will join the triple-comma club when it opens in China next month, if not before (and, when it does, Universal will become the first studio to release three billion dollar grossing films in one year). But while they're certainly a hugely important factor, this record-breaking year is not merely the lucky consequence of three unexpectedly popular films (that were released with the option of expensive 3D, IMAX and D-Box screenings, I might add), but a slate of films that also included the $570 million-grossing Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), the $284 million-grossing Pitch Perfect 2 (2015), the $166 million-grossing Ted 2 (2015), and Trainwreck (2015), which will surely surpass $100 million worldwide when it opens in the UK on Friday.

Admittedly, those later figures look considerably less impressive when compared to Jurassic World's earnings, but it must be noted that only two of the films listed - the obvious two - had production budgets that exceeded $100 million. Each film was clearly more expensive than its production budget indicates (there's the large costs involved in marketing and distributing to consider), but, under the stewardship of chairman Donna Langley, Universal has shown itself to be adapt when it comes to making a little go a long way: Minions, for example, will make a billion dollars from a $74 million budget; Fifty Shades will make over $500m from a mere $40m. It appears to be a studio led by good decision making, a studio that prioritises mid-budget films that connect with diverse audiences because, as far as blockbuster entertainment goes, they offer alternatives to white dude shenanigans and superheroes (and, yes, it must be noted that Universal broke this record without a single superhero franchise). And while you can't exactly label what Universal is doing as counter-programming - they're still quite obviously operating in the mode of accessible franchise cinema, with Trainwreck being their only success that's not connected to something else - they are at least showing that studios don't need to spend excessively or ignore certain audiences in order to succeed.


The Weekly Regurgitation:

- Sony has announced the release dates for their upcoming slate of films, including Edgar Wright's Baby Driver, a Jumanji (1995) remake, and two new Bad Boys films. (The Wrap)

- Time is an endless crawl, likewise the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. New Line is trying to reboot the series again, because horror cinema must repeat itself in order to explore contemporary anxieties through familiar conventions. Or New Line just likes money. Either or. (The Tracking Board)

- William Friedkin is trying to get an adaptation of Don Winslow's novel The Winter of Frankie Machine off the ground, and will develop the film with a view to direct. No studio is currently attached. (Deadline)

- Kim Jee-woon, the director of I Saw the Devil (2010) and more recently The Last Stand (2013), will direct Warner Bros' first Korean-language film: a 1930s-set drama by the name of Secret Agent. (Variety)

- Joel and Ethan Coen will write an adaptation of Ross MacDonald's 1966 mystery novel Black Money for Warner Bros, and may possibly direct. (Deadline)

- In the first Reel Talk I wrote about Steven Spielberg being attached to direct an adaptation of Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One. Señor Spielbergo has been attached to numerous projects that were never realised, so there was some uncertainty as to whether he would actually stick with it. Well, Warner Bros is confident that he will, as they've dated his Ready Player One for December 15, 2017. (The Hollywood Reporter)

- Remember Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)? Probably not, but Paramount is making a sequel because we've wrought the ceaseless and unforgiving hell we deserve. (Deadline)

- Bill Murray will have a cameo appearance in Paul Feig's new Ghostbusters film, because of course he will. (The Hollywood Reporter)

- Colin Farrell has joined the cast of the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. (The Hollywood Reporter)

- Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson have been cast in Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford's follow-up to the brilliant A Single Man (2009). The film is an adaptation of Austin Wright's novel Tony and Susan, and Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal are already attached as its stars. (Variety)

- Frank Grillo, who played the protagonist Leo Barnes in The Purge: Anarchy (2014), will return for next year's prequel The Purge: Origins. (Variety)

- Mixed martial artist and kind-of-a-big-deal Ronda Rousey is beginning to forge a career in cinema, taking on acting roles in The Expendables 3 (2014), Furious 7 (2015) and Entourage (2015) over the past year. This is something she'll look to solidify when she plays herself in Paramount's adaptation of her bestselling autobiography My Fight/Your Fight. (Deadline)