Newsletter: Hollywood tests theater appetites, and more in the week ahead

 A visitor had the Hollywood Walk of Fame to herself on March 17.
Movie theaters are still closed in the entertainment capital of Los Angeles, but they have reopened in many other states.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Aug. 31, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

Is that playa dust on your laptop? Burning Man, that annual celebration of futurist jargon and free love that draws Silicon Valley’s elite to the desert every summer, will be held online throughout the week. This will be the California-born festival’s first entirely virtual edition.

Expect a frenzied day in Sacramento on Monday, as the California Legislature rushes to pass remaining bills on the last day of the legislative session. (Scroll down to the Politics section below for news on a few votes that happened over the weekend.)

On Tuesday, President Trump is expected to visit Kenosha. The Wisconsin town became a national focal point after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man who is now paralyzed. Officials did not say whether Trump would meet the Blake family.

On Thursday, Warner Bros.’ much-delayed Christopher Nolan movie “Tenet” will hit U.S. theaters, after premiering internationally last week. All eyes in Hollywood will be looking to see how the $200-million thriller fares in theaters, as the industry struggles to create road map for releasing movies with major markets like L.A. and New York still closed.

[See also: “The pandemic is changing how Hollywood releases movies. Here’s how” in the Los Angeles Times]


This will be a big week for Hollywood figuring out that pandemic release dance: On Friday, Disney will break the theatrical window to release its live-action version of “Mulan” on Disney+ at a $30 price point — substantially higher than the typical premium video-on-demand offering. Industry analysts are eagerly waiting to see how many families take Disney up on the offer.

The Kentucky Derby will take place Saturday, after being postponed in May. As usual, the horses in contention this year have some wild-sounding names, including Art Collector, Ny Traffic, Storm the Court and Tiz the Law.

And technically not this week, but the following Monday, Sept. 7, is Labor Day, so enjoy the long weekend ahead.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Why California’s 2020 lightning fires got so big so fast: Although lightning fires have been scorching the state since prehistoric times, the speed with which the SCU and LNU lightning complex fires became the second- and third-largest blazes ever recorded in California has startled emergency officials and strained firefighting resources. Los Angeles Times

As grievances over racial injustice mount, so does mistrust of police accounts. The reliability of police accounts increasingly is being challenged amid a push for criminal justice reform spurred by video-recorded killings such as that of George Floyd. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


A city councilman paved the way for massive electronic billboards. Then $75,000 poured in for his reelection. Los Angeles Times

José Tlatenchí lives with his family on Washington Boulevard, where a digital billboard shines into his apartment.
José Tlatenchí lives with his family on Washington Boulevard, where a digital billboard shines into his apartment. He relies on curtains to block out the light.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Summer at the Hollywood Bowl, 2020: No concerts but food boxes for the hungry. Los Angeles Times

Read “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler’s moving tribute to Chadwick Boseman: “I had no idea if the film would work. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. But I look back and realize that Chad knew something we all didn’t. He was playing the long game. All while putting in the work. And work he did.” Los Angeles Times

What to know about voting by mail in Southern California. All your questions, answered. LAist

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President Trump and his allies sought to depict protests over racial injustice as a law-and-order campaign issue Sunday, attacking Democratic leaders, refusing to condemn deadly vigilante violence and touting a purportedly tranquil “Donald Trump’s America” as former Vice President Joe Biden accused him of inciting violence for political gain. Los Angeles Times

California Democrats scuttle wildfire utility fee plan: Facing heavy opposition, California lawmakers have scrapped a last-minute bill to extend fees for utility customers and plan to replace it with a more modest call for $500 million in emergency fire response and mitigation efforts. The new proposal requires Gov. Gavin Newsom to waive a state law that prevents legislators from amending bills in the final hours before the Legislature adjourns for the year. Los Angeles Times


California lawmakers voted to phase out the sale and use of firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer and have contaminated drinking water throughout the state. Los Angeles Times

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the DMV is rethinking the way it operates: Online transactions went from about 1.8 million in July 2019 to nearly 2.2 million last month. But the agency must still work through the backlog caused by the shutdown. Los Angeles Times


Police PR units are under scrutiny for inaccurate reporting and alleged pro-cop bias. Questions swirl over whether these units are serving the public with unbiased facts or are getting in the way of the truth. Los Angeles Times


Foster Farms will temporarily close a Central Valley poultry plant after eight workers died of COVID-19. The outbreak at the Central Valley facility has persisted for at least two months, and the closure comes at the order of the Merced County health department. Los Angeles Times


What the first week of distance learning looked like in Kern County: Emma Gallegos, the Bakersfield Californian’s new education reporter, on the hurdles that students faced while connecting to brand-new virtual classrooms. Bakersfield Californian

The historic Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn is officially closing for an indefinite period of time. The not-for-profit inn’s leaders said that years of road closures, fires, floods and COVID-19 all contributed to the suspension. Monterey County Weekly


Pinterest paid $89.5 million to terminate its San Francisco office lease. The company cited a shift to employees working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak in its decision. SFGate

And as workers at big businesses stay home, downtown San Francisco’s small businesses have suffered. “The light at the end of the tunnel just keeps getting pushed further and further back.” San Francisco Chronicle

A poem to start your week: “Throw Yourself Like Seed” by Miguel de Unamuno. The Gladdest Thing

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Los Angeles: partly sunny, 78. San Diego: partly sunny, 73. San Francisco: sunny, 69. San Jose: partly sunny, 84. Fresno: sunny, 100. Sacramento: sunny, 96. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Van Morrison (Aug. 31, 1945), L.A. Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff (Aug. 31, 1948), actress Zendaya (Sept. 1, 1996), the late, great and deeply missed California historian Kevin Starr (Sept. 3, 1940), Beyoncé (Sept. 4, 1981) and Bob Newhart (Sept. 5, 1929).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.