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December 21, 2018

MOVIES REBOUND FROM SLUGGISH 2017

NEW YORK (AP) — Around this time last year, people were suggesting people were weaning themselves off the idea of going to the movies. And there was good reason to draw that conclusion: Ticket sales slumped badly as streaming services became more popular. But movies have had the kind of bounce-back year that you hear about, well, only in movie scripts. Entering the pre-Christmas weekend, movies like “Aquaman,” ″Bumblebee” and “Mary Poppins Returns” are hitting theaters. And it’s expected that they will help boost ticket sales to a new annual record. 2018′s totals are pegged to pass the previous record of $11.4 billion, set in 2016. Among those taking a bow for the success at the multiplexes are cultural touchstone movies like “Black Panther,” ″Crazy Rich Asians” and even documentaries like “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” When the dust settles, box office revenue is expected to end up around $11.8 billion for the year. The overall domestic gross is up nearly 9 percent from last year, while ticket sales are up about 6 percent.

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2018′S BIG MOVIE HIT

UNDATED (AP) — So, what was the biggest hit of the year at the multiplexes? Hands down, it was “Black Panther.” Ryan Coogler’s superhero film took a budget of $210 million and transformed it into a windfall of more than $700 million domestically about as quickly as you can say Wakanda. That ranks it as the third-best selling movie of all time, not accounting for account. It’s also the first movie to top the weekend box office list five times in a row since “Avatar.” ″Black Panther” also showed its strength overseas, taking in $1.3 billion worldwide. But the success of Coogler’s movie extends far beyond box office numbers. It was the first superhero film to feature a mostly black cast — and it proved that Afro-centric story-lines could captivate huge audiences not only here in the U.S., but abroad.

Other movie hits for the year included “A Quiet Place,” ″Crazy Rich Asians” and “Incredibles 2.”

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MOVIE BUSTS IN 2018

UNDATED (AP) — It was one of the more anticipated movies of the year. But in the end “Solo: A Star Wars Story” ended up as one of the single biggest disappointments of 2018. The movie seemed troubled from the jump. Ron Howard came on after original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were sent packing. But not even Howard could stop the nosedive. The movie took in $392.9 million worldwide — a galaxy not very far away from its production budget of at least $250 million. Even more troubling for its studio Disney: “Solo” did worse than every previous “Star Wars” film. And the negative reaction it got from both critics and die-hard fans has caused Disney to take a close look at where it plans to take the franchise in the future.

Other big-time flops at the movies this year include “Mortal Engines,” ″Robin Hood,” and “The Happytime Murders.”

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BEYONCÉ RUNS DRY IN 2018

UNDATED (AP) — So, what’s up with Beyoncé musically this year? The answer: nothing — literally. The superstar released a pair of albums yesterday — but neither contained any new music. The albums “Have Your Way” and “Back Up, Rewind” were dropped onto Spotify and Apple Music — but while the albums were new, the tunes weren’t. And they didn’t stay around long. After just a few hours, the stream dried up, as the services yanked them off their servers. The projects were released under the name Queen Carter and featured demos, previously released songs and unreleased tracks by Beyoncé. Representatives for Beyoncé, Apple Music and Spotify didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment.

SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW

NEW YORK (AP) — Usually by now, we have a good idea about who will play the Super Bowl halftime show. But at this rate, we may have a better idea of which teams will be in the game than which musicians will do the between-halves gig. The Associated Press has learned that rapper Travis Scott is in talks to perform at halftime. Scott is already doing the Pepsi pre-game show, which means he will be pulling double duty that weekend in Atlanta. Earlier, there was talk that Maroon 5 was going to do the halftime show. But neither the group nor the NFL has confirmed that. The NFL usually doesn’t have trouble luring big stars to do the halftime show. But since the “take-a-knee” protests during the national anthem begun by Colin Kaepernick — and his not being signed to a team, despite widespread weakness in the NFL quarterbacking ranks — some stars have balked. It’s been reported that both Jay-Z and Rihanna have turned down the NFL’s offers.

ELISA DUSHKU - SPEAKING OUT

NEW YORK (AP) — Eliza Dushku is starting to speak out — about speaking out. The actress is talking about what she went through after complaining about sexual harassment by Michael Weatherly, star of the CBS show “Bull.” She signed a deal that she would keep quiet in return for a financial settlement and a promise by the network to have an expert on harassment monitor what went on during production. That settlement was secret until last week, when The New York Times wrote about her case. Dushku wrote in an essay this week in The Boston Globe. She says she is breaking her silence because she’s angry that Weatherly and showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron spoke to the Times and provided what she calls “more deflection, denial, and spin.” Dushku says having her story told has come at great personal cost. She writes, “the last thing I want at this point in my life is to be in the news.”

HARVEY WEINSTEIN HUNKERING DOWN FOR TRIAL

NEW YORK (AP) — He had hoped he’d end December as a man freed from legal charges in the sexual misconduct scandal that’s engulfed him since last year. But instead, disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein will begin 2019 needing to prepare for battle in court. Yesterday, a New York judge declined to dismiss the sexual assault charges against Weinstein, despite a full-court press by his attorneys to have the indictment tossed. But the judge wasn’t buying it, even rebuking the producer’s lawyers for suggesting that political pressure led to criminal charges being filed against Weinstein.

His next court appearance is set for March 7.

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TREVOR NOAH - SURGERY

NEW YORK (AP) — Trevor Noah says if all goes well, he’ll be back on his show next year, sounding like he always has. But the “Daily Show” host jokes if things don’t go as planned, he might come back with a wispy voice like Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. Noah announced Wednesday he was to have surgery yesterday to repair a problem with his vocal cords. He lost his voice earlier this month and his doctors ordered him to not to speak on the air for a week. Other than what Noah said on the show the other night, there’s been no official statement from him or Comedy Central about whether the surgery went off — or how it went.

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EX-BEAU OF “JERSEY SHORE” CAST MEMBER CHARGED WITH EXTORTION

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — An ex-boyfriend of a “Jersey Shore” cast member has been charged with extortion. Police in Toms River, New Jersey say Thomas Lippolis is charged with third-degree extortion stemming from his dealings with “JWoww,” whom he dated for a year about a decade ago. Authorities say he demanded $25,000 from her reps to keep him from spilling the tea about their relationship to the media.

MISS AMERICA CONTROVERSY

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The crown, sashes and — those crazy parade shoes — have all been put away until next year. But there’s still plenty to talk about when it comes to the Miss America pageant — like the serious infighting going on. An ex-board member and four states are suing Miss America and its leaders, Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper. The plaintiffs have had their licenses terminated by the organization — and want back in. The organization calls the lawsuit meritless and part of what it calls “a yearlong orchestrated smear campaign.” Numerous state groups have been beefing with pageant leadership, citing dissatisfaction with the way the group is being run — and with how a decision to drop the swimsuit competition from this year’s pageant was reached.

ALICE WALKER DEFENDS HERSELF, BRITISH AUTHOR AGAINST ANTI-SEMITIC ALLEGATIONS

NEW YORK (AP) — Alice Walker isn’t backing down from her words of praise of a British author who’s been labeled an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist. Walker wrote on her blog this week that David Icke’s work is “very important to humanity’s conversation.” She also says Icke’s being called anti-Semitic is a “smear” campaign against both him and her, since she opposes how Israel treats the Palestinians. Walker was criticized after she told an interview that Icke’s “And the Truth Shall Set You Free” is one of her favorite books.

AP POLL: CHRISTMAS CAROLS FAVORED OVER BILLBOARD HITS

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A poll finds more Americans favor Christmas carols over recent Billboard hits, while “It’s a Wonderful Life” is among the top holiday films. The Associated Press-N-O-R-C Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows “Silent Night” ranks as the country’s most popular Christmas song, despite Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” becoming the highest-charting Billboard Hot 100 holiday hit in 60 years. The next favorite song is “Jingle Bells,” while Carey’s pop hit is named by 3 percent.

Nine percent of respondents listed the 1946 Jimmy Stewart classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” as their favorite film, while “A Christmas Story” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” were the top choices of seven percent apiece. Six percent named the comedies “Elf,” ″National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Home Alone.”

by Oscar Wells Gabriel II

Follow Oscar Wells Gabriel II on Twitter at https://twitter.com/OWGabriel2

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