New York, Apr 15 (AP/UNB) — A rush of newcomers couldn't shake "Shazam!" from the top spot, as the superhero comedy led the box office for the second straight weekend with $25.1 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Lionsgate's "Hellboy" reboot, the animated Laika Studios release "Missing Link," the college romance "After" and even the long-delayed "Mary Magdalene," originally to be released by the Weinstein Co., all opened in theaters. But the strongest new release of them all was, predictably, the Will Packer-produced one: "Little."
The body-swap comedy "Little" came in second with $15.5 million for Universal Pictures. Made for just $20 million, "Little" is just the most recent profit-maker for Packer, the "Girls Trip" producer.
The film, directed by Tina Gordon Chism, stars 14-year-old Marsai Martin as the child an abusive tech executive (Regina Hall) reverts to after a magical spell is cast on her. Martin, the "black-ish" star, also executive produced the film, the youngest ever so credited in Hollywood history.
"Little" drew a largely female (65 and African American (43%) audience. Jim Orr, Universal Pictures distribution chief, credited the cast, Chism's direction and Packer's overall know-how.
"He's done it with different kinds of films. 'Breaking In' was a thriller, 'Girls Trip' was an R-rated comedy. 'Little' is kind of an all-ages film, PG-13 rated,'" said Orr, whose studio signed a first-look deal with Packer in 2013. "He's a brand. And he has a great idea of what is going to be successful at the box office."
It was an out-of-body weekend at the box office. The body-swap comic-book adaptation "Shazam!" — about a teenage boy (Asher Angel) who can turn into an adult-sized superhero (Zachary Levi) with a simple command — held solidly in its second week. Capitalizing on good reviews and word-of-mouth, "Shazam!" is Warner Bros.' New Line's latest DC Comics success. It has grossed $94.9 million through Sunday with a worldwide total of $258.8 million.
Lionsgate and Millennium's "Hellboy" had been expected by many to vie with "Shazam!" on the weekend. But on the heels of terrible reviews (just 15% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes), it flopped with $12 million against a $50 million budget.
That's significantly less than the debuts of the 2004 original ($23 million opening) and the 2008 sequel ($34.5 million opening). Those films were directed by Guillermo de Toro and starred Ron Perlman; the new "Hellboy" stars David Harbour ("Stranger Things") and is directed by Neil Marshall.
"Missing Link" also missed. It opened with a disappointing $5.8 million, marking a new low for Laika, the maker of eccentric animated tales such as "Coraline," ''ParaNorman" and "Kubo and the Two Strings." ''Missing Link," distributed by United Artists Releasing, is about the discovery of a creature in the Pacific Northwest. Its voice cast includes Zach Galifianakis, Hugh Jackman and Zoe Saldana.
Expectations had varied widely for Aviron Pictures' "After," an adaption of Anna Todd's 2014 best-seller. The young-adult drama fared well with $6.2 million in 2,138 theatres.
And "Mary Magdalene," starring Rooney Mara as Mary and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus, finally opened, more than three years after production. Harvey Weinstein had once conceived of the film, directed by Garth Davis ("Lion") as his next Oscar contender.
After the fallout of Weinstein and the bankruptcy of the Weinstein Co., IFC Films acquired the biblical biopic. Critics dismissed it (44% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences mostly did, too. It grossed about $62,000 on 62 screens.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.
1. "Shazam!" $25.1 million ($35.9 million international).
2. "Little," $15.5 million ($1.9 million international).
3. "Hellboy," $12 million ($10.1 million international).
4. "Pet Sematary," $10 million ($12.6 million international).
5. "Dumbo," $9.2 million ($22 million international).
6. "Captain Marvel," $8.6 million ($8 million international).
7. "Us," $6.9 million ($4.4 million international).
8. "After," $6.2 million ($11.7 million international).
9. "Missing Link," $5.8 million ($8.9 million international).
10. "The Best of Enemies," $2 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:
1. "Shazam!" $35.9 million.
2. "Dumbo," $22 million.
3. "P Storm," $19.6 million.
4. "Pet Sematary," $12.6 million.
5. "After," $11.7 million.
6. "Wonder Park," $11.2 million.
7. "Andhadhun," $10.4 million.
8. "Hellboy," $10.1 million.
9. "Captain Marvel," $8 million.
10. "The Crimes That Bind," $4.4 million.
Los Angeles, Apr 15 (AP/UNB) — Devoted "Game of Thrones" fans who've watched and re-watched all 73 episodes of the HBO series, and read and reread all 4,000 pages of the books by George R.R. Martin, will at long last get the ending they've craved with the series' eighth and final season that starts Sunday.
But will it be the "real" ending?
The plotlines of the show have long since shot past what's in Martin's books, whose own finale may be many years away. While the endings will likely be similar, Martin, the master of this universe, could take a very different path to get there, making the coming end of the HBO show with its showdown between the humans of Westeros and the invading White Walkers possibly just a preview.
For some it all just means twice the fun.
"It doesn't bother me. I don't think they need to be one and the same," said Adonis Voulgaris, a fan of both formats who lives in San Francisco. "For me, it just means more content I get to immerse myself in."
The show premiered in 2011, the same year Martin's fifth book in his "A Song of Fire and Ice" series was released. Fans have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the sixth, "The Winds of Winter," ever since, and many wonder whether the 70-year-old author will live long enough to finish all seven planned books in the series.
"George is not a fast writer," said book-and-show devotee Andrew Stachler, 44, of South Pasadena, California. "So if you were following along, I think it was pretty evident early on that the show was going to get ahead of the books."
That did indeed happen, and by season six warrior and king-in-the-making Jon Snow had been resurrected and went back to trying to save the world, while he still lies stabbed to death in a mutiny in the books.
Martin, an executive producer on the TV series who has written episodes but is sitting this season out while he works on the book, gave HBO showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss an outline of where his long-planned plot goes, including the fates of characters like Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Arya Stark.
Armed with that roadmap, Benioff, Weiss and other writers have been telling the tale without books to back them. Fans are divided about the results, and how true they are to Martin.
"It doesn't seem any less planned out to me," Stachler said. "It's absolutely a continuation of his vision. I always felt like the show cleaned up the narrative in tighter, better-paced ways anyway."
Other readers feel the showrunners' vision and style have taken over.
"I think you've seen that in the last couple of seasons where you don't have the book as guide, you just go from one big event to another to another, without that feeling of the backstory," said Gabriela Perez, 44, of Mexico City. "It's sort of like drinking a Diet Coke, it has all the flavor and all that, but you can tell the difference."
Voulgaris, 27, said "last season was absolutely on fast-forward. The rate at which people would travel from one place to another was incredible. But that makes it fun to watch, it makes it accessible to any viewer."
But the quibbles seem to go out the window when it comes to the giddy anticipation that comes with the six episodes, most running well over an hour, that make up the final season.
"Oh, I'm still super excited," Perez said. "I want to know what this version of the ending is."
And wanting to be a part of a massive shared event may dwarf any thoughts that this is less than final. Some 12.1 million viewers tuned in to the season seven finale, with 4 million more streaming it the same night and many millions more in the following days. The May 19 series finale is sure to draw a bigger audience, and a social media maelstrom.
"I do think this last season is going to be the largest cultural moment we've had in a long time for any kind of branded property," Stachler said. "I don't know what to compare it to. I don't know when we'll see something this big again."
And with no book to spoil it, readers and non-readers alike get to be, and expect to be, surprised.
"Everybody has an idea," Voulgaris aid. "It literally could go in any direction."
Martin's world probably has a future on TV. He and Jane Goldman have scripted a pilot, set in Westeros thousands of years before the timeline of "Game of Thrones," that is in production for HBO. The cable channel has other possible spinoff scripts in the works, too.
Martin has released sample chapters of "The Winds of Winter" to sate hungry fans, and in them characters are in very different places than where the show put them, suggesting the endings might diverge too.
And the author is subversive enough that he may change his mind about the ending once the show is done.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he went down a totally different path, just because he's bored," Perez said. "For the type of writer he is I can see him doing it, thinking, 'You know what? that's been done. I'll do something else.'"
London, Apr 14 (AP/UNB) — Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, may be keeping plans about their impending baby under wraps, but that hasn't stopped everyone in Britain from trying to guess the gender and the name of their first child.
If Britain's bookmakers are to be believed, it's definitely a girl — and Diana may well be one of her many names.
The William Hill agency closed the betting on the baby's gender a few days ago after an "avalanche" of bets poured in from people convinced the royal couple is having a girl.
"The secret's out, as far as we're concerned," firm spokesman Rupert Adams said. "It could be because someone somewhere has seen the scan, or someone has heard something."
While Adams acknowledged there's always a chance the surge was based on nothing, he said average betting patterns over the years suggest there's usually some truth in rumors.
So far, Diana is topping the bookmakers' list as a front-running name — William Hill has put the odds at 4/1. Victoria, Alice, Grace and Elizabeth are close behind, while Albert, Arthur and James are popular guesses for a boy.
"A ridiculous number — 80% of bets taken — are for the name Diana," Adams said. He said he personally doubts Harry would choose a name that so directly evokes his iconic mother's tragic death in 1997 but added: "There's every chance of it being a middle name."
Carolyn Harris, a royal historian who teaches at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies, agrees that Diana could be a middle name. That's what Harry's brother, Prince William, and his wife Kate did for their daughter, Princess Charlotte (the 3-year-old's full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana).
"The choice of Diana as a first name would place a lot of pressure on the royal baby, as the press would constantly compare her to her famous grandmother," she said.
Harris believes Harry and Meghan may adopt a similar approach to the naming of other recently born royal children lower down the line of succession: Choosing a moniker that's traditional, but one that doesn't frequently appear within the royal family.
She also thinks a possible middle name could be Ruth — after one of Meghan's great-grandmothers, as well as Diana's maternal grandmother, Lady Ruth Fermoy.
Some observers speculate that Meghan, who has long spoken out about women's rights, could go for a name that evokes strong women in history — a theory Harris thinks has substance.
"A name associated with prominent female historical figures in Britain and/or the United States is certainly a possibility," she said. Eleanor, for one, could honor both Eleanor Roosevelt and Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of England in the 12th century.
Harry and Meghan haven't announced the baby's gender or the due date, which is widely believed to be sometime in late April.
The pair declared Thursday they are keeping the birth private and won't be sharing news about the baby's arrival until they've told family and friends. That has led many to jump to the conclusion that they are planning a home birth at their new residence, Frogmore Cottage, close to Windsor Castle outside of London.
Home birth or not, the scenario will be quite different from the media circus that lasted for days outside the London hospital where their sister-in-law Kate's three children were born. That will significantly dampen the name and gender betting frenzy, according to William Hill, which reported taking "hundreds of bets a minute" every time palace officials announced that Kate had gone into labor.
Whatever name they choose, the new baby will not automatically have the official title of prince or princess. Those titles were given to all three children of William, the eldest son of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.
Instead, Harry and Meghan's baby is expected to be styled the Earl of Dumbarton if a boy and Lady Mountbatten-Windsor if a girl. That said, the child's great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, could change that if she wants the baby to be a prince or princess.
Harry's first child will be seventh in line for the throne, bumping down Harry's uncle, Prince Andrew.
Some punters have been having a laugh with their royal baby bets. Ladbrokes reported that 2 pounds ($2.60) have been staked on the name Brexit — with odds of 500/1. The name Donald is at 250/1. Meghan, as any reader of British tabloids knows, is no fan of the current U.S. president.
One thing British betting agencies are not seeing: lots of money being placed on quirky, New Age or celebrity-driven, unique monikers.
"Harry is a traditional guy at heart, we think he would like a relatively traditional but not absolutely turgid royal name," Adams said.
"(Meghan) would like to convey herself as regal — we feel she would not go with a weird name like 'Sunshine,'" he added.
"No one is ever really gone," says the voice of Luke Skywalker in the first teaser trailer for "Star Wars: Episode IX," which audiences finally learned will be called "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" Friday at a fan event in Chicago.
The closely guarded film from director J.J. Abrams will put an end to the Skywalker saga that began over 40 years ago, but even as characters and actors have passed on, the footage shown at Star Wars Celebration suggests that as with all "Star Wars" films, death is just a technicality a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Mark Hamill's Skywalker may have died at the end of the most recent installment but his voice dominates the teaser trailer, telling someone, possibly Daisy Ridley's Rey, that, "this is your fight now." And audiences got a tantalizing tease from another figure from the past: Emperor Palpatine from the original and prequel trilogies, whose ominous laugh closes out the promotional spot.
Carrie Fisher's Leia Organa is back as well, despite the actress's untimely passing in Dec. 2016, thanks to unused footage from "The Force Awakens" which Abrams was able to craft into its own narrative for this new film.
"You can't just recast and you can't just have her disappear," Abrams said. "The idea of having a CG character wasn't even an option."
He's currently in the process of editing and adding visual effects to the film which will hit theaters on Dec. 20 and said that despite Fisher's death, "We're working with her every day."
"Princess Leia lives in this film in way that is mind-blowing to me," Abrams said.
Abrams was joined on stage at the event by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and actors and droids alike including Ridley, Oscar Isaac (Poe), John Boyega (Finn), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), newcomer Naomi Ackie, who plays a character named Jannah, Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and even Billy Dee Williams, who reprises his role as Lando Calrissian in the new film after decades away.
"How did I find Lando again?" Williams said. "Lando never left me."
"Star Wars" superfan Stephen Colbert moderated the panel, doing his best to get the tight-lipped cast and creators to reveal anything about the film. Although no one cracked under pressure, Abrams did reveal some previously known details, like the fact that "The Rise of Skywalker" will pick up "some time" after the events of "The Last Jedi."
"This is an adventure that the group goes on together," he teased, although he wouldn't reveal whether or not that meant the group on stage or some other combination.
"This movie is about this new generation and what they've inherited, the light and the dark," Abrams added. "As they face this greatest evil, are they prepared?"
Besides Hamill, another person who wasn't in attendance was Kylo Ren actor Adam Driver. Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia, making him and his mother the only known Skywalkers left.
When prodded about what will happen with the complex relationship between Kylo and Rey, Ridley demurred, "I guess the Kylo and Rey thing, we'll have to see."
She added: "I think I can confirm there are no more semi-naked Kylos." That's a reference to the scenes of a shirtless Driver in "The Last Jedi" that surprised fans.
Although fans are salivating for any morsel of information, the panelists stayed as vague as possible, and kept things light-hearted debating questions like "who's a better pilot: Poe or Han" and even taking a break so that the audience could sing an unprompted Happy Birthday to Ridley, who turned 27 on Wednesday.
Kennedy, quoting George Lucas, said however that "Episode IX" is indeed the third act of a three-act structure.
But, predictably, there are still more questions than answers when it comes to "The Rise of Skywalker," especially what will come after.
The Lucasfilm and Disney collaboration has proved to be a lucrative one since Disney purchased the company in 2012 for $4 billion. Disney's first two "Star Wars" films, "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi" and its spinoffs, "Rogue One" and "Solo," have already grossed more than $4.8 billion at the worldwide box office.
As of now, there is a future for "Star Wars" on the big screen, but details are sparse and dates are non-existent. "The Last Jedi" director Rian Johnson is working on a new "Star Wars" trilogy and "Game of Thrones" showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are also at work on a "movie series."
Lucasfilm is expanding its small screen universe too beyond "The Clone Wars" with the Jon Favreau-directed series "The Mandalorian," which will be available on Disney's streaming service, DisneyPlus, when it launches on Nov. 12, and there will be a "Rogue One" spinoff series focused on Diego Luna's character Cassian Andor. With the company's acquisition of 21st Century Fox's entertainment properties, too, Lucas' original trilogy and prequels will also be available on the service.
But who's got time to think about the future when there are over two minutes of brand new footage from "The Rise of Skywalker" to dissect?
Dhaka, Apr 12 (UNB) - A discussion followed by a cultural programme was held in the city on Friday on the occasion of Iranian New Year Nowruz and Bangla New Year.
Iran Cultural Centre and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy jointly organised the programme at the Shilpakala Academy.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury was present at the event as the chief guest while Dr Kazem Kahdouei, Iranian visiting professor at the Persian Language and Literature department of Dhaka University, and Mamunur Rashid, eminent drama director and actor, were present as special guests.
Speakers said Nowruz is one of the oldest and most important festivals of Iranians, which has helped the Iranians build a society where different religions, colours and languages which exists for centuries.
Liaquat Ali Lucky, director general of Shilpakala Academy, presided over the programme.
Cultural performances were presented by students of the DU Persian Language and Literature department and performers of Shilpakala Academy.