New York, Dec 21 (AP/UNB) — The movie theater was dead, they said. After ticket sales slumped in 2017 , due largely to the worst summer season in more than a decade, pundits far and wide predicted the hastening demise of moviegoing, an inevitable casualty to the rise of streaming.
This year, the movies flipped the script.
This weekend, as "Aquaman," ''Bumblebee" and "Mary Poppins Returns" arrive in theaters, ticket sales will reach a new record for the year, passing the previous 2016 high of $11.4 billion. Driven in part by zeitgeist-grabbing cultural events like "Black Panther," ''Crazy Rich Asians" and even documentaries like "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" the box office is expected to end up around $11.8 billion for the year. The overall domestic gross is up nearly 9 percent from last year; ticket sales are up about 6 percent.
And it's not just in North America. Propelled by Chinese moviegoers, global ticket sales should, for the second time ever, exceed $40 billion. Saudi Arabia declared itself open for business to Hollywood, after more than 35 years without theaters. In the United Kingdom, cinemas are headed to their best year since 1971.
"This year serves to confirm that the movie theater business is strong and growing in the long term, even though it can be cyclical in the short term," said John Fithian, president of the National Organization of Theater Owners, the trade organization known as NATO. "Last summer of 2017, when there just weren't very many movies coming out that had any traction, we confronted the inevitable story about the impending death of the movie theater business. And we said back then: It's all about short-term product supply."
"We knew that once the movies came back, we would be fine," said Fithian.
Even in a year where "Star Wars" flopped, the hits have indeed returned, even if they've come from some predictable places. All of the year's top 10 movies were either sequels, reboots or based on a comic book. Even this year's Oscar front runner, "A Star Is Born" ($376.6 million worldwide and counting for Warner Bros.), is a remake. The top three films of the year — "Black Panther," ''Avengers: Infinity War," ''Incredibles 2" — all come from market-leader Disney, which is also in the process of gobbling up 20th Century Fox.
But there were some less likely hits, too. Mid-budgeted films like "Bohemian Rhapsody," ''Halloween," ''Creed II" and the year's best-selling original movie, "A Quiet Place," had a significant role in driving the record box office. For the first time ever, four documentaries — "RBG," ''Free Solo," ''Three Identical Strangers," ''Won't You Be My Neighbor" — each cleared $10 million. Surprise successes — a franchise-birthing "Spider-Man" spinoff ("Venom"), a well-reviewed "Transformers" movie ("Bumblebee") — outnumbered the disappointments ("Skyscraper," ''Robin Hood").
Above all, the movies were often in the center of the cultural conversation, never more so than with the history-making "Black Panther," which became the third-highest grossing domestic release ever ($700.1 million) not accounting for inflation.
Hollywood executives say the year has demonstrated that 2017 was an aberration.
"When the experts out there were talking about the end of theatrical moviegoing, I just didn't buy that to begin with," said Jim Orr, distribution chief for Universal Pictures, which had hits in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," ''The Grinch" and "Halloween." ''It was just some scheduling moves that happened along with some movies that just underperformed. People want to go out. They want the social experience. They want to be in theaters. And we proved that exponentially this year."
The box-office rebound came in a year during which Netflix launched its most ambitious original movie slate, premiering some 70 new films. Though Netflix this fall relented to a degree by playing three of its films ("Roma," ''The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" and "Bird Box") exclusively in theaters before premiering on its streaming service, Netflix and exhibitors remain at odds over the benefits of the traditional theatrical window.
Yet there is a growing sense that Netflix may not be public enemy No. 1 for movie theaters, after all. In 2018, Netflix has gained millions of subscribers, just as movie theaters have surged. Co-existence is possible. Last month, a NATO survey found that 33 percent of moviegoers who see nine or more movies a year also spend 15 hours per week on streaming platforms.
"We have maintained for years that streaming in the home is not taking away from the moviegoing experience," said Fithian. "If anything, streaming in the home is damaging other forms of home entertainment. Cable television, for example. DVD sales, for example."
Streaming will only be more omnipresent in 2019, when Disney and Warner Bros. are set to debut their own Netflix-like services. But both studios remain resolutely devoted to exhibition and in releasing some of their biggest releases in traditional slow periods on the calendar. The year's biggest movie, "Black Panther," opened in February. Three of Warner Bros.' top performers — "The Meg," ''Crazy Rich Asians" and "The Nun" — benefited from the typically quiet dog-days of summer.
"There were some really good movies that were spread out through the year," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution chief. "That's the real takeaway: Make good movies, people will come."
But disruption is still at the door. Subscription services remade the moviegoing experience, led by the swift rise and fall of MoviePass, which took credit for the box-office revival before its inexpensive pricing structure proved unsustainable. MoviePass ran out of cash, repeatedly revamped its business model and descended into chaos, lawsuits and even a fraud investigation.
The box office still chugged along (Fithian calls MoviePass' impact "overblown") and other subscription services (notably one by AMC , the world's largest chain) entered the fray.
Other threats to the movie theater loom. When Disney's acquisition of Fox is made official, there will be one less major studio in Hollywood. Further consolidation is expected, something Fithian grants "poses a challenge" for exhibitors that depend on a steady supply of movies. But he pointed to others that have picked up the slack: STX, Annapurna, A24, Bleecker St., Amazon and Apple, which last month partnered with A24 for a slate of films.
Whether 2019 will continue the box-office trend or see a repeat of last year will come down, as it always does, to the movies. Analysts are bullish, predicting another record-setting year thanks to a Disney-heavy lineup including sure-fire blockbusters "Avengers: Endgame," ''Captain Marvel," ''Frozen 2" and "Star Wars: Episode IX."
"On paper, that year is going to make this year look like small potatoes," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore.
Of course, similar predictions were made for 2017, too. That's the problem with movie scripts. They can always be rewritten.
Los Angeles, Dec 20 (AP/UNB) — Jennifer Lopez learned a long time ago that in the entertainment business you can't just sit around waiting for opportunities, you have to make them for yourself. It's the simple reason "Second Act," her first film in three years and her long-awaited return to the glossy, modern-day fairy tale, exists.
"I'm quite particular," Lopez said on a recent afternoon in Los Angeles. "I've been offered a couple of movies over the past couple of years but unless it's the right thing and I get the right types of opportunities, I'd rather create them. That's mine and Elaine's mantra. We don't force things, but we don't wait around either ... If no one is giving us the stories that we want to tell, then we'll create them ourselves."
Elaine is Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Lopez's longtime friend and producing partner who've worked together on projects like "The Boy Next Door" and "Shades of Blue." ''Second Act," which hits theaters nationwide Friday, was her idea. She thought that Lopez would be the right woman to play the 40-year-old big box store worker with business savvy but no degree who gets a chance to prove herself to Madison Avenue's elite. A little bit "Working Girl," a little bit "It's A Wonderful Life," it was right up Lopez's alley.
"We're stuck on these movies because we know, we grew up on them and we know. They're necessary. People need inspiration. They need to believe in a fairy tale," Lopez said. "I think that is the evolution of the romantic comedy. It's not so much about falling in love with Prince Charming, it's about falling in love with yourself and your life and realizing that you have to be the love of your life."
Lopez, 49, said she even cried describing the story in a pitch meeting to STXfilms Chairman Adam Fogelson ("Our great champion," she said), who agreed on the spot to make the movie.
"(He) believes in these types of movies and believes in women producers," she said.
They signed on a director, Peter Segal ("50 First Dates"), carved out some time in Lopez's busy schedule ("I literally think she's the busiest person on the planet earth," Segal laughed) and got to filming in New York City, which proved to be its own kind of challenge.
"It was crazy shooting in New York with her," Segal said. "I remember one scene we're in Central Park, going down the mall, the promenade with her, you know the same one of 'Kramer vs Kramer' and 'When Harry Met Sally' and there are all the vendors who are selling caricatures, and their sketches are like Michael Jackson and Barack Obama and Jennifer Lopez! It's like, 'Hey can we turn those around?' She's everywhere."
Then there were the ever present looky-loos and paparazzi, some of whom they had to digitally erase from shots in post-production.
It's just part of doing business with Lopez, an industry unto herself. She knows she is tough to pin down, but always makes sure to give her all when she's there.
"Everyone who gets in business with me has to bear with me a little bit because I do so much and I always want to be great when I'm in front of you," she said. "Once you get in the rhythm of that, you're like, ok she's going to show up. It may take her a minute for me to get her but when I get her, she's going to be 100."
She hopes that people find inspiration and hope in "Second Act." One person who already found himself quite emotional about the film is Lopez's boyfriend Alex Rodriguez, who related to being self-conscious about not having a college degree.
"He didn't get to go to college because he went into the big leagues at 18-years-old and he always missed that," Lopez said. "When he saw it he was like 'I felt inadequate because of that.' He's one of the greatest baseball players of all time who has made some of the biggest contracts, but it's not about that, you can feel inadequate being measured up to others because of their privilege and intelligence."
Lopez herself only attended one year of college, but for her, that was a choice that was necessary to jump-start her performing career. Still, she remembers feeling self-conscious and not worthy of some of her successes early on, like becoming the first Latin actress to get $1 million for a role ("Selena").
"I probably didn't realize how important it was. I was so young at the time. And there was a lot of to-do made about that," Lopez said. "Back then you were kind of ashamed like maybe I didn't deserve this. You come from a culture where you don't ask for anything. But now I realize that it was important because our community needed that boost to say, 'Yes we are just as valuable as any other actor playing leading role in Hollywood in a big film.'"
Lopez doesn't like the word "reinvention" — it implies that you have to be something different than you are — but rather she prefers "evolution." And she believes change is happening in the entertainment film industry because women are forcing it to.
"It takes time for us to believe in ourselves. I didn't believe it back then and it happened to me," she added. "Now I'm at a point in my life where I think yes, I do have worth and value and I should be compensated in this way or that way and I do deserve to have a good life and I do deserve to have love... We all are our own activists, we all are our own change, we all are our own vessel to have the life that we deserve but we have to believe that we deserve it."
Dhaka, Dec 18 (UNB) – A docudrama based on the life of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be screened at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB) on Thursday.
“’Hasina: A Daughter’s Tale’, is not only a docudrama but also a historical document,” said Md Abdus Sabur, president of IEB, and the science and technology affairs secretary of Awami League.
IEB’s Computer Science Division will arrange screening around 7pm at the auditorium, the institution said in a press release. “Viewers will be able to learn many things about the life of our prime minister,” Sabur said.
Radwan Mujib Siddiq and Nasrul Hamid Bipu of Centre for Research and Information produced the 70-minute docudrama.
Piplu Khan of Apple Box Films is its director and Debojyoti Mishra is the music director. Edited by Navnita Sen, the cinematography of the movie was done by Sadik Ahmed.
The docudrama focuses on the life of Sheikh Hasina, not the prime minister, before and after August 15, 1975.
“There’s nothing fictional here … it focuses on the incidents that took place in her (Sheikh Hasina’s) life,” Piplu said.
Los Angeles, Dec 18 (AP/UNB) — Jeff Bridges may have once been considered as one of Hollywood's most underappreciated actors, but next month's Golden Globe Awards will showcase his life and illustrious career next month by bestowing him one of its highest honors.
Bridges will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award during the 76th annual awards ceremony on Jan. 6, 2019, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Monday. The actor been praised for starring in films including "Crazy Heart," ''True Grit," ''Hell or High Water" and "The Big Lebowski," which became a cult classic thanks to his nonchalant, knit-sweater wearing character Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski.
HFPA President Meher Tatna said in a statement the Golden Globe winner has "captured hearts and minds" of audiences worldwide.
Bridges, 69, won a Globe in 2010 for best actor for his role in "Crazy Heart," when he remarked at the time during his acceptance speech about "chipping away" at his underappreciated status. He went on to win an Academy Award that year, and also received previous Globe nominations for his performances in "Starman," ''The Fisher King," ''Contender" and "Hell or High Water."
The DeMille Award is given annually to an "individual who has made an incredible impact on the world of entertainment." Past recipients include Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Barbra Streisand, Sidney Poitier and Lucille Ball.
The Globes next year is also adding the Carol Burnett Award, an accolade that focuses on life achievement in television. The inaugural award will go to the 85-year-old Burnett, a five-time winner at the Globes.
In 1983, Bridges founded the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit dedicated to feeding children globally.
Bridges co-executive produced the 1996 television film "Hidden in America," which focused on poverty in America.
This year, he appeared in the mystery thriller "Bad Times at the El Royale" starring Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm and Dakota Johnson.
Myvatn, Dec 13 (AP/UNB) — The people of northern Iceland have had their travel plans disrupted with a record high snowfall this December. Roads have been shut, flights cancelled and school suspended.
But for the children of this isolated North Atlantic island nation, the main worry is how the waist-high snow might affect the Icelandic Santa, Stekkjastaur, who comes to town Wednesday.
Stekkjastaur, after all, has a stiff peg-leg.
He is one of 13 mischievous troll brothers, called the Yule Lads, who have entertained and also frightened Icelandic children for hundreds of years.
Instead of a friendly Santa Claus, children in Iceland enjoy favors from the brothers, who come down from their mountain cave 13 days before Christmas according to folklore.
The brothers are loud, reckless, and have names like Door-Slammer, Window-Peeper, Meat-Hook, Candle-Stealer — reflecting their preferred method of pranks or criminal behavior. But they claim to be mostly rehabilitated, and Sausage-Swiper is now keen to host barbecues.
Traditionally, they bathe once a year ahead of Christmas. Every year local actors in Myvatn, an inland community bordering Iceland's uninhabited interior, dress up in 19th-century costume and arrive as the Yule Lads to a natural lagoon heated with water from hot springs.
To children in the region, their arrival marks the countdown to December 24, when Icelanders celebrate Christmas.
"But, but, but — I was told we were going fishing," mumbled actor Hulda Sigmundsdottir, who plays "Pot-Licker," as she dipped her woolen sock reluctantly into the bath.
In the spirit of today's global outsourcing economy, the Yule Lads have also taken on the responsibility of replying to letters addressed to Santa Claus, their foreign colleague.
Soffia Jonsdottir, who is Santa's de-facto secretary in Iceland, says the Icelandic Postal Service forwards all Santa mail to the tiny outpost at Myvatn.
"Santa is a distant cousin of the Yule Lads so of course we are happy to help out," she said. "We reply to every letter that has a return address."
The letters arrive throughout the year and often include a wish-list, personal gift or simply a warm greeting. The Yule Lads, who speak Icelandic, admit sometime struggling with foreign languages.
Fortunately the letters are not delivered to the Yule Lads' home, where they might be stolen by their evil mother, Gryla, said to be a 600-year-old woman who eats children.
This dysfunctional family even has an innocently named "Christmas Cat," a giant feline with the habit of eating children — particularly those not wearing new clothes over the Christian holiday.
"You find a number of parents saying that we have to tone Gryla and her family down a bit," said Terry Gunnell, a professor in folklore at the University of Iceland. "But that would take away some the genuine Icelandic Christmas which is a dark time when days pass with only few hours of sunlight."
Gunnell said the Yule Lads had traditionally been used to discipline children when adults were busy preparing for the holiday.
"On the old Icelandic farms, stories of dark figures kept children from running into the mountains or falling into lakes or things like that," he said.
Parents used to torment children with such disturbing stories that in the 18th century, Danish king Christian VI tried to ban such un-holy tales.
For the next 13 days leading to Christmas, Icelandic children will enjoy favors from the Icelandic Santas as they come down from the mountains one by one, with presents — or a rotten potato in the case of bad behavior.
Five-year-old Anita Heidrunardottir, who was playing with her friends at the Managardur kindergarten in the capital Reykjavik, said she was hoping to wake up to books and mandarin oranges in her shoe in the run-up to Christmas.
"My sister is scared of the Yule Lads," she said. Why? "She does not know them. That's why she is scared."