Category Archives: Entertainment

A 6-Year-Old Will Give You Chills Performing Whitney Houston Classic

God, I miss the Whitney Houston Classic songs. It’s been a while since I had a lovely evening with wine and her beautiful voice. This kid gave me chills and reminded me of the good times when we all celebrated the love and life of the amazing singer.

He is Jurabek Juraev coming from Uzbekistan. He has the honor to sing “I will Always Love You” by her majesty. You will be surprised of how well she does it. I always love these young talents who can perform so well. I can’t miss any talent show happening in our country.

Watching them is interesting. You are eager to see who is going to be the next star.

This boy should be invited on Ellen or something like that. His angel voice performed this Whitney Houston classic like no one before.

And he is only six years old. Can you imagine?

I wasn’t able to whistle when I was six. Kids these days are singing like they’ve been doing that for many years.

Incredible. There is no doubt this boy has a great future and singing career in front of him.

Take a look at this boy and start admiring!

I just don’t like those finesses with his voice. It messes with the whole song.

Don’t forget to share this young talent with all of your friends. They must love this Whitney Houston classic.

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Celebrities React: Donald Trump Tax Returns Revealed By Rachel Maddow

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Celebrities are reacting to Rachel Maddow revealing Donald Trump‘s tax returns. See reaction tweets from Hollywood stars below. On Tuesday night, Maddow tweeted, “BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously).” She went on to write, “What we’ve got is from 2005… the President’s 1040 form… details to come tonight 9PM ET, MSNBC.” Immediately, celebs began responding on Twitter with a mix of curiosity and excitement.

Sophia Bush, for instance, exclaimed, “HOLY. SH*T. Let it all fall down.” Kathy Griffin reacted, “WHAT????? #Trumprussia #indivisible #resist #womensmarch #lgbt.” And Alyssa Milano went with, “ummmmmmm…..”

“Oh, this is delightful,” Chrissy Teigen tweeted, going on to guess Trump was “furiously trying to ban television right now.” Don Cheadle warned, “Don’t play with me, @maddow.” Patton Oswalt similarly said, “Holy SHI*. This better not be an empty tease. Wow…”

Come show time, Maddow said she had a “portion” of Trump’s federal return after it was “turned over” to a reporter. She credited that journalist, David K. Johnston, for obtaining the document, but admitted she did not know why it “surfaced.” The MSNBC host went on to recount how the president, then a candidate, refused to release his returns during his campaign, blaming it on an audit. “It ought to give you pause that his explanations have never made any factual sense,” Maddow insisted.

She then connected Trump to a Russian ogliarch, who paid him substantial money for a luxury home, raised questions about the recent U.S. attorney firings, brought up Michael Flynn’s firing, discussed the “unrelenting demand” to see the president’s tax returns, and said such “pressure” will never cease until more documents like this are leaked. As Maddow spoke non-stop, Rose McGowan tweeted, “Go @Maddow go.” Waiting for the big moment, Norm MacDonald said, “She is about to go through a rich guy’s tax returns. This should be powerful television.” Billy Eichner told followers, “Maddow knows more than you do times 10 so sit down and listen for a change SMDH.”

Maddow ultimately revealed that the 2005 tax form showed Trump paid $38 million in taxes, took a write-down of $103 million, and made more than $150 million. She also noted the White House, while confirming the authenticity of the return, released a statement ridiculing the “dishonest media” for running with the information and accusing the media of published the form illegally. Maddow stressed that there was nothing illegal about sharing it and nothing fake about her or her program. And Johnston, who appeared on the show live, said Trump essentially got a tax “discount” by the way he filed, and pointed out that the document doesn’t reveal the sources of his money. He also questioned whether it was the president himself who mailed it to him.

Teigen wasn’t satisfied. “Dammit. 2 pages!? give me the pee video. #teampeevideo,” she tweeted. Ava DuVernay thought, “Whatever #RachelMaddow has or doesn’t simply highlights that Trump’s tax release refusal has been a massive middle finger to public trust.” Griffin also tweeted to Johnston, “Thank you 4 doing your job. Deplorables & bots losing their sh*t tonight. @msnbc #Trumprussia.”

“Geraldo in the vault found more. But this is great theater,” opined Chris Harrison. Kal Penn admitted, “I got bored w the tax return things and have been watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills the last 20 mins and I like it.” Eichner argued, “Agree tonight was overhyped but @maddow is brilliant & digs into Trump’s corruption every night from every angle in a way few on TV do.”

Gabrielle Union quoted Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald‏ saying, “For people who don’t get it: Trumps reported income for 2005 shows he has been lying about his net worth for years,” and wrote, “This… and so much more.” And when columnist Shaun King said, “I absolutely believe Trump released this tax return himself. Anything to distract people from the countless other scandals he’s mired in,” Bush wrote “Same. 100 [percent].”

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‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Whips Past $300M At Worldwide Box Office

Fifty Shades Darker Box Office
Universal

Universal PicturesFifty Shades Darker has roped a pair of new milestones, whipping past $200M at the international box office and $300M globally. Through Thursday, the sequel to 2015 smash S&M love story Fifty Shades of Grey has grossed $207.8M overseas and $303.7M worldwide. Domestically, there’s $95.9M in the play room through yesterday.

The James Foley-helmed erotic noir dominated both international and worldwide box office across its first two weeks. Offshore, it opened No. 1 in 51 territories, including Australia, France, Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain and Brazil. It’s currently at play in 59.

Starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, the lip-biter’s top-grossing markets currently are the UK at $23.1M, Germany with $22.7M, France at $17.6M, Brazil with $15.8M and Italy at $14.2M.

The film climaxes international release in Japan on June 23.

The first film grossed more than $560M globally. Returning producers on Darker are Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti and Marcus Viscidi, alongside E L James, author of the blockbuster book series.

The screenplay is by Niall Leonard, based on James’ hot-and-heavy page-turner.

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Box Office: ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Is a Valentine’s Day Dominatrix With $11M


Doane Gregory/Universal Studios

The erotic, S&M-laced sequel scored one of the top grosses of all time for when the sweethearts’ holiday falls on a weekday.

Fifty Shades Darker was a huge Valentine’s Day winner at the box office, earning $11 million on Tuesday. That was more than double the next closest film, The Lego Batman Movie ($5 million). And it’s one of the best showings of all time for when the sweethearts’ holiday falls on a weekday, almost matching record-holder The Vow, which pulled in $11.5 million on Valentine’s Day in 2012, also a Tuesday.

From Universal and based on E.L. James’ S&M book series, Fifty Shades Darker has earned $61.5 million in its first five days, slightly ahead of the $60.8 million grossed by Warner Bros.’ Lego Batman (both films debuted in North America on Feb. 10).

Fifty Shades Darker, however, continues to pace behind Fifty Shades of Grey, which earned $98.5 million in its first five days. The first movie had the advantage of opening over Presidents Day weekend in 2014, when Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday.

Universal is counting on Fifty Shades Darker being a slower burn than Fifty Shades of Grey, which dropped a steep 74 percent in its second weekend.

Lionsgate also touted La La Land as a Valentine’s Day destination. The musical dramedy placed No. 6 with $1.5 million, a big jump over the $522,534 earned on Monday. The Oscar front-runner has earned nearly $128 million domestically and north of $300 million worldwide.

Generally speaking, a number of films saw a boost. John Wick: Chapter 2 placed No. 3 behind Fifty Shades Darker and Lego Batman with $4.8 million for a five-day domestic total of $37.9 million. M. Night Syhamalan’s Split followed with $2 million for a domestic total of $115.2 million, while box-office hit Hidden Figures rounded out the top five with $1.6 million for a $133.8 million cume in North America.

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50 Shades Sex Is More Uncomfortable Than We Thought


PHOTO: COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

If you thought the sex in Fifty Shades Darker was hot, know that it didn’t come without some uncomfortable moments. According to makeup department head Evelyne Noraz, for most of the BDSM scenes, Dakota Johnson was covered head to toe in body foundation — which sounds a little like our own version of masochism, but maybe that’s just us.

The reason? To give her that bedroom glow — and to cover her five, count ’em, five tattoos on her neck, ear, shoulders, arm, and foot. (Rumor has it, Johnson might have even more ink than that.)

For scenes without a body double, Erez mixed MAC Face and Body foundation in N3, C2, and C3 with lotion and rubbed it all over Johnson. She then followed up with Era aerosol spray foundation for further tattoo coverage. “I used shades Y3, R2, and R4, lightly sprayed in layers and buffed with big, dry puff,” she reveals.

Jamie Dornan had to wear some body makeup, too — and how they banged in white sheets is just another one of Hollywood’s great mysteries.

And while Johnson’s skin and body certainly look amazing, head-to-toe latex honestly sounds preferable. But there is one takeaway from all this: if you’re looking for a good, full-coverage foundation that will last through anything — these sound like your best bet.

Click ahead to see all of Johnson’s tattoos that were covered for the film.

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PHOTO: DAVID FISHER/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK.

Johnson has four tats on her back, and one on her neck that reads “amor” — or “love” in Spanish.

2 OF 4

PHOTO: ANTHONY HARVEY/GETTY IMAGES.

We’d guess even this tiny, partially-hidden ink behind her ear was painstakingly camouflaged.

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PHOTO: JUAN NAHARRO GIMENEZ/GETTY IMAGES

Johnson’s foot tattoo reads “look at the moon” — and is accented with tiny stars.

4 OF 4

PHOTO: SILVERHUB/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK.

Her inner arm tattoo is, by far, the biggest — and we’d guess the biggest challenge to cover. It reads “acta non verba,” a Latin phrase that loosely translates to “actions not words.”

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‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Valentine’s Day Climax At $10M+ – Box Office Update

fifty shades darker
Universal

2nd UPDATE, 6:01 PM: Christian Grey isn’t as big as many expected, but he’s large enough: Universal’s Fifty Shades Darker per early evening estimates looks to rake in between $10M-$10.8M on Valentine’s Day, a midweek holiday haul that still fills rival distribution chiefs with envy. That figure is close to a 170% spike over yesterday’s $3.9M and reps 23% of Fifty Shades Darker‘s $46.6M first weekend on the high end. Total cume by end of today for the sequel will reside at $60M-plus.

LEGO BATMAN
Warner Bros

In addition, last weekend’s other wide entries aren’t being overlooked today: Warner Bros’ The Lego Batman Movie is expected to ring up an estimated $5M-$5.5M taking its five-day cume to $61.2M at the high end, while Lionsgate/Summit’s John Wick: Chapter 2 is gunning for $4M-$4.5M for a running cume by EOD of $37.6M.

Lego Batman may have come apart today in the face of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, but he’ll build himself back up again as he’s looking at a second weekend of $31M, -42%. B.O. prognosticators think Fifty Shades Darker will take a tumble like its 2015 predecessor Fifty Shades of Grey, -65% in its second weekend for $16.3M (Shades fell 74% for $22.2M) — but then again, there’s some great word-of-mouth around this titillating sequel.

1st UPDATE, 7:57AM: Universal’s Fifty Shades Darker refused to submit to No. 2 yesterday, earning an estimated $3.9 million, which is $400K higher than what the industry was expecting. Current cume for the sequel stands at $50.6M.

However, on Valentine’s Day today, the James Foley-directed movie is projected to post orgasmic sales with many seeing $12M-plus.

A double-digit take for the E.L. James sequel is completely within reach: The last time Valentine’s Day fell on a Tuesday was in 2012, and that saw another female-skewing title, The Vow, embracing $11.6M. That daily take repped 28% of the pic’s then-$41M opening weekend. Another reason why many expect a big day for Fifty Shades Darker is that a bulk of its advance tickets sales (which have been outpacing The Lego Batman Movie by 2-to-1) are for today.

Two years ago, the lovers’ holiday fell on a Saturday, and goosed Fifty Shades Of Grey‘s second-day take by 21% versus Friday with $36.8M. That’s unprecedented considering that female-skewing pics are typically frontloaded. The first installment also pulled in more couples on Valentine’s Day, while opening day was largely comprised of women.

It comes as no surprise to see decent business for Fifty Shades Darker during the weekdays: It’s an older adult-skewing title (Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak reports 77% females, 70% over 25), and that crowd also prefers to dodge weekend crowds at the multiplex. Over the weekend, PostTrak observed that packs of women turned out in bulk over couples: 50% went with friends, while 36% brought a date.

Women, of course, love this movie more than men: On CinemaScore, the ladies gaveFifty Shades Darker an A-, while men slapped it with a B-. Ditto on PostTrak: Women gave Christian Grey an 82% positive to guys’ 66%.

RelishMix reports that hashtags for #FiftyShades, #FiftyShadeDarker along with #FiftyShadesOfGrey surged to a very strong 23.7K-plus per day over the weekend. That outstripped  #LegoBatman at 3.9K per day. Daily Facebook page likes are immense at 81K.  And, the daily video views on YouTube – driven by Taylor Swift/Zayn’s hit, “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” are averaging 645K and peaking at over 3M views per day. Also, Darker’s video viral rate is 21:1 which is on par with what most superhero movie trailers generate. The sequel’s social star is pop singer Rita Ora who counts 22.7M followers across FB, Twitter and Instagram. In regards to the social conversation, Relish Mix says “fans are beaming about how Darker surpassed their expectations having seen the movie with their husbands and boyfriends in many cases. They’re also committing to see version three in the franchise. Many are calling out specific shots, loving the apartment as well as moments in the book that they wanted in the film.”

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The Surprisingly Feminist Fifty Shades Darker Scene We Should All Be Discussing

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The new movie Fifty Shades Darker hit theaters this weekend to reviews that would make Anastasia Steele herself say, “Oh jeez.” An “unintentional comedic masterpiece,”said Vox. “Almost bad enough to recommend,” according to The New York Times. Glamour’s own Lizzie Logan called it, “Plotless”—and she was kind of a fan!

So maybe the second big-screen adaptation in author E.L. James’s BDSM romance trilogy won’t be up for any Oscars—but the movie is far from a punishing session in the Red Room of Pain. In fact, Fifty Shades Darker is both titillating and progressive for a mainstream blockbuster, thanks to not one, but two occasions in which Christian Grey performs oral sex on Ana.

Rest assured, the film delivers on the kinky sex: There are hot spankings, blindfolds, restraints, and Anastasia’s first time wearing ben wa balls. Similar sex acts earned the first 50 Shades of Grey film an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) back in 2015. But films that show women receiving oral sex from men have, in the past, almost universally received the dreaded NC-17 rating. Yet somehow, Fifty Shades Darker received an R rating as well.

The distinction between an R rating and an NC-17 is significant. As mpaa.org explains, an R rating means children age 17 and under can attend the film with an “accompanying parent or adult guardian.” An NC-17 rating means “no one 17 and under” can be admitted into the film—period. That creates less of an incentive for theaters to distribute the movie, and can be the difference of millions of dollars in profits for studios. MTV’s Kat Rosenfeld called the NC-17 rating “the box office kiss of death”—so much so that production companies have been known to edit out the questionable sex scenes in order to achieve an R rating rather than an NC-17. If cunnilingus is unfairly stigmatized, as some argue it is, that means the MPAA’s rating can have a direct effect on how audiences around the world are seeing women’s sexual pleasure portrayed onscreen.

The MPAA has been accused of rating films that depict male-on-female and female-on-female oral sex more strictly than it rates scenes in which a woman goes down on a man and even scenes that depict sexual violence. An infamous example is Blue Valentine, the 2010 film starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as a husband and wife whose marriage is unraveling. In the movie, the couple spends the night together in a seedy hotel and Gosling’s character goes down on his wife. The film’s producer, Harvey Weinstein, told Entertainment Weekly that Blue Valentine initially got saddled with an NC-17 based on that scene alone. (The MPAA did not comment to EW on the matter.)

Weinstein clapped back at what he perceived as a cunnilingus-related contradiction. “How did Piranha 3D get an R and Blue Valentine gets an NC-17?” he asked EW, referring to a horror film from the same year. “It’s ridiculous—a penis got coughed up in the movie by a piranha!” Gosling spoke out about the injustice, too. “I was very confused…” the actor told NPR. “I was told it’s because my character performs oral sex on his wife, and I thought, ‘There’s plenty of movies with men receiving oral sex from women with R ratings.’ It seemed like a double standard. On top of that, it seemed like there are horror movies that are, like, torture-porn that are R-rated.”

Weinstein was successful in having Blue Valentine’s NC-17 rating changed to an R, after making a case to the Classification and Ratings Appeals Board. But it wasn’t the first, or the last, time a film with a woman receiving oral sex received a stricter rating.

In fact, what’s confusing about the MPAA ratings is how inconsistently they’ve been applied over the years. The 1993 movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? earned a PG-13 rating, despite a scene in which Johnny Depp’s character receives oral sex from a woman. The 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry, in which Hilary Swank’s character goes down on Chloe Sevigny (off-screen), earned an R rating. The 2010 film Black Swan got an R rating, even though it contains a scene in which Mila Kunis’s character goes down on Natalie Portman. The 2013 film Lovelace—about adult film actress Linda Lovelace, star of the first mainstream porno Deep Throat—earned just an R rating. (In Lovelace, Amanda Seyfried’s title character performs feats of oral sex on one man and is repeatedly physically and sexually abused by her husband and other men.) The director of Charlie Countryman edited out a scene of a man performing oral sex on a woman in order to have its initial NC-17 rating reduced to an R—but that same year, the 2013 film Blue is the Warmest Color earned an NC-17 rating, apparently due to its depiction of lesbian sex.

Now, four years later, Fifty Shades Darker has not one but two scenes depicting male-on-female oral sex (and ben wa balls! and all that spanking!) and still earns a reasonably temperate R rating. Does this mean the MPAA is loosening up on going down? Have the repeated call-outs at their inconsistency and hypocrisy worked? Hard to say, but those of us who want to see a woman’s sexual pleasure depicted as freely on screen as a man’s aren’t complaining about the MPAA’s mysterious ways—at least in this instance.

For now, let’s make like Anastasia Steele: Just lay back and enjoy it.

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Last Jedi Trailer Will Feature These 4 Star Wars Characters?

Last Jedi Trailer Will Feature These 4 Star Wars Characters?

With Star Wars Celebration 2017 just a couple of months away, it is all but assured that we will be seeing our first footage from Star Wars 8 in the relatively near future. Details about the next installment of the Skywalker saga have been kept under wraps in a big way, but Disney and Lucasfilm have to give fans a teaser at some point and the question becomes, what or who will we see in the first teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi? We may now have some idea and the good news is, Luke is going to be in it.

The folks at Star Wars News Net recently took to Twitter in order to share some very important and welcomed information with their fans. It turns out there have been some rumors circulating that the first teaser for The Last Jediwouldn’t feature Luke Skywalker in it, which would serve as a major disappointment. Star Wars News Net says that info is wrong, confirming that not only is Luke in it, but it will heavily focus on the Resistance, as Leia, Rey and Finn will be in on the action as well. Here is what they had to say.

“There are rumors that Luke will not be in the first #TheLastJedi teaser. We heard the contrary. Luke, Leia, Finn and Rey will be there…”

There are a lot of reasons to be excited for Star Wars 8, but since Luke was only featured in the last few shots of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and he didn’t even speak, knowing that he will have a significant role in the new movie will be a big deal to most Star Wars fans. Getting to see, or possibly even hear Luke Skywalker in the first teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi would surely drum up an insane amount of excitement for the movie. Not to mention if he ignites a lightsaber. It will also be very emotional to see Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, since it will be the last time we ever get to see her as the character, given her recent untimely passing. The first teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is probably going to debut during Star Wars Celebration in April, but Disney CEO Bob Iger has reportedly already seen the whole movie and praised it.

Even though Bob Iger was lucky enough to see the whole movie, the rest of us are going to have to have to wait a little bit longer to see some footage from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Disney opted out of debuting any footage during the Super Bowl and we recently reported that it is very likely the first teaser for the movie will debut during Star WarsCelebration, which will be taking place in Florida this April. Since the first teaser for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the first full-length trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens both debuted in April as well, that would seem to make sense. Plus, that would help satisfy those who were a little underwhelmed with the lack of big reveals made during Star Wars Celebration last year. Getting to see Luke say something would definitely go a long way. But, with that said, getting to see Rey and Finn is also going to be exciting. It is interesting to note that there was no mention of Kylo Ren in the Tweet, especially since it was recently confirmed by Lucasfilm that he and Rey share a “mysterious connection” of some kind.

The cast for Star Wars Episode VIII includes Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’O and Mark Hamill. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is written and directed by Rian Johnson and is set for release on December 15.

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Ben Affleck Doesn’t Want to Be The Batman Anymore?

Ben Affleck Doesn't Want to Be The Batman Anymore?\

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for Warner Bros.’ Batman stand-alone movie, with Ben Affleck leaving the project as a director, followed by the studio quickly bringing in Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) to take over at the helm. There was another report from last week revealing that a new rewrite of the script, written by Chris Terrio, had come in, and all parties involved, including Ben Affleck, were happy with the final story. Today, we have yet another rumor about this project, with more sources claiming Ben Affleck doesn’t want to be Batman anymore.

Before the actor/director backed away as director last month, he had been making the unusual statements about the project in interviews, claiming that there isn’t even a script yet, and that the project isn’t even a “sure thing.” There had previously been reports that both Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns had turned in their script, before Chris Terrio was brought in for rewrites. During the latest episode of Collider Movie Talk, host John Campea explained that he has talked to three separate sources connected to this situation at Warner Bros., who all state that Ben Affleck is trying to get out of playing Batman altogether. Here’s what he had to say on the podcast.

“Take this for what it’s worth. This is from a guy who has been burned twice by scoops, so please take this with a massive, massive grain of salt. Over the past four days, I’ve talked to three separate people, who are connected in some way, to what is going on over at Warner Bros. What all three have told me, nothing about whether the script was thrown out or whether they liked the script, nothing about the direction that Matt Reeves is taking it in, nothing about that. What has come out of the conversation with all three was this. They’re telling me that, Ben Affleck, make no mistake, he does want out. He doesn’t want to be Batman anymore. I have been told that Affleck is talking with Warner Bros. in an attempt to get out of being Batman. If they do not let him out of being Batman, that the stand alone Batman film that ultimately happens, will be the last time we see Affleck as Batman, because he apparently wants out.”

This isn’t the first we’ve heard about Ben Affleck wanting out of the DC Comics world altogether, with another report claiming that he is still expected to finish the screenplay. Even though Chris Terrio reportedly came in to rewrite the script. That report claimed there was “a chance” that he could back away from the starring role, while staying aboard as a writer and producer. That report was never confirmed, and even John Campea himself cautioned fans to take the own information he has gathered, “with a massive, massive grain of salt,” since he has been burned in the past, so perhaps this isn’t true. However, when paired with that other report from late January, it’s certainly possible that this is actually what is happening.

Ben Affleck stated in December that The Batman was on track for aspring 2017 production start, but with a new director on board, and the possibility emerging that Ben Affleck may be trying to get out of this iconic role, we may not see this film hit theaters for quite some time. There were reports that the studio is eyeing a spring 2018 release date, but unless these issues are solved, and production comes together quickly, that seems quite unlikely. Hopefully Warner Bros. will offer a substantial update on The Batman production very soon. In the meantime, take a look at the latest episode of Collider Movie Talk below, with The Batman talk coming at the 17:41 mark.

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Box Office: ‘Lego Batman Movie’ Tops ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ With $55.6 Million

Lego Batman Movie

Costumed avengers, a billionaire with a kinky side, and a brutally efficient hit man proved to be just the tonic for an ailing domestic box office. “The Lego Batman Movie” bested “Fifty Shades Darker” at the multiplexes over the weekend, earning a robust $55.6 million to capture first place. “Fifty Shades Darker,” the sequel to 2015’s “Fifty Shades of Grey,” couldn’t quite match its predecessor’s $85.2 million launch. It had to settle for a still sizable $46.8 million debut and second place on the box office chart.

Not to be outdone, Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 2,” a followup to 2014’s “John Wick,” enjoyed a smashing $30 million. That’s more than double what the first film racked up during its debut. The headlines will inevitably be about “Fifty Shades Darker” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” but the “John Wick” installment’s numbers are more impressive. It grew its audience substantially, adding more female viewers to the mix. Like “Pitch Perfect” and “Austin Powers,” both of which saw a major increase in ticket sales between their first and second installment, “John Wick” has now made a case for itself as a certifiable franchise, one that was nurtured by cable viewings and rentals.

“The first ‘John Wick’ came out of nowhere theatrically and we know from the home entertainment team it way over indexed the norm,” said David Spitz, Lionsgate’s distribution chief. “Consumers loved everything about the world of John Wick.”

The three new releases succeeded by appealing to different demographics and age groups — kids and teenagers went to the new Lego movie, women were titilated by Christian Grey’s red room, and men looked on as Keanu Reeve’s assassin made quick work of his foes. Heading into the weekend, stateside ticket sales were lagging behind last year’s numbers, down nearly 3% from 2016. Studio executives and exhibition industry insiders hope that this weekend will help reinvigorate interest in moviegoing, a comeback that will be aided by the upcoming release of “Logan,” a new Wolverine movie, and a live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Warner Bros. backed “The Lego Batman Movie” and sees the animated films built around the line of Danish toy bricks as being key to its corporate future. The studio is leaning heavily on a slate of animated Lego films, DC Comics adventures, and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a Harry Potter spinoff, to help it compete with Disney. That studio has popularized the concept of branded movies, with its arsenal of Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar films. “The Lego Batman Movie” cost $80 million to make, which is downright economical at a time when many animated films carry budgets that are more than $200 million. It pits Batman against the Joker in a battle for Gotham City, and boasts a voice cast that includes Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, and Ralph Fiennes. The series kicked off with 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” which made $469.2 million globally. Next September brings another spin-off, “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” a martial arts adventure with the voice of Jackie Chan, and 2019 will see the release of “The Lego Movie 2.”

“Brick by brick, ‘The Lego Movie’ launched related stories,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution. “This was just a fun and cool story.”

“The Lego Batman Movie” now as the biggest opening of any 2017 release, but it did fall short of projections. Some analysts had predicted the family film would make more than $60 million.

“Fifty Shades Darker” is a Universal release. The studio didn’t give a budget for the film (as is its wont these days), but knowledgeable estimates put its cost in the range of $55 million. The sequel may have lost some of the audience who bought a ticket to the first film to see just how much riding crop would make its way to screens, but there are other reasons it couldn’t equal the reception of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That movie benefited from being released over the President’s Day holiday, a period that also coincided with Valentine’s Day, making the saucy tale the date night movie dujour.

Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief, said that he expects that the film will show more endurance than its predecessor. Valentine’s Day takes place on Tuesday, and audiences are rating the sequel better than the original, giving it a B+ CinemaScore, as opposed to the C+ that “Fifty Shades of Grey” received. Critics, for their part, hated it, but they didn’t care for the first movie, nor the book on which it is based.

“The interest in it will spread out more,” predicted Carpou. “With next weekend being a holiday, it gives us a chance to have repeat business.”

Universal’s “Split” surrendered the first place it had occupied for three consecutive weekends amidst the barrage of newcomers. The hit thriller took in $9.3 million to capture fourth place on the chart, while pushing its domestic haul to $112.3 million.

Fox’s “Hidden Figures” rounded out the top five, earning $8 million. The Oscar-nominated drama about African-American NASA employees fighting racial prejudice in the early days of the space program has made $131.4 million stateside.

In milestone news, Universal and Illumination’s “Sing” topped $500 million globally. The animated film centers on a talent competition for  animals.

On the indie front, Fox Searchlight’s “A United Kingdom” opened in four theaters, grossing $70,000 for a per-screen average of $17,500. The drama chronicles a love affair between the King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, and the controversy it sparked.

The Weinstein Company’s “Lion” continued to chug along in its twelfth weekend, seeing its numbers rise even as it lost 68 screens. The drama about a man who uses Google Earth to find his long-lost family in India grossed $4.1 million to push its domestic returns above $30 million. David Glasser, the company’s COO, argued that the story, which touches on immigration, has struck a nerve in a political climate dominated by talk of travel bans from certain countries. India is not one of the country’s targeted by the Trump administration, but “Lion” star Sunny Pawar, a native of the country, did have trouble getting permission to enter the U.S. for the film’s premiere.

“This is a zeitgeist movie,” he said. “As people discover it, you wouldn’t believe the emails that are pouring in. Every day we wake up to notes from politicians, tennis players, even a woman I know from Middle America, all saying this couldn’t be more timely.”

Overall ticket sales did slide despite the influx of franchise fare. Revenues were unable to match the year-ago period, a weekend that saw the $132.4 million debut of “Deadpool.” Still, analysts note that weekend was President’s Day, a holiday that’s been pushed back by a week in 2017, making comparisons difficult. Some box office sages predicted that this will be the start of a torrid period at the multiplexes, one that will ultimately eclipse the high-water mark established last year.

“This is the true kickoff of what could be the biggest year ever,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “This weekend is the start of our record run.”

Image Source : Warner Bros

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