Marvel Superheroes Return to Chinese Cinemas after Nearly Four Years

File photo: Actors Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige pose for a photo during the handprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
File photo: Actors Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige pose for a photo during the handprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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Marvel Superheroes Return to Chinese Cinemas after Nearly Four Years

File photo: Actors Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige pose for a photo during the handprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
File photo: Actors Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige pose for a photo during the handprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Marvel's superheroes began their return to China's massive movie market after an apparent ban of nearly four years on Tuesday, with fans streaming into cinemas to watch "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever".

The Disney-owned studio's hugely popular franchises have been absent from Chinese screens since 2019, with no explanation.

Marvel blockbusters have raked in billions globally, and their return to one of the world's biggest movie markets means hundreds of millions of dollars in potential earnings for Disney -- the first Black Panther film alone took in $105 million at Chinese cinemas.

"I'm super excited," said a woman named Chen, beaming as she lined up to enter a packed theatre in Shanghai for the midnight premiere of "Wakanda Forever".

"I've had to use streaming sites to watch the last couple of movies... But I hope this means I'll watch Marvel movies more often in theatres now."

The end of the apparent block on Marvel films has coincided with China's loosening of the strict zero-Covid policies that disrupted its entertainment industry for years.

China's communist rulers have also recently eased a tech crackdown, including on the lucrative gaming sector.

"Because of Covid, it's already been a long time since we've been to the cinema," said hospital worker Kun, 25, who came to the Shanghai theatre to watch "Wakanda Forever" with his friends.

"We still have to work tomorrow but it's a rare opportunity so we came here."

For one mother-and-son duo at the Shanghai cinema, the return of Marvel revived a family tradition.

"He's always been a Marvel fan -- during the Avengers series, we would always watch the midnight screening," said Lin Fan, with her visibly excited 13-year-old son Jiang Xiaoyi.

Next up for Chinese Marvel fans is "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania", set for release on February 17.

- Lucrative market -

"Spider-Man: Far from Home" was the last Marvel film released in China, in July 2019.

The China Film Administration, affiliated with the Communist Party's propaganda department, has not given a reason for the absence of Marvel films from cinemas.

Its remake of "Mulan" faced boycott calls after it emerged that some of the scenes were filmed in China's Xinjiang, where widespread rights abuses against the region's Muslim population have been widely documented.

And two episodes of the popular animated show "The Simpsons" have been unavailable on the company's Disney+ streaming service in Hong Kong -- one that references the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and another mentioning "forced labor camps" in China.

Regulators and Disney have not publicly commented on the apparent restriction of these episodes.

Disney is not the only company accused of bowing to censorship requirements in China, a multi-billion-dollar media market.

A 2020 report by the anti-censorship group Pen America said Hollywood studios changed scripts, deleted scenes and altered other content to avoid offending Chinese authorities.



The Summer after Barbenheimer and the Strikes, Hollywood Charts a New Course

 This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Cailey Fleming, left, with Blue, voiced by Steve Carell, in a scene from "IF." (Paramount Pictures via AP)
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Cailey Fleming, left, with Blue, voiced by Steve Carell, in a scene from "IF." (Paramount Pictures via AP)
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The Summer after Barbenheimer and the Strikes, Hollywood Charts a New Course

 This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Cailey Fleming, left, with Blue, voiced by Steve Carell, in a scene from "IF." (Paramount Pictures via AP)
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Cailey Fleming, left, with Blue, voiced by Steve Carell, in a scene from "IF." (Paramount Pictures via AP)

“Barbenheimer” is a hard act to follow. But as Hollywood enters another summer movie season, armed with fewer superheroes and a landscape vastly altered by the strikes, it’s worth remembering the classic William Goldman quote about what works: “Nobody knows anything.”

Four decades later, that still may be true. Yet one thing Hollywood has learned in releasing films through the pandemic and the strikes is how to pivot quickly.

The summer of 2023 brought a new enthusiasm for moviegoing, with the fortuitous counterprogramming of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” and surprise hits like “Sound of Freedom,” helping the season’s box office crack $4 billion for the first time since 2019. But before the industry could take a victory lap, there was another crisis looming with the dual Hollywood strikes, which shuttered most productions for months.

MOVIES FIND A WAY POST-STRIKE In the fallout, theaters lost big summer titles like “Mission: Impossible 8,” “Captain America: Brave New World” and “Thunderbolts” to 2025. But they gained a gem in Jeff Nichols’ “The Bikeriders” (June 21), about a 1960s Midwestern motorcycle club, as studios moved films around on the summer chessboard. “Deadpool & Wolverine,” once set to kick off the summer moviegoing season on May 3 like many Marvel movies before it, is now sitting happily on July 26, patiently waiting to dominate the summer charts.

“I do love being right there in the belly of summer,” said director Shawn Levy. “That’s a juicy moment.”

The kickoff weekend instead belongs to an original film about a different kind of superhero. “The Fall Guy,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, is part romantic-comedy, part action-comedy, and all love letter to the stunt performers that make movies spectacular. It’s an earnest crowd-pleaser that could jumpstart a season that feels, in some ways, like a throwback, with full-throttle spectacles (“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” “Twisters”), comedies (“Babes"), IMAX wonder (“The Blue Angels”) and even a Kevin Costner Western.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has seen the highs and lows of summer movies over the decades, with blockbusters including “Top Gun: Maverick” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

This season, he has three very different offerings on the calendar, two are fourth installments in popular franchises — “Beverly Hills Cop” (July 3, Netflix) and “Bad Boys” (June 7, theaters) — and one was planned for streaming but tested so well that it’s getting a theatrical rollout (“Young Woman and the Sea,” May 31).

“People just want to be entertained,” Bruckheimer said. “It really comes down to us to make the right movies that they want to go see.”

THE $4 BILLION GOAL POST A Hollywood summer lasts 123 days from the first Friday in May through Labor Day Monday in September. Pre-pandemic, $4 billion was a normal summer intake and theaters could count on anywhere between 37 and 42 films to open on over 2,000 screens. The outlier was 2017, which had only 35 movies on over 2,000 screens and topped out at $3.8 billion. It makes last summer’s $4 billion haul with 32 wide releases (45% of the $9 billion domestic haul) even more impressive.

This summer should have 32 wide releases as well and over 40 movies opening in 500+ theaters. Notably only two of them are Marvel movies (“Deadpool” and Sony’s “Kraven the Hunter”) and are the only superhero movies on the calendar until the “Joker” sequel in the fall.

“People are going to see movies, not box office, and it looks like a really solid summer from a moviegoer's perspective," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore.

REVVING UP FOR ORIGINALS “The Bikeriders” was one that planned for an awards season rollout, with a turbo boost from stellar reviews out of the Telluride Film Festival hailing star turns for Austin Butler and Jodie Comer. But as they inched closer to its release date it became clear that the strikes were not going to resolve in time for a press tour.

“It was kind of like walking on frozen glass for three months,” Nichols said. “I was touring around doing press and trying to build this energy on my own. Let me tell you, it’s not the same as Austin Butler.”

Later in June, after a splashy Cannes debut, Kevin Costner will begin rolling out his two-part Western epic “Horizon: An American Saga,” set during the Civil War. And as always there are a slew of Sundance breakouts peppered throughout the summer, from Jane Shoenbrun’s “I Saw the TV Glow” and “Didi” to “Thelma and “Good One.”

FARE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY Family films often go into hyperdrive in the summer, capitalizing on long days out of school. This year has plenty, like “The Garfield Movie” and “Despicable Me 4,” re-releases of Studio Ghibli classics, and streaming options (“Thelma the Unicorn”). But perhaps none has more anticipation behind it than “Inside Out 2” (June 14, theaters), which meets up with Riley as she enters her teenage years as a new group of emotions crash Joy’s party, including Anxiety, Envy, Ennui and Embarrassment.

“That age gives us everything we need and love for a Pixar film,” director Kelsey Mann said. “It’s full of drama, it has potential for a lot of heart, and I could also make it really funny.”

John Krasinski is also delving into the inner world of children with his ambitious live-action hybrid “IF” (May 17, theaters) about the imaginary friends that get left behind and two humans (Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming) who can still see them.

THE ALLURE OF HORROR Audiences seeking the adrenaline rush of horrors and thrillers have plenty of choices, including “MaXXXine,” the conclusion to Ti West’s accidental Mia Goth trilogy (“X” and “Pearl”) that debuts around the fourth of July.

Goth’s aspiring actress has made her way to Hollywood where a killer is stalking Hollywood starlets around the time of the home video boom of the 1980s.

“We recreated the sleazy side of Hollywood in a hopefully charming way,” West said. “It’s definitely a pretty wild night at the movies. A big, rockin’, fun movie.”

On June 26, audiences can also delve into the beginnings of “A Quiet Place” with a prequel set on “Day One” starring Luptia Nyong’o and “Stranger Things’” Joseph Quinn. Director Michael Sarnoski said they wanted to explore the “scope and promise” of a Quiet Place movie in New York. Later, Fede Álvarez brings his horror acumen to “Alien: Romulus” (Aug. 16), set between the first two.

M. Night Shyamalan is back as well with a thriller set at a pop concert (“Trap,” Aug. 9) and his daughter, Ishana Night Shyamalan, makes her directorial debut with the spooky, Ireland-set “The Watchers” (June 14) with Dakota Fanning.

“It's very suspenseful and unexpected,” Ishana said. "And it's very much built for the experience of being in a theater.”

THE STARS ARE STREAMING Much to the chagrin of theater owners, big summer movies have also existed off the big screen for years now. And the streamers have movie stars and spectacle with the festival favorite “Hit Man,” the Anne Hathaway romance “The Idea of You,” Jerry Seinfeld’s starry pop-tart movie “Unfrosted” and a Mark Wahlberg/Halle Berry action comedy “The Union.”

They have franchises too: “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” (July 3) was a movie that was in and out of development since the mid-1990s, but got new life when Paramount licensed the rights to Netflix.

“We raised our hand to make sure we got the franchise right and kept the integrity and fun of the original,” Bruckheimer said.

This installment adds an emotional component in which Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley reunites with his estranged daughter (Taylour Paige). It also sees the return of Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser and Bronson Pinchot and adds Kevin Bacon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

On Aug. 9, Apple TV+ will also have “The Instigators,” a new action-comedy starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck as normal guys attempting a heist. “Midnight Run” was one of their touchstones.

“The script was so funny and I wanted to really embrace that,” Doug Liman, who directed, said.

BUT ALSO, NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING Remember, anything can happen with summer movies.

We can pretend we knew that “Barbie” would be the biggest movie of the year, but would anyone have bet that an R-rated drama about the father of the atomic bomb would have made almost three times as much as Harrison Ford’s last ride as Indiana Jones? Or that a $14 million crowdfunded movie from a new studio about child trafficking with next to zero promotion would earn over $250 million?

“Nobody knows anything is right,” said “The Instigators” producer Kevin Walsh. “The movie business is so unpredictable. You never know what’s going to work and what isn’t. But you have your taste. And following your taste and your instincts in this business is paramount.”


After 4 Decades in Music and Major Vocal Surgery, Jon Bon Jovi Is Optimistic and Still Rocking 

Jon Bon Jovi poses for a portrait in New York on Sept. 23, 2020 to promote his new album "2020". (AP)
Jon Bon Jovi poses for a portrait in New York on Sept. 23, 2020 to promote his new album "2020". (AP)
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After 4 Decades in Music and Major Vocal Surgery, Jon Bon Jovi Is Optimistic and Still Rocking 

Jon Bon Jovi poses for a portrait in New York on Sept. 23, 2020 to promote his new album "2020". (AP)
Jon Bon Jovi poses for a portrait in New York on Sept. 23, 2020 to promote his new album "2020". (AP)

When Jon Bon Jovi agreed to let director Gotham Chopra follow him with a documentary camera to delve into the history of his band, Bon Jovi, he didn't anticipate it would catch him at a major low point in his career.

The band was launching a tour, and despite doing all he could do to be vocally ready, the “Livin' on a Prayer” singer struggled through songs and couldn't hit the notes the way he used to.

Critics noticed and wrote about it. A review from Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, said: “It felt like he had forgotten how to sing.”

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Bon Jovi said the reaction at the time was “heartbreaking." After exhausting holistic options, he saw a doctor who said one of his vocal cords was atrophying.

“This was unique. It wasn't a nodule. The strong (vocal cord) was pushing the weak one around, and suddenly, my inabilities were just exacerbated," said Bon Jovi. He underwent major surgery and is still recovering.

“Every day is sort of like doing curls with weights and just getting them both to be the same size and to function together.”

This year has been a turning point. In February, he performed for an audience for the first time since his surgery at the MusiCares Person of the Year benefit gala where he was also named Person of The Year. The band's next album, “Forever” hits stores June 7, and its first single “Legendary” is out now. The four-part, “Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story,” debuts Friday on Hulu.

In a Q&A, Bon Jovi talks about his voice, his famous hair, the music industry and his work ethic.

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: The work you put in behind-the-scenes is like a quarterback in between football games. Are you still rehearsing at that intensity, and how are you now?

BON JOVI: I’m doing great. The record was easy to do. The process has been steady. Would I like it to be a light switch? Yeah. I said to the doctor, 'I want to flip the switch and be done with this.’ It’s just not how it works. Like an athlete coming back from an ACL tear or whatever, it just takes time. The therapy is still intensive and yet I’m confident that it gets progressively better.

AP: We learn in the docuseries that your father was a barber. You've always been known for having good hair, especially in the 1980's. Does that come from your dad?

BON JOVI: Not in as much where he sat down and said, “I’ve got this idea.” Really, I was a byproduct of what was the 80s. Those were my baby pictures. I love laughing at them. Now, I can jokingly at least say, “After 40 years of a career, I still have all my hair.” That is a good thing. Genetics works in my favor.

AP: Do you ever think about acting again?

BON JOVI: I do, on occasion. My day job then comes back to get in the way. In truth, I've got a big record coming out, and I’m hoping to go out on the road, so I don’t have time for it. And I respect the craft far too much to think I’m going to walk on a set and hit my marks and call that acting.

AP: Your work ethic stands out in “Thank You, Goodnight.” We see in the early days you would sleep at the music studio. Where does that come from?

BON JOVI: If you’re not going to be great, the guy that’s coming in tomorrow night is going to be better. This isn’t a career that you should take lightly. There’s a million other young guys that are waiting to take your spot. And there are no guarantees in this business...You have to win hearts in order to win people's hard-earned dollar. If you’re asking them to stay with you for four decades, that’s a task. You better be one of the greats or else good luck.

AP: Richie Sambora is interviewed in the series. The fans love seeing him. Do you think you will ever perform together again?

BON JOVI: We never had a big falling out. He quit 10 years ago. It’s not that we’re not in contact or anything like that, but he was choosing to, as a single dad, raise his child. The door is always open if he wants to come up and sing a song. I mean, there’s many of them that we co-wrote together. That's a great part of both of our lives. There’s no animosity here.

AP: A lot of musicians are selling their music catalog. Would you?

BON JOVI: For some, it makes sense because they need to. For some, it makes sense because they want to. I just find (Bon Jovi's music) to be my baby, and I have no desire at this juncture in my life to ever even consider it.

AP: You're one of New Jersey's favorite sons like Bruce Springsteen. It's a point of pride for New Jersey residents that you're from there, but you moved to Florida?

BON JOVI: Part-time! My license is still New Jersey. I still vote in New Jersey.

AP: The music industry is such a singles market now. Did you ever consider just putting out some new songs and not an entire album?

BON JOVI: See, I’m the opposite. I can only put out an album. I do all I know how to do. I have to tell the complete story. It has to be the beginning, a middle and an end because that's who and what we are.

AP: How do you describe the new album?

BON JOVI: What comes through is joy. My goal with this record was to capture joy which for these last few years has been difficult, whether it’s the dark cloud of COVID that the world experienced or my own personal journey. With this record, I think we captured joy.


Yoko Ono to Receive Edward Macdowell Medal for Lifetime Achievement 

Yoko Ono appears before the dedication ceremony for her permanent art installation, a sculpture called SKYLANDING, at Jackson Park, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP)
Yoko Ono appears before the dedication ceremony for her permanent art installation, a sculpture called SKYLANDING, at Jackson Park, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP)
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Yoko Ono to Receive Edward Macdowell Medal for Lifetime Achievement 

Yoko Ono appears before the dedication ceremony for her permanent art installation, a sculpture called SKYLANDING, at Jackson Park, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP)
Yoko Ono appears before the dedication ceremony for her permanent art installation, a sculpture called SKYLANDING, at Jackson Park, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP)

One of the country's leading artist residency programs, MacDowell, has awarded a lifetime achievement prize to Yoko Ono. The groundbreaking artist, filmmaker and musician is this year's recipient of the Edward MacDowell Medal, an honor previously given to Stephen Sondheim and Toni Morrison among others.

“There has never been anyone like her; there has never been work like hers,” MacDowell board chair Nell Painter said in a statement Sunday. "Over some seven decades, she has rewarded eyes, provoked thought, inspired feminists, and defended migrants through works of a wide-ranging imagination. Enduringly fresh and pertinent, her uniquely powerful oeuvre speaks to our own times, so sorely needful of her leitmotif: Peace.”

Ono's son, Sean Ono Lennon, said in a statement that the medal was “an incredible honor.”

“The history and list of past recipients is truly remarkable. It makes me very proud to see her art appreciated and celebrated in this way," he said.

Ono, 91, has made few public appearances in recent years and is not expected to attend the July awards ceremony, at the MacDowell campus in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Ono's music manager, David Newgarden, will accept the award on her behalf.

Ono first became known as part of the avant-garde Fluxus movement of the 1960s, then reached international fame after meeting John Lennon, to whom she was married from 1969 until his death, in 1980.

Their many collaborations included the songs “Give Peace a Chance,” “Imagine” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," the basis for “War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko,” this year's winner of the Oscar for best animated short film.

Over the past 40 years, Ono has had a busy career as a visual and recording artist, her albums including “Season of Glass,” “Starpeace” and “Take Me to the Land of Hell.” She was recently the subject of a career retrospective at London's Tate Modern.


Saudi Arabia to Reduce Cinema License Fees to Increase Economic Contribution

The Saudi government is working to stimulate the cinema sector and increase its contribution to the economy. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The Saudi government is working to stimulate the cinema sector and increase its contribution to the economy. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Arabia to Reduce Cinema License Fees to Increase Economic Contribution

The Saudi government is working to stimulate the cinema sector and increase its contribution to the economy. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The Saudi government is working to stimulate the cinema sector and increase its contribution to the economy. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Saudi government has presented a package of incentive programs to enhance the sustainability of the cinema sector, which includes reducing the financial fees for operating licenses for permanent and temporary cinemas, in a move that increases the economic contribution of companies and stimulates greater entry of the private sector into the entertainment field.

Since the opening of the first movie theater in the Kingdom in April 2018 until March 2024, Saudi cinema achieved revenues of about SAR 3.7 billion ($986 million), while over 61 million tickets have been sold, revealed recent figures from the General Authority for Media Regulation.

CEO of the Saudi Film Commission Engineer Abdullah Al-Qahtani stressed the continued efforts to stimulate the film industry by encouraging private sector companies operating cinemas to offer discounts and promotions to the public with the aim of promoting film culture.

He explained that the reduction of the financial fees for cinema licenses and ticket prices was in line with the international average, and to support cinema companies in the sustainability and growth of the sector.

Specialists told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Film Commission’s decision was aimed at boosting the role of the private sector and enhancing its sustainability, which would contribute to reducing ticket prices and attracting more cinemagoers.

Former head of the National Entertainment Committee at the Federation of Saudi Chambers, and investor in the entertainment sector Al-Waleed Al-Baltan said the decision will encourage companies to enter the Saudi market and add more cinema screens, given the large demand from the public.

The move supports the capabilities of the private sector and allows it to offer competitive prices for movie tickets and promotions, which boosts the economic contribution of these companies, he underlined.

General Manager and CEO of Abdul Mohsen Al Hokair Company Majed Al Hokair explained that companies operating in the cinema sector will provide affordable ticket prices.

Since its establishment in 2020, the Saudi Film Commission has worked to promote the film sector in the Kingdom, by developing the relevant infrastructure and regulatory framework, encourage financing and investment, ensure the sector’s access to local talent, stimulate local production, and attract international production.


'Civil War’ Continues Box-office Campaign at No. 1

Cast members Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton attend a premiere for the film "Abigail" in Los Angeles, California, US, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Cast members Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton attend a premiere for the film "Abigail" in Los Angeles, California, US, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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'Civil War’ Continues Box-office Campaign at No. 1

Cast members Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton attend a premiere for the film "Abigail" in Los Angeles, California, US, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Cast members Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton attend a premiere for the film "Abigail" in Los Angeles, California, US, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

“Civil War,” Alex Garland’s ominous American dystopia, remained the top film in theaters in its second week of release, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The A24 election-year gamble, the indie studio’s biggest budgeted film yet, took in $11.1 million in ticket sales at 3,929 theaters over the weekend, The Associated Press reported. The $50 million film, set in a near-future US in which Texas and California have joined in rebellion against a fascist president, has grossed $44.9 million in two weeks.
Its provocative premise – and A24’s marketing, which included images of US cities ravaged by war – helped keep “Civil War” top of mind for moviegoers.
But it was a painfully slow weekend in theaters – the kind sure to add to concern over what’s thus far been a down year for Hollywood at the box office.
Going into the weekend, Universal Pictures’ “Abigail,” a critically acclaimed R-rated horror film about the daughter of Dracula, had been expected to lead ticket sales. It came in second with $10.2 million in 3,384 theaters.
That was still a fair result for a film that cost a modest $28 million to make. “Abigail,” which remakes the 1936 monster film “Dracula’s Daughter,” is about a 12-year-old girl taken by kidnappers who soon realize they’ve made a poor choice of hostage. It’s directed by the duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett whose production company goes by the name Radio Silence.
More concerning was the overall tepid response for a handful of new wide releases – and the likelihood that there will be more similar weekends throughout 2024. Last year’s actors and writers' strikes, which had a prolonged effect on the movie pipeline, exacerbated holes in Hollywood’s release schedule.
Horror films, in recent years among the most reliable cash cows in theaters, also haven’t thus far been doing the automatic business they previous did. According to David A. Gross, who runs the consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, horror releases accounted for $2 billion in worldwide sales in 2023.
Guy Ritchie’s “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” debuted with $9 million in 2,845 theaters. In the based-on-a-true-story Lionsgate release, which reportedly cost $60 million to produce, Henry Cavill leads a World War II mission off the coast of West Africa.
Though Ritchie has been behind numerous box-office hits, including the live-action “Aladdin” and a pair of Sherlock Holmes films, his recent movies have struggled to find big audiences. The Lionsgate spy comedy “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” grossed $48 million against a $50 million budget, while MGM’s “The Covenant,” also released last year, made $21 million while costing $55 million to make.
A bright sign for “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”: audiences liked it. The film earned an A-minus CinemaScore.
The anime “Spy x Family Code: White,” from Sony’s Crunchyroll, also struggled to stand out with audiences. Though the adaptation of the Tatsuya Endo manga TV series “Spy x Family” has already been a hit with international moviegoers, it debuted below expectations with $4.9 million in 2,009 US theaters.
The mightiest film globally, though, continues to be “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.” The Warner Bros. monster movie has for the past month led worldwide ticket sales. It added another $9.5 million domestically and $21.6 million internationally to bring its four-week global total to $485.2 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore.


Gulf Cinema Festival Concludes in Riyadh

The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. (SPA)
The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. (SPA)
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Gulf Cinema Festival Concludes in Riyadh

The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. (SPA)
The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. (SPA)

The fourth edition of the Gulf Cinema Festival (GCF), organized by the Film Commission (FC), concluded in Riyadh under the patronage of Minister of Culture, Chairman of the Board of FC Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud.

Speaking at the closing of the event, CEO of FC Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Qahtani said the festival is testimony to the GCC cinema sector's commitment to supporting art and building bridges for cinematic cooperation among the member countries, reported the Saudi Press Agency on Saturday.

Al-Qahtani paid tribute to the Saudi government and GCC cinema industry leaders for their support for the festival, urging Gulf film makers to continue this support and help put the society’s narratives into films that carry to the world the reality in the Arab Gulf countries.

The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. It highlights the Kingdom’s position as a global hub for filmmaking, nurturing talent, managing, promoting and distributing movies befitting the status of Saudi and Arab Gulf cinema.


Dick Van Dyke Earns Historic Daytime Emmy Nomination at Age 98

2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
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Dick Van Dyke Earns Historic Daytime Emmy Nomination at Age 98

2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP)

Dick Van Dyke is vying for a historic Daytime Emmy at age 98.

The actor was nominated Friday as guest performer in a daytime drama series for his part as amnesiac Timothy Robicheaux on Peacock’s “Days of Our Lives.”

Van Dyke is the oldest Daytime Emmy nominee. Producer Norman Lear was 100 when he received his final Primetime Emmy nomination in 2022 and died the next year.

Among those Van Dyke is up against is Australian actor Guy Pearce of Amazon Freevee’s “Neighbours.”

Van Dyke has won four Primetime Emmys, including three in the 1960s for his classic comedy series “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

Actor-singer Selena Gomez is nominated in the culinary series category for her Food Network special “Selena + Chef: Home for the Holidays.” Also nominated in that category is Food Network’s “Valerie’s Home Cooking,” the show hosted by actor Valerie Bertinelli that ended last year.

The lead actress nominees are: Tamara Braun of “Days of Our Lives,” Finola Hughes and Cynthia Watros of “General Hospital,” Katherine Kelly Lang and Annika Noelle of “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Michelle Stafford of “The Young and the Restless.”

The lead actor nominees are: Eric Braeden of “The Young and the Restless,” Scott Clifton, Thorsten Kaye and John McCook of “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Eric Martsolf of “Days of Our Lives.”

The Daytime Emmys will be presented June 7 in Los Angeles and air live on CBS. The show is returning to its usual schedule after being postponed until last December because of strikes by Hollywood actors and writers. The hosts and Lifetime Achievement honorees will be announced later.


Not a Toddler, Not a Parent, but Still Love ‘Bluey’? You’re Not Alone

This image released by Disney+ shows a scene from the television series "Bluey." (Disney+ via AP)
This image released by Disney+ shows a scene from the television series "Bluey." (Disney+ via AP)
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Not a Toddler, Not a Parent, but Still Love ‘Bluey’? You’re Not Alone

This image released by Disney+ shows a scene from the television series "Bluey." (Disney+ via AP)
This image released by Disney+ shows a scene from the television series "Bluey." (Disney+ via AP)

A small blue dog with an Australian accent has captured the hearts of people across the world.

She’s the title character of “Bluey,” a kids’ program consisting of seven-minute episodes that have enraptured children and adults alike. This week’s release of its longest episode yet — at a whopping 28 minutes — prompted an outpouring of appreciation for the show, even from those who are neither toddler nor parent.

“Bluey” follows an Australian blue heeler who, along with her sister (a red heeler named Bingo), navigates the days between home and school. It’s a favorite among children for its playful humor, but it also appeals to adults reminiscing about childhood.

“My childhood experience wasn’t the greatest, so I’ve always resonated with shows where life is good,” says Miriam Neel, who lives in Colorado. “The parents in ‘Bluey’ enable imagination and creativity and really get involved with their kids, and I wish I had those experiences.”

Neel is 32 and has chosen not to have any children of her own. She says the show has become part of her morning routine and is often a go-to choice for background noise when she is working from home.

“I’m not going to speak for the entire generation, but millennials find comfort in cartoons. It’s what a lot of us grew up watching,” she said. “And if I’m going to spend time watching something I’d rather watch something that doesn’t make me afraid of the world, like any of the ‘Law & Order’ shows.”

“Bluey,” which now boasts more than 150 episodes, premiered in Australia in 2018 and began streaming on Disney+ in 2020. It also has been adapted into a digital series where famous fans like Bindi Irwin and Eva Mendes read some of the popular storybooks, and a live theater show that travels around the world.

The show has also won multiple awards, including the Australian Film Institute Award for best children’s television drama every year since 2019 and an International Emmy Kids Award.

The series provides a child’s perspective into morning routines, errands and chores, while also giving viewers a glimpse of what life is like for parents through mother Chilli and father Bandit.

This week’s special episode, “The Sign,” explores the emotions surrounding themes that resonate with both children and adults — moving houses, marriage, infertility and relationships after divorce. In addition to these universal themes, the episode wraps up the third season with Easter eggs for dedicated fans.

Lindsey Schmidt, 40, says the show’s continuity keeps her family looking forward to more.

“There are so many callbacks to previous episodes,” says Schmidt, who lives in Ohio with her husband and three children. “The shows that we watch with our kids regularly don’t reflect our lives like this show does. These anthropomorphic dogs feel just like us.”

But there are mixed feelings about the ending of the episode — SPOILER — in which the Heeler family scraps their move. Some families who relocate often for work found it unrealistic. Meg Korzon, 31, is in the process of a cross-country relocation with her four children because her husband is in the military. It’s her seventh move in 10 years.

“I was hoping it would be an episode that aligned itself with the realities of life, our lives, as a military family,” she says. “I was selfishly disappointed because it could have been an episode about change and growth.”

But the show does not shy away from other difficult topics — and that is part of the charm for adults as well.

“As a parent you aspire to be as good of parents as Chilli and Bandit are as parents. They always have a great way of talking kids through issues,” Schmidt’s 40-year-old husband John says, adding that the couple often refers back to episodes when trying to explain things to their children.

The series has touched on topics of aging, death and making friends as an adult. It also has introduced a character who uses sign language and another with ADHD.

Jacqueline Nesi, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, notes that “Bluey” promotes self-regulation and conflict resolution for children and engaged parenting and patience for adults.

“We see them working through some of the challenges that we, as parents, might be facing, too. And at the same time, they offer a nice model for different parenting skills — asking open-ended questions to facilitate kids’ creativity, using natural consequences when they misbehave, actively playing with them and letting them take the lead,” she says.

The show has also done a lot to expose children to the world of animation, flaunting different styles in the episodes “Escape” and “Dragon,” providing a near-voiceless episode in “Rain,” and breaching the fourth wall in “Puppets,” where the show stops briefly to zoom out on the creation of just a couple seconds of animated frames.

It’s also credited with appealing to dogs — and not because the characters are the same species.

Research has said dogs have vision similar to red-green color blindness in humans, meaning their color spectrum is limited to blue, yellow, brown and shades of gray — which happen to be the colors of the Heeler family. There were more pets named Bluey, Bingo, Chilli and Bandit across the US last year, too, according to Rover.

So it’s fairly safe to say “Bluey” has appeal across species, as well as generations.

“I used to tell people what do ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ have in common? They all have lower IMDb scores than Bluey. It used to anyway. I watched all these great shows, but I think ‘Bluey’ is still a favorite, maybe because I have kids. But I put it right up there with all of them,” John Schmidt says, admitting that he and his wife have watched the episodes without their children.

Schmidt says the episode tied a nice bow to end the season, and would be a perfect series finale otherwise.

“I get emotional about the potential of Bluey no longer having new episodes,” says Schmidt. “But we’ll see.”


Kit Harington Leans into Playing a Bad Guy in ‘Blood for Dust’

 This image released by The Avenue shows Kit Harington in a scene from the film "Blood for Dust." (The Avenue via AP)
This image released by The Avenue shows Kit Harington in a scene from the film "Blood for Dust." (The Avenue via AP)
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Kit Harington Leans into Playing a Bad Guy in ‘Blood for Dust’

 This image released by The Avenue shows Kit Harington in a scene from the film "Blood for Dust." (The Avenue via AP)
This image released by The Avenue shows Kit Harington in a scene from the film "Blood for Dust." (The Avenue via AP)

Kit Harington jumped at the chance to sport what he calls a “proper ‘stache” to play a drug-running killer in “Blood for Dust.”

The “Game of Thrones” actor — who confirmed a Jon Snow-centered sequel is on ice — stars in the new film alongside Scoot McNairy and Josh Lucas. It hits theaters and digital this week.

Harington, 37, will also play a role in the third season of HBO’s finance drama “Industry,” expected to air later this year. He spoke to The Associated Press recently about trusting directors, joining the show's cast and how his facial hair helped explain his character.

AP: The quiet, ominous tone of this movie was carried through well. How did you know the script would translate the way it did?

HARINGTON: I think a lot of this is a sort of personality gauge business where you meet the director and you hear his or her vision for it. And with (director Rod Blackhurst) I definitely felt that I was in safe hands, and it turned out I was. He had really thought this thing out. I saw that and felt that he was going to be able to deliver on what I thought was a classic story, but quite a well-told sort of American neo-Western.

AP: Your large mustache definitely added to the character of Ricky. Was that your choice?

HARINGTON: Yeah, I think that’s kind of Ricky to have a proper ‘stache. It’s a statement thing and it says everything about him. That he’s sort of all appearance and show. It says quite a lot about the character. I knew there’s gonna be very few times I was going to be able to have a handlebar mustache in something, so I jumped at the chance.

AP: The film exposes an underworld of criminals. Did that attract you to the role?

HARINGTON: We all, in life, have glimpsed through the curtain and seen this world. I’m always sort of fascinated by what a character is addicted to. What drives him? In some ways, Scoot’s character is not innocent in this movie. He gets drawn back to his old addictions and the art of this movie, and the skill of it that Rod manages to get across, is that we kind of forgive him all of that. Because we look this way at Ricky. We look this way at these guys. But we forgive this guy for what he’s doing and his part of that.

AP: Ricky is a criminal, but Cliff (McNairy’s character) has also been disloyal and skirted the law. Did you enjoy the tension between what is right and who’s to judge?

HARINGTON: Ricky is the hero in his own movie, and I think he’s the one who sees it in this guy. He’s like, “You’re not so different from me. Don’t pretend that you are. Just come with me and enjoy the ride.” We spoke about that a lot, like Ricky is dragging him back into this. Back into this story, back into this world, because he’s like, “You don’t get to get out. I’m going to make sure we go for one last kick-ass ride in this, and I’m going to take you with me.” It’s that kind of mentality.

AP: Can you talk about your role on the new season of “Industry”?

HARINGTON: I love that show. I kind of came into it as a bit of a fanboy. And that’s a strange thing for me, because I’d always been in “Game of Thrones” where people would come in and they’d be fans of the show. This time I was coming in as this older actor and as a fan of their show. It was really exciting. It’s just brilliant. The first episode is just mesmerizing and you’re straight back in it. I just think it’s one of the most unique, interesting, tonally exciting pieces out there.

AP: Are you watching “3 Body Problem” (created by “Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) ... because those are your guys?

HARINGTON: I’ve watched the first two episodes now and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I really am. It took me all of my courage to sit down and watch other people speaking their words. It took a certain amount of courage to do that in a weird sort of way. But once I was in that, I was like, “Oh, these lucky actors, these brilliant writers!” and I love it.


Heart, the Band That Proved Women Could Rock Hard, Reunite for a World Tour and a New Song

Nancy and Ann Wilson of the classic rock band Heart perform in concert at the American Music Theater on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP)
Nancy and Ann Wilson of the classic rock band Heart perform in concert at the American Music Theater on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP)
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Heart, the Band That Proved Women Could Rock Hard, Reunite for a World Tour and a New Song

Nancy and Ann Wilson of the classic rock band Heart perform in concert at the American Music Theater on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP)
Nancy and Ann Wilson of the classic rock band Heart perform in concert at the American Music Theater on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP)

Heart — the pioneering band that melds Nancy Wilson’s shredding guitar with her sister Ann’s powerhouse vocals — is hitting the road this spring and fall for a world tour that Nancy Wilson describes as “the full-on rocker size.”

“I’ve been strengthening. I’ve got my trainer,” she says. “You go one day at a time and you strengthen one workout session at a time. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the only job I know how to do.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famers who gave us classic tracks like “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You” and “Alone” will be playing all the hits, some tracks from of their solo albums — like Ann Wilson's “Miss One and Only” and Nancy Wilson's “Love Mistake” — and a new song called “Roll the Dice.”

“I like to say we have really good problems because the problem we have is to choose between a bunch of different, really cool songs that people love already,” says Nancy Wilson.

Like “Barracuda,” a sonic burst which first appeared on the band’s second album, “Little Queen” and is one of the band’s most memorable songs.

“You can’t mess with ‘Barracuda.’ It’s just the way it is. It is great. You get on the horse and you ride. It’s a galloping steed of a ride to go on. And for everybody, including the band."

The tour kicks off Saturday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, and will hit cities including Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, as well as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. International dates include stops in London, Oslo, Berlin, Stockholm, Montreal and Glasgow.

The band's Royal Flush Tour will have Cheap Trick as the opening act for many stops, but Def Leppard and Journey will join for three stadium dates in Cleveland, Toronto and Boston this summer.

Ann and Nancy Wilson will be filled out by Ryan Wariner (lead and rhythm guitar), Ryan Waters (guitars), Paul Moak (guitars, keyboards and backing vocals), Tony Lucido (bass and backing vocals) and Sean T. Lane (drums).

The tour is the first in several years for Heart, which was rocked by a body blow in 2016 when Ann Wilson’s husband was arrested for assaulting Nancy’s 16-year-old twin sons. Nancy Wilson says that's all in the past.

“We can take any kind of turbulence, me and Ann, and we’ve always been OK together,” she says. “We’re still steering the ship and happy to do it together. So we’re tight.”

The new tour will take them to Canada, which was warm to the band when they were starting out as what Nancy Wilson calls “a couple of chicks from Seattle.” She recalls Vancouver embracing Heart, and touring in one van across Canada in the dead of winter on two lane highways.

The Wilson sisters broke rock's glass ceiling in the '70s and Nancy Wilson says they only had male influences to look to, like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Moody Blues.

Now she says she looks out and loves seeing generations of female rockers. “You have boygenius and you have Billie Eilish and you have Olivia Rodrigo and so many amazing women — Maggie Rogers and Sheryl Crow, who calls us her big influence. And then Billie Eilish might have Sheryl Crow as her influence. So it’s a really nice legacy to pass along. I like to say we’re the OG — the original gangsters — of women and rock.”

Heart has made it into the Rock Hall, won Grammys, sold millions of albums and rocked hundreds of thousands of fans but Nancy Wilson has one place she'd still like to shine.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of their debut album, “Dreamboat Annie,” which was the same year that “Saturday Night Live” started. “So we’re actually kind of putting it out there — Heart never played on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ But what about the 50th birthday party with Heart?”