Monday, June 18, 2007

"Fantastic Four" surfs to No. 1 spot at box office

Mon Jun 18, 7:17 AM ET

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"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" caught a wave of moviegoers to the No. 1 spot at the weekend North American box office, according to studio estimates as of Sunday morning.

The sequel to the "Fantastic Four" outperformed its predecessor, and will have a three-day gross of $57.4 million for its distributor, 20th Century Fox, said Chris Aronson, senior vice president of distribution for Fox.

In July 2005, "Fantastic Four" grossed $56 million in its first three days for 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp..

"We did fantastically, pun intended," Aronson said. "The silver lining is that it outperformed the first one. It worked from Fairbanks to Fort Lauderdale and everywhere in between. It worked in big cities. It worked in small towns."

Fairbanks is in Alaska and Fort Lauderdale is in southeast Florida, spanning most of the North American market where the movie was shown on 3,959 screens that averaged $15,000 per location, Aronson said.

The live-action flick based on the Marvel Comics series pits the four superheroes against an intergalactic surfing menace who was also part of the Marvel Comics catalog many baby boomers grew up reading.

Fox deliberately made a film that would be rated "PG" rather than the more-restrictive "PG-13" to capture more of the family dollar.

"Yes, we made a concerted effort to make this more of a family film and that's reflected in its performance, no doubt," Aronson said. "We cast a very wide net."

Aronson predicted a continued strong showing this week, which is the first full week of summer vacation for many North American schoolchildren.

Dropping from the top spot to No. 2, with an estimated three-day gross of $19.1 million, was "Ocean's Thirteen," released by Time Warner Inc. unit Warner Bros. Pictures. The third film in the series teaming George Clooney and company with director Steven Soderbergh has a 10-day gross of about $69.8 million, said Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros.


The surprise of the weekend may be that Universal Pictures' comedy "Knocked Up" remained a strong No. 3 in this third week of distribution by the General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal unit.

"Knocked Up" will take in an estimated $14.5 million Friday-to-Sunday and has so far grossed $90.5 million, according to Paul Dergarabedian of Media by Numbers.

"'Knocked Up' is holding really well," said Dergarabedian. "It only dropped 26 percent in its third weekend. That's really incredible. Usually movies drop more like 50 percent this far along.

"That means it's getting very strong word-of-mouth. It's an alternative to the summer-style blockbusters."

Other than the top-grossing movie, the only other wide release that premiered over the weekend, "Nancy Drew," was No. 7, near what industry analysts had predicted. It will gross $7.1 million Friday-to-Sunday, said its distributor, Warner Brothers.

The No. 4 spot went to Walt Disney Co.'s "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," the third of the Pirates series starring Johnny Depp, at $12 million and a gross of $273.8 million. The film is in its fourth week of release.

Sony Pictures' animated "Surf's Up" was No. 5 in its second week at $9.3 million and a 10-day total of $34.7 million. Sony Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp ..

And No. 6 was one-time blockbuster "Shrek the Third" from DreamWorks Animation SKG, which will take in $9 million and has a total gross of $281.5 million. It is in its fifth week of release.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Madonna Makes Like Angelina?

Wed Oct 04, 8:48 PM ET

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Most people return home from trips abroad with snow globes and Toblerone. Needless to say, Madonna is not most people.

'The Material Girl' may or may not have gotten in touch with her maternal side Wednesday as conflicting reports surfaced as to whether or not she adopted a child shortly after arriving in Africa on a humanitarian mission to help the region's impoverished AIDS orphans.

Officials in Malawi confirmed to Reuters earlier today that Madonna adopted a one-year-old boy, selected from a group of 12 children that adoption officials had meet with the pop star.

"She asked us to identify boys only, which we have done after visiting four orphanages in Lilonge," Andrina Mchiela, the secretary for the Ministry for Gender and Child Welfare, told reporters, per the wire service.

Mchiela said that the "Hung Up" singer and husband Guy Ritchie had originally planned on adopting a girl, but changed their mind two weeks ago. The name of the boy was not released.

Possibly because he never existed.

Madonna's longtime publicist, Liz Rosenberg, denied the adoption report to E! News, saying the singer has not made any additions to her family.

"I can confirm Madonna is in Malawi on a private visit," Rosenberg said. "Despite reports stating otherwise, she has not adopted a baby boy.

"She is building an orphanage and child-care center and is involved in other initiatives geared toward helping children orphaned by AIDS through the Raising Malawi organization."

While the couple had never spoken publicly about plans to adopt, Mchiela told Reuters that the government had already exempted the twosome from Malawi's ban on nonresidents filing for adoption.

However, Mchiela was later quoted by the Associated Press saying Madonna and Ritchie would be subjected to the same adoption process as everyone else, requiring an 18-month waiting period before being able to take a child home.

The non-adoption news could explain the absence of Ritchie, 37, from the trip. He's apparently with the couple's bona fide brood, son, Rocco, 5, and daughter Lourdes, 9, who Madonna had with personal trainer Carlos Leon.

New mother or not, Madonna is doing plenty to help the children of Africa.

In August, Madonna spoke to Time magazine about her increasing desire to help the Africa's more than 12 million orphans, a promise she apparently kept her word on.

"For the last few years--now that I have children and now that I have what I consider to be a better perspective on life--I have felt responsible for the children of the world," she said.

"I've been doing bits and bobs about it and I suppose I was looking for a big, big project I could sink my teeth into."

She arrived with a 10-strong entourage in Malawi Wednesday morning to make good on her promise, launching six large scale projects designed to help underprivileged children in the country.

The pop star is expected to travel to the electricity-free village of Mphandula Thursday, where construction on Raising Malawi, an education and feeding center that broke ground two months ago. The center is expected to feed and educate up to 1,000 Malawi children.

Madonna also announced plans to raise at least $3 million for the region, with the funds going toward the center as well as setting up additional economic, food and health programs for the area.

She is also financing a $1 million documentary about the region's orphans and met with Bill Clinton about bringing low-cost medicine to residents.

Madonna, who tried to draw attention to the humanitarian problems facing Africa via her controversy-courting mock-crucifixion during her recent Confessions world tour, is the latest celebrity to join the cause.

Gwyneth Paltrow recently appeared in the well-intentioned but widely mocked print ad for, with the tagline: "I am African." George Clooney toured Sudan's Darfur region last month for a documentary of the war-torn region and has urged the UN Security Council to intervene with peacekeeping troops.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who are arguably at the forefront of the charitable movement, announced last month that they'll donate $2 million to the humanitarian organizations Global Action for Children and Doctors Without Borders. After their daughter Shiloh was born in Namibia, they also donated $300,000 to local hospitals.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Judge Orders Bobby Brown Arrested

Mon Oct 02, 6:53 PM ET

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Being Bobby Brown ain't easy these days. A family judge ordered the singer arrested if he steps foot in Massachusetts after Brown failed to show for a hearing Monday over delinquent child support payments.

Brown's attorney said it's a "very difficult time" for Brown, 37, whose tumultuous marriage to Whitney Houston is coming to an end. She filed for a legal separation earlier this month.

"Whether or not he's going through a divorce doesn't negate the fact that he still owes child support relative to his two children that he had prior to his marriage," said Norfolk Probate and Family Court Judge Paula Carey.

Kim Ward, of Stoughton, the mother of two of Brown's children, says Brown owes two months' support, or $11,000.

In June 2004, Brown was sentenced to 90 days in prison for missing three months of payments. That sentence was immediately suspended after Brown made back payments totaling about $15,000.

Brown's attorney, Phaedra Parks, would not say where Brown, a Boston native, is currently living.

"It's just a very difficult time for him, as you can well imagine," said Parks, an Atlanta-based entertainment lawyer. "The media is very aware of this very public divorce that's going on right now. It's unfortunate we find ourselves back in Boston on this matter."

Brown gained fame as a member of New Edition and for his 1988 hit solo album.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Jackson's Custody Battle Cease-Fire

Sun Oct 01, 9:06 PM ET

All's well that ends well…we guess.

Attorneys representing Michael Jackson and his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, announced Friday that the pair have settled "all the issues" in their ongoing custody battle, preventing the need for further squabbling.

"We're still dealing with the details but it addresses all of the disputes between the parties," Rowe's lawyer, Marta Almli, told the Associated Press. "I can't say anything about the terms of the settlement but I don't think it would have happened if both parties didn't agree it was appealing to both of them."

Neither Almli nor Jackson's attorney, Michael L. Abrams, elaborated on what their clients' agreement entailed or whether it included a resolution to both physical custody and monetary issues.

Since Jackson was rung up on child molestation charges in 2003, Rowe has been seeking to reinstate her rights to visit their two children, nine-year-old Prince Michael Jackson Jr. and eight-year-old Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, after giving up custody in 2001. She filed a petition seeking $195,000 for legal fees and $50,000 for living expenses in July. Jackson was ordered to shell out $60,000 earlier this month.

"I think both parties are satisfied," Abrams said Friday. "[Jackson] seems to be satisfied with the result."

Rowe and Jackson tied the knot in 1996 and were officially divorced by 2000. When she relinquished her parental rights the following year, the former nurse said she wanted to "forever give up any and all rights pertaining to the children because I believe that by doing so, it is in the children's best interest." But…

"Everything changed," Rowe said in a declaration after requesting temporary custody in 2003. In addition to the charges filed against her ex, she cited Jackson's association with members of the Nation of Islam, a group whose leader she feared was anti-Semitic.

"I am Jewish, as are--by definition--my children," Rowe said. "I worried about how my children would be treated by these new advisers to Michael."

And that was before Neverland was boarded up and the kids were shipped off to Bahrain.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

NAACP Not Seeing Red over "Survivor"

6:59 PM ET

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Turns out, reinstituting segregation on a national television show isn't something the NAACP is quite ready to get behind.

Though the civil rights group has certainly waited long enough to point it out.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has finally spoken out on Survivor: Cook Island's much ballyhooed gimmick to split tribes ethnically when the reality show's 13th season kicks off Thursday night.

"Concerning the new season of Survivor, whether we like the concept or not--and for the record, we do not--it is premature to judge the show purely on conjecture," the organization said in a statement.

"We will judge the show on what we see, and we will monitor the public response."

While the advocacy group can hardly be faulted for issuing its wait-and-see statement, the last-minute timing of the release, particularly for an otherwise outspoken institution, is rather curious.

Several conspiracy-ready critics believe the low-key rapprochement came because of an existing relationship between the NAACP and CBS--the group's president, Bruce Gordon, is a longtime member of the network's board.

Gordon denied his corporate ties influenced the NAACP's reaction. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, he said the public outrage over the racial division was disproportionate to the show's standing in pop culture and a "distraction" to "larger and more important" and more relevant issues.

"I decided not to get caught up in a knee-jerk reaction," he told the paper. "I wanted to think about it, to explore what made sense.

"There are countless race abuses that exist in the entertainment community every day. For the media to give airtime to the format of a TV show when it is silent on the absence of African-Americans on Sunday morning news shows is shameful." (Gordon failed to mention that those Sunday shows get a fraction of the audience of Survivor, which is a Top 10 ratings machine.)

For its part, CBS issued a statement saying the network and show producers "appreciate the NAACP reserving judgment"--something many TV critics, New York City council members and even Rush Limbaugh were unable to do.

Survivor mastermind Mark Burnett, who has taken credit for the season's controversial move, repeated the network's sentiment.

"I would encourage anyone to follow this lead and watch at least a few episodes to get a clear picture of how the dynamic will play out," he said.

The NAACP's decision to actually watch the new season before fully condemning it is a move host Jeff Probst urged reporters to take in a conference call last week.

"Not thinking it's a good idea is a fair and valid opinion," he said of the show's decision to split the tribes into white, black, Asian and Hispanic tribes. "But there are people who have no idea what they're condemning and are using it as a platform for their own agenda.

"All I'm saying is you have to recognize you're condemning our show before you see it and that is not fair or just. Keep that megaphone in your right hand for the finale and tell us if it's what you thought it would be or if it wasn't a little bit inspiring."

Probst, who has perhaps unwittingly become the face of the controversy, also reiterated that the premise's intention was not to cause a national uproar.

"It wasn't a situation where CBS said, 'Okay, we're out of ideas, guess we gotta do this,'" he said. "The time was right for the idea...[The media are] painting this picture of a room full of white guys that's just not the case."

Still, despite all the controversy surrounding the new season, Probst backs the installment as "one of the five best we've ever had."

"At the very least we'll promote discussion, which is what we're doing now," he said.

Survivor: Cook Islands kicks off at 8 p.m. Thursday on CBS.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And Britney's Baby Makes Two...

09/12/2006 9:00 PM, E! Online
Joal Ryan

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The onetime chart-topper gave birth to her second child, a boy, about 2 a.m. Tuesday at a Los Angeles hospital, a source confirmed to E! News.

The newborn--name not yet known--weighed in at 6 pounds and 11 ounces, per the National Enquirer, which was first out with the nursery news.

Spears endured her labor day at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Us Weekly said.

Up until Tuesday, the singer's baby boy was a baby girl, at least according to stork watchers, who confidently predicted an XX-chromosomal bundle of joy named Jailynn for the performer.

The XY-equipped offspring is the second for Spears and husband Kevin Federline in the past 12 months. Their firstborn, Sean Preston, arrived last Sept. 14.

Reports of the latest Spears-Federline production were rampant Tuesday, fueled by Enquirer and Us Weekly website postings. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the couple's camp still had not formally confirmed or denied the stories, although Spears' father, Jamie, was indirectly quoted as telling Access Hollywood that he'd seen the new baby.

An even more prolific procreator than Spears, Federline is now officially the father of four, including two from a previous relationship with former Moesha actress Shar Jackson.

On average, the 28-year-old Federline has fathered a baby every seven years. If one throws out his presumed prepuberty years, the aspiring rapper and penny proponent has averaged, from age 13 on, one child tax credit every 3.75 years.

Spears, 24, announced her latest pregnancy in May on the Late Show with David Letterman. In June, she showed off her pregnancy, bare stomach and all, on the cover of Harper's Bazaar.

Spears' first year as a mother was marked by paparazzi-driven controversy--and more than one visit from social workers.

In February, the "Oops" singer was scrutinized for driving an SUV with son Sean Preston on her lap. In April, she and Federline were quizzed about a reputed head injury to the baby. No formal investigation was opened, and Spears and Federline were not deemed responsible for the injury--said to have occurred in an accidental fall from a high chair.

"I can't go anywhere without someone judging me," Spears told NBC's Matt Lauer in June.

The baby-in-the-lap-while-driving thing, the Louisiana-born singer explained, was an old Spears family tradition: "We're country."

Spears, once a teen pop queen thanks to "...Baby One More Time," "Sometimes," and more hits, hasn't released an album of new material in nearly three years. She won her lone Grammy in 2004 for Best Dance Recording for "Toxic."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dutch Priest Charged in Madonna Threat

2:43 PM ET

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Amsterdam prosecutors said Friday a 63-year-old priest has confessed to phoning in a fake bomb threat to a Madonna concert in the Dutch capital city last week.

"He was hoping to stop her from performing her famous 'crucifixion' act," prosecution spokesman Robert Meulenbroek said, referring to a scene in the 48-year-old pop star's latest show.

The scene, a mock re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ, offended some Christians during earlier concerts in Italy and Germany. Two Amsterdam concerts went ahead as planned on Sunday and Monday, despite a handful of protesters.

Meulenbroek said it was likely prosecutors would seek a community service punishment for the priest, since it was very likely this was his first such offense.

The priest was arrested almost immediately after making the threat Sunday, since he used his home phone to make it, and he called an emergency services number where the call was automatically traced.

The priest was brought before a judge Friday and has been released pending judgment, Meulenbroek said. "We take bomb threats seriously, but in this case it was clear very quickly that it was not real," he said.

Madonna's "Confessions" tour next stops in Japan on Sept. 16.


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