Month: October 2020

Activision raises sales forecast on lockdown demand, new COD release hopes

Activision Blizzard Inc <ATVI.O> raised its annual adjusted sales forecast on Thursday, betting on strong sales for its upcoming videogame in the blockbuster “Call of Duty” franchise as demand from stay-at-home gamers continues to rise.

The company raised its full-year adjusted revenue forecast to $8.10 billion from $7.63 billion. Analysts had expected adjusted sales of $7.94 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of the company, which fell 8% immediately after the results as some analysts viewed the improved forecast as conservative, pared most of the losses and were down marginally after the bell.

“Activision has been typically conservative going into the next quarter. Many stocks are seeing automatic ‘sell the news’ on earnings reports good or bad ahead of elections. Activision caught in that too,” Elazar Advisors analyst Chaim Siegel said.

Big-budget videogame makers are preparing to tap the demand surge from stay-at-home players as next-generation consoles enter the market this holiday season. Activision is releasing “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War” on Nov. 13, closely following the launch of Sony Corp’s <6758.T> PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s <MSFT.O> Xbox Series X.

Demand from players continues to boost videogame sales, as a surge in COVID-19 cases in several parts of the country has forced people to remain indoors.

Data from research firm NPD showed nearly $34 billion in videogame sales between January and September this year, up 21% compared to the same period a year earlier.

The company also topped third-quarter adjusted sales estimates on strong sales of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” and forecast holiday-quarter adjusted revenue of $2.73 billion, above Wall Street estimates of $2.63 billion.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #videogames #callofduty @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Sister Sledge singer to donate ‘We Are Family’ cover proceeds to WHO

Kim Sledge of the band Sister Sledge will donate proceeds from a cover of the band’s classic song “We Are Family” to the World Health Organization Foundation, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

“I would like to thank Kim Sledge for her kind offer to donate proceeds from the sale of her special edition cover of We Are Family,” said Tedros, adding that the money would be used to support the COVID-19 response and strengthen health services around the world.

Kim Sledge joined Tedros at a news briefing.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #wearefamily #WHO @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Liam Neeson Thriller ‘Honest Thief’ Leads Cratering U.S. Box Office

 Liam Neeson’s thriller “Honest Thief” limped to first place at the domestic box office, debuting at $3.7 million. Those ticket sales, among the lowest ever to land at No. 1, came in slightly ahead of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Robert De Niro’s family comedy “War With Grandpa.”

“Tenet,” now in its seventh week of release, grossed 1.6 million, bringing its U.S. haul to $50.6 million. The sci-fi epic, from Warner Bros., continues to fare better overseas. “Tenet” generated $5 million at the international box office for a global haul of $333.9 million.

Overall, it was another quiet weekend at the weekend box office as theaters that reopened have resorted to reduce hours of operation or closing down again entirely due to low attendance. Apprehension among moviegoers, coupled with the lack of new potential blockbusters are to blame for lackluster ticket sales.

Theater owners argue that it’s not fear keeping people from going to the movies, it’s the dearth of fresh product from major studios. But Hollywood companies have been reluctant to unveil their biggest movies because cinemas in major markets like New York and Los Angeles, which account for a bulk of ticket sales for any given movie, aren’t open.

A potential bright spot: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday gave movie theaters outside of the city permission to reopen at reduced capacity starting on Oct. 23. It remains to be seen whether the news will encourage studios to start unveiling major movies.

In the meantime, specialty studios such as 101 Studios and IFC Films have been supplying exhibitors with new indie dramas and comedies. “War With Grandpa” collected $2.5 million from 2,260 locations in its second weekend of release, boosting domestic receipts to $7.2 million.

Disney, meanwhile, continues to find modest success with re-releases of past favorites. Tim Burton’s 1993 holiday classic “The Nightmare Before Christmas” brought in $1.3 million between Friday and Sunday. And “Hocus Pocus,” another three-decade-old hit, stirred up $765,000 over the weekend.

Romantic drama “2 Hearts,” starring Jacob Elordi of “The Kissing Booth” and “Euphoria” fame, pulled in $565,000 from 1,683 screens over the weekend.

Box office analysts suggest that YA-skewing movies, the kind that regularly populate Netflix queues, haven’t been a huge theatrical draw during the pandemic.

“Based on at least three youth-oriented movies released during the last month and a half, teens and young adults do not appear ready to return to the movies,” said David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.

Among specialty releases, IFC Films’ comedic drama “Shithouse” opened in 28 theaters across the country and scraped together $6,750 ($241 per location). The well-reviewed movie launched simultaneously this weekend on premium video-on-demand platforms, where the studio said landed on the iTunes top 15 charts among independent offerings. “Shithouse,” the directorial debut of Cooper Raiff, premiered this year at SXSW and won the Grand Jury Prize.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #liamneeson #honestthief @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Taylor Swift, Bradley Cooper guitars to be auctioned for Nashville COVID-19 relief

Taylor Swift, Bradley Cooper and Keith Urban have donated guitars to a celebrity country music auction to raise funds for everyday workers in the industry whose livelihoods have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Swift’s signed black Gibson acoustic guitar that she played for the live debut performance of her new song “betty” in September, comes along with nine of the singer’s custom picks in a lot that could fetch $25,000 to $40,000, Christie’s auction house said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: An employee of Christie’s auction house holds a guitar used by singer Taylor Swift that will go up for sale as part of their Nashville Country auction in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The electric guitar Cooper played as washed-up country singer Jackson Maine in his 2018 film “A Star is Born” is also up for sale, with an estimate of $2,000 to $4,000.

The auction, starting on Thursday and running until Oct 29, will benefit the Academy of Country Music’s Lifting Lives COVID-19 Response Fund, which was created to support people behind the scenes in the country music industry centered around Nashville.

“When the pandemic hit in the spring, Nashville was hit pretty hard,” said Nancy Valentino from Christie’s business development department.

“This is one of the instances where you have the artists helping the people who work with them – tour bus drivers, roadies, session workers, caterers – no one is working,” she added.

Other auction items include a bedazzled dulcimer owned by Dolly Parton for 30 years ($50,000 to $100,000), Sheryl Crow’s vintage Baldoni accordion ( $8,000 to $12,000), and guitars owned by Keith Urban, Dwight Yoakam, Blake Shelton and Vince Gill.

In addition to the instruments, Tim McGraw is auctioning his F131 Hellcat motorcycle, while Carrie Underwood donated the gown she wore to the Academy of Country Music awards show in Nashville in September.

“We were so impressed by how quickly artists volunteered to donate, and donated things that are so special to them,” Valentino said.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #taylorswift #bradleycooper @ivoxnews :: www.ivoxnews.com

Stevie Wonder releases two songs appealing for love and unity

Stevie Wonder on Tuesday released two new singles appealing for unity amid the challenges of systemic racism and the coronavirus pandemic, and said he would donate 100% of the proceeds of one of them to the non-profit Feeding America.

“Where Is Our Love Song” and “Can’t Put It In the Hands of Fate,” are songs Wonder, 70, said he had started writing years ago about romantic relationships but was inspired to give them a different twist by the tumultuous events of the past year.

“If I can do anything to use the gift of song to help to feed people, to share my love … it is my joy,” the singer-songwriter told a video news conference, referring to “Where Is Our Love Song.”

“In these times, we are hearing the most poignant wake-up calls and cries for this nation and the world to, please, heed our need for love, peace and unity,” he said.

Wonder began his career as an 11-year-old and later used his 1980 song “Happy Birthday” to campaign for the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to be made a U.S. national holiday.

The 25-time Grammy winner said on Tuesday that “Can’t Put It In the Hands of Fate” was inspired by street protests against social injustice, the search for a coronavirus vaccine and the right to vote.

“Where Is Our Love Song” was written in response to “all the confusion and hate, all the east versus west, left versus right” in contemporary America, he said.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #steviewonder #music @ivoxnews :: www.ivoxnews.com

From teens to superstars – Netflix film tracks BLACKPINK’s rise

BLACKPINK fans will see a softer side to the K-pop girl power group in a Netflix documentary in which its members open up about their journey from teenage trainees to global superstars.

BLACKPINK have become a global phenomenon since their debut in South Korea four years ago.

Some of their songs including “Kill This Love” have over one billion hits on YouTube and they have collaborated with stars such as Lady Gaga and Cardi B. In 2018 they worked with Dua Lipa on the single “Kiss and Make up”.

The foursome – Jisoo, Jennie, Rose and Lisa – are known for their catchy tunes mixing Korean and English and slick dance routines, but in “BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky”, which premieres on Oct. 14, they wanted to dig deeper, said filmmaker Caroline Suh.

Suh combined home videos, behind the scenes footage and candid interviews to tell the life stories of the four women, aged 23 to 25, of whom only Jisoo grew up in Korea.

FILE PHOTO: Members of K-pop idol group Black Pink pose for photographs with Kia Motors’ Mohave during the 2019 Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, South Korea, March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Lisa is Thai, Rose grew up in Australia and New Zealand and Jennie moved to New Zealand on her own as an 8-year-old, living with a home-stay family.

“I hope that the film humanises the BLACKPINK members so they are seen as more three dimensional and not as kind of one dimensional K-pop stars and idols,” said Suh. “I hope that people are empathetic toward them and cheer them on.”

As she gained the members’ trust, they started to share their experiences, including hardships they endured as trainees, Suh said.

Youngsters hoping to make it in the world of K-pop join training programmes consisting of hours of daily dance lessons, voice training and school work, alongside weekly auditions. They are not always successful.

YG Entertainment, which formed the group, did not set any conditions for the film crew, Suh said.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #blackpink #music @ivoxnews #news :: www.ivoxnews.com

‘The War With Grandpa’ Tops ‘Tenet’ at Domestic Box Office

 “The War With Grandpa,” a Robert De Niro comedy about the battle between a wily septuagenarian and his grandson over a bedroom, was originally supposed to hit theaters in 2018.

Plans changed after Harvey Weinstein, the indie film producer whose company The Weinstein Company financed the “Home Alone” knockoff, was exposed as a serial sexual harasser and predator. His fall from power led to the dissolution of The Weinstein Company and plunged “The War With Grandpa” and other films that the studio had expected to release such as “The Upside” and “The Current War,” into a perilous kind of limbo.

Two years after it was intended to hit theaters “The War With Grandpa” finally debuted, although in a markedly different theatrical landscape, one that faces an existential crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The film grossed $3.6 million from 2,205 locations while receiving a brushoff from critics who dismissed it as a derivative and joyless. In pandemic times when major markets like New York City and Los Angeles are closed, that may rank as a decent opening. That being said, as Forbes notes, it still clocks in as the worst box office topper since 1988, so clearly the exhibition industry is facing some very punishing headwinds.

FILE PHOTO: Robert De Niro arrives at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

101 Studios, the new label run by former Weinstein Company executive David Glasser, picked up the rights to “The War With Grandpa” and released it. The company also distributed the similarly orphaned “The Current War” in October, with the subtitle “The Director’s Cut.”

This week, “The War With Grandpa” has unseated Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” from the top slot. In its sixth week of release, “Tenet” grossed $2.1 million domestically, bringing its haul to $48.3 million. The Warner Bros. sci-fi thriller took in an estimated $9.8 million globally this weekend in 62 markets, pushing its worldwide total to $323.3 million.

Disney’s re-release of “Hocus Pocus” continued to be a rare COVID-era hit, earning $1.2 million. The comedy about a coven of witches starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy was a box office disappointment when it debuted in 1993, but became a cult classic on cable and other home entertainment platforms. “The New Mutants,” the X-Men spinoff that Disney inherited after it purchased Fox, earned $685,000, pushing its domestic gross to $22 million. With those tepid results, “The New Mutants: Part 2” seems like a dream that will be permanently deferred.

Sony’s “Yellow Rose,” a drama about an undocumented Filipino girl who wants to be a country music star, netted $150,000 from 900 locations, bringing its domestic total to $170,000.

This weekend — with its collection of underperforming blockbusters and castoffs — paints a dire picture for cinemas. It’s going to take a lot more than this to keep moviegoing viable. “Wonder Woman 1984” can’t arrive soon enough.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #movies #thewarwithgrandpa @ivoxnews #news :: www.ivoxnews.com

London Film Festival offers beacon of hope to COVID-hit industry

The pizzazz of the red carpet will be lacking and fewer films will be on offer at this year’s London Film Festival, but fans can still enjoy a broad programme, either on the big screen while socially distanced or streamed into their own homes.

A public health notice is seen inside the Rio Cinema Dalston, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain, October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Festival director Tricia Tuttle said the hybrid model meant she could deliver a vibrant event to audiences, in cinemas in London and beyond as well as online, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year there really is no physical locus of the festival,” Tuttle said in an interview on Thursday.

Social distancing, which reduces the capacity of cinemas to about 30% of normal levels, has triggered an expansion of the festival beyond its home at the British Film Institute (BFI) on London’s South Bank and other independent cinemas in the capital to cities such as Manchester, Bristol and Sheffield.

“Even if you don’t live in a city that has a great independent cinema, you can still watch almost all of the festival on the BFI Player, which is our digital cinema,” Tuttle said.

This year the festival will showcase 60 feature films from Britain and around the world, down from the usual 220 or so, but variety will not be sacrificed.

“What we’re trying to achieve is different voices, different perspectives,” Tuttle said. “There are over 40 countries represented in the programme, so its still an international programme but it’s also a celebration of cinema.”

“UK cinema is also really, really important to us. It’s very vibrant.”


The festival opened on Wednesday with British filmmaker Steve McQueen’s “Mangrove”, which tells the story of a group of Black activists in London 50 years ago.

It closes on Oct. 18 with “Ammonite”, a romantic drama written and directed by Francis Lee, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.

A public health notice is seen inside the Rio Cinema Dalston, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain, October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Worldwide, however, cinema is struggling commercially to survive after COVID-19 caused theatres to shut or cut capacity, and major studios to postpone the blockbusters that rake in the cash.

Later on Thursday Cineworld will temporarily shutter its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas in Britain and 536 Regal theatres in the United States, blaming the reluctance of Hollywood studies to release films such as the new James Bond.

Oliver Meek, executive director of the independent Rio cinema in east London, said Hollywood’s response to the pandemic was a huge blow.

“We build our programme as much as possible around the big hits,” he said.

“Whilst we have quite a diverse programme here and play a lot of independent films, we are reliant on three or four films a year to really hit big box office.”

If the studios wait until life gets back to normal, he said, “there’s very sadly a strong chance that lots and lots of cinemas won’t be here to show those films”.

Tuttle said she hoped the industry would pull together to face the challenge.

“We’re working collaboratively with cinemas around the country,” she said. “It’s a moment of resistance, of defiance.”

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #london #filmfestival @ivoxnews #news :: www.ivoxnews.com

Art star Gabriel Orozco’s pandemic: a screen-friendly opening and new introspection

There was no formal opening or personal interaction with fans. Instead, Gabriel Orozco, the Mexican artist with a continents-spanning perspective, promoted his new collage watercolors with a dramatic, screen-friendly teaser.

Mexican artist, Gabriel Orozco works on an art piece during an interview with Reuters in Mexico City, Mexico October 3, 2020. Picture taken October 3, 2020.REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Orozco created the several dozen works while in quarantine in Japan earlier this year, but he oversaw their installation at a top-tier Manhattan gallery the way millions now work: virtually.

In a first for Orozco, the collection – containing the watercolors, as well as larger abstract paintings created mostly in Mexico – debuted last month without a glitzy public opening.

There was no chance for admirers or critics alike to interact with the artist, renowned for transforming ordinary items into poetic flourishes since the early 1990s.

So, his new paintings were publicized with a slick, video teaser set to dramatic music. https://youtu.be/PyD1-WWyJ6A

Forced to rely more than ever on tools like Zoom and Skype across a range of current projects, the son of a leftist Mexican muralist says he sees an evolving transformation of creativity born from the upheaval of global pandemic.

“There is the opportunity, probably, of a new generation to emerge, a new way of working to emerge, an alternative way of living for everybody to be reconsidered,” he said, sitting just off the lush courtyard of his Mexico City home.

A police officer stands on an abandoned water park inside the Bosque de Chapultepec as part of the project where Mexican artist, Gabriel Orozco will design, focusing on the sprawling urban park’s ecological restoration and social interconnectedness, in Mexico City, Mexico October 5, 2020. Picture taken October 5, 2020.REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

An hour earlier, squatting down with pencil in hand, he discussed finishing touches to block sculptures he calls dice with his collaborator, Mexican stonemason Juan Fraga, who he had met face-to-face for the first time in months.

Before the pandemic, the two would meet every couple of weeks to refine the layers of whimsical geometric designs carved into the blocks.

Orozco said his art, spread generously over sculpture, canvases, human and animal bones, minimalist installations, and more, took a mild hit from restrictions on travel and personal contact.

“Like many people, I start to suffer this kind of psychological effect of being in the screen all the time,” he said, calling it “very distracting.”

More generally, Orozco expects more changes emerging from the pandemic’s disruptions, even if its ultimate impact on creativity and inspiration is not yet clear.


Orozco, 58, sees the same changes that are upending how people work – less face-to-face contact and more screen time – also making their mark on the museums and commercial art galleries he knows well.

“In this new art world, there’s going to be more and more of a dependence on the distribution of works with digital media, and so the gallery, all the galleries, are making much more of an effort,” he said.

At the same time, his latest work appears to have taken on a more introspective turn. He noted that for his new watercolors he allowed himself an indulgence he does not usually seek.

“Psychologically (the paintings) were interesting because they became a very, I call them a little neurotic, passionate, almost therapeutic, which is something I don’t like to do in art,” he said.

Orozco argues that the social isolation and anxiety felt by many over the past few months is already changing how we create and communicate.

“The pandemic is a moment of a crash of activity that accelerates the crisis that was coming from before,” he said, a few hours before he was set to fly back to Japan.

The artist, who has also spent extended stints in London, Paris, and Bali, said less travel had been something of a relief.

“That was okay in a way because it was not so bad to slow down,” said Orozco, who studied art in Mexico in the 1980s before leaving for Spain, Brazil and the United States.

Last year, Orozco was tapped by Mexico’s president to oversee a more than $400 million revamp and expansion of Mexico City’s Bosque de Chapultepec, a project he says will focus on the sprawling urban park’s ecological restoration and social interconnectedness.

Surrounded by maps rolled out on tables and three-dimensional models of the park, he said he expects to finish the master plan by December, but has otherwise pushed off all other projects until 2022.

And he offered a related pandemic coping mechanism.

“I don’t plan too much ahead.”

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #art #gabrielorozco @ivoxnews #news :: www.ivoxnews.com

Paris Hilton reveals details of troubled past in documentary

Paris Hilton has gone from reality star to businesswoman and now activist.

The television personality alleges in her new documentary, “This is Paris,” that she was mentally and physically abused at a boarding school as a teenager and is now working to have the school closed.

“I’ve had so many people write me letters saying, ‘Thank you so much,'” said Hilton, 39, who said she did not speak to her parents for 20 years because they sent her to Provo Canyon School in Utah.

In the documentary, which premiered on her YouTube page this month, Hilton alleges she was mentally and physically abused, placed in solidarity confinement for hours at a time and forced to take unknown medications.

Reuters could not independently confirm her claims.

Hilton said she was sent to Provo and several other schools for troubled teens after years of rebellion.

In response to Hilton’s accusations, the Provo Canyon School sent a statement that reads in part: “We are aware of media referencing Provo Canyon School. Please note that PCS was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000. We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to that time.”

The school also stated: “Over the last two decades, mental health treatment has evolved from a behaviors-based foundation to a personalized, trauma-informed approach. We work with extremely complex individuals who often present a danger to themselves and others. Provo Canyon School is committed to the safety of our patients and staff.”  

The original premise of the film was to spotlight Hilton as a businesswoman and clear up misconceptions about her, but during shooting she began opening up to her director.

“I felt so comfortable with her and told her about my nightmares and a little bit about the story,” said Hilton.

Although Hilton didn’t initially want the abuse issue in the film, the director “just kept pushing me more and more. And then I realized that this could actually help a lot of people and empower others.”

Hilton said she is excited to be using her real voice, instead of the baby voice that made her famous, to make a difference.

“It’s exhausting just to pretend to be like, you have no brain and you have no idea what’s going on. I’ve done that for so long.

“I’m not a dumb blond. I’m just very good at pretending to be one,” she said.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #parishilton #documentary @ivoxnews #news :: www.ivoxnews.com”I’m not a dumb blond. I’m just very good at pretending to be one,” she said.