Month: December 2020

“Demon Slayer” becomes Japan’s top-grossing movie

“Demon Slayer”, the animated tale of a boy fighting human-eating demons that murdered his family, has shattered a nearly two-decade record to become Japan’s top-grossing movie, its distributor said on Monday.

The film, based on a popular manga and television anime series, powered past “Spirited Away”, the mega-hit Academy Award-winning movie by Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki that opened in 2001, in just a little over two months.

“Demon Slayer”, with a full official title of “Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie – Mugen Train”, had taken in 32.47 billion yen compared with 31.68 billion yen for “Spirited Away”, according to data released on Monday.

The film got an unexpected boost from the novel coronavirus, film industry watchers said.

People stuck at home because of social distancing got hooked on the manga comic and television series then rushed to watch the film when cinemas reopened.

The film, with its message of resilience, has also spawned a bonanza of merchandise – from toys to canned coffee – generating at least 270 billion yen($2.61 billion) in business as of Dec. 3, said Toshihiro Nagahama, senior economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.

Sony Corp, whose music unit is co-distributor, also got a boost from the film, which has opened in several Asian countries and will head to the United States and Canada early in the New Year.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #DemonSlayer #Japan @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

BTS wraps up record-breaking year with New Year’s Eve online concert

groups from its management agency Big Hit Entertainment and fans from around the world.

Halsey, Lauv and Steve Aoki, who have all collaborated with BTS in recent years, joined on a special stage by connecting remotely.

Seven-member BTS also took part in a short online fan meeting, reading messages and playing a game, which fans could toggle to among multiple screens.

“I hope you wrap up the end of the year well, and I’d like to see you in person soon,” Suga said.

The concert, at Goyang, northwest of Seoul, was originally scheduled to be held simultaneously online and offline, but in-person attendance was canceled due to a new wave of COVID-19 infections in South Korea.

With the concert, BTS wraps up a record-breaking year with three No.1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and becoming the first K-pop group to ever receive a Grammy Award nomination.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #NewYearsEve #BTS @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

‘Wonder Woman’ box office hits a pandemic high in cinema, streaming showdown

“Wonder Woman 1984” pulled in $36.1 million at worldwide theaters over the Christmas holiday weekend and boosted streaming viewership on HBO Max, Warner Bros. said on Sunday as it confirmed plans for a third film in the superhero franchise.

An estimated $16.7 million of the box office total came from U.S. and Canadian theaters, the AT&T Inc-owned studio said on Sunday. That ranked as the highest domestic opening since the COVID pandemic shuttered theaters in March, though the numbers were a fraction of usual receipts for a big-budget action flick. The 2017 “Wonder Woman” film opened with $103.2 million domestically.

With two-thirds of North American theaters closed, Warner Bros. opted for an unusual arrangement, making “WW84” available at the same time to U.S. customers of AT&T’s HBO Max streaming service.

Millions watched the film on HBO Max, the company said in a statement, but it did not specify how long they tuned in. Total viewing hours on the platform tripled on Friday compared with a typical day in the previous month, the statement said.

The movie “exceeded our expectations across all of our key viewing and subscriber metrics in its first 24 hours on the service,” said Andy Forsell, executive vice president and general manager of WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer.

Warner Bros. said it would accelerate development of a third “Wonder Woman” movie also written and directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot as the lasso-wielding warrior. The studio did not announce a release date.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at research firm Comscore, said “WW84” performed well in theaters given “an extremely challenging marketplace.”

“Considering the availability of this blockbuster film at home, the numbers for the theatrical debut of ‘WW 1984’ should actually be encouraging to theatrical exhibition,” he said.

“WW84” faced competition from critically praised Pixar animated movie “Soul,” which Walt Disney Co delivered to the Disney+ streaming service and some theaters overseas. The story of a music teacher seeking his life’s purpose took in $7.6 million in theaters, Disney said. It did not disclose how many people watched “Soul” via streaming.

Warner Bros. has announced the same hybrid release strategy for its 17 theatrical movies in 2021, sparking a backlash from some top Hollywood directors and cinema operators, who hope for a rebound after COVID-19 vaccinations increase.

Through Sunday, 2020 domestic box office receipts totaled $2.3 billion, down 80 percent from a year earlier, according to Comscore.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #superwoman #streaming @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch sold for knockdown price

Michael Jackson’s famed Neverland Ranch in California has finally sold, more than 10 years after the death of the pop star who abandoned the property following his trial on charges of molesting a young boy there.

Billionaire investor Ron Burkle, a former family friend of Jackson, recently bought the sprawling 2,700 acre (1,100 hectare) estate, his spokesman said on Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal said the estate, which was renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch several years ago, sold for $22 million according to public records. In 2015, the asking price was $100 million and in 2017 it was re-listed for $67 million.

Burkle’s spokesman said the businessman saw the investment as a land banking opportunity. He spotted the estate from the air while looking at another location and contacted Tom Barrack, the founder of real estate investment company Colony Capital LLC, to seal the sale. The ranch was off the market at the time.

Jackson, who died from an overdose of the anesthetic Propofol in 2009 at age 50, bought the property in Los Olivos, about 120 miles (193 km) north of Los Angeles, in 1988 for $19.5 million. After financial troubles, in 2008 he handed over the title to Colony Capital LLC, which held a loan on the property.

Neverland, a name taken from the “Peter Pan” tale of a boy who refused to grew up, became Jackson’s favorite retreat and famously featured a zoo, a railway and theme park rides.

It also was where he entertained children, one of whom brought molestation charges against the singer that resulted in a 2005 trial and Jackson’s acquittal on all charges.

Jackson vowed never to return to Neverland after the trial.

Burkle is the controlling shareholder of Soho House, a private members club that attracts people in the entertainment and media industries and which has properties in New York, London, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #MichealJackson #Neverland @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Jamie Foxx puts some ‘Soul’ into Christmas at the movies

“Soul” takes animated movies to new heights, not just with its philosophical themes about the meaning of life but as the first in Pixar’s 25-year feature film history to feature a predominantly Black cast.

Starring Jamie Foxx as an aspiring jazz pianist whose life has not turned out as he wished, family film “Soul” premieres on the Disney+ streaming service on Christmas Day.

Its cast of voice actors includes Phylicia Rashad, Questlove, Angela Bassett and Daveed Diggs, with Jon Batiste playing the jazz music.

Co-director and writer Pete Docter said “Soul” did not set out to be centered around a Black person.

“It was just a film that was very resonant with my own experience. And then the choice to make him a jazz musician made us feel like that was the right and appropriate choice to also to make him Black,” said Docter.

Foxx, who won an Oscar in 2005 for playing musician Ray Charles, welcomed the chance to take the role.

“I was itching for people to see this – the first Pixar Disney African American lead. That’s what we need, you know?” he said.

After an opening set in New York City, Foxx’s character falls down a manhole and finds himself in the Great Before, where he has to mentor another lost soul, voiced by Tina Fey.

Docter said the film was sparked by his own musings about life.

“A lot of us have to figure out what the heck’s going on, what are we doing with our lives… why are we here and what should we be doing to make the most of it?”

Fey called the movie a Christmas gift after a year marked by the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve been through so much. We’ve had to ask big questions about our lives and what we’re afraid of. And so hopefully it will be a joyful gift for people to watch on Christmas break with their families,” Fey said.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #Soul #JamieFoxx @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Tom Hanks saddles up for first Western in ‘News of the World’

It’s taken Tom Hanks more than 35 years to make his first Western so when he finally got on a horse and into a shootout, he wanted to make sure the movie had something special to say.

Hanks, known for playing nice guys, stars in “News of the World,” out in U.S. movie theaters on Dec. 25. He joked that he likes to think of the film as “‘The Mandalorian,’ without light sabers.”

“There’s no reason to make a Western just because you get to wear comfortable clothes and a hat. It has to be about something bigger than just the genre,” Hanks said.

Set after the U.S. Civil War, the film follows Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) as he travels across a divided America reading the news in small towns. He meets up with a traumatized girl, played by newcomer Helena Zengel, who was taken by the Native American Kiowa tribe years ago and decides to deliver her back to her surviving relatives.

For Hanks and director Paul Greengrass, “News of the World” is about the power of healing after fractious events.

“It felt to me such a contemporary story – the world bitterly divided, (the) post-Civil War landscape, the desperate desire for healing but not knowing what the road to healing looks like,” said Greengrass.

Although filming took place more than a year ago, the story takes place against a background of the epidemics of cholera and meningitis that hit the United States in the late 19th century.

Hanks said the eerily prescient arrival of the film this week during the long coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of divisive U.S. elections in November reflects the power of movie making.

“Here we are, we made a movie that takes place in 1870 and it speaks to 2020. Ain’t that the movies in a nutshell? That you can see a film that is about people riding horses and it’s like ‘Wow! That’s really speaking about what it’s like today’,” he said.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #TomHanks #NewsoftheWorld @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Colorful ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ hits theaters, and living rooms, on Christmas

Comic book hero Wonder Woman returns to the screen on Christmas Day with a hefty mission: bring holiday cheer to pandemic-weary audiences, provide a boost to struggling movie theaters, and lure new viewers to the HBO Max streaming service.

Set in the over-the-top, neon-infused 1980s, “Wonder Woman 1984” is the biggest movie so far to land in theaters and on a U.S. streaming service at the same time. The plan was prompted by the coronavirus pandemic that has crushed moviegoing and kept many cinemas closed.

While Hollywood studios are waiting until next year to unveil most big-budget action spectacles, AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros decided to go ahead with a worldwide release of “WW84” in theaters alongside HBO Max, the streaming service it recently launched in the United States.

Starring Gal Gadot in the title role, “WW84” had originally been scheduled to hit the big screen during the summer. Director Patty Jenkins hopes the shift to Christmas will lift spirits over the holidays.

“It’s incredible to finally release it at a time that it might bring joy into people’s lives,” Jenkins said in an interview.

In the sequel to 2017 blockbuster “Wonder Woman,” Diana Prince is trying to live a quiet life during an era of excess, but she soon finds she needs to help save society from itself.

Prince also is reunited with Steve Trevor, the love interest played by Chris Pine, despite his character having died at the end of the 2017 film, which was set in World War I.

Gadot said the new installment aims to provide a hopeful message and “show what we would like the world to be.” Jenkins insisted on minimal use of computer imagery for battle sequences, Gadot added, forcing actors “to up our game.”

“This is the hardest movie I’ve ever worked on,” Gadot said.

Many film critics lauded the movie as an escapist adventure, according to the Rotten Tomatoes website, which said 87% of reviews gave the movie a positive score.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #WW84 #movies #galgadot #wonderwoman @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

K-Pop? How about T-Pop? Thai artists shoot for global audience

Thai female band Lyra, backed by the world’s biggest music label Universal Music Group (UMG), is hoping to harness its devoted fan base and match the success of South Korean artists who have who turned ‘K-Pop’ into an international phenomenon.

“We have high expectations. We want to introduce … T-Pop music to the world,” said 20-year-old Lyra member Jennis Oprasert.

Members of Thai female band Lyra sing at a recording studio in Bangkok, Thailand, in this June 22, 2020 handout picture. Universal Music Thailand & Independent Artist Management via REUTERS

Last year UMG partnered with Thai firm Independent Artist Management (iAM) to launch the six-member group, after auditioning some 80 girls and young women from the popular idol group BNK48.

“It’s a bet,” said Paul Sirisant, who heads UMG in Thailand. But he believes originality will drive the band’s success.

Members of Thai female band Lyra record a music video in Bangkok, Thailand December 10, 2020. Picture taken December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Jiraporn Kuhakan

The group trained for months remotely via Zoom and later lived together in a house after plans to go to Los Angeles were interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We saw them transform into their individual artistic selves, which is great, but there were many tears,” Sirisant told Reuters.

Navigating the shift from BNK48’s musical style was not always straightforward.

“It’s not an easy ride at all,” said 18-year-old Natticha ‘Fond’ Chantaravareelekha.

“The dancing, the music genre is different. I’ve never done it before, but even though it’s hard, I’ve loved (doing) it since I was a kid, so I’m ready.”

Their eponymous debut single has over 6.5 million views on YouTube after about two months online.

Members of Thai female band Lyra record a music video in Bangkok, Thailand December 10, 2020. Picture taken December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Jiraporn Kuhakan

“We incorporated Thai elements by including sounds from two traditional instruments,” another member, Punsikorn ‘Pun’ Tiyakorn, 20, who also came up with the group’s name.

Fans at home and abroad have been supportive.

“I will support them until the end,” said 23-year-old Danaiphat Singto, as he watched a video of a performance by the band in Bangkok. “I really want them to reach global audiences.”

The band is part of a wave of Thai musicians gaining attention from audiences and investors abroad.

Thai-German singer Jannine Weigel was the first artist to sign with RedRecords, a venture between UMG and low-cost carrier AirAsia.

Early signs of success already have labels planning new groups.

“We plan to have more bands with Universal,” chief operating officer at iAM, Nataphol Pavaravadhana, said.

“It will be different from Lyra for sure. Maybe indie. Stay tuned.”

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #KPop #TPop #UniversalMusicGroup #Lyra @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com

Justin Bieber teams up with former rivals for Christmas song

Five years ago pop star Justin Bieber was locked in a contest for Britain’s favourite Christmas song with a group of little known health workers. He gave in.

This year, the Canadian singer-songwriter and the health workers are back, singing his hit “Holy” together to raise funds to help Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Singer Justin Bieber poses with the NHS Choir at Abbey Road Studios, London, Britain in this undated handout obtained by Reuters December 18, 2020. Carsten Windhorst/Handout via REUTERS

Bieber’s 2015 tweet asking his fans to help the South London Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir went viral and their song beat his to the coveted Christmas Number 1 spot.

The former teen star later met up with the medical workers, leading to this year’s collaboration. “Especially in these difficult times, I’m humbled to team up with them,” he said in a statement on Friday announcing the new release.

Britain has among the largest recorded numbers of infections and deaths from COVID-19 and the government said on Friday the epidemic appeared to be growing again, shortly before a planned five-day relaxation of restrictions for the festive period.

FILE PHOTO: Singer Justin Bieber greets fans at the premiere for the documentary television series “Justin Bieber: Seasons” in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

Earlier this year, Bieber donated profits from “Stuck With U”, his single with Ariana Grande, to the First Responders Children’s Foundation, a charity which supports frontline workers in the United States, which has the world’s highest figures for COVID-19 deaths and infections.

‘#ChangeMusic’ plan aims to give Black artists bigger clout

The organizers of the Grammy awards on Thursday launched an initiative to elevate Black voices at all levels of the music industry and ensure that Black artists are fairly compensated for their work.

The #ChangeMusic Roadmap, launched by the Recording Academy and racial justice non profit Color of Change, said that Black contributions to the industry have historically been undervalued.

Black artists “have created styles of music, the culture, the trends, and the success of this business – yet too often are left unheralded and excluded from the rooms in which the most important decisions are made,” the organizers said.

The initiative follows a cultural reckoning that was spurred by nationwide street protests this summer over systemic racism, and pressure on the music business to improve the numbers of Black people in its corporate ranks.

Rap and R&B music overtook rock in 2017 to become the biggest music genre in the United States but there are only a handful of Black executives in senior jobs in the industry.

The Recording Academy, which votes on the Grammys, has come under fire in recent years from the likes of Drake, Jay-Z and Kanye West for seeming to favor white artists. In more than 60 years of the Grammys, only two hip-hop albums have ever won album of the year and the last Black artist to win the coveted accolade was Herbie Hancock in 2008.

The Recording Academy in October launched the Black Music Collective in response to the criticism.

The #ChangeMusic Roadmap calls for the fair distribution of royalties, an examination of old recording contracts for potential inequities, anti-racist training, annual reports on pay disparities and an increase in the numbers of Black people in leadership positions.

“This moment offers an unparalleled opportunity to change patterns of exclusion and degradation,” the Recording Academy and Color of Change said in a statement.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #ChangeMusic #Music @ivoxnews www.ivoxnews.com