What's news: Who's up and who's down at the holiday box office. Plus: Vice grapples with harassment, Steve Mnuchin gets an unexpected present, Norman Lear talks political TV and our Paris-based critics take an in-depth look at the year in French cinema. — Ray Rahman
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The long holiday weekend brought presents for certain films and coal for others, writes Pamela McClintock:
The Last Jedi and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle are the biggest winners of the holiday box-office feast, while at the other end of the Christmas table Alexander Payne's Downsizing was fighting for scraps.
The Last Jedi grossed $100.7 million theaters for the long holiday weekend (Friday to Monday), pushing its domestic total to $397.3 million. Through Sunday, the film's global haul is a mighty $745.5 million. Jumanji overperformed with an impressive $67 million six-day debut, coming in No. 2.
Meanwhile, Pitch Perfect 3 came in behind expectations with a four-day debut of $25.6 million, The Greatest Showman snagged a six-day debut of $18.6 million, and Downsizing grossed an estimated $7.3 million in its four-day debut for a seventh place finish, behind Ferdinand and Coco.
As far as specialty films: Focus Features's The Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldham as Winston Churchill, commanded an impressive $5.4 million between Friday and Christmas Day after expanding into a total of 700 theaters Friday.
Fox Searchlight and Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, which has scored seven top Golden Globe noms, the most of any film, is expanding nicely, grossing $4.3 million million from 726 cinemas for the four days for a domestic total of $8.9 million.
A bright spot for Fox is Steven Spielberg's The Post, which launched Friday in nine theaters. The awards hopeful looks to snag a hefty theater average of $92,222 in its four-day opening. Full story.
+ A rare whiff for Alexander Payne: Barring a box-office miracle, Downsizing, an $80 million film, is likely to become the first major miss of the Nebraska director's career.
+ CinemaScore grades: Last Jedi, A, Greatest Showman, A, Jumanji, A-, Pitch Perfect 3, A-, Downsizing, C, Father Figures, B-.
+ Star Wars fatigue? Couldn't be. The film fell 69 percent over Christmas weekend — far more than The Force Awakens — but box office observers blame the holiday calendar. Read more.
Elsewhere in film...
? Why the Rock is charming, even when his films are not. Despite appearing in some not great titles (ahem, Baywatch), the Jumanji star still manages to stand out.
+ The Jumanji director and cast reveal multiple alternate endings.
? Pitch Perfect 3 director breaks down the movie's most outrageous moment. Trish Sie also discusses Rebel Wilson's hidden talents ("She’s actually really good with a set of nunchucks") and John Lithgow's surprising character.
^A number of key Oscar contenders relied on film. "In 2015, a group of filmmakers including Christopher Nolan spearheaded an effort to keep Kodak — the last remaining maker of motion picture film — producing celluloid as a creative option for filmmakers," Carolyn Giardina writes. Read more.
? LAPD bomb squad responds to suspicious package sent to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Officers were called to a Bel-Air neighborhood Saturday night to investigate a large gift-wrapped box, which contained horse manure.
? Matt Damon's father Kent dies after cancer battle. Damon, who suffered the rare blood disease multiple myeloma, passed away Dec. 14. He was 74.
? Sound of Music star Heather Menzis-Urich dies at 68. Menzies-Urich, best known for playing Louisa von Trapp in The Sound of Music, passed away after battling terminal brain cancer, family members reported.
A lengthy report in the New York Times exposed a history of harassment at Vice Media, and revealed that the company has settled with multiple women over the claims. Natalie Jarvey writes:
Vice has settled with four women who alleged defamation or that executives at the brash youth media company, including president Andrew Creighton, sexually harassed them, according to an exposé from the New York Times.
The report details how Vice and its top executives have fostered a "boys' club" culture where women often felt degraded or uncomfortable. That includes incidents where employees described unwanted advances from co-workers or superiors, or detailed feeling pressured to enter into sexual relationships with their supervisors.
In a lengthy statement posted to the Vice website Saturday morning, co-founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi admitted that "we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive." Full story.
Elsewhere in TV...
? Miss America CEO Sam Haskell resigns after vulgar emails surface. In addition to Haskell, President and COO Josh Randle, Chairman Lynn Weidner and fellow member Tammy Haddad also submitted their resignations.
? Joan Walsh joins CNN after being dropped by MSNBC. The network's decision to not renew the longtime contributor's contract caused an uproar on social media, with MSNBC hosts Chris Hayes and Joy Reid tweeting in support of Walsh.
? Trump vs. CNN, again: The president once again took aim at CNN by retweeting an image of himself with a blood-splattered shoe that bore the logo CNN on its sole. The image came with a caption that read "WINNING."
^Norman Lear on how All in the Family gave birth to political sitcoms. The acclaimed comedic writer and one of the latest recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors (the celebration airs tonight on CBS) reflects on his pioneering sitcom and the birth of political satire on primetime comedy television. Read the Q&A.
? The 13th Doctor is ready to see you now: Last night, Peter Capaldi "regenerated" into Jodie Whittaker, who made history as Doctor Who's first female Doctor. Does any of that make sense to you? Then read more here.
? No Sunday Night Football: The NFL released its schedule of games for the final weekend of the regular season and, notably, left out its usual Sunday night game – partly to avoid low ratings on the night of New Year's Eve.
? Bob Givens, veteran animator of Bugs Bunny, dies at 99. Givens, who also illustrated characters such as Tom & Jerry, Daffy Duck, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Popeye, passed away Dec. 14 in Burbank.
Paris-based critics for THR reflect on French cinema in 2017, which saw a surprise presidential victory, a mostly unexceptional homegrown crop in Cannes and a major international sci-fi flop.
Jordan Mintzer: To be perfectly frank (or franc), I feel like 2017 won't go down as a great year in French cinema. There are of course some exceptions — such as critical favorite BPM (Beats Per Minute), which looked like a shoo-in for a Foreign Language Oscar nomination until it surprisingly didn't make the shortlist. But putting that and a few other movies aside, I really found this year's output average at best.
On that account, we should probably kick off with 2017's biggest disappointment: Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which received mixed reviews (our own Todd McCarthy eviscerated it) and went on to gross $40 million in the U.S. and $225 million worldwide on a budget of $180 million, making it the costliest movie in French history.
Boyd van Hoeij: I kind of admire the gumption of someone like Besson. There are practically no others able or even trying to play in the same league as DC and Marvel. The problem with Valerian is really one of economy and scale; it was not a critical favorite but it was the second-biggest hit and the biggest locally produced title of the year in France. It simply didn't have enough international appeal to make this wildly ambitious space saga profitable. Read more.
What else we're reading...
— "Movie theater companies plan to use brand-safety concerns to sell ads." Seb Joseph reports: "The loss of confidence in online media could be the cinema industry’s gain." [Digiday]
— "Women at the New York Times feel neglected, frustrated as paper stands by Glenn Thrush." Emily Peck and Maxwell Strachan write: "Staffers say the reporter’s 'punishment' only makes their own issues more plain to see." [HuffPost]
— "Black Mirror's universe coalesces." Sophie Gilbert writes: "In the sci-fi anthology series’s fourth season, a unifying theme pulls the show together in unprecedented fashion." [The Atlantic]
— "Think you're seeing more drug ads on TV? You are, and here's why." Joanne Kaufman writes: "it is not your imagination if you think you are seeing more of them these days. Lots more." [New York Times]
— "The killer-nanny novel that conquered France." Lauren Collins writes: "Lëila Slimani's bestseller explores the dark relationship of a mother and her babysitter." [The New Yorker]
— The true story of the kidnapping behind All the Money in the World." Olivia B. Waxman offers a historical view of the Ridley Scott film. [Time]
Today's Birthdays: Kit Harington, 31, Beth Behrs, 32, David Lowery, 37, Jared Leto, 46, Jay Glazer, 48, Bill Lawrence, 49, Lars Ulrich, 54, David Sedaris, 61.