Johnny Depp Leaves “Fantastic Beasts” Franchise

Actor Johnny Depp will no longer be playing the role of Gellert Grindelwald in J.K. Rowlings’ #FantasticBeasts movie franchise, which is a series of prequels to #HarryPotter. Depp made the announcement today on his Instagram account claiming that #WarnerBrothers had asked him to leave the franchise.

Releasing a short statement of their own, Warner Brothers has confirmed that Depp will leave the franchise, but did not comment on the nature of the separation or confirm that they asked him to go.

Coming just days after Depp lost a libel lawsuit against a British tabloid that characterized him as being abusive, it’s likely that this is related to the ongoing controversy surrounding back-and-forth abuse allegations between himself and his ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp did not specifically link the two in his letter, but he did bring the trial up, pledging to appeal the ruling.

His Instagram post can be seen below:

Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald

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John Boyega: Disney Sidelined his “Star Wars” Character

In an interview with British GQ magazine published on Sept. 2, 2020, actor John Boyega candidly criticized how The #Disney Company treated himself and his character of Finn in the #StarWars sequel trilogy. In other words, #racism marred his time spent in a galaxy far, far away. Boyega said,

“You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.”

In the first sequel trilogy film (“Star Wars: #TheForceAwakens”, directed by J.J. Abrams), Boyega played Finn, a former Stormtrooper who wielded a lightsaber, as a major driving force of the narrative. But in the following two films (“Star Wars VIII: #TheLastJedi” and “Star Wars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker”), Disney & #LucasFilm gave more space to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and sidelined Finn.

But John Boyega wasn’t only referring to himself, he was also talking about the other people of color in the cast. Namely, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran and Oscar Isaac: who he feels suffered the same treatment. Boyega acknowledges that some people will say he’s “crazy” or “making it up”, but the reordered character hierarchy of “The Last Jedi” was particularly hard to take. Boyega went on to say the following in the interview:

“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver. You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”

In an August, 2018 essay published in the New York Times, Kelly Marie Tran, who is Vietnamese-American and was introduced in “The Last Jedi” before being sidelined in “The Rise of Skywalker”, wrote about the her own ordeal with racism, saying she had gone “down a spiral of self-hate” due to all the harassment she had received:

“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them. Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.”

“[Society] taught me I existed only in the background of their stories, doing their nails, diagnosing their illnesses, supporting their love interests—and perhaps the most damaging—waiting for them to rescue me. And for a long time, I believed them.”

When John Boyega’s face first appeared from beneath a stormtrooper helmet in the first released trailer for “The Force Awakens”, racist hashtags like #BoycottStarWarsVII suddenly appeared on social media. Boyega acknowledged the boycotts in the British GQ magazine directly, saying that he was

“the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race.… It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you. Because you realize, I got given this opportunity, but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me. Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie because [they were in it]. Nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs and social media, saying, ‘Black this and Black that and you shouldn’t be a stormtrooper.’ Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.”

Then there was Disney’s official poster for “The Force Awakens” released in China. While it was very similar to the one released in the U.S., Boyega’s image as Finn, which was prominent in the U.S. poster, was severely shrunk in the Chinese one.

"Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens" Posters

“Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens” Posters released in the U.S. (Left) and China (Right).

John Boyega’s words in the interview are an indictment on the systemic mistreatment of black characters in blockbuster films, saying,

“They’re always scared. They’re always fricking sweating.”

Boyega also viewed the return of director J.J. Abrams to “The Rise of Skywalker” as a salvage job, saying,

“Everybody needs to leave my boy alone. He wasn’t even supposed to come back and try to save your shit.”

While Boyega acknowledged that “Star Wars” was an “amazing opportunity” and a “stepping stone” that has precipitated so much good in his life and career, he was palpably exhilarated to be finally saying all this. To dismiss his words as merely professional bitterness or paranoia is to miss the point. His primary motivation is to show the frustrations and difficulties of trying to operate within what can feel like a permanently rigged system. He is trying to let you know what it feels like to have a boyhood dream ruptured by the toxic realities of the world.

John Boyega

John Boyega

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RIP Honor Blackman

#RIP: actress Honor Blackman has passed away at the age of 94. She played Catherine Gale in #TheAvengers (1961 TV series, 43 episodes), Professor Lasky in #DoctorWho, & more, including her best known role as Pussy Galore in the James Bond spy film #Goldfinger.

Our condolences to her family, friends and fans. May she rest in peace.

Honor Blackman

Honor Blackman (1925-2020)

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Diamond Comic Halts Payments; More Comic Book Shops Permanently Closing

The state of the #ComicBook industry continues to worsen as more comic book shops permanently close and primary comic book distributor “#DiamondComic Distributors” halts payments to publishers and other vendors due to severe cash flow problems.

In a letter released to the public by Stan Heidman, president of Geppi Family Enterprises (the parent company of Diamond Comic Distributors), Diamond said the move is in response to the impact of the #COVID19 pandemic on the supply chain. He said,

“While the full impact of this epidemic is still unknown, one thing is certain: supply chain disruptions have cash flow implications across the extended industry that can’t be underestimated. While we work to understand the current industry landscape, the unfortunate truth is that we are no longer receiving consistent payments from our customers. This requires that at this time, we hold payments to vendors previously scheduled to release this week.”

A network of about 2,000 independent comic book shops that buy their stock from Diamond Comic nonreturnable at wholesale prices. Diamond Comic Distributors delivers comics periodicals (mostly superhero), graphic novels, prose books, and pop culture merchandise, to these stores. Last week as comics shops around the country were forced to either shut down completely or restrict admittance to their shops due to the pandemic, Diamond announced it was halting shipments of new weekly comics to comics shops indefinitely.

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Diamond Comic Distributors is having cash flow problems for one simple reason: comic book shops aren’t open in most of the U.S. and some are more are starting to permanently close. Three more comic book shops reported that they are permanently closing in the past week:

Sho’Nuff Comics of Tuscaloosa, Alabama Closing

The store released the following statement on Facebook on Mar. 24:

“This is something that we never thought we would have to be writing. After March 31st Sho’Nuff Comics will no longer be in business. Through the month of April we will have sporadic hours, but will keep them updated on Facebook. Due to many different factors and the current health crisis, it’s all but done us in.”

Blue Moon Comics of San Rafael, California on Verge of Closing

The store released the following statement on Facebook on Mar. 20:

“Just wanted to inform you of our status. We have stopped all comic shipments at this time. So, no new comics for the next month or so. Stephen and I are accessing the viability of keeping the business going. As you know, business has not been good for quite some time and this may be fate’s way of saying it is time to stop. When we know you will know. Thank you all for your support over the years. We do this for you, the comic fans and the love of the medium!! Please be safe and lets all hope for good things to come after this trying time is over.”

Purple Turtle Comics of Vallejo, California Closed

After opening only a year ago, after opening only a year ago, the popular store that ran signings with well know comic book creators, the Diamond shutdown was too much, it seems; and the store has closed permanently.

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Comic Book Shops in Serious Trouble

Over the past few years, the #ComicBook industry, and comic book shops in particular, have not been doing well. Sales of newer comic books have been dropping and many comic book shops have already permanently closed. Given the shaky ground that comic book shops have been on for some time, new pressures are imperiling them even further:

  1. Due to the current #pandemic, many comic books have been forced to temporarily close in areas where governments have implemented “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” orders for the general public in which only critical stores can remain open and the employees who work for the critical stores and institutions can continue to go to work under these conditions. Comic book shops are classified as being “non-essential”.
  2. #DiamondComic Distributors, the exclusive distributor for new releases from all of the comics’ direct market’s biggest publishers (including #DCComics, #MarvelComics, #DarkHorse Comics, #ImageComics, Dynamite Entertainment, BOOM! Studios, and IDW Publishing, as well as many small publishers), is no longer taking in new comics at its warehouse. The hold (the result of a slowdown in the economy due to the #COVID19 pandemic) will remain in place until further notice. Diamond will continue to ship out products that are already in its warehouse for the time being.
  3. Comic book producers don’t generally offer comic book shops the ability to return unsold inventory for refunds. This means that comic book shops that can’t sell any products are also stuck with inventory that they can’t return. Image Comics did, however, step up and change its policy so that comic book shop owners can return unsold products.
  4. Leading comic book retailer Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff in Concord, California, has called on comic book publishers to suspend publication and not replace print distribution with spotty distribution to stores still open or doing mail-order, or switch to digital publication.
  5. Transcontinental Printing, the main Canadian printer of DC Comics, and countless other publishers, is shutting down for three weeks. The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario are also closing all non-essential businesses until at least mid-April.

In an email sent to his customer base, Ed Greenberg (the owner of Collector’s Paradise in Los Angeles, CA), wrote the following:

“We have been selling comics for close to 26 years now, and this is truly the first time that we are uncertain about the future of our store, our industry and our favorite art form.”

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“Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker” Box Office Plummets over 90%, Worst Drop of the Disney Sequels

While the box office for “#StarWars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker” was the highest during first 3 weekends, that is no longer the case with the opening of the war drama #1917 in wide release.  The film’s 4th weekend earnings were only $15.1 million domestic, which, when compared with the film’s opening weekend, is a 91.5% drop in box office earnings. This is the biggest 4th weekend drop of all of the #Disney “Star Wars” sequel trilogy films, and the film also had the largest 3rd weekend drop of the three.

In terms of overall box office performance, “The Rise of Skywalker” has broken the long-standing tradition of the 3rd film in a trilogy outperforming the 2nd film in the trilogy. (The 3rd films in the original and prequel trilogies that were produced by George Lucas both outperformed their respective 2nd trilogy films.)

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 2.14.52 PM

 

Comparing the gross box office receipts for each of the Disney “Star Wars” sequel films, the following patterns emerge.

  • The opening weekends for each film were progressively worse, which is not consistent with how well the 3rd films performed during the original or prequel trilogies.
  • With the exception of the 2nd weekend, “The Rise of Skywalker” earned less than its sequel trilogy predecessors for each subsequent weekend.
  • “The Rise of Skywalker” has seen more than a 50% drop in gross weekend box office receipts between all subsequent weekends. “Star Wars VII: #TheForceAwakens” did not experience a weekend-to-weekend drop in box office of more than 50% until its 4th weekend.
  • With the exception of the 2nd weekend, “The Rise of Skywalker” has experienced the largest percentage drops in box office receipts when compared with opening weekend.
  • “The Rise of Skywalker” is the first of the three films to reach a more than 90% drop in overall box office receipts when compared with opening weekend. It was also the first to experience a more than 80% drop during its 3rd weekend. In comparison, “The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars VIII: #TheLastJedi” didn’t experience an 80% drop in overall box office receipts until their 4th weekends.

When looking at worldwide gross box office earnings, “The Rise of Skywalker” still hasn’t reached the $1 billion dollar mark:

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 2.46.48 PM

If we compare the current earnings of “The Rise of Skywalker” with those of the Disney sequel trilogy and “#RogueOne: A Star Wars Story”, we’ll see that the current earnings of “The Rise of Skywalker” are almost the same for what they were for “Rogue One”, so it’s entirely possible that (from the graph below) “The Rise of Skywalker” may not earn as much as “Rogue One” or it may only earn slightly over the overall earnings of “Rogue One”. With more films being released in theaters in the coming weeks, “The Rise of Skywalker” will have more competition, which will take more earnings away from it.

"Star Wars" Earnings Graph

Earnings of “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens”, “Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi”, “Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker” & “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”.

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“Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker” Flops in China on Friday Debut

Box office numbers for “#StarWars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker” in China on opening weekend are so poor, that it has flopped. Total box office receipts for the film for both Thursday and Friday showings as of 8 p.m. local time were only $2.2 million; and ticketing agency Maoyon is predicting a total ticket sales throughout the country of only $18 million. This is significantly lower than how well previous Disney-era “Star Wars” films have performed in China:

  • In Jan. 2016, “Star Wars VII: #TheForceAwakens” opened in China with a $52.3 million weekend and achieved a lifetime score of $126 million.
  • “#RogueOne: A Star Wars Story” that released in Dec. 2016 with Chinese stars Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen in prominent roles, managed $30.6 million on opening and a lifetime $69.4 million.
  • In 2017, “Star Wars VIII: #TheLastJedi” slipped further, registering an opening weekend of $28.7 million and a lifetime cumulative of $42.6 million.
  • In 2018, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” bombed in China, earning only $10.1 million on its opening weekend.

In other words, the total expected box office for “The Rise of Skywalker” in China is less than the opening weekends for 3 of the previous “Star Wars” films that were released there, and is far less than “Solo”, which was a worldwide box office flop.

Currently, the film is only projected to earn $170-$200 million in North America, which would be significantly lower than both “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”, which had opening weekends of $247,966,675 and $220,009,584 respectively.

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References

“Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker”: Suffers from a Frustrating Lack of Imagination, but with Fan-Focused Devotion

With the ninth film in the #StarWars saga now opening in some parts of the world, professional reviews for “Star Wars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker” are decidedly mixed on #rottentomatoes with a metacritic score of 57% (as of the time of that this post was written), which is the second lowest metacritic score for all of the live-action “Star Wars” films. (Only the metacritic score of 53% for “Star Wars I: #ThePhantomMenace” is lower.)

The overall consensus on rottentomatoes for the film is defined as follows:

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker suffers from a frustrating lack of imagination, but concludes this beloved saga with fan-focused devotion.”

"Star Wars IX" Metacritic Score from Rottentomatoes

“Star Wars IX” Metacritic Score from Rottentomatoes

To see how the fans might react to the film, we sat down and did a comparison of the rottentomatoes metacritic scores with the user scores for the live action “Star Wars” films on IMDb. The results were very interesting.

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From this values, we found that there is a correlation of 80% between the two sets of ratings, which implies that the rottentomatoes metacritic score is a good indicator of how well users are actually going to like the film. Based on this correlation. we are able to predict that the user rating for “Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker” is probably going to be around 6.4 to 6.5, which isn’t good at all as it implies that the “Star Wars” trilogy of trilogies is going to end on a very forgettable note.

Now, when we first started to write this blog post, there were no ratings showing up on IMDb.com, but as of the time that we are working to complete this blog post, there are ratings appearing because theaters outside of the U.S. are opening and viewers are beginning to watch the film. So, right now, with just under 8000 votes, the rating for “Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker” on IMDb is 6.8, which is very close to the value that we have predicted. Assuming that the people going to see the film as early as possible are the hardcore “Star Wars” fans, that 6.8 rating is very telling and once more members of the general public see the film (who aren’t necessarily huge fans of the franchise), that rating may continue to go down. Only time will tell.

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J.J. Abrams Confirms “Star Wars IX” Is “Still Being Worked On”

With less than one month before “#StarWars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker” is supposed to open in theaters, director J.J. Abrams told Entertainment Weekly that the film is “still being worked on”:

“We always knew we were going to have three fewer months to postproduction this film,” says Abrams. “So much is still being worked on. It’s literally a practical race to get it finished.”

J.J. Abrams then claims that he’s feeling better about “The Rise of Skywalker” than his work on “Star Wars VII: #TheForceAwakens”, saying,

“We had more reshoots on Episode VII than this one,” Abrams says. “We had more story adjustments on VII than this one. We didn’t know if these characters would work, if the actors would be able to carry a Star Wars movie. There were a lot of things we didn’t know. On this, we knew who and what worked, and everyone is doing the best work I’ve ever seen anyone do. But the ambition of this movie is far greater than Force Awakens. What we set out to do was far more challenging. Everything is exponentially larger on this.”

Rumors about “The Rise of Skywalker” indicate there are multiple cuts of the film with radical changes to the story in each of the different cuts. In fact, one of the cuts reportedly brought in George Lucas to introduce a new “secret Skywalker.” One rumor from the middle of October detailed that Lucasfilm and Disney had to rework almost the entire film. Abrams’ quotes will more than likely not settle any fears fans might have that the film is a complete mess. In fact, he appears to be confirming those fears noting they are crunching to get the film finished.

Rey in Ep. IX

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“Maleficent 2” Bombs in North America

#Disney’s #Maleficent sequel, “Maleficent: #MistressOfEvil,” bombed during its opening weekend in North America, earning only $36 million, in spite of it topping the box office. With a $185 million budget, the sequel is a far cry from the original “Maleficent”, which earned $69 million during its opening weekend in 2014.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” also did extremely poorly in Japan, where it only earned $3.2 million. By comparison, “Maleficent” earned $67 million in Japan during its opening weekend in 2014.

Arriving over five years after the first “Maleficent”, the Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer and Elle Fanning fantasy is suffering the same grim fate as “The LEGO Movie 2”, “Pacific Rim: Uprising”and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” that were released earlier this year.

Not all news is entirely bad for “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” as its total earnings overseas were $117 million, with $22 million coming from China and $10 million from Russia. But, while its total global worldwide earrings were $155 million. it will still need to earn quite  bit in order to break even. Only time will tell whether that actually happens.

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