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‘Thor: Ragnarok’ rules with $121 million weekend

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REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

By Dave McNary

Disney-Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” is heading for a stellar opening weekend with $121 million at 4,080 North American locations — the fourth best launch of 2017.

The third Thor movie is also putting an emphatic end to the month-long box office slump that saw the worst October in a decade. Among 2017 titles, its debut weekend trails only “Beauty and the Beast” at $174.8 million, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” at $146.5 million and “It” at $123.4 million.

“Thor: Ragnarok” also officially launches the holiday season with a major bang. Moviegoing has been battered this year by a subpar second half that’s pulled down 2017 grosses by 5%, but it should rebound somewhat, thanks to “Thor: Ragnorak,” Warner Bros.-DC Entertainment’s “Justice League” (which opens Nov. 17) and Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (opening Dec. 15).

World Premiere of Thor: Ragnarok – Los Angeles, California, U.S., 11/10/2017 – Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

“November has been a hotbed for blockbusters and is as important to any given year as even the hottest summer months and has been the launch pad for some of the biggest franchises in box office history including ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Twilight,’ not to mention the traditional home for James Bond,” noted Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. “Now Thor joins the rarefied air that is the $100 million November opening club, becoming only the ninth film to ever reach this threshold and the first to do it within the first part of the month.”

STXfilms’ R-rated “A Bad Moms Christmas,” which opened Wednesday, is heading for a respectable $21.6 million at 3,615 sites for its first five days. A24’s launch of Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” posted the best platform opening of the year with $375,612 on four screens for an impressive $93,903 per-screen average.

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

“Thor: Ragnarok” wound up over-performing recent estimates, which had been in the $100 million to $118 million range. The rollout includes 3,400 3D screens, 391 IMAX screens, 616 premium large format screens, and 204 D-Box locations. The IMAX total was $25.4 million.

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

With Chris Hemsworth reprising the title role, “Thor: Ragnarok” will finish far above its predecessors, nearly doubling the 2011 opening of “Thor” at $65.7 million and coming in 41% above the 2013 sequel “Thor: The Dark World” at $85.7 million.

“Thor: Ragnarok” is directed by Taika Waititi from a screenplay by Eric Pearson and the writing team of Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost. It also stars Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins. The character of Thor, based on Norse mythology, was created in 1962 by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics.

“Thor: Ragnarok” has also taken in $306 million overseas, including $109 million in its international launch last week in 52% of foreign markets. It expanded to most other overseas territories this weekend.

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‘Making of a Murderer’ case may go to Supreme Court

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A Wisconsin man convicted of murder in the case that was chronicled in the Netflix documentary, “Making of a Murderer,” on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out his 2005 confession that his attorneys claim was coerced by investigators, the Washington Post reported.

Attorneys for Brendan Dassey, 28, made a similar argument to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in December and failed. The judges voted 4-3 to uphold his conviction in the slaying of Teresa Halbach.

Dassey confessed when he was 16 of helping his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill Halbach, a freelance photographer, in 2005. Her charred remains were found on Avery’s property about 80 miles north of Milwaukee in Manitowoc County.

Steven Avery is pictured in this undated booking photo obtained by Reuters January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department/Handout via Reuters

The pair were convicted of the murder in separate trials. Avery is now 55. Both men are in prison in Wisconsin.

The case was the basis for a 10-part documentary, “Making a Murderer,” which questioned the handling of the investigation and the motives of Manitowoc County law enforcement officials.

A dissenter in the 7th Circuit Appeals Court decision, Chief Judge Diane Wood, said Dassey was a low-functioning teenager with an IQ in the low 80s, and that without his confession, the case against him was “almost nonexistent.”

Wood wrote, “Even if we were to overlook the coercion, the confession is so riddled with input from the police that its use violates due process.”

In 2016, a U.S. magistrate judge overturned the guilty verdict against Dassey, citing coercion. Then a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit upheld the magistrate’s ruling, and Wisconsin prosecutors asked for the review by the full circuit.

In October, a Wisconsin judge denied Avery a new trial.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)reuter

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George Clooney Donates $500,000 and Pledges to March in Student-Led Gun Control March

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Thousands of teenagers are taking matters into their own hands after last week’s shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, replaced Columbine as the deadliest high school shooting on American soil. Outspokenly unwilling to sit on their asses and wait for adults to do something to help prevent more massacres from taking place, they’re advocating for stricter gun laws and more mental health resources for treating their peers, swiftly mobilizing in a way that is commanding attention of the world.

Calls to action have spread across social media, from school walkouts to a march on Washington.

Student organizers got the surprise of their lives when George Clooney donated half-a-million dollars in support. The actor even pledged that he’d be there, alongside wife Amal.

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“The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues,” according to their website. “No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.”

Other celebrities have voiced their support for the students’ efforts on social media, including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Cher.

The March For Our Lives will take place on March 24.

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Haters can say it’s fake, but Justin Timberlake has No. 1 album

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Justin Timberlake snagged the No.1 Spot on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart with “Man of the Woods,” despite harsh reviews and a Super Bowl halftime show that was deemed underwhelming on social media and by music critics.

“Man of the Woods,” Timberlake’s first studio album since 2013, sold more than 242,000 units in its first week of release, according to Nielsen Music data released on Monday.

The Billboard 200 chart tallies units from album sales, song sales (10 songs equal one album) and streaming activity (1,500 streams equal one album).

“Man of the Woods” marks Timberlake’s fourth Billboard No.1 album and was the biggest-selling album in the U.S. since Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” in December 2017, Billboard said.

It debuted at No.1 after a Feb. 4 Super Bowl performance consisting mostly of Timberlake’s old hits that also featured a controversial segment featuring a huge projection of Prince, who died in 2016.

The former NSYNC singer also took heat on social media for failing to mention, or perform with, Janet Jackson after an infamous 2004 Super Bowl appearance which ended with Timberlake ripping off Jackson’s top and accidentally briefly exposing her breast.

Nevertheless, the Super Bowl and halftime show were watched by some 103 million Americans on television. Nielsen Music reported last week that on-demand audio and video streams for all of the songs performed by Timberlake jumped 45 percent on the day after the game, compared to the day before.

Timberlake, best known for pop tracks like “SexyBack” and “Rock Your Body,” promoted “Man of the Woods” as a country-inspired album that took him back to his Memphis roots.

But the album had few fans among music reviewers. Esquire called it “disappointing” and “kind of embarrassing,” while USA Today said the album “can’t pull off its Americana-pop fusion.”

On the digital Billboard songs chart, which measures online single sales, Timberlake had three songs in the top 20 – “Say Something” featuring Chris Stapleton, “Man of the Woods,” and his 2016 hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Canadian rapper Drake took the top spot with “God’s Plan,” with more than 55,00 units sold.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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