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'Hamilton' and 'Dear Evan Hansen' stars release new song

Broadway fans are buzzing over the release of a new song by two popular Tony winners in support of the upcoming March for Our Lives.

"Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt, the original star of "Dear Evan Hansen," have recorded a duet called "Found/Tonight,' mixing lyrics from "You Will Be Found" from "Dear Evan Hansen" and "The Story of Tonight" from "Hamilton."

The song was released at midnight on Monday and is No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart.

The multicity March for Our Lives on March 24 was planned after the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Miranda has been releasing "Hamilton"-related content each month in a series called Hamildrop.



WATCH: Brewers reenact famous scene from 'The Sandlot' 

After 25 years, the Beast is back.

>> Read more trending news

The Milwaukee Brewers are known for churning out entertaining videos -- remember their bullpen dance-off against the Chicago Cubs? -- and spring training was no exception last week as several players contributed to a shot-by-shot reenactment of a famous scene from the 1993 movie, “The Sandlot.”

The 1993 comedy was about a group of friends who loved playing the game but only had one ball. So when one player hits the ball over the fence, where a snarling, mean dog lives, the game is apparently over. 

In the 2½-minute video, several players reprise the roles from the film, WTMJ reported. Stephen Vogt played Hamilton “Ham” Porter, who hits the home run. Brett Phillips plays Scotty Smalls, a newcomer who volunteers to retrieve the ball, while Eric Sogard has a memorable cameo as Squints.

Other players in the video include Christian Yelich as Benny, Hernan Perez as Yeah-Yeah, Jeremy Jeffress as Kenny, Josh Hader as Bertram, Chase Anderson (Tommy Timmons) and Jett Bandy (Timmy Timmons).

Plus, Hank the dog plays “the Beast.”

The scene is faithfully done, although Vogt bats left-handed. Ham bats right-handed in the 1993 film. And the Beast steals the scene.

Here is the original clip from the 1993 movie:

And here is what the Brewers do when they get bored in the bullpen:

John Oliver spoofs Pence picture book about bunny

John Oliver has trolled his way to the top.

The HBO host's spoof of a new picture book by the wife and daughter of Vice President Mike Pence was No. 1 on and out of stock as of midday Monday.

"Marlon Bundo's Day in the Life of a Vice President" is a tribute to the Pence family's beloved rabbit. It was written by the vice president's daughter, Charlotte Pence, and illustrated by his wife, Karen Pence. Oliver's book, which he announced over the weekend, is called "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo." The story is the same, almost: This Marlon Bundo has fallen for a male bunny.

"There are a few small differences between the two books," Oliver said on his show, noting Pence's opposition to gay marriage and other LGBTQ rights. "This is a sweet story about Marlon Bundo falling in love."

Published by Chronicle Books, the parody was written by "Last Week" contributor Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller. Proceeds are being donated to The Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth, and AIDS United.

It's not the only current best-seller inspired by the Trump administration. No. 2 on Amazon was James Comey's "A Higher Loyalty," the upcoming memoir by the FBI director fired last year by President Donald Trump. At No. 3 on Monday was "Russian Roulette," in which Michael Isikoff and David Corn investigate Trump's alleged ties to Russia.

The Pence book, meanwhile is a best-seller, too, ranked No. 11 on Amazon.

Blink-182 announces 16-show Las Vegas residency

Blink-182 has announced a Las Vegas residency, joining the likes of pop stars Britney Spears, Cher, Bruno Mars, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga.

But unlike many other musicians, the rock band won’t be in Vegas for years on end.

>> Read more trending news 

People reported Monday that the band is starting a 16-date residency starting Memorial Day weekend.

The trio’s residency, called “Kings of the Weekend,” will start May 26 and take place on select weekends at Palms Casino Resort through Nov. 17, according to Rolling Stone. The latest lineup of the band includes bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus, guitarist and vocalist Matt Skiba and drummer Travis Barker.

“We were stoked to be asked to be the first band in residency at the Pearl at the newly renovated Palms Hotel,” the band said in a statement to People. “Vegas is always a fun place to play.”

The band will perform at the Palms’ recently renovated Pearl Concert Theater.

“When the Palms asked us to do a residency here in Vegas, we said, ‘Absolutely!’” Hoppus said in a statement, according to Rolling Stone. “Now, we just have to cast our showgirls, create our set list – a true throwback of Vegas classics with Sinatra, Liberace. Maybe we can even marry someone onstage ... The possibilities in Vegas are endless.”

Related: Lady Gaga confirms Las Vegas residency

Presale tickets go on sale March 20 at 10:00 a.m. General tickets are on sale March 23 at 10 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at

The dates for Blink-182’s residency shows are below. More information on tour dates and ticket packages can be found at

May 26-27

June 8-9

June 15-16

June 23-24

Oct. 26-27

Nov. 2-3,

Nov. 9-10

Nov. 16-17

Fifth Harmony going on indefinite hiatus, pursuing ‘solo endeavors’

Fifth Harmony is disbanding for the unforeseen future.

E! News reported that the girl group -- made up of Dinah Jane, Normani Kordei, Ally Brooke and Lauren Jauregui -- announced on Twitter Monday that they are going on “solo endeavors” and are going on a hiatus.

Fifth Harmony began as a five-person group, forming on the US version of “The X Factor” in 2012. In 2016, original member Camila Cabello controversially left the group and launched her own successful solo career.

>> Read more trending news 

“Reflecting on the past six years since we started on X-Factor, we've realized just how far we've come and we appreciate everything so much, more now than ever,” the statement said. “We’ve really had one hell of a memorable journey together and can’t begin to express our gratitude to y’all for coming along with us on this wild ride!

“After six years going hard, non-stop, we also realized that in order to stay authentic to ourselves and to you, we do need to take some time for now to go on a hiatus from Fifth Harmony in order to pursue solo endeavors.”

There have already been indicators that members of the group were going solo.

Billboard reported that Kordei signed a solo management deal in October and will go by the mononym Normani. That same month, Dinah Jane appeared on the joint single “Boom Boom” with Daddy Yankee, RedOne and French Montana.

In January, Jauregui appeared on “All Night” with Steve Aoki. That same month, Brooke appeared on “Perfect,” a single from Topic.

In February, Kordei appeared on the single “Love Lies” with Khalid.

The group ended its statement with a thank you to their fans, called Harmonizers:

“To our Harmonizers, thank you for everything we have been able to build as Fifth Harmony. With your love and encouragement we will continue to build on ourselves, support one another in everything we do, and keep making you proud, each other proud and ourselves proud.”

Fifth Harmony still has tour dates that it says will still happen through the end of the year.

Read Fifth Harmony’s full statement below:

Jim Carrey's newest artwork seems to resemble Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Actor Jim Carrey’s latest piece of artwork bears an eerie resemblance to the White House press secretary, the New York Daily News reported.

>> Read more trending news

“This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked,” Carrey wrote on Twitter, posting a photo of his drawing, which depicts an angry woman with dark hair and pointed eyebrows.

Carrey ended the tweet with the exclamation, “Monstrous!”

According to Twitter users, it didn’t take Ace Ventura to figure out that Carrey’s drawing bore a strong resemblance to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

There was plenty of negative reaction to Carrey’s tweet.

“And this is a portrait (of) a has-been who hasn't put out a decent movie in 15 years,” one man tweeted, posting a picture of Carrey.

“Another political Entertainer. Down the drain,” read another tweet.

There were some tweeters who jumped to Carrey’s defense:

Carrey’s Twitter account features many examples of his artwork, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Daily News reported.

AP names Nancy Benac as White House news editor

Nancy Benac, a veteran Washington journalist who has covered the presidency and national political campaigns, has been named White House news editor at The Associated Press.

The appointment was announced Monday by Julie Pace, AP's Washington bureau chief.

Benac will lead a team of AP reporters covering all aspects of President Donald Trump's White House, one of the most competitive and closely watched beats in the world. She's overseen the White House team on an interim basis since last summer.

"Nancy has already established herself as an invaluable member of the bureau's leadership team and has earned the respect of the White House reporters," Pace said. "She brings a sophisticated eye to her editing and is simply never rattled, despite the relentless pace of White House coverage."

Benac has worked for the AP for more than 35 years, covering government and politics. She began her AP career as an intern in the New York City bureau in 1980, followed by stints in Detroit and Lansing, Michigan, before moving to Washington as the Michigan regional reporter in 1983.

Over two-plus decades in Washington, Benac has covered a wide variety of beats, including the Clinton White House, and served as political editor for three national election cycles. She was a contributing author to the AP history book, "Breaking News: How the Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace, and Everything Else."

A native of Lombard, Illinois, Nancy is a graduate of Brigham Young University. She and her husband have two children.


Follow The Associated Press on Twitter at:



Wendy Williams says ‘perfect storm’ led to talk show hiatus

Wendy Williams is discussing her health ahead of her return to her daytime talk show.

In February, the TV personality took a three-week hiatus from her show to focus on her health. “Entertainment Tonight” reported that she spoke to “Good Morning America” about her break before her return to the show March 19.

>> Read more trending news 

Williams, who said she hasn’t taken a break since her talk show began as a 6-week sneak peek in 2009, told “GMA’s” Amy Robach it was a “perfect storm” brewing in her body since late July that led to her hiatus.

Related: Wendy Williams announces 3-week hiatus due to Graves’ disease

The 53-year-old has previously discussed her Graves’ disease diagnosis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. She told Robach she missed three appointments with her endocrinologist, the doctor who monitors her Graves, and finally went in in February. At that appointment, her doctor told her to take some time off.

“I cried and then I laughed,” Williams said of her reaction. “(I told the doctor,) ‘Are you out of your mind? It’s sweeps.’”

Related: What is Graves’ disease? Wendy Williams opens up about her condition

Williams said the break ended up being a good idea.

“I found out I was very deficient in vitamin D,” Williams said. “My internist told me I am ... the worst case of deficiency vitamin D that she’s ever seen in her career.”

Williams also shared a message for women -- one that echoes her statement when she announced her hiatus Feb. 21.

“We, as women, particularly if — we have families, you know, we’re taking care of children, we’re taking care of, you know, home, our husbands, we take care of everybody but ourselves,” Williams said.

“And it’s really unfortunate. And that — that is something that has no socioeconomic thing to it. No matter what — no matter what the woman’s status is, it seems like we’re all in the same boat ... I’m not doing that anymore.”

“Wendy first,” Williams said.

Related: Wendy Williams to return March 19, Jerry O’Connell to guest host

One thing Williams asks of her viewers is to not ask how she’s doing. 

During her hiatus, actor Jerry O’Connell filled in as host -- a first in the history of “The Wendy Williams show.” Robach said Williams watched the show twice and thought O’Connell did a great job, but stopped after finding herself wanting to work.

James Patterson donating $2 million to classroom libraries

James Patterson is stepping up his game.

The best-selling author has increased his annual donations for classroom libraries from $1.75 million to $2 million. Scholastic Inc. told The Associated Press on Monday that Patterson is distributing 4,000 gifts of $500 each to teachers around the country, from Mechanic Falls, Maine, to Cheney, Kansas. The so-called "Patterson Pledge" was launched in 2015 and is run in coordination with Scholastic Book Clubs, which adds book club points to Patterson's contribution. More than 80,000 teachers applied for donations.

"I can't underscore enough how important books and reading are to a child's development — better readers make better people, and ultimately better citizens," Patterson said in a statement. "I'm so grateful for the teachers who are doing imperative work with students every day, in every school in the country. These grants are my way of acknowledging their extraordinary efforts."

"Teachers often have to find their own funds and use their personal money to buy books and build fresh classroom libraries. This is why we at Scholastic Book Clubs are truly inspired by James Patterson's commitment to offer real help to teachers in this work," Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, said in a statement.

Over the past few years, Patterson has also given millions of dollars to bookstores and literacy programs and endowed thousands of college scholarships for teachers.

Bill Murray takes catnap at SXSW premiere of 'Isle of Dogs'

Bill Murray took a catnap at the premiere of the film "Isle of Dogs."

Murray voices the canine Boss in Wes Anderson's movie, which was shown Saturday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

The 67-year-old Murray read the poem "Dogs" accompanied by a cellist and joined Anderson and cast members onstage to answer questions from the audience.

But Murray nodded off when the questions centered on the filmmaking process.

Pitbull to speak at United Nations about global water crisis

Grammy Award-winning rapper Pitbull is heading to the United Nations to discuss the global water crisis on World Water Day.

The organization Clean Water Here announced on Monday that the international pop star will be named Clean Water Here Ambassador on March 22, when he visits the U.N. in New York City.

Pitbull also will receive the 2018 World Water Champion Award for his global humanitarian efforts. He is leading the celebrity-driven social media campaign dubbed "Clean Water Here Cause Flash," in hopes of raising awareness of the water crisis. Other participants include Bruno Mars, Pink, Maroon 5, Demi Lovato, Monica and Juanes.

On March 22, U.N. General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak will launch a 10-year plan focused on sustainable development of water resources.

Dior men's designer Kris Van Assche departs after 11 years

Christian Dior announced Monday that long-time menswear designer Kris Van Assche would leave the Parisian fashion house and be succeeded by former Louis Vuitton designer Kim Jones.

Van Assche, a 41-year-old Belgian, whose minimalist, urban aesthetic has garnered praise during his 11-year tenure at Dior, is one of Paris fashion's most recognizable faces. Van Assche said he was leaving with his "mind and heart filled with experiences" to "pursue new challenges."

After he shuttered his smaller eponymous label in 2015 amid challenging market conditions, Dior was his main occupation.

Dior parent company LVMH Group said that Van Assche would remain in the group and his future role would be announced later.

In a separate statement, Dior announced that Jones, a British designer, will replace him in the high-profile role that's one of the fashion industry's most coveted.

Jones, 44, was formerly menswear designer at Louis Vuitton, also of LVMH, and held his celebrity-filled swan song in January alongside models Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.

Jim Carrey criticized for portrait believed to be Sanders

Jim Carrey is being criticized on social media for a portrait he painted that is believed to be White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The actor and comedian on Saturday tweeted the painting with the caption: "This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!"

Some Twitter users accused Carrey of shaming because of the unflattering portrait. Others were critical of his use of Christian.

A spokeswoman for Carrey confirms it is his painting. But she would not confirm it is Sanders.

The White House has not returned a message seeking comment.

Blue Ivy Carter, Tyler Perry get into $20K bidding war over painting at art auction

Blue Ivy Carter may only be 6 years old, but she's already an art connoisseur.

According to USA Today, the daughter of Beyoncé and Jay-Z got into a high-priced bidding war with media mogul Tyler Perry on Saturday at the Wearable Art Gala in Los Angeles. 

>> Read more trending news 

Blue Ivy reportedly bid $17,000 on a piece, described by E! as "an acrylic painting of a young Sidney Poitier," before Perry fired back with an $18,000 offer. Not one to be outdone, Blue Ivy bid $19,000 "as Jay-Z jokingly tried to take her arm down," according to USA Today. Perry ended up paying $20,000 for the painting.

>> Click here to watch

Beyoncé's mother, Tina Knowles, and her husband, Richard Lawson, organized the gala.

Read more here or here.

Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner?


You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us.

>> See the listing here

"Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate," reads the listing by Real Estate One's Alex Lauer. "Every aspect of 'Lion Gate Estate' has been articulated with painstaking attention to detail and mind blowing decorative flair. Too many custom features to list!"

And he's not kidding. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, owned by a former automotive designer, is the definition of "extra," with a "Liberace-inspired living room" and "museum-like" interior, Curbed reports

>> Read more trending news 

The listing continues: "Highlights include heated swimming pool with outdoor shower and cabana. Custom two car garage with hand painted automotive murals. Finished basement with billiard room and entertainment area. Fenced in yard with fountains and statuary. Sale includes full contents of the house, including Kohler Campbell baby grand player piano, mint condition Frigidaire kitchen appliances c. 1950. One of a kind custom built 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan, One of a kind custom built 1974 Lincoln Mark IV Coupe, Custom pool table, countless automotive relics and artifacts. Once in a lifetime offering."

But if you want to take a tour, you'd better check the weather forecast first. "Only shown on sunny days," the listing warns.

>> Click here or scroll down to check out some photos of the home

After 2017 election, US poised to fight fake news - in Kenya

Just ahead of Kenya's disputed 2017 election, video clips started spreading on social media of a slick-looking CNN broadcast asserting that President Uhuru Kenyatta had pulled far ahead in the polls. But the CNN broadcast was fake, splicing together real coverage from CNN Philippines with other footage with the network's iconic red logo superimposed in the corner.

It happened with a BBC video, too, and with a photo purportedly of Kenyan security forces killing protesters that was actually from Tanzania, and with thousands of spurious blog posts and other false reports that flooded the popular messaging app WhatsApp, fueling further divisions and turmoil in an election that morphed into a major political crisis.

So the U.S. government is gearing up to fight fake news — not at home, where it's the subject of heated debate following the 2016 presidential campaign, but in Kenya, where America has sought to nurture a vibrant but volatile African democracy.

"Information is, of course, power, and frankly, fake news is a real danger," U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said in an interview, adding that it had eroded confidence in Kenya's real news media. "It's being weaponized. It's undermining democracy in Kenya."

Godec kicked off the awareness campaign this past week with an email to the 47,000 members of the State Department's Young African Leaders Initiative asking them to pledge to prevent the spread of fake media by pausing to verify the source and validity before passing information along to others through social media. For a while this week, the hashtag #StopReflectVerify was the No. 2 trending hashtag on Twitter in Kenya, where the U.S. Embassy pushed it to its 256,000 followers.

In addition to offering resources for discriminating between fact and fake, the campaign involves three-day training sessions for public affairs officials in Kenya's counties, encouraging local governments to be more responsive and forthcoming so that journalists on deadline can fact-check information they hear. Though it's starting in Kenya, the program is expected to expand, with an Africa-wide international fact-checking day and a global, virtual event on World Press Freedom Day in May anchored out of Nairobi.

The focus on fighting fake news in Kenya stands in contrast to what's happening in the United States, where President Donald Trump uses the term to denigrate credible news outlets that publish critical coverage about him or his Republican administration. Trump has also continually downplayed the role that false information from illegitimate sources may have played in affecting the outcome of the election. Last month, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians accused of using a network of fake social media accounts and targeted political messages to stir up turmoil in the 2016 race.

The campaign also comes as the U.S. has been warning Kenya's government about worrisome restrictions on the legitimate news media. The group Human Rights Watch has said Kenyan officials try to stop critical coverage by threatening, intimidating and harassing journalists. The United States was particularly concerned in February when Kenya shut down major broadcasters after opposition leader Raila Odinga held a mock inauguration on television.

In Kenya, the fake news problem has also raised fears about violence being stoked by false facts that often mushroom on social media before they can be stopped.

At election time, a fake but realistic-looking U.S. diplomatic cable circulated that appeared to show embassy officials predicting instability, celebratory violence, "severe unrest and a massive breakdown of law and order" if Odinga were to defeat Kenyatta in the election. The U.S. embassy quickly tweeted its own version of the cable with the word "FAKE" slapped across it in bold red font.

Yet there are risks for the U.S. in appearing to tell people what to believe, say or not say in Kenya, a former British colony. So the embassy is taking pains to show it is a locally driven operation, partnering with groups like AfricaCheck, a fact-checking website similar to the U.S. site

"We're not asking them to believe any particular thing," Godec said. "We're just saying, don't take everything you see on your phone via WhatsApp as the truth because it may not be."


Reach Josh Lederman at http:/

After broken hand, Flight of the Conchords tour postponed

The music comedy group Flight of the Conchords has postponed a series of tour dates after Bret McKenzie injured his hand in what he called a "very rock 'n' roll injury — falling down some stairs."

In a statement posted on the band's website on Sunday, McKenzie said the upcoming United Kingdom tour of the Flight of the Conchords would be rescheduled after he broke two bones in his hand. McKenzie says he will be prevented from performing for several weeks.

The group's 13 U.K. performances were to begin on Sunday in London.

McKenzie and Jemaine Clement recently reunited for a series of North American shows. Their HBO series ran from 2007 to 2009.

Cirque du Soleil performer dies after fall during Tampa show

A Cirque du Soleil acrobat who fell during a Saturday performance in Tampa, Florida, died from his injuries, a hospital spokeswoman told WTSP on Sunday.

>> Read more trending news

According to a video viewed by WTSP and The Tampa Bay Times, the aerial acrobat lost his grip on a ribbon strap during the company’s “Volta” show and fell 10 feet to the stage below.

A spokesman for Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group identified the performer as Yann Arnaud, a longtime aerialist, WFLA reported.

The show was stopped, and Arnaud was taken to Tampa General Hospital. He died from his injuries, spokeswoman Ellen Fiss told WTSP. 

The two performances scheduled for Sunday were canceled, the company in charge of publicizing the show said in a statement.

"The entire Cirque du Soleil family is in shock and devastated by this tragedy. Yann had been with us for over 15 years and was loved by all who had the chance to know him," company CEO Daniel Lamarre said. "Over the coming days and weeks, our focus will be on supporting Yann’s family and our employees, especially the ‘Volta’ team, as we go through these difficult times together."

Arnuad’s death is the second performer fatality in Cirque du Soleil's history, WTSP reported. According to the BBC, Sarah Guillot-Guyard, 31, died during a 2013 show in Las Vegas when she fell 94 feet to the floor when a safety wire detached.

Olivier Rochette, a 43-year-old technician, died in 2016 while setting up for a performance.

'Black Panther' tops box office for 5th straight weekend

Not since "Avatar" has a box-office hit had the kind of staying power of "Black Panther." Ryan Coogler's comic-book sensation on Sunday became the first film since James Cameron's 2009 smash to top the weekend box office five straight weekends.

The Disney release grossed $27 million in ticket sales over the weekend, according to studio estimates, pushing its domestic haul to $605.4 million. Worldwide, "Black Panther" has grossed more than $1.1 billion.

Though "Black Panther" has had little competition to contend with throughout February and March, such consistency is especially rare in today's movie-going world. Before "Avatar," the last film to do it was 1999's "The Sixth Sense."

That left second place to the MGM-Warner Bros.' rebooted "Tomb Raider," starring Alicia Vikander as the archaeologist adventurer Lara Croft. The $90 million film opened with $23.5 million, largely failing to stir much excitement among moviegoers. Critics gave it mediocre reviews (49 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and ticket-buyers responded with a "meh," giving it a B CinemaScore.

With Vikander stepping in for Angelina Jolie, Roar Uthaug's "Tomb Raider" is an attempt to rekindle a video game-adapted franchise that faded quickly the first time around. The 2001 original opened $47.7 million and grossed $274.7 million worldwide, but the big-budget 2003 sequel flopped, opening with $21.8 million domestically and grossing $156.5 million worldwide.

Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros., said "Tomb Raider" came close to studio expectations in North America but that international ticket sales were a primary focus. "Tomb Raider" was no. 1 overseas, grossing $84.5 million, including a $41.1 million in China.

"International was always a key part of the strategy," Goldstein said.

Of course, the continuing success of "Black Panther" also didn't help "Tomb Raider." When release dates were being set a year ago, few could have foreseen "Black Panther" no. 1 five weeks in. "How could you?" Goldstein said.

"Black Panther" has shown considerably fewer legs in China, however. Though it has grossed $96 million in two weeks of release in China, "Black Panther" slid steeply in its second weekend.

Yet last week, "Black Panther" even bested Disney's own "A Wrinkle in Time," Ava DuVernay's adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 novel of the same name. In its second week, "A Wrinkle in Time" dropped 50 percent with $16.6 million in ticket sales.

The surprise of the weekend was the Lionsgate-Roadside Attractions Christian drama "I Can Only Imagine," which grossed $17.1 million on 1,629 screens — less than half the number that "Black Panther," ''Tomb Raider" and "A Winkle in Time" played on. The film, which co-stars Dennis Quaid and Cloris Leachman, cost only $7 million to make. It stars J. Michael Finley as the singer behind one of the most popular Christian songs, by the band MercyMe.

"I Can Only Imagine" doubled expectations by sticking to the typical tactic of "faith-based" releases with a grassroots marketing effort that focused on Southern, Southwestern and suburban moviegoers. Eighty percent of the audience was over 35.

It's the biggest opening weekend ever for Roadside Attractions, the 15-year-old indie distributor whose previous titles include "Mud" and "Manchester by the Sea."

"We did really work the film. Starting with the beginning of October, we were screening the film for faith-based influencers," said Roadside co-founder Howard Cohen. "So it had a really classic playbook for these type of movies. But a lot of movies do it and it doesn't work as well."

Playing to a virtually opposite audience was 20th Century Fox's "Love, Simon," the first film from a major Hollywood studio featuring a gay teen protagonist. Whereas "I Can Only Imagine" catered to the suburbs, "Love, Simon" thrived mainly in urban areas.

Greg Berlanti's film, adapted from the best-selling young-adult novel "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda," stars Nick Robinson as a gay 17-year-old who has yet to come out when another closeted boy from his high school begins an anonymous e-mail romance. The film garnered strong reviews (91 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences agreed, giving it an A-plus CinemaScore.

"I feel good that we released this film. I feel great that we had the kind of exit polls that we did," said Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Fox. "I think audiences are going to continue to find this jewel of a film that Greg Berlanti created."

Fox Searchlight's Oscar winner "The Shape of Water" also launched in China this weekend with $10.4 million following its best-picture win. The biggest post-Oscars boost has been overseas, where "The Shape of Water" grossed $17 million over the weekend.

According to comScore, the weekend was down 50 percent from the same weekend in 2017 when Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" opened with a record-breaking $174.8 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final three-day domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "Black Panther," $27 million ($30 million international).

2. "Tomb Raider," $23.5 million ($84.5 million international).

3. "I Can Only Imagine," $17.1 million ($195,000 international).

4. "A Wrinkle in Time," $16.6 million ($3.2 million international).

5. "Love, Simon," $11.5 million.

6. "Game Night," $5.6 million ($3.7 million international).

7. "Peter Rabbit," $5.2 million ($14.5 million international).

8. "Strangers: Prey at Night," $4.8 million.

9. "Red Sparrow," $4.5 million ($8.9 million international).

10. "Death Wish," $3.4 million ($1.3 million international).


Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. "Tomb Raider," $84.5 million.

2. "Black Panther," $30 million.

3. "The Shape of Water," $17 million.

4. "Peter Rabbit," $14.5 million.

5. "Operation Red Sea," $11.7 million.

6. "Red Sparrow," $8.9 million.

7. "Coco," $6.5 million.

8. "Amazing China," $6.1 million.

9. "Now I Will Meet You," $5.9 million.

10. "Bajrangi Bhaijaan," $4.8 million.


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at:

Egypt censors play 'Before the Revolution,' director appeals

Egypt's state censors prohibited the performance of a play just hours before its Sunday premiere in Cairo, the latest episode in authorities' unrelenting crackdown on free speech.

Director Ahmed El Attar cancelled the Sunday and Monday showings of Before The Revolution, a two-actor piece that depicts feelings of oppression and stagnation in Egypt before its 2011 popular uprising, saying that to remove five scenes as required by the censors heavily distorted the piece.

The play, which had been set to show in a 100-seat theatre for six nights, is part of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival, the biggest arts event in Cairo's city center, supported mostly by foreign cultural institutes and embassies as well as UNESCO.

"The director and playwright El Attar saw that removing five scenes has a negative and strong impact on the dramatic construction and the work of art, draining its artistic and literary content," organizers said in a statement.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president, has waged a massive crackdown on dissent and free speech, and authorities have ratcheted up pressure ahead of an upcoming election he is set to win virtually unchallenged.

After all potentially serious competitors were arrested or intimidated out of the race, on March 26-28 Egyptians will vote either for el-Sissi or a little-known politician who supports him and has not campaigned. Posters of el-Sissi look down over most major thoroughfares across the country.

Meanwhile, authorities have taken a hard line against any critical media, arresting several reporters while the country's chief prosecutor described critical journalists as "forces of evil" who "undermine the security and safety of the nation through the broadcast and publication of lies and false news."

Sunday's censoring would be the second time authorities have cracked down on a play ahead of the election — six people were also arrested this month for their involvement in a piece at a Cairo sports club seen as insulting to security forces because it referenced a controversial police figure who had killed Israeli tourists in 1985.

El Attar, who is also the art festival's general manager and artistic director, has appealed for a second censorship committee to watch the show on March 19th, hopefully allowing it to be shown without the proposed cuts.

The playwright's social satire has been appreciated in Europe, most recently with 2014's The Last Supper, a critique of Egypt's Cairo elite and a class-led patriarchy that was well received at theatre festivals.

In Before The Revolution, El Attar says that while he found it too early to address artistically the events of 2011, he hoped to examine some of the conditions that led to the revolt that overthrew Egypt's long-term autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

"I want to convey the emotions of the period," he told The Associated Press in an interview last week. "I think it was a rough period, it was a time when it was all suppression and defeat, I mean it was hard. So I want (the audience) to feel that."


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Associated Press writer Maggie Hyde contributed to this report.

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