Heaven Is for Real shocked some industry prognosticators by making $22.5 million over the Easter weekend and another $7 million on Wednesday and Thursday for a five-day cume of $29.6 million. It ranked No. 2, just under Captain America: The Winter Soldier, becoming the third film aimed directly at Christian audiences to exceed box office expectations this year (joining Son of God and God's Not Dead).
Of the Christian movie trend, Joe Boyd, founder of the production company Rebel Pilgrim, writes, "This is when we will know that Christian movies have made it. When they don't need the [Christian] label to draw an audience. But I'm not naive. It is the label that lets these movies, generally under $2M budget, exist. If Christian movies are a genre they are closer to horror movies than anything else. A decent one, with the right elements, can serve a niche audience and financially succeed. You just have to follow the unwritten rules of the audience you are serving. Both genres can be blasted by critics and those unfamiliar with the genre as 'cheesy,' but the core doesn't care. They like it. A business plan around making a slate of Christian movies or horror movies looks very similar. And in reality they are probably the safest movie investments a person could make." [boxofficemojo.com, 4/20/14; nytimes.com, 4/20/14; huffingtonpost.com, 4/15/14 stats]
It's official: Frozen is now a bona fide pop-culture phenomenon.
Global box office performance: $1.13 billion in ticket sales, which is good enough for No. 6 on the all-time worldwide box office chart. (It passed The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Transformers: Dark of the Moon over the weekend.)
Soundtrack sales: 2.1 million copies with 10 nonconsecutive weeks atop Billboard's album chart. (It should pass up The Lion King's musical record next week).
Merchandising: Any parent looking for an Anna or Elsa doll for their girls to play with is going to need a lot of luck, a lot of money or both, as Frozen dolls and accessories have suddenly joined the ranks of fabled must-haves like Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Dolls. The Huffington Post reports that a woman spent $1,200 for a single Elsa doll. And another pair of dolls was listed on eBay for $10,000. In New York, anecdotal reports suggest that parents desperate to dress their little girls up as the sister princesses have ponied up as much as $1,000 for outfits that originally retailed at the Disney store for $150. [boxofficemojo.com, 4/17/14; billboard.com, 4/16/14; newyork.cbslocal.com, 4/15/14; huffingtonpost.com, 4/15/14 stats]
Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania analyzed television shows aired over the last 55 years, noting how often people smoked on the tube. They found that the virtual rates lined up with real-life smoking habits among adults. In fact, each time a cigarette showed up, on average, in a primetime hour of television, real-life smokers consumed about two more packs of cigarettes a year. Part of that equation? Researchers think that seeing people smoke on television might be an unhealthy trigger for long-time smokers who have recently quit. [Reuters, 4/16/14 stats, c&e]
Officials at several Colorado colleges are denying that a surge in college applications in the state is related to marijuana legalization—a suggestion made by High Times, the world's largest cannabis-related magazine. At the University of Colorado-Boulder, for instance, out-of-state applications have jumped 33% since marijuana's legalization (with in-state applications only moving upwards 5%).
Meanwhile, researchers at Northwestern University have linked casual marijuana usage in young adults to several brain abnormalities. The study (published April 16 in the Journal of Neuroscience) found that pot consumption by 18- to 25-year-olds once or twice a week correlated with memory problems, motivation problems as well as brain concerns similar to those seen in schizophrenia patients.
And two recent deaths have been linked to edible marijuana products in Denver, Colo. (Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use earlier this year.) Levy Thamba Pongi, a 19-year-old college student from Wyoming (and native of the Republic of Congo), jumped off the railing of a fourth-floor hotel room after ingesting a bigger quantity of pot-laced cookies than the merchant who sold them recommended. Pongi began shaking and screaming before leaping to his death. His autopsy listed marijuana intoxication as a "significant contributing factor" in his death. Also in Denver, 47-year-old Richard Kirk allegedly killed his wife, Kristine, while she was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. Kirk had eaten marijuana-infused candy and possibly taken a prescription painkiller before the attack, according to police records.
Says '80s superstar singer George Michael, "I've completely stopped [smoking marijuana]. … I decided to change my life, and I haven't touched it for well over a year and a half now." Michael reportedly used to smoke as many as 25 joints a day and once said in an interview, "This stuff keeps me sane and happy." In 2010, he was sentenced to eight weeks in prison after having an accident while driving under the influence of marijuana. It was his second drug-related driving conviction. [cbsnews.com, 4/18/14; thecollegefix.com, 4/18/14; foxnews.com, 4/15/14; dailymail.co.uk, 3/15/14 c&e]
HBO's popular series Game of Thrones is well known and often criticized for its graphic content and instances of "sexposition," where plot-critical-but-dry moments of dialogue are delivered during explicit sex scenes. Now comes news that the series continues to turn to the porn industry for some of its actresses. Samantha Bentley and Jessica Jenson, both well known in pornographic movie circles, will appear in the HBO series, following the example of Sahara Knite, who has been playing the prostitute Armeca for two years. "Game of Thrones was nothing like I'm used to, but I got on with the job," Jensen said. [nydailynews.com, 4/17/14]
"[Beyoncé] puts out a new album with a video that glorifies having sex in the back of a limousine. Teenage girls look up to Beyoncé, particularly girls of color. She's an adult to them. … Why on earth would this woman do that? Why would she do it when she knows the devastation that unwanted pregnancies … and fractured families [cause]? Why would Beyoncé do that?"
—Fox's Bill O'Reilly, during an interview with hip-hip mogul Russell Simmons. When Simmons tried to describe the video as art, O'Reilly responded, "That's art? Beyoncé in the back of a limo having sex and referencing Monica Lewinsky is art?" [celebuzz.com, 3/11/14]
Fox has announced the on-air cancellation of its raunchy Saturday night animated programming block Animation Domination High-Def (effective June 28.) According to the industry trade website Broadcasting & Cable, local Fox affiliates were informed of the coming program change on April 8 at a meeting in Las Vegas but were asked to not talk about it. "Station leaders were reluctant to speak on the record," writes B&C contributor Michael Malone, "though they did not appear sorry to see the ADHD program block go. Some had tired of fielding calls from upset viewers." Last July, the Parents Television Council asked its constituents to contact local Fox affiliates to register their ire regarding the content. Still, Entertainment Weekly reports that while ADHD will be leaving broadcast television, "the online version of ADHD will remain in place and will continue to be used to develop new potential on-air series." [broadcastingcable.com, 4/17/14; ew.com, 4/17/14; parentstv.org, 4/16-17/14]