January 3, 2019

The domestic box office officially finished just shy of $12 billion in 2018 — and Disney snapped up more cash than ever before.

Global box office revenue reached $41.7 billion in 2018, with a record $11.9 billion of that coming from the United States, per Variety. Both numbers are new records, and they're up from $39.9 billion globally and $11.1 billion in 2017. Yearly revenue overall increased 6.7 percent domestically, but more importantly, attendance also rose around four or five percent, The Hollywood Reporter notes. That number isn't settled yet, but any increase is great news after attendance had declined by 6.2 percent in 2017 and fears that streaming was killing movie theaters swept through the industry.

Disney, which released five of the year's 10 highest-grossing films domestically, had a particularly stellar year, making $3.09 billion in the United States, Entertainment Weekly reports. This is the studio's best domestic total ever, and it means that over one-fourth of the total yearly revenue in America went to the mouse, thanks in large part to Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.

No other studio even made more than $2 billion in 2018. Coming in second place was Universal, which took in $1.96 billion domestically thanks to films like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Dr. Seuss' The Grinch. In third place was Warner Bros, the studio behind Aquaman and A Star Is Born that made $1.93 billion. But don't expect any of these rival companies to eke out a victory in 2019: With a slate that includes massive films like Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Frozen 2, and Star Wars: Episode IX, Disney is almost certainly on the verge of shattering its own record once again. Brendan Morrow

2:34 p.m.

Facebook just significantly bumped up the number of apps it says it has suspended in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The company announced Friday that amid its effort to "root out bad actors among developers" beginning in March 2018, it has suspended "tens of thousands" of apps, which were "associated with about 400 developers."

Facebook launched this probe after it came to light in early 2018 that millions of users' personal data was harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the privacy scandal, which would ultimately result in a $5 billion Federal Trade Commission fine, and said the company would audit apps that had access to large amounts of data.

The number Facebook provided Friday, The New York Times notes, is "far higher than it had previously disclosed," as the company in May 2018 announced it had suspended 200 apps, and then in August 2018, it said it had suspended 400 apps. Some of the apps were banned, Facebook said Friday, with possible reasons including "inappropriately sharing data obtained from us," although the company also says that "many" apps were still in the testing phase, and "this is not necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people."

But The Washington Post writes that the announcement is "likely to reignite calls for heightened regulation of the social media giant." Facebook says it has hasn't "confirmed other instances of misuse to date other than those we have already notified the public about" as part of this investigation, which is still ongoing.

Zuckerberg has been on Capitol Hill this week meeting with skeptical lawmakers amid an attempt to salvage the company's reputation following its series of privacy scandals and FTC investigations. The trip, which included a meeting with President Trump, was described by Axios as a "charm tour." Brendan Morrow

2:30 p.m.

Get ready to swipe for your life.

Tinder has realized its users are running out of ways to continue conversations with people they've never even met. So it's getting ready to plunge swipers into an apocalyptic choose-your-own-adventure miniseries that leaves them with matches — and things to talk about — once they've made it through, The New York Times reports.

Swipe Night, as the 4-episode series is called, puts users in the middle of an apocalyptic world that challenges them to figure out who they want to spend the last night of the world with. They'll swipe left and right through a series of choices to survive and create a love story along the way, per CNBC. Those choices eventually connect them with romantic matches, who they're encouraged to talk about the adventure with.

The series is the product of 23-year-old director Karena Evans, who's behind some of Drake's music videos. It also includes writers from Netflix's Big Mouth and HBO's Insecure and a diverse group of actors in an effort to appeal to Tinder's target 18- to 25-age range. Swipe Night comes as Tinder fights a growing set of online dating competitors, including Facebook's dating feature that rolled out last month. It also acknowledges the fact that users might rather fight a pack of zombies than deign to answer another unoriginal "hey." Kathryn Krawczyk

2:07 p.m.

House Hunters' longtime host Suzanne Whang died Tuesday, 13 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, her longtime partner Jeff Vezain announced in a Friday Facebook post. She was 56.

Whang led the original iteration of the HGTV show from 1999 to 2007, starting out by appearing onscreen but eventually transitioning to fully narrating the show from offscreen. She also had recurring roles in a number of sitcoms and TV dramas, and often used what Vezain called her "audacious sense of humor" for standup comedy.

Whang was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and was given just six months to live. But she beat the disease and used it for comedic fodder, and lived cancer-free until about a year ago. Find Vezain's whole tribute to Whang below. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:08 p.m.

Game of Thrones and Veep are poised to win big at the 2019 Emmys. But as with any awards show, it's always wise to expect the unexpected.

Ahead of Sunday's broadcast, let's check in on the likeliest winners in the top categories, as well as the dark horses to keep an eye on.

1. Bill Hader (or Michael Douglas) - Barry's Hader will probably win the comedy series lead actor award again, but don't count out Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method), who defeated Hader in the equivalent category at the 2019 Golden Globes.

2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (or Phoebe Waller-Bridge) - The Veep star's victory is the night's biggest lock; Louis-Dreyfus has never lost lead comedy actress for playing Selina Meyer. Some experts have wondered about a potential upset by Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but certainly don't place a bet on that.

3. Veep (or Fleabag) - Veep is similarly favored to maintain its comedy series winning streak. But the critically-acclaimed Fleabag could potentially take it down after winning a Creative Arts Emmys bellwether, while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which won last year but has yet to face off against Veep at the Emmys, has the potential to surprise as well.

4. Billy Porter (or Jason Bateman) - Pose's Porter would make history by becoming the first openly gay black man to win the best drama lead actor award, but after collecting a Screen Actors Guild Award win for Ozark, could it be Bateman's night?

5. Sandra Oh (or Jodie Comer) - Although Oh is favored to take the lead drama actress award, some experts see it as a battle between Oh and her Killing Eve co-star, Jodie Comer.

6. Game of Thrones (or Succession) - Thrones is widely expected to maintain its drama series winning streak, but could the Roy family sneak in? Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson, noting the controversial nature of Thrones' final season, identifies Succession as the "potential disrupter waiting in the wings." Either way, HBO wins. Brendan Morrow

11:45 a.m.

President Trump claimed Friday it "doesn't matter" what he discussed with Ukraine amid the ongoing scandal over a whistleblower's "urgent" concern.

Trump spoke in the Oval Office following days of reporting about a whistleblower's complaint filed in August reportedly about a troubling "promise" Trump made on a call with a foreign leader. The Washington Post reported Thursday it has to do with Ukraine, and weeks before the complaint, Trump spoke over the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But questioned Thursday about conversations with Ukraine, and about whether he spoke about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Trump deflected.

"It doesn't matter what I discussed," Trump said. "But I will say this: somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, because it was disgraceful."

Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitted in a CNN interview Thursday he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden over an allegation he bribed the country's former president to fire a prosecutor investigating his son. The president Friday seemed to be referring to Biden's statement recalling telling Ukraine "you're not getting" a billion-dollar loan guarantee if the prosecutor wasn't fired, although PolitiFact writes this was also "the position of the wider U.S. government, as well as other international institutions" and "we found no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind."

The president Friday attacked the whistleblower as "partisan" even though he admitted he has no idea who it is. "I just hear it's a partisan person," he said. He also claimed his conversation was "beautiful" despite subsequently admitting "I really don't know" what conversation the complaint concerns. Brendan Morrow

10:54 a.m.

Disastrous weather is a problem, but disastrous climate change that contributes to it apparently isn't.

That seemed to be the take of Fox & Friends hosts Friday morning as they covered massive climate change protests happening around the world. Except perhaps a better description is "took a few cheap shots before ironically changing their focus to devastating effects of a tropical storm hitting the coast of Texas."

The hosts opened their segment by factually declaring that New York City students may be skipping class today because it's "global climate strike day." "Right, because the best thing you can do for climate problems is not go to work or school and scream on the grass and make a sign" host Brian Kilmeade said. They then showed aerial shots of the absolutely massive strikes across the world and played snippets of 2020 Democrats' appearances at MSNBC's Thursday evening climate forum, after which Kilmeade decried Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for "yelling at you."

Next up? Coverage of Tropical Storm Imelda, which caused flooding in Houston and throughout southeast Texas, and is just one of many storms growing in frequency and intensity as human-caused climate change worsens. Watch the irony unfold below. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:56 a.m.

Alienstock ended up facing approximately the same fate as Woodstock.

After gaining millions of RSVPs on Facebook, a joking promise to "storm Area 51" on Friday morning succumbed to its first defeat when event organizers renamed it "Alienstock" and rescheduled it for next year. Yet some brave truth-seekers still set out to the Nevada desert Thursday evening — and found a knockoff Coachella, The Washington Post reports.

In the hours before the proposed 3 a.m. raid of Area 51 to "see them aliens," Daniel Martinez, a 31-year-old Pokémon card dealer dressed in a wolf "spirit hood," was already dancing through a sound check, the Post writes. But Martinez wasn't there to storm the military base. He came for the "big open space" and the moment when the music "infects everybody with positivity," he told the Post. He was among about 1,500 people who had come to two desert towns nearest the base and set up a makeshift stage for a weekend festival, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said.

Of them, only about 150 people drove to the Area 51 military base itself by Thursday night, Lee said. They snapped selfies with the gate and generally seemed to respect strict Air Force warnings to stay out. The only infraction came last week from two Dutch YouTubers, who made it about 3 miles beyond the fence in the nearby Nevada National Security Site before they were arrested, CNN reports.

Find more disturbing glimpses of Alienstock at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

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