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December 10, 2018

The domestic box office fell to a three-year low in 2017, but with the help of superheroes, dinosaurs, and Lady Gaga, this year is set to shatter records.

ComScore estimates that the domestic box office will reach $11 billion by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, which means it will have taken either 345 or 346 days to do so, Deadline reports. That would be the quickest the U.S. box office has ever reached $11 billion, with the previous record being 361 days in 2016, a year when the final yearly total ended up being $11.3 billion. That year, only $10.3 billion had been grossed by this point in December.

That's great news for Hollywood after the total domestic box office just barely reached $11 billion last year and saw a 6.2 percent decline in tickets sold over 2016, per Box Office Mojo. But 2018 delivered two new entries into the all-time top five highest grossing films domestically: Black Panther, which grossed $700 million, and Avengers: Infinity War, which grossed $678 million. Three films this year made more than $600 million domestically (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Incredibles 2), whereas in 2017, only Star Wars: The Last Jedi was able to cross that threshold, and no movie did so in 2016 at all.

The $11 billion total will be reached long before the massively profitable Christmas season, and this year, Star Wars' absence from cinemas has left room for five major blockbusters: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mortal Engines, Aquaman, Bumblebee, and Mary Poppins Returns. The box office is currently on pace to finish somewhere around $11.7 billion or $11.8 billion, which would already be the best year ever, but Deadline writes that depending on how this upcoming holiday brawl shakes out, it's entirely possible 2018 could reach $12 billion for the first time in history. Brendan Morrow

7:45 p.m.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sued Twitter for $250 million on Monday, alleging that the social media platform "shadow banned" conservatives, including himself, ahead of the 2018 midterms, Fox News reports.

Shadow banning is described as purposely making a user's content undiscoverable to everyone except the original poster, without their knowledge; Twitter had repeatedly denied ever shadow banning any user. His lawyers allege Nunes was shadow banned in 2018 "in order to restrict his free speech," adding that access to Twitter "is essential for meaningful participation in modern-day American democracy" and a "candidate without Twitter is a losing candidate. The ability to use Twitter is a vital part of modern citizenship."

The suit, filed in Virginia state court, also claims Twitter wanted to interfere with Nunes' work when he was still chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and allowed users with Twitter handles like "@DevinNunesMom" to harass him. "In her endless barrage of tweets, Devin Nunes' Mom maliciously attacked every aspect of Nunes' character, honesty, integrity, ethics, and fitness to perform his duties as a United States congressman," the suit claims.

This is one of several users named in the complaint, accused of forcing Nunes to endure "an orchestrated defamation campaign of stunning breadth and scope, one that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life." Nunes is asking that Twitter reveal the identities of those users. Catherine Garcia

6:45 p.m.

A marine biologist made a startling discovery last week during the autopsy of a young Cuvier's beaked whale.

Darrell Blatchley found 88 pounds of plastic inside the whale's stomach, "compact to the point that its stomach was literally as hard as a baseball," he told NPR. "That means that this animal has been suffering not for days or weeks but for months or even a year or more." Blatchley is based in the Philippine city of Davao, and drove two hours to see the whale, which was found alive, but vomiting blood. The whale died a few hours later.

Blatchley said the whale's stomach contained 16 rice sacks and plastic bags from local grocery store chains. Over the last decade, 57 whales and dolphins within the Davao Gulf have "died due to man," Blatchley said, "whether they ingested plastic or fishing nets or other waste, or gotten caught in pollution — and four were pregnant." So far this year, three whales or dolphins have been found by Blatchley and his team with plastic in their systems.

The U.N. Environment Program says that about nine million tons of plastic winds up in the ocean every year, and the Ocean Conservancy found in 2017 that more than half of all that garbage comes from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and China. Blatchley told NPR he hopes the most recent whale death will bring attention to this crisis. "If we keep going this way, it will be more uncommon to see an animal die of natural causes than it is to see an animal die of plastic," he said. Catherine Garcia

5:53 p.m.

Quentin Tarantino is ready to go back to his roots.

As moviegoers patiently wait for the director's highly anticipated Once Upon a Time In Hollywood to hit the theaters, Leonardo DiCaprio did fans a favor on Monday by sharing the film's official poster and release date on Twitter.

Expected to hit theaters in July, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood brings all of Tarantino's old favorites back to the big screen as the ultimate dream team: DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Al Pacino travel back to Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood and the Charles Manson murders. Despite the movie's release date being around the 50th anniversary of the bloodshed, Tarantino has told Variety that the film will not focus specifically on the evil true-crime story. "It takes place at the height of the counterculture explosion," he told the magazine earlier in 2018.

The late Luke Perry, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis, Emile Hirsch and Damon Herriman were also revealed to be part of the film's star-studded cast, with Herriman playing cult-leader Charles Manson.

In classic Tarantino fashion, the story "oscillates between humorous, serious and spooky," says cinematographer Robert Richardson, as Pitt and DiCaprio play longtime friends and business partners who are struggling to find fame and success as they did in their early careers. Luckily for the dynamic duo, DiCaprio's character — the washed up actor Rick Dalton — happens to be neighbors with the beautiful, fast-rising star Sharon Tate, played by Robbie.

While the rest of the plot remains a mystery, Collider reports that Tarantino has revealed one more thing about the movie: in terms of plotting and style, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood will carry a very similar vibe to the director's iconic 90s hit Pulp Fiction. Is it July yet?! Marina Pedrosa

5:35 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has no naive expectations of President Trump.

On a Monday visit to Kansas, Pompeo was asked a very valid question given the rest of the Trump cabinet's track record: How long do you think you'll remain secretary of state? "I'll be there until he tweets me out of office," Pompeo assured, adding that it doesn't look like that'll be happening, "at least today."

Pompeo was a GOP congressmember for Kansas until he was tapped to lead the CIA under Trump. He's since gone on to become secretary of state, but also took some domestic trips in the past month that seemed to hint at a return to politics. He visited the traditional presidential first-stop of Iowa in early March, something Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) called "a little unusual," per The Washington Post's Jackie Alemany. He then stopped by Texas and Kansas, furthering speculation that he may run for Senate or governor in his former congressional state, ABC News notes. With his Monday comments though, Pompeo shot that idea down — at least for now. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:16 p.m.

Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue and the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand are all "part of a club that nobody wants to be a part of."

That's how Tree of Life President Sam Schachner described his congregation's relationship to the two mosques that lost 50 worshippers to a mass shooting on Friday. And that's why the congregation has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser hoping to raise $100,000 for Christchurch's Muslim community, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette details.

In October, a gunman killed 11 members at the Pittsburgh synagogue, prompting "overwhelming support ... from our Muslim brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh," the GoFundMe details. Tree of Life is still continuing to recover, the GoFundMe says, but it still wants to recognize that the New Zealand worshippers are "going through the most difficult moments in your lives." So the synagogue is asking its supporters to show victims in Christchurch that "the entire world is with them," it wrote on the GoFundMe.

The GoFundMe started Saturday and had raised $2,736 a bit less than 24 hours later, the Post-Gazette notes. As of 5 p.m. EST on Monday, it had skyrocketed to $17,305 with donations coming in constantly. Read more about the campaign at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, or find the GoFundMe here. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:14 p.m.

It's not every day that chocolate stirs up controversy, but Cadbury — a major British chocolate company — felt the wrath of the United Kingdom's archaeologists and museum curators over the weekend after launching a misguided advertising campaign.

The marketing push, which has been temporarily taken down, was meant to promote Cadbury's Freddo Treasures chocolates by encouraging customers to go out and hunt for real treasure around the U.K. in the region's "top treasure hotspots," reports The New York Times.

The ads included text such as "grab your metal detector and go hunting for Roman riches" or "dig up Viking silver on the River Ribble," saying "the treasure's fair game."

The only problem is that digging in those protected spots would literally be looting. And the protectors of Britain's historic sites and artifacts let the corporation know it. Tim O'Donnell

4:22 p.m.

The chaos that is Brexit continued in classic form on Monday, despite a reprieve from the voting carousel that took place last week, as the March 29 departure deadline rapidly approaches.

The speaker of Britain's House of Commons, John Bercow, said on Monday that he plans to block a third vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's European Union withdrawal agreement — which faced two resounding defeats in Parliament already — unless May could present a "substantially" different deal this time around.

Adding to the drama is the fact that Bercow did not notify May's office of his decision ahead of time, which subsequently, The Washington Post reports, created "further uncertainty" about Brexit's future.

"We are in a major constitutional crisis here," Robert Buckland, the government's solicitor general, told BBC in a television interview, per The New York Times.

Parliament is still waiting to hear whether Brussels will agree to an extension of Article 50 that would delay Brexit beyond March 29, but, as May has noted, an extension could only prolong the problem. Still, the prime minister will travel to EU headquarters on Thursday to attempt to broker an agreement. Tim O'Donnell

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