April the giraffe has become a cash cow for a tiny zoo in upstate New York, thanks to a YouTube livestream of her pregnancy and birth of an incredibly cute calf that riveted viewers around the world. Owners of the for-profit Animal Adventure Park won’t say exactly how much they’ve pulled in from all April-related ventures, reports the AP, but internet marketing experts conservatively estimate the haul in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The ventures include the Toys ‘R’ Us-sponsored YouTube stream, monetized text messages, a clothing line, and the sale of T-shirts, caps, and fuzzy toys. “The monies are going to allow the park to continue to grow and improve,“ said Jordan Patch, who started the 20-acre zoo with his wife four years ago in Harpursville. “But also the money will help support our conservation efforts in Africa, so we’re actually providing tangible results for wild giraffes.“
All Patch would say for sure, moneywise, is that a Gofundme campaign has raised $150,000 for the care of April, her mate Oliver, and their calf, as well as upgrades to their exhibit. And he expects 150,000 park visitors—twice as many as last year—to pay $11-$13 to see the giraffe family along with the park’s 200 other animals. April become the second most-watched livestream in YouTube history with more than 232 million views and 7.6 billion minutes of live watch time. “I couldn’t speculate as to how much Toys ‘R’ Us is paying, but I’m sure it’s a huge chunk of change,“ probably in the “low six-figures,“ says a social media analyst. Toys ‘R’ Us is coming out with new giraffe plush toys based on April’s little family. Local businesses are also hoping for a baby bump. “We’re booking fast and furious,“ says a rep at the Doubletree Hilton in nearby Binghamton.
► Alaska: the Land Where Blockbuster Survived
The manager of a successful Blockbuster Video outlet has given an interview to CBS News—and they didn’t have to take a time machine back to 1997 to speak to him. Kevin Daymude runs a Blockbuster outlet in Anchorage, which is one of several locations in Alaska that survived after the parent company closed its last few hundred outlets in 2013. “I can’t tell you how many business cards I’ve given out to people ‘cause they literally do not believe that I’m from Blockbuster,“ says Daymude, who has been with Blockbuster since the days of VHS. “I feel like a lot of the customers just want to come in and feel like they’re someone special,“ he says. “They love the customer service, they love the interaction.“
Alan Payne owns nine of the last 12 Blockbusters in the country, most of them in Alaska, though even there, several have had to close in the last few years. There used to be more than 9,000 across the country. In 2013, he told the Wall Street Journal that he decided to keep licensing the Blockbuster name because a lot of people associate the name with happy memories. He says one reason why the stores have managed to survive so long in Alaska is because people enjoy the selection and the social aspect—and another is that Internet in the state tends to be expensive and charged by data usage, meaning a trip to Blockbuster can work out a lot cheaper than binge-watching on Netflix.
► Serena Williams Drops a Note to Her Baby
It’s been a busy few months for Serena Williams. First the tennis star announced in December she was marrying Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, then she won the Australian Open, and finally, the biggest news of all last week: She’s pregnant. Now TMZ reports that Williams is opening up a little more than the original cryptic Snapchat post that alluded to her pregnancy. In a Monday morning Instagram post addressed to “My Dearest Baby,“ a smiling Williams says she “can’t wait” to meet her little one, that the baby inside her has given her “strength I didn’t know I had,“ and that “you taught me the true meaning of serenity and peace.“ She closes out her note “from the world’s oldest number one to the world’s youngest number one” and signs it, simply, “Your Mommy.“ Cue Twitter’s tears.
► Disney to premiere ‘Descendants’ sequel across 5 networks
The Disney Channel is giving a big push to its sequel for the “Descendants” movie in July, premiering it simultaneously on five television networks and online.
Disney said Tuesday that “Descendants 2” will air July 21 on ABC, the Disney Channel, Lifetime, Freeform and Disney XD, as well as on those networks’ apps. The original “Descendants,“ about the teenage sons and daughters of some famed Disney villains, ranked as the fifth most-watched cable TV movie when it came out two years ago.
Disney executive Gary Marsh said the passion for the movie is unlike anything they’ve seen since “High School Musical.“ It has inspired spin-off books, a music video and other merchandise.
The movie stars Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Mitchell Hope, Sofia Carson, Booboo Stewart and Mitchell Hope.
► Disney sets May 2019 release for ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’
“Star Wars” is coming back to the summer movie season.
The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday announced that the Colin Trevorrow-directed “Star Wars: Episode IX” would fly into theaters on May 24, 2019, making it the first in the main trilogy to debut in the summer box office season, which kicks off at the beginning of May.
Both “The Force Awakens” and the upcoming “The Last Jedi” were December releases, as was the “Star Wars” spinoff “Rogue One.“
The “Star Wars” anthology film focused on young Han Solo will test the Memorial Day weekend first with its previously announced May 25, 2018, release.
Disney also set a barrage of release dates for the next few years, including for the fifth “Indiana Jones” film, the live-action “The Lion King” and “Frozen 2.“
The still-untitled “Indiana Jones” movie was pushed back a year and was now set to arrive in theaters on July 10, 2020, with Steven Spielberg returning as director along with star Harrison Ford.
Director Jon Favreau’s live-action “Lion King,“ featuring Donald Glover as Simba, was expected to debut on July 19, 2019, while the animated sequel to the smash-hit “Frozen” will come later that year on November 27, 2019.
Disney also pushed its 3-D animated film “Gigantic” back two years to November 2020.
► Man at Center of Quiz Show Scandal in ‘50s Dies at 95
It was a story made famous for younger generations via the 1994 Ralph Fiennes movie Quiz Show, and now one of the central characters in the 1950s scandal is gone. The New York Times reports that Albert Freedman, once a producer on NBC’s popular Twenty-One program, died on April 11 in Greenbrae, Calif., at the age of 95, a victim of heart failure, his stepson Todd Dworman confirmed. Freedman joined the show’s staff in 1956 and immediately set out to find a contestant who could take down the reigning champion, Herbert Stempel, who kept on winning, causing ratings to flag. Freedman found Charles Van Doren, a Columbia University instructor, and the Hollywood Reporter notes that Van Doren not only sent Stempel home in December 1956, but kept going until March 1957, ultimately taking home nearly $130,000.
Where Freedman came in: He gave Van Doren answers to questions, as detailed by Van Doren in a 2008 New Yorker article (Freedman said in a 2000 interview with the Archive of American Television he only provided “areas” Van Doren should concentrate on.) A probe by a congressional subcommittee uncovered cheating on other game shows as well. Twenty-One was canceled, Freedman was arrested and indicted for perjury for lying to a grand jury about his role in the scandal (the perjury charges were later dropped), and he lost his job and eventually moved to London, where he started writing for Penthouse’s Euro version. He also earned a doctorate in the early ‘80s and went on to lecture human sexuality and women’s rights. Freedman is survived by his second wife, Nancy; a daughter and a son; and three stepchildren.
► Elton John Cancels All May Shows After ‘Unusual’ Infection
Elton John has cancelled more than a month of upcoming shows after contracting an unusual bacterial infection during a South America tour that left him in intensive care for two nights, the AP reports. John is scrapping all upcoming April and May dates of “The Million Dollar Piano” at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, as well as performance on May 06 in Bakersfield, California.
The “Rocket Man” and “Daniel” singer says in a statement that he became “violently ill” on a flight to the United Kingdom from Chile and “underwent immediate treatment” at a hospital, where he was released on Saturday. The 70-year-old performer is expected to make a full recovery and hopes to return to a stage in Twickenham, England, on June 03.
► Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Author Dies
Robert M. Pirsig, whose philosophical novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance became a million-selling classic and cultural touchstone after more than 100 publishers turned it down, died Monday at age 88. Publishing house William Morrow announced that he died at his home in South Berwick, Maine, the AP reports. He had been in failing health. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, published in 1974, was based on a motorcycle trip Pirsig took in the late 1960s with his 12-year-old son, Chris. It was in part an ode to the motorcycle and how he saw the world so viscerally traveling on one. It also told a personal story about a father and son relationship and the author’s struggles with schizophrenia.
A native of Minneapolis, Pirsig was a prodigy with an IQ of 170 who graduated high school at 15. Military service in Korea at the end of World War II exposed him to Eastern thought and culture and profoundly influenced him. He studied philosophy at the University of Minnesota, traveled to India, and honed an enigmatic teaching style at Montana State College and at the University of Illinois. Pirsig is survived by his wife, Wendy; son, Ted; daughter, Nell Peiken; and son-in-law, Matthew Peiken, along with three grandchildren. Chris was killed by a mugger in 1979, and later editions of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance would include an afterword about him. The author told the Guardian his son had not cared for the book. “He said, ‘Dad, I had a good time on that trip. It was all false,‘“ Pirsig said in 2006. “It threw him terribly. There is stuff I can’t talk about still.“
► ‘The Fate of the Furious’ laps new films at box office
“The Fate of the Furious” sped into first place at the box office again, leaving new thriller “Unforgettable” and historical drama “The Promise” in the dust.
Universal Pictures’ eighth installment in “The Fast and the Furious” franchise earned $38.7 million in North American theaters over the weekend, down 61 percent from its debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The newcomers could not compete with the high-octane film, which had the biggest worldwide opening of all time last weekend. It has earned $908.4 million globally so far and is expected to cross $1 billion this week.
Holdovers dominated the charts on this quiet weekend in theaters. “The Boss Baby” took second place with $12.8 million, and “Beauty and the Beast” landed in third with $10 million.
Disney’s animal documentary “Born in China” opened in fourth place, with $5.1 million from 1,508 locations. The two other new movies fared worse.
Warner Bros. thriller “Unforgettable,“ starring Katherine Heigl as a jealous ex-wife and Rosario Dawson as the new fiancee, opened at No. 7 with just $4.8 million. Critics were tough on the film, and audiences gave it a deathly C CinemaScore rating.
The directorial debut of longtime producer Denise Di Novi cost only $12 million to make, but the meager result still disappointed.
“Unfortunately, the movie just missed the intended audience,“ said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.‘ president of domestic distribution. “We had higher expectations, and we’re disappointed we didn’t achieve them.“
There is a silver lining for the studio. The buddy comedy “Going in Style,“ starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin, is chugging along after three weeks in theaters, taking fifth place with $5 million.
Meanwhile, the historical epic “The Promise,“ starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, bombed with a mere $4.1 million from 2,251 theaters.
The movie delves into the mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey that many countries and most historians call genocide. Turkey still denies genocide, saying the deaths stemmed from civil unrest and war.
It’s not a surprise the film, which was estimated to cost around $100 million to make, failed to gain traction, comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.
“It didn’t really jump out as anything that would be a surprising box-office hit,“ Dergarabedian said. “But it wasn’t really about the box office.“
Made outside the studio system and distributed by Open Road Films, the point of “The Promise” was to raise awareness around a global event that many know nothing about, he said.
Celebrities from Kim Kardashian West to Cher promoted the film on social media. Its makers said they will donate all proceeds to nonprofits and intend to use the PG-13-rated film as an education tool in schools.
“It was a tough weekend in general for the newcomers,“ Dergarabedian said, noting that many moviegoers are likely saving up for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,“ which hits theaters May 05.
“It’s a quiet period,“ he added. “This is the interlude between the spring movie season and what promises to be the biggest summer movie season ever.“
► Bale, Heigl in Dueling Disasters
Katherine Heigl suffered the worst opening weekend of her career as audiences forgot in droves to go see Unforgettable, but still managed to come out ahead of Christian Bale’s latest, the apparently controversial The Promise. Per the Hollywood Reporter,Fate of the Furious again came out on top, with another $38.6 million on the heap. The Boss Baby continued to coo with another $12.75 million and second place, while Beauty and the Beast took third and $9.98 million, reports Box Office Mojo. Born in China zipped to No. 4 with $5.1 million. But the real debut disasters were Unforgettable with $4.8 million and seventh place, and The Promise with $4.1 million and ninth. Adding particular insult to Bale’s injury was the $100 million price tag of his film; Unforgettable, meanwhile, cost a much more attainable $12 million to make, notes the Reporter.
► ‘Joanie’ From Happy Days Is Dead at 56
Sad Hollywood news: Actress Erin Moran, better known as Joanie Cunningham from Happy Days, has died at age 56. Few details are known, but the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department in Indiana received a call about an unresponsive female about 4pm Saturday, reports CNN. Moran also starred in the short-lived Happy Days spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi, but landed only sporadic acting roles later in her career, notes TMZ.
► I Dreamed of Africa Author Shot in Stomach
The Italian-born author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann was shot at her Kenyan ranch and airlifted for treatment after herders invaded in search of pasture to save their animals from drought, officials said Sunday. Gallmann, known for her bestselling book I Dreamed of Africa, which became a movie by the same name starring Kim Basinger, was patrolling the ranch in Laikipia when she was shot in the stomach, says a local police chief. The 73-year-old Gallmann had been with rangers assessing damage done to her property; lodges belonging to Gallmann were burned by the herders last month. She was airlifted to the capital, Nairobi; a family member reportedly said Gallmann is in stable condition after surgery but had serious injuries.
The AP reports the East African nation is facing a drought that has affected half the country and has been declared a national disaster. The BBC reports it’s believed tens of thousands of cattle have been pushed onto private lands; Laikipia’s roughly 4,000 square miles are home to some of Kenya’s biggest white landowners. NPR’s Eyder Peralta described the situation like so: As nomadic herders have moved in, “the Kenyan government launched a military-style operation to push the herders out. But what we’ve seen is an escalation of violence. Police have killed lots of cows. And the herders have responded by burning tourist lodges on the properties.“
► Bill O’Reilly Returns With Subscription Podcast
Bill O’Reilly is back on the air Monday night, though in a smaller forum. The former Fox host’s “No Spin News” podcast airs at 7pm Eastern on his website, reports the Los Angeles Times. The podcast is free this week, but fans—Trump is among them—will have to pay $4.95 a month, or $49.95 annually, beginning next Monday, notes the Independent Journalism Review. His former Fox show, now named The Factor, airs at 8pm Eastern with new host Tucker Carlson.
► New Accuser Shares Alleged Roger Ailes Hotel Comment
Bill O’Reilly may have been the Fox News personality making headlines this week, but Alisyn Camerota has nudged the spotlight back toward Roger Ailes. The co-anchor of CNN’s New Day, who spent a decade at Fox before jumping networks in 2014, now says she too was sexually harassed by Ailes; in a statement, an attorney for Ailes called her story “fictional.“ That story, which Camerota shared Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, is “the time that I remember most,“ she says: She was single and a newbie at Fox, and recalls being in Ailes’ office to discuss how she could advance her career.
Camerota says he advised that they’d have to work more closely, “really closely,“ and “it may require us getting to know each other better, and that might have to happen away from here, and it might have to happen at a hotel. Do you know what I’m saying?‘ And I said ‘Yeah, I think I do know what you’re saying.‘“ She said no hotel encounter took place (“I knew in my head at that moment I’m never going to that hotel under any circumstances”), but that Ailes’ attitude toward her shifted as it became clear no such encounter ever would, with a sort of “emotional harassment” beginning. Camerota characterized Ailes as “quite charismatic” and “uproariously funny” on the one hand but also “kind of grossly inappropriate.“ Watch the interview in full HERE .
► Elon Musk, Amber Heard Step Out
As Elon Musk toils away on linking human brains to computers, he apparently has Amber Heard by his side to bounce ideas off of. The 45-year-old Tesla and SpaceX CEO was spotted with the 31-year-old actress, formerly married to Johnny Depp, taking a stroll in Australia’s Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary—their “first public outing,“ People reports. Their weekend of togetherness included plenty of PDA, from their “arm-in-arm” walk and hand clasping at the sanctuary to an Instagram photo Heard posted Sunday night showing her leaning on Musk, a giant lipstick mark on his cheek, above her caption: “Cheeky.“ Gizmodo, which notes Musk put up a similar picture, notes that while the pair’s romancing may only be “Instagram-official,“ there’s a more important question we should be pondering: Will they die on Mars together?
► Mystery Surrounds Death of Happy Days’ ‘Joanie’
Fans and former Happy Days co-stars are mourning Erin Moran, who was found dead in southern Indiana on Saturday. The AP reports that no cause of death has been determined for the 56-year-old former child star, and an autopsy is pending. The Harrison County Sheriff’s Office says emergency workers found her around 4pm after receiving a call about an unresponsive female. The recent life of Moran, best known for her role as Joanie Cunningham, is as mysterious as her death, reports the Indianapolis Star. She moved to Indiana with husband Steve Fleischmann in 2011, but is believed to have struggled with homelessness after being kicked out of the trailer they shared with Fleischmann’s mother.
Moran is believed to have died in her mother-in-law’s trailer park, where she had apparently been living again in recent months. Neighbors at the park in Corydon, Ind., tell People that she was always friendly, but “kind of hibernated at the end” and hadn’t been seen outside much lately. Former Donna Reed Show actor Paul Petersen, founder of a support group for former child actors, says Moran’s troubles were “many and complex” and at least six former child stars tried to reach out to her in the week before her death, reports the New York Daily News. “OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth,“ tweeted Henry Winkler. “Rest in it serenely now.“
► Erin Moran Had Advanced Cancer
Authorities say former Happy Days star Erin Moran likely died from cancer at her southern Indiana home, reports the AP. A statement released Monday by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department says an autopsy revealed the 56-year-old actress had stage-four cancer, but doesn’t specify what type. The department says Moran died Saturday in the rural community of New Salisbury, about 20 miles northwest of Louisville, Kentucky. Officials say that standard toxicology test results are pending but that no illegal narcotics were found at the home.
Part of the fun of watching KFC commercials is figuring out who’s underneath all of the makeup in the Harland Sanders costume. Now there’s a new colonel in town, the chain announced Friday: Rob Lowe. The 53-year-old Parks and Rec actor will be donning Colonel Sanders’ trademark white wig and browline glasses to promote its Zinger chicken sandwich—not “West Wings,“ as USA Today notes—except he’ll also be wearing a spacesuit.
Lowe has a soft spot for the colonel. When he was a kid, his grandfather chaired the Ohio arm of the National Restaurant Association and took Lowe to meet the real Harland Sanders. “It was a big deal,“ Lowe says, adding his turn as Sanders would be a “nice homage” to both men. CNN notes some of Lowe’s other quirky roles, including an eccentric plastic surgeon in the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, to justify the handsome actor portraying an elderly fast-food icon. KFC’s title role has been played of late by George Hamilton, Norm Macdonald, and Darrell Hammond, among others.
► Schumer Uses Store’s Bathroom, Says Thanks in Huge Way
Tales of Amy Schumer’s generosity continue: While jogging around Chicago on April 13, Schumer stopped in at the Six Corners Mattress Firm, hoping to find a bathroom, reports People. Employee Sagine Lazarre, not recognizing the visitor, quickly showed her the way. But when Schumer had done her business, she returned to Lazarre and asked which mattress she liked the best. Lazarre pointed to a $2,000 mattress, and Schumer immediately bought it for her, per WGN.
Schumer, who identified herself as an actress and comedian, “told me she wanted to buy it for me” as a thank you for letting her use the bathroom, Lazarre says. Mind blown, she adds she Googled the name on Schumer’s credit card after the actress left the store and only then realized she had previously seen her stand-up comedy. “I’m still in shock,“ says Lazarre, who notes the mattress is a perfect fit in her new apartment.