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Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood this year are inspired by cult classics and horror films produced during the 1980s.  Executive producer of the event, John Murdy, reflected fondly on his own experience, “When I grew up in the ’80s, it was the ’50s that were cool. We looked to like ‘Happy Days,’ ‘American Graffiti’ and listened to The Stray Cats. So, it makes sense now, that in 2019, the ’80s are the hip thing.” The throwback event runs on every Thursday night, from September 19th to October 31st.  Guests are invited to dress in their favorite 1980s apparel – everything from neon leg warmers, to windbreakers and track suits. Fans will be able to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of the decade – 1980s music will be on the escalators and MTV-era music videos will be on the screens of the subway where the “Ghostbusters,” “Creepshow” and “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” attractions are located. The Ghostbusters attraction was approved by Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and offers memorable moments from all three Ghostbuster films. Several mazes with designs based on horror films are featured.  Last year there was one based on the first season the Netflix thriller Stranger Things.  This year’s Stranger Things maze is based on the second and third seasons of the show and promises to meet high expectations.

Event Stats

  • Dates: Consecutive Thursdaynights, from September 19th to October 31st
  • Time: 7pm
  • Location: Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA

Prices:

  • General Admission $64-$102
  • Universal Express Passes $159-$299
  • Multi-Evening Passes $109-$299
  • Various daytime/nighttime combo tickets $97-$147
  • All-inclusive R.I.P. Tours start at $279.
  • All passes are available at Hollywood.HalloweenHorrorNights.com

It’s hard to imagine a movie ever being called something other than its famous name. Truth be told, many movies were named one thing, only to be changed when the marketing team steps in. Since the title can make or break a film, all titles are working titles until a final decision is made – sometimes at the last moment. Here are the working titles for 10 movies we could not imagine named differently:

1. Psycho 

Psycho was originally called Wimpy

2. American Pie

American Pie was originally called Comfort Food

3. Batman: The Dark Knight 

The Dark Knight was originally called Rory’s First Kiss

4. Bring It On 

Bring It On was originally called American Girls

5. Boys Don’t Cry

Boys Don’t Cry was originally called Take It Like A Man

6. Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction was originally called Black Mask

7. ET

ET was originally called A Boys Life

8. Titanic 

Titanic was originally called Planet Ice

9. Casablanca

Casablanca was originally called Everybody Come To Rick’s

10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was originally called Head Cheese

Imagine if some of these movies had stuck with their original names? An iconic title like Titanic or Casablanca might never have been.  Not to mention that naming a scary movie Head Cheese was never a good idea – even as a working title. Thankfully, there were smarter people in the room to dub these films with title we know them as today.

The way people watch TV and movies has shifted dramatically away from following scheduled releases to on-demand and streaming and binge watching. Waiting for a week until the next episode of your favorite show airs is largely of the past. However, Netflix, the folks that brought us binge watching, recently showed some sympathy for the older way of doing things.  Starting with Rhythm the Flow, their new music competition series featuring T.I, Cardi B and Chance the Rapper, they have chosen a hybrid release schedule. Several episodes will be released each week over a couple months.  This schedule retains some elements of binge while building the anticipation for the next group of episodes. This hybrid schedule reflects a clever business sense.  It recognizes that this program may be best if the formula is adjusted.  Likewise, Disney, a future competitor in the streaming space, plans to release shows like Loki and The Mandalorian in the traditional weekly format. Lesson: No format, style or business practice is cast in stone – in the age of downloads, vinyl records are making a comeback for audiophiles, so anything is possible.

The dangers of relatively new products are rarely understood, which makes them difficult to regulate. Government watchdogs are put in a ‘wait-and-see’ position.   Meanwhile, early users of products like e-cigarettes begin using based on the industry hype – it’s like a cigarette, but it’s safe.  In a concern about their real cigarette habit, smokers jump to the ‘safe’ alternative while young people gravitate to the new, cool thing that makes them look, in their own minds, more mature.

Then the evidence starts to accumulate.  Vaping, as it’s referred to, is like smoking cigarettes, but it may be as unsafe, though in different ways.  This new guilty pleasure may be responsible for 450 reported lung disease cases and at least five deaths so far.

As a result, the watchdogs are lining up.  The American Medical Association (AMA) has called on Americans to stop using electronic cigarettes of all kinds until scientists get a better grip on the cause of these illnesses.  As one of the country’s most influential physician groups, the AMA urged its members to inform patients about the dangers of e-cigarettes including its toxins and carcinogens.  And they asked doctors to promptly report any suspected lung disease cases related to the use of e-cigarettes to their state or local health department.

That recommendation followed the advice of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that suggested people not use e-cigarette products while they are investigating the cause(s) of this flood of severe lung disease cases related to vaping.  The CDC reports that many, but not all, cases involved vaporized oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis. On another track, they said that some laboratories have identified vitamin E acetate in product samples as a possible cause of the illnesses.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been under growing pressure to curb the rise in teenage use of e-cigarettes. This trend coincided with the increasing popularity of Juul e-cigarettes. AMA President Dr. Patrice Harris argued, “We must not stand by while e-cigarettes continue to go unregulated. We urge the FDA to speed-up the regulation of e-cigarettes and remove all unregulated products from the market.”

The message does get through to some.  Megan Constantino, 36, from St. Petersburg, Florida, stopped vaping after receiving reports about vaping-related illnesses and deaths. Like many users of vaping pens, Constantino began using the device after quitting smoking three years ago. Constantino is worried that many people will ignore the warnings.

Public health experts have found no evidence of infectious diseases and believe that these lung disease cases are likely to be associated with chemical exposure. Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association, who advocates that cigarette smokers switch to non-nicotine-based vaping devices, said the AMA should be “ashamed of themselves for playing politics with people’s health and protecting the profits of drug dealers.”  Many lobbyists make such remarks in defense the profits of their constituents. We’ve seen this before from the fossil fuel and tobacco industries. The question is how many people are willing to believe the emerging science over public relations campaigns?

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, including good things like stunning movies on Netflix. September will see several great movies leave the service. Here’s a quick list of five great films to check out before they disappear.

1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The futuristic, dystopian crime film.  

2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

About an LA cop struggling with his loyalties when he encounters the world of street racing.

3. Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

  A humorous, high-quality musical which follows a murderous London hair cutter.

4. The Dark Night (2008)

 A Joker centered movie about Batman’s worst enemy.

5. Carol (2015)

  Already classic drama about an aspiring photographer’s relationship with an older woman.

Netflix is always bolstering its content and widening its audience.  A new series called Rhythm + Flow does both.  It’s a music competition program aimed at finding hip-hop’s next big stars. Similar to America’s Got Talent and American Idol of old, there will be a three judge panel that includes Chance the Rapper, T.I. and Cardi B.   The latter two have experience in the TV world, with T.I. has worked with MTV while Cardi B starred in Love & Hip-Hop: New York, before becoming the famous artist she is today. The first four of ten episodes will drop on October 9th featuring auditions in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The next three episodes will be released a week later on October 16th. Rap battles, music videos, and ciphers will be used to narrow down the field. The final slate of three episodes will drop on October 23rd with a winner being declared at the end. This is the first music talent competition hosted by a streaming service.  If successful we can expect it won’t be the last.  Rhythm + Flow has been critically acclaimed as “hip-hop’s first legit TV competition,” which throws a little shade on Diddy’s Making The Band.

In a significant increase, Netflix has announced that it will release ten films in theaters this fall with the intention of competing for the Oscars. The service has made movies for the Oscars before including well respected films Beasts of No Nation in 2015, then Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Mowgli in 2018.  The schedule for 2019 follows (First Date is Theatre Date, Second Date is Netflix Date):

  • The Launderette with Meryl Streep  – Sep 7  | Oct 18
  • Dolemite Is My Name with Eddie Murphy – Oct 4  | Oct 25
  • The King with Robert Pattinson – Oct 11 | Nov 1
  • Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman with Robert de Niro – Nov 1 | Nov 27
  • Earthquake Bird with Alicia Vikander –  Nov 1 | Nov 15
  • Marriage Story with Scarlett Johansson – Nov 6 | Dec 6
  • Klaus -animated – Nov 8 |Nov 15
  • I Lost My Body – French animated – Nov 15 | Nov 29
  • Atlantics – French drama – Nov 15 | Nov 29
  • The Two Popes with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce – Nov 27 | Dec 20

 

A new study from the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) shows that across the top 100 grossing movies from 2007-2018 only three percent of the films featured leads or co-leads with Latino or Latina actors. The study also found that there was a major shortage in Latino / Latina directors and producers. Given that the Latino community represents over 18 percent of the US population and 40 percent of the California population, why are they so under-represented in mainstream Hollywood films? In addition to the under-representation, Latinos are often depicted in roles of violence and hate.  It’s something that must change to bring to light the true beauty of the Latino culture and to bring a more balanced understanding of the Latin contribution to the broader American culture.

The summer is coming to an end soon. For film, this summer has seen many big box office hits despite an overall industry decline compared to last summer. Disney in particular was a winner with successes including The Lion King, Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Aladdin and Toy Story 4.

Here’s a quick list of box office winners and losers from summer 2019.

1. Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame took in a record breaking $357.1 million on its domestic opening.  In total, worldwide revenue reached $2.8 billion, the all-time box-office record without adjusting for inflation.

2. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum took away $320 million worldwide.

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood already brought in $180 million worldwide in first couple weeks.

4. Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix has only taken in $66 million domestically. Disney’s CEO said the film was the primary cause for Fox’s operational loss last quarter.

5. Men in Black: International

Men in Black: International earned only $ 79.5 million domestically and received bad reviews from Rotten Tomatoes.

6. Shaft

Shaft took in a mere $21 million.

Looking to make a couple extra bucks for a family vacation, pay the bills, or having some extra gas money? Well, you could look into selling some old VHS tapes. Yup, thats right, VHS tapes have carved out a little market for themselves in the online trading world of eBay, and you will be shocked for how much some of these tapes are going for. Apparently out of Australia a report stated that a 1999 Special Edition copy of Mulan in mint condition was sold for over $20,000! A set of seven Disney classics, Black Diamond edition, which included Bambi and Aladdin sold for $18,000. A 1990 VHS of the Little Mermaid sold for $15,000 and 1992 version of Beauty and the Beast Black Diamond edition sold for $10 G’s. New data has revealed that almost 250,000 VHS tapes have been sold online over the last year, and over $3 million dollars has been spent on VHS tapes in that time. Why the sudden spike in value and demand for these classic films. Well for starters, Disney has been cranking out remakes of their old movies like Fords on an assembly line. This alone has raised the value of older tapes that will never be produced again in the VHS versions like the originals. While very few people these days even own a VHS player, that shouldn’t stop you from trying to make a couple extra bucks selling the tapes online.