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By DAVID BAUDER

NEW YORK (AP) — MSNBC has reversed itself and now says it won’t be cutting ties with contributor Sam Seder over a rape joke he made on Twitter eight years ago.

Network president Phil Griffin said on Thursday that “sometimes you just get one wrong — and that’s what happened here.”

Seder had been told last week that he wouldn’t be welcomed back on the network after conservative commentator Mike Cernovich pointed out the apparent joke by Seder about defenders of film director Roman Polanski, a fugitive since pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor in the 1970s.

In his tweet, Seder wrote that he didn’t care about Polanski, “but I hope if my daughter is ever raped, it is by a truly talented man with a great sense of mise en scene.”

Seder, a comedian who does the political podcast “The Majority Report,” is an occasional presence on MSNBC, most often on Chris Hayes’ prime-time show.

MSNBC’s action provoked an online outcry from fans who thought the network was caving to pressure from conservatives.

“We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about,” Griffin said. “But we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.”

MSNBC had initially said it wouldn’t be renewing Seder’s contract, which expires early next year.

Seder said he appreciated the network’s reconsideration and “willingness to understand the cynical motives of those who intentionally misrepresented my tweet for their own toxic, political purposes.

“We are experiencing an important and long overdue moment of empowerment for the victims of sexual assault and of reckoning for their perpetrators,” he said. “I’m proud that MSNBC and its staff have set a clear example of the need to get it right.”

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Entertainment

Tiffany Haddish to host MTV Movie & TV Awards in June

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tiffany Haddish is set to host the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards.

The network announced Thursday that the “Girls Trip” breakout star will host the ceremony in Los Angeles on June 18.

The 38-year-old actress and comedian has seen her star rise since “Girls Trip” was released last summer. She’s gone on to host “Saturday Night Live” and star in a Super Bowl commercial. Haddish also helped announce the Academy Award nominees last month and will appear on the Oscar telecast on March 4.

She’s also starring with Tracy Morgan in a new TBS sitcom called “The Last OG” and will appear alongside Kevin Hart in the film “Night School” later this year.

 

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‘Black Panther’ blows away box office with $192M weekend

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NEW YORK (AP) — A wave of feverish anticipation, fawning critical acclaim and groundbreaking cultural meaning pushed “Black Panther” to a record-setting $192 million debut in U.S. and Canada theaters, firmly establishing the superhero sensation as a box-office landmark.

The Marvel film from the Walt Disney Co. blew past expectations to become the fifth-highest-grossing debut ever, not adjusting for inflation, following only “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” ″Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” ″Jurassic World” and “The Avengers.”

In estimates Sunday, Disney predicted a four-day holiday weekend of $218 million domestically and a global debut of $361 million.

Though the film’s international footprint doesn’t include several of the largest markets — China, Russia and Japan — it still ranks among the top 15 global debuts ever. It’s also the highest-grossing February opening weekend.

“All hail the King of Wakanda!” Disney declared, referring to the movie’s mythical and highly advanced African nation.

Ryan Coogler’s film, which cost about $200 million to make, is the most expensive movie with a largely black ensemble and among the few to be centered on a black superhero. The strong opening suggests “Black Panther” will easily set a box-office record for films directed by a black filmmaker.

The previous best is Sidney Poitier’s 1980 comedy “Stir Crazy,” which took in $322 million domestically, when inflation is calculated.

“Black Panther” set pre-sale records and saw lines around theaters over the weekend, including some who came costumed for the event.

“This is the very definition of a blockbuster: People lining up around the block to see a great movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “A movie like ‘Black Panther’ is a cultural event that nothing on the small screen can really match in that way.”

Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa/Black Panther in the first stand-alone film for the superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966. The cast also features Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya and Letitia Wright.

The movie has been hugely acclaimed, with a 97 percent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences agreed, giving it an A-plus CinemaScore. The film especially resonated among African-Americans, who made up 37 percent of moviegoers, according to comScore.

Dave Hollis, distribution chief for Disney, called the film’s success “a real source of pride” for Disney.

“Inclusion and representation matters,” Hollis said. “We know that great stories can come from anywhere, and our goal is to make films that reflect the wonderful diversity of our world and resonate with audiences everywhere — no matter who they are, no matter where they come from.”

Coming at one of the slower periods of the year, “Black Panther” benefited from little competition, and it can be expected to dominate the marketplace for weeks.

Last week’s top film, the erotic romance sequel “Fifty Shades Freed,” slid to third place, with $16.9 million in its second week for Universal. Sony’s children’s book adaptation “Peter Rabbit” held much stronger, taking the No. 2 spot with $17.3 million in its second week.

But moviegoers — and Hollywood — were focused on “Black Panther,” including how it would fare overseas. Though considered by most to be an outdated myth, some have claimed that foreign audiences have less appetite for films with largely black casts.

“Black Panther” vanquished those notions with $169 million in ticket sales. It was No. 1 in most international markets, though “Fifty Shades Freed” bested it in Germany.

Its release in China will come later. This weekend, the Chinese New Year holiday, local productions led by “Detective Chinatown 2” and “Monster Hunt 2″ dominated Chinese theaters, with more than $140 million in ticket sales each.

“Black Panther” also performed especially well on large-format screens. Imax reported $30 million in ticket sales for the three-day weekend.

“There was a groundswell of wanting this movie to work, and then when it actually did as a film, itself, it just kicked it up a notch to a level no one could have ever predicted,” said Greg Foster, Imax Entertainment’s chief executive. “That makes me feel really good about the movie business.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday also are included. Final four-day domestic figures will be released Tuesday.

1. “Black Panther,” $192 million ($169 million international).

2. “Peter Rabbit,” $17.3 million.

3. “Fifty Shades Freed,” $16.9 million ($47.7 million international).

4. “Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle,” $7.9 million ($4.8 million international).

5. “The 15:17 to Paris,” $7.7 million ($2.8 million international).

6. “The Greatest Showman,” $5.1 million ($9.6 million international).

7. “Early Man,” $3.2 million ($3.7 million international).

8. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” $2.5 million ($11 million international).

9. “Winchester,” $2.2 million.

10. “Samson,” $2 million.

___

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. “Black Panther,” $169 million.

2. “Detective Chinatown 2,” $155 million.

3. “Monster Hunt 2,” $141 million.

4. “Operation Red Sea,” $70.3 million.

5. “The Monkey King 3: Kingdom of Women,” $52.3 million.

6. “Fifty Shades Freed,” $47.7 million.

7. “Boonie Bears: The Big Shrink,” $32.6 million.

8. “The Shape of Water,” $12.3 million.

9. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” $11 million.

10. “The Greatest Showman,” $9.6 million.

___

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Grammys defends itself about women representation

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By MESFIN FEKADU

NEW YORK (AP) — After a few missteps, The Recording Academy is reassuring its members that it is not lagging behind the music industry when it comes to female representation.

In a letter sent to voting and non-voting members Thursday, which was obtained by The Associated Press, the academy offers statistics to show that women had a larger presence at the Grammy Awards compared to the industry standard.

The letter to academy members comes weeks after a University of Southern California- Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism study analyzed gender and race in music over the last six years, including Grammy nominees.

Between 2012 and 2017, USC said 90.7 percent of the nominees were male and 9.3 percent were female. The numbers come from five awards: album of the year, record of the year, song of the year, best new artist, and non-classical producer of the year — an award where female nominees is a rarity.

However, in looking at the same six years at all of 84 Grammy categories, the academy said that 17 percent of its nominees were women.

USC’s study reports that women account for 22.4 percent of performers, 12.3 percent of songwriters and 2 percent of producers. Women make up 21 percent of the academy’s voting membership.

The academy was heavily criticized last month when its CEO Neil Portnow said women need to “step up” when asked about the lack of female winners at the 2018 Grammys. Portnow later said his words were taken out of context, though three separate letters from music executives demanded a revamp at the academy.

The Grammys telecast was also under fire for not letting Lorde, the only woman nominated for album of the year, perform at its 60th show last month.

“The gender composition of our membership and nominations reflect that of the music community. But it’s not enough to reflect the community. We must be leaders in moving our industry toward greater inclusion and representation,” the letter reads. “Women are 50 percent of our world. We need their voice and presence at every level.”

 

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