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Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : An Emotional Win for Theaters, Hollywood: ‘Inside Out 2’ Scores Massive $155 Million Opening

 This image released by Disney/Pixar shows, from left, Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith, Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, Disgust, voiced by Liza Lapira, Fear, voiced by Tony Hale and Anger, voiced by Lewis Black, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
This image released by Disney/Pixar shows, from left, Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith, Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, Disgust, voiced by Liza Lapira, Fear, voiced by Tony Hale and Anger, voiced by Lewis Black, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
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An Emotional Win for Theaters, Hollywood: ‘Inside Out 2’ Scores Massive $155 Million Opening

 This image released by Disney/Pixar shows, from left, Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith, Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, Disgust, voiced by Liza Lapira, Fear, voiced by Tony Hale and Anger, voiced by Lewis Black, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
This image released by Disney/Pixar shows, from left, Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith, Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, Disgust, voiced by Liza Lapira, Fear, voiced by Tony Hale and Anger, voiced by Lewis Black, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)

Hollywood’s summer movie anxieties gave way to joy this weekend with the massive debut of Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2.” The animated sequel earned $155 million in ticket sales from 4,440 theaters in the US and Canada, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Not only is it the second-highest opening weekend in Pixar’s nearly 29 years of making films and the second-biggest animated opening ever (behind only the $182.7 million launch of “Incredibles 2” in 2018). It’s also the biggest of 2024, which had not had any films debut over $100 million. With an estimated $140 million from international showings, “Inside Out 2” had a staggering, and record-breaking, $295 million global debut.

The success is significant for Pixar, marking a much-needed return to form for a studio that has had a string of underwhelming launches including “Elemental,” which did eventually become a success, and “Lightyear,” which didn’t. It’s also vitally important for the greater Hollywood ecosystem and the health of theatrical exhibition, which had been running at a 26% deficit before this weekend. “Inside Out 2” marks the biggest opening since “Barbie” launched to $162 million last July.

"This is a monumental weekend for movie theaters," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore.

Kelsey Mann directed “Inside Out 2,” which picks up with Riley as she turns 13. That means the arrival of new emotions like Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Envy (Ayo Edebiri) and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) to the mix. Amy Poehler once again lent her voice to Joy in a cast that also includes Tony Hale, Lewis Black and Phyllis Smith as Sadness.

It got glowing reviews from critics (92% on Rotten Tomatoes) and polled audiences who gave it an A CinemaScore, suggesting that this won’t be a first-weekend wonder either. With kids out of school and an open market until “Despicable Me 4” enters the ring over the Fourth of July, “Inside Out 2” is just getting started.

“Inside Out 2” is estimated to have cost around $200 million to produce, which does not account for the millions spent on marketing. Going into the weekend, it was tracking for a debut in the $90 million range, which would have been in line with “Inside Out’s” first weekend in June 2019. Even that would have been considered a terrific achievement, and enough to claim the biggest opening of the year — finally unseating March releases like “Dune: Part Two” and “Godzilla x Kong.”

It got off to a huge start with $13 million from Thursday preview showings, which started at 3 p.m. As the only major release of the weekend, its theatrical footprint was equally impressive playing on 400 IMAX screens, over 900 “premium large format” screens and over 2,500 3D screens.

“The family audience still loves going to the movies,” Dergarabedian said. “As an outside of the home experience, it’s still a relative bargain.”

This recommitment to theatrical comes after Disney sent several Pixar films straight to its streaming service, Disney+, over the pandemic including “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red.” Last month, the New York Times reported that Pixar had decided to return its focus to feature films (and not producing shows for Disney+) and that it had laid off 14% of its workforce (about 175 employees).

“As important as this weekend is for the industry at large, for Pixar this is huge. They’ve been trying to get their groove back since the pandemic,” Dergarabedian said. “Pixar had for decades one of the most impressive box office track records ever. They’ve really come back big.”

Second place went to Sony's “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” now in its second weekend with $33 million, down only 42% from its opening. In just 12 days, it's already earned over $112 million domestically and $214 million globally. As of Friday, the four-film franchise had crossed the $1 billion mark.

“Bad Boys'” success last weekend was the start of a higher-earning turnaround for the lagging summer movie season. For Hollywood, the summer season, which runs from the first weekend in May through Labor Day, usually represents about 40% of the yearly box office. The deficit is still significant, with ticket sales down 28% for the summer and 24% for the year (and this is still before “Barbenheimer”) but it's progress in a more promising direction nonetheless.

“We're not going to get there overnight,” Dergarabedian said. “But it’s good news for theaters. And we have some big movies on the way.”



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Richard Simmons, a Fitness Guru Who Mixed Laughs and Sweat, Dies at 76

Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
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Richard Simmons, a Fitness Guru Who Mixed Laughs and Sweat, Dies at 76

Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)

Richard Simmons, television's hyperactive court jester of physical fitness who built a mini-empire in his trademark tank tops and short shorts by urging the overweight to exercise and eat better, died Saturday. He turned 76 on Friday.

Simmons died at his home in Los Angeles, his publicist Tom Estey said in an email to The Associated Press. He gave no further details.

Los Angeles police and fire departments say they responded to a house — whose address the AP has matched with Simmons through public records — where a man was declared dead from natural causes.

Simmons, who had revealed a skin diagnosis in March 2024, had lately dropped out of sight, sparking speculation about his health and well-being. His death was first reported by TMZ.

Simmons was a former 268-pound teen who became a master of many media forms, sharing his hard-won weight-loss tips as host of the Emmy-winning daytime "Richard Simmons Show" and author of best-selling books and the diet plan Deal-A-Meal. He also opened exercise studios and starred exercise videos, including the wildly successful "Sweatin' to the Oldies" line, which became a cultural phenomenon.

"My food plan and diet are just two words — common sense. With a dash of good humor," he told The Associated Press in 1982. "I want to help people and make the world a healthier, happy place."

Simmons embraced mass communication to get his message out, even as he eventually became the butt of jokes for his outfits and flamboyant flair. He was a sought-after guest on TV shows led by Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Phil Donahue. But David Letterman would prank him and Howard Stern would tease him until he cried. He was mocked in Neil Simon’s "The Goodbye Girl" on Broadway in 1993, and Eddie Murphy put on white makeup and dressed like him in "The Nutty Professor," screaming "I’m a pony!"

Asked if he thought he could motivate people by being silly, Simmons answered, "I think there's a time to be serious and a time to be silly. It's knowing when to do it. I try to have a nice combination. Being silly cures depression. It catches people off guard and makes them think. But in between that silliness is a lot of seriousness that makes sense. It's a different kind of training."

Simmons’ daytime show was seen on 200 stations in America, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan and South America. His first book, "Never Say Diet," was a smash best-seller.

He was known to counsel the severely obese, including Rosalie Bradford, who held records for being the world's heaviest woman, and Michael Hebranko, who credited Simmons for helping him lose 700 pounds. Simmons put real people — chubby, balding or non-telegenic — in his exercise videos to make the fitness goals seem reachable.

Throughout his career, Simmons was a reliable critic of fad diets, always emphasizing healthy eating and exercise plans. "There'll always be some weird thing about eating four grapes before you go to bed, or drinking a special tea, or buying this little bean from El Salvador," he told the AP in 2005 as the Atkins diet craze swept the country. "If you watch your portions and you have a good attitude and you work out every day you'll live longer, feel better and look terrific."

Simmons was a native of New Orleans, a chubby boy named Milton by his parents. (He renamed himself "Richard" around the age of 10 to improve his self-image). He would tell people he ate to excess because he believed his parents liked his older brother more. He was teased by schoolmates and ballooned to almost 200 pounds.

Simmons told the AP his mother watched exercise guru Jack LaLanne's TV show religiously when he was growing up, but he wasn't crazy about the fitness fanatic. "I hated him," Simmons said. "I wasn't ready for his message because he was fit and he was healthy and he had such a positive attitude, and I was none of those things."

Simmons went to Italy as a foreign exchange student and ended up doing peanut butter commercials and bacchanalian eating scenes for director Federico Fellini in his film "Fellini Satyricon." He told the AP: "I was fat, had curly hair. The Italians thought I was hysterical. I was the life of the party."

His life changed after getting an anonymous letter. "One dark, rainy day I went to my car and found a note. It said, 'Dear Richard, you're very funny, but fat people die young. Please don't die." He was so stunned that he went on the starvation diet that left him thin but very ill.

After the crash diet he gained back 65 pounds. Eventually, he was able to devise a sensible plan to take off the pounds and keep them off. "I went into the business because I couldn't find anything I liked," he said.

When Simmons hadn’t been seen in public for several years, some news outlets speculated that he was being held hostage in his own house. In telephone interviews with "Entertainment Tonight" and the "Today" show, Simmons refuted the claims and told his fans he was enjoying the time by himself. Filmmaker-writer Dan Taberski, one of his regular students, launched a podcast in 2017 called "Missing Richard Simmons."

In 2022, Simmons broke his six-year silence, with his spokesperson telling the New York Post that the beloved fitness icon was "living the life he has chosen."

One of the online tributes after Simmons’ passing was from actor-comedian Pauly Shore, who previously developed an unauthorized biopic of Simmons, which Simmons objected to at the time.

"I just got word like everyone else that the beautiful Richard Simmons has passed," he began in an Instagram post. "You’re one of a kind, Richard. An amazing life. An amazing story."