Bob Mondello

There's some hopeful news for the film industry coming from China.

As the number of new cases of the coronavirus declines in China, the Chinese government is allowing a few movie theaters to reopen for the first time since the country's theaters were shuttered by decree in January.

According to the entertainment news website Deadline, about 500 have reopened (less than 5% of Chinese exhibitors), mostly in Xinjiang and in far-flung provinces across the country.

On Wednesday, the day all three of the largest U.S. movie exhibitors — AMC, Regal and Cinemark — shut down operations, Hollywood reported the lowest box office figures since the industry began tabulating numbers independently decades ago.

With just 440 of the nation's more than 5,500 theaters (which account for some 40,000 screens) open for business, North American cinemas took in less than $300,000 for all the movies currently in theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Critics are often asked "What's your favorite movie?" — and most of us have learned to deflect the question.

If you see a few hundred films a year, "favorite" is a moving target. Stiil, when pressed, I do have a ready answer: Buster Keaton's silent, Civil-War comedy The General.

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Actor Max von Sydow, whose career stretched across seven decades, died Sunday at the age of 90. The imposing Swedish star played the title character in The Exorcist and more than 100 other roles.

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The indie comedy "Saint Frances" was a film fest hit even before it won awards and a distribution deal at South by Southwest. Today it opens in theaters, and critic Bob Mondello says it's a low-key charmer.

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In Hollywood, the bean counters always talk at this time of year about the "Oscar Bounce" — the boost films get at the box office from Academy Award nominations.

The bounce, which can amount to tens of millions of dollars, is much sought-after by film studios, but their calculus may be altered by recent changes in the industry — especially by the advent of streaming services.

Kirk Douglas, the self-described "ragman's son" who became a global Hollywood superstar in the 1950s and '60s, died on Wednesday. He was 103. Douglas was often cast as a troubled tough guy in films, most famously as a rebellious Roman slave named Spartacus. Off-screen, he was devoted to family and to humanitarian causes.

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Encore: '1917' Review

Jan 6, 2020

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Now film critic Bob Mondello's 10 best movies of the year. It is a list so jam-packed with movie greatness that - well, I'll let Bob tell you.

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It's time to talk about "Cats."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JELLICLE SONGS FOR JELLICLE CATS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) Jellicle songs for jellicle cats, jellicle songs for jellicle cats.

NPR's movie critic and Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts picked 20 of their favorite films of the year.

1917

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A new movie called "Synonyms" has critics reaching for superlatives. Our own Bob Mondello has strong words of his own. He found the film surprising, startling, puzzling and eye-opening.

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More than 400 movies in ten days - that is the Toronto International Film Festival. This year, the most talked-about films include the Mr. Rogers movie "A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood"...

When you stand in the center of Plaza del Congreso in downtown Buenos Aires, looking at the dome of Argentina's Capitol building, there's an imposing grey ghost of a building just to the right. It's a deteriorating art nouveau masterpiece: the Edificio del Molino, closed for decades, and now in the middle of a multi-year restoration.

The restorers opened it to the public for just a few hours recently, and a crowd started lining up on the sidewalk hours early, two and three abreast. When the doors finally opened, the line stretched almost three blocks.

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We meet soon-to-be-class-valedictorian Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as he's addressing a high school assembly in Northern Virginia, saying all the right things about a rosy future. He is clearly practiced and comfortable in the spotlight, popular with students and with teachers, despite a wrenching childhood in war-torn Eritrea before he was adopted and brought to the U.S. He's a success story, as the school principal never tires of saying.

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