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'Son of God': Churches, Religious Groups Snap Up Almost 500,000 Tickets in Weeks Before Christ Film Debut

Film sponsor Compassion International tells THR it bought 225,000 seats in 40 cities and Jerry Falwell's Liberty University is giving thousands of tickets away.
The Jesus Christ-focused film Son of God doesn't hit theaters until next week, but it's already a hit with churches and religious groups.

These faithful audiences have secured nearly half-a-million tickets to showings across the country, with some even renting out entire theaters and several multiplexes for certain showings.
Produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey and distributed by Fox, Son of God features a mix of old and new footage about the life of Jesus Christ from Burnett and Downey's hit History Channel miniseries, The Bible.
The world's largest Christian university, Liberty University, bought out an entire Regal multiplex near campus, where Son of God will be showing on all 14 screens on the film's opening day. A spokesman for the Jerry Falwell-founded school told The Hollywood Reporter that Liberty's giving away tickets by the thousands and e-mailed more than 100,000 people in the university community to promote the film.
"We think it's an extraordinary product and for Christianity we think it's an historic moment," Liberty senior vp communications Johnnie Moore told THR. "This is the first movie about life of Jesus in 50 years. It would be beneficial to people all across the country to see this on the big screen."

Relief group Compassion International has purchased 225,000 tickets for screenings in 40 cities across the country, including L.A., Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and New York City. A number of these theaters have been entirely bought out for some screenings of the film, a spokesman for Compassion told THR.
Compassion International, which is the exclusive sponsor for the film in the U.S., is working with local churches, which have claimed and are distributing all of the tickets.
Just as many tickets have been scooped up by other church groups, bringing the number of advance ticket sales to nearly 500,000 through Wednesday, according to insiders. Using the average ticket price of $8.13, that means Son of God already has close to $4 million in box office revenue, unless the tickets were bought at discounted prices.

The country's largest theater chain, Regal Entertainment, also confirmed the high level of interest in the film, noting that hundreds of churches around the country have reserved their auditoriums for 100 or more guests.
There are at least 12 other instances of churches or religious organizations renting out entire theaters for specific screenings of the film. San Diego's Rock Church has arranged to have Son of God playing on all 19 screens at a local AMC theater this coming Wednesday, the church told THR. Sacramento's Bayside Church, meanwhile, is also planning a multiplex-wide event that night, distributing 2,000 tickets for a showing on all 16 screens at a local theater.

Burnett also identified eight other churches and business leaders that had arranged for the film to be shown at certain times on multiple screens in multiplexes.
"This movie is designed to be seen in communities," Burnett told THR. "Therefore, it's the perfect venue for church groups to band together and watch Son of God in a community. That's what's really happening."
Son of God opens exactly 10 years after Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ debuted in theaters, transforming into a blockbuster and opening to a record-breaking $83.8 million. Son of God isn't likely to reach that level, however, since it hasn't generated the same amount of controversy that Gibson's film did.
Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.

Russia crash, Canada set-up USA semi-final clash

Sochi (Russia) (AFP) - Russia crashed out of the Olympic Games hockey tournament Wednesday, slumping to a 3-1 defeat to Finland in a dismal quarter-final performance that prompted jeers from their shell-shocked fans.

Despite taking the lead, Russia were rocked by a Finnish side that had also humiliated them 4-0 the last time they met in the Olympics at Turin in 2006.

"It sucks. There is no more I can say," admitted Russia's highest profile star Alex Ovechkin, one of the faces of the Sochi Games, after his country's second successive Olympic quarter-final exit.
"We had a good start, scored a goal. But two mistakes cost us the game. We try to score another one, but all we can try is to score more goals. I have no more emotions."

Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said: "I didn't expect things to turn out this way."
Finland advances to the semi-finals where they will face Sweden who rolled over Slovenia 5-0.

The USA easily beat the Czechs 5-2 in their quarter-final and will face defending champions Canada who survived a scare before easing past Latvia 2-1 on a late goal in the third.

Olympic all-time scoring leader Teemu Selanne and Juhamatti Aaltonen scored consecutive first period goals for Finland, taking advantage of two slow-footed Russian defencemen to erase a one-goal Russian lead.

Mikael Granlund, who added the third, said Finland were worthy winners.

"They had the first goal, but we bounced back really good, and throughout the game we defended well and didn't give them much. We made it tough on them," he said.

"We stick together, we play together. We know what we're doing, and we defend each other and that's how we can succeed and will succeed. I think we deserved to win."

Ilya Kovalchuk scored the lone goal for Russia, who were also ousted in the quarters when they were clobbered by eventual champions Canada 7-3 four years ago in Vancouver.

"The pressure was all on the Russian side," said Selanne. "They played four games in five nights and we tried to use that to our advantage. So this is a big thing for us."

After Kovalchuk opened the scoring, Aaltonen scored on a great individual effort halfway through the period to tie the score 1-1.

He stickhandled past Russian defenceman Nikita Nikitin and took a shot that squeezed between 
netminder Semyon Varlamov's arm and body.

Selanne then scored from in close to make it 2-1 late in the first period.

Granlund outraced Russian defenceman Vyacheslav Voinov for a loose puck in the neutral zone and drove to the net before passing to the middle to Selanne who beat Varlamov through the legs with 2:22 left in the first.

Granlund scored a power play goal 5:37 into the second to make it 3-1. Selanne took the shot in the slot and Granlund got the rebound and banged it home.

The 43-year-old Selanne, who is playing in his sixth and final Olympics, is the all-time scoring leader in the Winter Games. Earlier in this tournament he became the oldest male player to score a goal in the Olympics.

"It is hard to believe that now we can compete against the best Russian players in the world," said Selanne. "I am very proud of our hockey."

Henrik Lundqvist stopped 19 shots for his second shutout of the tournament as Sweden beat Slovenia.
Sweden led by just one goal at the end of the second but then broke the game open in the third as Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson and Carl Hagelin, with two, scored in front of a crowd of 7,325 at the Bolshoi Ice Dome.

Defenceman Shea Weber blasted a one-timer at 13:06 of the third on the power play to lift Canada past Latvia.

James Van Riemsdyk, Dustin Brown, Phil Kessel, David Backes and Zach Parise scored as the Americans rolled over the Czechs 5-2 to reach the semis.

Team USA's biggest names struggle under Olympic pressure

Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports
OCHI — A week's worth of competition suggests America's finest athletes are succumbing to the Olympic pressure.

Some of the team's biggest names -- Bode Miller, Shaun White and Kelly Clark — have failed to deliver in the games' biggest events.

Clark proved that point again Wednesday in the women's halfpipe, where the four-time Olympian and heavy favorite crashed on her first run and made subtle errors on her second, settling for bronze.

Deja vu to her performance at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"I didn't land one run in practice all night and fell first run in the contest, so to be able to land my last run, last person to go in an Olympic final was a huge achievement for me," said Clark, who has landed on the podium in 28 of the past 34 contests since Dec. 2010. "That wasn't my cleanest, best run I've ever done, but for me that was my best tonight and it landed me on the podium and I'm thankful."

In women's halfpipe, at least, USA salvaged gold: Kaitlyn Farrington won the event in her first Olympic Games.

In other marquee events, however, USA's hope of again topping the medal count has been harmed, perhaps irreparably, by an inability to match pre-Games expectations.
• Bode Miller, a five-time Olympic medalist – with three coming in 2010 – entered the men's downhill final having aced his way through training runs, blistering the course in Krasnaya Polyana. But he struggled with the flat light of the final, finishing eighth.

• Overwhelming favorite Hannah Kearney was trying to become the first free skier in Olympic history to win consecutive gold medals, but a tricky bump in the moguls course prompted bobbles in each of her three runs, pushing her down to bronze.

"Bode told me that he was really nervous," said Austrian Matthias Meyer, who took home a surprise downhill gold, "but I was looking forward to the race, and I think that was an advantage."

• Shani Davis was chasing history in the men's 1,000 meter speedskating event, vying to become the first American male speedskater to claim gold in the same event in three consecutive Olympics. And with just a top-three finish, Davis would have tied Eric Heiden for the most medals by an American male skater.

Instead, he finished eighth.

"There's no excuse. I just didn't have the speed I've always had," Davis said. "I still have total trust and belief in myself. I've done well in World Cups leading up to the Olympics. I did the best I could possibly do; it just wasn't good enough."

A common refrain this week.

Piers Morgan was questioned under caution by police investigating Mirror phone hacking allegations

Piers Morgan has been interviewed under caution by police investigating allegations of phone-hacking at Mirror newspapers, it emerged today.

The CNN presenter was questioned by Operation Golding police in December last year, and has also provided a witness statement to the investigation.

Morgan, 48, has always denied any knowledge of phone hacking at either the News of the World or the Daily Mirror, both of which he has edited.

He told the Guardian today: 'In early November I was asked to attend an interview by officers from Operation Weeting when I was next in the UK.

'This was further to a full witness statement I had already freely provided. I attended that interview as requested on 6 December 2013.'

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: 'A 48-year-old man who is a journalist was interviewed under caution on December 6 2013 by officers from Operation Golding in connection with suspected conspiracy to intercept telephone voicemails.

'He was interviewed by appointment at a south London police station. He was not arrested.
'Operation Golding is a strand of Operation Weeting and is specifically investigating allegations of phone interception at Mirror Group Newspapers.'

Morgan, 48, was appointed as editor of News of the World in 1994, and moved to the Daily Mirror two years later.

He resigned from the Mirror in 2004 when it emerged that the paper had published fake photographs supposedly showing British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.

Morgan has since moved into the world of TV, presenting a nightly news programme on CNN in the U.S. as well as an interview show for ITV.

The ex-editor gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in which he said that phone hacking had not taken place at the Mirror and denied any knowledge of the practice within the newspaper industry.

However, Jeremy Paxman told the inquiry that Morgan had told him how to hack a phone during lunch at the Mirror's offices in 2002.

And in 2006, Morgan wrote about listening to a voicemail message left by Paul McCartney on the phone of then wife Heather Mills.

Sir Brian Leveson's report on the inquiry's findings said that there was no evidence that the editor authorised phone hacking.

Operation Weeting was launched in January 2011, since when 37 people have been arrested and questioned over allegations of hacking at the News of the World and elsewhere.

Seven people, including former NOTW editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, are currently on trial charged with allegations include hacking.

Why Simon Cowell Couldn't Save 'X Factor'

by Lacey Rose, Shirley Halperin
After a last-minute approach to NBC, the reality mogul heads back to Britain as insiders debate his "grumpy uncle" appeal in a changed TV landscape.

Weeks before Fox officially lowered the curtain on The X Factor, sources say its creator and star Simon Cowell quietly reached out to NBC to find a new home for his TV baby. "Simon himself was involved in this process," says an executive familiar with the approach on behalf of Cowell's Syco production company and partner FremantleMedia. (A Cowell source vehemently denies a pitch was made, adding, "Fox and Syco/Fremantle looked at plausible other options in the U.S. without him but decided these weren't viable.") But NBC already has The Voice and the Cowell-produced America's Got Talent -- and, more importantly, X Factorwas damaged goods.
In fact, now that the show was canceled Feb. 7, observers are divided on Cowell's future on U.S. television as well as the steps Fox will take to replace its failed franchise.
When the bombastic singing competition launched to much fanfare in 2011, Cowell -- whose pay was reported to be tens of millions of dollars because of his ownership stake -- boldly told THR he expected 20 million viewers a night for its twice-weekly broadcasts. But by its third season, after an overhaul that included slashing per-episode costs to what a source says was a still-pricey $2.5 million an hour, X Factor delivered only 6.7 million viewers a week in live-plus-7-day numbers (with younger viewers 18-to-34, it was down 45 percent). At the same time, ad revenue plummeted. X Factor raked in an estimated $500 million during its first season, according to Kantar Media, plus a lucrative two-year, $60 million sponsorship deal with Pepsi. But by season two, that ad money had declined more than 20 percent to $386 million. And during the first 11 months of 2013, X Factor generated slightly more than $139 million, compared with American Idol's $596 million andVoice's $565 million (the latter airs two cycles a year). Making matters worse, Pepsi declined to renew its sponsorship deal for X Factor's third season, as did Chevrolet, though Fox sales execs lured Honda and Procter & Gamble to replace them.
The harsh reality was addressed head-on during 21st Century Fox's earnings call Feb. 6, with president and COO Chase Carey noting that the show's ratings were "disappointing" and "fell faster than we hoped." At the TV critics press tour in January, Fox Broadcasting Co. chief Kevin Reilly said that if X Factor returned for a fourth season, it "would not be in the current format we have." Reilly and his team are said to have discussed options for months, with Cowell noting in December that the show -- which critics have knocked as tacky and too over-the-top for mainstream U.S. audiences -- could shift to a one-night-only format. At the time, Cowell, who once ruled TV as the star judge on Idol, acknowledged that increased competition, including from Voice, was taking its toll: "It's getting to be probably too much."
The 54-year-old Cowell, who on Feb. 11 told a U.K. publication that it was always "[the] plan to do three years" of X Factor in the U.S., isn't out of the TV business, of course. X Factor continues to air in 45 countries, and Cowell said that he will return to the judges panel on the U.K. version. "The plan is for [Cowell] to have homes in London and New York and to say goodbye to L.A. for now," another source tells THR. Such a move would also bring him closer to girlfriend Lauren Silverman, who lives on the East Coast, with whom he's expecting a child in February.
In addition, adds an industry insider, the exit allows Cowell an opportunity to return to his other income source: label boss. "Simon's a businessman first and foremost, which is why he created these TV shows in the first place," says the source. "But he's running a worldwide entertainment business when he's not at the judging desk, and he has to make long-term decisions. Simon doesn’t shy away from making difficult decisions. …  He knows when to make changes and he would rather take a show out of the market than compromise it."
Still, the Fox cancelation does leave him off American TV with no immediate plan for the first time sinceIdol hit big in 2002. Few deny his magnetism, particularly when playing the role of "grumpy uncle you love," says one top unscripted executive. Others add that he's one of few names in the genre that are bigger than any single brand and that he easily could jump into another show. Still, one network executive questions whether Cowell's "acerbic style fits into the mood of the culture anymore," noting that singing competitions -- including Cowell's old home, Idol -- now focus more on support and encouragement than on tearing people down. (In the U.K., Cowell in 2013 had a ratings dud on ITV with the cooking show Food Glorious Food, which debuted with an average of 2.7 million viewers, his lowest-rated launch to date.)
Already, Cowell's team is said to have floated the idea of him joining America's Got Talent. Although its judge lineup -- Howard SternMel BHeidi Klum and Howie Mandel -- is signed through the summer, Cowell, an executive producer on the New York-based show, could join the following year. Indeed, Got Talent might be his most enduring legacy. Airing in 193 countries, the U.K. version -- which launched the career of Susan Boyle (21 million albums sold) -- saw a peak audience of 13 million tune in for its 2013 premiere, its best season launch to date, and drew 17.4 million to its finale. "Simon Cowell has managed to have his finger on the pulse of world television entertainment for the last decade," says former Idol collaborator Nigel Lythgoe. "He is an extremely driven person, and if he remains motivated, I see no reason that his success will not continue."
X Factor's demise leaves three hours on Fox's fall schedule up for grabs. Although no formal decisions will be made until its upfront presentation in May, Reilly has been retooling the network in a bid to have a competitive year-round schedule. He has amped up investments in scripted entries, with several straight-to-series orders including the Batman prequel Gotham and fantastical drama Hieroglyph, and will look to program projects that begin in the summer and bleed into fall. Among other offerings in the wings: a high-profile unscripted "social experiment" series, Utopia, developed under new unscripted chief Simon Andreae.
As Carey told investors, "We've got to continue to try and find and build that next hit franchise."

Bobsledders Tweet They’re Stuck – This Time in Elevator

Olympic bobsledders trapped in tight spaces seems like it’s becoming a daily thing in Sochi.
In today’s edition, Team USA bobsledders Johnny Quinn and Nick Cunningham tweeted that they were stuck in a broken elevator.

Quinn told “Good Morning America” he was so happy to escape the bathroom but after he saw the gaping hole, he thought he would get in trouble.
“At that time I was so mad and frustrated I didn’t even have a towel in there. I was just excited to finally get out of there. Once I got out of there and put a towel on, I looked back at the door and said ‘Oh man there’s a giant hole in there. I might get in trouble for this,’” Quinn said.

Quinn said his teammates and neighbors didn’t hear his loud bangs on the wall for help, prompting the 6-foot, 220-pound athlete to use his bobsled training to finally bust down the door.

On Sunday, British bobsledder Rebekah Wilson tweeted that she had a near-miss with an open elevator shaft in Sochi.
It sure is dangerous in Sochi for a bobsledder, and their event hasn’t even started.

Jay Leno’s Final ‘Tonight Show’

By t

“I don’t like goodbyes – NBC does – but I don’t care for them,” an emotional Jay Leno said, kicking off a star-studded final broadcast show as host of The Tonight Show. “Tonight is our last show for real. I don’t need to be fired three times — I get the hint,” Leno joked to a friends-and-family studio audience as he ended his 22-year run Thursday night. It’s his second very-last-time-as-host — having been pushed aside in 2009 by NBC to make way for Conan O’Brien, who lasted seven months.
“I’ve got to tell you, the outpouring from people has really been touching. Anthony Weiner sent me a photo of his penis looking really sad.”
Oprah singingIn sharp contrast to the “last” time Leno celebrated his very last night as host ofTonight Show in 2009 — when, ever the team player, he had O’Brien as his final night’s guest — tonight’s show was packed with celebrities including President Obama. Longtime pal Garth Brooks performed his hit “The Dance.” And a cast of A-listers including Oprah Winfrey,Jack Black and Carol Burnett performed with Billy Crystal and The Shut Your Von Trapp Family Singers, the Rogers & Hammerstein tune from The Sound Of Music, “So Long, Farewell” with lyrics changed to suit the occasion. (Watch a clip below.) The show ended with Leno in tears as he thanked the audience, calling the Tonight Show crew his family and wishing his successor Jimmy Fallon well. (Video at the end of the post.)
But first, Leno mulled exactly how long 22 years is.
- “Here’s how long ago it is. When I started hosting, marijuana was illegal and you could smoke cigarettes anywhere you wanted.”
- “Twenty two years ago, guys actually had to go to newsstands for porn, can you imagine?”
- “So much has happened. You know the saddest part – OJ never found the real killers.”
"The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" - Final EpisodeMuch of the night’s festivities were kept from Leno. He was surprised by a taped segment in which celebs were asked what they thought Jay should do next. Kevin Bacon suggested he take up painting, showing his own latest effort, which was a full-body nude of Jay — a nod to the time former President George W. Bush was a recently guest of Leno’s surprised him with a portrait that he’d painted.
“You made a lot of jokes about me over the years – I’m not upset,” said President Obama, announcing his appointment of Leno as “my new Ambassador to Antarctica. Hope you’ve got a coat funny man!”
“I was once the host of a late-night show myself,” Bob Costas reminisced, noting he too had been replaced by someone younger – “that no talent Greg Kinnear.” “You have to learn to deal with it — hello Doctor!” Costas said, taking a swig out of a large bottle of Jack Daniel’s. “You’re gonna be fine,” he reassured.
Billy Crystal JayCrystal was Leno’s guest on his very first show — on Monday, May 25, 1992. At that performance, Leno told Crystal he wanted him to be his guest on his very last show. Crystal came out tonight, with actors playing moving company guys; they tagged some props, then Crystal did a couple minutes of stand-up in which he described Leno as the guy who was always there for America:
“When it was announced recently that America’s No. 1 domestic terrorist had been captured, who told us it was Justin Bieber? You did.”
“When Hurricane Katrina hit, who told us they should change the name of the Gulf of Mexico to the Persian Gulf so Bush would send troops faster? You did.”
“Let me get this – you’re moving to 9 o’clock?”
After the break, Crystal and some dancers in lederhosen and dirndl skirts called the Shut Your Von Trapp Singers sang “So Long Farewell” — NBC’s favorite musical – as one celebrity guest after another walked out onstage to take a verse:
Jack Jay Kim- Jack Black: “So long, farewell auf wiedersehen, my dear. If Fallon tanks you’ll be back here next year.”
- Kim Kardashian: “So long, farewell, last night I told my folks, ‘Now I won’t be butt of Leno’s jokes’.”
- Sheryl Crow: “So long, farewell, I give a little wave. But not for Jay – I want to get on Dave.”
- Chris Paul: “So long, farewell, you won the latenight race. But I don’t care, the Clips are in first place.”
The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons: “So long, farewell, we’ve watched you and we’re weary. Your great success is called The Big Chin Theory.”
- Carol Burnett: “So long, farewell. I’m here so what the hell. For your last show, I’ll do the Tarzan Yell. Aiaiaiaiaia!”
- Oprah Winfrey: “So long, farewell, you really raised the bar. If you were me, you’d buy them all a car!”
“Boy this is the hard part,” Leno said, choking up as the show wound down. “I want to thank you — the audience. You folks have been just incredibly loyal and — this is tricky. Oh,” he said, beginning to weep. “We wouldn’t be on the air without you people. Secondly, this has been the greatest 22 years of my life.” He started to openly cry. “I am the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents and astronauts and movie stars. It’s just been incredible.”
JayHe thanked the crew, the writers and the producers who, he said, have made him look and sound better than he actually is.
“I’ll tell you something,” he said through tears. “The first year of this show, I lost my mom. The second year, I lost my dad. Then my brother died. After that I was pretty much out of family, and the folks here became my family. Consequently, when they went through rough times, I tried to be there for them.”
“People say to me, ‘Why didn’t you go to ABC, to Fox?’ I don’t know anybody over there. These are the only people I have ever known. I’m also proud to say, this is a union show. I have never worked with a more professional group of people in my life. They get paid good money and they do a good job.”
“I’m really excited for Jimmy Fallon,” Leno concluded. “It’s fun to be the old guy and see where the next generation takes this great institution. I’m so glad I got to be a part of it, but it really is time to go and hand it to the next guy. And, in conclusion, I want to quote Johnny Carson: “I bid you all a heartfelt good night.”
Brooks played the show out with “Friends In Low Places.”
Here’s Leno’s emotional final speech: