As usual, there will be a number of special screenings out of competition. This year, Barack Obama and Donald Trump will be seen in a An Inconvenient Sequel, Al Gore’s follow-up to his 2006 climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
Has Zoe Saldana let slip that the title of the fourth Avengers film is Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet?
Speaking at the Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 premiere, the actress, who plays Gamora, talked about the involvement of Guardians stars in the Avengers films.
Asked about the third Avengers film on Monday, she said: “I think the Guardians just shot their part when it comes to Infinity War.
“And we all have to go back for Gauntlet later this year.”
But later on Tuesday, James Gunn, writer and director of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, denied Saldana had given the game away.
According to Yahoo Movies journalist Tom Butler, Gunn said Gauntlet was not the title.
The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy are all part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So far they have appeared in separate films, but will join forces in the next two Avengers films. Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel, which we which now know could well be called Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet or perhaps just plain Avengers: Gauntlet.
Until today, we thought Drake’s Views was the best-selling album of 2016, but new music industry figures suggest otherwise.
According to the IFPI’s annual report, both Beyonce’s Lemonade and Adele’s 25 shifted more copies worldwide.
Beyonce topped the chart with 2.4 million sales, while Drake came third, having sold 2.1 million units.
The figures only include CDs, vinyl and downloads – which may explain Drake’s sudden change in fortunes.
Once streaming is counted, he emerges as the most popular artist of 2016; with his inescapable single One Dance the year’s most popular song.
Best-selling albums of 2016 (source: IFPI)
Title and artist
1) Lemonade – Beyonce
2) 25 – Adele
3) Views – Drake
4) Hardwired… To Self-Destruct – Metallica
5) Blackstar – David Bowie
6) Blue & Lonesome – The Rolling Stones
7) 24k Magic – Bruno Mars
8) Blurryface – Twenty One Pilots
9) A Head Full of Dreams – Coldplay
10) A Pentatonix Christmas – Pentatonix
The explosion in streaming services also helped the music industry grow in value for the second year in a row, with revenue up by 5.9% to $15.7bn (£12.35bn).
That’s the fastest rate of growth since the IFPI began tracking the market in 1997; and comes after 15 years of downturn, during which time the music industry lost nearly 40% of its revenue.
“We are no longer running up a down escalator,” observed Warner Music CEO Stu Bergen.
Subscription streaming services are largely responsible for the turnaround. Revenue from Spotify, Apple Music and their competitors rose by 60% last year.
By contrast, earnings from CDs and vinyl fell by 7.6%; while the value of downloads – once seen as the saviour of the industry – plummeted by 20.5%.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) launched their annual report at a low-key reception in London on Tuesday morning, soundtracked by a lounge pianist covering John Legend’s All of Me and Coldplay’s Trouble.
All three of the major record labels – Universal, Sony and Warner Music – attended the event; giving their perspective on the figures.
Here are some of the other headlines and revelations from the launch.
More than 110 million people now pay to stream music
By the end of 2016, the number of people subscribing to a subscription service reached 97 million worldwide. With many of the users choosing a “family plan”, where several members of the same household have access to the full catalogue of music, the IFPI estimates that 112 million people use a service like Deezer, Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music.
However, the industry is wary of being complacent. “To raise the mission accomplished banner would be the worst mistake we could make,” said Universal Music’s Michael Nash.
“We’ve got to continue to convince consumers that [music] is still worth paying for, if we’re ultimately going to achieve sustainable growth,” added Dennis Kooker, president of digital services at Sony.
In some countries, people still love CDs
Streaming might dominate the market in the UK and US – but three of the world’s six biggest music markets, Germany, France and Japan, still prefer CDs.
“In this environment, breaking an artist and building a global fanbase isn’t easy,” noted Warner Music’s Stu Bergen. “If you’re going to be successful, you can’t focus on a single format. It takes time, money and people.”
The only thing that’s certain is uncertainty
For the last 15 years, the music industry has been in a constant state of panic – Napster gutted the music market, then downloads began to overtake CD sales, before themselves being replaced by streaming.
“The music industry has received a significant amount of what I would call ‘reality therapy’,” said Michael Nash, head of digital strategy for Universal. “That’s where you wake up and you realise, ‘my old business has gone, I’ve got to get into a new business.'”
However, her added, “very few sectors of the economy have ever recovered from a 40% decline in revenue.”
They hope to build on that turnaround by embracing change, and seeking “new business models to cannibalise old business models”.
Speaking of which…
Voice-controlled speakers could be the next big thing
“One of the really exciting changes is around voice activation on smart speakers like Amazon Echo,” said Mr Nash.
“You find that when you interact directly with your music service, and you have the ability to ask for any song, at any point at time, it alters how you engage with music and how you think about your music preferences.
“It’ll be interesting to see how music changes from being a smartphone-driven experience, to a more communal experience in the home – where you have multiple family members requesting songs, or taking turns being DJ”.
The prospect of integrating voice-activated music services into cars was also “hugely exciting” he said.
The music industry still isn’t happy with YouTube
YouTube said it paid the music industry $1bn (£794m) in royalties last year – but record companies claim it’s not enough.
They reckon Spotify’s 50 million subscribers each contributed $20 per year to the industry’s bank accounts. YouTube, which has more than a billion users, allegedly paid less than a dollar per person.
“We need to fix that,” said IFPI chief Frances Moore. “It’s a massive mismatch”.
The industry has long complained that YouTube and other similar services are slow to police illegal and pirated material uploaded by their users (a claim which YouTube disputes).
In Japan, Ed Sheeran’s new album was marketed by celebrity cats
Even Ed Sheeran can’t be everywhere all the time, so his Japanese record label had to get inventive when it came to promoting his new album.
While the star performed at the Grammys and the Brits for fans in the West, Japanese audiences were treated to videos of “celebrity cats dancing to Shape of You”.
Both approaches seem to have worked – with the album shifting in huge numbers around the world.
Interestingly, despite the music industry’s beef with YouTube, every track on Sheeran’s album, Divide, was uploaded to the video service on the day of release. Stu Bergen said it was a sign of “acceptance that the music will be there whether we put it up or not”, but vowed to continue the fight for fair royalties.
The era of streaming exclusives is basically over
Last year, R&B star Frank Ocean dramatically ended his four-year sabbatical with two back-to-back releases: Endless, a video stream released as the final album under his contract with Universal music; and the 17-track opus Blond, released as an Apple exclusive a day later on Ocean’s own label, Boys Don’t Cry, without Universal’s involvement or knowledge.
Universal chairman Lucian Grainge swiftly emailed the heads of his record labels, outlawing streaming exclusives. Although it’s difficult to establish whether the two events were linked, one thing is certain: Grainge had concluded that streaming exclusives were bad for fans, and bad for the business.
“There were a lot of things that went into our termination,” said Michael Nash, the label’s head of digital strategy. “We had passed a point in time where it made sense to… work on a level of exclusivity with individual platforms.
“Our general position is that our artists and our labels want to have the broadest possible audience for our music.”
Dennis Kooker, president of digital at Sony Music, said exclusives would still be considered for future releases, but it was a “balancing act”; while Universal stressed that they’d generally avoided giving exclusives to one service over another: “It’s not something we engaged extensively in.”
Children of the 1980s, rejoice – the original Bananarama line-up is back together at last. Which got us thinking – lots of 80s bands have reformed over recent years but which ones are we still wishing would reunite?
1. Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, fronted by Holly Johnson, are still best remembered for their debut single Relax, which was famously banned by the BBC in 1984 due to its sexual lyrics but topped the UK singles chart for five consecutive weeks.
The band went on to become only the second act in the history of the UK charts (after Gerry and the Pacemakers) to reach number one with their first three singles when Two Tribes and The Power of Love also hit the top spot.
But their glory was short-lived. Their second album, Liverpool, released in 1986, failed to live up to expectations and a backstage bust-up between Johnson and bassist Mark O’Toole at their final gig at Wembley Arena sounded the death knell.
While various reincarnations of the band have since reformed, we’re still waiting for the original line-up to hit us “with those laser beams.”
2. The Smiths
Never gonna happen. Yes, we know. But just imagine! Johnny Marr and Steven Morrissey formed the band in 1982 with bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mick Joyce.
They went on to release 17 albums and four studio albums, becoming one of the most influential bands of the 1980s.
Hits included This Charming Man, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, How Soon is Now?, Big Mouth Strikes Again, Panic and Girlfriend in a Coma.
But the dream combo of Marr’s melodies and Morrissey’s musings was broken with the band’s acrimonious split in 1987.
In Marr’s autobiography Set The Boy Free, he revealed that the official version of him walking out on the band wasn’t the full story.
The tipping point, says Marr, was when Morrissey didn’t turn up for the video shoot of the single Shoplifters Of The World Unite, and ordered him to sack their latest manager.
Whatever the truth, Marr also wrote that he and Morrissey discussed the possibility of a reunion back in 2008. We’re still waiting.
3. Curiosity Killed the Cat
Ring a bell? We’ve been wondering whatever happened to the beautiful beret-wearing Ben with the exotic-sounding surname Volpeliere-Pierrot (although Smash Hits preferred to call him Ben Vol-au-vent Parrot), not to mention Julian, Nick and Migi.
The band enjoyed 80s success with soulful pop hits including Down to Earth, Ordinary Day, Name and Number and Misfit.
They split after a last hurrah with a cover of Johnny Bristol’s Hang On In There Baby in 1992. While Ben has joined some 80s tours singing solo the band have never reunited as a four-piece.
It’s 20 years this year since Misfit and Ordinary Day entered the charts, so perhaps now would be a good time to hit the road again?
But what about his later band, Style Council, which he formed with Mick Talbot, formerly of The Merton Parkas and Dexy’s Midnight Runners?
The Style Council had hits such as Walls Come Tumbling Down!, Shout to the Top, You’re the Best Thing and Long, Hot Summer.
The band broke up in 1989. Weller has since said they didn’t get the credit they deserved.
“I thought we were quite misunderstood and misrepresented. Yet, at the end of the day, we made some good records and I wrote some good songs around that time, songs I still stand by, and I think that will last as well.”
5. The Housemartins
Formed in Hull in the 1980s, The Housemartins line-up changed frequently over the years but most of us will remember its most famous members, Paul Heaton and Norman Cook AKA Fatboy Slim.
Caravan of Love and Happy Hour were probably their best known hits and Heaton and Cook went on to further success with The Beautiful South and Beats International/Fatboy Slim.
In 2009, Mojo magazine got The Housemartins’ original members together for a photo-shoot and interview but they said they would not be reforming.
So it looks like we won’t be hearing from “the fourth best band in Hull” – as The Housemartins often described themselves – anytime soon.
6. Bronski Beat/The Communards
While Bronski Beat continued following the departure of vocalist Jimmy Somerville in 1985, they are still best, remembered for the hits they had with him at the helm, including Why?, Smalltown Boy and It Ain’t Necessarily So.
Somerville, of course, went on to form The Communards with Richard Coles, who is now a Church of England priest and Radio 4 presenter.
But will we see either of these bands back together?
Larry Steinbachek, former keyboardist with Bronski Beat, sadly died at the age of 56 in January.
The two are back in touch now but with Coles’ commitments to the Church, a reunion seems unlikely.
7. The Thompson Twins
Yep, it’s our wildcard entry – the band that was named after the two bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson in The Adventures of Tintin.
The band had various line-up changes over the years but they were best known as the mid-80s trio consisting of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway.
Their hits included Hold Me Now, Doctor! Doctor! and You Take Me Up but Leeway left the band in 1986 and Bailey and Currie could never replicate their earlier success (although they did have a dance hit in 1991 called Come Inside).
The pair had two children together and moved to New Zealand. While they did briefly reunite with Leeway on a Channel 4 show in 2001, they have so far resisted the urge to go down the nostalgia road and reform.
A photo of Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o has sparked a film idea on Twitter and they have both taken to the social media site to say they are up for it.
The 2014 fashion show photo was shared by fans with the comment: “Rihanna looks like she scams rich white men and Lupita is the computer smart best friend that helps plan the scams”.
It caught the attention of Oscar winner Nyong’o a few days ago and now Rihanna has tweeted she is up for it too.
Fans have gone crazy for the idea.
Lupita saw the tweet a few days ago and posted “I’m down if you are @Rihanna”.
More than 200,000 liked the tweet and earlier today Rihanna replied saying “I’m in Pit’z” – her nickname for the Star Wars actress.
Another 99,000 liked that tweet and now the two stars had said yes Twitter went into a meltdown with ideas about the film.
One fan then tweeted it over to Selma director Ava Duvernay saying she should direct it and Duvernay loved the idea.
“Lights set. Camera’s up. Ready to call action for these #queens,” she tweeted back.
It seems Rihanna didn’t want to let go of the idea as she retweeted a fan’s idea to get Issa Rae, the creator and executive producer of Insecure, on board.
Rae then replied with a Gif of a cat manically typing, which made Rihanna blush.
The idea of a movie based on the photo had been around on Tumblr when the photo was first published – but now the main players have got involved it looks like Twitter may have cast and created a movie.
But with so many fan ideas contributed who takes credit for the concept and gets a cut of the profits?
Most of the fans on Twitter though are just desperate to see it happen.
So, to keep things simple, we’ll just stick to how many people watched each episode of this series live, on the night it was first broadcast.
An average of 2.8 million tuned in to the launch – a strong opening for the series, but a peak it didn’t manage to match throughout the rest of its run.
Ratings were reasonably stable for the following four episodes, but they dropped significantly for the final two.
Top Gear, series 24: Overnight ratings
Episode one (5 March)
Episode two (12 March)
Episode three (19 March)
Episode four (26 March)
Episode five (2 April)
Episode six (16 April – Easter Sunday)
Episode seven (23 April)
This could be down to the gap in the middle of the series – there was no episode on 9 April because of Golf: The Masters 2017. It seems many viewers didn’t return to Top Gear after that.
But what everybody really wants to know about the viewing figures, of course, is how they compare with previous series.
The last season, fronted by Chris Evans, opened with a bumper 4.4 million viewers, considerably more than this year’s series launch.
However, it’s worth noting the viewing figures for the Evans-fronted season had more than halved by the end, with 1.9 million tuning in to the finale.
No episode in the era fronted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May had fewer than 2 million viewers.
Indeed, an impressive 5.3 million watched the trio’s farewell in 2015 – a figure that none of the presenting line-ups have come close to since.
But programme bosses will likely be happy that five of this season’s seven episodes attracted more than 2 million viewers, giving this series a strong and relatively stable audience in comparison to last year.
Plus – once iPlayer figures are taken into account, the figures for the latest series will go up considerably. The first episode alone added nearly a million extra viewers to the live TV audience. Figures for the later episodes in the series will follow soon.
Critics have responded positively to the revamped Top Gear – although some also had a few suggestions about how it could improve going forward.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Ed Power said: “Top Gear finished its latest season in better fettle than anyone could have predicted in the wake of last year’s disastrous Chris Evans-fronted reboot.
“Week by week the crew has visibly gained in confidence and the concluding instalment was arguably the most enjoyable yet.”
The Radio Times‘s Frances Taylor wrote: “It’s undeniable that the presenters’ dynamic has improved… but there’s something still jarring a little.
“The biggest problems have been ironed out this series, and what we’ve been left with is a largely enjoyable and watchable hour of Sunday night TV.
“It won’t take much to give it a tweak here and a buff there and with a little help, Top Gear could well be at the top of its game come series 25.”
Tom Eames from Digital Spy agreed the show still needs some work, but said it’s broadly going in the right direction.
“Rory Reid needs far more screen time, and they need to invest in more films that include all three of the main hosts,” he suggested.
“Plus – fewer obviously-scripted segments, more ad-libbed journeys, more interesting celebrities (or no celebrity segment at all) and you’ve got yourself a brilliant car show. It’s so very nearly there, and we’ll definitely be up for more in 2018.”
Viewers were mostly positive about the latest series, although many said there was still room for further improvement.
Matthew tweeted: “If someone said to me 5 years ago that Matt LeBlanc would save Top Gear, I would have laughed and thought they were mental, but he has!”
“Brilliant series, well done guys! Restored as great entertainment and fun car show. A bit like the old days, only better,” added Brook.
Katherine said: “It’s a big improvement on the last series. Still wooden though.”
But Andy wrote: “I’d hardly say Top Gear has been saved. There has been a lot of viewers moved to The Grand Tour. It’s not Top Gear with out Clarkson, Hammond or May.”
So, has Matt LeBlanc really “saved” Top Gear?
Well, partly. He’s certainly a more popular front man than Chris Evans was on the last series.
But it would be unfair to give him all the credit for the warmer critical and viewer reaction this year.
Reid has been a crucial ingredient, with many fans agreeing he should be given more time on screen.
Harris is also a key factor, with Eames commenting that he “has clearly been eyed as the show’s lead when it comes to credibility”.
There’s also the total studio revamp the show has had – giving it a glossier, more colourful and polished feel.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the reason the show has had a much stronger series this year is it has not been put under so much scrutiny as before.
Tabloid interest in the Chris Evans series was high, and there were many negative headlines about the show’s various troubles and viewing figures.
But away from the glare of the media spotlight, it appears to be finally bedding in.
It has found its feet – and its audience. The show now has a core viewer base and appears to have finally won over critics and fans.
We’ll wait and see whether its upward streak can continue when the 25th series begins next spring.