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Box office top 20: 'Furious' takes a victory lap

Before the arrival of "Guardians and the Galaxy Vol. 2," ''The Fate of the Furious" took one more victory lap at the North American box office, leading all movies in ticket sales for the third straight week.

The film, which has passed $1 billion globally, grossed $19.9 million domestically over the weekend, according to final box office figures from comScore on Monday. The reign of the "Furious" sequel, however, is sure to end this weekend when "Guardians" kicks off the summer season.

In the lull between blockbusters, several smaller films did relatively strong business. The Eugenio Derbez comedy "How to Be a Latin Lover," opened in second with $12.2 million. It drew an 89 percent Latino audience. And the South Indian film "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" came in third with $10.4 million despite playing on only 420 screens.

Both films bested the badly reviewed Emma Watson and Tom Hanks thriller "The Circle," which debuted with $9 million.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by comScore:

1. "The Fate Of The Furious," Universal, $19,936,540, 4,077 locations, $4,890 average, $193,268,115, 3 Weeks.

2. "How To Be A Latin Lover," Lionsgate, $12,252,439, 1,118 locations, $10,959 average, $12,252,439, 1 Week.

3. "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion," Great India Films, $10,354,532, 425 locations, $24,364 average, $10,354,532, 1 Week.

4. "The Boss Baby," 20th Century Fox, $9,372,386, 3,739 locations, $2,507 average, $148,787,970, 5 Weeks.

5. "The Circle," STX Entertainment, $9,034,148, 3,163 locations, $2,856 average, $9,034,148, 1 Week.

6. "Beauty And The Beast," Disney, $6,825,595, 3,155 locations, $2,163 average, $480,525,828, 7 Weeks.

7. "Going In Style," Warner Bros., $3,607,144, 2,761 locations, $1,306 average, $37,346,914, 4 Weeks.

8. "Smurfs: The Lost Village," Sony, $3,558,031, 2,554 locations, $1,393 average, $37,977,532, 4 Weeks.

9. "Gifted," Fox Searchlight, $3,364,270, 2,215 locations, $1,519 average, $15,894,295, 4 Weeks.

10. "Unforgettable," Warner Bros., $2,412,141, 2,417 locations, $998 average, $8,950,960, 2 Weeks.

11. "Born In China," Disney, $2,385,812, 1,508 locations, $1,582 average, $8,819,843, 2 Weeks.

12. "Lost City Of Z, The," Bleecker Street, $1,806,634, 866 locations, $2,086 average, $4,913,080, 3 Weeks.

13. "Get Out," Universal, $1,710,240, 1,563 locations, $1,094 average, $172,534,250, 10 Weeks.

14. "Sleight," OTL Releasing, $1,701,785, 565 locations, $3,012 average, $1,701,785, 1 Week.

15. "The Promise," Open Road, $1,443,046, 2,251 locations, $641 average, $7,067,064, 2 Weeks.

16. "Kong: Skull Island," Warner Bros., $1,121,735, 933 locations, $1,202 average, $165,487,121, 8 Weeks.

17. "The Zookeeper's Wife," Focus Features, $991,805, 997 locations, $995 average, $14,808,000, 5 Weeks.

18. "The Case For Christ," Pure Flix, $989,072, 1,050 locations, $942 average, $13,054,237, 4 Weeks.

19. "Power Rangers," Lionsgate, $855,661, 889 locations, $962 average, $84,234,169, 6 Weeks.

20. "Logan," 20th Century Fox, $771,459, 614 locations, $1,256 average, $224,508,170, 9 Weeks.

5 things you don't know about Baby Groot of 'Guardians'

Baby Groot was "born" at the end of the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" film, and the extraterrestrial, treelike creature is a tiny, scene-stealing superhero in "Vol. 2."

Voiced by Vin Diesel, the computer-generated character usually says just one thing — "I am Groot" — but it means everything, and his intergalactic comrades always seem to understand his (often foul-mouthed) message.

Groot — regenerated from the massive tree-like character in the first film — can grow his arms and legs into twisted branches that can open doors and drawers and pull him into and out of tight spots, but here are five things you don't know about the woodsy humanoid:

1. Groot apparently took on various duties behind the camera. Stay tuned through the closing credits of "Guardians, Vol. 2" to spot Groot's "contributions" throughout. Groot's name appears throughout the credits — in graphics, special effects and various other departments — which are worth sitting through for the inevitable Marvel movie-ending "Easter eggs" that hint at future action.

2. Baby Groot is an unofficial Earth Day ambassador. Marvel, which considers Groot to be "the galaxy's top tree," joined with the Disney Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy to plant a tree every time the hashtag #GrootDanceBomb shows up on social media. Marvel aims to donate $250,000 by the time the film opens Friday.

3. Baby Groot's sweet appearance belies his terrible temper. "He's completely adorable, but has a lot more anger issues than adult Groot did," says writer-director James Gunn.

4. Co-starring alongside actors Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt, who both stand over 6 feet, Baby Groot proved to be a challenge for the cinematographers framing the shots. They used a sculpture of the 10-inch diminutive character, which was created entirely in CGI for the film, and special camera rigging to capture Baby Groot's perspective amid the other superheroes.

5. Franchise star Pratt, who plays Guardians leader Star-Lord, knew early on in the filming that he could be upstaged by his tiny co-star. During the opening sequence, while the Guardians battle a massive, multi-jawed space slug, the camera stays focused on a dancing Baby Groot in the foreground. Gunn recalled Pratt looking over at the sculpture of Groot in the scene and saying, "Damn it, he's going to steal the whole movie."

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

The heart behind the vision of 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2'

"Guardians of the Galaxy" was just the warm-up.

Two years ago, writer and director James Gunn and his cranky, lovable band of multihued misfits in space seemed like a sort of gamble for the Earth-bound Marvel Studios and its ever-growing plans for total multiplex domination. Star Lord wasn't exactly a household name, and neither was Chris Pratt.

Now as "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" prepares for launch in North American theaters on Friday, the story is quite different. "Guardians of the Galaxy" was a huge critical and financial success, grossing over $773 million worldwide, Pratt became an international star, and Gunn was given the greenlight to do what he wanted once more — making "Vol. 2" as weird and wild and idiosyncratic as his imagination would allow. Many reviewers have already called "Vol. 2" better than the first, the monosyllabic Baby Groot is already a breakout star, and it's headed for a possible $140 million to $150 million opening weekend.

"So many sequels are not good," Gunn said. "We really tried to let these characters grow and change. ... I didn't want it to be a rehash of the first movie."

Gunn likes to say that "Vol. 2" is an adventure film, a comedy and a space opera tied up into one brightly colored package, but that at its core, it's a family melodrama. A lot of big action and sci-fi films claim to be about family — whether it's the people you're tied to by blood or the ones you choose — but it's often a lot of talk. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" might have a talking tree and a wise-cracking, machine gun-toting raccoon and an unparalleled glee for the art of teasing, but it's also got a big, beating heart that actually hit quite close to home for both Pratt and Gunn.

Pratt's Star Lord/Peter Quill meets his father Ego (Kurt Russell) for the first time in "Guardians 2" after a lifetime of explaining away his absence telling people that his father was David Hasselhoff, while being raised by the scoundrel Ravager, Yondu (Michael Rooker).

A lot of the story, which also includes a sisterly rivalry that has veered into the murderous zone, is drawn from Gunn's relationship with his father, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 20 years, and what he calls his big, lovingly dysfunctional Irish Catholic family. And even though it's his life on the page, there was one person he needed to get to sign off from first: Pratt.

Pratt's father died in 2014 after battling multiple sclerosis for years — a condition the once hard-working, tough love, man's man Dan Pratt refused to treat. In 2015, Pratt told GQ magazine that it eventually led to him splitting up with his mother and living out the rest of his days in front of the television in assisted living.

"(Chris) was the first person I told it to, that's for sure. When I came up with the story, Chris came over to my house and I said, 'OK, here's what I'm thinking about,'" Gunn said. "I wanted to make sure he was onboard with it because, I mean, there's a lot of personal stuff there. I wanted to make sure he was cool with it."

Pratt said he related to the story a lot. His dad, he said, was not dissimilar to Yondu in the way he showed love. Cat Stevens' "Fathers and Sons" even plays at a pivotal moment.

"All of it is completely honest and true even though it's about aliens," Gunn said. "It is honest and true stuff about human beings and the way we interact and how we have a hard time accepting love from other human beings."

This little cobbled-together family is not disbanding yet, either. Gunn, who has done nothing else but work with these characters for the past five years of his life, will continue stewarding the Guardians through their trials in "Avengers: Infinity War," where he says they are "supporting characters but not small roles." He's also signed on for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," which will close out that series and launch Marvel into its next decade.

"With the first movie, James earned Disney's trust," Pratt said recently. "On the second movie he was like, 'I'm going to do whatever I want with all of your money.' And they said, 'OK.' And he made the craziest movie."

Gunn even said he was a little timid on the first film, but not anymore.

"I'm a little punk rock kid who likes edgy stuff. I thought what I liked might not be what the entire world likes," Gunn said. "But I've come to trust that what I like works."

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Vermont chocolatier sends residents on golden ticket hunt

A Vermont town is giving away golden tickets courtesy of its local chocolatier and the prize is free parking for a year, not a tour of a chocolate factory.

The limited edition chocolate bars were created by Vermont's Tavenier Chocolates.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports (http://bit.ly/2oO5Mu0 ) that the search for the three golden tickets began with Brattleboro's town manager buying the first bar of chocolate. Stephanie Bonin, chairwoman of a National Main Street branch, says that the goal of the promotion is to recreate scenes from the film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," where everyone in town searched for the golden tickets.

Parking enforcement officers will be handing out other tickets all week — movie tickets so residents can see the original film at a local theater.

Tokyo jeweler offers gold Darth Vader masks for $1.4 million

"Star Wars" fans with deep pockets might consider it a golden opportunity.

A Tokyo jewelry store is offering life-size Darth Vader masks made of 24-karat gold at a hefty price of 154 million yen ($1.4 million) to mark the 40th anniversary of the release of the first "Star Wars" movie.

The creation measures 26.5 centimeters (10.4 inches) wide and 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) high.

The Ginza Tanaka store says the masks are not designed for wearing — at about 15 kilograms (33 pounds), they would be too heavy, and they have no opening for a head.

While the masks are its most expensive "Star Wars" memorabilia, the jeweler has made pricier products. In 2013, a gold Disney-themed Christmas tree was priced at 500 million yen ($4.5 million).

Marketing manager Hirotsugu Tsuchiya said it took 10 goldsmiths three months to mold and assemble the prototype.

"The most difficult aspect was that each section of the mask was created by a different gold craftsman and then assembled to make one Darth Vader mask," Tsuchiya said.

Orders for the mask can be made at its main store in the glitzy Ginza shopping area where the prototype is on display. Customers will have to wait three months after ordering.

For those looking for less expensive options, gold coins engraved with Yoda or Luke Skywalker will also be available starting at 132,300 yen ($1,200). They will go on sale Thursday, which is May 4, celebrated by some fans as "Star Wars" day because "May the fourth" evokes the film's iconic line, "May the force be with you."

Globalism reigns at box office, while 'Furious' passes $1B

A South India sensation, a Hispanic-focused comedy and the highest-grossing film ever directed by an African American made up the top three films in North America on a culturally diverse box office weekend.

As expected, it was another runaway weekend for "The Fate of the Furious," which took No. 1 for the third straight week with $19.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Universal Pictures release also throttled past $1 billion globally, and passed its predecessor, "Furious 7," to become the highest-grossing imported film in China with $361 million.

The "Fast and the Furious" franchise, the latest of which is helmed by F. Gary Gray, has always been held up as a model of the diverse blockbuster, given its cast led by Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. But the smaller films that trailed it over the weekend also reflected the box-office might of often underserved audiences.

In second domestically with $12 million and drawing an overwhelmingly Hispanic crowd was Eugenio Derbez's comedy, "How to Be a Latin Lover." The film is easily the biggest success yet for Pantelion, the Latino-oriented joint venture of Lionsgate and Grupo Televisa.

"How to Be a Latin Lover" co-stars Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell. But its top draw is Derbez, whose "Instructions Not Included" was the highest-grossing Spanish-language film in North America in 2013. The audience for "How to be a Latin Lover" was 89 percent Hispanic.

In third was "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion," a so-called Tollywood (Telugu language) film from South India, which pulled in a remarkable $10.1 million despite playing on just 420 screens. ("The Fate of the Furious" played on more than 4,000.)

"Baahubali 2" even bested a pair of Hollywood's biggest stars in Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. Their terribly reviewed thriller "The Circle," distributed by STX Films on behalf of EuropaCorp, opened with $9.3 million.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, said such global weekends at the box office will become more common.

"In what is a slow and would otherwise be unremarkable weekend, this is a really interesting lineup of films," said Dergarabedian. "This is the final weekend before the summer season kicks off and the blockbusters hit theaters. But this weekend is marked by an incredible amount of multicultural content. It reflects the world that we're living in."

"Baahubali 2" follows the 2015 original that set box-office records in India, a breakthrough for a non-Hindi film. The 2015 film grossed $9.3 million in the U.S. and more than $100 million worldwide. With $1.8 million on domestic IMAX screens, a record for a foreign language film on IMAX, "Baahubali 2" may break more records.

Its success isn't surprising to everyone.

"We were expecting exactly the numbers we're seeing right now. We're happy our expectations were right," said Soma Kancherla of the film's North American distributor, Great India Films. "I know for a few people they're like, 'Wow,' but to break even, we needed to make that kind of money."

The summer movie season begins next week with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." With the Marvel behemoth on deck, few new films were released in an otherwise quiet weekend.

Disney's "Guardians of the Galaxy" sequel began its international rollout over the weekend, opening in 37 territories ahead of its North American debut. It earned an estimated $101.2 million, a promising start for what's expected to be one of the summer's biggest hits.

"Guardians" will likely be the third $1 billion movie in 2017, following "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Fate of the Furious." Disney said "Vol. 2" is running 57 percent ahead of the pace of the original, which made $773.3 million in 2014.

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

1. "The Fate of the Furious," $19.4 million ($68.4 million international).

2. "How to Be a Latin Lover," $12 million.

3. "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion," $10.1 million ($3.7 million international).

4. "The Circle," $9.3 million.

5. "The Boss Baby," $9.1 million ($15.5 million international).

6. "Beauty and the Beast," $6.4 million ($17.2 million international).

7. "Going in Style," $3.6 million ($3 million international).

8. "Smurfs: The Lost Village," $3.3 million ($11.7 million international).

9. "Gifted," $3.3 million.

10. "Unforgettable," $2.3 million.

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

1. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," $101.2 million

2. "The Fate of the Furious," $68.4 million.

3. "Shock Wave," $24.2 million.

4. "Battle of Memories," $21.8 million.

5. "Beauty and the Beast," $17.2 million.

6. "The Boss Baby," $15.5 million.

7. "Love Off the Cuff," $13.7 million.

8. "This Is Not What I Expected," $12.3 million.

9. "Smurfs: The Lost Village," $11.7 million.

10. "The Mayor," $5 million.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Iranian filmmaker imprisoned over his work released early

An award-winning Iranian filmmaker imprisoned over his work has been released after serving about five months of his yearlong sentence, though he doesn't know whether he'll make movies again in the Islamic Republic.

Keywan Karimi told The Associated Press on Sunday that he credited international pressure for his early release, as well as escaping the 223 lashes that were part of his sentence. Others, however, remain imprisoned in the Islamic Republic as part of a hard-line crackdown amid President Hassan Rouhani's outreach to the wider world through the nuclear deal.

Karimi said in an interview over Skype that he served his sentence in Tehran's Evin prison, which holds political prisoners and dual nationals detained by the security services. He described spending his first month in solitary confinement, a place he described as "very dirty, very cold."

He said he suffered pain in his stomach and leg, but ultimately recovered. He later was put into the general prison population, sharing a room with 20 other prisoners.

"You're far away from freedom, far away from something you love," Karimi said.

Karimi was convicted of "insulting sanctities" in Iran, whose government is ultimately overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The case involved footage from both a "video clip" and a film he directed called "Writing on the City," which focuses on political graffiti in Iran from its 1979 Islamic Revolution to its contested 2009 election.

Karimi is perhaps best known by international film critics for his 2013 black-and-white minimalist film, "The Adventure of the Married Couple." The short film, based on a story by Italian writer Italo Calvino, follows the grinding routine of a husband and wife working opposite shifts, she in a bottle factory and he at a mannequin store. Neither speaks, the only noise is the hum of the city they live in.

The film played in some 40 film festivals and won prizes in Spain and Colombia.

Karimi is one of several artists, poets, journalists, models and activists arrested in a crackdown on expression led by hard-liners who oppose Rouhani. His release comes ahead of Iran's May presidential election, in which Rouhani is seeking re-election.

For now, Karimi said he was grateful to be out of prison, though he felt alienated from Iran and its people.

"I want to continue filmmaking, but I don't know how and in which country," Karimi said.

Coppola and 'Godfather' cast reunite at Tribeca Film Fest

Debilitating studio battles. One miraculously still cat. Mooning contests between James Caan and Marlon Brando. These were the memories shared, 45 years later, on the making of "The Godfather" in a rare reunion of the film's cast and director Francis Ford Coppola at Radio City Music Hall.

With the stage decorated to resemble the library of Brando's Don Corleone, and a portrait of the actor hanging above, Coppola and cast members Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton and Talia Shire, gathered together once again on Saturday. The night was organized by De Niro as the closing evening of his Tribeca Film Festival, which preceded the affair with a grand double feature of "The Godfather," parts one and two.

That made for a long day — the event spanned nearly nine hours — but one of giddy delight for devotees of Coppola's masterpieces.

While both films are widely viewed as among the finest ever made, Coppola and cast spoke again and again about the films' humble origins, when Coppola was a young, untested director, Pacino was an unknown theater actor who the studio, Paramount, was loathe to cast, and few thought the source material — Mario Puzo's best-seller — was the stuff of great cinema.

Even Coppola, himself.

"I was disappointed in the book when I first read it because it's very long," said Coppola, who called Puzo's book "a bit of a potboiler."

"Much of the book — about a third — is about Lucy Mancini's anatomy," he said.

Coppola's battles over casting Pacino as Michael Corleone have long been Hollywood legend. To help convince the wary studio, Pacino said he did more screen tests — including after he actually got the part — than he could remember. Pacino even suggested Coppola shouldn't fight so hard for him, telling him, "It's OK. We'll work again. There are other things to do."

But Coppola was enamored with Pacino. After meeting him in San Francisco, he couldn't shake the image of Pacino as Corleone. "I just saw his face," said Coppola. "Everywhere we went, all the girls lit up for Al, for some reason."

Still, Pacino was skeptical. "I thought, 'Gee, it's not a really good role," said the now 77-year-old actor of the part that earned him two Oscar nods and made him a movie star. "Sonny is the part I can play," he said, referring to the hot-headed Sonny Corleone, played by Caan. (De Niro, who ended up playing young Don Vito Corleone in Part II, also auditioned for the part of Sonny.)

When the shoot got off to a rocky start, Pacino lost his already shaky faith. "It's over," he remembered thinking. "This is the worst film ever made!"

But Pacino said he was straightened out after a pep talk from Coppola, who showed him early footage of his performance and told the struggling Pacino "to get your chops together."

There were many such stories shared Saturday. All marveled at the cat, roaming nearby, that was thrust into one scene where it calmly burrowed in Brando's lap. After the lengthy wedding scene, Pacino said, he and Keaton "got so loaded, we were on the floor." During the same scene, Duvall said, "We were all mooning each other and Brando took it very seriously."

Brando, of course, wasn't the only one missing Saturday. John Cazale (Fredo) was spoken of frequently, as was cinematographer Gordon Willis.

The event was moderated by Taylor Hackford and live streamed on Facebook. The conversation sometimes got bogged down and some on the panel hardly spoke, as many watching grumbled. De Niro said little until nearly an hour in.

But if it was an imperfect evening, it only highlighted the almost inhumane perfection of the movies Coppola et al produced. Having recently watched the films for the first time in decades, Keaton could hardly contain her amazement.

"Every choice you made was so authentically brilliant," she exclaimed to Coppola. "It's so unusual!"

With time running out, Coppola tried to take questions from the audience, asking for the house lights to be raised and urging audience members to holler out. But after a few questions, a voice announced over the speakers that the night was over and "The Godfather" got the hook.

Coppola and the group gathered together on stage to embrace each other while the crowd, eager for more, took pictures of the legendary "Godfather" team, draped arm in arm.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Head of Motion Picture Association of America to step down

Former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd is stepping down as chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The MPAA said Friday that their board will gather Saturday to name Charles Rivkin as successor to Dodd, who is resigning Sept. 4.

Rivkin was previously the U.S. assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs and a U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco.

Dodd led the MPAA for six years, and one of his main concerns was preventing digital piracy and protecting copyrights. He also helped expand the presence of U.S. films in the Chinese market and revise the revenue-sharing model to benefit Hollywood studios.

Disney Chairman Alan Horn said in a statement that Dodd transformed the MPAA into a global association for the digital era.

'Moonlight' director Barry Jenkins ready to return to work

Two months after his "Moonlight" pulled out a last-second, best-picture win at the Oscars, director Barry Jenkins says "it's time to work."

"You live your whole life — not for this moment, but to have a career. So I have a career now. So I'm going to keep going with it," Jenkins said Thursday at the Los Angeles premiere of the Netflix series "Dear White People."

He directed an episode of the series — which looks at race relations and identity on a college campus — in the middle of last year's Hollywood awards circuit promotional push for "Moonlight," which also earned Academy Awards for best supporting actor and best adapted screenplay.

"So my only 10 days off were the 10 days I spent directing this episode. Which was really cool — it was a really good experience," Jenkins said.

Since the Oscars, Jenkins says he spent a month in Mexico.

"I went to Uxmal, which are the Maya ruins. And it was amazing. You talk about being humbled. I grew up in Miami. A 90-minute flight from Miami, there are these pyramids - this whole civilization, this city that pre-existed ours in America. Wonderful, man," he said. "It's the best thing to do after winning an Academy Award."

Jenkins says he's in regular contact with his cast — consulting with them as they navigate possible Hollywood projects.

"They hit me up about choices they are making, decisions they are making," Jenkins said. "You know, Mahershala (Ali) has a very young kid, so I haven't seen him as much. So yeah, we are all a family. The 'Moonlight' tour has ended, but that family continues."

The series "Dear White People" is based on 2014 movie of the same name. Jenkins is also working on an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Underground Railroad."

The best-picture win for "Moonlight" was made more dramatic because of an error that led to "La La Land" being named first before the error was corrected onstage.

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