With the tremendous success of their film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Warner Bros. may reach $1 billion this year in total box office grosses, making it the second time the studio has reached that mark in three years. Potter has grossed approximately $176 million in two weeks and along with the other three top Warner grosses this year--Cats & Dogs ($93.4 million), Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($78.6 million) and Training Day ($75 million)--helped drive the studio's 2001 total domestic take to $960 million. If the trend continues to the end of the year, especially with the release of The Majestic with Jim Carrey and Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven, Warner Bros. may beat the single-year distributor record of $1.26 billion set by Sony in 1997.
Author John Knowles, best known for his 1959 novel A Separate Peace, died Thursday in a convalescent home in a Fort Lauderdale suburb. He was 75. The novel, a moving story about adolescence, is considered an American literary classic. Sisters Dorothy Maxwell, Marjorie Johnson and a brother, James Knowles, survive Knowles.
Spanish actor Antonio Banderas will receive the first Anthony Quinn Achievement Award at the 10th Annual Latin American Film Festival. The event will take place next April in Providence, Rhode Island, the final resting place of Quinn, who died in June at the age of 86.
Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, an exiled Chinese writer, playwright and painter, received an honorary literature doctorate at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Thursday, with no acknowledgment from the local officials. Gao, whose works are banned in China, left the country in 1987 and renounced his membership to the Communist Party after the Tiananmen Square conflict in 1989.
Anglophile Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie have booked the same Scottish estate, Skibo Castle, where they were married for their first wedding anniversary, London's tabloid The Sun reports. They invited close friends to relive the moment with them and have taken every room in the enchanted castle to ensure their privacy.
Book guru Oprah Winfrey has chosen the award-winning novel A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry for this month's coveted Oprah Book Club logo. This new choice comes after her controversial pick of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections in September, which Franzen pooh-poohed. Still, her endorsement virtually guarantees hundreds of thousands in sales for any book she chooses.
Regis Philbin, the mainstay host of the once popular Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, may bow out of his primetime responsibilities to join the new syndicated version of the game slated for launch in the fall. Philbin predicted the game show, which has taken some hard hits in the ratings of late, would be pulled out of primetime and "then [ABC] will bring it back with a comedian...They want it to become a comedy show."
The entertainment industry is bracing themselves for the release of the Federal Trade Commission's report card next week on the industry's efforts to curb the marketing of violence to children. It's expected the film industry will pull in some top marks, while the music industry may once again get slammed.
Actress Pia Zadora has filed for divorce from her second husband, writer-director Jonathan Kaufer, citing irreconcilable differences. Zadora, 46, is seeking full custody of the couple's 4-year-old son.
A host of Oscar activity has begun to unfold despite the annual award show still being more than three months away. The show's head writer, as well as its short-film creator, was announced recently.
As expected, the guru of award show writers, Bruce Vilanch, was once again tapped for the celebrated lead writer position at this year's Academy Awards show.
Vilanch, who has written nine Oscar shows, is arguably one of the most sought after comedy writers in Hollywood. He has worked on numerous award shows, including the Tonys, the Emmys and the Grammys. His story was recently the subject of documentary filmmaker Andrew J. Kuehn's "Get Bruce."
Oscar-winning director Chuck Workman ("Precious Images") was charged with creating the short-film segments that will air during the awards telecast. Marking his 11th association with the Academy, Workman's previous film work includes the documentaries "Superstar" and "The Source."
Finally, 11 U.S. film festivals will receive grants totaling $245,000 from the Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Academy President Robert Rehme made the announcement Dec. 7.
Festivals benefiting are AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, Chicago Latino Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and Seattle International Film Festival at $30,000 apiece; San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, South by Southwest Film Festival and USA Film Festival at $15,000 each; and Santa Clarita International Film Festival and Thomas Edison Black Maria Film and Video Festival at $10,000 each.
The festivals were selected by the festival grants committee, which is led by producer Gale Anne Hurd.
The 72nd Academy Awards telecast takes place March 26 at 5:30 p.m. PST.
Actor Brad Renfro returned to a Broward County, Fla., court Tuesday after he was ordered last week to undergo drug and alcohol testing.
Renfro, who violated his probation in May when he was arrested for underage drinking in Knoxville, Tenn., tested negative. He was on probation after he tried to steal a yacht last year in Fort Lauderdale.
Renfro did not have much to say in the proceedings, which lasted about three minutes.
"Stay the course and everything will work out fine," Judge Ronald J. Rothschild told the scruffy looking Renfro after asking him to remove his hands from his pockets.
Rothschild delayed his decision until September so that Renfro could resolve the Tennessee case. He did order Renfro to undergo monthly drug and alcohol testing.
The 18-year-old actor was arrested in August when he and a friend tried to steal the 45-foot yacht from Holiday Harbor in Fort Lauderdale.
They damaged the stern of the vessel when they forgot to untie the docking lines. A judge sentenced Renfro to two years' probation in January and ordered him to pay over $4,000 in repairs.
Renfro was in Fort Lauderdale at the time shooting Bully, a film about a group of Florida teens who lure a school bully to a swamp and beat him to death. The film, based on a real incident, is an adaptation of a 1998 Jim Schulze novel. It opened Friday in limited release.
Renfro missed the film's premiere to make his Thursday and Tuesday court appearances.