HOLLYWOOD, Oct 26, 2000 - Look for "Blair Witch 2" to do killer business this Halloween weekend.
Artisan Entertainment's R-rated sequel "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2," opening at about 3,000 theaters, should scare up enough ticket sales to end "Meet the Parents'" three week reign in first place.
"'Blair Witch' is going to play very young," explains an insider. "They ought to be able to open to $20 million." The original "Blair Witch Project," last summer's sleeper blockbuster, was made independently for about $35,000 and picked up by Artisan. It grossed about $140.5 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joe Berlinger, "Blair Witch 2" stars Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristen Skylar and Stephen Barker-Turner.
Universal's PG-13-rated comedy "Meet the Parents" should slide one slot to second place in its fourth week after finishing first with $16 million last weekend.
"'Meet the Parents' dropped 24% last weekend," a distributor says. "If they drop that way again this weekend, they'll do $12-13 million."
Directed by Jay Roach, "Parents" stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. There could be a close race for third place between Paramount's opening of its R-rated romantic comedy "Lucky Numbers" at about 2,500 theaters and 20th Century Fox's second weekend of its PG-13-rated comedy "Bedazzled."
"Bedazzled" opened in second place to a better-than-anticipated $13.1 million. "Let's say they're down 35%," a studio source speculates. "That puts them at $8 million. 'Lucky Numbers' could do $8-10 million."
Directed by Harold Ramis, "Bedazzled" stars Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.
Directed by Nora Ephron, "Numbers" stars John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow.
Another battle is shaping up for fifth place between Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football theme drama "Remember the Titans," which finished third last weekend with $9.9 million, and Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated drama "Pay It Forward," which kicked off to $9.6 million in fourth place.
"'Titans' was only down 24%. Let's say it drops another 24% and does $7.5 million," an insider speculates. "'Pay It Forward' will be doing good if it's down 23% or 24%. That's going to put both of them at around $7.5 million."
Directed by Boaz Yakin and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman, "Titans" stars Denzel Washington.
Directed by Mimi Leder, "Pay" stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.
The weekend's other wide release, New Line Cinema's PG-rated family film "The Little Vampire," probably won't sink its fangs into the Top Five, although it's opening at about 2,000 theaters.
"I would look for 'Little Vampire' to be somewhere in the low single digits," predicts an insider.
Directed by Uli Edel, "Vampire" stars Jonathan Lipnicki.
Filling out lower rungs: "The Contender," "The Legend of Drunken Master," "The Exorcist" and "Lost Souls."
On the expansion front, Fox Searchlight Pictures will start going wider with its R-rated drama "Bootmen."
Directed by Dein Perry, "Bootmen" stars Adam Garcia and Sam Worthington.
Also expanding is Miramax's R-rated drama "The Yards."
Directed by James Gray, "Yards" stars Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron and James Caan.
In limited release activity, Buena Vista's reissue of its 1993 PG-rated animated family film "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" will open at 72 theaters in select cities.
Directed by Henry Selick, its voice talents include Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon and Catherine O'Hara.
Lions Gate's R-rated drama "Once in the Life" opens in New York, L.A. and Chicago.
"Life" was written and directed by Laurence Fishburne, who also stars in the film.
Lions Gate's R-rated dark comedy "Stardom" goes into limited release.
Directed by Denys Arcand, it stars Dan Aykroyd and Frank Langella.
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "A Room For Romeo Brass" opens exclusively in New York and L.A.
Directed by Shane Meadows, "Romeo" stars Andrew Shim and Ben Marshall.
Supermom Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her geneticist husband Norman (Harrison Ford) are adapting to their only daughter's departure to college when Claire begins sensing an unearthly presence in the couple's lakeside Vermont dream home. Is she losing her marbles or is that the spirit of a beautiful young woman she keeps glimpsing? To say any more (as the too-explicit ad campaign does) would spoil some delicious twists.
The toplining Ford is his usual solid self in a role that plays cleverly on his familiar persona but the picture is Pfeiffer's from beginning to end. She delivers one of her most pleasing performances nicely disarming audience doubts about the story's supernatural elements with some judicious eye-rolling and embarrassed frowning -- her character is so painfully aware that what she's saying sounds crazy how can we possibly doubt her? Among the low-key supporting cast Joe Morton ("Terminator 2") stands out as an amiably down-to-earth psychiatrist.
Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") takes Clark Gregg's highly derivative haunted house script and pours on the Hitchcockian visual flourishes unapologetically pilfering from the Master's "Rear Window" and "Psycho " among others. His extended homage results in scene after scene of almost unbearable tension as the audience waits for the next shock. There's some clunky storytelling in the first section but the all-suspense second half more than makes up for it with some classic work including what seems destined to go down in movie history as "the bathtub scene."
Troubled rapper Eminem pleaded no contest Monday to two gun-related charges stemming from an incident last year involving the Insane Clown Posse's road manager.
Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III, was charged with carrying a concealed firearm and brandishing a weapon during an argument with road manager of the rival band Insane Clown Posse outside a Royal Oak, Mich., stereo store in 2000.
The plead comes less than two weeks after Eminem received two years probation on a separate charge of carrying a concealed weapon during a brawl outside a Detroit-area nightclub. He also allegedly pistol-whipped a man he saw kissing his then wife, Kimberly Mathers. They are now divorcing.
Sentencing was schedule for Tuesday, June 5. He faced up to five years in prison, but he will now receive probation for pleading no contest.
VH1 moving beyond the music
VH1, known for its music videos, seems to be replacing the music with more original programming--comedies and dramas, to be exact.
The cable network has announced plans for a full slate of series, reality shows and feature-length films.
"We tried really hard to make sure that all our new shows are fundamentally about music," Lauren Zalanick, VH1's head of original programming, told The Associated Press.
Among some of the new programs is the drama Pulling the Strings, starring James Brolin as an entertainment mogul on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His wife, Barbra Streisand, will co-produce.
VH1 also plans to develop TV movies about MC Hammer and heavy metal rockers Def Leppard.
Looking for Bond
Little-known Scottish actor Gerald Butler may enjoy a license to kill as and when Pierce Brosnan hangs up his Walther PPK.
Several actors have been considered as the new James Bond, including British pop star Robbie Williams, but Butler may be the one to become the sixth actor to portray 007, as reported by Scotland's Daily Record newspaper.
Series producer Barbara Broccoli would like to cast a Scottish actor. The most famous Bond remains Sean Connery, a Scot.
"Gerard is one of the two people Barbara has appointments with," a source told the paper. "They are meeting to discuss replacing Pierce after his final movie."
Brosnan's contract expires after his fourth installment, which will go into production in January 2002.
Butler, who took up acting after earning a law degree from Glasgow University, was seen in last year's Wes Craven's Dracula 2000.
Braxton goes to the chapel
R&B singer Toni Braxton married her love of four years, Keri Lewis, the keyboardist for the group Mint Condition, on Saturday during a private outdoor ceremony.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young officiated the ceremony, as Braxton, 32, and Lewis, 28, exchanged vows in front of 250 guests at the 60-acre Dean Gardens estate in Atlanta.
Guests included singer Monica, rapper Mack 10, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas of the R&B group TLC.
The bride wore an ivory satin gown with a notched and beaded bodice, and a beaded train and matching veil designed by Vera Wang. She also wore diamond-crusted gems designed by Stephen Russell, as reported by The Associated Press.
Colombian soap opera saying adios
Wildly popular Colombian soap opera Betty La Fea is winding down after a 1 ½-year run. The show revolves around an accountant, Betty, who wears braces, glasses, has a snorting laugh and facial hair. In a country that prides itself on its beautiful women and beauty contests, the show's success was phenomenal.
After more than 300 episodes, the writers and actors are extremely exhausted and glad to have a break, but fans are worried.
"I'm going to miss it, because it's been a lot of fun," Elkin Tovar, a 35-year-old chauffeur told The Associated Press. "But it will also be a bit of a break, because watching the show so often has become a form of slavery."
The show claimed 80 million viewers worldwide across Latin America and as far away as Hungary and Israel. Betty almost single-handedly rescued the Colombian TV network RCN from financial ruin, even as the country's unemployment is at an all-time low and violence is ripping through the nation.
Robin Hood lives on
USA Network is nearing production on a new reality series, based on super spies, which would bring a modern-day Robin Hood to television.
The series, tentatively called Break-In!, will feature two teams in a race to recover stolen artwork or government secrets and return them to their proper owners. The first to do so wins. The prize is yet to be determined.
The show takes its inspiration from such films as The Pink Panther or Mission: Impossible, during which protagonists execute elaborate plans to retrieve stolen items, Chris Sloan, USA Network's senior VP of reality programming, told Variety.
But the show won't show people how to pull off a crime, he said.
"That's why we're doing the fairly fantastical type of things-we're not breaking into someone's house. You're not going to hear us saying here's how you break in to steal the Oscars."
XFL's painful journey
The fate of the XFL has yet to be determined, but NBC Sports and the World Wrestling Federation are treating the low-rated series as a bad skin blemish they are trying to hide.
The XFL should make it to the 2002 season because "Vince [McMahon, chief of World Wrestling Federation] has the leverage to keep the weekly games on UPN Sunday night and TNN Sunday afternoon," David Carter, a principal in the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group, told Variety.
The leverage is the Thursday-night WWF Smackdown, which is UPN's highest-rated series by far, and the Monday night Raw Is War on TNN, which is killing the competition on basic cable.
On NBC, the XFL averaged a 3.3 rating, 27% below the network's guarantees to advertisers.
NBC may stay on as an investor, but any idea that the network would switch the XFL Saturday night games to its sister network, CNBC, is just not going to happen.
"CNBC's demographic is the upscale white male executive in his 50s." Carter said. "The only two people in that category who watch XFL games are Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol," chairman of NBC Sports.
Whatever the series has to do to make it, its going to have to prove it can generate revenues: it lost $40 million during its 2001 season, according to industry estimates.
WGA: Waiting to the last minute
With only nine days left before their contract expires, the Writers Guild of America and the Producers Alliance have yet to reach an agreement. Many insiders are saying the serious negotiations will happen in this final week before the contract expires.
Writers and many others are anxious about a strike because the talks, which resumed April 16, did not extend over the weekend. Companies are preparing to stop taking work from writers beginning next week.
There is a chance that the contract expiration may be extended to coincide with the Screen Actors Guild contract, which expires June 30. Although neither side will comment, other scenarios include the contract being extended only a few days-and only if the negotiations are moving forward in a significant way.
The agreement still boils down to around $100 million over three years, including WGA demands for boosted residuals in cable, video/DVD and foreign TV.
"Dances With Wolves" again
Pacifica Film Development has acquired the motion picture and television rights to Michael Blake's novel Holy Road, his sequel to the 1990 Dances With Wolves. Blake also will pen the screenplay, as he did with Wolves.
Holy Road continues the story of Lt. John Dunbar, now known as Dances With Wolves, who has, after 10 years, become a tribal warrior. When the white man invades once again, abducting his wife and youngest child, he embarks on a daring mission to rescue them.
No word on director or casting, but the novel is scheduled for a Sept. 15 publication. The screenplay should be finished by the end of the summer, depending on the potential strikes.
"Trap" continues on
Those pesky, adorable twins from The Parent Trap are back for more mischief.
Writers Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman will pen the Walt Disney Co.'s straight-to-video sequel to the hit film The Parent Trap, originally released in 1961 and remade in 1998.
This time around, the matchmaking girls have to deal with the perils of high school.
Maybe it was that live broadcast of "E.R." Or perhaps the save-the-world-from-nuclear-holocaust heroics in "The Peacemaker."
Whichever, big-screen George Clooney is set to produce a live small-screen staging of the Cold War drama "Fail Safe" on CBS on April 9. Based on the 1962 novel (released at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis), the story focuses on a man's Tom Clancy-style struggle to save the world from total annihilation. (Henry Fonda starred in the 1964 theatrical version.)
Clooney's production will emanate from two soundstages on the Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, Calif. It'll be broadcast in black-and-white -- the better to capture the mood of (yea!) bleak paranoia.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Frears ("Dangerous Liaisons") is close to inking a deal to direct the play. Clooney's "E.R." cohort Noah Wyle is said to be up for a key supporting role.
BURT THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Burt Reynolds is set to direct a low-budget remake of the 1945 Boris Karloff vampire flick "Isle of the Dead," today's Hollywood Reporter says.
The movie is the first of three RKO Radio Pictures titles scheduled to be remade for $10 million each. No word if producers will take a crack at the ultimate RKO title, "King Kong."
The original "Isle of the Dead" was one of several films Karloff made for producer Val Lewton in the 1940s. Directed by the late Mark Robson ("Valley of the Dolls"), the flick was the creepy tale of a bunch of quarantined folks on a Greek island -- one of whom is a suspected vampire.
FIRST THE EAGLES, NOW 'THE COMMITMENTS': The rag-tag Irish soul band of Alan Parker's 1991 film "The Commitments" is getting back together -- maybe.
Miramax Films has hired playwright Warren Leight (late of the Broadway hit "Side Man") to write the script for a sequel, The Associated Press says. Cathy Konrad ("Scream") will produce.
While the original film was produced by Beacon Communications, Miramax snapped up the sequel rights. No word if any of the film's original cast will be on board. Andrew Strong, who played the group's lead singer, went on to record several albums, while other members of the fictitious group formed a real-life band called The Committed.