Napster, the wildly popular Web site that allowed users to swap music files for free, will finally have a pay version ready this year despite its legal pummeling by the record industry. Thomas Middelhoff, chief executive of media giant and Napster backer Bertelsmann, said in his speech at the two-day Babelsburg 2001 conference, "Out of the onetime pirate, a business will be born. Of course, Napster will be put into a legal form that protects the rights of artists and producers." Napster will be joining other fee-based music services such as Pressplay, backed by Vivendi Universal and Sony and independent distribution companies FullAudio and Uplister.
Anne Heche, the former girlfriend of comedian Ellen Degeneres, will marry cameraman Coley Laffoon on Saturday. A friend of Anne's told a British news service, "Anne's days as a lesbian have been purged from her memory...Anne's wedding is a celebration of her re-entry into the world of heterosexuality."
One of Spain's best-known actors, Francisco Rabal, died in Bordeaux, France, Wednesday after the plane he was traveling in made an emergency landing to allow him to receive medical treatment. He was in his 70s. The cause of death has not been released.
American Pie star Tara Reid testified Tuesday in the grand jury hearing against publicist Elizabeth Grubman, who allegedly backed her sport utility vehicle into a crowd of people outside a trendy nightclub in the Hamptons on July 7, injuring several. The 26-year-old Reid was reportedly with Grubman at a party right before the crash. Grubman is being charged with assault and reckless endangerment.
The lawsuit filed by the American Italian Defense Association against the popular HBO series The Sopranos was brought to a Cook County Circuit courtroom Wednesday. The lawyer for the AIDA urged the judge to issue a declaratory judgement condemning the show as a violation of a clause in the Illinois Constitution guaranteeing individual dignity. AOL Time Warner, Inc.'s attorney, however, urged the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that "courts are not suppose to adjudicate the content of television programs," according to Reuters.
George Harrison's bid to stop his former business manager and partner from declaring bankruptcy was thrown out by Judge Barry Schermer of a St. Louis court circuit who refused the claim that the musician was too ill to give a local deposition. Harrison is trying to protect a settlement of $11 million that he won against Denis O'Brien, his business manager, for alleged mismanagement. Harrison will appeal the ruling.
Superstar Nicole Kidman arrived in style at the Venice Film Festival Thursday, dragging along six bodyguards, 22 pieces of luggage and reportedly getting a speeding ticket on her way to her hotel. The Italian newspapers had a field day as paparazzi pursued Kidman across the canals, desperate to get any tidbits from the redheaded actress about her three-week-old divorce from Tom Cruise. Kidman is at the festival to promote her new film The Others.
To generate excitement for the third installment of its hit reality series, CBS will air an hour-long Survivor special Thursday Oct. 4 at 8 p.m., one week before Survivor 3: Africa bows in the same time slot. Details for the show are still being worked out but apparently the special will focus on how to play the game and will give a preview of Survivor 3.
Michael Jackson's much-anticipated return to the music world with his new single "You Rock My World" has not been getting the wild reaction hoped for, according to many station programmers. Dave Morales, music director for KHKS-FM in Dallas, told Reuters, "We got the single, we heard it and put it on the air...and it was just sort of there. We're not getting any more repeat requests for it." However, for the "You Rock My World" video, Jackson apparently has snagged Marlon Brando and the cast of the The Sopranos. Brando stepped in when actor Robert De Niro had to back out. The video will also feature Benicio Del Toro and Chris Tucker.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are making a comeback with a $40-$60 million CGI feature film with John Woo and Terence Chang producing. A new animated Saturday morning TV series, a live-action miniseries to air on the Hallmark Channel and a series of next-generation video games are also expected to be developed.
Hollywood will suffer from the box office blahs this weekend.
In fact, insiders anticipate so little moviegoer enthusiasm for the weekend's new wide releases that it won't take much to capture first place.
Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's R-rated action comedy "Bait" has the best shot at topping the chart thanks to a very wide opening at 2,352 theaters and its likely appeal to urban moviegoers.
"I'm sure it's going to play well to African-Americans, but after what happened to 'Turn It Up' last week (you can't expect much)," a source points out. "Bait' is probably $6-8 million, just because it's going out so wide and should have strong black appeal. Depending on what happens to 'The Watcher,' either film could be number one."
"I would say 'Bait's got a shot at number one. I would say in the high end of that $6-8 million range," says a distributor. "And everybody just moves down a notch."
"You've got the Olympics," an insider points out. "That's definitely going to affect Friday night's business, because Opening Night is usually the big night. Everybody - especially women - likes to see the spectacular Opening Night parade and fireworks. Even though it's not live, I don't think that's going to affect it too much, because there's nothing else to watch. Friday isn't a big TV night, but NBC will get its good share of the ratings."
Universal's R-rated psychological thriller "The Watcher," which opened in the top spot to a modest $9.1 million last weekend, would have to show great legs in order to retain its box office crown.
Universal reportedly picked up "Watcher" from Interlight for only $5 million.
"Let's say it drops 25 percent, because it doesn't have any real competition other than the Olympics (on television)," an insider explains. "It'll do $6.7 million." But for that to take the top spot, "Bait" would really have to under-perform.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, "Bait" stars Jamie Foxx.
Directed by Joe Charbanic, "Watcher" stars James Spader, Marisa Tomei and Keanu Reeves.
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "Nurse Betty," which opened in second place to $7.1 million last weekend, could retain the second spot if it holds as well as insiders anticipate. Moreover, if it holds very well and "Bait" and "Watcher" both under-perform, "Betty" might even inch up to first place.
"'Nurse Betty' is playing very well in Westwood (LA's upscale movie district), but I don't know that it's a middle America movie," a distributor says. "They could have a very strong hold in big cities and upscale areas yet drop off in smaller markets. But let's say they have a very strong hold - they could do $6 million. You could have three movies in contention for the 'coveted' $6-8 million slot!"
"It's going to have better word of mouth than 'The Watcher,'" an insider says, predicting the adult appeal "Betty" will out-gross the low-budget thriller.
"Nurse Betty" is actually owned by Universal, which acquired it when the studio took over PolyGram. Universal turned the specialized picture over to USA Films to market and distribute.
Directed by Neil La Bute, "Nurse" stars Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear.
"This week, nothing's going to work," a studio executive warns. "It's such a slump between now and 'Remember the Titans' (opening Sept. 29). We are going to have the second weekend in a row - and only the fourth or fifth weekend this year - where nothing breaks $10 million. You have a situation here where the number one movie is nothing to shout about once again."
Also arriving this weekend is Buena Vista/Hollywood Pictures' R-rated dramatic comedy "Duets." While it's got big star power in Gwyneth Paltrow, it's limited release pattern will only put it in 581 theaters. Insiders think it's heading for a gross of $3-4 million.
Directed by Bruce Paltrow, "Duets" stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Giamatti.
DreamWorks' Top Ten markets launch of its critically-acclaimed dramatic comedy "Almost Famous" will be a box office wild card this weekend. After kicking off Wednesday with exclusive engagements in New York and L.A. to get word of mouth going and to put the much-anticipated favorable reviews in the hands of DreamWorks' marketing team, "Famous" is adding 129 more theaters, bringing its total to 131 runs this weekend.
"How big can 'Almost Famous' be?" asks one insider. "Let's say they do $15,000 a theater. That would be $2.2 million, which would be fine. Or they could do $20,000 a theater and do about $3 million. They could get into the Top Five with 150 runs."
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, "Famous" stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand.
Filling out lower rungs: "Bring It On," "The Cell," "Space Cowboys," "The Way of the Gun" and "What Lies Beneath."
This weekend will also see MGM's limited release dark comedy "Crime and Punishment in Suburbia" in New York and L.A.
Directed by Rob Schmidt, "Suburbia" stars Monica Keena, Vincent Kartheiser and Ellen Barkin.
Lions Gate Films' R-rated drama "Urbania" opens exclusive engagements in New York, L.A., San Francisco and San Diego.
Directed by Jon Shear, "Urbania" stars Dan Futterman and Matt Keeslar.
Sony Classics' foreign art film "Goya in Bordeaux" opens exclusively in New York and L.A.
Directed b Carlos Saura, it stars Francisco Rabal.
Warner Bros.' PG-rated documentary "Into the Arms of Strangers" goes into limited release.
Written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, "Strangers" was produced by Deborah Oppenheimer.
Columbia's dark comedy "Circus" opens in limited release.
Directed by Rob Walker, it stars John Hannah and Famke Janssen.