Rob Lowe, once one of the biggest stars of the NBC drama The West Wing, announced in July he was leaving the show following a contract dispute, but that doesn't mean he's leaving for good. Series creator Aaron Sorkin said Thursday that Lowe's character on the show, White House Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, is not being killed off. "Sam Seaborn is not going to die," he said. "So the door is always open." Sorkin added that he wished Lowe didn't have to leave. "It's a difficult situation. There's no villain in this case, and it will be regrettable if it is portrayed that way," he said. Sorkin, however, would not reveal plans for writing Seaborn out of the series. The West Wing's two-hour season premiere airs Sept. 25.
The Los Angeles Times Friday reports that Notorious B.I.G. was a key player in the unsolved drive-by shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur six years ago in Las Vegas. A yearlong investigation by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Chuck Philips identifies Shakur's killer as Crips gang member Orlando Anderson, who was later killed in an unrelated shooting. Notorious B.I.G.--who was gunned down himself in Los Angeles a year later--reportedly supplied the .40-caliber Glock pistol used to shoot Shakur. The two had been part of a rivalry that split the rap community between the east and west coasts.
Heather Mills tells Vanity Fair magazine that she offered to sign a prenuptial agreement before marrying Paul McCartney, but the former Beatle wouldn't allow it. In an article in the October issue, McCartney said he knows some people will think he's been suckered by a gold digger. "I'm not stupid. Heather is a really nice person, or else I wouldn't be attracted in the least," he says. "But you're going to find people who are going to knock her because the better story is the negative one."
Winona Ryder did not appear at the courthouse Thursday for a conference between her attorney and the prosecutor to set a possible pretrial date for her shoplifting case, The Associated Press reports. Ryder's attorney Mark Geragos said outside the courthouse, "We have set a pretrial date and a trial date." Pretrial proceedings are expected to begin within 30 days of the Sept. 12 hearing.
Comeback kid Robert Evans announced Thursday during a tribute to him at the American Film Festival in Deauville, France, that he is working on a follow-up to his autobiographical documentary, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Variety reports. Titled The Fat Lady Sang, Evans said his film would chronicle his recovery from a debilitating stroke in 1998.
Funnyman Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo's Happy Madison Prods. have inked a two-year deal to develop comedy series for Columbia TriStar Domestic Television, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The deal will provide Happy Madison with a discretionary fund and will pay for the company's overhead. The pact is the first deal for Sony's CTDT since shifting away from maintaining a high volume of long-term development deals with writers and producers.
Sandler is not the only one getting serious about small-screen comedy. National Lampoon, the comedy franchise behind, among others, the 1978 comedy Animal House, said Thursday it would buy Burly Bear Network, a defunct TV network that has distribution relationships with about 420 universities in the United States. According to Reuters, National Lampoon intends to develop live and animated programming for Burly Bear's college viewers aged 18 to 24.
Cats and Dogs reigned at the box office, fetching $21.6 million in ticket sales for Warner Bros.
Also driving the post-July Fourth weekend were high impact arrivals for Dimension Films' Scary Movie 2 and 20th Century Fox's Kiss of the Dragon and very encouraging sneaks for MGM's Legally Blonde.
The PG rated family appeal comedy Cats and Dogs from Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment, combining live action with animation and special effects, captured first place with a purr-fectly beautiful ESTIMATED $21.6 million at 3,040 theaters ($7,240 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $35.7 million.
Cats opened Wednesday (July Fourth) with a slim lead over the holiday's other new wide release, the R rated Scary Movie 2 from Miramax's Dimension Films label. Both films benefited from widespread rain across the United States on July Fourth with Cats doing $9.02 million and Scary Movie 2scaring up $8.75 million. On Thursday, July 5 Scary Movie 2 took in $5.26 million while Cats grossed $5.03 million.
Cats' average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
"The great thing about Cats and Dogs is that it's been playing so well for family audiences," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "We're going to be around for a long time. You know, with all the movies coming in, there's really nothing for the young kids."
Focusing on Cats' first five days business, Fellman noted, "This gross beats the first seven days of Space Jam, which grossed $32 million for the week. That's been our largest Warner family film in our company's history. That went on to do $90 million (in domestic theaters). Just trying to look at something similar, Stuart Little, it grossed $27 million its whole first week. That went on to do $139 million (domestically). So I think we have a really good chance of exceeding the $100 million mark since we had such a great start.
"I assume we're going to do at least $40 million for the first week. And we have all this summer play time. We opened Space Jam at Thanksgiving so it didn't have the benefit of having a Saturday every single day (the way summer releases do)."
Dimension Films launched its R rated horror film spoof sequel Scary Movie 2 in second place with a killer ESTIMATED $21.0 million at 3,220 theaters ($6,521 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $34.5 million.
Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, it stars Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Chris Masterson and Kathleen Robertson.
The original Scary Movie opened last July 9 to $42.35 million at 2,912 theaters ($14,542 per theater). It cost about $19 million to produce and went on to gross about $157 million in domestic theaters.
"We're very happy with the opening," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "It's good enough that Bob (Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax and head of the Dimension label) this morning is already talking about, maybe, another sequel. With this kind of opening we might see Scary Movie 3.
"Scary Movie 2 is poised to be the third highest week in the history of the company (after) Scary Movie and Scream 3. Obviously, from that we're very, very happy from a corporate standpoint. With $34.5 million in five days -- the budget was in the mid-$40 millions roughly -- we're in really good shape here."
Who was on hand this weekend? "Demographically it was pretty even male-female," Kaminow replied. "African-American audiences are really responding very, very well to the film. We think the play there is going to be long. And 18 to 24 is the solid core group, (which) is not surprising. The African-American (exit) scores were above average -- the Top Two Boxes in the 80 percents and the Definite Recommend in the low 80 percents as well, which is a great place to be.
Warner Bros. and DreamWorks' PG-13 rated sci-fi fantasy adventure A.I. Artificial Intelligence slid two pegs to third place in its second week with a quieter ESTIMATED $14.15 million (-52 percent) at 3,242 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,363 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.7 million.
Written and directed by Steven Spielberg, it was produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Spielbergand Bonnie Curtis. Starring are Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Brendan Gleeson and William Hurt.
"A.I. continues the pattern of other huge films that opened this summer," Warners' Dan Fellman said. "Fast and the Furious dropped 50 percent (its second weekend) and Tomb Raider dropped 59 percent. And both movies have already exceeded $100 million at the box office. I think we'll settle in and we'll play fine. We needed to settle in this week. We'll just continue to play. There's still a tremendous amount of interest in the movie and people are continuing to talk about it. We have our adult audience and they'll continue to drive the movie for quite a while."
20th Century Fox's R rated action drama Kiss of the Dragon kicked off in fourth place with a muscular ESTIMATED $13.64 million at 2,025 theaters ($6,736 per theater).
Directed by Chris Nahon, it stars Jet Li and Bridget Fonda.
"We're very pleased with it," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "It's in the area where we were hoping to be."
Noting that it's an extremely competitive marketplace, Snyder added, "It's even hard to figure out how much of a holiday or non-holiday this weekend was, the way the Fourth fell. But it looks like a real solid weekend. We've got six movies doing over $10 million this weekend."
Universal's PG-13 action drama The Fast and the Furious fell three rungs to fifth place in its third week with a slower ESTIMATED $12.4 million (-38 percent) at 2,804 theaters (+81 theaters; $4,405 per theater). Fast, which cost a modest $38 million, has a cume of approximately $101.5 million.
Directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal H. Moritz, it stars Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.
20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment's PG rated comedy sequel Dr. Dolittle 2 dropped three notches to sixth place in its third week with a less funny ESTIMATED $10.1 million (-36 percent) at 3,022 theaters (-31 theaters; $3,342 per theater). Its cume is approximately $71.5 million, heading for $100-105 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Steve Carr and produced by John Davis, it stars Eddie Murphy.
Paramount and Mutual Film Company's PG-13 rated action adventure Lara Croft: Tomb Raider slipped three slots in its fourth week with a weaker ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-33 percent) at 3,010 theaters (-339 theaters; $2,259 per theater). Its cume is approximately $115.6 million, heading for $130 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Simon West, Tomb stars Angelina Jolie.
DreamWorks' PG rated computer animated blockbuster Shrek dropped one rung to eighth place in its eighth week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $6.0 million (-22 percent) at 2,107 theaters (-597 theaters; $2,855 per theater). Its cume is approximately $240.6 million heading for $250 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, its voice talents include Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated animated feature Atlantis fell three pegs in its fifth week to ninth place with a less turbulent ESTIMATED $5.0 million (-39 percent) at 2,272 theaters (-758 theaters; $2,201 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69.4 million.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, its voice talents include Michael J Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer and Leonard Nimoy.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Columbia's R rated African-American appeal drama Baby Boy, down five pegs in its second week and packing less punch with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-44 percent) at 1,533 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,131 per theater). Made for about $16 million, its cume is approximately $20.8 million, heading for a profitable $30 million in domestic theaters.
Written, produced and directed by John Singleton, it stars Tyrese Gibson, Snoop Dogg and Ving Rhames.
This weekend also saw Lions Gate Films' unrated erotic drama Lost and Delirious arrive to a not very arousing ESTIMATED $0.045 million at 7 theaters ($6,440 per theater).
Directed by Lea Pool, it stars Piper Perabo.
Miramax's R rated comedy Everybody's Famous opened to a quiet ESTIMATED $0.017 million at 4 theaters ($4,250 per theater).
Written and directed by Dominique Deruddere, it stars Josse De Pauw.
"That goes to about 10 runs on Friday," Miramax's David Kaminow said.
This weekend saw MGM hold very encouraging sneak previews Friday night at about 818 theaters of its PG-13 rated comedy Legally Blonde.
Directed by Robert Luketic, the Marc Platt production stars Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber and Jennifer Coolidge with a special appearance by Raquel Welch. Produced by Platt and Ric Kidney, its screenplay by Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith is based on the book by Amanda Brown.
Blonde will open Friday at over 2,000 theaters.
MGM said Blonde was sneaked in 101 markets, playing to 75 percent of capacity and that 50 percent of its showings were sold out. Those on hand for the sneaks were 25 percent under the age of 18 and 45 percent between 18 and 25. Women accounted for about two-thirds of the ticket sales.
"It was really a very, very good sneak," MGM marketing and distribution president Bob Levin said Sunday morning. "Very strong. In the exits we do, we've got close to 90 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and a very strong over-75 percent Definite Recommend. Those are the kind of numbers you really hope you get in sneaks because you're trying to drive word of mouth and those are the kind of numbers you need to drive word of mouth. So we're very pleased."
Levin, a well regarded industry veteran who previously headed marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment and Disney, joined MGM in late June as the studio's distribution and marketing chief.
Asked how the idea of sneaking Blonde came about, Levin explained, "What happened is we had a great reaction to the film at the premiere (held on June 26) and it was one of the exhibitors who happened to mention it to one of our distribution executives and it seemed like a great idea. So we immediately decided to adopt it (and thought) we should sneak it. This is the perfect kind of movie to sneak, where you aren't being driven by a huge potential fixed marketing opening but you have a movie that really plays well. So why not sneak it?"
Who is the target audience for Blonde? "Well, certainly more female than male," Levin replied. "But we have found in the exits we've done that actually guys like the movie as well, but it has to be (regarded as) slightly more female than male. What has been shown through these sneaks is that the actual likeability of the film is across a broad spectrum -- from even pre-teens all the way through what we categorize as older women (those 30 and older)."
Although the marketplace is crowded with product, there's really nothing like Blonde in theaters now. "I think that's why we have a tremendous opportunity," Levin observed. "And that's why the sneaks made sense because we get to advance the word of mouth. This kind of response that these numbers suggest is the response you get where people show up Monday at work or school or camp or wherever they are and really talk about the movie. So it's great on that kind of basis. I think, hopefully, we really do have sort of a unique offering in the marketplace right now."
Blonde marks the start of what could be a strong second half of the year for MGM. "I think we're about ready to, hopefully, do some very good business through the end of the year on a number of different films," Levin noted.
Among the releases upcoming via MGM are the suspense thriller Original Sin, directed by Michael Christofre and starring Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas, and the horror genre film Jeepers Creepers, directed by Victor Salva and starring Gina Philips, both opening in August.
Arriving in September is the drama Deuces Wild, directed by Scott Kalvert and starring Fairuza Balk, Stephen Dorff and Matt Dillon.
October will bring Bandits, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett and Billy Bob Thornton, and Killing Me Softly, directed by Chen Kaige and starring Heather Graham and Joseph Fiennes.
In November MGM has the action adventure Windtalkers, directed by John Woo and starring Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach and Christian Slater.
The studio's action adventure fantasy Rollerball, directed by John McTiernan and starring Chris Klein, L.L. Cool J and Jean Reno, was recently moved from August to early next year.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Fox Searchlight's R rated critically acclaimed British crime thriller Sexy Beast continue to widen in its fourth week, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $0.71 million (even) at 134 theaters (+25 theaters; $5,325 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.1 million.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer, it stars Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley.
"We feel very good," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. "We opened a lot of new smaller markets that did quite well. In the fourth week, we're holding extremely well and we're quite pleased. The film seems to be settling in and getting good word of mouth. The holdovers still did quite nicely. The holdovers fell less than 20 percent, so we're very pleased with that."
Where does it go from here? "Well, this week we add another round of theaters," Gilula replied. "We're going to add 30 screens and go into another 20 markets or so, a bunch of smaller cities (like) Albuquerque, Pittsburgh, Boise, Buffalo and we'll just keep going. As long as the momentum continues, we'll just keep expanding every week. We'll probably get up to, I would think, around 200 runs. Some of the smaller runs will come off, but we'll just keep moving the prints around the country."
With its cume now at about $3.1 million, Gilula said, "We're clearly going to get past $5 million, which for this film will be very successful for us. It's already a financial success for us. My estimate goes up a little each week because of how well the runs are holding in the big cities."
Fine Line Features' R rated comedy The Anniversary Party went a little wider in its fifth week with a still bubbly ESTIMATED $0.45 million (+9 percent) at 107 theaters (+4 theaters; $4,245 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.6 million.
Written and directed by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh, its ensemble cast includes Jane Adams, Jennifer Beals, Phoebe Cates, Alan Cumming, Kevin Kline, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey and John C. Reilly.
Lions Gate Films' PG-13 rated drama Songcatcher continued to widen in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $0.25 million at 67 theaters (+30 theaters; $3,690 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.61 million.
Directed by Maggie Greenwald, it stars Janet McTeer and Aidan Quinn.
Miramax's R rated French comedy The Closet went wider in its second week with a still promising ESTIMATED $0.21 million at 16 theaters (+12 theaters; $13,043 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.38 million.
Directed by Francis Veber, it stars Daniel Auteuil, Gerard Depardieu, Thierry Lhermitte and Michele Laroque.
"This Friday it will probably expand to about 30 to 40 runs," Miramax's David Kaminow said.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $129.3 million, down about 6.45 percent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $138.2 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 5.42 percent from last weekend this year when key films took in $122.65 million.
Last year, Dimension Films' opening week of Scary Movie was first with $42.35 million at 2,912 theaters ($14,542 per theater); and Warner Bros.' second week of The Perfect Storm was second with $27.12 million at 3,407 theaters ($7,960 per theater).The top two films one year ago grossed $69.4 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $43.0 million.