News, Dec. 18: “Rings” Bears Much Gold, Affleck Visits Iraq, Airport Gets Hope-ful, More…

Rings Brings ‘Em In at Midnight

“One Ring to rule them all…and in the darkness bind them.” Followers of The Lord of the Rings came out in the dark for the 12:01 a.m. screenings of the third and final installment in the Rings trilogy, Return of the King,Associated Press reports. The special midnight screenings took place in 2,100 theaters, twice that of the previous film in the series, The Two Towers, and took in $8 million. Screenings the following day took in another $26.1 million, making it the biggest opening Wednesday as well as the highest one day take for a December release. The film centers on the fellowship of elves, dwarves, and men who rally round hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), as he attempts to destroy a ring with a terrible power. Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers took in $861 million and $921 million respectively, leading New Line (the studio behind the trilogy) to hope the film may break the $1 billion mark. “This thing is so gigantic, we really don’t know where we’re going,” said David Tuckerman, New Line’s head of domestic distribution. The only film to ever earn $1 billion was Titanic, which took $1.8 billion worldwide.

Affleck To Visit Troops for Holidays

Ben Affleck will entertain the troops sometime around the holidays as part of a United Services Organization (USO) tour of the Persian Gulf, Reuters reports. According to a release issued by the USO, Affleck will shake hands, sign autographs, and screen his latest film, Paycheck, for the men and women overseas. The visit will take place in the days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s, though the exact dates will be kept under wraps for security reasons. Affleck‘s famously on-again off-again relationship with Jennifer Lopez after the last minute cancellation of their September wedding has garnered more interest than his film roles of late, but Paramount hopes to change all that this month with Paycheck. The USO has been recruiting celebrities and organizing performances for the troops since World War II.

Airport Gets Hope-ful

In more sort-of USO related news, the Glendale-Burbank-Pasadena Airport was officially changed to Bob Hope Airport at a christening ceremony Wednesday, Associated Press reports. The comedian had parked his private plane at the airfield since 1985 and embarked from there on many trips to entertain U.S. troops abroad. The comedy legend’s widow Dolores spoke to the crowd gathered on the tarmac about bidding her husband farewell as he few off to his USO duties in the South Pacific during World War II. “Our son Zachary, who was 5, kept saying `goodbye, Daddy.’ He didn’t know whether his father was coming or going,” she said. The comedian and star of numerous films (many with fellow USO performer Bing Crosby) passed away this year at age 100.

Aaron Carter Sues for Emancipation

Claiming he “feels betrayed” by the mishandling of his financial affairs, pop star Aaron Carter is seeking to become legally emancipated from his former co-manager mother, Billboard reports, and alleges she took over $100,000 from his bank account without his permission. The 16-year-old is still managed by his father, Bob Carter, who is currently embroiled in a custody battle with Aaron’s mother, Jane Carter. Aaron is the younger brother of the Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter.

Kutcher in the House

Ashton Kutcher and his Katalyst partner Jason Goldberg will executive produce The House for 20th Century Fox TV, Variety reports. Ashton, who recently reportedly shut down his successful hidden camera prank show, Punk’d, will star in the new show. The one-hour drama will center on the goings on at a college frat house. J. Mackeye Gruber and Eric Bress, the writer-directors of Kutcher‘s latest flick, The Butterfly Effect, will write the show.

“Lingerie Bowl” Too Hot for Chrysler

Chrysler has pulled its sponsorship of “Lingerie Bowl 2004” after critics charged the show was sexist, Reuters reports. The pay-per-view halftime game to air during the Super Bowl Feb. was to feature lingerie clad models with the Dodge ram’s head logo prominently displayed on their bras. Proceeds from the game were to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS to fund AIDS research, but the charity also dropped out of the game. Horizon Productions, the company behind the game, said that though they are “disappointed” with the loss of Dodge as a sponsor, they will go ahead with the game as planned.

Studdard Tops Charts

American Idol winner Ruben Studdard is victorious once more. His first album, Soulful, came in at number one, selling 417,000 units during its debut the second week of December, Reuters reports. His tally exceeds that of the first series winner Kelly Clarkson, whose debut album, Thankful, sold 297,000 units during its first week of release. However, this year’s first runner-up Clay Aiken bested them both by moving 613,000 units of his album, Measure of a Man, during its debut in April. Says Violet Brown, director of urban music Wherehouse Music stores, “If it’s an American Idol record, you know that you have a built-in customer base. If it’s an American Idol album that gets good radio play and is a good record, then you know you’re going to go even beyond.” But not every album is a winner. The most unfortunate of the American Idol offspring is Justin Guarini, last year’s first runner up, whose self-titled album sold just 136,000 albums since its release in June.

P.Diddy New Raisin

Hot on the heels of such fading Hollywood stars as Melanie Griffith and John Stamos, newly minted actor Sean “P. Diddy” Combs is heading to the Great White Way to star in a revival of the Lorraine Hansbury classic, A Raisin in the Sun, Associated Press reports. Combs will take the role played by Sidney Poitier in both the stage and screen versions of Raisin‘s Walter Lee Younger, a young African-American man who moves his widowed mother and family into an all-white neighborhood. The play debuts in March of next year.Combs has previously had small roles in such films as