News, May 29: Fox Cleans Up With “American Idol,” “Reloaded” Puts Warner Bros. on Top, Stars Battle SARS Fears With Concert, More…

Top Story: Fox Realizes American Dream

According to the figures from Nielsen Media Research, it looks like Fox came out on top in the last week of the 2002-03 television season, fueled by the finale of American Idol‘s second season. According to The Hollywood Reporter, last Wednesday’s Idol finale–which saw Ruben Studdard crowned the new idol over Clay Aiken–took in 38.1 million viewers, pushing Fox ahead with a total of 13.8 million viewers for the week. Idol‘s closer, after February’s Joe Millionaire finale on Fox, was also the second-highest rated entertainment program on any network during the season. Following Fox was CBS (10.8 million), NBC (10.1 million) and ABC (7.6 million).

Don’t Give West Virginians a Bad Name

The Putman County, West Virginia Superintendent Sam Sentelle–who fears West Virginians are being portrayed in a bad light, especially given the horror film Wrong Turn, in which where a group of young people run into three gruesome mountain men in the woods of West Virginia–has changed his mind about DreamWorks’ film Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!. Initially, Sentelle wanted high schools in the county to disallow the studio to film in their schools, The Associated Press reports. But since discovering the plot– which follows a young West Virginian girl (Kate Bosworth) who wins a date with a Hollywood star–he has decided the film depicts his state favorably.

Outfest Announces Lineup

The 21st annual Outfest, Los Angeles’ gay and lesbian film festival, has picked 189 features, documentaries and short films for its roster. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this includes opening night film Party Monster, which stars Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green, and Mambo Italiano, a gay romantic comedy in the vein of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The festival runs July 10-21.

Warner Bros. on Top

What a difference $200 million can make. The blowout success of The Matrix Reloaded, with its cume of $209.5 million, has shot Warner Bros. to the top of the North American market-share race. AP reports that at the end of April, Warners was in third behind Disney and Sony, with $244.5 million in grosses. The top-grossing film at that time for the studio was Kangaroo Jack with $66.4 million.

Aretha Franklin Arson Case Gets Some Help

Investigators probing into the arson fire that destroyed Aretha Franklin‘s house Oct. 25 are asking the Michigan state Attorney General’s office for help, AP reports. Prosecutors told AP “legal and factual complexities” in the case prompted them to request an independent review and analysis by Attorney General Mike Cox’s office in order to determine if any charges should be issued.

Malcolm Producer Defects to Bernie Mac

Michael Borkow, one of the producers of Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle, will be taking over as executive producer for The Bernie Mac Show, replacing creator/executive producer Larry Wilmore, The Hollywood Reporter reports. Wilmore was asked by Fox to step down in March over creative differences and the direction of the show.

Toronto Concert To Allay SARS Fears

Canadian acts Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Tragically Hip, Sum 41, Our Lady Peace, Glenn Lewis, and Remy Shand will perform in a special concert to boost the city’s economic and tourism problems in the wake of an outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Billboard magazine reports Ontario cabinet ministers Jim Flaherty and Brian Coburn announced Wednesday the concert will be held June 21 at Toronto’s Skydome and the adjacent Air Canada Centre.

Role Call: All in the Family

Yet another offspring of a famous celebrity is breaking into showbiz. Ron Howard‘s daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, has just signed to make her feature film debut in M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Woods. Howard will join stars Joaquin Phoenix and Ashton Kutcher in a story set in 1897 about a close-knit community that lives with the frightening knowledge that a mythical race of creatures resides in the woods around them.