News Roundup: Dec. 21

Top Stories

New Line Cinema’s epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring pulled in $18.2 million at the domestic box office on Wednesday, the biggest take ever for a single day in December. According to Reuters, it was and the third biggest Wednesday opening for any film in North America, after Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which grossed $28.5 million on May 19, 1999, and Jurassic Park III, which made $19 million on July 18, 2001. Box office figures show the film has gone far beyond a cult following, but director Peter Jackson is already under criticism from devoted fans for making changes to J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.

Holly Hunter‘s husband, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, has filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences, the Associated Press reports. Kaminski, 42, and Hunter, 43, have been married since 1995.

In General

Britney Spears is developing her own wireless fan clubs, complete with fashion tips, backstage voice journals, concert updates and contests to win backstage tickets, reports. Information will be available to cell phone users for a fee. JCOR Entertainment, the media company responsible for the concept, has also signed Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z. The program will be subscription based but details have not yet been determined.

During the week ending Dec. 16, 839,000 office workers flocked to to view the trailer for the live-action feature Spider-Man. According to Reuters, nearly 16 percent of the site’s audience spent more than five minutes on the site. Jarvis Mark, senior Internet analyst at NetRatings, said the Quicktime feed brings surfers close to the action of the film and simulates the in-theater experience. Spider-Man debuts in May 2002.

Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte will star in Ang Lee‘s feature film version of the Marvel comic The Incredible Hulk slated for release in 2003, AP reports. Elliott will play Gen. Ross, who’s in charge of the military base where research scientist Dr. Bruce Banner makes his accidental transformation into the Hulk, while Nolte will play Banner’s scientist father. Eric Bana (Black Hawk Down) has already been cast as the Hulk.

The Hollywood’s wartime committee, chaired by Motion Picture Assn. of America president-CEO Jack Valenti, has greenlit an international public service announcement in which Muhammed Ali will emphasize that the war on terrorism is not a war against Islam or Arabs, Variety reports. At a press conference Thursday, Valenti also announced a parallel series of PSAs unveiled by cable channel Starz! Encore which will urge tolerance toward Arab-Americans.

The Dept. of Justice has started investigating two partnerships formed by seven major studios to build Internet-based video-on-demand movie services for potential violations of the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts. According to Variety, the investigation is to determine whether either joint ventures may lessen competition or create a monopoly in the market for video-on-demand services. Studios in one such partnership include Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, Paramount and MGM.

Rush Limbaugh‘s surgery to restore his hearing was a success, Reuters reports. Limbaugh lost his hearing last spring due to an autoimmune disease. In a statement issued Thursday, Limbaugh said he felt great and was looking forward to enjoying the holidays and returning to the air in early January.

In Courts

Scott Weiland, frontman for The Stone Temple Pilots, pleaded guilty Wednesday to domestic battery as part of a plea bargain to avoid jail time stemming from his November arrest for assaulting his wife at the Hard Rock in Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Weiland was ordered to attend twenty-six counseling sessions and stay out of trouble for six months, Rolling Stones reports.