According to a report in Daily Variety, Paramount Network Television is close to a deal to pay "Frasier" co-star David Hyde Pierce $1 million per episode.
The deal is expected to persuade Pierce to stay with the show for two more seasons. Pierce has won three supporting actor Emmys playing Niles Crane, the brother of Frasier Crane, played by series star Kelsey Grammer.
Citing industry insiders familiar with the negotiations, Variety reported that as of Friday, Pierce had driven his price up to at least $750,000 per episode, and stood a chance of joining TV comedy's exclusive seven-figure club -- which includes Grammer, Tim Allen, Helen Hunt, Paul Reiser and Jerry Seinfeld.
Grammer recently signed a two-year deal with Paramount paying him $1.6 million an episode. At $75 million over the life of the agreement, Grammer became the highest-paid actor ever in a half-hour comedy.
At $750,000 per episode, Pierce would be paid as much as Drew Carey for "The Drew Carey Show" and all six stars of "Friends" -- but not as much as Ray Romano, who is pulling down an estimated $800,000 per episode to star in "Everybody Loves Raymond."
'ELEVEN' PLUS $39.3 MILLION = NO. 1
"Ocean's Eleven" cashed in big at the U.S. box-office in its opening weekend, grossing an estimated $39.3 million and taking the No. 1 spot from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," which had been the box-office champion for three weeks running.
"Potter" took in an estimated $14.8 million, to run its 24-day total to almost $240 million. The first movie adaptation of author J.K. Rowling's series of books about a boy wizard is on track to surpass "Shrek" as the highest-grossing movie of 2001.
"Behind Enemy Lines" finished third with an estimated $8.1 million -- a 54 percent falloff from its opening weekend gross. "Monsters, Inc." was fourth with $6.7 million in its sixth weekend in theaters, running its total to $212 million.
STARS COME OUT FOR U.S TROOPS
George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia -- the stars of "Ocean's Eleven" -- combined business with patriotism Friday as they signed autographs, posed for snapshots and schmoozed with American troops at a top-security military base in Turkey.
News organizations were not permitted to cover the visit up close, but the event generated positive publicity both for the U.S. war against terrorism and the Warner Bros. publicity campaign on behalf of "Ocean's Eleven."
Tom Cruise -- who opens this week in his new movie, "Vanilla Sky" -- visited troops at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth Friday. He was accompanied by "Vanilla Sky" director Cameron Crowe.
Exploiting a gimmick that worked to promote repeat business for "A Bug's Life," Disney and Pixar have added "outtakes" to run with the closing credits on "Monsters, Inc."
They aren't really bloopers, but they play that way. They show computer animated characters forgetting their lines, mishandling props and doing the kinds of things that live actors do when they carry on while the camera is rolling.
The special material also includes the musical production number, "Put That Thing Back Where It Came From or So Help Me!"
The "outtakes" began running on Friday.
HONORS FOR GARTH BROOKS
Producers of the American Music Awards announced Monday that Garth Brooks will receive the special Award of Merit at the AMA ceremonies in Los Angeles on Jan. 9.
The award is presented to musicians to recognize "outstanding contributions to the musical entertainment of the American public." Brooks is the top-selling solo artist in the history of the music business, with 21 No. 1 singles.
He joins a list of Award of Merit winners that includes The Beach Boys, Irving Berlin, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby, Gloria Estefan, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Berry Gordy Jr., Billy Joel, Merle Haggard, Michael Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Tammy Wynette.
ERIN BROCKOVICH'S REBUILDING MISSION
ABC has signed consumer crusader Erin Brockovich to oversee a project as part of the rebuilding campaign in New York, with an eye toward making some money in the deal.
The network plans to turn the project into a primetime reality-based special.
Part of the premise is that Brockovich -- whose real life battle with the establishment was made into the Oscar-winning movie, "Erin Brockovich" -- must work up the local citizens to support the project within one week.
The special, "Challenge America With Erin Brockovich: The Miracle in Manhattan," is scheduled to run on Dec. 21.
DISNEY PLANS 'PIRATES' MOVIE
Disney is planning a movie based on the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland.
"Pearl Harbor" and "Armageddon" producer Jerry Bruckheimer reportedly has agreed to develop the movie, which would be the second feature to be based on a Disneyland attraction.
"Country Bears" is scheduled to open in theaters next July.
"Pirates of the Caribbean" survived a minor controversy a few years ago, after park officials changed some characteristics of the ride that critics said were offensive to women. After the changes were made, Disney took heat for giving in to political correctness.
BONNIE HUNT HEADED BACK TO SMALL SCREEN
Bonnie Hunt has struck a deal to develop and star in a comedy pilot for ABC.
Plans call for Hunt -- who starred in the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful comedy, "Bonnie," on CBS in 1995 -- to play a small-market TV personality who doubles as a working mom.
Hunt is best known for playing Renee Zellweger's older sister in Jerry Maguire. She co-starred with Robin Williams in "Jumanji," and she co-wrote, directed and starred in the 2000 romantic comedy, "Return to Me."
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