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By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Feb. 11, 2002 at 8:30 PM
A BIG SCORE FOR THE BIG GUY

Arnold Schwarzenegger said he'd be back, and he's sure enough back -- with a big opening for his new take-on-the-terrorist picture, "Collateral Damage," which opened this weekend with an estimated $15.2 million take at the box office.

This is the movie that was supposed to have opened last October but was yanked from Warner Bros. release schedule after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks out of concern it wasn't the best time to market a movie about a guy getting even with terrorists who wipe out his family by blowing up a building in Los Angeles.

The studio said the movie played well in New York and Washington in its opening weekend, suggesting that now is an OK time to market a revenge-on-terrorists piece.

Some analysts are wondering how much more business the picture could have done if it had not been competing with NBC's Winter Olympics coverage -- including the highly rated opening ceremonies on Friday night.

The opening was several million dollars better than Schwarzenegger's last picture, "The 6th Day," which took in $13 million when it opened in November 2000. But it was $5 million under the opening for his 1999 action picture, "End of Days," which collected $20.5 million in its opening weekend.

The new Frankie Muniz youth comedy "Big Fat Liar" finished second with $11.7 million. Action director John McTiernan's state-of-the-art take on "Rollerball" was third with $9 million.

"Black Hawk Down" was No. 4 with $8 million, running its overall gross to $86.7 million. "A Beautiful Mind" added $5.8 million to its running total, which now stands at $112.8 million.


ALTMAN'S LIFETIME HONOR

Robert Altman is grateful for the Silver Bear Award he received at the Berlin Film Festival in recognition of a lifetime of achievement, but he just wants the record to show that his lifetime isn't over yet.

"It's a great honor, but I hope it doesn't mean lifetime," Altman said Sunday. "I have plans."

Altman, whose directing resume includes gigs on "Maverick," "Alfred Hitchcock Presets, "Peter Gunn" and other '50s and '60s TV series, has turned out some of the best known movies of the past 30 years, including "M*A*S*H," "Nashville" and "The Player."

He won a Golden Globe for best director last month for his current film, "Gosford Park."

Altman won the Berlin Festival's top directing prize, the Golden Bear, for his 1977 western satire, "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson."


TIMES CRITIC SELLS MEMOIR FOR TV SHOW

The producing team behind such ABC TV movies and miniseries as "Annie" and "Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows" has bought the screen rights to New York Times columnist Frank Rich's memoir, "Ghost Light."

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron plan to turn the book into a project for ABC.

"We read the book when it first came out and were mesmerized by the writing and an emotional but not overly sentimental depiction of a boy who uses theater to escape the frightening aspects of his life," Zadan told Daily Variety.

"Ghost Light" is Rich's account of his youth in Washington, D.C. in the 1950s and early '60s.

When his parents divorced and his mother remarried, he found solace in regular visits to Broadway. Rich eventually became the Times' lead theater critic, and currently writes a bi-weekly at-large column on the paper's op-ed page.


HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" used to be a big shot, but not anymore.

ABC has pulled the big money show from its Monday primetime lineup and replaced it with a couple of half-hour comedies.

"Millionaire," which used to be so popular that the network ran it several nights a week -- every night, some weeks -- will stay on the Thursday schedule. But ABC clearly doesn't expect much from it, since CBS and NBC already have the night locked up.

When it premiered just 25 months ago, "Millionaire" looked like the goose that laid golden eggs -- juicing up ABC's bottom line with a show that delivered spectacular ratings and cost next-to-nothing to produce.

Beginning March 4, ABC will fill the Monday 8 p.m. hour with "My Wife and Kids" and a return engagement of "The Wayne Brady Show," a variety-comedy deal starring one of the featured performers on ABC's comedy improv show, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"


MORE CASTING GIMMICKS

NBC has announced that Brendan Fraser ("The Mummy Returns," "Bedazzled") will guest star in two episodes of "Scrubs," beginning Feb. 11.

Fraser will play the brother of Dr. Cox's (John C. McGinley) ex-wife Jordan, played by guest star Christa Miller of "The Drew Carey Show."


THE BALLOTS ARE IN THE MAIL

The Screen Actors Guild has mailed ballots for its rerun election to all members eligible to vote for the three national officer posts at stake.

The ballots are due back at SAG by 8 a.m. on Friday, March 8. They'll be opened and tabulated by the American Arbitration Association, which will administer and certify the rerun election.

SAG conducted a national election last fall, but the union's elections committee -- in response to complaints about the fairness of the election -- ruled in January that there had been procedural mistakes, and ordered the election to be rerun.

The offices of president, treasurer and recording secretary are being decided in the election re-run.


STARS COME OUT FOR OSCARS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday that Kirsten Dunst will make her first Oscar show appearance as a presenter at the 74th Academy Awards.

Dunst is the star of such recent pictures as "Crazy/Beautiful," "Bring It On" and "The Virgin Suicides."

She also stars in the upcoming murder mystery "The Cat's Meow," as Marion Davies, mistress to legendary media mogul William Randolph Hearst. She's scheduled to show up on U.S. theater screens this summer in "Spider-Man" with Tobey Maguire.

Dunst is filming the "Levity" co-starring Billy Bob Thornton and Morgan Freeman for writer-director Ed Solomon. He's best known as the writer of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989), "Men in Black" (1997) and "Charlie's Angels" (2000).

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