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Entertainment Today: Showbiz news

By United Press International   |   April 1, 2002 at 4:45 AM
BOX OFFICE

Jody Foster's "Panic Room" opened with a record-setting Easter weekend debut of an estimated $30.2 million at 3,053 theaters during the Friday-Sunday period, studio sources said.

Sony's tale of divorced mother hiding from burglars easily beat the previous record set by 1999's "The Matrix," which opened at $27.8 million. It was also the best opening for Foster, topping the $20.2 million debut in 1997 for "Contact."

20th Century Fox's cartoon "Ice Age" remained impressive in second with $18.6 million at 3,333 theaters as it topped $117 million in 17 days. It beat a solid debut of $15.8 million at 2,511 theaters from Disney's "The Rookie," starring Dennis Quaid in a real-life recap of a 35-year-old who makes it to major league baseball.

New Line's second weekend of "Blade 2" finished fourth with $13.2 million at 2,707 sites. Paramount's opening of science-fiction adventure "Clockstoppers" followed with $10.1 million at 2,540 locations.

Rounding out the top 10 were "E.T. 20th Anniversary," "Death to Smoochy," "A Beautiful Mind," "We Were Soldiers," and "Showtime."


OPRAH WINFREY

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Oprah Winfrey turned down a request by the Bush administration to be part of an official U.S. delegation to tour Afghanistan's schools and celebrate the return of young girls to the classroom following the fall of the Taliban regime.

"Given her responsibility to the show, she isn't adding anything to her calendar," said a representative of Winfrey's production company. "She was invited, but she respectfully declined."

The newspaper said that, after Winfrey's turndown, the White House postponed the trip -- which was also supposed to feature some of the top women serving in the administration.

The Tribune reported that Bush's political advisers think that including Winfrey in the tour would have been good for the president's standing with women voters. Polls showed Bush's stock as a candidate for president rose after his appearance on Winfrey's top-rated daytime talk show.


'STAR WARS'

Samuel L. Jackson has apparently given away the plot "Star Wars: Episode III," but that doesn't necessarily mean that he has blown some big secret.

The Calgary Sun quoted Jackson as saying that the entire force of Jedi gets wiped out in the third episode. That might not come as such a shock to anyone who has seen "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope," the 1977 blockbuster movie that started it all. After all, part of the back-story of "Episode IV" is that the Jedi are on the brink of disaster.

"All the Jedi die in 'Episode III' during the Clone Wars," Jackson told the newspaper. "I told George I didn't mind dying, I just didn't want to go out like some punk. George said that was fine and he'd see what he could do about a fitting death scene for Mace."

Jackson -- who plays Mace Windu, an aide to Yoda -- revealed that in "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" his character survives an attempt to assassinate Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). Of course he survives -- otherwise, how could he face a glorious death in "Episode III"?

(The above two items thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)


ROSIE O'DONNELL

Rosie O'Donnell's candor on her sexual orientation resonates well with Americans. That's according to a Witeck-Combs/Harris Interactive Poll conducted online among 2,017 people, seven percent of which identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Three-quarters of those surveyed -- heterosexual or homosexual -- who are also aware of O'Donnell's disclosure that she's a lesbian agree that it had no effect on their feelings towards her. Eight out of 10 respondents also said her disclosure would have no effect on their likelihood to purchase brands that she endorses, with two percent reporting they were more likely and 18 percent saying they were less likely to purchase endorsed products. Almost nine out of 10 gays and lesbians (88 percent) said it made no difference, while nine percent said it would make them more likely to purchase.

Among Rosie's most popular audience -- namely American women between the ages of 35 and 44 -- when asked specifically if the disclosure about O'Donnell's sexual orientation would have a better, worse or would not change their opinion at all about her, 73 percent said it made no difference. Ten percent said it improved their opinions, while 18 percent said their opinions of O'Donnell had worsened.

O'Donnell made national news last month in her exclusive ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer, by speaking up for adoption by gay parents and revealing that she, herself, is a lesbian parent. O'Donnell is a celebrated television figure, actress and publisher of her own trademark magazine targeted to American women. In addition, she is well-known for her commercial endorsements and commitment to social and philanthropic causes.

(Web site: harrispollonline.com)

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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