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Entertainment Today: Showbiz news

By United Press International   |   April 22, 2002 at 4:45 AM   |   Comments

BOX OFFICE

"The Scorpion King" opened as the No.1 movie in the nation, taking in an estimated $36.2 million at 3,444 theaters during the Friday-Sunday period, studio sources said.

Universal's "King," starring pro wrestler The Rock in a tale of battles and vengeance in ancient Egypt, is a spin-off from last year's hit "The Mummy Returns," which introduced the Rock's warrior character and grossed $202 million domestically. It set a record for a top April opening, beating the $27.8 million taken in three years ago by the debut of "The Matrix."

Finishing a distant second was Paramount's second weekend of "Changing Lanes" with $11.1 million at 2,642 theaters to lift its 10-day total to $32.8 million.

The opening of Warner Bros.' mystery "Murder by Numbers," starring Sandra Bullock as a detective, followed with a lukewarm $9.5 million at 2,663 theaters.

Disney's fourth weekend of "The Rookie" continued to draw respectably in fourth with $6.3 million at 2,504 sites to lift its 24-day total to nearly $54 million and edge Sony's fourth weekend of "Panic Room" with $6.2 million at 2,825 locations. "Room," which had topped the chart in its first two sessions, has now passed the $82 million mark in ticket sales.

Rounding out the top 10 were "Ice Age," "The Sweetest Thing," "High Crimes," "Clockstoppers," and "National Lampoon's Van Wilder."


'STAR WARS': THE EMPIRE BOUNCES BACK?

It's official: a confidential Lucasfilm marketing pitch to Hasbro dealers about part two of the new "Star Wars" trilogy, obtained by Newsweek, states in boldface type that "The last movie did not live up to expectations."

In the April 29 issue of the magazine, Associate Editor Devin Gordon reports that writer and director George Lucas has two jobs on the new film, "Attack of the Clones" -- which opens May 16 -- make a better movie than "The Phantom Menace," one that recaptures the magic of the original trilogy, and woo back a jittery fan base.

Even though "The Phantom Menace" is the fourth highest-grossing film of all time and even though it made almost $1 billion worldwide, the movie was a dud for Lucas. It was a lame kiddie flick and the dialogue hurt, said Gordon.

After "Menace" finished its run in theaters, Lucas knew he had work to do. In his opinion, sources said, his chief blunder was allowing the merchandise tie-in bonanza to get out of control. But he also realized that his film-making skills were "rusty" on "Menace" -- his first directorial effort in 22 years -- and that its juvenile tone alienated many devoted fans. "George is now much smarter about what he should do and should not do," said one associate with no stake in the sequel. "He's not a stupid man. He doesn't want to hurt the franchise."

The Hasbro marketing pitch promises that "Attack of the Clones" will be an action-packed movie with a "darker feel, closer to the original saga" and "no silly characters or kids." Yes, Jar-Jar Blinks is in the second movie but his role is greatly reduced.

As to merchandise tie-ins, Lucas reportedly has sliced the number of licensees for "Attack of the Clones" by two-thirds. The tie-ins will still be everywhere, but not quite as obnoxiously everywhere as last time. There will not be a soft drink sponsor as there was for "Menace" and Hasbro -- according to Jim Silver, publisher of trade magazine The Toy Book -- has scaled back dramatically.

© 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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