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Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   April 22, 2002 at 4:50 PM   |   Comments

'SCORPION KING' STINGS COMPETITION AT THE BOX OFFICE

"The Scorpion King" grossed $36.2 million in its first weekend in U.S. theaters, easily blowing off the old record for biggest opening in April -- a shade under $28 million, set by "The Matrix" in 1999.

"Changing Lanes," starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck, slipped out of the top spot to No. 2, taking in $11.1 in its second weekend. The new Sandra Bullock crime thriller, "Murder by Numbers," opened in third place with $9.5 million.

Holdovers including "Panic Room," "The Rookie," "Blade II" and "Ice Age" continued to perform well, helping the overall box office post strong numbers.

The 12 largest-grossing films took in an estimated $93 million -- 37 percent more than the same weekend last year. Grosses for the year to date are running 15 percent of last year's pace and attendance is up an estimated 10 percent.

The box office looks to get even healthier in the next few weeks, as "Spider-Man" opens on May 3 followed by "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" on May 19.


CBS WILL PAY 'PRICE' FOR RATINGS

CBS is planning a special primetime airing of the long-running daytime hit game show "The Price Is Right" this summer.

Plans call for the nighttime version of the show to feature members of the U.S. military as contestants. The network also plans to air a "Price Is Right" special on May 17 -- as part of its May sweeps programming -- featuring an audience made up of U.S. Navy sailors.

The show has been on the CBS schedule in some form or another for 30 years.


FX GETS BEHIND 'THE SHIELD'

Even though the show has been losing money and at least 11 advertisers have pulled their spots because of concern over the content, the FX cable channel has ordered 13 more episodes of the controversial police drama, "The Shield."

FX President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly told Daily Variety the ratings have been good and positive critical reviews have been encouraging -- and he thinks the advertising will be there if the show can keep scoring with the right segment of the available TV audience.

"In the short term, we expected challenges to the show from advertisers," said Reilly. "But if we keep getting a heavy volume of upscale adult viewers to watch the show, Madison Avenue will follow."

Variety reported that the show could lose as much as $20 million for its first 13-hour season, even though salaries for the production are lower than those for hour-long dramas on broadcast networks.

Tricon Global Restaurants, Burger King, John Deere, Office Depot, Subaru, the U.S. Army and Gillette have withdrawn their ads from the show. FX has found other advertisers to buy the time, but reportedly not at rates commensurate with the ratings the show is delivering for the cable channel.


ROB LOWE'S WARNING TO CANCER PATIENTS

Rob Lowe, who stars as White House deputy communications director Sam Seaborn on the NBC drama "The West Wing," has launched a campaign to urge cancer patients to watch out for a little-discussed side-effect of chemotherapy -- infection.

Lowe's father, Chuck Lowe, has been in remission for seven years, but he experienced the problem first-hand when he went through two rounds of chemotherapy.

Rob Lowe was the first male spokesman for breast cancer awareness in 1999 when he helped raise more than $7 million for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. In his new campaign, called By My Side, Lowe is working with the biotechnology firm Amgen. The company recently won approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a new prescription drug that can promote the body's naturally occurring infection-fighting white blood cells, which are destroyed in chemotherapy.

Lowe said that 30 percent to 40 percent of patients who are not protected from infection actually develop infections during chemotherapy -- but doctors don't often volunteer information to patients about the risk.

"In my dad's experience," he said, "the doctors don't want to swamp you with to much information. They take a watch-and-wait attitude, hoping that it's something they won't have to face. By My Side (ByMySide.com) is about empowering patients to take control of their treatment and to actively participate in it."

Lowe, who turned 38 last month, said he knows the time is almost here for him to pay closer attention to the health risks associated with middle age.

"I think I'm going to have a really great 40th birthday party, and then a really hideous meeting with the proctologist," he said.


SAG MEMBERS REJECT NEW AGENT DEAL

Members of the Screen Actors Guild have voted down a proposed agreement with talent agents that would have permitted agents to commingle their interests with those of the studios and advertisers that hire actors.

In the process, the actors also rejected a strong push by their leadership in favor of the deal. The actors voted 54-46 against the proposed new agreement with the Association of Talent Agents/National Association of Talent Representatives, or ATA/NATRA.

The proposed new master contract would have replaced the old agreement between the union and the agents, which had been in place for more than 60 years before it expired earlier this year. Opponents argued that the new deal gave away too much authority to agents to engage in possible conflicts of interest.

ATA/NATRA issued a statement saying it was "deeply disappointed" in the outcome. The statement said agents still would represent clients in accordance with industry norms, respecting other existing agreements with the guild.

The proposed new deal would have permitted talent agencies to sell as much as 20 percent interest in their business to independent TV and film production houses, or to buy that much interest in those companies.

Agencies said they need that kind of freedom to attract more capital.

© 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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