With "Stars Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" ready to dominate the U.S. box office in its opening weekend, there are indications that the reigning box-office champ, "Spider-Man," will continue to be a strong performer in its third weekend in theaters.
"Clones" will play on an estimated 6,000 screens beginning at one minute past midnight Wednesday night, and advance online ticket sales indicate it is headed for a big weekend.
Fandango reported Thursday that as of 12:00 p.m. Thursday, George Lucas' new epic had accounted for 84 percent of its online sales since Sunday -- up from 75 percent from Wednesday. At the same time, "Spider-Man" still accounts for 14 percent of all tickets sold at Fandango this week -- leaving the rest of the field to split the remaining 2 percent of sales among them.
"Clones" accounted for more than 97 percent of Fandango's online sales on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The picture is expected to put up big opening weekend numbers, but not the kinds of numbers that "Spider-Man" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" registered on their opening weekends.
A major reason for that is that "Spider-Man" opened on 1,500 more screens that "Clones" will, and "Potter" opened on 2,100 more screens. Also, Lucasfilm reportedly is spending a relatively small amount of money on ads for "Clones."
IRS LOOKING AT DISNEY BOOKS
The Internal Revenue Service is auditing The Walt Disney Co.'s tax returns from 1993-95, the company reported Wednesday in its quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Disney cautioned investors that IRS auditors signaled they will challenge "certain of the company's tax positions," and that it is possible the company may have to make additional tax payments after the audit -- although the company's position is that it has handled all of its tax matters properly.
The notice comes a little more than one year after a former Disney executive filed suit against the company, accusing executives of firing her for refusing to allow its accountants to underestimate millions of dollars in legal fees spent on copyright enforcement.
Judy E. Denenholz, who was senior vice president for worldwide anti-piracy at Disney, said that executives wanted her to provide inaccurate figures to the IRS, and the was fired after she refused.
"We unequivocally deny her allegations," said Disney attorney Patty Glaser at the time.
WOODY COMPARES CANNES BOYCOTT CALLS TO NAZIS
Woody Allen is rejecting a call by American Jews to boycott the Cannes Film Festival because it is the sort of tactic employed by Nazis before the start of World War II.
The Pacific Southwest chapter of the American Jewish Congress called for the boycott last week, in reaction to rising anti-Semitism in France and the recent election in which far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen finished second and ended up in a runoff for president of France.
Speaking with reporters at Cannes on Wednesday, Allen said he does not think the French people are deserving targets of a boycott to protest anti-Semitism in their country.
"I've never felt that the French people in any way were anti-Semitic," said Allen, who is at Cannes to screen his new movie, "Hollywood Ending."
Allen said Le Pen's lopsided loss in the runoff election demonstrates that the French are not intolerant.
"I think one can be very proud of France for the way they've acquitted themselves in the last election," he said.
SHARON STONE READY TO GO BACK TO WORK
Sharon Stone told reporters in Cannes Wednesday that she is ready to go back to work in Hollywood -- eight months after suffering a brain hemorrhage.
Stone is in Cannes as a member of the official jury. She said she wants to get back to making pictures -- but she plans to choose her projects carefully.
"I don't know what I'm going to do yet because I don't know what movies I want to make," she said. "But I know that I don't want to be so much in the bright light as before because it makes it difficult to protect myself and my talent."
Stone -- who became an international star with her steamy performance in "Basic Instinct" (1992) -- said she now wants to be able to "represent fairly a woman of my real age." Stone is 44.
THERE WAS A FILM FESTIVAL IN NANTUCKET
Peter and Bobby Farrelly -- among the reigning masters of bad taste in contemporary cinema -- have been announced as jurors for this year's Nantucket Film Festival.
Festival organizers said the Farrelly brothers ("Shallow Hal," "There's Something About Mary") will vote on the Tony Cox Award for Screenwriting and the annual Writer/Director award. The jury will also include Adrienne Shelly, the writer-director of "I'll Take You There" (1999) and "Urban Legend" (1994), and Oren Moverman, the co-writer of "Jesus' Son" (1999).
The Tony Cox Award is named for the former chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks.
The jury for the Writer/Director Award includes Rosie Perez ("King of the Jungle," "The 24 Hour Woman") and Ted Hope, a former partner in the Good Machine production company.
The festival -- running from June 20-23 on the island of Nantucket, Mass. -- will feature a special tribute to screenwriter James Schamus ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "The Ice Storm").
According to a report in Daily Variety Robert Altman is in talks to direct Neve Campbell in "The Company," described as an ensemble project that explores the creative life of a company of ballet dancers.
The paper said Altman still has plans to direct "Voltage," a comedy about corporate America.
RYDER, MOBY HEADED FOR 'SNL'
Expect gags about her Beverly Hills shoplifting bust when Winona Ryder steps in as guest host on the season finale of "Saturday Night Live" this week.
Ryder -- who made a brief appearance on last year's season finale -- will be making her first appearance as guest host. She's on the promotional trail, pushing her new movie with Adam Sandler, "Mr. Deeds."
The musical guest is Moby, who is making his "SNL" debut.