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Entertainment Today: Showbiz news

By United Press International   |   May 21, 2002 at 3:14 AM   |   Comments

CHECK THAT

As it turns out, "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" did not put up the numbers on its opening weekend that distributor 20th Century Fox estimated on Sunday.

The studio had estimated that the picture took in $86.2 million from Friday to Sunday, but the final figures show the actual amount was $80 million -- seven percent less than the estimate. The estimates are never a perfect match for the final figures, but they're usually a lot closer than that.

The final figures also show that "Clones" grossed $110.1 million in its first four days in release -- almost $5 million short of the $114.8 million that "Spider-Man" grossed in its first three days. Fox had estimated that "Clones" did more than $116 million from Thursday to Sunday.

Another casualty of the "Clones" revision is the overall box-office record that appeared to have been set over the weekend. With the final numbers in, the U.S. box office take was just $171 million. The existing record -- $176.9 million over the weekend before Thanksgiving 2000 -- still stands.


EISNER'S GIFT

The family foundation of Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Michael Eisner is giving $7 million to Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles, to establish a national center for helping teachers learn to deal with the different ways in which students learn.

University officials expect the money will be used to introduce teachers to the work of North Carolina pediatrician Dr. Mel Levine, whose clinic attracts children from around the world.

Eisner told the Los Angeles Times he subscribes to Levine's theory that it is self evident that different children's minds work differently -- and that each child therefore has a unique way of learning.

"To be humiliated because your mind is wired slightly differently and the teacher doesn't understand that or hasn't been taught that, to me is destroying a human being, and it's like child abuse," Eisner said. "Teachers recognizing the problem is half the solution."

Officials said they would ask the university Board of Trustees to rename the college of education in Eisner's honor.


THEME PARK BUSINESS EXPANDING

The tourism economy seems to look pretty bright to Barry Diller, the new head of Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

Tourism took a major economic hit after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but Diller has now ordered work to go forward on an expansion of the company's theme park operations.

Universal Studios will reportedly make an announcement soon that it is developing three major new attractions at its theme parks in Hollywood, Calif. and Orlando, Fla., based on the animated movie hits "Shrek" and "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius."

Diller has also authorized a search for possible sites for more theme parks.

Universal Studios Hollywood reported record attendance in the first quarter of 2002, but the spike was largely driven by a promotion that offered guests an annual pass for the purchase of a one-day ticket.


NEW PROJECTS FOR NEWMAN, LEGUIZAMO

HBO Films has announced that Paul Newman will produce and star in "Empire Falls," based on Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, and John Leguizamo will direct "Infamous," described as a Latino "Mean Streets."

Daily Variety reported from Cannes that HBO Films' slate also contains a film version of William Trevor's short novel, "My House in Umbria," to be directed by Richard Loncraine ("The Gathering Storm," "Band of Brothers"). It's described as the tragicomic story of a young woman in Italy who writes romance novels to escape a life of hardship in which she was sold at birth by her parents, abused by her adoptive father and eventually turned to prostitution to get enough money to set herself up as a writer.

"Empire Falls" is a blue-collar story about a recently divorced man who runs the local greasy spoon, and the challenges he faces raising a teenage daughter.

Leguizamo will make his directing debut on "Infamous," which was written by Frank Pugliese ("Shot in the Heart," "Homicide: Life in the Street").

HBO plans to show the movies on its U.S. cable operation, but market them for theatrical distribution overseas.


HONORS FOR TONY BENNETT, JAMES TAYLOR

The American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) honored Tony Bennett and James Taylor with two of its most prestigious awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. Monday night.

The group presented Bennett with its Pied Piper Award -- the most prestigious award that ASCAP gives to an entertainer. Past winners include Fred Astaire, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand.

James Taylor picked up the ASCAP Founders Award "for his pioneering contributions to music" and his "inimitable style of storytelling." Previous recipients include Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Smokey Robinson, Stephen Sondheim, Stevie Wonder and the writing team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

© 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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