Since there is no mystery about where "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" will finish in this weekend's ranking of U.S. box-office hits, the only real question is how much the second movie version of J.K. Rowling's series of books will take in.
When the first adaptation opened this time last year, it set a new box-office record -- grossing $90.3 million. That record fell this spring when "Spider-Man" opened with $114.8 million.
Warner Bros. has sent prints to 3,682 U.S. theaters, and deployed a small army of publicists to bang the drum for "Chamber of Secrets" in the media.
'PAYCHECK' FOR AFFLECK?
Ben Affleck -- who has been in the news all week for his engagement to Jennifer Lopez -- is finally making movie news again, with word circulating in Hollywood that Paramount Pictures is talking to him about starring in "Paycheck," based on a Philip K. Dick ("Blade Runner," "Minority Report.")
John Woo ("Mission: Impossible 2") is set to direct "Paycheck," the story of an electrician who is hired to do a special job -- and whose memory is substantially erased when he is done. He is paid with a bag containing apparently meaningless objects, which he must use to try to learn the truth.
TIM ALLEN RETURNING TO TV?
Tim Allen is making plans to return to prime time on ABC -- where he became a star with the long-running 1990s comedy "Home Improvement" -- but not as a star this time.
Allen has signed a deal with Carsey-Werner-Mandabach ("That '70s Show," "Grounded for Life") to create and exec produce a half-hour comedy project Daily Variety reported that Allen will team with writers Mark Brazill ("That '70s Show") and Ron Zimmerman ("Action") for a show about the current state of American men.
The deal does not call for Allen to appear in the show.
"We're really ecstatic to have Tim Allen back at ABC," said ABC Entertainment president Susan Lyne. "Tim is one of the most talented people who's ever worked in television."
Lyne said the show would be about "four guys who've been friends since high school, and now the world has changed around them."
Tia Texada ("Nurse Betty," "Glitter") -- who has had a recurring role in NBC's Monday night drama "Third Watch" -- will join the regular cast.
Texada plays the tough-talking Sgt. Maritza Cruz, a member of an elite, anti-crime task force.
Texada's movie credits include "13 Conversations About One Thing" and the sniper-themed thriller "Phone Booth" -- whose release was delayed by the true-life sniper killings in the Washington, D.C. area. Her TV credits include "ER," "Arli$$" and "NYPD Blue."
MORE CASTING NOTES
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Danny DeVito ("Death to Smoochy"), Helena Bonham Carter ("Planet of the Apes") and Steve Buscemi ("Fargo") are in final talks to join the cast of director Tim Burton's upcoming movie "Big Fish."
It's based on Daniel Wallace's novel "Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions" -- the story of a young man who tries to discover his distant father's true nature by recreates his father's life.
'CHICAGO' IN PALM SPRINGS
Organizers of the 14th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival have announced that "Chicago" -- the movie version of Bob Fosse's Broadway hit -- will have a gala prerelease screening as the festival's kickoff event on Dec. 19.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere and Queen Latifah star in the movie. Director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon are scheduled to attend the Palm Springs screening, along with costume designer Colleen Atwood -- who will receive the Jean Louis Award for Achievement in Costume Design.
Atwood ("Sleepy Hollow," "Philadelphia," "Lorenzo's Oil," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Edward Scissorhands") joins a list of Jean Louis Award winners that includes choreographer Michael Kidd ("Guys and Dolls," "Hello, Dolly!"), Hollywood hairstylist Sidney Guilaroff (Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe) and Louis himself -- an Oscar-winning costume designer ("From Here to Eternity," "Born Yesterday," "All the King's Men").
The Palm Springs International Film Festival runs January 9-20, 2003.