Movie exhibitors are hoping for the best as four new pictures open on a weekend when many Americans are following the war in Iraq on TV.
Besides the war, the new features -- "Boat Trip," "Dreamcatcher," "Piglet's Big Movie" and "View From the Top" -- also face competition from the NCAA men's basketball tournament on TV.
"Boat Trip" features Cuba Gooding Jr. and Horatio Sanz as two straight guys who inadvertently book passage on a gay cruise ship.
"Dreamcatcher," adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, should benefit from the decision by Warner Bros. to attach to it a nine-minute animated short film "The Final Flight of Osiris" -- a teaser to the "The Matrix Reloaded."
The first of two planned sequels to the 1999 hit "The Matrix" opens in May.
"Piglet's Big Movie" has been reasonably well-reviewed and should benefit from being the only child-oriented attraction in U.S. theaters this weekend.
After two weeks at No. 1, the Steve Martin-Queen Latifah comedy "Bringing Down the House" is expected to continue to play well -- but box-office analysts don't expect big things at U.S. theaters overall this weekend, what with the U.S.-led attack intended to oust Saddam Hussein.
The much-anticipated "shock-and-awe" bomb attack on Baghdad got under way around 1 p.m. EST on Friday, just around the time that most theaters were getting ready to roll the first features of the weekend.
WHO WILL SHOW SUNDAY?
According to Daily Variety, most of the celebrities already announced as part of Sunday's Academy Awards telecast are still planning to be there.
Citing academy insiders, Variety said that as of late Thursday only Angelina Jolie, Peter Jackson, Will Smith and Aki Kaurismaki -- whose "The Man Without a Past" (Finland) is nominated for Bet Foreign-Language Film -- had withdrawn from the show. Academy officials pointed out that there are last-minute cancellations every year.
According to the report, academy officials were dismissing several hot rumors -- including one that the Oscars ceremony would be held as scheduled on Sunday, but that ABC would delay its airing for several days. There was also a rumor in Hollywood that the White House asked the academy to postpone the show.
Viewers might notice several celebrities on Sunday wearing peace pins -- provided by Artists United to Win Without War. So far, the list includes Ben Affleck, Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Dustin Hoffman, Julianne Moore and Michael Moore.
OLD-TIMERS WILL GRACE OSCAR STAGE
A parade of Oscar-winning actors and actresses is shaping up as one of the highlights of Sunday's Academy Awards telecast.
No one knows yet how many of the 81 surviving screen legends will show up. Elizabeth Taylor has already said she will be there -- in what she called her stage "swan song" -- and the Los Angeles Times reported Friday that the reunion will include appearances by Olivia de Havilland, George Kennedy and Luise Rainer.
The 93-year-old Rainer -- a two-time Best Actress winner for "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936) and "The Good Earth" (1937) -- was expected to fly to Los Angeles from Europe. She told the paper she was upset because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has not chosen to give her an honorary Oscar.
"I should be honored even being as old as I am," said Rainer. "And when I come out, they will be amazed how well I look and am."
She also complained about the travel arrangements and accommodations that have been made for her.
"It's a sacrilege to mention this when there is a war and trouble, but I found out the academy does not even give us breakfast, which I think is so mean," she said. "It's not comfortable at the moment to come to the Oscars, but I have agreed to come," Rainer said. "Who am I in this world of murderous disorder to stand up and have fear?"
The 86-year-old de Havilland is also a two-time winner -- for "To Each His Own" (1946) and "The Heiress" (1949). Kennedy, 78, won for Best Supporting Actor for "Cool Hand Luke" (1967).
REMEMBERING LYNNE THIGPEN
A memorial service was planned for Friday afternoon in Los Angeles for actress Lynne Thigpen, who died last week at 54.
Thigpen starred in the CBS drama "The District" as Ella Farmer -- the secretary of the Washington police chief, played by Emmy-winning actor Craig T. Nelson. The Tony Award-winning actress had been in good health, according to a network publicist, before she died suddenly on March 12 of unknown causes.
Thigpen was born Lynne Richmond on Dec. 22, 1948, in Joliet, Ill. In a career of more than three decades, she demonstrated a versatility that allowed her to flourish in movies, on TV and on the stage.
In 1992, Essence magazine called Thigpen "the busiest Black Actress around."
She won the Tony Award in 1997 for her performance as Dr. Judith Kaufman in "An American Daughter." She reprised the role in a 2000 TV production of Wendy Wasserstein's political comedy.
Thigpen was nominated for a Tony in 1981 for her performance in the musical "Tintypes." She was a two-time Obie Award winner -- for her performances in "Jar the Floor" (1999) and "Boesman and Lena" (1991).
Her movie credits included "Godspell" (1973), "Tootsie" (1982), "Lean on Me" (1989) and "The Insider" (1999). She co-stars with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in the upcoming comedy "Anger Management."
Thigpen was a frequent guest-star on such Emmy-winning series as "Law & Order," "L.A. Law," "The Cosby Show" and "thirtysomething." Children's television viewers knew her as The Chief on "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" and "Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?"
She was also a member of the voice cast of the public television kids' show "Bear in the Big Blue House."
Thigpen was also familiar to viewers of daytime drama, playing Flora Baxter and Grace "Aunt Grace" Keefer in two different stints on "All My Children."
'RAYMOND' STAR IN 'GOODBYE GIRL' REMAKE
Two-time Emmy-winning actress Patricia Heaton will star in a TV movie adaptation of the 1977 movie "The Goodbye Girl."
The Hollywood Reporter said Friday that the "Everybody Loves Raymond" star is in final talks to star as the divorced woman who shares her New York apartment with an aspiring actor.
Marsha Mason was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, and Richard Dreyfuss won for Best Actor in the 1977 movie.
Neil Simon -- who was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the 1977 movie -- will write and executive produce the TNT project.