Entertainment Today: Showbiz news

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Once again, "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" is the No.1 movie in America, dominating the nation's post-New Year's weekend box office with an estimated $23 million at 3,381 theaters during the Friday-Sunday period.


"Lord of the Rings" -- which has dominated movie going with three straight victories -- has taken in an impressive $205.5 million in its first 19 days for New Line. It already ranks as the 34th highest domestic grosser, topping "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

And in a development that may help "Rings" expand its audience even further, the epic won best picture on Saturday night at the first American Film Institute awards.

Universal's third weekend of "A Beautiful Mind," a dramatization of the life of math genius John Forbes Nash, finished a respectable second with $17 million at 1,853 theaters, as the studio expanded by more than 1,300 locations. Actress Jennifer Connelly picked up an AFI award on Saturday for her role.

Warner's fifth weekend of "Ocean's Eleven" followed in third place.

Paramount's third weekend of "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" finished fourth, followed by Disney's fourth weekend of "The Royal Tennenbaums." Gene Hackman received an AFI award Saturday for his work on the offbeat comedy.


Rounding out the top 10 were "Ali," "Vanilla Sky," "Kate & Leopold," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," and "Monsters Inc."


Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas says he came dangerously close to committing suicide after suffering a stroke six years ago, but was saved by sensitive teeth and a sense of humor.

The star of "Spartacus," "Lust for Life" and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" lost his ability to speak when he suffered the stroke at his home, and was confined to a hospital bed that had been installed in his bedroom.

In his new memoir, "My Stroke of Luck," the star of writes that he was so depressed about his incapacity that he decided to end it all.

"I walked over to my desk," writes Douglas. "In the lower drawer was the gun I had used in 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.' I picked it up. In another drawer was a box of bullets. I took two and loaded the gun. "I stuck the barrel in my mouth and -- 'ow!'-- it bumped against my teeth. I pulled the gun out -- and began to laugh. A toothache had delayed my death! I laughed hysterically."


Calling suicide "a selfish act," Douglas said, "Humor saved me that day."

(Thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)


Actor Gerald McRaney has teamed up with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to honor hospitalized veterans and promote volunteerism at VA medical centers.

McRaney -- who starred in the TV series "Simon and Simon" and later in the sitcom "Major Dad" -- will chair VA's 2002 National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans campaign, an annual recognition of the men and women who once served in military uniform. This year it will be marked by community activities around the country Feb. 10-16 at VA health care facilities.

"I am deeply honored to be asked to serve our nation's veterans," said McRaney. "While we have troops deployed now, we must not forget the ones who gave us the freedom we already have. I hope that Americans everywhere will answer the call to volunteer their time to care for those veterans confined to hospital wards."

McRaney is a strong supporter of the U.S. armed forces. During the Gulf War, he visited troops in Saudi Arabia as part of the United Service Organizations (USO). Since then, he has been an active celebrity supporter of the USO, visiting U.S. troops in Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia. In April 2000, he received USO's Merit award.


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