The opening of Mel Gibson's Vietnam War action/drama "We Were Soldiers" easily led the nation's box office with an estimated $20.2 million at 3,143 theaters during the Friday-Sunday period, studio sources said.
The performance by the Paramount release gave it the top debut for the first weekend in March, edging last year's $20.1 million rollout for "The Mexican."
Finishing a distant second was Miramax's opening of sex comedy "40 Days and 40 Nights" with $12.5 million at 2,225 theaters. The film, starring Josh Hartnett, came into a market that has not seen a comedy aimed at young adult moviegoers since "Orange County" was released a month and a half ago.
The respectable performance of the two new films contrasted sharply with a 61 percent slide for last weekend's leader, Warner Bros.' vampire thriller "Queen of the Damned" with $5.8 million at 2,511 theaters. "Queen" fell to sixth and has taken in $23.8 million in 10 days.
New Line's third weekend of hostage drama "John Q" continued to draw well in third with $8.4 million at 2,456 sites to top $51 million overall. Universal's second weekend of "Dragonfly" followed with $6.8 million at 2,507 locations, topping Disney's third weekend of "Return to Never Land" with $6.5 million at 2,626 theaters.
Rounding out the top 10 were "Queen of the Damned," "Big Fat Liar," "A Beautiful Mind," "Crossroads," and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."
(Thanks to UPI's Dave McNary in Los Angeles)
Fans of Ted Koppel and the ABC News program "Nightline" are unhappy to hear the network is in serious talks to lure David Letterman away from CBS and run his late-night show in the 11:30 p.m. slot where "Nightline" has aired since 1980.
According to various published reports, Koppel is furious that network executives are looking into such a change. But entertainment industry analysts say it would make economic sense for ABC to snag Letterman and run it in place of "Nightline" and "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher."
Besides doing damage to CBS in the late-night time period, the move could add substantially to ABC's bottom line.
Network insiders say ABC has tremendous respect for Koppel and that the company would like him to make other on-air contributions -- but they also say that, while the show generates respectable ratings, it does not do well among the most highly prized demographic group, viewers 18-49.
Part of the stated rationale for dropping "Nightline" is that there are so many other places where TV viewers can get news at that time of night, that the show is no longer the unique offering it was when it was initiated in 1980 -- to provide special, nightly coverage of the Iran hostage crisis.
Letterman's contract with CBS expires in six months.
(Thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)
According to gossip columnist Liz Smith, Tony Curtis is taking tap dancing lessons -- two hours a day -- to prepare for his role in the upcoming musical comedy version of his classic movie "Some Like It Hot."
Curtis and the late Jack Lemmon starred with Marilyn Monroe in writer-director Billy Wilder's 1959 comedy about two musicians who pretend to be women as they hide from gangsters who want to kill them. Curtis will not be reprising his movie role. Rather, he will play the millionaire -- Osgood Fielding III, played in the movie by Joe E. Brown -- who falls in love with the character that Lemmon played.
(Thanks to UPI's Dennis Daily)
'THE TIME MACHINE'
Actors Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba and Orlando Jones, and director Simon Wells, are scheduled to attend Monday's premiere screening of their new science-fiction adventure "The Time Machine." The event is being held at the Mann Village Theater in Westwood, Calif. The movie -- a remake of the 1960 film that starred Rod Taylor -- opens nationwide this Friday.
The movie "Dr. Doolittle 2," the NBC-TV shows "Law & Order" and "Providence," ABC's "Dharma & Greg," "Primetime Thursday" and "'World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" are among the winners of the 16th annual Genesis Awards, presented each year by the Ark Trust to honor the media for spotlighting animal issues.
The awards will be handed out March 16 at a star-studded ceremony at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. Celebrity presenters and attendees will include Shannon Elizabeth, Wendie Malik, A.J. McLean, Ellen Burstyn, Tippi Hedren, Ed Begley, Jr, Charlotte Ross, James Cromwell, Jessalyn Gilsig, Sid Caesar, Doris Roberts, Jonathan Lipnicki, Julia Butterfly Hill, Ken Howard, Mimi Kennedy, Victor Webster, Dana Daurey, Frances Fisher and Linda Blair.
The show will be taped and edited for a two-hour special that'll air on Animal Planet in May.
The winners include:
Feature Film: "Doctor Doolittle 2" (Twentieth Century-Fox)
Dramatic TV Series: "Law & Order" -- "Whose Monkey Is It Anyway" (NBC)
Family Dramatic TV Series: "Providence" -- "Gobble, Gobble" (NBC)
Comedy TV Series: "Dharma & Greg" -- "A Fish Tale" (ABC)
TV Network Newsmagazine: "Primetime Thursday" -- "Dangerous Game" (ABC)
TV Commentary: "The Last Word With Jim Rome" (Fox Sports Network)
TV News Feature: "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings:" -- multiple segments (ABC)
Cable Documentary: "MSNBC Investigates Animal Smugglers"
Cable Documentary Series: "Earth Rescue" -- multiple segments (Outdoor Life Network)
Children's Programming: Braveface -- "The Meat of the Matter" and "The Dissection Connection (ABC Family)
PBS Documentary: "The Natural History of The Chicken"
PBS Series: "Scientific American Frontiers" -- "Chimps R Us"
Reality Programming: "Animal Precinct" -- multiple segments (Animal Planet)
Made For TV Movie: "Within These Walls" (LifeTime)
Doris Day Music Award: "Bearly Hangin' On" -- Bears IMAX soundtrack CD
Brigitte Bardot International Award: "Bears Behind Bars" (Animal Planet Europe)
Ark Trust International Award: "Bear Witness" by Cortlan Bennett and Paul Hilton (Asian Geographic Magazine)
There will also be a special tribute to the animals affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including the valiant search and rescue dogs, who combed the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the hope of finding signs of life; the therapy dogs who gave comfort to the bereaved; and those pets whose loved ones never returned home that day.