'SIGNS' RUNS CIRCLES AROUND BOX-OFFICE RIVALS
M. Night Shyamalan's supernatural thriller "Signs" -- starring Mel Gibson as a farmer who finds mysterious crop circles in his cornfields -- reaped a bountiful harvest in its opening weekend, finishing at No. 1 with an estimated $60.3 million.
It was the second-biggest opening ever in August -- after last year's $67.4 million opening of "Rush Hour 2" -- and the best-ever opening for Gibson, whose previous best was $34.2 million for "Ransom" in 1996. It was also Shyamalan's best opening ever, topping "Unbreakable," which took in $30.3 million when it opened in 2000.
"Austin Powers in Goldmember" finished second, taking in $32.4 million in its second week. The third installment of Mike Myers' goofy super-spy parody has taken in $143 million in 11 days, and is the 11th picture to go past $100 million in 2002.
Dana Carvey's kid-oriented comedy "The Master of Disguise" baffled the analysts and overcame bad buzz to open in third place with $13 million. The comedy-documentary "Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat" was fourth with $7.5 million, followed by "Road to Perdition," which added $6.6 million to its running total, now at $77.2 million.
Overall, the U.S. box office took in an estimated $154 million. That's down 11 percent from the same weekend last year -- when "Rush Hour 2," "Planets of the Apes" and "The Princess Diaries" led the field with a combined $117.8 million.
Year-to-date, 2002 is still running 15 percent ahead of 2001 with $5.58 billion in the bank.
Box-office analysts expect the good times to keep rolling this week, with three major new releases.
The youth market will be served by Vin Diesel's new extreme sports-spy thriller "XXX." The kid market gets "Spy Kids 2," the sequel to last year's surprise hit "Spy Kids." Older audiences may be more interested in "Blood Work," starring Clint Eastwood as a retired FBI director who investigates the death of the woman who happened to be the donor for his recent heart transplant.
STILLER IS OUT OF MAMET REVIVAL
In a statement, Stiller called it a "difficult" decision.
"My priorities changed after the birth of my daughter, and the reality of being separated from my family for the better part of eight months caused me to rethink my commitment," said Stiller. "We decided this would be the best thing for us."
Stiller said he would miss the opportunity to work with "this brilliant team of David Mamet, director Daniel Sullivan, producer Robert Cole and co-star Danny DeVito -- especially in this masterpiece."
He issued a public apology to all involved.
Cole seemed to take it well. He told Smith: "I am now exactly where I was in April prior to Ben Stiller's involvement -- I'm sitting on top of the world with Danny DeVito."
"Glengarry Glen Ross" -- which was adapted for the screen in 1992 with Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin and Ed Harris -- is a story about the desperate struggle for survival in a cutthroat office where first prize in a sales contest is a Cadillac, second prize is a set of steak knives and third prize is unemployment.
MAGUIRE TO STAR IN 'SEABISCUIT'
Tobey Maguire has agreed to play jockey Red Pollard in "Seabiscuit," the upcoming movie adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's book "Seabiscuit: An American Legend."
Gary Ross ("Pleasantville," "Dave") will direct the movie from his own screenplay. Plans call for Racing Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stephens to play George Woolf, a jockey pal of Pollard's, who road Seabiscuit to his most famous victory -- an upset over War Admiral in a 1938 match race at Pimlico.
MEASURING CHEADLE FOR HOSPITAL GREENS
Emmy-nominated actor Don Cheadle will guest-star in four episodes of NBC's Emmy-winning drama "ER" during the upcoming TV season, playing a med student who comes to Chicago's County General Hospital for his surgical internship.
Cheadle is up for an Emmy this year for outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or a movie for the Showtime movie "Things Behind the Sun." He was nominated for two Emmys in 1999 -- for outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or a movie ("A Lesson Before Drying") and outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or a movie (as Sammy Davis Jr. in "The Rat Pack").
His movie credits include "Traffic," "Ocean's Eleven," "Out of Sight" and his SAG Award-nominated performance in "Devil in a Blue Dress." Plans call for Cheadle to direct and star in the upcoming movie version of Elmore Leonard's latest novel, "Tishomingo Blues."
ABC GETS THE JUMP ON MINERS' STORY
Other networks are expected to go forward with their own takes on the dramatic rescue of nine coal miners in Pennsylvania last month, but only ABC will have access to the miners' personal stories.
The Walt Disney Co. has reportedly agreed to pay close to $1.5 million for exclusive book and TV movie rights for the stories of the men who have become known as the Quecreek Nine. The company was also said to be pursuing a deal with one of the leaders of the rescue effort that fascinated millions of TV news viewers for three days.
Plans call for ABC to develop a two-hour TV movie, while Disney's publishing arm, Hyperion, prepares a book about the miraculous rescue. The movie is expected to show up on ABC during the upcoming primetime season.
CLASH OF THE EVILDOERS
New Line Cinema is moving forward with plans to pit two of its classic movie bad guys against one another in "Freddy vs. Jason" -- with Robert Englund making his eighth appearance as "Nightmare on Elm Street's" Freddy Krueger and Brad Renfro ("The Client," "Tom and Huck") as a young man who is caught in the middle of the showdown between homicidal maniacs.
No announcement has been made about who will play Jason Voorhees, who has wreaked havoc in 11 installments of "Friday the 13th."