Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporer   |   Sept. 30, 2002 at 3:23 PM
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MOVIE AUDIENCES 'SWEET' ON REESE

The Reese Witherspoon comedy "Sweet Home Alabama" finished first at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend with an estimated $37.5 million -- setting a new record for an opening weekend in September and leading the box office to its strongest performance since the height of the summer season.

The previous record for best opening weekend in September belonged to "Rush Hour," which opened with $33 million in 1998. "Sweet Home Alabama's" take was the biggest opening number at the U.S. box office since "XXX" opened with $44.5 million seven weeks ago.

Jackie Chan's new action-comedy "The Tuxedo" opened in second place with an estimated $15.1 million. "Barbershop," the urban comedy that made news last week when some civil rights leaders complained about some irreverent jokes in one scene, was third with $10.1 million.

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" continued to bring in significant business, with $9.8 million in its 24th weekend in release and a running total of $137 million. Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon in "The Banger Sisters" rounded out the Top 5 with $5.4 million.

"Signs" took in $2.3 million, running its overall total to $221.1 million -- good for No. 31 on the all-time U.S. list behind "Rush Hour 2." Box-office analysts expect business will continue to be strong this weekend when Anthony Hopkins returns for his third go-around as Hannibal Lechter in "Red Dragon."

The Top 10 box-office attractions grossed $91 million, about $30 million more than for the comparable weekend of 2001. So far in 2002, the U.S. box office has taken in $6.7 billion, about 13 percent ahead of last year's pace.


IS THIS IT FOR 'RAYMOND'?

It could be nothing more than unguarded speculation, but Ray Romano is suggesting that his hit CBS comedy "Everybody Loves Raymond" might not go on past the 2003-04 season.

As the show launches it seventh season, Romano told TV Guide it's important to him to leave the stage while the audience is still laughing.

"You don't want to leave when you're sliding down," he said.

Romano said, one way or the other, he doesn't see the show lasting through a 10th season.

"I don't even see nine," he said.

Romano recently won his first Emmy for lead actor in a comedy series for the show's sixth season on CBS, where it has been a ratings winner on Monday nights.


REMAKING A CLASSIC

According to a report in Daily Variety, Columbia Pictures executives plan to meet this week with producer Mike Medavoy ("Vertical Limit," "The Sixth Day"), director Todd Phillips ("Road Trip") and political consultant James Carville to talk about a remake of the 1949 political drama "All the King's Men."

Based on Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the rise and fall of a Southern politician, the movie won Oscars for best picture, actor (Broderick Crawford) and supporting actress (Mercedes McCambridge).

Carville -- a major player in Democratic Party politics and current co-host of "Crossfire" on CNN -- told Variety the remake would not focus as narrowly as the original did on the central character.

"I think the emphasis on the first one was way too much on the king, and not enough on the king's men -- or women," said Carville, "and I just think there's a hell of a remake in it."

Carville is something of a Hollywood veteran, having appeared as a prosecutor in "The People vs. Larry Flynt" (1996) and as himself in the 1993 documentary "The War Room," about the 1992 presidential campaign.

"All the King's Men" was also made as a TV movie in 1958, directed by Sidney Lumet.


JASPER, TEXAS, TV MOVIE ON THE WAY

Plans are under way at Showtime for a TV movie about the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr., the Jasper, Texas man who was brutally killed because he was black.

Byrd's death made national headlines. Three white men offered him a ride in a pickup truck, then chained him to the bumper and dragged him along a highway.

"Jasper, Texas," starring Oscar-winning actors Jon Voight and Louis Gossett Jr., will focus on the effect the incident had on the town of Jasper.


CASTING NOTES

According to published reports in Hollywood, Robert De Niro, Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos are in final talks to star in "Godsend" -- described as a horror-thriller about a couple who seek help from a scientist to bring back their son, after he is accidentally shot and killed.

The project is being directed by Nick Hamm, the former resident director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose film resume also includes "The Hole" (2001), "Talk of Angels" (1998) and "Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence" (1998).


BARBRA'S NEW FUNDRAISING RECORD

Barbra Streisand -- who retired from live concert performing two years ago -- made an exception Sunday night to sing nine songs at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood and raise an estimated $6 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

According to party officials, that's a new record for the DCCC, which is waging a campaign to try to win control of Congress in the upcoming Nov. 5 election. Some 3,500 people attended the National Democratic Gala, with ticket prices starting at $500.

The show also featured performances by Barry Manilow and comedian Steve Harvey.


TIM ALLEN TO RAISE FUNDS FOR YMCA

Tim Allen is scheduled to host the 35th Annual Hollywood Wilshire YMCA Booster Night on Oct. 14 at a Hollywood comedy club, an event described as the largest annual fundraiser for a YMCA in the United States.

Allen, whose new movie "The Santa Claus 2" opens on Nov. 1, is sponsoring the event at the Laugh Factory through the Laura Deibel and Tim Allen Foundation. The Hollywood Wilshire YMCA Boosters have raised almost $3 million through the annual event, to provide need-based scholarships for Hollywood YMCA programs.

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