News for 5/22/2006

Dancer Katherine Dunham Dies at Age 96

Associated Press Writer

Katherine Dunham, a pioneering dancer and choreographer, author and civil rights activist who left Broadway to teach culture in one of America's poorest cities, has died. She was 96.

Dunham died Sunday at the Manhattan assisted living facility where she lived, said Charlotte Ottley, executive liaison for the organization that preserves her artistic estate. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Dunham was perhaps best known for bringing African and Caribbean influences to the European-dominated dance world. In the late 1930s, she established the nation's first self-supporting all-black modern dance group.

"We weren't pushing `Black is Beautiful,' we just showed it," she later wrote.

During her career, Dunham choreographed "Aida" for the Metropolitan Opera and musicals such as "Cabin in the Sky" for Broadway. She also appeared in several films, including "Stormy Weather" and "Carnival of Rhythm."

Her dance company toured internationally from the 1940s to the '60s, visiting 57 nations on six continents. Her success was won in the face of widespread discrimination, a struggle Dunham championed by refusing to perform at segregated theaters.

For her endeavors, Dunham received 10 honorary doctorates, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the Albert Schweitzer Prize at the Kennedy Center Honors, and membership in the French Legion of Honor, as well as major honors from Brazil and Haiti.

"She is one of the very small handful of the most important people in the dance world of the 20th century," said Bonnie Brooks, chairman of the dance department at Columbia College in Chicago. "And that's not even mentioning her work in civil rights, anthropological research and for humanity in general."

After 1967, Dunham lived most of each year in predominantly black East St. Louis, Ill., where she struggled to bring the arts to a Mississippi River city of burned-out buildings and high crime.

She set up an eclectic compound of artists from around the globe, including Harry Belafonte. Among the free classes offered were dance, African hair-braiding and woodcarving, conversational Creole, Spanish, French and Swahili and more traditional subjects such as aesthetics and social science.

Dunham also offered martial arts training in hopes of getting young, angry males off the street. Her purpose, she said, was to steer the residents of East St. Louis "into something more constructive than genocide."

Government cuts and a lack of private funding forced her to scale back her programs in the 1980s. Despite a constant battle to pay bills, Dunham continued to operate a children's dance workshop and a museum.

Plagued by arthritis and poverty in the latter part of her life, Dunham made headlines in 1992 when she went on a 47-day hunger strike to protest U.S. policy that repatriated Haitian refugees.

"It's embarrassing to be an American," Dunham said at the time.

Dunham's New York studio attracted illustrious students like Marlon Brando and James Dean who came to learn the "Dunham Technique," which Dunham herself explained as "more than just dance or bodily executions. It is about movement, forms, love, hate, death, life, all human emotions."

In her later years, she depended on grants and the kindness of celebrities, artists and former students to pay for her day-to-day expenses. Will Smith and Harry Belafonte were among those who helped her catch up on bills, Ottley said.

"She didn't end up on the street though she was one step from it," Ottley said. "She has been on the edge and survived it all with dignity and grace."

Dunham was married to theater designer John Thomas Pratt for 49 years before his death in 1986.

'Housewives' casts Applewhites aside

By William Keck

Mehcad Brooks is sitting alone in the nearly cleared-out Applewhite living room. It is his last day as part of the Desperate Housewives cast.

Just a year ago, he won the role of Alfre Woodard's son on TV's hottest show, with much hype surrounding his character and the top-secret mystery that was supposed to be pivotal to Season 2.

In the season premiere, we met a woman (Woodard) with son Matthew (Brooks), whom some speculated might really be her secret lover, and another young man locked away in their basement (first Page Kennedy, who was fired over misconduct and replaced with NaShawn Kearse). But the son turned out to be just her son, and the other young man was a second son who had murdered the first son's girlfriend. Not so much a mystery as back story.

"It's been frustrating," says Brooks, his head in his hands. "I had a really rough personal year. The relationship that I was in was completely butting heads with my work. And I lost sleep over a stalker. He found me and gave me a script to read."

At work, Brooks became increasingly disappointed with how the Applewhite story developed, or, more accurately, did not. "It didn't pan out," he says, noting love scenes he shot with Joy Lauren (Danielle) never made it on air. "The show is called Desperate Housewives; it's not called The Applewhites, and Betty Applewhite (Alfre Woodard) wasn't quite incorporated. There was seniority and priority, and we were marginalized and completely segregated from every family except the Van De Kamps."

As for Woodard, who declined to talk for this story, Brooks says, "You have one of the greatest actresses of our time. ... I don't want to say that her talent was squandered, but a lot of people expected a lot more. And I'm one of those people."

But Brooks says the Applewhites get a big sendoff in the finale that involves a flashback to their life in Chicago. "It's a completely unexpected shocker that will satisfy a lot of people," Brooks says.

Adds creator Marc Cherry: "They're going out with a bang."

Tonight, He Comes Loses Second Director

Source: Variety

Just weeks after coming onboard Sony's Tonight, He Comes, director Gabriele Muccino has gone, reports Variety. The film is still on course to shoot next year with Will Smith starring.

Muccino was hired after Jonathan Mostow dropped out because of creative differences. The trade says that Smith and Muccino had such a strong rapport on the recently completed The Pursuit of Happyness that the star was eager to reteam with the Italian helmer. Once the dust settled and Muccino got into the project, they decided that the story of a superhero in midlife crisis wasn't for him, and the split was amicable.

Because Sony has Muccino preparing "Happyness" for a December release, the studio already pushed Tonight, He Comes from a summer start to early 2007. Warner Bros. used the open slot to accelerate the start of the Francis Lawrence-directed sci-fi film I Am Legend.

Home of the Brave Joins MGM Roster

Source: MGM

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM) has acquired all rights, including theatrical, home video and television, to the Irwin Winkler-directed Home of the Brave from Nu Image/Millennium Films, which will be produced in association with Emmett/Furla Films. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel and rapper 50 Cent as U.S. troops adjusting to life back home after enduring the physical and emotional toll of war in Iraq.

Written by Mark Friedman based on a story by Mark Friedman and Irwin Winkler, Home of the Brave is a compelling and gripping film about the struggles of adjusting to civilian life for these war-torn veterans and is expected to draw comparisons to films such as the Academy Award® winning The Best Years of Our Lives as well as the acclaimed movies Coming Home and The Deer Hunter. Rob Cowan, Irwin Winkler, George Furla and Avi Lerner will serve as producers of the movie.

"Irwin Winkler commands a distinguished reputation in the motion picture industry as one of its most progressive and honored filmmakers," said Rick Sands, Chief Operating Officer, MGM. "We are pleased continue our association with Irwin who has brought many big hits to the MGM library over the years including the recent 'De-Lovely,' which was distributed under the United Artists banner, to of course the 'Rocky' movies, which stands today as one of the studio's most important franchises. We are confident 'Home of the Brave' will have an indelible impact on the movie going public. This film sets a high standard by which other releases will be judged as we move into the filmmaker's awards season. 'Home of the Brave' is indicative of the high quality filmmaking and compelling entertainment experience that MGM will once again be recognized for."

Clark Woods, President, Domestic Theatrical Distribution, MGM, added: "A film like this in the hands of Irwin Winkler is sure to make an impact with audiences. His personal preference for highly emotional and controversial stories will add a dimension to this project that other directors simply could not bring to the screen."

Winkler added: "'Home of the Brave' is an important movie and it will be the one of the first to address the anguish and struggle that many of our veterans in Iraq are now facing when they return home to their families and friends. It's a topical movie since it will speak to the many physical and emotional challenges these veterans are forced to confront. I have had a long and successful association with MGM and look forward to continuing it with the new MGM management team."

Lerner stated: "I am pleased to be in business with MGM, which is the best studio for the film. The new management team is talented, experienced and savvy when it comes to distributing and marketing films. They know how to make this movie stand out."

Winkler's films have received 12 Academy Awards from 45 nominations including four Best Picture nominations - a record that stands alone in contemporary Hollywood. Winkler received the Academy Award® for Best Picture for his 1976 Sylvester Stallone starrer Rocky. His other Best Picture nominations were for Raging Bull, The Right Stuff and Goodfellas, while They Shoot Horses, Don't They? amassed nine Oscar nominations. Winkler is the only producer to have three of his films listed on the American Film Institute's list of the "top 100 films" of all time.

Weekend Boxoffice

"Da Vinci Code" Unlocks Millions

By Bridget Byrne

After all the mystery and controversy, The Da Vinci Code was finally unlocked for the public.

There was nothing cryptic about what was found. It was a hit.

Domestically, the film adaptation of Dan Brown's super popular novel earned an impressive $77 million while raking in a huge $224 million worldwide.

Expressing delight, Rory Bruer, president of distribution for Sony Pictures, said the derisive reception of director Ron Howard's and star Tom Hanks' work at the $125 million's production's Cannes Film Festival premiere, as well as threats of boycotts by religious groups, clearly hadn't hurt business.

In fact, all the press coverage was probably a boost to an already high profile project. The premise of Brown's successful thriller supposes that Jesus and Mary Magdalene's offspring live on and that certain factions of the Roman Catholic Church are very, very unhappy about that. Unhappy enough to kill.

"I think basically this was certainly a film that audiences were going to make up their own minds about. Having a lot of newscasters from TV and radio and from newspapers asking audiences what they thought raised awareness. And certainly we had some very high profile critics who liked the film. And probably our most important critic of all is Dan Brown--and he loved it!" Bruer said.

The PG-13 movie skews towards an adult audience, which bodes well for continued business during the upcoming weeks.

"Adult films tend to hold up better. They tend to play off over a period of time and certainly here in the U.S., with Memorial Day coming up next weekend, prospects are very good for a strong hold-over," said Bruer, who called the domestic gross above what the studio had anticipated and the worldwide gross "incredible."

"Audiences decide for themselves," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, Inc., the company that tallies studio grosses. He also noted that media reports of controversy about both the content and critical response undoubtedly created additional "awareness," which made even people who hadn't bought the book, "want to see what the fuss was about."

The movie, which also stars Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina and Paul Bettany as the albino killer monk, earned $29 million on Friday, $27.5 million on Saturday, and $20 million on Sunday, averaging a very impressive $20,616 per screen at 3,735 sites throughout North America. That only added up to be the 13th best domestic opening, but gave both Howard and Hanks their best-ever openings. (The record for the number one domestic opening is held by Spider-Man's $114.8 million.) Internationally--playing in 90 markets--the gross added up to the second best opening ever, reportedly surpassed only by Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which at this time last year opened at home with $108.4 million, part of its whopping record $253 million worldwide.

In considerably distant second place this weekend was Over the Hedge, the latest critter cartoon. But the DreamWorks pic's $37.2 million opening was slightly above studio expectations, according to Jim Tharp, president of motion picture distribution for Paramount Pictures, which now releases DreamWorks product.

"It's funny," said Tharp about the family-friendly appeal of the PG-rated CGI tale about a pushy raccoon (voiced by Bruce Willis) who leads a bunch of furry pals on raids against humans whose suburb has encroached on their wilderness. Opening at 4,059 theaters, it averaged $9,172.

Also opening wide was yet another Lions Gate horror flick, the R-rated See No Evil. At 1,257 sites, the pluck-out-your-eyes gory flick, starring wrestler Glen "Kane" Jacobs, scared up $3,461 per screen for $4.3 million, only enough for sixth place.

The arrival of two new hits pushed Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible III down to third place as it dropped 56 percent in its third week. However, the action sequel earned $11 million, edging past the $100 million mark to reach $103.2 million.

That's respectable, especially when compared to another recent expensive production, Poseidon. Never successfully afloat, the big boat a-sinking drama sank 58 percent in its second weekend, taking in just $9.2 million to bring its current gross to merely $36.7 million.

At just one theater The King, ThinkFilm's R-rated religious themed drama starring Gael Garcia Bernal and William Hurt, kicked off with $9,100.

Although this weekend's box office gross was up 80.1 percent over last weekend, it didn't improve on last year's numbers. The combined top 12 gross of $153.1 million was actually 2.1 percent below the $157.6 million generated when Revenge of the Sith hit screens 12 months ago.

Next weekend, which sees the arrival of Fox's X-Men: The Last Stand, has a chance to be a very successful Memorial Day weekend if business for this week's top entries holds up as expected.

Final figures are due Monday. The estimated top 10 domestic grosses for this weekend follow:

1. The Da Vinci Code, $77 million
2. Over the Hedge, $37.2 million
3. Mission: Impossible III, $11 million
4. Poseidon, $9.2 million
5. RV, $5.1 million
6. See No Evil, $4.3 million
7. Just My Luck, $3.3 million
8. An American Haunting, $1.6 million
9. United 93, $1.4 million
10. Akeelah and the Bee, $1 million

News for 5/16/2006

Lines Drawn for Best Musicial Tony Award

AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - It's shaping up as a battle between "The Drowsy Chaperone," a frothy celebration of a faux 1920s musical, and "Jersey Boys," showcasing the story and pop sounds of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

"Chaperone" received 13 Tony nominations Tuesday _ more than any other show _ while "Jersey Boys" grabbed eight nods in what has been a busy Broadway season. They were the two best-reviewed musicals of the season, with "Chaperone" already winning the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and "Jersey Boys" the Outer Critics Circle prize.

But also showing surprising Tony strength was "The Color Purple," the Oprah Winfrey-produced musical based on Alice Walker's novel about a determined woman's triumph over adversity. It placed second with 11 nominations.

All three will compete in the best musical category along with "The Wedding Singer," based on the 1998 Adam Sandler film.

"The History Boys," Alan Bennett's London success about a group of boisterous students trying to get into Oxford or Cambridge, dominated the play categories, receiving seven nominations including one for best play.

Although "The History Boys" is an ensemble piece, Richard Griffiths, who portrays a beloved teacher, was nominated for best actor. He already has won the Olivier Award in London for his performance.

"It's incredibly gratifying," Griffiths said Tuesday. "And I am very surprised and delighted. I'm pushing 60 myself, so having to jump about is very hard work."

The play's competition for the top drama prize will be "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," Martin McDonagh's comic splatterfest about a crazed Irish terrorist; "Shining City," Conor McPherson's ghost story set in present-day Dublin; and "Rabbit Hole," David Lindsay-Abaire's look at a suburban couple attempting to deal with the death of their young son.

Going up against Griffiths will be Ralph Fiennes who plays the title character in Brian Friel's "Faith Healer"; Oliver Platt, the haunted husband in "Shining City"; David Wilmot, a crazed terrorist in "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" and Zeljko Ivanek, an intense naval officer in "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial," which closes Sunday after a two-week run.

In one oddity, all the women nominated for best actress starred in plays that already have closed: Cynthia Nixon, the distraught mother in "Rabbit Hole"; Judy Kaye, a tone-deaf diva in "Souvenir"; Lisa Kron, an embattled daughter in "Well," and two performers from the revival of W. Somerset Maugham's "The Constant Wife," Kate Burton and Lynn Redgrave.

It was Redgrave's niece, Natasha Richardson who announced her aunt's nomination Tuesday at Lincoln Center and who called her mother in London, Vanessa Redgrave, who relayed the news to sister Lynn.

Said Lynn Redgrave, who was about to take a nap: "What a wonderful thing to dream on!"

One actress who is still starring on Broadway (through June 18) is Julia Roberts, but she was passed over for a nomination in "Three Days of Rain," as were her two co-stars, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper. The revival of Richard Greenberg's drama only received two design nominations.

Also pretty much ignored by the Tony nominators were Disney's "Tarzan," which could manage only one nomination (for lighting design) and "Lestat," Elton John's take on the Anne Rice vampire novels, which snagged just two (for costumes featured actress Carolee Carmello).

Harry Connick Jr. was luckier. He received an actor-musical nod for his work in the revival of "The Pajama Game," which got nine bids.

Connick will be up against Michael Cerveris, the bloody barber in "Sweeney Todd"; John Lloyd Young, who portrays crooner Frankie Valli in "Jersey Boys"; Bob Martin, the co-author and narrator-star of "The Drowsy Chaperone"; and Stephen Lynch, the lovesick hero of "The Wedding Singer."

"I'm just floored," said Young. "My voice teacher said something that just resonated with me: `Tens of thousands of people come to New York to become actors. Thousands get paid to act. Hundreds get on Broadway. Dozens play leads. And only five get nominated for a Tony.' I'm thinking of that today because so many levels ago I already won."

Kelli O'Hara, Connick's co-star in "The Pajama Game," received a nomination for actress-musical, as did Broadway veteran Patti LuPone, the industrious pie-maker in "Sweeney Todd." Also nominated in the category: LaChanze, the beleaguered heroine of "The Color Purple"; Sutton Foster for "The Drowsy Chaperone"; and the legendary Chita Rivera for playing herself in "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life."

The 13 nominations for "The Drowsy Chaperone" included two for Martin, as star and co-author of the show. In it, he plays a nameless fellow in love with an old musical _ which then comes to life.

"I think my character _ Man in Chair _ is recognizable to audiences," Martin said. "We all have a desire to be transported by musical theater. I have been incredibly lucky to always have been a writer and an actor. And the theater is one of the only places where I could be both."

The special regional theater Tony will go to the Intiman Theatre in Seattle, while director-producer Harold Prince will receive a special lifetime achievement award.

Who takes home the awards will be settled June 11 at Radio City Music Hall, where the winners will be announced in a three-hour telecast, beginning 8 p.m. EDT on CBS.

Click here to see the complete list of nominees.

News for 5/15/2006

Weekend Boxoffice

"Mission" Capsizes "Poseidon"

By Bridget Byrne

Double trouble for Poseidon--first toppled by a rogue wave, then Tom Cruise and indifferent moviegoers.

Mission: Impossible III held atop the box office over a dud Mother's Day weekend, when presumably more people were interested in taking mom to brunch than buying movie tickets.

Despite reports of Cruise's waning appeal, a lower-than-expected opening, and a 49 percent decline in its second weekend, the spy sequel earned enough ($24.5 million from Friday to Sunday, per studio estimates) to scuttle Poseidon, the all-star remake of the 1970s topsy-turvy boat tale, which opened in second place with $20.3 million.

Still, that was positively boffo compared to Lindsay Lohan's Just My Luck, which didn't have any. The romantic comedy only managed $5.5 million in its opening three days to finish a distant fourth behind the Robin Williams road trip comedy RV, which in its third week only dropped one slot to third place with $9.5 million.

But let's get back to M:I:III. The J.J. Abrams-directed flick averaged $6,039 at 4,059 theaters--tops among the films in wide release. After 10 days in theaters, Paramount's PG-13 franchise-extender has grossed $84.6 million.

The Wolfgang Petersen-helmed Poseidon, a PG-13 update of 1972's schlocky The Poseidon Adventure, this time starring Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum and Josh Lucas, was no Titanic. Generally given das boot by critics , it failed to hold much water with audiences either, averaging $5,717 at 3,555 sites.

But Warner Bros. is not yet declaring the $150 million-budgeted flick, one of its key summer entries, a disaster. "While we had hoped for a slightly stronger opening, it's a little premature to assess the financial viability of the movie," Dan Fellman, Warners' president of domestic distribution, told Reuters.

But with M:I:III hanging around and The Da Vinci Code and the critter 'toon Over the Hedge on the horizon for next weekend, it might prove difficult for Poseidon to stay afloat.

RV, on the other hand, isn't having such problems. The Sony film's weekend take was down just 14 percent, averaging $2,687 at 3,536 theaters, and its three-week gross is $42.8 million. Meanwhile, Fox's Just My Luck only managed $2,165 at 2,541 sites in is debut.

Another newcomer Goal! The Dream Begins also failed to score. Opening in 12th place, the PG-rated Buena Vista wannabe-able-to-bend -it-like-Beckham soccer drama, proved that World Cup fever clearly hasn't arrived, only kicking up $2 million from a $1,989 average at 1,007 locations.

In limited release, Miramax's PG-13 rated bar mitzvah comedy Keeping up with the Steins earned $621,000 at 138 locations. In really limited release, Sony Picture Classic's PG-13 documentary about the work of the famous architect Sketches of Frank Gehry, directed by Sydney Pollack, drew in a sturdy $17,426 from just two sites.

Hollywood could use a hug from mom after this weekend, when the top 12 films grossed just $81.7 million, down 18 percent from last weekend and 13 percent from this time last year.

Here's a rundown of the top-grossing weekend films, based on estimates compiled by box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations; final figures are due Monday:

1. Mission: Impossible III, $24.5 million
2. Poseidon, $20.3 million
3. RV, $9.5 million
4. Just My Luck, $5.5 million
5. An American Haunting, $3.7 million
6. United 93, $3.6 million
7. Stick It, $3.2 million
8. Ice Age: The Meltdown, $2.9 million
9. Silent Hill, $2.2 million
10. Hoot, $2.1 million

'Feast' on menu for Freeman

By Tatiana Siegel
The Hollywood Reporter

Morgan Freeman has signed on to star in the drama "The Feast of Love" for Lakeshore Entertainment.

Based on a Charles Baxter novel, the film revolves around a community of friends in Oregon and is described as an exploration of the magical, mysterious and sometimes painful incarnations of love. Freeman will play philosophy professor Harry Scott.

Oscar-winning helmer Robert Benton ("Kramer vs. Kramer") recently signed on to direct the film, which is scheduled to begin shooting in August (HR 4/27). Allison Burnett penned the screenplay.

Lakeshore's Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi are producing in association with Revelations Entertainment. Revelations' Lori McCreary will exec produce. Lakeshore International will handle international sales at this month's Festival de Cannes.

Freeman, a four-time Oscar nominee, won a best supporting actor statuette in 2005 for Lakeshore's "Million Dollar Baby." His recent credits include "Lucky Number Slevin," "The Big Bounce" and "Bruce Almighty." Freeman is filming "Evan Almighty," the sequel to "Bruce Almighty."

He is repped by WMA.

News for 5/9/2006

Ashanti Joins Resident Evil: Extinction

Source: Official Site

The official website for singer-actress Ashanti has revealed that she will appear in the "trilogy finale" Resident Evil: Extinction. The site does not reveal which role she will play in the Screen Gems film.

She'll join returning stars Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Sienna Guillory, Mike Epps and Iain Glen in the movie, based on the popular video game franchise.

"Extinction" revolves around the continuing battle against the evil Umbrella by Alice (Jovovich) and her allies.

Russell Mulcahy is directed a script by Paul W.S. Anderson in Mexico. Germany's Constantin Film and Impact Pictures are producing.

The first two films grossed more than $127 million at the North American box office.

Cheadle, Ejiofor call up "Talk" role

By Tatiana Siegel

Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor will star in "Talk to Me," a drama based on the true story of a controversial black DJ at a white-owned radio station.

The film, which begins shooting next month, centers on Ralph Waldo "Petey" Green (Cheadle), an ex-con who became an iconic Washington-area on-air personality in the 1960s. Ejiofor will play Dewey Hughes, producer of Green's show. Actress Kasi Lemmons will direct.

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, one of the backers of "United 93," is financing the drama, which will be distributed domestically by Focus Features.

Cheadle, whose credits include "Crash" and the "Ocean's Eleven" franchise, was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in "Hotel Rwanda."

Ejiofor, whose credits include "Kinky Boots" and "Dirty Pretty Things," is currently in theaters with "Inside Man" opposite Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster.

News for 5/8/2006

Fantasia Playing Fantasia in 'Fantasia Story'

Lifetime movie about 'Idol' winner scheduled for August

"American Idol" season three winner Fantasia Barrino will soon star in a Lifetime movie, playing a role that should be familiar: herself.

Shooting on "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story" is scheduled to begin this month, with Emmy winner Debbie Allen ("Fame") directing. Barrino will be joined in the cast by Loretta Devine ("Boston Public," "Dreamgirls"), Tony winner Viola Davis ("King Hedley," CBS' "Stone Cold") and Kadeem Hardison ("A Different World," "White Men Can't Jump").

"Fantasia made America fall in love with her through her astounding voice, but few people knew the obstacles she overcame to get where she is now," says Trevor Walton, who oversees original movies at Lifetime. "She openly shares her inspirational story, and audiences will see that she is not only a phenomenal singer, but also an impressive actress."

The movie is based on Barrino's autobiography of the same name. It tells the story of her less-than-idyllic childhood -- Davis and Hardison play her parents -- and her dropping out of school as a young teenager (Jamia Simone Nash plays the younger Fantasia). She became pregnant at 16 while stuck in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend.

"American Idol" changed all that, propelling Barrino to stardom and a recording career that's so far produced the platinum-selling album "Free Yourself."

Keith Glover wrote the teleplay for "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale." The movie is scheduled to premiere on Lifetime in August.

Weekend Boxoffice

'M:I III' Earnings Disappoint on 1st Weekend

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Fewer people chose to accept Tom Cruise's latest mission, a possible sign that the odd behavior of Hollywood's biggest star may have taken a toll on his box-office charm.

Paramount's "Mission: Impossible III" debuted with $48.025 million, a solid opening yet well below industry expectations and almost $10 million lower than the franchise's previous installment, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Industry analysts had expected the movie to open in the range of "Mission: Impossible II," which debuted with $57.8 million from Friday to Sunday over Memorial Day weekend in 2000, and Cruise's "War of the Worlds," which premiered with $64.9 million from Friday to Sunday over Fourth of July weekend last year.

Rob Moore, Paramount's head of worldwide marketing and distribution, said he did not believe Cruise's private life had any impact on "Mission: Impossible III," directed by "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams.

"I don't think so. There's no question it concerns us if the press is writing about things other than the movie," Moore said. "If people are writing about his personal life, then by definition, they're not writing about the movie."

Cruise's antics in the past year or so, publicity over his romance with Katie Holmes and the tabloid blitz regarding their daughter's birth in April may have left some movie-goers burned out or disenchanted with the actor.

Traditionally reserved about his private life, Cruise abruptly became an open book, jumping up and down on a couch while professing his love for Holmes in an interview with Oprah Winfrey and spouting his Scientology beliefs, including rants against psychiatry.

"Expectations were really high for this film. I think it's a good number, but people were obviously expecting better numbers," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "There's a lot to be said for how a star's public persona can affect a movie's box office."

"Mission: Impossible III" earned generally favorable reviews, some critics calling it the best in the franchise and many offering high praise for Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Cruise's nemesis.

Along with potential Cruise backlash, the long six-year interval since "Mission: Impossible II" may have dulled audience appetites.

Head-to-head comparisons are difficult, since the previous "Mission: Impossible" movies and "War of the Worlds" opened over long holiday weekends, when Sunday grosses typically are much stronger than during a regular weekend.

Debuting in about 55 other countries, "Mission: Impossible III" took in $70 million, for a worldwide total of $118 million. Paramount noted that the new movie beat the $115 million worldwide debut of "Mission: Impossible II" in those same countries.

Factoring in higher ticket prices, the debut for "Mission: Impossible III" looks worse. About 7.3 million people saw the new movie, compared with 10.7 million over the opening weekend for "Mission: Impossible II" and 10.3 million for "Mission: Impossible," which opened with $45.4 million over Memorial Day weekend in 1996.

The weekend's other wide releases had fair to poor openings. Freestyle Releasing's "An American Haunting," starring Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland in a 19th century supernatural tale, debuted at No. 3 with $6.4 million.

New Line's family film "Hoot," adapted from Carl Hiaasen's novel about teenagers trying to save endangered owls, flopped with $3.4 million, tied for No. 9.

"Mission: Impossible III' led Hollywood to its seventh-straight weekend of rising revenues. The top-12 movies took in $99.4 million, up 27 percent compared to the same weekend last year, when "Kingdom of Heaven" led the box office with an anemic $19.6 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Mission: Impossible III," $48.025 million.
2. "RV," $11.1 million.
3. "An American Haunting," $6.4 million.
4. "Stick It," $5.5 million.
5. "United 93," $5.2 million.
6. "Ice Age: The Meltdown," $4 million.
7. "Silent Hill," $3.9 million.
8. "Scary Movie 4," $3.8 million.
9. (tie). "Akeelah and the Bee," $3.4 million.
9 (tie). "Hoot," $3.4 million.

Laurence Fishburne Falls Prey

Source: Variety

Variety says Laurence Fishburne is attached to topline and James Marsh is directing Sobini Films' psychological thriller Prey, which is expected to start shooting in the fall.

Jerrold Brown's script follows a man who sets out on a solo hunting expedition in the middle of winter and severely injures his leg. He is rescued by a mysterious trapper with secretly sinister intentions.

Sobini's Mark Amin, Robin Schorr and Cami Winikoff are producing. Gina Marcheschi, Dave Brown and David Levine executive produce.

Gere & Howard Spend Spring Break in Bosnia

Source: Variety

Richard Gere and Terrence Howard are in talks to star in Spring Break in Bosnia, for which The Weinstein Company has acquired North American, Australian and New Zealand distribution rights. Variety says The Matador helmer Richard Shepard will direct.

Shepard wrote the comic drama, which is based on an Esquire article by Scott Anderson about the half-hearted attempt he and fellow journalists Sebastian Junger and John Falk made at corralling an alleged Bosnian war criminal. The three found themselves in a predicament when they were identified as a CIA hit squad.

The Weinstein Company, which took over distribution rights from Warner Bros., are planning for a summer start in Europe.

Topher Grace circled the project at WB and its unclear whether he'll return to round out the trio.

News for 4/27/2006

Weekend Boxoffice

'Silent Hill' Leads Box Office With $20.2M

Horror was king of the hill at the box office again. "Silent Hill" debuted as the weekend's top movie, taking in $20.2 million, the latest in a string of No. 1 debuts for fright films, including "Hostel" and "When a Stranger Calls."

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. are:

1. "Silent Hill," Sony, $20,152,598, 2,926 locations, $6,887 average, $20,152,598, one week.

2. "Scary Movie 4," Weinstein Co., $16,814,942, 3,673 locations, $4,578 average, $67,478,181, two weeks.

3. "The Sentinel," Fox $14,367,854, 2,822 locations, $5,091 average, $14,367,854, one week.

4. "Ice Age: The Meltdown," Fox, $13,284,408, 3,540 locations, $3,753 average, $168,348,135, four weeks.

5. "The Wild," Disney, $8,332,068, 2,854 locations, $2,919 average, $22,240,635, two weeks.

6. "The Benchwarmers," Sony, $7,256,143, 3,094 locations, $2,345 average, $47,101,418, three weeks.

7. "Take the Lead," New Line, $4,176,517, 2,413 locations, $1,731 average, $29,482,613, three weeks.

8. "Inside Man," Universal, $3,748,955, 2,021 locations, $1,855 average, $81,313,510, five weeks.

9. "American Dreamz," Universal, $3,667,420, 1,500 locations, $2,445 average, $3,667,420, one week.

10. "Friends With Money," Sony Pictures Classics, $3,179,025, 991 locations, $3,208 average, $4,960,765, three weeks.

11. "Thank You for Smoking," Fox Searchlight, $2,780,969, 1,020 locations, $2,726 average, $15,781,403, six weeks.

12. "Lucky Number Slevin," MGM, $2,475,903, 1,735 locations, $1,427 average, $18,674,953, three weeks.

13. "Failure to Launch," Paramount, $1,410,982, 1,295 locations, $1,090 average, $85,604,643, seven weeks.

14. "V For Vendetta," Warner Bros., $1,049,273, 855 locations, $1,227 average, $68,002,102, six weeks.

15. "La Mujer De Mi Hermano," Lionsgate, $567,671, 217 locations, $2,616 average, $1,902,664, two weeks.

16. "Phat Girlz," Fox Searchlight, $493,120, 444 locations, $1,111 average, $6,358,003, three weeks.

17. "ATL," Warner Bros., $476,395, 602 locations, $791 average, $20,694,837, four weeks.

18. "She's the Man," DreamWorks, $413,640, 440 locations, $940 average, $32,694,175, six weeks.

19. "Deep Sea 3-D," Warner Bros., $386,002, 45 locations, $8,578 average, $6,765,608, eight weeks.

20. "Eight Below," Disney, $304,818, 432 locations, $706 average, $80,587,787, 10 weeks.

Will Smith Is 'Legend'

The Fresh Prince may battle mutants for Warner Bros.

"I Am Legend," the cinematic equivalent of the boy who cried wolf, is about to be resurrected again at Warner Bros. with Will Smith once again attached to star.

As has long been rumored, Francis Lawrence ("Constantine") is the studio's choice to direct, while Variety reports that Smith has a pay-or-play deal on the project, which may add some urgency to a vehicle that has been shelved and reshelved more often than a new Tom Clancy thriller at a small town library.

Richard Matheson's novel has hardly lacked for adaptations in the past, becoming both "The Last Man on Earth" and, more famously, Charlton Heston's "The Omega Man." The story follows the planet's last healthy man, the survivor of a virus outbreak that transforms many people into hilariously nasty mutants.

For years, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to star for director Ridley Scott. After that duo fell through, Smith became involved along with director Michael Bay. But that was back in 2002 and the subsequent years have been filled with rumored revivals. The latest version of the script was written by Akiva Goldsman ("Batman & Robin") and Mark Protosevich.

Smith is going to have a wacky time trying to fit "Legend" into his schedule. The actor has completed work on "Pursuit of Happyness" and he's next expected to segue into the unfortunately titled "Tonight, He Comes."

In theory, "I Am Legend" would follow "Tonight," possibly shooting in early 2007. However, in recent weeks Smith has also been linked to "Greenbacks" at Fox, "It Takes a Thief" for Universal and the Columbia property "Time Share."

News for 4/19/2006

Weekend Boxoffice

'Scary Movie' Sends Weinsteins to the Top

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Bob and Harvey Weinstein returned to the box-office lead as "Scary Movie 4" debuted with $41 million, the first No. 1 opening for the new company founded by the former Miramax bosses.

It was the best Easter weekend debut ever, beating the $30.1 million opening of "Panic Room" in 2002, according to studio estimates Sunday.

With the success of "Scary Movie 4," Bob Weinstein said he hopes to have a fifth film in the horror-spoof franchise in theaters over Easter weekend next year.

"I say the Weinsteins should be getting `Scary Movie' 5 through 10 ready right away," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Weinstein said director David Zucker and writer Jim Abrahams, collaborators on "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" movies, would reteam for the next sequel.

"Scary Movie 4" was released under the Weinstein Co.'s Dimension label, which the brothers brought with them after their departure from Disney-owned Miramax last year. Disney continues to share half the proceeds from the "Scary Movie" flicks and any future installments in pre-existing Dimension franchises, such as the "Scream" or "Spy Kids" series.

The Weinsteins will have sole control over any new franchises Dimension undertakes.

"We've got four or five new franchises in development, so it's not just like I'm going to go ad infinitum on the old stuff," Bob Weinstein said. "We've got other ideas that I'm really excited about starting."

The animated hit "Ice Age: The Meltdown," which had been No. 1 the previous two weekends, slipped to second place with $20 million, raising its total to $147.2 million.

The weekend's other new wide release, Disney's animated tale "The Wild," debuted at No. 4 with $9.6 million.

Fox Searchlight's acclaimed satire "Thank You for Smoking," a hit in limited release, expanded nationwide and took in $4.45 million to come in at No. 8.

Hollywood's overall revenues rose for the fourth-straight weekend, with the top-12 movies grossing $110 million. That was up 23 percent from 2005's Easter weekend, which came three weeks earlier last year. It was up about 45 percent compared to the mid-April weekend last year.

The industry has pulled ahead slightly from its slow pace last year, when movie attendance fell 8 percent. The "Ice Age" and "Scary Movie" sequels have provided a solid lead-in to what analysts consider a strong early-summer lineup that launches next month with "Mission: Impossible III," "The Da Vinci Code," the animated tale "Over the Hedge" and "Poseidon," a remake of "The Poseidon Adventure."

"Scary Movie 4" continued the success of 2003's "Scary Movie 3, "which had rejuvenated the fading franchise by softening the tone from the R ratings of the first two installments to PG-13. The first "Scary Movie" opened at No. 1 in 2000 with a $42 million take.

The latest version features longtime "Scary Movie" player Anna Faris and co-stars Leslie Nielsen, a Zucker and Abrahams favorite who starred in "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun" comedies.

Bob Weinstein said 40 to 50 percent of the audience was in the 12- to 17-year-old range. The movie also drew well among older audiences lured in by the Zucker-Abrahams brand of humor, Weinstein said.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Scary Movie 4," $41 million.
2. "Ice Age: The Meltdown," $20 million.
3. "The Benchwarmers," $10 million.
4. "The Wild," $9.6 million.
5. "Take the Lead," $6.7 million.
6. "Inside Man," $6.3 million.
7. "Lucky Number Slevin," $4.6 million.
8. "Thank You for Smoking," $4.45 million.
9. "Failure to Launch," $2.6 million.
10. "V for Vendetta," $2.2 million.

News for 4/13/2006

Alicia Keys Lands Another Film Role

Alicia Keys is adding another note to her acting resume. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter has been cast in the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling book, "The Nanny Diaries," Keys' spokeswoman, Kelly Bush, said Thursday.

The film features Scarlett Johansson as a nanny for a wealthy Manhattan family. Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney and Chris Evans also star. Keys will play the nanny's best friend, Bush said.

The character is a far cry from the assassin she plays in the upcoming action flick "Smokin' Aces," which features Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Jeremy Piven and Ray Liotta.

Keys, 24, and longtime manager Jeff Robinson formed a production company, Big Pita, Lil' Pita, in January that will create original television and movie projects — and even more acting opportunities for Keys.

Singleton Producing Illegal Tender

Source: Variety

John Singleton will produce drama Illegal Tender, with Empire screenwriter-helmer Franc Reyes attached to direct, says Variety. The project has sparked the interest of several domestic distributors.

Reyes' script tracks a young Latino man on the run with his mother from thugs who killed his father.

Casting talks are under way with top reggaeton artist Tego Calderon, Rick Gonzalez, Wanda De Jesus and Zoe Saldana. Reggaeton music, while not the centerpiece of the story, will dominate the soundtrack. Reyes is currently in Puerto Rico location scouting and hiring local crew.

Budgeted at some $3 million, the film is slated to start shooting May 9 on location in Puerto Rico and New York.

Filming of Illegal Tender will coincide with that of another Latino-themed pic, Mal de Amores, to be directed by Luis Ruiz and executive produced by Benicio Del Toro, Don Ranvaud and Ruiz. Sony BMG's Reggaeton, co-produced by Jennifer Lopez's Nuyorican Productions and to be directed by Argentina's Alejandro Chomski, is slated to shoot there in late June.

Screen Gems Picks Up To Each His Own

Source: Variety

Screen Gems has acquired urban drama To Each His Own, a spec script written by Tyrese Gibson, says Variety.

Gibson will star in and produce the film, about two friends in conflict, through his HQ Pictures company.

The model-turned-rapper-turned-actor previously sold the pitches D.A. Verdict to MGM and Extortion to Universal but was too busy to pen the scripts. When neither turned out as he'd envisioned, Gibson invested the time to write To Each His Own.

The trade says he plans to eventually rewrite Extortion, a project in which he still hopes to star.

Smith Acts For the 'Greenbacks'

Busy 'Hitch' star will also produce thriller

Will Smith may star in 'Greenbacks,' a thriller set up at 20th Century Fox.

According to Variety, Smith and Overbrook Entertainment partner James Lassiter would produce the drama, which is based off a script by "Double Jeopardy" scribes Doug Cook and David Weisberg.

The film is set in Morocco and would star Smith as an American abroad who uncovers a massive counterfeiting ring.

Smith is a busy, busy man. He's completed work on "Pursuit of Happyness" and is next project is expected to be "Tonight, He Comes." It was just last week, though, that Variety attached the "Ali" Oscar nominee to a big screen version of "It Takes a Thief." Smith's Overbrook shingle is also producing "Monster Hunter" for Sony.

Black channel TV One scores sitcom, movie rights

By Kimberly Nordyke

TV One, a cable channel that targets black viewers, said Monday that it has acquired rerun rights to a slew of movies and TV series, including such films as "The Color Purple" and "Malcolm X," and UPN sitcoms "All of Us" and "Eve."

The multiyear deal, with Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution, marks the biggest programming acquisition for the network in its two-year history.

TV One said the agreement marks the first time it has obtained off-network rights to sitcoms currently airing on a broadcast network. It can begin airing "All of Us" and "Eve" in the fall, which will mark their off-network premieres. Both shows are now in their third seasons, but face an uncertain future. The CW, the new network launching in the fall with the merger of WB Network and UPN, hasn't yet announced whether either show will be on its schedule for the 2006-07 season.

The deal also includes rights to such series as "Living Single," "For Your Love," "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper," "The Parent 'Hood," "Wanda at Large," "All About the Andersons," "Fastlane" and "A Man Called Hawk" as well as recent episodes of "Showtime at the Apollo." Through the agreement, TV One also is renewing rights to air the comedies "Roc" and "Martin."

Other movie titles on the slate include windows on such films as "Lean on Me," "New Jack City," "Purple Rain," "Shaft" "Superfly," "Round Midnight," "Rosewood," "Boiling Point," "Uptown Saturday Night," "Strictly Business," "Cabin in the Sky," "Krush Groove" and "Sparkle."

TV One and Warner Bros. declined comment on the financial terms of the deal. TV One, which launched in January 2004, serves more than 28.4 million households.

Actresses "Flirt" with Wayne Brady in CW pilot

By Nellie Andreeva

In some of the last major pilot castings of the season, Tamala Jones and Bree Turner have joined CW's comedy "Flirt," which stars Wayne Brady as the sole man working at a women's magazine. Jones ("Head of State") and Turner will play co-workers.

Jake Sandvig ("Sky High") and Heather Burns have come on board NBC's comedy "20 Good Years," which centers on two New York men (John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor) in their 50s who decide to make the most of the next 20 years of their lives.

Andrew Walker ("Sabrina, the Teenage Witch") has been added to ABC's untitled comedy about two sisters (Marisa Coughlan, Kaley Cuoco) who live together, despite having grown up under different circumstances.

Nadia Dajani has joined ABC's comedy pilot "Welcome to the Jungle Gym," about three young mothers (Teri Polo, Jennifer Aspen, Dajani), and Kyle Kaplan has been added to CBS' comedy pilot "You've Reached the Elliotts," playing star Chris Elliott's son.

Weekend Boxoffice

'Ice Age' Packs Heat With $33.8M Weekend

"Ice Age: The Meltdown" took in $33.8 million to remain the top movie for a second-straight weekend and become the first movie released this year to cross the $100 million mark at the box office.

The sports comedy "The Benchwarmers" was the best of the newcomers, debuting at No. 2 with $19.7 million.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.:

1. "Ice Age: The Meltdown," Fox, $33,823,894, 3,969 locations, $8,522 average, $115,751,973, two weeks.

2. "The Benchwarmers," Sony, $19,656,429, 3,274 locations, $6,004 average, $19,656,429, one week.

3. "Take the Lead," New Line, $12,051,277, 3,009 locations, $4,005 average, $12,051,277, one week.

4. "Inside Man," Universal, $9,131,410, 2,867 locations, $3,185 average, $66,013,040, three weeks.

5. "Lucky Number Slevin," MGM-Weinstein, $7,031,921, 1,984 locations, $3,544 average, $7,031,921, one week.

6. "Failure to Launch," Paramount, $4,130,869, 2,616 locations, $1,579 average, $79,145,215, five weeks.

7. "ATL," Warner Bros., $3,710,215, 1,602 locations, $2,316 average, $17,215,267, two weeks.

8. "V for Vendetta," Warner Bros., $3,404,210, 2,003 locations, $1,700 average, $62,296,435, four weeks.

9. "Phat Girlz," Fox Searchlight, $3,109,924, 1,060 locations, $2,934 average, $3,109,924, one week.

10. "Thank You for Smoking," Fox Searchlight, $2,309,097, 299 locations, $7,723 average, $6,193,074, four weeks.

11. "Stay Alive," Disney, $2,244,848, 1,845 locations, $1,217 average, $20,528,639, three weeks.

12. "She's the Man," DreamWorks, $2,209,470, 2,026 locations, $1,091 average, $29,850,290, four weeks.

13. "Slither," Universal, $1,634,595, 1,946 locations, $840 average, $6,585,330, two weeks.

14. "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector," Lionsgate, $1,535,134, 1,455 locations, $1,055 average, $13,717,136, three weeks.
15. "The Shaggy Dog," Disney, $1,207,878, 1,701 locations, $710 average, $55,706,760, five weeks.

16. "Basic Instinct 2," Sony, $1,017,607, 1,453 locations, $700 average, $5,225,676, two weeks.

17. "The Hills Have Eyes," Fox Searchlight, $692,057, 693 locations, $999 average, $40,324,340, five weeks.

18. "Friends With Money," Sony Pictures Classics, $589,332, 28 locations, $21,048 average, $589,332, one week.

19. "Deep Sea 3-D," Warner Bros., $434,574, 46 locations, $9,447 average, $5,220,472, six weeks.

20. "Eight Below," Disney, $301,214, 509 locations, $592 average, $79,847,324, eight weeks.