May 14, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

NO-SHOW OF FORCE George Lucas and Fox may be losing some of their power to make Force-full demands on theaters showing ”The Phantom Menace.” Loews Cineplex, a movie-theater chain that owns some of Manhattan’s biggest and most popular theaters, has refused to show ”The Phantom Menace” in its New York City theaters after being deadlocked in negotiations with the moviemakers. (Loews will, however, present ”Menace” in its 200 theaters outside New York.) And in Los Angeles, two top theaters — the Mann Chinese, where fans have been lined up the longest, and the Mann Village — have won the rights to play the film for only 4 weeks, not the 12 weeks the studio originally demanded.

CASTING Catherine Zeta-Jones‘s killer bod has been on display in ads for ”Entrapment”: Next she’s going to concentrate on just being a killer. In ”The Tenth Victim” she’ll play a woman who begins to have second thoughts about her government, which has turned murder into an organized sport…. Superactor Ian McKellen is getting into the supervillain game. He’ll play the diabolical villain Magneto in director Bryan Singer’s (”The Usual Suspects”) live-action version of ”The X-Men,” the long-running Marvel Comics series…. Kevin Sorbo is officially leaving ”Hercules” in the middle of this season, but he won’t be off the air for long. He’s committed to starring in one of two TV shows created by the late ”Star Trek” mastermind Gene Roddenberry. Sorbo has his pick of either ”Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda,” which centers around a scientist who is accidentally transplanted to the future on a distant planet, and ”Gene Roddenberry’s Starship,” a ”Trek”-ish tale of a wandering spaceship and its crew…. Now that his awkward years are behind him, Macaulay Culkin may be coming out of his early retirement. He’s in final talks to star in the indie ”Diary of a Mad Freshman,” the story of a college student who goes a little crazy in New York City when he’s on his own for the first time. Hmmmm. Natasha Lyonne (”Slums of Beverly Hills”) and Fairuza Balk (”The Waterboy”) may costar…. Patrick Swayze and Melanie Griffith are teaming in ”Loving Lulu,” the tale of a lovable schizophrenic who hunts down her old college sweetheart. Now THERE’S a lineup with marquee value…in 1987.

MAKING MUSIC Keanu Reeves is determined to be a rock star, success of ”The Matrix” be damned. His band Dogstar will release its first full-length record in the U.S. this fall and is giving fans an early taste of it with a spring tour that begins May 18 in Las Vegas.

REEL DEALS Anyone who’s seen Mel Gibson get shticky with it in the recent ”Lethal Weapon” movies won’t be surprised to hear of his great love for the Three Stooges. He is now developing a TV movie based on the group’s life and career, which is aiming for a 2000 airing. Although Gibson won’t be poking eyes as one of the big three, he may take a smaller role…. Anne Heche and Helen Mirren will both step behind the camera, helming two episodes of Showtime’s ”Directed By” series, where stars take on creating short films.

OFF THE AIR Alas, after escaping years of close calls, ”NewsRadio” has finally succumbed to NBC’s ax. The show won’t be returning next season, according to the Hollywood Reporter, joining ”Homicide” on the list of beloved but low-rated shows that the network is ditching for next year.

SHUTTING DOWN Hip-hop label Ruffhouse has hipped its last hop. The two heads of the label, which introduced The Fugees, Lauryn Hill, and Cypress Hill, have decided to split up and dissolve the label.

OBITUARY Meg Greenfield, a longtime editor at the Washington Post, died Thursday from cancer at the age of 68. Greenfield ran the editorial page of the Post for 20 years, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978.

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