ONLINE SCARES Stephen King‘s collision with a van knocked the multimedia right into him. He’s releasing his new 66-page ghost story ”Riding the Bullet” exclusively on the Internet on Tuesday, and people can download it from Simon & Schuster Online (and most other online bookstores) for only $2.50. ”I’m curious to see what sort of response there is and whether or not this is the future,” said King in a statement. The author’s agent for foreign rights, Ralph Vicinanza, said that to ease readers into Web reading, they decided to start slow. ”We’re dealing with a new technology here, and not many people are comfortable with the idea of reading an e-book,” he told the Associated Press. ”So we think to sort of get them used to it, it might be a good idea to do something short.”
CASTING Billy Bob Thornton is in talks to join Bruce Willis in ”Outlaws,” a comedy about two bank robber partners who get competitive over a woman. Barry Levinson is negotiating to direct…. Jamie Foxx may star in a remake of ”A Star Is Born” for director Oliver Stone…. Danny DeVito may team with Martin Lawrence in the comedy ”What’s the Worst That Can Happen.” DeVito would play a billionaire who steals the good-luck ring of a thief (Lawrence) robbing his mansion, and the crook becomes determined to get it back….. David Arquette will once again tread the thin line between wacky and clinically insane in ”See Spot Run,” a comedy about a postman who takes in a stray dog without knowing it has been trained to fight crime. If you loved ”K-9” — and you didn’t — you’ll love this!… Kelly McGillis — who you loved in ”Witness” and ”The Accused” and haven’t seen much of since — will join Michael Jeter (”The Green Mile”) in the CBS pilot ”Cold Shoulder.” McGillis plays an ex-cop trying to make it as a detective, and Übersidekick Jeter plays her pal.
WHO WANTS THIS STORY TO BE OVER? If you were holding out for a fairy-tale ending to the ”Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire” story, consider yourself a sap. Darva Conger has filed for an annulment in Las Vegas, citing ”fraud” (on the part of Fox not really expecting the marriage would work out) and ”mutual mistake,” but also mentioning her ignorance of Rick Rockwell‘s restraining order. Rockwell told Reuters that he was ”disappointed” that Conger included that ugliness in her official records, saying, ”I don’t understand why she would need to cite these 10- and 20-year-old accusations. I’m at a loss here.” Meanwhile, Conger says she has been fired from her job as a nurse at an L.A. hospital, and she is considering suing because she claims her employers gave no grounds, and she had already turned down ”millions of dollars” to tell her story. If scandal history has taught us anything, it’s that this tale can end only one way: October’s Playboy!
MOVIE NEWS There was good news and bad news for the movie industry Tuesday when the MPAA presented some state-of-the-union statistics. The average film production budget has dropped $1.2 million to $51.5 million, and average marketing costs contracted by $780,000, the first publicity shrinkage in 20 years, showing a refreshing trend toward restraint. As for total grosses, there was some sobering news to offset last year’s record $7.5 billion high. It turns out that this spike was not due to more people going to the movies, but rather because of the increase in ticket prices. Admissions actually dropped by 1.1 percent, while the average ticket price grew from $4.69 to $5.08. Luckily for theater owners, however, malleable moviegoers’ willingness to pay 50 cents more to supersize their popcorn may have grown as much as 48 percent.
ON THE ROAD Smashing Pumpkins have announced the first leg of a tour to support their earnestly titled new album, ”MACHINA/the machines of God.” They’ll hit the road on April 8 in Kansas City, Kan., and for now go through May 8 in Orlando, although more dates will be announced soon.
NEW LINEUP With ”Monday Night Football” suffering its worst ratings ever last season, ABC is getting nostalgic to make some changes. The network has hired former NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer — who produced ”MNF” in the Howard Cosell glory days of 1972-77 — to come back and executive produce the show for two years. ABC also sacked Boomer Esiason as commentator, and is currently looking for a replacement. Odds are Ohlmeyer won’t be recruiting Norm MacDonald.
COURT REPORT After pleading no contest to assault charges for dumping a drink on a guard’s head during a 1997 Motley Crue concert in North Carolina, Tommy Lee was put on 18 months probation and fined $161, according to the Associated Press. However, because of his plea, charges of felony riot with ethnic intimidation were dropped: During the incident, Lee and fellow band mate Nikki Sixx allegedly made racial remarks to the African-American security guard and told the audience of 2,500 to attack him. Lee and Sixx are still facing a civil lawsuit filed by the guard, and Sixx’s local charges are still pending.
OBITUARY British actor Charles Gray, best known for playing James Bond’s follicle-less nemesis Blofeld in ”Diamonds Are Forever,” died on Tuesday at the age of 71.