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''Unbreakable,'' ''Dalmations,'' and ''Grinch'' battle for box office

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Bruce Willis, Unbreakable

BOX OFFICE This year’s battle for the Thanksgiving box office prize is almost as fierce as the dynamics that are sure to fly around many a well laid American table this weekend. Disney has brought out a cornucopia of choices — ”Unbreakable” and ”102 Dalmatians” — to compete against the reigning box office champ , ”How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Whether or not the adult targeted suspense offering (which reteams ”Sixth Sense” director M. Night Shyamalan with star Bruce Willis) can score more goods from audiences than the G rated live action ”Dalmatians” remains in question.

Regardless, industry watchers predict that The Mouse House will make off with the largest slice of Thanksgiving pie, given that Jim Carrey‘s ”Grinch” has already enjoyed a better than expected early run. (An additional $3.6 million was added to its record $55.1 million debut take on Monday.) ”[Disney] feels they own [the Thanksgiving] period, and they’ll do anything they can to make sure they have product out there through the holidays,” analyst Arthur Rockwell of Rockwell Capital Management in Los Angeles told Variety. Nevertheless, ”Grinch”’s distributor, Universal, is confident that their kid friendly pic will continue to fare well among the box office Who’s Who. ”I think there’s room in the marketplace for the variety of films being offered,” said Universal distribution prez Nikki Rocco. Besides, seeing a movie is the best way to avoid talking to your relatives.

PLANS The ever reliable British tab the Sun claims to have the scoop on Madonna‘s next move. The Material Mom reportedly plans to wed the father of her son Rocco. ”Guy has asked me to marry him and I’ve said yes but we haven’t decided when yet,” the paper quoted her as saying. She goes on to say that she’s decided against tying the knot with Ritchie before Christmas because of the busy pre- holiday schedules. No doubt she’s hard at work on all those handmade Martha Stewart Christmas decorations.

MARKETING It’s been one mind boggling publicity stunt after the other this week for the Backstreet Boys. At the end of their 100 hour world tour Tuesday, the Prefab Four announced an extended tour before a crowd of thousands of squealing fans in New York’s Times Square. The BSBs expect to hit the road on Jan. 22 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ”It’ll be mostly all the new stuff from the new album, ”Black & Blue,” plus the greatest hits from the other albums,” member Howie D. said of the tour at a press conference. Gosh, they’re so full of surprises.

BANNED You won’t see any more unauthorized photos of newlyweds Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones floating around Britain anytime soon. The couple won a ban on such pics appearing in Hello magazine, according to London’s Daily Telegraph. The pair has already sold exclusive rights to their intimate nuptial moment to Hello’s biggest rival, OK! magazine, for about $1 million. But Hello still managed to run a few illicit shots in their Monday edition. OK! then filed an injunction and the High Court ruled that 740,000 copies of Hello be removed from newsstands. Fortunately, other rivals So So, Bye Bye, and How Do You Do have decided against publishing their illegal pics.

BOOKS The courts may have decided that Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee was unjustly accused of giving nuclear secrets to China. But that hasn’t stopped the recently released Lee from selling a few of his own secrets to Hyperion press. A book about his experiences during the trial will likely appear in 2001 — to be followed by the inevitable TV miniseries. Possible title: ”Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Transferring Files to Your Laptop.”

DEATHS Hip hop producer DJ Screw, né Robert Earl Davis was found dead in his Houston studio, according to the Houston Chronicle. The cause of death has yet to be determined. Davis pioneered an idiosyncratic production style known as ”screwed down” music, which involves slowing tracks to half speed or less. A ”screwed” version of the Outkast‘s ”Stanklove appears as a hidden track on the group’s recent release ”Stankonia”. Davis was 29…. New York Daily News columnist Lars-Erik Nelson — one of America’s most passionate liberal voices — has died in his suburban Washington home of a suspected stroke. Nelson — who was also a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books — had been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize many times, including last year when he attacked the government’s case against Wen Ho Lee. He was 59.

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