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Time Warner and AOL receive final FCC appoval for merger

Plus, Calista Flockhart adopts a baby boy, Ang Lee considers directing a ”Hulk” flick, and more

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Steve Case, Gerald Levin, ...
Steve Case & Gerald Levin: Les Stone/Corbis Sygma

MERGER It’s hard to believe that any nuptial occasion could impact our lives more than Madonna‘s recent union with Guy Ritchie — but there is one. Media giant AOL acquired Time Warner (EW.com’s parent) after finally receiving full approval from the FCC late Thursday. The companies vowed that the $106 billion merger would help foster consumer choices on the Internet, in entertainment and communications. Of course, they are required to function within strict limits set up by the FCC in order to ensure that the union of the world’s largest old and new media companies does not result in a monopoly.

For example, future generations of AOL’s widely used instant messenger service must be designed to work with rival Internet providers. Likewise, both companies must give competing services access to their high speed cable lines. ”These conditions are designed to protect the open competitive nature of the Internet,” FCC Chairman William Kennard said. ”They protect consumers and avoid heavy handed regulation by using a narrowly tailored market opening approach.”

BOX OFFICE A healthy selection of high caliber films will compete for box office bounty as seven new flicks move into wide release over Martin Luther King day weekend. Although the unlikely mentor tale ”Finding Forrester” and the girlish ”Save the Last Dance” are most likely to lead the pack of newcomers in earnings, none of them has enough blockbuster potential to knock ”Cast Away” off its three week roost at No. 1. The martial arts fantasy ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” has already generated more than $15 million in select markets — more than any other Asian language film ever in the United States. But it remains to be seen how the suburban set will respond to the subtitles. David Mamet‘s Hollywood is hell film ”State and Main,” the Cuban Missile crisis drama ”Thirteen Days,” the thriller ”Anti-Trust,” and ”Double Take,” a remake of 1957’s ”Across the Bridge,” are also opening wide.

NEW ADDITION ”Ally McBeal” may have lost her costar to the law. But Calista Flockhart has found love at last. The 36 year old actress adopted a baby boy. ”I’m completely enchanted and awestruck,” she said in a statement. ”I feel extremely fortunate and grateful that I work for such a supportive company that offers a wonderful child care facility, enabling me to spend a lot of time with my son while I’m working.”

RATINGS Few Americans could resist the lure of episode one of Fox’s ”Tempation Island”. The reality show averaged about 16.1 million viewers Wednesday night, taking second place only to NBC’s Emmy feted ”The West Wing” (17.7 million viewers). Moreover, the island paradise show scored the highest numbers among the coveted young adult demographic. ”It did pretty good numbers,” Stacy Lynne Koerner, a buyer with T.N. Media, told Reuters. Though she also said she found the show ”personally repugnant.” Good to know.

REEL DEAL Director Ang Lee is in negotiations to leap from his martial arts romance ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to the feature adaptation of ”The Incredible Hulk.” It might seem strange for the mostly art house Taiwanese director to take on the tale of Bruce Banner and his mean green alter ego. But those who know the fractured psychologies of the characters in his ”Sense and Sensibility” and ”The Ice Storm” can see why he might feel a kinship for the gentle giant with multiple personalities.

DUETS So, what ever happened to the much discussed Ricky Martin/ Christina Aguilera duet? The duet version of Martin’s ”Nobody Wants to Be Lonely” was distributed to radio stations across the country this weekend. However, the single is not up for sale. The tune will apparently be made available only to those who have purchased the Latin popster’s recent release ”Sound Loaded”. But there are no details as yet on how to get the song.