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Hollywood rakes in a record $8 billion in 2001

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Rachel Weisz, Brendan Fraser, ...
The Mummy Returns: Universal

REEL DEALS In 2001, for the first time, Hollywood raked in more than $8 billion in domestic box office receipts, marking a record tenth straight year of growth. The final tally is estimated at $8.38 billion, up nine percent from last year’s $7.66 billion take. Somewhere between 1.44 and 1.48 billion tickets were sold, nearly equaling or perhaps surpassing the 1998 record of 1.48 billion admissions. Granted, ticket prices rose this year to an average of about $5.67, but the numbers are still impressive, considering that a string of theater-chain bankruptcies reduced the number of screens this year by about 1,150. A record five films grossed more than $200 million, led by ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” ($291.4 million to date), ”Shrek,” ”Monsters, Inc.,” ”Rush Hour 2,” and ”The Mummy Returns,” with ”The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” on its way to breaking $200 million within the next few days…

Ladies and gentlemen, elvish has left the building. Liv Tyler had to learn Tolkien’s invented language for her role in the ”Lord of the Rings” movies, but she denies rumors that she turned into an elf geek who continued to speak in the imaginary tongue off the set. ”I even read that my friends are mad at me because I call and leave messages in elvish,” she told The Chicago Sun-Times. ”It’s not true. I have absolutely never said anything to anyone in elvish except on the set and to a few journalists.”…

Favorite ”Star Wars” rumor of the new year: various fan sites report that ‘N Sync will have a very brief cameo in this summer’s ”Episode Two — Attack of the Clones.” George Lucas supposedly slipped the boy band in as a favor to his two daughters. Don’t blink or you’ll miss ’em: the quintet supposedly play five Jedi extras among a crowd who are quickly blown to bits by battle droids.

TROPHY TIME The latest critics group to add to the Oscar odds picture is the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, which was the first group to name ”Memento” best picture. The twisty thriller won three other awards, including best actor (Guy Pearce), best screenplay, and best editing. But Vegas critics gave the most awards (six) to ”The Lord of the Rings.” It won for best director (Peter Jackson) and for cinematography, original score, song (Enya‘s ”May It Be”), costumes, and visual effects. Other acting awards went to ”The Deep End”’s Tilda Swinton (echoing the Boston critics’ best actress choice), ”Ghost World”’s Steve Buscemi (best supporting actor), and ”Mulholland Drive”’s Naomi Watts (supporting actress). Best foreign film was Bosnian war satire ”No Man’s Land.”

SOUND BITES O.J. Simpson is taking a stab at becoming a hip-hop MC. The ”Naked Gun” star, who was to host a rap concert in Hartford, Conn., on Sunday night, told reporters he’d become a fan of Tupac Shakur during his legal travails. ”He was singing about having these crazy things happening around him, and I could relate to that.” ”It’s pretty reprehensible that someone who’s done a lot of violence against women is being used to draw a crowd and make money,” said Beverley Brakeman, a local National Organization for Women spokeswoman. If it’s any consolation, the show was canceled after only 100 people bought tickets….

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