WGA SURVIVORS Hollywood’s major studios reached a tentative agreement with the Writers Guild of America late Friday, averting a possible strike, according to Reuters. The new contract reportedly gives some 11,000 union writers a $41 million pay hike, and comes two days after the old pact expired. Nick Counter, the chief negotiator for the studios, said at a Los Angeles news conference: ”This has been one of the most difficult negotiations we’ve had in many years because of the complex issues facing the industry today.” For his part, Writers Guild negotiator Michael Mahern told reporters, ”I can see the headlines tomorrow: Writers reach agreement, studios avert bankruptcy.” And tv viewers escape the threat of having to watch six hours of unscripted reality tv per night.
CELEBRITY SURVIVORS If ”Survivor” has turned the likes of Jerri, Kel, and Kimmi into celebrities, why not the other way around? ”We’re thinking about a celebrity version,” CBS chief Leslie Moonves told ”Access Hollywood” yesterday. He said his network’s Ray Romano and Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant have expressed an interest, and he notes that Kate Hudson almost famously stood in line for an hour at the recent ”Survivor” 3 auditions. No word on when such a show might air, or whether CBS will invite Tom Hanks and Wilson.
BOX OFFICE SURVIVOR It’s clear which movie will outlast the others this weekend. ”The Mummy Returns,” the summer’s first action spectacle, has the weekend all to itself. The only question among analysts is how huge it will open. Robert Bucksbaum, president of Reel Source, predicts $50 to 55 million. He tells EW.com, ”This is the first film moviegoers have really been looking forward to since ‘Hannibal’ in February,” the last movie that opened without competition, to the tune of $58 million. The only factor that might eat into ”Mummy’s” audience is this weekend’s NBA and NHL playoffs, he says.
Only slightly less optimistic is Gitesh Pandya, editor of Box Office Guru, who predicts a $45 million opening, since some viewers may be leery of a sequel so soon after 1999’s ”The Mummy.” On the other hand, he expects the presence of The Rock in a small role to draw millions of wrestling fans, and he cites the movie’s 3,400 screen booking (the biggest since ”The Perfect Storm” last summer, he says) as among the ”top five or 10 widest of all time. This is just a monster opening,” he tells EW.com, pun not intended.
While no one expects ”Mummy’s” opening to top that of the pre- Memorial Day record holder, 1999’s ”The Phantom Menace” ($65 million), it is expected to stay strong for the next three weeks, against sparse competition (only ”A Knights Tale” and ”Shrek” are serious rivals), until ”Pearl Harbor” blows everything out of the water.
POP SURVIVORS Destiny’s Child, whose new album ”Survivor” is expected to challenge Janet Jackson‘s ”All for You” for the top spot on the charts next week, has long battled rumors that it won’t survive ego clashes among its members. In fact, all three Children are planning to release solo albums, group leader Beyoncé Knowles told Rolling Stone — but not for another year or so. She also denied reports that she’d signed a $3 million deal to split the group. ”As soon as you get successful, they want to make you Diana Ross,” she said.
MEDICAL SURVIVORS Lawyers for George Harrison announced Thursday that he had recently had a cancerous tumor removed from one of his lungs in an operation at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. Harrison had been a longtime smoker until the late 1990s, when he had cancerous growths removed from his throat and lungs and underwent radiation therapy. The lawyers said that Harrison expects to make a full recovery, in a statement that also managed to plug a couple of his albums: ”Although ‘All Things Must Pass’ away, George has no plans right now and is still ‘Living in the Material World.”’ No doubt he was on ”Cloud Nine” that he hadn’t ”Gone Troppo.”
Supermodel Niki Taylor was said to be ”doing well” after several hours of surgery Thursday but remained in critical condition at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. She had suffered severe injuries to her liver and abdomen last weekend when she was a passenger in a friend’s car that struck a utility pole.
CASTING SURVIVORS ”Scary Movie 2” will survive the loss of Marlon Brando, who dropped out of a cameo role as an exorcist last week due to illness. Taking his place will be James Woods.
Aidan Quinn, Brian Dennehy, and Kevin Pollak have been cast in ”Stolen Summer,” the movie that survived the competition of Project Greenlight, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck‘s online screenplay contest. Winning screenwriter Pete Jones will direct the film, about a Catholic boy whose Jewish friend has leukemia. Miramax will pony up $1 million for the movie’s production this month in Chicago and will chronicle the shoot in a 13 part series for HBO.
Sophia Loren, Mira Sorvino, Gerard Depardieu, and Deborah Kara Unger will star in the generational saga ”Between Strangers.” The film marks the feature writing / directing debut of Edoardo Ponti, Loren’s son, who will be working with Mamma for the first time. Shooting begins June 4 in Toronto.