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Power,” Henry Kissinger has often been quoted as saying, ”is the great aphrodisiac.” If that’s true, then the magazine you’re holding in your hands isn’t merely ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s 12th annual Power Issue — it’s also a list of the 101 sexiest people in showbiz today (hubba-hubba, Harvey Weinstein).

But even if Kissinger got it wrong, there are still plenty of reasons why Hollywood’s biggest players long to see their names in these pages — preferably the first few pages — and even more reasons why you might want to spend some time flipping through them. Power, after all, is what makes this town go round: Garner enough of it and you never have to take no for an answer. Lose too much of it and you’ll never hear another yes again (until, of course, you make your big comeback).

This year, ranking entertainment’s players was a particularly challenging task. Hollywood, like every city in America, has been in shock since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and understandably confused about what to offer audiences in these emotionally raw and politically sensitive times. With movie releases being postponed, TV pilots being retooled, and CDs being recalled — with the entire industry momentarily frozen in a state of stunned uncertainty, and an economy just as seriously in flux — it’s difficult to get a bead on where anyone stands in the entertainment hierarchy.

Difficult, but not impossible. The show, as it turns out, goes on, and so, therefore, do the power plays. Over the years, EW has refined its own uniquely calibrated instruments for measuring the currents that flow through the industry. An eclectic mix of actors, studio heads, producers, directors, talent agents, publishing execs, singers, even the occasional cartoon character, our ranking doesn’t differentiate between behind-the-scenes operations and camera-ready players. The results aren’t always pretty, but in the end we believe our methods produce a list that not only reflects how power is truly perceived in Hollywood, but is — if not an aphrodisiac — at least as entertaining as the business we cover.

1 Ron MEYER & Stacey SNIDER President-COO, Universal Studios; Chairman, Universal Pictures; LAST YEAR – 18

One year of record-breaking box office totals could be written off to luck. Two years in a row might be coincidence. But now that Universal seems poised to make it three — its last big hit, August’s American Pie 2, was its 10th film since 1999 to gross more than $100 million domestically — we’ve run out of excuses.

The choice to give this duo the top spot on our list was so obvious, in fact, even the guy they’re replacing — last year’s No. 1, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves — thinks it’s a no-brainer. ”Absolutely amazing” is how he describes their track record at Universal over the past three years. They ”put life back in that place.”

And boy, did that place need it. Before Meyer, 56, promoted Snider, 40, in 1999 the then-ninth-rated studio seemed cursed. Almost immediately, however, Meyer (who created CAA with Mike Ovitz) and Snider (a onetime D-girl and Peter Guber protegee) turned things around, starting with a remake of a 67-year-old horror flick about a gauzy dead guy with poor posture. The Mummy grossed $412 million worldwide and helped the Snider-Meyer partnership end its first year with the biggest domestic box office numbers in Universal’s history.

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