EW reminds us of the events of July and August 2006 -- Lance Bass, ''Snakes on a Plane,'' Viacom ditches Cruise and more

By Josh Wolk
Updated December 22, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

This Just in: Lance Bass Is Gay!
In news that retroactively rocks the year 2000, ‘N Sync-er and onetime aspiring astronaut Lance Bass reveals that he is homosexual (and dating a former Amazing Race contestant). Supportive fans say it will never change how much they love his music… although it has made them think that Tang is totally gay.

Mel Gibson Busted for DUI
At least when Mad Max wreaked havoc on the road, he never blamed it on the Jews. But when Mel Gibson is arrested in Malibu for drunk driving, he delivers a profanity-laced anti-Semitic rant. Later, he offers a series of public apologies and pleads to meet with Jewish leaders to determine an ”appropriate path for healing.” (The National Association of Sugar T—, however, still awaits its apology summit.) The bad PR seems not to hurt him at theaters, as Mel’s ultraviolent Apocalypto opens on Dec. 8 at No. 1 with $15 million, a respectable sum for a movie with all subtitles and no sons of God.

‘Snakes on a Plane’ Has No Bite
After months of blogger hype and even a reshoot to give Samuel L. Jackson an extra-profanity-packed line supplied by a Web user, Snakes on a Plane opens to a weak $13.8 million. It goes on to gross only $34 million, proving that Internet buzz does not always translate into big bucks. This could all have been avoided had the producers only heeded the lessons of the 1997 bomb Hamster Dance: The Motion Picture.

Box Office Booty: A band of ‘Pirates’ — and others — found gold at theaters in 2006

Here’s something to shiver your timbers: In a year when studios couldn’t help but trumpet pretty much any movie gross as a record of some sort (The Omen — top Tuesday opening in box office history!), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest truly earned the ballyhoo. The Johnny Depp summer sequel sailed into theaters and reset nearly every major all-time benchmark: best opening-day gross ($55.8 mil), best opening-weekend take ($135.6 mil), fastest movie to earn $100 mil…and $200 mil…and $300 mil. On Aug. 20, it became the seventh film ever to cross $400 mil at the domestic box office (its final haul: $423.3 mil). And when the cannon smoke cleared, Disney’s family flick was just the third movie in history to hit the billion-buck mark worldwide ($1,065,300,000).

It also helped give Hollywood reason to exhale after the nasty box office slump of 2005. With blockbusters like Cars ($244.1 mil, domestically), X-Men: The Last Stand ($234.4 mil), and even The Devil Wears Prada ($124.7 mil) leading the way, receipts were up 3.9 percent over last year (through Dec. 12). Once again, the biggest winners were movies generated by computer (Ice Age: The Meltdown, Over the Hedge), movies featuring marquee comedians (Talladega Nights, Click, The Break-Up, Borat), and movies based on international franchises (The Da Vinci Code, Casino Royale). Oh, and, for the second straight year: movies about penguins (Happy Feet).

Not everybody was tap-dancing. The high domestic total for Superman Returns ($200.1 mil) was overshadowed by talk that Warner Bros. wouldn’t recoup the rumored $400 million it spent to revive Supes, while aging stars like Harrison Ford (Firewall) and Bruce Willis (16 Blocks) seemed to be box office kryptonite. But nothing sank deeper than the costly Poseidon, which drew a soggy $60.7 mil. Aaaargh!

Viacom Kicks Cruise to the Curb
Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone announces Paramount will not renew its 14-year-old production deal with Tom Cruise because ”his recent conduct has not been acceptable.” Redstone maintains that Cruise’s controversial antics (e.g., couch jumping, psychiatry bashing) drove off moviegoers, costing M:I-3 between $100 million and $150 million in worldwide grosses. Cruise and his business partner Paula Wagner insist that they were planning to leave anyway, and in November announce they will run the resuscitated United Artists, giving Cruise the clout to fire himself whenever he damn pleases.

‘Survivor’ Gets Race-y
CBS reveals that the next Survivor will feature four teams split along racial lines — white, black, Asian, and Hispanic. Many decry the idea as an exploitative publicity stunt, but creator Mark Burnett defends it as a response to criticism that his show isn’t ethnically diverse enough. Major sponsors such as GM and Coca-Cola back out, although all claim the decision is unrelated to the controversial concept. After only two weeks the teams are mixed (with Yul Kwon winning the million on Dec. 17), but ultimately, this season does teach us something about race: It seems the narcissistic desire to get on television — even if it means nearly starving and being eaten alive by bugs — knows no color.

’24’ Shoots and Scores at the Emmys
Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama and Comedy Series go to 24 and The Office, respectively, while Jeremy Piven takes home best-supporting-actor honors for Entourage. Worried that rewarding these series might make the TV Academy seem too hip, voters take drastic countermeasures by also bestowing a trophy on Barry Manilow.

AUG. 31 ST
You’re Fired!
It’s reported that firer-in-chief Donald Trump has axed his Apprentice sidekick Carolyn Kepcher from running two of his golf courses, implying her TV fame was going to her head. Let that be a lesson to all future Trumployees: Put your fame in The Donald’s head, where it belongs.

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