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I've Got a Bad
The Phantom Menace broke some but not all expected US box office records in its first few days. On its first day it beat three records (biggest Wednesday opening, biggest first day and biggest single day gross) with $28.5m and it set a 'speed' record for reaching $100m in five days. However, with $61.8m for the important weekend Friday-Sunday benchmark it failed to topple The Lost World's record of $72.1m. A reaction to lukewarm reviews perhaps?
Word of Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace being perhaps less than stellar first came from American cinema industry screenings - "There was polite applause [afterwards], kind of tepid," said an attendee. 'This movie is on a par with Jedi, as most of us feared,' reported one such Star Wars buff, Ronald Epstein, countering the claim that the audiences contained only fastidious industry 'suits'.
Then there were the official reviews, and many ran early, breaking 20th Fox's embargo. Among professional critics and casual film-goers, there was a consensus too consistent and prevalent to dismiss or ignore. Fox was furious about the embargo-breaking reviews. "It has nothing to do with whether it's a good or bad review," said Tom Sherak, "the bottom line is that this isn't news, it's a movie." However, if the reviews were glowing, it's debatable whether he would have had that conversation.
With the demise of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys at the end of this year (see last issue), star Kevin Sorbo has announced a deal with the producers of Earth: Final Conflict to work on one of two new series with a similar genesis. Andromeda and Starship also come from unmade scripts by Gene Roddenberry which will be developed by his widow, Majel.
Andromeda centres on a scientist and his quest to return home after being sent 500 years into the future and becoming stranded on a war-torn distant planet. Starship is planned as a CG-animated project that bears an uncanny resemblance to Star Trek. It's not clear yet which Sorbo will pick (Starship would obviously be a voice-over role) but expect it to début later next year.
For the first half of 2000, Hercules/Xena producers Bob Tapert and Sam Raimi are expected to try out a pair of half-hour dramas along similar mythical/historical Fantasy lines in Hercules' TV timeslot.
Spielberg gets Taken
Steven Spielberg is to produce a $40m mini-series about alien abductions called Taken for one of his favourite networks, the US Sci-Fi Channel. The 20-hour production through DreamWorks TV, will début in late 2000 and be shown in 10 two-hour instalments. It is to be based on reports from alien abductees and witnesses of UFO landings in New Mexico dating back to 1947. Like Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Taken uses the premise that the alien events are real. Barry Diller of The Sci-Fi Channel's parent company, told Variety, "This will be a big story with multiple characters, protagonists and antagonists."
|and there's much more news in Starburst #251|