It's number 1, but no record setter. Steven Spielberg's AI: Artificial Intelligence took in $10 million on Friday night. Nothing to sneeze at, but as Haley Joel Osment says in the picture, "Is it a game?" Indeed it is. And a $30 million opening weekend is about $20 million less than a breakthrough cultural hit would have been.
What does it mean? Mostly that the message got across: AI is not for children. Instead, a respectful, older skewing audience is probably sampling it carefully. And if that's happening, then children are most definitely not going to be seeing it anytime soon.
More jarring in box office news is that Pearl Harbor will barely meet the $180 million mark this weekend. Finishing at no. 10 Friday night, the $145-million bloated epic is fairly well behind its projected gross. Add that to a so-so response to the animated Atlantis and Disney is not having a very good summer at all.
Pee-Wee Herman — ABC's Jack — Ditches His Friends
Paul Reubens — aka Pee-Wee Herman — is back on series TV. But backstage his professional life is a mess.
Reubens is currently hosting ABC's You Don't Know Jack, a kind of snarling, unpleasant game show. But Reubens is appearing in it as a fictional host named Troy Stevens, not as himself or as Pee-Wee Herman.
Reubens recently fired his longtime agent and manager, then ended his relationship with his longtime entertainment lawyer when the three could no longer deal with him, says a source. The trio had been with him for years, getting Reubens through his 1991 porno house scandal and keeping him alive during lean times.
But agent Chris Barrett, manager Michael MacLean and attorney Greg Homer were at wit's end, my source says, when Reubens refused to cooperate during the taping of the first six episodes of You Don't Know Jack. This, despite his being paid nearly $200,000 an episode even though ABC did not want him to use the Stevens name or wear his wig from the movie Blow.
On a Monday morning eight weeks ago, Reubens went personally to the offices of MacLean and Barrett and fired them in person. MacLean had been his manager for 15 years. Barrett, who was more recent, had replaced Tony Krantz at Creative Artists Management after Krantz took a job with Imagine Entertainment.
"Originally, Paul was supposed to be the star of a variety sitcom on NBC," says my source. "But that deal fell apart. Then Carsey-Werner Productions offered him the job of hosting You Don't Know Jack. He didn't want to do it and made trouble along the way. On the show, everything was wrong all the time. It got to the point that no one wanted to take his calls."
MacLean, Barrett and Homer didn't return calls from this column. They still get a piece of the action, though, for setting up the Jack deal. The show has won its timeslot for ABC two weeks in a row.
Reubens' new agent is Nick Stevens at United Talent Agency. Stevens declined to answer any questions about the change in Reubens' representation. He said, "With all due respect, why do you care what he does?"
And by the way, don't feel bad for Reubens. Even with all this turmoil, he has always owned the rights to all the Pee-Wee's Playhouse TV shows. Award winning and still cutting edge, the shows are a veritable gold mine for future syndication.
Clive Davis Back in the Top 10 After Nine Months
It's been one year since Clive Davis ceded Arista Records to LA Reid. And now some results are in: This week, Davis' new J Records will have two albums in the Top 10 and another one on the way. Arista — which has had only one big hit during the year — is fighting to stay competitive after high staff turnover.
Reid, in fact, has become the subject of much industry gossip. But a rep for BMG Music, Arista's parent, told me: "There's no truth to the rumors he's getting fired. Antonio Reid is doing an incredible job."
Davis was forced out of Arista by BMG's Strauss Zelnick and Michael Dornemann — who were themselves terminated shortly thereafter. They replaced Clive with Reid, whose LaFace Records was already 50 percent owned by Arista — a deal Clive himself had made.
Reid took over on July 1. Davis — who'd had a triumphant end run with Santana and —went on his annual summer vacation.
On Sept. 1, Davis opened J Records, taking with him a few of his old Arista artists — none of the stars, just acts with potential. And he took a few of his old staff, whom Reid didn't want anyway.
Since July 2000, Arista has lived mainly on old existing releases by Dido, and by Dream, a girl group on Sean "Puffy" Combs' label. A BMG spokesman insisted: "Dido was doing nothing until last fall when LA Reid's team came in."
To be fair, Reid had a good-sized hit with the group Outkast, which sold 3.6 million copies. But a much-anticipated album by rappers Run DMC, filled with guest stars, did little after its release in February.
Arista is counting on a new album by Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds due Sept. 11. Otherwise, the only major release Arista can look forward to this summer is an Aug. 7 CD from pop/R&B singer Usher. The first single from that album, "You Remind Me," was No. 1 this week on SoundScan with 99,000 copies sold.
Meanwhile, at J, boyband O Town has sold around 850,000 copies of its debut album. This week a new album on J by Luther Vandross hit the Top 10 in its first week. It sold 140,000 copies.
Next week, Alicia Keys — considered one of the hottest new acts in years — will debut in the Top 5 with her debut album, Songs in A Minor. She's already appeared on Oprah and on Jay Leno, with more to come.
Wyclef Jean, the mastermind behind the Fugees and maybe the one truly genius hip-hop musician, started a new record label with Davis called Clef Records. Last month Wyclef debuted The Product G&B, rappers with killer singing voices, at Studio 54. The album is imminent.
Songs from J Records are filling the airwaves. Another new singer, Jimmy Cozier, is already getting airplay on R&B radio. His duet with Keys on her album is a hit waiting to happen. And it will, if Davis has anything to say about it.
Reid has been very good at firing people. The list of ex-execs now includes:
Richard Sweret, senior vice president, who was shown the door in October 2000; Marc Zimet, vice president; Jim Elliot, vice president; Derek Lafayette and Dana Hill, all exited in November 2000. Ken Krongard, director of A&R, and Michelle Ozbourn, manager of West Coast A&R, left in January.
Pete Ganbarg, senior vice president of A&R and also the guy who put together Santana's hit "Smooth," and Ken Levy, senior vice president of creative services, were bounced in February.
And just this month, recently promoted Rob Schneck, director of new media, recently hired Lou Simon, senior director of A&R and Lynn Salliveras, hired in November as a promotion director, were let go.
Arista is clearly not a place that prints up expensive business cards. Or has a lot of reason to celebrate its first non-Clive Davis anniversary. At least, not yet.
The members of rock group Aerosmith and family are rallying to support Cyrinda Foxe, ex-wife of Steven Tyler and mother of Mia Tyler. Foxe has been battling cancer for a few months now, and is in need of financial and emotional support – although I am told that Steven Tyler has been taking care of most of her needs. On July 11, rock stars including another Tyler ex, Bebe Buell, will perform at CBGB's on the Bowery with proceeds going to Foxe for medical and living expenses. Donations are $20 at the door.
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