Entertainment Hits New Highs in 2003

For Hollywood and show biz, the year 2003 soared to new and oft surprising heights, even by entertainment standards.

There were notable pregnancies and marriages, frequently in that order. There was the razzle-dazzle surrounding the movie musical, "Chicago" (search). There was nice-girl Zora Andrich winning "Joe Millionaire's" heart and then dumping him after she got the cash. And there was lesbian lip-locking galore, from the Russian teenage duo TATU to a soap opera's first lesbian love scene and the now famous Britney-Madonna kiss at the Video Music Awards.

In the first of a two-part series, Foxnews.com looks back at some of the more memorable entertainment highs of 2003.

Goin' to the Chapel: In spite of the slim odds of a long-lasting marriage in Tinseltown, many celebrities still tied the knot in 2003. Movie star Russell Crowe, comedian Adam Sandler, writer Hunter S. Thompson, "Friend" Matt LeBlanc, actor Kenneth Branagh, actress Liv Tyler, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, singer Mary J. Blige and model Carmen Electra are among those who married. Carol Channing wed her junior high school sweetheart, actress Kate Winslet and director Sam Mendes took the plunge, Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin walked down the aisle and singer Melissa Etheridge tied the knot with her female partner. Other stars announced upcoming marriages, including Kevin Costner, Tori Spelling and golf great Tiger Woods.

She's having a baby: There was such a Hollywood baby boom this year, the question should be, who didn't get pregnant or give birth in 2003? Many of the pregnancy announcements fell scandalously close to the weddings, like in the case of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet. Actresses Kate Hudson, Debra Messing, Cate Blanchett and Geena Davis; actor Matt LeBlanc; comedian Will Ferrell and supermodel Heidi Klum all revealed pregnancies too. There were unconfirmed rumors that Courteney Cox and David Arquette were also expecting, though the couple's spokespeople said it wasn't true. And those who became proud parents? Elle Macpherson, Brooke Shields, Russell Crowe, David Letterman, Colin Farrell, Kelly Ripa, Matt Lauer, Conan O'Brien, Mark Wahlberg, Chris O'Donnell, Travis Tritt, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, and tennis stars Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi.

Sealed with a (lesbian) kiss: Call 2003 the year of onscreen lesbian love. First, the Russian teenage music duo TATU shocked the world when they kissed passionately in private schoolgirl uniforms in the video for their hit, "All the Things She Said."

Then, daytime TV saw its first ever same-sex love scene on the ABC soap, "All My Children" with a kiss between two female characters. The year drew to a close with an open-mouthed lip-lock between Britney Spears and Madonna (and a less sensational embrace between Madonna and Christina Aguilera) during a number the trio performed at the Video Music Awards (search). The events mirrored the country's real-life mood of greater acceptance of gay partnership.

Stars mark milestone birthdays: Country crooner Willie Nelson turned 70 and celebrated in a TV special, Rolling Stone Mick Jagger had his 60th birthday the same year he was knighted by Prince Charles and entertainer Bob Hope held a bash for his 100th just two months before his death.

"Crush" creates surfing sensation: Though surfer gal flick "Blue Crush" hit American movie screens in the summer of 2002, its DVD release in January '03 continued to give momentum to the female surfing sensation. More women took to the beach and rode the waves, and female fashion followed suit with surf wear-inspired looks. The publicity surrounding real-life surfing star Bethany Hamilton (search), 13 — who lost her arm in a shark attack — helped fuel the craze.

"Chicago" razzle-dazzles: The movie musical starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, directed by Rob Marshall, was "all that jazz" this year, drawing huge audiences and box office sales. The film captured several Golden Globes and Oscars, including Best Picture. Among additional accolades the film grabbed: a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Zeta-Jones and Globes for Gere and Zellweger.

"Joe Millionaire" good-over-greed finale tops charts: Fox' "Joe Millionaire" star Evan Marriott chose nice-girl schoolteacher Zora Andrich over provocative, scheming, fetish model Sarah Kozer. Though Marriott wasn't a millionaire at all, he and Andrich won a cool million to share. And the show struck gold with its finale, which drew 40 million viewers — the most for a reality TV show since the finale of the first "Survivor" in 2000.

Madonna pens children's book: The pop icon unveiled yet another creative endeavor with the announcement that she'd written five illustrated storybooks for children. The first one, "The English Roses," was published in September, ranked No. 5 on the Nielsen BookScan charts and topped The New York Times children's book list. Her second, "Mr. Peabody's Apples," hit shelves in November.

"American Idol" sings its way to the top: The second showing of the popular reality TV competition among aspiring singers became even more popular among tube viewers looking for a little levity during wartime. In the last week of March, the Fox program soared to the top of the ratings charts and was seen by about 19 million people. Ruben Studdard won the second "Idol," beating runner-up Clay Aiken in the quest for a record deal. The premier date of "Idol" 3 has yet to be announced.

"Finding Nemo" does swimmingly at box office: The acclaimed Disney-Pixar film about a worried clownfish searching for his aquarium-trapped son scored the biggest debut ever for an animated picture, gliding to the top spot opening weekend with an estimated $70.6 million in ticket sales. It surpassed the previous animated opening-weekend record of $62 million for "Monsters Inc."

"Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica" a surprise hit: The MTV reality show about the first year of marriage for pop singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey was unexpectedly "irresistible." The program soon was likened to this year's version of "The Osbournes," only younger and sexier. A second season will begin in 2004. Simpson has thus far stolen the show with her spoiled-child, air-headed moments and frequent belching.

"Matrix" mania: Despite being panned by critics "The Matrix Reloaded," the second in the trilogy, quickly spun out of control after its much-anticipated May release, pulling in $42.5 million in the first two days and becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film ever. It took in $134.2 million in sales during its first four days. In contrast, the third chapter — "The Matrix Revolutions," out only six months later amidst similarly poor reviews — had a ho-hum opening weekend, bringing in just $50.16 million.

Beyonce and Britney on top: Destiny's Child frontwoman Beyonce Knowles released her first solo album, "Crazy in Love," in 2003, an instant hit. She also collected a total of seven Video Music and Billboard Awards, including the Billboard New Female Artist of the Year, and wowed audiences with her ultra-sultry performance at the VMAs. Britney's "In the Zone" came out in November and debuted at No. 1, selling more than 609,000 copies. She also made headlines with that kiss she shared with Madonna and the Hollywood Walk of Fame star she got this year.

"Ellen" a smashing daytime success: Former sitcom star Ellen DeGeneres got off to an impressive start with her new daytime talk show "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" on NBC, which premiered in September. "Ellen" snagged solid ratings in its first three weeks and was growing steadily in big cities. But Sharon Osbourne wasn't so lucky with the talk format; "The Sharon Osbourne Show" has been falling flat.

"Lord of the Rings" dwarfs predecessors: The third in the "Rings" trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," ran circles around the first two films in opening night sales. The movie, a fantasy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien books about hobbit Frodo Baggins' quest to destroy a ring of evil, made $8 million domestically in midnight screenings on opening night, Dec. 17. That was about half the $18.2 million chapter one, "The Fellowship of the Rings" took in during its entire first two days in 2001.

In Part II, Foxnews.com remembers 2003 lows in entertainment.