Yeah, baby! This week, New Line Cinema rolls out its much-anticipated sequel, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," starring comedian Mike Myers as that swinging '60s spy who was unfrozen in the '90s. With the movie opening on about 3,300 screens throughout North America Friday, the summer movie season shifts into high gear. Up until now, studios have for the most part delayed releasing their bigger films because of George Lucas' blockbuster, "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace." But New Line is so confident in "Austin Powers" that it has locked in commitments from theater chains to show the film a minimum of three to eight weeks. "We're having no problem at all [booking the film]," said Al Shapiro, New Line's president of distribution. "Lucky for us, 'Austin Powers' was perceived as the No. 2 or No. 3 movie of the summer." After "Austin Powers," the summer will really get crowded as studios roll out their big summer fare, including Disney's "Tarzan," Paramount's "The General's Daughter," Columbia's "Big Daddy," Warner's "Wild Wild West" and DreamWorks' "The Haunting." Shapiro said that with more than 34,000 screens nationwide, the studios shouldn't have a problem booking their films before the July 4 holiday, but things could get sticky after that. "What happens is that the grosses generated by the films dictate what plays and what doesn't," he explained. Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracking firm Exhibitors Relations Co., said that finding premium sites could prove difficult. "You might have three or four screens in a theater complex but one big movie is playing on all three," he said. But Jerry Forman, president of Pacific Theaters, doesn't think there will be a problem. "The public tells us how long these pictures should or shouldn't play," Forman said.
Will 'On the 6' Crack the Top 5?
Jennifer Lopez's "If You Had My Love" has been the nation's best-selling single by far for the last two weeks, racking up a total of 275,000 copies purchased. So we can expect her debut album, "On the 6," to soar into the Top 5 on the national pop charts when SoundScan releases its weekly sales figures Wednesday. In fact, Bob Feterl, regional manager of Tower Records, says the album's total would be enough to enter the charts at No. 1 most weeks: possibly a whopping 250,000. Unfortunately for Lopez, the album faces unusually stiff competition this week in the form of the Backstreet Boys, whose "Millennium" album has sold nearly 1.7 million copies in just two weeks, and Ricky Martin, whose self-titled album has sold more than 1.5 million in three weeks. Also expected to provide strong competition: the soundtrack for the new Austin Powers film.
No More Disney World for ABC
This year, finishing third in prime time isn't good enough to warrant a trip to Disney World. ABC, including network president Steve Bornstein, and managers of its affiliated TV stations will hold their annual meeting this week, but it's back in Century City, after three years in which the network--eager to show off some corporate synergy in the wake of its acquisition by the Walt Disney Co.--wined and dined station executives in and around its theme parks in Orlando, Fla. The conference, in fact, has been stripped down to a one-day affair, with the network citing a desire to curb costs, a goal expressed by all the networks as a means of offsetting their declining ratings. There are other reasons, however, that this year's gathering may be less than festive. Of foremost concern is ABC's 2-month-old decision to go ahead with an all-soap opera cable channel, despite objections voiced by affiliates that repeating their daytime serials in the evening will take a bite out of ratings. The network also wants to reduce the money paid to stations in exchange for carrying network programs and to help cover the billions ABC paid last year to retain rights to "Monday Night Football."
--Compiled by Times Staff Writers