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In the Know / A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

'Quantum Project' Gets a Truly Wide Release

May 01, 2000

An unusual movie will be unveiled this week, but if you opt to see it, be prepared to pop your own corn. "Quantum Project" is being touted as the first Hollywood-produced Internet feature film and the first original motion picture ever to be instantaneously released worldwide via the Web. Translation: It won't appear in even a single theater. Instead, as of precisely 9:01 p.m. PDT Thursday, the 40-minute technology-driven love story will be available for download for a fee of $3.95 at http://www.SightSound.com. How is this different, many are sure to ask, from the scores of other original films that have been making their way onto the Internet for months? Setting aside the breathless rhetoric surrounding "Quantum Project"--the invitation to the premiere promises "the crossing of a new horizon"--this film has name talent: Stephen Dorff ("Blade"), Fay Masterson ("Eyes Wide Shut") and John Cleese (of Monty Python fame). Its director is Eugenio Zanetti, who won the art direction/set decoration Oscar for 1995's "Restoration." But for techno-nerds, its biggest draw may be that it tries to speak to viewers in what producer Stephen Simon calls "the visual and emotional language of the Internet."

Instead of making a traditional film and merely distributing it online, Simon says his company, Metafilmics, created "Quantum" to tell a story "in Internet terms." When Dorff's character thinks, for example, his thought process is depicted as a computer screen with a tool bar. "When he's thinking of a particular person, you will see dates and times on the tool bar, the same way you would if you were checking e-mail," Simon said. "If he feels danger, things happen that are very similar to the caution flags that come up on your computer when something goes wrong. When you see it, you'll understand." Will anyone see it? Simon notes that unlike a theatrical release, which must catch fire the first weekend, an Internet release can afford to build slowly. The movie cost $3 million to make and will be marketed heavily to college students who have access to the best broadband technology. But Simon also admits that he isn't measuring success in dollars. "People today remember 'The Jazz Singer' as the first talking film," he said. "We've already made history."

'N Sync Should Stay Ensconced

Can anyone topple 'N Sync from the top of the U.S. album charts? Celebrated singer Toni Braxton, who has sold 20 million albums worldwide, takes her turn at trying this week, when her first album in four years makes its appearance on the list. "The Heat," which came out last week, should get a boost from the No. 1 single "He Wasn't Man Enough," and music retailers such as Bob Bell of the Wherehouse chain say early indications suggest that Braxton will debut strongly, with sales north of 150,000. But those are mere mortal numbers compared to 'N Sync's blistering sales pace. The youth-pop group has sold nearly 5 million copies of "No Strings Attached" in just five weeks, and neither the arrival of Braxton (who doesn't plan to tour until September) nor the new Cypress Hill album, also debuting on the chart this week, will be able to make the group say bye bye bye to No. 1. "Toni Braxton will have a very respectable debut," says Bell, "but 'N Sync is just unreal right now."

Now and Again, the Eggman Shows Up

As it began, so shall it end--maybe. "Now and Again," the CBS series about a dead insurance executive who "returns" to life as a government-made superman and super weapon, will end its first season this week with the return of the Eggman, the lethal villain who was featured in the first three episodes last fall. Fans of the show have wondered whether the character, who injected eggs with a fatal gas that killed people on contact, would ever come back. The depiction of the slayings in those initial installments began the series with a dark and brooding eeriness. But "Now and Again" has since evolved into a much lighter action-drama tinged with romance and black humor. "The series has always been a mix of dark and light material," said creator-executive producer Glenn Gordon Caron. "We've always been unpredictable." The Eggman (Kim Chan), who was last seen on his way to prison after being captured by Michael Wiseman (Eric Close), the show's hero, breaks out with the help of a fellow inmate played by WWF wrestler Mankind (Nick Foley). "He is determined to find the man who captured him," Caron said. "And if you smell a cliffhanger brewing. . . . " Another cliffhanger is the future of the series itself, which has drawn respectable but not blockbuster ratings. "CBS tells me they really love the show," said Caron. "But they said there'll be no final decision until the middle of May." The series airs at 9 p.m. Fridays.

--Compiled by Times staff writers

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