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In the Know / A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

Big Stars on 'Bette'? Don't Bank on It

November 06, 2000

CBS' "Bette" a new comedy featuring Bette Midler playing herself--has indicated plans to showcase other stars in similar fashion, and they don't get much bigger than this week, with Oprah Winfrey turning up as herself. Still, most of the star power in coming weeks will have to come from Midler alone, with Tim Curry popping in Nov. 15 but no one else lined up for the next two episodes, which round out those scheduled during this month's rating sweeps. "Bette" got off to an impressive start ratings-wise but has seen its audience gradually dwindle a bit--to 10.7 million viewers last week, off 30% from its premiere--and the sweeps-related competition promises to be tough. Fox, for example, is running several original episodes of its Sunday hit "Malcolm in the Middle" on Wednesdays this month against "Bette"--a risky gambit in terms of exhausting new episodes, designed in part to help establish the network's new series "Normal, Ohio" (which performed reasonably well in its debut last week) and "The $treet" (which didn't). CBS has already ordered a full season of "Bette," and the hope is that "Malcolm" will skew toward a younger crowd, leaving "Bette's" female-oriented audience unshaken, while ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" continues to fade. As for gauging the show's long-term prospects, keep an eye on the stars.

A New Appreciation for 'Titan A.E.'

In pure box-office terms, "Titan A.E." was judged a flop. The $90-million animated sci-fi adventure grossed only $22.8 million in North America earlier this year. The size of the debacle staggered and embarrassed 20th Century Fox, causing the studio to downsize its expectations in animation and ultimately contributed to the sudden departure of studio chief Bill Mechanic. But creatively, the film--produced and directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman--was a feast for the eyes. While the public may not have appreciated the film, the animation community certainly did. "Titan A.E." is among five feature-length films nominated for best animated film released between Aug. 1, 1999, and July 31, 2000, by ASIFA Hollywood, the international animated film society. This Saturday, ASIFA will host the 28th annual Annie Awards, honoring the year's outstanding achievements in animation for film, television, home videos, short subjects, commercials and electronic media. Competing against "Titan A.E." are Disney's "Fantasia/2000," Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 2," DreamWorks' "The Road to El Dorado" and Aardman/DreamWorks' "Chicken Run." Antran Manoogian, president of ASIFA and an animator with Walt Disney Television Animation, believes the genre is strong despite some setbacks like the one Fox experienced. He noted that every film nominated this year is stylistically different. "What a diverse set of candidates," he said. " 'Fantasia/2000' is sort of a mixture of styles and genres. 'Toy Story 2' is CGI [computer graphics] and more of a family film. 'The Road to El Dorado' is more of a traditional animated film geared toward an older audience. 'Chicken Run' is stop-motion--a different sort of animation. And 'Titan A.E.' is geared toward teenagers." The black-tie awards ceremony is open to the public, with tickets priced at $50 each. The ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

Will Jay-Z, OutKast Albums Have Legs?

Jay-Z's new "The Dynasty Roc La Familia (2000- )" and OutKast's "Stankonia" will command lots of music industry scrutiny--and not just to see which album lands at No. 1 on Wednesday, when first-week sales figures are reported by SoundScan. As the weeks go by, both hip-hop albums also will be monitored to see if they drive a stake through the heart of one cliche about rap records: short shelf life. "It's generally been true that rap records start with very large numbers, then fade quickly," says Geoff Mayfield, director of charts for Billboard magazine. "But now we're beginning to see some rap records that do have some staying power. We're having to rethink some of what we had come to expect." He cites Jay-Z's "Vol. 3 . . . Life and Times of S. Carter," which has remained on Billboard's sales chart for 44 weeks and is at No. 130 this week, and DMX's " . . . And Then There Was X," No. 85 after 45 weeks. They've sold 2.6 million and 4 million copies, respectively. Nelly's "Country Grammar" is also showing impressive stamina, holding on to its No. 3 position after 4 1/2 months in the Top 10. So which new album will land the top spot on this week's sales chart? One major retailer gives the nod to Jay-Z, projecting first-week sales of about 600,000, with OutKast right behind at 550,000. Another chain, however, favors OutKast for No. 1.

--Compiled by Times Staff Writers

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