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'Pirates' rakes in the booty

By Times Wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 12, 2003

Stunning the movie industry, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl earned $13.5-million on its opening day, besting the first day for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and landing among the top 10 Wednesday openings of all time.

With the movie industry in a box office slump for more than a month and pirate-themed movies bombing for years, expectations had been muted for Pirates. The live-action adventure film stars Johnny Depp and was inspired by the Disney theme park attraction.

What makes the Wednesday grosses for Pirates more impressive is that the movie opened before a nonholiday weekend. Most of the movies ahead of it on the all-time list, such as Jurassic Park III, Men in Black II and Independence Day, opened during holiday weekends.

Warner Bros.' T3 earned $12.5-million when it opened the previous Wednesday and had earned $87.1-million a week later. In general, recent sequels and franchise films, including Hulk and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, have underperformed at the box office.

Wagner sues for "Angels' cash

Actor Robert Wagner is taking Columbia Pictures to court, claiming a whopping 50 percent of the net profits from both Charlie's Angels movies, reports the New York Daily News.

Wagner says that he, with his late wife, Natalie Wood, owned a half share in the original TV series. The deal with producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, he says, was part of the acting couple's payoff for a 1973 TV movie, The Affair.

Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle has taken in more than $71-million at the box office after its 2000 precursor topped $125-million. Columbia bought the rights to Charlie's Angels from Spelling and Goldberg's production company, but Wagner says he's still owed half.

"Sex and the City' casting

Blair Underwood is joining Sex and the City for four episodes, but producers and his publicist won't say which of the characters he'll romance. Underwood, 38, will make his first appearance around the ninth of 12 episodes airing this summer, Daily Variety reported.

Also, former X-Files G-man David Duchovny will be investigating mysteries of the female kind on HBO's hit comedy, reports E!Online. Duchovny will heat things up as a potential suitor to Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw during SATC's final batch of episodes airing in January.

Reports: Accelerants found on Aretha Franklin's son

Traces of charcoal starter, or other flammable liquids, were found in the charred ruins of pop diva Aretha Franklin's Bloomfield Township, Mich., mansion and on the clothing of her son, Edward Franklin, according to a state investigator's reports.

A state fire investigator's dog sniffed accelerants on Edward Franklin's shoes and jacket, and state crime laboratory tests later also found traces of flammable substances on the items, according to the reports. One of the state investigator's reports also identified Edward Franklin as a suspect.

The final outcome of the investigation is unclear.

Edward Franklin's lawyer, William Mitchell III, said the chemical traces on his shoes and clothing - and in the house - were the result of contact with items routinely kept in the home, which the family used for storage. Mitchell said further investigation showed Edward Franklin was not responsible for the fire.

Flames consumed Franklin's unoccupied $1.6-million house the morning of Oct. 25. The house was one of several owned by the Queen of Soul.

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