Entertainment News from January 1998

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The figures are in, and U.S. moviegoers dished out more than $6.2 billion dollars at the box office in 1997, a 7 percent increase over 1996's $5.76 billion take. Men in Black fared best in 1997, earning $249.8 million; The Lost World: Jurassic Park came in at number two with $229.1 million; and Liar Liar placed a distant third with $171.8 million.
Sonny Bono dies in a skiing accident at South Lake Tahoe's Heavenly Ski Resort. Bono reportedly collided with a tree on an intermediate slope. It is the second high-profile skiing death in a week. Michael Kennedy, the son of Robert Kennedy, also died in a ski-related accident on New Year's Eve.
In what can only be described as a commentary on the state of television, ABC announces plans to remake Fantasy Island. Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld is set to produce. No word yet on casting.
Kelsey Grammer is named host of the 40th Annual Grammy Awards, which will be presented February 25 from New York's Radio City Music Hall.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announces the nominees for the 40th Annual Grammy Awards. Newcomer Paula Cole emerges as the big surprise, winning seven nods, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year. Rapper Puff Daddy also earns seven nominations and perennial winner Babyface leads the pack with eight. The trophies will be handed out on February 25.
Veteran Broadway director Jerry Zaks agrees to help whip into shape Paul Simon's musical The Capeman. Mark Morris will stay on as official director and choreographer and Zaks will work in an “unofficial capacity.” The musical about Salvador Agron, who, at age 16, killed two teenagers on a New York playground, was scheduled to open on January 8 and has been pushed back to January 29 for retooling.
NBC snags broadcast rights to Titanic for the bargain-basement price of $30 million. NBC has the rights to run the movie five times beginning in the year 2000.
Roseanne files for divorce from her third husband, Ben Thomas.
The X-Files fans can relax, the show's going to be around for at least two more years. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny sign two-year deals, though production will move from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Duchovny had threatened to bolt from the show unless it moved to LA, where his wife, Téa Leoni, shoots The Naked Truth.
CBS agrees to pay a staggering $500 million a year for rights to broadcast AFC football games for the next eight years, and Fox pledges $550 million for NFC games.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts its newest members, Santana, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, the Mamas and the Papas, Jelly Roll Morton, Allen Toussaint, Gene Vincent and Lloyd Price, in a ceremony at New York's Waldorf-Astoria. Carlos Santana, leader of the band Santana, is the Hall's first Hispanic inductee.
Steven Spielberg has seen more than his share of courtrooms lately. A trial begins in a St. Louis federal court to determine if Spielberg and Michael Crichton based the 1996 hit film Twister on the screenplay “Catch the Wind,” written by Stephen Kessler. Kessler claims that in 1989 and 1990 he submitted his script to Warner Bros., Universal Studios (which co-financed the film), Creative Artists Agency and Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment. Crichton says he and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin, were inspired by a Nova series about tornadoes.
ABC renews its contract with the NFL and will continue to broadcast Monday Night Football games for the next eight years for $550 million a year.
NBC agrees to fork over $13 million an episode for the next three years for broadcast rights to the top-rated series ER. The total dollar figure, $850 million, eclipses any price ever paid for a television show. NBC could not afford to lose its gem, already having to fill a huge void in next season's schedule left by the loss of Seinfeld.
Tim Allen finally signs on the dotted line, agreeing to return for an eighth season of Home Improvement. He'll receive a record $1.25 million per episode.
Garry Shandling, star of HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, files a $100 million lawsuit against his manager, Brad Grey. Shandling claims that Grey used his status as the actor's manager, as well as Shandling's ideas, to land a series of television-production deals without compensating Shandling.
The 1998 Sundance Film Festival kicks off with the screening of Swinging Doors, a British melodrama starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Sundance, the country's premier showcase for independent film, has launched the careers of directors Kevin Smith and Edward Burns. In other Sundance news, festival officials pull from the lineup Kurt and Courtney, a controversial documentary about Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and his wife, musician and actress Courtney Love. The film's director, Nick Broomfield, claims festival officials caved to pressure from Love, who is portrayed negatively in the film. Sundance officials said Broomfield never obtained rights to use Nirvana's music in the film and faced a lawsuit if the film was screened.
Titanic stays afloat at the 55th Annual Golden Globe Awards, winning four trophies, including Best Motion Picture — Drama and Best Director for James Cameron. As Good as It Gets also cleans up, taking Best Motion Picture — Comedy as well as Best Actor and Actress honors for Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, respectively. On the television front, Fox's new hit Ally McBeal is the dark-horse winner of the night, with wins in the Best Television Series — Comedy and Best Actress (Calista Flockhart) categories.
HBO announces that this is the last season for its hit series, The Larry Sanders Show. Sanders star Garry Shandling interrupts the announcement saying, “Excuse me, excuse me. This is all news to me; I was waiting for one of those big Seinfeld offers. I made an agreement with Jerry that when one of us goes, we all go, as a negotiation ploy,” referring to the offers from NBC enticing Seinfeld to return for a tenth season.
Broadway's newest theater, the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, opens with the premiere of Ragtime.
Oprah takes Texas by storm. Jury selection begins in the federal defamation trial that pits the state's cattle producers against the talk-show host. Cattle producers are suing Winfrey, her production company, Harpo, and her show's distributor, King World, over comments made during the taping of a 1996 show about dangerous foods that cattlemen say violated Texas's “food disparagement” law and has cost them millions in revenue. On the show in question, anti-meat activist Howard Lyman said 100,000 cows inexplicably die each year and end up as feed for other cows. “If only one of them has mad cow disease, that has the potential to infect thousands,” he said. Oprah followed, “It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger.” Oprah is taping her show in the Lone Star state while the trial continues.
The Sundance Film Festival closes with its annual awards ceremony. Slam, about a young black street poet whose life turns around after a drug arrest, takes the Grand Jury Prize. Smoke Signals, a film about American Indians, wins the Audience Award and the Filmmaker's Trophy.
Titanic continues to sink the competition, topping box-office ticket sales for the sixth straight week. Its $25.1 million weekend gross brings its total take to $274.3 million — the tenth highest-grossing film of all time.
Super Bowl XXXII is indeed super for NBC. Advertisers pay a record $1.3 million for a 30-second commercial. More than 133 million viewers tune in to the nail-biter.
The Spice Girls dominate the American Music Awards, nabbing awards for Favorite Band, Favorite Album and Favorite New Artist (Pop/Rock).
A jury decides that Steven Spielberg, Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin did not base the 1996 hit film Twister on Stephen Kessler's screenplay “Catch the Wind.”
Paul Simon's much-anticipated musical The Capeman finally opens, to lukewarm reviews. The show about Salvador Agron, who, at age 16, killed two teenagers on a New York playground, was scheduled to open earlier in the month but was pushed back for retooling. Tony-Award-winning director Jerry Zaks was brought in at the last minute to streamline a meandering plot.
Days after ER executive producers Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton reward the technical and creative staff of the show with $6 million to split, the cast of ER arrives to work to find healthy bonus checks — $1 million each for original cast members and $500,000 for newcomers.

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