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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
September 7

Entertainment News September 7 - TOP 3 Stories for Friday

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SHOPPERS HEAD TO TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL

Stateside distributors are ready for round three, following intense buying sprees at Sundance and Cannes earlier this year. The credit crisis may still be reverberating, but largely-undaunted film companies are entering the 32nd Toronto Film Festival with fat wallets and a healthy appetite for product.

Given the potential guild strikes, the number of new buyers, and revitalized studio specialty arms seeking the next "Little Miss Sunshine," most observers expect the pic purchasing pace to remain steady.

"This will be a busy and acquisition-filled festival, there is not too much doubt about that," Lionsgate prexy Tom Ortenberg says.

While Toronto continues to be a crucial proving ground—a "shop window," in the words of Miramax topper Daniel Battsek—for pics with Oscar ambitions, fest screenings can also help buyers assess playability of potential acquisitions.

One reason, say vets: Eager film lovers represent a sizable chunk of the Toronto audience, as opposed to jaundiced cineastes whose idea of a commercial director is Bela Tarr. "It's like an early version of a test screening, so it can be quite useful in revealing the connection some films establish," one buyer offers.

"There will be a lot more caffeine and even more of a frenzy than last year," agrees Mark Gill, who just launched the Film Dept., a production, financing and foreign sales outfit. "There are more companies looking for product, and people have seen what has come out of Toronto in years past."

Buyers are especially focused on the name-talent-heavy titles and hope to discover pics with commercial prospects such as "Thank You for Smoking," which sold at the fest to Fox Searchlight amid a heated battle in 2005 and went on to gross $25 million domestically

LUCIANO PAVAROTTI DIES AT 71

Luciano Pavarotti, one of the most famous tenors of the 20th century and a figure whose hefty physique was known to millions as the quintessence of opera, died Thursday at his home in Modena, Italy. He was 71.

Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006 and was treated with several rounds of chemotherapy.

In part because his bearded and mustachioed visage was largely unchanged for 40-odd years, even as his weight noticeably rose and fell, Pavarotti was a cultural constant. He appeared not just on the world’s great stages but—more importantly in terms of achieving popular fame—at stadium concerts, on network and

public television, on mass-market magazine covers and even in a feature film, a feat that hearkened back to a golden age when opera greats lent class to movies.

Though Pavarotti’s star had already dimmed by the start of the 21st century—his voice had worn thin—and he was nearly as famous for canceling appearances as for making them, he remained in the public eye, beloved, if only in memory, as “king of the high Cs” and a paragon of Italian robustness.

Born in Modena, Pavarotti made his operatic debut in 1961 and quickly rose to fame thanks to his ringing high notes, tonal warmth and lyric effusions. A protege of soprano Joan Sutherland, he worked with her onstage and on records frequently, establishing one of opera’s most durable partnerships.

His American breakthrough came in February 1972 when he sang the role of Tonio in Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and created a frenzy that never abated.

Capitalizing on that fame, Pavarotti became a familiar face on TV, appearing first in full-length operas, including the initial “Live From the Met” broadcast in 1977, and later in concert programs. But he pushed his appeal by making “Yes, Giorgio” (1982), a movie that Leslie Halliwell charitably called “out of key with the modern film business.”

Pavarotti’s fame, if not his artistry, reached its pinnacle in the 1990s. Following the selection of his recording of Puccini’s aria “Nessun dorma” (None Shall Sleep) as the 1990 World Cup’s theme song, he embarked on a series of massive outdoor concerts.

R-RATES FILMS VIE FOR TOP SPOT AT BOX OFFICE

James Mangold's Western remake "3:10 to Yuma" rides off to the box office this weekend, where it will vie with "Shoot 'Em Up" for some male love.

"Yuma," toplining Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Ben Foster, also marks the first fall awards release. Lionsgate and Relativity Media open the violent, R-rated oater in 2,652 locations.

New Line's bloody actioner "Shoot 'Em Up" also sports star power in Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti.

Beyond those two pics, the weekend's widest opening is Screen Gems/Sony laffer "The Brothers Solomon" at 700 theaters. Pic stars Will Arnett, Will Forte and Kristin Wiig, who all appeared on "Saturday Night Live."

It will be an R-rated weekend all the way around, with "Shoot 'Em Up" and "Solomon" also sporting the restrictive rating.

Historically, the weekend following Labor Day is relatively subdued at the box office. Male-centric pics like "Yuma" and "Shoot 'Em Up" face an additional challenge in that this weekend is the start of the NFL season.

"Yuma" marks Mangold's first film since 2005 Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line." In terms of box office potential, tracking shows the pic is appealing heavily to older males. Original "Yuma," released in 1957, starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. It is based on a story by Elmore Leonard.

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