Archive for Sunday, December 31, 2000

2000: From Santana to ‘Seussical’

Painting caused ‘Sensation’ in New York; King nixed e-book

December 31, 2000


From bubble-gum pop to Dr. Seuss adaptations to a certain boy wizard, many of this year's sensations in the arts and entertainment were aimed at kids or at adults' nostalgia for the pop culture of their childhood. (The top boy band at year's end? The Beatles, of course.)

At the same time, the future cast a huge shadow; new technologies already were changing the way we listen, read and watch. From e-publishing to Napster to the Time Warner-Disney dispute that temporarily left millions of TV screens blank, business models were shifting faster than the alliances on "Survivor."

Below are some trends over the past year, and what to watch for in 2001.

Books and publishing

The year was dominated by a book it seemed everyone had read, and a book format it seemed hardly anyone had used.

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," the fourth in J.K. Rowling's phenomenal series, had kids (and adults) lining up for books last summer the way music fans used to line up for the next Beatles record.

Meanwhile, the industry planned for, invested in and obsessed over electronic books. No one was sure when, or to what degree, the technology would catch on. But everyone was determined not to be left behind.

The year's most notable e-book was Step-hen King's self-published "The Plant," a novel released in installments and paid for on an honor system. But by the end of the year, less than 50 percent of those downloading also were paying, and King suspended publication.

Still, he said he had no regrets about what he calls "Stephen's Excellent Adventure." In a letter published in Time, King said the novel was "terrific fun" and that he had made more than $500,000.

Next year? Potter No. 5 is a year from now.


The box office sputtered in late summer with a string of artistically and commercially challenged films. Then, as the holidays neared, studios dumped a glut of major movies into theaters but Hollywood insiders were still searching for Academy Award contenders.

"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Mission: Impossible 2" were the top-grossing flicks. "The Perfect Storm" rode its computer-crafted waves to hit status, and Russell Crowe's glower and Ridley Scott's digital re-creation of ancient Rome made "Gladiator" a success. (Audiences were cooler to Crowe's "Proof of Life," whose co-star, Meg Ryan, ended her marriage to Dennis Quaid after she began seeing Crowe.)

Julia Roberts maintained her string of box-office smashes with "Erin Brockovich," directed by Steven Soderbergh, who returned nine months later with the drug-trade drama "Traffic," a critical favorite.

Late entries such as "Meet the Parents," "Charlie's Angels" and "Remember the Titans" along with earlier successes including "Dinosaur," "Scary Movie" and "Chicken Run" were expected to lift Hollywood's revenues slightly above 1999's record $7.5 billion. But factoring in higher ticket prices, movie attendance likely was down.

Next year? Possible strikes by screenwriters and actors, who want a bigger piece of revenues. Studios are revving up production to ensure that upcoming films will be in the can by late spring, when contracts expire. Still, the effects of a prolonged strike could become apparent on television by fall and in theaters by early 2002.

2001 movies already carrying buzz include "Hannibal," Steven Spielberg's "A.I.," "Pearl Harbor," Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" and who else? "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone."


2000 saw the rise and, maybe, the cooling-off, of so-called reality shows. 1999's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" led to a boomlet of destined-to-fail game shows until Fox's "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?" in February. It resulted in huge ratings, instant celebrity for the "newlyweds" and disgust for the sham it was revealed to be.

Then CBS weighed in with the triumphant "Survivor" and the embarrassing "Big Brother."

Other networks announced copycat shows, including the nutty "Destination Mir," which apparently has been grounded by the Mir space station's troubles.

Real life also continued to morph into TV drama, most notably Elian-mania and presidential campaign coverage, from election night on.

One nonevent: Kathie Lee left Regis, whose ratings on the morning show promptly rose.

Next year? The networks seem torn between doubts they can repeat the sensation of "Survivor" (other than with the upcoming "Survivor II"), and fears that such shows are the best insurance against the looming strikes.


The Internet became a prime source for theater news and gossip in 2000. Not only through such established Web sites as but through chat rooms that allow everyone to be a critic.

The first major Broadway production to feel the force of this instant analysis was "Seussical," a musical celebration of Dr. Seuss' children's books.

When the show ran into trouble in Boston and received downbeat reviews chat rooms were filled with comments as the musical shed its director, set designer and costume designer. As a result, public perception of "Seussical" was largely negative, even before it officially opened on Broadway.

Meanwhile, "Cats" closed in September after a nearly 18-year run. Broadway's toughest ticket remained, after three years, "The Lion King."

Next year? With "Miss Saigon" closing at the end of January, Broadway will have only two big British musicals left "Les Miserables" and "The Phantom of the Opera" and their final curtains are nowhere in sight.

Expectation is high for a stage version of "The Producers," adapted by Mel Brooks himself and starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. It opens in New York in April after a Chicago tryout.


The year began with Santana picking up an armful of accolades and ended with The Beatles on top of the music charts. But it was youthful pop and Gen X angst that ruled the charts: 'N Sync, Eminem, Limp Bizkit and Britney Spears.

While the industry focused on the young, the images and music often were kid-unfriendly. Eminem's vicious prose drew protests from women and gays, and a song about underwear Sisqo's "The Thong Song" became the summer anthem.

Even self-proclaimed virgin Britney Spears took a turn toward the tawdry with her striptease antics at the MTV Awards.

And the most talked-about moment at the Grammys? Jennifer Lopez's barely-there dress.

But the biggest story in music this year was how listeners tune in. Internet music-swapping services like Napster, which let music lovers pick and swap songs for free, were a huge hit. Outraged record labels and many artists were looking for alternatives in the courts and in boardrooms.


Lawyers proved as significant as Rembrandt in 2000.

The art world spun into the new year with fallout from "Sensation," the 1999 exhibit that created a cultural and political war over Chris Ofili's painting of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung.

In March, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the Brooklyn Museum dropped their dueling lawsuits, and the city agreed to spend $5.8 million for a museum renovation project.

Meanwhile, governments around the world agreed to search for 600,000 pieces of art plundered from Holocaust victims by the Nazis.

But at a meeting this fall, art experts, Jewish activists and officials from 37 countries did not decide whether art taken from museums in Nazi-occupied Europe should be returned to the nations of origin or to Israel.

The Internet played a key role in tracking down stolen art, while the FBI investigated eBay over "shill" bids self-bidding on an abstract painting.

And eBay's rival,, lost a significant partner when Sotheby's ended their joint Web site for big-ticket auctions.

As for Rembrandt, the Dutch master's "Portrait of a Lady Aged 62" fetched a record $28.7 million at a Christie's auction this month.

Next year? If the current Shanghai Biennale is any indication, expect more cultural rows.

A photo of a man eating a dead baby was rejected by the show but seized by police when it surfaced at a local gallery. Brace yourself, Brooklyn Museum.

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