Maybe everyone was happy because this movie, which had been a $92 million underdog, looked to have legs almost as fetching as Cameron Diaz's, but there was other good news afoot that same night. Even as the screening of the film was beginning, labor negotiators 3,000 miles away in Manhattan were announcing that a tentative agreement had been reached between the advertising industry and striking members of the actor's unions, thus ending a rancorous, worrisome and costly 175-day ordeal. The settlement has generated cautious optimism in Hollywood that the unions and producers will do all they can to avoid a strike that's looming when actors' and writers' film and TV contracts expire in 2001.
But I believe that the general good mood in Hollywood these days is due primarily to the passing of a box-office slump that began last summer and has continued until recent weeks. Box office for summer 2000 was down nearly 5 percent from summer '99, and still the industry lags behind 1999's overall grosses. With the success of "Remember the Titans" and "Meet the Parents," however, the 2000 receipts are expected to catch up soon. You can expect big November openings for Jim Carrey in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and Glenn Close in "102 Dalmatians." In December, you can expect big things out of the holiday good-buzz magnet, "What Women Want," a romantic comedy starring Helen Hunt and Mel Gibson. If your trend radar is bleeping, it's because all of the aforementioned films fall appropriately enough into the "feel-good" category. Even the icky-sweet "Pay It Forward," featuring the curious chemistry of Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey, is getting strong word-of-mouth from audiences, which could ultimately drown out the critics' savage reviews. Another trend you may have spotted in the above text is the omnipresence of Helen Hunt. Besides appearing with Mel and Kevin, she also recently appeared in "Dr. T and the Women" with Richard Gere. So perhaps we have our answer to happiness in Hollywood. The more she works, the happier we are. Let's hear it for "Twister 2."