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Anakin Skywalker: Star Wanes

In Business This Week: Headliner

Anakin Skywalker: Star Wanes

Anakin Skywalker just couldn't soar as high as the expectations for his Movie. Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace opened at warp speed, selling $102.7 million worth of tickets in five days. But as Weekend Two rolled around, Hollywood insiders were privately saying the film failed to hit the heights many had predicted: The $61.8 million it collected over its first weekend trailed the $70 million record by Steven Spielberg's dinosaur film The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Industry observers now expect Menace to generate more than $300 million in U.S. theater sales, putting it in the top 10 all-time films, but behind the original Star Wars (No. 2) and well behInd Titanic, which took in $600.7 million.

But there is plenty of evidence that the Force is still strong with its fans. Fox, which is distributing the movie, paid an estimated $50 million to air Menace on Fox Network next year, before cable can get it. And in Menomonie, Wis., a pair of thieves stole a print from the State Theater, apparently to make bootleg video copies of the film.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

One More Union for First Union?

Is First Union, famous for being a big acquirer, about to become takeover bait itself? The Charlotte (N.C.) banking giant's warning on May 25 that 1999 profits will be 20% lower than Wall Street's initial forecasts sent its stock down $4, to $45, nearly a third below its level last January. The culprit: First Union says its 1998 acquisitions of CoreStates Financial and the Money Store haven't generated the returns necessary to cover their purchase prices. The $223 billion bank has grown through dozens of acquisitions over the years. But with its stock weak and profit picture murky, Wall Street analysts now wOnder if First Union itself might be on the block. First Union insists it isn't for sale, but analysts wonder if rivals such as Wells Fargo and Chase Manhattan might seize on the bank's current woes to make a bid.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

Food Tests Aren't Going Down Easily

Earlier this year, an outbreak of Listeria in Sara Lee meat products took 21 lives and sickened more than 100, according to the Centers for Disease Control. On May 25, the feds announced several steps to help industry control the bug, including new guidelines for testing meat products. But food safety experts are skeptical: For one thing, they say increased testing may miss small amounts of listeria. "Absence of evidence does not mean that the evidence is absent," says Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist formerly with the Minnesota Health Dept.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

An E-Media Brawl in the Making

The electronics industry must love standards--it creates so many of them. On May 26, AT&T, Matsushita Electric, BMG Entertainment, and Universal Music said they would develop a secure system to create, send, and play back audio and video programming over the Internet. A trial of the Electronic Media Distribution system will come on the heels of IBM's June test of a rival scheme. Like the new standard, it's supported by Universal and BMG--as well as by Sony, EMI, and Warner.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

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