It was a record-breaking summer at the box office, just like last year. No surprise there: records don't stand a chance in this big-spending age of the Event Movie. Hollywood coughed up an estimated pounds 200 billion for its 1997 summer releases. This yielded a return of $225bn, marginally higher than last year's, although the main reason was not higher turnouts, but increased ticket prices. If the bigwigs have learned anything this year, it's that sequels are tricky, ever hazardous, enterprises.

The studio executive who thought it sensible to greenlight a $140m budget for Speed 2: Cruise Control may no longer be a studio executive; the film has made a mere third of that sum back. Extravagantly hyped, the unanimously denounced Batman & Robin is probably the first movie ever to be out- performed by its tie- in plastic figurines. (Sales of the toys are said to exceed the box office receipts by at least $20m.) Two movies crossed the $200m mark, Men in Black ($234m), sneaking ahead of The Lost World ($228m) in the final stretch; Air Force One came in third with $152m. Despite Hillary Clinton's disapproval, Julia Roberts, playing a chain-smoking marriage-wrecker, finally justified her paycheque with My Best Friend's Wedding, the fourth highest grosser ($120m). Moviegoers are presently stuck in the awkward limbo of post- summer/early autumn fireworks, the pre-Oscar onslaught. This week's US box-office chart captures the anticlimax perfectly. At Number One is Fire Down Below, which stars Steven Seagal as a government agent investigating the dumping of toxic waste in a small, coal-mining Kentucky town.

A highlight of the fall TV season promises to be the season premiere of ER. On 25 September, in a stunt of unprecedented audacity for network television, the show will be broadcast live - daredevil camera moves and all. Only one of the 33 new shows is generating any kind of excitement, though - the sitcom Veronica's Closet, which stars Cheers star Kirstie

Alley as a lingerie model-turned-mogul. Woody Harrelson apart, Cheers cast members have faltered since departing the Boston-bar comedy. This time last year, Ted Danson and Thea Perlman had new prime-time sitcoms (Ink and Pearl respectively); both have since been axed.

While the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales turned into a ratings contest among the television networks, the coverage sent TV critics into a collective fit of despair at the state of American broadcasting - the plunge, as a Washington Post writer put it, "from journalism to theatrics". No fewer than eight US channels carried the funeral live - including the E! network (the "E", they insist, stands for entertainment). Of the terrestrial networks, CBS finished bottom of the ratings - which wasn't surprising as the network had also been a loser the previous week. On the night of the fatal crash, while other stations interrupted programming to break the news, CBS stayed, mysteriously, with professional wrestling. The funeral certainly brought out the worst tendencies of American broadcasters. ABC's habitually lachrymose Barbara Walters was clearly determined to induce a nationwide crying jag, and her co-anchor, Peter Jennings, was so taken by the hushed mood of the occasion that he felt compelled to blurt out observations like: "There is absolute silence." Rumours of a Diana movie have begun to circulate - but discreetly, for fear of a public backlash (Variety reports that, so far, no one will own up to any plans). A film tribute to Mother Teresa is, however, already in the can. Mother Teresa: In the Name of God's Poor, a TV movie completed some time ago, airs next month on the Family Channel.

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