Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press.


Blowing Off Steam: 20th Century Fox has surrendered in Hollywood's race of the dueling lava-filled, special-effects pictures, pulling "Volcano" out of its scheduled Feb. 28 release date. A studio spokeswoman said the movie, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche, will now open in either May or October. That leaves February wide open for its competitor, Universal's "Dante's Peak," starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. The two movies had each been in a mad rush to finish post-production first, with Universal deciding earlier this month to move "Dante's Peak" up a month, to Feb. 7. Fox officials had speculated at the time that they might subsequently delay "Volcano," thus giving them more time to perfect the film's effects, while Universal's picture would have to be done "in a rush."


Universal's Laughter Funhouse: The Laugh Factory, which in June announced plans for a nationwide chain of Laugh Factory Funhouse theme restaurants, has signed a deal with Universal Studios to open the eateries at both the Los Angeles and Orlando Universal parks. Construction on the comedy-themed restaurants, a joint venture with producers Quincy Jones and David Salzman, is scheduled to begin in the new year. Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada described the coming venue as "a 35,000-square-foot space that will be a combination of a fun house, a museum, a showcase for classic comic bits and a novelty place."


Matthew Barney's the Boss: New York-based multimedia artist Matthew Barney has received the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's first Hugo Boss Prize, a new international award recognizing significant achievement in contemporary art. In addition to a $50,000 cash prize, Barney is currently featured in a major exhibition at the New York museum's SoHo branch showcasing his works alongside those of the five other finalists--Laurie Anderson, Janine Antoni, Cai Guo Qiang, Stan Douglas and Yasumasa Morimura. Barney was previously featured in the 1993 Whitney Biennial and won the Europa 2000 prize the same year during the Venice Biennale.


Oh, Bobby: Florida police have decided to file drunken driving charges against singer Bobby Brown in conjunction with an accident in Hollywood, Fla., last August in which Brown's car jumped a curb and slammed into some hedges and a sign. Police said he was speeding, but no charges were filed at the time of the accident, after which Brown was briefly hospitalized with leg and neck injuries. Investigators later learned from Brown's medical records that his blood-alcohol level was above .20--more than double the state's legal limit--and blood tests showed the presence of cocaine and marijuana. Brown was also charged with drunken driving in Atlanta last April.


Animated Bible Stories: Cable's HBO will premiere a nine-part series on Jan. 6 using animation to tell the stories of such biblical figures as Abraham, Joseph and Moses. Beginning with "The Creation and the Flood," the half-hour series will air Mondays at 4:30 p.m. through March. "Testament: The Bible in Animation" comes from Moscow's Soyuzmultfilm Studios, the same creators as on HBO's award-winning series "Shakespeare--The Animated Tales." Computer animation, cel animation, stop-action puppetry and other techniques will be used.

Rollins' Farewell: KCET-TV Channel 28 and KOCE-TV Channel 50 will present actor Howard Rollins' final television appearance on Saturday. The hourlong "Harambee," a family drama about the African American celebration of Kwanzaa, features Rollins as a recovering drug addict trying to help his community. Rollins, who died earlier this month of complications from lymphoma, had himself battled drug addictions.


Gwyneth Paltrow's been wearing a bauble on her left hand for some time now, but she is finally confirming that she and beau Brad Pitt are officially engaged. Still no details on the nuptials, though. . . . Paramount Home Video will release the Goldie Hawn-Bette Midler-Diane Keaton box-office hit "The First Wives Club" on video March 18. In its initial release, the video will be offered for rental only. And FYI, it's promotional tie-in will be Revlon's Age Defying Makeup, a product usually hawked by another actress, Melanie Griffith. . . . James Cromwell, who received an Oscar nomination for his turn as farmer Hodgett in the movie "Babe," will celebrate a meat-free Christmas by serving vegetarian meals to the homeless today at noon at the corner of 3rd and Main streets in downtown Los Angeles. The event is inspired by a line in "Babe," in which the animals conclude that for them, "Christmas is carnage." . . . Singer Tony Bennett was released from Washington's Georgetown University Medical Center on Monday, two days after suffering a ruptured hernia during a White House holiday dinner. Bennett, 70, will spend the holidays recuperating in New York, his spokeswoman said.

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