Disney has high hopes for ‘Beauty’ tuner

GOOD MORNING: “Beauty and the Beast’s” bow at the Shubert April 13 will be a black-tie benefit bash for the Motion Picture & Television Fund. The event’s chaired by Michael Eisner and Lew Wasserman. When asked how long the show will play here, Eisner told me, “Forever.” The Broadway company at the Palace has been playing near capacity since opening last April 18 and has grossed $ 43.7 million. The movie’s worldwide gross is at $ 348 million ($ 145 mil domestic, $ 203 mil international). And 22 million video units have been sold for an estimated $ 338 million gross. Eisner said “B&B” companies will bow in Melbourne and Toronto in July, and a U.S. touring company sets out in November. Companies will soon settle down in Tokyo, Osaka, London, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Buenos Aires as well. Eisner says Disney hopes to bring new musicals to the stage at the rate of “one a year” starting in ’97. They could be based on “past or future” Disney pix. The Disney program to revive 42nd Street and the New Amsterdam Theater gets its final budgeting from New York sometime between April and July of this year. The busy Eisner, who says he is in “better shape than ever,” previewed the new “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” attraction at Disneyland Tuesday p.m. before heading to the Pond to watch the Mighty Ducks (who lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-0). The “Indiana” attraction gets its preem Feb. 26. And Eisner, enthusiastic as a kid at his first Disneyland visit, says it’s a “new look at technology” in park pleasures. George Lucas was a consultant. Although Disneyland is not going through the originally planned enormous expansion, he says it will still grow, “but not quite the size” anticipated –“because of what’s going on.” As for rumors of a buyout offer following the recent healthy Disney financial report, Eisner said he’s heard of no such offers and that they would be “unrealistic.”

UNIQUE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS of showbiz: The blind and visually impaired soon will be able to enjoy movies through the TheatreVision process. The first movie to utilize the idea is “Forrest Gump.” The concept was created by Helen Harris, president/founder of Retinitis Pigmentosa Intl. The idea is simple — a descriptive narrative track is accessed through a headset and runs concurrently with the pic’s dialogue. And who better to provide this narrative on “Forrest Gump” than — Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers. He paints a picture with words as he describes the images on screen. Harris tells me it was a smash hit at the sneak preview. She created it when “Schindler’s List” was released, she was so determined “this great movie” should be seen by everyone. She approached Steven Spielberg and began building a committee. It’s in the works. And last September Par’s Sherry Lansing OK’d “Forrest Gump” and Scully said yes. Digital Theater Systems put it together. On Feb. 21 it will be screened for the industry at Par with a VIP reception to introduce Hollywood to the technique and encourage other producers to follow Lansing’s leadership, says Harris. She adds, “Imagine that ‘The Lion King’ could now be described for children and ‘seen’ in the theater along with everyone else.” Call (818) 992-0636 to “see” this project grow … Meanwhile, thesp Mindy Brown is “quite passionate” about her work — bringing the “sounds” of music to the deaf and hearing-impaired. She signs with her hands — and body — to the strains of any music, from the L.A. Philharmonic to Barbra Streisand, from Oingo Boingo to Elton John. This Saturday, f’rinstance , she creates the visual pictures for the music of the rock group Rebbi’s Soul at Largo. Life magazine gives Brown a two-page spread in its March issue, but I’ve seen a videotape of her in action with musical groups — with the sound eliminated, I could “hear” her make the music happen.

WOODY HARRELSON HUNG from the 51st floor of N.Y.’s Four Seasons hotel — for a scene in Col’s “The Money Train.” Wesley Snipes came to his rescue — as the two play NYC transit cops in Jon Peters’ comedy-thriller set on the subway. Joining ’em — as their nemesis — Robert Blake. They’ll chase about in a milelong “subway” being built near L.A.’s Chinatown … Edie and Lew Wasserman host their annual Chasen’s catered dinner party for residents of the MPTV Country Home on Valentine’s Day … Wednesday, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Peter Sellars delighted members of the Music Center’s Blue Ribbon program as Ernest Fleischmann moderated “The Other Side of the Curtain” on — the opera “Pelleas et Melisande” and why it’s switched to Malibu. The lunch that followed was Malibu-themed as well … O.J.’s “I Want to Tell You” is No. 1 and Sheila Weller’s “Raging Heart: The Intimate Story of the Tragic Marriage of O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson” is No. 2 on the N.Y. Times’ list Sunday.