Billboard Bits: TNT, Manilow, Virgin Megastore

News on TNT, Manilow, Virgin Megastore

HootieHootie & the Blowfish, Ashanti, Joss Stone, Kenny Chesney and Renee Fleming make up the artist lineup for cable channel TNT's "Christmas in Washington" TV special, airing Dec. 14. The one-hour holiday benefit concert, hosted by actress Patricia Heaton, is the centerpiece of the 22nd annual special.

"Christmas in Washington" will also feature the world premiere of Hootie & the Blowfish's video clip for the new song "Goodbye Girl." The song, a remake of David Gates' 1977 single, was produced to accompany the TNT original film of playwright Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl," which premieres Jan. 16.

The concert will take place at Washington, D.C.'s National Building Museum and will also feature Ian Fraser & the Christmas in Washington Orchestra, the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club, the U.S. Army Band Herald Trumpets and the American Family Choir, a group of 90 teen vocalists from high schools throughout the area.

Barry ManilowBarry Manilow will head the holiday-themed special "A Barry Manilow Christmas: Live by Request" Friday (Dec. 5) in New York. During the two-hour program, the vocalist will take Christmas song requests from fans through an 800 number and the Internet. The show will air live on cable TV channel A&E in North America and A&E Mundo in Latin America, and will also be simulcast over the Jones Radio network.

Manilow will be joined by guests including Bette Midler, Cyndi Lauper and Jose Feliciano, and will perform songs from his two holiday albums, 1990's "Because It's Christmas (Arista/BMG) and 2002's "A Christmas Gift of Love" (Columbia).

-- Troy Carpenter, N.Y.

Virgin Entertainment Group (VEG) North America will today (Dec. 3) unveil what it is calling its model store of the future, as it opens its redesigned Virgin Megastore in San Francisco. VEG executives say the focus of the redesign will be on "lifestyle" products that appeal to the music and DVD buyer.

About 10% of the floor space at the store will now be dedicated to products other than CDs and DVDs. Music is now expected to account for roughly half of the available floor space at Virgin, down from a previous level of 60%. The model is expected to be extended to Virgin Megastores in New York and Los Angeles next year, following a test period in San Francisco.

The San Francisco store now features more square footage dedicated to consumer-electronics products, fashions from Ben Sherman and others, band merchandise, games, accessories, adult DVDs and novelty items from the likes of Hello Kitty. A zone dedicated to the gay lifestyle is also being introduced, as are "Mind, Spirit and Body" products, such as yoga equipment. In addition, the DVD section has been expanded and now includes movie-related memorabilia and merchandise.

-- Brian Garrity, N.Y.