GRACE AN ANSWER TO CNN/HN'S PRAYERS

CNN Headline News, which has never attracted a million viewers to any of its regular programming, may be about to do so. Nancy Grace has been nudging that mark closely in recent days, including Friday when she attracted 942,000 viewers, according to Inside Cable News. Her numbers thereby topped those of each of the regular CNN channel's primetime personalities except Larry King, who drew 1.08 million viewers. Grace also appeared to be cannibalizing the audience for Paula Zahn Now, which airs at the same time. Zahn's numbers were the lowest of the night for CNN, 437,000 viewers -- fewer than half the number for Grace.

GEORGE LUCAS TO FOCUS ON TELEVISION

George Lucas said Monday that in the aftermath of the completion of his Star Wars films, he plans to focus on television, "but it's not a vision I'm running, either as executive producer or to be laying out the groundwork," he insisted. Nevertheless, his words did not seem to jibe with the description of Lucasfilm's first major TV projects, both of which were inspired by Lucas's Star Wars. Speaking at the annual Siggraph computer graphics conference in Los Angeles, Lucas said that his initial TV project will be the animated Clone Wars, to be produced at Lucas Animation's facilities in Singapore, where he's building up a computer animation production plant. He also said that he plans to begin production of a Star Wars live-action series using off-the-shelf consumer digital cameras that will allow him to keep costs down. ""What would normally cost $20-30 million we can do for $1 million," he said. Comparing the TV show to the Star Wars movies, he said: "Television is an easier medium to work in. ... There's less pressure and it's a great medium to experiment in."

HELL'S KITCHEN HOT IN FINALE

The season finale of Hell's Kitchen Monday night won the 9:00 p.m. hour for Fox with a 5.5 rating and a 9 share. The reality series, which had failed to draw big ratings through most of its run, lifted Fox to second place for the night in the overall ratings and first among adults 18-49. Another summertime reality series, CBS's Rock Star: INXS, continued to founder however, drawing the smallest numbers of the night for the network, a 3.9/6. Nevertheless, CBS's reruns saved the day for the network, which won in the overall primetime ratings and placed second in the key 18-49 demo.

CURRENT WEBSITE DOESN'T FLOW SMOOTHLY ON OPENING DAY

On its first day of operations the website associated with Al Gore's new cable channel Current TV appeared to be a victim of its own success. The website, www.current.tv, where viewers can upload their own video productions for showing on the TV channel, experienced significant delays in displaying its home page CNET News reported today (Tuesday), citing performance tracker Keynote Systems. Tested in five major U.S. cities, the Current website reportedly took as long as 22 seconds to load the home page and in some instances couldn't do so at all. Keynote analyst Roopak Patel attributed the details to a crush of legitimate traffic rather than an attack by hackers.

NEWS FOOTAGE OF ATOM BOMBING SUPPRESSED

Hours of newsreel footage taken by U.S. and Japanese film crews in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the 1945 atomic bombings were suppressed by the U.S. military and much of the footage has never been broadcast, reposing at the National Archives in College Park, MD, Editor & Publisher reported on Monday. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern, who supervised the filming, told the publication, "I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn't want those [film] images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child....They didn't want the general public to know what their weapons had done -- at a time they were planning on more bomb tests. We didn't want the material out because...we were sorry for our sins." Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

TOP OF THE POPS IS ANYTHING BUT TOPS

Britain's venerable Top of the Pops, which once drew an audience of more than 19 million -- a third of the entire population -- and introduced such acts as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, has seen its audience plummet to just one million and now faces final extinction. Last month the show was given a new time slot on Sundays at 7:00 p.m. in hopes of lifting its ratings, which had fallen to 2.4 million in its previous slot at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, where it was forced to compete against the top-rated soap opera Coronation Street. A BBC spokesperson said that the broadcaster recognizes that the show will have "to undergo a period of adjustment."

BOX OFFICE DOES A BACK FLIP

The summer box office, which briefly pulled out of its longest dive ever three weeks ago, descended to a new low against 2004 ticket sales last weekend, as the total take for the top 12 movies came in at 21.3 percent below the year-ago figure. The total amounted to $112.1 million, with the top four films accounting for 57 percent of that figure. New Line's Wedding Crashers rose to the top of the list after spending the previous two weeks in second position. Its $20-million take pushed its total past the $100-million mark. Warner Bros.' Charlie and the Chocolate Factory slipped to second place with $16.3 million, to bring its total to $148.1 million. Among three newcomers, Disney's Sky High performed the best (even if the title did not describe its take) with $14.6 million -- a respectable figure for a relatively low-budget movie ($35 million). But Sony's Stealth crashed on take-off. The movie, which cost more than $100 million to make, brought in just $13.3 million.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Wedding Crashers, New Line, $20,023,159, 3 Wks. ($115,622,139); 2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Warner Bros., $16,384,332, 3 Wks. ($148,095,522); 3. Sky High, Disney, $14,631,784, (New); 4. Stealth, Sony, $13,251,545, (New); 5. Must Love Dogs, Warner Bros., $12,855,321, (New); 6. Fantastic Four, 20th Century Fox, $6,912,725, 4 Wks. ($136,257,616); 7. The Island, DreamWorks, $5,963,223, 2 Wks. ($24,319,260); 8. Bad News Bears, Paramount, $5,634,919, 2 Wks. ($22,667,038); 9. War of the Worlds, Paramount, $5,481,239, 5 Wks. ($218,378,264); 10. March of the Penguins, Warner Bros., $4,030,894, 2 Wks. ($16,330,241).

TIME WARNER DRAGGED DOWN BY FILM UNITS

Despite the fact that its New Line and Warner Bros. units produced the top two films at the box office for the past three weekends, parent Time Warner is expected to report Wednesday that overall results for its second quarter was pulled down by a slide in box office revenue. (The two new films were released too late to be included in the latest results.) Analysts polled by Thomson Financial Investment Banking/Capital Markets said that they expect overall company profits to be flat versus the comparable 2004 quarter, largely due to the fact that the company's two studios were unable to match last year's success of Lord of the Rings on home video and Harry Potter in theaters. Bloomberg News quoted Laura Martin of Soleil Securities Corp. as saying, "Film hurt the overall numbers because of the great year they had in 2004. ... As film gets stronger in the rest of the year, it will allow the growth in the rest of the empire to become unmasked."

MPAA PLANS TO FILE MORE LAWSUITS AGAINST INTERNET PIRATES

With its educational efforts failing to put a dent in online piracy, the Motion Picture Association of America announced Monday that it plans to sue a new round of movie downloaders. In a statement, John Malcolm, head of the MPAA's anti-piracy unit, said: "Internet thieves be warned: You can click but you can't hide. While we don't like suing individuals and would prefer to see people spend their summer entertainment budget going to movie theaters, buying or renting legal DVDs or enjoying films through a legitimate video-on-demand service, rather than spending their money hiring lawyers and defending against these lawsuits, we will go as many rounds as is necessary until people get the word that the online distribution of stolen movies is illegal and harmful to the people who use their talents to create movies that are enjoyed around the world."

ALTMAN IS LOOKING FOR MOVIEGOERS WHO WENT TO "JESUS PICTURE"

Robert Altman says he is hoping that his film version of public radio's Prairie Home Companion will attract "the kind of audience that went to Mel Gibson's Jesus picture." In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the 80-year-old director defined that audience as "people who don't go to the movies, as a rule." He predicted that the movie will "play well in Oshkosh, WI" but will probably not attract the usual teenage dating crowd. "Lindsay Lohan may bring in a few, but they're not going to go back from it with good word-of-mouth." Others in the cast include Meryl Streep ("She's 25 percent above anyone else."), Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, and PHC creator Garrison Keillor, who also wrote the screenplay.

DISNEY PLANNING TO BUILD A SECOND THEME PARK IN CHINA

Disney, which is planning to open Hong Kong Disneyland on Sept. 12, is expected to announce soon that will open a second theme park in Shanghai in 2012, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported today (Tuesday) without citing sources. The newspaper said that Disney expects to begin design preparations for the park as early as next year, with construction scheduled to begin in 2008. The paper indicated that a site has already been selected for the park in Pudong East, one that is three times the size of the Hong Kong park. The report said that managers of the Hong Kong construction as well as Disney designers from the U.S. will be transferred to Shanghai by the end of this year.