FOOTBALL LOSING MORE GROUND

Giving ABC additional reason to question whether it should shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for Monday Night Football, Monday's telecast of the Kansas City vs. Tennessee game was handily beaten by CBS's lineup of mostly reruns in every half hour of primetime. For the night, CBS averaged a 10.5 rating and a 16 share, well above ABC's 8.0/12. MNF's defeat was particularly crushing in the 10:00 p.m. hour when CBS's CSI Miami recorded a 13.7/23 while the Titans-Chiefs game drew only an 8.5/14. The other networks failed to compete, with Fox finishing third with a 5.1/8 and NBC dropping to fourth with a 4.8/7.

FCC PROBES TELECAST OF OLYMPICS OPENING CEREMONIES

The FCC, acting on "one or more indecency complaints," has asked NBC for tapes of its coverage of the opening ceremonies of the Athens Summer Olympics. According to published reports, the agency received at least one letter about naked dancers covered only in body paint who participated in the Aug. 13 show. Some reports indicated that the performance had already been heavily edited by the network before it aired and that the complaining party (or parties) may have been reacting to printed reports about it. (Leni Riefenstahl's classic 1938 documentary Olympia, Parts 1 and 2, which opens with a nude male runner carrying a torch among the ruins of Olympia, Greece, would presumably touch off a similar probe if it aired today. The documentary scene reportedly originated the modern Olympic torch ceremony.)

WILL POWELL SAVE PRIVATE RYAN?

FCC Chairman Michael Powell said Monday that he would recommend that the commission reject indecency complaints filed against ABC stations that recently aired Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. An FCC spokesman said that Powell had concluded that the offending language in the film was necessary for an accurate portrayal. Opponents of such language are certain to fight back. Their position was recently expressed by Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Shaunti Feldhahn, who wrote: "All parents know that inconsistent enforcement spells disaster for long-term compliance with healthy standards. Broadcasters know it, too. But so, thankfully, do millions of average Americans, who almost always prefer family-friendly shows."

DICK CLARK TO MISS NEW YEAR'S FESTIVITIES

Dick Clark, who has celebrated the past 32 New Year's Eves in Times Square with his Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC, will be replaced this year by Regis Philbin. In a statement issued by his publicist, Clark, who reportedly suffered a minor stroke last week, said: "It'll feel strange watching it on TV, but my doctors felt it was too soon" to return to work. In the same statement, Philbin was quoted as saying that filling in for Clark represented "the greatest 'temp job' in the world" and expressed the hope that he would be watching Clark again on New Year's Eve next year. Meanwhile, NBC announced on Monday that Philbin will also co-host the reunion segment of next Thursday's season finale of The Apprentice.

BBC SAYS IT WILL BUY LONDON HOMES OF RELOCATED EMPLOYEES

The BBC is prepared to buy the homes of the employees that it is relocating to new facilities in Manchester, a scheme that could cost it nearly $1 billion, Britain's The Guardian reported today (Tuesday). The newspaper cites the current issue of the BBC's in-house publication Ariel, which says that for the 1,800 staff members who are being transferred from London to Manchester over the next five years, the BBC "guarantees to buy an employee's house to relieve them of the burden of selling and achieving an acceptable price." The Guardian observed that many companies offer similar assistance to a limited number of staff members. However, it noted, the BBC scheme is open to all those affected."

IS SIDEWAYS SIDLING UP TO AN OSCAR?

The Alexander Payne comedy Sideways picked up its second best-picture award Monday, this time from the New York Film Critics Circle. Over the weekend it also won the top award from the Los Angeles Critics Assn. and was also named one of the top 10 films of 2004 by the American Film Institute. In addition, it received seven Golden Globe nominations -- more than any other film. The New York critics also awarded Clint Eastwood its best director award for the boxing drama Million Dollar Baby. Paul Giamatti won the best actor award for his performance in Sideways, while Imelda Staunton won the best actress honor for Vera Drake.

OCEAN'S TIDE EBBS

Sunday business for Ocean's Twelve turned out to be well off studio estimates. The film, which Warner Bros. had figured would earn $40.9 million when its estimated Sunday business was added to actual figures for Friday and Saturday actually ended up with $39.2 million. (Its gross for Sunday came in at $8.7 million, 15 percent below the 10.4 million that Warner Bros. had expected.) New Line's Blade took in exactly what the studio figured it would, $16.1 million, to wind up in second place. Disney's National Treasure placed third with $9.8 million after leading the box office during the previous three weeks.

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

1. Ocean's Twelve, Warner Bros., $39,153,380, (New); 2. Blade: Trinity, New Line, $16,061,271, ($24,484,815 -- From Wednesday); 3. National Treasure, Disney, $9,832,622, 4 Wks. ($124,071,959); 4. The Polar Express, Warner Bros., $9,588,412, 5 Wks. ($109,826,809); 5. Christmas With the Kranks, Sony, $7,610,848, 3 Wks. ($54,781,892); 6. The Incredibles, Disney, $5,036,631, 6 Wks. ($232,573,246); 7. The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, Paramount, $4,357,011, 4 Wks. ($73,596,022); 8. Closer, Sony, $3,735,153, 2 Wks. ($13,740,180); 9. Finding Neverland, Miramax, $1,688,620, 5 Wks. ($14,209,515); 10. Alexander, Warner Bros., $1,479,348, 3 Wks. ($32,594,911).

SEC FILING INDICATES WEINSTEINS MAY GO

Despite recent public statements by Disney officials that contract-renewal negotiations with Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein are continuing, the company said in its annual SEC filing Monday that it "does not expect business at [Miramax] to continue at the same level" beyond Sept. 30 next year when Disney can end its relationship wit the Weinsteins. In the same statement, Disney said that it was "unable to determine whether projects currently in progress may be abandoned or otherwise impaired and whether there will be any material charges" if it parts company with the Weinsteins.

OVITZ PAY-OFF A "WISE INVESTMENT," SAYS EX-BOARD MEMBER

A former member of the Disney board of directors has described the $140 million that the company paid Michael Ovitz when it fired him as a "wise investment," saying that in the 15 months that Ovitz served as president of the company, he had "created a climate that was counterproductive." Testifying during the trial of a shareholders' lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court, architect Robert A.M. Stern said that as a result of his talks with Disney chief Michael Eisner and other company executives, he had become aware that "Mr. Ovitz was having difficulty finding his executive niche in the company."

KRANKS TANKS WITH CRITICS, BOOSTED BY CHRISTIANS

Sony Pictures successfully used endorsements from televangelist Pat Robertson's 700 Club and other religious-based broadcasters and conservative family groups to counter poor critical reviews of its Christmas With the Kranks and turn it into a modest hit, the New York Times reported today (Tuesday). The newspaper quoted marketing experts as saying that the studio borrowed its marketing campaign from Mel Gibson, who targeted the same groups to promote The Passion of the Christ.

RITCHIE, MADONNA SHOOT FILM IN SECRET

British director Guy Ritchie is keeping a tight veil of secrecy over a new film he is shooting on the relatively remote Isle of Man. Today's London Daily Mirror reported that the film, titled Revolver, will feature Ritchie's wife, Madonna, and that the singer-actress has already filmed her scenes for the movie. The newspaper quoted an insider as saying, "Everyone knows Madonna gets what she wants and she still loves to act." Her name was not included in early press releases about the movie, which stars Jason Stathan and Ray Liotta. Ritchie's last film with Madonna, 2002's Swept Away, flopped at the box office.

THE PRODUCERS WINS TOP BRITISH THEATER AWARD

The London stage version of Mel Brooks' The Producers -- the movie that became a Broadway musical and is about to become a movie again -- was named best musical at the 50th annual Evening Standard Theater Awards Monday.