TV NEWS CHANNELS WEATHER THE STORMS
The major broadcast networks and the all-news cable networks are being forced to reexamine their strategies for dealing with terrorist attacks after they were blindsided by last week's incidents in London, which occurred while most of their reporters and film crews were covering the G8 conference in Scotland, nearly 400 miles away. Nevertheless, Marc McGinnis, senior V.P. of news coverage for CBS, told today's (Monday) Philadelphia Inquirer that no matter what the situation, "You scramble to get your people to the scene and get all the troops deployed. It sounds like a formula, but you're still flying by the seat of your pants every time you do it." The New York Times reported on Sunday that even British coverage of the London events was sparse because many top news crews were not only in Scotland but also dispersed to Singapore to cover the International Olympic committee's decision to award the 2012 Games to London.
WILL STORM RAISE NEWS NETS RATINGS?
The television networks had considerably more resources at their disposal for coverage of Hurricane Dennis in the Florida panhandle. TV anchors braved the high winds on Sunday, seemingly looking for the Dan Rather effect. In particular Anderson Cooper on CNN called in the network's correspondents while being pelted with heavy rain. When at one point, CNN's Miami correspondent John Zarella shouted, "We're not protected," Cooper shot back. "My mom is watching. Chill out on that a little bit!" (Cooper's mom is Gloria Vanderbilt.) In the background trees could be seen snapping in the wind and flying through the air. "You have a leaf on your eye," Cooper remarked to Zarella at one point, then removed it. At another point, a hotel sign crashed near where the men were standing. "Look out! Get back!" yelled Zarella. By contrast, Fox News Network was struck by a series of technical glitches and shaky images. FOX News Live (weekend edition) host Brian Wilson reported at one point, "We actually lost a satellite truck today as the winds blew it over on its side." Fox correspondent Steve Harrigan's reports were frequently interrupted by signal failures, causing Wilson to remark repeated, "Please bear with us." All networks invited people in the area to send them home video from their vantage points, with MSNBC setting up a separate address for the "citizen journalists" -- email@example.com. With rumors continuing to spread that Chief Justice William Rehnquist may announce his resignation from the Supreme Court this week, CNN/U.S. chief Jon Klein told USA Today: "I feel like we're fighting a war on three fronts and maybe four."
PHONY CNN "NEWS CLIP" IS A VIRUS
Meanwhile, Internet vandals attempted to exploit interest in the London attacks by sending out thousands of messages that appeared to be addressed from CNN with the subject line reading "TERROR HITS LONDON." An attachment supposedly resembling a film clip icon accompanied a message inviting recipients to "see attachments for unique amateur video shots" of the attacks, according to Internet security firm MessageLabs. The attachment, however, turns out to be a Trojan Horse virus that installs itself on the recipient's computer and will continue to run automatically on start-up.
REDSTONE SAYS IT'S A NEW AGE FOR THE MEDIA
"The age of the conglomerate is over" Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone told reporters covering Allen & Co.'s annual retreat for media moguls at Sun Valley, Idaho on Friday. Redstone made his comment in advance of the final separation of Viacom's broadcast holdings, including CBS, UPN, and Infinity radio from its cable and film holdings including Paramount, MTV, BET, and Nickelodeon. "Sometimes divorce is better than marriage," Redstone remarked, adding that it was now necessary to adapt to new circumstances.
WIPE OUT FOR THE PRINCES OF MALIBU
Fox continued to experience disappointing results Sunday night in its effort to launch new programming during the summer. The series premiere of The Princes of Malibu at 8:30 produced dreadful ratings -- a 3.7 rating and a 6 share -- placing fourth among total viewers and third among adults 18-49.
FOUR FLIES TO THE FORE
"Fantastic" was the adjective being used most frequently to describe the performance of 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Four at the box office this weekend. According to study estimates, the film earned a surprising $56 million -- well above most analysts' prediction of about $33-36 million. Moreover, if the estimate holds (and it could be significantly affected by the Florida hurricane), it could very well push the box office total slightly higher than 2004's, marking the end o the current 19-week-long slump. Meanwhile, War of the Worlds tumbled $52 percent in its second week, earning about $31.3 million. It has earned $165.8 million in its initial 12 days. Dark Water, the only other film to debut this weekend, took in an estimated $10.1 million to place fourth, just behind Warner Bros.' Batman Begins which earned $10.2 million in its fourth week. It has now taken in $172.1 million. Rounding out the top five was Fox's Mr. & Mrs. Smith with about $7.9 million, bringing its total gross to $158.7 million. Meanwhile, Warner Independent Pictures' March of the Penguins continued to pack 'em in in art houses, taking in an estimated $975,000 at 64 theaters or an average of $15,234 per theater.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Fantastic Four, $56 million; 2. War of the Worlds, $31.3 million; 3. Batman Begins, $10.2 million; 4. Dark Water, $10.1 million; 5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, $7.85 million; 6. Herbie: Fully Loaded, $6.3 million; 7. Bewitched, $5.5 million; 8. Madagascar, $4.3 million; 9. Rebound, $2.9 million; 10. Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, $2.6 million.
WAR OF THE WORLDS CONQUERS OTHER WORLDS
Meanwhile, War of the Worlds continued its conquest overseas, taking in $60.5 million over the weekend and bringing its total foreign gross just past the $200-million mark, according to Daily Variety. The Steven Spielberg film starring Tom Cruise took in $11 million on 848 screens in its debut in France, its best overseas showing. However, in its second week in such key locales as Germany, Spain, Australia, and Italy, the film dropped around 50 percent. Fox's Fantastic Four opened in second place in just 16 markets with $16 million.
DISNEY AND DISNEY BURY THE HATCHET
Seeming to represent the sweet fulfillment of each side's secret longing, the Walt Disney Co. and dissident former directors Stanley P. Gold and Roy E. Disney have settled their differences, thereby permitting the company's incoming CEO Robert Iger to grapple with its numerous problems without the distraction of a battle within the company's own family. The announcement came -- like a bolt out of the blue -- on Friday, surprising industry observers, most of whom were unaware that talks between the two sides were underway. Iger, who is due to take over as CEO in September from Michael Eisner, was attending the Allen and Co. mogul retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho. The whereabouts of Gold and Disney were not known. The two men issued a statement saying that they had decided to withdraw their lawsuit, which challenges the methods used in the selection of Iger as CEO. (It had been set for trial on August 10 in Delaware Chancery Court.) They also expressed their confidence in his leadership. In return, Disney is to be welcomed back to the company's complex in Burbank, where he will serve as a consultant and be given a new office and the title "director emeritus." In reporting on the settlement, Saturday's Los Angeles Times commented that it "brings to a close one of the nastiest executive-suite dogfights in recent corporate history." On the website savedisney.com, which Gold and Disney had set up to post their complaints against the company, the home page was devoted to the joint press release that they had issued with the Disney Co.
MALIBU FILM COLONY AT WAR WITH ITSELF
The Malibu City Council is due to consider a proposal today (Monday) that would ban late-night and early-morning film production in the town that is the permanent or summer home of numerous studio executives and movie stars. Some industry officials contend that the rules would essentially prevent movies from being filmed in the coastal "colony." Saturday's Los Angeles Times quoted movie consultant Don Mann as saying, "The paradox is that many Malibuites made their fortunes in film. ... Now they're saying, 'I made my money. You guys do your [shooting] elsewhere.'"
CHAN ACCUSES TUCKER OF DIVA CONDUCT
Jackie Chan has accused his Rush Hour costar Chris Tucker of blocking production of a new installment of the franchise by making a power grab. "He wants final editing rights and the final look at the movie and so on," Chan told The Associated Press. Chan insisted that Tucker has not established a sufficient reputation for making such demands. "He's still a new actor," he said. "How many movies has he made? Two movies have already made him very famous and made him a lot of money. He needs to learn slowly." Tucker has not responded.