"WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM ..."
U.S. television networks promptly rushed into action with live coverage of the latest London subway attacks today (Thursday), two weeks after they were caught with their London correspondents and camera crews away in Scotland for the G8 conference when terrorist explosions wracked the city. Network anchors complained that authorities were providing only sketchy information about what were described as "incidents" and not full-fledged bombings. (It was initially reported that the four small explosions (three on subway trains, one on a bus) that occurred were caused by detonators, but at mid-morning it was not known whether they were attached to other explosives. British TV stations initially switched out of regular programs and into "rolling news," relying initially on overhead traffic cameras installed near the underground stations to provide on-the-spot coverage.
CBS TO COURT "CITIZEN JOURNALISTS"
Made sharply aware by the recent tsunami disaster and the London terrorist attacks that ordinary citizens may be able to provide news footage from their camcorders and video phones that is more compelling than anything from their staff professionals, CBS is planning to set up a website that can receive video news clips from "citizen journalists," Broadcasting & Cable magazine reported Wednesday. In an interview with the trade publication, CBS Digital Media President Larry Kramer said, "What we haven't done yet is formally set up the address and tell people if they have the footage to send it here, because I don't have enough people ready to go through it. ... But it's in the budget, and we are getting hired up. There will be an email address and drop where people can send stuff and describe it and our editors will look at it and decide."
VIACOM UNITS IN LONG-TERM DEAL WITH DIRECTV
CBS, which has been saying that it wants to be paid for retransmission of its signals by cable and TV companies, reached a long-term agreement with DirecTV Wednesday. The network's programming was included in a package of Viacom networks and stations, including UPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Spike TV, BET and Logo. Terms were not disclosed. Last month Viacom Co-president and CBS chief Les Moonves said, "It's a new day, and I want to be paid for my great programming," but it was presumed that the DirecTV deal did not include retransmission fees for CBS or UPN programs.
DANCING TO TAKE ANOTHER BOW
Confirming what had already been taken for granted, ABC announced Wednesday that Dancing With the Stars, the biggest hit of the summer, will return next year as a midseason series. The show is produced by BBC Worldwide Productions. Meanwhile, a Dancing knockoff, So You Think You Can Dance debuted on Fox Wednesday night to scourging reviews. Tom Shales in the Washington Post said that the show, along with other summertime programming from the network, is a reminder "of "how demoralizing and tedious the truly execrable can be." Shales in particular laid into producer Nigel Lythgoe, who plays the Simon Cowell role on the dancing contest, dishing out insults to the contestants. "Lythgoe reached his own personal worst with a prolonged tirade that sounded like poorly disguised homophobia. Imagine staging a dancing competition and having a few gay boys show up! That this might have surprised him is absurd enough, but Lythgoe took off after one young man in particular -- an obviously talented kid named Anthony -- for not looking 'masculine' enough when he danced. Whatever that meant."
JAMES DOOHAN -- STAR TREK'S SCOTTY -- DEAD AT 85
Actor James Doohan, best known for his role as Scotty on Star Trek ("Beam me up, Scotty!"), died Wednesday in Redmond, WA at age 85. Death was attributed to pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease. Although many fans of the series had assumed that Doohan was indeed Scottish, he was actually a Canadian who used the accent on the series because, he said, he felt it would be "commanding."
JAPANESE TV NETWORK TO PUT ITS PROGRAMS ONLINE
Japan's NTV network plans to make available its current TV shows as well as thousands of shows in its archives for viewing online starting in October, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported today (Thursday). At a news conference, NTV President Shintaro Kubota said, "Internet-based distribution is so far only a part of our larger terrestrial broadcasting services. But it has the potential to be more than that in the future." The video-on-demand service will -- at least initially -- be offered free, with costs covered by advertising. Meanwhile, Broadcasting & Cable reported that CBS on Tuesday made its latest episode of the reality series Big Brother available online, the first 60-minute entertainment program ever provided online by the network.
WEEKEND BOX-OFFICE RUSH SPREADS TO MID-WEEK
Last weekend's box-office winners, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Wedding Crashers are drawing the biggest mid-week theater crowds since Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith opened in May. According to Exhibitor Relations, Charlie grossed $8.6 million on Monday and an additional $7.8 million on Tuesday. After five days, its total stood at $72.5 million. Wedding, meanwhile, took in $5.7 million on Monday and $5.5 million on Tuesday, to bring its five-day gross to $45.5 million.
PRODUCER TO BUILD MULTIPLEX THEATERS IN LATINO NEIGHBORHOODS
Famed Latino producer Moctesuma Esparza, whose credits include Selena, The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca, The Cisco Kid, and The Milagro Beanfield War, announced plans on Wednesday to form a new movie chain, Maya Cinemas, that will cater primarily to U.S.-born, English-speaking Latinos. Esparza, a onetime Chicano political activist, said that he plans to build at least eight multiplex movie theaters in areas with heavy concentrations of Latin Americans, with the first to open on July 29 in Salinas, CA. Each theater will devote at least one screen to what he called "specialized, community-interest films."
SUPPORTERS AND OPPONENTS OF INDIAN ACTOR CLASH AT THEATER
Supporters and opponents of Indian actor Salman Khan squared off against one another at a theater in Patna following publication and broadcast of alleged conversations between Khan and actress Aishwarya Rai in which he boasted of underworld connections and threatened her. The Indo-Asian News Service reported Wednesday that when a group attempted to shut down a screening at the Regent Theater of Khan's latest movie, Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, they were greeted by another group of fans, one of whom shouted, "Let anyone try and touch Salmanbhai's picture. Rivers of blood will flow if someone touches the film." Theater owner Suman Sinha told the wire service, "I don't know where the boys showed up from. Within minutes they cordoned off the lobby of the theatre, shouting pro-Salman slogans. ... It was a strange and bizarre phenomenon. In my 25 years of experience in this business I have never seen this happening before." Meanwhile published reports in India said Wednesday that the movie was pulled from a theater in Kerala on Monday following protests by "saffron activists." (There was no explanation of the term.) It was the third Indian theater to pull it since the controversial conversations between Khan and Rai were disclosed last week. Khan has said that the tapes were doctored. However, police officials said today (Thursday) that Khan's phone had been tapped and that it had sent tapes of the Khan-Rai conversation to a lab for analysis.
BRITISH ACTOR SAYS FILM INDUSTRY NEEDS TAX LOOPHOLES
Veteran British actor/producer Ray Winstone has said that uncertainty over whether Britain will continue to permit tax breaks for the film industry has resulted in the disappearance of investors and the virtual demise of domestic production. In an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, Winstone said, "We have to make films in other countries that we should be making here. I saw it happen in Ireland. ... A man who earns loads of money and finds a tax loop goes and makes films, so the government said we're not having that. But for each film [not made as a result of the government action] you're putting four or five hundred people out of work who all pay their taxes. I'm waiting for someone to explain why that's a good idea." Winstone said that he himself is being forced to shoot a TV version of the stage hit Sweeney Todd in Romania. "It's about London and I don't see the f***ing logic in that. But it would cost probably two-thirds more to make it here and we couldn't afford it."