BELMONT PULLS UP LAME

Ratings for NBC's telecast of the Belmont Stakes drew a 5.0 rating and an 11 share Saturday, down a whopping 63 percent from last year. The plunge was attributed to the fact that last year, Smarty Jones was going for the Triple Crown, while no Triple Crown victory was at stake in this year's race, won by Afleet Alex. NBC pointed out that the last Belmont Stakes in which a Triple Crown win was not involved occurred in 2001 when the network drew a 4.9/13.

CELEBRITY MAGAZINES ATTRACTING ADVERTISERS, SUBSCRIBERS

Advertising for magazines devoted to celebrity coverage has soared over the past year, with Us Weekly up nearly 25 percent, In Touch up 22 percent, and Star magazine up 17 percent, the New York Times reported today (Monday), citing figures from Publishers Information Bureau. Virtually all celebrity magazines saw huge boosts in circulation last year with sales of Star and In Touch rising about 80 percent, the Times observed, citing additional data from Audit Bureau of Circulations. Robert J. Thompson, the pop culture pundit who teaches at Syracuse University, told the newspaper that he had thought that with all the media celebrity coverage, "we would have reached a saturation point. ... Instead of reaching saturation, it seems that what all of this stuff has done is created an even more ravenous appetite for more of it." Meanwhile, Daily Variety reported today that CNN is planning to cancel its morning entertainment report, 90 Second Pop, featuring Rolling Stone contributing editor Touré, comic Andy Borowitz and a rotating group of entertainment magazine editors.

PUBLIC TRUST IN NEWS MEDIA FALLS TO RECORD LOW

The latest Gallup poll indicates that public trust in the news media has reached an all-time low. According to the poll, those respondents saying that they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in what they see on television news programs dropped from 30 percent to 28 percent over the past year and from 36 percent since 2000. The figures, which were cited in an article in today's (Monday) edition of Editor & Publisher, also indicated that of those surveyed, 24 percent said they have "very little" confidence in the news media, while 1 percent said "none." Forty-six percent responded "some," while 28 percent expressed "strong" confidence.

TV NEWSCASTS TRIP OVER MISSING TEEN REPORT

Television news outlets aired conflicting reports Friday and Saturday about the fate of Natalee Holloway, the teen missing in Aruba. On Fox News Channel, Geraldo Rivera and Rick Leventhal each reported that her death had been confirmed. MSNBC said that it was awaiting further official comment. ABC updated a 20/20 report on the hunt for Holloway (including interviews with her parents) with correspondent Deborah Roberts phoning in this comment for the West Coast feed: "A police chief here in Aruba tells us that one of the three young suspects arrested earlier this week has confessed to killing the 18-year-old Alabama girl." [The Associated Press reported that a deputy police commissioner had said that one of the suspects admitted that "something bad happened" to the girl. On Sunday, Aruba's attorney general and others denied that there had been any confession.]

DEAN: FOX NEWS IS REPUBLICAN PROPAGANDA OUTLET

Responding to comments by Vice President Dick Cheney on a Fox News telecast Sunday morning, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told a Chicago audience Sunday afternoon, "My view is Fox News is a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party and I don't comment on Fox News." Dean's comments came at the Rainbow-PUSH coalition conference after he was strongly criticized earlier in the week by Democratic strategist David Axelrod, who said that the party was unlikely to lure Republican voters "if the chairman of the Democratic Party is out there gratuitously characterizing all Republicans in a truly nasty way."

SHINE: FOX NEWS DOESN'T PRESENT REPUBLICAN POINT OF VIEW

Fox News Senior Vice President of Programming Bill Shine has insisted that Fox News does not hold secret meetings on how to cover the news from a Republican point of view. Oswego County Business magazine reports that Shine recently told an audience at Oswego State University of New York that when he considers reporters' job applications, "I could give a s*** who you voted for. ... As long as you're a good journalist and accurate, that's what matters." Asked whether the Fox network had ever made any serious mistakes, he replied that it overcovered the death of the pope and Terri Schiavo. "It was a bad decision that lasted about 23 hours," he said.

MOVIEGOERS LEAP FROM SITH TO SMITH

Stoked by a frenzy of media gossip and other free publicity, 20th Century Fox's Mr. and Mrs. Smith, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, took in an estimated $51.1 million, nearly twice what box-office analysts had expected. Reporting on the results, Daily Variety commented, "Boosting Smith were older femme adults, who don't usually turn out for actioners but do read the celeb weeklies and watch tabloid TV chronicling the are-they-or-aren't-they star pairing." DreamWorks Animation's animated Madagascar dropped to second place with about $17.1 million. Fox's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith remained in third place with around $14.9 million. Universal, however saw business for its critically acclaimed Cinderella Man plummet 48 percent in its second week. Universal distribution chief Nikki Rocco told the newspaper that she was "heartbroken" over the plunge. A clear disappointment was the performance of the critically hailed Cinderella Man from Universal, which dropped 48 percent in its second week after opening with lower-than-expected results. "The studio believes in this movie still," a Universal spokesman told today's Los Angeles Times, "but we're obviously disappointed in the week 2 results, and we're going to regroup and see what strategies we can come up with to continue to support the movie." On the other hand, Disney's limited release of the Japanese animated film Howl's Moving Castle performed exceptionally well, earning $401,000 in 36 theaters, an average of $11,139 per theater. Despite the impressive results for Smith, the box office remained off the pace of 2004 and extending a slump that has now gone into its 15th week. Sales for the top 12 films totaled $138.1 million, off 10 percent from a year ago, according to Exhibitor Relations.

SMITH, A HIT OVERSEAS, TOO

Mr. & Mrs. Smith also burned up the box office overseas. Opening in 31 countries, the film blew away the competition, earning an estimated $31.2 million. It had its strongest opening in the U.K., where it drew an estimated $7.1 million and dropped Star Wars: Episode III into second place.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, $51.05 million; 2. Madagascar, $17.1 million; 3. Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, $14.9 million; 4. The Longest Yard, $13.5 million; 5. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, $12.5 million; 6. Cinderella Man, $9.5 million; 7. The Honeymooners, $5.8 million; 8. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, $5.7 million; 9. Monster-in-Law, $2.6 million; 10. Crash, $1.9 million.

IGER VISITS JOBS AT PIXAR PLANT IN CALIFORNIA

Disney CEO-designate Robert Iger has indicated that although formal discussions with Pixar's Steve Jobs have not begun, he has been attempting to create a congenial atmosphere so that they can. In an interview appearing in today's (Monday) New York Times, Iger said that he recently visited Jobs at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA because "I really wanted to get a sense of place and geography." He also noted that Disney has an "inexplicable (sic) link to Pixar." Iger then commented: "It is very, very important to fully explore whether there is any possibility to extend the relationship in some form and the only way you can do that is by creating a dialogue. That's what Steve and I did and will continue to do. We've been having ongoing discussions as to whether there is, to use his words, common ground."

JACKSON TO BENEFIT FROM MOVIE DEAL FOR BEATLES SONGS

Michael Jackson's cash-flow problems may have eased a bit as the result of a deal for the use of 30 Beatles songs in Revolution Studios' musical All You Need Is Love, which begins shooting Sept. 7 in New York. Publishing rights to the Beatles songs are owned by Sony/ATV, a partnership between Sony and Jackson. Today's Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed industry sources, reported that licensing rights to "Hey, Jude" alone runs around $500,000. Revolution would not say how much it paid for use of the 30 songs, but Tom Sherak, a partner with Joe Roth in the company, told the Times: "The number of songs in the musical is not out of whack in relation to the cost of the movie." The film is believed to be budgeted at around $50 million.

AMAZON.CO.UK RELEASES LIST OF TOP "UNFASHIONABLE" MOVIE RENTALS

Many people are willing to rent films online that they may be too embarrassed to rent in a video store, according to Amazon's U.K. website. According to Amazon.co.uk DVD Manager Matt Henderson, an examination of the website's Top 100 rental list reveals a number of films that one would not expect to find there. Topping the list was the Spice Girls' 1997 film Spice World. Henderson said in a statement, "We have found that DVD rental-by-post has created a new demand for toe-curling movies [that] have been on the shelves untouched for a long time, with potential customers too ashamed to rent them out." Amazon.co.uk released this Top 10 list of "unfashionable" movies: 1. Spice World (1997); 2. The Sound of Music (1965); 3. Annie (1982); 4. Bambi (1942); 5. Super Mario Bros (1993); 6. Barb Wire (1996); 7. Thunderbirds (2004); 8. Titanic (1997); 9. Hellboy (2004); 10. Gigli (2003).