NBC'S SALES WORSE THAN REPORTED

NBC's upfront sales for the 2005-06 season may have plummeted by as much as a third, analysts estimated Monday, noting that the network had been having such a tough time selling its primetime inventory that it decided to hold back an additional 5-8 percent for the so-called scatter market in the fall, gambling that its ratings will improve over the dismal numbers of last season, allowing it to raise its ad rates. Analysts estimated that NBC's upfront take was $1.9-2.1 billion, down by nearly $1 billion from 2004 upfront trove. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, NBC Universal TV Networks Group President Randy Falco declined to confirm the figures, but he observed: "The Today show and the Tonight Show are still No. 1, and we've been No. 1 during twelve of the last 18 years. ... We'll continue to work at it."

PRODUCT PLACEMENTS SOAR ON NETWORK TV

The number of product placements on network TV shows rose 27 percent during the first quarter, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus and reported in MediaPost's online MediaDailyNews. According to the report Coke Classic alone placed as many product-placement ads during the first quarter as it did in all of last year. Eight of the top-ten programs featuring the most product-placement ads were reality shows, with NBC's low-rated The Contender having the most.

ADELPHIA'S RIGAS, SON SENTENCED IN NEW YORK

John Rigas, the 80-year-old founder of Adelphia Cable who was convicted of corporate fraud for using the company as his personal bank to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his family, was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday by U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand in New York. "Were it not for your age and health, I would impose a sentence far greater than I do today," Sand told Rigas. He sentenced Rigas's 48-year-old son Timothy to 20 years. Father and son continued to maintain their innocence. "I may be convicted and sentenced, but in my heart and conscience, I'll go to my grave believing truly that I did nothing but try to improve conditions," the elder Rigas said. "Our intentions were good. The results were not," Timothy Rigas said.

WGA SIGNS UP REALITY SHOW STORY PRODUCERS

Members of the Writers Guild of America West, which has long complained that the increase in reality shows has resulted in fewer jobs for writers in network and cable TV, said Monday that some 1,000 story producers working on those shows have signed authorization cards requesting WGA representation. The guild said Monday that the creative talents working on reality shows are regularly required to put in longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts working on fully scripted shows. WGA West President Dan Petrie said that contacting the story producers represented "the most aggressive organizing effort the guild has undertaken since its founding." He added, "The secret about reality TV isn't that it's scripted, which it is; the secret is that reality TV is a 21st century telecommunications industry sweatshop."

BRITAIN'S CHANNEL 4 APOLOGIZES TO TOM CRUISE OVER TV PRANK

Britain's Channel 4 said today (Tuesday) that it has not decided whether to air a planned segment of its upcoming reality series Balls of Steel in which Tom Cruise is squirted with water from a microphone as he's being interviewed at the War of the Worlds London premiere. The television network, however, issued an apology to Cruise, saying, "The stunt was intended to be light-hearted rather than malicious and we would apologize to Mr Cruise for any offense that was caused." Cruise was clearly offended. The pranksters, including the "interviewer" and the show's three-man camera crew, were arrested. A spokesperson for Cruise said that he intends to take legal action. The London Daily Mirror reported that when Sharon Osbourne became the target of a similar prank last month, she picked up a bucket of water and threw it at the prankster.

AUSSIE MP WANTS INVESTIGATION OF LOCAL BIG BROTHER

Australian TV, which regularly features on-air nudity, may have gone too far with recent episodes of the local version of Big Brother. After a number of steamy scenes involving nude contestants aired in a recent episode, Trish Draper, a member of the Australian parliament, told Reuters, "What we basically have is pornography and full frontal nudity on television at a time when children are watching. These people have an aspiration to be porn stars." But one of the contestants told the wire service, "You put 15 sexually active people in the house who obviously enjoy sex and are young, it is going to happen. We are bored and we are going to do things." She said that those who are offended should turn off their TV sets. A spokesman for Ten Network, which airs Big Brother said, "We appreciate that it's not to everyone's taste, but it does adhere to the code."

STUDIOS DIG OUT OF THE SLUMP

Final figures for Batman Begins revealed Monday that the film performed somewhat better than the studio had estimated a day earlier but that it was still not enough to lift the movie business out of a 17-week slump in which attendance is down by 9 percent and revenue down 6 percent from 2004. As Daily Variety observed today (Tuesday) the first weeks of the downturn could be attributed to the success last year of The Passion of the Christ, which drew many people into the theater who are not usually moviegoers. However, what worries industry watchers more is the fall-off since the first week of May which has produced the lowest receipts since 2001, when ticket prices were significantly lower than they are today. Studio executives attempted to downplay the downturn. Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman told the Los Angeles Daily News: "You can't just take six months and say we are in trouble. ... We have to give it two, three years to see if it returns. I think we've just had a glitch this year and the year is not over." However, today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times suggested that movie theaters themselves may be driving audiences away. "The overall moviegoing experience has become a shell of its former self," the newspaper commented in an article about the box-office slump. "Even as theaters offer stadium seats and martinis, moviegoers are being bombarded with countless advertisements and coming attractions." Several studio execs interviewed by the paper agreed. DreamWorks spokesperson Terry Press said that the ads ruin the value of movie trailers, the studios' most powerful marketing tool. Producer Richard Zanuck added that moviegoers "come to see the film and not to be sold something else."

BATMAN BEGINS HAS A BIGGER BEGINNING THAN EXPECTED

Warner Bros. executives apparently failed to take into appropriate account the Father's Day crowd in coming up with their weekend estimates. The studio's Batman Begins took in almost $2 million more on Sunday than had originally been estimated. The film's $48.7 million weekend gross, combined with its take on Wednesday and Thursday brought its five-day total to $72.9 million. Other films performed pretty much as expected. Twentieth Century Fox's Mr. & Mrs. Smith placed second with $26 million to bring its two-week total to $96.7 million, while DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar placed third with $10.7 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. Batman Begins, Warner Bros., $48,745,440 (New) ($72,896,986 -- From Wednesday); 2. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 20th Century Fox, $26,037,023, 2 Wks. ($96,697,986); 3. Madagascar, DreamWorks, $10,737,325, 4 Wks. ($146,831,846); 4. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, 20th Century Fox, $10,038,498, 5 Wks. ($348,140,685); 5. The Longest Yard, Paramount, $8,239,853, 4 Wks. ($132,144,471); 6. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D, Miramax, $6,692,907, 2 Wks. ($24,015,408); 7. Cinderella Man, Universal, $5,572,285, 3 Wks. ($43,893,695); 8. The Perfect Man, Universal, $5,300,980, (New); 9. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Warner Bros., $3,127,232, 3 Wks. ($30,160,110); 10. The Honeymooners, Paramount, $2,648,330, 2 Wks. ($9,551,584).

NATO BRANCH PROTESTS 700 PERCENT INCREASE IN THEATER TAX

The North Carolina and South Carolina branch of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has launched a letter-writing campaign to oppose a planned increase in taxes on movie tickets and theater concessions by the North Carolina legislature. Under pending legislation, the tax on tickets would rise from 1 percent to 7 percent; the tax on food and drinks would rise from 2 percent to 7 percent. In a statement, the NATO group said that the increases will force some families to avoid the concession stands. "This will cripple the bottom line of theater owners across the state," the group said.

LAWMAKERS REFUSE TO ISSUE PERMITS FOR FILM ABOUT LOCAL KILLINGS

Two independent producers who have sought to film a movie about the killings of three teenagers in the actual locations where they took place in Hammond, IN have run into opposition from local authorities. Steve Hekkel and Jim Masters insisted that they were not attempting to exploit the lurid crime. "We're trying to acknowledge good police work, to explore the depths of a depraved individual and to send a message to parents to keep watch over their children," Masters told TheIndyChannel.com. But Hammond mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. told the website that such a film would only serve to bring negative attention to the city, while City Corporation Counsel Joseph O'Connor remarked, "Can't they do any happy films about Hammond, like a remake of Bambi or something?"

NEW YORK'S FAMED BEEKMAN THEATER TO CLOSE

The Beekman theater, regarded as one of New York's premier movie art houses since it opened in 1952 and one of the last single-screen theaters in Manhattan, will shut down next Sunday. A spokesman for Clearview Cinemas, the theater chain that operates the Beekman, told Reuters that it was being forced to close because its landlord, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, had exercised a lease option to take back the property in order to establish an outpatient care facility there. In an interview with Reuters, Woody Allen, who featured the theater in Annie Hall, mourned its extinction. "The Beekman epitomized New York movie houses at their best," he said. "The size, the architecture, the location seemed perfect. I saw many great films there by great foreign filmmakers, and it was an honor to have my films shown there."

HOLLYWOOD FILMS SHOWING ACTORS SMOKING ARE BARRED IN INDIA

Under an Indian government ban on smoking in films and TV shows, Hollywood films in which characters smoke will also be barred from Indian theaters, Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy confirmed today (Tuesday). Under the government directive, scenes in older movies showing characters smoking must be accompanied by a tobacco warning superimposed on the bottom of the screen. The ban is due to go into effect on Aug. 1. Indian film producers have vowed to fight the ban. Shashi Ranjan, who heads Indian Television Academy, told The Hindu newspaper: "Everyone is a censor when it comes to films and television. If there is a ban on smoking on screen today, tomorrow there may be one on consuming alcohol. There is no end to things that can be banned." But Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss appeared undeterred by the protests, say that the ban was necessary to "protect the lives of millions of children who could be addicted to smoking under the influence of movies."

HIGH-DEFINITION DVD TALKS COLLAPSE IN JAPAN

Sony Computer Entertainment President Ken Kutaragi has confirmed that talks between Sony and Toshiba about creating a unified next-generation DVD format have collapsed. In an interview with Japan's Nikkei news service, Kutaragi said that it was "game over" for the talks between Sony, which created the Blu-Ray format, and Toshiba, the lead developer of HD-DVD.