NASCAR RACES TO THE FRONT

The growing popularity of NASCAR racing was especially conspicuous Sunday night as Fox's coverage of the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 lifted the network to a first-place finish for the night. Its first hour at 7:00 pulled a 6.0 rating and a 12 share, easily beating 60 Minutes, one of CBS's most popular programs, which fell to a 5.6/11. The race remained ahead of the competition even into the 9:00 p.m. hour as it posted a 6.3/12 opposite a repeat of ABC's Desperate Housewives, which mustered only a 5.0/9. By contrast, on Monday night, the country's declining interest in NBA basketball was apparent as ABC's telecast of the NBA Western Conference Finals, Game 4: Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs mustered only a 5.7/9 average and was soundly trounced by a slate of CBS reruns. Giving CBS some special cheer was the performance of a repeat of Two and a Half Men, the network's only hit sitcom due to remain on its schedule next season (following the fade-out of Everybody Loves Raymond). Men scored an 8.0/12 on Monday, beating lead-in Raymond, which nabbed a 7.5/11. The highest-rated show of the night was CBS's CSI: Miami, which pulled a 9.5/15. On NBC, ratings for the 2005 Miss Universe Pageant were far from beautiful as it averaged a 6.9/11, a new record low for the beauty contest.

NETS PREPARE FOR TROJAN INVASION

The first commercials for condoms to air during primetime on a major network are due to debut tonight (Tuesday) on The WB and NBC. The other networks are apparently waiting to see how activist "family values" groups will respond to the ads. "I expect there will be people who do feel a need to react negatively because we're discussing sexuality," Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing for Church and Dwight's Trojan brand, told today's (Tuesday) New York Post. "I hope most people will see this and acknowledge that these are responsible and appropriate discussion points."

WEATHER CHANNEL SEEKS TO BLOCK NBC WEATHER CHANNEL

The Weather Channel has filed comments with the FCC urging the regulator to turn aside NBC's effort to force cable providers to carry under the commission's "must carry" rule its about-to-launch digital channel NBC Weather Plus. In effect, the Weather Channel said that NBC ought to negotiate for cable coverage the way the Weather Channel has to do. "The imposition of a regulatory requirement that every cable system carry every multicast signal of every broadcast station in its market would distort the marketplace and subject TWC and Weatherscan to unfair and discriminatory competitive conditions," TWC said.

COURT CLEARS BRITISH DOCUMENTARY

Britain's Channel 4 has been given a court go-ahead to air a documentary about a woman who claims that she has four different personalities. Broadcast of the program had been placed in doubt after an "official solicitor," representing people who are deemed incapable of representing themselves, filed a challenge under the country's Human Rights Act, claiming that the woman, Pamela Edwards, was unable to give permission for the filming. Channel 4 executive Kevin Sutcliffe told Britain's Guardian newspaper, "From the outset we put in place a series of measures that allowed us to be confident that everyone who was involved in making the film -- Pamela, her carers and the production team -- were all happy about the way it was being made." According to the Guardian, the subject of the documentary requires round-the-clock care at a cost of $1 million a year. Some U.S. researchers have in recent years questioned the accuracy of the multiple personality diagnosis and have claimed that news media that treat it as a legitimate disorder are perpetuating a hoax by the so-called victim.

MEMORABLE MEMORIAL DAY AT BOX OFFICE

By any measure, the top three films at the Memorial Day box office performed exceptionally well. Never before had three films earned more than $60 million each over a holiday weekend. Nevertheless, it was also clear that each of the films, Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, Madagascar, and The Longest Yard, would have sold many more tickets if the competition had not been so crammed. Last year, the two leaders, Shrek 2 and The Day After Tomorrow, took in $181.4 million between them. This year, the three leaders divided up $191.8 million. The standout continued to be the Star Wars film, which led the field with an estimated $70.8 million, bringing its 12-day gross to $271.2 million. In second place was DreamWorks' Madagascar, which took in $61 million over the four-day period, edging out The Longest Yard which scored $60 million. Overall, the box office earned $225 million over the weekend, down 5 percent from $239 million last year. It marked the 14th consecutive weekend with total ticket sales falling below those of a year ago. "Fourteen weeks into a slump," Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, "I think the movies just haven't been as exciting as they need to be to get people into theaters. It can work. I think these are really encouraging numbers. When I look at these numbers objectively -- $70 million, $61 million, $60 million -- that's a great weekend, nothing to be complaining about."

The top ten films for the four-day Memorial Day weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, $70.8 million; 2. Madagascar, $61 million; 3. The Longest Yard, $60 million; 4. Monster-in-Law, $11.1 million; 5. Kicking & Screaming, $6.6 million; 6. Crash, $6 million; 7. The Interpreter, $2.6 million; 8. Unleashed, $2.3 million; 9. Kingdom of Heaven, $2.2 million; 10. House of Wax, $1.6 million.

SITH CUTS A SWATH OVERSEAS

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox reported Monday that Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith added another $61.5 million to its overseas total over the three-day weekend to bring its international total to $246.2 million. The U.K. topped the list with $9.9 million, about $1 million more than France.

DVD SALES MIMIC THEATER-TICKET SALES, SAYS EXPERT

A "sea change" in DVD sales strategy has resulted in titles being yanked from retailers' shelves shortly after they are released to make way for newer titles, the Wall Street Journal observed today (Tuesday). That strategy resulted in millions of copies of DreamWorks' hit Shrek 2 being returned to the studio after eight weeks on the shelves. (The newspaper observed that the movie sold 33.7 million copies in its first eight weeks at the end of 2004, but only 1.3 million in the first quarter of 2005.) The Journal commented: "DVD sales are now mimicking the big-bang nature of the theatrical business, where movies make most of their money in the first few days before being knocked out by a slew of newcomers."

STAR TREK TO RETURN -- IN TWO OR THREE YEARS

Star Trek producer Rick Berman plans to revive the movie franchise in two or three years. "I think that timeframe for a new, fresh feature with a whole different outlook would be fine," he told the British Star Trek Magazine. He also suggested that the Star Trek television productions might be revived. "[It] certainly would be possible," he told the magazine. "And the answer is that the powers that be at Paramount seem to feel that the time has come to give things a rest."

STALLONE SAYS HE'LL RETURN IN RAMBO

Sylvester Stallone, who was once one of Hollywood's top earners but who has seen his last three starring features go straight to video, is teaming up with prolific low-budget producer Avi Lerner, whose movies mostly go straight to video -- this time for a revival of his Rambo character. "I've signed the deal and I have the old headband, machine gun and bow and arrow ready to go," Stallone, 58, said in a statement announcing his deal with Lerner, whose Bulgaria-based Nu Image/Millennium Films purchased the Rambo rights from Miramax for an undisclosed figure. "It's a franchise," said Lerner, "If [Rambo] No. 4 works, then you have a No. 5." Rambo No. 3 was released 17 years ago.

CENSORS CENSURED IN CANADA

The Canadian province of Ontario will no longer be able to ban or censor films unless they breach the criminal code, the Ontario Superior Court ruled Monday. The court ruled that the Ontario Film Review Board's authority to censor films violated freedom of expression.