LOST DRAWS KILLER RATINGS
Demonstrating once again that there's nothing like killing off a regular character to produce solid ratings during a "sweeps" week, the producers of ABC's Lost shot down Shannon, played by Maggie Grace, on an episode that garnered a 13.1 rating and a 19 share (8.3/20 among adults 18-49). Executive producer Carlton Cuse told USA Today that Grace was "really awesome" after learning that her character was being written out of the show. "We had to negotiate her contract for this season, so she's known for a long time this was coming. But she was nothing but absolutely professional and completely tight-lipped and completely a team player in terms of going to events, doing interviews and participating as a full member of the cast without giving any indication that she was dying." Despite Lost's strong showing, CBS's Criminal Minds also produced solid numbers during the same 9:00 p.m. hour, registering a 10.1/15.
VIEWERS VOTE WITH THEIR FEET -- DESERT COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
On election night Tuesday ABC's Commander-in-Chief may have suffered a popular reversal nearly as great as Gov. Schwarzenegger did in California, where ballot propositions that he had trumpeted went down to defeat. The ABC drama fell to a 10.8 rating and a 15 share in the overall ratings for a season low, barely edging out Fox's House, which scored a 10.4/15. Among adults 18-49, the demographic group prized by advertisers, House came out well ahead with a 5.3/13 to CiC's 3.8/9.
WHY DID U.S. TV NEWS IGNORE ITALIAN DOCUMENTARY?
The prestigious Columbia Journalism Review is raising questions about why the American news media have virtually ignored a documentary produced by RAI, the Italian state television network, alleging that the U.S. used white phosphorus against insurgent and civilian targets in Fallujah one year ago. The documentary, which aired on Tuesday, includes interviews with two U.S. soldiers acknowledging such use and shows footage of white phosphorus shells being aimed not at the sky for illumination purposes (as the U.S. has claimed) but at the ground. "Most damning," the CJR article observed, is footage "of bodies burnt to the bone, apparently the result of chemical burns." Some of the footage has been posted on the Internet and was reported in the U.K. by the BBC and the Independent newspaper. But not a single American network has even mentioned the film, let alone rebroadcast any of its footage. (Reports about the alleged use of phosphorus missiles appeared at the time of the Fallujah attack in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post.) The CJR article concluded, "This story demands a closer look from the American press. We deserve to know whether or not the allegations have any merit -- and whether or not the military has been misleading us about the weapons it's using in Iraq."
CONSERVATIVES IRATE OVER FNC'S GLOBAL WARNING SPECIAL
Some conservative commentators are expressing shock over Fox News Channel's decision to air a documentary exclusively presenting "the liberal take" on the global warming issue. Clay Rawson, the FNC producer of the documentary due to air Sunday night told CNSNews.com, a unit of the conservative Media Research Center, "Often on Fox News Channel, we present both sides, according to our 'fair and balanced' motto, but this is the global warming story. ... We do make it clear that this is one side of the issue through inclusion of a disclaimer." But Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free-market environmental think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, commented, "While it is unfathomable that a reputable news network would air so blatantly a one-sided program regardless of any disclaimer, that the 'fair and balanced' network would put itself in the position of suspending its motto is stupefying."
BUSH NAMES NEW FCC MEMBER
President Bush on Wednesday nominated Deborah Taylor Tate to fill the Republican seat on the FCC that was left open when Kevin Martin became chairman of the commission last spring. Martin, in turn, succeeded Michael Powell, who stepped down as chairman and left the agency. The president also appointed Democrat Michael Copps, known for his tough stand on broadcast indecency, to another term. Little is known about Tate's views on the numerous controversial issues embroiling the commission.
SEX CONTENT RISING ON TV, SAYS STUDY
Despite all the recent to-do about broadcast indecency, there continues to be quite a bit of it on the air -- 7 out of 10 primetime network and cable TV episodes contains some degree of racy content -- nearly double the 1998 figure, according to a study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The study noted, however, that most of the scenes involved dialogue about sex and only 10 percent depicted or implied sexual intercourse. (Indeed, a good-night kiss at the door between dating teenagers was included among the study's 4,000 scenes depicting sexual content.) The study questioned whether such content may be having an influence on teenagers' casual attitude towards sex. (Washington Post columnist Lisa de Moraes pointed out that the rate of teenage pregnancy has been declining in recent years and that it is far lower in countries where TV shows are racier than they are in the U.S.)
TECHNICOLOR TO PUSH DIGITAL CINEMA
Technicolor is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it will match Christie Digital Systems' plan to move digital projectors into the nation's theaters. Under the plan Technicolor would install its projectors into theaters, then charge the studios what they would ordinarily have to pay for a film print (a "virtual print fee") until the projectors are paid off. Technicolor reportedly plans to announce that it has reached nonexclusive agreements with four major studios, including DreamWorks, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. Technicolor's parent, France's Thomson, said in a statement that in addition to digital projection systems, the company intends to pursue other opportunities in "post-production services, network services, including distribution, and the supply of equipment." Thomson Chairman and CEO Frank Dangeard said, "Having worked for several years with Hollywood to craft the right launch for digital cinema at the right time, we are also uniquely positioned to support the movie industry in other parts of the world in achieving this shift." News of the deal pushed Thomson's stock up 1 percent on the Paris Bourse. Jean-Michel Salvador, an analyst at Fideuram Wargny, told Dow Jones News Service: "This shows that things are moving along well between Thomson and movie studios."
MGM JOINS BLU-RAY CAMP
As expected, MGM has announced its support of Sony's Blu-ray high-definition DVD format against Toshiba's competing HD DVD system. The announcement came on Tuesday, roughly six months after Sony led an investment group in acquiring MGM from Kirk Kerkorian. Analysts had said at the time that one of the reasons for Sony's interest in the deal was MGM's vast library -- more than 4,000 titles -- which it could instantly convert to Blu-ray product. In a statement, Harry Sloan, MGM's recently appointed chairman and CEO, said, ""MGM's focus has always been to provide movie lovers complete access to the world's largest modern film library, in the most technologically advanced formats. Adopting this new Blu-ray technology, with its expanded storage capacity and increased interactive capabilities, allows us to continue to provide our customers with the best movie viewing experience available." Sony Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer added, ""This is a tremendous win for movie lovers everywhere. ... Consumers can now look forward to enjoying content from the world's largest library of modern films, including titles from franchises such as James Bond and The Pink Panther in this amazing new format."
DESPITE HITS, LION'S GATE POSTS LOSS
Lion's Gate, the self-described "anti-studio," may have dazzled the industry this year with such hits as Crash, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and Saw II, but a couple of flops, namely Lord of War and The Devil's Rejects pushed it into the red during the second quarter. The Canadian-based company reported a second-quarter loss of $14.1 million on revenue of $212 million versus a profit of $8.3 million on revenue of $231 million during the comparable period a year ago. Not included in the figures was revenue from Saw II, which opened two weekends ago with $30.5 million, the highest opening gross for the studio, and went on to earn $62.5 million through Tuesday.
ITALIAN EXHIBITORS PROTEST AGAINST AIRING MOVIE ON CELL PHONES
Plans to premiere Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter on cell phones in Italy has created a storm of protest by Italian exhibitors. Several theater chains have reportedly declared that they will not screen the film, following the announcement of the deal between Italian distributor Eagle Pictures and the Italian mobile-hone company H3G. They have enlisted the support of Oscar-winning director/actor/writer Roberto Benigni, who on Tuesday told a film conference in Rome: "Watching a film on a cellular phone is a contradiction that borders on blasphemy." Eagle Pictures quickly knuckled under to the protest but indicated that it plans to take legal action against the exhibitors, charging them with "behavior that is not in line with market rules."