STUDIO BRIEFING: November 11, 2009

A summary of today's Hollywood happenings in the film industry.
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STUDIO BRIEFING: November 11, 2009

EXHIBITORS IN UPROAR OVER MEATBALLS' EARLY VIDEO RELEASE

As expected theater owners are expressing anger over Sony's decision to release its animated Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to consumers purchasing its Bravia TV sets on December 8, less than three months after its theatrical opening. New buyers of the Sony sets will receive the movie free; others wishing to purchase it early will have to shell out $24.95. The film is scheduled to be released on DVD on January 4. The Hollywood Reporter said today (Wednesday) that at least four major exhibitors, Regal, AMC, Cinemark and Marcus Theatres, plan to retaliate by pulling Meatballs from theaters at once. (It was still playing in 1,126 theaters as of last weekend, where it took in $1.3 million.)

REPORT: HOLLYWOOD REPORTER SOLD

The struggling entertainment trade publication The Hollywood Reporter, is likely to be sold to News Communications Inc., owner of "Who's Who" publications and the Washington, D.C.-based trade, The Hill, Sharon Waxman's TheWrap.com reported Tuesday. The Nielsen company, which owns the Reporter, is also reportedly planning to sell six other media-related publications to News Communications, including Billboard, Backstage, Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek and Editor & Publisher. Word of the sale comes on the heels of widespread speculation that the Reporter might soon shut down its print operations and become an online-only trade publication. It has been hit by a succession of staff cutbacks as the studios' advertising budgets have become splintered among competing entertainment websites.

THE BOX SCORES WORST GRADES FROM MOVIEGOERS

Aside from a handful of horror flicks, the spooky thriller The Box has received the worst CinemaScore grades ever from moviegoers, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Wednesday). The newspaper noted that of the 33 demographic categories measured by the service, The Box got an F in 29 and a D in the other four. CinemaScore founder Ed Mintz said the film scored poorly mostly because of the ending. "I'd love to hear how they thought they were going to get good word-of-mouth from that ending. But that's the reason why the movie got an F," he said. "The public acted in vengeance. They got angry about where the story went, and the grade definitely reflects that anger."

AUCTION FOR MGM REPORTEDLY NEAR

MGM's creditors have rejected a proposal to turn their $3.7 billion in loans to the company into equity as part of a restructuring plan to keep the studio out of bankruptcy, BusinessWeek reported today (Wednesday), citing a source with knowledge of a November 4 meeting between the creditors committee and MGM CEO Stephen Cooper. Instead, two days after the meeting, they asked Cooper to seek a buyer for the company but were told that it was unlikely that the studio would fetch more than $1.5 billion, roughly what the studio's rights to the James Bond franchise alone might be worth, the magazine said. It noted that several studios are interested in buying MGM -- but not to maintain it as a viable studio. They are interested instead in its film library, the Bond franchise, and MGM's share of the rights to the Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit.

WARREN BEATTY'S DICK TRACY LAWSUIT REVIVED

A federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware has given Warren Beatty the go-ahead to proceed with his lawsuit against the Tribune Co. over rights to the Dick Tracy character. Beatty, who bought the Dick Tracy rights from Tribune in 1985 and produced, directed and starred in a movie about the character five years later, had filed suit against Tribune after the company claimed that rights to the Chester Gould comic character contractually lapsed if Beatty made "no productive use" of them after an undefined "certain period of time." But Tribune's bankruptcy put the action on hold as lawyers sought to determine the actual worth of the company's assets. Tribune claimed in its own action that the Dick Tracy character was indeed one of those assets and could be worth millions to its creditors. In his lawsuit Beatty claims that he is currently working on a documentary about the Tracy character, who first first appeared in the Chicago Tribune on October 4, 1931, but Tribune maintains that the announced documentary is merely a ploy by Beatty to prevent Tribune from regaining its rights.

U.S. PRODUCER RAISES MONEY IN SINGAPORE FOR MADOFF MOVIE

The owner of a Singapore company making skincare products says he was persuaded by Edmund Druilhet, an independent U.S. film producer, to invest $200,000 in a movie about confessed Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff -- more than 20 percent of the film's entire budget. Eddy Syahputra told the Asian website mysinchew.com that in return for his investment, Druilhet gave him and his wife roles in the film and featured his skincare line. "Putting my products in the movie was an incentive," he said. "Being an actor was also new and interesting. I have had a desire to be an actor but I never pursued it." The Indonesian-born Syahputra said that the $200,000 he invested in the movie, titled Made Off with America, represented his savings. "It is a high-risk investment, but when there is a high risk, there is a high return." Little is known about the status of the film, although a trailer has been posted on the film's website, madoffwithamerica.com. In an interview posted on YouTube, Druilhet rants against "scumdog Ponzi-aire" Madoff, suggests that Michael Moore is part of a government coverup conspiracy, and denounces authorities for allowing "10 million fugitives" to go free. (He's also making a movie about fugitive director Roman Polanski.) New York University film professor Gillian Gordon, currently a visiting professor at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in Singapore, expressed skepticism about the Madoff film project. In a production costing just $1 million, ""How will you have the helicopters, the furs and the house in the Hamptons in the movie?" she asks.

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