THOSE '70s SHOWS TO GO ONLINE
Ushering in the era of television over the Internet, Warner Bros. and corporate Time Warner sibling AOL have announced their most elaborate collaboration ever -- the creation of a website called In2TV, where broadband users can watch some 14,000 episodes from more than 300 Warner-produced TV series on demand. The shows, which include Falcon Crest, Kung Fu, Chico and the Man, Wonder Woman, and Welcome Back, Kotter, will be available free but will carry four 15-second commercials per half-hour. In announcing the deal, Eric Frankel, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution, forecast that eventually original programming will be produced for on-demand broadband. In an interview with Daily Variety, Frankel said: "When it started 20 years ago, cable only aired 'classics,' but now you see original programming and high-profile repeats. ... We hope this is the beginning of the same evolution in broadband." Meanwhile, another Time Warner unit, the Cartoon Network, is reportedly planning to join Viacom's Nickelodeon to offer several half-hour kids programs online for $2.99 each. The Wall Street Journal said that they will be formatted to work exclusively with Hasbro's $100 VuGo portable player. Interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Toby Gabriner, president of the Carat Fusion ad agency, remarked, ""What we're seeing now is that the big media companies realize they cannot hold back content and deliver it in the way they always have. ... The Internet is giving this content a place to live and to be served up in a way that it couldn't be otherwise."
PENN & TELLER STRIKE OUT
NBC found little magic in a two-hour Penn & Teller special Sunday night as the magicians' comedy show-all performance wound up in fourth place with a 3.7 rating and a 6 share between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Another two-hour NBC special, Saturday Night Live in the '80s, performed somewhat better, recording a 5.6/8, but the ratings were puny compared with those for ABC, which nabbed one of its biggest audiences this season for Desperate Housewives, which drew a 16.1/23 at 9:00 p.m. and Grey's Anatomy, which pulled a 13.1/21 at 10:00 p.m. CBS, which took the 7:00 p.m. hour with 60 Minutes (9.6/15) and the 8:00 hour with Cold Case (11.0/18), dropped precipitously with Pt. 2 of the made-for-TV movie Category 7, which averaged an 8.6/13 between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
WGA AND SAG DENOUNCE PRODUCT PLACEMENTS
Appearing to take a more aggressive stance in dealing with TV producers and networks, the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild are expected to propose at a news conference today (Monday) that a set of guidelines be drawn up governing the integration of product-placement ads in scripts. Today's Los Angeles Times quotes Writers Guild West President Patric Verrone as saying, "In their race to the bottom line to create the so-called new business model, network and advertising executives are ignoring the public's interest and demanding that creative artists participate in stealth advertising disguised as a story." A position paper expected to be released at the news conference accuses producers and the networks of requiring writers and actors to produce pitches for products in programs, generally without additional compensation. The position paper states: "It used to be that a writer would be asked to weave a love interest into a story. Now, that writer is being asked to weave in potato chips, or soft drinks or building-supply stores." SAG President Alan Rosenberg added, "It is time for producers to work with artists on this issue, and the best way to do that is to establish a cooperative code of conduct that will protect the artist, the viewing public and advertiser-supported free television." But producer Jonathan Prince, creator of the canceled American Dreams, told the Times, "My job is to sell soap and soda and cars," Prince said in an interview. "Who will pay our high-paid writers and actors if not for some of these brands?"
CBS'S SCHIEFFER "IS MORE THAN HOLDING HIS OWN"
One day after officially taking over as President of CBS News last week, Sean McManus met with CBS Evening News temporary anchor Bob Schieffer and asked him to "hang in there for a while longer" as the news division continues its search for a permanent anchor (or anchors) and revamps the program's format, the New York Times reported today (Monday). Schieffer told the Times that he replied that he would "do whatever I can to help." Meanwhile, the newspaper noted, during the first six weeks of the fall season, the evening news program has increased its audience by 210,000 over the same period a year ago, while still remaining in third place. At the same time, NBC Nightly News lost 307,000 viewers and ABC's World News Tonight lost 168,000. CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told the newspaper, "Bob is more than holding his own."
THEY CAN'T GET ARRESTED
The award-winning (it received an Emmy for best comedy show this year) and critically praised Arrested Development, which Fox has stuck with despite low ratings, may be about to see its further development arrested. The network announced on Friday that it will pull the show from its schedule during the November sweeps and plans to air reruns of its new Prison Break in its Monday time period instead. Reporting on the network's action, Reuters said on Friday, "Removing a struggling show during sweeps, while falling short of outright cancellation, is usually a sure sign a network has given up hope on a series." One writer posted a message on MediaWeek's "Programming Insider" site commenting: "The cancellation of Arrested Development is a perfect example why the 18-34 audience is leaving the broadcast networks in droves. The nets produce a very limited number of series that appeal to us, under-promote them, move them around, and then cancel them. I can't count how many times this has happened to great shows in the last few years. Everyone I know in this age group -- everyone -- watches and loves Arrested Development. If the ratings aren't showing this, maybe there is be a problem with the sample. This show is a yuppie phenomenon."
STEWART: AN APPRENTICE NO LONGER
Martha Stewart has been "fired." Published reports said that NBC has decided against bringing back Stewart to host another edition of The Apprentice next year. NBC said that it had always been the network's intention to air only a single cycle of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. The show has produced disappointing ratings throughout its run on Wednesday nights, averaging just 6.8 million viewers compared to 10.3 million viewers for the original version, which runs on Thursdays (down from 13.9 million last spring). Trump's show has been renewed for two more seasons.
EX-APPRENTICE CONTESTANTS GET WARNINGS ABOUT SPEAKING OUT
Former Apprentice contestants Mark Garrison and Jennifer Wallen have received warning messages from NBC attorney Lee Straus saying that the network is considering taking legal action against them for complaining about their treatment on the show to New York Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove. According to Grove, Strauss sent an email to other contestants advising them that Garrison and Wallen's comments "constitute a serious breach of the Applicant Agreement. ... which provides (in part) that you may not discuss the program publicly or reveal information regarding the show without [Mark Burnett Productions'] and NBC's consent." The message also warns that the producers and NBC "are entitled to receive liquidated damages of $5 million." Commented Grove: "I'm told that even if they are publicly humiliated and their reputations are trashed on national television, they're not allowed to defend themselves."
LITTLE GETS BIGGER
For the second weekend in a row, Disney's Chicken Little ranked highest in the pecking order at the box office as it took in an estimated $32 million, down just 20 percent from its opening week. It was the smallest second-week drop for any film this year and brought its 10-day total to $80 million. The strong performance came despite an overall slide at the box office, where ticket sales were down 15 percent from a year ago. (It's expected to get a big bump next weekend, when the latest Harry Potter movie opens.) The second-place film, Sony's Zathura: A Space Adventure, which debuted with mostly positive reviews, earned an unimpressive $14 million. Derailed, the Weinstein Company's first release, bowed in third place with $12.8 million. Paramount's Get Rich or Die Tryin', which opened on Wednesday, placed fourth with $12.5 million, bringing its five-day total to $18.2 million. Opening on only 215 screens, Focus Features' Pride and Prejudice produced the strongest per-theater debut, averaging $13,041 per screen. In many multiplexes it outdrew the big-budget competition. The film is due to expand to about 1,300 theaters on Nov. 23.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Chicken Little, $32 million; 2. Zathura: A Space Adventure, $14 million; 3. Derailed, $12.8 million; 4. Get Rich or Die Tryin', $12.5 million; 5. Jarhead, $12.3 million; 6. Saw II, $9.4 million; 7. The Legend of Zorro, $6.6 million; 8. Prime, $4 million; 9. Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, $3.8 million; 10. Pride & Prejudice, $2.8 million.
3-D SALES BOOST CHICKEN LITTLE GROSS
An additional $1.00-$1.50 being tacked on to the ticket prices at theaters showing the 3-D version of Chicken Little is being credited with boosting gross revenue for the film significantly. The film was converted from the original 2-D version by Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic and is being shown in theaters using $50,000 projection technology from Beverly Hills-based Real D. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, commented, "It's nice value added. ... As a technical proposition it is way cool. ... As an economic proposition it clearly doesn't work everywhere."
THEATERS SHOWING GET RICH BOOST SECURITY
Theaters showing the 50 Cent movie Get Rich or Die Tryin' beefed up security over the weekend following the fatal shooting of a man at a multiplex in a Pittsburgh suburb on Wednesday. Police said the man, 30-year-old Shelton Flowers, had been carrying an unregistered gun and had become involved in an argument with three other men after attending the film. Interviewed on ABC's afternoon program The View on Friday, 50 Cent said, "I feel for the victim's family in this situation. But you know, these weren't kids, this was a 30-year-old man who had a dispute with three other guys."
STUDIOS PREPARE FOR A STRIKE -- TWO YEARS FROM NOW
Given the tougher positions being taken by the newly elected heads of the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, Hollywood is already drafting preparations for a possible strike when current contracts expire about two years from now, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. J. Nicholas Counter III of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, who negotiates for the studios, told the newspaper, "The truth is we have no choice but to prepare for the worst possible scenario in the next round of bargaining." Responded WGA-West President Patric Verrone: "If they are preparing for the worst, I'm not sure they know what the worst is." All of which has led University of Texas professor David Prindle, who wrote a history of SAG, to tell the Times: "It's definitely a possibility that we're heading into an era of management labor conflict within Hollywood. ... There's a new tone, a tone of 'We're fed up and we're not going to take it anymore.'"
CHOW A NO-SHOW AT AWARDS CEREMONY HONORING HIM
Kung Fu Hustle , which earlier this year won the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards, has received the top prize at Taipei's Golden Horse Awards, sometimes called the Chinese-language Oscars. The comedy, directed by and starring Stephen Chow, took four other awards, including best director for Chow. Chow himself did not attend the ceremonies. A spokeswoman for Sony Classics, which released the film, said only that he "had something else going on."