CBS'S LINEUP BEATS NFL'S
Giving further reason for ABC to pause before signing another contract with the NFL worth $550 million per year (or likely more), Monday Night Football failed to dominate the ratings last night as it once did, suffering a loss to two CBS sitcoms at 9:00 p.m., then taking a drubbing from CBS's CSI Miami at 10:00 p.m. At 9:00 Everybody Loves Raymond with an 11.8 rating and a 17 share outscored MNF's 11.0/16. At 10:00 CSI: Miami swept up the sweeps night with a 14.5/23, while the Philadelphia/Dallas game averaged a 10.9/17. ABC, which carries the NFL as a "loss leader," reportedly drops more than $150 million per year on the telecasts and stands to lose even more if, as expected, the NFL demands a substantial fee increase during upcoming renewal negoatiations.
INTERNATIONAL UPROAR OVER FALLUJAH NEWS FILM
Television footage of a U.S. marine shooting an unarmed, wounded Iraqi in the head at a Fallujah mosque has become the latest mortification for the American military as it endeavors to bring peace and democracy to the country. The footage, taken by pool cameraman Kevin Sites of NBC News, shows an unarmed wounded man lying next to a wall being shot by the marine with his rifle. NBC refused to air the footage, saying that it was "too gruesome," but CBS broadcast a still from the footage and excerpts from the soundtrack, in which one of the marines can be heard shouting, "he's dead now." Sikes said later that he had seen three other wounded prisoners shot by marines on the following day. The footage came to light on the same day that the London-based Amnesty International called for an investigation of "violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law" by the U.S.-led forces in Fallujah "including deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, and the killing of injured persons." Last Thursday, Britain's Channel 4 aired footage of a U.S. soldier firing at another wounded man in Fallujah, then shouting, "He's gone."
FDA DEMANDS VIAGRA AD BE PULLED
The FDA has demanded that Pfizer pull two Viagra commercials that suggest that the impotence drug can increase libido in its users. In the ad, an announcer says, "Remember that guy who used to be called 'wild thing'?" Later: "He's back!" The FDA said in a letter to Pfizer that the ad failed to mention that the drug has been approved only to correct erectile dysfunction; that there is little evidence that it results in increased sexual desire and activity; and that it also fails to mention possible side effects, particularly when it is taken with certain medications used for the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
NEW CALL FOR FCC ACTION ON PRIVATE RYAN
The head of the conservative Family Research Council has sent an email message to his followers asking them to send letters to FCC Chairman Michael Powell demanding that stations that aired Saving Private Ryan last Thursday be fined for violating the agency's decency rules. In the message, FRC President Tony Perkins said, "There is no question that the show violated the federal indecency and profanity prohibitions and now I need your help to get FCC Chairman Michael Powell to enforce the law against ABC." Perkins said that while the movie is one of his all-time favorites, ABC should have used "technology" to remove the offending language. "No one would argue that the 'F' word is a central part of this epic film," he said. Under the network's contract with DreamWorks, the film's producers, Ryan may not be edited in any way.
THREE PROTESTERS = $1.2-MILLION FCC FINE
The operator of a Web log called BuzzMachine.com said Monday that he had learned that just three people had composed letters to the FCC protesting a "sexually suggestive" Married ... With Children episode that led to a record $1.2-million fine against Fox, the network that aired it. After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, Jeff Jarvis said that he had received a reply from William H. Davenport, chief of the FCC's Investigations and Hearings Divison, said that the 90 letters that the FCC received concerning the program came from only 23 individuals. Twenty of the letters were virtually identical, he said, either photocopied or emailed to the FCC. Jarvis commented: "So in the end, that means that a grand total of three citizens bothered to take the time to sit down and actually write a letter of complaint to the FCC. Millions of people watched the show. Three wrote letters of complaint. And on the basis of that, the FCC decided to bring down the heavy hammer of government censorship and fine Fox an incredible $1.2 million for suggesting -- not depicting but merely suggesting -- sex on a show that had already been canceled because the marketplace didn't like it anyway." A Fox spokesman told today's (Monday) New York Post that the company plans to address the issue in its response to the FCC.
PETERSON TRIAL LIFTS COURT-TV RATINGS THREE-FOLD
Court TV, which was accused of going to a format of all-Peterson-trial-all-the-time, saw its ratings triple during the trial and rise to their highest ever when the verdict was returned last Friday. According to Nielsen Research, 2.66 million viewers tuned into the channel when the verdict was read. Nevertheless, that figure was dwarfed by the 3.35 million who tuned in to Fox News Channel for the verdict.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE OVITZ ...
Disney CEO Michael Eisner testified Monday that Michael Ovitz had been "a good friend" -- but not "best friends," as Ovitz himself had described their relationship. "Michael Ovitz had a lot of 'best friends,'" Eisner said during the trial of a shareholders' lawsuit in Delaware chancery court. He added that Ovitz is principally "a salesman" who "deal[s] in hyperbole." During his first two hours on the witness stand, Eisner described the beginnings of his relationship with Ovitz, back when he was a junior exec at ABC and Ovitz was an agent at William Morris. Eventually, he testified, he made several attempts to lure him to Disney, but Ovitz continued to demand that he be appointed co-CEO, a bid that Eisner spurned. Once, after he again refused to give Ovitz the title, Ovitz "gave me a lecture on relationships," he recalled. Eisner finally was able to persuade Ovitz to come on board, he related, following Disney's takeover of ABC in August 1995. He admitted that he "had no idea how to run" the broadcasting company and that he had "started getting pretty nervous" about taking on the responsibility. "By this time I needed Michael Ovitz," he told the court. He maintained that he kept the board fully informed of his discussions with Ovitz. "My strategy was a constant fill-in, an 'over' fill-in," he said.
DISNEY PREPARING TO MAKE TOY STORY 3 ON ITS OWN
The Walt Disney Co. has begun setting up a new CGI facility that will be used to produce Toy Story 3, the Hollywood Reporter reported today (Tuesday), citing no sources. In reporting on the studio's plans for the sequel, the trade publication observed that it "could make it more difficult for [Disney] to resume negotiations with Pixar CEO Steve Jobs to extend Pixar's relationship with Disney." Pixar produced the first two Toy Story films and would still be entitled to significant royalties if Disney were to produce the third on its own. Disney's contract with Pixar is due to expire next year, and Jobs has indicated that he has no interest in trying to revive renewal discussions with Disney so long as Michael Eisner remains its CEO.
PIXAR DIRECTOR SAYS COMPANY WOULD CONSIDER HAND-DRAWN FEATURE
Pixar, which has used computer animation in all of its previous films, would consider the possibility of employing hand-drawn animation in a future feature, according to Pete Docter, who directed the animation studio's Monsters, Inc. According to the AnimatedNews.com website, Docter told a gathering of animators last week, "If the story ever called for it, we are certainly open to it. The notion that 2D, traditional animation is dead is absurd." The website said that Docter's remark "was responded to with tremendous applause from the audience."
INCREDIBLES, SUPER; POLAR, COLD
Although analysts had expected last weekend's release of Warner Bros.' Polar Express to cut deeply into the box office take of Disney-Pixar's The Incredibles, it appeared that it was the Express that was worse off following the collision. The Incredibles took in $50.2 million, just 28 percent below what it did during its opening week. In some cities, it was down less than 15 percent. Polar Express, on the other hand, took in only $23.3 million, a small fraction of the $170 million that it reportedly cost to make. Analysts held out little hope for the film to earn back its production costs. Media analyst Dennis McAlpine turned film critic when he told Reuters Monday: "You've got little elves running around a Santa who doesn't smile -- it's not going to make your five-year-old very happy." Meanwhile, the success of The Incredibles sent shares of Pixar soaring to an all-time high on Monday as they jumped over 7 percent to $93.42. By mid-morning trading today (Tuesday), they had fallen to $89.92.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The Incredibles, Disney, $50,251,359, 2 Wks. ($143,255,844); 2. The Polar Express, Warner Bros., $23,323,463, ($30,629,146 -- from Wedneday); 3. After the Sunset, New Line, $11,100,392, (New); 4. Seed of Chucky, Rogue, $8,774,520, (New); 5. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Universal, $8,684,055, (New); 6. Ray, Universal, $8,411,355, 3 Wks. ($52,523,595); 7. The Grudge, Sony, $7,010,551, 4 Wks. ($99,248,187); 8. Saw, Lions Gate, $6,437,990, 3 Wks. ($45,753,595); 9. Shall We Dance?, Miramax, $4,024,327, 5 Wks. ($48,670,607); 10. Alfie, Paramount, $2,738,931, 2 Wks. ($11,101,243).