RECESSION HITS HOLLYWOOD

The current economic downturn is drying up traditional financing for many film producers -- from those turning out low-budget indies to those making big-star vehicles, the Hollywood Reporter reported today (Thursday). "Projects that would have sailed through easily a year ago are stalled in development. Movies that are practically in preproduction are falling apart at the eleventh hour," the trade publication observed. It cited a number of projects that had been in development by established producers that have fallen apart for lack of financing, including an Oliver Stone-Antoine Fuqua biopic about Colombian drugs overlord Pablo Éscobar and a Tim Robbins-directed feature called The Heretic. William Morris agent Cassian Elwes, one of the top agents among independent filmmakers, told the Reporter: "I think as we go into a tougher economy some films won't get made." He added: "And probably shouldn't get made."

NO DEAL WITH IATSE -- YET

Expectations that the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers would quickly extend their current contract 16 months before it is due to expire were quickly dashed Wednesday as the two sides ended three days of talks and agreed to meet again at a later date to conclude their negotiations. "These talks have been extremely helpful in understanding the fundamental issues before us in an environment that has been conducive to bargaining," IATSE International President Thomas C. Short said in a statement. He did not elaborate on what the "fundamental issues" were. For his part, AMPTP President Nick Counter said that the two had "covered a lot of ground in an opening round that's been both respectful and mutually beneficial." No date for a resumption of the talks was disclosed.

JOURNALIST TELLS COURTROOM PELLICANO ENDED HER CAREER

Veteran entertainment journalist Anita Busch wept on the witness stand at the Anthony Pellicano trial Wednesday as she accused the private eye of being behind a threat on her life. As Pellicano, who is acting as his own lawyer, questioned her, she remarked, "Mr. Pellicano, I was scared 24-7." She said that after she and fellow journalist Bernard Weinraub wrote a series of articles in 2002 about former superagent and Disney President Michael Ovitz, she found a dead fish with a rose in its mouth in her car with a sign on the smashed windshield saying, "Stop." Two months later she spotted a vehicle with no license plates approaching her on the streets as if it were trying to run her down. A moment later a man in the car rolled down his window and, "with a sickening smile," waved goodbye to her. "I was thinking I was going to die," she said tearfully. She said that she stopped writing "because I was told [the threat] meant not to talk to law enforcement. If I did I would be killed." Busch's testimony came after Ovitz testified earlier in the day that he had paid $75,000 to Pellicano to find out who was behind the Busch-Weinraub articles but had never asked the detective to threaten Busch. He insisted that he "never instructed [Pellicano] to do anything illegally."

DISNEY TO PACKAGE BLU-RAY DISC WITH 3-D GLASSES

Disney's home video division said Wednesday that it will include 3-D glasses with each Blu-ray disk of Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, but it gave few details about the first 3-D release in the high-definition format. Although it said that four pairs of glasses would be included in the package, it did not indicate what sort of glasses these would be. (Some writers have suggested that they would resemble the primitive red/green glasses of the '50s that many folks complained gave them headaches.) Neither was there any indication whether the glasses would add to the wholesale price of the disks or how much it would cost to buy additional pairs.

FRENCH FILM BREAKS ATTENDANCE RECORD

After already breaking a box-office record, the French comedy Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis has now broken an attendance record, too. Pathé, the film's distributor, reported Wednesday that theaters in France have recorded 17.5 million admissions, breaking a record for a homemade French film set in 1965 by the wartime comedy La grande vadrouille. The all-time attendance champ in France is Titanic, which sold 20.7 million tickets. "Now we can steam ahead and sink the boat," Pathé distribution chief Henri Demoulin told the French wire service Agence France Presse. The film, which cost $17 million to produce, has grossed $163 million after six weeks.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.