ONE WOMAN'S MANSION IS ANOTHER'S PRISON
Martha Stewart's request that she be allowed to remove her ankle-bracelet monitor and be released from house arrest was rejected Monday by federal judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, who ruled that she "should not be treated differently from any other person convicted of the crimes of which she was convicted." Stewart, who spent five months in prison before she was released last month, must serve five months of home confinement, during which she is allowed to leave her property for up to 48 hours per week. Stewart had pleaded for more time outside of her home in order to develop two television shows that are due to go on the air in the fall. Her request had been opposed by federal prosecutors who argued, "Minor inconvenience to one's ability to star in a television show is an insufficient ground for resentencing."
TOP MEDIA JOURNALISTS REASSIGNED BY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The New York Daily News, which is cutting back its business coverage, is removing writer Paul Colford from his media beat -- he'll become an investigative reporter -- and has asked Phyllis Furman, who covers the entertainment industry, to focus on personal-finance issues related to her beat, according to published reports. The two are highly regarded investigators of the industry. The decisions to reassign the writers come three weeks after the resignation of Daved Andelman as business editor and one week after Daniel Dunaef was named to replace him. The newspaper said that the changes were designed to give readers "more news they can use."
TENNESSEE MAY DROP LAW BARRING TV LIQUOR ADS
A Tennessee law that bars radio and television stations from running ads for alcoholic beverages would likely be struck down by the courts as an infringement of free speech, the Tennessee attorney general's office said in an opinion Monday. Under state law, distilled spirits may not be advertised "in any manner" on radio and TV and wine ads are not permitted to give the name, address or phone number of a wholesaler or retailer. The opinion said that the Tennessee A.G. had taken several Supreme Court decisions into account in deciding that the rules, which are enforced by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, infringe on free speech.
THE DREAM IS ALIVE
Actors appearing in NBC's American Dreams have taken as a good sign the fact that the network chose to run the originally planned season-finale episode on March 30, rather than a possible series finale variation that the producers had been asked to create to tie up the story lines, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today (Tuesday). Star Tom Verica told the newspaper: "Our executive producer [Jonathan Prince] didn't want the alternate ending. He felt it would be the final nail in our coffin." Verica said that the cast was not informed until a week before the broadcast which ending would run. The network will officially announce the fate of the show, which is set in Philadelphia during the 1960s, in the fall, and, in the meantime, fans have launched an intensive "Save American Dreams" campaign. An NBC executive told the Inquirer that the show "has a shot, but it's a long shot."
BBC STRIKE COULD DISRUPT ELECTION COVERAGE
Coverage of next month's general election in Britain could be jeopardized by a possible strike by three major broadcast unions over the BBC's planned job cuts, published reports in the U.K. said today (Tuesday). BBC director-general Mark Thompson was to meet today with officials of BECTU, the union that represents most staff members; the service union Amicus; and the National Union of Journalists in an effort to ward off the threatened strike action. News reports said that a strike could seriously disrupt the BBC's schedule and would particularly impact coverage of the May 5 election. The BBC has said that it plans to cut more than 3,500 jobs and use the money thus saved to acquire programming from outside producers.
ROONEY GRUMBLES THROUGH TESTIMONY AT N.Y. TRIAL
Andy Rooney brought his curmudgeonly presence to a courtroom in White Plains, NY Monday as one of several celebrity witnesses due to testify in a fraud trial against Alan Walker, president of the Program Corporation of America, a speakers bureau. As reported by the Associated Press, Rooney balked at the swearing in, remarking, "I don't know about God," when he was asked to swear to tell "nothing but the truth, so help you God." He told how he had signed a $20,000 contract with Walker to deliver a speech at Indiana State University in 2003 but was not paid -- and that his phone calls were not returned when he called to inquire about the payment. He said he thought the matter might make a feature for a 60 Minutes commentary and took a camera crew to Walker's office and home where he intended to confront him about the payment -- but still couldn't find him. A defense lawyer asked Rooney how he found Walker's address. "As an old reporter," Rooney, who is 86, replied, "we have a few secrets, and the first thing is we try the phone book." Asked later by the Westchester County Journal News about the punishment that ought to be meted out to Walker, Rooney replied, ""I'm against the death penalty ... but, yeah, yeah, I think we have a system that puts people in prison for stealing, and he stole from me."
SAHARA A TINY OASIS IN BOX-OFFICE DESERT
The box office drought continued over the weekend as Sahara, a film that reportedly cost $130 million to make, debuted as the No. 1 film with only $18.1 million in ticket sales. Even at that, the movie earned a bit more than what some analysts had predicted. Finishing in second place was Miramax/Dimension's Sin City, which took in $14.2 million in its second week, to bring its total to $50.8 million -- $5 million more than its budget. Twentieth Century Fox's Fever Pitch, about a Boston man who splits his love between a woman and the Red Sox, placed third with $12.4 million. (It was a solid hit only in Boston, where it accounted for nearly half of all tickets sold.) With a total box office of less than $80 million, down 19 percent from the same week last year, the box office went into its seventh consecutive week of minus results. Today's (Tuesday) Hollywood Reporter noted that the total gross was lower than any weekend during the first eight months of 2004.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Sahara, Paramount, $18,068,372, (New); 2. Sin City, Miramax/Dimension, $14,154,696, 2 Wks. ($50,762,939); 3. Fever Pitch, 20th Century Fox, $12,400,125, (New); 4. Guess Who, Sony, $7,018,395, 3 Wks. ($51,021,623); 5. Beauty Shop, MGM, $6,808,532, 2 Wks. ($26,124,657); 6. Robots, 20th Century Fox, $4,652,252, 5 Wks. ($111,040,714); 7. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, Warner Bros., $4,184,319, 3 Wks. ($37,532,083); 8. The Pacifier, Disney, $3,116,340, 6 Wks. ($100,566,320); 9. The Ring Two, DreamWorks, $2,867,390, 4 Wks. ($72,279,279); 10. The Upside of Anger, New Line, $2,500,503, 5 Wks. ($12,256,474).
PINK SLIPS FLY AT MGM
On Monday, the day that Sony's $5-billion acquisition of MGM was completed, 185 MGM executives received pink slips, the first wave of firings that are likely to number 1,300 and leave the once dominant studio with a total staff of around 200, who will primarily focus on licensing MGM's 4,000-film library, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Tuesday). Commenting on the cutbacks, the Times said, "The lion's roar is being reduced to a meow."
ICAHN STEPS UP BATTLE AGAINST BLOCKBUSTER'S ANTIOCO
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn and Blockbuster CEO John Antioco have sent opposing letters to shareholders over Icahn's effort to put himself and two others on Blockbuster's board of directors. Icahn mailed the shareholders proxy cards ("gold cards") explaining how shareholders could vote for him, former Warner Bros. exec Ed Bleier, and former BMG Entertainment chief Strauss Zelnick at the next board election. Last week, Icahn condemned Antioco's "unconscionable" $51.6-million pay package and blasted him for failing to curb expenditures. For his part, Antioco cited his success in altering the company's direction by eliminating late fees and developing an online subscription service, among other initiatives, which, he said, were "designed to build long-term success."
LIZ SMITH CLAIMS SHE WAS MISLED BY GEFFEN
Gossip columnist Liz Smith is angry after being told by David Geffen's office at DreamWorks last week that the studio has no plans to produce a movie adaptation of the 1980 Broadway musical Dreamgirls. "The answer was so emphatic, I accepted it," Smith wrote. To her surprise, however, Variety reported on Monday that Beyoncé Knowles had been tested to star in the thinly disguised role of Diana Ross in the movie version and that it will be directed by Bill Condon. "And you wonder why columnists sometimes run unsubstantiated rumors," Smith harrumphed.
FRANCE REVISES RULE ON WHAT CONSTITUTES A "FRENCH" FILM
France's Culture Ministry has decided that films partly financed by American film companies may qualify for state subsidies so long as they are filmed in the French language and produced in France. The decision comes after the movie Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement), filmed in France, with a French cast and crew, was denied a share of the film subsidy fund because it was co-financed by Warner Bros.' French subsidiary -- while, on the other hand, Oliver Stone's Alexander, made in English and in North Africa, received a subsidy because it was co-produced by the French film company Pathé and because Stone is half-French. According to the London Independent, Dimanche director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was so incensed at the government's decision that he began referring to Stone as "Oliver Caillou." (Caillou is the French word for stone.) In its report, the Independent observed, "Behind the row lies the difficulty of operating a system of national subsidies in an increasingly international industry. The large French movie production companies muddy the waters by occasionally making thrillers in English for a more global audience."