HP COMPUTERS TO RESCUE CLASSIC TV SHOWS
Warner Bros. and computer giant Hewlett-Packard are expected to announce a partnership today (Monday) to restore classic TV shows and movies to a clarity rivaling contemporary film images. Reporting on the planned announcement, the Los Angeles Times observed that it "underscores the growing importance of digital technology to broadcasters and studios." The newspaper quoted Vikki Pachera, HP's vice president for global alliances and business development as saying, "When you look at an old film from the '30s, it's just not as enjoyable given what we're used to expecting from the studios these days." The company's new technology, she implied, would overcome that deficiency. Meanwhile, today's Wall Street Journal reported that HP has entered into a similar agreement with DreamWorks that is aimed at going beyond film restoration and make the entire filmmaking process more efficient.
BROKAW'S LAST DAY ON JOB: DECEMBER 1
NBC, which had previously said that Tom Brokaw would hand over the job of nightly anchor on NBC Nightly News to Brian Williams after the November elections, has officially set Dec. 1 as the date of Brokaw's final broadcast. Brokaw has anchored the newscast, which continues to dominate the evening news ratings, for the past 21 years.
STUDY SHOWS CABLE TV NEWS GIVES BUSH 3 TIMES MORE AIRTIME THAN KERRY
A study by a video monitoring service for the Washington Post shows that the cable news networks have given President Bush more than three times as much coverage as John Kerry. Fox News exec John Moody told the newspaper: "There's a newsmaking bar both candidates have to pass, which is slightly lowered for an incumbent president who might be commenting on the day's events." CNN exec Sue Buda added: "There's a breaking-news quality to when the president speaks." But John Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter commented that Bush "is a candidate 100 percent of the time" and that the Kerry camp should receive equal time whenever the president appears on TV.
HAD HE BEEN LIVE, TARANTINO WOULD HAVE SET OFF ANOTHER TO-DO
Fox Television observed Saturday that the decision to tape last week's Wednesday edition of American Idol because of President Bush's news conference and air it on Thursday gave it a chance to do a retake of guest judge Quentin Tarantino's critique of one of the contestants. Ordinarily the Wednesday installment airs live. But during the taping of the show, Tarantino used some verboten language when he remarked to singer LaToya London: "I've got three words for you: power f***ing house!" a remark that would have produced as much of an uproar as Janet Jackson's bare breast if it had gone out live. Asked to redo the line, Tarantino changed it to: "I've got two words for you: power house!"
WILL SIMPSONS ACTORS' HOLDOUT PAY OFF?
The "strike" by the cast of Fox's The Simpsons has caused Fox to consider rejiggering its Sunday-night lineup for the fall season or replace the voice ensemble, USA Today reported today (Monday). The newspaper said that, given the network's commitment to post-season baseball and its backlog of six unaired episodes, no change is likely to be implemented until January. Nevertheless, the network must decide how to proceed before it can begin selling spots in the 8:00 p.m. Sunday time slot during the upfront sales market beginning May 20. While the newspaper observed that it was "highly unlikely" that Fox would replace the cast members since "new voices would seem jarring to fans," the voices of comic characters have often been recreated by others in the past. Henry Corden took over the voice of Fred Flintstone after the death of Allen Reed in 1977. Barney Rubble has been played by four actors. All of the voices of Looney Tunes characters created by the late Mel Blanc were recreated by others, principally his son Noel, after Blanc's death in 1989. Many of the voices of the Muppet characters created by Jim Henson were reproduced by Henson's son Bryan after Henson's death in 1990. At least four actors have imitated Clarence Nash's Donald Duck impersonation since Nash's death in 1985. Indeed, the voice of Mickey Mouse, originally provided by Walt Disney himself, has, over the years, been supplied by four other actors.
TV ADS PROMOTING PORN CHICKEN
Promoted on late-night TV ads, Burger King's "subservient chicken" website <www.subservientchicken.com> has reportedly attracted more than 46 million hits. Although the site is meant to resemble a typical webcam-shot porn site and initially shows the chicken wearing garter belts, the chicken shakes a "finger" at the camera if asked to perform a sexual act. Beyond that, it can perform some 400 other acts requested by website visitors, thereby acting as a personification (chickenication?) of the Burger King "Have it your way" slogan. Alex Bogusky, chief creative officer at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, which created the website, told Advertising Age: "One reason it tends to be very sticky and has a lot of pass-along is that people believe it is not real. Then they type in a command and the chicken does what they ask."
AXED BRITISH CAR COMMERCIAL FINDS LIFE ON THE WEB
A 40-second commercial for the British Ford Sportka (the "evil twin" of British Ford's Ka), rejected by the Ford Motor Co. because it shows a cat being beheaded in the car's sunroof, has wound up being distributed by email over the Internet, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper reported that Ford's ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather, has begun an investigation into how the ad was produced despite Ford's rejection of the concept, and how it eventually got out onto the Web. Lucian James, a pop culture expert and founder of the Agenda marketing agency in San Francisco, told the Post that despite Ford's protests (as well as animal activists'), the spot is reaching its intended audience. "It's all very kind of illicit. The ad is not supposed to be released and not seen, however it is seen and it's creating buzz," he said.
EX-BBC CHIEF DYKE TAKES DIG AT BOARD THAT FIRED HIM
At Sunday night's BAFTA television awards in London, writer Paul Abbott, accepting an award for his drama State of Play, condemned the BBC's board of governors for their decision to fire Director General Greg Dyke following release of the Hutton report, which criticized the BBC's oversight process. Abbot called Dyke "one in a million," and added that he still can't believe that "we as the audience ... have allowed such a 'guvnor,' in the truest sense of the word, to get ousted by a handful of the least qualified people in the industry." A short while later, Dyke himself, who presented a BAFTA award, took to the podium and remarked, "I would like to say thank you very much to Paul Abbott for those few kind words said about me -- and in particular those few words he said about the governors, because I tend to agree."
KILL BILL FILLS THE BILL
No doubt setting the stage for more two-parters from Hollywood, Miramax's Kill Bill: Vol. 2 dominated the box office over the weekend with an estimated $25.6 million. Combined with the $22.1 million of Vol. 1's opening, it was as if the film had actually recorded a $47.7-million debut. Miramax's marketing team was being praised for its handling of the second half of Quentin Tarantino's revenge/martial-arts thriller. By releasing Vol. 1 on DVD last week (it sold 2 million copies in its first day on the shelves), the studio gave moviegoers who hadn't seen the first film a chance to catch up on the plot. As a result, Rick Sands, Miramax's COO, told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, "People are going to see Vol. 2 who hadn't seen Vol. 1 [in theaters]." Meanwhile, The Punisher, another revenge-themed movie aimed principally at young males, opened in second place with $14 million. A third new release, Connie and Carla, written by and starring Nia Vardalos, opened outside the top ten with just $3.3 million. Although such a performance would ordinarily be regarded as a disappointment, analysts pointed out that Vardalos's My Big Fat Greek Wedding also opened slowly in 2002 and took a month before showing signs of any significant audience interest. It eventually earned $241 million domestically. Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight's Johnson Family Vacation began showing signs of becoming something of a sleeper hit as it remained in third place with $6.4 million. The film, which cost only $12 million to make, has thus far grossed $21.5 million playing on only about 1,300 screens. By contrast, Disney's The Alamo, which opened just below Vacation last week, saw its earnings plummet to just $4 million. Last week's No. 1 film, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ did not remain resurrected in the top position for long, as it fell to ninth place with an estimated $4.2 million. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Kill Bill -- Vol. 2, $25.6 million; 2. The Punisher, $14 million; 3. Johnson Family Vacation, $6.4 million; 4. Hellboy, $5.7 million; 5. Home on the Range, $5.4 million; 6. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, $5.1 million; 7. Walking Tall, $4.6 million; 8. Ella Enchanted, $4.4 million; 9. The Passion of the Christ, $4.2 million; 10. The Alamo, $4.05 million.
CRUISE'S LAWYERS THREATEN TO SUE BRITISH NEWSPAPER
Swiftly responding to a feature story that appeared in the London Independent only on Friday, attorneys for Tom Cruise have reportedly demanded a retraction of comments in the article quoting famed drama coach Susan Batson as saying that she "was asked to help [Nicole] Kidman and Tom Cruise, Kidman's husband at the time, to give a convincing sexual performance in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut." MSNBC.com's "Scoop" column quotes Cruise's attorneys as saying that Batson worked with Kidman but not with Cruise. The attorneys have been quick to file suit against writers and publications who have raised unsupported insinuations about the actor's sexual orientation.
SHOW-BIZ CELEBS ARE NOTEWORTHY FOR THEIR ABSENCE FROM TIME LIST
Few show-business personalities made Time magazine's list of the 100 "World's Most Influential People," which hits newsstands today (Monday). Among those who did are Mel Gibson, who made the "Heroes and Icons" category, and Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, and actors Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, who were listed in the "Artists and Entertainers" category.
FILM BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN LOST IS FOUND IN NETHERLANDS
A print of Beyond the Rocks, a 1922 silent film starring Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson, and thought to have been extinct, has turned up in Haarlem, the Netherlands, the Amsterdam Film Museum disclosed Saturday. In a statement, the museum said that the film, which was directed by Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Our Town, Pride of the Yankees), is currently being restored, will be screened during the second Filmmuseum Biennial in April of next year, and will be presented with a new score.
NEW DIGITAL DISKS WILL BE PRINTED ON PAPER
Sony and Japan's Toppan Printing Co. on Friday announced the development of a new digital disk, made mostly of paper, that can store up to five times more information than current DVDs. The new disks, composed of 51 percent paper, are expected to be cheaper to produce than the current type. They will employ the so-called Blu-Ray laser technology.