ALMOST HERE: TV WHEN YOU WANT IT
Comcast COO Steve Burke predicted Friday that ABC and Fox will follow NBC and CBS into the video-on-demand arena within three to six months. The networks have been making programming available for viewing on Comcast's systems the day after their original broadcasts for 99 cents per show. Advertising is also included in the VOD presentations but not necessarily the same as those carried during the original broadcasts. Burke said that Comcast currently offers 7,000 programs totaling about 2,200 hours, via VOD, up from 1,700 in 2004, with 97 percent of it available free, including programs produced exclusively for VOD, about fitness, home improvement and dating.

WILL MIKE WALLACE JUMP TO NBC?

Mike Wallace, 87, confirmed Friday that he is being wooed by NBC. In an interview with the Associated Press, Wallace, who has worked for CBS News for the past 43 years, said, They've been talking with me off-and-on for some time about coming over there. ... At the moment, I want to stay where I am." (He announced last month that he would be retiring as a regular contributor to 60 Minutes.) It was not clear who had initiated the talks between him and NBC. An NBC News spokeswoman told the AP: "He's a legendary newsman and we'd be crazy not to take his call." Wallace remarked that NBC "suggested to me if I might be interested that they would very much like me to come over." In a separate interview with today's (Monday) Philadelphia Inquirer, Wallace added, "I haven't made up my mind. ... I do feel a great loyalty to CBS." Meanwhile, NBC News chief Steve Capus told the newspaper, "If Mike Wallace decides that he still wants to be in the game, we have a home for him. ... There are very few times when you get to welcome someone of his caliber into your organization."

STATE DEPARTMENT -- TOO BORING FOR TV?

CNN has moved Andrea Koppel from the State Department -- her beat for the past eight years -- and switched her to Capitol Hill. A source at the network told The Washingtonian: We were the last [to cover the State Department]. The era is over, as far as TV goes." The magazine also reported that ABC's Jonathan Karl had also been moved from the State Department to the national security beat and that ABC has no plans to replace him at State. Noting that the print media have not abandoned the beat, The Washingtonian commented that Secretary of State Rice "can make for dashing footage in her travels, and getting on the plane is still a plum assignment. But diplomats talking diplomacy does not make for great TV."

IS PRESIDENT ALLEN ALREADY A LAME DUCK?

TV columnists are predicting a one-term tenure for ABC's Commander in Chief following dismal ratings for the once high-flying show as it returned to the air Thursday following an 11-week break. The show, which stars Geena Davis as a future president of the United States, debuted last fall as the top-rated new drama, scoring strongly with its first four episodes but has collapsed in the rating since then. Reuters writer Steve Gorman wrote that the show "is in danger of prime-time impeachment after failing to reverse a steady ratings slide this season."

WAR PORN COMES TO IRAQ

Despite the disruption of many basic services in Iraq, many Iraqis sport highly sophisticated cell phones providing video on demand, personal movies, and full Internet access, NBC News Baghdad correspondent Richard Engel observed on the network's "Blogging Baghdad" website. Engle wrote today (Monday) that a friend of his showed him three videos that he had stored on his new cell phones, two of which showed Iraqi national guards bashing the severed heads and body parts of suicide bombers and a third showing a group of U.S. soldiers struck by a bomb. "'Why do you have this on your phone?' I asked. He just shrugged his shoulders," Engle wrote, then concluded: "I suspect that in the same way pornography was one of the fastest industries to take advantage of the new technology in the Internet, in Iraq too there's a growing taste for this new war porn."

SILENT IS GOLDEN
Sony's Silent Hill, the horror film based on the hit video game, was king of the hill this weekend, taking in an estimated $20.2 million. The Weinstein Co.'s Scary Movie 4 dropped to second place with $17 million. Twentieth Century Fox's The Sentinel debuted in third place with about $14.7 million, while the studio's Ice Age: The Meltdown fell to fourth place (from second) with around $12.8 million. All other films had single-digit grosses, including the debuting American Dreamz from Universal, which tanked with just $3.7 million to tie for eighth. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Silent Hill, $20.2 million; 2. Scary Movie 4, $17 million; 3. The Sentinel, $14.65 million; 4. Ice Age: The Meltdown, $12.8 million; 5. The Wild, $8.05 million; 6. The Benchwarmers, $7.3 million; 7. Take the Lead, $4.25 million; 8 (tie) American Dreamz, $3.7 million; 8 (tie) Inside Man, $3.7 million; 10. Friends With Money, $3.6 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: SILENT HILL

Movie critics finally weighed in on Silent Hill over the weekend after Sony decided not to arrange advance press screenings of the movie for them. (On Friday we speculated that someone at the studio may not have gotten the word and screened it for Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert responded that he merely attended a public sneak preview on Thursday night -- thereby suggesting a way that his fellow critics might avoid weekend duty and have their reviews published on Fridays along with all the others.) Nathan Lee in the New York Times gave the movie short shrift, observing: "The plot would take half a day to describe, which is approximately how long the movie seems to play." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post observed that the film runs far longer than the usual 90 minutes for a horror film. He calls it "a great-looking but stupefyingly incoherent supernatural thriller ... that ransacks the entire catalog of horror film tropes for more than two mind-numbing hours." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News commented that "Silent Hill is the worst kind of horror movie: trash that takes itself seriously." (Ebert also informed us that he gave the movie one and a half stars and that the question mark we saw following the star was a typo.)

PAPARAZZI FOLLOWING JOLIE KICKED OUT OF NAMIBIA

Three French paparazzi photographers covering Angelina Jolie's visit to Namibia have been ordered to leave the country this week or face arrest, South Africa's Sunday Times reported. The newspaper said that other journalists, including a photographer for the Sunday Times itself, were sent letters from Namibia's Directorate of Immigration, stating that they are "prohibited/illegal immigrants and given 48 hours to pack up and leave or face arrest." Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula justified the action, saying, "This lady is expecting. ... You guys are harassing her. Why don't you allow her some privacy? Harassment is not allowed in Namibia."

WILL 3-D RESCUE MOVIE BUSINESS?

Digital 3-D cinema could be the motion picture industry's strongest defense against piracy, Titanic director James Cameron said Sunday. Speaking at the National Association of Broadcasters' Digital Cinema Summit in Las Vegas, Cameron said that Digital 3-D "offers a powerful experience which you can only have in the movie theater." He lauded technology that permits virtually any film to be transformed into a 3-D version, and indicated that he is considering releasing his 1997 blockbuster Titanic in 3-D. "Digital 3-D is a revolutionary form of showmanship that is within our grasp. It can get people off their butts and away from their portable devices and get people back in the theaters where they belong," he said.

DVD GOES ON SALE IN CHINA FOR $1.50

In its latest strategy to combat piracy in China, Warner Home Video has released the DVD version of The Aviator priced at the equivalent of $1.50, the London Financial Times reported today (Monday). "This is a first step to see if the consumer can accept this product at this price," a company spokeswoman told the publication. It noted that some pirate DVDs sell for half the $1.50 figure. It also observed that the tactic could backfire and could "anger consumers in developed markets such as Europe and the U.S., who typically pay $20-$30 for a recently released film on DVD."

INDIAN FILM TO BE SHOWN IN PAKISTAN FOR FIRST TIME

For the first time in 60 years -- since the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent -- a movie produced in India has been shown in theaters in Pakistan. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Sunday that while Pakistani theaters are barred from showing Indian films, the government bowed to intensive lobbying from the film industries in both countries and allowed the screening of the 1960 historical romance The Great Mogul, regarded as India's Gone With the Wind. The Pakistani government has also allowed a new Bollywood epic, Taj Mahal, to be released later this week, the CBC said, after the Indian government contributed to a relief fund for victims of the October 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.

Cinemark Movie Club