PROGRESS IN ACTORS' TALKS WITH STUDIOS?

The Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have agreed to extend their talks one week until May 2. The agreement was seen as a positive sign that the negotiators are making progress, and representatives of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, who are sitting in on the talks as observers, agreed to postpone their own bargaining talks with the AMPTP until May 5. Nevertheless, in a message posted on its website, the AMPTP cautioned: "At this time there remain significant gaps between the two parties, and we hope to use the extra time to narrow these gaps."

AMAZON, NETFLIX REFUSE TO DISCUSS DOWNLOAD BUSINESS

Suggesting that the recent writers' strike may have represented a lot of fury signifying very little, two principal online movie retailers have declined to discuss results of their download services. The website ContentAgenda has observed that on Tuesday Netflix chief Reed Hastings and on Wednesday Amazon chief Jeff Bezos each refused to respond to questions from reporters about digital sales or what their companies are paying to generate them. Paul Sweeting, editor of ContentAgenda, commented: "What does it say about the pace of development in the digital media delivery business that two established, successful and savvy media retailers like Netflix and Amazon have nothing to show for their efforts? Nothing good, is what." Last November's writers' strike was triggered by demands by the writers for payment when shows they have written are offered on the Internet; likewise much of the current discussions between the Screen Actors Guild and the movie studios and TV networks centers on payments from digital media, but thus far, analysts have pointed out, there is little to suggest that any significant revenue is being generated from online movie services. In fact, several analysts have suggested that the recent tumble in NetFlix stock may have been precipitated by the company's decision to invest heavily in its download service without demonstrating that it will generate sufficient revenue to justify the expense.

NINE-YEAR-OLD AUSTRALIAN TO PLAY ELOISE

Following a search spanning four continents, a nine-year-old Australian actress, Jordana Beatty, has been selected to star in the forthcoming Eloise in Paris. Handmade Films announced Wednesday that Jordana had been selected from more than 4,000 girls who had auditioned for the part, based on Kay Thompson's beloved fictional character (whose painting hangs in New York's Plaza Hotel). She will costar with Uma Thurman, who will play the character's nanny. Charles Shyer (The Parent Trap) will direct.

MOVIE-TICKET SERVICE GOES GPS

People with GPS-enabled cell phones will soon be able to speak the name of a movie they wish to see into the phone, receive directions to the nearest theater playing it along with screening times, and be able to buy tickets. It's all part of a new service announced Wednesday by the movie-ticket service Fandango, which said that it is partnering with Microsoft's voice-search service Tellme to make it available at once to users of BlackBerry devices and soon to those using new Helio Mysto phones. Within the next year it will also be available to users of other GPS devices. In a statement, Fandango CEO Chuck Davis said that the service was aimed at providing "consumers with another fast and intuitive way to get the movie information they want, and allow them to buy tickets immediately."

MASSACHUSETTS DEBATES TAX INCENTIVES FOR STUDIOS

Producer Dana Brunetti has acknowledged that he and fellow producer Kevin Spacey had originally planned to film most of his gambling movie 21 in Toronto or Chicago until he was lured to Massachusetts by a $5-million tax credit. Brunetti told Bloomberg News that the other incentives were significantly less attractive and that Boston offered a better setting since the true story concerned a group of MIT card sharks. Nevertheless, the tax credits that the filmmakers received have sparked political debate over the role of government in supporting private businesses. "There's something obscene about giving Hollywood producers, with all their money, a tax break," Republican state Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei told the news service. And Michael Widmer, "president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation in Boston, said, "We're not getting sufficient payback of this as an investment." Bloomberg reported that in the past two years the state has contributed $138 million to 88 film ventures and generated $544 million in wages and other production spending. Nicholas Paleologos, head of the Massachusetts Film Office observed that that amount doesn't include such things as additional wages for workers at hotels serving film crews.

LAWYER PELLICANO TALKS ABOUT CLIENT PELLICANO; CONFUSES JUDGE

In a bizarre statement to the court following testimony on Tuesday, private eye Anthony Pellicano, who is representing himself in his wire-tapping case, repeatedly referred to himself in the third person -- as if he and his client were not one and the same, drawing an amused reaction from the judge. At one point, Pellicano appeared almost about to evoke laughter from Judge Dale Fischer when he interrupted her to say, "When you are talking about me, you're talking about the person Pellicano, not the lawyer Pellicano, right?" Later he said that "Mr. Pellicano" would not testify during the trial if that meant that he would have to testify about conversations that he had had with his celebrity clients. "It's not going to happen, ever, no matter what the consequence," he said.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.