DATELINE WINS FRIDAY, LOSES SUNDAY
A rerun of a two-year-old Dateline NBC report about religious fanatics in a small town who blamed "satanic worshipers" for the alleged abduction and murder of a young girl overwhelmed entertainment offerings on the other networks Friday and helped NBC win the night by a wide margin. The network averaged a 7.3 rating and a 14 share. CBS placed second with a 5.1/9. ABC was third with a 4.6/8, while Fox trailed with a 3.1/6. The second hour of Dateline also produced the highest rating of the night, an 8.7/16 and provided a strong lead-in for a rerun of NBC's Third Watch, which took the third hour of primetime programming, with a 6.9/13 versus a 5.4/19 for a rerun of CBS's Without a Trace, moved from its regular spot on Thursday. On Sunday, however, another two-hour edition of Dateline (5.7/9)turned out to be no match for CBS's 60 Minutes (9.2/16)in the 7:00 p. m. hour and the made-for-TV movie Plainsong (10.3/15) in the 8:00 p.m. hour.
OMAROSA STORMS OFF KIMMEL'S TV SHOW
Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, arguably the most talked-about contestant on The Apprentice, walked off the set of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live Thursday night after reportedly objecting to a polygraph machine that had been set up on the set. A spokeswoman for the show told TV Guide's web site ""The producers attempted to reassure [her] that they did not intend to ask her to take a lie-detector test ... [but] she became upset and left." Commented Kimmel: "Apparently, her 15 minutes ended the second before I introduced her."
CHRISTIAN GROUP GETS SPONSORS TO PULL OUT OF LESBIAN DRAMA
A relatively small Christian organization in Australia has succeeded in persuading five advertisers to yank their commercials from the lesbian drama series The L Word, which airs on Channel Seven. The Victoria-based Saltshakers organization said that it had received assurances from Just Jeans, Daimler Chrysler, Roche, Allianz and Centrum that their ads would no longer appear on the show. Today's (Monday) Sydney Morning Herald reported that although The L Word, which was produced by pay-TV channel Showtime and airs sans commercials in the U.S., contains nudity and lesbian sex scenes, Saltshakers particularly objected to what it called scenes of "self-insemination," in which the characters use donor sperm to become pregnant. Saltshakers protested that the companies' ads were being used to support women "bringing children into the world who haven't got fathers."
ROLLING STONES BUST IS SUBJECT OF NEW FILM
HBO is planning to produce a film based on the 1967 arrest and trial of Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the London Independent on Sunday reported. Although no actors have yet been cast in the roles of the two British rockers, the role of the defense attorney, Michael Havers, will be played by Havers' son Nigel, who took the idea for the film to writer-producer Nick Fisher. Fisher told the newspaper that the trial represented a life-changing experience for the elder Havers, one of the country's most expensive attorneys, then "at the pinnacle of the establishment."
SINGER, PIONEER TV HOST HARRY BABBITT DEAD AT 90
Harry Babbitt, who, as the male vocalist with the Kay Kyser band, was heard on Kyser's hit radio program Kollege of Musical Knowledge in the 1940s and on numerous hit records by the band, ranging from "The White Cliffs of Dover" to the novelty tune "The Woody Woodpecker Song," has died in Aliso Village, CA at the age of 90. In the early 1950s, Babbitt became one of the top stars of Los Angeles television as the host of Bandstand Review and Hollywood Opportunity on pioneer TV station KTLA, the city's first commercial outlet.
DENZEL FIRES UP BOX OFFICE
In what was no doubt regarded by analysts as a surprising upset, 20th Century Fox's Man on Fire edged out Sony-Columbia's 13 Going on 30 to top the weekend box office -- thereby becoming Fox's first film this year to premiere at No. 1. The Denzel Washington revenge flick, which had been expected to earn in the neighborhood of $15-18 million, instead wound up with $23 million, the most ever earned by a Washington starrer in its debut. The result was particularly impressive given the fact that it played on 2,978 screens versus 3,438 for 13 Going on 30, which several box-office analysts had predicted would earn as much as $25-28 million -- but instead settled for $22 million (a figure which nevertheless exceeded Sony's own forecast). The Jennifer Garner "chick flick" in fact outgrossed Man on Fire Friday. Last weekend's box-office champ, Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill - Vol. 2, finished in the third spot with $10.4 million, a disappointing 59-percent plunge. Its total now stands at $43 million. For the first time in nine weeks, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ fell out of the top ten, earning about $2.1 million to bring its total to $364 million. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Man on Fire, $23 million; 2. 13 Going on 30, $22 million; 3. Kill Bill - Vol. 2, $10.4 million; 4. The Punisher, $6.1 million; 5. Home on the Range, $3.4 million; 6. Johnson Family Vacation, $3.15 million; 7. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, $3.13 million; 8. Hellboy, $3 million; 9. Ella Enchanted, $2.7 million; 10. Walking Tall, $2.6 million.
SAG HIKES DUES
Saying that it wanted to build a strike fund in advance of new contract talks with film and TV producers in the fall and generally boost its reserves, the Screen Actors Guild board voted Sunday to approve an increase in union dues, the first in five years. For members who do not earn any money during the year, dues would rise from $100 to $130, but for the highest-paid union members, those earning more than $200,000, dues would double. The fee to join the union will also rise to $2,085 from $1,356. It was estimated that $7.3 million in new funds would be generated annually by the increases. The proposed hike is due to be submitted to the membership on May 7 and, if approved, would go into effect next November.
NASA ORDERS SCIENTISTS NOT TO DISCUSS GLOBAL-WARMING MOVIE
NASA scientists and officials were officially ordered early this month not to comment on the upcoming movie The Day After Tomorrow, which raises the prospect of an instant ice age occurring as a result of global warming, the New York Times reported Sunday. "No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with" the film, said the message, which was signed by the top press officer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. "Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA." The Times reported that it had received a copy of the message from an unnamed NASA scientist who said he resented efforts to muzzle researchers. The newspaper indicated that late last week the agency reversed its decision and said that it would make scientists available to discuss the movie.
VALENTI SAYS SCHOOLS, TECH FIRMS WORKING ON FILM SECURITY
MPAA chief Jack Valenti says the major studios are working with top universities and tech companies in hopes of finding a fool-proof security system that will allow them to distribute as many as 20,000 titles "at very modest prices." In an interview appearing in Sunday's Boston Globe, Valenti goes on to say: "Right now, every one of our companies in the MPAA is talking to MIT, to Cal Tech, to IBM, to Microsoft, to Intel, to everybody in this business. ... We want the smartest people in the IT business to tell us what's the best way to protect this property." Valenti acknowledges that such a system would prevent individuals from making back-up copies for personal use, as the law currently permits. However, he says, "The minute you allow anybody to break the code to make a backup copy, it means they can make a thousand backup copies." Valenti also maintained in the interview that 80-85 percent of all pirated movies were originally recorded on camcorders in movie theaters. His statement appeared to be at odds with a study by AT&T Labs and the University of Pennsylvania -- reported in today's (Monday) Wall Street Journal -- which determined that 77 percent were originally leaked by industry insiders.
DISNEY BOARD MEETS AT MAGIC KINGDOM
The board of directors of the Walt Disney Co. is due to meet in closed session in Anaheim beginning today (Monday), with discussions about finding an heir apparent to Michael Eisner presumed to be the primary agenda item. Meanwhile, the New York Post reported today that Comcast is likely to withdraw its bid for Disney before its annual shareholders meeting next month.
PROTESTER SUCCEEDS IN GETTING MOVIE BILLBOARD TORN DOWN
Viacom Outdoor has removed a "teaser" billboard for the forthcoming mocumentary movie A Day Without a Mexican, co-written and directed by Mexican musician Sergio Arau. The film, produced by Mexico City-based Televisa Cine envisages what life would be like in California if all Mexicans in the state suddenly disappeared. "Of course, there's a message," Eckehardt von Damm, the studio's CEO, told Saturday's Los Angeles Times. "We are here; we are part of the country." But the billboard, which bore the words, "On May 14th there will be no Mexicans in California," drew a complaint at the drug store where it was located. "A customer came in, and they told us it was very offensive," a spokeswoman for the store told the Times. "We contacted the billboard company and asked them to remove it."
IDLE INSISTS BRIAN DIED BETTER THAN JESUS
Eric Idle has compared his crucifixion in The Life of Brian (he's credited as a "crucifee") with the latest one in The Passion of the Christ and has found his own infinitely superior. Writing in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Idle commented that although he hasn't seen the Mel Gibson film, "I gather that Mel doesn't handle the comedy too well, and he seems to totally ignore the singing opportunities of the crucifixion altogether. I suppose we should be grateful he makes a film where for once the Brits aren't to blame for everything." Idle indicated that both films owe their existence to the single-minded vision of one man, in Brian's case, the late former Beatle, George Harrison, who Idle disclosed, "mortgaged his home and put up all the money because, he said, 'he wanted to see the movie.' At $4 million, this is still the most anyone has ever paid for a movie ticket." Idle also credited Gibson for resurrecting Brian, "thanks to [the success of] his holy snuff film." The Life of Brian is due to reopen in limited release on April 30.