RIGAS FAMILY TO PAY $1.5-BILLION FINE
The Rigas family, which founded and operated Adelphia Communications, will forfeit $1.5 billion in assets, representing 95 percent of their total wealth (they would still be left with about $79 million, according to the New York Times), to settle government claims that they bilked shareholders, the U.S. Dept. of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a news conference, "This represents the largest forfeiture ever made by individuals in a corporate fraud matter." Included in the settlement was an agreement by the Rigas family to transfer cable systems that they personally controlled to Adelphia. The company, in turn, agreed separately to pay a fine of $715 million, an amount that Adelphia Chairman and CEO Bill Schleyer described as "the price we must pay to protect against the much larger potential harm of leaving the government claims and fate of the managed cable entities unresolved." The money will reportedly be used to repay investors who lost billions when the company went under. Meanwhile, today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC is expected to charge Adelphia's auditor, Deloitte & Touche, for failing to spot the fraud that resulted in Adelphia's collapse. Deloitte, according to the newspaper, is expected to pay a $50-million fine to settle the complaint.
STAR WARS: THE TV SERIES
Suggesting that next month's release of the sixth Star Wars film, The Revenge of the Sith, will amount only to "the end of the beginning," as Churchill once remarked, George Lucas has told Celebration III, a Star Wars convention in Indiana, that he plans to carry the sci-fi battles further -- on television. He indicated that he has immediate plans to start an animated series of half-hour shows that will be produced in 3D, to be followed by a live-action series. ("We're probably not going to start that for about a year.") The live-action series, he said, would comprise stories set during the period between episodes three and four of the theatrical movies. After all, he explained, the six films actually amount to "the Darth Vader story. It starts with him being a young boy and it ends with him dying. I never ever really considered ever taking that particular story further." The animated series, Lucas indicated, would take place in the period following Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Meanwhile, 1,000 tickets to a back-to-back marathon screening of all six Star Wars films in London on May 16 sold out in minutes Monday. Oddly, they will be shown in the order they were produced, beginning with Episode IV: A New Hope at 7:00 a.m. and ending with Episode III: Revenge of the Sith at midnight.
ABC SETS AIRDATE FOR IDOL EXPOSÉ
ABC has decided to air "Fallen Idol," its planned Primetime Live exposé of Fox's American Idol, as a Wednesday-night special on May 4 at 10:00 p.m., it announced Monday. The network provided no details of the special except to say that it "will explore explosive claims about behind-the-scenes activities at American Idol, the hit television show that became a cultural phenomenon." It said that John Quiñones would front the special, presumably bypassing the network's investigative unit headed by Brian Ross. Some writers speculated that one of the network's sources may have been Corey Clark, a onetime contestant who was ousted from the show after reports emerged that he had been charged with assaulting his sister. Clark reportedly has been shopping a book proposal in which he claims that he had an affair with judge Paula Abdul and that she offered to help him prepare for the show.
WILL MARTHA BE SENT BACK TO PRISON?
Martha Stewart could be sent back to prison for violating conditions of her release after attending a gala last week that celebrated Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People," CNN reported Monday. The news channel said that the U.S. probation department was attempting to determine whether the celebrity affair was directly related to Stewart's employment, a condition of her release. Chris Stanton, the chief federal probation officer for southern New York, acknowledged that his department had approved a request from Stewart to attend the gala; however, he said, his department wants to see how she described it in her request.
CABLE ANCHORS FORCED TO ROUGH IT DURING DISASTER COVERAGE, SAYS CNN ANCHOR
CNN anchor Aaron Brown has told a conference on "Journalism and the Tsunami," sponsored by the Dart Center at the University of Washington, that he learned what it means to be an anchor for a cable network while covering the devastation following last December's tsunami in Southeast Asia. He said that at one point he welcomed being able to ride a U.S. helicopter that took him to an aircraft carrier for a hot meal and a shower. "Now, I didn't learn until later -- this is how foolish I was; this is the difference between being a cable anchor and a network anchor -- you know, Dan's living on that aircraft carrier. Diane Sawyer flew in, she had a nice meal, a shower, got cleaned up, went into Aceh, shot a story, went back to the helicopter, went back to the carrier. It's air-conditioned, it's very nice. I'm a schmuck; I'm sleeping on the floor in this house."
UPROAR OVER DEATH OF HORSE ON MOVIE SET
The Los Angeles Animal Services Department has shut down production of a remake of the 1943 movie My Friend Flicka after one of the wild horses used in film died of an apparent broken neck during a racing scene. The department said that it will launch an investigation of the incident. Today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Daily News reported that the department was looking into possible violations of numerous conditions of its animal-use permit. Capt. Karen Knipscheer, a spokeswoman for the department, told the newspaper that the Animal Humane Association, which monitors animal safety on movie sets, had failed to notify the city about the horse's death, which occurred last Wednesday. Marie Belew Wheatley, president and CEO of the association, said that the organization was also investigating the incident and noted that the AHA bars the use of untrained horses on movie sets. Attorney Roland Vincent, founder of the Equus Sanctuary for abused horses in Juniper Hills, CA, who said he witnessed the incident, told the Daily News that using wild horses in films is inhumane. "They're scared to death, terrified. ... It's abuse, even if nothing happens to them."
WGA EAST SUES WGA WEST
The Writers Guild of America East and the Writers Guild of America West are once again immersed in a fraternal battle, this one primarily over the WGA West's demand that the WGA East's screenwriters hold membership in both outfits and that their dues be divided in half between the two WGAs. As reported by Daily Variety, on Monday, the Eastern group sued the Western group, charging that the WGA West had refused to agree to mediation and was insisting on binding arbitration. "In rejecting mediation and attempting to force arbitration, the West has placed the resolution of this issue with the lawyers, rather than in the hands of the writers, where it belongs," WGA East president Herb Sargent said.
PIRATES COMING TO THE INTERNET (NO, NOT THAT KIND)
Pirates of the Caribbean, having already morphed from a theme park attraction to a movie, is apparently now set to become both a movie sequel and a multiplayer Internet video game. The game is due to build on technology developed two years ago for Disney's Toontown Online, which requires a $10.00-per month subscription. Disney Online's Ken Goldstein told today's (Tuesday) Daily Variety, with apparently no intentional hint of irony, "Creatively, we think it's very exciting to have players live life as a pirate."
MOVIE THEATERS SEEK ADS FROM FAST-FOOD OUTLETS
The head of Screenvision, which provides advertising on more than 30,000 movie screens in the U.S., is planning to make a play for ad dollars from fast-food chains, which have traditionally shunned theater ads. Matthew Kearney told Monday's online MediaDailyNews that ad buyers' reasoning is that "you can't get to Burger King or McDonald's from your movie seat." Kearney observed, however, that many moviegoers decide to have a meal after a movie, rather than before. "And usually, where there's a multiplex, there's usually a [quick-service restaurant] nearby. So it makes perfect sense for a QSR to want to reach people when they're out."
BOX OFFICE MARKS NINTH WEEK OF DROUGHT
Universal's The Interpreter, starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, performed far better than expected at the box office over the weekend, but it was not enough to keep overall ticket sales below last year's for the ninth week in a row. The political thriller directed by Sydney Pollack took in $22.8 million, pushing last week's winner, MGM's The Amityville Horror, into second place with $3.7 million. Paramount's Sahara slipped to third place with $9 million. Today's (Tuesday) USA Today observed that analysts expect the losing streak to end next weekend with the openings of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and XXX: State of the Union.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The Interpreter, Universal, $22,822,455, (New); 2. The Amityville Horror, MGM, $13,707,999, 2 Wks. ($43,316,733); 3. Sahara, Paramount, $9,027,885, 3 Wks. ($48,947,382); 4. A Lot Like Love, Disney, $7,576,593, (New); 5. Kung Fu Hustle, Sony Classics, $6,749,572, 3 Wks. ($7,483,773); 6. Fever Pitch, 20th Century Fox, $5,509,381, 3 Wks. ($31,510,601); 7. Sin City, Miramax/Dimension, $3,726,675, 4 Wks. ($67,263,575); 8. Guess Who, Sony, $3,513,837, 5 Wks. ($62,388,926); 9. Robots, 20th Century Fox, $3,417,363, 7 Wks. ($120,285,570); 10. King's Ransom, New Line, $2,137,685, (New).
BRITAIN TO LAUNCH NEW FILM MAGAZINE
British Film Magazine, a publication that will include news about the British movie industry of interest to both the industry and consumers, is due to publish its premiere edition on Thursday. The magazine's founder, Terence Doyle, told Britain's Guardian newspaper that he hopes to sell around 50,000 copies initially. "Over 5 million people go to the cinema in the U.K. every month; 50,000 is just 1 percent [of that]. I don't think that's a lot."