CBS WAITING AT THE K-K-K-KITCHEN DOOR
CBS is likely to announce this week or next that it has reached an agreement with Katie Couric to anchor the CBS Evening News and join the regular contributors to 60 Minutes, Television Week reported over the weekend. Although Couric's contract with NBC is not due to expire until the end of May, it was widely reported that the network had released her from her obligation not to negotiate with another network until then so that it could move forward with plans for the Today show before pitching it to advertisers during the mid-May "upfronts." This week might appear to be an awkward choice for CBS's announcement. On Wednesday, NBC plans to air a video tribute to Couric to mark her 15th anniversary as cohost of Today.
NEWS BROADCASTERS SLAM NEW NFL POLICY
The Radio and Television News Directors Assn. (RTNDA) has accused the National Football League of "subverting the American tradition of a free press" by barring local TV news cameras from the sidelines of its games. In a letter to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, RTNDA President Barbara Cochran called the NFL's ban "discriminatory and unprecedented" and taken "without announcement, consultation or consideration of the broader impact on public interest." Noting that most games are played in publicly owned stadiums, Cochran said, "When electronic journalists are denied the ability to report on a news event with their own microphones, cameras and production crews, it allows newsmakers to determine the content of the news, a result that is inconsistent with our society's democratic values." But in an interview with Daily Variety, a league spokesman said that the footage often ends up portraying the NFL unfavorably. "We're just imposing tighter guidelines," the spokesman said, noting that other sports leagues similarly bar camera crews from games except networks or stations with signed deals.
GMA WEEKEND PRODUCER SUSPENDED
Good Morning America weekend producer John Green has been suspended by ABC News for one month without pay following the release of years-old emails that he sent in which he remarked that President Bush "makes me sick" and that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright "has Jew shame." After the emails were posted on the Drudge Report, Green promptly apologized, saying in a message to ABC News staff, "I want all of you to know how much I regret the embarrassment this story causes ABC. It was an inappropriate thing to say and I'm deeply sorry." The Washington Post reported on Saturday that it was "widely believed at ABC News that the emails were leaked by a former employee who has a vendetta against Green." The newspaper's observation appeared to be confirmed by one message writer on the TVNewser website, who wrote: "I work at weekend GMA at ABC. I am very upset about the John Green situation. I worked with the leaker, and when fired, he threatened to destroy John and our senior producers."
HOUSEWIVES, ANATOMY OVERWHELM RIVALS
ABC's one-two punch of Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy easily gave the network another victory Sunday night. Housewives scored a 13.7 rating and a 21 share, routing the competition at 9:00 p.m. Anatomy proved to be even stronger, scoring the night's biggest ratings with a 14.0/22. Earlier in the evening, CBS's 60 Minutes won the 7:00 p.m. hour, posting a 7.7/14, while the network's Cold Case at 8:00 p.m. expanded the ratings to an 8.0/13. Overall, ABC averaged a 10.0/16 for the night, followed by CBS with a 6.9/11. NBC placed third with a 4.8/8, while Fox trailed with a 3.3/5.
NBC TO RETURN LAW & ORDER TO FORMER TIME SLOT
NBC, which moved its top-rated Law & Order from 10:00 p.m. on Wednesdays to 9:00 p.m. three weeks ago -- with disastrous ratings results -- will shift it back into its old time slot this week, the network said Friday. At 9:00 p.m., the show faced competition from Fox's American Idol, ABC's Lost, and CBS's Criminal Minds. NBC had hoped that giving its new drama Heist L&O's time period would provide a strong launching platform for it. However, the show performed relatively poorly and will now trade places with L&O and seemingly serve as a kind of sacrificial lamb in the earlier hour.
ICE AGE HEATS UP COLD BOX OFFICE
Ice Age: The Meltdown was more like a tsunami as it smashed box office records over the weekend, far surpassing analysts' predictions. Not only was its (estimated) $70.5-million domestic debut (it earned an additional $43.4 million in 47 other countries) the biggest for any film ever to open in March, it ranked second only to The Passion of the Christ as the biggest film to open on a non-holiday, non-summer weekend. Final figures out later today (Monday) will determine whether the film will also become second only to Shrek 2 ($108 million) as the biggest animated film opening of all time. (The Incredibles earned $70.5 million, and Finding Nemo, $70.3 million.) The original Ice Age raked in $46.3 million in 2002. Fox distribution chief Bruce Snyder told USA Today that the studio had "hoped and prayed for $55 million." The box office also saw another film earn far more than analysts had forecast. The hip-hop/roller-skating movie ATL opened with an estimated $12.5 million at only 1,602 theaters. On the other hand, Slither became the first horror film of the year to perform poorly at the box office, earning only $3.7 million, well below expectations. Basic Instinct 2, starring Sharon Stone,was expected to tank -- and it did, in monumental proportions, earning only $3.2 million. (Commented Entertainment Weekly's box-office writer Dave Karger: "It's doubtful Stone thought she'd ever open a big film and tie with the second weekend of a film called Larry the Cable Guy.") Last weekend's top film, Spike Lee's Inside Man dropped 46 percent to land in second place with $15.7 million. Overall, the top 12 films took in about $136.4 million, up nearly 40 percent from the same weekend a year ago. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Ice Age: The Meltdown, $70.5 million; 2. Inside Man, $15.7 million; 3. ATL, $12.5 million; 4. Failure to Launch, $6.6 million; 5. V for Vendetta, $6.5 million; 6. Stay Alive, $4.58 million; 7. She's the Man, $4.57 million; 8. Slither, $3.7 million; 9. The Shaggy Dog, $3.5 million; 10 (tie). Basic Instinct 2, $3.2 million; 10 (tie). Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, $3.2 million.
THEATER PATRONS HAVE A COW DURING TRAILERS
Many moviegoers attending the screening of 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: The Meltdown were surprised and delighted to see a 20-second trailer for The Simpsons: The Movie preceding the feature. Many cheered. The trailer announced that the long-awaited film will open theatrically on July 27, 2007. "Uh, oh," says Homer in the clip. "We better get started." Within hours several websites had the trailer up and running. They included: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Roj6U79xuH2 and http://movies.monstersandcritics.com/archive/moviearchive.php/The_Simpsons_Movie/3528/videos. The trailer also aired on Sunday night's episode of The Simpsons. Fox is expected to make a formal announcement of the movie today (Monday). In an interview with USA Today Simpsons creator Matt Groening remarked that the producers had "been working to get a script that would be worthy of people actually paying to see the Simpsons. ... We felt the time was right for a movie ... and for Milhouse to win an Oscar."
NEW MOVIES AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOADING -- AT A PRICE
In their latest experiment in making movies available over the Internet, several studios today (Monday) will be using such sites as Movielink and CinemaNow to provide top-drawer films on a download-to-own basis. They include Brokeback Mountain, King Kong and Pride and Prejudice. Today's Los Angeles Times observed that the downloaded films could cost as much as twice what the DVD versions do, can only play on a personal computer, and cannot be "burned" to disc. The newspaper commented, "As they experiment with offering online video on demand, studios are keeping prices high and restrictions tough so they don't alienate retailers, whose DVD sales still provide the vast majority of revenue."
THEATER YANKS TRAILER FOR 9/11 FILM
A New York City movie theater pulled the trailer for the upcoming movie United 93, about the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania following the terrorist plot of Sept. 11, 2001, after several theater patrons complained, according to Newsweek magazine. Kevin Adjodha, a theater manager at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 12 theater, told the magazine that one lady was crying and saying that the theater should not have played the trailer. "I don't think people are ready for this," he said. Newsweek also said that in Los Angeles, some in the audience at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre shouted "Too Soon!" when the trailer appeared. But Carole O'Hare, whose mother died on the flight, voiced support of the film, which is scheduled for release on April 28. (It is due to open the Tribeca film Festival three days earlier.) "This story has to be told to honor the passengers and crew for what they did," she said. "But more than that, it raises awareness. Our ports aren't secure. Our airlines still aren't secure, and this is what happens when you're not secure. That's the message I want people to hear."