ALL EYES ON KATIE -- ESPECIALLY THE BIG ONE


Katie Couric's departure from NBC and her ascension as anchor of the CBS Evening News will come in two separate stages, published reports said today (Tuesday). She is expected to announce, possibly as early as this week, that she will be leaving NBC's Today show but remain as co-host of the early-morning program until May 31, when her contract expires. The announcement of her deal with CBS will come later, the reports indicated, when final details of the contract are worked out. Today's Washington Post, citing well-placed sources,reported that Couric's job on Today has been offered to Meredith Vieira, co-host of ABC's The View and host of the syndicated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The newspaper said that Vieira is seriously considering the offer. Still other reports indicated that NBC's Campbell Brown has the inside track on the Today job.


BUT DOES SHE HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?

Some analysts have expressed skepticism about the ability of Katie Couric to lift the CBS Evening News out of its third-place position when and if she takes over the anchor's desk from Bob Schieffer. Indeed, in an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Daily News, Bill McLaughlin, a 25-year CBS News veteran, now teaching at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, remarked: "I just think it's going to be a ratings disaster. ... They will inevitably pick up viewers in the beginning because of the curiosity factor. But I can't see that sustaining." "A lot of her considerable talents don't translate to the evening news because they can't, by definition," former CBS Evening News producer Erik Sorenson told the Washington Post. "You cannot sing a cabaret number on the evening news. They won't have her ski. They won't have her dance.That said, she has a ton of other skills, interviewing and presiding over news coverage."


RUSS MITCHELL TO ANCHOR CBS'S SUNDAY NEWSCAST

CBS News has named Russ Mitchell sole anchor of the Sunday edition of the CBS Evening News, making him the first African-American network news anchor since Carole Simpson was taken off the weekend edition of ABC's World News Tonight in 2003 after 15 years. Mitchell is also one of three rotating anchors on the Saturday edition of Evening News and co-anchors CBS's Saturday Early Show.


DEAL GAME BEATS BASKETBALL GAME

NBC continues to draw big ratings with its game show Deal or No Deal. Expanding to two hours Monday night, the show scored a 9.7 rating and a 15 share in the 8:00 p.m. hour, easily beating a rerun of CBS's hit Two and a Half Men (8.4/14) and the The New Adventures of Old Christine (7.0/11). At 9:00 p.m., Deal or No Deal scored a solid 11.5/17, easily beating the start of the NCAA championship game between Florida and UCLA (8.4/12). The basketball game took over first place a 10:00 p.m., averaging a 10.1/16, ahead of NBC's The Apprentice (7.0/11 and ABC's Miracle Workers (5.0/8).


TWO NBC STATIONS REFUSE TO AIR POLITICAL AD

NBC-owned stations WVIT-TV in Hartford, CT and WCMH-TV in Columbus, OH have refused to sell advertising time to the liberal group MoveOn.org, which accuses four lawmakers of selling out to energy companies. All four are Republicans. In a statement, the group said, "We think it's outrageous for NBC to censor our ad, and wonder if this reflects the well-known right-wing leanings of their parent company, GE. What other explanation could there be for an Ohio NBC station refusing to run our well-sourced, entirely factual ad, while airing the Swift Boat Veterans' deceptive ads in 2004?" The stations declined comment. But the Connecticut lawmaker targeted by the group, Rep. Nancy Johnson, has denied MoveOn.com's charges against her "This shameful partisan ad is a new low for politics in our state," Johnson said through a spokeswoman.


ITALIAN PREMIER'S CHANNEL FINED FOR BIASED POLITICAL COVERAGE

Italy's television watchdog, the Communications Authority, today fined one of the three TV channels in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset broadcasting empire $300,000 for biased coverage of the current Italian election. It was the second such fine meted out to the TV channel Rete4 in two weeks. Italian publications cited a TV monitoring study by Centro d'ascolto, which disclosed that between Feb. 11 and March 26, Rete4 gave four times the coverage to Berlusconi's party and allies than it did to the opposition. Nevertheless, today's London Financial Times points out that Berlusconi is behind in the opinion polls and "suggests that there is no simple correlation between people's exposure to unbalanced TV election coverage and their voting intentions."


WAL-MART HIT BY BROKEBACK PROTEST


Wal-Mart has turned aside a massive letter-writing campaign by the American Family Association. urging the retailer to refuse to stock Brokeback Mountain, being distributed by Universal Home Entertainment. The group, which has successfully campaigned against what it considers to be broadcast indecency launched the campaign last week after ads for the film began being displayed prominently in the retailer's 3,900 stores. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, the AFA's Randy Sharp, accused Wal-Mart of helping to push the "gay agenda" by "trying to help normalize homosexuality in society." He added, "But how many copies are they going to have to sell to [recoup] the losses of customers who they've offended and will no longer shop at Wal-Mart?" But a Wal-Mart spokeswoman replied, "The fact that we are offering the movie is not an endorsement of the content of the movie or any specific belief. ...We simply offer the latest titles that consumers want."


NARNIA COMES IN WITH A ROAR

The DVD of Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hits retailers and "rentailers" today (Tuesday) in two versions. The single-disc DVD includes a running commentary on the film by director Andrew Adamson and the four young stars, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell. The disc also includes a blooper reel and "pop ups" about the movie. A special edition two-disc version includes some 10 hours of features. In a press release, Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment said, "The Narnia DVD production team worked with the filmmakers from the very start of the film's production, resulting in exclusive, never-before-seen bonus features that deliver unprecedented access into this cinematic blockbuster." The movie will do battle in the video stores with Universal's King Kong, which sold 6.5 million copies last week, representing a gross of $100 million -- a new DVD record for the company. Universal studios Home Entertainment President Craig Kornblau said in a statement on Monday that King Kong had sold more DVDs in its first six days than any other film in the studio's history.


REDSTONE, FRESTON BACK GREY IN PELLICANO PROBE

Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone and CEO Tom Freston have given their complete backing to Paramount chief Brad Grey, maintaining that they investigated Grey's association with indicted private detective Anthony Pellicano before they named him head of the studio last year. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, Sumner Redstone expressed his "utmost faith" in Grey, but acknowledged: "I'm going out on a limb here. We have investigated this to the fullest. But can anybody be certain of anything but life and death?" Freston told the newspaper, "We vet this in a responsible way. ... We were assured that Grey is a witness and not a target or even a subject in the investigation." Nevertheless, the Times observed, Grey's name continues to surface in numerous newspaper articles linking him with Pellicano, and the Times itself commented that Grey's past ties to Pellicano "have put Paramount closer to the center of the escalating Pellicano imbroglio than anyone at Viacom would have liked."


DIRECTOR MCTIERNAN INDICTED IN PELLICANO CASE

Famed director John McTiernan (Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October) has been charged with hiring Anthony Pellicano to wiretap conversations of producer Charles Roven, then lying about doing so to federal investigators. Roven was married to Dawn Steel, the onetime head of Columbia Pictures, who died in 1997. He produced the 2002 drama Rollerball, which McTiernan directed.


ICE AGE PROVES COOLER THAN EXPECTED

Ice Age

, it turns out, was not quite so hot as 20th Century Fox figured it would be. Although the studio had estimated that the movie would take in $70.5 million, which would have made it the second-biggest animated debut in history (behind Shrek 2), final figures on Monday put the actual total at $68 million, making it the fourth-largest animated bow. Slow ticket sales on Sunday accounted for the disparity. Global warming was apparent overseas, however, as the studio reported that weekend attendance was far greater than estimated. After originally estimating that the movie had earned $43.4 million in 29 countries, Fox on Monday raised that total to $47.4 million.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Ice Age: The Meltdown, 20th Century Fox, $68,033,544, (New); 2. Inside Man, Universal, $15,437,760, 2 Wks. ($52,508,055); 3. ATL, Warner Bros., $11,554,404, (New); 4. Failure to Launch, Paramount, $6,463,434, 4 Wks. ($73,088,790); 5. V For Vendetta, Warner Bros., $6,295,358, 3 Wks. ($56,659,439); 6. Stay Alive, Disney, $4,506,719, 2 Wks. ($17,280,614); 7. She's the Man, DreamWorks, $4,429,426, 3 Wks. ($26,622,732); 8. Slither, Universal, $3,880,270, (New); 9. The Shaggy Dog, Disney, $3,242,414, 4 Wks. ($53,554,291); 10. Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction, Sony, $3,201,420, (New).

Cinemark Movie Club