CNN PLACING RECOVERY HOPES ON PIPELINE
CNN on Thursday began giving its employees a chance to preview CNN Pipeline, which will allow Internet users to watch any of four live streams of news content in a corner of their computer monitors any time of the day. CNN, which recently said it would no longer charge to access video content on its webpage, is expected to charge a fee for the Pipeline feature, but it has not yet indicated what the fee will be. In a memo to CNN staff on Thursday, CNN Networks chairman Jim Walton commented, "Watching the live streams of CNN Pipeline on my computer reminds me of CNN's history of innovation. ... No other news organization continually uses the newest technology to evolve the way news is presented and consumed."
DID CNN ALLOW ABC TO SCOOP IT ON JENNINGS' DEATH?
CNN weekend anchor Carol Lin said Thursday that the cable news network began hearing reports that ABC News anchor Peter Jennings was near death early on Sunday and that her colleagues debated whether to break the story or allow ABC to report it first. In an interview with Jon Friedman of MarketWatch.com, Lin said, "Even if we were able to get confirmation, we'd decided to wait. ... I guess it was something you wouldn't expect to see in the era of blogs. Everyone has a different set of circumstances." She remarked that while some of her colleagues wanted the exclusive, they decided to give ABC the "professional courtesy" of making the announcement first. But CNN President Jonathan Klein expressed skepticism about Lin's remarks. "I don't know about that. I somehow doubt that," he told Friedman. "We're a news organization. If we get the news first, I can't imagine any circumstance that we would deprive our viewers" of the news.
VAN SUSTEREN BECOMES MOST-WATCHED CABLE NEWS PERSONALITY
Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren may be receiving increasing flak from TV critics and newspaper columnists for her coverage of the Natalee Holloway case (Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson commented today that Van Susteren has "spent so much time in Aruba ... that she probably qualifies for a Dutch passport. ... Hey, who cares about Iraq? They're draining the pond! They're digging in the landfill!"), but her ratings continue to shoot up, making her the most-watched personality on cable TV. On Wednesday night, her On the Record program drew 2,769,000 viewers, versus 716,000 for NewsNight with Aaron Brown on CNN, 487,0000 for Nancy Grace on CNN Headline News, and 353,000 for Scarborough Country. Her closest competitor in the primetime cable ratings race is her lead-in, The O'Reilly Factor, with 2,400,000 viewers.
LUCY IS TV'S MOST BELOVED DEAD CELEBRITY
Lucille Ball, whose I Love Lucy episodes remain a television staple a half century after they were originally broadcast, is America's most popular dead star, according to Marketing Evaluations, Inc., which developed the "Q score" to measure performers' popularity. Runners up, according to the company, are Bob Hope, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Red Skelton. The "Dead Q" scores are particularly interesting to advertisers considering placing their images digitally in commercials as Coors did with John Wayne and Dirt Devil vacuum cleaners did with Fred Astaire. Steve Levitt, president of Marketing Evaluations, told the Associated Press, "Some of these deceased personalities have Q scores equal to or greater than some of the live personalities we measure."
CBS TO REPURPOSE NEWS FOOTAGE ON GAY CHANNEL
Under the heading "Queer Eye for the Straight News," Broadcasting & Cable reported Thursday that former CNN correspondent Jason Bellini has been selected to anchor CBS News on Logo, Viacom's recently launched gay cable network. The 3-5-minute reports are due to air at various times across Logo's schedule, using CBS News footage, beginning Monday, August 15.
ORPHANS SAY THEY WERE OUSTED FROM "MAKEOVER" HOME
Turning the happy ending of the March 27 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition upside down, five orphans who appeared on the show have sued the producers and ABC claiming that they were exploited and were forced to leave the house that they say the producers promised to build for them. The five Higgins family siblings have also sued the Leomitis family, who, they say, orchestrated a campaign to have the home all to themselves, resorting to physical abuse and racial name-calling. (The Higginses are black, the Leomitises, Samoan-American.) "We were promised a home," Charles Higgins II, one of the orphans, told the Los Angeles Daily News. "They broke that promise." But ABC, while noting that it has a policy of not commenting on litigation, did remark in a statement, "It is important to note that the episode was about the rebuilding of the Leomiti family's existing home to accommodate the inclusion of the five Higgins siblings."
DIRECTV BIDS ADIEU TO TIVO
DirecTV said Thursday that it will quit marketing TiVo digital video recorders this year and instead offer subscribers its own brand of DVRs. The announcement had been expected. TiVo's shares closed down 6.2 percent to $5.62.
WHEN A LOSS IS AS GOOD AS A WIN
Ordinarily it's not considered good news when a company reports a $3.7-million loss in a quarter after posting a profit of $146.1 million during the same quarter a year ago. However, DreamWorks Animation had expected -- and forecast -- a far more sizable loss, and its stock jumped 3 percent in after-hours trading following release of the company's quarterly financial statement. The company credited sales of tie-in products to the movie Madagascar for helping to offset huge returns of DVDs for Shrek 2 and Shark Tale. (Since DreamWorks Pictures and Universal are compensated for theatrical marketing and distribution costs and fees before the animation studio receives any revenue, no box-office revenue from Madagascar was included in the quarterly figures. The film, however, is a box office smash, earning $432 million in worldwide ticket sales, and is expected to push DreamWorks Animation well into the black in the fourth quarter.)
FOUR NEW FILMS TO COMPETE AT WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
Four films are set to debut in theaters this weekend, but none is expected to take in more than $20 million. Paramount's Four Brothers, directed by John Singleton and starring Mark Wahlberg, is generally regarded as the strongest of the quartet. Box office analysts are betting that it will overtake last week's No. 1 film, The Dukes of Hazzard. Other contenders this weekend are Universal's The Skeleton Key, Sony's Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, and Miramax's The Great Raid.
MOVIE REVIEWS: FOUR BROTHERS
There's a shoot-out between critics over John Singleton's Four Brothers that rivals anything seen in the movie itself. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times bestows three stars on the movie and remarks that while it "wants basically to be an entertainment ... it deliberately makes the point that in an increasingly diverse society, people of different races may belong to the same family." (The point is embodied by the four brothers of the title, two white and two black, raised by a white foster mother who is murdered at the outset of the film.) Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News describes it as "a rousing revenge flick that delivers the goods with a mixture of tight action, vivid performances and an old-school soundtrack that evokes the best of blaxploitation cinema." Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post remarks that the film might be criticized as old-fashioned, then adds: "Listen up: If old-fashioned is just code for leaving the theater smiling, sign me up." Like several other critics, Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks of the film as a kind of contemporary B-movie. "It's your basic patter, car chase and shootout. No big budget, stars, or computer-generated tricks. Like cheap booze, it does the job," she writes. But Stephen Holden in the New York Times describes the movie as an "atmospheric, propulsive and ultimately preposterous melodrama." Ty Burr blames Singleton for the film's problems. "Grubby to look at and edited with a rusty knife, it's a bumptious, low-rent ride and further proof that Singleton, for all his status and acclaim, doesn't have impressive filmmaking chops," he comments. Kyle Smith in the New York Post is less guarded in his review, writing "Four Brothers? Ringling Brothers is more like it, because John Singleton's latest stinks like something the elephants left behind."
MOVIE REVIEWS: DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo is one of those films where you know the critics' reaction before reading it. They loathed the original and they show even less regard for the sequel. Associated Press critic Christy Lemire acknowledges as much in her review. "What we say won't matter now, as it didn't matter then," she writes. For what it's worth, however, here's a sampling of the reviews: Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "aggressively bad;" Ned Martel in the New York Times: "There is an essential meanness to the entire project;" Lou Lumenick in the New York Post: "a vile and laughless follow-up;" Janice Page in the Boston Globe: "Is it too late to redefine 'Eurotrash'?;" Claudia Puig in USA Today: a "sophomoric crassfest."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE SKELETON KEY
Horror movies are rarely critics' cup of tea, but some are saying that The Skeleton Key may be their bag of popcorn. Jan Stuart in Newsday writes: "Gothic horror is just the ticket for August, a time when those of us who are not at the beach working on our skin cancer may be looking for the movie equivalent of the beach read." Manohla Dargis in the New York Times describes it as "one of the most enjoyably inane movies of the season." Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times writes that it "is tightly plotted and suspenseful enough to keep you guessing until the satisfying, unexpected end, which is worth suspending disbelief for." Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer calls it "stylishly spooky" and says that the movie, set in Louisiana, "offers a rich gumbo of menace, mystery and magic -- and then lets it go cold and mushy." And Bruce Westbrook in the Houston Chronicle dismisses it as a "formulaic fear-fest with a bare-bones plot ... more moody than scary."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE GREAT RAID
The war movie The Great Raid has been resting on Miramax's shelves for almost three years, stymied apparently by the real war going on in Iraq. Critics are warring, too over whether it ought to have been released at all. On the one hand, Roger Ebert writes in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Here is a war movie that understands how wars are actually fought." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News observes, "It has more dramatic elements than almost any fictional combat picture, including Saving Private Ryan, and has the advantage of being mostly true." On the other hand, Stephen Holden writes in the New York Times that "it illustrates a depressing similarity between reckless war-mongering and grandiose moviemaking." Most critics side with Holden. "I hereby award the World War II drama "The Great Raid" a Cement Star for faithful and distinguished service to the cause of mediocrity," comments Kyle Smith the in the New York Post. And Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel remarks, "No wonder The Great Raid sat on the shelf for more than two years. It's damaged goods, fit only to tumble out as part of the 'change in management' Miramax fire sale."
STUDIOS SUE WASHINGTON MAN FOR DOWNLOADING TWO FLICKS
Two individual movie studios, Sony's Columbia, and Warner Bros. have sued Dale Weaver of Lynnwood, WA in federal court alleging that he downloaded at least two of their films, Columbia's Fifty First Dates and Warner's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, then made them available for further downloading on "an online media distribution system." The MPAA issued a statement saying that the "lawsuits and public identification of individuals who illegally download and trade movies online are part of the motion picture industry's campaign to fight film piracy and raise awareness about the damaging phenomenon and the consequences of illegal file-swapping." John Malcolm, the MPAA's worldwide anti-piracy director, said. "Internet piracy is happening in cities all across America, from Lynnwood, Washington, to Chicago, Illinois. We won't stand by while people steal valuable copyrighted material with no regard whatsoever for the law or for the rights of creative people to be paid for their efforts." On Tuesday, the MPAA announced federal suits in Illinois against four Chicago-area men who allegedly swapped movies using peer-to-peer software. MPAA spokeswoman Kori Bernards told the Chicago Tribune, "We're filing suits every week."