PAY-OFF FROM HD DVD CAMP TO PARAMOUNT?

Paramount and DreamWorks garnered "incentives" valued at $150 million to agree to release their films in high-definition home video exclusively in the HD DVD format, the New York Times and Daily Variety reported today (Wednesday), citing no sources. Both publications said that the HD DVD camp had agreed to "promotional considerations" amounting to $50 million for Paramount and $100 million for DreamWorks" over the next 18 months. The Times indicated that an undisclosed amount of cash also exchanged hands. Variety's revelation was buried in an article about director Michael Bay's flip-flop over the two film companies' decision. Bay had originally posted a message titled "Paramount pisses me off!" on his personal website in which he remarked: "I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For them to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" He vowed not to direct Transformers 2 if it would not be released in the competing Blu-ray format, which currently outsells HD DVD by three to one. By the end of the day, however, Bay had backtracked, writing, "I overreacted. I heard where Paramount is coming from and the future of HD. ... I like what I heard." Fellow director Steven Spielberg remained unconvinced, balking at the Paramount/DreamWorks deal (as he did with Universal's exclusive deal with the HD DVD camp). A spokesman indicated that his films will continue to be released exclusively in the Blu-ray format, regardless of the studio for which they are made. DreamWorks marketing chief Marvin Levy said Tuesday that Spielberg continues to be a "big supporter of Blu-ray."

MOVIE GALLERY MAY BE DELISTED

Movie Gallery, whose shares have fallen from $5.29 in January to $.30 in mid-day trading today (Wednesday) may see its shares falling right off the NASDAQ list. The company said Tuesday that it had received notices from NASDAQ that its stock has dropped below the $1-per-share minimum over a 30-day period that is required to maintain a listing on the stock exchange. Movie Gallery -- the second-largest movie renter behind Blockbuster -- has recently been unable to make payments on its debt, largely incurred as a result of its recent acquisition of the Hollywood Video chain and last week extended until August 27 a forbearance agreement with lenders.

ACCUSED CZECH PIRATE FACES LONG PRISON SENTENCE

A 19-year-old Czech youth living in a small village in south Bohemia faces a possible five-year prison sentence and a fine of almost $250,000 for allegedly camcording The Simpsons Movie at a local theater last month and uploading it onto the Internet. Word of the young man's arrest -- his name was not included in published reports -- follows a similar report about the arrest of an Australian youth on charges of uploading another copy of the movie before it even appeared in theaters elsewhere. (Australia is a day ahead of much of the world.)

CRUISE, UA FACING POSSIBLE LAWSUIT BY EXTRAS

A lawyer representing 11 extras who were injured in Germany while filming a scene for the Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie has threatened to sue Cruise, United Artists and the film's producers. "Those responsible on the set displayed inhuman indifference in playing with the health and the lives of the extras," lawyer Ariane Bluttner told Agence France Press Tuesday. She said that she intends to take legal action against the production company "unless it un-bureaucratically and rapidly compensates the injured." Only one of the extras suffered serious injuries. Dressed as German WWII soldiers, the extras were riding in a military panel truck when the incident occurred.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.