PARAMOUNT TO TAKE TEST DRIVE WITH REDBOX
Paramount, which is struggling more doggedly than its rivals to find new sources of revenue and financing, has warily struck a revenue-sharing deal with kiosk DVD renter Redbox that will give it until the end of the year to determine whether the deal will be beneficial or cannibalize its customer base. It will particularly be looking at how Wal-Mart customers react. The chain store is the nation's largest outlet for new DVDs. It also rents them, using the Redbox kiosks. If at the end of the year, Paramount determines that Redbox does not represent a threat to DVD sales, it has the option to trigger a five-year deal that could be worth as much as $575 million. The arrangement puts Paramount in the middle of an industry tug-of-war over Redbox. Disney, Sony Pictures and Lions Gate have deals guaranteeing them hundreds of millions of dollars for DVD purchases over five years. Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox are seeking to block Redbox from renting any of its movies until a month after they're released.
The operators of The Pirate Bay were made to walk the plank Tuesday after the Swedish file-sharing website was shut down by its ISP, Black Internet. However, by early today (Wednesday) the website was up and running again after relocating outside of Sweden. It was not immediately clear which ISP had rescued the operators. Black Internet had acted after receiving a court order on Tuesday to stop providing service to the notorious BitTorrent-tracking website. "There are laws and rules in society and they should be respected," Black Internet CEO Victor Möller told a Stockholm newspaper, Dagens Nyheter. For most of the day, those attempting to access the website were greeted with a message from its operators vowing to "defend our Internets, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone."
NEW WARNINGS ISSUED TO PATIENTS AT MPTF HOSPITAL TO GET OUT
Efforts to prevent the closure of the acute-care hospital and long-term-care facility operated by the Motion Picture & Television Fund have thus far failed. The MPTF sent letters to the 78 remaining patients there reminding them that the facility will shut down by the end of the year. Although the two facilities had 136 patients in January when the closures were originally announced, it now has 78. But according to MPTF Foundation chief Ken Scherer, those remaining have taken no steps to move elsewhere -- hence Tuesday's letter. The decision to shut down the facilities has generated angry debate in the industry, with supporters of the closure insisting that they were too expensive to maintain, that patients would be better off at other facilities, and that keeping them open would jeopardize the MPTF's other assisted living and health-care services that serve some 60,000. Opponents have advocated a fund-raising campaign to save the facilities, which reportedly operated on a $28-million deficit in 2008.
DISNEY SHIPS NETBOOKS FOR KIDS
Disney has introduced a version of netbook computers aimed at 6-12-year-olds. The so-called Disney Netpals, priced at about $350.00 (in separate boy and girl styles), represents the combined work of Disney's Toymorrow team and ASUS computers, with a kid-friendly user interface, a rugged body, a keyboard designed to resist spills, and numerous safety features and parental controls, including a feature that allows parents to limit the time their kids can spend on the computer. As expected, the computers offer numerous multimedia functions connected to Disney videos and music. In an interview with longtime Disney watcher Jim Hill, Chris Heatherly, who heads the toy unit of Disney Consumer Products, said that under CEO/President Robert Iger, "there's been a renewed focus on technology at Disney. Each division of the company was asked to come up their own technological strategy, a five year plan. And a lot of that platform is now in place." He added that he is anxious to see Disney now proceed to "create the sorts of consumer electronics that people are really looking forward to."
MOVIE REVIEWS: TAKING WOODSTOCK
The 40th anniversary of Woodstock, which took place from August 15 to August 18, 1969 is being marked forty years and eight days later by the release of Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock. Reviews are not quite groovy. In fact, Lou Lumenick in the New York Post complains that Lee "turns the fabled music festival, a key cultural moment of the late 20th century, into an exceedingly lame, heavily clichéd, thumb-sucking bore." Likewise Rafer Guzmán in the New York Daily News calls the movie "frustratingly sedate, more opiate than hallucinogen." Taking note of Lee's assertion at the Cannes Film Festival last May that "I wanted to make a comedy after making so many tragedies," Claudia Puig in USA Today comments, "He has done that, but he also has made a surprisingly bland film." She concludes: "Lee's movie captures the mellow mood and mud-caked faces of the crowd but misses the reverberations of the counterculture revolution." But Stephen Holden, who calls the movie "likable, humane," suggests that such a task was never the object of the filmmaker. "Taking Woodstock," he writes, "is a gentle, meandering celebration of personal liberation at a moment when rigid social barriers were becoming more permeable, at least among the young." Several reviewers also find much to praise about the movie even while giving it barely passing grades. Betsy Sharkey comments in the Los Angeles Times that the movie amounts to "a meticulously rendered and achingly authentic portrait of a time and a place that is, by turns, sweeping and intimate, poignant and painful, funny and flat, emotional and emotionless. It's a frustrating complication of a movie with a sprawling story and grand ambitions -- and some truly grand acting -- that stumbles almost as often as it soars. Bummer."