DIAMONDS ARE FOR WEARERS AT MTV VMA'S
Bling went the things at the heart of Sunday night's MTV Video Music Awards as the annual cable channel's music ceremonies turned out to be more a competition about garish jewelry than about the music itself. A highlight of the night came when host Diddy (who recently shortened his name from P. Diddy) gave a watch designed by Jacob the Jeweler (Jacob Arabo) to a fan. Throughout the day Boston-based Alpha Omega Jewelers lent diamond-encrusted watches and jewelry to celebrities appearing on the awards telecast. However, the New York Daily News, reporting on the event, noted a conspicuous exception. "Usher, music's flashiest player," it said, "left his ever-present jewels at home." Punk rockers Green Day won the video of the year award for its "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." Kanye West won for best male video with his "Jesus Walks," while Kelly Clarkson won for best female video with "Since U Been Gone." Hurricane Katrina, which dogged pre-award festivities, left no apparent mark on the actual awards show, although traffic around the site was snarled most of the day due to numerous local power outages that shut off traffic lights. Earlier in the day, the publicly affable Jamie Foxx appeared to mutter the words "dumb bastard," when a local driver cut into his motor entourage at an intersection.
HEMMER, PUSHED OVERBOARD BY CNN, RESCUED BY FOX
Bill Hemmer, the former cohost of CNN's American Morning, began spending his mornings at rival Fox News Channel today, anchoring the 9:00 a.m. edition of Fox News Live. The Chicago Tribune reported today (Monday) that after Hemmer was axed from the CNN morning show, he was offered what he later called an "enormous" opportunity to join Fox. "I will say that [Fox News President] Roger Ailes was a significant part of my decision; he has a proven track record of winning, he has a vision, and he's been successful at nearly everything he's put his hands on," Hemmer told the Tribune. On Friday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggested that Hemmer's good looks may have been a particular asset in helping him land the Fox News assignment. It quoted Indianapolis-based agent Rick Gevers as saying, "Younger and prettier is the thing right now." But Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming for Fox News said that Hemmer "is the type of guy you look at and say, 'He knows what he's doing. He's a solid journalist.' ... Could he be even stronger? We think he can be."
CNN EXPANDING CNN PRESENTS DOCUMENTARIES
As part of an ever-expanding programming shake-up, CNN plans to double the number of CNN Presents documentaries next season and eliminate its series People in the News, the New York Post reported today (Monday), citing no sources. The newspaper said that in increasing its CNN Presents documentaries to 30, it will use half the staff of People in the News. Other staff members from the People in the News unit will be assigned to other CNN programming, the network said.
BRITNEY REPORTEDLY UPBRAIDS SISTER'S CABLE CO-STAR
Britney Spears stormed onto the set of the Nickelodeon show Zoey 101 and berated 13-year-old Alexa Nikola, who co-stars in the series with Spears' 13-year-old sister Jamie Lynn, the New York Post's "Page Six" column claimed today (Monday), citing an unnamed source. The column quoted its source as saying, "Alexa was in tears. She was sobbing and totally upset -- I mean, she has been buying Britney CDs since she was 6, and then Britney tears her to pieces? It was totally uncalled for." A spokeswoman for the Spears sisters responded, "Britney did have words with the girl, but felt she was sticking up for her sister." The nature of the disagreement was not disclosed. The second season of Zoey 101, which instantly became the top-rated cable-TV show among "tweens" in its freshman year, is scheduled to debut on Sept. 10.
NEWS CORP ATTEMPTED TO EVADE CHINESE RESTRICTIONS, SAYS TIME
News Corp's former distribution manager in China has admitted setting up a Chinese shell company meant to evade mainland regulations that forbade foreign companies from selling programming to local cable operators, Time magazine reported over the weekend, noting that it had received independent corroboration of the claim from two former News Corp executives. "News Corp called what I did gray-market distribution," Jiang Hua told Time, "but it wasn't gray. It was black." Jiang claimed that the company, Beijing Hotkey Internet, received nearly $1.5 million annually from Chinese cable operators, who sometimes made payments in briefcases filled with cash. News Corp declined comment on the Time article. Today's (Monday) New York Times indicated that the News Corp issue may have played a role in the breakdown of talks between China and rival Viacom -- which had been seeking to expand co-production activities with state-operated production companies -- and the publication of new rules by the Ministry of Culture further restricting foreign TV and film producers. "In China, it is always two steps forward and one step back," Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone told the Times.
AUSTRALIA'S HIGH COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF KILLER
Australia's Supreme Court has upheld an injunction barring the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from broadcasting a documentary in the state of Tasmania about James O'Neill, serving a life sentence for killing a nine-year-old boy in 1975. O'Neill has sued the ABC, claiming that he was defamed in the documentary: The Fisherman: A Journey into the Mind of a Killer. In a 2-1 ruling, the court observed that the injunction is "of a temporary nature" and noted that it would only delay the broadcast of the documentary until after O'Neill's lawsuit is tried and not necessarily bar it forever. But, in a dissent, one judge noted that the documentary was a matter of public interest and that O'Neill is already a publicly known figure and is therefore unlikely to prove that he was defamed.
THINGS LOOKING GRIMM FOR BOX OFFICE
The Brothers Grimm attempted to enter Virgin territory at the top of the box office over the weekend but had to settle for second place. The Terry Gilliam-directed fairy-tale comedy starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger took in an estimated $15.1 million in its debut -- not enough to out-score The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which remained on top for a second week with about $16.4 million. (Today's (Monday) Wall Street Journal described The Brothers Grimm as "the latest under-performer in a series of castaways" that Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein are releasing before they officially depart the company tomorrow (Tuesday). Miramax is also planning to release another six films made under the Weinsteins' aegis over the next four weeks, a schedule the Journal likened to a "wholesale liquidation sale.") The horror flick The Cave opened with $6.2 million, while the Ashlee Simpson/Pell James/Steven Strait romantic comedy Undiscovered lived up to its name, earning just $690,000 in its debut. Penguin watchers continued to boost the total box office of the documentary March of the Penguins, which remained strong in its tenth week with $4.6 million, an amount few documentaries have scored during their entire release. The film has now grossed $55.7 million. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. The 40-Year-Old Virgin, $16.4 million; 2. The Brothers Grimm, $15.1 million; 3. Red Eye, $10.4 million; 4. Four Brothers, $7.8 million; 5. Wedding Crashers, $6.25 million; 6. The Cave, $6.2 million; 7. March of the Penguins, $4.6 million; 8. The Skeleton Key, $4.4 million; 9. Valiant, $3.35 million; 10. The Dukes of Hazzard, $3.05 million.
BOX OFFICE SLUMP CONTINUES
Total box-office for the weekend was down about 2 percent from the same weekend a year ago. With one weekend remaining on the summer season, the box office is expected to finish at its lowest level since 2001, when ticket prices were significantly lower than they are today. The number of tickets sold is expected to be off a whopping 11 percent from last year. In an interview with USA Today, 20th Century Fox distribution chief Bruce Snyder remarked, "At some point, you just have to say you'll stop worrying about the comparisons and start over next year." Added Nikki Rocco, Snyder's counterpart at Universal: "I've never seen a year like this. We're throwing out the old strategies."
NATO CHIEF CHIDES STUDIOS ABOUT DVD RELEASE SCHEDULE
The growing practice of movie studios announcing the DVD release dates of films while they're still playing in theaters has angered the president of the National Association of Theatre Owners. "This is something that drives us nuts," John Fithian told the Associated Press over the weekend. "When Wal-Mart starts putting up signs a month and a half or two months into the movie's run, that just kind of tells the consumer: 'Wait -- it's coming.'" (Theater owners receive a greater share of a film's box office in the later stages of its release than during its opening days.) Fithian also lashed out again at Disney chief Robert Iger's forecast that studios may one day release films on DVD and in theaters simultaneously. He said that Iger "knows there would be no viable movie theater industry in that new world - at least not a theater industry devoted to the entertainment products of Hollywood."
TOSHIBA BLAMES SONY FOR BREAKDOWN IN TALKS ON HI-DEF DVD'S
A spokesman for Toshiba has accused Sony of taking an intransigent position on high-definition DVDs, thereby causing a breakdown in negotiations aimed at developing a single standard. Mark Knox told Red Herring magazine on Friday, "The picture has been painted that Sony is open to discussions and it's Toshiba that's shutting the door. ... It is Sony that is not willing to negotiate evenly." Toshiba heads a group of manufacturers and studios favoring the HD-DVD standard, while Sony heads a larger group favoring the Blu-ray system. "Blu-ray said they won't compromise on the disc structure," said Knox. "In effect they are saying 'my way or the highway' and that is not the way to come to a compromise."