NEWS CORP REPORTS WORST YEAR EVER

The current economic downturn has resulted in an unprecedented plunge in earnings of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, analysts said Wednesday. The company on Wednesday reported a $3.4-billion net loss for the one-year period ending June 30, much of it resulting from loss of advertising for its broadcast, magazine and newspaper businesses. Cable-TV bucked the trend with a 31-percent rise but was not able to offset huge losses elsewhere. His broadcast units plummeted to $174 million from $1.12 billion a year ago. His 20th Century Fox film studio reported a profit of $848 million for the year, but even that was a drop from last year's $1.24 billion. Murdoch did not attempt to put a gloss on the results. "The past year has been the most difficult in recent history, and our 2009 financial performance clearly reflects the weak economic environment that we confronted throughout the year," he said.

MURDOCH: NEWS CORP WILL BEGIN CHARGING FOR NEWS

Rupert Murdoch vowed on Wednesday to end free access to his newspapers by next summer. The media mogul, who newspapers include the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post, plus assorted newspapers in Australia, China and the British tabloids News of the World and the Sun, said Wednesday. "Quality journalism is not cheap. ... The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news websites." Several analysts question whether readers will be willing to pay to read newspapers online. (The Wall Street Journal is the only newspaper in Murdoch's realm that currently charges for online access, but most agree that it provides a special information service unavailable elsewhere.) Murdoch said that his company had completed a study of charging and that "if we're successful, we'll be followed fast by other media." It was not clear whether Murdoch also plans to place a fee on his FoxNews.com website.

FAST AND FURIOUS BOOSTS UNIVERSAL

Universal Pictures, which has been having a disastrous year at the box office, got some good news from its home video unit on Wednesday. Its Fast & Furious titled roared to the top of the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert DVD and Blu-ray sales charts and topped Home Media magazine's rental chart for last week. Many people who bout the latest movie also picked up the original, too. It returned to the sales chart at No. 10. So did the 2006 release, The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (at No.12) and 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious (at No. 14).

AT THE MOVIES CRITICS REPLACED

Few moviegoers pay much attention to critics these days, but apparently ABC Media Productions has paid attention to the critics of their critics. The company has fired co-hosts Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz who were brought in to provide a younger point of view for At the Movies -- and were mostly roasted by fellow critics for their efforts. The company's Brian Frons said Wednesday that the Disney unit wanted to try "something new last season" and that the two hosts "did everything we asked of them." However, he added, "we've decided to return the show to its original essence -- two traditional film critics discussing current motion picture and DVD releases." Taking over will by A.O. Scott of the New York Times and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune. The show's original hosts were Chicago critics Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel.

ICE AGE SETS OVERSEAS RECORD

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has iced a place for itself in the record books. Over the weekend, 20th Century Fox reported on Wednesday, the movie became the highest-grossing animated feature in history overseas as its gross reached $551.4 million. The previous champ was Pixar's Finding Nemo which grossed $524.9 million in 2003. Ice Age, however, had something going for it that Nemo did not: 3D, and that appeared to make the primary difference in overall sales. Many analysts believe that Ice Age may have a short time span at No. 1. Early ticket sales for Disney/Pixar's Up have outpaced those for Ice Age in its first week.

ON THE WATERFRONT WRITER SCHULBERG DEAD AT 95

Budd Schulberg, who won a best-original-screenplay Oscar for On the Waterfront and penned the must-read-if-you're-in-the-movie-business novel What Makes Sammy Run, died Wednesday in New York of natural causes at age 95. Only last week, he attended a staged reading of On the Waterfront in Hoboken, performed by a cast that included Vincent Pastore J., who played Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero on The Sopranos and Jason Cerbone, who played Jackie Aprile Jr. on the HBO series. Asked about Cerbone's performance as Terry Malloy, the character made famous by Marlon Brando in the movie, Schulberg replied, "Well, nobody's ever been as good as Brando. ... But I really liked what he did with it very much. A very high-level performance."

Cinemark Movie Club