BIG BLUE ACQUIRES STUDIOS' MOVIE SITE
Blockbuster will attempt to do what the major studios could not: make downloading movies appealing to consumers. On Wednesday the video-rental company announced that it had bought the online movie service Movielink, which was originally launched in 2002 by five studios: MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros. with the hope that it would become an attractive alternative to pirate websites. But the service never appeared to fulfill its founders' expectations -- largely due, it was said, to prices that corresponded to those for DVDs (although many "extras" were missing) the slow downloading time, the inability to burn the movies to discs, and the difficulty of showing the downloaded films on TV sets. Although the five studios reportedly poured more than $100 million into the service, the Wall Street Journal said today that Blockbuster paid less than $20 million for it. Several analysts suggested that the figure may have been much less than that amount.
WEBSITE TO OFFER FREE -- AND LEGAL -- MOVIES
BitTorrent, the controversial video distribution company that has often been linked to Internet piracy, plans to inroduce a new service next month that will allow consumers to watch movies and TV shows legally as streaming videos -- but they'll have to watch commercials first. The San Jose Mercury News noted that the service could "point to a potential revolution in how consumers access television and movies." Unlike other movie-download services, the BitTorrent service will not require consumers to wait hours for movies to be downloaded. They'll be able to watch them much like the way they watch movies on TV -- and without paying for them. Moreover, the Mercury News suggested, such services could eventually replace traditional television.
SALES OF HI-DEF DVD'S OUTPACE VHS TAPES
It may be an indication of how far high-definition DVDs have come or how low sales of VHS tapes have fallen, but reports said Wednesday that during the first six months of the year, people for the first time bought more movies on hi-def DVD than they did on VHS tape. Word of the landmark achievement for the Blu-ray and HD DVD formats came on the same day that Warner Bros. announced that its hi-def release of 300 set a new sales record for high-definition releases as it sold 250,000 copies in its first week in release.
HANKS, WILSON, VARDALOS FILE BIG FAT LAWSUIT
In yet another lawsuit challenging Hollywood's accounting practices, Tom Hanks, his wife Rita Wilson, and writer-actress Nia Vardalos have sued Gold Circle Films, claiming the company has cheated them of millions of dollars. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles on Wednesday claims that their film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, has grossed about $370 million, while the studio has indicated its gross receipts total $287 million. Gold Circle Films principal Scott Niemeyer responded: "Gold Circle has fully complied with its contractual obligations and has already paid plaintiffs a combined total of over $44 million in profits. "Gold Circle has never thwarted the producers' audit rights."
COMEDY WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER SHAVELSON DEAD AT 90
Mel Shavelson, a prolific radio, TV, and movie writer, and a director and producer of many of the films he wrote, died Wednesday in Los Angeles of natural causes at age 90. He received Oscar nominations for best screenplay in 1956 for The Seven Little Foys, which starred Bob Hope as vaudevillian Eddie Foy, and two years later for Houseboat, which starred Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. His autobiography, published on his 90th birthday on April 1, was titled How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Really Trying, P.S. -- You Can't.