SOME OLYMPICS ADS STILL UNSOLD
A week before this Friday's start of the summer Olympics, 4 percent of NBC's ad time remained unsold and the network is trimming prices for it, the New York Daily News reported today (Monday), citing unnamed sources. Nevertheless, NBC spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard told the newspaper, "We are absolutely guaranteed profitability in the neighborhood of what we did in 2000." That would give the network a profit of some $50 million on about $1 billion in sales. Tim Spengler of ad buyers Initiative Media observed that networks have traditionally sold time during Olympics broadcasts down to the wire. "They're nearly sold out," he told the Daily News. "Whatever is not sold yet is a reflection of the mixed economy, not a retreat from the Olympics."
TIME WARNER CHAIRMAN CALLS FOX NEWS TV'S "TALK RADIO"
Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard Parsons has added his voice to the critics of Fox News Channel, calling it "talk radio brought to television." Noting that Time Warner's CNN "still gets far more viewers" (Fox News draws bigger ratings because its audience tunes in longer than CNN's), Parsons observed that the cable news network is often tagged liberal because "journalists as a group tend to want to challenge the establishment. They tend to want to look under the covers and reveal the things the establishment doesn't want to be revealed." Parsons made his remarks during an address Friday to UNITY, an organization of minority journalists, in Washington.
BIG BROTHER DRAWS HALF OF BRITAIN
Nearly half of all television viewers in Britain watched the finale of Big Brother 5 (BB5)Friday night, won by Nadia Almada, a Portuguese transsexual. According to Channel 4, which ran the show, BB5 averaged 8.3 million viewers, peaking in the final half hour with 9 million, representing a 48-percent share. By comparison, last year's BB4 finale averaged 6.6 million viewers, a 34-percent share. The only show of the year to top Friday's episode was the Friends finale, which drew 9.6 million viewers.
WOMAN IN U.K. SEX SCANDAL TO RECEIVE $184,000 FOR TV INTERVIEW
Britain's ITV has agreed to pay a woman at the center of a sex scandal involving the Football Association (which represents the country's soccer teams) $184,000 for an exclusive broadcast interview. Jeff Anderson, an ITV comptroller, told Britain's Guardian newspaper that he expected the figure to be recouped through international sales. "Business affairs were getting quite excited [about the overseas sales potential]. ... They did an estimate of the potential sales, which we took into account when we [offered] our bid," Anderson said. ITV said on Friday that it planned to tape the interview with the woman, Faria Alam, at a secret location over the weekend.
IRAQI GOVERNMENT SHUTTERS AL-JAZEERA
Al-Jazeera, the Arab all-news channel, was ordered to shut down its operations in Baghdad for one month Saturday after the interim government of Iyad Allawi ruled that the broadcaster was inciting violence and hatred. "This latest decision runs contrary to all the promises made by Iraqi authorities concerning freedom of expression and freedom of the press," al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout told Reuters on Saturday. Ballout maintained, however, that despite the closure of their offices, al-Jazeera journalists intended to continue reporting from Iraq. "I'm not going to say it will be easy, but again a creative journalist will try to get a comprehensive and balanced story out there," he said. The Iraqi action was denounced as "a serious blow to press freedom" by the international organization Reporters Sans Frontières.
PLANS FOR FRENCH CNN SHELVED
France has quietly dropped plans to establish a French-language all-news channel to rival such English-language competitors as the BBC and CNN. Plans for the channel had originally been trumpeted by President Jacques Chirac last year after the English-language news channels failed to broadcast a live address he made to the United Nations concerning the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. However, the London Sunday Telegraph reported that funds for the channel are not included in the government's spending plans for 2005. Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told the newspaper: "There is no money for the project." François Rochebloine, head of a commission to scrutinize the project, commented angrily: "Everyone has been duped. ... What a waste of time."
DISNEY'S THE VILLAGE BURNS
Observing that mid-week ticket sales of The Village had been lower than expected, some analysts last week presented a worst-case scenario of the movie dropping 60 percent in its second weekend. It would still, they said, have a good chance of grossing $150 million for Disney, thereby becoming a moneymaker for the studio. As things turned out, the film plummeted 67 percent to just $16.6 million over the weekend, bringing its gross to $85.8 million. The results "gave Disney a good scare," commented Daily Variety. At the same time, fears that moviegoers would be put off by a film featuring Tom Cruise as a villain proved unfounded as the DreamWorks R-rated thriller Collateral opened with a higher-than-expected $24.4 million. Still, it was a far cry from the $57.8 million that Cruise's Mission Impossible 2 grossed in 2000. Sony-Revolution's Little Black Book, the only other film to open wide, earned just $7 million. Opening in limited release, Lions Gate's Open Water took in $1.04 million on 47 screens, an average of $22,000 per screen. The film, which received generally good reviews and excellent audience reaction, is due to open wide on Aug. 20. The anti-Fox News Channel documentary Outfoxed, shown in five theaters after being screened at private parties and being released on DVD, took in $78,000 ($15,600 per screen). Overall, the top 12 films grossed $97.7 million, 23 percent below the comparable weekend last year. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Collateral, $24.4 million; 2. The Village, $16.6 million; 3. The Bourne Supremacy, $14.1 million; 4. The Manchurian Candidate, $10.8 million; 5. Little Black Book, $7 million; 6. I, Robot, $6.3 million; 7. Spider-Man 2, $5.5 million; 8. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, $3.2 million; 9. A Cinderella Story, $3.05 million; 10. Catwoman, $2.9 million.
Miramax is expected to lay off 160 of its 450 employees -- 35 percent of its work force -- this week after budget overruns on its films and smaller-than-expected box-office results forced it to cut production. Reporting on the expected cutbacks, today's (Monday) New York Post, which cited a source familiar with the situation, observed that the layoffs are more drastic than had been anticipated. They come as the studio's co-chairmen, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, reportedly remain deadlocked in negotiations with Disney over a contract renewal. The Post's sources said that "it is only a matter of time before Harvey Weinstein leaves" and starts a competing firm. Brother Bob is expected to remain.
RARELY SCREENED BIRTH OF A NATION TO BE SHOWN IN L.A.
Four years after angry protests by the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP and other groups forced him to yank his planned showing of D.W. Griffith's 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, the owner of the Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles has vowed to screen the film beginning tonight (Monday). Charlie Lustman, who describes the film as both "a cultural and artistic monument" and a "shameful stain" on the history of U.S. race relations, told Saturday's Los Angeles Times that he intended to launch a series on the most important silent films with Nation because he regarded it as "the biggest and most cinematic gem in history." (He intends to show the film with a disclaimer stating that he does not endorse the racist content of the film but wants to honor its place in cinema history, the Times observed.) However, L.A. NAACP President Geraldine Washington told the newspaper that she still opposes the screening. "This movie has no positive value whatsoever," she said. "And it runs the risk of creating unrest and hate crimes. It's just too risky to take a chance."
AUSTRALIAN FILM INDUSTRY SLUMPS
The Australian film industry has fallen into a deep depression, Screen Producers Association of Australia president Stephen Smith told an industry conference Sunday. Smith blamed the malaise on a poor financing structure, limited releases for Australian-produced films and "little or no development." He pointed out that Australian film producers receive a flat fee for their films and no percentage of their gross. Forced to live on savings between projects, they then are forced to get a new production in front of the cameras as quickly as possible without proper preparation. His remarks came following release of a study by the Australian film Commission last week indicating that almost two-thirds of locally-produced films took in less than $1 million at the box office.
GERMANY'S HAND-DRAWN MOVIE POSTERS DISAPPEAR
The demise of single-screen movie theaters in Berlin will likely result in the shuttering of the city's only remaining hand-painted movie poster business, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Calling it one of Berlin's "most unique arts," the broadcaster commented that while the hand-painted movie posters may lack polish, "they have old-fashioned charm in abundance -- and that's what Berlin's celluloid tradition is all about." Appearing on the program DW-WORLD, Michael Werner, who operates the only remaining movie poster business in Berlin, Werner Werbung (there were once 20 rivals), said that the slump began following the fall of the Berlin Wall, when exhibitors became "overly excited and too ambitious" and were eventually forced to make deep spending cuts or were forced out of business because of the intense competition.