SCHIEFFER CALLS FOR COURIC TO REPLACE HIM

CBS Evening News "temporary" anchor Bob Schieffer says that he's hoping he'll be replaced by NBC's Today show co-host, Katie Couric. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Philadelphia Inquirer, Schieffer called Couric "a big-time journalist," adding, "I'm hoping we can get her." Couric herself continues to maintain that she has made no decision about accepting the offer from CBS chief Les Moonves to anchor the network's nightly newscast. But Schieffer, who has anchored the newscast since last March, when Dan Rather was forced out, insisted that Couric would make an ideal permanent anchor. "She's a great interviewer, people know who she is, and she has enormous credibility. People believe her. They take her seriously. She's also a very nice person to have around this place. She would make us a better news department," he told the Inquirer.

LOUSY FOOTBALL MATCH; TERRIFIC RATINGS

The match-up of two NFL teams with losing records may not pull big ratings, but ABC's Monday Night Football telecast of the Atlanta Falcons/New Orleans Saints game nevertheless drew the biggest audience of the night and gave the network a win both in total viewers and adults 18-49. MNF averaged a 9.1 rating and a 14 share for the night. Earlier, ABC's Wife Swap pulled a 7.1/11, to win the 8:00 p.m. hour. CBS was a close second during the first two hours of primetime and came out slightly ahead at 10:00 p.m. with a rerun of CSI: Miami. NBC remained well behind in third place. An NBC variety special, Elton John: The Red Piano, posted only a 5.6/9.

"FAMILY FRIENDLY" BASIC CABLE PACKAGES COMING, SAYS NY TIMES

In an apparent effort to address complaints that cable subscribers are being forced to purchase cable network packages that include what some regard as indecent programming, the cable companies are planning to introduce packages of "family-friendly" channels beginning early next year. Today's (Tuesday) New York Times described the move as "the latest effort by cable companies to head off pending legislation that might obligate them to ... sell channels to consumers on an à la carte basis." However the conservative Parents Television Council, whose members have been most active in filing complaints with the FCC over objectionable programming, denounced the plan. Its president, L. Brent Bozell, said that having the industry determine what is family friendly would be like "the fox guarding the henhouse."

CHRIS WALLACE SAYS HIS FATHER, MIKE, HAS "LOST IT"

Only days after appearing on NBC's Dateline and confessing that one of his greatest regrets was not being closer to his children when they were growing up, Mike Wallace has had his sanity publicly questioned by his son, Fox News correspondent Chris Wallace. All had seemed to be well between them last week, when the younger Wallace interviewed the elder, as part of his father's promotion of his new book, Between You and Me. But Monday, he told Boston talk-show host Howie Carr, "He's lost it, the man has lost it. What can I say?" when asked about comments that the elder Wallace made last week in an interview with the Boston Globe, in which he questioned George Bush's qualifications to be president. Chris Wallace said that "things have set in" with his father and that the family plans to have a "competency hearing" for him soon. The younger Wallace, who had previously stated that the politics of Fox News channel's executives would not influence him, had even harsher words for Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, calling him a "Tokyo Rose" for suggesting that the war in Iraq is unwinnable.

CBS AND UPN -- ON YOUR CELL PHONE

Amp'd Mobile, which says it aims to provide unique entertainment programming to users of video cell phones, targeting especially the youth market, said Monday that it had signed an exclusive deal with CBS and UPN that will enable it to offer clips and behind-the-scenes content from CBS's CSI:NY, Numb3rs, The King of Queens, and Late Night with Dave Letterman as wells as UPN's America's Next Top Model, Everybody Hates Chris and Girlfriends. Amp'd plans to launch its service later this month.

STUDY: CABLE CUSTOMERS WITH VOD STOP RENTING AND BUYING MOVIES

Once most TV viewers are able to view movies and other special programming on demand, they no longer rent or buy DVDs. That is the conclusion of a study conducted by OTX Research for Starz Entertainment Group, which offers its subscribers 750 movies a month that they can watch on demand over cable. Results of the study show that 72 percent of Starz users rent fewer DVDs and 60 percent buy fewer DVDs. The study was reported by Home Media Retailing.

BROKEBACK GALLOPS INTO THE LEAD

The gay cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain has received the most nominations for Golden Globe awards, receiving nods in the top drama categories including best film, actor, actress, and director. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which bestows the Globes, also nominated four other relatively low-budget independent films in the drama group, including The Constant Gardener; Good Night, and Good Luck; A History of Violence; and Match Point. Nominated for best musical or comedy were The Producers; The Squid and the Whale; Walk the Line; Mrs. Henderson Presents; and Pride and Prejudice. The strong showing for Brokeback among the Globes nominees was further enhanced by the announcement on Monday that it had been named 2005's top film by the New York Film Critics Circle. (It also received top honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association on Saturday.) On CBS's The Early Show Jess Cagle commented, "Right now, Brokeback Mountain really is the movie to beat. Winners of the Golden Globes are scheduled to be announced on Jan. 16.

THE LION ROARS AT BOX OFFICE

Although analysts had predicted that the weekend gross for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would exceed Disney's estimate of $67.1 million once the Sunday churchgoer crowd made its presence known, the film actually took in somewhat less than the estimate, $65.6 million. Still, the total represented the second-biggest weekend opening ever in December, topped only by the $72.6 million debut of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. The strong showing of the movie helped boost the overall box office by nearly 17 percent over the comparable weekend a year ago. The movie also earned an estimated $42 million in 14 overseas markets, Disney said.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Disney, $65,556,312, (New); 2. Syriana, Warner Bros., $11,737,143, 3 Wks. ($13,236,572); 3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Warner Bros., $10,265,443, 4 Wks. ($244,069,305); 4. Walk The Line, 20th Century Fox, $5,738,176, 4 Wks. ($76,991,362); 5. Yours, Mine & Ours, Paramount, $5,051,879, 3 Wks. ($40,819,218); 6. Aeon Flux, Paramount, $4,561,619, 2 Wks. ($20,218,288); 7. Just Friends, New Line, $3,808,637, 3 Wks. ($26,372,794); 8. Pride and Prejudice, Focus Features, $2,579,523, 5 Wks. ($26,473,313); 9. Chicken Little, Disney, $2,306,627, 6 Wks. ($127,280,176); 10. Rent, Sony, $2,004,157, 3 Wks. ($26,915,863).

MOVIE REVIEWS: KING KONG

King Kong

arrives in theaters at midnight tonight to challenge the lion of Narnia. Critics and analysts are suggesting that the ape ought to win. Roger Ebert gives Peter Jackson's latest rendition of the Merian C. Cooper/Edgar Wallace tale a four-star review, calling it "a magnificent entertainment. It is like the flowering of all the possibilities in the original classic film. Computers are used not merely to create special effects, but also to create style and beauty, to find a look for the film that fits its story. And the characters are not cardboard heroes or villains seen in stark outline, but quirky individuals with personalities." In the New York Times, A.O. Scott marvels at Jackson's showmanship. "In his gargantuan, mightily entertaining remake ... Jackson tries to pay homage to the original even as he labors to surpass it. The sheer audacious novelty of the first King Kong is not something that can be replicated, but in throwing every available imaginative and technological resource into the effort, Mr. Jackson comes pretty close," Scott writes. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post doesn't mince praise, calling it "the year's best movie." In fact, he writes, it's "the most pulse-pounding and heart-stirring romantic adventure since Titanic." Claudia Puig in USA Today remarks that King Kong reaffirms Jackson's position as "a visionary filmmaker who is not only a technical wizard but also a master storyteller." And if all of that sounds like a movie too good to be true, Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News assures his readers, "It cannot be oversold: Jackson is so far ahead of every director making these epic, effects-laden event movies that it's really not even fair. The only comparison one could make would be Steven Spielberg when Jurassic Park came out a dozen years ago, and even that's not apt because Jackson isn't simply content to throw a monster mash. He wants you to feel for the brute, too. That combination of goose-bump-inducing and lump-in-your-throat moviemaking is almost impossible to pull off, but Jackson makes it look easy. He gets it. He is the master." And Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News sums up his reaction in three words: "What a movie!" Still, some reviewers, while marveling at Jackson's imaginative use of special effects, express overall disappointment with the finished product. Ty Burr in the Boston Globe complains that it is "curiously lacking soul. Jackson is so devoted to piling modern CGI wonders on the bones of the 1933 classic that he forgets to have much fun." Bob Longino in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gripes that at three hours and seven minutes it's "way longer than it needs to be" and that the relationship between Kong and his captive, Ann Darrow, comes off "treacly."

JEWISH GROUPS MAY TURN ON SPIELBERG FOR MUNICH

Steven Spielberg may be about to find himself excoriated for his new film Munich by some of the same Jewish leaders and organizations that heaped praise on him for Schindler's List. On Monday, Ehud Danoch, the Israeli consul-general in Los Angeles, called Spielberg's film about the terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 and its aftermath "problematic." In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Danoch remarked that Spielberg's attempt to liken the activities of Israel's secret service, the Mossad, to Arab terrorist groups amounted to "an incorrect moral equation." Moreover, Danoch said, "There is also a certain pretentiousness in attempting to treat a painful decades-long conflict by means of quite superficial statements in a movie." In an interview with Reuters, David Kimche, a senior Mossad official at the time of the Munich events, remarked, "I think it is a tragedy that a person of the stature of Steven Spielberg, who has made such fantastic films, should have based this film on a book that is a falsehood." (Kimche was apparently referring to Vengeance by Canadian journalist George Jonas.) However, in the first major published review of Munich, David Ansen of Newsweek praises Spielberg for presenting a "superbly taut and well-made thriller ... staged with a mastery Hitchcock might envy." Ansen adds: "What's unexpected is the tone, the point of view, the morally complex weight Spielberg brings to bear on this story."

Cinemark Movie Club