SPIELBERG, KATZENBERG FRAUD VICTIMS?
Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg may have lost millions of dollars in New York money manager Bernie Madoff's alleged Ponzi schemes, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Tuesday). The newspaper said that the two who with David Geffen founded the DreamWorks studio, had relied on advice from financial consultant Jerry Breslauer, who himself may have been a victim of Madoff's manipulations. Breslauer, the Journal observed, had once handled the financial affairs of numerous top stars and studio executives, including Barbra Streisand and Michael Jackson, but in recent years, had whittled his client list to just Spielberg and Katzenberg. Citing people familiar with the matter, the newspaper said that it was likely that Breslauer himself had sustained heavy losses in the Madoff scandal.
EARTH BIG -- BIGGER ON IMAX
The Day the Earth Stood Still shook up the box office over the weekend, winding up with $30.5 million to take the top spot. Box office trackers Media by Numbers said that IMAX screenings in just 123 theaters accounted for 12.5 percent of the total. Overall, however, the box office was down 46 percent from its total during the comparable weekend a year ago.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The Day the Earth Stood Still, 20th Century Fox, $30,480,153, (New); 2. Four Christmases, Warner Bros., $13,074,470, 3 Wks. ($87,77,5,974); 3. Twilight, Summit Ent. $7,951,131, 4 Wks. ($150,045,826); 4. Bolt, Disney, $7,464,282, 4 Wks. ($88,849,005); 5. Australia, 20th Century Fox, $4,169,277, 3 Wks. ($37,767,253); 6. Quantum of Solace, Sony/MGM, $3,715,522, 5 Wks. ($157,583,232); 7. Nothing Like the Holidays, Overture Films, $3,535,664, (New); 8. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Paramount, $3,181,231, 6 Wks. ($169,937,394); 9. Milk, Focus, $2,598,638, 3 Wks. ($7,590,976); 10. Transporter 3, Lionsgate, $2,351,229, 3 Wks. ($29,377,080).
THE PLOT TO STILL FRIEDMAN
FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman claimed on Monday that he had been barred from a New York screening of the Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie because of negative comments he had published about the movie. In his latest column, Friedman quoted from a review by former Variety critic and UCLA film professor Emanuel Levy in which he criticizes Cruise's performance and concludes that his "career as a major player seems to be over." Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein came to the defense of Friedman today (Tuesday), writing, "I don't like the idea of studios banning writers from screenings. ... The upside is that you control your coverage; the downside is that you make the writer a martyr. Keeping Friedman away certainly didn't stop him from trashing the movie anyway." Goldstein contacted United Artists marketing chief Michael Vollman, who confirmed that the studio had not invited Friedman to the screening of Valkyrie. "Screenings are a privilege, not a right," Vollman said. "If he'd indicated a desire to be open-minded and not telegraphed his intentions ahead of time, we would've acted differently. But when someone says 'I'm going to hate this movie,' you get the impression they have a closed mind."
NATIONAL LAMPOON CHIEF ARRESTED
National Lampoon CEO Daniel Laikin was arrested in Los Angeles on Monday and charged with fraudulently attempting to inflate the value of the company's stock. Five other defendants were indicted in Philadelphia. The company originally published a now-defunct humor magazine, but later branched out into syndicated radio, television, and films (Animal House, Class Reunion, Vacation). Acting U.S. attorney Laurie Magid said Monday that Laikin's schemes "schemes were designed to corrupt the market and reap large profits for these defendants at the expense of the average investor." According to the government, the schemes involved paying bribes to at least three individuals to induce them to purchase at least 87,500 shares of National Lampoon stock in hopes of driving up the stock price to $5.00 a share. Laikin controls about 40 percent of the company's stock In reporting on his arrest, the Los Angeles Times observed that the stock "has mostly languished under $2 a share since 2005 as the company has continued to bleed red ink while searching for a sustainable business strategy." The SEC on Monday also halted trading in the company's stock on the American Stock Exchange. On Friday, it had closed at 73 cents a share.
PRIVATE EYE TO THE STARS GETS 15 YEARS
Former Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday following his conviction on wiretapping, racketeering and conspiracy charges. At the sentencing, former Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter journalist Anita Busch addressed Pellicano. "You and your employers not only used fear and intimidation, but you made sure people -- your targets -- were smeared in the press. And you and your clients used any means at your disposal to destroy people's employment," she said. Busch had accused Pellicano of being responsible for threatening her over a story she was working on by placing a dead fish and a rose on her car with a note saying "Stop." She charged that Pellicano continued the attack even after he was arrested and convicted. "And you did most all of it through the Los Angeles Times where I unfortunately found out while working there that you had a trusted relationship with the lawyer advising me and one of the reporters that they had covering this criminal case. ... I was new to the paper, but you weren't. And you USED the relationships you had there against me. You made sure my newspaper didn't believe me, so behind the scenes you could ruin my employment just like you and your clients did to other victims."