JACKSON TO PRODUCE THE HOBBIT AFTER ALL

Providing few details, Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have settled their differences over Jackson's share of profits fro the Lord of the Rings trilogy and will proceed to make The Hobbit, a planned prequel to the trilogy. "I'm very pleased that we've been able to put our differences behind us, so that we may begin a new chapter with our old friends at New Line," Jackson said in a statement. He indicated that The Hobbit will be produced as two separate films beginning in 2009 but will be shot simultaneously, with the first film due to be released in 2010 and the second the following year (provided that the writers' strike does not extend long into 2008). The two films could breathe new life into New Line, which has experienced a raft of flops over the past year, with only Hairspray a bona fide hit. It could also boost the fortunes of MGM, which will co-finance the films with New Line. It, too, has experienced a low batting average, although its films have generally had a much lower production cost than New Line's, whose latest release, The Golden Compass, reportedly cost more than $200 million to make but has generated only $41 million in domestic ticket sales and $90 million in overseas sales after two weeks. Although Rings fans expressed delight at the announcement, their response was muted by trade reports that it was unlikely that Jackson would direct the Hobbit films. MGM Chairman Harry Sloan told Reuters that Jackson was committed to other film projects, making it impossible for him to direct the Hobbit films and simultaneously fulfill other obligations, which include directing the film version of Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones and co-directing, with Steven Spielberg, Tintin.

WRITERS STRIKE GOOD FOR DVD'S

A prolonged writers' strike is likely to wind up boosting sales and rentals of DVDs and force viewers to test new entertainment products offered online. According to a survey by Kelton Research and the Wi-Fi Alliance and reported today (Wednesday) by the Associated Press. However, analysts noted that the migration is not likely to harm the media companies involved in the current labor dispute, since nearly all of them are associated with film companies or have leading online channels. While the networks suffered a major loss to cable during the last strike in 1988, they now no longer have to be so concerned about such audience erosion. David W. Rips, director of the media and entertainment practice at Deloitte Consulting, told the A.P. that media companies "are managing a different business than they did" in the 1980s.

FILE-SHARING SITE RAPPED BY FEDERAL COURT

Netherlands-based TorrentSpy.com is liable to pay heavy damages for movie piracy because its operators/founders "engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to destroy evidence and have provided false testimony under oath in an effort to hide evidence of such destruction," U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper has ruled in Los Angeles. TorrentSpy, whose operators are U.S. citizens, had been accused by the Motion Picture Association of America of providing a system to aid BitTorrent file-sharing users download copyrighted material.

S. KOREANS DOWNLOADING PIRATED MOVIES AT WARP SPEED

Apparently the faster the Internet connection, the more likely it is that films will be downloaded illegally. According to a survey released Tuesday and reported by the English-language Korea Times, 47.3 percent of Internet users in South Korea download a full-length movie every week. South Korea boasts some of the fastest broadband services in the world -- offering more than 40 times the speed of the average connection in the U.S. -- with 90 percent of households hooked up to them. Among those who have not pirated movies 28 percent said that they did not do so because the process was too complicated; 18 percent said they worried that the illegal downloads might contain computer viruses. Just 12 percent said that they did not want to infringe upon copyrights.

COUPLE ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF BRIBING THAI OFFICIALS

The FBI has arrested Gerald and Pat Green on charges of violating the corrupt practices act by bribing officials in Thailand as part of their efforts to secure a deal to manage the Bangkok Film Festival. According to the complaint, the Greens paid $1.7 million in the form of kickbacks to an unnamed Thai official, who is believed to be Juthamas Siriwan, who served as the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand between 2003 and 2006, when the Greens operated the festival under their Film Festival Management company. Juthamas, who had been running for parliament in next week's elections, pulled out of the contest today (Wednesday) following word of the arrests, although she denied any involvement in the alleged bribery. The indictment charges that the bribe money was transferred to bank accounts in Singapore, the United Kingdom and the Isle of Jersey, several of which were held by the daughter of the TAT official.

TORONTO CRITICS VOTE NO COUNTRY TOP FILM

The Toronto Film Critics Association on Tuesday awarded the Coen Bros.' No Country for Old Men its prize for best film of 2007. The brothers also received awards for director and screenplay. Giggo Mortensen was named best actor for his performance in Eastern Promises, while Julie Christie won for best actress in Away from Her. A second actress trophy was awarded to Ellen Page for her role in Juno.Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.