WILL SAG CALL OFF STRIKE VOTE?

The Unite for Strength faction of the Screen Actors Guild has "expressed concerns" to the union's leaders about going ahead with a strike authorization vote next month, Daily Variety reported today (Wednesday). In an interview with the trade publication, UFS spokesman Ned Vaughn took note of the growing number of high-profile union members who had been urging a "no" vote on the strike referendum. "We felt that in light of what's been happening that it would have been reckless for the national board to proceed without having the chance to reconsider," Vaughn said. Variety said that it was not clear whether an emergency board meeting scheduled for January 12-13 will lead to the withdrawal of the authorization vote.

VARIETY EDITOR BLASTS SAG STRIKE STRATEGY

In a lengthy commentary featured in today's (Wednesday) issue of Daily Variety and headed "SAG should face the facts: Guild needs to find exit strategy," Deputy Editor Cynthia Littleton suggests that the union's bargaining strategy has already cost its members dearly. She asks, "How can SAG leaders justify to members why [actors] working under AFTRA deals have been collecting higher minimums and new media residuals for nearly six months while SAG holds out for different terms [than] those agreed to by AFTRA, the DGA and the WGA, after a 100-day strike?" She goes on to argue that the union's leadership has failed to take into account the "historic transformation" being brought about by new media, particularly the Internet. "Everything in television is in flux and will be regardless of whether SAG has a contract or not." She concludes: "Rather than trying to build consensus on a doomed negotiations strategy, SAG's leaders should be looking for a graceful way out."

DISNEY: NO, NO NARNIA

Feeling the economic squeeze, Disney announced Tuesday that it will not exercise its option to co-produce and co-finance The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with Walden Media. The film was reportedly already in preproduction with a May 2010 release planned. The previous two Narnia film were costly to produce, each of them budgeted at around $200 million. But while the first film, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, took in $745 million worldwide, the second film, Prince Caspian, earned just $419 million. Walden said that it would seek another production partner.

LEDGER DEATH DEEMED TOP ENTERTAINMENT STORY OF 2008

The death of Australian actor Heath Ledger last January 22 at age 28 was judged the top entertainment story of 2008 by U.S. newspaper and broadcast editors polled by the Associated Press. No. 2 on the list was the ending of the strike by the Writers Guild last February. Placing third was the box-office success of The Dark Knight (featuring Ledger as The Joker), which took in close to $1 billion in ticket sales worldwide. Fourth on the list was the rise of political comedy, particularly the comedy of Jon Stewart and David Colbert on cable and David Letterman and the Saturday Night Live caston broadcast TV. Rounding out the top five was "Britney Spears' Downward Spiral."

FEW VIEW PIRATED COPIES OF AUSTRALIA

Although pirated copies of the Baz Luhrmann epic Australia have been available on numerous BitTorrent sites since the film premiered last month, few people have bothered to download them, the U.K. tech site The Inquirer reported Tuesday. "There are several copies out there but all but one have no more than ten seeds," the website said. It blamed the "bum-numbing" length of the film (nearly three hours), the picture quality, and the fact that reviews of the movie were "so bad no self-respecting pirate would want a copy."

Cinemark Movie Club