CBS RETURNS JACKO TO ITS SCHED

CBS said on Friday that it will air the previously yanked Michael Jackson variety special on Friday, January 2, just days after his appearance on the network's 60 Minutes program, during which he denied the child-molestation charges leveled against him. CBS had previously said that it would air the program "after the due process of the legal system runs its course." The 60 Minutesinterview Sunday night concluded with correspondent Ed Bradley asking Jackson how the current scandal had affected his career. "What do you mean?" the singer replied, visibly disturbed by the question. When Bradley restated it, Jackson replied that his current CD, Number Ones, was number one all over the world except in the U.S., then asked Bradley to wind up the interview, saying "I'm hurting." CBS insisted on Friday that no deal with Jackson had been made to run the special -- which promotes the CD -- in exchange for the interview. However, CBS spokesman Chris Ender told the Orlando Sentinel: "We couldn't have run the entertainment special in isolation without Mr. Jackson addressing the charges elsewhere on the network. When the news division secured the interview, it paved the way for us to reschedule."

JACKSON INTERVIEW IS A THRILLER FOR CBS

The 60 Minutes Michael Jackson interview helped power CBS to an easy win over its rivals Sunday night. With a 12.3 rating and a 21 share during the 7:00 p.m. hour for an NFL overrun and the first half of 60 Minutes and a 9.1/15 at 8:00 p.m. for the magazine and the first segment of a made-for-TV movie, One True Thing, the network put itself in position to win every half-hour of the Sunday night primetime schedule, as it averaged a 9.1/15. NBC's ratings were a third lower, at 6.1/10. ABC followed with a 5.5/9, while Fox trailed with a 3.9/6.

BBC OVERWHELMS RIVALS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

With a series finale of the long-running Only Fools and Horses sitcom that drew 15.5 million viewers and two extended versions of the popular soap EastEnders, the BBC dominated TV watching in Britain on Christmas day, garnering 45 percent of the audience during "peak time," according to published reports. Despite the fact that satellite-delivered channels increased their holiday audience somewhat and the commercial ITV network pumped up its programming, the BBC was in command throughout the day. Even the traditional Queen's Speech drew a large audience (with 9.1 million people watching on the BBC and ITV). Some observers faulted the BBC for cutting news programming to make room for extended holiday fare. But BBC controller Lorraine Heggessey told the London Daily Telegraph: "Providing great entertainment for all the family at Christmas is an important public service."

ARNIE AND JAY PRODUCE YEAR'S MOST MEMORABLE TV MOMENT

TV Guide has selected Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he had decided to run for governor as the greatest TV moment of 2003. The selection was announced during an ABC television special Sunday night.

MURDOCH SAYS HE'LL PUSH PVR'S DESPITE OPPOSITION FROM FOX

Rupert Murdoch says that he is "being discouraged by the Fox people" from pushing his plan to promote personal video recorders as part of the hardware package that subscribers to his DirecTV receive when they sign up for the service. In a wide-ranging interview with Sunday's New York Times, Murdoch acknowledged that such devices are "not good news for broadcasters by any means" since they allow viewers to skip commercials. Nevertheless, he indicated, he regards the PVRs to be a tantalizing lure for potential DirecTV subscribers. "I am confident we can get to 15 million subscribers," he said. "What do I dream of? Twenty million." In the interview, Murdoch spoke highly of his daughter Elisabeth, who once held the post of managing director of his British satellite company BSkyB, but indicated that she is currently heading her own highly successful TV production company Shine and is unlikely to want to return to the News Corp fold "for a few years." He added: "She wants to be sure she has been successful in her own right. She will probably sell it for a bloody fortune to someone. And then she will come knocking on the door, and she will be very welcome."

RINGS LORDS IT OVER ITS RIVALS

Hollywood is ending a year during which it saw its first drop in total revenue in 12 years on the upswing. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King tallied an estimated $51.2 million at the box office to bring its two-week total to $224 million. The new Steve Martin comedy, Cheaper by the Dozen, opened in second place with $28.2 million. Three other films debuted well behind: Cold Mountain with $14.5 million, Paycheck with $13.9 million, and Peter Pan with $11.4 million. (The remake of the J.M. Barrie tale, a joint production of Universal, Sony, and Revolution Studios, took in a total of just $15.1 million over the holiday -- a major disappointment.) Exhibitor Relations said that the top 12 films pulled in a record $168.6 million versus last year's $155.9 million for the comparable weekend, an increase of more than 8 percent.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, $51.2 million; 2. Cheaper By the Dozen, $28.2 million; 3. Cold Mountain, $14.5 million; 4. Something's Gotta Give, $14.2 million; 5. Paycheck, $13.9 million; 6. Mona Lisa Smile, $11.5 million; 7. Peter Pan, $11.4 million; 8. The Last Samurai, $8.4 million; 9. Bad Santa, $4.5 million; 10. Elf, $4.3 million.

TICKET PRICES SURGE PAST $10 LEVEL

In New York, ticket prices broke the $10 barrier for the first time, with admission prices upped to $10.25 for adults and $6.75 for children at the Loews Cineplex and United Artists theaters in Manhattan, according to the New York Daily News. Nationally, ticket prices rose about 4 percent in 2003, the Wall Street Journal, observed, noting that despite the rise, gross revenue for the year declined about 1 percent, translating to a drop of 4.23 percent in actual ticket sales. The newspaper suggested that a significant cause of the drop may be attributed to piracy.

BOLLYWOOD HAS DISASTROUS YEAR

If the performance of Hollywood films at the box office during 2003 was frustrating to the major U.S. studios, the performance of Bollywood films may have been downright dismaying to Indian producers. In a country that leads the world in the number of feature films produced each year, flops far outnumbered moneymakers, according to Indian reports, with only one film, Koi Mil Gayaa, a big-budget, effects-heavy drama, considered a blockbuster hit.

CRITICS START RECEIVING LEGAL NOTICES ON SCREENERS

The Los Angeles Times on Sunday printed a copy of an agreement that newspaper and TV film critics must sign before they can receive screeners from studios. The agreement says in part: "Receiving screeners does not give me any underlying intellectual property rights to said films. Ownership of each screener remains the property of the company that supplied it. Screeners cannot be sold or loaned to anyone. Screeners cannot be circulated outside my home or office. Screeners cannot be copied or reproduced in any fashion. I will maintain possession of all screeners and not give them to anyone or any company except to return them to the company that provided them or to have them destroyed by an MPAA-approved recycling company. I understand my responsibility to protect any screeners I receive from unauthorized use. I agree that if I violate this agreement I may be expelled from the NSFC and I may be subject to civil and criminal penalties."

VETERAN ACTOR ALAN BATES DEAD AT 69

British actor Alan Bates, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1969 for The Fixer but may be better remembered for his starring role in Women in Love the same year, has died in London after a long battle with cancer at the age of 69. His other films included Zorba the Greek, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Entertainer, and Georgy Girl. In 2001, Robert Altman cast him as the butler in his murder mystery Gosford Park.