SAG CHIEF: STRIKE WOULD NOT SHUT DOWN INDUSTRY

Screen Actors Guild National Executive Director Doug Allen insisted today (Tuesday) that should the union go on strike it would in "no way" shut down the industry. In an email message to union members, he observed that the strike would have no effect on work done under commercial contracts, or those for basic cable, video games and independent movie projects. Significantly, he also noted that actors who have dual membership with AFTRA would also be able to continue to work on "any AFTRA-covered projects in [AFTRA's] jurisdiction." Allen added, "A strike of our TV/Theatrical contracts would be a serious step we hope to avoid, but even if the working actors on SAG's National Board were authorized and ultimately voted to call a strike, that decision would affect only work on primetime network shows, pay TV shows (e.g., HBO), and movies made, financed or distributed by AMPTP companies (e.g., Sony, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, NBC Universal, etc.). Not 'the entire industry.'" He did not indicate what percentage of the industry's workforce would be affected.

BOX OFFICE FORECASTS WERE WRONG

Moviegoers gave fits to box-office prognosticators over the weekend, showing up in record numbers for a Christmas holiday and overturning analysts' predictions of which films would prove to be successful and which would fail. While most had forecast that the Adam Sandler family comedy Bedtime Stories would come out on top, it was easily overtaken by Marley and Me. And while the Tom Cruise historical thriller Valkyrie was supposed to flop with less than $10 million in ticket sales, it actually wound up with three times that figure. Even more impressive were the results for films in limited release that are contending for Oscar consideration, with Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino leading the field as it averaged $27,652 in each of 84 theaters in its third week. After two down weeks, the box office tallied $179.58 million for the top 12 films, 5.87 percent ahead of last year.

The top ten films over the weekend/holiday, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Marley and Me, 20th Century Fox, $36,357,586/$50,748,566, (New); 2. Bedtime Stories, Disney, $27,450,296/$38,029,113, (New); 3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Paramount, $26,853,816/$38,725,647, (New); 4. Valkyrie, MGM, $21,027,007/$29,520,979, (New); 5. Yes Man, Warner Bros., $16,657,046/$22,587,046, 2 Wks. ($49,798,560); 6. Seven Pounds, Sony, $13,203,236, 2 Wks. ($38,762,647); 7. The Tale of Despereaux, Universal, $8,932,625/$10,903,665, 2 Wks. ($27,448,085); 8. The Day The Earth Stood Still, 20th Century Fox, $7,697,799/$10,466,553, 3 Wks. ($63,480,184); 9. The Spirit, Lionsgate, $,6,463,278/$10,305,501, (New); 10. Doubt, Miramax, $5,339,742/$6,760,322, 3 Wks. ($8,484,863).

CUBAN BUYS BIG STAKE IN CARMIKE THEATER CHAIN

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has bought a 9.4-percent stake in Columbus, GA-based Carmike Cinemas for about $2.75 million.Carmike, which owns 250 theaters in small-to-medium markets, is investing heavily in converting its screens to digital projection, but the costs involved in the switchover have resulted in heavy quarterly losses for the company in recent years. The conversion, however, has allowed the company to offer alternative live entertainment. It said on Monday that it will show the FedEx BCS National Championship Game between the University of Florida and the University of Oklahoma on January 8 and NBA All-Star Saturday Night on February 14 in 3-D at 35 theaters in 19 states. "During the 2008 fourth quarter, we completed the conversion of Carmike's entire theater circuit to 3-D readiness, giving us 502 compatible screens of approximately 1300 3-D screens across the U.S.," Carmike CEO Michael W. Patrick said in a statement. Cuban, too, has been heavily involved in converting his Landmark Theatres chain to digital. He told the Fort Worth Star Telegram: "Theaters aren't just about movies anymore. ... Digital technology is changing the out-of-home entertainment experience." Carmike share jumped 14.3 percent on news of Cuban's investment.

WARNER BROS. WON'T SETTLE WATCHMEN CASE

Warner Bros. is of no mind to settle its dispute with 20th Century Fox over the Watchman movie as a federal judge had suggested. Last week Judge Gary Feess had ruled that Warner Bros. had infringed on Fox's copyright in making a film based on the superhero graphic novel and had urged the two sides to reach a settlement. He said that he will decide on January 20 whether to block the release of Warner Bros. planned release. In a statement, Warner's said: "We continue to believe that Fox's claims have no merit and that we will ultimately prevail, whether at trial or in the Court of Appeals. We have no plans to move the release date of the film."

MANCHA PLAYWRIGHT DEAD AT 94

Playwright Dale Wasserman, whose work included Man of La Mancha and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, has died in Paradise Valley, AZ at age 94. Broadcasting & Cable, which reported his death, said that he had actually died Dec. 21 but, according to his widow, Martha Nelly, his family was honoring his wishes that if he should die before Christmas Day, the news should be withheld "so as not to spoil anyone's holiday."