TSUNAMI REPORT MAKES WAVES
Virtually ignored by the other network magazine shows, the Southeast Asian tsunami receive a full hour's coverage during a special edition of ABC's Primetime Wednesday and became the top-rated program of the night. The special captured a 6.8 rating and a 12 share, rolling over CBS's usually dominant CSI: NY and NBC's Law & Order, both of which tied for second during the 10:00 p.m. hour with a 6.6/11. Earlier in the evening NBC took the 8:00 p.m. hour with Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which posted a 6.2/11. CBS placed second with 60 Minutes Wednesday, which drew a 5.9/10, edging out ABC's Lost, which drew a 5.6/10. A second edition of Lost put ABC in the lead at 9:00 p.m. with a 5.6/9, just ahead of reruns of CBS's The King of Queens and Center of the Universe, which averaged a 5.4/9. NBC's The West Wing followed with a 5.1/9. In a rare occurrence, all three major networks tied for the night, posting an average 6.0 rating and a 10 share.
JENNINGS TO RETURN TO JEOPARDY!
The producers of Jeopardy!, which has seen its ratings fall from a 13.0 on the day of Ken Jennings' last appearance to an average 7.6 last week, plan to bring back the all-time champ for a "super tournament" with previous five-time winners beginning in February. "Ever since Ken started his amazing run, people have been speculating on how some of the past Jeopardy! players would do against him," host Alex Trebek said in a statement. "We're answering that question." In the same statement, Jennings was quoted as saying, "I've been a fan of the show for a very long time, and I well remember some of the big players. I would love the opportunity to meet them on the Jeopardy! field of battle. I can't wait to see who I'll be up against in the finals." Jennings, who earned $2.5 million during his winning streak could presumably add an additional $2 million to that figure.
DEATH OF ORBACH WILL NOT HALT NEW LAW & ORDER SERIES
NBC said Wednesday that the death of Jerry Orbach on Tuesday will not halt production of Law & Order: Trial by Jury, which is due to launch in March. News reports indicated that Orbach had taped three episodes of the series before having to bow out for prostate cancer treatment. Three additional episodes have also been taped. A statement by the network and the producers expressed sadness at Orbach's death but noted that the series "is an ensemble and will continue in production. A new member will join the company. Announcements will be forthcoming."
TIME WARNER CABLE TO DELIVER TV TO SPRINT CELL PHONES
Time Warner Cable is in talks with Sprint to offer TV and broadband Internet service over Sprint's wireless phone network early next year, the London Independent reported today (Thursday), citing an unnamed source. The newspaper said that Time Warner has hired Merrill Lynch to assess the possibilities of expanding in the wireless arena, including a possible acquisition. However, the Independent commented, an expensive purchase of Sprint -- or any other wireless carrier -- is unlikely. The London Financial Times reported today that Time Warner and Sprint are close to launching a "shared mobile phone service" on a trial basis in Kansas City. In a statement, Time Warner Cable said: "We are in talks with Sprint to plan a trial but we have not gotten into details yet about what the long-term relationship might look like."
EXPRESS KEEPS CHUGGING
Warner Bros.' The Polar Express, which dubiously urges its audience to Believe!, is making believers out of analysts who had predicted that the Christmas-themed movie would wither and die once the holiday ended. Instead, the film has seen its daily take rise from the week prior to Christmas by nearly 17 percent. It took in $2.4 million on Monday and another $2.3 million on Tuesday, to bring its gross to $144.9 million. Giant screen Imax theaters, which are showing the movie in 3-D, account for about 17 percent of ticket sales, or about $25 million to date. Earlier this week, Warner's distribution chief Dan Fellman observed that the Imax totals will make the animated film one of the few in history to cross $160 million in total domestic sales without ever having reached No. 1 at the box office. Meanwhile, Universal's Meet the Fockers continues to pull in huge crowds during the midweek period. It grossed $13.9 million on Monday and $12.6 million on Tuesday to bring its total for the first seven days of its release to $97.1 million.
RAY IS TOP CHOICE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN FILM CRITICS
The African American Film Critics Assn. on Wednesday voted the Ray Charles biopic Ray the best film of the year. The group, founded in 2003, bestows its awards on films that have particular appeal to the black community. The group also honored Ray star Jamie Foxx with its Achievement Honor, citing his work in the biopic and in the thriller Collateral. as well as the made-for-TV movie Redemption: The Stan 'Tookie' Williams Story.
HYBRID HIGH-DEFINITION DVD DISK TO BE INTRODUCED
Taking a kind of if-you-can't-beat-em-join-em attitude, two Japanese electronics companies say they plan to introduce hybrid high-definition DVD discs that will be compatible with both the Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats. The two companies, Memory-Tech and Toshiba, along with Sanyo and NEC, form the HD-DVD Promotion Group, which has succeeded in attracting support for the high-definition system from Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, and New Line. The other studios have lined up with Sony's Blu-ray system, portending a repeat of the VHS-Betamax format battle of the '80s. The hybrid disk could also be played on a standard DVD device.
WEBSITE CLAIMS IT OFFERS FREE MOVIES -- LEGALLY
Claiming that it represents a means to download movies, TV shows and other content legally and virtually for free, a company called Movie Advanced has gone online offering thousands of titles. In an announcement today (Thursday) the company, whose Internet address is www.moviewatcheronline.com, said that after downloading its software users will be able to access new release, classic, pre-release and unreleased movies in addition to complete seasons of TV shows. Users are required plunk down $19.95 for a one-year subscription, however, before the website will allow them to scan the list of movies and TV titles available for free downloading. The site does not indicate whether its "100 percent legal" software is compatible with Mac and Linux operating systems.
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN TO BE RELAUNCHED AT BERLINALE
The Berlin Film Festival plans to screen a digitally restored version of Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 classic The Battleship Potemkin, including scenes ordered removed from the original theatrical version by the Soviet government following the premiere, the festival said in a statement on Wednesday. Calling it a "reconstruction" of the original, the festival said that it will include an opening quotation by Stalin rival Leon Trotsky that was cut from the film before it was released in what the festival called "one of the most spectacular cases of censorship in the 1920s." (Trotsky was expelled from the Politburo within months following the release of the film.) On Feb. 12 and 13, the silent movie will be accompanied live by the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg playing a revised version of the original score by Edmund Meisel.