REDSTONE TO UNLOAD THEATERS

Sumner Redstone will sell a part of his National Amusement theater chain as part of a proposed agreement with lenders that will allow him to avoid selling additional shares of Viacom and CBS, the London Financial Times reported today (Thursday), citing people familiar with the matter. The move required Redstone to reach an agreement on the sale with his daughter Sheri, who heads the chain and is a member of the board of National Amusements, the holding company for Viacom and CBS. The newspaper said that the plan would allow Redstone to hold on to National Amusements' theaters in the New England area, where it is based and which account for half its value. Redstone is under pressure to restructure $1.6 billion in debt within about two weeks (December 19), when about half of it comes due. The FT observed that the entire theater chain is valued at $500-700 million by analysts and $1 billion by Redstone.

SAG FOES OF STRIKE REFERENDUM ARISE

Opposition is rising within the ranks of the Screen Actors Guild to a strike-authorization referendum that is expected to be sent to members before the end of December. Among the opponents is Richard Masur, a former national president of the union, who said that he agreed to the referendum if mediation failed. However, he told today's (Thursday) Wall Street Journal, "It was the SAG committee and our negotiators who failed to make a sufficient effort at a deal. Therefore, I feel that it is premature to send out a strike-authorization referendum as more work needs to be done on trying to find a deal." Liberal activist/actor Mike Farrell sent an email to members that concluded with the words, "As a member for over 40 years, I'm not anti-SAG. But I am anti-idiocy. I'm voting 'no.'" Husband-and-wife Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman released a letter that they had sent to SAG President Alan Rosenberg saying, "We support our union and we support the issues we're fighting for, but we do not believe in all good conscience that now is the time to be putting people out of work." Forget six-foot-wide home theaters. National board member Mike Hodge pointed out that studies conducted by the Directors Guild of America concluded "that there won't be money in New Media until 2012 or even 2014. Our contracts last for three years."

SUNDANCE SELECTIONS ANNOUNCED

The Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday released the titles of 118 features that it plans to screen at this year's 10-day edition beginning January 15 in Park City, UT. They were chosen from 1,905 submissions from U.S. independent filmmakers and 1,756 from abroad. Today's (Thursday) New York Times observed that the competition films "reflect an unusual tilt toward the emotional -- maybe even melodramatic -- side of independent cinema." It quoted festival director Geoffrey Gilmore as saying, "Audiences this year are going to be surprised. ... The range of emotions evoked by the films is going to be greater than in the past." Reporting on the planned Sundance offerings, the Times commented, "Alienation is out. Engagement is in."

UTAH FIRM SELLING "BACKYARD THEATERS"

A Lindon, UT firm is now marketing its "backyard" theater, made possible by an inflatable screen 16 feet wide by 9 feet tall. "Users can enjoy their favorite movies by the pool ... or at a BBQ on the beach," Open Air Cinema said in a statement. The screen, which comes with an air blower that can inflate the screen "in seconds," is being sold for $999. A projector is required -- which Open Air also sells for an additional $2,299.

AUSTRALIA SHUTS DOWN ALLEGED PIRATE SITE

An Australian-based BitTorrent site was shut down by police today (Thursday) and its two operators were charged with money laundering, following an investigation by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT). The anti-piracy group had claimed that the site had bootlegged millions of copyrighted movies while charging subscribers $10 per month for access. A Brisbane magistrate froze a bank account of one of the two men containing A$54,000. AFACT had alleged that they were earning A$10,000 per month from the operation. The website TorrentFreak identified the site as MovieX and said that it was currently displaying the message, "We are temporarily offline. Currently there is NO ETA AVAILABLE." The two arrested men were described as brothers, but their names were not immediately disclosed.