CRITIC BREAKS EMBARGO, REVIEWS DREAMGIRLS

Jack Mathews, the New York Daily News critic who has sometimes steamed studio executives by breaking the usual day-of-release embargo on movies -- he did so in 1999 with Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and again in 2003 with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King -- has become the first major newspaper critic to review Dreamgirls (presumably because the film premiered in New York on Monday). In his review, he writes that former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson "inscribes her name on an Oscar" for her performance. "How strange and wonderful," he adds, "that a singer four years removed from gigs on Disney cruise ships could win a role as important as Effie and own it as completely as Hudson. If the movie were as powerful as she is, it would blow out the speakers" at the theaters where it opens on Dec. 15. Meanwhile, news reports on Tuesday told of a standing ovation for the film after it was screened at the Monday premiere.

U.S. WORRIED ABOUT BLOOD DIAMOND EFFECT

Just days before the release of the Leonardo DiCaprio thriller Blood Diamond, which deals in part with the diamond-financed civil war in Sierra Leone less than a decade ago, State Department officials are telling reporters that they are concerned that the movie will harm Africa's legitimate diamond industry. At a briefing on Tuesday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Paul Simons said that while it was true that 4-15 percent of the world's supply of rough diamonds once came from conflict areas, controls have been in place since 2002 that have reduced the supply to "significantly less than 1 percent." However, Charmian Gooch, executive director of Global Witness, suggested that, given the value of diamonds, even such a small amount is significant. In a statement, Gooch said, "The story is clear: blood diamonds are still being sold, and consumers cannot completely trust that these blood-soaked gems are being kept out of stores." And Rory Anderson of World Vision said that the movie "illustrates the incredible devastation the illegal diamond trade has caused -- and continues to cause."

WARNER MUSIC CHIEF SAYS HIS KIDS MAY HAVE PIRATED MUSIC

Billionaire media tycoon and sometime songwriter Edgar Bronfman, who, with other investors bought Warner Music Group for $2.6 billion in 2003, has told the Reuters Media and Marketing Summit in New York that he was "fairly certain" that some of his children had illegally downloaded music from the Internet. "I explained to them what I believe is right, that the principle is that stealing music is stealing music," the Warner Music Group CEO told the conference. "I can assure you they no longer do that." In 2000, Bronfman, who then controlled Universal Pictures and Universal Music, declared that intellectual property must be protected "across the board, in every case, with no exceptions and no sophistry about a changing world." He vowed to track down all of those who "demonstrate contempt for law and copyright ... [in] every territory, in every court in every venue, wherever our fundamental rights are being assaulted and attacked." Meanwhile, police on Tuesday reported the latest arrests for online piracy, saying that John Acas and Sheryl Demesa stole screeners intended for a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and posted them on the Internet.

MOVIEGOERS HAPPY WITH PRODUCT, SAYS SURVEY

A recent survey has concluded that 83 percent of moviegoers are satisfied with the quality of current firms. The survey was conducted by PA Consulting and reported in today's (Wednesday) Daily Variety. In an interview with the trade publication, Mike Hunter of PA called the result a surprise and noted, "The satisfaction with the quality of films was consistent everywhere we polled." Nine cities were targeted by the company, which quizzed 2,000 moviegoers. The survey also indicated that the greatest factor keeping moviegoers away from theaters was ticket prices, with 86 percent saying that they'd attend more often if prices were cut in half.

WANT A FREE MOVIE RENTAL AT BLOCKBUSTER? BRING IN NETFLIX FLAP

In the hope of winning back some of the customers it lost to Netflix, Blockbuster is launching a promotion that will give Netflix subscribers a free movie rental for each Netflix address flap they bring in. In an interview with Home Media Retailing magazine, Blockbuster chief John Antioco said, "We want these movie fans to experience getting the movies they want without the wait so they never have to be without a movie."

Brian B.