CRITICS WEIGH ANCHORS
ABC News decided to name Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff to co-anchor its World News Tonight evening newscast after first asking Charles Gibson to serve as the solo anchor for two years, the New York Times disclosed today (Tuesday), citing an unnamed person involved in the negotiations. Gibson, however, wanted to anchor through the 2008 presidential election -- nearly three years away. He told the Times that negotiations with ABC News chief David Westin "ended because we couldn't agree on timing and tenure." The newspaper said that Westin's final decision "came only at the end of a series of frantic negotiations in recent days." It noted that the decision was so sudden that the network had to release a corrected version of its original announcement, which contained several incorrect details, including the starting date for the new team. (It is Jan. 3, not Jan. 2, as the original release said.) It also appeared that the newscast will air live twice -- once for the Eastern and Central time zones, and another for the Western. Denver's Rocky Mountain News said that it had been unable to find out whether the Mountain time zone would air the Eastern or the Western feed.

WILL ABC'S NEW ANCHOR TEAM LAST?

Questions immediately arose Monday after ABC announced that its World News Tonight would have male-female co-anchors, Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas. Such a pairing has happened only twice in network history, once in the mid-'70s, when ABC paired Harry Reasoner with Barbara Walters, and once in the early '90s, when CBS teamed Dan Rather with Connie Chung. Both experiments were shortlived and both were regarded as failures. But Steve Friedman, the former executive producer of NBC's Today and CBS's The Early Show, told today's (Tuesday) Washington Post that these days male-female co-anchors are "what people are used to seeing in local news." But Erik Sorenson, who exec-produced the CBS Evening News during the Rather-Chung pairing, told the newspaper: "The downside is, it's a 22-minute broadcast and you're splitting up the face time between two people." Av Westin, ABC's news chief in the early '70s, suggested that Woodruff would probably be spending much time anchoring from the road. "It always adds a lot of extra weight to a story if the anchor is there on site," he told the Boston Globe.

NBC SHOWS COMING TO YOUR IPOD (AND PC'S)

NBC Universal announced today (Tuesday) that it will make programs from its NBC broadcast network, the USA cable network, Sci If Channel and other cable outlets available for downloading from Apple's iTunes Music Store. Among the shows that will become available -- for $1.99 per download -- are Law & Order, The Office, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Surface, Monk, and Battlestar Galactica. A number of "classic" NBC shows will also be purchaseable, including episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Dragnet, Adam-12 and Knight Rider. The programs are also expected to include highlights from the upcoming Winter Olympics. Apple said that, with the earlier announced programs from Disney's ABC and the Disney channel, it can now offer 300 episodes from 16 TV shows that can be viewed on personal computers or its iPod devices. Meanwhile, ESPN chief George Bodenheimer, who is also president of ABC Sports, said that the cable sports network is also considering distributing some of its programs via the Apple service. Speaking to the annual UBS Securities Conference in New York, Bodenheimer said, "Consistent with ESPN's position as a platform-agnostic distributor, we serve any platform we can."

ABC'S SWEENEY NAMED HOLLYWOOD'S MOST POWERFUL WOMAN

Anne Sweeney, who was appointed president of Disney's ABC Television Group and co-chairman of its media networks two years ago, is now the most powerful woman in Hollywood, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which released the names on its Power 100 list of top women in the entertainment industry Monday. Judy McGrath chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, was ranked second on the list, followed by Stacey Snider, chairman of Universal Pictures.

RUMSFELD LASHES OUT AT NEWS MEDIA OVER IRAQ COVERAGE

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Monday denounced the news media's coverage of the war in Iraq, charging that television and print outlets are spreading "the worst about America and our military ... with little or no context or scrutiny." Referring to recent reports that the military had paid Iraqi newspapers and television stations to publish and broadcast reports favorable to the U.S., Rumsfeld said, "We don't know what the facts are yet. ... The problem is the story goes out all over the world, over and over and over again, and we're still trying to find out the facts on it."

CHAPPELLE'S SHOW TO RETURN EVEN IF CHAPPELLE HIMSELF DOESN'T

They may represent a short season, but four new half-hour episodes of Dave Chappelle's Chappelle's Show will begin airing in late spring or early summer next year, Comedy Central said Monday. The episodes will be culled from material that Chappelle shot for the show before he abruptly walked out six months ago. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Times, Comedy Central chief Doug Herzog said, "The audience has been telling us for a long time that they want to see more, so we thought we'd try and give them what we have." But Washington Post TV writer Lisa de Moraes concluded that Herzog had "fired off a popgun in an effort to frighten Dave Chappelle back to the [negotiating] table."

KING KONG: THE FIRST REVIEWS
International reviewers scrambled Monday night to post reviews of King Kong after it premiered on 38 screens at two Times Square multiplexes. All appeared to agree that the film will pack 'em in. John Hiscock wrote in the London Daily Telegraph: "Hokey and clichéed in parts, thrilling and dramatic at other times, King Kong is reminiscent of both Jurassic Park and Titanic. And like those two record-setting epics, it is certain to be a huge hit. Baz Bamigboye in Britain's Daily Mail described it as "jaw-droppingly brilliant: the most entertaining blockbuster movie this year." Kevin Maher in the London Times commented: "That Jackson's King Kong upgrades the now hammy original with wit, heart and humor is a pleasant surprise. That it does so by reinventing the action blockbuster, in form and emotional impact, is nothing less than an act of cinematic alchemy." But several writers also noted that the film will have to become one of the top-ten box-office earners of all time in order to be considered a success. Geoffrey Macnab of Britain's Independent, who noted that director Peter Jackson poured $32 million of his own money into the film to cover budget overruns, commented, "Even with Jackson opening his check book, King Kong remains a monumental risk." The New York Daily News is running reviews from each of its lead film critics, Jami Bernard and Jack Mathews. Bernard calls it, "the most thrilling, soulful monster picture ever made. At last, it can be said without irony -- I laughed, I cried. ... It's brilliant." Mathews concludes that it "will further Jackson's reputation as the leading visionary among fantasy filmmakers and it restores the Empire State Building to the stately glory of its past."

BLOGGER POSTS STUDIO EMAIL ADDRESSES ONLINE -- HAS HIS OWN YANKED

Gerard Jones, a 63-year-old Oregonian who posted the names and email addresses of numerous studio executives, producers and agents on his website, everyonewhosanyone.com, is being sued by Universal Studios, and his email address has been yanked by his ISP, Charter Communications, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Jones has now filed a complaint with the California State Bar charging that Universal attorney Carolyn Hampton violated "several provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the California State Bar Act in her effort to close down Jones's website. He told InformationWeek that he had created the site to help writers like himself send ideas directly to studio decision makers.

DICAPRIO DOCUMENTARY TO BE FINANCED BY POKER KING

Leonardo DiCaprio has begun production of a documentary about global warming, saying in a statement that the matter "is not only the No. 1 environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity." His personal publicist, Keleigh Thomas, said Monday that the film, titled 11th Hour, will be distributed next year. The film is being co-financed by 71-year-old legendary poker player Doyle Brunson. ("In the world of professional poker, he is king," his website says.)

MARKETING PRESIDENT IS SONY'S FALL-GUY

Sony Films, which has been experiencing one of its worst-ever years at the box office, is ousting Geoffrey Ammer, Columbia TriStar's marketing president. He will remain with the company through the end of the year in order to continue to oversee the marketing campaigns for Sony films being released during the coming weeks, including Memoirs of a Geisha and Fun With Dick and Jane. No successor has yet been named. In 2005, Sony has seen only one film gross more than $100 million, the Will Smith romantic comedy Hitch. Today's (Tuesday) Hollywood Reporter quoted one unnamed agent as saying, ""I'm not sure what this solves. Somebody had to go, and he's the most senior person that can be let go that will cause the least disruption. But it's a ruse. He can only market what they produce." But, in reporting Ammer's ouster, today's Los Angeles Times observed, "It is common practice in Hollywood to blame marketing chiefs when a studio's movies flop even though they aren't the ones who choose which projects get made. That responsibility rests with a studio's top creative executive."

MORE ADS COMING TO YOUR THEATER

Moviegoers may be complaining louder than ever about those in-theater ads that run before the trailers, but they are becoming an ever-growing source of revenue for exhibitors, according to a study by ZenithOptimedia and reported in today's (Tuesday) USA Today. According to the study, revenue from those ads rose 18 percent this year to $400 million and is expected to rise about 15 percent each year through 2008.

Cinemark Movie Club