FIRST, THE JEWS; NOW GIBSON ANGERS THE MAYA

Some descendants of the Maya tribes depicted in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto have denounced the movie as racist and not representative of their ancient culture. In an interview with Reuters, Ignacio Ochoa, director of the Nahual Foundation, said, "Gibson replays, in glorious big budget Technicolor, an offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans and thus they deserved, in fact, needed, rescue." Lucio Yaxon, described by Reuters as a 23-year-old Mayan human rights activist, added, "Basically, the director is saying the Mayans are savages." Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times noted that archaeologist Richard Hansen was on hand throughout the shooting of the film, lending his advice to the production team. Production designer Tom Sanders told the newspaper, "It was really fun to say [to Hansen], 'Is there any proof they didn't do this?' When he said, 'There is no proof they didn't do that,' that gives you some license to play."

IATSE VS. THE WGA

The president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the union that represents most of Hollywood's craft unions, has taken the leaders of the Writers Guild of America (West) to task for turning down an offer from Hollywood producers to negotiate an early contract renewal. Thomas Short told the Los Angeles Times that the WGA's refusal would fuel uncertainty among Hollywood's rank and file about whether they will have work should the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers be unable to reach an agreement before the current contract expires in October. WGA Executive Director David Young told the Times that it was unfortunate that Short was siding with the studios.

UNIVERSAL TO BUILD HUGE "CAMPUS"

NBC Universal has announced plans to build a $3-billion office and residential center on the 391-acre Universal studio property near Hollywood. Along with additional production facilities, the project, if approved, would include restaurants, stores, a hotel, and 2,900 homes and apartment units. The Universal Studios Tour and the Universal CityWalk center would also be improved. Local community associations and homeowner groups have expressed alarm over the possible impact of such a large undertaking on the surrounding community.

FIVE MILLION COPIES OF PIRATES SOLD ON FIRST DAY

In its first day in video stores, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest sold nearly 5 million copies Tuesday, according to Disney's Buena Vista Home Video, thereby tying the record set by Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in March. The company reportedly shipped 20 million copies to retailers and has said that it hopes to break the existing record held by its own The Lion King of 30 million DVD and VHS copies sold.

WEINSTEINS COURT CHRISTIAN CROWD

Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who, while heading their former company Miramax, infuriated conservative Christian activists with films like Kids, Priest, and Dogma, have announced that they are forming a new company to distribute faith-based movies. They said Wednesday that they have signed a production deal with Christian film producer Impact Entertainment. Executives of The Weinstein Company also said Wednesday that they plan to release six theatrical films per year and an additional number of direct-to-DVD productions.

CHINA'S CLOSED-DOOR POLICY ON MOVIES SPURS PIRACY, SAYS MPAA EXEC

China's policy of restricting the number of foreign films that can be shown on the mainland is largely to blame for rampant piracy in the country, MPAA Senior V.P Michael Ellis has told the Foreign Correspondents Club of China. He said that by limiting the number to 20, Beijing encourages pirates to provide the films to consumers that cannot otherwise be viewed theatrically. "There needs to be a recognition that there's not going to be progress until they open the market," Ellis said. Noting that bootleg DVDs of many top U.S. movies are available in Chinese shops within days of their U.S. release, Ellis said that the bootlegs now represent 93 percent of all DVDs on sale in China. He said that some of the shop owners continue to sell the bootleg DVDs even after they are punished for doing so.

Brian B.