AVERAGE JOE FINALE BEATS MNF
ABC's hugely expensive Monday Night Football, which pitted St. Louis against Cleveland, was edged out by the low-cost season finale of NBC's reality series Average Joe Monday, with the football contest chalking up an average 12.5 rating and a 17 share between 9:00 p. m. and 11:00 p.m. (and a 12.1/19 between 9:00 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.) and Average Joe, a 12.5/18 between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Earlier in the evening NBC's Fear Factor, with a 9.3/14, was the clear victor over a Peter Jennings special about the U.S. food industry, which produced a 7.9/12, well ahead of the usual ratings for ABC's Primetime Monday. CBS aired a slate of reruns but remained competitive, averaging a 9.3/13 for the night.
JACKSON'S PARENTS LANDED BY ELISABETH MURDOCH
A production company headed by Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth has scored an exclusive interview with Joe and Katherine Jackson, the father and mother of Michael Jackson and the other Jackson family performers. They have sold the interview, which is conducted by Daphne Barak, to ABC, which plans to include it in its 20/20 program hosted by Barbara Walters and John Stossel on Friday. It will also air on ITV in the U.K. on Monday. The interview is going out under the banner of Shine, the company that Elisabeth Murdoch set up in early 2001, after she left her job as managing director of her father's Sky Networks. Meanwhile, CNN said Monday that it had hired Christopher Darden, the former deputy Los Angeles district attorney who prosecuted O.J. Simpson, to become a legal analyst for the cable news channel, focusing on the Michael Jackson child molestation case.
CBS PRESIDENT SAYS HE'S NOT WORRIED ABOUT TIVO
Viacom President and COO Mel Karmazin says he does not expect personal video recorders (PVRs) like the Tivo to affect television advertising within the next three to five years, but if it does, viewers will have to begin paying for their programs. Speaking at New York conference, Karmazin said that there has always been an implicit deal between the broadcaster and the viewer that the price for watching shows is having to watch commercials as well. If, however, substantial numbers of viewers use their Tivo players to skip commercials, "then we're going to have to charge you," Karmazin said. Karmazin predicted that ad sales in all areas of the company would rise during the coming year. Viacom's broadcast properties include CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Showtime.
GOP MEMBERS OF FCC OKAY NEWS CORP/DIRECTV DEAL
The three Republican members of the FCC, who form a majority bloc, have voted to allow News Corp to acquire DirecTV, Reuters reported Monday, citing sources familiar with the situation. The wire service said that the two Democratic commissioners have not yet voted. The Republican commissioners conditioned their approval on an agreement from News Corp not to withhold programming, including the Fox TV network, from other satellite and cable companies, and to submit disputes between its programming entities and satellite and cable rivals to arbitration.
BUSH SPEECH BREAKS UP AMERICAN IDOL TELECAST
Fox has decided to break up its planned two-hour premiere of the next American Idol series into two one-hour specials that will air on Jan. 19 and 20. The two-hour telecast had been scheduled to air on Tuesday, Jan. 20, but today's Washington Postreported that President Bush is likely to ask the networks for time on that night to deliver his State of the Union address, which ordinarily airs at 9:00 p.m.
AMERICAN IDOL HOST SEACREST REPLACING CASEY ON AT40
Ryan Seacrest, host of Fox's American Idol, will replace Casey Kasem as host of the syndicated American Top 40 radio show, theNew York Post disclosed today. (The report first appeared in the radio industry newsletter Inside Radio, edited by Tom Taylor.)AT40 is currently syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, which declined comment on the report. At 29, Seacrest was not even born when Casem, 71, originated the countdown show in 1970.
OZZIE SUFFERS BROKEN NECK, OTHER INJURIES IN ATV ACCIDENT
Only a day after it was reported that Ozzie Osbourne had begun to behave normally following treatment for being overmedicated by a previous physician, the rock-singer-cum-reality-show-star has been seriously hurt in an accident while driving an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), the four-wheel motorcycle called a "quad bike" in England. While the accident left him with a broken vertebra in his neck, six broken ribs, and a broken collarbone, the injuries were not regarded as life-threatening, according to a hospital spokesman. The injury occurred on Osbourne's estate in Chalfont St. Peter in Buckinghamshire. His television show, The Osbournes, is taped at his estate in Beverly Hills.
NEITHER SNOW NOR SLEET STOPS CRUISE FANS
Although moviegoers needed the constitution of a Samurai warrior to head out to the nation's theaters over the weekend, given blizzard conditions in some parts of the country, they nevertheless arrived in sufficient numbers to put $24.3 million in the box-office coffers for Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai. While the figure fell far below Cruise's Minority Report ($35.6 million) andMission: Impossible II (57.8 million), Warner Bros. pointed out that it represented the biggest opening ever for this calendar weekend and the third-largest December opening for an R-rated movie in history. The weather, it would seem, hurt the current raft of family films the hardest. With ticket prices already significantly discounted for kids, parents' decisions to keep their offspring indoors resulted in a huge percentage drop from the previous week. Universal's The Cat in the Hat plummeted 70 percent to $7.3 million, dropping it to fifth place from first. Elf fell 62 percent to $8.1 million. Disney's The Haunted Mansion was off 60 percent to $9.5 million.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The Last Samurai, Warner Bros., $24,271,354, (New); 2. Honey, Universal, $12,856,040, (New); 3. The Haunted Mansion, Disney, $9,394,185, 2 Wks. ($45,974,409); 4. Elf, New Line, $8,026,797, 5 Wks. ($139,527,719); 5. The Cat in the Hat, Universal, $7,141,855, 3 Wks. ($85,297,270); 6. Bad Santa, Miramax, $7,014,010, 2 Wks. ($27,138,311); 7. Gothika, Warner Bros., $5,250,356, 3 Wks. ($49,545,578); 8. The Missing, Sony, $4,034,563, 2 Wks. ($21,805,272); 9. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 20th Century Fox, $3,722,008, 4 Wks. ($72,555,668); 10. Love Actually, Universal, $3,561,360, 5 Wks. ($48,743,275).
STUDIOS RUSH TO MAIL SCREENERS
Three days after a judge lifted the MPAA's ban on movie screeners being sent to awards voters, the art-film divisions of several studios began shipping them out, the New York Times reported today (Tuesday). Each screener carried codes that could trace copies to the original recipient. A spokesperson for Miramax said that the biggest "mess" was making screeners that can be viewed on the British PAL television series so that they can be viewed by voters in next month's BAFTA awards.
KARMAZIN SUPPORTS PARAMOUNT EXECS
Viacom President and COO Mel Karmazin gave Paramount CEO Sherry Lansing and Viacom Entertainment Chairman Jonathan Dolgen his strong backing Tuesday despite the studio's poor performance at the box office this year. Referring to Paramount's "terrific management," Karmazin told a conference in New York Monday, "Have they been on a cold streak lately? Yeah. Is it profitable? Absolutely. Would we like them to make more money? Yes." He then added: "I don't think there is anything broken that a few hit films wouldn't fix." He said that he plans to meet with the Paramount execs next Tuesday to discuss their planned releases for 2005, which include the first SpongeBob SquarePants movie and a new Indiana Jones sequel.
DIRECTOR SAYS DISNEY WAS BOOTED OUT OF PETER PAN
The director of the latest Peter Pan movie has contradicted claims by the Walt Disney Co. that it pulled out of the film because it would have to pay royalty rights twice, once under the previous agreement that it has with London's Great Ormond Hospital, the rights owner, and another for the current movie. Australian director P.J. Hogan, however, said Disney's partners in the film, Sony and Revolution Studios, forced Disney out after it balked at the royalty payments. Hogan told today's (Tuesday) Sydney Morning Herald: "I think the other studios thought, 'How can we be in business with a company that won't give money to sick children?' and they booted them off." He added: "I don't know why the Disney Corporation would want to deny the Great Ormond Street Hospital the money they were so obviously due since J. M. Barrie had given them the rights to Peter Pan and Disney has made millions out of the title."
DISNEY REOPENS ANIMATION STUDIO IN FLORIDA -- BUT WITHOUT ANIMATORS
Three weeks after shutting down production of its hand-animated A Few Good Ghosts and laying off 258 employees at its Orlando, FL animation studio, the Walt Disney Co. reopened its animation facility to the Disney-MGM Studios "backstage tour" Monday. "But there's one thing missing: animators," the Orlando Sentinel observed, noting that if guests on the tour ask where the animators are, guides reply that they are "taking a break." For the first time in many years, Disney has no hand-drawn animation feature in production and reportedly is considering permanently shutting down the Orlando facility, which produced Lilo and Stitch and Brother Bear.
AFFLECK SAYS HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH LOPEZ WAS "ABSOLUTELY BAD FOR MY CAREER"
Ben Affleck has told a television interviewer in London that his relationship with Jennifer Lopez "has absolutely been bad for my career." Appearing on a talk program on Channel 4, Affleck added, "The over-exposure this year has been really damaging." He explained: "It's not good when everybody knows everything about you -- the mystique disappears. ... The whole world knew what we were doing on a daily basis. They wrote that we had bought jeans for half a million dollars. It made people think bad about us."