TAPE DELAY IRKS MOVIE ACADEMY Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Frank Pierson has sharply rebuked ABC Monday for its decision to impose a five-second tape delay on the Feb. 29 Oscars telecast. Although controversial remarks have been spoken by Oscar recipients in the past and a streaker broke through a security barrier and onto the stage in 1974, Pierson said that if ABC uses the delay to delete such occurrences, it would amount to censorship. "If it comes with a bleep, we are all losers," Pierson wrote in a letter to AMPAS members. "A 'live' show is either alive or not," he said. "Free speech is either free or it is not. Viewers are free to use their remote or TiVo. Parents are responsible or they are not." ABC had no immediate comment on Pierson's remarks.


Providing a strong hint that he may show up for this year's Oscar ceremonies, Sean Penn, who is nominated for a best actor award for his performance in Mystic River, made an appearance at the annual Oscar luncheon for nominees on Monday. Penn, who is regarded as the front-runner in the best actor race, was accompanied by his mother. For weeks, speculation has swirled around the possibility that Penn, a fervent opponent of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, might appear at the awards this year (he has boycotted them in the past) in order to use the podium as a political platform.


Some public relations and advertising companies are not at all critical of the Janet Jackson breast-baring incident at last week's Super Bowl. James LaForce, partner in the New York PR agency LaForce & Stevens, told Advertising Agemagazine that the Jackson episode was "extremely successful. ... We love stunts at our agency and she opened the door for more people to take risks. ... It raises the bar for all of us." The executives also believe that it will bolster Jackson's status. Andy Morris, who runs a New York PR firm that works closely with the music industry, told Ad Age: "It is the ultimate stunt. I don't see any downside for her." But Howard Rubenstein of Rubenstein & Associates, commented that the incident has caused his agency to become more introspective. "It has absolutely changed a lot of things about how we do stunts," he said. "Now PR people will have to be very cautious."


An "involved" member of the Church of Latter Day Saints has announced plans to launch a website on March 1 called CleanTV <www.cleantv.net> that is intended to be the focal point of a campaign to bring the protest against morally offensive content directly to advertisers and local stations. According to the Deseret Morning News, the website will let users select the names of stations, networks and both local and national advertisers, then simultaneously send them personalized emails. The brainchild of LDS member Steven DeVore, the website will identify the offensive material so that users can then demand that the advertisers stop supporting it. DeVore told the newspaper that he's now gathering volunteers to serve as monitors of primetime TV and describe the objectionable content on the website.


In response to complaints from former aides to Lyndon Johnson about a documentary that it broadcast suggesting that the former president had a hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the History Channel announced Monday that it has assembled a panel of historians to examine the program's allegations and discuss its findings on the air. In a statement, History Channel General Manager Dan Davids said the network had taken the concerns of the Johnson aides "about historical accuracy and fairness very seriously and [is] taking appropriate actions."


The Mummy Returns may have been a big hit in movie theaters in 2001, grossing more than $200 million, but it proved to be no substitute for Monday Night Football on ABC last night. The film averaged only a 5.1 rating and a 7 share from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., putting the network in fifth place, behind CBS (11.9/17), NBC (9.1/13), Fox (7.3/10), and The WB (5.7/8). CBS's CSI Miamiremained the top-rated show of the night, recording a 15.4/23 in the 10:00 p.m. hour.


Although cast members of NYPD Bluehave long complained that ABC has so badly handled the series that many viewers believe it has already gone off the air, the official finale won't occur until the end of next season, the show's 12th, it was announced on Monday. It returns to the air tonight (Tuesday) after being yanked in December so that ABC could launch Line of Firein its time slot. In a statement, producer Steven Bochco suggested that the show might continue after next season "should we do brilliantly and circumstances change." Although there had been speculation that the show might be forced to endure budget cutbacks that would require it to dismiss some key players, there was no indication in Monday's announcement that any cast changes were in the works. Meanwhile, USA Todayreported today that ABC is considering toning down a sex scene of the March 2 NYPD Blueepisode exclusively in the Central and Mountain time zones, where it airs at 9:00 p.m. The newspaper commented that the unprecedented action is seen as "an example of networks' responses to increasingly intense scrutiny in the aftershocks over the Super Bowl halftime show." DGA PROPOSES POSSESSORY CREDIT BARGAIN Hollywood's "possessory credit" -- the one reading "a film by ..." -- a longtime sticking point in labor negotiations within the entertainment industry, is about to be amended. The Directors Guild of America on Monday said that it would ask that the credit not be awarded to first-time directors, and that it would discourage the studios from awarding it to directors with three films or less. If, as expected, the studios agree to the proposal, the change would mollify screenwriters who have long held that the possessory credit diminishes their own contributions. The Writers Guild of America, West, which is about to open negotiations with the studios on a new contract, had been expected to raise the issue of possessory credits during negotiations. WGA President Charles Holland remarked, "We praise this important step toward a healthier, more beneficial relationship between our two guilds."


Walt Disney Co.'s board of directors has launched a counterattack against Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold, the former Disney directors who quit the board in protest against the management of Disney Chairman Michael Eisner. In a letter, disclosed Monday in an SEC filing, charged that the two dissidents were conducting a "misleading and distorted campaign" that "comes at a time when your company is achieving very positive results." Roy Disney and Gold have maintained that Eisner has sacrificed longterm growth for short-term gain and have forecast disastrous consequences. They have called for shareholders to withhold their votes from Eisner and three other directors at the annual shareholders' meeting on March 3.


Viacom announced today (Tuesday) that it will spin off its 81 percent of Blockbuster to shareholders in a stock swap that would allow Viacom shareholders to exchange some of their shares for Blockbuster shares. Viacom has made numerous unsuccessful attempts in the past to sell the video rental chain to a single buyer.


Barbershop 2: Back in Business debuted strongly at the box office over the weekend, taking in $24.2 million, the fourth-biggest February opening in history. The figure compared with $20.6 million for the original Barbershopin 2004. Disney's Miraclealso had a strong opening, netting $19.4 million for the second spot. But results quickly sank from there, putting the overall box office 7 percent behind the comparable weekend a year ago. A significant disappointment was 20th Century Fox's Catch That Kid, which couldn't catch enough kids' interest. The film collected only $5.8 million, putting it in sixth place. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):1. Barbershop 2: Back in Business, MGM, $24,241,612, (New); 2. Miracle, Disney, $19,377,577, (New); 3. You Got Served, Sony, $7,518,860, 2 Wks. ($25,865,203); 4. Along Came Polly, Universal, $6,846,305, 4 Wks. ($75,046,055); 5. The Butterfly Effect,New Line, $6,512,743, 3 Wks. ($41,312,767); 6. Catch That Kid, 20th Century Fox, $5,824,860, (New); 7. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, New Line, $4,293,671, 8 Wks. ($351,133,343); 8.Mystic River, Warner Bros., $3,638,203, 18 Wks. ($69,880,053); 9. Monster,New Market, $3,513,456, 7 Wks. ($15,291,762); 10. Cold Mountain, Miramax, $3,242,434, 7 Wks. ($82,869,814).


Paramount is planning a film about the life of Bob Dylan improbably titled I'm Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan from writer-director Todd Haynes (Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story; The Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven), Daily Varietyreported today (Tuesday). The trade paper suggested that the movie, to be made with Haynes' Killer Films and Wells Productions, may take on the psychedelic images of Dylan's era. It quoted producer Christine Vachon as saying, "The film is going be inspired by Dylan's music and his ability to re-create and re-imagine himself time and time again."


Mel Gibson has told an Australian newspaper that he decided to use his own money to finance The Passion of the Christ when he reached a point of suicidal depression. In an interview with the Herald Sun, Gibson remarked: "I got to a very desperate place. Very desperate. Kind of jump-out-of-a-window kind of desperate. ... But when you get to that point where you don't want to live, and you don't want to die, it's a desperate, horrible place to be. And I just hit my knees. And I had to use The Passion of the Christ to heal my wounds."