LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
CBS's made-for-TV movie It Must Be Love, starring Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, drew more viewers Sunday night than NBC's telecast of the hit animated movie Shrek, thereby keeping the network well ahead in household ratings. The CBS romantic drama pulled a 9.7/15 between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., only slightly less than the top draw for the night, CBS's 60 Minutes, which captured a 9.8/17 in the 7:00 hour. Earlier in the night, the network premiere of Shrek on NBC averaged a 6.6/12 between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. The CBS movie even beat NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which recorded an 8.6/14. In overall ratings, CBS averaged a 10.0/16 for the night, well ahead of NBC's 7.3/12. ABC followed in third place with a 5.8/9, while Fox trailed with a 3.8/6.
SAN FRANCISCO SCHOOLS BATTLE 60 MINUTES
San Francisco school district officials stepped in last week to halt plans by CBS's 60 Minutes to film a conference call between a San Quentin Death Row inmate and a classroom of fourth-graders, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. The call was to have been included in an upcoming feature about Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a founder of the infamous Crips gang in Los Angeles, who in prison has written books encouraging kids to avoid crime. "These are fourth-graders," Lorna Ho, special assistant to the superintendent of schools, told the newspaper. "60 Minutes doesn't just roll into town. Someone was giving them the false impression that this was OK, and that wasn't the case."
COMCAST SHARES DROP AFTER DISNEY BID
Shares in cable operator Comcast have declined nearly 13 percent since it announced plans for a hostile takeover of Disney. At the same time, Disney shares have risen 16 percent. Since Comcast's bid is based on a stock trade, the premium that it had originally offered has been nearly erased by the upheaval in the two companies' share prices. Moreover, Richard Greenfield of Fulcrum Global Partners told the London Sunday Observer that investors "are worried about Comcast being able to run Disney and get the synergies out of it that they are promising. ... Investors have been burned on so many other big media deals already."
JACKSON PHONING TV REPORTERS TO "CORRECT" THEM
Michael Jackson has begun taking a personal role in defending himself against television reports implying that his career is crashing, USA Today reported today (Monday). In an interview with the newspaper, Raymone Baine, Jackson's latest spokeswoman said, "Michael is concerned about how he has been portrayed in the media and will work more proactively to turn that around." The newspaper said that Jackson personally phoned Geraldo Rivera of Fox News and conservative columnist Armstrong Williams last week, asserting that he maintains control of his financial empire.
CBS APOLOGIZES AGAIN
CBS has extended yet another apology to offended viewers, this time regarding hip-hop group OutKast's performance during the Grammy Awards in which they were seen wearing feathers and war paint. "We are very sorry if anyone was offended," CBS spokeswoman Nancy Carr said in Los Angeles Friday after the Native American Cultural Center in San Francisco called for a boycott of the network, the group, their record company (Arista), and the Grammys. The group said that it had also filed a complaint with the FCC.
ANGEL TO FLY AWAY
Ending weeks of speculation, Angel , the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff, was canceled by The WB on Friday after five seasons. In a statement, the network said that it decided to inform producer Joss Whedon early in the year of its decision so that the show's writers and producers would "be able to wrap up the series in a way befitting a classic television series." The network said that there had been discussions about producing "special movie events" next year based on the series, but that no decision had been made.
LOTS OF DATES FOR DATES
Proving itself to be the Valentine's Day (and Presidents' Day) weekend's ultimate date movie, the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore romantic comedy 50 First Dates became the second-biggest February opening ever as it took in $41 million, according to studio estimates. Only 2001's Hannibal, which debuted with $58 million, performed better in February, a traditionally sluggish month at the box office. Last week's top film, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, moved down a notch to second place with $15.6 million. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. 50 First Dates, $41 million; 2. Barbershop 2: Back in Business, $15.6 million; 3. Miracle, $14 million; 4. The Butterfly Effect, $5.7 million; 5. You Got Served, $5.1 million; 6. Along Came Polly, $5.08 million; 7. Catch That Kid, $4.35 million; 8. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, $4.15 million; 9. Cold Mountain, $3.7 million; 10. Mystic River, $3.55 million.
MONSTER MOVIE SETS OFF DEBATE OVER ACCURACY
Yet another based-on-fact movie has touched off a firestorm of debate over its accuracy in advance of the Academy Awards. ABC's 20/20 on Friday maintained that there is no evidence that serial killer Aileen Wuornos was ever attacked by any of her victims, as depicted in the movie Monster, and that it in fact defames those who died at her hand. Interviewed by 20/20 co-host John Stossel, family members of Wuornos's victims denounced the film. Mike Humphreys, whose father was robbed and killed by Wuornos, commented: "I don't think that [the filmmakers] ought to do this to the victims out there." Letha Prater, the sister of another of Wuornos's targets, remarked: "This movie is portraying her as a victim. She isn't. She was not a victim. My brother was a victim." The film was also condemned by the Florida state attorney who prosecuted Wuornos and who said he was never consulted by the filmmakers. John Tanner called their depiction of what occurred "a total lie." In response, film producer Brad Wyman did not defend the accuracy of the film, telling Stossel, "It's not a documentary. ... It is a dramatic portrayal searching for a greater truth than a factual truth."
LORD IS KING AT BAFTAS
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won the best film award Sunday night at the annual BAFTA ceremonies in London. Surprisingly, however, the award for best director went to Peter Weir, who helmed Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Bill Murray won the best actor award for his performance in Lost in Translation. Murray, notorious for shunning awards programs, sent a note that was read by the film's director, Sophia Coppola, saying that the honor was "a huge surprise." The award also surprised many film industry prognosticators, who had almost unanimously forecast a win for Sean Penn for Mystic River. Another surprise winner was Murray's costar Scarlett Johansson, who won the best actress award for her performance in the movie. In an anomaly, she was also up against herself in the category, having also been nominated for Girl With a Pearl Earring." Bill Nighy received the supporting actor award for Love Actually, while Renée Zellweger received the supporting actress award for Cold Mountain.
GERMAN FILM IS SURPRISE WINNER AT BERLINALE
The German film Head-On (Gegen Die Wand), directed by Fatih Atin, won the Golden Bear, the top prize at the 54th annual Berlin Film Festival on Saturday. As it did last year, the competition jury, headed by Frances McDormand, selected two winners for the best actress award -- Charlize Theron for Monster and Catalina Sandino Moreno for the Colombian film Maria Full of Grace (Maria, Llena Eres De Gracia). Daniel Hendler of Uruguay won the best actor award for The Lost Embrace (El Agrazo Partido). (The film also won the runner-up Silver Bear award for best picture.) The closing ceremonies were disrupted briefly when about a dozen students appeared naked on the red carpet, flashing slogans painted on their bodies protesting government cuts in university funding.
TARANTINO TO HEAD CANNES JURY
Quentin Tarantino has been selected to preside over the jury at this year's Cannes Film Festival, May 12-23. In a statement, the director said, "For a filmmaker and film lover, there's no greater honor." Tarantino's Pulp Fiction won the festival's Palme d'Or in 1994.
PASSION REPORT EVOKES PASSIONATE RESPONSE
Friday's report by FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman that Mel Gibson is avoiding "Jewish, upscale, or liberal" localities in releasing his controversial The Passion of the Christ ignited passionate denunciations from writers who charged that Friedman had spawned a red herring. Most pointed out that the movie will in fact be shown in many areas that Friedman claimed had been blacked out. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, the nation's largest lay Catholic organization, concluded: "To say that Gibson is intentionally keeping the film away from Jews and the rich is not only flatly wrong, it smacks of malice. We look for Fox to correct itself." David Poland, who writes the lively "The Hot Button" on the Movie City News website, described Friedman's column as "breathtakingly inaccurate and malicious" and called for him to be fired, saying, "This is, in entertainment journalism, as serious a breech of professional ethics as any I can ever recall." Friedman, however, is sticking to his guns. In his column today (Monday), he writes: "The theaters they [Gibson's Icon Productions and distributor Newmarket] have chosen in Jewish areas are minimal." [NOTE: Numerous readers wrote to us on Friday pointing out that the film is being shown in their cities in areas encompassing large Jewish populations. In Los Angeles, for example, it is being shown in The Grove, a prestigious multiplex near Beverly Hills, in the heart of the largest population of Hasidic Jews in the area.] Meanwhile, in an interview with Diane Sawyer on a special edition of ABC's Primetime due to air tonight, Gibson denies that the film accuses the Jews of being responsible for the death of Christ. "It's not about playing the blame game. It's about faith, hope, love and forgiveness," he says.