DEATH RATTLE FOR HD DVD

A Toshiba spokesman acknowledged today (Monday) that the company is considering calling it quits in its format battle with Sony over high-definition video players. Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Oomari told the Wall Street Journal that the turning point came last month when Warner Bros. announced it would no longer support Toshiba's HD DVD format and would embrace Sony's Blu-ray format exclusively. "Sales have been hurt since Warner's decision," he said, "and we are considering different options." On Saturday Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that Toshiba plans to discontinue all HD DVD production in Japan this week at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. "If true, this will be good news for the next-generation DVD industry in clearing up the confusion for consumers because of the format competition that had curbed buying," Koya Tabata, electronics analyst at Credit Suisse in Tokyo, told the Associated Press. "This will work toward a profit boost for Sony." But shares of Toshiba also jumped six percent on the Tokyo stock exchange today as analysts praised the company for its decision to cut its continued losses. (Toshiba had been selling HD DVD players for far less than they cost to manufacture in the hope of stimulating sales of software, a hope that proved to be in vain.) An analyst for JP Morgan forecast that dumping HD DVD would add $280 million to Toshiba's operating profit in its next business year beginning in April.

JUMPER WARPS TO THE TOP

The reviews were nearly universally dreadful, but 20th Century Fox's Jumper, starring Hayden Christensen, managed to jump to the top of the box-office charts over the weekend. Opening along with most other new movies on Thursday, Valentine's Day, the film took in an estimated $33.9 million in its first four days -- and $27.2 million between Friday and Sunday, the "official" weekend. Surprising analysts, Disney's, Step Up 2 the Streets, its urban version of High School Musical, shot to second place with $19.7 million ahead of The Spiderwick Chronicles, which earned $19.1 million over the weekend and $26.8 million since Thursday. Universal's romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe debuted in fifth place with $9.7 million, behind last weekend's top film, Fool's Gold, which took in $13.1 million. Overall, the box office registered $119 million in ticket sales for the top 12 films, off 16 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Jumper, $27.2 million; 2. Step Up 2 the Streets, $19.7 million; 3. The Spiderwick Chronicles, $19.1 million; 4. Fool's Gold, $13.1 million; 5. Definitely, Maybe, $9.7 million; 6. Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, $8.9 million; 7. Juno, $4.6 million; 8. The Bucket List, $4.1 million; 9. Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, $3.3 million; 10. 27 Dresses, $3.2 million.

PA COUNTY ASKS SORVINO, WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR MONEY?

Lackawanna County, PA lawmakers want to know what has happened to the $500,000 it gave actor-director Paul Sorvino to help underwrite a movie that was to be produced in the county called The Trouble with Cali. In the words of County Commissioner Corey O'Brien: "We've heard nothing with respect to our investment. ... We want a full understanding of where taxpayer dollars are." He noted that it has been nearly three years since Sorvino received the money, which the county raised in part by selling the warehouse that housed its Roads and Bridges equipment and vehicles. But Sorvino told the Associated Press that he resents the implications of the lawmaker's remarks. "To have my honesty impugned has never happened in my life," he said. "The record of how the money was spent was always available, to the penny." He added that it takes time to produce an independent film and hopes to be able to show Cali to a distributor in about three or four months. "It's a wonderful movie and I can't wait to get it out," he said.

BERLINALE JURORS GET THE MESSAGE

Message films duly delivered at the Berlin Film Festival Saturday as the top Golden Bear award went to the Brazilian film The Elite Squad about a corrupt and violent police squad that tortured and sometimes killed drug suspects. The runner-up Silver Bear award -- the Grand Jury Prize -- went to Errol Morris's documentary, Standard Operating Procedure, about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Paul Thomas Anderson received the best director award for There Will Be Blood, based on Socialist novelist Upton Sinclair's novel about the turn-of-the-century oil industry. The best actor award went to Iran's Reza Naji for his performance in The Song of Sparrows, while British actress Sally Hawkins took the actress award for her role in Mike Leigh's comedy Happy-Go-Lucky.
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.