ALLEGED PIRATES TAKE THE STAND
The fourth day of The Pirate Bay trial in Sweden saw prosecutors attempting to determine the administrative structure of the site -- only to be stymied when defendants maintained that no such structure exists. When one of the defendants, Fredrik Neij was asked to identify the person who makes the decisions on what appears on the site, he replied (as reported by the website TorrentFreak), "If someone believes a new text is needed, he just inputs it. Or if a graphic is ugly, someone makes a better one. The one who wants to do something just does it." Another co-defendant, Gottfrid Svartholm Wang maintained that no copyrighted material has ever been stored on Pirate Bay servers, Wired magazine reported. Asked by a lawyer for the Motion Picture Association why he would allow the site to be used by 22 million unique users, he replied, "Because it is technically interesting. The site is about uploading torrent files." He explained that the huge demand required him to optimize software coding to allow the servers to adapt to it. When asked about past statements in which he ridiculed copyright owners who complained about the site, Wang replied, "They still don't understand that they have to write to the persons who share the material, not us."
MADEA VS. JASON AT BOX OFFICE
Tyler Perry brings back his most popular character, Madea, to theaters this weekend in Madea Goes to Jail, and she's expected to slay Jason, who slashed his way to the top of the box office last weekend in the remake of Friday the 13th. But, as with previous Tyler Perry movies, the new one has not been screened for critics. The website EURweb.com quoted Perry as saying. "If critics or people who have negative things to say about it -- too much Christianity, too predictable, or the story's are too simple -- if they knew the audience that I was speaking to; if they knew that I was speaking to three year-olds and 86 year-olds; if they knew that I was speaking to people who have Harvard degrees or people who have never gone to school, [they would know] it's a blessing to be able to cross all these different people." The only other film opening wide is the Sony comedy Fired Up. But the main competition for all films this weekend will be Sunday's telecast of the Oscars, which generally is the second-most-watched show of the year, behind the Super Bowl.
MOVIE REVIEWS: FIRED UP
Critics are dousing Fired Up, the cheerleading comedy from Sony, with some unexpected champagne, although the champagne may be a little flat. "The movie has a sharper and more acerbic screenplay than you normally find in bargain-basement, D-list teen comedies," writes Kamal al-Solaylee in the Toronto Globe & Mail. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times describes it as being "at once funnier than it should be and more witless than it should have been." Writes Claudia Puig in USA Today: "This much can definitely be said about Fired Up!: It's funnier than Paul Blart: Mall Cop." And Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune says he "didn't half-mind "Fired Up," but half a mind is more than it deserves." But not all critics are willing to give the movie the benefit of one-hand clapping "Here is a movie that will do for cheerleading what Friday the 13th did for summer camp," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times.
CALIFORNIA PASSES INCENTIVES PACKAGE
Despite strong opposition from many legislators, a five-year financial incentives package for Hollywood filmmakers has been included in the California's new budget. It provides up to $100 million annually in tax incentives to film and TV producers. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the budget bill today (Friday). Among other provisions, the program gives a 25-percent tax credit to producers who are already filming out of state if they relocate in California. (It is called the "Ugly Betty" provision, a reference to the ABC television show that moved to New York this season in part to take advantage of that state's 35 percent tax credit to producers.) Nevertheless, some Hollywood executives observed that the incentives package is much lower than most other states', and entertainment attorney Peter Dekom, who advised the New Mexico Film Commission on tax breaks, told the Los Angeles Times, "It's hard to understand how [California's tax credits are] going to be competitive with states that actually have incentives where the credits are much higher."
REGAL'S EARNINGS ARE POSITIVELY REGAL
In one of the few positive quarterly reports by an entertainment company, Regal Entertainment Group, the parent of Regal Theatres, reported fourth-quarter revenue of $711.7 million compared with $599.9 million for the comparable quarter a year ago. Net income was up 30 percent to $30.1 million from $23.2 million in the previous year. Regal operates the largest U.S. theater chain. In a statement, Regal CEO Mike Campbell said, "We are pleased with our 2008 accomplishments including the successful acquisition and integration of Consolidated Theaters. We are also encouraged by the early 2009 box office results in this challenging economic environment."
LUCAS: REMOVE $500,000 CAP ON CEO'S
George Lucas says he does not like the provision of the bailout program that caps the salaries of CEOs of companies receiving government funds at $500,000. In an interview with CNSNews.com, a unit of the conservative Media Research Center, Lucas said, "I think it would be a good thing for shareholders to unite and say, 'We are not interested in paying our executives this much money.' That would work. But it's not the government's job to do that. It's the stockholders job." Not that the question affects Hollywood, however, Lucas noted. "Well, the difference is Hollywood isn't asking for a bailout," he said. And even if it did, it wouldn't affect him. "I don't make that much money [as a CEO] -- not by a long shot. ... $500,000 a year -- man, that's a lot of money. ... I have to have people come to the movies, and then when they go to the movies, I get my nickel. I don't get a giant salary." A Lucasfilm spokesperson explained later that Lucas is paid a fee for his work as a director and then collects a percentage of a film's gross.
NETFLIX TO OFFER SPECIAL RATE FOR STREAMING ONLY
Netflix may provide a special subscription rate later this year or early next year for customers who only wish to view movies over its Internet streaming service and not receive any DVDs by mail, CEO Reed Hastings said Thursday. "We recognize at some point in the long term, the streaming will be good enough that an appreciable number of people will find streaming is all they need," he remarked. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Hastings also acknowledged that investors' concerns about how online delivery will affect Netflix's primary business of distributing movies by mail may be responsible for deflating the company's stock price. "A reasonable discount for that [concern] is not inappropriate at all," he said. However, he added, "In the last year, we picked up some momentum on, 'Hey, maybe Netflix is going to make it.'"