SAG DISPUTE GOES TO COURT

A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday swiftly shot down an effort by Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg to overturn last week's action by the union's board ousting Executive Director Doug Allen and appointing a task force to take over negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. L.A. Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfont cited several legal errors in the lawsuit and ordered that it be resubmitted. An attorney for Rosenberg said that she planned to do so either today (Wednesday) or on Thursday. The so-called moderate members of the SAG board, who are leading the effort to resume bargaining with the AMPTP, issued a statement Tuesday saying that they were "stunned that any elected union official would take steps to halt contract negotiations of any kind." The action by the so-called hardliners was, the moderates said, "unprecedented in the history of the American Labor Movement."

MOVIE BUSINESS DELETED FROM STIMULUS PACKAGE

In a 52-45 vote, the Senate on Tuesday removed a provision of the economic stimulus bill that would have given the motion picture industry $246 million in tax breaks. Opponents of the measure cited January's record-breaking box office. "Hollywood's doing OK," Senator John McCain of Arizona, who led the battle against the provision, remarked. However, the Motion Picture Association of America indicated that it would redouble efforts to restore the measure, pointing out that the movie business is about more than box office and that it is suffering deeply from lackluster sales of DVDs and the disappearance of lenders and investors.

MOUSE CAUGHT IN FINANCIAL TRAP

The Walt Disney said on Tuesday that its profit during its first quarter plummeted 32 percent to $845 million vs. $1.25 billion during the same quarter a year ago. Total revenue dropped to $9.6 billion. The company was hardest hit by a 64-percent drop in profits for its movie unit, as consumers cut back on DVD purchases during the crucial Christmas holiday period. However, company chairman Robert Iger commented, "We don't believe the changes we're seeing in consumer behavior can all be attributed to a weak economy. ... It's important for us to address them as more than cyclical issues." (Indeed, the poor showing comes at a time when many economists are remarking about the surprising robustness of the entertainment media in the face of the current recession.) With Disney's ABC television network mired in last- or next-to-last place -- its household ratings are down 7.7 percent -- it was not surprising that it was hit harder than its rivals by the general retrenchment in advertising. Sales for ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel, ABC Family and local owned-and-operated stations were down 60 percent. Finally -- a first among the big media companies -- Disney broke out figures for its new media businesses under the category "interactive media." The unit, it said, lost $45 million. However, it appeared that the figures did not include revenue and costs associated with making Disney's movies and television shows available on the Internet -- a sticking point in negotiations with the industry's unions.

NETFLIX WANTS TO STAY OPEN ON WEEKENDS

Netflix, which last week surprised analysts by reporting a 45-percent boost in profit, is likely to keep some of its distribution centers operating on weekends in order to keep up with subscriber demands for movie rentals, Video Business reported on its website Tuesday. However, the publication noted that the plan is being considered at a time when the U.S. Postal Service is considering abandoning mail delivery on Saturday in an effort to stanch continued losses that amounted to $2.8 billion last year and could rise to as much as $6 billion this year.

SLUMDOG PROTESTS HIT MUMBAI

Indian protests over Oscar frontrunner Slumdog Millionaire spread Tuesday to areas of Mumbai where the movie was filmed. "They have made a mockery of us, they have hurt our sentiments," a protester told Reuters. "They should change at least the title. Why did our Censor Board allow such a title in India? It is very sa, aother protester told the news service. Although the film has sold relatively few tickets in India, it continues to pack audiences in elsewhere overseas. "The potent combo of escalating awards season buzz and excellent word-of-mouth has made Slumdog the film to see this January," Daily Variety commented today (Thursday).