APPLE-POLISHING TIME FOR STUDIOS

Each of the major studios has agreed to provide movies for Apple's iTunes movie rental service, Apple chief Steve Jobs announced at the MacWorld conference in San Francisco Tuesday. The inclusion of Universal and Sony were major surprises since each had indicated it would launch a similar service. Moreover, Jobs said, the films could be downloaded and viewed on ordinary or high-definition TV sets via Apple's settop box -- without the use of a computer. They would rent for $2.99 for older titles, $3.99 for newer ones -- although "newer" is relative. Films will not become available on iTunes until at least 30 days after they are released on DVD. HD movies will cost $1.00 more than conventional ones to rent. Analysts pointed to other drawbacks: films can only be viewed for 24 hours -- fine for home viewing but annoying for those downloading them onto iPods and iPhones for viewing in increments during their commutes, lunch breaks, or work-outs. Moreover, only about 1,000 movies will be available when Apple's video-rental store opens online in February. Nevertheless, Apple's maneuver received mostly positive response from analysts and newspaper critics. Commented the London Times: "Apple's move into video rentals, if successful, is likely to change fundamentally the economics of the film industry, and provoke yet more arguments over the way internet royalties are paid to writers." Also on Tuesday, Jobs unveiled a new, thin laptop computer, the MacBook Air -- so thin that it does not sport a slot for playing DVDs.

DGA DEAL WITH STUDIOS: ALMOST DONE?

Negotiations between the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers continued on Tuesday for the fourth consecutive day and were scheduled to resume today (Wednesday), with some trade and Internet reports suggesting that a tentative agreement could be announced before the end of the week. If so, analysts will immediately examine the kind of agreement the DGA has made with the AMPTP on residuals for digital distribution, the key issue involved in the writers' strike. Many in the industry are hoping that the deal with the directors can provide a template for similar deals with other labor groups.

BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL GETS WHAT THEY WANT

The Berlin Film Festival has chosen Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese's documentary about the Rolling Stones, to open this year's festival on February 7. Festival organizers said Tuesday that the director and the veteran rock band will attend the screening. In its statement, the organizers said, "Scorsese has created an extraordinary musical film event and given audiences unprecedented access to the Rolling Stones both on stage and off."

ATONEMENT DOMINATES BRITISH BAFTA NOMINATIONS

The British film Atonement, which received the Golden Globe award for best film Sunday, received a whopping 14 nominations for the BAFTAs, presented by the British Academy of Film and Television. The movie received nominations for best film, best British film, best actress (Keira Knightley), best actor (James McAvoy), best director (Joe Wright) and best supporting actress (Saoirse Ronan). Two films received nine nominations, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. All three films were nominated for best film, along with The Lives of Others and American Gangster. Several British critics expressed surprise at the poor showing for Sweeney Todd, which received nominations only for make-up, hair and costume design. Winners are due to be announced on February 10.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.