STUDIOS TO NETFLIX'S ONLINE SERVICE: NO NEW FILMS FOR YOU

The major studios have balked at allowing Netflix to include their latest films on its streaming video service, leaving the online video renter only older titles and documentaries to offer subscribers, Investor's Business Daily reported Thursday. Netflix does not charge for the streaming video service, including it in its subscription plan, which begins at $8.99 per month. Although it has a library of 100,000 movies, only 12,000 titles can be seen via its streaming service. Asked whether Netflix would begin charging "rental" fees so that it can include newer titles, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, replied that it was unlikely. "We're focused on the subscription segment, which is less expensive for the consumer."

IS AMPAS OUT OF TOUCH?

Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have shot themselves in the foot with their selection of top Oscar nominees on Thursday, the Chicago Tribune suggested today (Friday). The newspaper observed that by selecting so many relatively obscure movies, the Academy seems to have guaranteed another low-rated Oscars ceremony. Entertainment writer Marc Caro noted that The Dark Knight, which took in $531 million at the domestic box office last year also garnered 94 positive reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website, compared with 60 percent for The Reader, which has grossed only $7.9 million. "Yet The Reader is a best picture (and director) nominee, and The Dark Knight is not," Caro observed. Mediaweek analyst Marc Berman added: "The problem with the films this year is none of them are huge, mass-appeal hits." Caro concluded that by denying recognition to films like Knight and WALL-E, the movie academy "risks confirming the suspicions of those who think it has grown out of touch with mainstream tastes."

FOX MOVING ANIMATION TO CONNECTICUT

In the latest case of "runaway production," 20th Century Fox's animation company is moving to Greenwich, CT, 27 miles NE of New York City. Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age: The Meltdown, Horton Hears a Who!) said that it has signed a lease to occupy approximately 105,000 square feet of studio space at the Greenwich American Center, bringing more than 300 jobs to the area. In a statement, Fox Animation President Vanessa Morrison said that the site had been selected because "the recently enacted production tax credit program introduced in January of 2007 made Connecticut the most attractive location for our new animation facility." Under the new program, production companies are eligible for tax credits of up to thirty percent on production expenses or costs incurred within the state." Studio executives and union officials in Los Angeles have been urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to push for legislation that would provide similar tax benefits for filmmakers who remain in California.

REDFORD SAYS TIMES ARE TOUGH FOR INDIE FILMMAKERS

Robert Redford has suggested that these are dire times for independent filmmakers. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the founder of the Sundance Film Festival said that the struggle to find financing for films has become more "intense." Studios who previously backed independent filmmakers have "become more of a clearing house now." Instead, he said, they have brought in "all kinds of outside investors ... [who] tend to be these unsophisticated non-film people." Often, he suggested, "they'll pull out at the last minute because of their lack of sophistication and leave the filmmaker high and dry. So as all these investors pull away, and distribution moves online, one has to wonder, 'Where is the money going to come from?' And I just don't know."

NEW BOX-OFFICE ENTREES DON'T IMPRESS CRITICS

Two new films opening this weekend appear to have little chance of offering much competition to recent holdovers and expanding films that received Oscar nominations Thursday. They are the horror flick Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which was not screened for critics, and the kids flick Inkheart, which has been gathering dust in the studio's vault for more than a year.

MOVIE REVIEWS: INKHEART

Inkheart is about a book buyer, played by Brendan Fraser, who has the power to extract characters from books, bring them into the real world and put them back into the fictional world again. "I never knew reading was so dangerous. No child seeing Inkheart will ever want to be read to again," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, who, perhaps grudgingly, gives the film two stars. A.O. Scott in the New York Times comments that the movie "aims for a blend of whimsy and tingly suspense but botches nearly every spell it tries to cast." Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun says that the apparent goal of the filmmakers was laudable -- to show "reading as a source of love, mystery and terror." He adds: "Cold, bland and gimmicky -- that's how the movie has turned out." Kyle Smith in the New York Post concludes: "Inkheart makes as much sense as an inkblot." And Wesley Morris on the Boston Globe winds up his review this way: "Inkheart illustrates an obvious problem with making a movie about the joys of reading when the movie made is labored and sludgy looking: Why bother seeing it if you can stay home and read a book instead?"