STILL-UNCONSCIOUS WOODRUFF RETURNING TO U.S.
ABC co-anchor Bob Woodruff was being flown to the U.S. this morning (Tuesday) to undergo further treatment for body and head injuries he received in Iraq on Sunday. ABC reported that Woodruff briefly opened his eyes Monday and responded to stimuli to his hands and feet, but it quoted experts as saying that with serious brain injuries like his it may be weeks or even months before the consequences are fully known. ABC News correspondent Jim Sciutto, reporting for ABC's World News Tonight from Landstuhl Hospital in Germany where Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt had been taken for treatment, said that Vogt was "awake and alert and joking and I can tell you that gave us a chance to smile today." He, too, was being flown to the U.S. for further treatment. In an interview with Reuters Television, Landstuhl's chief surgeon, Guillermo Tellez, said that it would take time for Woodruff to recover. "It takes a tremendous amount of patience, not only on the part of the patients but the family, surgeons and rehabilitation specialists to get these patients back to as good a life as possible."
WILL MICHAELS BOLT ESPN FOR NBC?
Sportscaster Al Michaels refused Monday to stamp out rumors that he is attempting to extricate himself from his contract to call next season's NFL football games for ESPN so that he can join current partner John Madden for NBC's coverage. After deflecting questions about his plans with comments like, "I'm preparing for the Super Bowl ... [and] I don't want to be part of anything that detracts from the telecast," Michaels was asked during a conference call why he simply would not confirm or deny the NBC rumors. He replied, "Whatever I address, it gets parsed up in many different ways, and everyone will run with it." In today's (Tuesday) Chicago Tribune, sports columnist Ed Sherman commented, "It seems obvious he is going to explore getting out of his contract and jumping to NBC. The process might already be in progress." Bob Raissman, who covers TV sports coverage for the New York Daily News, observed: "If Michaels decides to spend next season at NBC, the move does not come without precedent. Over the years, other marquee voices have walked out on contracts."
THE UNMAKING OF A PRESIDENT
ABC's Commander in Chief, which seemingly has endured as many crises as the real-life one, will go off the air on March 7 for what the network is now calling a temporary hiatus. The drama, which has plunged in the ratings since its debut at the beginning of the season, will be replaced by the new comedy Sons & Daughters, with two half-hour episodes of the sitcom due to air back-to-back for six weeks. If the show improves the network's ratings in the time period, it is likely to become a permanent fixture there.
REALITY GURU BURNETT TO CREATE "SHOW" FOR AOL
In its latest effort to attract and retain subscribers by offering them unique content, America Online has announced plans to work with reality-show producer Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice) to create Gold Rush!, which it described as "an online reality treasure chase show." A news release issued jointly by AOL and Burnett's production company indicated that the "show" will amount to a multimedia treasure hunt, with clues posted not only on AOL and its various Internet properties like MovieFone and MapQuest, but also on broadcast and print outlets and what the release called "out of home." Burnett said in a statement, "The world is changing and the Internet is about to become the next broadcast network. ... With the volume of people able to watch content on their computers between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., it could very well become the new primetime."
MOUNTAIN GARNERS EIGHT OSCAR NODS
Following the pattern of critics groups and industry guilds, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences virtually ignored Hollywood's big blockbusters of 2005 and singled out a small number of relatively low-budget films -- several of which opened only in so-called art houses -- in its list of Oscar nominations announced this morning (Tuesday). Heading the list with eight nominations was the clear Oscar favorite, director Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, which received nominations for best picture, director, actor (Heath Ledger), supporting actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), supporting actress (Michelle Williams), and adapted screenplay (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana). In what may be a first, George Clooney picked up three nominations for two different films: supporting actor for Syriana; and director and co-writer for Good Night, and Good Luck. Winners will be announced on March 5.
The nominees in the top categories are: Best Picture:Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Munich; Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck) and Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow); Best Actress: Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line), Charlize Theron (North Country), Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents) and Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice); Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man), George Clooney (Syriana), Matt Dillon (Crash), Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) and William Hurt (A History of Violence); Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), Amy Adams (Junebug), Catherine Keener (Capote), Frances McDormand (North Country) and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain); Best Director: Paul Haggis (Crash), Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), Bennett Miller (Capote), George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck) and Steven Spielberg (Munich); Best Original Screenplay:Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck, Match Point, The Squid and the Whale, and Syriana; Best Adapted Screenplay:Brokeback Mountain, Capote, The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence and Munich.
AS FOR THE ANTI-OSCARS...
Nominations for the Razzies, the worst films of 2005 were announced Monday with Son of the Mask receiving eight nominations, including worst actor (Jamie Kennedy) and supporting actor (Alan Cumming and Bob Hoskins). Also receiving nods for worst picture were the sequel Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo; the movie version of the Dukes of Hazzard; the remake of House of Wax; and the romance Dirty Love. Tom Cruise was nominated for his performance in The War of the Worlds and -- twice -- in the newly created category Most Tiresome Tabloid Target. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer headlined: "Couch jumper in contention for 3 Razzies.") Winners (losers?) are due to be announced on March 4.
BIONDI REEMERGES -- TO JOIN ICAHN IN BATTLE WITH TIME WARNER
Former Viacom CEO Frank Biondi has agreed to join Carl Icahn in his battle against the current leadership of Time Warner. If Icahn is successful in wooing shareholders and gaining control of the Time Warner board, Biondi would replace Richard Parsons, the current chairman and CEO. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Biondi said that he would move to break up the giant media company, spinning off AOL and Time Warner Cable. A blueprint of his plans for the company, prepared for Icahn by Lazard, is due to be presented to company shareholders next Tuesday. He suggested that Icahn's effort amounts to "a referendum on a business strategy, a business policy that has resulted in essentially no shareholder value improvement in quite a while." Biondi is no stranger to Time Warner. In the 1980s he served as chairman and CEO of Home Box Office. After heading, Viacom, he moved on to Universal Studios. In both cases, he was ousted by the company's owners who complained that he was not sufficiently aggressive enough as a leader.
BIG MOMMA IS BIGGEST
As expected, the Martin Lawrence comedy sequel Big Momma's House 2 debuted as the weekend's top movie at the box office with $27.7 million. Unexpectedly, however, the G-rated Nanny McPhee took in $14.5 million to come in second. Brokeback Mountain increased its screen count by more than a third, but its take fell 16 percent from last week -- good enough, however, to place sixth. The Weinstein Co. began rolling out the Pearce Brosnan starrer Matador, moving it from a handful of theaters over the past few weeks to 885 theaters nationwide, with encouraging results. The film took in $3.6 million for place tenth. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Big Momma's House 2, 20th Century Fox, $27,736,056, (New); 2. Nanny McPhee, Universal, $14,503,650, (New); 3. Underworld: Evolution, Sony, $11,404,172, 2 Wks. ($44,607,264); 4. Annapolis, Disney, $7,681,171, (New); 5. Hoodwinked, Weinstein Co. $7,480,089, 3 Wks. ($37,767,800); 6. Brokeback Mountain, Focus Features, $6,542,081, 8 Wks. ($51,024,343); 7. Glory Road, Disney, $5,345,859, 3 Wks. ($34,948,401); 8. Last Holiday, Paramount, $4,802,618, 3 Wks. ($32,630,669); 9. Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Disney, $4,504,990, 8 Wks. ($277,867,308); 10. Matador, Weinstein Co. $3,612,663, 5 Wks. ($5,270,798).
With Steven Soderbergh's Bubble earning just $70,664 at the 32 theaters screening it last weekend, John Fithian, the president of the National Association of Theater Owners, said Monday that the results proved his point that audiences will stay away from theaters if they know that the movies being shown there are also available on DVD. On the other hand, Magnolia Pictures, which distributed the film, issued a statement on Monday saying that Bubble had grossed approximately $5 million in total returns, including box office, DVD pre-orders and "other revenues" (presumably meaning pay-per-view receipts). The film cost $1.6 million to produce. Mark Cuban, who owns Magnolia and the Landmark Theatres chain, said in a statement, "We are very happy with the results so far of this first day-and-date release, and while theatrical performance was not as high as we would have liked, it compared favorably to other similar films released this weekend."