2006: THE DAWNING OF I-NEWS
Moving the nightly news from the television screen to handheld devices may transform the TV newscasts far more significantly than changing formats or anchors, network news executives and analysts have indicated. "I'm not convinced that you have to change the format of an evening news broadcast to get people to watch," NBC Nightly News producer John Rease told today's (Tuesday) USA Today. "People still like to get 30 minutes of news and perspective each day; the problem is enough of them aren't home at 6:30 to watch it," he said. Added Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism: "In five years, we may think that whatever tweaking was done to the nightly newscasts in 2006 was less important than what each network did to create an online newscast." ABC is set to launch a live afternoon webcast, World News Now, at wnt.abcnews.com today.
HAS THE OFFICE BECOME A HIT AT THE OFFICE?
The NBC sitcom The Office, which has failed to live up to expectations in the ratings, has turned out to be a smash hit on the Internet. Daily Variety reported today (Tuesday) that the show regularly accounts for half the slots on Apple's list of top 20 TV shows for sale at its iTunes Store. It also is responsible for NBC selling more copies of its shows (at $1.99 a pop) than any other network, wiping out the early advantage of ABC, which became the first network to sell shows online. Meanwhile, the Starz pay-TV channel has announced that it is launching a new Internet movie site called Vongo that will allow consumers to download full-length movies, concerts and TV shows onto handheld devices employing Microsoft software. (They cannot be downloaded to iPods, something that Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff described as a "significant problem" in an interview with the San Jose Mercury.) Users will also be able to "stream" movies from the Starz Channel on their personal computers via the Real Networks site. It is expected that the Vongo service will cost $9.99 per month.
KEITH JACKSON'S LAST HURRAH?
Keith Jackson may be calling his final college football game for ABC's telecast of the Rose Bowl game between Texas and Southern California Wednesday night, the New York Times reported today (Tuesday). In an interview with the newspaper, Jackson, 77, said, "I'm pretty sure I'm going to walk, but I don't know for sure." ESPN Executive Vice President Norby Williamson told the newspaper that ABC Sports/ESPN want to re-sign Jackson, whose contract expires in May. "We want him back," Williamson said. "Keith is the greatest college football announcer ever, and we will always have a place for him here. There's no one like him. It's up to Keith." Jackson, noting that "ABC Sports is dying" and that sports telecasts are being assigned to sibling ESPN, remarked, "This is a whole new generational approach to doing things, a philosophy with which I'm not familiar." Separately, Jackson told Newsday that he's considering a new career. "I'd say there is a very good possibility of becoming a shop steward for the International Porchsetters Union." (On Monday night, ABC overwhelmed the competition with college football coverage, averaging a 10.6 rating and a 16 share for the night, peaking at 8:00 p.m. with a 13.3/20 for the conclusion of the Fiesta Bowl and the start of the Sugar Bowl. CBS was a distant second with a 7.8/12, followed by NBC with a 6.8/10 and Fox with a 3.6/6.)
WAS REDSTONE RIGHT, AFTER ALL?
Analysts have already begun to question the decision by Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone to split the company in two. Redstone had argued that dividing the company would reveal the hidden value of the separate divisions, thereby boosting share price. The companies, one retaining the Viacom name; the other now named CBS, Inc., began trading on the NYSE today (Tuesday) but have been trading on a when-issued basis for nearly a month. Today's Wall Street Journal observed that so far the combined value of the two companies' shares is roughly equal to what it was as a single company. However, in early trading today, shares of both companies took off, leading MarketWatch.com to comment that the results represented "a hearty endorsement" of Redstone's strategy.
A NEW DEAL EVERY AFTERNOON?
NBC is considering airing its new hit game show Deal or No Deal as a daily half-hour afternoon series, the New York Post reported today (Tuesday) citing unspecified "reports." The network has already indicated that it is planning another five-consecutive-nights offering of the show during March following the Winter Olympics. However, the Post quoted an executive of Endemol, the show's producer, as saying that it would prefer to keep the show in primetime, airing it only once or twice a week. "I think this is the kind of show that can have a nice long run, but I don't want to see it get burned out," the unnamed Endemol exec told the Post.
NARNIA IS THE MANE MOVIE
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe continued its neck-and-neck race with King Kong at the box office over the holiday weekend, winning with an estimated $32.8 million for the four days versus $31.6 million for Kong, according to studio estimates. Narnia also ruled overseas, pulling in $41 million in 31 countries to bring its overseas total to $225.5 million. King Kong brought in $29 million in 49 countries. The big battle between the two films helped lift the domestic box office 5 percent over the comparable weekend last year with total sales estimated at $130 million. "It's the battle of the blockbusters at the top of the charts duking it out, much to the benefit of the overall box office," Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Daily News. "This is a great way to start 2006." Nevertheless, neither film did as well as last year's holiday champ, Meet the Fockers, which took in $41.7 million and set a new attendance record for the holiday.
BROKEBACK IN "AMAZING" FOURTH WEEK
In limited release, Brokeback Mountain remained the champ as it took in $4.8 million over the four days in just 269 theaters, averaging $17,702 per screen. (Daily Variety observed that the figure was up an "amazing" 61 percent from the previous week, although it added only 52 theaters) Another Heath Ledger starrer, Casanova, brought in $560,000 from 37 theaters, or $15,243 per screen. Playing in 532 theaters, Steven Spielberg's Munich earned $6.1 million or an average of $11,515 per screen. Woody Allen's Match Point performed far beyond expectations, earning $517,000 from just eight theaters or $64,625 per theater. And The Matador opened in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles with $92,000, or $23,100 per screen. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Buena Vista, $32.8 million; 2. King Kong, Universal, $31.6 million; 3. Fun With Dick and Jane, Sony, $21 million; 4. Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Fox, $19.3 million; 5. Rumor Has It, Warner Bros., $11.6 million; 6. The Family Stone, Fox, $10.2 million; 7. Memoirs of a Geisha, Sony, $10 million; 8. The Ringer, Fox Searchlight, $8 million; 9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Warner Bros., $7.5 million; 10. Munich, Universal, $6.1 million. The top-ten films for the year:
1. Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, $380.3 million; 2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, $276.9 million; 3. War of the Worlds, $234.3 million; 4. The Chronicles of Narnia, $224.8 million; 5. Wedding Crashers, $209.2 million; 6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, $206.5 million; 7. Batman Begins, $205.3 million; 8. Madagascar, $193.2 million; 9. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, $186.3 million; 10. Hitch, $177.7 million.
B-MOVIE LEGEND SAYS HE NEVER IMAGINED MAKING A DEAL WITH DISNEY
B-movie king Roger Corman has told the Vancouver Sun that he signed a DVD distribution deal with Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment despite the fact that another distributor had offered more money for his 400-film library. Corman said that he "had offers from several different major studios for the distribution of that library. But I just never imagined that it would be Disney." (The newspaper observed that if Corman had made Sleeping Beauty (sic), his dwarfs would have been named "Campy, Sleazy, Gory, Boobie, Simple, Crass and Hot.") Corman said that he had decided to take the lower offer from Disney "because they were going to put more money into the distribution, and they can command more shelf space than almost anyone else. ... This business can be a little bit cutthroat ... so the fact the Disney people were friendly and were willing to really work with us and share their expertise on mass marketing really went a long way."
NO SLUMP AT BRITISH BOX OFFICE
Final British box office figures for 2005 indicate that total ticket sales amounted to $1.34 billion, off just 0.5 percent from 2004, the London Times reported today (Tuesday). The results surprised U.S. film executives, inasmuch as all other major countries experienced significant downturns -- including the U.S., where ticket sales were down 6 percent from last year. Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, president of Warner Bros. International, told the Times that the "U.K. had been much more robust" than elsewhere. "We'll be doing an analysis early this year to establish what happened," she said.
THE TWILIGHT OF MICHAEL CAINE (BUT DON'T TELL HIM THAT!)
Michael Caine, 72, in today's (Tuesday) issue of Britain's Guardian newspaper on receiving lifetime achievement awards: (He's being honored this month by the National Film Theatre in London, which is holding a month-long retrospective of his films.): "Whenever anyone asks me to do something about my life's work, I keep saying, 'Please, I haven't finished yet. Can you give me another year?' ... In a lifetime achievement award, you just have to watch yourself grow old in 45 minutes." On his breakthrough with Alfie in 1966: "To be a movie star, you have to carry a movie. And to carry a movie where you play the title role is the supreme example. The third thing, for a British actor, is to do it in America. The fourth is to get nominated for an award. That picture did all four things for me."