WAS FINKE HOAXED?

WGA negotiators have branded as a hoax a report that some A-list screenwriters are banding together to urge the guild to accept the contract provisions of any deal to be negotiated between the Directors Guild and the studios. The report appeared Wednesday on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Today blog. However, on the WGA's WriterAction message board Thursday, John Auerbach, a member of the writers' negotiating committee, quoted a fellow negotiator as saying that Finke's report "was based on a prank played by a writer." Auerbach said that a member of the Writers Guild of America West board contacted Finke to inform her that she was the victim of a prankster. "Bottom line," wrote Auerbach, Finke's report was "utter bulls**t." Finke says that she stands by her reporting.

DEPP TOP DRAW IN 2007

Johnny Depp, who was once relegated to relatively low budget films because producers thought him too outré to attract sizable audiences, was named Top Money Making Star for the second year in a row in the 76th annual Quickley Publishing Co. poll. Depp starred in 2007 in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The poll. which surveys motion picture exhibitors, put Will Smith (I Am Legend) in second place. Other top finishers: 3: George Clooney (Ocean's Thirteen, Michael Clayton; 4. Matt Damon (Ocean's Thirteen, The Bourne Ultimatum); 5. Denzel Washington (American Gangster, The Great Debaters).

SIMPSONS RETAIN TOP DVD SALES SPOT

The top-selling DVD over Christmas week was The Simpsons Movie, which held the top spot for the second week in a row, according to Nielsen VideoScan. Rush Hour 3 debuted at No. 2, while The Kingdom entered the field at No. 3. On the rental charts, Rush Hour 3 debuted in first place with $11.9 million, according to Home Media magazine. The Kingdom was close behind with $11.2 million. The Simpsons Movie slipped to third place in its second week with $10.6 million.

CHINA CRACKS DOWN ON MOVIE PRODUCER

After already causing an uproar at the Berlin Film Festival for being screened without first being submitted to Chinese censors, the movie Lost in Beijing has been ordered withdrawn from further exhibition in China. Citing the film's "pornographic" content and the fact that it was shown at the Berlinale without state permission, Chinese officials also said that the film's producer will be barred from making films for two years. Although the erotic scenes were heavily edited for its theatrical showing in China, bootleg copies of the uncut version were widely distributed throughout the country and on the Internet. The filmmakers themselves were accused of being the source of the pirated material. Producer Fang Li denied the charge, telling the Associated Press: "Why would I give the movie to pirates and hurt my own movie? ... We are victims of piracy. We are the biggest victims."

NO REVIEWS

Only one new film is scheduled to open wide this weekend, the Warner Bros. thriller One Last Call. It was not screened for critics.

Brian B.