GRUSHOW STEPS DOWN AT FOX
In a surprise announcement, Fox Television Entertainment Group Chairman Sandy Grushow resigned Monday, specifying no reason but saying that it was "a very complicated decision" for him to make. He indicated that he had decided to exercise an option in his contract allowing him to form an independent TV production company based at Fox. It will be called Phase Two, he said. Since his appointment to the chairman's post in 1999, Grushow's responsibilities included overseeing the Fox network and the company's TV production studio, 20th Century Fox Television, which he has headed since 1997. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal, Grushow insisted that he was not forced out of his position. "I had every opportunity to stay," he maintained. Separately, he told today's New York Times, "After doing this job for four years ... I thought it was time to try my hand at something else that I've always wanted to try." An unnamed Fox executive told the Times that Grushow's decision may have been linked to recent comments by Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp company owns Fox, that he intends to fill top posts in his company with his three children. "Sandy is a very ambitious guy," the executive said. "But in this company there was always a limit to where he could go. It's a family business, and he's not in the family."
NEWS CHANNELS SEE BIG AUDIENCE RISE IN 2003
Fox News Channel and CNN surged in the ratings in 2003, largely due to coverage of the war in Iraq, but Fox surged more than CNN, increasing its ratings by an average of 53 percent while CNN's shot up 22 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research. CNN execs pointed out however that the network continued to attract the largest total, since viewers tend to tune into the network for a short time while Fox viewers watch far longer. CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson told today's (Tuesday) Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the network is also benefiting from the exodus of the broadcast audience to cable.
DILLER DENIES HE'S IN TALKS WITH VIVENDI
Barry Diller has denied reports that he is currently in negotiations to sell his company's stake in Vivendi Universal Entertainment back to Vivendi. However, he told a Smith Barney Citigroup conference in Phoenix that he expects such a sale to be accomplished within the next six months or "it doesn't happen at all." He said that until now his talks with Vivendi concerning the VUE partnership had been "fairly superficial." Earlier reports had indicated that it would take about six months for NBC to complete its acquisition of VUE from Vivendi.
SHRIVER MAY BE FORCED TO TAKE ANOTHER DATELINE LEAVE
Maria Shriver's continued association with NBC's Dateline appeared up-in-the-air Monday, as reports emerged that the magazine show's occasional host/reporter may be forced to take a second unpaid leave to enable her to continue in an active role in the administration of her husband, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times reported that NBC News President Neal Shapiro will fly to Los Angeles next week to talk to Shriver about her future role on the program. She had previously taken a hiatus from Dateline to help her husband during his gubernatorial campaign.
TIVO SUES ECHOSTAR
TiVo Inc., the company that manufactures personal digital TV recorders, sued EchoStar, the home satellite operator, on Monday, saying that EchoStar's DISH receiver/recorder infringes on a TiVo patent that allows a program to be recorded while another is being played back. TiVo has a close relationship with Echostar's principal competitor, DirecTV, which was recently acquired by News Corp.
DYKE ASSURES BBC STAFF: "NO SCAPEGOATING"
BBC Director General Greg Dyke has attempted to reassure BBC employees concerned about the possibility of wholesale firings following the expected release this month of a report on the suicide of a British weapons expert. The report by Lord Hutton is expected to criticize both the BBC and the Blair government about a BBC report that accused a Blair spokesman of inducing British intelligence officials to "sex up" a dossier that alleged that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction against the West on 45 minutes notice. David Kelly, the weapons expert, was later identified as the source of the report. In an email to the BBC's staff, Dyke said that once the Hutton report is published, there would be "no scapegoating within the BBC." He added: "What is important ... is that if the BBC is criticized we learn from whatever is written -- assuming of course that we agree with what is said." Dyke's comments came following a report on Sunday that Stephen Mitchell, the head of the BBC's radio news unit, was being set up as the fall-guy if the Hutton report turned out to be critical of the broadcasting organization.
KIDMAN PAID $3.5 MILLION FOR MOVIE AD
Nicole Kidman will receive $3.5 million for appearing in a four-minute commercial for Chanel No. 5 perfume that will be shown in theaters worldwide later this year, according to published reports. The commercial, directed by Baz Luhrmann and filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia, is said to feature the 36-year-old actress playing a kind of Princess Diana celebrity besieged by paparazzi in a New York setting. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that in one scene, Kidman wears a black evening gown designed by Karl Lagerfield. It also said that two paid extras in the paparazzi scene were fired and thrown off the set when it was discovered that they had substituted prop cameras with real ones.
KING RETAINS CROWN
For the second week, studio estimates turned out to be off significantly from actual box office receipts, but New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kingremained king of the cinema domain as it took in $28.2 million, putting its domestic total at $290.4 million since its Dec. 17 debut. Fox's family film, Cheaper By the Dozen, also continued to perform strongly in its second week, retaining the No. 2 spot with $21.6 million, to bring its total to $85.6 million.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date): 1. The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King, New Line, $28,180,378, 3 Wks. ($290,410,961); 2. Cheaper By the Dozen, 20th Century Fox, $21,644,537, 2 Wks. ($85,620,095); 3. Something's Gotta Give, Sony, $11,705,123, 4 Wks. ($81,211,676); 4. Cold Mountain, Miramax, $11,579,747, 2 Wks. ($43,737,222); 5. Paycheck, Paramount, $9,837,313, 2 Wks. ($38,644,452); 6. Peter Pan, Universal, $8,818,755, 2 Wks. ($34,179,235); 7. Mona Lisa Smile, Sony, $8,300,794, 3 Wks. ($50,006,766); 8. The Last Samurai, Warner Bros., $7,373,719, 5 Wks. ($90,017,337); 9. Calendar Girls, Disney, $4,437,082, 3 Wks. ($6,953,194); 10. Bad Santa, Miramax, $2,937,737, 6 Wks. ($56,909,596).
TOM CRUISE MAY PLAY MARVEL SUPERHERO IRON MAN
Tom Cruise says that he remains interested in playing the Marvel superhero Iron Man. In an interview appearing in the British magazine Empire, Cruise said, "He's a fascinating character, but we've got to figure out how it's going to work. And everyone is doing a Marvel character these days. How do we make that new, create something fresh where it doesn't feel like, 'Oh, here comes another superhero story'?" The magazine commented: "If the deal comes off, Cruise will be the biggest star to don tights and a mask since Errol Flynn, unless you count Stallone's Judge Dredd, which we don't."
WGA REPORT CALLS FOR RISKIN TO STEP DOWN AS PRESIDENT
In a 35-page report, an outside investigator has found that Writers Guild of America, West President Victoria Riskin was ineligible to run for office for a second term because she had not worked sufficiently as a writer to retain active membership. The report, authored by Stanford University law professor William Gould IV, a former NLRB chairman, recommended that she resign at once and that she be replaced with the guild's vice president, Charles Holland. If she does not quit, reports indicated, she could be removed by a simple majority vote of the 16-member board. Riskin's lawyer, Larry Feldman, told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times: "Obviously, we don't accept this."
BRING BACK YOUR OLD DVD'S, GET A STORE CREDIT
Blockbuster is planning to roll out another DVD trade-in promotion later this year in which customers who sign up for its subscription program will receive an in-store credit for any DVD in good condition that they bring in. The promotion is similar to one the company ran in November and December of last year that allowed customers to buy certain hot new releases for $12.99 plus a used DVD. The difference is that the new plan will allow them to buy anything in a Blockbuster store with their credit slips. Blockbuster Chairman John Antioco described the plan Monday to the Smith Barney Citigroup conference in Phoenix.
PRODUCERS GUILD ANNOUNCES BEST PICTURE NOMINEES
The Producers Guild of America has nominated six films for its best movie award, scheduled to be presented on Jan. 17. They are: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; Cold Mountain; The Last Samurai, Seabiscuit; Mystic River; and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Meanwhile, the Online Film Critics Society has named The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King best film of 2003 and its director, Peter Jackson, best director. Bill Murray was named best actor for his performance in Lost in Translation and Naomi Watts picked up the best actress award for her appearance in 21 Grams.
MIKE NICHOLS TO RECEIVE DGA AWARD
The Directors Guild of America said Monday that it will present its lifetime achievement award this year to Mike Nichols, the onetime Second City comic, who as a director, won an Oscar for 1967's The Graduate and was nominated for best director for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Silkwood and Working Girl. He has recently receiving glowing notices for his directing work on the HBO miniseries Angels in America.
DIRECTOR BRIAN GIBSON DEAD AT 59
British director Brian Gibson, whose films included the theatrical movie What's Love Got to Do with It?, about the life of Tina Turner, and the HBO movie The Josephine Baker Story, which earned him the best director Emmy in 1991, died Sunday of bone cancer in London. He was 59.