WILL FOX TRY TO STOP ANTI-FOX FILM?
Robert Greenwald's Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism could find itself being outfoxed by Fox News Channel if the Murdoch-controlled cable news network decides to take action against the documentary film maker for using its footage without permission, Daily Variety observed today (Monday). The trade paper noted, however, that so far, Fox News has not tried to block the film, which also includes interviews with former Fox News staffers and the disclosure of internal memos from editorial supervisors. Some of the memos were described in detail Sunday in The New York Times Magazine. One read: "Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of U.S. lives." Another, referring to the 9/11 Commission's probe, ordered: "Do not turn this into Watergate." The Times said that Greenwald's legal team is currently considering whether he should "release the film and wait to see whether Fox would sue or to ask a judge to rule on their claims right away by issuing a so-called declaratory judgment." Meanwhile, today's Washington Post has reported that Fox is angry that it was given only 24 hours to comment on the Times' article. The author of the article, NYU journalism teacher Robert Boynton, conceded to the Post that he had agreed to a demand by Greenwald not to call Fox for comment "too early" because of the possibility that Fox would have slapped an injunction on the film.
APPRENTICE WINNER NOT RUNNING THINGS -- YET
Although it was originally reported that the winner of the first season of The Apprentice would be given the job of overseeing the construction of the $500-million Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported today (Monday) that Bill Rancic's actual job is not quite so lofty. Phil Rosenthal, the newspaper's TV critic, observed that Rancic's actual title is "owner's representative" and although the 90-story building is to rise at the current site of the Sun-Times, "those of us who work in the ... building haven't seen much of Bill Rancic." Appearing at a Los Angeles news conference to promote the next season of The Apprentice, Rancic acknowledged that he was "still in the learning phase" and wasn't "barking out orders at people -- that would be absolutely ridiculous."
NBC PRESIDENT ACCUSES FOX OF RIPPING OFF ITS PROGRAMS
Bringing to mind comedian Fred Allen's remark that "imitation is the sincerest form of television," NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker has accused the Fox television network of ripping off show ideas from other networks. Appearing at a news conference during the Television Critics Press Association summer tour, Zucker declared that Fox "used to be innovators, and now they're imitators. ... It's just bad for the business." Zucker indicated that he was particularly angered about Fox's decision to rush into production The Next Great Champ after NBC announced plans to produce a series called The Contender. That was followed by Fox's announced plans to air a series called Trading Spouses after NBC said that it had obtained the rights to produce a U.S. version of the British series Wife Swap.
NBC CODDLES ITS SECURITY-CONSCIOUS CLIENTS, SAYS REPORT
After NBC discovered that many of its top Olympics advertisers because of security concerns were reluctant to accept its all-expense-paid invitation to attend the Athens games, the network booked a block of hotel rooms for them at luxury Bermuda resorts, the New York Post reported today (Monday). However, the newspaper said, the advertisers who accepted the invitations (to either Bermuda or Athens), also received an IRS form acknowledging that they will have to pay taxes on the "free" trip. An NBC spokesman said that a similar plans was undertaken in 1996. "It is intended to give clients an option," he said. "We are overbooked for Athens right now."
NBC'S BABY GIANT: TELEMUNDO
NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright has described Telemundo, the company's Spanish-language network as "the biggest thing we've got going now." In an interview with today's (Monday) New York Times, Wright observed that the Hispanic ad market is expanding by at least 10 percent a year and has surpassed $3 billion annually. The network, which has been developing original programming from its Miami headquarters, has received high praise from Merrill Lynch media analyst Jessica Reif Cohen, who told the Times: "Telemundo has done a really good job this year. They have made up all the ground they lost in their first year under NBC. ... They obviously now have the management capabilities and the resources to begin to challenge Univision," which draws about 75 percent of the Hispanic audience.
TOP BBC DIRECTOR UNDER INVESTIGATION
Alan Yentob, the BBC's director of drama, entertainment and children's programming, and the on-air host of its arts program Imagine, is the focus of an internal investigation into his use of his BBC expense account, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Monday). According to the newspaper, Yentob is prepared to sue those whom he believes are waging a "whispering campaign" against him. Yentob has received the support of former BBC director general Greg Dyke, who issued a statement saying "I have always been a great fan of Alan's. Last year I recommended he receive a special bonus because of all the additional work he put in when Imagine was created."
ANOTHER RECORD FOR SPIDEY
Sony's Spider-Man 2 set another record over the weekend as it swung past the $250-million mark in total ticketsales in just 12 days, one day faster than Shrek 2, the previous record holder. Despite a drop of 48 percent from last weekend, the movie took in an estimated $46 million to bring its gross to $257.3 million. DreamWorks' Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, starring Will Ferrell, opened in second place with $28 million -- well above analysts' forecasts. Disney's King Arthur, which reportedly cost more than $120 million to make,took in a disappointing $15.5 million, placing third. It was the studio's sixth straight fizzle. Meanwhile, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, the film that Disney rejected, continued to perform strongly in its third weekend, grossing about $11 million and dropping only 32 percent from last week. The $6-million film has now grossed $80 million. With the top 12 films producing about $137.7 million in ticket sales, the box office was virtually flat with the comparable week a year ago. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Spider-Man 2, $46 million; 2. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, $28 million; 3. King Arthur, $15.2 million; 4. Fahrenheit 9/11, $11 million; 5. The Notebook, $6.53 million; 6. White Chicks, $6.5 million; 7. DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, $5.4 million; 8. The Terminal, $5 million; 9. Shrek 2, $4.5 million; 10. Sleepover, $4.2 million.
PIRATE COPIES OF SPIDER-MAN 2 HIT LONDON STREETS BEFORE FILM OPENED
An undercover probe by the BBC has disclosed that pirated copies of Spider-Man 2 was widely available on the streets of London, flea markets, and from vendors selling out of the trunks of their cars five days before the movie opened in the U.K. While some of the DVDs, which were selling for about $9.00 each, were obviously copies of camcorder recordings, others were described as offering "sound and visuals that were not perfect, but definitely watchable" and probably recorded in the projection booth with a direct sound input from the projector. The BBC probers also found a shop in central London that was selling Chinese versions of new releases. DVDs could also be obtained by sending email messages to those posting them for sale on eBay, the BBC said.
UNIVERSAL TO RELEASE SEXUALLY EXPLICIT FILM
Universal is not shying away from distributing the sexually explicit documentary Inside Deep Throat produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment, Daily Variety indicated today (Monday), noting that the studio has agreed to release it unrated early next year. Reporting on the studio's decision, the trade paper commented that the documentary "signals a new direction for Imagine Entertainment," known primarily for family films like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Nutty Professor, and reflects the eclectic tastes of Grazer, who produced it. In an interview with Variety, Grazer referred to the original Deep Throat as the "most profitable movie ever" and "a cultural phenomenon."
MCG OUT AS DIRECTOR OF SUPERMAN SEQUEL
McG (née Joseph McGinty Nicol) has bowed out as director of Warner Bros.' upcoming Superman sequel, citing disagreement with the studio over budgetary roll-backs. Initially, plans called for the film to be shot in New York City, but when Warner Bros. accountants determined that filming in Australia could cut tens of millions of dollars from the costs, production was moved to Sydney. In a statement on Saturday, McG said, "As a filmmaker, I felt it was inappropriate to try to capture the heart of America on another continent."
BRANDO WASN'T BROKE, WILL REVEALS
Contrary to reports that preceded his death last week, Marlon Brando did not die broke. According to a will filed in court on Friday, he left an estate worth at least $21.6 million. Most of his net worth, however, was invested in his Beverly Hills home and in his island estate in Tahiti.