COURT SETS A CLASSIC PRECEDENT FOR CABLE
Ending a long-running battle between Cablevision's AMC channel and Time Warner Cable, the New York State Supreme Court ruled Monday that when the channel changed from American Movie Classics, focusing on films made before 1960, and became AMC, airing mostly movies made since the 1970s, it breached its agreement with Time Warner. The cable company may therefore drop the channel, the court ruled. In reporting on the decision, today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal observed: "Cable operators often bicker with TV channels over programming direction, but it is rare for such squabbles to land in court." The newspaper suggested that the ruling could touch off similar complaints from cable companies concerning programming changes by channels that they carry.
OOH, LA LA! THE BACHELOR HEADS FOR PARIS
ABC, which has seen the ratings for The Bachelor reality series plummet nearly 40 percent over the past two years, is hoping that the City of Lights will light them up again. For the first time, the producers of the reality series plan to take the show's setting out of the U.S., hoping that Paris, largely regarded as the world's most romantic city, will provide what it called "numerous seductive possibilities with vast scenic panoramas, intimate bistros and mysteries lurking around every corner and side street."
ALL NETS TO AIR SHUTTLE LAUNCH LIVE
For the first time in 18 years, all three major networks are planning to interrupt their programming on Wednesday to provide coverage of the planned launch of the space shuttle Discovery from Cape Canaveral, FL. While the broadcast networks indicated that they will limit their coverage to a half hour (the launch is set for 3:51 p.m. ET), the major cable news networks are expected to provide in-depth coverage.
BBC.COM HANDLES 115 MILLION PAGE VIEWS FOLLOWING ATTACK
The BBC not only provided the bulk of coverage of the London bombings for the U.S. television networks, but its website, http://news.bbc.co.uk, also proved to be the primary source of news about the attacks on the Internet. The BBC, citing figures by the Internet monitoring firm Hitwise, said today (Tuesday) that on Thursday it recorded some 115 million page views on its news site, more than five times its daily average and a record for the site. "At times of crisis, people turn to the BBC News website as their first port of call, for fast reliable updates and the context they need to put the story in perspective," said Nic Newman, head of editorial and technical development for the site. It credited the technology firm Akamai for providing a network of servers that cached the BBC web pages. There were also some eight million requests for video and audio clips. Meanwhile the London Daily Telegraph reported today that the BBC had reedited some of its coverage of the bombing incidents to avoid labeling the attackers as "terrorists." The newspaper, without citing sources, said that program producers were following BBC guidelines saying that the broadcaster's credibility is undermined by "careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgments." Thus, the guidelines continue, "the word 'terrorist' itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding" and its use should be "avoided."
U.K. BROADCAST UNIONS OUTRAGED OVER EXEC BONUSES
Leaders of Britain's broadcasting unions expressed outrage today (Tuesday) over revelations that top BBC officials received annual bonuses of nearly 25 percent of their salaries last year even while making plans to lay off thousands of employees in a cost-cutting move. BBC Director-General Mark Thompson waived his own bonus, remarking, "It just wouldn't have felt right." However, his top aide, Deputy Director-General Mark Byford, received $163,000 plus a $25,000 benefits package on top of his $625,000 regular salary, bringing his total pay for the year to $813,000. In a statement, Gerry Morrissey of BECTU, the primary broadcasting union, said that other BBC executives should have followed Thompson's example, asking, "where is the justification for huge bonuses? People should not be rewarded for putting thousands of people out of work."
SLUMP ENDS, BUT NO FANTASTIC RISE
The Fantastic Four has finally accomplished what all the better-reviewed blockbusters of the summer failed to do: lift the box office out of its record slump. Final figures on Monday indicated that the film took in $56 million over the weekend, pushing the overall box office to $148.9 million, up just 0.4 percent from the $148.3 million of the comparable weekend a year ago but enough to pull the industry out of a slump that had lasted 19 weekends in a row. War of the Worlds slid to second place, earning $30.5 million in its second week, a 53-percent drop. The only other new film, Disney's Dark Water, quickly sank with just $9.9 million, to land in fourth place. (MSNBC.com's "Scoop" column reported today that Walter Salles, the director of the film, is distancing himself from it and complaining about the final cut.) For the third week, the documentary March of the Penguins continued to outdraw all the big blockbusters on a per-theater basis. It earned $1.02 million on just 64 screens, placing it at No. 13 on the box office list. The film is due to expand to about 600 theaters on July 22.
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 Fantastic Four, 20th Century Fox, $56,061,504, (New); 2. War of the Worlds, Paramount, $30,469,118, 2 Wks. ($164,978,282); 3. Batman Begins, Warner Bros., $10,012,444, 4 Wks. ($171,901,777); 4. Dark Water, Disney, $9,939,251, (New); 5. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 20th Century Fox, $7,872,275, 5 Wks. ($158,669,309); 6. Herbie: Fully Loaded, Disney, $6,060,511, 3 Wks. ($48,292,675); 7. Bewitched, Sony, $5,583,833, 3 Wks. ($50,934,671); 8. Madagascar, DreamWorks, $4,009,053, 7 Wks. ($179,259,220); 9. Rebound, 20th Century Fox, $3,024,349, 2 Wks. ($11,513,266); 10. Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, 20th Century Fox, $2,600,800, 8 Wks. ($370,819,889).
DREAMWORKS HAS A "NIGHTMARE DAY"
DreamWorks' decision to spin off its animation division last October is not turning out the way the company had expected. On Monday, shares in the company fell 13.2 percent after it lowered its earnings estimates and acknowledged that it had been hit with six class action lawsuits alleging that it had inflated earnings projections, spiking a surge in the value of the company's stock, and later engaged in insider trading before it lowered its projections. "It was a nightmare day for DreamWorks," New York Daily News business writer Phyllis Furman commented in her column today (Tuesday). DreamWorks has maintained that the original projections, based primarily on its expectations for the hit movie Shrek 2, seemed sound when they were issued and were based on initial sales of the DVDs. It said it had no idea why demand for DVDs suddenly vanished resulting in millions of returns. Shares in the company, which were trading at a high of $42.60 last December have fallen to $22.80 at midmorning trading today (Tuesday). Analysts have observed that retailers are now no longer willing to stock DVD releases after their first few weeks on the shelves when sales slow. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said during a conference call on Monday: ""There is a tremendous amount of product in the marketplace. It's obviously much more crowded than it has been before. We don't know if this is a short-term issue or if some larger shift is going on."
SUNSET BOULEVARD TO BE REMADE AS A MOVIE MUSICAL
In yet another case of a film going to the stage then going back to film again, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful company has confirmed that it will produce a film version of Lloyd Webber's musical version of Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close reprising her stage role as Norma Desmond, the role originally made famous by Gloria Swanson in the 1950 classic. The BBC reported today (Tuesday) that the new film will have a budget of $60 million and is expected to be released during the Christmas holiday season next year.
DISNEY PLANNING "FULLY LOADED" DVD VERSION OF HERBIE
Taking the title Herbie: Fully Loaded
to heart, Disney is planning a fully loaded DVD version of its recent hit, including a 20-minute feature with Deborah Renshaw, NASCAR's top-ranked female driver. "I want viewers to take away a sense of what it feels like to be in a race car," Renshaw told Home Media Retailing magazine. The trade publication also said that some of the film's subplots that were removed from the theatrical release may be returned to the DVD version.
SINGER/MOVIE STAR FRANCES LANGFORD DEAD AT 91
Frances Langford, one of the best-known female pop singers of the 1940s and '50s, who starred in some 30 Hollywood musicals but was best known for her overseas appearances with Bob Hope on his famous USO tours during World War II, died in Jensen Beach, FL Monday at the age of 91. She also co-starred with the late Don Ameche on radio and TV, and with Ameche recorded one of the first hit comedy albums, The Bickersons, as the squabbling wife Blanche, a collection of scenes from the Langford-Ameche radio show of the same name.