ANCHORS "PARACHUTED" INTO MIDDLE EAST

As hostilities escalated in the Middle East, network and cable news operations began shifting resources to the region. NBC's Brian Williams and ABC's Charles Gibson were reportedly heading toward the Middle East. On CBS Friday, correspondent Lara Logan in Israel became a de facto co-anchor of The CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer as she coordinated reports from the turbulent region. Fox News dispatched Shepard Smith and Bill Hemmer overseas, while CNN bolstered its CNN International coverage and combined it with its U.S. telecasts; Anderson Cooper has been airing his 360 program from the Middle East hot spots since last week. MSNBC, which ordinarily offers mostly canned programming on weekends, substantially increased the number of hours of live news reports.

KATIE: EVERYWHERE EXCEPT THE K-K-K-KITCHEN DOOR

CBS plans to simulcast the first five minutes of The CBS Evening News on CBS Radio affiliates when Katie Couric takes over as anchor on Tuesday, Sept. 5, the network said Sunday. CBS indicated that a number of its stations in the East had already signed on to air the program. The network did not indicate whether radio stations on the West Coast would carry the program live in the afternoons or delay it until early evening. In addition, CBS said that Couric would also develop a one-minute feature to air on CBS Radio at 4:25 each afternoon to be titled "Katie Couric Reports." Presumably this will replace a similar program, "Dan Rather Reports," that had previously aired on the radio stations. CBS also said that it will use the Internet to repurpose the evening newscast in several ways. Extended interviews conducted by Couric and CBS correspondents for the program will be posted on the CBS website. They'll each be about 3-4 minutes long. Couric will also be seen in a daily webcast in which she will discuss the stories being considered for the evening newscast. She will sometimes be joined by correspondents who will appear on the news program. Finally Couric will tape a web-exclusive version of CBS Evening News and preside over a daily blog to "create a transparent, two-way, continuing dialogue with viewers."

COURIC MEETS PRESS; PRESS IS UNIMPRESSED

Katie Couric's appearance before the television critics conference in Pasadena Sunday received mostly negative notices from the writers, who accused her of sounding like a public relations representative in her response to their questions. While Couric said she intends to "try some new things [and] take some risks" she provided no details of what sort of new things and risks she is considering, explaining that she did not want the competition to learn about the network's "trade secrets." Commented Tim Goodman, the TV critic for the San Francisco Chronicle: "Uh, there are trade secrets to this business? Really." Lisa de Moraes in the Washington Post remarked that Couric sprayed humility across the press room "like Mentos in a Coke bottle." Scott Collins harumphed in the Los Angeles Times's industry Blog "Channel Island" that Couric "sounded less like a journalist than the suavest corporate PR person who ever oiled her way across a stage."

RATHER WANTED ONE-HOUR SHOW, SAYS MCMANUS

In the weeks prior to his departure, Dan Rather lobbied CBS News President Sean McManus for a one-hour time period to provide an in-depth look at the most pressing issues of the day, McManus disclosed over the weekend. Speaking to TV writers and columnists at their semi-annual press tour in Pasadena, CA, McManus said that he had been unable to persuade CBS executives to grant Rather the time. He said that he finally got together with Rather on June 25, the former anchor's final day at the network, and asked for Rather's advice on a number of unspecified topics. He said he planned to continue to discuss those topics with Rather in the future. On a different subject, McManus said that the network intends to "embrace the exposure" that the website YouTube.com offers CBS programs and confessed that it was a mistake when he demanded that the website remove a clip about an inspirational basketball player. "Our inclination now is, the more exposure we get from clips like that, the better it is for CBS News and the CBS television network," he said.

TALENT'S A SUMMER SUCCESS -- BUT WILL IT BE IN THE FALL?

Although NBC's new America's Got Talent

has managed to draw strong ratings and even rise to the top spot of the Nielsen ratings list for the past two weeks, the jury's still out on whether it will wind up as a hit TV series once the regular season begins, the New York Times observed today (Monday). The newspaper pointed out that the show has failed to garner the kind of excitement that Fox's American Idol did and that it has not produced the juggernaut ratings of some other summer hits, including CBS's Survivor and ABC's 2005 summer hit Dancing With the Stars. (Although America's Got Talent ranked number one last week in the Nielsens, it got to the top spot during a week that saw fewer viewers tune in to network TV in all of history.)

PIRATES BECOMES YEAR'S TOP FILM -- IN 10 DAYS

Pirates of the Caribbean remained hotter than a July weekend in Barbados as it took in an estimated $62.2 million between Friday and Sunday to bring its 10-day total to $258.2 million and becoming the biggest money maker at the box office this year. It seemed certain to cross the $300-million mark by next weekend. But the biggest surprise may have been the second-place finish of Sony/Revolution's Wayans brothers comedy Little Man, which took in $21.7 million to finish second. It had been expected to earn something in the high 'teens. Little Man edged out Universal's You, Me, and Dupree, starring Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson, which debuted in third place with $21.3 million -- a figure that was also better than expected. The real disappointment at the box office continued to be Superman Returns, which managed to pull in only $11.6 million to bring its total to $163.6 million since its June 28 debut. It took in only slightly more than The Devil Wears Prada, which accompanied the Man of Steel into theaters three weeks ago. Prada, which stars Meryl Streep, fell to fifth place with $10.5 million, bringing its total to $83 million. Nevertheless, despite the strong numbers, they were down 5 percent from the same weekend last year when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- another Johnny Depp flick -- topped the box office.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, $62.2 million; 2. Little Man, $21.7 million; 3. You, Me and Dupree, $21.3 million; 4. Superman Returns, $11.6 million; 5. The Devil Wears Prada, $10.45 million; 6. Cars, $7.5 million; 7. Click, $7 million; 8. The Lake House, $1.6 million; 9. Nacho Libre, $1.5 million; 10. A Scanner Darkly, $1.2 million.

PIRATES PLUNDERS 17 MORE COUNTRIES

Pirates of the Caribbean

opened in 17 additional countries over the weekend and finished in first place in every one of them. Now showing in 24 overseas markets, the film took in $58 million to bring its overseas gross to $125 million. It set new box office records for opening weekend results in Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Singapore and Malaysia. Warner Bros., meanwhile, expanded its release of Superman Returns, but the film took in only $38 million and was well behind Pirates where the two films competed head-to-head.

ATTORNEY FIELDS SAYS PELLICANO "BETTER" THAN OTHER PRIVATE EYES

Celebrity attorney Bert Fields, who has been frequently linked to the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping scandal, has praised the incarcerated private detective as "the best." In an interview with The New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta, Fields says that Pellicano "came up with stuff that other people didn't. He did that over and over again. He was just better. ... I don't know how he did it. It certainly wasn't wiretapping." Auletta also quoted Fields's law partner, Bonnie Eskenazi, as saying that Pellicano never disclosed to her how he often came up with his "fantastic" information. "And I didn't tell him how I practice law." But Auletta maintains that "even some of Fields's friends believe that the attorney either knew the private detective's methods or deliberately avoided knowing." In a separate interview with Auletta, former &#252ber-agent and Disney President Michael Ovitz compared Pellicano with the character Paul Drake, the private detective on the old Perry Mason TV series. "He always came in at the last minute and slipped a note to Perry Mason in court at the most critical time. So now I say to myself, 'Let's see here, did Perry Mason ask Paul how he got that information?' Don't think so. 'Did Paul get it all legally?' Don't know. ... But, whichever it was, it sure seemed to save the day for poor Perry.

J.J. ABRAMS, THE NEXT SPIELBERG?

J. J. Abrams, the 40-year-old writer-producer who co-created ABC's Lost and went on to direct Paramount's Mission: Impossible 3, has signed separate deals with Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. TV that together are worth more than $55 million, published reports said over the weekend. The two deals make Abrams, in the words of today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, "one of the entertainment industry's most highly paid auteurs." Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. TV, told the Times that "an opportunity presented itself" to woo Abrams away from Disney "and we went for it." Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey added that he believes Abrams will become "the next Steven Spielberg" and called him "a triple threat: a great writer, producer and now, a first-class movie director." His first assignment for Paramount, the Times said, is likely to be a film that will revive the Star Trek franchise.

MOVIELINK TO UNVEIL NEW COPYRIGHT-PROTECTION SYSTEM

Santa Monica-based Movielink, which currently has deals with major studios to permit its customers to legally download movies onto their computers, is expected to announced today (Monday) that it will make software available on its website that will allow those movies to be securely copied onto DVDs. The software, from Sonic Solutions of Novato, CA, contains copy-protection codes that prevents a customer from making multiple copies. Some analysts believe that the software will help Movielink compete more effectively against brick-and-mortar DVD outlets.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.