BIKE RACE ENDS; WHERE'S WINNER?
In what today's (Monday) New York Times described as "a foul-up of epic proportion," the Outdoor Life Network, which had carried exclusive live coverage of the Tour de France bicycle race, was unable to show Lance Armstrong crossing the finish line Sunday to win his sixth championship until 25 minutes after the race ended -- and then, only a 10-second clip. Executives of the network blamed French producers, who supplied most of the feed, which OLN augmented. In fact the French feed failed to show Armstrong crossing the finish line at all, and OLN had to rely on one of its own cameraman who was shooting tape. "We had to wait for him to make it to our production truck before we could use it," John Carter, OLN's vice president for production, told the Times.
BROKAW VS. JENNINGS
NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw has ridiculed ABC's plans to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the political conventions on its digital channels and on the Internet. In an interview with today's (Monday) New York Times, Brokaw predicted that ABC "will have [an audience of] eight people exposed to what [ABC News anchor Peter Jennings] is doing gavel to gavel." Jennings, who reportedly pushed for the digital broadcasts from the conventions, retorted: "Perhaps for Tom [the conventions are] as much a social occasion as it is for some of the delegates. I think of it more as a target of opportunity." CBS anchor Dan Rather declined to join the wrangling, telling the Times: "I'm not going to touch that one with a 15-foot pole."
BIG AD BUYER AT&T BOWS OUT OF CONSUMER ADS
In a blow to broadcasters, AT&T, one of the country's largest advertisers, has announced that it will quit marketing consumer telephone services and focus on business-to-business services. Advertising Age observed that AT&T, which spent more than $1 billion in advertising last year, was "one of the world's two leading megabrands." AT&T has indicated that while it has no plans to discontinue its service to residential customers, it does not intend to seek additional ones.
NICKELODEON TO TELL KIDS, GO OUT AND PLAY
Responding to recent studies blaming kids' fascination with television in part for rising juvenile obesity, the Nickelodeon channel says it plans to preempt its programming from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Oct. 2 to air messages telling kids to go outside and play. In an interview with today's (Monday) New York Daily News, Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami remarked: ""If we're to keep our loyal audience," said Zarghami, "we have to do more than just put out entertainment." Nevertheless, Zarghami conceded: "I don't expect that every kid in America is all of a sudden going to go into the backyard and start playing football with their families. ... There will be kids who will just turn to something else."
RAYMOND PRODUCER SAYS CBS LOVES SHOW TOO MUCH
Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal has acknowledged that CBS chief Les Moonves has been pressuring him to develop more than the 16 episodes that he has agreed to produce for next season (down from the usual 24) and to turn out a one-hour series finale. Rosenthal told Orlando Sentinel TV writer Hal Boedeker: "They can pressure me, but it's a half hour." He also indicated that the show's writers are struggling to turn out the final 16 episodes. "I would have been fine ending this past season," Rosenthal said. "We were pretty close to saying, 'No go.' ... There were a few things that I wanted, and I wanted to make sure that the staff and crew were going to be paid for a full season of episodes, even though we were only going to do 16, and CBS generously agreed to that."
GAY CHANNEL NOW SET TO LAUNCH FEB. 17
LOGO, Viacom's new gay channel, plans to launch on Feb. 17, with a line-up heavy on fresh programming, much of it unscripted. Among the programs is Family Outing produced by Cher and daughter Chastity, who is a gay rights advocate and the author of a book with the same title that describes coming-out experiences. Other programs include Fantastic Voyage, focusing on gay ocean cruises, and My Fabulous Gay Wedding, described as "a wish fulfillment show."
RICH BIRTH FOR BOURNE
The Bourne Supremacy was born supreme at the box office over the weekend as the Matt Damon-starring spy thriller raked in a surprising $53.5 million, according to studio estimates. The Universal film pushed last week's No. 1 film, 20th Century Fox's I Robot, to second place with about $22.1 million. Warner Bros.' Catwoman, which had been expected to vie with Bourne for the top spot, came in a disappointing third with just $17.2 million. Sony's Spider-Man 2 dropped to fourth place with $15 million, bringing its gross to $328.5 million. Meanwhile, Fahrenheit 9/11 crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday, representing another record for the documentary and opening a new window of opportunity for non-fiction filmmakers. (The film has also earned more than $20 million overseas.) Noting that previously studios and exhibitors could not be convinced that an audience existed for such films, Moore told today's (Monday) Hollywood Reporter: "Now, the challenge is on myself and other filmmakers to continue making things for this audience." He also used the occasion to take another swipe at Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who refused to allow Miramax to distribute the film. Taking note of the fact that Fahrenheit has earned more than any Disney film this year, he remarked: "I think his stockholders may wonder what his fiduciary responsibility is at this point." The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. The Bourne Supremacy, $53.5 million; 2. I, Robot, $22.05 million; 3. Catwoman, $17.16 million; 4. Spider-Man 2, $15 million; 5. A Cinderella Story, $8.04 million; 6. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, $7.1 million; 7. Fahrenheit 9/11, $5 million; 8. The Notebook, $4.45 million; 9. King Arthur, $3.06 million; 10. Shrek 2, $2.4 million.
U.S.-BASED PRODUCER SPEARHEADS THAI "MOVIE TOWN"
Plans to build a vast "movie town" aimed at making Thailand the Hollywood of Asia were unveiled today (Monday) by Tony To, chairman of U.S.-based Studios International Ltd. To, who co-exec produced and co-directed the HBO series Band of Brothers, told the Bangkok Post that the project would likely include both Thai and American investors, including Steven Spielberg, with whom he has a long-term relationship. Plans call for the 60-80-acre campus to be self-contained and include studios, offices, post-production facilities, an animation house, and a film studies academy to be overseen by the University of Southern California. To told the Bangkok Post that he expects the first phase of the studio to begin construction in January and to be completed by October, with Band of Brothers II among the new studio's first projects. He indicated that Studios International is seeking tax breaks and other incentives from Thailand's Board of Investment. "The project would support Thailand's ambition of becoming the movie hub of the East," he said.
EPISODE III NOW HAS A NAME
The sixth and final installment of George Lucas's epic Star Wars film series will be titled Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, according to the official site for the film. In an announcement posted on the site Sunday, the filmmakers said, "The Sith are masters of the dark side of the Force and the sworn enemies of the Jedi. They were all but exterminated by the Jedi a thousand years ago, but the evil order continued in secrecy. They operated quietly, behind the scenes, acting in pairs -- a Master and an Apprentice -- patiently biding their time before they could take over the galaxy. In Episode III, they'll finally exact their revenge on the Jedi." The film will end where the first film, released in 1977, began.
In yet another technological miracle, Laurence Olivier, who died 15 years ago, will be resurrected to play a role in the forthcoming sci-fi film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, according to Jude Law, who stars in the title role of the film. Appearing at the annual Comic-Con convention in San Diego, Law disclosed that the filmmakers plan to use old footage of the actor in his prime and show him "in hologram form." As reported by the Associated Press, Law remarked: "It was important we find someone with incredible power. And a lot of the great classical actors of today have already done those roles. ... We suddenly thought, 'Hang on a minute ... It might actually work with someone who is deceased.'" Olivier's voice will be dubbed by another actor, he said. The movie is due to be released on Sept. 17.
ALTMAN TO MAKE MOVIE BASED ON RADIO SHOW
Recalling a bygone day when popular radio shows were often translated to the screen, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Saturday that Minnesota Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion will become director Robert Altman's next movie. According to the newspaper, plans call for production to begin in January if financing can be arranged, with Garrison Keillor, the radio show's star, writing and starring in the film along with Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Tom Waits, and Lyle Lovett. In an interview with the newspaper, Keillor said that he is a big fan of Altman's. "He's a true American independent who's been amazingly productive over an eon of time, made his own way on his own terms in and outside of the big studios, done things the way he saw them, had his hits and misses and never broke stride," he said.
SHAREHOLDERS SUIT AIMED AT NETFLIX
Claiming that top executives of online video renter Netflix misled investors by failing to disclose fully the number of subscriber cancellations, two law firms have filed shareholder lawsuits against the company. As reported by Video Store magazine, the lawsuits attribute the recent 38-percent drop in the company's share price to revelations in the company's SEC filings that the increase in "churn" -- subscribers opting out -- and the necessity to increase spending to counteract the exodus had resulted in a sharp decline in profits. Earlier, the lawsuits contend, Netflix execs had made statements intimating that the churn rate was declining. Some analysts have expressed skepticism about Netflix's longterm viability. Today's (Monday) New York Times quoted Sandy Brasher, a research analyst at Rice Voelker, as saying: "The average Joe who lives in Plano, Texas, and has a $50 DVD player from Wal-Mart is not going to spend $22 a month ad infinitum at some subscription place."