COX, SONY, AND PADRES PLAY BALL
The cable and entertainment industries are keeping an eye on a joint venture by Cox Cable, Sony Electronics, and the San Diego Padres to promote high definition television in the San Diego market, the New York Times reported today (Tuesday). Under the arrangement, San Diego consumers who buy a Sony HDTV set receive 12 months of free HDTV programming from Cox. Sony, in turn, has purchased ads on Cox's high-definition channel, which carries 104 Padres games. The Padres, meanwhile, have bought 250 Sony HDTV sets and have installed them throughout their stadium, Petco Park, while Cox has bought dozens of additional Sony sets to give away during Padres games and to place in restaurants near the stadium.
KOJAK RETURNS -- AND HE'S BLACK
USA Network is hoping to revive the Kojak franchise with a new series starring Ving Rhames in the title role, replacing the late Telly Savalas, who died in 1994, the New York Post reported today (Tuesday). It is the first time in recent memory that a black actor has taken over a long-running role that was established by a white actor. The original series aired on CBS from 1973 to 1978 and was followed by numerous Kojak movies that aired on ABC. The new series is scheduled to begin production in Canada later this month.
SIXTH SENSE DIRECTOR TRIES TO BLOCK TV BIO ABOUT HIM
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) is trying to block a documentary about his life and career, now set to air on the Sci Fi Channel on July 18, the New York Daily News reported today (Tuesday). The newspaper said that initially director Nathaniel Kahn and producer Callum Greene had been invited to follow Shyamalan around as he filmed his new movie, The Village, and were invited to interview some of his friends and associates. But Kahn and Greene told the Daily News that after tracking friends and family from his childhood they discovered a "pivotal event" in Shyamalan's life, which they declined to reveal. When Shyamalan learned of their discovery, they contend, he attempted to shut down the production.
"ANIME" CHANNEL LAUNCHED IN INDIA
Sony Pictures Television International launched a 24-hour channel in India Monday dedicated entirely to Japanese "anime" (stylized animation). The company said that the channel, Animax, is the first of its kind in the world. SPTI said that it plans to provide the channel free initially but that it will later charge about $.65 per month.
FORMER BBC CHAIRMAN LAMBASTES BLAIR OFFICIALS
In his strongest attack on the Tony Blair government since being forced to resign as chairman of the BBC in January, Gavyn Davies said Monday that government officials used "witch hunt" methods to respond to a BBC report that it had "sexed up" an intelligence document to make the case for war against Iraq. The report cited an unnamed weapons expert whom the government later revealed was David Kelly, who committed suicide following his exposure. Following an investigation of the suicide by Lord Hutton, a report found that the BBC report was flawed and that editorial oversight over it was defective. In a speech at Middlesex University's business school in London, where he received an honorary doctorate Monday, Davies said, "The evidence given to Lord Hutton suggested that both the BBC and the government may have made some errors, but that much of the gist of Mr Gilligan's original story had been correct." Nevertheless, he continued, the government launched an attack against the BBC "in a remorseless and aggressive manner, with scant regard for the freedom of the press, or the independence of the BBC." Davies comments were reported exclusively in today's (Tuesday) Guardian newspaper.
ADS FOR CONDOM MANUFACTURER TROJAN PROTESTED IN U.K.
Condom manufacturers, who usually restrict their ads to late-night television and emphasize the protective aspects of their product, may be taking a new tack in the U.K. if an ad for the Trojan brand is any indication. Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Tuesday) that the TV watchdog Ofcom has rejected 209 complaints from viewers about a portrayal of a woman experiencing an orgasm as a voiceover intones: "New shared pleasure from Trojan condoms." In its decision, Ofcom said, "Condom advertising is relatively uncommon on mainstream channels and it is especially unusual for it to focus on a sex act, as this one does." Nevertheless, the watchdog continued, "We felt while the advertisement was strongly suggestive it was not explicit, and didn't think it was out of place after 9:00 p.m."
WEB SLINGER NETS BOX-OFFICE RECORDS
Moviegoers sat on millions of tuffets to see Spider-Man 2 in the nation's theaters over the Independence Day weekend, setting numerous records. The film took in an estimated $115.8 million over the four-day holiday period, setting a record for the holiday. It also set a record for its first six days -- $180 million -- and seemed certain to hit $200 million by Wednesday, which would make it the fastest film to pass that mark. The previous record for a six-day opening was set by last year's The Matrix Reloaded, which took in $146.9 million during that period. Meanwhile, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 remained a big draw as it took in another $21 million, just 12 percent less than last week, to bring its total to $60.1 million. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Times, Tom Ortenberg, head of Lions Gate Entertainment, one of the film's distributors, remarked: "We absorbed the blow of Spidey quite well." Damned as unpatriotic by its opponents, the film was expected to take a steep dive over the patriotic holiday. By contrast, Disney's red-white-and-blue documentary America's Heart and Soul opened poorly with just $173,000 in 98 theaters over the four days, despite efforts by Fahrenheit foes to support it. In its seventh week, DreamWorks' Shrek 2, adding another $7.9 million to its gross, reached $410.2 million to become the fifth biggest domestic grosser of all time, replacing the original Spider-Man in that spot. Opening on just 16 screens, the Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely, starring Kevin Kline, earned a strong $384,000. The Robert Redford thriller The Clearing from Fox Searchlightdebuted on 56 screens, earning $647,000. And Castle Rock's Before Sunset bowed on 20 screens with $303,000. Ticket sales for the top 12 films totaled $158.5 million for the Friday-through-Sunday period, up 25 percent from the comparable weekend last year, and the most ever recorded for a Fourth of July weekend. The top ten films for the four-day holiday weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Spider-Man 2, $115.8 million; 2. Fahrenheit 9/11, $21 million; 3. White Chicks, $12 million; 4. DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, $10.45 million; 5. The Notebook, $10.3 million; 6. The Terminal, $10.2 million; 7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, $8.1 million; 8. Shrek 2, $7.9 million; 9. (tie) Garfield: The Movie, $3.6 million; 9. (tie) Two Brothers, $3.6 million.
BOX OFFICE SOARS IN JUNE
After weathering a disappointing April and May, the box office received a shot in the arm from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in June, pushing it to a total of $1.03 billion for the month, 14 percent above the previous record for June, $906.6 million, set last year. Analysts observed that the increase was attributed not only to higher ticket prices, but also to rising admissions, which hit a record 163.5 million.
WILL HARVEY WEINSTEIN QUIT MIRAMAX?
Harvey Weinstein is expected to announce as early as today (Tuesday) that he is leaving Miramax, the studio that he founded, to set up his own independent production company, the New York Post reported today, citing unnamed sources. The newspaper said that under the plan negotiated with Disney, Weinstein's films would be distributed by Miramax, which would remain under the sole command of his brother and Miramax co-founder, Bob Weinstein. The newspaper reiterated an earlier prediction that Weinstein might team up with Pixar's Steve Jobs in an effort to buy MGM.
STRAIGHT ACTORS ACCEPTING MORE GAY ROLES
Although it remains virtually unheard of for an openly gay actor to play a leading romantic role opposite a female star, the number of straight actors willing to accept gay roles appears to be rising, published reports indicated on Monday. In fact, according to the British website gay.co.uk, Jude Law has agreed to play a gay character for a second time, this time opposite Paul Bettany in a new theatrical adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. (Bettany's character also has a female love interest in the movie, played by his real-life wife, Jennifer Connelly.) Law also played a gay character in the 1997 movie Wilde. Other straight actors appearing as gay characters: Colin Farrell in A Home at the End of the World and Alexander; Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall in Brokeback Mountain; and Kevin Kline in De-Lovely. (He also played a gay man in 1997's In and Out.
BRUCKHEIMER SAYS HE'D RATHER CUT THAN FIGHT
Jerry Bruckheimer has told reporters that he was not averse to cutting some of the bloodier battle scenes in King Arthur, which opens Wednesday, in order to land a PG-13 rating instead of the original R. After being bombarded with questions about his decision not to appeal the rating, Bruckheimer remarked, "If I were sitting here and this picture was R, everybody would be saying, 'Why do you have the violence, why do you need the gratuitous violence? Do you have to chop off people's heads?' ... So, you know, whatever I do is wrong."
MORE THAN A CONTENDER?
British satirist Alan Coren has taken note of reports that Marlon Brando was virtually broke when he died last weekend after shelling out a fortune on lawyers -- principally to defend his son Christian (unsuccessfully) against murder charges. "If anyone is going to cough up for his headstone," Coren writes in his column today (Tuesday) in the London Times, "I want its inscription to read: "You shoulda looked after me. I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a lawyer."