SAG: DEAL UNLIKELY BY MONTH'S END

Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg has conceded that a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is unlikely to be concluded by June 30, when the current contract expires. In an interview with Daily Variety, Rosenberg blamed AFTRA for the slow-going negotiations. "Our progress has really slowed down ever since AFTRA made its deal," he said. He added that no decision has been made about taking a strike vote but that it will be made "fairly soon." In any case, he said, "We can certainly work past the expiration date while we're still negotiating." On Wednesday SAG held a Town Hall meeting in Hollywood where members received fact sheets blasting the AFTRA deal. AFTRA later said in effect that the fact sheets misrepresented what was achieved. It said that it would hold is own informational meetings for members about the contract today (Thursday) and Monday.

PARAMOUNT HITS A PEAK

Suddenly Paramount, a whipping boy among the major studios as it perennially came in last or near last when yearly earnings were disclosed, is now whipping everybody in sight. It is doing so with just three films, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man and Cloverfield, which, according to Bloomberg News, account for 70 percent of the studio's revenue this year. The studio has so far taken in $823 million in North America.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE INCREDIBLE HULK

Marvel's The Incredible Hulk, who first muscled his way into theaters in 2003 and had to fight off critics upon his arrival, returns at midnight tonight (Thursday), and he's earning a bit more respect -- and probably more green as well. Claudia Puig in USA Today says the new Hulk "is more viscerally angry and packs a bigger wallop than Ang Lee's talkier, more introspective version" and that while there are plotholes, "as a popcorn movie steeped in action, it keeps our attention." Lou Lumenick says that when it comes to fans of the comic book and the TV series, the new Hulk "squarely hits the target." However, he adds, the sequel is "only fitfully successful in engaging the middle ground -- us nonhard-core fans." Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle says that the new film does not attempt to make "a thinking-person's action movie," as Ang Lee attempted to do with his Hulk. Instead, he remarks, the film "embraces its identity as a sci-fi-summer-action-blockbuster extravaganza." The trade papers predict that the film will show lots of strength at the box office. "This loud and quick-moving production will shake loose ample coin in all markets," writes Todd McCarthy in Daily Variety. Adds Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter: "The film is poised to carry the weekend buoyed by an unbeatable combination of buzz and hype."

SEMI-PRO MAKES BIG COMEBACK -- ON DVD

The Will Ferrell comedy Semi-Pro, a disappointment when it was released in theaters last March, where it earned only $33 million domestically, bounced back on the video charts last week. Apparently timed to come out while interest in the NBA Finals was high, the basketball comedy debuted in first place on all three major charts -- sales, rental and Blu-ray high definition.

NEWMAN "SEEMED FINE," SAYS FRIEND

Unconfirmed reports originally published by the British tabloid The Star and in the U.S. by the National Enquirer that Paul Newman was dying of lung cancer received new impetus when writer A.E. Hotchner (Papa Hemingway, King of the Hill), a friend and business partner, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that Newman told him 18 months ago that he was fighting "a form of cancer and he's dealing with it." Later, Hotchner maintained that the AP had misquoted him, telling Access Hollywood, "I saw him last week and he seemed fine. ... I have no knowledge of any diagnosis or doctors." The AP said that it stood by its story. Newman himself appeared to be treating the reports whimsically, repeating a comment he made last February when rumors originally arose that he was in failing health. His doctors, he said, have been treating him "for athlete's foot and hair loss."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.