WILL LEGAL EAGLE ABRAMS FLY AT MSNBC?In a rare instance of an on-air news personality being named to a top network executive position, NBC News legal correspondent and MSNBC host Dan Abrams was named general manager of MSNBC Monday. NBC News President Steve Capus said that he had begun receiving memos from Abrams about how to improve the news channel's programming after Capus took over a year ago. "His memo were thoughtful and insightful and provocative," Capus told the Associated Press. "There was one that was eight pages long." In a separate interview with the New York Post, Capus remarked, "Dan is an unconventional pick -- I get that -- but unconventional times call for you to be creative in your selection, and that's what we've done." Interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Abrams said that he will reluctantly give up hosting The Abrams Report, which airs in primetime on MSNBC. "I love the show. I'm very sentimental about it. ... It's very hard to walk away from it. This is a unique opportunity that made it worthwhile," Abrams remarked.


Avid British soccer fans, who have a reputation for what the British call "hooliganism," have forced the BBC to turn off giant TV screens showing World Cup matches in London and Liverpool after violent clashes erupted in crowds watching them on Saturday. The BBC said that it had made the decision to switch off the screens following meetings with local authorities in the two cities. In a statement, the publicly funded broadcaster said, "We will only show World Cup matches when those responsible for public safety agree that we should. This decision will clearly be a disappointment to many people but the activities of a tiny minority has jeopardized the enjoyment of many." Meanwhile, Americans hoping to see the United States team establish its legitimacy in World Cup competition watched with disappointment as the team was routed 3-0 by the Czech Republic Monday night. Nevertheless, ABC's telecasts of three World Cup matches over the weekend showed a 65-percent rise over the comparable early matches in 2002, while Spanish-language Univision said that its first eight World Cup telecasts were watched by an average of 2.6 million people -- up 1.7 million from 2002.


A lengthy article in the current New Yorkmagazine has depicted ABC's World News Tonightanchor Charles Gibson as a cunning opportunist who rode roughshod over colleagues including Diane Sawyer, Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff in his quest for the job. Last week, Gibson denounced the author of the article, Joe Hagan, as "something of a snake" and vowed never to talk to him again. According to Hagan, Gibson threatened to quit the network when his contract ends next year unless he was named sole anchor. Moreover, Hagan reported, Gibson also told ABC News President David Westin that he would refuse to substitute for Vargas during her maternity leave, scheduled to begin in August. When Westin finally gave Vargas the word that Gibson would replace her, Hagan writes, "Vargas was taken by complete surprise" and "felt betrayed."


Extending the string of delays that has kept the Sony-developed Blu-ray high-definition DVD player off the market, Sony announced Monday that it plans to beginning shipping the player around the 15th of August instead of later this month as originally announced. Meanwhile, Korea's Samsung continues to assert on its website that it intends to release its own Blu-ray player on June 25th, although some analysts are expressing skepticism over whether Samsung will be able to keep that date, noting that it would be extraordinary for the company that created the Blu-ray technology to allow another company to beat it to market with it. SPEED TRAP FOR CARS?Ticket sales for Disney/Pixar's Carsdropped significantly below what the company had expected on Sunday -- usually a good day for family films. As a result, the final weekend tally came to $60.1 million, rather than $62.8 million, as the studio had estimated. The drop in ticket sales seemed to suggest that word-of-mouth was not so strong as it had been for Pixar's previous animated films. (There were reports over the weekend that some parents were leaving theaters with restless kids before the movie ended.) If so, mid-week ticket sales for the movie -- usually a strong time for family fare during the first week of school vacation -- could be seriously affected. In any event, investors, sensing that Pixar may not prove to be the infallible entity that it was cracked up to be, began unloading Disney shares Monday. (At one point in early trading, they were down nearly 4 percent but then seemed to rebound, closing the day off 1.5 percent at $28.90.) In a note to clients, Citigroup analyst Jason Bazinet downgraded the stock to "hold" from "buy." Banc of America analyst Doug Shapiro wrote that the lower-than-expected box-office results for Cars raised "questions about the rationale for the Pixar deal." (Disney had acquired Pixar earlier in the year for $7.4 billion.) However, Doug Mitchelson of Deutsche Bank Securities pointed out, "The movie has little competition most of the rest of the summer and could continue to see revenue through the end of August." And several analysts stuck to forecasts that the film would earn between $600 million and $650 million worldwide. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):1. Cars, Disney, $60,119,509, (New); 2. The Break-up, Universal, $20,325,790, 2 Wks. ($73,926,040); 3. X-Men: The Last Stand, 20th Century Fox, $16,078,578, 3 Wks. ($202,244,652); 4. The Omen, 20th Century Fox, $16,026,496, 1 Wk. ($36,301,837); 5. The Da Vinci Code, Sony, $10,443,347, 4 Wks. ($189,171,331); 6. Over the Hedge, DreamWorks, $10,221,499, 4 Wks. ($130,213,521); 7. A Prairie Home Companion, Picturehouse, $4,566,293, (New); 8. Mission: Impossible 3, Paramount, $3,020,816, 6 Wks. ($127,491,115); 9. RV, Sony, $1,910,564, 7 Wks. ($64,921,678); 10. Poseidon, Warner Bros., $1,833,493, 5 Wks. ($54,928,443).


Twentieth Century Fox has become the latest studio to allow CinemaNow to sell its movies online -- $9.95 to download older movies; $19.95 for newer ones -- joining Warner Bros., Disney, Sony, and MGM. A slew of older films will be available for downloading starting today (Tuesday), the company said, while new releases will be available on the same day that they are released on DVD. Moreover, the deal with Fox calls for a number of TV shows to be added to the mix at $1.99 per episode. They include each episode of the first season of 24, Prison Break, Lost in Space,and Buffy the Vampire Slayer,as well as content from Fox's cable shows, including FX, Fuel TV and Speed. In a statement, Peter Levinsohn, president of Fox Digital Media, said, "Our goal is to accommodate our customers wherever they are, and CinemaNow is helping us to do just that." Analysts have noted, however, that there are limits to the accommodation: the films can only be viewed on not more than three devices compatible with Microsoft Windows Media; they cannot be burned to a DVD so that they can be easily viewed on a TV set; they are priced about the same as DVDs but do not offer the "extras;" and they cannot be viewed on video iPods. (Fox has a separate deal with Apple.)


Although imprisoned private eye Anthony Pellicano predicted over the weekend that prosecutors would never be able to produce recordings of conversations that he allegedly wiretapped, federal prosecutors are trying to decode more than 275 encrypted recordings that they seized at his offices, they said in court Monday. Reporting on the hearing, at which Pellicano's attorneys charged that the government is intentionally withholding evidence from them, today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Timesquoted prosecutors as telling the judge that they had been stymied in their efforts to decode the recordings because of complex encryption. Co-prosecutor Daniel Saunders told the court that if defense attorneys "are so desperate to get those files ... the man with the password is sitting right here."


Producer Marshall Herskovitz, whose credits include the movies The Last Samuraiand Traffic and the TV series thirtysomething and My So-Called Life, has been elected president of the Producers Guild of America, succeeding Kathleen Kennedy.


Dallas: The Moviewill be shot in Dallas, after all, the Dallas Film Commission said Monday. At least four weeks of filming will be based in the Texas city that gave the classic TV series its name. Eight weeks of additional production will be completed in Louisiana, a state that offers producers far more advantageous tax incentives than Texas. In an interview with television station KTVT, Dallas Film Commission Director Janis Burklund remarked, "I would have hoped for the whole thing. ... However, I would have to say yes, it is still a win. We're getting more than we initially thought. Initially they told me four or five days ... so yeah, I'm happy." CORRECTION:In an item in Monday's edition we mentioned that MovieTickets.com is owned by AMC Theatres. Other owners of the ticket-selling site include National Amusements and its corporate progeny Viacom, Hollywood Media, and Canada's Famous Players; Marcus Theatres; and America Online."