PIRATES UNSTOPPABLE OVERSEAS

Business may have slowed for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End domestically, but it's riding high overseas where it has topped $500 million in just 20 days, a record, the Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday. Daily Variety reported today (Thursday) that the achievement beats Spider-Man 3 by an entire week and that the figure represents two of every three dollars of the movie's worldwide gross. As of Tuesday, the domestic total for Pirates stood at $257.7 million; overseas, at $505.6 million; worldwide, at $763.1 million. A somewhat shortened version opened in China on Tuesday, taking in $1.3 million, the studio said, noting that the country's censors had demanded a number of cuts mostly involving Chow Yun-Fat, who portrays a Chinese pirate Captain.

MOVIE ACADEMY ALTERS PRODUCERS RULES

Following this year's flap over who were the principal producers of the Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has agreed to change its rules, which had stipulated that only three full-time producers could be eligible to receive a best-picture Oscar. Under the new rules, "any additional qualified producer" can be added to the list of nominees should the producers branch of the academy determine that "a rare and extraordinary circumstance" has arisen. In a statement, AMPAS President Sid Ganis said, "The committee and the governors believe strongly that it's very important to have a limit on the number of producers who can be nominated and potentially receive an Oscar statuette. But we also recognize that a truly unique situation could arise, and we want to have just enough flexibility to allow for that rare occurrence." This year the academy removed two producers from the list of five submitted for Little Miss Sunshine. Ironically all five received awards from the Producers Guild of America when it voted the movie best picture of 2006.

SAG GETS TOUGH WITH "FI-CORE" ACTORS

The Screen Actors Guild intends to get tough with actors who elect to file for "financial core" status, which allows them to pay only for the costs of union business, such as negotiations with employers if they work on union jobs, but does not allow their money to be used for political purposes. It also allows them to accept work for non-union employers. SAG said Wednesday that it will not permit "fi-core" actors back into the union without first appearing before a disciplinary panel and describe all non-union work they have performed.

TREASURY COULD FINE RESCUERS WHO VISITED CUBA WITH MOORE

The Treasury Department wants to know how Michael Moore was able to travel with about a dozen 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba, where they were able to buy prescription drugs cheaply and receive free health care under the country's socialized medicine system -- all seemingly in violation of the Cuban embargo, Newsweek magazine observed on its website Wednesday. The rescuers appear in a segment of Moore's forthcoming documentary, Sicko. The magazine reported that Moore's production company credentialed the men as journalists, then flew them to Miami on a charter flight that ordinarily carries only licensed travelers. But Angel Marques, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Miami insisted that no one can board such a flight without a license from the Treasury Department. Newsweek indicated that the Treasury's investigation goes beyond Moore and encompasses the rescue workers as well, each of whom could be fined $65,000.

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR SETTLES DISCRIMINATION CASE AGAINST UNIVERSAL

Only one day into the trial of a racial-discrimination lawsuit brought by a former assistant director against Universal Pictures, the studio agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed figure. Frank Davis, who had charged that he was fired as first assistant director on Neal Moritz's 2 Fast 2 Furious because he is African-American, had testified earlier in the day that "I did what I was supposed to be doing and I was fired." Director John Singleton, who is also African-American, told the court that he had opposed Davis's firing. But Universal production executive Andrew Fenady testified that Davis had been terminated because of his lack of experience, which had resulted in "sheer and total chaos" on the set and because of a complaint from the studio's transportation captain that Davis was "going to get someone killed out here." The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has charged that Davis never received notice of any perceived lapses in his performance and that production reports had indicated that filming was on schedule while he was working on it.

THEATER BOOTS PROJECTIONIST WHO WROTE EARLY REVIEW

A Memphis theater projectionist has been suspended for writing an early -- and negative -- review of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer that appeared on the website Ain't It Cool News last Saturday. Jesse Morrison, who attends the University of Memphis, told the Hollywood Reporter that on Monday, he was called into a meeting with Malco Theatres executive Jimmy Tashie, who, he claims, told him that "20th Century Fox called them that morning and threatened to take away the press and trade screenings because of this whole thing. They were upset." Tashie told the trade publication that Fox did not demand that Morrison be fired, but he acknowledged that had phoned to complain about an employee writing reviews in advance. "No one asked us to do anything. We have been in business 95 years, and this is the first time anything like this happened. And this boy knew what he was doing was the wrong thing. ... He was in a position of trust and he violated that trust."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.