SAG, AFTRA DEBATE THE DEBATE
Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg has publicly challenged Roberta Reardon, his opposite number in AFTRA, to a debate before the membership of both unions over AFTRA's recently concluded deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers -- and Reardon has turned him down. Reardon called Rosenberg's proposal "somewhat disingenuous" since, she said, it would merely "contribute to the destructive and divisive efforts of the last year instigated by the guild's Hollywood leadership." Reardon maintained that AFTRA negotiators had won numerous benefits for its members and denounced SAG's efforts to interfere in AFTRA's affairs and undermine its contract. Moreover, Reardon observed that she herself is also a dues-paying SAG member and as such, she said, "I urge SAG to focus solely on its own negotiations."
Two features from Marvel Entertainment, a company that only ten years ago was forced into bankruptcy, landed among the box office's top ten over the weekend. The Incredible Hulk sold $55.4 million worth of tickets, putting it in first place, while Iron Man added $5.6 million to its gross, bringing its seven-week total to $279.9 million. Meanwhile, performing well above expectations, Fox's The Happening took in $30.5 million in its debut -- nearly twice what analysts had predicted. Last weekend's champ, Kung Fu Panda slipped to second place with $33.6 million.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The Incredible Hulk, Universal, $55,414,050, (New); 2. Kung Fu Panda, Paramount, $33,612,594, 2 Wks. ($117,289,932); 3. The Happening, 20th Century Fox, $30,517,109, (New); 4. You Don't Mess With The Zohan, Sony, $16,370,344, 2 Wks. ($68,760,685); 5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Paramount, $14,741,834, 4 Wks. ($276,524,265); 6. Sex and the City, Warner Bros., $9,788,353, 3 Wks. ($119,522,016); 7. Iron Man, Paramount, $5,620,375, 7 Wks. ($297,918,329); 8. The Strangers, Universal, $4,024,485, 3 Wks. ($45,287,220); 9. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Disney, $3,165,013, 5 Wks. ($131,904,474); 10. What Happens in Vegas, Fox, $1,667,587, 6 Wks. ($75,755,145).
PIXAR ANIMATORS HELP CREATE COMPUTERIZED THEME RIDE
Pixar animators working with the Disney Imagineering team have together created an elaborate amusement park ride, Toy Story Midway Mania, that is opening today (Tuesday) at Disney's California Adventure Park adjoining Disneyland. More than 150 computers are employed to synchronize the various parts of the ride, which gives visitors the illusion that they have been shrunk to the size of toys in a child's room and can interact with them. (They can fire a virtual pie at Woody, and the character will react when struck, by scraping off the virtual pie filling.) Today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times quoted one park visitor who attended a preview of the ride as saying that it was "absolutely mind-blowing. ... It's not an experience that I typically have [at an amusement park, where] things are typically passive."
VATICAN BARS USE OF CHURCHES FOR FILMING
Vatican officials, who strongly protested against the film version of The Da Vinci Code two years ago, have launched a similar attack on its prequel, Angels & Demons, barring the producers from using two churches in Rome as location sites for the movie. Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for the Rome diocese, told the Associated Press that requests to film at the sites were denied because the movie "does not conform to our views." He added, "This is a prequel to The Da Vinci Code and it's clear that the theme is similar."
GAY FILMMAKERS UNABLE TO LAND THEATRICAL RELEASES
Despite the success of Brokeback Mountain in theaters and Brothers & Sisters on television, gay-themed movies are "doing worse than ever" according to a report by the Reuter News Agency. The drop-off in attendance is being blamed on the proliferation of "gaysploitation" films that are easily available on Amazon, gay-oriented cable channels like MTV-owned Logo, cable pay-per-view, the Internet, and Netflix. Few of these films, however, are aimed at mainstream audiences, possibly because they are doing so well with gay audiences. Commenting on the trend, the Reuters article concluded, "Despite breakthroughs like Brokeback, gay films already are well down the same path as 1970s black films, where quality projects like Sounder were the exception and blaxploitation flicks were the rule."
SPECIAL-EFFECTS WIZARD WINSTON DIES AT 62
Stan Winston, the special-effects wizard, whose work was seen in such films as The Terminator, Jurassic Park, Aliens, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and, most recently, Iron Man, died Sunday of multiple myeloma at age 62 at his home in Malibu, CA, his company, Stan Winston Studio, said Monday. In a statement, Steven Spielberg said, "My world would not have been the same without Stan. What I will miss most is his easy laugh every time he said to me, 'Nothing is impossible.'"