MOVIES TO FACE TOUGH COMPETITION FROM SPORTS

Two major international sports events next year, the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the Union of European Football Associations' soccer championships, are figuring in distributors' scheduling for next year and may upset the current trend to open many films overseas on the same day that they open in North America, Daily Variety observed today (Thursday). In a report from Amsterdam, where European exhibitors are meeting for their annual Cinema Expo, the trade publication noted that Warner Bros. had decided against releasing Get Smart in Europe on June 20, the day it is scheduled to be released in the U.S. "That falls right in the middle of the [EUFA championships], so we wouldn't want to go day and date on that movie," Warner Bros. international distribution president Veronika Kwan-Rubinek told the trade publication.

MPAA FILES SUIT AGAINST TWO WEBSITES

The Motion Picture Association of America has sued two websites that publish menus of movies that can be downloaded on peer-to-peer websites. The two sites, YouTVpc and Peekvid, receive revenue not from the pirates but from advertisers and from donations by users. Although the MPAA claims that the two sides aid and abet copyright infringement, a notice on Peekvid reads: "Peekvid is committed to an industry solution that will provide a mechanism to compensate artists that create the work you enjoy watching. Peekvid would like to be part of the long term solution." And on his website, Mike Masnick, CEO of Techdirt, observed that the two sites are essentially doing "the same thing that a search engine like Google does. There are plenty of Google searches that will lead you to unauthorized content, but for some reason, the entertainment industry believes that if you make a specialized search engine or directory you're somehow liable."

HYBRID HI-DEF DVD PUT ON HOLD

Warner Home Video, which had announced with great fanfare earlier this year that by fall it would be releasing high-definition titles on a hybrid disc compatible with both Blu-ray and HD DVD players, said Wednesday that it is postponing the fall launch of the discs to "at least" early 2008. The website High-Def Disc Newssaid that the announcement, made during the Entertainment Supply Chain Academy in Los Angeles, came as a surprise, since as recently as March, the company had indicated that all production and replication hurdles for what it calls Total HD had been cleared. "There is no expiration date on the viability of this concept, so we're not in a rush to do it," Warner marketing executive Steve Nickerson told the trade publication Video Business. "We'll do it when it makes sense and when it's right."

STARBUCKS TO MARKET MOVIE, SHARE IN PROFITS

Starbucks plans to launch a Venti-size marketing campaign for the forthcoming Arctic Tale from Paramount Classics and National Geographic Films and in return receive a piece of the film's back end, the companies said Wednesday. Precise terms were not disclosed, although it was understood that Starbucks will not be contributing cash to the production. The documentary film follows the plight of a walrus and a polar bear in the Arctic as they deal with the effects of global warming. Signs promoting the movie are slated to go on display at 6,800 stores in the U.S. and Canada for a one-month period beginning July 31. Moreover the company plans to stage a National Day of Discussion at many of its stores on August 15, when spokespersons from various environmental organizations will discuss environmental issues.

DOCUMENTARY MAKERS SUE WARNER BROS. OVER MARSHALL MOVIE

The creators of a documentary about the aftermath of the airplane crash that took the lives of the Marshall University football team have filed a $40-million breach-of-contract lawsuit against Warner Bros., claiming that the studio stole their ideas for their drama We Are Marshall and failed to given them writer, producer and consulting credits on the film as promised. The suit cites numerous similarities between the documentary, Ashes to Glory, written by Deborah Novak and John Witek, and the movie. Attorney John Marder, who represents the two, told the Associated Press that the movie industry has a history of stealing from writers. The difference in this case, he said, is that Novak and Witek had a contract with Warner Bros.

CONTROVERSY OVER CRUISE MOVIE SPREADS IN GERMANY

Word that Scientologist Tom Cruise will portray the leader of the so-called Generals' Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler during World War II has touched off an ever-growing political firestorm in Germany, according to an Associated Press report from Berlin. Following a decision by the German military to bar the producers of the film, titled Valkyrie, after the code name used by the plotters, from using military bases as locales, a number of German lawmakers have gone on record to denounce the entire project. Social Democratic lawmaker Klaus Uwe Benneter said that having a Scientologist play Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, who is now regarded as a national hero, represents "a slap in the face to all upstanding democrats, all resistance fighters during the Third Reich, and all victims of the Scientology sect." But a Scientology spokeswoman in Berlin called the response a call to religious discrimination. And in an interview with the AP, Carl Woebcken, head of Babelsberg studio, which is co-producing the movie with United Artists, commented, "This is not a Scientology film, it is a Bryan Singer film, and Bryan Singer is Jewish ... and they want to make this film to show that during the Nazi regime there was heroic resistance. [Tom Cruise] is one of the best, if not the best, actors in the world for heroic roles and that is why Bryan Singer approached him."

RATATOUILLE ALREADY BEING SERVED IN MALAYSIA

A day before it is to be released theatrically in the United States, the Malaysian Star reported today (Thursday) that Disney's animated Ratatouille is widely available in most DVD outlets in the country selling pirated films -- and has been for the past month. One DVD seller told the newspaper that the disks are "not perfect but watchable if you want to be among the first to watch the film."
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.