WHITHER GOEST MEL? The entertainment industry on Tuesday was abuzz with speculation about where Mel Karmazin will land following his abrupt resignation as president and COO of Viacom. So many rumors had him heading to Disney to replace Michael Eisner that the Disney board took the unusual step of releasing a statement saying that it continued to have confidence in Eisner. At the same time, former dissident Disney board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold issued a statement saying that Karmazin "should definitely be on the Disney board's short list" to replace Eisner. Many analysts indicated that it was hard to imagine where Karmazin, one of the industry's most respected executives, would wind up. Less than a month ago, he told Forbesmagazine that he had attempted to put together a list of companies where he might go if he left Viacom but came up with nothing. Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone on Tuesday, insisting that "nobody asked Mel to resign," said that he didn't "see an important place for him" at any other company. And Karmazin himself told today's (Wednesday) New York Times, "I have not talked to anybody yet." Separately, he told the Wall Street Journal: "I'll take this week off, then I'm going to look for a job, and we'll see what is or isn't out there." Karmazin's resignation represented a particularly hard blow to radio shock jock Howard Stern, whom Karmazin had backed for more nearly two decades, paying off millions of dollars in FCC fines leveled at Stern's broadcasts, which are syndicated by Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting (founded by Karmazin). On Tuesday, Stern said during his program: "I'm in shock. He's my backup here. I don't know that [Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone] would back me up. This is definitely the nail in my coffin." On the other hand, some analysts were speculating that Karmazin might attempt to put together a group to buy Infinity back from Viacom.
MISS UNIVERSE MAKES A COMEBACK
The Miss Universe Pageant, which has experienced steadily declining ratings in recent years, came up with decent ones Tuesday night to help lead NBC to a win for the night. The beauty contest scored a 6.1/10 in the 9:00 hour and a 7.7/13 at 10:00 -- making it the highest rated show in primetime.
MATTHEWS PLAYS HARDBALL AGAINST COOPER
MSNBC's Chris Matthews credits "more black-belt bookings" for lifting his Hardballhour over CNN's Anderson Cooper for the second month in a row in May, giving MSNBC its first-ever win in primetime during a sweeps period. In an interview appearing in today's (Wednesday) Philadelphia Inquirer,Matthews credited his new executive producer, Tammy Haddad, a former Larry King booker on CNN, for landing interviews with John Kerry, Donald Rumsfeld and John McCain. In addition, he said, "We had on terrorism experts night after night." Hardballaveraged 506,000 viewers during the month to 457,000 for Anderson Cooper 360. But Fox News Channel's Shepard Smith drew more viewers than the two combined -- 1.24 million. (Smith signed a new four-year deal with the news channel Tuesday.) While both Fox and CNN were down 17 percent and 11 percent respectively in viewership, Hardballwas up 61 percent.
RATHER LANDS CLINTON FOR HOUR-LONG INTERVIEW
CBS's 60 Minutes has booked Bill Clinton for an interview about his memoir, My Life,to be released by Knopf on June 22. The interview will be conducted by Dan Rather two days before the release of the book for which the former president reportedly received an advance of more than $10 million. It will consume the entire hour, a first for the long-running news magazine. "Few presidents have written memoirs themselves," Rather said in a statement, "and obviously we want the interview to have as much breadth and depth as possible." MOORE'S FILM PUT ON FAST TRACK Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11,which won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival last month, has landed not just one domestic film distributor but at least three, Lions Gate Films, IFC Films, and Fellowship Adventure Group (a company set up by Miramax Co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein to handle the politically hot film, which the two bought from the Walt Disney Co. after Disney refused to distribute it). The film has been scheduled for a swift release on June 25, when it will face little new competition. (Spider-Man 2opens the following week.) Showtime won pay-TV rights for it, but DVD rights are still being negotiated. In a statement, Moore said: "Not only am I in good hands, I am grateful to them now that everyone who wants to see it will now have the chance to do so." In their statement, the Weinsteins indicated that other distributors might be added to the "coalition" releasing the film.
EASIER THAN EXPECTED TO BE GREEN
Shrek 2 became even greener than expected Tuesday as final figures for the Memorial Day weekend showed that the movie had earned $95.7 million -- some $3 million more than Monday's estimates. The DreamWorks computer-animated feature has earned $260.3 million over 12 days. The final total for the No. 2 film, 20th Century Fox's the Day After Tomorrow,came in at $85.8 million for the four days -- by far the most any second-place film has ever earned in its debut.
ILLINOIS THEATERS ISSUING "R-CARDS"
An Illinois-based theater chain, GKC Theatres, has begun issuing special "R-Cards" to teenagers, which allows them to see R-rated movies, ABC News reported Tuesday. In order to receive one of the cards, an adult guardian must come to the box office, fill out a form in which they say they approve of the teenager's attending an R-rated film, and pay a $2 fee. But outgoing MPAA President Jack Valenti has expressed opposition to the cards, saying: "I think it distorts and ruptures the intent of this voluntary film ratings system. All R-rated films are not alike."
GIBSON STUNS DVD SELLERS WITH F-WORD
Mel Gibson reportedly stunned a meeting of home-video retailers in Dana Point, CA last week when he appeared before them to support the Aug. 31 video release of The Passion of the Christ. According to the New York Daily News,which cited two independent sources, when one attendee asked Gibson about the movie, he shouted back, "F-- you! I don't mean f-- you; I mean f-- you in general. I don't have to answer any of these questions anymore. I'm a hell of a lot wealthier than I once was." One of the sources says that those in the audience were astonished, even though it was apparent to some that Gibson was joking.
SAG MEMBERS REJECT DUES HIKE
The membership of the Screen Actors Guild has voted down a proposed $7.3-million dues increase intended primarily to assemble a warchest to support a strike if contract negotiations with producers collapse. The vote was close, with 51.8 percent voting No and 48.1 percent, Yes. Thirty-six percent of the 120,000 membership participated in the voting.
BOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR ARRESTED
Drawing public attention to poor safety standards employed by Bombay film producers, police in the Indian movie capital arrested director Kaizad Guztad Tuesday, charging him with attempting to cover up the circumstances surrounding the death of his British assistant director last week. Police said that the victim, Nadia Khan, had been run over by a train on May 25 as Guztad was shooting at an authorized area of the Bombay train station. He later told police and hospital authorities that the woman had been hit by a car. In reporting on the arrest, the Associated Press reported Tuesday that accidents on film sets are common and that workers are rarely insured. "She was looking for experience," her sister Ruby told The Scotsmannewspaper in London. "That is partly the reason she went out to India. It is her first time over there,"
JAPANESE ANIME COMPANIES IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION
Japanese animation companies, particularly those performing subcontracting work, are facing an increasing threat of extinction as studios cut back on their animation budgets and turn to overseas competitors in South Korea and China where labor costs are lower, the Asahi Shimbunreported today (Wednesday). The newspaper pointed out that experienced animators are working for salaries of less than $500 a month and have to depend on parents for support. It quoted one 26-year-old as saying, "Sometimes I want to give up-I never imagined it would be like this." Koichi Murata, president of Oh Productions, which has turned out several hit films employee the "anime" style, told the newspaper: "Unless something is done, Japanese anime will be ruined."