Rumors spread like a computer virus over business, technology, and entertainment websites Wednesday that Amazon.com was about to buy online movie renter Netflix for about $2.1 billion. The rumors were given added legitimacy -- and impetus -- by a report to clients from Jackson Securities analyst Brian Bolan, who remarked that such an acquisition made sense because Amazon's stock has been rising, while Netflix's has been falling. Amazon, he observed, has "got excess currency," to pull off the deal, he remarked. But Bank of America analyst Brian Pitz noted that a deal with Netflix would physically put Amazon into the 43 states where Netflix distributes its DVDs, thereby forcing Amazon to charge sales tax to customers in those states. Meanwhile, Herb Greenberg of MarketWatch.com noted that the rumors began flying after Warner Bros. began talking about releasing movies on DVD and video-on-demand simultaneously, thereby driving down the price of Netflix stock. If movies can be rented directly on cable, the argument goes, why wait for them to be delivered by Netflix by the U.S. Postal Service?


Stunning film executives, Universal's Knocked Up,playing in 2,871 theaters, has taken over the lead from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, playing in 4,362 theaters, since the weekend. On Monday, Knocked Up recorded $4,375,000 in ticket sales compared with $4,180,000 for Pirates. On Tuesday, Knocked Upincreased its lead, posting $4,115,000 to Pirates'$3,715,000. And on Wednesday, the R-rated comedy retained the lead with $3,660,000 to $3,490,000 for the Disney blockbuster, according to figures from box-office trackers Media by Numbers. "What a shocker," commented L.A. Weeklycolumnist Nikki Finke. "Everyone thought Johnny Depp and his crew would have an easy voyage atop the box office charts for at least a second if not a third week in release."


In a meeting of the twain in the comics world, Stan Lee, who created or co-created most of Marvel Comics' most popular superheroes, is teaming up with the Walt Disney Co.. to develop and produce programming for television, movies, the Internet, video games and DVDs. In an interview with the Associated Press, Lee, 84, said, "I have file cabinets filled with ideas for movies and television shows and all sorts of things, and I've been waiting to be associated with someone like Disney so I can start tearing into these things." Lee is no longer associated with Marvel, which has sold rights to characters he created, like Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, and Silver Surfer, to other studios.


The sudden death of former Motion Picture Association of America chief Jack Valenti in April has presented a huge marketing problem for Harmony, the publisher of Valenti's just-released memoirs, This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House and Hollywood. Harmony publisher Shaye Areheart told today's (Thursday) New York Times that before he died, interviews with Valenti to promote his book had been set up on virtually all the top talk shows and cable news networks. "Everyone was so drawn to Jack, and he had so many stories to tell," she said. In addition, celebrity-attended book parties had been arranged. However, of 100,000 copies of the book that went out to stores on May 15, only about 1,000 have so far been sold, "a grim indication," commented the Times, "since the first sales are often the strongest."


Former talk-show host Phil Donohue is using his own financial resources to produce a feature-length documentary, Body of War, about Tomas Young, who enlisted in the Army the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was wounded in Baghdad shortly thereafter, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. In an interview appearing in Meadow's Country Capitalist, Donohue indicated that he hopes that the film will have a theatrical release. "I've never done this before," he added. "Will it be good enough for the 'plexes and is that the best way to go? I don't know." Donohue said that he plans to give all profits to the film to Young. "This film tells the story about whom we have put in harm's way. The next time someone wants to land on an aircraft carrier, I want him to meet Tomas Young -- the real patriot. ... If anyone deserves to be heard, it's Tomas Young -- he has paid the price and we have a responsibility to listen to him."


Hannibal Risingate up the competition at the video stores last week. The Silence of the Lambsprequel topped the DVD sales chart in its debut but ranked only thirteenth of Home Media Magazine's rental chart. Topping the rental chart was Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, which finished just behind Risingin sales.