IT MAY BE A ROYAL FLUSH, AFTER ALL

Just one day after saying that it had taken a big write-down on its Flushed Away feature, DreamWorks Animation got word Wednesday that the movie debuted on DVD as the No. 1 film of the week in sales. The film bumped Oscar winner The Departed from the top spot -- although a surge in sales for the gangland movie was reported on Monday, following the awards telecast. Current results were tracked through February 25. On Home Media Retail magazine's rental chart, best-picture nominee Babel debuted in first place with $8.7 million, edging out The Departed, with $8.6 million.

OVER THE HEDGE PUTS VIACOM OVER THE HUMP

Animation proved to be a big winner for Viacom, which said today (Thursday) that its fourth-quarter profit soared largely as a result of strong DVD sales for Over the Hedge. The company reported that its net income rose to $480.8 million from $129.5 million during the comparable quarter a year ago. "The real driver here came from home entertainment," David Miller, an analyst at Sanders Morris Harris Inc., told Bloomberg News. Over the Hedge, from DreamWorks Animation, brought in $104 million during the quarter. Viacom's Paramount also experienced a revival after a series of flops. The studio posted an $86.3-million profit versus a loss of $39.6 million a year ago.

PARAMOUNT CREATES DIRECT-TO-DVD DIVISION

Paramount is setting up a new division to produce movies that will bypass theaters and go directly to DVD. The studio said the unit will be headed by Louis Feola, who previously headed a similar operation at Universal, and will focus on turning out sequels and prequels of theatrical hits. "Paramount's library of titles and current and upcoming releases, combined with its access to exceptional brands within the Viacom family, makes for an extremely deep and broad selection of properties from which to develop franchises," Feola said in a statement.

HISTORICAL DISNEY ART TO BE EXHIBITED IN MONTREAL

The Walt Disney Co. has agreed to loan the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts some 300 pieces from its archives -- most of which have never been publicly displayed -- for an exhibit that will attempt to show the influence of earlier art on Disney's animated features and the features' own influence on art of the 20th century. In an interview with today's (Thursday) Montreal Gazette, chief curator Bruno Girveau said, "Disney belongs alongside the most important figures of cinema and, more generally, 20th-century art." The "Once Upon a Time" exhibit, which opens on March 8 and runs through June 24, will also feature a screening of Destino, an animated project begun at Disney by Salvador Dali in the 1940s and completed under the supervision of Roy Disney in 2003.

BLOCKBUSTER MAY ACQUIRE STUDIO-OWNED MOVIELINK

In its continued struggle to fend off competition from online rival Netflix, Blockbuster may acquire the movie downloading site Movielink, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Thursday), citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. Movielink was developed by the major movie studios (Disney excepted) as a way of providing a legitimate alternative to pirate sites. However, analysts have observed, its high prices and restrictions that prevent downloaded films from being burned on DVDs or watched on television sets have limited the number of users. Blockbuster has reportedly offered $50 million in cash and stock for the service, an indication in itself of Movielink's weak attraction, but the Journal observed that it nevertheless would have "important strategic implications" for Blockbuster -- giving it a way of offering movies to customers in its stores, by online rental, or by downloading.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.