Sony Pictures has become the latest major studio to announce substantial layoffs in response to the current recession. On Tuesday the Burbank-based company sent out email notices to its employees that it is laying off 250 of them and not filling about 100 open positions. "Today, our studio remains profitable, but over the past five months, the deepening global financial crisis has begun to impact some of our lines of business, such as television syndication, DVDs and advertising sales," Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures said in the email message, which was quickly posted on several industry websites. Most analysts blamed slackening DVD sales for much of the company's downturn. Theatrical sales have been strong, with Sony currently hitting it big with Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which reportedly cost about $20 million to produce but has taken in about $130 million domestically to date.


At a Disney shareholders meeting in Oakland, CA Tuesday, proposals that would have given investors a say in how much the company's top executives should be paid were turned down, despite backing from two large California employees groups who account for a large stake in the company. Conspicuous by his absence at the meeting was Disney's largest single shareholder, Steve Jobs. When asked if the board had a plan to protect itself from a hostile takeover should Jobs's stock become available on the open market, Disney Chairman John Pepper replied, "We have not thought at all of the contingency of Steve not being on this board. ...Our only thoughts are with him and his rapid recovery."


Novelist Clive Cussler's failed lawsuit against Crusader Entertainment over the film version of his novel Saharahas thus far cost the writer $27.4 million and could cost him millions more if his appeal is rejected, the Hollywood Reporterreported today (Wednesday). The trade publication observed that a Los Angeles court added $13.9 million to the $5 million that a jury had awarded Crusader to cover its legal costs in the case. In addition, it said, Cussler had paid his own lawyer, Bert Fields, $8.5 million. Commented the Reporter: "Few would have ever guessed that a controversy over script approval could ever get to be so expensive."


Further expanding online entertainment in general and mobile entertainment in particular, Sony and NBC Universal have signed a deal that will put Universal movies and NBC TV shows on Sony's PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable game devices. Movies becoming immediately available include Role Models, Milk and The Incredible Hulk.TV shows include The Office, Heroes,and Battlestar Galactica. In a statement, NBC Universal made it clear that it will control the pricing of its releases for the Sony devices -- a matter that was previously a sticking point with Apple's iTunes unit. "NBC Universal will provide PlayStation Network users with a variety of attractive ways to purchase and view movies and TV shows, including varying price points depending on the content and format (HD or SD)," the statement said, referring to High Definition and Standard Definition formats.


A Canadian filmmaker who lost an eye in childhood as a result of a shooting accident is planning to make a documentary film using an electronic camera concealed inside a prosthetic eye. As reported Tuesday by the Associated Press, Rob Spence intends to focus on privacy issues in a world in which surveillance cameras are proliferating as he himself becomes what he calls a "human surveillance machine." The tiny camera that he will use was developed by OmniVision Inc. of Santa Clara, CA, which says it hopes it can eventually be used to restore sight to blind people. Spence himself said: "As a documentary maker, you're trying to make a connection with a person ... and the best way to make a connection is through eye contact."