CABLERS BRACE FOR ACTORS' STRIKEThe possibility of a strike by Screen Actors Guild (SAG) against producers of made-for-cable TV shows loomed large Monday as the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) stepped in to aid cable producers after SAG asked members for strike authorization. The AMPTP said that it had offered SAG a 14-percent increase in residual payments, an amount that was in line with that recently negotiated with the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America. SAG observed that the 14-percent raise amounted to less than $5.00 per run for a day performer.


Isaac Hayes did not quit Comedy Central's South Park because he was angered by the show's treatment of Scientology, according to's Roger Friedman. "Someone quit for him," Friedman wrote Monday. "I can tell you that Hayes is in no position to have quit anything," he added. "Contrary to news reports, the great writer, singer and musician suffered a stroke on Jan. 17. ... It's also absolutely ridiculous to think that Hayes, who loved playing Chef on South Park, would suddenly turn against the show because they were poking fun at Scientology." Moreover, according to Friedman, South Parkco-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone plan to kick off the series 10th season on Wednesday with an episode entitled The Return of Chef. Fox, meanwhile, is denying that the brouhaha was a publicity stunt.


NBC's new game show Deal or No Deal continued to show surprising strength on Monday, easily winning the 8:00 p.m. hour against competition that included the return of Fox'sPrison Break.Deal posted a solid 9.7 rating and a 14 share, well ahead of CBS's The King of Queens, which wound up with a 7.2/11, and How I Met Your Mother, which fell to a 6.3/9. Prison Break, meanwhile, averaged a 6.4/9 for Fox. CBS moved into the lead at 9:00 p.m. and at 10:00 p.m. drew the highest ratings of the night with a 12.8/21 for CSI: Miami. Overall, CBS won the night with an average 9.9/15. Fox took second place with a 7.3/11. NBC followed closely behind with a 7.2/11, while ABC trailed with a 5.8/9.


A psychologist at Harvard Medical School has heatedly criticized Sesame Workshop for producing a DVD aimed at babies and toddlers aged 6 months to 2 years. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Washington Post,Susan Linn, who is also founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, called the DVD "a betrayal of babies and families" and added, "There is no evidence that media is beneficial for babies, and they are starting to find evidence that it may be harmful. Until we know for sure, we shouldn't risk putting them in front of the television." But Rosemarie Truglio of Sesame Workshop, which produced the DVD with the child-development group Zero to Three, insisted that the Workshop, which also is responsible for PBS's Sesame Street, "did a lot of research and preparation" for the video." However, Zero to Three cofounder T. Berry Brazelton is lending his name to the opposition, urging that "children under two be kept away from screen media. It's too expensive for them physically as well as psychologically," he said.


Verizon Communications said Monday that it has reached a deal to pay CBS a fee for each subscriber who watches any of its ten owned-and-operated stations carried on Verizon's home TV service. Although terms were not disclosed, published reports said that the fee will be about 50 cents, about the same amount as cable operators pay to carry leading cable channels. Some analysts indicated that the deal also will help CBS increase its leverage to secure payment from cable channels, which traditionally have carried network programming for free. VENDETTA IS NO SLAM DUNKAlthough some analysts had forecast that Warner Bros.' V for Vendettawould reinvigorate the box office and become the first big blockbuster of 2006, the movie took in just $25.6 million, even less than what studio estimates had indicated on Sunday. Indeed the overall box office itself produced dismal returns -- some 10 percent below those for the comparable weekend a year ago. Most analysts blamed competition from "March Madness" -- TV's coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament. But Paramount's She's the Man, which was released to attract women with little interest in the basketball tourney, produced absolutely dreary results, winding up in fourth place with $10.7 million. Last week's box-office winner, Failure to Launch, held up pretty well as it earned $15.6 million and slipped into second place. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):1. Vfor Vendetta, Warner Bros., $25,642,640, (New); 2.Failure to Launch, Paramount, $15,604,892, 2 Wks. ($48,273,823); 3. The Shaggy Dog, Disney, $13,377,363, 2 Wks. ($35,635,419); 4. She's the Man, Paramount, $10,730,372, (New); 5. The Hills Have Eyes,Fox Searchlight, $8,008,822, 2 Wks. ($28,741,291); 6. 16 Blocks, Warner Bros., $4,755,012, 3 Wks. ($30,190,041); 7. Eight Below, Disney, $4,084,276, 5 Wks. ($73,040,379); 8. Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion, Lionsgate, $2,933,815, 4 Wks. ($60,029,631); 9. The Pink Panther, Sony, $2,464,468, 6 Wks. ($78,575,414); 10. Aquamarine, 20th Century Fox, $2,114,445, 3 Wks. ($15,778,293).


Brokeback Mountainwill be one of the few films to be released on DVD while it is still playing in theaters. The Associated Press reported Monday that Focus Features recently extended its theatrical run, past the April 4 release date of the DVD. Brokeback, which won an Oscar for its director, Ang Lee, but failed to take the statue for best film as most analysts had expected, took in $545,919 at the box office to bring its 15-week total to $82,057,408.


In yet another case of a Hollywood outsider claiming he was cheated by a studio accounting system, producer Martin Richards is suing Disney's Miramax, claiming that the studio has cooked its books to prevent him from receiving his share of the profits of Chicago.In his lawsuit, filed in New York on Monday, Richards claims that, except for some early set payments, he has yet to see any of the profits due him under his contract with Miramax despite the fact that the movie has taken in some $300 million in movie, DVD, and foreign-rights sales.


Members of the computer-animation unit that Disney had set up to make sequels to Pixar hits like Toy Storyand Finding Nemo, heard the other shoe drop Monday when 32 employees were told that they will be laid off on May 26, the Los Angeles Timesreported today (Tuesday). At the same time Disney closed down the Circle 7 CGI unit, with the remaining 136 employees redeployed to other Disney productions.The Timesnoted that it was unclear what would become of the multimillion-dollar facility located in Glendale, CA. As a result of Disney's acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, Pixar will itself create sequels to its original movies, although company executives have repeated stated that they would prefer making original movies rather than sequels.


An early version of the South African film Tsotsi, which won the Oscar for best foreign-language film, is being pirated in South Africa with a different ending from the one that appeared in the theatrical release, the BBC reported today (Tuesday). According to the broadcaster, director Gavin Hood actually filmed three different endings before settling on the one shown in theaters. However, the pirate version -- which is reportedly selling on the streets of Johannesburg for less than a quarter of the bona fide version -- uses an ending from a rough-cut that was allegedly stolen from the editing room before the final cut was completed. The BBC quoted Hood as saying, "It's a rough mess, so anyone who buys it is getting a poor-quality version."