"GRAZERGATE" AT THE TIMES

A scandal of the first order may be brewing at the Los Angeles Times following reports that producer Brian Grazer may have been tapped as the first "guest editor" of the paper's Current opinion section because Andrés Martinez, the editorial pages editor who selected Grazer, is involved in a romantic relationship with Kelly Mullens, an executive with the PR firm representing Grazer's Imagine Entertainment. LAObserved.com, which broke the story, referred to it as "Grazergate." And in an online column on Wednesday, L.A. Weekly writer Nikki Finke wrote, "I'm told the newspaper's publisher David Hiller knew all about it and still didn't pull the plug -- even though the girlfriend's PR boss Allan Mayer [who heads the 42West PR firm] was the person who flacked Grazer to Martinez in the first place. Now Hiller is saying he might kill this Sunday's Current rather than run a mortifying editor's note." However, Mayer told Finke: "The selection of Brian had nothing to do with Andres' relationship with Kelly. There's nothing that comes close to crossing any ethical lines. The fact that there is any concern at all comes as a great surprise to me. It's a sign of the complete dysfunction at the paper." And Martinez himself wrote on the Times blog, "I can assure readers [Kelly Mullens] had no role in our decision to choose Grazer, and readers can make up their own minds as to whether this choice was a wise one."

MOVIE ACADEMY SETS DATES FOR 2008 OSCARS

The 80th annual presentation of the Oscars will be held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, February 24, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday. The movie organization also announced other key dates, including: December 26, 2007, the date nomination ballots will be mailed out; January 22, 2008, when results of the nominations will be announced; January 30, 2008, when final ballots will be mailed; and February 19, 2008, the date by which the ballots must be returned. Once again, the awards ceremonies will be carried by ABC.

HAZZARD STAR PAYS FOR NEXT MOVIE "OUT OF HIS POCKET"

John Schneider, best known for his role as Bo Duke on TV's The Dukes of Hazzard, has not only produced, written, directed and starred in his latest movie, Collier & Co. -- Hot Pursuit!, but he financed the movie himself -- "out of his own pocket" -- according to a statement released by Schneider's publicist. (The budget for the film was not disclosed) A trailer for Hot Pursuit, posted on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fnpOHt-Xxs), shows Schneider's character engaging in some of the same sort of shenanigans that endeared Bo Duke to TV audiences in the early '80s. The news release said that the movie has already opened in limited release in theaters all located in the South and that the trailer is being sent to an additional 24 theaters this week.

NEW PRODUCTION CENTER UNVEILED IN HONG KONG

Hoping to revitalize Hong Kong's moribund film industry, producer Wellington Fung announced the creation Wednesday of a new production company, Big Media, that he said will make 20 movies in Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese over the next five years. As the former head of Media Asia, Hong Kong's largest media conglomerate, Fung actively courted international film buyers at such industry events as the American Film Market in California and the Cannes Film Festival in France. His announcement on Wednesday was attended by numerous Hong Kong film officials.

PAN'S LABYRINTH VOTED BEST FILM IN MEXICO

Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth dominated the Ariels, Mexico's version of the Oscars, winning in nine categories, including best picture. Del Toro took the award for best director. Following a year in which Mexican directors received worldwide acclaim and success, the Ariels brought together on stage at Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts opera house the three who received the most attention: Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro González Iñárrito. Del Toro is currently working in the U.S. on Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.

IRAN PRESIDENT STANDS UP TO 300

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called Warner Bros.' hit film 300 part of a U.S. propaganda campaign "to prevent our nation's development." In the movie a horde of Persian soldiers is held off by 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae. "Today they are trying to tamper with history by making a film and by making Iran's image look savage, Ahmadinejad said, without naming the movie or specifically pointing a finger at the "they." The film is not currently being shown in Iran -- nor is it likely to be -- but pirated DVDs of the movie are presumably widely available there.

CANNES MARKET TOSSES OUT SCREENERS; SUBSTITUTES ONLINE VIDEO

The Cannes Film Market, which is held annually in conjunction with the Cannes Film Festival, plans to replace traditional DVD screeners with a broadband video-on-demand (VOD) tool this year through its cinando.com website, Executive Director Jérôme Paillard announced today (Thursday). Paillard said in a statement that the VOD tool, Vizumu Pro, amounts to "a cost effective way to provide instant delivery, control of viewers permissions, traceability of viewings, high level of security as well as eliminating shipment costs." The tool was developed by London-based Arts Alliance Media, whose CEO, Howard Kiedaisch, said in a statement that sellers at the Cannes Film Market will be able to "benefit from the ease of digital distribution, and make their content available instantly anywhere in the world."

Brian B.