THE WEEK'S A SLAM DUNK FOR CBS
CBS's coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship got off to a strong start last week, and while it didn't nab a place in the Nielsen top ten, it did improve the network's ratings among 18-49-year-old viewers, particularly men. CBS won the week in the overall ratings with a 7.2 rating and a 12 share. NBC was close behind with a 7.1/12. Fox, thanks to its American Idol talent contest, which took the top two positions on the Nielsen list, was a competitive third with a 6.3/10, while ABC trailed with a 5.5/9. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 15.3/23; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 13.3/21; 3. The Apprentice, NBC, 11.4/18; 4. Survivor: All Stars (Wednesday), CBS, 10.9/18; 5. 60 Minutes, CBS, 10.5/18; 6. Friends, NBC, 10.4/17; 7. Will & Grace, NBC, 10.2/16; 8. Law & Order, NBC, 10.1/17; 9. CSI: Miami, CBS, 9.6/16; 10. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 9.5/15.

NEWS CORP SAYS NIELSEN'S PEOPLE METERS WILL HURT

News Corp has registered its objections to Nielsen's plans to introduce people meters for local TV measurement in New York beginning April 8, claiming that the meters would "undercount viewing by as much as 25 percent, particularly among young and minority viewers" who represent the core viewers for News Corp's Fox TV network. Nielsen's announcement that it was moving ahead with plans to convert New York to people meters while delaying a roll-out in Los Angeles and Chicago for about two months generated outrage from Lachlan Murdoch, chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group. "If the meter isn't good enough for Los Angeles and Chicago yet," he said, "it certainly isn't good enough for the nation's largest market." Nielsen responded that the issues involved in the Los Angeles and Chicago cases were unique to those markets.

SHOWTIME PLANNING GAY PANEL SHOW

Pointing out that the pay-TV channel Showtime "has had great success with its burgeoning gay franchise" (Queer as Folk, The L Word), Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist Gail Shister reported today (Wednesday) that the channel has ordered a pilot for a show titled Movies for Guys Who Like Guys. The panel program, hosted by former E! Entertainment anchor Steve Kmetko, would feature four gay men discussing gay-themed or campy features running on Showtime during "natural breaks" in the movie. Showtime reportedly is planning to air the show at 11:00 p.m. on Sundays following Queer as Folk.

STREISAND INTERVIEW SETS RECORD ON BRAVO

A two-hour interview with Barbra Streisand presented on Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio, hosted by James Lipton, drew 1.14 million viewers on Sunday, a record for the series and a number higher than the audience figures for Fox News and CNN. It was nearly twice that of the previous record holder for the series, an interview with Harrison Ford in August 2000 that attracted 579,000 viewers.

THE REAL WORLD RETURNING TO PHILLY

Thanks to the intervention of Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, along with Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, Congressman Robert Brady, and City Controller Jonathan Saidel, MTV's The Real World will be producing its fifteenth season in Philadelphia after all. Producers Bunim-Murray had pulled out of the city a week ago rather than negotiate with local unions. In a joint statement, the company's COO, Joey Carson, included representatives of the unions IATSE and IBEW in his thanks for their help in finding a solution. An IBEW spokesman said, "It's been a pleasure working out the details with the mayor and Joey Carson's team at Bunim-Murray Productions." Those details were not disclosed.

HEIDI FLEISS SAYS MOVIE ABOUT HER ISN'T ABOUT HER AT ALL

Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss is ridiculing the USA Networks movie about her due to air on Monday. Although titled Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss, Fleiss herself told MSNBC.com gossip writer Jeannette Walls that the film is really not about her at all. "I don't know who it's supposed to be about, but it's not about me," Fleiss, who said that she had seen the script, told Walls. "Everything was inaccurate. They're just using my name for a movie."

VALENTI BIDS GOODBYE TO THEATER OWNERS
Jack Valenti, who announced his intention to retire as head of the MPAA nearly two years ago, indicated Tuesday that he plans to step down as soon as his replacement can be found, which he said could be in two or three months. Speaking to the annual ShoWest convention of movie exhibitors in Las Vegas, the 82-year-old Valenti said, "This is an epical time for me as this is the last time I will address exhibitors as the CEO of the MPAA. ... Someone else will be standing here next year. I don't know who that person is." Earlier, he told reporters: "I look at this with mixed emotions, because when you've done something so long, it's difficult to tear yourself away from it. ... But also, in any job, you want to leave before people ask you to leave."

COSTS OF MAKING MOVIES CONTINUE TO SKYROCKET, VALENTI SAYS

Although total movie ticket sales in 2003 remained virtually flat with 2002 (about $1.57 billion), the average cost of producing and marketing a movie soared to $103 million, a rise of 15 percent, MPAA chief Jack Valenti told the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas Tuesday. "Budget discretion has to be a fervid priority at every studio," Valenti told the theater owners. Valenti, whose speeches are often colored with Victorian prose, told the attendees that the rising costs were like a "tapeworm nibbling and chewing at the fiscal molecules of our business."

DGA AGREES TO LIMIT "A FILM BY ..." CREDIT

Hoping to relieve tensions with the Writers Guild of America, which has strongly objected to the possessory credit ("a film by ...") that some directors demand, the Directors Guild of America on Tuesday agreed to limit the credit to directors who are primarily responsible for bringing a film project to a studio and who are substantially involved in developing it. A series of additional guidelines would also be suggested to studios for awarding the credit, taking into account such circumstances as the marketability of the director, his (or her) unique filmmaking style, and the number of films he has previously directed.

POLANSKI TO DIRECT NEW VERSION OF OLIVER TWIST

Director Roman Polanski has confirmed reports that his next film will be based on Dickens' Oliver Twist and that he will begin shooting it in the Czech Republic by the middle of the year. The English-language Prague Post reported last week that the $60-million production is being financed by a European consortium that includes Italian, French and English companies. It has not been sold to an American distributor. Polanski old reporters on Tuesday: "After directing The Pianist, an extremely personal movie, I started to think about what I would do next. ... A comedy? A police movie? To me, it seems impossible to go back to doing that kind of thing, to tell a trivial story." He said he decided to make Oliver Twist while he was "playing with my children and I realized that I would like to do a film for kids." Polanski's detractors will almost certainly seize upon his decision to make a film based on the story of an exploited child. He faces a jail sentence in the U.S. after fleeing the country in 1979 rather than face sentencing on his conviction of statutory rape of a 13-year-old child.

WILL THE ALAMO BE EISNER'S ALAMO?

Early press reports are suggesting that Disney's The Alamo, set for release on April 9, may become almost as tragic a defeat for Michael Eisner as it was for Davy Crockett et al. The latest to weigh in on the film is the New York Times' Hollywood-basedreporter, Sharon Waxman, who, after seeing the film, commented that it "is heavy on history and sweeping shots of the reconstructed Texas monument, but short on action and drama." Nevertheless, Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook told the Times that he was "thrilled" with the film. "We all felt we've got something really great, really special. We made an epic," he said.

TEXAS FEAST PLANNED FOR ALAMO PREMIERE

Disney announced Tuesday that its premiere of The Alamo in San Antonio, TX on March 27 will be attended by Governor Rick Perry, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and MPAA President Jack Valenti. Also attending will be the stars of the film, including Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, and Jason Patric, as well as guests including Faith Hill, Sam Donaldson, and members of the veteran Texas bands ZZ Top and Asleep at the Wheel. Two descendants of Davy Crockett will also attend, the studio said. A "Texas black tie" party after the screening will feature "authentic cuisine," according to the announcement, including "mesquite grilled beef tenderloin, stuffed breast of quail, corn pudding soufflé, cajeta crepes and San Antonio's legendary prickly pear margaritas."

CHOCOLATE COLORS REX REED'S REVIEW

Although New York Observer critic Rex Reed turned out a rave review for the Irish film Intermission, directed by John Crowley, his description of the movie bears little resemblance to the actual plot, New York Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove observed today (Wednesday). Grove cites an email he received from a fan: "Reed writes that Colin Farrell plays Kelly Macdonald's boyfriend, when in fact Farrell plays a brutal criminal who beats her up and shoots the boyfriend. This is like confusing Anthony Hopkins with Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs. ... Rex Reed is correct that the film is wonderful. Now, I recommend that he go see it." Reed told Grove that he did see the film -- six months ago at the Toronto Film Festival, taking notes on "napkins stained with chocolate [from] a Dove bar. ... I was really reaching back into my brain to try to remember what it was all about."

Cinemark Movie Club