News Corp President and COO Peter Chernin and Disney COO Robert Iger are expected to begin exploratory talks soon with negotiators for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Daily Varietyreported today, citing no sources. The two media moguls were credited with bringing a resolution to the writers' strike last month. The trade publication observed that they would probably meet with top leaders of the unions once formal talks between union negotiators and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers begins -- in the hope that they could concentrate on resolving major issues standing in the way of an overall deal while the broader issues would be left to the negotiating teams.


With the high-definition video format now reduced to the single Blu-ray technology, it is expected that 29.4 million Blu-ray players will be installed in homes worldwide by the end of the year, according to a study by Strategy Analytics Connected Home Devices Services. As of January 1, 10.6 million Blu-ray players had already been sold, most of them included in Sony's PlayStation 3 consoles. Of the additional 18.8 million units expected to be sold this year, 13 million are likely to be included in PlayStation 3 consoles, 4 million in stand-alone set-tops, and 2 million in personal computers. Strategy Analytics projected that by 2012, 265 million homes worldwide will be equipped with high-definition TV sets and that 132 million Blu-ray players will be connected to them. David Mercer, principal analyst for Strategy Analytics said in a statement that those figures, plus "Hollywood's need for a new growth engine, represent huge incentives for the industry to coordinate marketing activities and demonstrate unified support for the successor to DVD."


After at first offering a fire sale of HD DVD titles following Toshiba's decision to abandon the format, Best Buy has begun removing them from its shelves and using the space for Blu-ray or standard DVD product, Video Businessreported on its website Wednesday. In one Los Angeles outlet, the trade publication said, Best Buy had increased the number of Blu-ray titles some 50 percent from the previous week. It was not clear whether the unsold product was being returned to distributors or to an inventory close-out firm, it noted. (Best Buy is still selling HD DVD titles on its website.)


James Bond, Rocky, and the Pink Panther will all find homes away from home in Abu Dhabi as part of a multi-billion-dollar development project announced Wednesday by the studio and Sorough Real Estate. The 150-acre "entertainment destination," which will include hotels, shops, restaurants and themed attractions, is due to open in 2012. MGM will receive licensing fees from the complex while the United Arab Emirates developer will finance, construct and manage the property, MGM said.


The Chinese movie download website Jeboo has sued the MPAA for libel following a statement by the movie organization implying that, as part of a legal settlement, the company had admitted to committing piracy. The settlement came after the MPAA had sued Jeboo accusing it of supplying Chinese Internet cafes with software that allowed users to download and watch pirated movies. The MPAA's settlement said that Jeboo had "confirmed the cessation of infringing activities." But Jeboo said Wednesday that it had never confirmed any such thing. "We cannot tolerate statements that don't reflect the truth," company official Xie Jiangping told the Associated Press.


Richard Widmark, whose character in Kiss of Death,Tommy Udo, famously pushed an old lady in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs while giggling all the while, has died after a lengthy illness at age 93. In its obituary, the Associated Press quoted Widmark as saying about the scene in a 1961 interview, "I played the part the way I did because the script struck me as funny and the part I played made me laugh. The guy was such a ridiculous beast." The role won him his only Oscar -- for best supporting actor. Years later he told the AP that although he had made a career out playing killers, cops and gunslingers, he was nevertheless "an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that we are the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns."