VIACOM SUIT: THE LAWYERS WIN

Viacom's $1-billion copyright lawsuit against Google and its YouTube subsidiary could generate a windfall for lawyers representing the companies, Forbes magazine observed on its website today (Wednesday). The magazine observed that Viacom lawyer Donald Verilli Jr. charges up to $800 per hour and that before the case is resolved legal fees could amount to $350 million or more. Sam Solomon, chief executive of Doar Litigation Consulting, told Forbes that there'll be "probably 5,000 people touching this case one way or another." While some analysts have publicly voiced suspicions that the lawsuit is merely a ploy by Viacom to extract a favorable deal from YouTube, others see the probability that it may end up in court. Says Forbes: "One reason the case could make it to trial: Both companies can afford it. Viacom is sitting on $706 million in cash, while Google has $11.24 billion laying around."

CARELL ALMIGHTY

NBC Universal will be using a "marathon" of The Office that is scheduled to run throughout primetime on NBC Thursday night to promote the Universal movie Evan Almighty, which opens on June 22. Both The Office and Evan Almighty star Steve Carell. NBC Universal said that it will premiere the trailer for the movie not only during its "Night at the Office" marathon but also on Access Hollywood, the syndicated magazine show that airs earlier in the evening on many NBC affiliates.

SONY SAYS BLU-RAY MAKING FAST PROGRESS

Although Netflix founder Reed Hastings told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that rentals of high-definition DVDs have been "tragically small," Sony has observed that Casino Royale passed the 100,000 sales mark this month nine months after the first Blu-ray DVD units became available. By contrast, it noted, it took 11 months before Air Force One became the first 100,000 seller on conventional DVD back in 1998.

STUDIOS MAKE HI-DEF FARE AVAILABLE ON MICROSOFT'S XBOX

Microsoft plans to introduce an "elite" model of its Xbox360 game system that includes a 120GB hard drive -- six times larger than the current version -- and additional high-definition capability. It will have a suggested retail price of $479.99 when it becomes available beginning April 29. At the same time, Microsoft said that New Line Cinema has agreed to provide high-definition films for the Xbox Live downloading service. It will join Paramount, Warner Bros., and Lionsgate, who are already providing HD films for the service.

CHINESE FILM OFFICIAL PREDICTS LITTLE BIZ FOR CHINESE AWARD WINNER

Jia Zhangke's Still Life, which won the Golden Lion award for best film at last year's Venice Film Festival, is receiving no praise from China's film chief. Zhang Hongsen told China Daily that the movie "lacks love and care to working classes." He faulted younger directors for turning out movies that are "inanimate and hard to drag viewers into cinema." The state-owned newspaper commented that Zhang's remarks "raise speculation that Still Live poses a lackluster performance in the box office." (Ironically, a similar observation was made by Daily Variety when the film was screened at Venice. "It will appeal to the most faithful of the director's camp-followers and no one else," the trade paper said.) China Daily further commented: "Chinese directors have long been chided by domestic fans because they are always capturing and revealing the dark sides of the country in their movies, solely for the alleged purpose of winning international acknowledgements."

MEHTA'S WATER FAILS TO MAKE A SPLASH

Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta's Water, which was nominated for a foreign-language Oscar this year, has failed to attract an audience in India, where the movie is set. When Mehta first began production of the film in India in 2000, Hindu fundamentalists staged violent protests, burning down the sets and eventually forcing Mehta to flee to Sri Lanka to complete her film. The film opened in India to mostly glowing reviews from critics, but trade analyst Taran Adarsh told Reuters that it "caters to a niche audience -- only those who appreciate quality cinema." A spokesman for one of the Hindu groups that demonstrated against the original filming told the wire service that it has not resumed its protests because "nobody is watching the film. It has met a quiet death."

EX-MPAA CHIEF VALENTI HOSPITALIZED AFTER STROKE

Former MPAA chief Jack Valenti, 85, suffered a stroke last week and was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, it was disclosed Tuesday. Details of his condition were not disclosed, but Warner Bros. Chairman/CEO Barry Meyer, a longtime friend, said in a statement, "His family tells me that doctors are encouraged by his progress to date."

Brian B.