i>SHREK TO BATTLE SPIDER-MAN, PIRATES; WHO'LL WIN?

With three big sequels due out in May, the one that draws the most repeat business will come out on top, DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg told investors at a Bank of America conference in New York on Wednesday. His company's Shrek the Third will be competing against Sony-Columbia's Spider-Man 3 and Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. "Everyone is going to see Shrek. Everyone is going to see Pirates. Everyone is going to see Spider-Man," he said. "The difference is which one of those movies are going to get multiple viewings." Katzenberg also had a dim view of the prospects for the two competing high-definition DVD formats, Blu-ray and HD DVD, saying that for the average consumer the difference in quality between standard DVD and the hi-def models is too slight to make a difference. He also forecast that movie sales via Internet downloads over the next 18-24 months would be "negligible."

CRUISE, AS MOVIE MOGUL, GREENLIT MOVIE IN ONE MONTH

A based-on-fact movie about the plot by a group of German generals to assassinate Adolf Hitler during World War II was greenlit in only about a month, after the writers, Chris McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, got together with director Bryan Singer, who in turn took the movie to Tom Cruise, syndicated columnist Liz Smith disclosed today (Thursday). The movie, Valkyrie, is set to become the first film to be produced by United Artists since Cruise took over as head of the studio last November. He will also star in the movie as the German colonel, Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, who led the "July Plot" to kill Hitler. Singer told Smith, "In the back of my mind I always thought Tom would be a great fit for this role." Earlier this week a member of von Stauffenberg's family expressed concern that Cruise might use the film to champion Scientology and "get across its propaganda."

POSTAL FORCE JOINS STAR WARS

The U.S. Postal Service plans to mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars with a commemorative set of stamps featuring characters from the movie. The set, which will bear the new 41-cent first-class rate, is set to go on sale on May 25, eleven days after the postage hike takes effect. USPS Stamp Services director David Fallor told the BBC Wednesday, "We believe these stamps have the potential of reaching the blockbuster status of the [1993] Elvis stamp." Terms of the postal service's licensing deal with Lucasfilm, which owns the rights to the Star Wars characters, were not disclosed.

FONDA FELT GUILTY COLLECTING 1971 OSCAR

Jane Fonda, a firebrand anti-Vietnam War activist in the 1960s and early '70s, has revealed that her father, the legendary actor Henry Fonda, advised her against making any political comment when she accepted her best actress award for Klute in 1971. She took his advice. In an interview with Robert Osborne on the TCM channel scheduled to air tonight (Thursday), Fonda said that she had her father very much in mind when she accepted the award. "I realized that I had just won an Oscar and my dad never had," she tells Osborne. "I cried and cried. It just seemed so wrong."

JELLYFISH HALTS MOVIE SHOOT

Filming of Warner Bros.' Fool's Gold, starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, has been halted at Fraser Island, Australia after a deadly species of jellyfish was discovered there, the London daily Telegraph reported today (Thursday). A scene in the film was to have featured the actors swimming off the island. "You can't now say the waters around Fraser Island are jellyfish safe," Dr. Jamie Seymour of James Cook University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "I mean, these animals have the potential to kill you." The irukandji jellyfish are only thumbnail sized but are regarded as one of the world's most toxic creatures. Their sudden discovery around Fraser Island was being blamed on global warming.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.