NOT SO SUPER TUESDAY ON TV
Aside from hourly updates, the major networks are planning no special primetime programming for Super Tuesday. (Nine states are holding primaries, and a tenth, caucuses). The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, and World News Tonight with Peter Jennings all plan to air separate live editions for each of the time zones. CBS is planning to present a five-minute wrap-up with Dan Rather at 11:35 p.m. And ABC will cover the results during Nightline. Tom Brokaw has been assigned to sibling cable channel MSNBC for the night, where he will anchor primary results with Tim Russert.
PRODUCER SUES DICK CLARK, ALLEGES AGE DISCRIMINATION
Veteran television producer Ralph Andrews has sued Dick Clark, alleging age discrimination, after receiving a letter from Clark rejecting his application for a position with dick clark productions (sic). According to the lawsuit, Clark, who is 74, wrote Andrews, who is 76, expressing "respect and admiration for your accomplishments," but adding, "The last development guy we hired was 27 years old. Another person who is joining our staff next week is 30. People our age are considered dinosaurs. The business is being run by 'the next generation.'" In a statement, Andrews, best known for producing the NBC game show You Don't Say, commented: ""I've known Dick for nearly 40 years. He misled me to believe he would happily give me a job doing what I do best -- creating, developing or producing television shows. But then Dick tells me I'm too old. I'm not too old. In fact, if Dick's not too old, then why am I?"
"UNTALENT" CONTEST NABS BIG RATINGS
Even with an edition of Fox's American Idol that highlighted some of its worst talent contestants (American Idol: Uncut, Uncensored and Untalented), the show had no difficulty trouncing its rivals in the 8:00 p.m. hour Monday night, scoring a 12.2 rating and an 18 share. Although Fox had hoped to pull a substantial part of its Idol audience into the 9:00 p.m. hour by extending Idol by an additional five minutes, the ploy failed to work. The debuting Forever Eden mustered only a 7.2/10, putting it in fourth place in the ratings during that time segment. CBS, however, came roaring back at 9:00, scoring a 13.2/18 with Everybody Loves Raymond and an 11.6/16 with Two and a Half Men. At 10:00 p.m., CSI: Miami claimed the highest ratings of the night, a 14.0/21. CBS claimed first place for the night with an average 11.1/16. Fox was second with a 9.7/14. NBC followed with an 8.7/12, while ABC trailed with a 7.7/11.
ARAB VERSION OF BIG BROTHER YANKED
After just one week, the first version of Big Brother to air in the Middle East has been shut down -- at least temporarily -- by public protests and political outcry. According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, some 1,000 protesters took part in a rally against it on Friday, claiming that the show, which features male and female contestants living together in the same house, violated Islamic precepts and Arab tradition. A spokeswoman for the Middle East Broadcasting Center in Bahrain said that it planned to revamp the show, putting the male and female contestants in separate bedrooms and adding a prayer room.
An official of the Council on American Islamic Relations has objected to our characterization of the group's letter to Disney regarding alleged stereotypes in the movie Hidalgo as a denunciation of the film. Helal Omeira, executive director of the Northern California chapter of the organization said that it "only offered concern regarding some of the content as it was reported to us." In a trade review today (Tuesday), Hollywood Reporter critic Kirk Honeycutt called the story "a shamelessly cheesy exercise in Western ingenuity and spirit trumping Arab treachery and intolerance."
MORE PASSION THAN PREDICTED
As several analysts had forecast, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ far exceeded industry estimates at the box office over the weekend, taking in an astounding $125.2 million, including ticket sales on Wednesday and Thursday. The fact that the audience for the movie expanded on Sunday (it took in $5 million more on Sunday than it did on Friday) led box office mavens to speculate that the film will draw even bigger crowds over the Good Friday and Easter holidays. Although it had been expected to play well in the Bible Belt and in inner-city areas where Christian churches represent a forceful presence, analysts reported Monday that the film played well in all regions and with all demographics. Rob Schwartz, head of distribution for Newmarket Films, the independent distributor that Gibson hired when the major studios rejected the film, told the Associated Press Monday that he believes the film could take in $350 million in North America alone. Three other films that opened wide over the weekend performed poorly. Paramount's Twisted landed in third place with just $8.9 million. Lions Gate's Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights debuted with only $5.8 million, and Fox Searchlight's Club Dread was dead at $3 million. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The Passion of the Christ, Newmarket, $83,848,082, 1 Wk. $125,185,971 -- From Wednesday); 2. 50 First Dates, Sony, $12,565,729, 3 Wks. ($88,683,963); 3. Twisted, Paramount, $8,904,299, (New); 4. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Disney, $6,346,941, 2 Wks. ($16,905,932); 5. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Lions Gate, $5,811,325, (New); 6. Miracle, Disney, $4,469,617, 4 Wks. ($56,328,330); 7. Eurotrip, DreamWorks, $4,051,428, 2 Wks. ($12,758,176); 8. Welcome to Mooseport, 20th Century Fox, $3,279,764, 2 Wks. ($11,539,863); 9. Barbershop 2: Back in Business, MGM, $3,125,536, 4 Wks. ($57,575,543); 10. Broken Lizard's Club Dread, Fox Searchlight, $3,035,688, (New).
"DAVID MANNING" SUIT TO GO FORWARD
An appeals court in California ruled Thursday that a class action law suit filed against Sony Pictures charging it with false advertising and deceptive business practices could go forth. Sony had argued that the advertising in question, which quoted laudatory reviews by a critic named David Manning, were protected by Constitutional guarantees of free speech. Manning, however, turned out to be a nonexistent creation of the studio's marketing department. "Although the films themselves enjoy full First Amendment protection, Sony's film advertisements do not," the court ruled. However a dissenting judge, Reuben Ortega, ridiculed the decision by his colleagues, calling the lawsuit "the most frivolous case with which I have ever had to deal." If the plaintiffs win, he suggested facetiously, "No longer will people be seen lurching like mindless zombies toward the movie theater, compelled by a puff piece."
CAMPAIGN TO OUST EISNER ACCELERATES
Stepping up their campaign in advance of Wednesday's shareholders meeting to oust Michael Eisner as chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Co., former dissident board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold have sent a new message to shareholders urging them not to vote for Eisner's reelection, thereby sending "an unmistakable message that it is time for a change in the senior management and board of the Walt Disney Co. Tell the board you believe it is time to replace Michael Eisner." As for who might replace Eisner, Gold told Bloomberg News on Monday that "there are five to 10 people who could run this company." Although Gold did not mention any names, Bloomberg quoted unnamed executive recruiters who said that News Corp President Peter Chernin and Interactive Corp. Chairman Barry Diller would probably head the list, followed by Disney President Robert Iger, Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs, Comcast President Steve Burke, DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, Viacom President Mel Karmazin, Time Warner Entertainment and Networks Group Chairman Jeffrey Bewkes, and Universal Studios President and COO Ron Meyer.
DISNEY AND WALDEN MEDIA PLAN THEIR OWN FANTASY FRANCHISE
The Walt Disney Company and Walden Media took out a two-page color ad in several newspapers today (Tuesday) to announce that they are teaming up to produce The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. "There are a thousand stories in the land of Narnia ... The first is about to be told," the ad says, while noting that the release is planned for Christmas 2005. The C.S. Lewis tale was turned into an animated film by Bill Melendez in 1979.
THE RETURN OF THE RETURN OF THE KING
New Line is hoping to capitalize on the overwhelming Oscar success of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by returning it to more than 2,000 theaters next weekend. The film, which fell out of the top ten for the first time last weekend, has now grossed $364.1 million domestically, and New Line distribution chief David Tuckerman told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Daily News that he believes the film has not yet realized its potential. "There are groups of people that haven't seen it yet because of the length [more than 3.5 hours] or there are probably some who are afraid to see it because they haven't seen the first two. But this film stands out on its own, so we shave to reach these people and tell them, it's OK; you can see it."
CINEPLEX FOUNDER NAT TAYLOR DEAD AT 98
Canadian exhibitor Nat Taylor, credited with creating the first multiplex theater in 1948 and introducing movie theaters to shopping malls, died Tuesday in Toronto at the age of 98. In 1979 he and his protégé Garth Drabinsky, opened the world's first 18-screen Cineplex theater complex in Toronto (Taylor coined the term "Cineplex"). "He was a father to me, and a teacher to me, and a friend, and a business partner," Drabinsky told today's (Tuesday) Toronto Star. "He was everything."