PIRATE BAY TRIAL: THE DUEL'S OVER
In the final day of The Pirate Bay trial in Stockholm, Sweden, the prosecutor and lawyers for the movie and recording industries (the trial is both a criminal and civil proceeding) wound up their case by asking the judge to sentence the four defendants to prison, fine them $180,000, and order them to pay $13 million in damages. For its part, the defense argued that the case should never have been brought to court at all and that it came about as a result of "the enormous pressure and lobbying from record and film companies." One defense lawyer maintained that none of the defendants even had knowledge of the 33 alleged copyright infringements cited by the prosecution. Somewhat surprisingly, the defendants' arguments got the back of the hand from the popular tech publication, Wired magazine, which said in an online editorial: "In the courtroom, the defendants quickly abandoned their revolutionary, free-culture ideals in favor of the simpler philosophy embraced by criminal defendants since time immemorial: I'm Not Responsible." A verdict is expected to be delivered on April 17.
BLOCKBUSTER'S STOCK BUSTED
Dallas-based Blockbuster has denied reports that it is seeking outside counsel in possible preparation for bankruptcy. In an interview with the Dallas Observer (and later with other publications), Blockbuster spokesman Karen Ruskopf said that the company "does not intend to file for bankruptcy" and that it has hired the law firm Kirkland and Ellis only "for assistance with ongoing financing and capital-raising initiatives." Blockbuster has been staggering under a ton of loans that it was forced to bring with it after it was spun off from Viacom in 2004. On Tuesday, Blockbuster shares plummeted 77 percent to 22 cents from 74 cents. By midday trading today (Wednesday), it had risen 22 cents -- a 100-percent change. At the same time Netflix rose 5.8 percent Tuesday on news of Blockbuster's continuing woes and was up an additional 1.07 percent at midday today to $36.75.
SLUMDOG COMING TO DVD THIS MONTH
Slumdog Millionaire may have enjoyed its best weekend to date in theaters last weekend -- even after nearly four months in release. And the Academy Award winner's legs are likely to remain steady for several more weeks. That's why analysts were somewhat surprised when Fox announced that Slumdog, whose Oscar wins included best picture, director (Danny Boyle), and adapted screenplay (Simon Beaufoy), would be released on DVD and Blu-ray disc on March 31 -- just four weeks from now. The Blu-ray version, it said, will include a bonus music video. The A.R. Rahman soundtrack won Oscars for best original score and best original song.
MPAA TIGHTENS ITS BELT
Movies in general may be one of the few products unaffected by the current recession. (In fact, February set box-office sales and attendance records.) But the MPAA, the principal trade association of the motion picture industry, announced Tuesday that it is making drastic cutbacks. In separate interviews with the trade publications Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman said that the organization is cutting its operating budget by some $20 million and will lay off about 20 percent of its staff. National Journal has previously reported that the MPAA's annual revenue is $82.1 million. Glickman, according to other reports, receive an annual salary of $1.5 million. In a related development Sony Pictures Entertainment said that it plans to cut about 300 jobs, representing about 4 percent of its workforce, beginning next week.
WATCHMEN: A SEQUEL?
Although the stars of Watchmen, which opens on Friday, are contractually obligated to appear in a sequel, there appears little likelihood that a sequel will actually be produced, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Wednesday). Director Zack Snyder indicated that his contract does not call for him to direct a sequel and that if asked to do so, he would refuse. "Will they make one? I have no idea how you would. The work is the work." The newspaper pointed out that the current movie is faithful to the original Alan Moore graphic novel and that no sequel was ever published. Asked whether he would appear in a second Watchmen movie, co-star Billy Crudup told the Times: "I will do it. I just don't know what it is we would do." And fellow co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan added: "The fans would kill us if we tried to go and do something else. ... If we tried to do a prequel that wasn't written by Alan Moore, we'd get crucified. ...Unless Warner Bros. wants all of their actors to get killed, I think it's a bad idea."