DISNEY MAY SLASH ONLINE MOVIE PRICES

Disney may be planning to stop trying to fight pirates in the courts and do battle with them in the marketplace -- by drastically reducing its online pricing. According to a transcript of Robert Iger's comments made at a Deutsche Bank conference on Tuesday, posted by the website ContentAgenda, the Disney CEO acknowledged that making its movies cheaply available online -- either for sale or rental -- is likely to be "margin destructive and revenue destructive." Nevertheless, he added, "What people aren't realizing is that the business we're used to may be over and the business we're going to see may be quite different. So when it comes to piracy, are we better off with a lower price point, if we move content faster, and maybe in cheaper and more convenient ways to the consumer, than if we get nothing for it and they steal it?"

SAG OFFICIAL CALLS FOR STRIKE VOTE

Anne-Marie Johnson, a leader of the Membership First faction of the Screen Actors Guild has demanded that the union's board of directors send out a strike authorization ballot to members. Johnson, the 1st vice president of the union, who has been barred by a board vote from speaking on behalf of the union, posted a message on SAG's official site (headed "The following is my opinion. I am not speaking on behalf of Screen Actors Guild") and on the new Membership First site, which concludes: "If you are fed up with the delays and want to either vote on the SAV [strike authorization vote] or the LBF [last best and final] offer [by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers], as soon as possible, please let YOUR union know."

MEDIA STOCKS UP WEDNESDAY, DOWN TODAY

Media stocks on Wednesday followed the market's upward surge, then retreated again by midday today (Thursday). CBS was down 10.39 percent to $3.45, its lowest price ever. Disney was down 5.49 percent to 16.01 after closing Wednesday at $16.94. and Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, was off 4.39 percent to 11.33. General Electric, owner of NBC Universal, whose stock dropped close to an 18-year-low on Wednesday, was up 2.24 percent today to $6.84.

SLUMDOG CROSSES $200-MILLION MARK

Slumdog Millionaire has become one of the few independently produced movies to cross the $200-million mark worldwide, after posting $116.9 million in domestic ticket sales and $96 million overseas, Daily Variety reported today (Thursday). It also observed that, contrary to earlier estimates, final figures indicate that Slumdog was last weekend's No. 1 film at the international box office, edging out The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It also rose to become the top film in North America on Tuesday with a take of $984,956, beating Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail with $819,705. (Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience) fell to sixth place with $364,389. Additionally it was reported that the soundtrack of the concert film sold only 49,700 copies in its debut last week compared with 525,000 copies that the brothers' last album sold when it hit the shelves last August.)

NOTE:

Since Watchmen is being released in many cities at midnight tonight, many reviews appeared today (Thursday). (Most are dreadful.) We will have a more complete summary of the reviews on Friday.

REDBOX BRINGS ITS KIOSKS TO MANHATTAN

Redbox announced Wednesday that it has installed its first two movie-rental kiosks in New York City -- at Walgreens stores in the Empire State Building and at One Times Square. "More than 37 million customers have experienced the value and convenience of Redbox, and we are thrilled to introduce the service to thousands more in New York City," Redbox marketing VP Gary Lancina said in a statement. Some analysts were taken aback to learn that none of the kiosks had already been installed in the nation's largest city, which boasts more than 300 McDonald's restaurants. Redbox had been jointly owned by McDonald's and Coinstar until Coinstar agreed to buy out McDonald's stake two weeks ago. It was generally believed that the majority of the dollar-a-night DVD kiosks were located in McDonald's outlets.

STUDIOS DEVELOP NEW TECHNOLOGY TO THWART PIRATES

The latest anti-piracy technology can do away with the need to provide night-vision goggles to theater employees so that they can search for persons using camcorders or cell phones while a movie is playing. The technology involves automatically placing an audio "watermark" on the film when a camera is detected in a theater. When the film is played back, the system discloses the seat that was being used while the camcording was in progress. The website TorrentFreak noted, however, that in order to have a suspect arrested, the theater must create a database including information about who is sitting in each seat. In a related development, the MPAA has released a study titled "Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism," claiming that mobsters and terrorists support their activities by bootlegging films.