MOVIE BUSINESS EXPANDS OVERSEAS

While the movie business remains a slow-growth affair domestically, it reached record levels overseas last year, with receipts coming in at $25.8 billion, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) indicated on Tuesday. By contrast, the North American movie market produced $9.49 billion. "Film audiences around the world reminded us that they love going to the movies," MPAA chief Dan Glickman said at a news conference. Although the MPAA has long complained that it loses over $18 billion dollars of revenue annually because of online piracy, Glickman observed Tuesday that hot-wired consumers who own the latest high-tech electronic and computer gear are the most avid moviegoers. "Technologies are emerging at a fast pace, challenging our industry -- filmmakers and exhibitors alike -- to work harder and smarter to keep moviegoers coming back for more, and I think we are well on our way," Glickman remarked.

BOX-OFFICE UP, BUT SO ARE PRODUCTION COSTS

While box-office revenue rose both domestically and internationally, the increased revenue was partially offset by a significant rise in the costs of production and distribution and by a rise in overall film output, according to the MPAA's state-of-the-industry report issued Tuesday. The report indicated that the average movie cost $65.0 million to produce last year against $63.6 million in 2005. Reporting on the rise, Daily Variety commented today (Wednesday) that it "may be a result of the rivers of private equity flowing into Hollywood over the past year as investors and hedge funds showed up with bushels of money to underwrite studio pictures." The MPAA said that marketing costs dropped slightly in 2006 to $34.5 million per picture versus $36.1 million in 2005. The number of new movies increased to 607 compared to 549 in 2005.

CLOSING THE WINDOW?

Proposals to release movies in theaters and DVD simultaneously got a big boost Tuesday with the release of an international report maintaining that film studios could realize a 16-percent boost in revenue by closing the current window between theatrical and DVD releases. On the other hand, the report -- by Marketing Power -- indicated that movie theaters would encounter a 40-percent fall in ticket sales. The report also suggested that studios could gain additional revenue by releasing films on home-video rental first, then selling the video three months later.

U.S. CRITICIZES BORAT'S NATIVE LAND

A State Department report on human rights is likely to tarnish the image of Kazakhstan more thoroughly than Sacha Baron Cohen ever did with his Borat movie. The 2006 report issued Tuesday condemned the former Soviet republic for increased censorship, including pulling the plug on Baron Cohen's www.borat.kz web page last year and threatening him with legal retaliation for the movie. (He later changed the site to www.borat.tv.) The report also listed numerous additional human rights offenses by the Kazakh government.

EISNER IN MARVEL-OUS DEAL

Michael Eisner, who presumably never had any intention of adding superheroes to the mix of animated characters at Disney when he was the company's CEO, is now a leading member of a buyout group that is taking over Topps Co. Inc. The company is known for its Bazooka bubble gum and trading cards that feature the Marvel super-hero family and sports figures. Topps on Tuesday said that it had accepted a $385.4-million offer from the group, which includes Eisner's Tornante Co and Chicago-based Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity firm.

OBI-WAN KENOBI'S CLOAK GOES UNDER GAVEL FOR $104,000.

A costume auction in London Tuesday saw Star Wars's Obi-Wan Kenobi's brown cloak go for $104,000. The seller was the British costume firm Angels the Costumiers, which said that the cloak, worn by Alec Guinness in the movie, had lain on its shelves unnoticed until a year ago. The name of the buyer was not disclosed.

Brian B.