VIACOM KEEPS ON TREKIN'
Viacom stock went where no other media stock had gone on Monday -- up. Surprisingly strong ticket sales for the new Star Trek, produced by Viacom-owned Paramount, buoyed the company's shares and kept it from becoming swept into the overall market vortex. To be sure, it did no more than tread water, inching up just 0.04 percent, but on a day when the Dow Jones fell 156 points, that was regarded as a solid accomplishment. CBS Inc., by contrast, which like Viacom is controlled by Sumner Redstone's National Amusements, fell 11 percent. Viacom's strength was evident even before word came that Paramount had significantly underestimated Star Trek's performance on Sunday by a whopping $3 million. Final figures indicated that the movie earned $79.2 million, including preview screenings in many markets on Thursday night. Stronger-than-expected ticket sales on Sunday was attributed to positive word-of-mouth and augured well for the film's ability to withstand a slew of strong competitors in the weeks ahead. By contrast, the second weekend of Fox's X-Men Origins: Wolverine came in at $26.41 million, significantly below studio estimates and 69 percent below the previous week's results. Likewise, its disappointing showing was blamed on poor word of mouth. Next Day Air, an urban comedy that was the only other film to open wide over the weekend, took in just $4.11 million. Overall, the top 12 films grossed $142.77 million, up 21.3 percent over the same weekend a year ago. Attendance was up 13.4 percent.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Box Office Mojo (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Star Trek, Paramount, $75,204,289, 1 Wk. ($79,204,289) (including Thursday previews); 2. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 20th Century Fox, $26,408,288, 2 Wks. ($129,032,435); 3. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Warner Bros., $10,258,141, 2 Wks. ($30,054,386); 4. Obsessed, Sony, $6,560,266, 3 Wks. ($56,207,576); 5. 17 Again, Warner Bros., $4,232,422, 4 Wks. ($53,994,515); 6. Next Day Air, Summit Ent. $4,111,043, (New); 7. The Soloist, Paramount, $3,949,430, 3 Wks. ($23,845,177); 8. Monsters vs. Aliens, Paramount, $3,260,440, 7 Wks. ($186,774,092); 9. Earth, Disney, $2,666,219, 3 Wks. ($26,264,242); 10. Hannah Montana: The Movie, Disney, $2,193,043, 5 Wks. ($73,861,795).
GEFFEN SEEKING TO BUY NEW YORK TIMES STAKE
Media mogul David Geffen, who had previously attempted unsuccessfully to buy the Los Angeles Times, has made an offer to buy a 19-percent stake in the New York Times from Harbinger Capital Partners, published reports said on Monday, citing unnamed sources. Harbinger originally acquired the stake for $500 million, but it has fallen 61 percent since then to $194 million, mirroring the decline of nearly all major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. In retrospect, most observers believe that it was fortunate for Geffen, the founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of DreamWorks Studios, that he was unable to land the Times. (He reportedly offered owner Sam Zell $2 billion for it two years ago, which Zell turned down.) The Times's parent, the Tribune Corporation, is currently operating under bankruptcy protection.
CANNES APPLIES MAKEUP
The 62nd annual Cannes Film Festival is due to open on Wednesday with a screening of Disney/Pixar's Up. And while the usual last-minute preparations were underway at the Festival Palace, with workers laying new carpets, including the red one at the entrance, hundreds of reporters and critics picking up credentials, and hundreds of fans and photographers staking out positions on the sidewalk outside -- many with ladders -- to get a good look at the celebrities when they arrive, many long-time festival goers were bewailing the effect of the worldwide recession on the glamorous event. Many news reports have mentioned that the legendary Vanity Fair party won't be held this year, that many of the yachts docked in the harbor alongside the Palace, which once provided a secure haven for the glitterati during their stay at the festival, are empty, and that studio executives looking at films being screened in and out of competition are keeping a tight grip on their wallets. "You'll find companies being careful," Sony Pictures Classics Co-President Michael Barker told Reuters. "That is not to say deals won't be made, because deals will be made."