IGER SHAKING UP DISNEY'S "PARTNERS"
Disney's decision to begin offering its TV shows and movies online has created "a pretty interesting dynamic" between itself and its TV affiliates, DVD marketers, and movie theaters, Disney CEO Robert Iger said Thursday. Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Boston College Chief Executives' Club, Iger observed that in the first two weeks that Disney's ABC-TV began streaming Desperate Housewives and Lost online, three million people watched them. "Consumer demand has been incredible," he said. ABC also offers ad-free downloads of the shows on Apple's iTunes Music Store. Iger observed that affiliates regard the Internet as a "threat" that has already drawn away large numbers of viewers. Iger has also indicated that he expects the company to begin selling its movies online closer to the time they are released theatrically. "You can imagine some of the conversations that we have today with movie theater owners, television affiliates and large retailers like Wal-Mart," Iger said. In the same speech, Iger also said Thursday that Disney has no plans for any major acquisitions in the near future

FANS ARE IN 7TH HEAVEN

In a surprise announcement, the fledgling CW network announced Thursday that 7th Heaven, which supposedly aired its final episode less than two weeks ago, had been given a new lease on life and would be back in the fall. The show, which previously had aired on The WB network, had been marked for extinction last year because its rising budget supposedly could not be justified on the relatively low-rated network. However, CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff said Thursday that she had decided to renew the series after it received solid ratings during the season and after the May 8 broadcast attracted million viewers. The decision to renew 7th Heaven resulted in the cancellation of Everwood, which had previously been penciled-in for the same time slot on Monday nights.

FRANCE PUTS TV ARCHIVES ONLINE

The French National Audiovisual Institute (INA), which has digitized and archived thousands of hours of broadcasts, has made its collection available online -- and has been overwhelmed by millions of people attempting to access the site, the International Herald Tribune reported Thursday. The newspaper said that the site, www.ina.fr, is receiving about five million visits a day for its collection, "Archives Pour Tous" ("Archives for All"). In an interview, spokeswoman Sylvie Vormus said, "Preserving archives would be pointless if that was to keep them only for a 'happy few.' It is INA's mission to communicate and made this vast wealth of archive images as widely accessible as possible using the latest digital technology, yet preserving them as the nation's heritage for future generations." INA said that it is adding about 5,000 hours of broadcasts a month to the archives.

SENATE REVIVES BIG INDECENCY FINES

In a parliamentary procedural maneuver, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist succeeded Thursday in securing Senate approval for new broadcast indecency legislation in which the maximum penalty was raised to $325,000 for each violation. The bill, sponsored by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, must now be reconciled with one already passed by the House. Both bills have been strongly opposed by the broadcasting industry.

CONAN TO RETURN AS HOST OF EMMYS

Conan O'Brien, who last hosted the Emmy Awards in 2002, will return this year to perform hosting duties at the 58th annual affair on Sunday, August 27 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In 2002, the Los Angeles Times praised O'Brien for delivering "one of the funniest opening monologues in Emmy's history." The Boston Globe wrote that he "added a welcome wryness to the long night." Half-way through the 2002 proceedings, O'Brien brought down the house when he announced that he planned to turn all the TV sets onstage to The Sopranos, the award show's major competition on that night. This year's ceremonies will be carried by O'Brien's network, NBC.

STAR TREK PROPS TO BE AUCTIONED OFF

Seeming to represent the hammering of the final nail in the coffin of the once-lucrative Star Trek franchise, 4,000 items of props and set dressings from the TV shows and movies will face the auctioneer's gavel on Oct. 5. A three-day sale of memorabilia from all five Star Trek TV series and 10 movies is due to take place at Christie's in New York. Included is the miniature Starship Enterprise used in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, which is valued at $15,000 to $25,000.

MOVIE REVIEWS: OVER THE HEDGE
The animated Over the Hedge is attracting far more favorable reviews than its rival for weekend box-office honors, The Da Vinci Code (although no one expects the cartoon to outperform the thriller). Still, the reviews mostly lack any real enthusiasm. For example, Roger Ebert writes in the Chicago Sun-Times that it is "not at the level of Finding Nemo or Shrek, but is a lot of fun, awfully nice to look at, and filled with energy and smiles. It's not a movie adults would probably want to attend on their own, but those taking the kids are likely to be amused, and the kids, I think, will like it just fine." Likewise, Peter Howell, in the Toronto Star observes, "It is competent work and frequently amusing." Jan Stuart in Newsday gives it points for being "smart without being smarty pants, environmentally true without being pedantic, literate without being high-handed." Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe & Mail puts it this way: "Though the animation is solid and the writing reasonably clever, Over the Hedge is clearly more about bright packaging than freshness or substance." The film does indeed attract some extreme response. On the one hand, Chris Kaltenback in the Baltimore Sun writes: "Rarely have critters frolicked more hilariously than in Over the Hedge, a movie that should amuse all but the newborn or dead." Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle calls it "the studio's best computer-animated effort since Shrek." On the other hand, Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, while praising the technical prowess of the animators, remarks that "no one bothered to pay commensurate attention to the screenplay." And Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times opens his review this way: "Offering little in the way of sophistication or memorable characters, the disappointingly pedestrian computer-animated Over the Hedge will be more entertaining for little tykes than their older siblings and parents, and would not seem out of place on Saturday morning television." And Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune concludes: "The whole thing has the soul and mechanics of a second-rate R-rated action picture, toned down for the target audience."

POLITICS RETURNS TO CANNES

Veteran British writer-director Ken Loach, whose latest film, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, has been entered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, has become the first to use the festival as a political platform. Discussing his film, which is set during the Irish Civil War, Loach said that "the story of a struggle for independence is a story that reoccurs and reoccurs and reoccurs. ... There are always armies of occupation somewhere in the world being resisted by the people they're occupying, and I don't need to tell anyone here were the British now illegally have an army of occupation, and the damage in casualties and brutality that is emerging from that." Making it plain that he was referring to the war in Iraq, Loach charged that it represented "an appalling scar, certainly on the British Government's record and clearly on America's." The Cannes Film Festival has traditionally encouraged filmmakers to speak out on controversial issues. In 2004, it awarded Michael Moore its highest prize, the Palme d'Or, for his anti-Iraq-war film Fahrenheit 9/11.

SONY MAY LAUNCH NEW FILM DIVISION

Sony Pictures Entertainment is considering creating a new division for films that are a step above the low-budget art films handled by Sony Pictures Classics but not quite the big blockbusters that its Columbia Motion Pictures unit turns out, Sony Motion Pictures Group Chairman Amy Pascal has told Britain's Guardian newspaper. In an interview appearing today (Friday), Pascal indicated that she conceived the idea of a new division after Brokeback Mountain, a film she rejected, became one of the biggest box-office successes of 2005. "At the time we didn't have the right way to distribute a movie like that ... I didn't believe Sony would be able to do it justice," she said.

ULTRA-HIGH-DEFINITION DIGITAL PROJECTORS TO BE TESTED

Sony will begin testing the latest generation of high-definition digital movie projectors at a Los Angeles theater showing The Da Vinci Code this weekend, with plans to install similar projectors in two other theaters next month, the Associated Press reported today (Friday). The so-called 4K projector offers twice the resolution of 2K projectors currently operating in a handful of theaters across the country. According to A.P., they also "promise richer color and better contrast that draws moviegoers into the image."

DA VINCI CODE FACING MORE OPPOSITION FROM ASIAN CATHOLICS

One day after The Da Vinci Code opened in China, the Catholic church in that country called for "all believers not to watch it." The official Xinhua news agency quoted Zhang Shijiang, editor-in-chief of the Catholic newspaper Jinde Weekly, as saying, "It treats our religion in an unscientific way ... The contents contained in the movie have insulted and distorted our sacred faith. ... [and] should not be allowed the chance to hurt followers' feelings." Meanwhile, Sony pulled the film from release in India this weekend after the country's censor board delayed approval. It now expects to release the film on May 26. And in Thailand, a decision by the censorship board to remove the final 10 minutes of the movie has outraged many non-Catholics. Today's (Friday) edition of the Bangkok Post features a full page of letters to the editor about the decision, one of them writing, "How can the general public, the majority of whom are Buddhists, be forced to accept such an absurd decision." Another wrote, "I am a Catholic, but I do not want my church ... deciding what I can watch, read or think." Another wrote that he had been looking forward to seeing the film "but I will not see a censored version." Yet another said that he was happy to have been able to read the novel before the last 30 pages had "been torn out by an Inquisition."