TURNER TURNS: A TIME FOR EVERY PURPOSE?
In what was not quite a whimper but certainly no bang, Ted Turner announced over the weekend that he is leaving the entertainment industry. Thirty years after transforming cable television when he turned an Atlanta UHF station into a national "superstation" and 26 years after launching CNN, Turner suggested that he was quitting the business and leaving the Time Warner board because he had become superfluous, ignored by Time Warner, the company he had sold his TV business to in 1996. At a Time Warner shareholders meeting in Atlanta, Turner said, "I just wish that over the last five years I could have made a bigger contribution. I didn't have the opportunity, unfortunately, but I hung in there ... I've done my best." Nevertheless, he remains the company's largest individual shareholder. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Turner remarked that his formal departure was "more symbolic than anything." He said that it was fitting that the board was meeting in Atlanta. "It started here and it ends here." The company paid tribute to him with a video featuring remarks from former President Jimmy Carter, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, and Larry King. In live remarks, Time Warner Chairman Dick Parsons called Turner, One of the pioneers. ... He literally shaped the way we see the world." Former CNN News Group Chairman Tom Johnson remarked, "There never has been a man like Ted before, and there never will be another one like him." He left the shareholders' meeting, invoking Edward R. Murrow's signoff, "Good night, and good luck," before it ended. It was left for his daughter to thank the assembled group for the tribute to her father.
HIGHER RATINGS GRACE WILL & GRACE SERIES FINALE
Two long-running series, NBC's Will & Grace and Fox's That '70s Show, reached the end of the road Thursday night. Each performed well, drawing big numbers among adults 18-49, but they were unable to reach their onetime heights. Will & Grace, although winding up #1 among adults 18-49 for the first time in two years, nevertheless could not beat CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in overall numbers. CSI registered a 17.3 rating and a 25 share for its season finale, while the series finale of Will & Grace posted a 13.4/20. Earlier in the evening a one-hour retrospective of Will & Grace drew a 10.1/16, tying a repeat episode of CSI. At 10.00 p.m. NBC'S E.R. ended the season with a 12.1/19, its best numbers of the season, but not high enough to beat CBS's Without a Trace, which scored a 13.9/22. (E.R., however, did take first place among adults 18-49.) On Fox, the series finale of That '70s Show captured a 6.2/10, placing third in its time period at 8:30 p.m. in the household ratings and second among adults 18-49. Meanwhile, NBC is reportedly having second thoughts about replacing Will & Grace next season in the 9:00 p.m. hour with Aaron Sorkin's highly anticipated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, following the announcement that ABC is also moving Grey's Anatomy into that time period. Broadcasting & Cable magazine reported that the network is now considering slotting the new series on Mondays at either 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.
ABC, ESPN SCORE HIGHER RATINGS WITH NBA PLAYOFFS
Ratings for the NBA playoffs, which have steadily declined since the retirement of Michael Jordan in 1998, are finally on the rise again. ABC's ratings are up 14 percent for the first eight games, while ESPN's are up 11 percent for 13 games. Analysts had indicated that many viewers who ordinarily did not watch basketball on television did so only to see Jordan, just as people today watch golf only to see Tiger Woods.
NBC GOES INTO "CRISIS MODE" DURING PREAKNESS
NBC was forced to shift into "crisis mode" during its telecast of the Preakness Stakes Saturday when unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro shattered his right hind leg, NBC producer Sam Flood told today's (Monday) New York Times. Flood said he had been primed for such events as producer of NBC's NASCAR coverage. "NASCAR always taught me to have a crisis plan, and this was a crisis," Flood told the Times. As a result, little attention was devoted to the Preakness winner, Bernardino, while the coverage focused on the injured champion.
CODE PRODUCERS WEAR MONA LISA SMILE
Bucking the formidable forces of the Catholic Church and American film critics, The Da Vinci Code opened over the weekend with the second largest worldwide gross in history -- an estimated $224 million, $77 million of which came from the U.S. market. The total was exceed only by last year's Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, which premiered with $254 million. In some cases, the film performed better in predominantly Catholic countries, like Italy and Spain, where the opposition to it was most strident, than it did in countries where opposition was negligible. Among all-time domestic openings, DVC ranked #13 (just behind Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and well below the all-time champ, Spider-Man, which took in $114.8 million in 2002); however, no film even came close to matching DVC's overseas opening gross (over three days). Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation's Over the Hedge also performed solidly, taking in $37.2 million, although the figure was somewhat lower than analysts' expectations. The only other new film opening over the weekend, the horror flick See No Evil from Lionsgate, saw no good as it opened with just $4.4 million. Mission: Impossible III dropped 56 percent to third place in its third week with $11 million, while Poseidon plunged 58 percent in its second week to $9.2 million. Although the box office rose some 80 percent over last week, it was down about 3 percent from the comparable week a year ago when the final prequel of Star Wars hit theaters. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. The Da Vinci Code, $77 million; 2. Over the Hedge, $37.2 million; 3. Mission: Impossible III, $11 million; 4. Poseidon, $9.2 million; 5. RV, $5.1 million; 6. See No Evil, $4.4 million; 7. Just My Luck, $3.4 million; 8. An American Haunting, $1.7 million; 9. United 93, $1.4 million; 10. Akeelah and the Bee, $1 million.
WITHOUT DISCLAIMER, CODE REMAINS BANNED IN INDIA
Although reports on Friday indicated that Indian censors had agreed to permit The Da Vinci Code to be released next Friday, a full week after its planned opening, it appeared today (Monday) that the film could remain in limbo there as Indian censors and Sony Films officials locked horns over a disclaimer that the censor board wants to have inserted at both the beginning and at the end of the film. The board insists that the message state: "It is a work of pure fiction and has no correspondence to historical facts of the Christian religion." Sony has agreed to only a single generic statement be inserted, reading "The characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional." Reports indicate that Sony is wary of agreeing to the Indian demand, fearing that other censor boards will thereby feel emboldened to make similar demands regarding other films.
DARKO DIRECTOR RECEIVES MIXED RECEPTION AT CANNES
Southland Tales, the first film from writer-director Richard Kelly since his 2002 cult classic Donnie Darko, has received a decidedly mixed reception at the Cannes Film Festival, where it is competing for the prestigious Palme d'Or award. In advance of its premiere Sunday night, the film, which touches on everything from an apocalyptic nuclear bombing in Malibu in 2008 to the nation's obsession with celebrity, received a cold reaction at a press screening. (Daily Variety later called it "a pretentious, overreaching, fatally unfocused fantasy.") At a news conference following the screening, a reporter prefaced a question to Kelly by remarking that he had "never seen so many walkouts" at a press screening at Cannes. The moderator of the conference, however, promptly insisted that, from where he sat, the audience appeared "mesmerized" by the film. Kelly himself said that he realized that it would "push buttons" and that it was meant to be experienced not in the way a viewer ordinarily approaches a film but "like a puzzle." He acknowledged that he felt under "tremendous pressure" during the making of his second film "to live up to whatever expectations people have of me" following the Darko success.
MOVIE REVIEWS: SEE NO EVIL
After a string of horror-film hits this year, See No Evil arrived this weekend without the benefit -- or lack of it -- of critical reviews -- and bombed. The reviews have now appeared. "It's hard to believe that the distributors of See No Evil were so afraid of what critics would say about their movie that they refused to provide advance screenings," writes V.A. Musetto in the New York Post, tongue in cheek. "The movie's target viewers aren't the type who read reviews, if they read at all -- like the gentleman at a screening yesterday afternoon in Times Square who kept yelling things like 'Awesome!' and ''That's so whack!'" But Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News agrees that the producers "wisely kept [the film] from critics." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe remarks: "A horror movie starring a professional wrestler [Kane] and directed by a guy who used to make hard-core porn [Gregory Dark]? Some audiences will consider that a warning and others a recommendation." Several newspapers reprint the review by the Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore, who notes that the film is produced by World Wrestling Entertainment, and remarks that it "has everything you'd expect in a horror movie from the world of wrestling showbiz. It's got fake kicks, fake punches and shots to the groin. It's got exaggerated reactions to the fake kicks, fake punches and shots to the groin. And eye gouging. It's all about the eye-gouging. But where are the folding chairs? It's not a wrasslin' movie without a few folding chairs coming down on some villain's bald, steroid-addled noggin."