PARENTS GROUP CALLS BURGER AD "SOFT-CORE PORN"
Paris Hilton's spicy TV commercial for Carl's Jr.'s new spicy hamburger (with the tagline "That's hot!") is to become the target of a letter-writing protest by the Parents Television Council, its research director has told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times. "This commercial is basically soft-core porn," said Melissa Caldwell. "It's inappropriate for television." The PTC, a unit of Brent Bozell's conservative Media Research Center, has been credited with mobilizing the massive letter-writing campaign to the FCC and Congress following the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident last year. But Claudia Caplan, chief marketing officer for Mendelsohn Zein Advertising in Los Angeles, told the newspaper: ""Look, we're never going to have McDonald's advertising budget or Burger King's budget. ... Whatever we do has to have an effect that is multiplied over several platforms." The Carl's Jr. website, which features an expanded version of the ad, reportedly crashed on Friday as a multitude of people tried to sign on. Nevertheless, Stuart Fischoff, a media psychologist at Cal State Los Angeles, warned that the ad could create a damaging backlash. "This could come back and bite them in the behind," Fischoff said. "We're in the throes of a culture war in this country, and for them to be pushing the envelope like this at this time could be very dangerous."
JEOPARDY! WINNER TO HOST GAME SHOW
Ken Jennings will go from being the winningest game-show contestant of all time to becoming a game-show host on a program being developed by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire creator Michael Davies, Comedy Central, which plans to air the show, announced on Monday. "I wouldn't describe Ken as one of the funniest people in America, but he's the smartest," Lauren Corrao, Comedy Central's head of original programming and development, told today's (Tuesday) Philadelphia Inquirer. "The packaging of the show will inspire comedy." Davies suggested that Jeopardy! champ Jennings may be funnier than Corrao thinks he is, telling the Inquirer: "It's amazing. He's witty. He's quick. He has a great deal of personality. He's also the most humble, down-to-earth, normal guy." The deal was announced even as Jennings was back on Jeopardy!, participating in the $2-million "ultimate Tournament of Champions." In Monday's Round One, Brad Rutter finished with $18,400; Jerome Vared, with $16,400; and Jennings, with $16,000.
FOX REALITY CHANNEL IS A REALITY
Fox Reality Channel was scheduled to debut today (Tuesday) on cable systems serving more than 18.5 million subscribers. "That's more than any other new network in recent history," the channel said in a statement posted on its website. It said last month that it would air off-network reruns of reality shows (augmented with outtakes and commentary), first-run presentations of reality shows produced overseas, and original programming. However, as of midmorning, the channel had yet to post a schedule of its programs on its website.
EX-CNN ANCHOR JOINING AL-JAZEERA
Former CNN International anchor Riz Khan has been signed to host a call-in talk show on the English-language Al-Jazeera International News Channel when it launches next year, the network said today (Tuesday). The program is due to air live daily from Washington DC. In a statement, Al-Jazeera International Managing Director Nigel Parson described Khan's program as "the most exciting television news and current affairs project in decades. It will revolutionize the global news industry by offering viewers across the world a fresh perspective on news."
TV NEWS SHUNS WOMEN AS SOURCES, STUDY REVEALS
Women are quoted as news sources in only 27 percent of the network nightly news programs and on only 19 percent of the cable news networks, according to a study released today (Tuesday) by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The study concluded that the opinions of women are virtually absent from large areas of coverage, particularly domestic and foreign policy. Today's edition of Newsday quotes Tom Rosenstiel, the think tank's director, as saying, "These numbers are really striking. I didn't expect that women would have made as little progress as these numbers seem to suggest in terms of becoming sources and being references in the news." Although the researchers took note of the fact that women make up the majority of students at some journalism schools and that they are increasingly finding jobs in the newsroom, they must still struggle to find top positions. Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, told Newsday: "It makes a difference who is in the decision-making position. ... Reporters, editors and producers need to update their Rolodexes."
GIBSON TELLS AUDIENCE JENNINGS IS STILL AT WORK ON WNT
ABC anchor Peter Jennings, who is undergoing treatment for lung cancer and whose voice has been affected by the disease, has still been unable to return to the anchor's desk at ABC's World News Tonight but continues his work behind the scenes as the program's senior editor. On Monday night substitute anchor Charlie Gibson closed the newscast with this update on Jennings: "I should mention that Peter Jennings was in the office this afternoon helping to put tonight's broadcast together. We had a great time, a lot of laughter. He was keeping us on our toes, as usual. For Peter and all of us at World News Tonight, I'm Charles Gibson. Have a good night."
SITH CAN'T HALT SLUMP
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of The Sith officially entered the record books Monday as the final tally for its four-day opening came in at $158,449,700, demolishing the previous four-day record of $134.3 million, set by The Matrix Reloaded in 2003. Nevertheless, to the surprise of many analysts, the movie did not lift the overall box office out of its slump. Total receipts were 3.5 percent below those for the same weekend a year ago. It marked the 13th consecutive week that the box office recorded total receipts below last year's. "It's shocking," Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told the associated Press. "We really thought this would end the slump." Part of the problem was related to the fact that Sith had its best day on Thursday, drawing away business for the weekend. And although its $108.4-million weekend gross was the second-biggest of all time (behind only Spider-Man's $114.8 million), other movies on theater marquees did not represent the kind of draw that last year's comparable lineup, which included Troy and Shrek 2, did. Next weekend -- the Memorial Day holiday -- will see some flashy additions to the list, including the animated Madagascar and the remake of The Longest Yard. But analysts suggest that even that array may not be enough to give the box office the boost it needs.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of The Sith, 20th Century Fox, $108,435,841, 1 Wks. ($158,449,700 -- From Thursday); 2. Monster-in-Law, New Line, $14,350,134, 2 Wks. ($44,174,005); 3. Kicking & Screaming, Universal, $10,721,715, 2 Wks. ($34,196,720); 4. Crash, Lions Gate, $5,546,006, 3 Wks. ($27,648,811); 5. Unleashed, Focus Features, $4,123,556, 2 Wks. ($17,850,310); 6. Kingdom of Heaven, 20th Century Fox, $3,537,201, 3 Wks. ($41,218,408); 7. House of Wax, Warner Bros., $3,288,419, 3 Wks. ($26,912,839); 8. The Interpreter, Universal, $2,910,580, 5 Wks. ($65,403,045); 9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Disney, $2,054,904, 4 Wks. ($46,902,653); 10. Mindhunters, Miramax/Dimension, $1,005,839, 2 Wks. ($3,562,161).
SITH CONQUERS WORLD
Twentieth Century Fox's strategy of getting Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith into theaters overseas before bootleggers could get pirated copies of the movie onto the streets apparently paid off handsomely over the weekend as moviegoers in more than 100 markets paid a record $144.7 million at the international box office during its first five days. Sith had its strongest overseas opening in the U.K., where it took in $26.8 million at 485 venues. France contributed an additional $22.3 million to the total, while Germany tossed in another $17.9 million. Overall, the movie took in about twice what Episode II -- Attack of the Clones did overseas in its debut in 2002.
ANALYST: PIXAR DOESN'T NEED DISNEY
Shares in Pixar animation shot up nearly 5 percent on Monday after Prudential Securities analyst Katherine Styponias upgraded her forecast for the company, saying in a note to clients that she is assuming Pixar will increase its production schedule to two films every other year starting in 2009. She also raised her price target on the company's shares to $75. Pixar shares closed Monday at $52.95. Styponias said that Pixar's growth did not depend on renewing a deal with Disney; however, she noted that if Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs and Disney CEO Robert Iger do in fact renew their relationship, Pixar would probable produce more sequels as its second films than it would if it signed a distribution pact with another distributor. Although Pixar has said nothing about upping production, Styponias observed that the company recently bought new land at its facilities and has eight movie directors on staff. She said that the company will have to keep that talent "engaged and productive" or see them plucked off by other animation studios.
TAX INCENTIVES TO FILMMAKERS PAYING OFF FOR NEW YORK CITY
New York City officials said Monday that as a result of recently enacted tax incentives for filmmakers, the city has added $300 million in production business and 6,000 new jobs since the first of the year. "This business is coming here as a direct result of this [tax] program," Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor's Office for Film, Theater, and Broadcasting, told the New York Daily News.