ABC LAUNCHES WEB "EXPERIMENT"
ABC on Monday began making episodes of four dramatic shows available online for free at dynamic.abc.go.com. "Welcome to the only place online where you can watch full episodes of your favorite ABC television shows!" it bannered. Included among the four shows was the Desperate Housewives episode "It Wasn't Meant to Happen," which aired the night before, as well as last week's episodes of Lost, Alias, and Commander in Chief. The experimental run of the shows is due to last through June. A commercial is presented at the beginning and two or three within each show, which cannot be skipped; however, the content of the shows can be skipped, repeated, or paused. They cannot be accessed from overseas. Meanwhile, NBC on Monday also began making the first hour of Today available online at no cost. Each show will be archived for a week.
FOX TO KEEP A WATCHFUL EYE ON CRITICS' SCREENERS
Borrowing a tactic previously employed by motion picture studios to prevent Oscar voters from uploading screeners onto the Internet or making bootleg copies of them, Fox TV warned reporters Monday that it plans to place invisible "watermarks" on each of the DVD screeners of new shows that it sends to them. The watermark will identify the recipient of the DVDs. In a letter, portions of which were published today (Tuesday) in Daily Variety, Joe Earley, Fox TV's executive VP of publicity, corporate communications and creative services, wrote: "If unauthorized copies (including Internet uploads) of our television shows are traced back to your screener, you risk civil and criminal penalties."
ABC ISSUES APOLOGY FOLLOWING COMMANDER IN CHIEF EPISODE
ABC has apologized to the citizens of Hyattsville, MD, a suburb of Washington DC in Prince George County, for Thursday night's episode of Commander in Chief in which the town was depicted as violent and crime-ridden. At one point a character said that 11 homicides had occurred in Hyattsville over the past six months. "We haven't had 11 homicides in Hyattsville in the past 10 years," Jim Keary, a spokesman for the County Executive Jack. B. Johnson, told the Associated Press. ABC apologized for any offense, saying that it had embellished crime statistics to enhance its story. In a statement, the network added, "Our goal is not to document actual events, but to create characters and compelling stories for our viewers."
SENATE BILL WOULD LET PHONE COMPANIES DELIVER VIDEO WITHOUT LOCAL OVERSIGHT
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens introduced legislation on Monday that, among other things, would permit phone companies to get permission from the FCC to deliver video services. They would thereby be allowed to bypass local governments, which currently control cable franchises.
"MOTHER OF TELEVISION" DIES AT 98
Elma G. "Pem" Farnsworth, the first person ever to appear on television, died Thursday, April 27 in Bountiful, UT at age 98. She was the wife of Philo T Farnsworth, the inventor of television and was on his technical team in San Francisco when he demonstrated his invention in San Francisco on September 7, 1927. She was often called "the mother of television."
BERLUSCONI STEPS DOWN
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi finally threw in the towel today (Tuesday) and submitted his resignation. He had refused to step down, challenging results of national elections last month. Commentators have speculated that his apparent successor, Romano Prodi, and his center-left allies plan to act quickly to scale back Berlusconi's vast television empire.
"ART" FILMS COMING TO THE MEGAPLEX
Kansas City-based AMC Theatres, the No. 2 U.S. movie chain after Regal Theaters, said today (Tuesday) that it plans to set aside 72 screens in 39 U.S. cities to show traditional art-house fare. The exhibitor said that it planned to introduce independent and foreign film fare under a program dubbed "AMC Select." Initial films under the program are due to debut this weekend, including the Al Gore global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth and Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion. In an interview with today's Los Angeles Times, AMC CEO Peter Brown said, "We are constantly thinking about how we can get more people to come to the theaters," Brown said. "This is realizing the promise of the megaplex -- we are broadening out the depth and breadth of the [movies] available." The move puts AMC in direct competition with Mark Cuban's Landmark Theatres, which operates 57 theaters with 213 screens, making it the nation's largest art-house chain.
STARMAKER JAY BERNSTEIN DEAD AT 69
Legendary publicist, manager and producer Jay Bernstein -- who was often described as a "starmaker" -- died of a stroke Sunday in Los Angeles at the age of 69. Farrah Fawcett, one of the actresses whose career he managed from the beginning, was reportedly at his bedside. Another of his famous clients, Suzanne Somers, once recalled in an interview that after Bernstein began handling her publicity, "In no time, I had my first major magazine cover story. By the time Jay was finished, I had 55 covers, had been on 60 Minutes and was a household name. I rolled the dice with Jay Bernstein and I won."
FEDS MAY TRY TO PLUG LEAKS IN PELLICANO CASE
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Saunders said Monday that the Department of Justice has begun an investigation to determine how FBI interview summaries in the Anthony Pellicano case found their way to the New York Times. At a hearing on the case on Monday, Saunders asked to be excused from having to turn over any additional key evidence in the case to Pellicano's attorneys. "At this point, we have no confidence that it won't end up on the front page of the newspaper," he said. Defense attorneys denied "unequivocally" that they were responsible for the leaks to the Times.
9/11 FILM LANDS SAFELY
After weeks of industry debate over whether Universal's United 93 would have sufficient commercial appeal, moviegoers finally voted at the box office over the weekend. The film wound up with the highest per-theater average as it opened with $11.5 million in 1,795 theaters. The film had cost about $15 million to produce. The top money maker was Sony's RV, starring Robin Williams, which took in $16.4 million on 3,639 screens, about twice the number showing United 93. Disney's Stick It opened in third place with $10.8 million -- far better than analysts had expected, while Lionsgate's Akeelah and the Bee fell below expectations in its opening with just $6 million. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. RV, Sony, $16,414,767, (New); 2. United 93, Universal, $11,478,360, (New); 3. Stick It, Disney, $10,803,610, (New); 4. Silent Hill, Sony, $9,336,399, 2 Wks. ($34,267,462); 5. Scary Movie 4, Weinstein Co. $7,805,568, 3 Wks. ($78,168,719); 6. The Sentinel, 20th Century Fox, $7,787,208, 2 Wks. ($25,728,548); 7. Ice Age: The Meltdown, 20th Century Fox, $7,204,960, 5 Wks. ($177,863,073); 8. Akeelah and the Bee, Lions Gate, $6,011,585, (New); 9. The Wild, Disney, $4,799,676, 3 Wks. ($28,510,753); 10. The Benchwarmers, Sony, $4,385,855, 4 Wks. ($52,768,049).
FILM CALLED "SOFT-CORE ECO-TERRORISM"
Conservative commentators have branded the upcoming movie Hoot, which features teenage environmentalists sabotaging a development project in order to protect the habitat of burrowing owls, "soft-core eco-terrorism." CNSNews.com, a unit of the conservative Media Research Center, noted Monday, "The teenagers in the PG-rated movie face no repercussions for the illegal acts and instead are portrayed as [heroes]." It further noted that the burrowing owl is not on the endangered or threatened species list and quoted Brian Mealey, president of the Institute of Wildlife Science, as saying that they have adapted to housing developments. "These owls immediately started moving into the front yards of people's homes. And that was the first step in the urbanization of these owls," Mealey said. Other conservative commentators scored the Today show's Katie Couric and Matt Lauer for endorsing the film during an interview Monday with singer Jimmy Buffett who appears in the film. Lauer referred to the burrowing owl as an endangered species, while Couric called the film "a movie with a message" and said that she "can't wait to see" it. It is due to open on Friday.
FILMMAKERS DENOUNCE GOVERNMENT'S CENSORSHIP OF SRI LANKAN MOVIE
Sri Lankan free-speech advocates are speaking out against efforts by the government to ban Ashoka Handagama's film Aksharaya (Letter of Fire). Although the film had been approved by the Public Performances Board, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs announced last week that it would not allow the film to be screened because of a key scene in which a pre-teen boy sees his mother nude. The Sri Lankan Free Media Movement has denounced what it called "these ridiculous allegations that FMM strongly feels are being directed against progressive forces in Sri Lankan cinema." Veteran filmmaker Lester James Peries issued a statement calling the film "a serious work, powerful, disturbing (to the fainthearted), a searing attack on all our 'Sacred Cows'" and charged that the government was "creating an undemocratic situation in the field of cinema." On Monday, Handagama told reporters that the PPB had asked him to return the approval letter that he had received for the film.