OH, WHAT A NIGHT FOR NEWS CORP

News Corp said today (Wednesday) that its profit climbed 6.2 percent in its third quarter, largely due to the box-office hit Night at the Museum and a 34-percent jump in revenue at its Fox News Network. Net income increased to $871 million from $820 million during the comparable quarter a year ago as overall sales rose 21 percent to $7.51 billion. Earnings from its movies soared 82 percent as Museum earned $571 million worldwide in theaters and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit of Glorious Nation Kazakhstan took in $39.5 million from domestic video sales.

DISNEY WON'T OPEN MOVIES IN THEATERS AND CABLE ON SAME DAY

Disney CEO Robert Iger threw cold water Tuesday on the disclosure by Comcast COO Steve Burke earlier in the week that he was in discussions with studios to make movies available on pay-per-view cable on the same day they were released in theaters for $30-50. Iger insisted that Disney was "not in discussions to sell movies to cable in the same window as theatrical." Iger's comments came during a telephone conference with analysts following release of the company's first-quarter report showing total revenue rising to $8.1 billion from $8 billion during the same period a year ago. Iger forecast a big second quarter but declined to predict whether the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End would exceed the box-office take of the new record holder, Spider-Man 3. He called the new Pirates film, due to open over the Memorial Day holiday, "simply great." Asked about remaining the only major studio to release new movies on Apple's iTunes online store at prices well below those for DVDs, Iger said that Disney makes the same amount of money from an iTunes sale as it does from a DVD. Commenting on the policy of other studios to release only library titles via the Apple site, Iger indicated that only Disney's "fresh titles" are selling well on iTunes.

SPIDEY'S TICKET SALES SLOW

Sony's hope of going into the coming weekend with $200 million already in the bank for Spider-Man 3 appeared dashed on Tuesday as ticket sales slowed. Nevertheless, the film had taken in an estimated $169.5 million by Tuesday, leaving open the possibility of matching Spider-Man 2's record of making it to the $200 million level on its eighth day of release (Friday). It took the original Spider-Man nine days to reach that level.

SPIDER-MAN 3 "SILLY," SAYS LUCAS

George Lucas has joined the major newspaper critics in their negative appraisal of Spider-Man 3. In an interview with FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman, Lucas said, "It's a silly movie. ... There just isn't much there. Once you take it all apart, there's not much story, is there?" Over the weekend, Spider-Man 3 surged ahead of Lucas's Star Wars' episode Revenge of the Sith to take the record for the biggest weekend box-office record. Star Wars was also criticized as being "silly," Lucas noted. "But it wasn't." He also disclosed that he is working on at least two other Star Wars movies for television. "But they won't have members of the Skywalker family as characters. They will be other people of that milieu."

SHREK TO TOUT HEALTHY MEALS AT MCDONALD'S

McDonald's and DreamWorks have selected the unlikely character Shrek as the centerpiece of a new campaign to promote its healthy meals, including apple slices and salads. The character, who, judging from his girth, has clearly not eaten many of those items himself, will also be featured in online programs and TV public service announcements to promote physical activites involving children. The four-week campaign kicks off on May 11. In reporting the deal, Reuters observed Tuesday that Shrek is also being used to promote M&M's chocolates and such sugar-laden cereals as Kellogg's Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes.

Brian B.