VIVENDI MUM ON NBC UNIVERSAL SALE
In announcing its quarterly results late today (Thursday), Vivendi, the French media conglomerate, made no mention of whether it will agree to sell its 20-percent stake in NBC Universal to General Electric, which owns the remaining 80 percent. Such an agreement is required if GE's deal to form a joint venture with Comcast Corp. is to go forward, and several business writers had forecast that Vivendi would make its intentions known today. But at the beginning of a conference call with analysts, Vivendi CFO Philippe Capron said that the company would not comment on its plans regarding NBC Universal. Analysts are expressing increasing skepticism that Vivendi's board will go ahead with the sale. It has a window between November 15 and December 10 to do so. Earlier reports had indicated that Vivendi would use proceeds of the sale to purchase the Brazilian phone company GVT, but it now appears that a Spanish phone company is prepared to outbid Vivendi for the Brazilian company. "Without GVT, there is no pressure on Vivendi" to sell, said Standard & Poor's London-based equity analyst Alexander Wisch in an interview with Bloomberg News Wednesday. "Without GVT, I don't see why they should hold cash." Meanwhile, Vivendi is showing no reluctance to compete against NBC Universal. It announced Wednesday that it plans to release Jack London's Call of the Wild as a 3D DVD on Dec. 22 -- complete with two pairs of 3D glasses included with every disc.
OH, BOTHER, ANOTHER WINNIE THE POOH LAWSUIT
The seemingly endless litigation involving the estate of Stephen Slesinger and the Walt Disney Co. over the Winnie the Pooh character has taken a new turn as the Slesinger heirs filed a lawsuit claiming that they have not received past royalties because of "past improper business practices" by Disney. The lawsuit follows a ruling by a federal court in September which held that the Slesinger's rights to the character are "unambiguous" and that Disney is required to pay "royalties for all uses." A spokesman for the Slesinger family told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the family believes it is owed hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid royalties. In a statement, the Slesingers referred to a September court ruling that, among other things, required Disney to give them a report on the gross revenue generated from all uses of Pooh characters. However, they suggested, the ruling faces "the formidable Disney legal barricade," forcing them and Disney "to waste valuable time and resources that could be used instead to create more happiness, laughs and smiles for children."
G.I. JOE INVADES VIDEO STORES
Paramount Home Entertainment's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra came out blazing on DVD last week, selling a stunning 3.8 million copies in its first week, 13 percent of them on Blu-ray, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert. Debuting in second place was Sony's The Taking of Pelham 123 with 14.6 million copies sold. The two films also took the top two positions on Home Media Magazine's rental chart. Last week's champ, 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs slipped to third place on both charts.
"B" MOVIE TITAN ROGER CORMAN TO RECEIVE AN OSCAR
Eighty-three-year-old Roger Corman, who has produced nearly 400 "B" movies -- none of them regarded as a candidate for an Oscar nomination -- over a career that began 55 years ago, will himself receive an honorary Oscar at next year's ceremonies, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday. Corman later told the Associated Press that even he was "truly surprised" by the announcement. "I felt the academy would not give an award to someone who made low-budget films," he said. Unlike the major studios, Corman has used his own money to finance his exploitation films, generally investing in unknown talent who later achieved star status, including Frances Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, John Sayles, and Peter Bogdanovich. "I know that they all would have achieved the same level if they had never met me," Corman told the wire service, "but I think what I was able to do was to give them a start and help them a little bit in their careers, and I take great pride in that."