WILL THESE LIONS MATE?

In what might well result in two lions sharing the same den, Lions Gate Entertainment Vice Chairman Michael Burns said Thursday that his company is exploring the possibility of buying the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio. Both companies feature lions in their logos. At a New York investment conference, Burns said that while Lions Gate is interested in acquiring MGM, "It's all about price." Any deal for the company would include $3.7 billion in debt, which would be offset by the value of MGM's existing film library, which includes 4,100 titles, the James Bond franchise, and partial rights to The Hobbit, the two-film prequel to The Lord of the Rings, which is in pre-production. "I think we'll know sooner rather than later" whether the value of those properties, which, he said, were "worth a lot of money," will make a deal doable, Burns said. Some analysts have speculated that investors may attempt a takeover merely to gain control of the library and the Bond franchise. But Burns suggested that Lions Gate would keep the studio in business, saying that the library is valuable only if new release

sincrease its worth.

DISNEY REPORTS SOLID PROFITS -- EXCEPT AT MOVIE STUDIO

The Walt Disney Company is the latest media conglomerate to report stronger-than-expected earnings in the last quarter. Even as a shake-up of its executives continued on Wednesday with its finance chief, Tom Staggs, and the head of its parks division, Jay Rasulo swapping jobs, the company reported a 4.5-percent rise in quarterly revenue. "They crushed forecasts, based on very strong cable results and material outperformance on the parks," David Bank, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, told Reuters. Particularly strong was the ESPN cable network, while the ABC television network made some modest gains. On the other hand, Disney CEO Robert Iger acknowledged, "Our studio had an extremely disappointing year in 2009. ... "This is primarily due to the performance of our live action slate but we also see challenges to the motion picture industry business model and we are taking steps to address them." He did not specify the challenges. (The Disney/Pixar animated feature Up, on the other hand, earned nearly $300 million domestically and more than $500 million overseas.)

BLOCKBUSTER REPORTS ANOTHER QUARTER OF MASSIVE LOSSES

Consumers are not only buying fewer DVDs these days, they're also renting fewer, -- at least from brick-and-mortar video stores like Blockbuster. The No. 1 DVD rental chain reported a third-quarter loss of $116 million versus a loss of $20.6 million during the comparable quarter a year ago. The company blamed the latest staggering loss on the costs incurred in paying severance to hundreds of dismissed employees, shutting down unproductive stores, and refinancing debt -- in effect saying that it costs money to save money. The cost-cutting, it noted, will continue during the current quarter with 115 more stores due to be shuttered by the end of the year. On the brighter side of things, Blockbuster said that it is moving more aggressively into the kiosk business and plans to have 2,500 opened by the end of the year. In a conference call on Thursday, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes said that his company was also focusing on online delivery with its Blockbuster On Demand. "There's really only one threat to Blockbuster, and that's if we don't adapt," he said.

MOVIE REVIEWS: 2012

2012 is not a disaster. That's one thing critics, for the most part, agree on -- to various degrees. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times even goes so far as to call it "the mother of all disaster movies" -- largely because the movie doesn't merely show a few recognizable landmarks being destroyed -- but the entire Earth. "You think you've seen end-of-the-world movies?" he remarks. "This one ends the world, stomps on it, grinds it up and spits it out." His conclusion: "The movie gives you your money's worth. Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it one of the year's best? No. Does Emmerich hammer it together with his elbows from parts obtained from the Used Disaster Movie Store? Yes. But is it about as good as a movie in this genre can be? Yes." Many reviewers note that it's a useless enterprise to try to critique the screenplay -- which is based on the premise that ancient Mayans forecast the end of the world on December 21, 2012 -- the final day of their calendar. (They apparently did not forecast the end of their own civilization, which occurred hundreds of years earlier.) That hasn't stopped others from zeroing in on the plot. Like Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, who comments, "Despite the frenetic action scenes, the movie sags, done in by multiple story lines that undercut one another," she writes. Claudia Puig in USA Today sums up: "The movie is an undeniable visual spectacle, but just as unequivocally a cheesy, ridiculous story." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post won't even grant that it's cheesy, calling it instead "pure Velveeta," -- but, ah, the spectacle. "About the only thing that's missing from 2012 (except sanity)," he writes, "is 3-D, IMAX and Sensurround. For those, I would gladly pay $20 a ticket." Noting that the movie reportedly cost $260 million to make, Elizabeth Weitzman writes in the New York Daily News: "All that money can buy some jaw-dropping special effects, but not, it seems, a script worth a dime." Still, Tom Maurstad in the Dallas Morning News thinks it was probably a good idea to present a threadbare story. "If the viewer were ever invited to think or feel about what's happening on-screen, the movie's wow-whoa-ain't-it-cool momentum would collapse in a heap of horrific preposterousness," he writes. And Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle gives it a rave review, although admitting, "It's hard to do justice to his ridiculous, wonderful movie." LaSalle makes the point: "People talk about 'formula' almost always as a pejorative, but formulas get to be formulas because they work, and there's something to be said for a formula picture done almost to perfection." On the other hand, Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal hasn't a kind word to say about either the story or the effects, tagging the movie, "destructo drek."

MOVIE REVIEWS: PIRATE RADIO

Like the little off-shore pirate radio stations playing rock 'n' roll that dared to compete against the massive radio domination of the staid BBC in the 1960s, Pirate Radio debuts against the incalculable might of the $260-million apocalyptic flick 2012 this week. The critics, for the most part, love it. "It skips by like a much-loved old LP," writes Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel. "The film makes for easy viewing and easier listening," says Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, one of several critics who praise the choice of '60s music featured in the movie (and Claudia Puig in USA Today recommends that audiences "stick around through the end credit sequence, which features an array of album covers.") Kyle Smith in the New York Post notes that writer/director Richard Curtis, who wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral, "has dropped another bright joy-bomb that explodes in every direction with rock classics used in surprisingly direct and literal ways." On the other hand, Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer accuses Curtis of taking a potentially "great story" about the pirate stations and turning it "into an aggressively irritating floating frat-party romp." And Peter Howell concludes in the Toronto Star: "This film doesn't know whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. By the time it finally reaches its Titanic-style conclusion, you probably won't care."