AUSTRALIA NOT SO AWESOME, SAY CRITICS

Baz Luhrmann's 165-minute epic Australia has received mixed reviews following its premiere in Sydney. The notoriously tough Australian critics agreed that the cinematography was magnificent == and ought to entice tourists to the country -- and that the performances by Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman were outstanding. The Sydney Daily Telegraph's critic observed that Luhrmann "treats the Australian outback as if it were a monumental theater. It doesn't let him down." But critic David Stratton wrote in The Australian that it was "not the masterpiece we hoped it might be." (The Australian, like 20th Century Fox, which produced the movie, is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.) In Melbourne's The Age, Jim Schembri wrote that it was "fine and never boring, but, boy, is it overlong. ... The film often has the pace of a steamroller with engine trouble." It is due to open in the U.S. on November 26.

NEW APPLE LAPTOPS WON'T WORK WITH BIG SCREENS

Apple's recently released MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops contain a copy protection program that prevents many movies downloaded from Apple's iTunes site from playing back on large TV monitors and projectors, the website ArsTechnica reported Tuesday. The website said that the software, developed by Intel, called High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) causes an error message to appear when a large TV monitor is hooked up to the laptop. The message reads, "This movie cannot be played because a display that is not authorized to play protected movies is connected -- Try disconnecting any displays that are not HDCP authorized." Oddly, the copy-protection software appears only to affect movies downloaded from iTunes. Two television shows reportedly played fine.

DISNEY STEPS UP 3-D PRODUCTION

Disney is converting its (mostly) hand-drawn animated classic Beauty and the Beast to 3-D digital, with plans to release it in 2010, studio executives disclosed Tuesday at a 3-D technology festival in Singapore. The studio plans to apply its proprietary digital 3-D technology to the original background, effects and character elements, much as it did to its newest release, Bolt, which premieres on Friday. The entire conversion process is expected to take about nine to ten months. The studio also intends to release 3-D versions of Toy Story 2 and 3 in 2010 as well as the all-new Disney/Pixar feature Rapunzel. Disney said today (Wednesday) that it will also release five movies in 3-D IMAX in 2009-2010, beginning with A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey, in November 2009.

IF IT'S TUESDAY IT MIGHT NOT NECESSARILY BE DVD DAY

Hollywood studios appear to be abandoning Tuesday as the traditional release day for new DVDs, Video Business observed on its website Tuesday. The trade publication noted that Paramount, Sony and Anchor Bay Entertainment are all releasing new titles on different days in the fourth quarter. Paramount, in fact, plans to release three films on December 28, a Sunday. The films are Eagle Eye, Ghost Town and The Duchess. Meanwhile Sony is releasing The House Bunny and Anchor Bay, Traitor on December 19, a Friday. Video Business has noted that the non-Tuesday releases will likely encourage retailers to break the official street date since it will be difficult to police the movable dates. Tom Paine, owner of the DVD Now chain, told the publication, "Everyone will just have their own street date ... and if stores have their own dates, it will just be too chaotic."

SONY TO SELL BLU-RAY IN CHINA -- AND COMPETE WITH PIRATES

Amid reports that pirates in China are using a high-definition format built into many new camcorders to produce bootleg discs, Sony Pictures said Tuesday that it will become the first Hollywood studio to release its films on Blu-ray discs in that country. The company's consumer electronics division also plans to begin distributing on Blu-ray player there. The studio does not intend to compete with the pirates on price, however; the Blu-ray releases will cost about $30 each. While the Blu-ray format provides better definition than the pirates' Advanced Video Codec High Definition (AVCHD) format, AVCHD is considered a step up from the quality of conventional DVDs. Moreover, discs recorded in the format can be played on Blu-ray players (and the pirates even disguise the discs by using copies of Blu-ray's blue plastic boxes and employ the Blu-ray holograms.