TOON TIME

Demonstrating once again that Christmas and cartoons are made for each other, DreamWorks Animation's Shrek the Third dominated retail sales and video-store rentals in its debut last week, while in its second week Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille placed second, according to Home Media magazine. Although it did not specify how many copies of the latest Shrek movie had been sold, the trade publication did observe that sales were so strong that the movie is already considered among the year's top-ten DVDs. Home Media magazine also reported that Shrek the Third took in $11 million in DVD rentals, while Ocean's Thirteen debuted in second place with about $7.9 million.

BLOCKBUSTER: LATE TO ONLINE; LATE TO KIOSKS

Blockbuster, a latecomer to online video rentals, announced Wednesday that it is testing movie rental kiosks at some Papa John's pizza outlets and Family Dollar stores. Some 250 movies will be offered at each kiosk for $1.00 -- far less than the price Blockbuster charges in its blue brick-and-mortar outlets. In a partnership with Redbox, McDonald's has been offering the top 30 DVD titles in kiosks at some of its outlets since 2004. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Papa John's CEO Nigel Travis suggested that pizza and movies go well together. "You are seeing a consolidation of food and entertainment. It definitely drives traffic," he said.

PITT CAN'T CHANGE SCRIPT, LEAVES MOVIE

Top movie stars who are used to demanding changes in the screenplays of movies they're appearing in may be stymied by the writers' strike. The inability of producers of Universal's State of Play to make changes to the script requested by costar Brad Pitt has resulted in Pitt's departure from the movie, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Ironically, the movie is an adaptation of a critically acclaimed six-hour BBC miniseries that aired in 2003, written by Paul Abbott. The film adaptation was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs) but Abbott is listed as an executive producer.

DISNEY PROPS UP HONG KONG DISNEYLAND

Raising the question of whether Hong Kong Disneyland may be heading towards perennial losses as Euro Disney has for most of its existence, the Walt Disney Co. has agreed to waive its management fees and defer royalty fees at the Asian park for the next two years. In an SEC filing, the company also said that it expects to make additional investments in the park to lure visitors, and the Hong Kong government has indicated it may do the same. Critics have complained that the park does not offer the variety of attractions that the two in the U.S. do. On Nov. 9, Euro Disney reported a 12 percent increase in revenue for the year and said operating income had risen to $75 million from a $3-million loss a year ago. Meanwhile, today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times reported that as part of a promotion called the 2008 Disney Dreams Giveaway, winning contestants will be taken on a tour of Walt Disney's private apartment above the firehouse at Disneyland and stay at a lavish apartment provided to celebrities above New Orleans Square -- both places ordinarily off-limits to the general public.

STRINGER SAYS BLU-RAY REMAINS BEST HD VIDEO FORMAT

Sony chief Howard Stringer has attempted to clarify remarks he made to the Associated Press last week in which he said that Sony's Blu-ray high-definition video format was in a "stalemate" with Toshiba's HD DVD and that both companies are now engaged in an effort to "save face." His remarks appeared to indicate that Sony's commitment to the Blu-ray format was wavering. But Stringer, in an email message to Home Media magazine publisher Thomas K. Arnold insisted that Blu-ray is the superior format inasmuch as it offers better security and greater bandwidth for "extras" -- and is supported exclusively by Disney, Fox, MGM, Lionsgate, and Sony. (Warner Bros. releases HD videos in both formats.)

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.