Despite the fact that NBC's coverage of the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade featured NBC News personalities Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Al Roker, no mention was made of the fact that an M&M balloon had crashed into a light pole in Times Square during the parade, injuring an 11-year-old girl and her 26-year-old sister. Today's (Friday) New York Timesobserved that CNN was broadcasting news of the accident by 11:51, four minutes after it occurred. MSNBC, NBC's cable news network, followed two minutes later. The newspaper quoted a spokeswoman for NBC's entertainment division, which was responsible for the broadcast, as saying that the Todayshow anchors did not mention the accident because it was not clear what had actually happened. Why, then, did NBC use footage of the M&M balloon from last year's parade? the Timesasked. Because, said the spokeswoman, when the balloon did not arrive at Herald Square at the appointed time, "we rolled with some previously recorded footage."


CBS could continue to give plenty of thanks for its Thursday night dominance as it garnered outstanding ratings on Thanksgiving night. Although overall viewership was down a bit, CBS nevertheless came away with an average 12.3 rating and a 23 share, drawing an audience larger than ABC, NBC and Fox combined. Once again, the top-rated show of the night was CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which scored a 14.4/27. ABC, which has been relegated to a distant third place on Thursday nights for years, moved up to second on Thanksgiving thanks to its airing of the cartoons A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingand Finding Nemo.


Perhaps it was just that people were getting set for Thanksgiving, but a week after killing off one of its main characters, ABC's Lostsaw its ratings decline more than 15 percent Wednesday night. The ABC hit, which drew a 12.6 rating and a 19 share a week ago (and a 12.0/18 a week earlier), fell to a 10.7/18 on Wednesday. Meanwhile, CBS' Criminal Mindscontinued to present a strong challenge to ABC's hit, posting an 8.3/14. Lostremained the top-rated show of the night, but, as in previous weeks, it was not enough to give ABC a win for the night. CBS took top honors with an average 7.6/13, edging out ABC's 7.3/12. NBC placed third with a 6.0/10, while Fox trailed with a 4.3/7.


The director general of al-Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar, is flying to Britain this weekend to seek an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair following the leak of an official document from Blair's Downing Street office indicating that he dissuaded President Bush from bombing the headquarters of al-Jazeera last year, Britain's Guardiannewspaper reported today (Friday). The decision by the chief of the Arab news channel to seek the meeting follows a protest by al-Jazeera staff members Thursday in which they demanded that the U.S. release Sami al-Haj, an al-Jazeera cameraman who was arrested by U.S. forces during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and held at Guantánamo Bay ever since. The staff also held pictures of Tarek Ayoub, an al-Jazeera correspondent who was killed when a U.S. missile hit his Baghdad office in April 2003. Ahmed el-Sheik, the news channel's editor-in-chief, called on the British government to release the entire memo of the Bush-Blair meeting, telling the Associated Press, "Leaving things vague is terrifying."


Although high ticket prices are often blamed for the box-office downturn this year, moviegoers are apparently not reluctant to pay a 30-percent premium to watch movies in the IMAX format. According to today's (Friday) Toronto Star, a film shown in an IMAX theater now generates eight times the revenue of the same film shown in a conventional theater. The IMAX version of the latest Harry Potter movie is likely to become the biggest hit yet for the giant-screen company. In an interview with the newspaper, IMAX Co-chairman and Co-CEO Richard Gelfond observed that while only a few years ago, he was begging studios to release their movies in IMAX, top film executives are now coming to him, fighting over release dates. However, Matthew Harrigan of Colorado investment banking firm Janco Partners Inc. told the Starthat IMAX may now be facing strong competition from a new, low-cost digital 3-D process developed by Disney and George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic, currently being employed in some theaters showing Chicken Little. Harrigan described the process as "inferior" to IMAX. "However, the danger is that it does entice people into theaters, and at a cheaper cost than IMAX," he said.


On Wednesday, the first day of the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Firecontinued to burn up the box office, raking in $14.12 million to bring its total to $133.34 million, according to Exhibitor Relations. In second place, Sony's film version of Rentperformed better than expected as it debuted with $4.97 million. It beat out three other films opening over the holiday period: Paramount's Yours, Mine & Ours, with $3.36 million; New Line's Just Friends with $2.03 million; and Lions Gates' In the Mix with $848,000. Playbillmagazine observed on its website today that with an estimated 800,000 tickets for Rentsold on Wednesday, "more people saw Rent in movie form in one day than saw Rent onstage at Broadway's 1181-seat Nederlander theatre in over a year and a half of sold-out performances."


The strong box-office performance of Renton Wednesday was being attributed to a large turnout of "Rentheads," inveterate fans of the musical who lined up at theaters to see it hours before it opened the way younger fans of Harry Potter did to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Firea week earlier. Nearly all of those lined up in front of a theater in Chicago told the Chicago Sun-Times that they planned to see the movie more than once this weekend.


A Finnish-language Star Trekspoof has been viewed on the Internet more than three million times in less than two months, making it Finland's most-viewed movie ever, according to Reuters. The movie, Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning,presented free on www.starwreck.com, was created by a group of students, who used home computers to create the special effects. English subtitles are provided. One blog, p2pnet, which champions the cause of peer-to-peer systems users against Hollywood studios, ran this comment on the film: "If you haven't seen this spoof, do. It is on par with anything Hollydud puts out. Better it is free. It shows that you don't have to have tons of bucks to throw at making a movie to get a movie."


More than 100,000 people are expected to participate in festivities surrounding the New Zealand premiere of Peter Jackson's King Kongin Wellington on Dec. 14. City officials today (Friday) announced that roads around the Embassy Theatre would be closed for two days so that preparations for the event could be carried out. They include laying an enormous red carpet along the street leading to the theater. Mayor Kerry Prendergast said that she understood that the event will result in inconveniences for many Wellington residents. However, she invited them to come to town and participate in the festivities, which will include free entertainment. "It's a privilege to host another red carpet event for Peter Jackson," she said, calling him "a hometown hero" and the film "a hometown film, because so much filming was done locally."


Disney has denied reports that it has shut down production of two sequels of Pirates of the Caribbeanthat are being shot simultaneously in the Bahamas. The denial was issued following a report appearing in the Nassau Guardianand picked up by newspapers elsewhere that the studio was pulling out of the country because of a series of robberies of cast and crew. The report quoted Jason Kakebeen, whom it identified as the CEO of Jemini Seven Entertainment, as saying that the studio had decided "never to film in the Bahamas again" because of lax security. The newspaper admitted Thursday that Kakebeen was actually "a disgruntled cast member" who had been a robbery victim and had told his tale to "a gullible Nassau Guardianreporter," who had failed to check out the story. "At no time was production interrupted and we continue to enjoy a cooperative and productive relationship with the Bahamian government," Disney said.