MNF SCORES BIG COMEBACK
Monday Night Football, featuring the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts against the Pittsburgh Steelers, scored solidly for ABC Monday night as it posted an average 13.7 rating and a 20 share in primetime. It was up substantially from last week's low-for-the-season 9.9/15. The telecast helped give the network an easy win for the night as it averaged a 12.0/18. CBS came in second with a 10.2/15, followed by NBC with a 7.3/11. Fox, which scored strongly with the season finale of Prison Break, placed fourth with a 5.8/8.
NIGHTLINE GOES ALL-LIVE
ABC kicked off its revamped Nightline Monday night (technically Tuesday morning), determined to go live with its stories even if that meant relying on ones that could be told past midnight, following Monday Night Football. Terry Moran was beamed in from Baghdad, interviewing the U.S. ambassador about his reported secret talks with insurgents. Cynthia McFadden discussed the apparent crackdown on gay men in the priesthood with two Catholic priests, and Martin Bashir introduced a feature about a deaf football team, live. Meanwhile, today's (Tuesday) Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Koppel is expected to announce as early as next week a deal with HBO to produce documentaries for the pay-TV network. He and former executive producer Tom Bettag are expected to raid the Nightline staff, the newspaper said, luring away seven of the show's 35 Washington staff members.
FOOTBALL ON THE RUN -- AND AT A PRICE
Some analysts are raising an eyebrow over Disney's announced plans to enter the field of mobile media with an ESPN service that will deliver sports news, scores, and video highlights to specially equipped cell phones. Noting that the phones will cost $399 after rebate with monthly service plans ranging from $64.99, to $224.99, today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times quoted Marina Amoroso of the Yankee Group as saying, "Less than 1 percent of the market will pay more than $199 for a phone. ... They are really going after a very small market with that type of pricing."
CBS MAY BE CLOSER TO SIGNING COURIC TO ANCHOR NEWS
With reports continuing to circulate that CBS Chairman Les Moonves is pursuing Katie Couric with single-minded intensity in his effort to land her to anchor the CBS Evening News, Broadcasting & Cable columnist J. Max Robins suggested Monday that signals are growing louder at CBS that "Couric is going to leap over to the network this spring when her NBC contract runs out." Robins quoted unnamed sources at CBS as saying that Moonves and newly installed CBS News President Sean McManus are courting Couric with "new urgency" and "are working hard to quickly put a new face on the beleaguered news division and make it look like a place with growth potential. Nothing would send that message more clearly than landing A-list talent like Couric."
THE FEUDING SIMONS REACH SETTLEMENT
Marking an end to "the battle of the Simons," Simon Fuller, creator of American Idol (and the original British version, Pop Idol), has settled his copyright lawsuit against Simon Cowell, the Idol judge who went on to produce a TV talent show of his own in the U.K. called X Factor. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but earlier reports had indicated that Cowell had agreed to pay Fuller a share of the revenue of X Factor and that Fuller had agreed to allow Cowell to continue to manage Idol winners. (Under his current contract, he would have been barred from doing so beginning this year.) Simultaneously, Fox TV announced that Cowell had agreed to remain on American Idol as a judge for at least five more series. Both Simons issued statements maintaining that despite attempts in the media to portray them as enemies, they had remained friends throughout the legal battle.
FCC URGES CABLE OVERHAUL
In a move that could result in the disappearance of numerous niche cable channels, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is expected to suggest today (Tuesday) that cable companies allow consumers to subscribe to individual channels, instead of packaged assortments. Today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal reported that Martin is expected to tell a Senate forum on indecency that an FCC review has concluded that "à la carte" offerings would cost consumers less than what they currently pay for the packages. Conservative "family" groups have advocated such pricing as a way of allowing consumers to opt out of packages that include networks that air objectionable content. But today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times observed that the debate has put televangelists"in the unusual position of fighting ... anti-indecency groups" since, under the à la carte proposal, subscribers could opt out of receiving religious channels. "We don't just want to preach to the choir; we want to reach the unchurched," Paul Crouch Jr. of Trinity Broadcast Network told the Times.
AL-JAZEERA MAY SUE TO FORCE DISCLOSURE OF SECRET MEMO
The managing director of the Arab news channel al-Jazeera has warned that lawyers for the channel are considering action to force British Prime Minister Tony Blair to release the contents of a secret memo that reportedly claims that Blair dissuaded President Bush from bombing the headquarters of the news channel a year ago. Over the weekend, the official, Wadah Khanfar, delivered a letter to the prime minister's office requesting a meeting with Blair. In an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, Khanfar remarked. "We demand to know what's happened. We need to know for the sake of history, for the sake of journalism. It [the memo] has historical value."
REPORT: HOLLYWOOD IS BESIEGED WITH PROBLEMS
The Southern California entertainment industry is experiencing "some major inflections," forced to revamp because of the box-office downturn, slowing DVD sales, movie piracy, labor unrest, and runaway production, according to an industry survey released today (Tuesday) by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "Most people tend to look at the industry in terms of TV coverage, and to them it is still all happiness and lots of fun and laughs," Jack Kyser, chief economist and vice president at the nonprofit business development group, told today's Los Angeles Daily News. "But the industry is going through some major changes that nobody is talking about."
SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL DISCLOSES COMPETITORS
Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival on Monday unveiled its list of 64 films that will compete for awards during its 10-day run beginning January 19. The festival said that it made its selection from more than 3,100 entries. Sixteen films were named in each category: U.S. drama, U.S. documentary, foreign drama, and foreign documentary. Other films that the festival plans to include in showcase categories are expected to be announced shortly.
NARNIA WRITER OPPOSED LIVE ACTORS IN FILM VERSION
C.S. Lewis, the writer of the Narnia books on which Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, was based, was a great fan of the radio adaptations of his books but was opposed to a film or TV version in which live actors played the role of his animal characters (as in The Wizard of Oz.) In a 1963 note posted on the literary website nthposition.com, Lewis wrote that he was "absolutely opposed" to any attempt to produce "anthropomorphic [humanized] animals" on film, saying that previous attempts to do so resulted in "buffoonery or nightmare." Casting a human in the role of the lion Aslan, he said, "would be, to me, blasphemy." Lewis did warily consider the possibility of Disney version, however, writing "Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) would be another matter.) Lewis wrote the note to Lance Sieveking, who produced, with his approval, the radio version of his books for the BBC.
IMAX HAS ITS BIGGEST WEEKEND EVER
The combination of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Polar Express produced the biggest sales in history last weekend at IMAX theaters, according to IMAX executives. "As we kick off one of our most exciting holiday seasons yet with our partners at Warner Bros. Pictures, we're thrilled to report a record-breaking week and weekend at IMAX theatres," IMAX Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler said in a statement. "The sustained box office performance of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The IMAX Experience and the better-than-expected opening weekend results of The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience proves that the two films play very well together, maximizing IMAX theater show schedules at all times of the day. We are confident that both films will generate healthy financial returns for Warner Bros. Pictures and the growing IMAX theatre network." The Harry Potter movie brought in $1.85 million on 66 IMAX screens (bringing its total on the giant screens to $6.9 million), while the year-old The Polar Express took in an additional $1.2 million. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Warner Bros. $54,727,138, 2 Wks. ($201,010,207); 2. Walk the Line, 20th Century Fox, $19,212,273, 2 Wks. ($54,008,042); 3. Yours, Mine & Ours, Paramount, $17,461,108, 1 Wk. ($24,321,341 -- From Wednesday); 4. Chicken Little, Disney, $12,568,113, 4 Wks. ($118,398,441); 5. Rent, Sony, $10,016,021, 1 Wk. ($17,138,943 - From Wednesday); 6. Just Friends, New Line, $9,191,331, 1 Wk. ($13,243,107 - From Wednesday); 7. Pride and Prejudice, Focus Features, $7,158,119, 3 Wks. ($16,032,282); 8. Derailed, Weinstein Co. $4,609,066, 3 Wks. ($29,307,115); 9. In the Mix, Lions Gate, $4,448,491, 1 Wk. ($6,138,207 - From Wednesday); 10. The Ice Harvest, Focus Features, $3,740,799, 1 Wk. ($5,047,783 - From Wednesday).
IGER PRESSES FOR WINDOW CLOSING
Disney CEO Robert Iger has continued to downplay the importance of a film's box-office receipts and to urge that studios shorten the length of time it takes for a film to move into the home video market, where the largest profits lie. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Iger said that he has proposed that theaters begin selling DVDs of the movies they are screening at their concession stands. "They think we are out of our minds," he conceded. Iger said that he has also heard complaints from video dealers about his deal with Apple computer making three ABC and two Disney Channel shows available for downloading for $1.99 a pop. He told the newspaper that he has explained to them that online buyers, who download a single recent show, are different from those buying box sets of an entire season.
VETERAN DISNEY DISTRIBUTION EXEC LUDWIG DIES AT 95
Legendary Disney film executive Irving Ludwig, who helped launch Disney's distribution arm, Buena Vista Films, in 1953 and was its president from 1959 until he retired in 1980, died Saturday in Santa Monica, CA at age 95. Ludwig originally made a name for himself at the studio in 1939, when he was called upon to help in the distribution of Disney's Fantasia, the first film to use stereophonic sound and the first film in which classical music was performed throughout. In its obituary today (Tuesday), The Hollywood Reporter published this earlier recollection from Ludwig. "It was hard to get theaters to play Fantasia because most were controlled by chains. We wanted the film to be an event, and we even purchased old legitimate [stage] theaters to present it in. Several didn't even have projection booths. It was quite a challenge."