IT'S OFFICIAL: PARSONS QUITTING TIME WARNER

As expected, Dick Parsons will step down as chief executive of Time Warner Inc. at the end of the year but remain as chairman. On January 1, the company said, Parsons will hand over the CEO job to Jeffrey Bewkes, currently president and chief operating officer. The leadership change occurs at a difficult time for the company, which, under Parsons, has struggled to overcome the near disaster that occurred in 2001, at the height of the Internet bubble, when AOL acquired the company. Parsons took over the following year and has been credited for its rescue, but it has made little progress -- or even much effort -- towards expanding, and its stock hovers around the same price it went for at the time Parsons became CEO -- about $18. Last year Parsons waged a successful defense against corporate raider Carl Icahn, who had called for the break-up of the giant media conglomerate along the lines of its main divisions: cable (Time Warner cable), movie/TV (Warner Bros., New Line, HBO, Turner Broadcasting), publishing (Time Inc.), and Internet (AOL). Analysts have speculated that Bewkes would be less resistant to restructuring and predicted that he will likely sell off Time Warner Cable and do the same with AOL or combine it with another major Internet company. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal Bewkes would only say, "Everything is on the table." However, today's New York Times commented that there are "perils" connected with major restructuring. "Together, cable and AOL represent more than half the company's value," the newspaper observed, "and without them Time Warner could end up as an acquisition target." Besides, several analysts observed, now may not be the best time to sell off cable and Internet companies given massive competing forces.

GEFFEN, REDSTONE SQUARE OFF

Seeming to confirm that he and Steven Spielberg will cut off relations with Viacom and its Paramount and DreamWorks studios when their contracts expire next year, David Geffen has launched a broadside at Sumner Redstone in an interview set to appear in Vanity Fair. "I don't care for Sumner's behavior," Geffen said in the interview, "and I have that in common with a great many people in the entertainment business. I don't like the way he treats people. Most of all, nobody is going to treat me or my partner [Steven Spielberg] in that manner and stay in business with us. Nobody." Speaking "for background," one Redstone adviser told the magazine that the reason for Geffen's remarks is that "next year Paramount will have the hot hand. DreamWorks won't. Look at the slate [of planned movies]. Everything good is coming from Paramount. The DreamWorks films don't look anywhere near as good. So if you're Geffen and you want to negotiate, you want to do it now. He's looking for any leverage he can find on Sumner." Geffen denied that he was looking for such negotiating leverage. "I chose to sell this company to Paramount. It has turned out to be a poor choice," he said. "Redstone, he is accustomed to bullying people. And I will not be bullied. There is no fight I will run from. I am absolutely unafraid of Sumner Redstone." Nevertheless, the magazine reported that as it was going to press it received a phone call from Geffen, who remarked. "Sumner called up, he apologized to me for anything he said that may have upset me. I apologized for things that may have upset him. And we cleared the air."

NO. 1 WITH BULLETS

The nation's box office recovered like gangbusters over the weekend, with the top film, American Gangster, hauling in $43.6 million and the No. 2 film, Bee Movie, $38 million. The figure for Gangster represented the most ever raked in for a crime drama in its opening weekend. The Bee Movie figure came in at the low end of most analysts' expectations. Like most horror films, Saw IV saw its second-week take drop significantly, but it nevertheless pulled in $10.3 million to help the box office return from a six-week-long slump.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. American Gangster, Universal, $43,565,135, (New); 2. Bee Movie, Paramount, $38,021,044, (New); 3. Saw IV, Lionsgate, $10,348,646, 2 Wks. ($50,398,835); 4. Dan in Real Life, Disney, $7,870,196, 2 Wks. ($22695653); 5. The Game Plan, Disney, $3,931,491, 6 Wks. ($82,035,100); 6. 30 Days of Night, Sony, $3,741,763, 3 Wks. ($33,970,509); 7. The Martian Child, New Line, $3,376,669, (New); 8. Michael Clayton, Warner Bros., $2,785,133, 5 Wks. ($33,083,619); 9. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?, Lionsgate, $2,604,119, 4 Wks. ($51,059,398); 10. Gone Baby Gone, Miramax, $2,237,915, 3 Wks. ($14,786,017).

WILL WEB USERS PAY FOR ENTERTAINMENT?

A marketing experiment by a rock group that was watched closely by the entire entertainment industry has produced mixed results, according to market researcher ComScore Inc. On Oct. 10, the British group Radiohead made their latest album "In Rainbows" album available on the Internet on a pay-what-you-can basis. According to Comscore, nearly two thirds of those who downloaded it paid nothing at all. Those who did paid an average fee of about $6.00. (In the U.S. the figure was more than $8.00.) Total sales were not disclosed. Independent film makers have long talked about a similar strategy for selling their films directly online.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.