WGA STRIKE STRIKING OTHER WORKERS

Anticipating a lengthy strike by the Writers Guild of America, all of the major studios in Hollywood except Sony are beginning to send suspension notices to scores of production companies, which could put hundreds of their employees out of work, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Wednesday). Companies that currently don't have shows in production are being hit first. Commenting on the situation, the Times observed: "Now, in addition to having writers going without pay, many other entertainment industry employees will have to worry about their car payments and rent. That is likely to have a broad impact beyond Tinseltown, rippling across the Los Angeles region's entire economy." And in its lede on the strike, the Hollywood Reporter commented today: "A sickening sense is spreading through Hollywood that the Writers Guild of America strike could drag on for some time, if only because the union and the studios have become so polarized."

WGA NEGOTIATORS FELT BETRAYED, SAYS COLUMNIST

WGA negotiators have told L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke that they entered a final meeting with studio and network representatives Sunday prepared to discuss a deal that had been "backchanneled" -- i.e., worked out behind the scenes. According to Finke's report Fox's Peter Chernin and CBS's Les Moonves had promised to change the formula on residuals for movies and TV shows downloaded from the Internet if the guild would drop its demand for increasing payments for DVD sales. However, according to an unnamed WGA leader, when the two sides returned to the table Sunday night, the producers' side said, "We are not going to make any concessions on the Internet. We stand by our former position that you will get the DVD formula on digital downloads. And we would like to ask if you guys would suspend the strike starting at midnight." An insider on the producers' side confirmed that they had not altered their position on electronic downloads because "there wasn't enough time" -- presumably to develop an alternative residuals formula and present it to the writers.

REDSTONE APOLOGIZES TO FORMER FOES

Suggesting he has entered into a new, mellower period in his life, Sumner Redstone has spoken approvingly of the three persons with whom he has battled publicly recently: his daughter Shari, Tom Cruise, and David Geffen. In an interview appearing in the New York Daily News's "Rush and Molloy" column, Redstone said of his dispute with his daughter: "If any issues exist, and there's probably a few, I'm sure they'll be settled amicably." Of Cruise, he said that his criticism "may have been a wakeup call" for the actor. "I did him no harm. I do want the best for him." And of Geffen, he remarked, "I consider David Geffen a brilliant man and a friend."

$99 HD DVD PLAYERS FLY OFF SHELVES

A weekend campaign to expand the base of HD DVD users apparently was successful in spades, according to Video Business magazine. The publication said on its website Tuesday that $99 sales of Toshiba's high-definition DVD player resulted in 90,000 players going out retailers' doors. The players usually sell for about $199.99, discounted from Sony's MSRP of $299.00.

SEXY LUST, CAUTION A HIT IN CHINA

Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, which was released in the U.S. with the highly restrictive NC-17 rating after its producers decided that explicit sex scenes should not be removed, has become a hit in China even with those scenes cut. China Film Group, the movie's distributor, said today (Wednesday) that the film has earned $5.4 million in its first four days of release. Chen Ji, manager of Oriental New Century Theater in Beijing, told the state-run Xinhua News Agency, "The movie has so far had the best box-office returns of all the movies shown in our theater over the past three months." Some industry analysts had predicted that the movie, the winner of the top award at the Venice Film Festival, would perform poorly in Chinese theaters if pirated DVDs, with the sex scenes left intact, competed with it.

DIRECTOR THROWS IN THE TOWEL TO CENSORS

A scene in a Bollywood film in which the star drops a towel showing his naked backside has been cut following objections from India's Film Censor Board. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali said that the board had offered the choice of leaving the scene in the film and releasing it with an adult rating or removing it with a general-audience rating. Bhansali said that since cutting the scene did not affect the "flow" of the story, he agreed to remove it. The filmmaker may also have been looking over his shoulder, since the film, Saawariya, due to be released on Nov. 9, is the first Indian film to be co-produced with Sony Pictures.

BUFFY ACTRESS DEFENDS RICHARD KELLY MOVIE

Richard Kelly (Johnny Darko) has reedited his apocalyptic film Southland Tales since it was lambasted by several critics at the Cannes Film Festival last May, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Wednesday). However, the newspaper quoted co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar as saying that no major changes were made because the filmmakers concluded that the critics at Cannes represented the "wrong audience" for the film. (Sukhdev Sandhu, the critic for the London daily Telegraph, commented: "Most of the Cannes audience would have opted for the end of the world.) Gellar said, "If you're at Cannes, they're looking for a different kind of movie, and that's not what this movie is." She then went on to say that changes in the film included shortening it, adding several scenes to clarify the narrative, including new visual effects shots, and changing the ending. Commented the Guardian dryly: "So, hardly any different at all then."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.