PRODUCERS TO WRITERS: NOT HIRING

In what already appears to be at least a partial lockout of film and TV writers, studio and network executives have begun informing writers that their services won't be needed until a new contract is in place with the Writers Guild of America, Daily Variety reported today (Wednesday). One unnamed agent told the trade publication: "The sense I get is that the very immediate writing work is still getting done, but anything longer-term is on hold." In a statement on Tuesday, following the latest round of talks between the writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, AMPTP President Nicholas Counter accused the WGA of presenting "an untenable proposal to double the homevideo residual using specious numbers, a revisionist view of the bargaining history and a complete disregard for the costs and deficits that producers must bear."

DREAMWORKS LENDS TRANSFORMERS WRITERS ANOTHER HAND

In an apparent effort to overcome the reluctance of screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci to produce a screenplay for the sequel to their Transformers hit movie, DreamWorks and Paramount have brought in a third writer, Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Scream 3), to help lighten their load, the Los Angeles Times reported today. Kurtzman and Orti are currently producing Star Trek for Paramount and Eagle Eye for DreamWorks. In reporting the deal, the Times noted that the Transformers sequel is not due to be released until June 26, 2009, giving special effects experts time to compile action sequences in case a strike by the Writers Guild of America occurs next month (which leaves one wondering whether, after the strike, the writers will be asked to create a screenplay that will incorporate the already-filmed action sequences).

UNLIKE DIGITAL-LOVING LUCAS, SPIELBERG STICKS TO FILM

Unlike his producing cohort George Lucas, Steven Spielberg has rejected digital photography for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In an interview with the website CHUD.com, Spielberg said that he intends to "be the last guy in Hollywood shooting live action on film, despite the arguments Lucas makes" for digital production. Spielberg also reportedly said that while there may be some digital effects used in the film, he intends to go "as old school as he can." Appearing to violate his own non-disclosure policy, Spielberg also confirmed much Internet gossip that the villains in the new movie will be Russian Communists, not German Nazis.

NEW BLU-RAY ENCRYPTION MAKES MOVIES UNPLAYABLE ON SOME SETS

Owners of Blu-ray high-definition players have discovered that new movies released in the format by Twentieth Century Fox won't play on models manufactured before June of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Wednesday). In June, the newspaper noted, a new level of encryption technology known as BD+ went into effect that, at least for the time being, has prevented hackers from copying the discs and distributing them on the black market or uploading them onto the Internet. The Journal said that the manufacturers of the PCs and video players that have been affected by the new copy-protection system will soon be able to upgrade them by hooking them up to the Internet and installing a firmware update.

MASS SUSPENSIONS AT HOSPITAL OVER CLOONEY RECORDS

As many as 40 members of the medical staff of the Palisades Medical enter in North Bergen, NJ, have been suspended for reportedly examining George Clooney's medical information without authorization after he was brought to the hospital following a motorcycle accident last month, New York television station WCBS-TV reported Tuesday night. Some of the suspended staff members are doctors, the station said. It was unknown whether any of the medical information was leaked to the press. Told of the suspensions, Clooney issued a statement saying, "While I very much believe in a patient's right to privacy, I would hope that this could be settled without suspending medical workers." A spokeswoman for the health-workers union remarked; "We believe this is a harsh penalty and an overreaction.

TWO MIDDLE EAST COUNTRIES BAN THE KINGDOM

After being lambasted by some Arab-American groups for its generally unflattering portrait of Arabs, Universal's The Kingdom has now been banned in Bahrain and Kuwait, Daily Variety reported today (Wednesday). The trade publication noted, however, that the film has been passed uncut in the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. (Saudi Arabia, where the movie is set, has no movie theaters, but residents generally attend cinemas in nearby Bahrain, one of the countries that have banned the film.) The Kingdom is due to open in the Middle East region on Thursday. "It's a big release," Gulf Film chief Salim Ramia told Variety. There shouldn't be any controversy. ... The film isn't against anyone. It's a good movie."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.