SPIELBERG AMBLIN' ON HOME
As was widely predicted, Steven Spielberg is returning to Universal Studios, where he began his career as an unpaid intern in the 1960s (after first sneaking into the studio by, as he said, "looking important,"). Under a seven-year deal, Universal will distribute movies produced by his DreamWorks company and financed by India's Reliance entertainment conglomerate. He'll be joined by DreamWorks' CEO Stacey Snider, but David Geffen, who reportedly negotiated the deals with Reliance and Universal and the exit from Paramount, will be leaving the company. Spielberg acknowledged that the Walt Disney Company had also made him an attractive offer to distribute the six DreamWorks films that he has said the company will produce annually. He told today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal, "It was a tough decision because I love the whole legacy of the Walt Disney Co. ... But when it came down to my final decision, it was about my feeling that it was right to return to the lot that gave me my first chance to be a director." Although Paramount has distributed DreamWorks' movies since 2006, Spielberg kept his offices on Universal's lot. "Even coming through the gate this morning actually felt different," he told today's New York Times. "I felt better. Less like a squatter." And in an interview with USA Today, Snider added: "It was really a decision not about terms or money, but 'where do we belong?' Steven and I felt the most comfortable there." Snider also has a long history at Universal, having spent nine years there as a top executive.
MEDIA SHARES GET BOOST FROM OVERALL RALLY
Shares in media companies rode the overall surge of the stock market on Monday and held on during early trading today (Tuesday). Across the board, shares in entertainment conglomerates posted significant gains after being hammered during the previous week. Even shares of CBS Corp. and Viacom rallied, ending the day higher despite an announcement earlier in the day that Sumner Redstone's National Amusements, which controls the two companies, had sold $233 million of CBS and Viacom stock in order to comply with debt covenants. Nevertheless, no media company even came close to regaining last week's losses. For example, CBS shares rose 8 percent on Monday and were up an additional 5 percent in early trading today. But they had fallen 21 percent on Friday alone.
AIRLINES LIKELY TO BLOCK PORN SITES ON WI-FI FLIGHTS
The Association of Flight Attendants has persuaded American Airlines and Delta Airlines to install filtering systems on their in-flight wi-fi systems that would block passengers from accessing pornographic movies. The move came after American said that the job of policing laptop users would be carried out by the flight attendants. Corey Caldwell of the Association of Flight Attendants told Wired.com, "We're glad the airlines have responded to our concerns and to those of passengers." Nevertheless, passengers have always been able to load pornographic films onto their laptops before boarding and watch them during a flight. That there are no reported incidents of anyone actually doing so appears significant to such groups as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Marc Rotenberg, who heads the EFF Privacy Information Center, told ITWorld.com that American's action opens the door to similar censoring of other content that passengers might find inappropriate. "It's so easy, once that precedent is set," he said, "to broaden ... the kind of information blocks that might be imposed."
DOG NIPS AT DICAPRIO/CROWE FILM
A movie featuring a half-pint pooch and a low-budget horror flick turned out to be bigger draws at the box office over the weekend than a movie featuring a couple of stars who command salaries of $20 million each. Disney's Beverly Hills Chihuahua turned out to be the surprise No. 1 finisher with a take of $17.5 million in its second week. Also overturning the predictions of box-office prognosticators was the performance of Sony/Screen Gems's Quarantine, which wound up with $14.2 million -- about $2 million more than it cost to make. Meanwhile, Body of Lies, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe -- which analysts believed to be a sure bet to capture the No. 1 spot -- turned up instead at No. 3, with just $12.9 million. It reportedly had cost $100 million to make.
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. Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Disney, $17,502,077, 2 Wks. ($52,532,310); 2. Quarantine, Sony, $14,211,321, (New) ); 3. Body of Lies, Warner Bros., $12,884,416, (New) ); 4. Eagle Eye, DreamWorks/Paramount, $10,913,762, 3 Wks. ($70,409,979); 5. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Sony, $6,420,474, 2 Wks. ($20,730,708); 6. The Express, Universal, $4,562,675, (New) ); 7. Nights in Rodanthe, Warner Bros., $4,541,201, 3 Wks. ($32,297,101); 8. Appaloosa, Warner Bros., $3,321,389, 4 Wks. ($10,867,693); 9. The Duchess, Paramount Vantage, $3,304,841, 4 Wks. ($5,603,061); 10. Fireproof, Samuel Goldwyn, $3,140,997, 3 Wks. ($16,875,765).