WHITE SOX BEAT ANGELS, LOSE TO HOUSEWIVES
The Chicago White Sox may have won the American League pennant for the first time since 1959 by beating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Sunday night but they were no match for the women of Wisteria Lane. Desperate Housewives once again overwhelmed the competition by posting an 18.0 rating and a 25 share in the 9:00 p.m. hour, while the ALCS finale averaged an 8.8/13. The baseball numbers didn't even approach the 11.3/19 for the comparable game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox a year ago. In fact, the game attracted fewer viewers than CBS's Cold Case, which has continued to show surprising strength against Housewives at 9:00 p.m. and increased its ratings to a 9.5/13 Sunday night. A football overrun at 7:00 p.m. helped CBS win the first hour of Sunday's early-starting primetime with an 11.5/19. CBS held on to the lead at 8:00 with a delayed 60 Minutes scoring an 11.1/16. At 10:00 p.m., a 13.3/20 for Grey's Anatomy helped give ABC the overall win for the night.
UNIONS OUT OF TUNE WITH IPOD DEAL
Last week's surprise announcement by Apple that it had signed a deal with ABC that would allow it to sell a number of ABC and Disney Channel programs to buyers of its new video iPod especially surprised most of the unions that Disney has contracts with. They include: The Writers Guild of America, West; the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; the Screen Actors Guild; the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America, East -- all of whom claim that Disney did not talk to them about how their members will be compensated from such sales. In a joint statement, the unions said: "We have not yet heard from the responsible employers of our members. We look forward to a dialogue that ensures that our members are properly compensated for this exploitation of their work." Meanwhile, reports began circulating over the weekend that both NBC and Warner Brothers have begun discussions with Apple about distributing their programming.
ABC NEWS SUFFERS NEW EMBARRASSMENT
ABC News, already embroiled in controversy over the accuracy of claims made on its Primetime Live magazine show last week that lax security at the nation's nuclear research reactors could result in a disastrous terrorist attack, suffered additional embarrassment over the weekend when its website headlined that white supremacists had rioted in Toledo, OH. In fact the disturbance involved a number of persons protesting a planned demonstration by neo-Nazis. It was covered live by Fox News Channel on Saturday, during which FNC's Julie Banderas referred to it as a "racial war." The situation received little attention on the other cable news networks.
NBC-UNIVERSAL DRAGS DOWN G.E.
NBC, which for years has far exceeded its rivals in total ad sales, slumped so badly in the last quarter that it seriously dragged down parent company GE's overall results. According to the company's quarterly filing with the SEC, revenue at NBC Universal -- which includes not only the network but also the movie studio, the company's cable stations, including MSNBC and CNBC, and theme parks -- fell a whopping 26 percent in the third quarter from a year ago. However, in a statement, GE CEO Keith Sherin remarked, "We are rebuilding prime programming and we feel good about the progress we've made."
MIKE WALLACE SAYS NETWORK "SUITS" WANT MORE INFOTAINMENT
Veteran 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace accused the TV network "suits" of being "more interested in money" than in enhancing their reputations for informing the public. In an appearance at Central Michigan University Thursday night, Wallace declared, "There is an awful lot of tabloid journalism on the air. ... They want more infotainment in the news than there used to be." In a turnaround, Wallace was interviewed on stage by Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco industry whistleblower, who ignited an uproar when his appearance on 60 Minutes was blocked for a time by CBS lawyers who feared that it would prompt a lawsuit by Big Tobacco. The controversy gave rise to the movie The Insider. Although in the movie, Wallace is depicted as knuckling under to network pressure, saying that he didn't want to end up broadcasting on National Public Radio, he said of Wigand, "This man is my hero. This is a man who put his career, his health and his kids in serious jeopardy because he believed in something. He believed cigarettes kill people, too many people and now particularly young people." Wallace also lashed out at President Bush and those close to him for dodging his requests for an interview. "To this day, he is the only president in the last 50 years I've never interviewed. I've never even met him," he said.
DOBBS CLAIMS "FAIR AND BALANCED" CLAIM IS "RIDICULOUS"
CNN business anchor Lou Dobbs has scoffed at the "fair and balanced" motto of his principal competitor, Fox News Channel. In an interview with the trade publication Radio Ink, Dobbs remarked, "The idea that a reporter has to be 'fair and balanced' is ridiculous. The fact is, the truth usually is not fair and it's not balanced. Truth stands by itself. And the idea that something called fair and balanced is a substitute for truth and fact is mindless nonsense that has captured much of the national media." He insisted that reporters have no obligation to report on both the Republican and Democratic views of every issue. "Does that mean if we had three major political parties there would be three sides to the truth? If we had four, there would be four. It's utter nonsense. There is a non-partisan reality in every story, and it is our obligation to report that reality. And the hell with whether the viewer is a Democrat or Republican," he said.
THE FOG CLOUDS BOX OFFICE
With little publicity or marketing, Sony's horror flick The Fog crept into some 3,000 theaters over the weekend and accounted for about $12.2 million in ticket sales. If estimates stand, it beat last weekend's winner, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, by $500,000. Other new entries were fogbound. Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown managed to take in only $11 million for Paramount while New Line's Domino fell with just $4.7 million. All in all the box office was down about 10 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago when the third week of Shark Tale led the field. But if major releases appeared lackluster, some films entering the market in limited release were performing winningly. They included George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, which had three very good and lucky nights as it earned $1.37 million in just 69 art houses, for an average of about $20,000 per theater. Sony's The Squid and the Whale brought in $300,054 in its second week at 27 theaters, averaging just over $11,000 per theater. Warner Bros. did get some good news over the weekend. It crossed the $1-billion mark in total ticket sales for the year, marking the fifth consecutive year it has passed that milestone. It was the second studio this year to do so. Fox passed $1 billion last July, thanks largely to the performance of the final Star Wars movie.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. The Fog, $12.2 million; 2. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, $11.7 million; 3. Elizabethtown, $11 million; 4. Flightplan, $6.5 million; 5. In Her Shoes, $6.1 million; 6. Domino, $4.7 million; 7. Two for the Money, $4.6 million; 8. A History of Violence, $3.6 million; 9. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, $3.5 million; 10. The Gospel, $3.2 million.
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE FOG
The Fog was not screened for critics, and few reviewers bothered to stand in line over the weekend to see it in theaters. Several newspapers simply printed the wire-service review by Christy Lemire of the Associated Press, which began: "Some movies are so atrocious that the studios keep critics from seeing them before opening day, hoping and praying for one decent weekend at the box office before being done in by word of mouth." And while The Fog looks "pretty cheesy," Lemire wrote, "it "manages to create some genuine intensity and suspense." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe compared the movie to the 1981 original, and wrote: "This Fog lacks the one thing the original had -- originality -- but it qualifies as more than a mist opportunity." But Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News found little to like about the film, saying that the only "eerie" thing the movie does is to cause "everyone in the cast to deliver dreadful performances and display inappropriate reactions when their friends are drowned, burned, stabbed or thrown into glass display cases." And Anita Gates in the New York Times dismissed it as "mildly scary here and there. It does not play by all the horror movie rules ... and the cast is good-looking."
DREAMWORKS IN NEW MERGER TALKS
Rumors began circulating over the weekend that NBC Universal and DreamWorks were again involved in merger negotiations and that Paramount has also approached DreamWorks about a buyout. However, Daily Variety said in today's (Monday) edition that NBC Universal had not raised its offer and pointed out that neither studio courting DreamWorks has a free hand -- that the negotiators must win approval from their corporate parents, from GE, in the case of NBC Universal, and from Viacom, in the case of Paramount. Variety and the New York Times also reported that GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt may have blocked the original Universal-DreamWorks deal when he questioned the return on the investment following poor performances by DreamWorks' latest releases, The Island and Just like Heaven.
PARAMOUNT SETS UP DIRECT-TO-VIDEO UNIT
Establishing direct-to-video as a separate distribution channel and not just an outlet for kids' fare and least-likely-to-succeed movies, Paramount Home Entertainment on Friday announced the formation of DVD Premiere, a unit that it said will produce six to eight direct-to-video movies annually. Home Media Retailing reported that the first project will be an animated comedy from Mike Reiss (The Critic, The PJs). In a statement, Thomas Lesinski, president of Paramount Pictures Worldwide Home Entertainment, said: "We have seen first-hand the tremendous consumer response to original, quality home entertainment content and recognize the great growth potential of this business."