FAHRENHEIT DEBATE HEATS UP AGAIN
In the latest rumpus surrounding Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, the pay-TV movie channel In Demand has backed out of a deal to air an updated version of the film prior to election day, citing "legitimate business and legal concerns." It did not elaborate. Moore later told the Associated Press: "We've informed them of their legal responsibility and we all informed them that every corporate executive that has attempted to prohibit Americans from seeing this film has failed." He offered to make the film available for free to Sinclair Broadcasting, which had previously announced plans to air an anti-Kerry documentary prior to election day. Moore also said that two stores in Madison, WI were the first to sign up for a program in which they would offer the film to customers without charge on Oct. 26.
THE SPIN ZONE
Fox News Channel has served legal papers on Andrea Mackris, notifying her that she is being terminated from her $93,200-a-year job as associate producer of The O'Reilly Factor. FNC has also asked a judge to rule that the firing is not in retaliation for her accusations last week that O'Reilly sexually harassed her. (However an FNC spokeswoman told the New York Daily News. "Ms Mackris is still employed by and on the payroll of Fox News.") On Friday night NBC's Dateline presented a feature about the case in which Mackris was seen at a story meeting with O'Reilly and other staffers proposing a story dealing with the ACLU's position on groups that promote abstinence in schools. On the same evening, O'Reilly did not appear on his program (a guest host sat in for him). He told the Daily News: "I am getting hounded by the press, and I knew I would be. ... This has been the worst day of my life."
POST-SEASON BASEBALL HEATS UP
Seeming to prove that television networks can generate decent ratings on a Saturday night if the programming is compelling enough, Fox managed to garner a 7.9 rating and a 14 share for its coverage of the Yankees-Red Sox postseason contest, peaking at 9:00 p.m. with an 8.5/15. All of the other networks produced typically low Saturday numbers. On Sunday, Fox continued to lead with the baseball playoffs, averaging a 10.4/15, but the winner of the 9:00 p.m. hour remained Desperate Housewives, which scored a 15.5/21
HAWAII IS OFF NBC'S ITINERARY; LAX IS REROUTED
NBC is moving its faltering airport drama LAX from Monday to Wednesday night effective Oct. 27, where it will replace another new drama, Hawaii, which apparently will experience a wipeout, although it may return after the November sweeps. Moving into LAX's Monday-night slot will be the new reality series, The $25 Million Dollar (sic) Hoax, in which a participant must convince family and friends that he has just won a lottery. LAX will face the same tough competition that Hawaii did -- including the new hit ABC drama Lost as well as CBS's 60 Minutes and UPN's America's Next Top Model. Meanwhile, filming of Hawaii continued uninterrupted on Oahu. A publicist for the series told the Honolulu Advertiser, "We're not going to be on the air until further notice." And the Honolulu Star Bulletin quoted a source with the show as saying that while the show has not been officially canceled, "this is as close as a production can get to that and still be breathing."
THE RETURN OF COLORIZATION?
A new process to colorize black-and-white movies for television and DVD release has produced such realistic results that Martin Scorsese employed it to colorize vintage footage for his upcoming Howard Hughes biography The Aviator, the Toronto Star reported today (Monday). Barry Sandrew, president and CEO of Legend Films, which developed the colorization system, told the newspaper: "In one case, Technicolor engineers could not believe their eyes when they saw our colorization." Sandrew said that the process allows the use of a much larger palette of colors than those employed in the 1980s, when a cruder form of colorization was largely condemned by cinephiles. Examples of the new technique are posted on the company's website: www.legendfilms.net.
TRUMP IS ROASTED BY HIS BOSS
Participating in a Friars Club roast of Donald Trump in New York Friday, NBC Universal TV Group President Jeff Zucker remarked that Trump's reality series The Apprentice is "the only thing that stands between NBC and a total collapse." Later, he joked: "The Apprentice was actually the second show that Donald pitched to us. The first was called Extreme Hair Combover."
NEWSMAN PIERRE SALINGER DEAD AT 79
Former ABC newsman Pierre Salinger died of a heart attack Saturday at a hospital near his home in Le Thor, France at the age of 79. Salinger had also been press secretary to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and served briefly as a U.S. senator from California.
SHARK RETAINS HOLD ON BOX OFFICE
Team America: World Police was unable to save the box office from the grip of Shark Tale over the weekend as the DreamWorks animated feature continued to hold onto the top spot for a third consecutive week with an estimated $22.1 million. In fact, Paramount' puppet movie was pretty much tied in knots as it debuted in third place with a much lower than expected $12.3 million. (Most analysts had predicted that it would earn $20 million or more.) Universal's Friday Night Lights remained in second place with $13.1 million. Shall We Dance, the only other new film to debut wide -- actually in just 1,772 screens -- earned $11.6 million, representing the best per-screen take of any movie, and wound up in fourth place.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Shark Tale, $22.1 million; 2. Friday Night Lights, $13.1 million; 3. Team America: World Police, $12.3 million; 4. Shall We Dance?, $11.6 million; 5. Ladder 49, $8.6 million; 6. Taxi, $7.7 million; 7. The Forgotten, $6 million; 8. Raise Your Voice, $3 million; 9. The Motorcycle Diaries, $1.7 million; 10. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, $1.3 million.
ENCODED SCREENERS NOT LIKELY BEFORE THIS YEAR'S OSCARS
A delay in manufacturing DVD players that can play specially encoded movies is likely to result in few of this year's movies being made available for Oscar voters to assess at home this year, Daily Variety reported. The trade paper observed that no studio has yet signed on to the encoding system developed by Cinea, a division of Dolby -- and that none of them will until they are able to test the recorders to see whether they are sufficiently user-friendly. As things now stand, Variety indicated, the Cinea players will be rolling off the production line in November, at which time they will be delivered at no cost to academy members. Cinea execs told Variety that if the players are not used this year, they expect that they'll be next year.
MARKETING CAMPAIGN STARTS EARLY FOR OSCARS
With no film an out-and-out favorite to win the 2004 Oscar for best picture, studios have already begun an attempt to create buzz around their top productions, the New York Times has observed. "There will be more competition, there will be more spending, and there will be more people who think they have a shot," predicted Dennis Rice, senior vice president for publicity at Buena Vista Pictures, a unit of Walt Disney, His words were echoed by Charles Koones, executive VP and publisher at Variety, who remarked: "We've seen everybody's campaign at this point. ... It does indeed look like it's going to be a highly competitive season."
JOBS WAITING TO SEE RESULTS OF NEXT PIXAR MOVIE
Pixar chairman Steve Jobs has suggested that if his studio's The Incredibles becomes a hit when it is released on Nov. 5, it will give him additional leverage in dealing with a new distributor when Pixar's contract with Disney expires next year. Referring to the company's previous string of five hits, Jobs told the Los Angeles Times: "Pixar is lucky enough to be five-for-five. ... If Incredibles makes that six-for-six ... it gives us wonderful options to work with all sorts of people." Some Disney execs expressed the belief that Jobs might renew negotiations with Disney if the company's CEO, Michael Eisner is put out to pasture by the Disney board. The Times quoted Disney studio Chairman Dick Cook as saying, "I would love to think it's never over until it's over."
STONE SAYS HEROIC WAR MOVIES MORE VIOLENT THAN HIS KILLERS
Director Oliver Stone, whose first film, Last Year in Viet Nam (1971), dealt with a soldier's doubts about the legitimacy of war, has criticized movies that portray soldiers as superheroes. The Irish Times quotes Stone as saying that anyone who blasts his ultra-violent Natural Born Killers but praises hit war films is being hypocritical. "Natural Born Killers is a satire, whereas movies like Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan contribute to an aura of patriotic inevitability and an awe of the military." Stone, who served 15 months in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster and a Bronze Star, later wrote, produced or directed several other anti-war films, including Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.
SHARES IN NETFLIX PLUNGE ON NEWS OF PRICE WAR
Caught up in a price war, online DVD renter Netflix saw its shares plummet 41 percent to $10.30 on Friday. Shares of Blockbuster, which had announced that it would be cutting its price below Netflix's already reduced amount, fell 6 percent. Harry Katica, an analyst with the Aperion Group, told today's (Monday) New York Times that the lower prices were not sustainable. "Any type of aggressive pricing is temporary," he said. "I don't think any of these businesses can survive at [their current subscription price of] $17 a month."
JAPANESE DIRECTOR HELMING U.S. VERSION OF HIS JAPANESE FILM
Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar,is the first Japanese horror remake to be directed by its original Japanese director, Entertainment Weekly reports in its latest edition. Shimizu told the magazine through an interpreter that he has been feuding with Sony, the studio that is releasing the film, over how much violence can be included. First, it was not enough; then, too much, he said, adding: "Some stupid producers!"
DREYFUSS FORCED TO QUIT LONDON VERSION OF THE PRODUCERS
A back injury has forced Richard Dreyfuss to withdraw from the London production of Mel Brooks' The Producers, just as the show was going into preview performances. A statement said that he had undergone surgery for a herniated disc in January and that it had "become increasingly difficult for Mr. Dreyfuss to fulfill the rigors of the role." He is being replaced by Nathan Lane, who originally starred in the Broadway version of the musical.