The Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday that it believes that Mel Gibson's latest directorial effort, Apocalypto, will have broad audience appeal that will overcome the recent controversy surrounding his recent arrest and subsequent anti-Semitic remarks. In an interview with Reuters, Disney spokesman Dennis Rice said, "If it's a good movie, people are going to see it. ... One of the great things about Mel Gibson is that he is a great filmmaker and he has a proven track record." However, Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, observed that the film has to overcome the controversy over Gibson. "I don't know how that cannot be a factor," he said. "His personality has come into play ... but if it's a good movie that will hold it in good stead."


The European Commission, which initiates legislation and serves as the executive branch for the European Union, has been asked to step up the development of digital cinema on the continent. European film groups from each of the EU's 25 countries said in a joint petition to the EC on Wednesday that, given the U.S.'s accelerating transition to high-definition digital exhibition and on-demand cable platforms, "there is a real risk that European films lose out and never reach a new and committed audience."


London critics have said that the stage version of Dirty Dancing, which debuted Tuesday,is just like the movie version -- too much like the movie version, they complain. Matt Wolf, writing for Bloomberg News, called the adaptation "lazy," but acknowledged that it has a ready audience among the film's fans. Still, he wrote, "a built-in audience is no excuse for shoddy work ... that plays like a lengthy annotation of the movie." The show, which recorded nearly $24 million in advance ticket sales -- the biggest in London theatrical history -- is called "a straightforward frame-by-frame recreation of the movie experience" by Lyn Gardner in the Guardianand "ultra-faithful" by Benedict Nightingale in the London Times. Nevertheless, Dominic Cavendish in the Telegraph concludes: "No one is likely to have the time of their lives here. But a decent, undemanding night out for couples, easily impressed teens and hen parties? You bet." And Paul Taylor sums up in the Independent: "This is a show that will give keen pleasure to Dirty Dancing addicts and to newcomers alike. It's often visually lovely. ... In general, this is a very enjoyable evening."


Sony Films may have done a good deal of boasting recently about its record number of No. 1 openings this year, but in actual dollars and cents, it fared poorly, according to the parent company's latest quarterly filing. In the quarter that ended on Sept. 30, Sony reported a $129-million loss in its film business, partly the result of such flops as Zoomand All the King's Men but also because of the increasing costs of producing and marketing all of its films as well as declining DVD sales. In fact, the company actually saw a 12-percent increase in actual box-office ticket sales. Sony also was hit hard by slow sales in its game division as consumers shunned its PlayStation 2 game consoles, anticipating next month's planned release of PlayStation 3 -- and by the recall of batteries that it made for some nine million laptop and notebook computers.


Sacha Baron Cohen, in the guise of his movie persona, Kazakhstani journalist Borat, has attended the London premiere of his movie, Borat: Cultural Learning's of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,addressing the awaiting rain-soaked crowd as "gentlemen and prostitutes." As he stepped from a mule-drawn cart, he remarked, "After this I stay in a hotel in Kings Cross, you must come and join me. We will all drink, wrestle with no clothes on and shoot dogs from the window." Later, speaking with reporters, he said, "I have come here with Bilak, my 11 year old son, his wife and their child, and we are hoping maybe to put some chocolate make-up on the child's face and sell him to Madonna. I am hoping that Madonna will be a very good father for it." Such outrageous malaprops continue to garner considerable free publicity for the movie, but earlier this week, 20th Century Fox slashed the number of theaters in which it plans to open Boratdomestically to 800 from more than 2000, saying that Middle America has yet to become aware of the character. The film opens on Nov. 2 in the U.S. (and the U.K.).