George Lucas chastised the nation's universities for not treating the study of film in the same way they do other academic disciplines such as law, medicine, journalism, and architecture. "It just isn't thought of in the same breath, which is for me a sacrilege," Lucas said at a groundbreaking ceremony at USC where a 137,000-square-foot complex is being constructed to house the university's film school -- a complex made possible by Lucas's $175-million gift to the university. Lucas, who produced his first films as an undergraduate of the university in the mid-'60s, said, "When I came here I didn't have a clue about how to make movies, anything -- I didn't even watch movies. I was a real novice." Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Timessaid that Lucas is treating the new facility "much like one of his cinematic productions," working with Urban Design Group of Dallas on the design of the buildings -- even "on such minute aspects as the detailing on the archways."


In a surprise vote by the Hollywood board of the Screen Actors Guild, actress Anne-Marie Johnson has been ousted by the union's first national vice president and replaced by SAG activist Kent McCord. Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Timescommented that the ouster "marks a sharp rebuke of SAG President Alan Rosenberg," who was said to be close to Johnson and who had also been backed by McCord's Membership First faction. Rosenberg told the Timesthat he was "devastated" by the vote. Johnson herself remarked, "I was completely broadsided. ... I'm over the anger, but the disappointment of how this is going to affect people of color and women in this union is quite dramatic." McCord, who previously had run unsuccessfully for president of the union, said, "I feel that through my history at the union I have a voice and I wanted that voice to be heard."


Universal Studios scored strongly on the video sales charts last week, taking the two top spots, with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Driftlanding in first place and the animated Curious George landing in second. Home Media Retailingmagazine estimated that the two titles together generated more than $60 million in total sales. The top rental item for the week was Warner's The Lake House, which placed third in sales. Home Media Retailingestimated its rental gross at $7.4 million. Tokyo Driftplaced third on the rental charts with about $3.9 million, behind Lucky Number Slevin, which, after three weeks, has now earned $20.5 million in rental income -- almost as much as it earned during its entire run in theaters.


R. Lee Ermey, the actor who played the menacing drill instructor in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987), says that two weeks before his death, Kubrick phoned him to express his dispondency over Eyes Wide Shut, which reportedly had taken longer than any film in history to film and which was only in a rough-cut state. "He told me it was a piece of s**t," Ermey said in an interview with the online Radarmagazine, "and that he was disgusted with it and that the critics were going to have him for lunch. He said Cruise and Kidman had their way with him -- exactly the words he used." Ermey did not explain what he thought Kubrick may have meant by the expression, except to remark, "He was kind of a shy little timid guy. He wasn't real forceful. That's why he didn't appreciate working with big, high-powered actors. ... He would lose control."


Movies based on books written by British authors have earned some $13 billion worldwide since 2001, the U.K. Film Council said Wednesday. The films include six of the top ten, including The Lord of the Ringsand Harry Potterfilms, The Chronicles of Narnia, The War of the Worlds, Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryand Die Another Day.The Film Council also also reported that spending on film productions rose to $915 million in the first half of 2006, up 76 percent from the same period a year ago. On the other hand, it noted, admissions at British theaters were down 2.6 percent. It blamed the downturn on interest in the month-long World Cup soccer finals.