UNIVERSAL'S LATEST SLASHER HITS FRONT OFFICE
The guillotine that several studio experts had been saying for weeks was poised over the heads of Universal Pictures' co-chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde finally fell Monday. The two were removed even as reports that the studio and its corporate sibling NBC were said to be the center of complicated merger negotiations between their parent, General Electric, France's Vivendi Corporation, and cable provider Comcast. The two are being replaced by Adam Fogelson, the studio's head of marketing, and Donna Langley, its head of production. The shakeup occurs following the latest studio flop, Love Happens, which had been preceded by a long list of even bigger flops, including Land of the Lost, Funny People and Public Enemies." In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, Universal Studios President Ron Meyer said that the studio under Shmuger and Linde had become "destabilized." He added, "We needed a change in direction. In a company like this, it's very much about the culture, the people and the way we're all interacting with each other." Meanwhile, corporate sibling NBC continued to bleed viewers Monday night. It placed fourth in every half hour and produced its worst ratings yet for the Jay Leno Show, which attracted only 4.31 million viewers, well below his average when he hosted the Tonight show.
DISNEY CHANNEL CHIEF TO HEAD STUDIO
Hoping to get Disney's live-action film production back on track, Disney chief Robert Iger has turned to Rich Ross, a man with a formidable track record running Disney Channels Worldwide. Over the past year, Disney's live-action movie slate experienced one of its least successful years ever, even as Disney Channel's programs have been drawing enormous -- and in some cases, record breaking -- audiences. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Daily Variety, Iger remarked that Ross had "created huge value for the company" and had turned Disney Channel "into a real creative engine.... The leader of the studio needs very much to be able to do that." Ross succeeds Dick Cook, who abruptly left the company -- some say he was forced out -- last month. In reporting on Ross's appointment, the New York Times observed that the move "underscores the increasing importance of Disney Channel properties to the company's portfolio of businesses, from video game publishing to theme parks." Disney did not indicate who will replace Ross as head of Disney Channels Worldwide. Several analysts predicted that the post would naturally go to Gary March, president of entertainment for Disney Channel. However, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Tuesday): "It remains to be seen if Marsh is interested in giving up his passion for programming to assume all the other, less fun parts that go with the top job, including the politics and number-crunching."
ZOMBIELAND SURVIVES PLUNGE IN BOX-OFFICE SALES
Sony Pictures had its sixth No. 1 film of the year this weekend as Zombieland opened with $24.733 million, final box-office figures indicated on Monday. However, no other new release clicked, and most other films came in significantly below their weekend estimates. It all resulted in the second consecutive "down" week at the box office. Not that there weren't any bright spots. Sony also had the No. 2 film as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs dropped only 37 percent despite the arrival of Disney's Toy Story double feature. Meatballs wound up with a total of $15.81 million, while Toy Story took in $12.49 million. Warner Bros.' The Invention of Lying and Fox Searchlight's Whip It flopped, as they earned just $4.11 million and $4.65 million respectively. Michael Moore's documentary Capitalism: A Love Story expanded into 962 theaters, earning $4.45 million, but that was lower than his first week of Sicko last year. However, box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian observed Monday, "Try to name another documentary filmmaker who would even have a chance to see their film compete in the Top 10 box-office derby."
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Box Office Mojo (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Zombieland, Sony, $24,733,155, (New); 2. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Sony, $15,809,039, 3 Wks. ($81,501,320); 3. Toy Story/Toy Story 2, Disney, $12,491,789, (New); 4. Surrogates, Disney, $7,241,054, 2 Wks. ($26,284,134); 5. The Invention of Lying, Warner Bros., $7,027,472, (New); 6. Whip It, Fox Searchlight, $4,650,812, 1 Wks, ($4,650,812); 7. Fame, MGM, $4,626,952, 2 Wks, ($16,507,188); 8. Capitalism: A Love Story, Overture, $4,447,378, 2 Wks. ($4,849,067); 9. The Informant!, Warner Bros., $3,689,235, 2 Wks. ($26,469,331); 10. Love Happens, Universal, $2,749,025, 3 Wks. ($18,882,080).
POLANSKI TO REMAIN IN JAIL
The Swiss Justice Ministry has rejected an appeal by Roman Polanski that he be released on bail pending his hearing on extradition to the U.S. "In our view, there is still a very high risk that he will flee and that a release on bail or other measures after a release cannot guarantee Polanski's presence in the extradition procedure," a Swiss government spokesman said today (Tuesday). Polanski has been imprisoned since Sept. 26, when he was arrested after his arrival in Switzerland to receive an award from the Zurich Film Festival. He fled the U.S. in 1978 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
PRINCESS LEIA REIGNS ON BROADWAY
Carrie Fisher has brought a lifetime of personal gossip about her and her family -- her mother is '50s movie star Debbie Reynolds; her father is '50s singing idol Eddie Fisher -- to the Broadway stage in a one-woman show called Wishful Drinking. Watching it, commented Elisabeth Vincentelli in the New York Post, "you feel as if you've been stuck in a simultaneously garish and cheap boudoir with a garrulous drag queen who just. Won't. Shut. Up." However, Frank Scheck, writing in the Hollywood Reporter, remarks that "Fisher manages to make extreme dysfunction wildly entertaining." Particularly, he notes, during a segment devoted to Star Wars, in which Fisher wears a Princess Leia wig and brings out a Princess Leia sex doll. Ben Brantley concludes in the New York Times: "After the show, you'll probably start to think that Ms. Fisher didn't really tell you everything. But as long as you're watching her, you experience the illusion of extremely funny, subliminally sad full-frontal confession." And Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press called Fisher's show a "hilariously perceptive journey through a world of celebrity and self-destruction ... chock-full of funny, fascinating tales."