FROM MYSPACE TO MOVIE SCREENS?

In an apparent effort to steal some of the thunder from YouTube, News Corp-owned MySpace said Wednesday that it plans to begin offering exclusive high-quality short-form programming from top film and TV producers. Talent is being offered the chance to produce their material on their own terms, without interference from programming executives and advertisers. MySpace said that it had signed its first deal with Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, producers of the movies Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai and the TV shows thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. The pair will reportedly receive $500,000 to produce a 48-minute drama called quarterlife (some reports spell the title with the "q" in lower case; others, in upper case), that will be offered on MySpace in six eight-minute installments. Some media writers speculated that if the webcasts are successful, they could be developed into a feature film or a network series.

MORE TROUBLES FOR MOVIE GALLERY

The troubled video rental company Movie Gallery, the second largest rental company (behind Blockbuster), said Wednesday that it is deferring interest payments to some of its lenders. In an SEC filing, the financially ailing company, which incurred an enormous debt when it acquired the Hollywood Video chain for $862 million and assumed an additional $385 million in debt, warned that "one or more events of default may occur" as a result of its failure to pay interest to some of its creditors. In midday trading on the NASDAQ today (Thursday), shares in Movie Gallery were down 22.2 percent to 48 cents.

IT'S OFFICIAL: STEWART TO HOST OSCARS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday confirmed a New York Times report that it had selected Comedy Central's Jon Stewart to host next year's Oscars ceremonies for a second time. Stewart received mixed notices when he hosted the awards telecast in 2006 -- which drew the second-lowest ratings in its history. But New York Daily News TV columnist David Bianculli told the Associated Press Wednesday that Stewart should not be blamed for the ratings debacle. "It's up to the films in contention more than anything else," he said, referring to the art-house fare that dominated the 2006 nominations.

AFFLECK DRAMA YANKED FROM LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

The London premiere of Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck and starring his brother Casey and Morgan Freeman, has been canceled because of plot similarities with the actual case of Madeleine McCann, the British child who disappeared in Portugal in May. The film was to have been screened at the London Film Festival next month and to open in the U.K. in December. The distributor, Disney's Buena Vista International, said that it had postponed the release of the Miramax film in the U.K. indefinitely because of sensitivity "to the depth of feeling surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann." Ironically, the name of the actress who portrays the child at the center of the Gone Baby Gone movie is Madeline -- Madeline O'Brien -- and reportedly bears a striking resemblance to the missing girl.

TV SHOW, NOT MOVIE, TOPS VIDEO SALES CHART

Reflecting the dearth of appealing recent movies available on DVD, a set of episodes from the third season of The Office was tops in sales in video stores last week, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert. Last week's top seller, Blades of Glory, dropped to No. 2. The only new movies to make the top-ten list were Georgia Rule, which came in at No. 3 and Delta Farce, at No. 7. Among high-definition releases, 300 continued to dominate the sales charts for both Blu-ray and HD DVD versions.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.