MARKET PLUNGE HITS MEDIA

With the credit crunch already affecting the output of many media companies, Monday's stock-market plunge hit Hollywood particularly hard. General Electric, the corporate parent of Universal Pictures and NBC -- as well as GE Capital --saw its shares plummet 8.04 percent. Other media companies, including CBS, Comcast Disney, News Corp, Sony, Time Warner, and Viacom, averaged declines of 2-4 percent. In early trading today (Tuesday), the market appeared to come out of its free-fall and level off. Most media stocks showed little change from Monday, but News Corp, which had dropped 4.10 percent on Monday, was off an additional 3.40 percent early today.

BOX OFFICE MAKES A COMEBACK

After languishing in the doldrums for five weeks, the box office finally got a boost thanks to four new films that together earned more than $60 million over the weekend. The Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading was the surprise winner of the box-office crown with $19.1 million, the best ever for the quirky filmmakers. Tyler Perry's the Family That Preys came in a close second with $17.38 million, edging out the Robert De Niro/Al Pacino thriller Righteous Kill, which took in $16.29 million. The comedy The Women placed fourth with $10.12 million.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Burn After Reading, Focus, $19,128,001, (New); 2. Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys, Lionsgate, $17,381,218, (New); 3. Righteous Kill, Overture Films, $16,288,361, (New); 4. The Women, Picturehouse, $10,115,121, (New); 5. Tropic Thunder, Paramount, $4,183,405, 5 Wks. ($102,974,069); 6. The House Bunny, Sony, $4,154,427, 4 Wks. ($42,008,459); 7. The Dark Knight, Warner Bros., $4,128,153, 4 Wks. ($517,792,764); 8. Bangkok Dangerous, Lionsgate, $2,592,656, 2 Wks. ($12,723,787); 9. Traitor, Overture Films, $2,131,639, 3 Wks. ($20,734,170); 10. Death Race, Universal, $2,056,415, 4 Wks. ($33,232,495).

NETFLIX TO PRESENT TROPHY TO CHAMPION MOVIE WATCHER

In a promotional stunt to be staged in New York's Times Square beginning October 2, Netflix and the Guinness World Records are cooperating in an eight-contestant event aimed at breaking the record for the most consecutive hours spent watching movies. The current record, according to Guinness, is held by Ashish Sharma, who spent 120 hours and 23 minutes watching movies in Mathura, India last June. Sharma is one of the contestants in the current contest for which the two companies are promising $10,000 for the winner. In a news release, the companies said that the participants will be monitored by "medical professionals" to determine whether they "are truly 'watching' or are simply staring blankly at the screen." The winner will also receive the first-ever Popcorn Bowl trophy and a lifetime subscription to Netflix.

ABC WANTS OSCARS POSTPONED

ABC executives are asking the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to push next year's Oscar ceremonies to March in order to avoid a possible audience loss due to the analog-to-digital switchover, which takes place on February 17, Daily Variety reported today (Tuesday), citing industry insiders. The Oscars are currently scheduled to take place on February 22. The trade publication also reported that Gil Cates, who has previously produced 14 Oscar ceremonies, has confirmed that he will be unable to produce next year's because of other commitments.

Brian B.