STUDY REVEALS SMOKE SCREEN

A study conducted by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California at San Francisco has uncovered dozens of contracts between tobacco companies, movie stars, and film studios from the silent era through the early '50s that in today's dollars would be worth millions. Dr. Robert Jackler, chairman of otolaryngology (diseases of the ear, nose, and throat) at the Stanford School of Medicine. "The tobacco industry used Hollywood to sell its brands and reassure a worried public that smoking was not harmful." In virtually all the ads, which appeared in newspapers and magazines and also were frequently broadcast on radio, actors and actresses endorsed a tobacco brand with claims that it was milder than others. UC San Francisco professor Stanton Glantz, who authored the study, said that it "debunks the myth" that smoking in movies purely reflected the American culture. Contracts disclosed in the study, published today (Thursday) in the British journal Tobacco Control, reveal that one brand alone, Lucky Strike, paid stars the equivalent of $3.2 million in today's dollars. The study found that nearly 200 actors were paid for tobacco endorsements between 1927 and 1951, including two-thirds of the top 50 box-office stars.

TOSHIBA MOVING TO SD CARDS FOR HDTV

Toshiba, which lost out in the battle between its HD TV and Sony's Blu-ray, is now forecasting that movies on optical discs will soon become a thing of the past. On Wednesday the company said it plans to develop players -- both portable and settop -- employing the tiny SD cards usually associated with digital cameras. The announcement comes following Toshiba's $24-million investment in MOD Systems, which provides retailers with kiosks that can quickly download movies and music onto SD cards. (They currently download only music.) In a statement, Toshiba observed that direct downloads in retail environments answers the studios' concerns regarding piracy.

AIKEN RECEIVES PIDDLING AMOUNT TO ADMIT HE'S GAY

Time Warner's People magazine paid Clay Aiken "somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000" for his coming-out story and photographs of him with his month-old baby, MSNBC.com's "The Scoop" gossip column reported today (Thursday), citing several sources privy to the negotiations. The amount was trivial compared with other payments to stars for tell-all stories and first pictures of them with their babies. The website said that the low amount was the result of waning competition among magazines for such stories due to the current economy. "People is the [celebrity] magazine that's most well-off, that has the finances right now to take on these exclusives," the column said. It quoted one unnamed editor as saying that paying millions of dollars for exclusive photos of celebrities resulting in a small bump in circulation "isn't worth it. ... and when the economy is the mess it is now, it makes more sense to look at the pictures [while] waiting in line instead of buying the thing."

BLOCKBUSTER TO BOOST FEES TO PAY FOR STORE UPGRADES

Blockbuster plans to focus on in-store sales and rentals and is likely to boost prices to support store refurbishments and increased stock that will cost it some $20 million, Blockbuster CFO Thomas Casey has told a consumer conference in New York. "It's reasonable and fair to understand that for what costs us more money, we should charge more," he said. As reported by Video Business on its website, Casey indicated that a large percentage of new revenue will come from increasing rental fees for Blu-ray discs. "You have to figure out new ways to be fully in stock on Blu-ray because of the [higher] wholesale price," he said.

LOW-BUDGET FILM BEATS HIGH-BUDGET FILM ON DVD

Made of Honor, a film that cost $40 million to produce, topped both the sales and rental DVD charts in its debut last week, coming out ahead of Speed Racer, the Warner Bros. lemon that cost $120 million to produce and earned only $44 million at the box office, according to the Hollywood Reporter. (Speed Racer did come out ahead on the Blu-ray sales chart.)