APPLE DETERMINED TO RULE IN MOVIES, TOO

Apple Chairman Steve Jobs unveiled a prototype of his company's iTV settop box months ahead of its availability as "a warning shot across Hollywood's bow," according to Fortune magazine senior editor Peter Lewis. Writing in the current issue, Lewis concludes that Jobs wanted to demonstrate to studio executives that the iTV unit, which will deliver downloaded movies directly to TV sets will give Apple the ability to dominate the online movie business, just as its iTunes Music Store dominates the business for downloaded music and TV shows. At issue is pricing, Lewis comments, with the studios wanting to charge more for downloaded movies than they do for DVDs, arguing that they are providing consumers a convenience. Jobs will hold firm on pricing, Lewis predicts, convinced that studios will "see the allure of iTunes today compared to disasters like Amazon.com's Unbox or MovieLink."

HANKS VOTED MOST TRUSTED STAR

Tom Hanks tops Forbes magazine's list of 1,500 movie and TV stars as America's most trusted celebrity. More surprising perhaps is the choice of the second- and third-place finishers. Coming in behind Hanks is TV cook/talk-show host Rachael Ray, who only recently launched her own syndicated broadcast TV show. She is being promoted by Oprah Winfrey, who placed fourth on the list. In third place was actor Michael J. Fox, the actor who is fighting Parkinson's disease and who makes only rare appearances on TV these days. Fifth on the list was James Earl Jones, who obviously is not typecast as his Darth Vader character.

DOGS CAN SNIFF OUT PIRATED DVD'S -- BUT THERE'S A HITCH

Efforts by the Motion Picture Association of America to use dogs trained to smell the chemicals used to produce DVDs to nab movie bootleggers at airports have run into a hitch, the Washington Post suggested today (Wednesday). The newspaper said that two Labradors, Lucky and Flo, who were trained in Ireland by a man who also trains dogs to sniff out bombs, made an appearance in Washington Tuesday to demonstrate their talent (after already discovering a cache of bootleg DVDs at Stansted Airport near London). One "potential embarrassment," the Post observed: pirated DVDs smell just like legal ones.

KAZAKHSTAN TAKES OUT AD TO COUNTER BORAT

In an apparent effort to counter what today's (Wednesday) Editor and Publisher describes as "a major, if probably hysterical, hit to its image" from the upcoming Sacha Baron Cohen movie Borat, the government of Kazakhstan has bought a four-page ad supplement in today's New York Times and International Herald Tribune. The trade publication notes that while the supplement makes no direct mention of the movie, it does seem to respond to some of the (mis)impressions of the country that Borat presents. Cohen, best known for his British hit comedy Da Ali G Show, carried in the U.S. by HBO, plays a Kazakh TV reporter who comes to the U.S. in search of the woman of his dreams, Pamela Anderson, and is totally oblivious to the reaction of Americans to his attitudes about sex, race, and religion. Meanwhile, Life and Style Weekly reports that, after seeing Borat, Brad Pitt has had "casual discussions" with Cohen about making a movie with him. The magazine quoted a source as saying, "Brad says [Borat is] a work of genius and is determined to find something he can work on with Sacha."

NEW CHANNEL TO BE DEVOTED TO TALK ABOUT MOVIES

While there are numerous cable channels that show movies, a new channel is due to launch today (Wednesday) that will talk about them. ReelzChannel's centerpiece is Dailies, hosted by Mike Richards, which the channel says is "designed as the go-to show for news and information about movies." Critic Leonard Maltin will host another regular show titled The Secret's Out that will identify overlooked praiseworthy movies being carried on cable and satellite outlets. Another show, The Big Tease, will be devoted to trailers for upcoming movies.

Brian B.