WARNER BROS. IN BILLION-DOLLAR ABU DHABI DEAL

In what might well turn out to be the biggest deal by any studio in motion picture history, Warner Bros. has entered into an agreement with the Abu Dhabi real-estate developer ALDAR and the Abu Dhabi Media Company in which the Abu Dhabi companies have agreed to set up a $500-million fund to co-finance Warner Bros. movies. A separate $500-million fund will be created to co-develop and -publish video games. In addition, the studio and the Abu Dhabi companies have established a partnership to produce movies, TV shows and video games in Arabic and to construct a 6,000-acre campus including a theme park, hotel and movie-theater complex. During a conference call on Wednesday, Warner Bros. chief Barry Meyer said that the studio had never entered a deal of the "size, scope and breadth" of this one. In a statement, Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman of Abu Dhabi Media Co., predicted that "this agreement will put Abu Dhabi at the center of the world's entertainment map."

LEGAL DVD MOVIE BURNING AT HOME?

Novato, CA-based Sonic Solutions is expected to announce today (Thursday) that the DVD Copy Control Association has approved its technology, dubbed Qflix, that allows consumers to burn downloaded movies to DVDs and play them on their TV sets, personal computers, or portable DVD players. The DVDS would contain copy protection similar to the kind used on most professionally produced discs. "It removes the last real obstacle toward on-demand movie purchase," Van Baker of technology researchers Gartner Inc. told today's Los Angeles Times. "You don't have to go to a store anymore. You can just log on, say 'I want this for my library,' and away you go." The technology requires use of special DVD burners and discs, which are unlikely to become available for home use until early next year, the Times report said. But other reports indicated that the technology might turn up sooner in DVD-burning kiosks at supermarkets and drugstores. However, the Wall Street Journal observed, "The studios' insistence on CSS protections might seem fruitless since the software was cracked by hackers years ago; programs to circumvent it are widely available on the Internet."

MORE THAN 300 MOVIES ON GOOGLE VIDEO, GROUP ALLEGES

Video piracy is going "mainstream," with more than 300 apparently copyrighted movies available on Google video, according to the National Legal and Policy Center. The videos, it said, have been viewed more than 22 million times during the past year. Among the videos, it said, were recent summer releases including Shrek the Third, Oceans Thirteen, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Knocked Up. In a statement on Wednesday, the group urged members of Congress "to continue taking strong and enforceable measures to protect the intellectual property of American businesses." In an interview with the Associated Press, NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm said, "What [Google is] doing is inexcusable corporate behavior. When big companies do something unethical, it sends a message to everyone else that it's OK." However, MarketWatch.com said that it had checked Google Video and discovered that "only clips and trailers of the movies mentioned" by the NLPC could be accessed, not the entire movies.

PUBLICIST KINGSLEY TO STEP DOWN

Pat Kingsley, often regarded as Hollywood's most high-powered publicist, is stepping down as CEO of the PMK/HBH public relations firm, the Hollywood Reporter reported today (Thursday). PMK was formed in 1980 from merging Kingsley's own Pickwick Public Relations, which she founded in 1971, with the Maslansky-Koeningsberg Agency. PMK later merged with Huvane Baum Halls in 2001. Simon Halls, along with Cindi Berger, have been named to succeed Kingsley as co-CEOs. Kingsley told the Reporter that she is not retiring and that she plans to continue coming to work. "I won't have to do any administration work. I can do creative work with clients, which is the part that I think I do best," she said.

SCORSESE TO DIRECT GEORGE HARRISON FILM

Martin Scorsese, who appears to enjoy making documentaries about celebrated musicians as much as he does dramas about the underworld, is planning to direct a film about George Harrison, the former Beatle who died in 2001, Daily Variety reported today (Thursday). His widow, Olivia, told the trade publication, "It would have given George great joy to know that Martin Scorsese has agreed to tell his story." She said that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles, had agreed to participate in the project and that Apple Records will permit use of the Beatles' music. Scorsese has previously produced documentaries about The Band (The Last Waltz), Bob Dylan (No Direction Home) and the Rolling Stones (the upcoming Shine a Light).

NOTE:

In an item in Wednesday's edition about top movie one-liners, we cited a list by a Boston ice-cream company that attributed the line "Go ahead, make my day" to Dirty Harry. Several writers have informed us that the line actually was spoken in Sudden Impact.

Brian B.