FORGET THE EYE, KATRINA HAS LEGS
Television news executives say they are anticipating that the Katrina aftermath will remain a major story for at least weeks -- and probably months -- ahead. Marcy McGinnis, senior vice president of CBS News, told the Hollywood Reporter that she expected TV news to focus on the human tragedy left in the hurricane's wake and on questions like: "How do people start to rebuild their lives? How do they find members of their families? How do they find out if their family and friends are even alive or dead? Where are they going to start their new lives?" But Bob Lichter of the Center for Media and Public Affairs said that he expects journalists to focus on such matters as government preparation, polices and response to the hurricane. He told USA Today that the story "doesn't just have legs, it has tentacles. ... Its implications reach into hot-button controversies involving race, poverty, economics and partisan politics. The reach of this story will make the O.J. Simpson case look like a news brief." Meanwhile, the storm has brought the cable and broadcast networks huge ratings increases. USA Today reported that Fox News's audience of 4.8 million viewers in primetime last week represented a 142-percent rise over the news network's average audience in July. CNN's audience rose to 3.9 million viewers, up 466 percent, and MSNBC's surged to 1.6 million, up 470 percent.
REPORTERS CALL FOR HELP
Not only are the remaining hurricane survivors in the Gulf states becoming angry and frustrated at their condition, so too, apparently, are some of the TV network and cable reporters sent to the scene and those working long hours in the studio. The TVNewser blog posted comment from an unnamed tipster, saying "The burn out is overwhelming. If MSNBC continues this kind of coverage, you will see it get increasingly sloppy. The producers just can't keep up. But it's not like there is anyone noticing. [Rick Kaplan] was busy EP'ing that telethon. ... It's just falling apart." Another employee sounded much like one of the hurricane victims, writing: "It looks like a ghost town around here. People are at their breaking point from overwork and there is no relief in sight for them. I'm amazed that they've been able to keep it together this long. No one seems to know what anyone else is doing or what's going on around here. There is no one overseeing the big picture. we need HELP." The Inside Cable News blog commented: "This was entirely predictable though. With the drop in ad rates at NBC and a 50 million dollar cutback in NBC News, a hiring freeze was a near certainty."
NFL WON'T YANK WEST FOR REMARKS ABOUT BUSH
The National Football League, which has fiercely attempted to preserve its image of wholesomeness and probity, said Monday that it would not demand that Kanye West be removed from the league's season-opening show on Thursday. West had ignited controversy during a benefit for Katrina survivors Friday night when he remarked that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Los Angeles Times, "Like many Americans during this emotional time" West had "expressed an unscripted opinion." He said that the performers had been selected "for their entertainment value, not their political views."
SONY TO INTRODUCE "TIME SHIFT" DEVICE
Sony said today (Tuesday) that it plans to introduce a device next month that will allow users to access anything on their TV sets or personal digital recorders from their computers, no matter where they happen to be. At a news conference in Tokyo, Sony's Satoru Maeda, who headed the unit that developed the device, the Location Free Base Station, said that it would allow users to "place shift" their entertainment. The device could also produce more headaches for the network and cable industry, which is battling to protect its copyrighted material. (What if someone who does not subscribe to HBO or any of the sports packages were to install an LFBS device at the home of a relative who does?) Sony's is the latest entry into the place-shifting arena. Last month Sling Media Inc. unveiled its $250 Slingbox, and Orb Networks reportedly has 30,000 subscribers for its free place-shifting software.
FOX TO MOUNT DANCE CONTEST ON ICE
The Fox network, which has never shown much reluctance to put its own spin on a successful reality series, is planning an ice-skating version of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, to be called Skating With Celebrities. Daily Variety said today (Tuesday) that the six-week skating contest will be hosted by 1984 Olympic Figure Skating Champion Scott Hamilton. Other skating pros lined up include Nancy Kerrigan, Tai Babilonia, Jenni Meno, Lloyd Eisler and Kurt Browning. The celebs include Todd Bridges of Diff'rent Strokes, singer Deborah Gibson, Dave Coulier of Full House, and and actor/athlete Bruce Jenner, who won the gold medal in 1976 in the Olympic decathlon.
LABOR DAY SURPRISE AT BOX OFFICE
Fewer people went to the movies this summer than at any time since 1997, according to final figures released by Exhibitor Relations. Ticket sales were down 12 percent from last year. Overall business was down 9 percent to $3.53 billion from summer 2004's $3.86 billion. Nevertheless, the season ended on an up note, defying analysts' predictions. After recording months of weekend box office results that rarely rose over comparable weekends in 2004, the Labor Day weekend actually rose 7 percent above last year. Transporter 2, in fact, set a new record for the holiday, taking in $20.3 million over the four days, according to industry estimates. Opening on fewer than half as many screens, adult-oriented The Constant Gardener raised $10.8 million, nearly twice what analysts had predicted. It registered the highest per-theater gross overall, and in New York took in an astounding $91,180 at one theater, the UA Union Square, over the Friday-Sunday period. The film has taken in $12.5 million since its opening on Wednesday. "These numbers are a measure of the amount of adults that are around and are willing to go to the movies if we give them something of substance," Jack Foley, president of distribution for Focus Features, which released the film, told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times. Nevertheless, two new releases failed even to make the top ten. Miramax's poorly reviewed Underclassman grossed just $3.1 million, while Warner's even more poorly reviewed Sound of Thunder sounded more like a drizzle as it took in just $1.1 million.
The top ten films for the four-day Labor Day weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Transporter 2, $20.25 million; 2. The 40-Year-Old Virgin, $16.6 million; 3. The Constant Gardener, $10.8 million; 4. Red Eye, $9.3 million; 5. The Brothers Grimm, $7.9 million.; 6. Four Brothers, $6.4 million; 7. Wedding Crashers, $5.8 million; 8. March of the Penguins, $5.4 million; 9. The Skeleton Key, $4.1 million; 10. The Cave, $3.7 million.
STUDIOS ACT TO PROTECT BIG GREEN FROM BIG BLUE
Concerned about Blockbuster Video's financial state, some Hollywood studios are taking steps to ensure that the chain pays them for DVD releases this fall, Daily Variety reported today (Tuesday), citing no sources. The trade paper said that one studio successfully demanded last Thursday that Blockbuster pay cash for DVDs up front before the studio would ship them. At least two other studios have taken out insurance for receivables to protect themselves against delays in payments from Blockbuster, Variety said.
MARVEL CHANGES NAME, TALKS ABOUT FILM PLANS
Marvel Enterprises, whose superheroes have experienced mixed success at the box office, announced Monday that it is changing its name to Marvel Entertainment and that it plans to finance its own movies based on its characters. While some of its superhero characters have taken up residence at Miramax's facilities in Burbank, CA, others are no doubt chomping at the bit for action. They include: Captain America, the Avengers, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Cloak & Dagger, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack and Shang-Chi. The company said that it expects to produce the first film -- the superhero character for it has not been selected, although it's expected to be Captain America -- in 2008. Paramount has distribution rights.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN BY A LONG SHOT
Gone with the Wind remains the most successful film of all time at the U.S. box office, according to the British film journal Screen Digest, which adjusted the actual grosses of the movies for inflation. Oddly, not a single film from the 1940s, when movie attendance reached its peak, made the top-ten, which include: 1. Gone with the Wind (1939); 2. Star Wars (1977); 3. The Sound of Music (1965); 4. ET (1982); 5. The Ten Commandments (1956); 6. Titanic (1997); 7. Jaws (1975); 8. Dr Zhivago (1965); 9. The Exorcist (1973); 10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES WINNERS
The 29th Montreal World Film Festival on Monday named Pieter Kuijpers's Off Screen, a Dutch-Belgian production,winner of its top prize, the Grand Prix of the Americas. Jan Decleir, who starred in the film, won the best actor award. Adriana Ozores, who starred in the Spanish film Heroina, won the best actress award. The trophy for best director went to Montreal filmmaker Claude Gagnon for the Canadian/Japanese production Kamataki. The best screenplay prize went to José Corbacho and Juan Cruz for their Spanish-language picture Tapas.