PARAMOUNT BECOMES PARAMOUNT FOR VIACOM
Hoping to energize Viacom's torpid Paramount TV division, Les Moonves, the company's recently appointed co-president and CBS chairman, shifted some of his closest aides at CBS to new positions in which they will oversee both studio and network operations. As part of the shake-up, Moonves essentially dissolved CBS Productions, which co-produces the various CSI television programs, making it part of an expanded Paramount Network Television. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) New York Times, Moonves said that his aim is to have Paramount produce more programs for the network. "I want the studio to work hand-in-hand with CBS," he remarked. Currently Paramount produces only two shows for the network, JAG and NCIS.
IS BBC SELLING OFF ITS COMMERCIAL ARM?
The BBC is moving forward with plans to sell its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide and reportedly has asked Time Warner, the Walt Disney Co., and Germany's Bertelsmann to consider submitting bids, the London Financial Times reported today (Wednesday). However, Mary Collins, head of international communications for BBC Worldwide, maintained that it is merely engaged in a strategic review of its business that includes the views of banks, venture capitalists and media companies and that it is "certainly not a bidding process." She insisted that no decision on the sale of the business has been made. The FT quoted BBC executives as estimating the value of BBC Worldwide at $3.6 billion.
MUSIC NUMBERS LENGTHENED ON AMERICAN DREAMS DVD
Universal on Tuesday released a seven-disc collection of the first season's episodes of American Dreams, featuring extended versions of the songs performed in the TV drama. Promos for the collection, featuring all 25 episodes, observe that they are "packed with over 250 unforgettable rock 'n' roll hits exploding in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound." Among the performers appearing in the Dick Clark-produced shows are Usher, Ashanti, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child. In his column in the Kansas City Star, TV writer Aaron Barnhart observed that the songs are not performed uninterrupted. One episode, featuring Rowland as Martha Reeves (of the Motown group Martha and the Vandellas), he noted, ran about 2 1/2 minutes longer than usual, but her performance of "Nowhere to Run" was "juxtaposed with scenes from a riot brewing nearby in the streets of Philadelphia, one of the storylines of the episode."
GOVERNMENT HEALTH AGENCIES AT ODDS OVER MEDICAL INVESTIGATION
NBC's new drama Medical Investigation, which premieres Friday, has touched off a political brouhaha in Washington, since it credits the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for performing the kind of tasks that would ordinarily be performed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, the Washington Post observed today (Wednesday). The newspaper noted that the apparent inaccuracy is particularly ironic given the fact that the CDC has been consulting with the show's producers. Donald Francis, a former CDC staffer advising the writers, told the Post that when he saw the first episodes he was appalled. "I literally told them they should dub in the word 'CDC' because it's wrong. ... I said, 'Why did you do this? NIH never does that. I warned them this is going to irritate everyone." NBC exec Chris Conti replied, When you say the word 'CDC,' an image comes into your head of a bunch of guys in HAZMAT suits. ... It's a fudge, I admit it." Nevertheless, the Post noted, the show's writers, presumably because of the controversy, have agreed to begin mentioning the CDC in future episodes.
ESPN TO LAUNCH TWO MORE NETWORKS
To mark its 25th anniversary, ESPN, Disney's most successful television unit, plans to launch a college sports network and a high-definition channel next year, the sports media giant announced Tuesday. The college sports operation, dubbed ESPNU, will be challenging College Sports Television (CST) as well as the Fox Sports Network (FSN), which converted three of its regional networks to college telecasts last weekend. The HDTV channel will be dubbed ESPN2 HD and will essentially simulcast the programming of ESPN2. Meanwhile, Disney's women's oriented Lifetime channel said Tuesday that it is pulling the plug on Lifetime magazine, which it launched last year with Hearst publications. "The translation into print was challenging and did not yield the results we anticipated," Lifetime channel and Hearst said in a joint statement.
SUMMER BOX OFFICE SETS A RECORD
Final box-office figures for the 2004 summer season (May 7-Sept. 6) released Tuesday were in line with earlier forecasts, despite a plunge in ticket sales over the Labor Day weekend. Overall, movie theaters grossed a record $3.96 billion, 2 percent above the 2003 figure, according to box-office trackers Exhibitor Relations. The increase was attributed entirely to higher ticket prices; actual attendance dropped 1.5 percent from last summer. The box office leader was DreamWorks, taking that position for the first time due largely to its computer-animated hit Shrek 2.
The top ten films over the four-day Labor Day weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Hero, Miramax, $11,514,757, 2 Wks. ($35,237,282); 2. Without a Paddle, Paramount, $9,015,228, 3 Wks. ($39,854,910); 3. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Screen Gems, $8,008,560, 2 Wks. ($23,860,466); 4. Paparazzi, 20th Century Fox, $7,854,262, (New); 5. The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Disney, $7,537,475, 4 Wks. ($85,500,804); 6. Wicker Park, MGM, $6,819,281, (New); 7. Collateral, DreamWorks, $6,480,582, 5 Wks. ($88,897,193); 8. Vanity Fair, Focus Features, $6,268,900, (New); 9. The Cookout, Lions Gate, $6,219,900, (New); 10. The Bourne Supremacy, Universal, $5,314,215, 7 Wks. ($164,769,215).
WATERS PRODUCER LAMBASTES MPAA FOR NC-17 RATING
The producer of the latest John Waters movie, A Dirty Shame, has accused the MPAA ratings board of knuckling under to current political constraints by meting out the odious NC-17 rating to the film. Speaking to reporters at the Deauville Festival of American Cinema on Monday, Christine Vachon remarked that as recently as two years ago, the film would have received an R rating. "I think the pressure has to do with the current administration and this encroaching ... notion of family values," she said. The film is also being screened at the Toronto Film Festival, where Toronto Star film critic Peter Howell commented that it "literally rewrites the language of sex. It features raging nymphomaniacs, satyrs, a grotesquely over-endowed woman and enough sexual euphemisms to give the Marquis de Sade a headache."
MOVIE RENTAL CHAIN HIT HARD BY HURRICANES
The Movie Gallery video chain, which operates some 860 stores in 22 states, said Tuesday that it was hit hard by Hurricanes Charley and Frances. In a statement, it noted that it had to close 80 stores when Charley hit three weeks ago, then was forced to limit operating hours because of numerous power outages. In addition two of its stores suffered substantial damage and were temporarily shut down. Hurricane Frances forced the closing of some 100 stores for part or all of the Labor Day holiday weekend, 70 of which remain shuttered. Even more have been required to limit their hours of operation because of dusk-to-dawn curfews.
HEPBURN ESTATE TURNS OVER HUGE COLLECTION TO ACADEMY
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library announced Tuesday that it had acquired Katharine Hepburn's collection of personal photographs, scrapbooks, scripts, press books and private and professional correspondence. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times, library director Linda Mehr observed that the collection is enormous. "We have never gotten a collection where they saved as much that documents careers like this," she said. "For an individual performer, it is quite rare. She was probably aware of her life's legacy and how important it was." Hepburn's correspondence alone, Mehr observed, comprises "thousands of items from major figures in the entertainment and literary world."
NO VIDEO-ON-DEMAND SERVICE FROM NETFLIX AND TIVO FOR NOW
Spokespersons for Netflix and TiVo dismissed a Newsweek report Tuesday that the two companies were planning a joint venture that would essentially allow Netflix subscribers to download movies onto their TiVo recorders rather than receive them through the mail. Bloomberg News quoted a TiVo spokeswoman as saying that such a service would not be offered for at least a year. Nevertheless shares in both companies soared on the magazine's report, Netflix rising 7.3 percent to $15.41; TiVo, nearly 15 percent to $5.08.