NBC AND WGA ENGAGE IN PICKET FENCING

NBC claimed Friday that any attempt by the Writers Guild of America to enforce strike rules barring Jay Leno from writing his monologue for the Tonight show would violate federal labor laws. It did not specify which labor laws would be violated. Meanwhile Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg issued a statement that appeared to encourage actors to appear on The Late Show With David Letterman and Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson -- which have signed separate agreements with the WGA -- and discourage actors from appearing on NBC- and ABC-produced talk shows. "As I have said since this strike began on November 5th," Rosenberg said, "we must stand united with our brothers and sisters at the WGA."

WILL GLOBES SPIN?

The fate of next week's Golden Globes Awards presentations remained up in the air over the weekend as the WGA rejected requests by Dick Clark Productions to negotiate an interim agreement on the same basis as the one signed with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants. The guild reportedly objects to the telecast on the grounds that it essentially promotes the industry that it is striking. Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg said over the weekend that no nominated actor would cross the guild's picket line. Moreover, a group of publicists who said that they represent a majority of the actors, writers and directors nominated for Golden Globes said in a letter to NBC President Jeff Zucker that their clients "are not comfortable crossing a picket line." The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which stages the awards telecast with Dick Clark Productions said that it hopes to "announce a resolution to this unfortunate predicament" today (Monday).

NEW YORK HIT HARD BY STRIKE

The strike by the Writers Guild of America has had devastating repercussions in New York, where 78,000 local production workers have been laid off and 4,000 businesses have shut down, according to Crain's New York Business. John Ford, president of the studio mechanics union, told Crain's: "The situation has gone into a tailspin. ... Everyone is out of work now."

USA REMAINS TOP CABLE NETWORK

USA Network remained the top-rated ad-supported cable network during 2007, averaging 2.68 million viewers in primetime, according to Nielsen Research. It was edged out by Disney Channel, which does not accept advertising, which drew 2.69 million viewers (a difference so small as to be statistically insignificant). Rankings of the other top-five networks remained unchanged from the previous year, with TNT, ESPN, TBS and Lifetime Television lining up behind USA Networks. Fox News moved up to the sixth position, making it the top cable news network. CNN was the second-highest-rated news channel but placed 26th overall, down from 25th place a year ago. The total audience for each channel was virtually unchanged. However, MSNBC's primetime audience rose 28 percent and CNBC's a whopping 34 percent. CNN Headline News was up 14 percent. In a related development, CNBC and the New York Times announced that they had reached an agreement to share material on each other's websites.

MICROSOFT TO PROVIDE OLYMPICS ON DEMAND

If anyone misses a televised Olympics event -- or even one that is not televised -- they'll be able to watch it on their computer monitors. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Sunday that it will join with NBC to operate NBCOlympics.com, which will stream virtually every event and then make it available for viewing later on demand.

CRYSTAL CLEAR MONITOR TO DEBUT -- AT A HEFTY PRICE

Sony announced Sunday that it plans to introduce its organic LED television monitor, which is said to produce a picture indistinguishable from that of a mirror, in the U.S. this month. The 11-inch XEL-1 television, using organic light-emitting diode technology, will sport a hefty MSRP -- about $2,500. A 20-inch version is also being unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, but a price has not yet been established for it.

Film: 1/7/07

JUNO: BIRTH OF A BIG HIT

Disney's National Treasure: Book of Secrets stayed at the top of the box office for the third consecutive weekend with an estimated $20.2 million. But the big story was the rise of Fox Searchlight's Juno to No. 3 on the list with $16.2 million, just a notch below I Am Legend, which earned $16.4 million. When final figures are released today (Monday), rankings of the two runner-up films could well be reversed. Also performing strongly was the critically praised Atonement, which came in at No. 10 on the list of top films with $5.1 million despite playing in only 538 theaters. Overall, the box office was up about 7 percent above the comparable weekend last year. Meanwhile, I Am Legend remained the No. 1 film overseas for the third weekend in a row, with ticket sales of $34 million, according to studio estimates. The Golden Compass, a disappointment domestically, remained in second place overseas with $29 million. It has now taken in $232 million abroad compared with $62 million in North America. The top ten films at the box office over the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets, $20.2 million; 2. I Am Legend, $16.4 million; 3. Juno, $16.2 million; 4. Alvin and the Chipmunks, $16 million; 5. One Missed Call, $13.5 million; 6. Charlie Wilson's War, $8.2 million; 7. P.S. I Love You, $8 million; 8. The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, $6.3 million; 9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, $5.4 million; 10. Atonement, $5.1 million.

UA SIGNS SEPARATE DEAL WITH WRITERS GUILD

United Artists has become the first major movie studio to sign an agreement with the Writers Guild of America, essentially accepting the terms of the contract negotiated last week with David Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants. The deal gives the studio to move forward with projects that required additional script improvements; however, Daily Variety reported that Pinkville, which was to have starred Bruce Willis, won't be revived since Willis "has moved on to another project." Meanwhile, today's (Monday) New York Post reported that The Weinstein Co. has begun negotiations with the WGA on what it called a "me-too" agreement.

BLOOD WINS TOP NSFC AWARD

Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood won the best picture award and three other top awards Saturday at the National Society of Film Critics Awards. The movie also won for best director (Anderson), actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), and cinematography (Robert Elswit). Julie Christie won the actress award for Away From Her. Tamara Jenkins took the screenplay award for The Simpsons.

NEWS CORP KEEPS SIMPSONS ALL IN THE FAMILY

In yet another example of a media company taking money from one pocket and putting it into another, 20th Century Fox has announced that it has sold exclusive network rights to five movies, including the hits The Simpsons Movie, Live Free or Die Hard and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer as well as the box-office flops Death Sentence and Hitman to FX channel for more than $55 million. Both the studio and the cable network are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

WARNER BROS. DROPPING HD DVD RELEASES

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, which has been distributing high-definition disks in both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Sunday that it will back Blu-ray exclusively. In an interview with Daily Variety, WBHE chief Kevin Tsujihara observed that while the price difference between the two players had become insignificant during the holiday sales period, people were still not buying players because they were confused about which format would prevail. "By us being both, we were playing into consumer confusion," he said. In reporting the move, Variety commented that it "all but signed the death warrant for HD DVD." That format remains backed exclusively by Universal and Paramount. But Warren Lieberfarb, the ousted head of WBHE and now a consultant to Toshiba, which holds the patents on HD DVD technology, predicted that hard drives and reusable flash drives will eventually replace disks of all types. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lieberfarb called such storage media "much more economical and green" and predicted that in five or ten years, movies will be distributed online.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.