26 September 2006
'Jackass' Posts Bigger Numbers Than Forecast
After reminding us earlier of H.L. Mencken's line about nobody ever going broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, entertainment writers observed Monday that Paramount had underestimated the members of the public who bought tickets to see Jackass Number Two
over the weekend. The film did not make a whopping $28.1 million as originally predicted but an even more whopping $29 million. Jet Li's Fearless
debuted in second place with $10.6 million. Two other movies opening in wide release were disappointments. MGM's Flyboys
barely got off the ground with just $6 million to place fourth, while Sony's All the King's Men
had a great fall with just $3.67 million to place seventh.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date): 1. Jackass: Number Two, Paramount, $29,002,002, (New); 2. Jet Li's Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia), Focus Features, $10,590,244, (New); 3. Gridiron Gang, Sony, $9,456,617, 2 Wks. ($26,957,657); 4. Flyboys, MGM, $6,004,219, (New); 5. Everyone's Hero, 20th Century Fox, $4,690,466, 2 Wks. ($11,534,837); 6. The Black Dahlia, Universal, $4,449,985, 2 Wks. ($17,270,675); 7. All The King's Men, Sony, $3,672,366, (New); 8. The Illusionist, Yari Film Group, $3,333,383, 6 Wks. ($27,592,197); 9. The Covenant, Screen Gems, $3,178,953, 3 Wks. ($20,183,768); 10. Little Miss Sunshine, Fox Searchlight, $2,821,315, 9 Wks. ($50,286,378).
Redstone Takes Pay Cut
Weeks after hiring Philippe Dauman and Thomas Dooley to replace Tom Freston
as head of Viacom and hinging their salaries to company performance, Sumner Redstone
, the company's executive chairman, has agreed to a similar plan that will reduce his cash salary and bonuses and link most of his compensation to increased shareholder returns. Redstone, one of the country's highest-paid company executives, will receive a guaranteed $1 million a year in salary, down from $1.75 million, will give up $1.3 million in deferred compensation and see his $6.1 million in cash bonuses cut to $3.5 million. He also agreed to convert $9.4 million in accumulated deferred compensation to stock option equivalents. Today's (Tuesday) New York Times
described Redstone's salary cutbacks as "yet another effort to restore investor confidence" in Viacom
'Fast and the Furious' Out Today on DVD and on Web
Universal has become the first studio to release a film on DVD and for downloading on the Internet on the same day. The movie, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift
, will be priced at just $9.99, and, unlike other movies that have been made available for downloading, this one can be burned to a disc and played on a standard DVD player. The downloadable version is being released by CinemaNow, which has been encouraging other studios to agree to a similar deal. Studios have traditionally been wary of allowing their movies to be transferred to discs, fearing that doing so could lead to rampant piracy. However, CinemaNow recently acquired technology that prevents downloaded movies burned to discs from being copied.
A Legal Way To Censor Movies?
San Francisco-based Cuts Inc. has unveiled a software product, which it is offering free, that will allow individuals to censor their own movies "legally." In a statement, the company said, "With the Cuts Player and Cuts' online Directory service, users can post their own edits, as well as navigate through a variety of categories and lists of popular Cuts made by others." What makes the system legal, the company claims, "is that the edits people make never alter the original video. Instead, Cuts generates a set of instructions, called 'Cutlists', which implement the edits on the fly any time the video is played back with the Cuts Player software. Viewers must have the original video in order to view the edited version." In July, a court ruled against CleanFlicks, a company that edited DVDs to remove sex scenes and bad language on the grounds that it caused "irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies."
SAG To Honor Julie Andrews
The Screen Actors Guild will honor Julie Andrews
with its Life Achievement Award at the 13th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony in January, the guild announced Monday. In a statement, SAG President Alan Rosenberg said that Andrews, who won an Oscar for her performance in the title role of 1964's Mary Poppins
, "embodies and transcends the memorable roles she has created. ... I believe it is exceptionally significant to be recognized by people who do the same work you do."
Soft-Porn Producer Pays Fines, Stays Out of Jail
Two days after being featured in an hour-long NBC Dateline
documentary, Joe Francis
, producer of the Girls Gone Wild
sex videos, pleaded guilty Monday to violating federal record-keeping laws by failing to document the ages of the women featured in the videos. Under a plea agreement, Francis agreed to personally pay a $500,000 fine; earlier this month his Mantra Films agreed to pay an additional $1.6 million in fines. During Saturday's Dateline
feature, Francis told reporter Keith Morrison: "I've been a target of lawsuits ... and other accusations and ridiculous things in the past." Asked specifically about hiring underage girls, he replied, "Well, some girl showing a fake ID? If somebody shows you a fake ID, you have every reason to believe that they're that age." On Monday, his lawyer, Aaron Dyer told reporters, "No 17-year-old will ever be allowed to lie to Mantra films to appear on camera again."
Movie Moves French President
Demonstrating anew the power of motion pictures to effect political change, French President Jacques Chirac
is expected to restore full pensions to the 80,000 North African troops who fought for the country against the Germans after France was liberated in August 1944. According to today's (Tuesday) London Times
, Chirac made the decision, which will cost more than $190 million, after viewing the film Indigènes
(Days of Glory
), which describes how some 250,000 colonial soldiers were used as cannon fodder and were neglected after France withdrew from Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria after the war. Hamlaoui Mekachera, France's Minister for Veterans, who is of Algerian origin, told the Times
that Chirac was moved by the film. "There is an obvious injustice. We must put an end to it," he said.
Audiences Desert Katie
After claiming first place for her first two weeks as anchor of the CBS Evening News
, Katie Couric
slipped to second place last week, 500,000 viewers behind Brian Williams
' NBC Nightly News
.Her audience was down 24 percent from her first week, while Nightly News
was up 15 percent and ABC's World News
with Charles Gibson
was up 10 percent. The NBC newscast posted a 5.7 rating and a 12 share; CBS, a 5.5/11; and ABC, a 5.4/11. Particularly worrisome for CBS may be the fact that Couric's audience dwindled each night. Although her newscast placed second on Monday through Wednesday, it fell to third on Thursday and Friday. NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright suggested Monday that NBC might have considered Couric to replace Tom Brokaw
when he retired last year but that "she never really raised her hand to go in that direction." Meanwhile, Elizabeth Vargas, who stepped down as anchor of ABC's World News
to have a child, has told the Philadelphia Inquirer
that she plans to "do everything I can to get back into a nightly chair" in a year or two.
NBC Forecasts Big Returns From Digital Ads
NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright said Monday that he expects the company will earn between $400 million and $500 million from digital advertising within the next year. He also said he expected revenue from digital downloads will be greater than the potential losses from syndication that those downloads could cause. Asked about the increased appearance of product-placement ads within programs, Wright said that he expected even more "advertisements will move into programs" in order to counter the use of digital video recorders, which can easily allow viewers to skip commercials. He also indicated that the network may attempt to increase the amount of live-event programming, such as the network's NFL schedule on Sunday nights, which does not lend itself to DVR use. Meanwhile GE reported a 14-percent increase in profits to $4 billion during the last quarter -- none of it attributed to its NBC unit, which saw profits plunge 25 percent. Its Universal Studios film company and its USA, Sci Fi, Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC cable channels together reported a 22-percent rise in profits.
'Heroes' Makes Heroic Debut To Help Rescue NBC
NBC, hoping to make a comeback after its disastrous season last year, got some good news Monday as its new series Heroes
got off to a solid start, posting a 9.9 rating and a 14 share in the 9:00 hour and averaging a first place in the hour. (It was beaten in the first half hour by CBS's Two and a Half Men
, which nabbed a 10.2/15 but rose well above The New Adventures of Old Christine
, which drew a decent 8.4/12 in the second half hour.) More importantly, Heroes
improved on the numbers of its lead-in, Deal or No Deal
, at 8:00, which drew an 8.3/13, which also place first. At 10:00, however, NBC's highly touted Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
saw its audience slip from last week as it scored an 8.8/14 versus the previous 10.3/16. It remained in second place, however, behind CBS's CSI Miami
, which drew the biggest audience of the night with a 12.6/20.
Sony To License 500 Movies to Starz
Under a deal announced on Monday, the Starz and Encore pay-TV movie channels will have the rights to air more than 500 movies from Sony Pictures' vast library. The films will also be available on Starz's video download service, Vongo, which charges subscribers a monthly fee of $9.95. While the licensing deal with the cable channels won't kick off until 2008, the deal with Vongo is set to begin next month and will include such recent hits as The Da Vinci Code
and Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby
, the companies said in a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed; however, Daily Variety
reported that it will net Sony $100 million.
Posthumous Emmys Go to Peter Jennings
"Iraq: Where Things Stand," a series of reports by the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings
that aired ten weeks before he disclosed that he had lung cancer, won two News & Documentary Emmy Awards Monday night for outstanding continuing coverage and best story in a newscast. The reports aired on ABC's World News Tonight
, which also received the award for investigative journalism for its series, "The Money Trail." CBS's 60 Minutes
received three Emmys, including an investigative journalism award for its report about a CIA operation that turned terrorism suspects over to Third World countries that use torture in their interrogation process.
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