21 April 2008
'Kingdom' Wears Box-office Crown
The Forbidden Kingdom
, the martial-arts family film that brought together Jackie Chan
and Jet Li
for the first time, wound up at the top of the domestic box office over the weekend with an estimated $20.9 million in ticket sales. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Paul Dergarabedian
, president of Media By Numbers, said, "The film is a good, solid action movie and audience, especially young audience, is looking for that shot of adrenaline. ... This was kind of warming up to summer." Coming in second was the Judd Apatow
R-rated comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall
, written by and starring Jason Segel
, which brought in $17.3 million. Several analysts had predicted that it would emerge as the weekend winner, citing its much-talked-about billboard campaign that had heightened awareness of the movie. Two other newcomers flopped. Sony's 88 Minutes
, starring Al Pacino
, which had been mercilessly drubbed by critics, opened in fourth place with just $6.8 million, while the Ben Stein
documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
, which argued on behalf of "intelligent design" -- that is, the biblical view of creation -- failed to bring out church groups in big numbers and settled for just $3.1 million to wind up in ninth place. Overall, the box office was up for the first time in five weeks, with the top 12 films earning $82.1 million, up 12 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago. "There is a collective sigh of relief in Hollywood," Dergarabedian told the Associated Press. So far this year, revenue is down 3.4 percent from last year while attendance is down 6.5 percent.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers: 1. The Forbidden Kingdom, $20.9 million; 2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, $17.3 million; 3. Prom Night, $9.1 million; 4. 88 Minutes, $6.8 million; 5. Nim's Island, $5.7 million; 6. 21, $5.5 million; 7. Street Kings, $4 million; 8. Horton Hears a Who!, $3.5 million; 9. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, $3.1 million; 10. Leatherheads, $3 million.
'Horton' Remains In Lead Overseas
Overseas, Horton Hears a Who!
continued to hold onto the lead for the fourth straight week, earning $9.7 million and bringing its overseas total to $117.7 million. The results continued to dumbfound analysts, especially since the Dr. Seuss
books are not nearly as popular overseas as they are in the U.S. In second place was Fox
's Street Kings
, which took in $8.5 million. In France, Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis
added another $7 million to its gross, putting it over the $200-million mark.
Viacom To Start Movie Channel With Two Other Studios
In a move that puts it on a collision course with CBS
, Viacom Inc., which, like CBS, is a unit of Sumner Redstone
's National Amusements, has joined a group of studios aiming to create a premium cable-TV movie channel and video-on-demand service. The group includes Paramount Pictures
and Paramount Classics, both owned by Viacom, Lionsgate
, and MGM. The channel would compete with CBS-owned Showtime, another premium movie channel that the three studios have previously sold movies to. In an interview with Daily Variety
, Showtime chief Matt Blank suggested that the group decided to form their own movie channel after Showtime refused to pay the price the studios were asking. Redstone himself was quoted as saying: "I have stated from the beginning that Viacom and CBS have the right to pursue their own strategic objectives in the best interest of their individual shareholders. ... Competition between the two companies hones their skills and their productivity."
Bond's Aston Martin Plunges Into Lake
The Aston Martins featured in James Bond movies may whiz around hairpin turns at hold-onto-your-seats speeds, but the driver of a $250,000 model being delivered to the set of the latest Bond movie Quantum of Solace
reportedly lost control of the car on the edge of Lake Garda in Italy Saturday, broke through a guard rail and plunged into the lake below. The driver, Fraser Dunn, who was able to break out of the vehicle and swim to safety, was reportedly not seriously injured, but the car itself was an unsalvageable wreck.
Network Military Analysts: A Media Trojan Horse?
In a 7,600-word account, covering nearly four pages of the Sunday edition of The New York Times
, reporter David Barstow has described how the Pentagon has used broadcast and cable-TV "military experts" to promote its war policies. "Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air," Barstow alleged in the Times
article. A few of the analysts have expressed regret. Robert Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and for Fox
News military analyst told the Times
that he and fellow military officers had been used as puppets. "It was them saying, 'We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you," he said. Former NBC
military analyst Kenneth Allard
said that he began to see discrepancies between what he and fellow analysts were being told in briefings and what subsequent information later revealed. "I felt we'd been hosed," Allard told the Times
.In his article, Barstow comments that the Pentagon sought to use the military analysts as "a kind of media Trojan horse," and that email messages obtained by the newspaper referred to them by such terms as "surrogates" and "message-force multipliers." Moreover, he maintains, the TV outlets that featured the analysts failed to disclose that many of them were on the payrolls of defense contractors. For example, Ret. Army General James Marks, while working as an analyst for CNN
from 2004-2007, also worked at McNeil Technologies where he solicited billions of dollars in Pentagon contracts. CBS
military analyst Jeffrey McCausland said in the article that the penalty for criticizing the military's policies in Iraq was losing "all access." (McCausland, the article pointed out, works at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, a lobbying firm for several military contractors.) Former Fox News analyst William V. Cowan, a retired Marine colonel, said that when he told Bill O'Reilly in August 2005 that the U.S. was "not on a good glide path right now" in Iraq, he was "precipitously fired from the analysts group." The Pentagon, he said, "simply didn't like the fact that I wasn't carrying their water." In the article, Barstow discloses that the Times
itself published nine Op-Ed articles by military analysts recruited by the Pentagon.
Yankees Network Plays To Sell-Out Crowds
The Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network, a regional cable channel available in New York and New Jersey, has been drawing record ratings during the first weeks of the baseball season. According to Nielsen Research, the YES Network's audience is up 19 percent over the same period a year ago and up 13 percent over 2004, its highest-rated year ever. Last Wednesday's (April 16) telecast of the game pitting the Yankees against arch foes the Boston Red Sox drew a whopping 6.8 rating, representing 658,000 viewers in the area. The opening-day Yankees-vs-Blue Jays telecast was the highest-rated game ever for the channel, drawing a 7.4 rating, representing 766,000 viewers.
CBS Chief Comes To Couric's Defense
Chairman Les Moonves vainly attempted to extinguish rumors that Katie Couric
's days as anchor of the CBS Evening News
are numbered. Making a surprise appearance at the weekly Friday meeting between Couric and Evening News
exec producer Rick Kaplan, shown over closed-circuit TV to CBS news employees, Moonves said that "there are no plans for a change [of anchor], today, tomorrow and into the future." Kaplan said that it took years for Tom Brokaw
and Peter Jennings
to rise to the top. "She's not been at it two years and everybody is writing her obituary. ... That's fine. Success is the sweetest revenge." Most TV writers failed to buy the CBS executives' support for Couric and cited network sources who maintained that Couric would be ousted if her ratings do not improve by next year's presidential inauguration.
Cable Subscribers Learn They May Need Converter Boxes, Too
Some 28 million owners of analog TV sets who had expected to be able to make the switch to digital without cost if they were cable TV subscribers are learning that if they have an analog cable service, they may have to rent a converter box for each set, plus pay an installation fee, the Associated Press observed Sunday. The wire service indicated that the FCC and the broadcast industry have failed to make cable customers aware that if they receive an analog service -- in which the cable line is attached directly to the back of the set instead of passing through a settop cable box -- they may have to pay an additional fee unless the cable company opts to convert digital signals to analog for such customers -- something that they are not required by law to do.
Pennsylvania TV Stations Rake In Political Bucks
and Barack Obama
will have spent as much as $25 million in advertising -- most of it for TV -- in Pennsylvania by the time voters go to the polls for Tuesday's primary, Advertising Age
reported over the weekend, citing a survey by TNS Media Intelligence's Campaign Media Analysis Group. Obama, who according to polls is trailing Clinton, is outspending her on TV ads by nearly three to one, the survey indicated. The big political ad spending has produced what Campaign Media Analysis Group COO Evan Tracey called a gold mine for local TV stations. "It's like an ice-cream truck breaking down in front of their house," he said.
Chinese Hackers Hit CNN
Chinese hackers, apparently angered by recent comments about their country by CNN
commentators, attempted last Thursday to bring down the cable news network's website, CNN reported Friday. Although for the most part the attempt proved to be unsuccessful, the website was nevertheless unavailable in several areas of Asia, CNN said. "We do not know who is responsible," the cable network added. On Saturday, Chinese-American demonstrators gathered at CNN's headquarters in Atlanta and outside its Hollywood studios to demand that commentator Jack Cafferty
be fired for calling Chinese merchandise junk and the country's leaders "a bunch of goons and thugs."
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