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Camp Allen Speakers/Panels List Here

By | Friday June 30, 2006 @ 12:02pm PDT

I’ve finally got my hands on the preliminary speakers schedule for Camp Allen, the nickname given Allen & Co.’s annual summer investment conference for the macho mogul set in bucolic Sun Valley, Idaho. The dates for this sleepaway for plutocrats are July 11th-16th. Highlight (or is it lowlight?): the idea of Barry Diller, Rupert Murdoch and Sir Howard Stringer interviewed by Michael Eisner. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that. But I’m sure everyone will be uber-polite. My prediction is that no one but Eisner will get a word in edgewise. Interesting that it’s Eisner, too, since he’s tried to avoid attending the conference ever since he had his heart episode there. Read my secrets of Camp Allen column which ran 6/29/99 in New York magazine for a fuller understanding of this confab occurring since 1982. The Allen & Co. invitation used to be what separated the adolescents from the boys in Hollywood, a stamp of approval from Wall Street, confirmation that making feature films and sitcoms was an enviable enterprise. For so many years Camp Allen was a secretive gathering of the privileged white men who sat atop America’s entertainment conglomerates and their families, a wilderness confab replete with river-rafting, picnic-table power-lunching, and (the whole purpose of the exercise) hush-hush deal-making. Its apex came back in 1994 as a full-page Vanity Fair spread complete with pedigree-enhancing headline — “THE NEW ESTABLISHMENT” –to describe these Leaders of the Information Age. But then NYC investment banker Herbert Allen Jr.’s retreat changed subtlely in both style (there used be dildos jokingly given out … Read More »

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UPDATED: Thank You For Your Support

By | Friday June 30, 2006 @ 10:05am PDT

UPDATE: It’s True: Gawker’s Jesse Oxfeld Canned

I just want to thank you for all your support re MarketWatch/Gawker. The many emails and phone calls I’ve received, mostly from women journalists but also from (enlightened) men, have been so gratifying. The great news is that this clearly started a dialogue about how sexism is still widespread in the profession of journalism. (And here I thought we’d moved on from the time when AP’s VP in charge of personnel worried that I wasn’t “tough enough” to become a Moscow correspondent — until foreign editor Nate Polowetzky told him, “She’d run over her own mother for a story.”) My main point was that there simply was no excuse for two separate standards (and by that I mean, two separate sets of questions, two separate sets of descriptions, etc.) to be applied in a profile of a female business journalist versus a male business journalist. The response I received from the author afterwards – ”Oh, I wanted this to be a fun story!” – was also inappropriate, especially since this had been pitched to me as a serious look at my writing and reporting. You also agreed with me when I objected to shoddy journalism. You abhored that off-the-record quotes were placed on-the-record (that cemetery stuff), or that the author’s statements were written as mine (about being first on Ovitz, Eisner or Diller). You saw how the author omitted any mention of … Read More »

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No Media Experience For Disney’s Incoming Chairman? Wrong!

By | Thursday June 29, 2006 @ 7:22pm PDT

Wow, so much misinformation and omission in recent newspaper articles, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, about Walt Disney Co.’s incoming chairman John Pepper Jr, the ex-CEO of Procter and Gamble. Granted, he looks like he just got cast by ABC Family for an Americanized remake of Mr. Chips, fretting over whether his brood of preppies will horribly haze the new kid. (On second thought, maybe he’s planning to do just that to still new Disney prez Bob Iger.) But The New York Times quoted experts claiming he lacks media experience and doesn’t bring much to Disney’s party. Huh? As if hiring former Senator George Mitchell was a stroke of genius by Franken Eisner and his board of flunkies. Look how well George didn’t turn out. If you ask me, this new guy has Mitchell beat by a mile. Obviously, none of the following was in any of the official press releases: 1) The most obvious, first: as one of the largest consumer product advertisers on the planet, his ex-company’s brands like Bounty, Crest and Pampers live or die on the basis of the success of its TV commercials and other media outlets. 2) P&G has long owned and operated TV soap operas; in fact P&G literally helped put the soap in soap operas. P&G produced and sponsored the first radio soap operas in the 1930s and became dominant when the soaps switched onto TV. P&G’s past soaps have included Another WorldThe Edge of NightSearch for TomorrowSomerset and Texas. Two veteran soaps are still distributed by Proctor and … Read More »

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Superman Doesn’t Return At Box Office: $19 Mil Opening Disappoints Biz Experts

By | Thursday June 29, 2006 @ 8:43am PDT

I’m told Warner Bros.’ Superman Returns opened Wednesday with $19 million at the U.S. box office. That’s only OK — not great, not terrible, prompting box office guru analysis that the gay whisper campaign which crescendoed into newspapers and on the Internet hurt the movie’s viability as did its star Brandon Routh’s anonymity. (Box Office Mojo put the opening take at $21 mil, but rival studios told me that’s too high.) Predictions are that Superman Returns could muster $100 million for July 4th weekend (which in many American households will continue from Friday through Tuesday). But even that barely puts the film in the 10 top opening Wednesdays. The problem stems not only from the movie’s close to 2-hour 40-minute running time, its $200 mil-$250 mil budget, its mis-marketing campaign, or its emphasis on earnestness rather than simple ol’fashioned fun, but that the movie will get swamped its second weekend out by Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 2, which continues tracking as the biggest movie opening ever. Major film critics have been split almost down the middle reviewing this film, although Bryan Singer’s direction is generally lauded. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has been desperately re-tooling its marketing campaign for the movie in light of the studio’s failure to stem the gay buzz surrounding Superman Returns. As late as this week, new TV ads transformed Routh from doe-eyed softie to macho techno-man of steel, borrowing heavily from other comic books successes like Spiderman and X-Men in its look and … Read More »

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David Geffen/LA Times Update

By | Thursday June 29, 2006 @ 1:35am PDT

dreamworks-skg.jpgIt was as recently as April that David Geffen attended a reception for the dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Nick Lemann, at the Los Angeles home of Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton. I’m told Geffen uninhibitedly demonstrated in front of several guests that his interest in buying the Los Angeles Times was still very much alive and well. Right now, David doesn’t want to talk publicly about what he might, or might not, do, understandably. So it’s been a while since there’s been any substantive word connecting Geffen to a sale of the paper. Until yesterday. His name first surfaced in a September 2005 LAT story reporting the surprising news that Geffen met with parent company Tribune Chief Executive Dennis J. FitzSimons that summer to say he was interested in buying the media outlet. FitzSimons reportedly told the Dreamworks partner it was not for sale. For months, speculation ensued (mostly in the LAT‘s pages). Then, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal wrote that the Chandler family, which owns its Tribune shares through trusts and is at loggerheads with FitzSimons and will become the company’s largest shareholder in the wake of Tribune’s not-very-popular $2 billion stock buyback scheme, is preparing to meet with Geffen and other potential buyers like Ron Burkle and Eli Broad, as well as private-equity and other investors. It’s all an attempt by the family that once ruled the Spring Street roost to create some drama and force a breakup or sale … Read More »

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Accidental Gun Discharge At CAA

By | Wednesday June 28, 2006 @ 5:30pm PDT

So today a rumor swept Hollywood about recent gunplay in a crowded lobby of a top talent agency. Here’s the reality: I’ve been told about an accidental gun discharge incident at Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills on January 28th at 1:50 p.m. You first need to know that no one was hurt: it was a Saturday and the lobby was empty, and only three people were in the entire building, not including the security guards. And the security guard was employed by Gavin de Becker & Associates, which protects CAA and William Morris and about 1,400 other companies and is widely regarded as one of the leading firms in the field of public figure protection and threat assessment. De Becker told me tonight: “Even though accidental discharges are frequent occurrences in law enforcement, the military, and the private sector, we are grateful to have the lowest rate of accidental discharges I know of: two incidents in 31 years. The former employee involved in this accidental discharge was trained by the U.S. Marines, passed the state training requirements, and completed our academy – and we are grateful that the incident never posed any danger to anyone.”
I’ve learned what happened: the guard was working the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift and at his security post when he followed standard procedure and checked the “417″ which is security codespeak for taking the firearm out of its locked lockbox and examining … Read More »

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I Respond To MarketWatch/Gawker

By | Wednesday June 28, 2006 @ 12:05pm PDT

UPDATE: It’s True: Gawker’s Jesse Oxfeld Canned

I find it shameful that Dow Jones/Marketwatch media critic Jon Friedman has chosen to write such a misogynist piece published today (I refuse to link to it) that trivializes me and what I do. It begins with a bit-o-praise under the headline, “In-your-face Finke keeps Hollywood honest. Nobody writes tougher stuff than this LA Weekly scribe…), then proceeds to dissemble. No mention of my extensive journalism background. No mention of my recent award (which he told me was supposed to be the peg for the profile). He wouldn’t have dared write an article like this about a male business journalist working for a mainstream newspaper. Several comments attributed to me were uttered by Friedman, while others were post-interview phone chatter put on the record by him contrary to our agreement. In several places, my quotes were taken out of context, and in one place his characterization of my work is not supported by the facts. He also allows someone who isn’t a journalistic colleague, who has never met me and who has never spoken to me, to disparage me even though there’s no basis whatsoever for such a personal judgment call. I accepted Friedman’s stated purpose that he intended to write about myself and my work, and I was prepared to take any and all legitimate hits. Instead, he presented me as a carnival sideshow act. Everyone knows how hard it is to craft a serious career and reputation, and how easily it can be undone by … Read More »

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UPDATED: Whopping $2,995 for Nielsen’s New “Modern Movie Experience” Study; Co-Author Explains Why It’s Worth It

By | Monday June 26, 2006 @ 11:31am PDT

If you’ve got $2,995 burning a hole in your wallet, then that’s the cost of Nielsen Analytics’ and The Movie Advisory Board’s new 100-page “Modern Movie Experience” study — billed as “a report on moviegoer behavior today, possibilities for tomorrow, and the impact of digital technologies on the movie value chain.” Quite a mouthful, that. Here’s more: “Declines in movie theater attendance, coupled with an explosion in digital entertainment alternatives, has put the movie industry under particularly intense scrutiny. Moviegoing, once seen as a staple of shared mass audience entertainment, is rapidly changing. This report follows the evolving viewpoint of the uber-media consumer, one which movie studios, theater owners, television networks, agencies and advertisers need to understand in order to keep up. ‘The Modern Movie Experience’ analyzes consumers’ movie theater attendance and consumption habits, and sheds new light on why U.S. theater attendance has declined.” It’s based on an analysis of over 2,600 Movie Advisdory Board members. Also explored are consumers’ usage and preferences of movie technologies such as DVD, VOD, the Internet, and subscription services (i.e. NetFlix or Blockbuster). Feel free to email me a copy once you’ve bought it. But if you also can’t afford it, I’m now going to save you some $$$. I haven’t read it, but how much do you wanna bet it says: Hey, if a movie is good, consumers will go see it. Otherwise, they choose to save gas and money and stay home and watch video-on-demand, cable or satellite, or a DVD. Or maybe they’ll just play … Read More »

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Deadline Hollywood Daily Named Among “Top 100 Coolest Film Sites On The Net”

By | Sunday June 25, 2006 @ 9:10pm PDT

The film industry magazine Fade In named Deadline Hollywood Daily as one of its Top 100 Coolest Film Sites On The Net in its latest issue with this description: “Nikki Finke’s well-reported daily blog on the business of show.” Thanks!

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Da Vinci Code Hits $700 Mil Worldwide

By | Sunday June 25, 2006 @ 9:37am PDT

I’m told Sony’s Da Vinci Code passed $700 million worldwide gross today. Adding $4 mil domestically and $9 mil internationally this weekend put the total take at $701.3 million. The movie is now the 22nd best earner globally (and 12th best internationally). The breakdown of the total haul is $205.5 for U.S. and $495.8 mil overseas (which was down only 37% despite the huge World Cup weekend). Initially, Sony hoped the movie would take in $500 mil worldwide by summer’s end. And here it is not even July.

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America Loves Adam! Click Opens No. 1; 5th Sandler $40 Mil+ Opening Weekend; Da Vinci Code Hits $700 Mil Worldwide; Indian Mob Ransacks Da Vinci Multiplex

By | Saturday June 24, 2006 @ 1:00am PDT

UPDATED: *Adam Sandler is looking like American moviegoers’ favorite comedian as his latest Click scored his fifth $40 million+ opening weekend today to become the nation’s No. 1 film. The Sony comedy about a man whose TV remote turns into a life remote debuted with $40 mil at the box office. Right now in Hollywood there are very few actors working today that can generate that kind of audience drawing power. The studio’s exit polling showed Sandler’s audience was 51% female and 49% male, while 50% were under age 25. Sony and Sandler, which have been a profitable box office pairing for some time now (Big Daddy, 50 First Dates, Mr. Deeds, Anger Management), had their best ever opening in Austrailia so Click may be their broadest film with international moviegoers. (Usually, U.S.-made comedies don’t translate to big box office overseas.) Click is Sony’s seventh #1 film of 2006, unlike 2005 when much of the studio’s fare bombed with moviegoers.
There’s more good news for Sony: Da Vinci Code Hits $700 Mil Worldwide today. I’m told Sony’s Da Vinci Code passed $700 million worldwide gross today. Adding $4 mil domestically and $9 mil internationally this weekend put the total take at $701.3 million. The movie is now the 22nd best earner globally (and 12th best internationally). The breakdown of the total haul is $205.5 for U.S. … Read More »

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The Day I Sucker-Punched Aaron Spelling

By | Friday June 23, 2006 @ 9:59pm PDT

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It’s the end of Aaron Spelling, and the end of a TV era. To understand his once-upon-a-time utter dominance in the medium, you have to put together both Jerry Bruckheimer’s and Dick Wolf’s TV empires on one network, and then you’ll understand. So I’m sharing with you this sit-down interview I did with him in 1989 way back when I was a Calendar writer for the Los Angeles Times covering the TV biz. Let me set the scene: he had this gargantuan office on what was then the Warner’s Hollywood lot, and on his payroll a black guy in a white uniform (a porter? a waiter? heck, there’s no PC term for that) serving us drinks. I let Aaron do his tapdance routine for me for about half an hour. Then I asked him, “Gee, if things are going so great for you, then why is this the first time in a generation of TV viewers you won’t have any shows on ABC?” He looked like I had sucker-punched him. But then he got really, really angry. Not at me, but at the TV industry and network suits. It turned into a very revealing interview, one of those rare times in Hollywood when candor actually occurs between a mogul and a journalist. (But Aaron hated this article and regretted being so truthful. He gave his PR guy Warren Cowan many Maalox moments because of it.) After this … Read More »

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Latest Summer Movie Tracking News: Click No. 1, Superman Gaining Strength

By | Friday June 23, 2006 @ 3:39am PDT

Here’s the latest summer movie tracking news: I’m told Sony’s Click will become No. 1 at the box office and hit the so-called “Adam Sandler sweet spot” of at least $40-$45 mil its opening weekend. The bigger news I’ve learned is that Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (opening July 7th) now has the highest combination of “definite interest” and “first choice” ever tracked by the research groups. That backs up my previous reporting that this Disney blockbuster is gonna blow everything else out of the water. (See Pirates 2 Biggest Opening Ever) But the biggest news I’ve got is that Superman Returns is gaining strength in all quadrants. (For weeks, Warner Bros. execs have been covered in flop sweat.) Remember I told you previously that Superman Returns was not tracking well enough to rival X-Men 3‘s big box office opening? Since then, wanna-see has picked up considerably among men of all ages. Still, the Wednesday (June 28th) opening makes its Fourth of July holiday weekend total tough to call. Spiderman 2 opened on the Wednesday before July 4th and did $40 mil that first day and went on to make $88 mil Friday-Saturday-Sunday for a cume of $192 mil Wednesday-through-Tuesday. The experts tell me that’s probably an unreachable goal for Superman Returns, but the movie should haul in about 2/3 of that. Spiderman 2 ended up taking in $370 mil, so Superman Returns has … Read More »

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Warner Bros. Asked Joel Silver For Advice On How To Market More Manly Superman

By | Friday June 23, 2006 @ 2:39am PDT

Warner Bros.’ marketing of Superman Returns is a tragicomedy of errors upon errors. More to the point, I’m told Bryan Singer is fed up with it. For good reason. I could go on and on, but I’ll hit the low points for now. The gay buzz sparked by one-sheets presenting Brandon Routh as the Babyfaced Superbod. Then Warner’s ridiculous panic because of gay-themed Superman stories in, god forbid, The Advocate. Singer’s own desperate damage control that this was “probably the most heterosexual character in any movie I’ve ever made.” Things got so out of hand, I’m told, that Warner’s president of production Jeff Robinov sought advice from his Matrix pal Joel Silver on how the hell to sell Superman in a more butch fashion. After all, when it comes to making and marketing manly movies to manly men, Silver’s the manliest. (I’ve learned that uber-heterosexual Joel loved Superman Returns when Jeff showed it to him.) I also hear that Warner Bros. screwed up the film’s promotion on MySpace.com, which has become a key component of any good campaign. Not only was Superman Returns late to display there, but for many days the wrong opening date was posted since no one bothered to update when the film’s opening was moved earlier to June 28th. Oh, and lest I forget, Warner’s smarmy marketing tactics that provoked bloggers to begin leaking weeks ahead of time Superman Return’s oh-so-secret surprise ending.

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UPDATED: Da Vinci Does Bollywood Amid Protests; Qatar and Oman Ban Lifted

By | Friday June 23, 2006 @ 1:49am PDT

UPDATED: *Attempts by Sony to screen the film in one part of Andhra Pradesh today were unsuccessful when dozens of protesters under the banner of the Christian United Front raided a Hyderabad multiplex and damaged property extensively, forcing the management to suspend the film’s screening. The mob even broke the box office window (as opposed to breaking the box office record), so the film could not be shown. Also, the state government is appealing the High Court decision.*

As if the Da Vinci Code didn’t have enough global moviegoers after finishing No. 1 overseas even after five weeks out, it adds 75 million potential more this weekend. Sony is relieved now that a high court in India just OK’d the film’s release in Andhra Pradesh, one of the states where the local government banned the religious thriller. I’m told the studio will have the film available in English and Hindi to about 70% of the population there by Saturday. “We have been waiting to watch the film because the controversy surrounding it only added to our curiosity,” one youth told the local paper. He along with friends had planned to watch the movie June 2, but the government banned its screening a day before it was to be released. “I will watch the first show of the movie because I have read so much about it in newspapers,” said another college student. I’ve also learned that Sony is appealing the ban on DVC‘s release in … Read More »

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LA Times Expecting Movie Ad Rebound?

By | Friday June 23, 2006 @ 1:08am PDT

Parent company Tribune and  the Los Angeles Times must be members of the cockeyed Optimists Club. How else to explain that, in their first public remarks since the Chandler family went to war against them, they claimed ”trends” expected to boost revenue during the second half include additional advertising due to a larger number of movie releases (as well as new sales incentives by several major automakers). Sheesh, will these bozos never learn? Donald Grenesko, Tribune’s senior vice-president of finance and administration, predicted that movie ads — which have been slumping for several quarters — should be “more plentiful” in the second half of 2006 as film studios plan a bigger slate of releases. So New Line is suddenly gonna come running to the geriatric LA Times to hawk teen scream Snakes on a Plane and other film fare aimed at younger audiences? Yeah, when pigs fly. After all, weakness in entertainment advertising has been the bane of the LAT, which represents about a quarter of the Tribune Co.’s publishing revenue. For a while now, I’ve been tracking how all the Hollywood studios have cut their newspaper display advertising budgets, and especially their LAT display advertising budgets, to the bone. (See my most recent, Q1 2006 LA Times = Big Movie Ad Loser). Not even the Hollywood Reporter‘s veteran VP and associate publisher Lynne Segall can make up the difference now that she’s moving into the new LAT position of VP for entertainment advertising (i.e. movies, theater, music, media, … Read More »

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Sir Howie Faces Angry Sony Shareholders

By | Friday June 23, 2006 @ 12:06am PDT

So now it’s all-too-apparent why Sony’s corporate flackery was working 24/7 to generate those many media puff pieces about Sir Howard Stringer (see my previous No Sony Product Gets This Much Great PR). Because he was facing 7,000 shareholders for the first time as CEO at Thursday’s annual meeting. Specifically, facing grumbling, disgruntledworried shareholders — to use the adjectives in the AP story out of Tokyo — demanding to know why Sony was losing so much money,  After all, Howard’s been head of the Japanese corporate for a year, yet Sony’s 2006 1st quarter losses widened to 66.5 billion yen ($578 million) from a 56.5 billion yen loss a year ago. All that media praise for Stringer was an integral part of his pre-meeting strategy. Why? Because the Japanese traditionally believe everything they read, or so I’ve been told over the years, and these U.S. articles get distributed widely in that country’s press.

There were many moments at the annual meeting where this could have been Michael Eisner facing Disney shareholders redux. Like the Japanese woman who was unhappy that the Sony shares she bought at 14,000 yen ($120) are now worth only 4,940 yen ($43). “I bought shares in mighty Sony,’ AP quoted her as complaining to Stringer et al, “What are you going to do about this?” By all accounts, Teflon Howie tap-danced his way … Read More »

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Hollywood Minorities Complain To Me: “We Are Not That Hard To Find”

By | Wednesday June 21, 2006 @ 12:14pm PDT

It’s a standard Hollywood excuse that there isn’t a sufficient talent pool of minorities from which to choose executives. Well, that’s horseshit. So I disagree with Patrick Goldstein’s latest Los Angeles Times column, More Color, Please, in which 20th Century Fox Co-Chairman Jim Gianopulos is quoted as saying, ”It’s not for lack of interest or desire, because we’re constantly searching for creative people. But it’s a really difficult question and we haven’t found an answer yet.” I have. Because I’ve learned that Gianopolis couldn’t have been bothered to attend his own studio’s dinner organized by its so-called diversity department a few years ago. I’m told Fox hosted the event in its executive dining room to gather together a sizeable portion of minority execs to show how ”progressive” the studio wanted to become. ”The dinner created a big stir in the African-American Hollywood community. It was presented as an opportunity for Fox execs to meet who was out there. When the Fox invites went out, calls and emails were sent wondering who was invited and what is was all about,” one attendee told me. “When we got there it was almost like a class reunion – about 50-60 some black, Latino, Asian execs and producers.”

But, soon, reality set in, I learned. “We all sat there wondering what the point was as [studio film executives] Bob Harper, Liz Gabler and Peter Rice moved from table to table in speed-dating fashion introducing themselves. At the end of the day nothing happened for anyone who attended — even though there were numerous people there who had studio/production company experience and were more than qualified for any studio job. Had Gianopolis been there, he would have realized that, yes, in great numbers we would … Read More »

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Why Hollywood Gets No Work Done

By | Tuesday June 20, 2006 @ 5:20pm PDT

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I was shocked to hear that Hollywood types were already leaving town for the July 4th holiday. It’s bad enough you guys cancel four straight scheduled meetings with screenwriters. Or have your assistants book appointments six months ahead which you’ll cancel anyway. And all without a twinge of guilt. But lately you’ve become Slacker Town. So here’s why Hollywood gets no work done:

June: Spend most of the month coordinating travel plans to hobnob with Bob Wright on Nantucket or Nora-and-Nick in the Hamptons on a summer kick-off long weekender. Plan to leave on June 20th for July 4th “weekend” vacation to Canyon Ranch, Cal-a-Vie or The Peaks because you think you’re too fat to cruise the Mediterranean with Geffen or Diller.

July: Spend days jumping for joy that Ron Meyer has permanently canceled his ridiculously crowded annual July 4th party. Return from July 4th weekend just in time to depart for Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley investment conference. (Bring lots of DVDs to avoid the embarrassment of being seen with everyone mentioned in the Pellicano scandal.) Depart July 25th for August vacation.

August: The first part of the month is your official vacation in your East Coast owned or rented property in the Hamptons or Connecticut or Martha’s Vineyard. The second part of the month is your unofficial vacation at the Four Seasons on the Big Island to recover from the real and perceived slights you … Read More »

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