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Again, Big Media Gets Big Political Bucks

By | Tuesday June 20, 2006 @ 3:37pm PDT

According to Broadcasting & Cable’s Multichannel News, the 2006 political advertising market is overheating even without a presidential race. Candidates and issue-oriented groups have spent $440 million on advertising through early June. That’s $110 million more than political advertisers spent in 2004 through the same date. Overall, U.S. political ad spending is projected to top $1 billion overall, most of it flowing over broadcast and cable TV outlets, according to new estimates from TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, a leading political ad-tracking firm. Driving the largesse: 36 races for state governor. Spending associated with gubernatorial campaigns will be double the amount spent by the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns in 2004. In California, more than $60 million already has been spent on the Democratic Primary contest for the governor’s race. Television will account for close to 85% of all political spending. Issue-centered advertising is on the rise, with $195 million of the $440 million spent through early June flowing from groups attempting to influence voter attitudes on ballot initiatives and legislation in general. Spot cable should get a strong share of spending from U.S. House and Senate races believed to be “in play” by Democratic party leaders intent on winning back majorities. But sellers will have to be patient: For these races, more than 90% of the dollars will flow over the final 60 days of campaigning.

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Stalking Gawker’s Jesse Oxfeld in LA

By | Tuesday June 20, 2006 @ 2:50pm PDT

Jesse.jpgSince gawker.jpgmakes a habit of stalking the famous — actually, the readers report their close encounters of the celebrity kind at restaurants and bars, and Daily Gawker Stalker reports them, even to the point of Google satellite mapping – I thought turnabout was fair play. (And to get back at Gawker for continuously running my damn debutante picture.) So let’s stalk Gawker staffer Jesse Oxfeld during his recent visit to Los Angeles for his best friend’s wedding. “I rented a convertible, spent the first weekend with good family friends and their two daughters, one of whom is a college friend, lounging by their pool in the valley. And then I spent the week relaxing around LA. Did some shopping, did some walking on the beach, did some writing for the ceremony. Had lots of lunches and dinners with lots of friends. Had In-N-Out twice, El Coyote once, Korean barbecue for the first time, a good filet mignon in Woodland Hills, and a mediocre piece of salmon from a humorless waiter in West Hollywood…”
I’ll nudge you awake if you snore while reading these trip highlights:

060613_carbonBeach_hmed_4p.JPGOxfeld outside David Geffen’s beach house
Public Walkway at Carbon Beach, Malibu
“I just put my toes in David Geffen’s sand.”

Oxfeld at Urth Caffe
8565 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood
“I learned that Urth Caffe does not have … Read More »

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A Screenwriter’s Realistic MPAA Ratings

By | Monday June 19, 2006 @ 12:39pm PDT

My pal, L.A. screenwriter Bruce Feirstein, received a lot of hate mail for his latest New York Observer column imagining new movie ratings by the Motion Picture Association of America, which therefore endears this piece to me. What prompted him was Facing the Giants, that film about the Christian football coach which received a “PG” rating because of “thematic” elements – not drugs, not violence and not sex, but religion. “I’m no prude. I’ve worked on my share of movies with cartoon violence and sexual innuendo,” Bruce writes. “But looking at the MPAA’s decision, I can’t help but wonder if it’s possible to make any film today without it issuing a content warning. Forget about the biblical epics, like The Ten Commandments. I’m thinking about Lassie, where the family sits down to pray before dinner… If the MPAA is going to follow this path, let’s go the whole nine yards (as opposed to the whole hog, which would undoubtedly be offensive to Muslims, Jews and animal-rights activists), and institute the following new, improved movie ratings (about which the MPAA sent the NYO a form letter):

RH-13: Revisionist History. Contains characters, dialogue and historical conclusions that bear no resemblance to what actually occurred. Sometimes designated OS-13, in honor of Oliver Stone.
PP-13: Product Placement. Contains images of toys, cell phones, luxury automobiles or other brand-name consumables that may be inappropriate for easily suggestible children under the age of 60.
CF-13: Conventional Family. Traditionally gendered husband and wife, with 2.4 kids. And a dog. View at your peril.
VP-13: Vanity Project. May … Read More »

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Disney Uber-Sells Depp’s Jack Sparrow

By | Monday June 19, 2006 @ 11:39am PDT

Oh, those workaholic Walt Disney lawyers. They’re plotting to make Pirates of the Caribbean 2 a merchandising juggernaut to match its predicted box office numbers for July 7th. I’ve learned they’ve registered the trademark for Johnny Depp’s pirate character, Jack Sparrow, in a tsunami of categories, including bikinis and bolo ties and badminton sets, licorice and lemonade and leg warmers, bagels and bowling balls and BBQ mits! (Although Jack Sparrow after-shave sounds sexy.) Here’s the absurd list:

Drinking water; energy drinks; flavored waters; fruit juices; fruit-flavored beverages; juice base concentrates; lemonade; punch; non-alcoholic beverages, namely, carbonated beverages; non-alcoholic beverages containing fruit juices; smoothies; sparkling water; sports drinks; syrups for making soft drinks; table water; vegetable juices; bagels; bases for making milkshakes; biscuits; bread; breakfast cereal; preparations made from cereal; bubble gum; cakes; cake mixes; candies; cake decorations made of candy; ketchup; cereal-based snack bars; chewing gum; chocolate; chocolate-based beverages; cocoa-based beverages; cones for ice cream; confectionery; cookies; corn-based snack foods; crackers; deli sandwiches; flavored, sweetened gelatin desserts; frozen confections; frozen meals consisting primarily of pasta or rice; frozen yogurt; honey; ice cream; ice milk; licorice; marshmallows; mayonnaise; muffins; mustard; noodles; oatmeal; pancakes; pancake mixes; pasta; pastries; pancake syrup; pies; pizza; popcorn; pretzels; puddings; rice; rolls; salad dressings; sauces; sherbets; spices; Read More »

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Wolcott vs Finke: Diss For Dissing George

By | Sunday June 18, 2006 @ 1:58pm PDT

You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Though Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott has praised me in the recent past, he defends George Clooney and disses me in the July issue (not online). Branding me an “egotist” for my audacious claim that George sans ensemble is box office poison, Jim writes: “On Oscar night, entertainment-biz reporter Nikki Finke, liveblogging the event at Deadline Hollywood Daily, joined … the ranks of the unimpressed. ‘This red carpet frenzy over George Clooney is inexplicable. Truth time: the only movie he’s starred in that’s been successful at the box office was an ensemble piece (Ocean’s Eleven, its sequel Ocean’s Twelve). The $$$ total from his Oscar films barely equals what he spends on tooth floss. Good Night, and Good Luck was historically inaccurate. And he’s not aging gracefully, to put it mildly. (He hasn’t lost that baby weight yet.)’ By baby weight, I assume she meant the paunch he put on to play the Bob Baer protagonist in Syriana, and I got the impression that most viewers thought he looked pretty damned good in his tux. Finke’s comment was evidence that Clooney’s non-fans were losing their grip on reality and reaching for reasons to gripe.”

Wolcott.GIFJeez, Jim, if that semi-inocuous celeb insult offended you, then don’t read me when I’m being really mean-spirited. … Read More »

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Newsweek Covers Pirates 2 Juggernaut

By | Sunday June 18, 2006 @ 9:49am PDT

I’ve been tellin’ ya, and tellin’ ya, since June 7th that Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is gonna be HUGE. Yet both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times are asleep at the pirate ship’s wheel about this. But not Newsweek, which put the July 7th opening movie’s star Johnny Depp on its cover this coming week. “Judging from Newseek‘s first look in the editing room, it promises to be a welcome blast of sunshine in a season when Cruise has crashed and burned, and The Da Vinci Code has proved to be a joyless blockbuster.” Sequel Dead Man’s Chest has more action and more playtime for Depp. Which leads to yet another discussion of whether Johnny was paid to gay. (Sheesh, this homophobic summer, one movie character is said to be gayer than the next… which actually prompted Bryan Singer to deny his Superman was directed to be gay) The mag notes what is well known to Pirates fans: studio executives were nonplussed when they began to see the footage of Depp in character. Whereas Capt. Jack Sparrow was initially conceived as a young Burt Lancaster, Depp had re-imagined him as a debauched, vain, slightly fey rock star, inspired by Rolling Stones icon Keith Richards and cartoon skunk Pepé Le Pew. “The studio was, like, ‘Is he gay? Is he drunk? … Read More »

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Tom Hanks’ Biggest Film? Da Vinci Code!

By | Sunday June 18, 2006 @ 9:06am PDT

TH.jpg
Don’t fret, Forrest! I’m told that Sony’s Da Vinci Code is now Tom Hanks’ biggest movie at the box office, passing his previous record-setter Forrest Gump from Paramount. Reportedly, the actor’s salary for the religious thriller was $18 million, plus a perk of profit participation. According to data banks, Hanks made $70 mil from Forrest Gump in gross and profit participation; $40 mil from Dreamworks / Paramount’s Saving Private Ryan including gross and profit participation, $20 mil from Warner Bros.’ The Green Mile and $20 mil from 20th Century Fox’s Castaway. It’s important to remember that Hanks took a big gamble with his payday for 1994′s Forrest. It was reported extensively at the time that, before the cameras started to roll, Hanks agreed to take a lower salary upfront in return for a bigger share of the back end (first-dollar gross). Quite a risk, considering this was considered a quirky film that took nine years to get made. Paramount Pictures was balking at its $50 million budget. (That seems like a bargain budget now, eh?) The studio asked producers Steven Tisch and Wendy Finerman for $10 million in cuts. Under the original deal, Hanks was to be paid $7 million in upfront salary, the highest single line item for the movie. So the actor agreed to, in Hollywood parlance, “defer” a portion of his fees in return for a formula-based share of the box office. Director Robert Zemeckis also took the same bet. Both ended up winning … Read More »

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UPDATED: Jack Goes Slack! Disney/Pixar’s Cars Speeds To No. 1 With $31 Million; Nacho Libre Slows To No. 2

By | Saturday June 17, 2006 @ 8:49am PDT


UPDATE: *I’m told Jack Black went slack on Saturday giving Disney/Pixar’s Cars the heavily hyped title of No. 1 movie in U.S. theaters with $31 million its second weekend out. The expert predictions turned out to be right because attendance for both Paramount’s Nacho Libre (-14%) and Universal’s The Fast and The Furious 3 (-18%) were down Saturday from Friday. This meant a lot of the heat with one segment of the audience (young males for both) that succeeded in opening the two films on Friday failed to expand into other segments like adults or dates on Saturday. According to Paramount, that made Nacho only No. 2 with $27.5 mil and Fast #3 with $24.0 mil with Warner Bros.’ The Lake House lagging far behind in a distant 4th with $13.6 mil — so Sandra Bullock’s cold streak with American movie audiences continues… On the other hand, Paramount is pretty darn pleased with Nacho‘s opening considering the movie’s negative cost is only $35 mil. The only other newcomer, Fox’s Garfield 2 lagged both The Break-Up and Fox’s X-Men 3 in 7th place. Despite placing first position two weeks in a row, Disney can’t be that happy since Cars is underperforming previous big Pixar movies. Disney’s stock price took a dive last week, then rebounded, because of the weak Cars debut, prompting Wall Street to suspect that Disney overpaid for Pixar. Overall, it was another big box office weekend, up 6% vs last year, … Read More »

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1st Place: 2006 AltWeekly Media Reporting/Criticism Award

By | Saturday June 17, 2006 @ 7:39am PDT

The winners of the 2006 AltWeekly Awards were announced yesterday in Little Rock, Ark., at a luncheon held as part of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ annual convention. First-place articles/columns will be collected in a book, Best AltWeekly Writing and Design. I’m pleased to announce:
Media Reporting/Criticism
Circulation >50,000
First Place: L.A. Weekly, Nikki Finke, Deadline Hollywood
For these three columns: They Shoot News Anchors, Don’t They?: Media moguls, not looters, killed Katrina’s truth tellers; and The Michael Kinsley Experiment Ends: Why he was the wrong guy for the Los Angeles Times; and Requiem for Anita Busch: Pellicano charges are vindication for the former Hollywood reporter, but we’ve already buried her.

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Latest Summer Movie Tracking: Pirates 2 Biggest Opening Ever; Superman Not At X-Men 3 Levels; Click Looking Strong

By | Thursday June 15, 2006 @ 4:33pm PDT

Come ‘n’ get your latest summer movie tracking… What I told you a week ago still holds true: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 came on huge today. The Disney sequel starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley is primed to become the biggest opening ever. (Record is held by Spiderman 1, which grossed $114.8 million in May 2002.) Sony’s Click, which has the June 23rd weekend to itself, is looking at a reliable $40 mil opening that Adam Sandler seems to have patented at that studio (same as his other comedies 50 First Dates, Mr. Deeds, Anger Management, etc.) The next week, Superman Returns on June 28th appears ready to open strong but not at X-Men 3 levels. Looking good for June 30th is Fox’s The Devil Wears Prada (though I’m cautioned that three adult female movies opening in the same month may be asking a lot of that audience).

This weekend is a big mess with four separate openings, but none expected by the experts to beat Disney-Pixar’s Cars. Paramount’s comedy Nacho Libre should come in at least a strong second with a mid-twenties take. (To me, this sounds low since guys love Jack Black. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Nacho beats Cars). Universal’s Fast and Furious 3 will be third in the high teens. And Warner Bros’ The Lake House won’t be better than fourth.

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EXCLUSIVE: Orlando Bloom Isn’t Following His ICM Agent to CAA

By | Thursday June 15, 2006 @ 2:23pm PDT

On the eve of his Pirates of the Caribbean 2 shaping up to have the biggest movie opening ever, I’ve got exclusive news that Orlando Bloom has decided not to follow his ICM talent agent Chris Andrews to CAA. Instead, Bloom will be represented by manager Aleen Keshishian of Brillstein-Grey, ICM London’s Fiona McLoughlin (not ICM here), and attorney Patti Felker. This rejection is a big blow to Andrews and CAA. So let’s revisit Andrews’ recent leap from ICM to CAA. I’m told the story behind it is that, just a few days before his move, Chris found out that actor Josh Lucas had fired him for CAA. After some memorable turns in A Beautiful Mind and Sweet Home Alabama, Lucas had several recent clunkers in a row: Stealth, Glory Road and Poseidon (Lucas hoped he’d be the next Leo after that Warner’s embarrassment). But here’s the thing: I’ve learned that Andrews never told ICM that Lucas had left. Instead, Chris just jumped. And I’m told that, interestingly, Andrews will not be representing Lucas at CAA. Following Chris to CAA so far are Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Ben Kingsley, Felicity Huffman and Guy Pearce — all talented actors but none big movie stars. On the other hand, Andrews was anticipating Bloom to follow him to CAA. Jimmy Woods, who is the star of CBS’ new drama series Shark this fall, may stay at ICM. Which reminds me of a story he once told me about leaving CAA after his longtime agent there … Read More »

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UPDATE: Why Does LA Mag Waste Trees?

By | Thursday June 15, 2006 @ 12:46pm PDT

CoverUPDATE: *I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Los Angeles magazine won 13 awards in the 21st annual national, city and regional magazine prizes. In addition to silver for general excellence, Los Angeles won gold awards in food/dining writing, personality profile, feature design, and leisure and lifestyle interests. But nothing for any Hollywood coverage.* What a shame that I’m constantly disappointed by the Hollywood-related articles in Los Angeles Magazine. Either they’re puff pieces or clip jobs or worse (aromatherapy for celeb dogs, etc.): there hasn’t been a single entertainment-related story that’s made news since Amy Wallace’s 2001 exposé on Peter Bart. (And there was a lot more trenchant stuff that could have been written about the controversial Variety editor in that piece and wasn’t. Wallace eventually left to edit entertainment biz stories at the Los Angeles Times.) You’d think that a mag whose backyard is Hollywood would at least make a valiant attempt to clean the Industry’s clock. You’d think that — and you’d be wrong. So I’m not surprised that a piece on Paramount’s Brad Grey in the latest issue breaks no new ground and suffers from being told from Dreamworks’ POV, or that in the same issue a lengthy profile of Mike Sitrick’s crisis PR firm that focuses mostly on Hollywood-related clients and merely showcases ad nauseum his company’s “we manipulate the media with ease” formula like an advertorial. (Read my previous Read More »

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DHD Is Back To Normal

By | Monday June 12, 2006 @ 1:11pm PDT

DHD had been having technical trouble for several days. Thanks for your patience.

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Who Ya Gonna Call? Fox’s Perkbusters

By | Monday June 12, 2006 @ 12:29pm PDT

Perkbusters.JPG\To me, the most interesting facet of Fox Filmed Entertainment’s managing pair is why no Hollywood agency has yet tried to bump them off. Today’s New York Times extravagantly dubs them “Fox’s Superheroes.” But I say Jim Gianapoulos and Tom Rothman are better known up and down Wilshire Boulevard as “Fox’s Perkbusters.” Every year, there’s yet another studio outcry over the mountain of ridiculous perks demanded by talent, or rather demanded by agents for their talent, which is one more explanation for insanely soaring movie budgets. But the studios never do anything about it. (I remember when Paramount’s Frank Mancuso bought a NYC apartment for Tom Cruise, like the gazillion-net-worth actor couldn’t afford to buy one on his own.) Now Fox is cracking down. Not just on the ridiculous, like Evian to bathe in, separate private jets for luggage, a 24/7 army of nannies, masseurs and waiting limos with chauffeurs. But I’m told they’re actually saying no to the stars’ demands for exclusive $100,000 stylists, well-known hairdressers, even reknown makeup artists. “What they’re saying to talent is, ‘Do you want more money for perk-type stuff or more for marketing?’” an insider explained to me. “They’re making talent conscious of costs, which are so absurd, so that someone will think twice next time they ask for a private plane they never even use.”

The Fox duo also are refusing to take out so-called “vanity ads” at awards time. … Read More »

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Hey Hollywood: Charlie Rose Is Back!

By | Monday June 12, 2006 @ 10:55am PDT

Since Charlie Rose’s PBS talk show seems to consist 80% of fawning showbiz interviews (like there aren’t enough of those already, even if Charlie’s are smarter), I thought you’d like to know that he’s back at the round table tonight. For the first half of the show, he’ll talk about his heart surgery and recovery with his show’s exec producer, Yvette Vega, and Bill Moyers. In case you didn’t know, Rose underwent mitral valve surgery at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris after complaining of shortness of breath in March while in Syria to interview President Bashar Assad. News reports said that, after emerging from the operating room, the surgeon told two producers from Charlie’s show that he couldn’t assure them Rose would live because of the catastrophic nature of his illness. He was sedated for a week and was in the hospital for 31 days. Moyers also underwent heart surgery in the 1990s and has broadcast and written about healing and the mind.

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Da Vinci Code Passes Passion Worldwide

By | Sunday June 11, 2006 @ 9:19am PDT

I’m told that Da Vinci Code is still red hot overseas and set another benchmark: passing The Passion of the Christ globally with $642 million compared to $623 million, making Sony’s religious thriller the 26th biggest all-time hit. As far as foreign box office, all the Hollywood studios expected deep slides because of the ongoing World Cup action. But Da Vinci added another $22 mil internationally, making it the #1 movie for the fourth week in a row and putting its foreign take at over $453 million. In the U.S., Da Vinci mustered 6th place with slightly less $10.3 mil for a domestic cumulative of $189.0 mil, which is still far less than Mel Gibson’s religious homage took in from American moviegoers. But Da Vinci‘s $189 mil domestic/$453 mil foreign winning formula proved enough to surge past Passion‘s $370 mil domestic/$253 mil foreign.
For all the weekend box office news, see: Disney/Pixar’s Cars Races to #1

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Imprisoned Pellicano Sings To LA Times

By | Sunday June 11, 2006 @ 12:33am PDT

So Anthony Pellicano broke his silence and granted a jailhouse phone interview to the Los Angeles Times’ Chuck Philips who wrote it up for today. Finally, the hometown newspaper has a scoop about its hometown scandal. Until very recently, The New York Times had been kicking its butt, and now the legal newspaper Daily Journal has taken the NYT‘s place. His first interview in three years, the jailed P.I. is predictable, as is Philips write-up. But I fear Chuck buried the lede. Instead of letting Pellicano rap the feds (yawn), or maintain he won’t ‘rat out’ his clients and friends (readers of this website already knew that from the Daily Journal‘s story last week: Pellicano Still Won’t Sing), the LAT nearly buried the hilarious nugget that Pellicano thinks he should be let out of prison so he can find Osama Bin Laden! Instead, we’re given Pellicano’s accusations that the “overzealous” feds are exaggerating the strength of their “bogus” case against him and it will ”fizzle out like a box-office flop.” That sort of bravado coming from the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles one morning last week, in a 30-minute session that detention center officials allowed to be conducted over an unmonitored line, is pure Pellicano as even Philips recognized — and therefore not exactly surprising.
“The federal government has purposely tried to make this thing larger than … Read More »

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Pellicano Defends ‘Mr. Clean’ Bert Fields

By | Saturday June 10, 2006 @ 11:57pm PDT

In a jailhouse phone interview with the Los Angeles Times, Anthony Pellicano defended longtime client, Hollywood litigator Bert Fields, who is a subject of the federal probe into the P.I.’s alleged wiretapping and other illegal conduct. “Of all the people in the world to suspect it of: Bert Fields? Mr. Clean Jeans? Mr. Straight Arrow? My God, I don’t think I’ve even heard him curse in the entire time I’ve known him — let alone say, ‘Hey, Pellicano, I want you to go out and do this or do that.’ I mean, Come on.” Fields denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged. Said Pellicano: “There is no way in the world that any lawyer who has got any brains is going to hire somebody to do something illegal. Why throw away your law license?

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LAT: Pellicano Playing Chess in ‘The Joint’

By | Saturday June 10, 2006 @ 11:42pm PDT

According to his jailhouse phone interview with the Los Angeles Times, Anthony Pellicano tries to keep busy in “the joint” by playing chess, reading books on mathematics, doing mind puzzlers, and working on his legal case. He complained that he’s broke and his family is suffering. But he tells the young inmates imprisoned on drug charges, “You got to pay for your sins. That’s the way it works in this life. You always pay for your mistakes, no matter what you’ve done, little or big, grand or minute, you’re going to pay for your sins, one way or another. But to the extent that these young guys are paying it is outrageous.” In 2003, Pellicano was sentenced to 30 months at the Taft Correctional Institute, a federal prison in Taft, Calif., after FBI agents found two hand grenades and plastic explosives in his office safe. He is awaiting trial scheduled for this October on new wiretapping and related charges.

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