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Will Smith About To Be Oscar-Touted

By | Monday October 23, 2006 @ 2:44pm PDT

Over the next weeks, several articles in the “Important Media” will tout Will Smith as a Best Actor shoo-in for his dramatic role in Sony Pictures’ The Pursuit of Happyness. Given the upcoming critics’ awards, Golden Globes, and other pre-Academy Award nonsense, this probably isn’t too early to be shouting Oscar though the movie doesn’t even open until December 15th. (I don’t start prognosticating until January, thank you.) Then again, everyone who’s seen this inspirational melodrama based on Chris Gardner’s real-life story and autobio really loves it. (“A long walk to Wall Street is how others describe my life. But when I look back at the journey from homelessness to prosperity, I hold one thing dearer than all else: my commitment to my son.”) In my opinion, if Will deserves an award, it’s for this: Smith saw Italian director Gabriele Muccino’s work on Last Kiss (2001) and Remember me, My Love (2003) and told Sony execs, this guy has to direct this movie. And the suits rightfully went, HUH? I’m told they didn’t even know who this Italian fella was. Because Muccino couldn’t get arrested in the U.S. much less get work, especially after his deal with Miramax fell through. But Smith persisted, Sony execs relented, and the movie was made rather brilliantly. Of course, Smith, with his wife Jada Pinkett, once upon a time also pushed hard for Spike Lee to direct Ali – that is, until Sony execs heard Lee suggest opening the movie with a lynching. On the other hand, considering how poorly that pic helmed by Michael Mann did … Read More »

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Does Bigger Media = Better Media? Nope!

By | Monday October 23, 2006 @ 1:46pm PDT

Four new academic studies were presented at a news conference today under the headline, Does Bigger Media Equal Better Media? (MediaOwnershipReport). The new research focuses on how the concentration of media ownership affects media content, from local news reporting to radio music programming, and how minority groups have fared – as both media outlet owners and as historically undeserved audiences — in an increasingly deregulated media environment. Sponsored by the Social Science Research Council (an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1923 to bring research to bear on public problems) and the Benton Foundation, these papers show that media consolidation does not create better, more local or more diverse media content. To the contrary, they suggest that media ownership rules should be tightened, not relaxed. The studies have been filed with the FCC during its initial public comment period (which ended today) while reexamining media ownership restrictions. ”These results cast significant doubt on the logic that cross-ownership can promote greater availability of important types of local programming such as news and public affairs.” said Dr. Phil Napoli of the McGannon Research Center at Fordham University, who presented one of the studies. The four papers examine key relationships between ownership, programming, and community impact:

  • Peter DiCola, of the University of Michigan and the Future of Music Coalition, examined how the concentration of radio station ownership affects the diversity of music programming. The purpose of the study was to answer

Read More »

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Burkle vs Ovitz: Together Again In Court

By | Monday October 23, 2006 @ 12:06pm PDT

Billionaire Ronald W. Burkle is scheduled to answer questions today regarding the strength of his multi-million dollar lawsuit against Michael Ovitz, according to the City News Service. The lawsuit, filed in February 2005, alleges Ovitz breached an oral agreement to share investment opportunities they were supposed to make jointly. Attorneys for Ovitz last week won an order from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Soussan G. Brugera allowing them to question the former supermarket magnate in a deposition. The order was opposed by Burkle’s lawyer, who said she still needed access to investment and funding documents she requested from Ovitz’ lawyers so her client can look at them before he is deposed. Brugera granted part of this request for documents, but said the time had come for Burkle to sit down with Ovitz’ lawyers. Brugera also said she wants a face-to-face meeting between Burkle and Ovitz to take place in her courtroom, probably in the jury room. A date for the meeting is scheduled to be set Nov. 30.

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Does Ari’s Mom Have A Secret Recipe?

By | Sunday October 22, 2006 @ 3:03pm PDT

Endeavor Agency’s Ari Emanuel talks several times a day to his brother, U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who is masterminding the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s midterm elections. There’s a well-reported piece on Rahm in today’s Washington Post (Fighting For The Spoils) that mentions Ari. ”They all play to win, those Emanuel boys. Rahm (left) is the middle son of three. His big brother, Ezekiel, is a Harvard oncologist and bioethicist. Younger brother Ari (below) is a high-flying agent in Los Angeles. He made news recently as the only major agent to publicly call for an industrywide shunning of Mel Gibson following the actor’s drunken, anti-Semitic tirade. Their baby sister, Shoshana, is a student. Yes, the folks are mighty proud, Rahm says. How many mothers have two children who have partly inspired TV characters (Josh Lyman on The West Wing for Rahm, Ari Gold on Entourage for Ari)? ‘People ask me what my mother put in the soup,’ says Ari, who talks with Rahm two or three times a day. ‘I wish I knew. I have three boys of my own.’ Their father is a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who came to the United States after working for the pre-independence Israeli underground. In Chicago, he met Emanuel’s mother, an X-ray technician and daughter of a local union organizer who ended up in more than one paddy wagon as a protester in the 1960s. ‘Politics … Read More »

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UPDATE: Clint’s ‘Flags Of Our Fathers’ Unfurls Only No. 3; ‘The Prestige’ Proves Magical #1; Scorsese’s No. 2 ‘Departed’ Has Legs; Sofia Coppola’s ‘Marie’ So-So

By | Saturday October 21, 2006 @ 7:43am PDT

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eastwood-lac2-f.jpgSUNDAY AM: I’m told there was some sleight of hand at the box office Friday as the expected No. 1 movie, Clint Eastwood’s Iwo Jima epic Flags Of Our Fathers, finished only No. 3. Instead, Christopher Nolan’s turn-of-the-century period pic about rival magicians appeared in first place thanks to a gripping trailer, a late-breaking TV ad push over the past two weeks, great opening day reviews, and heavy promotion by star Hugh Jackman. (The other co-star was Batman Begins‘ Christian Bale.) Though the 76-year-old Eastwood’s direction won considerable praise (he was recruited to do the film by no less than Steven Spielberg), Flags apparently suffered from its lack of famous actors to drum up box office excitement and its timing in the middle of the worsening Iraq war. It earned $3.8 million Friday and $4 million Saturday from mostly older audiences for what was only a weekend take of $10. mil. Paramount noted today that Flags opened right in line with Eastwood’s Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby ( $12 mil on 2,000 screens) and Oscar nominated Mystic River ($10 mil on 1,470 screens). But, then, Flags‘ budget and marketing were much more costly than those two smaller Clint-directed pics. Flags did not benefit from the Dreamworks/Paramount strategy to debut in only 1,876 theaters. It could have used the PR value of being the No. 1 movie had it opened wide in 3,000+. … Read More »

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William Morris On The 90212 Move

By | Friday October 20, 2006 @ 4:10pm PDT

So CAA and ICM are moving to Century City as we all know. Now William Morris is trading places too, only staying within Beverly Hills. (I hear the BH mayor is thrilled.) The purpose of the move is to consolidate all the WMA staff from two buildings into one big building on North Beverly Drive; an existing parking lot structure there will be torn down. The move itself won’t take place until the first quarter of 2009. Beverly Hills renamed that old stretch of El Camino that’s been the WMA home “William Morris Place.” Maybe the mayor will transfer the moniker to the new location.

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Sherry Lansing Pledges To Write “Scrupulously Honest” Memoir

By | Friday October 20, 2006 @ 2:48pm PDT

So the first thing I asked Sherry Lansing today is: Are you going to tell the truth? Because she’s signed to write a memoir with Crown’s Harmony Books in a deal negotiated by her agent Lynn Nesbit. When I reached her by phone in Munich, Germany, where her husband Billy Friedkin is directing an opera, Lansing appeared shocked that word of the book leaked out. She said: “I am going to be scrupulously honest. Because there’s no point doing it, otherwise. Also, all of the money I receive from the book is going to cancer research.” Which might be a tidy sum since the word is she’s receiving a cool $1 mil to do it. Sherry won’t confirm or deny that figure, but she does say the deal is contingent on her finding a writer to do it with her. “I’m not writing it myself. It’ll be an ‘as told to’ book,” she said. It’ll cover her entire life, she emphasizes, including her pre-Hollywood days. Recently she spoke about her life for Arianna Huffington’s new book, Fearless. (Ex-Mogul Sherry Lansing: Happy At Last) Still, I’m skeptical if Lansing, for so many years the very model of diplomacy in this town, can ever bring herself to tell the unvarnished truth about all the rat bastards at Fox and Paramount and elsewhere she’s worked for and with. Too many Hollywood players have … Read More »

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Rupe Predicts “Pretty Quick Resolution” With Malone “If Liberty To Be Believed”

By | Friday October 20, 2006 @ 12:50pm PDT

Today was News Corp.’s shareholder meeting, and in my view it rock-’n-roll’ed. According to news reports on the scene, there was Rupert Murdoch withstanding a blistering attack from the chairman of the family values-advocacy group Parents Television Council, Leon Weil, who accused News Corp. of carving out a niche in “smutty, vulgar and violent entertainment. Weil singled out the sexual and violent material found on FX cable channel like Nip/Tuck and The Shield. “You should be ashamed,” Weil said. Murdoch responded that those programs aired after 10 pm, when most kids would be asleep. Rupe also said the company was in “constant discussion” with parental groups over ensuring the safety of young users of News Corp.’s newly acquired MySpace. The big news was  that shareholders approved an extension of that “poison pill” anti-takeover measure by a rather vote of 57 percent. The slim margin of success indicates shareholder’s discontent with Murdoch, who controls the company by virtue of his family’s 31% stake in the company’s voting shares. But the approval gives Rupe greater leverage over media investor John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media Corp., whose surprise move to suddenly accumulate a stake (now about 19%) in News Corp.’s voting shares — now at 19% — prompted News Corp. to first adopt the measure in November 2004. Murdoch told shareholders today that “if we can believe Liberty, we’re very close to closing a deal” to swap Malone’s stake for an asset, or assets, owned by News … Read More »

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UPDATE: Did CAA Free Some Agents?

By | Friday October 20, 2006 @ 9:55am PDT

UPDATE: CAALogo-thumb.jpgFor two days now, I was hearing that CAA was going to free some agents. Then I was told that CAA last night let go of as many as six agents, including four minorities. I was given names. But I may have jumped the gun on this. I’m still trying to get official confirmation by CAA one way or the other. So I want to be cautious. Meanwhile, I also hear that CAA will still be paying rent on the Beverly Hills’ I.M. Pei building lease for quite a while even after the agency moves to its new Century City digs.

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‘Dreamgirls’ Trailer: One Of The Best

By | Thursday October 19, 2006 @ 7:03pm PDT

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I meant to post this last night, but I’ve been ill for the past 24 hours. The Dreamgirls trailer premiered Wednesday night during MTV’s reality show Laguna Beach. And it was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It manages with a lot of sharp editing, and almost no dialogue, to flesh out this movie’s drama, especially in the last half, without giving away the entire storyline. Nor does it over-expose either Beyoncé or Jamie Foxx. In a savvy move, it also elevates the pic into an archival slice of important African-American musical history. Because of all this, the trailer manages to actually widen the potential audience: even moviegoers who wouldn’t be caught dead at a musical might want to see the pic since this trailer promises so much more. The Paramount/Dreamworks Oscar contender opens December 15th.

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EXCLUSIVE: Bert Fields Can Put Pellicano Scandal Behind Him; “Done And Over”

By | Wednesday October 18, 2006 @ 5:51pm PDT

BertF.jpgEXCLUSIVE: I can report tonight that Hollywood superlawyer Bert Fields is virtually free and clear of almost every aspect of the Pellicano case, including the wiretapping and conspiracy accusations which federal prosecutors have been pursuing against thug P.I. Anthony Pellicano. ”This is done and over,” sources told me today. Big, BIG news, and it comes despite prosecutors calling at least 10 members of his Century City law firm Greenberg Glusker before a federal grand jury in recent weeks, as reported yesterday by The New York Times‘ Pellicano-probing duo of David Halbfinger and Alison Hope Weiner. But I’m told the real facts are that Fields, to show his cooperation and his belief in his own innocence, agreed repeatedly to requests by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles to temporarily waive the statutes of limitations for any conduct being examined by the Pellicano probe. And when these specified periods of time expired, he waived them again. While it’s true that the statutes of limitations have not yet lapsed on all potential charges against Fields, I’m told almost every one has already run out, and all concerning the big issues. Meanwhile, for “months and months” now, the feds have stopped asking Fields for any more extensions. He was even able to take his grand chateau vacation in central France during the summer. As for why prosecutors called those Greenberg Glusker employees in front of the grand jury, my informed speculation is that it’s not with the expectation of making … Read More »

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Finke/LA Weekly: Ugly Fall TV Season

By | Wednesday October 18, 2006 @ 3:55pm PDT

My latest lalogo.gif column, It’s Ugly Out There, is about the networks throwing mad money at this season’s primetime schedule, but catching only two beauties. This wrapped before The CW cancelled Runaway which was dead last in ratings. Here’s how it begins:

“No one could ever have predicted that a Japanese geek (Masi Oka, a Brown University grad in math and computer sciences who wasn’t even in the initial script) and a homely Latina (America Ferrera, who’s actually a babe under all those fashion faux pas) would be the hotties of the new network schedule. While Oka has emerged as the hero of NBC’s Heroes, advertisers and critics thought cast member Milo Ventimiglia from Gilmore Girls and this fall’s Rocky Balboa (yes, that Rocky Balboa, coming back again, apparently from the crypt this time) looked to be the breakout star. Meanwhile, NBC rejected Ugly Betty as a half-hour comedy; it took bringing on Salma Hayek (who’s appearing in early episodes) as a producer and making it an hour dramedy before Mark Pedowitz, the president of Touchstone Television, saw the beauty in Ugly. Usually, network TV is bad news 24/7, for which I’m continually thankful, since it’s no fun to write about network hits. Then folks would get the misconception that network suits know what they’re … Read More »

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Lee Gabler’s Daughter Flees CAA for Endeavor; CAA Partner About To Retire?

By | Tuesday October 17, 2006 @ 3:16pm PDT

Endeavor.jpgAt first it was a hot rumor. Now I have confirmation: Jennifer Gabler Rawlings, a motion picture talent agent at CAA and daughter of CAA partner Lee Gabler, arrived on Endeavor’s doorstep today. She worked closely with Endeavor partners Adam Venit and Patrick Whitesell when they were CAA agents. CAAInterior.jpgEveryone at Endeavor is thrilled, yada, yada. But, jeez, she’s Gabler’s daughter and now she’s working for the competition. So I’m hearing that TV macher Gabler will be announcing his retirement from CAA in the very near future. (No confirmation yet, however.) I do know that there has been some bad blood between Lee and CAA’s other partners who haven’t treated him very well for some time now. CAALogo-thumb.jpgGabler, a real human being as opposed to an automaton, is one of the greats whose class would be sorely missed. Right now, there’s a feeding frenzy between Endeavor and CAA for clients: CAA is circling the wagons, so it’s not certain that two clients most identifed as Rawlings — Rachel Weisz and Viggo Mortensen — will jump with her. Her Dad, long the head of the television division in its post-Bill Haber incarnation, jumped to CAA 23 years ago. His wife is Elizabeth Gabler, the president of Fox 2000.

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‘Santa Clause 3′ Is Tracking BIGGER Than Hyped ‘Borat’; Both Head-To-Head Nov. 3

By | Tuesday October 17, 2006 @ 9:10am PDT

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I’m told that, right now, early tracking shows that Santa Clause 3 will be bigger at the box office than the much hyped comedy Borat. “The middle of the country is not in on the Borat joke yet,” one movie marketing expert explained to me today. Few pics have received as much pre-release publicity as Sacha Baron Cohen’s satire, whose full title is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Though the Fox flick opens on November 3rd, it started making waves at the Cannes Film Festival and wowed audiences at September’s Toronto Film festival. Recently, Cohen, in character as a fictional TV reporter, Borat Sagdiyev, the “sixth most famous man in Kazakhstan”, staged various Washington D.C. publicity stunts outside the White House gates and Kazakh Embassy during a state visit by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayevin (who was not amused). boratwhitehouse_wideweb__470x323,21.jpgThe media ate it up, and since then Cohen, already a cult figure as Ali G. on HBO, has been red hot in Hollywood. But Internet hype does not necessarily translate into box office hype, as New Line’s Snakes On A Plane showed. The satire of Borat, lampooning Kazakh culture with anti-Semitic mockumentaries, may be too elitist for Middle America, as the tracking is starting to show. But Fox claims now it didn’t think Borat could … Read More »

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Sony’s ‘Grudge 2′ Scares Up Top Spot; Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’ Has Legs; Robin Williams Is No ‘Man Of The Year’

By | Saturday October 14, 2006 @ 7:48am PDT

SUNDAY UPDATE: I’m told Sony scored its 12th No. 1 movie opening of the year when horror movie Grudge 2 took advantage of the perfect release time: Friday the 13th. Playing in 3,211 theaters, the movie starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Amber Tamblyn raked in a good $9.6 million that day. (One rival studio put the # higher at $10.3 mil.) But the pic dropped 26% Saturday taking in $7.5 mil for what ended as a $22 mil weekend. (The sequel’s $$$ opening was only 2/3s of the original’s.) Warner Bros.’ The Departed from Marty Scorsese finished #2 and showed the pic had legs, dropping only 27% from the previous weekend. The critically applauded movie, already an Oscar contender, added another $5.9 mil Friday and $8.3 mil Saturday from 2,545 theaters for a cume of $57.5 mil and another $19.5 mil weekend. The big surprise was the near tanking of Universal’s critically panned comedy Man of the Year: not even star Robin Williams and director Barry Levinson could save this sinker. (Either his career is on its last legs, or else the public is sick of politics because of the approaching midterm elections.) The #3 flick did only $4 mil Friday and $5.2 mil Saturday from 2,515 theaters for what was a mere $12.5 mil opening weekend. Sony’s animated kiddie flick Open Season finished a respectable #4 its third weekend out, dropping only 30% per cent to take in $2.8 mil Friday and $4.9 mil Saturday (the bigger number thanks … Read More »

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Finke/LA Weekly: Dean of Sycophants (And The Paper Drops A Bomb)

By | Friday October 13, 2006 @ 6:07pm PDT

My latest lalogo.gif column Dean Of Sycophants, written and posted early this week, dealt with how much news the Los Angeles Times is not giving its already ill-served readers about its current battle with Tribune Co., its firing and hiring of publishers, and all the other things distracting the paper from its central job of reporting. Here’s how it begins:

0606_Pulpit_09.jpg“I’m not very popular on Spring Street nowadays. (Then again, I wasn’t much liked when I worked there either.) An editor at the Los Angeles Times just accused me of “wanting the death” of the paper. That’s because in recent days, I’ve called on Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet to resign. I’ve called out the new publisher as a Tribune Toady and exposed him as a right-wing Reaganite who once advocated illegal-alien “concentration camps”.And now I can even justify those parent company–ordered staff cuts deemed so damn draconian. All this is my way of counterbalancing the increasing sanctimoniousness that has infected the paper’s coverage of its current chaos and crisis. Those staff petitions, those photos of foreign correspondents wearing T-shirts featuring Baquet in a defiant pose, and all sorts of other slavish nonsense usually associated with cults. Any day now, I imagine a team of carpenters erecting a pulpit for media critic Tim Rutten, whose columns have become insufferably evangelical, and then a … Read More »

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Why Is David Geffen Selling His $$$ Art?

By | Friday October 13, 2006 @ 9:09am PDT

UPDATE: *Now there’s talk that David Geffen sold a third painting…* Is the mogul selling some of his spectacular art collection to amass a war chest to buy the Los Angeles Times from Tribune Co? Nice to be able to take two paintings off the wall and sell them privately to some hedge fund billionaires, then pocket a neat $143.5 million. The New York Times reported that Geffen deacquisitioned Jasper Johns’ 1959 “False Start” (left) for $80 million and Willem de Kooning’s 1955 “Police Gazette” (right) for $63.5 mil. The new owners are Kenneth Griffin (who visited fell in love with the painting during an art tour of Geffen’s estate) and Steven Cohen respectively; both are building high-profile art collections. (For more on the showbiz-art connection, see my 2005 LA Weekly feature: Blame Ovitz: When Art Started Imitating Hollywood.) The prices bode well for November’s big auction sales, among the largest ever; Christie’s Impressionist and Modern art sale alone, scheduled for November 8th, carries a low estimate of some $300 million. ”The sales are feeding speculation that Mr. Geffen is trying to raise money to buy The Los Angeles Times,” The NYT said. “But it is clear that like many other seasoned collectors, he is taking advantage of a red-hot market infused with money made by today’s crop of hedge-fund billionaires.” Actor Steve Martin, too, is said to be deacquisitioning. On the other hand, plenty of other Hollywood folk keep acquisitioning. At one art auction where New Line’s Bob Shaye … Read More »

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LA Times’ Calendar Section In The Dark

By | Thursday October 12, 2006 @ 4:19pm PDT

The Los Angeles Times is in more dire financial straits than previously thought, judging from today’s internal memo from deputy editor for features Sherry Stern: ”Hi all. They’re going to start turning the lights on and off in each area to conserve energy… I’m trying to get a handle on the many hours that Calendar writers are here. If you start really early, stay really late or work on weekends, can you let me know those hours so I can make sure we’re covered? (And don’t worry, there will be a switch to turn on the lights if you come in here when the lights are off.) Tnx.”

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Allan Mayer Partners Up With Leslee Dart

By | Wednesday October 11, 2006 @ 7:22am PDT

AM.jpgSmart of Sitrick and Company’s Allan Mayer to partner with Leslee Dart in the Dart Group’s newly renamed 42West showbiz flacking shop instead of go it alone. (Mayer had indicated there was another shoe to drop re his ankling announcement, but then gave that news to Variety first.) Nattering nabobs in the PR biz have been whispering to me for some time now that Dart took with her as much as a third of Pat Kingsley’s showbiz business when Dart got bounced from PMK in 2004. But Pat also boasts a big corporate business now. Mayer (photo courtesy of  jackiedanicki.com) will be the only partner based in the West Coast (Century City) offices of this NYC-based flackery, and start a new strategic communications division.
Previous: Showbiz Comings & Goings at Sitrick PR

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