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Top 10 Actress Earners? On What Planet!

By | Thursday November 30, 2006 @ 3:41pm PST

So I’ve read The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual list of highest earning actresses and about some in the Top 10 all I can say is: ON WHAT PLANET? Here are my reasons:

nicole.jpg1. Nicole Kidman, makes $16 mil-$17 mil. What she should be earning: -$1 mil. That’s right, I’m saying that Nicole should be paying film companies to hire her, not the other way around. That’s because she’s poison at the box office, the female equivalent of Sean Penn. Women dislike her, men don’t think she’s sexy, and those Chanel ads induce nausea. My guess is Nicole’s rate dates back to Sony Pictures overpaying her for that bomb Bewitched. Since then, she’s been doing smaller films, but is signing for studio projects right now. Note to majors: save your $$$ and hire Reese or Angelina.

2. Reese Witherspoon, $15 mil. What she should be earning: $25 mil. Reese can do no wrong. Women love her, men love her, the camera loves her. And she’s smart: when she was looking for a new agency, she lamented not owning her Legally Blonde character because it’ll be Broadway bound. Which doesn’t mean all her films are great, but she’s always great in them. She opens a movie. ‘Nuff said.

renee.jpg3. Renee Zellweger, $15 mil. What she should be earning: $5 mil. Renee doesn’t open movies, unless the material is Bridget Jones-cloned. She’s … Read More »

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The 411 On CAA Starting To Lose Clients

By | Thursday November 30, 2006 @ 1:44pm PST

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caalogo-thumb.jpgBeyoncé, Kate Hudson, Hugh Grant — all have left CAA within days. True, Jim Carrey recently moved from UTA to CAA, but so far his new agency not only can’t keep his old projects from blowing up either, but he’s still not cast in anything new. (Indeed, CAA went back to Fox to try to restart his Used Guys, just like UTA did, and the studio said no, just like it did to UTA. So much for the CAA mystique.) And don’t forget that CAA recently was powerless to keep Microsoft’s much-hyped Halo from being deep-sized by the studios. While this isn’t yet a “CAA tripping up” trend, it’s certainly an interesting development for an agency that hasn’t shaken loose many clients in recent years. After all, CAA still poaches agents with tempting offers of 5-year, $5 mil contracts that aren’t dependent on bringing over old clients or signing new ones. But let’s face it, that kind of largesse can’t go on ad infinitum, either. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: in my opinion, CAA’s philosophy of agenting runs contrary to the best interests of talent. After all, president Richard Lovett has always embraced two essential guiding principles: first, that the company is always more important than the clients; and, second, that it doesn’t … Read More »

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Comments On My Screenwriter Column…

By | Thursday November 30, 2006 @ 12:36pm PST

Among the incredible reactions to my latest lalogo.gif column, Screenwriters In The Shit, come these two astute comments:

“An interesting side note is how well some of the New York based scribblers are doing. Tony Gilroy, David Koepp, John Hamburg, Richard LaGravenese, the team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien, are all among the highest paid, constantly working writers. Don’t know why it is, if somehow their lack of proximity makes them more desirable.”

And this: “One thing that caught my eye: of your list of the top screenwriters not one was a woman. Not a single one. Which isn’t you – it’s just the facts. And I got to thinking – because the list is clearly correct (we all know the names). Not really sure (I think not) that a single one is a minority either, which falls into the same category.”

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2007 Sundance Film Festival Lineup

By | Wednesday November 29, 2006 @ 1:26pm PST

Here’s the lineup for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival (January 18-28). Brett Morgan’s docu Chicago 10 will open the fest. A total 64 films have been selected to compete for the best new work categories. A total 122 feature films were selected, representing 25 countries with nearly 60 first- or second-time feature filmmakers. These were selected from 3,287 feature submissions, up from 2006. Said SDF director Geoffrey Gilmore: “This year’s American Competition reflects a newfound awareness and self-expression that results in an engagement by the work that is both political and personal, a collective voice fueled by a steadfast optimism and hope for the future.”

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While Mr. $4 Mil Akiva Goldsman Fiddles, More Accomplished Movie Scribes Burn

By | Wednesday November 29, 2006 @ 12:03pm PST

My latest lalogo.gif column, Screenwriters In The Shit, examines today’s desperate situation in Hollywood: while Akiva Goldsman fiddles, more accomplished movie scribes burn. It puts into context my exclusive last week about Goldsman (“Keevie” to his childhood pals) receiving a record $4 million for a Dan Brown book adaptation that’ll be Sony/Imagine’s sequel to The Da Vinci Code. Here’s how it begins:

barton.jpg“Every year, one of the major Hollywood talent agencies conducts a running tally of all studio jobs snagged by screenwriters. In 2005, there were 10 percent fewer hires than the year before. So far for 2006, there are 15 percent fewer. That’s a big drop in two years. ‘These jobs,’ said the admittedly depressed literary agent, ‘just disappeared.’ A manager joins the pity party and describes a litany of givebacks by his scribbling clients: free treatments, free rewrites, free polishes and/or free script-doctoring — all done with the hollow hope that the studio will give schmucks with Underwoods a paying gig sooner rather than never. As for those sparse scribes offered real pay for projects, they’re buckling under studio demands by cutting their usual and customary by 30 percent. ‘It’s the bewildering nature of the business right now that nobody has a quote. It’s a quote-free system,’ an agent describes. In a word, it … Read More »

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How To Fight Hollywood’s Caste System

By | Wednesday November 29, 2006 @ 10:33am PST

The findings of this report on casting aren’t a surprise, but the fact that they justify legal action against the Hollywood caste system is. A new study by the UCLA School of Law and UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center finds that Latino, black, Asian American and Native American actors have few acting opportunities available to them. But the study’s law professor author challenges the legality of race-specific casting announcements and suggests that actors may have legal recourse in federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Can you spell C-L-A-S-S  A-C-T-I-O-N  L-A-W-S-U-I-T? According to UCLA, the findings are based on a 2006 survey of casting announcements, akaphotocollage.jpg

“breakdowns”. The study found that 69%of the roles were reserved for white actors and another 8.5% were open to white actors as well as non-white actors. Actors of color were limited to between .5% and about 8% of the roles, depending on racial background. “Casting directors take into account race and sex in a way that would be blatantly illegal in any other industry,” Robinson said. “Many actors accept this as normal, but depending on the facts of the case, lawsuits can be filed.” He believes that, in many instances, taking race and sex into account for acting roles violates Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination. According to Robinson, many casting breakdowns currently restrict, without any … Read More »

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Pam Anderson/Kid Rock ‘Borat’ Bust-Up: What’s Ron Meyer Got To Do With It?

By | Wednesday November 29, 2006 @ 9:57am PST

Here’s what interests me — well, more like confuses me — about the Pam Anderson/Kid Rock Borat bust-up: This happened at Ron Meyer’s home? Whaaaat? (By the way, Page Six says it took place at the Universal COO’s house in Beverly Hills. Everyone else knows he lives in Malibu.) My question is this: Why in the world were those two losers included among the 20 VIPs on what’s supposed to be a triple-A screening list? The explanation is rather ordinary: Anderson is a friend of a Meyer neighbor, who asked the studio mogul if Pam and Kid Rock could come over for the screening because new hubby hadn’t seen new bride in Borat yet. The way Page Six made it sound, there was a screaming match in the middle of Meyer’s screening room. Wrong. None of the guests knew anything happened — just that the couple left before the movie ended.

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Pellicano: Woman Who Got Away Indicted

By | Tuesday November 28, 2006 @ 2:23pm PST

If at first the feds do not succeed, they try, and try, again. So word from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Los Angeles today is that a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against former SBC phone employee Joann Wiggan last Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving…. apparently it fell through the cracks with the holiday). Her arraignment may take place as soon as on Monday, Dec. 4. All three counts in the indictment carry a maximum possible penalty of five years in federal prison. This  is the same woman who went on trial for perjury in September, and a jury returned verdicts acquitting her of four of the five counts. The jury split 6-6 on the third count. At the time, the feds emphasized that the loss of this case had no bearing on the upcoming racketeering and wiretapping trial against celebrity P.I. thug Anthony Pellicano and others scheduled to begin August 22nd. Previous: Pellicano: Feds Lose Wiggan Perjury Case, Pellicano: Phone Employee’s Perjury Trial

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‘Casino Royale’ Biggest Global Bond Ever; #1 Pic Overseas With $224+ Mil Already

By | Sunday November 26, 2006 @ 7:23am PST

bondprepar.jpg007 so far is doing Da Vinci Code-like biz in all 50 countries where it’s opened No. 1 (except the U.S. where it opened No. 2). There were 18 new international debuts for Casino Royale (in Paris theater, at left) this week – all #1, including France, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia. So far, that’s an overseas total of $66.2 mil from this weekend’s haul — the 6th biggest international weekend of 2006. Last week, the spy pic was #1 in all 27 countries where it opened, earning $42.2 mil from the UK, Russia, India and small territories in the Mideast and Asia. (Last week, it scored the #9 all-time UK opening, and the biggest Bond opening ever in the UK by 46%.) Right before the debut weekend, Sony Pictures was lowering expectations for Casino Royale in the U.S. and counting more on foreign sales. The studio was right: the pic now looks like the biggest Bond ever worldwide, moving up from $82.8 mil last weekend to easily passing $224.5 mil this weekend (including the $128.2 mil foreign and $94.2 mil U.S. cume) with many major foreign territories still to go, including Japan, Korea, Italy and Australia. casinoroyale_danielcraig.jpgBox office gurus say Daniel Craig will easily blow past the biggest grosser in the Pierce Brosnan series, 2002′s Die Another Day, and its $432 mil global take. Estimate is for Casino Royale to make as much as $575 mil globally. 007 is still #1 … Read More »

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Tap Dancin’ Baby Mumbles Hot Xmas Toy: ‘Happy Feet’ No. 1, ‘Casino Royale’ No. 2; It’s ‘Deja Vu’ (#3) At The U.S. Box Office

By | Thursday November 23, 2006 @ 12:28pm PST

babymumbles.jpgSUNDAY AM: Happy T-Bird weekend, and get out of the way for the mall stampede as shoppers try to score one of the hottest toys this holiday season: Happy Feet‘s Baby Mumbles, on sale for $29.99, which tap dances to any type of music playing. Ah, the commercialism of Xmas! A big moviegoing weekend it has been — with the top 3 films estimated to do $160 million from Friday through Sunday, and $220 mil from Wednesday through Sunday. (But that’s still -5% from last year because of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.) Welcome to déjà vu at the box office. On Thanksgiving Day, Bond traded places with the birds to become America’s #1 movie after the penguins triumphed on the T-Bird weekend opener. It was a replay of last weekend on Friday, however: Happy Feet waddling past Casino Royale to be the No. 1 movie thanks to huge kiddie matinees. dejavu.jpg(That is, if you can even hear the movie above the din of all that whining, “I wanna Baby Mumbles!”) Screening in 3,804 theaters, those Warner penguins made another $7.3 million Wed, $6 mil Thurs, $15.7 Fri, $14.3 mil Sat, for what was a $38.1 mil three-day weekend and a $51.5 mil five-day holiday and a cume over $100.7 million by Monday. Sony/MGM’s 007 flick in 3,443 playdates raked in $6.5 mil Wed, $7.5 mil Thurs, $13.1 mil Fri, … Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: New $ High for Screenwriter

By | Wednesday November 22, 2006 @ 10:38am PST

akiva.jpgI’m about to give all the Hollywood moguls indigestion before they’ve even taken a bite of their Thanksgiving meal. That’s because I’m told that Akiva Goldsman, who adapted Dan Brown’s worldwide bestseller into a $755.6 mil hit pic, is receiving $4 million for the Da Vinci Code sequel in the works by both Imagine Entertainment and Sony Pictures. Not only is that major moola, but agents are telling me this represents a new $$$ high for hiring a screenwriter (not buying a spec script)  — and not even an original screenplay, but an adaptation of a book. And, no, Goldsman isn’t getting a producer credit, so this is for straight scribbling. “That would be a lot for a pure writer’s credit,” one agent gushed. “It puts Akiva in the absolute top of his profession.” (Actually, the first rumor I heard was an astounding $6 mil, but the truth is $2 mil less than that. As for whether the deal also includes gross points, dunno.) Anyway, this is great news for Hollywood screenwriters, who continue to get screwed left and right in the moviemaking process, notwithstanding the WGA’s supposedly best but also glacial efforts to prevent that. The terrible news is that it’s sad these bucks are going for the sequel to a movie which the critics roundly panned. Generally, the most in-demand screenwriters these days are getting between $2 mil and $2.5 mil per project. And Sony historically has … Read More »

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RIP: John M Higgins, Astute B&C Editor

By | Tuesday November 21, 2006 @ 3:33pm PST

What a shock that Broadcasting & Cable‘s business editor John M. Higgins is gone at the age of 45 (Monday night, of a heart attack). Like most good journalists, he had a way of establishing an instant and easy intimacy with people, and that extended to colleagues in the scribbling biz. What brought us together, so to speak, was my LA Weekly column (November 2004) spanking the Los Angeles Times’ resident brat, Joel Stein. Wrote Higgins: “Hmmm, I’m not sure I’ve EVER agreed with you more than this column. ‘Whoring after youth???’ Nah, just whoring. I don’t think even youth reads Joel Stein’s crap. I totally don’t understand the appeal…” Like most journalists who work for trades, John knew a lot more than he ever shared with his readers. He was an astute analyst of journalism as a profession, too, as he wrote me in July: ”The media beats of the NY Times, WSJ and LA Times aren’t really the prestigious places they once were. They’ve become pretty awful places to work. Sure, they’re great megaphones. But as the financial prospects of newspapers wane, the abused children on the top of the masthead in turn abuse their own children. The big papers have always been intense, competitive places where navigating internal politics was at least as important as developing tremendous sources. The difference today is that there’s no promise of a glowing future if you succeed. You get thinned from the herd, even if you’re … Read More »

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RIP: Robert Altman 1925-2006

By | Tuesday November 21, 2006 @ 9:07am PST

Robert Altman, the director and writer and producer known for his originality and creativity, died at age 81. Who didn’t love his movies? I thought, as a tribute, I’d reprint a portion of his speech accepting the Honorary Academy Award during the 78th Oscar broadcast. (He never won an Oscar, but should have): “I’ve always said

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that making a film is like making a sand castle at the beach. You invite your friends, and you get them down there, and you build this beautiful structure, several of you. Then you sit back and watch the tide come in. Have a drink, watch the tide come in, and the ocean just takes it away. And that sand castle remains in your mind. Now I’ve built about 40 of them, and I never tire of it. No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have. I’m very fortunate in my career. I’ve never had to direct a film I didn’t choose or develop. I love filmmaking. It has given me an entree to the world, and the human condition, and, for that, I’m forever grateful.”

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Another Pellicano Trial Delay: August 22

By | Monday November 20, 2006 @ 5:50pm PST

Pellsmaller.jpgU.S. District Court judge federal Dale Fischer today postponed the racketeering and wiretapping trial of Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano until August 22. Originally scheduled first for October and then for February, the trial keeps getting delayed. The problem seems to be the interminable discovery process taking place. Pellicano opposed a joint motion by prosecutors and five defense attorneys representing other defendants in the case to postpone the trial until September. According to the AP, 14 people have been charged so far in the case, with six pleading guilty to a variety of charges, including conspiracy and wire fraud. One person has been acquitted.

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Kramer Apologized On Dave Tonight With Seinfeld’s Help; Behind The Meltdown: Comedy Clubs Are Cesspools Of Hate

By | Monday November 20, 2006 @ 1:24pm PST

kramer.jpgUPDATE: I’m told arrangements were made by none other than Jerry Seinfeld himself for Michael Richards to go on Letterman via satellite tonight. Video here. “Kramer” made a major apology on Dave’s Late Show which had Seinfeld scheduled as a guest already. Richard’s appearance during Seinfeld’s interview was treated as a surprise. Kramer made a  mea culpa, and sources at the taping told me that both Letterman and Seinfeld seemed to accept what he was saying as remorseful. At times angry, at times frustrated, Richards mostly looked embarrassed. I’m told the Hollywood people around him jumped into action “to avoid a Mel Gibson delay” whereby that apology was not fast or complete enough. Richards said he lost his cool and flew into “a rage” while being heckled and not because he’s a bigot. “For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I’m deeply, deeply sorry. I’m not a racist.”

kramer3.jpgIn my opinion, the real news behind Seinfeld’s Michael Richards spewing “n”-word racial epithets after being heckled during his Friday night stand-up routine at the Laugh Factory (see video here) is this: many of today’s comedy clubs have become a cesspool of hatred. Inside them, racism, ethnic prejudice, religious bigotry, homophobia and sexism all masquerade as humor. Anyone who’s been to the clubs and heard the acts knows this to be true. Yet, in most cases, the … Read More »

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PHOTO FINISH! Birds Beat Bond For #1; ‘Happy Feet’ Runs Away With Matinees; But 007 Opens Huge No. 1 In 27 Countries

By | Friday November 17, 2006 @ 3:41pm PST

danielbond.JPGSUNDAY AM: (Refresh for latest) Whose numbers to believe? Sony officially tallied the Casino Royale weekend take at $40.6 mil, lower than any rival studio’s estimate, and Warner Bros. officially put Happy Feet at $42.3 mil, higher than any other competitor’s estimate. (About Warner’s estimate, one box office guru told me this AM, “They are being extremely aggressive with their number, and I am not sure come tomorrow that they will be able to live up to the heights they are setting today.”) Other experts had it as a photo finish, with only $132K to $400K separating the #1 and #2 movies at the box office office this weekend. It’s all coming down to Sunday’s real figures, not estimates. bird2.jpgThis nailbiter of a race has been giving studio moguls’ flop sweat. That’s because there’s immense PR value in declaring a movie No. 1 in the U.S. market. Comparatively, the new Bond-as-Bourne scored the better per screen average – so, just as I’d predicted, the margin of difference came down to running time and theater count where the penguin pic had the edge on the spy. Overseas, 007 was #1 in all 27 countries where it opened, earning $42.2 mil from the UK, Russia, India and small territories in the Mideast and Asia. That’s 70% higher than the previous Die Another Day and by far the biggest Bond … Read More »

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Sitrick/BWR: No Love Lost, But No Faking

By | Thursday November 16, 2006 @ 11:33pm PST

When I first heard about bad blood between two major showbiz flackeries, Sitrick and Company and BWR, I was intrigued enough to look into it. Well, it had to do with BWR bringing in crisis specialist Sitrick and Company for representation of Ryan Phillippe, who’s Reese Witherspoon’s soon-to-be-ex, because BWR had a conflict of interest: they represented both actors. So, to avoid any problems, BWR was supposed to handle Reese’s side of the divorce and Sitrick was supposed to handle Ryan’s. Now there’s no love lost between Sitrick and BWR because of a screw-up. Talk about miscommunication: Sitrick didn’t know that BWR had arranged an exclusive with People mag on the Reese-Ryan divorce in its entirety, and BWR didn’t know that Sitrick was not only giving Ryan’s quotes to In Touch mag but also was about to give them to People‘s arch rival US mag. “That could have, and should have, been handled better,” Mike Sitrick candidly told me. And a BWR source huffed: “We would never have approved giving quotes to In Touch even if we had not made the arrangement with People.” Well, thanks to the Britney-Kevin split, and then the TomKat wedding, the Reese-Ryan divorce wasn’t that big a deal. So, since there was no crisis, BWR didn’t need Sitrick working on Ryan’s behalf anymore. But then the New York Post got involved. Guess the paper still bears a grudge for Mike Sitrick’s personal role in the Jared Paul Stern-Ron Burkle scandal — because Page Six … Read More »

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Tracking: Birds #1 & Bond #2 in U.S.? ‘Casino Royale’ UK Biggest 007 Opening

By | Thursday November 16, 2006 @ 1:00pm PST

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FRIDAY UPDATE: Friday U.S. Matinees: Bond Beating Birds

THURSDAY UPDATE: I’m told Casino Royale with Daniel Craig is having the biggest opening day ever for a Bond film in the UK. Looks like it will beat previous high from Die Another Day for sure. The pic did 1.7M pounds in the UK, which was 67% of the day’s total box office. 007′s previous highest total for a UK opening was Die Another Day‘s 1.1M pounds.

Ultimately, it may come down to running times and theater count to see which will open No. 1 in America this weekend: Warner’s Happy Feet is only 1 hour, 38 minutes long with 3,804 playdates, while Sony’s Casino Royale is 2 hours, 24 minutes long (the longest Bond flick ever) with 3,434 theaters. My own bet is the penguins since they have more showings per day and in more theaters. (But that’s balanced by those cut-rate kiddie tickets.) I just heard that Sony is lowering expectations and expects to come in 2nd to Happy Feet here at home — counting more on foreign sales. Today’s 007 opening day in England. For the first time, a Bond pic will be released in China (Jan. 30). The latest tracking shows them still neck and neck to be America’s No. 1 … Read More »

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Film Threat’s 2006 ‘Frigid 50′ List

By | Thursday November 16, 2006 @ 12:14pm PST

I love Hollywood lists. I even love those flack-phonied-up Hollywood lists about “Best Feet” which are little more than an excuse just to mention actor clients who can’t get any other ink. Best of all are the cynical lists. So Film Threat has issued its annual 2006 “Frigid 50″ List of the Coldest People In Hollywood ”detailing the least-powerful, least-inspiring, least-intriguing people in all of Tinseltown” right now. I’ve picked out my favorites here. And remember to send those nasty emails to Film Threat (founded in 1985 by Chris Gore as an underground fanzine and in 1996 launched as one of the Internet’s first cinema-related web sites), not me. I get enough of ‘em already:

alba.jpg1. Mel Gibson: The good news is that Mel finally has something in common with the most popular man in America. The bad news is that Borat hates Jews, too. In even worse news, Borat is fictional and he was joking. With Mel, we’re not quite sure.

“3. Borat: How can the top box office winner for two straight weeks be on the Frigid 50 already? Simple: there’s no future for Borat. The surprise-faux-documentary filmmaking style won’t work a second time, the participants of the first film keep bringing lawsuits and Borat has gone from cute and misunderstood to recognizable and annoying, even getting physically assaulted in NYC after his Saturday Night Live taping.

“6. Mark Cuban: Hey, how about releasing a movie simultaneously in theaters, on DVD, … Read More »

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