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Pirated: ‘Hostel II’ Bootlegs & Downloads

By | Thursday May 31, 2007 @ 5:12pm PDT

elianimation.gifI wish this were being done out of hostility to Hostel II but it’s because of the popularity of the Lionsgate horror franchise. First, bootlegs turned up on Los Angeles street corners. Now stellar workprints of the torture porn pic, albeit with an annoying bar at the bottom, are making the rounds of the Internet available at many of the movie download sites. Even the $5 DVD copies circulating are studio-grade. Hard to imagine this won’t have a financial impact on the horror flick’s June 8th theatrical release. I say, fine: Lionsgate deserves to feel the effects of piracy (not to mention the wrath of mankind) for distributing such a disgusting film. I always support a moviemaker’s right to make whatever creative project he wants. But when businesses profit off uber-violence, the marketplace shouldn’t reward them.
Previous: ‘Hostel’ Eli Roth, Lover Of Blood & Nudity

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Publisher Laments LA Times Is “Broken”

By | Thursday May 31, 2007 @ 4:07pm PDT

I couldn’t believe the Los Angeles Times printed an article today quoting Hollywood honorary mayor Johnny Grant about Lindsay Lohan. At first I thought the two reporters were goofing on the geezer by using him as the lead sage on popular culture. Nope, they were just being clueless. As is the paper overall. I get sent so much email about troubles at the Los Angeles Times, including internal memos, that I’d do nothing but write about that sad sack paper every day. logo_latimes.gifAnd I don’t have the stomach for that. ( usually has the latest twist and turn, including who’s taking the buyouts.) But an excerpt from today’s missive from publisher David Hiller to the staff was positively ulcer-inducing. “First, evidence mounts every day of the big, pressing need to change our business. david_hiller1.jpgThe old model is broken, and it’s showing in our financial performance. Revenue in April was down nearly 9%, and May will be down about the same. Cash flow is down even more, with April 34% below last year – leaving us with a cash flow margin in the low teens,” the Tribune Co toadie writes. “The urgency of our situation is heightened by the Zell/ESOP transaction. The future value of the company – and the ESOP – depends upon our cash flow results to pay down the debt and invest … Read More »

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TOLDJA SO! Harry Potter ‘Theme Park Within A Theme Park’ Announced by Warner & Universal (See First Peek)

By | Wednesday May 30, 2007 @ 9:00pm PDT


owlviewsmaller.jpgWarner Bros Entertainment and Universal Orlando Resort tonight finally gave out details to what I first reported back on April 13th: “The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter” is coming to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in late 2009. The two Hollywood entertainment companies also released these 3 first official artist renderings of the new theme park — and in my opinion they’re are spectacular! (See the concept images larger here.) The pair of studios are partnering to “create the world’s first fully immersive Harry Potter themed environment” envisioned as a “theme park within a theme park” and based on the best-selling books by J.K. Rowling and blockbuster feature films from Warner Bros. ”Over the years we’ve received thousands of letters from fans around the world wishing they could visit Hogwarts and the wonderful locations described in each of J.K. Rowling’s beloved stories,” Barry Meyer, Warner Bros Entertainment chairman/CEO said in the press release embargoed for tonight. ”Working with Universal Orlando Resort, we are confident that we’ll be able to provide Harry Potter fans with an incredible experience that upholds the richness of J.K. Rowling’s books and delivers on the authentic detail portrayed in our films.” Ron Meyer, Universal Studios president and COO said: “We will rely on our company’s rich movie heritage and expertise in transforming film concepts into theme park entertainment experiences. “The Harry Potter stories are among the most compelling of our time. The millions of people who have read the books and seen the movies will now be able to experience the world of Harry Potter in person.”

meyers.JPGThe artist renderings appear faithful to the visual landscapes of the films. The theme park planners promise to provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience the magical world of Harry and his friends, bring it to life in a physical environment that fans can walk through and relax in and ride on, as well as enable guests to visit some of the most iconic locations found in the books and the films including the village of Hogsmeade, the mysterious Forbidden Forest, and even Hogwarts castle. Read More »

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“The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter”

By | Wednesday May 30, 2007 @ 9:00pm PDT




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G’Bye Laura Holson, Hello Brooks Barnes: Meet NYT’s New Movie Business Reporter

By | Wednesday May 30, 2007 @ 5:45pm PDT

brooksbarnes.jpgBy tomorrow, this photo will be posted with all the studio guards, kinda like those Wanted: Dead Or Alive posters. The New York Times issued an internal memo today saying Brooks Barnes, a reporter on the TV beat at the Wall Street Journal for the last few years, is joining the NYT‘s Business Day to cover the entertainment industry from Los Angeles. Brooks will replace Laura Holson, who after six years in LA will return to New York to cover a national beat “focusing on the convergence of the communications, wireless and entertainment industries”. Brooks, who also will work closely with NYT culture desk reporters based in LA, will cover the business of Hollywood: the players, the studios, the financiers. Included in his Bizday portfolio will be Walt Disney Co. Before covering television, Brooks wrote for the WSJ‘s weekend section, and before that the Philadelphia Inquirer. The memo said “the entertainment business is in his blood. Barnes grew up traveling far and wide with his parents, who quit their teaching jobs when he was in the first grade to work for a carnival selling cotton candy.” Expect him on the beat later this summer. But from the sound of things, Holson’s job will entail mining her many showbiz contacts. Meanwhile, has some interesting analysis about what Barnes’ arrival may mean. I’m not sure I share all its opinions, but interesting all the same.
For my own recent coverage, see:

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    2007 Southern California Journalism Awards: Finalist In Four Categories

    By | Wednesday May 30, 2007 @ 2:46pm PDT

    The finalists for the Los Angeles Press Club’s 49th Southern California Journalism Awards “honoring the best in journalism in 2006″ were posted last week. Exact order of placement will be announced at the club’s Awards Gala Dinner on June 16th.
    ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST – Print, broadcast or online
    Nikki Finke, LA Weekly
    Nikki Finke, LA Weekly
    Nikki Finke, LA Weekly
    Nikki Finke, LA Weekly, “Blood Diamond”

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    Don’t Sweep This Under The Rug, NBC

    By | Wednesday May 30, 2007 @ 1:20am PDT

    nbc-past1.JPGYesterday, new creative honcho Ben Silverman and his boss Jeff Zucker gave interviews to compliant media (The New York Times, Variety, etc) who matter-of-factly reported NBC’s bizarre decision not to buy Silverman’s production company or demand he divest it before coming to work for the corporation. Hollywood insiders told me that NBC had to insist on either course of action before hiring Ben because of the perception if not the reality of the obvious conflict of interest. Given how successful Silverman’s Reveille has been creating, producing or packaging an eclectic mix of scripted and reality programs, spread across broadcast networks, cable networks and the Internet, Hollywood sputtered all Memorial Weekend over what a fortune it would cost NBC to bring in Ben. Yet the last thing Zucker wanted to do was look like a Big Spender to Wall Street. So a supposed solution was reached: Zucker claimed NBC simply extended its deal with Reveille for another two years without acquiring the company outright. In turn, Silverman will still own an interest in the company but appoint an exec to run it like a blind trust, complete with claims that Ben won’t participate in new shows for Reveille or profit financially from any programming decisions he makes that benefit his company.

    Who are they kidding? This sweet arrangement of letting Ben have his cake and eat it too is unworkable. And NBC knows this based on very sour past experiences.

    I researched what happened the last time NBC put a prolific producer in charge of its creative division: Don Ohlmeyer, whose busy Ohlmeyer Communications Co was producing both entertainment and sports, including such valuable franchises as the Skins Game golf tournament and the Indianapolis 500. (OCC was owned in part by RJR Nabisco and providing programming for networks and cable.) At the time NBC announced that Ohlmeyer would become its West Coast chief on February 4, 1993, both Bob Wright and Dapper Don said OCC would continue to operate intact — albeit under someone else’s direction and with Ohlmeyer remaining at “arm’s length.”

    Sound familiar? Read More »

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    NBC SHAKE-UP: My Final Wrap & Analysis

    By | Tuesday May 29, 2007 @ 3:53pm PDT


    Granted, the TV networks have always been the killing fields for creativity, but camaraderie usually governed the treatment of its executives. So the brazen brutality with which NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker gave his entertainment president the bum’s rush was the talk of the town all Memorial Weekend, especially because he tried to keep it secret and couldn’t. Oops. I spoiled Zucker’s best-laid plans by first reporting here last Friday that he was negotiating with 36-year-old prolific producer Ben Silverman in private to take over NBC’s showbiz duties all the while keeping Kevin Reilly in the dark about his imminent ouster. Hollywood fumed that the well-liked Reilly, who just signed a new three-year contract in March, didn’t even know he was losing his job until he read it in my blog. Then I updated here on Sunday to explain that Silverman would get the bigger job of NBC Universal West Coast chairman of something or other (similar to that enjoyed by the network’s last Hail Mary hire, Don Ohlmeyer, back in the ’90s) and share the title with Zucker’s Burbank capo Marc Graboff who would be promoted to run the business side of things. Finally, today, NBC announced that Silverman and Graboff were named co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio.

    theoffice2.jpgOn the surface, this seemed to neatly solve the problem of Hollywood naysayers wondering whether Silverman has the right stuff to be a network suit knowing what they do about Ben’s high-flyin’ lifestyle. (His moveable frat is his fancy private jet. And his ex-William Morris Agency colleagues still talk about the time he partied so hearty that his office looked ransacked, with empty beer bottles strewn all over and desk stuff dumped on floor. Silverman later told management that someone broke into his office.) But a deeper look shows that Silverman is way more fiscally responsible than Graboff is. As insiders tell me, one of the myriad problems at NBC is that their answer to every problem is to throw gobs of money at it and build convoluted management structures – and Graboff is a chief architect of that failing system. “The irony here is that Ben, as crazy as he is, is extremely cheap when it comes to business. He refuses to pay anything for rights or writers. He is infinitely more responsible with money and deals than Graboff, which is an open secret inside NBC,” a source explained. “Graboff no doubt is a good guy and very personable, and for that people like working with him. But he also makes the worst deals in town, throwing money away like crazy and focusing only on the short-term impact. For this, agents and lawyers like him because they know he can be easily worked.”

    The TV networks have been known to use psychics to set their primetime schedules. But I’m convinced that, to save his embattled fourth-place NBC mired with a 2007/2008 primetime schedule that sucks, Zucker is trying to channel the ghost of the late Brandon Tartikoff, the network’s best and boldest programmer, by hiring his protégé. (Silverman got his big break working for the TV legend when Tartikoff ran New World Entertainment in the early 1990s.) Just as NBC turned to thirtysomething Brandon in 1981 to bail it out of its bottom-feeding when there was turmoil in the executive ranks, a writer’s strike looming and no shows — absolutely no shows – in the Top 20, so is NBC turning to thirtysomething Ben now to bail it out of its bottom-feeding when there is turmoil in the executive ranks (involving Reilly’s No. 2 Katherine Pope, and Angela Bromstad, president of NBC Uni TV Studio: Katherine Pope Asking Exit?), a writer’s strike looming and few shows in the Top 20. As a long-time friend of Tartikoff’s, I remember him boasting about Ben. “He’s good for the Jews.” Funny, that’s also how Silverman was describing his soon-to-be NBC ascent: “It’s good for the Jews.” Read More »

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    Which Summer Film Headline To Believe?

    By | Tuesday May 29, 2007 @ 3:25pm PDT

    wsjlogo22.JPG Three Big Movie Franchises Have All Performed Admirably This Summer


    reuterslogo.jpg Early Summer Movies Underperform At Box Office

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    Box Office Catfight By Hollywood Studios

    By | Tuesday May 29, 2007 @ 1:20pm PDT


    UPDATED: Wow, these brawls rarely come out into the open. First, I received a statement from Sony Pictures Entertainment, and then later today, a statement from Disney. Sony’s first: “While Disney and the filmmakers of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End deserve their due on a remarkable opening worldwide, there are some irregularities in their claim regarding record-setting. There are at least two territories, Italy and France, where Buena Vista International opened the film on Tuesday —  in essence adding a seventh day of  grosses into Pirates’ “six day record”. disp3a.jpgWhile there may or may not be other territories that opened prior to Wednesday, we believe that as more and more day-and-date releases enter the marketplace, there should be a consistent standard in international box office reporting. This issue is larger than an opening week box office statistic. For the record, Spider-Man 3 grossed $418.1M in its first seven days of release worldwide with $256.7M generated from territories overseas and $161.4M accumulated in box office receipts from North America.”

    Now Disney’s: ”By any measure, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End clearly and deservedly holds the new record for a six-day opening at the global box office. A limited number of evening previews were held in Italy and France prior to the official opening day in those countries, but the grosses from those previews amounted to only $1.4M of the total. In the international marketplace, it is customary and common practice to include evening previews in the following opening day numbers. We are enormously proud of Pirates record-breaking worldwide opening gross of $404M. We look forward to the film’s subsequent openings in China and India.” Read More »

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    TOLDJA SO! Ben Silverman & Marc Graboff New Co-Chairmen Of NBC Ent/NBC Uni TV

    By | Tuesday May 29, 2007 @ 11:40am PDT

    nbcshakeup4.jpgFrom NBC Universal today out of Burbank: Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Ben Silverman, the prolific producer and program executive behind such television hits as “The Office,” “Ugly Betty,” and “The Biggest Loser,” as well as the man who brought “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and “Big Brother” to the United States, is becoming a senior executive at NBC Universal. Silverman and veteran NBCU executive Marc Graboff have been appointed Co-Chairmen of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio. (See my previous: NBC SHAKE-UP UPDATE: Kevin Reilly Officially Out. Ben Silverman Offered Bigger Job. Marc Graboff Upped + NBC SHAKE-UP! Ben Silverman Replacing Kevin Reilly? Katherine Pope Asking Exit?) The announcement was made today by Jeff Zucker, President and CEO, NBC Universal, to whom both Silverman and Graboff will report. Read More »

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    We’re Waiting, Jeff…

    By | Tuesday May 29, 2007 @ 7:21am PDT


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    Star Wars Celebration: Geeks On Parade

    By | Monday May 28, 2007 @ 11:12am PDT



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    HIDE THE RUM! ‘Pirates 3′ Breaks Global Opening Record & U.S. Holiday Wkd Mark; H’wood Studios Question Disney Claims

    By | Monday May 28, 2007 @ 7:56am PDT

    p3a.jpgMONDAY AM: Here’s the final tally for Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End: it looted a 4-day holiday weekend booty of $142 million in North America, setting the record for both Memorial Weekends and holiday weekends. But Disney was also celebrating how Johnny Depp and the gang’s threequel logged the “biggest opening of all time” at the worldwide box office, $401 million from 29,000 screens, beating the current industry record of $382M set by Sony’s Spider-Man 3 earlier this month. (Using all its global box office since Wednesday, the studio is comparing its first six days with Spidey 3‘s first six days which started Tuesday May 1st but didn’t have the Monday holiday. Therefore, P3 is celebrating the first six days of global opening, not global opening weekend. Yeah, these records get that technical.) But today there’s consternation among Hollywood studios about Disney’s box office reporting from overseas for its At World’s End. The word “irregularities” is even being thrown around this growing controversy. Read More »

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    NBC SHAKE-UP UPDATE: Kevin Reilly Officially Out. Ben Silverman Offered Bigger Job. Marc Graboff Upped.

    By | Sunday May 27, 2007 @ 2:26pm PDT

    jeffreilly102.JPGI have more information since my Friday posting which roiled NBC execs at 30 Rock and in Burbank. The latest is NBC Entertainment Prez Kevin Reilly has been fired. Yes, it’s finally over for him. And everything’s been resolved regarding that new contract Jeff Zucker gave him back in March. (My understanding is that when I reported that Reilly was being replaced, he didn’t know anything about it. That Zucks!) Meanwhile, NBC has clinched 36-year-old prolific producer Ben Silverman as its new showbiz honcho. He’ll have a bigger title than Reilly did. nbcshakeup4.jpgIt’ll be NBC Universal West Coast chairman or something (similar to that enjoyed by the network’s last Hail Mary hire, Don Ohlmeyer, back in the ’90s). At the same time, the very capable Marc Graboff will be promoted to still run the business side of things. I’m told there’s even the possibility that Graboff and Silverman will become co-chairs. This would nicely solve the problem of whether Silverman had the right stuff to manage the network’s showbiz division solo. Hollywood denizens will breathe a sigh of relief, knowing what they do about Ben’s high-flyin’ lifestyle. (Cool piece of trivia: both guys spent time as agents, Ben at William Morris and Marc at CAA). Read More »

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    Cannes Palme: Romanian Abortion Film; Schnabel Won! Coens & Quentin Snubbed!

    By | Sunday May 27, 2007 @ 7:37am PDT

    cannes20071.jpgUPDATE: A devastating Romanian film about back-alley abortion and daily despair in the communist era tonight won the 2007 Cannes Film Festival’s top award, the Palme d’Or. As I was tipped this morning, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, directed by Cristian Mungiu and made for only $800,000, was celebrated, cannes2007a.JPGalong with NYC artist Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell And The Butterfly which was awarded the Prix de la Mise en Scene for Best Director, and Fatih Akin’s German-Turkish The Edge of Heaven which was given the Prix du Scenario for Best Screenplay. American director Gus Van Sant won the Prix du 60th Anniversaire for his Paranoid Park. And the Grand Prix, considered the runner-up prize, went to The Mourning Forest helmed by Naomi Kawase. At this hotly contested 60th anniversary Cannes, the Coen brothers’ highly regarded No Country For Old Men was blanked as was Quentin tarantino’s Death Proof (1/2 of Grindhouse). Meanwhile, the much hyped and well received Sicko, Michael Moore’s documentary about the U.S. health care system, was not entered into competition. Read More »

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    U.S. Box Office: Pirate 3 Lagging Spidey 3

    By | Saturday May 26, 2007 @ 7:38am PDT


    MONDAY AM UPDATE: ‘Pirates 3′ Breaks Global Opening Record

    SUNDAY AM: The No. 1 movie in the country Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End didn’t meet the huge expectations for its 3-day box office gross receipts and trails Spider-Man 3‘s treasure trove. The Disney romp found $38 million in box office treasure Saturday, down 12% from its $43 million on Friday. lines100.jpgSunday is projected at $18.5 mil. So that’s $116 mil for its 3-day weekend from 4,362 theaters, well behind Sony’s Spider-Man 3‘s record-setting $151 mil from 4,252 venues earlier this month. ”It looks like Pirates needed the full 4-day holiday weekend, plus the prime showtimes on Thursday, to beat what Spidey 3 did,” one expert told me. “As great as these numbers are, and they are indeed great, it looks like they really came up short compared to what people expected.” (Day by day news and analysis here.) Across the country, lots of moviegoers went to see the pic in elaborate Pirates regalia. But perhaps P3‘s ass-numbing 2-hour, 48 minute running time dug into its box office along with the film’s middling reviews and its Thursday night soft opening. One expert added: “What I think turns out to be the factor this weekend was you had two other big films still in the marketplace taking close to $66M dollars of business out of their wallet.” Until Sunday’s gross receipts come in, it’s hard to know exactly where P3 will place in all-time 3-day opening weekend records: it could be 4th or 5th. Still, Johnny Depp and the gang will set the record for a 4-day holiday weekend with its projected $146 million. (#s don’t include Thurs $14 million gross.) Read More »

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    NBC SHAKE-UP! Ben Silverman Replacing Kevin Reilly? Katherine Pope Asking Exit?

    By | Friday May 25, 2007 @ 10:21am PDT

    2ND UPDATE: Urgent news from 30 Rock is that a big NBC shake-up is underway in the entertainment division, I’m told, after the network again finishes the season in 4th place behind CBS, ABC and Fox. nbc-logo-72rgb-pos_jpeg.jpgI can report that NBC has definitely offered Kevin Reilly’s job to Ben Silverman (don’t be surprised if it has an inflated title). Yes, that means Reilly is out one way or another, his new contract be damned. But the two big questions now are whether the network and Silverman can come to an agreement, and whether the producer has the right stuff to lead the network showbiz division. Certainly, Silverman has great taste. But as one source tells me, 36-year-old Ben ”can barely manage his way out of a paper bag” because of his extreme lifestyle, relentless ass kissing, and constant jetting around in his private plane. In any case, Zucker wants Silverman hog-tied to NBC. I also just got wind that the much-liked Katharine Pope has asked to be let out of her contract. (See below for more.) What’s so weird about the shake-up timing is that Reilly, NBC’s current entertainment czar, just signed a new contract that the network trumpeted back on March 1st. But now Jeff Zucker is looking for a fall guy (in more ways than one). Read More »

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    Can Johnny Beat Spidey At Box Office?

    By | Thursday May 24, 2007 @ 5:22pm PDT


    MONDAY AM UPDATE: ‘Pirates 3′ Breaks Global Opening Record

    SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Box Office – ’Pirates 3′ Lagging ‘Spidey 3′

    SATURDAY AM: There’s huge controversy and confusion on the high seas of the Hollywood studios over exactly how much booty the No. 1 movie in the country Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End looted at the box office Friday. I’m told to rely on this figure: a bountiful $43 million from 4,362 theaters. But Disney’s number is $44.4M. That’s a whole lotta domestic gross receipts, and the biggest Friday which Disney has ever had in its movie history. This will also be the studio’s biggest film weekend. But it wasn’t a single-day record: that still belongs to Spider-Man 3 which scored $59,841,919 on the Friday of its opening weekend, May 4th-May 6th. Some numbers, however, showed P3 with $57+ mil in its domestic treasure chest already, but that’s its cume to date: consisting of $14M from Thursday night showings (though Disney tallied $17M), plus $43M from Friday’s screenings (including midnight screenings of $3M). My box office gurus say P3 is projected to make between $140M-$145M for Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

    Read More »

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