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Labor Day Wkd Prediction: ‘Halloween’ #1

By | Thursday August 30, 2007 @ 11:12pm PDT

halloween_posterbig.jpgHalloween is arriving awfully early this year, but moviegoers have flocked to this franchise ever since 1978 when Michael Myers first began causing havoc. (I doubt they’ll care that this weekend is the wrong holiday.) My box office gurus expect the R-rated Halloween 9, directed by the aptly named Rob Zombie, to treat more than trick the box office over Labor Day weekend with $20+ million from 3,472 theaters. Finally, The Weinstein Co’s long drought hit-wise should ease modestly thanks to this reimagined horror pic from its Dimension Films. (What a relief to distributor MGM.) Sony’s low-cost coming of age laugher Superbad from mogul Judd Apatow’s comedy wheel expands into 3,002 venues (+54%) and should finish in 2nd place; its cume is already $75.1 mil going into its third weekend in release. My analysts expect Rogue Pictures’ extreme sports spoof Balls Of Fury opening in 3,052 runs to occupy 3rd despite some of the unfunniest ads I’ve ever seen. Universal’s The Bourne Ultimatum and New Line’s Rush Hour 3 should place 4th and 5th respectively.

Reminder: DHD will be posting box office this holiday weekend but little else.

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Pellicano To Dominick Dunne: Don’t Do It

By | Thursday August 30, 2007 @ 2:14pm PDT

dunnepellicanno.JPGThen Hollywood producer Dominick Dunne claims Anthony Pellicano talked him out of arranging a hit on the life of the man who murdered his daughter Dominique. So the Vanity Fair special correspondent tells Kim Masters about those well-chronicled dark years after his daughter was strangled by her former boyfriend in 1982. Dunne hired Pellicano to keep tabs on the killer. But Dunne also reached out to the P.I. to help him put out a contract on the guy. “I was nuts at that time with rage and hate that the guy who strangled my daughter for five minutes until she was dead got out in two and a half years,” Dunne claims. “I truly went through a period of wanting to hire somebody. I wanted harm to come to him.” Dunne didn’t expect Pellicano to do the deed but to arrange it.  “He said something to the effect of, ‘Dominick, you don’t want to do this.’ I was willing to be talked out of it.” Years later, on the night before Pellicano went to prison for wiretapping and recketeering charges, Dunne, now a victims’ rights advocate, got an unexpected goodbye call from the P.I..

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Katrina Crisis Revisited: Morass & Media

By | Wednesday August 29, 2007 @ 4:27pm PDT

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On the second anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, film director Spike Lee and CNN special correspondent Soledad O’Brien present “Children Of The Storm” tonight on the all-news channel. The duo gave cameras to 11 New Orleans area students back in January to record their lives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Spike told the kids to “just go out and shoot, tape is cheap.” Lee, of course, did the Katrina documentary When The Levees Broke. Here’s part of the column I wrote that Labor Day weekend, They Shoot News Anchors: Part II:

“For the first 120 hours after Hurricane Katrina, TV journalists were let off their leashes by their mogul owners, the result of a rare conjoining of flawless timing katrinawilliams_hmed_12p_hmedium.jpg(summer’s biggest vacation week) and foulest tragedy (America’s worst natural disaster). All of a sudden, broadcasters narrated disturbing images of the poor, the minority, the aged, the sick and the dead, and discussed complex issues like poverty, race, class, infirmity and ecology that never make it on the air in this swift-boat / anti-gay-marriage / Michael Jackson media-sideshow era. So began a perfect storm of controversy. Contrary to the scripture so often quoted in these areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, the TV newscasters knew the truth, but the truth did not set them free. Because once the crisis point had passed, most TV journalists went back to business-as-usual, their choke chains yanked by … Read More »

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How Delusional Is This ‘Kid Nation’ Guy?

By | Wednesday August 29, 2007 @ 11:11am PDT

kidnation1.jpg“I look at that contract and I think I agree to most of that stuff on the back of my ticket to Disneyland.” …Kid Nation exec producer Tom Forman to TV Week about the draconian 22-page participation agreement which parents had to sign. It was just a matter of time before CBS found a way to blame Kid Nation on someone else.

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DHD Update: Light Labor Day Posting

By | Wednesday August 29, 2007 @ 10:39am PDT

I’m going to take advantage of the long holiday weekend to file all the loose papers in my office, clean up my email accounts, and sort through all the tips you’ve given me (keep them coming!) in order to start next week refreshed and reorganized. So postings will be lighter than usual. But there’ll be weekend box office as always.

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Pad-O-Moguls, Hollywood Halfway House

By | Tuesday August 28, 2007 @ 2:11pm PDT

oce02_b3.jpgSo you’re a mogul, and you and the wife have split. She stays in the big Brentwood or Beverly Hills home with the kids. You could bunk at the Malibu manse but that’s an awfully long commute from Broad Beach or Point Dume. So if you’re Paramount boss Brad Grey, United Talent Agency chairman Jim Berkus, actor / writer Larry David, music producer David Foster, and manager / producer on hiatus Brian Medavoy, you move into Santa Monica’s Pad-O-Moguls, better known as The Hollywood Halfway House. That white building on Ocean Avenue right near Wilshire Blvd — I’m withholding the exact address — is an apartment house specializing in short-term rentals. Short-term because these guys are recently separated or divorced and have put off buying a new house. “It’s just a bunch of rich guys walking around a very expensive, well-run place right on the ocean,” one of them tells me. “We don’t hang out. I wish I could say we even do a lot of business together, but I don’t see a lot of them. I go in and up the elevator straight to my apartment.” There aren’t wild and crazy parties even though NBC Universal Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman, who’s famously single, also lives there. ”I must not live next door to Ben. I don’t hear the water gurgling from his bong,” one of them told me. Meanwhile, I’m told that when Larry David moved in after splitting with his … Read More »

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Leno vs NBC: Last Night’s Latest Round…

By | Tuesday August 28, 2007 @ 9:04am PDT

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Even though NBC keeps claiming that relations between the network and Leno are just fine, thank you, Jay keeps demonstrating his deep resentment. Everyone knows the host who’s No. 1 in late night ratings has to leave in 2009 to make way for Conan – the result of a shake-up orchestrated by Jeff Zucker in such a brutal way that it hurt Leno. How hurt? Well, on last night’s The Tonight Show, Jay half-heartedly showed off a few set redecorations made while he was on vacation, including a new desk. Admitting he didn’t see what was wrong with the old one, Leno quipped: “It’s not like NBC to get rid of something that’s worked perfectly well for 15 years.” Another reason why Leno can’t be too thrilled is that NBC Universal is contemplating a spiffy new theater and offices on Universal Studios’ Stage One for Conan to do The Tonight Show from the West Coast. Meanwhile, Leno remains inside his threadbare Burbank cramped quarters. (Believe me, the place is a dump.) We feel your pain, Jay. Previous: Is Leno Starting to Hint About His Future?

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Les, Lift The $5 Million Gag Order & Let ‘Kid Nation’ Children And Parents Tell All

By | Monday August 27, 2007 @ 11:58am PDT

So I’m challenging Les Moonves again. On Friday, I urged Mr. Smart But Smarmy to cancel Kid Nation and talk straight to his board about the show, and for the CBS directors in turn to hold his feet to the fire over that irresponsible abomination. (See my Les Moonves, A Mogul With No Conscience.) kidnationeye.JPGNow, in the short term, I want Moonves to lift all the gag orders on the 40 children and their parents who signed that 22-page participation agreement in which a strict confidentiality clause covers disclosure of information about the show and contact with the media for the next three years. If violated, a $5 million penalty is charged. I say, if CBS has nothing to hide concerning allegations of child abuse and violation of child safety and labor laws in the filming of the reality show, then let everyone involved talk freely to the media.

moonves12.jpgI see that CBS has already rolled out to the media a few kids and parents primarily because they’re talking positively about their Kid Nation experience. For instance, two Kid Nation Minnesotans, 14-year-old Maggie and 11-year-old Brett, and their mothers, recently did media interviews arranged by CBS, who declined to reveal anyone’s last names for “security reasons”. The St. Paul Pioneer Press revealed that Maggie was rushed to the hospital during filming with a stress fracture on her thumb. … Read More »

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No Journalist Phone Calls For Pellicano

By | Monday August 27, 2007 @ 11:11am PDT

A federal judge today has effectively blocked that subpoena for NYC journalist John Connolly’s Verizon phone records which Anthony Pellicano’s defense was demanding. The request went back all the way to 2002 when FBI agents raided the Hollywood P.I.’s offices. See my previous: Pellicano Demands Reporter’s Phone Calls

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This Explains Everything About Viacom…

By | Monday August 27, 2007 @ 10:41am PDT

monavie.JPGSo old coot Sumner Redstone’s secret elixir for long life is four ounces a day of a little-known superjuice called MonaVie. “It’s a miracle drug,” he told Fortune. “I feel great.” The dark purple antioxidant rich concoction has at its main ingredient the Brazilian açai berry long touted among health nuts for its anti-aging ingredients. A bottle costs $40 and is not available in stores; it’s marketed only like Avon or Tupperware. Fortune says Redstone first heard of the juice from Viacom exec Bill Roedy on a trip to Germany in January then learned that his butler’s sister-in-law was a devotee too. (No, I’m not making this up. It’s in the magazine.) “Since I’ve been on MonaVie I haven’t taken a sleeping pill,” he says. He even considered investing in Utah-based MonaVie after its CEO, nutritional products salesman Dallin Larsen, came to visit him at his Beverly Park mansion. At a recent party, Redstone gave bottles to Bill Clinton and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. “Just about every friend I have is on it,” Redstone says – a group he says includes Viacom and CBS board members as well as Michael Milken. Ay-yi-yi.

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Latest NY Times Crackpot Theory On Film

By | Monday August 27, 2007 @ 8:47am PDT

This one, in Sunday’s paper by Jeannette Catsoulis, about sequels: “Fans who tolerate the repetitiveness and ideological bankruptcy of the Rush Hour franchise, for example, may be testaments to the power of hope and a need for familiarity at a time when the Iraq war continues unabated, pensions and polar ice disappear, and Al Qaeda videos enjoy wider distribution than Sundance winners.” …I can’t believe a New York Times editor let such garbage be published.

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OFFICIAL! Summer 2007 Smashes Record

By | Sunday August 26, 2007 @ 8:28am PDT

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Because of (or in spite of) all those blockbusters and threequels, Summer 2007 today crossed the $4 billion mark, setting a new record for total domestic gross receipts. Media By Numbers which has been keeping a running tally on summer-to-date statistics just told me that the period May 1 through today has made $4.003 billion. That’s way past 2006′s $3.633 billion, with revenue up 10.18% and attendance up 5.35%. But it surpasses even 2004′s record of $3.95 billion reached by Labor Day (that summer-to-date figure is only $3.810 billion). This is the first $4 billion summer ever. By September 3rd, attendance will be over 600 million tickets for the first time in two years, but that’s still short of 2002′s 650 million tickets sold. True, not all the big tentpoles worked for critics, some sequels sank, pics faded faster than expected, and these numbers aren’t adjusted for ticket prices or inflation. For instance, average ticket prices in 2004 was $6.21 versus $6.85 in 2007. (Which is why Hollywood box office figures are starting to resemble baseball statistics with lots of asterisks after every record set…) But there were so many blockbusters crowded in weekend after weekend that Summer 2007 was able to break the record before even reaching September 3rd. Here are the Top 10 Summer Movies so far:
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Summer Box Office Sizzles To New Record, But This Weekend Cools: ‘Superbad’ #1; ‘The Nanny Diaries’ Bombs For Weinsteins

By | Saturday August 25, 2007 @ 8:34am PDT

superbad100.JPGSUNDAY AM: Today, Summer 2007 box office smashed the record for domestic gross receipts and zoomed past $3.95 billion set in 2004 to $4.003 billion. (See my story here.) Otherwise, this was one of those few times in Hollywood when age and familiarity bested youth and novelty. I’m talking about the Top 10 weekend box office, of course. (What did you think?) So oldies but goodies occupied Numbers 1-3. Of course, the fact that this is late August, and the best summer movies have already opened, and now all we’re left with is the dogs, may have something to do with it as well. Sony’s holdover Superbad finished at the top with $18 million ($5.7 mil Friday and $6.7 mil Saturday, or -46%) from 2,948 theaters. The new cume for mogul Judd Apatow’s low-cost coming of age laugher is $68.6 mil. It’s only the 3rd summer film to win back-to-back weekends with Spidey 3 and Pirates 3. But, again, the competition was weak.

nanny.jpgSo much so, that even for its fourth weekend, Universal’s The Bourne Ultimatum starring Matt Damon managed #2 with $12.3 mil ($3.6 mil Friday and $5.4 mil Saturday from 3,679 runs) for a hefty new cume of $185.1 mil. New Line’s Rush Hour 3 finished the weekend #3 with $11.5 mil from 3,442 dates for a new cume of $107.7 mil. A newcomer grabbed No. 4, Universal’s freshman laugher Mr. Bean’s HolidayRead More »

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He’s Milked That Wm Morris Email Enough

By | Saturday August 25, 2007 @ 7:48am PDT

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I always knew the Los Angeles Times Calendar section never had an original thought. Today it profiles that debauched/drunken agency assistant Shai Sternberger whose email bidding goodbye to William Morris I posted here last weekend. At least the newspaper credited me. Here’s what he looks like in case you were wondering. KCRW is also going to interview him. I declare Shai’s 15 minutes officially over now.

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Roger Ebert: Thumbs Down To Disney PR

By | Saturday August 25, 2007 @ 7:28am PDT

rogerebert1.jpgOur most famous film reviewer is refuting a Disney press release claiming he has exercised his right to withhold use of his trademarked ”thumbs up/thumbs down” until a new contract is signed for At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper with the syndicated TV show’s distributor, Disney-ABC Domestic TV. I received this email today from Roger Ebert:

This is my response to the Associated Press story stating I withdrew the “thumbs” from the show. I was not contacted by a Disney publicist or by e-mail. I am discussing with Disney my association with the show that Gene Siskel and I started more than 30 years ago. In addition to my personal involvement, we are discussing the continued use of our “thumbs” trademarks, owned by myself and the Siskel family. Contrary to Disney’s press release, I did not demand the removal of the “thumbs”. They made a first offer on Friday which I considered offensively low. I responded with a counter-offer. They did not reply to this, and on Monday ordered the ”thumbs” removed from the show. This is not something I expected after an association of over 22 years. I had made it clear the ”thumbs” could remain during good-faith negotiations. During my absence from the balcony, I have been excited to participate in the show in ways other than being on the set.  I love the show and I love the ”thumbs” and I hope we will all be reunited soon.

And here is the Associated Press story … Read More »

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Ex-Limato Assistants Land At Paradigm

By | Saturday August 25, 2007 @ 7:14am PDT

I hear that two let-go ICM agents and Ed Limato assistants, Richard Konigsberg and Jim Osborne, are going to Paradigm. I’ve reported previously how owner Sam Gores is determined to grow the merger-frenzied tenpercentery and give it a higher profile.

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Les Moonves, A Mogul With No Conscience

By | Friday August 24, 2007 @ 12:10pm PDT

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UPDATE:  Les, Lift The $5 Million Gag Order & Let ‘Kid Nation’ Children And Parents Tell All

EXCLUSIVE (refresh for latest): I’ve learned that egoist Les Moonves is talking out of both sides cbscorporation_logo.gifof his mouth concerning the erupting controversy over his CBS fall reality show Kid Nation. On the one hand, I’m told his CBS board of directors has been assured that the company is conducting “an internal investigation” into Kid Nation. moonves1.jpg“Everybody is being interviewed. All the footage will be watched. We will give the board a full report on what happened. This is of great concern,” I understand directors were told. But, publicly, CBS is denying all allegations it violated any laws or put any children in jeopardy during the production. So how can Moonves stand behind CBS’ denials when its own internal probe has barely begun? Or is there really no internal probe going on? Meanwhile, he hopes to ride the publicity from the scandal all the way to great ratings in September. For this and so many other reasons, Moonves needs to cancel the broadcast of Kid Nation.

I’m shocked by what I’ve just heard from CBS. A top company source said the CBS general counsel alerted the board about the allegations surrounding Kid Nation only because of a tough New York Times article coming out on August 18th. moonves10.JPGOf course, the New Mexico newspapers had been covering the controversy for weeks before that. And TV Week besides. An Albuquerque Journal article dated July 18th accused CBS of working kids up to 24 hours a day on the set and paying them only $5,000 for the experience and calling it legal. But the CBS board was kept in the dark about the problems then because presumably the company and directors only cared what the NYT said. Now that the Times went out with articles, “a couple of board members have asked Les questions, and he’s responded,” the CBS source told me just now. “What Les said to the board is that he’s confident there was nothing inappropriate done and the children were treated very well.”

While some board members were led to expect a serious internal investigation by CBS, I can only characterize what Moonves has done to look into this matter as perfunctory at best. “He’s spoken to the executive in charge of the show. kidnation2.JPGHe’s spoken to the people involved with the show. He’s seen the show,” a CBS source described to me Moonves’ only actions so far. ”And if anything further comes up” he’ll involve himself.

Especially with children hurt (one girl was burned while cooking, four kids drank bleach from an unlocked container, and god knows what else), such a superficial look by the smart but smarmy Moonves into the circumstances surrounding the Kid Nation production is irresponsible at best and callous at its worst. After all, the marketing for the reality show as far back as May boasted how there’s “no adult supervision”. At the time, a Washington Post TV writer made the unfortunate joke, “Heck where I grew up in Colorado they call that ‘summer camp’.” Which is exactly what CBS wanted to fool everyone into thinking about the series — from New Mexico’s film office to the Screen Actors Guild. But to advertisers and TV writers, CBS was preening: Kid Nation showed how edgy the once stodgy network had become. (That was certainly the case when CBS hyped the controversy over its “Race Wars” version Survivor.)

Look, everyone in Hollywood knows that too many kids’ parents can’t be trusted to do what’s best when the bright lights of showbiz are involved. moonves12.jpgSo CBS had a duty to take extra precautions to protect those kids, not just worry over corporate liability issues. Which leads me to ask: if CBS and therefore Moonves were as proud of Kid Nation as they’d have us believe, then why were such pains taken to shoot in such secrecy, and do it in a state that doesn’t protect children on showbiz sets, and in such a way that guild rules didn’t apply?

I’d like to put the controversy squarely on Moonves’ impeccably tailored shoulders even though he’d like to hide behind CBS’ lawyers. Now that the CBS board of directors does know, I implore them to demand from him a full investigation conducted beyond Moonves’ manipulation and to grill the CBS boss why he went ahead with this despicable show in the first place. It’s important to remember that CBS, split off from Viacom, still has a relatively new board. I’m told that six freshmen directors have come on just since January, and many of them were asked to serve by parent company Viacom boss Sumner Redstone, not Moonves. In fact, some of those directors are strangers to Moonves (…yet Les likes to describe the close and wonderful relationship he has with all the CBS directors…) CBS board members must know that shareholders are counting on them to do the right thing here. See my previous Moonves stories in LA Weekly, Screwing The TV Viewers (2006) and Les Should Be No More (2004) Read More »

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David Geffen NOT Selling Warner Estate

By | Friday August 24, 2007 @ 11:19am PDT

geffenestate.jpgI can tell you that David Geffen is denying a throwaway line inside a Wall Street Journal article today about big ticket homes for sale claiming that he “has quietly shopped his historic 9.4-acre Los Angeles estate for $100 million, according to a broker who has shown the property”. Indeed, sources tell me that Geffen turns down offers, including those in excess of $100 mil, all the time for the famed Beverly Hills mansion that was formerly owned by Hollywood mogul Jack Warner in the 1930s. Geffen purchased it for $47.5 mil and spent another $45 million renovating it, including $20 million on landscaping. (As one journalist wrote, “He may be the only mogul who has ever made Xanadu smaller.) Since Geffen has owned it, the house has played a pivotal role in the charitable and political life of Los Angeles: the mansion that Bill Clinton stayed in has most recently been used for Barack Obama’s fundraising.

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Could NYO’s Peter Kaplan Save Portfolio?

By | Friday August 24, 2007 @ 11:15am PDT

portfolio.JPGNote to Si Newhouse: My vote to fix your dreadful Portfolio magazine is Peter Kaplan, current editor of the New York Observer. A lot of people forget that he was editorial director of the absolutely best business magazine ever, Manhattan Inc., which got out of the gate as a hot mag and became a national must-read soon after. As The New York Times said about it: “Readers were attracted by articles that took a sometimes titillating look at the powerful people making news in New York’s supercharged business climate. Advertisers liked the magazine’s rich demographics. Subscribers tended to be the same kind of people that the magazine writes about – big income business executives.” Now that’s what Portfolio should be, instead of a repository for CEO Porn. Really, the mag should come in a brown paper wrapper it’s so disgusting. I’m still waiting for Portfolio to shock and awe me with its Hollywood coverage instead of inducing nausea. (Full Disclosure: I was West Coast Editor of NYO for Kaplan for a coupla years. We had fun messin’ with the moguls.) My previous: Don’t Bother With Portfolio’s CEO Porn

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