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AMPTP’s Nick Counter Stays On Message

By | Monday October 29, 2007 @ 1:06pm PDT

TV Week Q-&-A published today shows Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, is still breathing fire. He calls the WGA demands “so over-the-top and unreasonable”. Here’s what I found interesting:

TVWeek: How do things change for you once they have the power to call a strike at any time?
Counter: From a negotiating standpoint, we’ll continue to negotiate until we reach an agreement irrespective of whether they strike. I told them this morning: They can strike for six months or 12 months or 24 months; at some point we have to reach an agreement. There are no divorces in our industry. It’s just a question of when and how much damage is caused.

TVWeek: Networks and studios say there’s no online business model yet upon which to base a new media deal. But the WGA points to companies like NBC, telling investors that it is projecting increases based on online growth. Are the employers talking out of both sides of their mouth on this?
Counter: Not really. Your first statement is correct. The key leaders, executive producers of television shows, that are members of the guild, they understand. We actually have a mutual goal to develop a marketplace that’s viable, but nobody knows the contours of that industry.

TVWeek: But do statements to investors predicting growth contradict that?
Counter: No. At some point there clearly will be growth. There’s no question there’s an audience and potential market there; the question is how to develop the business models.

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    Instead Of CAA Partners Taking A Pay Cut

    By | Monday October 29, 2007 @ 12:52pm PDT

    caa2.bmp… A rumor is making the rounds that CAA will fire up to 10 agents in the very near future supposedly because they’re “underperformers”. Or to trim down pre-strike?

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    Jeff Zucker’s PR Machine Works Overtime

    By | Monday October 29, 2007 @ 11:17am PDT

    zucker2.jpgHow nice to know that, while a major Hollywood strike looms, Jeff Zucker has nothing better to do today than get his knob shined by CEO Pornster Ken Auletta over breakfast at an event sponsored by the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Zucker made the most definitive statement yet that GE boss Jeffrey Immelt isn’t going to sell NBC Universal after the Olympics, as many media outlets are forecasting. As for the writers’ strike looming, he said ”unfortunately” it’s looking “more and more likely.” NBCU’s film slate in 2008 would not be affected, he said, nor would there be any practical effect on NBC’s on-air lineup through the end of the year, but beyond that the network would be forced to rely on unscripted programming and news magazines.
    “It’ll be a real watershed event as to whether people come back to scripted television” in healthy numbers after a strike at the beginning of a season already struggling with widespread erosion, Zucker said. As I’ve reported, he is one of the hawks among moguls.

    Meanwhile, what a stupid move for Hulu.com, the video site owned jointly by NBC Universal and News Corp, to begin testing today, by invitation only. Moronic, just three days before a crippling walkout, for these moguls to start up a site focused solely on TV and film content. But that’s why they get paid the big bucks. Also, today’s International Herald Tribune runs a puff piece about how NBCU, late to the overseas markets party, is making … Read More »

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    Screenwriters Videoed In Their Day Jobs

    By | Monday October 29, 2007 @ 10:34am PDT

    strikeillust3smaller.jpgSince everyone needs humor now, here’s a very funny 1-minute video from WGA members Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer about what Hollywood screenwriters will be doing for day jobs post-strike. Featured are Paul Guay (Liar, Liar), Doug Eboch (Sweet Home Alabama), Harris Goldberg (Deuce Bigalow), Dave Garrett (Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo), Cindy & Don Hewitt (Spirited Away), and Tom Donnelly (Sahara). Is this the next reality show?

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    STRIKE COUNTDOWN: WGAW’s Verrone Forsees ‘Rumors, Lies, Even Threats’ And ‘Low-Ball 11th Hour Offer’ By AMPTP

    By | Sunday October 28, 2007 @ 9:19pm PDT

    Tonight, WGA West President Patric Verrone issued to members this pre-strike email obtained by me. It paints an ugly picture of what lies ahead for the next three days until the guild’s contract expires. He warned members about “a climate of fear on both sides” and a producers’ strategy of “brinkmanship [that] will likely be met by fear, confusion, and even acrimony”. This sounds to me like a reaction to the ridiculously one-sided slant of today’s Los Angeles Times article:

    To My Fellow Members:
    As of Monday, we are three days from expiration of our contract.  On Friday, the AMPTP told us they didn’t want to meet at the WGAW any longer and that they would next meet with us at their headquarters on Tuesday.  This leaves us barely 38 hours to bargain a contract before expiration.  Before we meet with our employers again, we will have had nearly a dozen separate meetings with the Negotiating Committee, the Board of Directors, TV showrunners, contract captains, other unions, and even government officials to continue to strategize and do whatever we can to make a deal and avoid a strike.

    With that in mind, I have three pieces of information which I want to pass along.  First, as you may have heard or read, a Federal Mediator will join the negotiations on Tuesday at the Companies’ suggestion. A mediator has no power to impose a deal, and mediation is no substitute for serious negotiations.  As always, the contract settlement must come from the parties.

    Second, we are planning a general membership meeting, open

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    Weekend Sickos Scream For #1 ‘Saw IV’

    By | Saturday October 27, 2007 @ 10:21am PDT

    sawiv_bigtheatricalposter.jpgSUNDAY AM: Given that the Hollywood writers strike is pending against the studios and networks and could come as soon as midnight on Halloween, weekend box office seems like an absurd after-thought. So do the gross receipts when the No. 1 movie is Lionsgate’s disgusting Saw IV whose “R” rating comes from sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout. But the sickos who scream for this insanely profitable $250M franchise poured $32.1 million into 3,183 theaters from Friday through Sunday. (That’s comparable to Saw III‘s $33.6 mil opening in 2006…) So, once again, here’s an example of the public propping up hardcore horror just when Hollywood was starting to rethink making these kinds of disturbed pics.

    In second place, Disney’s quirky romantic comedy Dan In Real Life debuted in only 1,921 venues but posted a decent $12 mil this weekend. Fortunately, Disney hired star Steve Carell for cheap. Talk about counter-programming, this feel-good flick is the polar opposite of the fall season’s many downer films, not to mention Saw IV and Sony’s holdover vampire fangfest daninreallife_posterbig.jpg30 Days Of Night which took 3rd place with $6.7 mil this weekend from 2,859 dates (down 58%) adding to its new cume of $27.3 mil.

    The rest of Friday’s Top 10 pics were familiar film titles: The Game Plan (Disney) #4 [$6.28M, cume $77M], Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? (Lionsgate) #5 [$5.7M, cume $47.3M], Michael Clayton (Warner) #6 [$5M, … Read More »

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    Federal Mediator Will Attend WGA Talks; Writers Focus On New Media & Internet

    By | Friday October 26, 2007 @ 6:12pm PDT

    SATURDAY AM UPDATE: I’m told that a federal mediator is coming to the contract negotiations on Tuesday. The WGA says it’s at the suggestion of AMPTP, but the producers say the decision was mutual by both sides. A producers’ source explains: ”A federal mediator is assigned at the beginning of any major negotiation and has been talking to the chief negotiators on both sides on an ongoing basis. He can offer to step in with the approval of both sides. Yesterday, the mediator called David Young, and both sides agreed he should come in Tuesday.”

    Meanwhile, the walkout is sounding like not just a given, but also immediate. update1.jpg“It’s mind-blowing that, with 5 days left, AMPTP is letting 3 more days pass before resuming talks. They have something more important to do this weekend?” one top WGA member complained to me today. “They’re banking on the WGA not having the stomach for a strike and believe that writers will work without a contract while they take their sweet time hammering out yet another shitty deal.”

    FRIDAY PM: Tonight, the WGA Negotiating Committee issued the following pessimistic statement regarding today’s contract negotiations: “This morning, we responded to the package presented yesterday by the AMPTP. We agreed to several of their proposals and withdrew or modified a number of our own proposals in order to narrow the areas in dispute. strikelogo.JPGWe also proposed a smaller working group … Read More »

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    WGA/AMPTP Talks Update: Still Going On

    By | Friday October 26, 2007 @ 5:16pm PDT

    I’m told both sides have been meeting all day and it’s still going on even at this late hour. That has to mean actual negotiations are taking place. I’m told this is a good sign. I’ll let you know what’s happened in today’s session as soon as I hear. Could sanity prevail? Or did they find something else nonsensical to argue about? See my previous: Tricks & Treats At WGA Strike Talks (… All About The Chairs).

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    Now Dick Parsons Can Ruin NYC As Mayor

    By | Friday October 26, 2007 @ 4:03pm PDT

    twtop.jpgC’mon, he should have been thrown out of Time Warner with Gerry Levin years ago. After all, Teflon Dick was just as culpable for that abysmal AOL deal. So it’s a day late and a dollar short if he finally exits in a matter of days, and not just at the end of the year as everyone expected (even though his contract formally expires in May 2008). Today’s Times Of London says a sooner date of departure for Parsons was discussed at a board meeting in London and Thursday of this week. Maybe Dick wants to get an early jump on his campaign plans since I keep hearing from Hollywood and Wall Street types that Parsons does intend to run for NYC Mayor as a Republican. (He’s a GOP insider from way back. After Parsons nailed the top score on the New York state bar exam, he caught the eye of the late Nelson A. Rockefeller and even lived in Rockefeller’s compound for a time, eventually becoming a trustee of the former VP’s estate after Rockefeller’s death in 1979. Parsons also is a former law partner of Rudy Giuliani and managed his transition into the NYC Mayor’s Office.)

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    Hey, Barbara & Diane: You’re Obsolete. Owen Tells All Post-Meltdown To MySpace

    By | Friday October 26, 2007 @ 2:56pm PDT

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    In a savvy bit of News Corp synergy, The Darjeeling Limited‘s star Owen Wilson tonight at midnight airs his first interview since his September suicide attempt on MySpace.com. owenmyspace.JPGThis was the result of a marketing brainstorm by Darjeeling‘s studio Fox Searchlight, which approached fellow News Corp.-owned MySpace.com with the idea for the interview by Owen’s friend and Darjeeling director Wes Anderson. It’s a 5- to 10-minute pre-taped piece: Anderson and Wilson set the agenda themselves, and Anderson directed, edited and produced the whole thing. Hilariously, there’s a really angry article about this on ABC News, which just happens to employ both Barbara and Diane. Headlined, “Tell All Or PR Ploy?”, ABC News complains how fallen stars now have a far more appealing option than the ABC interview divas: “Cut the pesky journalist out of the mix and tell all, on their own terms, on the Internet. It’s the ultimate form of image control.” But ABC News defends the use of journalists for celebrity interviews, claiming the TV newsosaurs have integrity. What b.s.

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    Blu-ray/HD DVD: Which Hollywood Studio Is Accused Of ‘Big Ass, Fat, Stupid Lie’?

    By | Friday October 26, 2007 @ 10:43am PDT

    transformers-dvd.jpgHere’s yet another gory round in that ongoing HD vs Blu-ray extreme death match between heavyweight Hollywood studios to see which DVD format is left standing at the end:

    UPDATE: Two rival Blu-ray studios which prefer to remain nameless tell me they’ve caught Paramount / DreamWorks in a “big ass, fat, stupid lie” regarding press releases about the numbers of just released Transformer HD-DVD units sold. Paramount and DreamWorks are denying this– though a Par exec does admit that some of the info is correct but also claims it’s incomplete. (See below.) Remember my reporting on why this matters? Paramount received $50 mil from the HD-DVD side to, among other things, release the Transformers DVD on October 16th exclusively in what was widely recognized as the losing high-def format. So Paramount Home Entertainment shouted from the roof rafters how Transformers was the best selling Day One and Week One high-def title on either format since their inceptions, selling over 100,000 HD-DVDs its first day of release and over 190,000 HD-DVDs in its first week.

    bluhd.JPGBut these rival Blu-ray studios aren’t buying it. “Off the record, yes, you’re onto something,” a second Blu-ray studio told me just now. “Paramount may need to ‘transform’ their numbers once the final tally comes in.”

    “You’d think anyone even remotely associated with DreamWorks would know better after the SEC investigation into Shrek 2 DVD sales reporting,” the first Blu-ray studio source says. ”In an overreaching effort to make a press … Read More »

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    Tricks & Treats At WGA Strike Talks Today (…And, Yes, I Know All About The Chairs)

    By | Thursday October 25, 2007 @ 4:06pm PDT

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    2ND UPDATE/New Info Throughout: Sources are telling me that today’s negotiating session between the writers and producers can be summed up in two words: “Not pretty.”

    Just as I’ve told you for days and days and days what would happen, the AMPTP did indeed show up at the bargaining table with a newly packaged “comprehensive proposal” (Here’s the .pdf from the producers’ website for your perusal.) strikelogo.JPGThe WGA’s immediate reaction was to do the same thing AMPTP has done when one side presents a proposal: they take a break to caucus, then go to lunch, then come back and tell the producers, “You guys can go home now and come back at 11 am” at which time there’ll be a counter-proposal with a little luck. Ergo the glacial pace of these strike talks. Because there’s almost no face-to-face negotiating actually happening yet.

    That is, if you don’t count the churlishness of the chairs (see below).

    Later today, WGA negotiating committee honcho John Bowman issued this less-than-encouraging statement: “Our employers are growing and dominate the global entertainment industry. Yet their opening offer would have rolled back our compensation by 50%. Now they decrease the rollbacks to 45% and proclaim that they are truly bargaining. Minor adjustments to major rollbacks do not constitute forward motion. To make a deal, the AMPTP must engage with us on the issues that matter in this negotiation. With that in mind, we will respond to … Read More »

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    Rose McGowan Wasn’t The Reel Story…

    By | Thursday October 25, 2007 @ 3:56pm PDT

    robertandrose.jpgI’m surprised no one has set the record straight yet about why Universal passed on Robert Rodriguez’s Barbarella remake since there’s been so much bullshit reporting about it. “He’s getting a bum rap here,” one Uni exec told me about media claims that the studio backed out of the project because Rodriguez was making casting decisions based on his dick. Yes, Robert wanted his girlfriend of more than a year Rose McGowan to play the role made infamous by Jane Fonda. But Universal was hot for Rose to star as far back as July after seeing the screen test she did with Rodriguez.

    It was “a rather spectacular screen test of Rose playing the role of Barbarella that also demonstrated Robert’s vision and visual style for the movie,” a Uni source described to me. “We all saw that it would work and signed on.” The studio read a treatment. Then a draft. Then another draft. barbarella23.jpg“And all of us got our arms around the real movie Robert wanted to make. It had grown in its ambition. Robert’s visualization of a sci-fi universe flushed out in set pieces and sequences started to become apparent. It was a much larger film than we had originally discussed.” And it came with a larger cost, moving from under $60 million to over $80 million. That gave Uni pause. With the WGA strike looming, and every studio in panic mode to … Read More »

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    Will FCC Investigate Rupert’s WSJ Buy?

    By | Thursday October 25, 2007 @ 1:56pm PDT

    michaelcopps.jpgI just heard that FCC commissioner Michael Copps is demanding an inquiry into News Corp.’s purchase of The Wall Street Journal. In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin today, the Democrat expressed worry that a single company will be in control of a network and 2 of the nation’s 5 largest newspapers – wallstreet2.jpgas well as own 2 newspapers and 2 TV stations in the same top market of New York City, which is way over the limit allowed. But the FCC has a Republican majority, so Rupert et al seem safe for now.

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    Maria Shriver Has Quit TV News Biz … Because Of Anna Nicole Smith Sideshow

    By | Thursday October 25, 2007 @ 1:42pm PDT

    anna_nicole1.jpg mariashriver1.jpg

    Ah-nold’s newscaster wife Maria Shriver who used to do a ton of celebrity stories for NBC News and Dateline cites the media circus over the death of Anna Nicole Smith as the reason why she won’t resume her TV career when Schwarzenegger leaves the California Governor’s mansion. ”It was then that I knew that the TV news business had changed and so had I,” she told a women’s conference this week. ”I called NBC News and told them I’m not coming back.” Shriver has been on an extended leave since Schwarzenegger ran for governor in 2003, then announced in 2004 she couldn’t juggle her work as a journalist with her duties as California’s First Lady.

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    A Preview Of Tonight’s Leno Monologue (…That Is, If He Weren’t On Vacation)

    By | Thursday October 25, 2007 @ 12:51pm PDT

    Headline: “VP Cheney Nods Off During Meeting on California Wildfires”. Video here. I’m told that, unfortunately, Jay and Dave and Conan are all in re-runs this week (because they always take the week before a Sweeps Month off.)

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    Celebrity Fawning At Its So Fatuous Best

    By | Thursday October 25, 2007 @ 10:15am PDT

    jolie_esquire07_1b.jpgAttention Hollywood flacks: here’s a nightmare for you… There’s an ongoing discussion by journalists over what qualifies as “The Worst Celebrity Profile Ever Written”. Slate‘s Ron Rosenbaum started it off in June by nominating Tom Junod’s summer piece on Angelina Jolie. ”When it comes to fawning, there is nothing quite like the elaborate, elevated, wannabe-highbrow fawning that ‘gentlemen’s magazines’ (mainly Esquire and GQ) do when they produce a cover story on a hot actress. And in the history of fawning gentlemen’s-magazine profiles, there is unlikely to be a more ludicrous example than the profile in the July Esquire of—yes—Angelina Jolie, which spends many thousands of words and invokes grave national tragedies to prove to us that Angelina Jolie is not just a good woman, not just an enlightened humanitarian, not just a suffering victim of celebrity, not just strong and brave, but, we are told, “the best woman in the world.”

    cover_mensvogue_190.jpgThen, yesterday, Philadelphia Magazine articles editor Michael Callahan wrote to Jim Romenesko’s journalism blog that Junod’s piece on Jolie had recently been eclipsed. “Evidently the folks at Men’s Vogue felt a gauntlet had been thrown down, and have dutifully responded with what surely eclipses Junod’s effort, and not by a little, either: writer Troy Patterson’s ludicrous love letter to Denzel Washington in the November issue. Which brings me back to Men’s Vogue. Never mind that the supposed fashion … Read More »

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    More Hollywood Heat From The Fires…

    By | Thursday October 25, 2007 @ 2:52am PDT

    In addition to my own postings about DreamWorks moguls David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg in Malibu during the fires here and here and here, I’ve just combed other news stories and culled this showbiz-related coverage:

    kiefersutherland.jpgPerhaps the hardest-hit entertainment company was Sony Online Entertainment, maker of computer games, which closed its 600-worker office in the Miramar area of fire-affected San Diego.

    Fox’s hot TV series 24 was scheduled to shoot Monday and Tuesday at a shuttered Naval air station in the Orange County city of Irvine but was forced to retreat because smoky conditions made filming impossible. The cast and crew returned to the studio.

    ABC’s new series Big Shots had to reschedule a shoot planned for Tuesday in the Angeles National Forest as well as a cycling sequence in Malibu.

    coldcase3.jpgCBS’ Cold Case had a set in Simi Valley that high winds leveled.

    Production on CBS’ NCIS had a few crew members unable to make it to work because of fire concerns. Otherwise, there was minimal disruption even though the series shoots at a Santa Clarita studio near the so-called Magic Fire in northern Los Angeles County.

    Warner Bros finance executive Tony Rodriguez and his wife returned to their house on a hill above Malibu on Wednesday knowing they would find nothing. The couple were evacuated at 5 am Sunday along with their two dogs. They were watching TV when they saw their newly renovated home go … Read More »

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    Finke/LA Weekly: Strike Happy H’wood

    By | Wednesday October 24, 2007 @ 10:50pm PDT

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    In my latest lalogo.gif column, Strike Happy, I pulled together much of my reporting about the strategy and snarking behind the scenes at the WGA and AMPTP. It begins:

    “As the strike deadline draws near, the nauseous stench of flop sweat has saturated movie and TV writers’ rooms, sound stages, and executive suites. The reason for the malodorous cloud currently hanging over Hollywood has less to do with fear over the fires raging around the outskirts of Los Angeles than with the combustible relationship between the Writers Guild and the moguls. Pissing off the studio and network bigwigs accustomed to calling the shots in this Industry is the hard line taken by the WGA’s membership. And pissing off the Schmucks With Underwoods, as that shithead with money Jack Warner so unaffectionately dubbed the scribblers long ago, has been the arrogant determination of his Big Media successors to use the strike as an excuse to rethink their business models.

    Excuse me for gagging, but I’m not sure which is worse: the smell of stinky armpits or the odor of caged animals. Ugh, every three years, the writers and producers who occupy the same pen known as Hollywood act like monkeys flinging their feces against the walls. Both sides make menacing noises to indicate they’re going to bite the hands that feed them. If a strike happens again, then I say drag everyone away from the bargaining table and

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