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TOLDJA! Media Moguls Nix SAG Demands; Hollywood In De Facto Features Strike

I told you this would happen, and now it has: the Alliance for Motion Picture and Television Producers representing the Big Media moguls finally acknowledged today that after 13 days the negotiations with SAG are at a stalemate with only 2 days left go. And, as I predicted, the AMPTP is blaming everything on the Screen Actors Guild. I can’t help but admire how faithfully the Hollywood CEOs follow the scripts they write. Especially at a time when the movie studios have put into effect a de facto feature strike. (See my previous, FIRST NEWS ABOUT SAG-AMPTP TALKS)

The organization that speaks for the CEO clique running Hollywood issued a “Negotiations Update” that breaks its silence over the progress, or lack of it, in the talks with SAG:

“The AMPTP has been negotiating with SAG now for 13 days. Last week, we asked AFTRA to delay the start of its negotiations until May 5th so that we could give the SAG talks every opportunity to produce an agreement. Since the SAG negotiations are due to wrap up on Friday, May 2nd, today is a good time to let you know where things stand.

When we requested an extra week for the SAG negotiations, we told you that

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UPDATE: “TV Guide Getting Gutted Today”

By | Wednesday April 30, 2008 @ 2:17pm PDT

(I’ve woven in more info…) Add TV Guide to the long list of publications undergoing massive downsizing. It’s yet another sign of the shifting fortunes of TV in general along with the downsizing in network pilots and upfronts etc. An insider tells me that editor Ian Birch and the two managing editors Lois Draegin and Steve Sonksy and several others, including the marketing department, got the word this morning they’d be exiting. I heard that Birch, an editor at Heat (that hot tabloid in the UK) didn’t even come in to the building today, while publisher Scott Crystal and a Human Resources henchwoman were “running around handing out the news that TV Guide is getting gutted today.” The timing couldn’t be worse: TV Guide is holding its annual high-profile “Sexiest Stars” party in LA on Thursday.

Crystal just told the staff they will have a new editor in place by end of next week. (Rumors are it may be Debra Birnbaum…)

News Corp dumped TV Guide last fall and the mag moved out of the News Corp building in December. I hear some stockholder meeting by current owner Macrovision is happening today. Word is Macrovision is looking for a new owner for the magazine and, if none is found, the print version could shutter. Supposedly, Macrovision only bought Gemstar-TV Guide for the digital technology. Word is the company will keep the technology and the on-line version of TV Guide and sell the print version which does retain 3.5 million subscribers. But I’m told the print edition had … Read More »

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Pellicano Trial Update: Closing Arguments

By | Wednesday April 30, 2008 @ 11:14am PDT

So the trial that would not end is finally ending with closing arguments. Not much of a Hollywood angle to report, except for the lawyer for LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson, who is accused of doing all those illegal law enforcement database investigations.  I’ve been reading the coverage – anxiously awaiting the verdict on this end! ”It makes no sense that Mr. Ovitz a pillar of the Hollywood community would hire Mr. Pellicano to put a fish on a car of a reporter. If he had a problem with The New York Times, he would just call the editor.”

Meanwhile, jailed Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano, who is defending himself, spoke for a mere 16 minutes — and mostly rambled.
About Pellicano’s closing argument, DHD/LA Weekly trial correspondent Steven Mikulan wrote: “Pellicano had told Judge Dale Fischer that he needed somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half to complete his speech to the jury, but he gave himself the hook after only 16 minutes. Appearing relaxed, affable and confident, Pellicano nevertheless gave a rambling dissertation on the roles of the jury and prosecutor. Jurors stared at him alertly but with opaque expressions.
“Pellicano has made much of how he detests snitches and ‘rats’, and certainly the government’s dance card was packed with witnesses who were either cooperating with prosecutors for lesser sentences in cases related to Pellicano’s, or who had completely dodged indictments in exchange for their testimony about Pellicano’s alleged wiretapping activities.

“‘ … Read More »

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Tim Russert Blackballing Arianna At NBC?

By | Tuesday April 29, 2008 @ 3:54pm PDT

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UPDATE: Sources close to Arianna Huffington are claiming just that. Arianna Huffington is currently on book tour for her new political tome Right Is Wrong: How The Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded The Constitution, And Made Us All Less Safe, in which she goes after Tim Russert (and justifiably so). She’s booked all over CNN, ABC, and CBS (but not Fox News Channel because she chose not to go on there). And NBC? Well, one insider says she was booked on Keith Olberman and Morning Joe to talk about her tome — and then unbooked. “These are shows that call her regularly to come on. And then the word came from on high that she had to be cancelled.” Arianna’s accolytes are pointing the finger at Tim Russert, well known to be ridiculously thin-skinned, for blackballing her internally at NBC and not permitting her on any of the NBC network or cable outlets.

It’s certainly possible, considering how much clout the Washington bureau chief wields at the company (not to mention how much profit his Meet The Press yields for the company). NBC did confirm to me that Arianna Huffington won’t be booked on any of the NBC network or cable shows past or present or future for her book. (Interestingly, a Knopf source says the publisher was never given a definitive no. “We were just told to ‘Call back tomorrow.’ There was never any explanation.”) Granted Right Is Wrong is only #209 on … Read More »

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GTA IV: How Much Will It Hurt Box Office?

By | Tuesday April 29, 2008 @ 2:16am PDT

When’s the last time moviegoers were as excited as these GTA IV gamers?


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GTA IV: Is The Game Really That Good?

gtaiv.jpgIt’s certainly in demand: tonight, before Rockstar’s creation hits store shelves, a few UPS workers were fired for stealing pre-ordered copies of Grand Theft Auto IV. There’s no doubt it’s going to set a new sales record for entertainment product starting tomorrow — perhaps $400 mil and 6 mil copies because it plays on both Microsoft’s Xbox 360 as well as Sony’s Playstation 3, way beyond the previous record-holder Halo 3. In fact U.S. retail sales of video games jumped 57% in March, and analysts predict increased hardware sales due to the new game release. So on the eve of GTA IV‘s release, I turned to my video game guru Keith Boesky, whose company is responsible for selling the most intellectual property and developers into the game business and who has opined on video game violence here as well as on video games versus movies here. Now he analyzes whether GTA IV has really got game:

“To put it lightly, if the other things made for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are called ‘games’, we have to come up with a new word for GTA IV. I think the word is ‘platform’. By every measure, GTA IV is orders of magnitude larger than anything else on the market, including with the critical scores. The fact you are reading this and know what I am talking about is already an indication of the scale. How many of you knew the second largest game on the Playstation, Gran Turismo: Prologue

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THR Rearranges Deck Chairs On Titanic

So if you’re one of the 10 readers of The Hollywood Reporter left in this town, then you may have noticed today’s rebrand. Yes, it looks cleaner and sharper. But ultimately it’s what’s inside the trade paper that counts. “It all has a fresh-coat-of-paint-on-the-Titanic vibe to me,” one THR source tells me. “I think the money could have been far better spent keeping bodies in the building that are now sorely, desperately needed.”

Insiders tell me that today’s THR.com launch was supposed to “correct” the 2006 site redesign that was perceived as “botched” mostly by the newsroom and the new executives. (Feedback from actual readers and metrics then were generally good.) Most of the inside-the-trade complaints concerned navigation issues. The newsroom thought breaking news was buried or hard to find. The business development side wanted a permanent home for its advertorial issues to grow consumer traffic. And advertising wanted more prominent video to sell pre-rolls. So does the new site solve any of these?

Insiders aren’t sure what the new design accomplishes and they doubt if anybody there will be happy. The new site has fewer news positions and more flash modules, no features landing page at all, and still no pre-rolls on the videos a year after the video launch. Also gone is the iconic logo while there’s no RSS. I’m told that video windfall promises were supposed to pay for this new design so the continued lack of it makes … Read More »

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Pellicano Trial Update: No Mistrial

U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer nixed Pellicano co-defendant LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson’s motion for a mistrial. If only this trial would end… and it will soon. The case goes to the jury this week.

Breaking Pellicano Bombshell: A Mistrial? Feds’ Witness Screws Up Trial Big-Time

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In Case You Missed These Last Week…

By | Monday April 28, 2008 @ 10:19am PDT
  • ‘Late Late’ Host Craig Ferguson Dishes At The White House Correspondents Dinner
  • Box Office April 25th-27th: Comedies Rule
  • CAA’s Top 3 NFL Draftees Go #1, #3, #6
  • SAG’s 2008 Contract Report On Residuals
  • What CAA’s Kevin Huvane Is Doing To Risk Losing His Many Actress Clients
  • Jackie Chan Leaves CAA For Morris, And Paul Thomas Anderson Lands There, Too
  • FIRST NEWS ABOUT SAG-AMPTP TALKS
  • SAG’s 2008 New Media Report (bottom of posting)
  • AFTRA Sends “Affected Member” Voting Issue To Committee
  • Primetime Pilot Panic: Updated Hot List
  • GTA IV Countdown: Are Video Games Or Movies More Violent?
  • Verrone & Bateman Testify In Support Of Net Neutrality At
  • Read More »

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    ‘Late Late’ Host Craig Ferguson Dishes At The White House Correspondents Dinner

    By | Sunday April 27, 2008 @ 10:54am PDT

    The new U.S. citizen went way tougher on the press than on Dubya…



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    Box Office April 25th-27th: Comedies Rule

    By | Sunday April 27, 2008 @ 9:37am PDT

    Good news going into the summer movie season –weekend box office was up finally, +15% compared to last year. Funny films swept the Top 3 as the obvious antidote to rising food bills, astronomical gas prices and the constant tide of bad news these days. Tina Fey’s Baby Mama No. 1 Friday; Harold & Kumar #2, Sarah Marshall #3

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    CAA’s Top 3 NFL Draftees Go #1, #3, #6

    By | Saturday April 26, 2008 @ 6:03pm PDT


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    After 2 straight years of lousy drafts for its NFL-headed clients since its 2006 inception, costly CAA Sports finally found that the 3rd time was the charm. Let’s not forget that, under the 2-year-old division head Tom Condon’s guidance, primo NFL prospects Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart plummeted to No. 22 in 2007 and No. 10 in 2006 respectively, losing many millions of dollars as a result. (Lucky for Quinn, he’d already signed a bunch of endorsement contracts. Not Leinart, who a year later fired CAA.) Today, however, CAA Sports clients were all top draftees: Jake Long went No. 1, Matt Ryan No. 3, and Vernon Gholston No. 6. 2008 NFL Draft story here. But the cost of the operation is staggering: which is why I hear CAA renegotiated with Condon’s former boss IMG to keep paying back commissions for only 2 years instead of 3 because it was having money troubles…

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    SAG’s 2008 Contract Report On Residuals

    This is the third in the Screen Actors Guild’s 2008 contract reports about issues. Report #1 discusses middle-income actors and #2 talks about New Media (at end of post), and now #3 explores residuals below:

    SAG CONTRACT 2008 REPORT
    Number 3 – Residuals
    April 25, 2008

    The following update represents only a portion of our proposal priorities. We will be updating you about other proposal priorities in the coming days. SAG and the AMPTP have been meeting since negotiations began more than a week ago. On April 23, the parties agreed to extend the bargaining session and continue negotiations through the week of April 28. Our proposals address many critical issues confronting SAG actors. Below is information on the important topic of residuals.

    Why are Residuals Important To Actors?
    Residuals are critical to an actor’s ability to make a living. As a deferred payment for the use or reuse of an actor’s work, residuals are paid on a time cycle that allows many actors to receive income on a reliable basis. Residuals accounted for 53% of all pensionable principal earnings for middle-class actors under the TV and Theatrical Contracts in 2007. Changes in industry business models – like declining network repeats and increased online streaming — and reality shows– mean declining network residuals payments. Getting fair residuals formulas in new media, DVD’s and other markets is a priority for the Guild.

    What is the state of affairs in residuals?
    • Real earnings are on the decline with average inflation-adjusted residual earnings decreasing

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    COMEDIES RULE BECAUSE OF BAD NEWS: Tina Fey’s ‘Baby Mama’ Berths No. 1; ‘Harold & Kumar’ #2, ‘Sarah Marshall’ #3

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    SUNDAY AM: Good news going into the summer movie season –weekend box office was up finally, +15% compared to last year. Funny films swept the Top 3 as the obvious antidote to rising food bills, astronomical gas prices and the constant tide of bad news these days. Universal’s female buddy comedy Baby Mama pairing 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey and SNL‘s Amy Poehler won Friday with an opening of $6.4 million Friday and $7 million Saturday from 2,543 theaters for what was a better-than-expected $18.2 million FSS. “There was nice movement towards the end of this week. Whatever they did with their TV spots worked for female audiences,” a rival marketing marven told me. The PG-13 pic tracked well with women of all ages. “Unaided awareness, definite interest, and choice with women young and old is fantastic,” a Uni source told me. “The hard part is tracking it against comparable movies. It’s near impossible to think of a female-driven buddy comedy of the last few years.” I can think of three — The Sweetest Thing, and even Connie and Carla and High Heels and Low Lifes, all of which tanked. But those movies didn’t have hot Tina Fey.

    New Line’s stoner guy pic Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay debuted to $5.9 million Friday and $5.1 million Saturday from 2,510 venues. It ended the weekend with $14.3 million. A sequel to a pic that didn’t do even $19M in theaters during its entire release, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle didn’t merit a follow-up until it … Read More »

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    What CAA’s Kevin Huvane Is Doing To Risk Losing His Many Actress Clients

    By | Friday April 25, 2008 @ 5:11pm PDT

    I’m told CAA partner Kevin Huvane is throwing a belated birthday party on Saturday night for recently released from prison Joe Francis, the scandalous founder of Mantra Films Inc, which produces those disgusting Girls Gone Wild soft-porn video and DVD series caa.bmpwhich have prompted so many complaints that women and even underage girls were filmed without their permission. UPDATE: *In addition I’m told Huvane along with his posse of friends use Francis’s Mexico vacation compound in Punta Mita almost every Xmas and New Years as well as Easter. When Huvane’s not having his own parties he parks his very special clients there. So some see the birthday party as a payback.*

    I’ve confirmed that Francis is not a CAA client. But it’s not only Francis’s professional behavior that’s controversial, but also his personal behavior. You may remember this article from the August 6, 2006 issue of the Sunday magazine of the Los Angeles Times by Claire Hoffman in which she described an incident in which Francis “humiliated” her by pinning her to the hood of a car and twisting her arms hard behind her back (so hard she feared he’d break them) while he pushed himself against her and shouted – apparently demonstrating his 2003 arrest in Florida. Hoffman claimed that “the pressure he applied was so intense that hours later, my arms were covered in red hand marks.”… Read More »

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    Wkd Prediction: ‘Baby Mama’ To Berth #1

    10:45 PM: COMEDIES RULE BECAUSE OF BAD NEWS: Tina Fey’s ‘Baby Mama’ No. 1 Fri, ‘Harold & Kumar’ #2, ‘Sarah Marshall’ #3

    1 PM: Here are the very early Friday total numbers which my box office gurus are projecting for the major movies opening this weekend. Universal’s Baby Mama starring hot, hot, hot movie and TV comedienne Tina Fey and SNL‘s popular Amy Poehler should win with box office domestic gross around $14M-$15M and maybe as high as $17M from 2,543 theaters. “It should finish in the mid to high teens. There was nice movement towards the end of this week. Whatever they did with their TV spots worked for female audiences,” a rival marketing marven tells me. Universal is “very optimistic” what with the PG-13 pic’s tracking ”really great” with women of all ages. “Unaided awareness, definite interest, and choice with women young and old is fantastic,” a studio source tells me. “The hard part is tracking it against comparable movies. It’s near impossible to think of a female-driven buddy comedy of the last few years.” I can think of three — The Sweetest Thing, and even Connie and Carla and High Heels and Low Lifes, all of which tanked. But those movies didn’t have Tina Fey.

    R-rated Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay from … Read More »

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    Breaking Pellicano Bombshell: A Mistrial? Feds’ Witness Screws Up Trial Big-Time

    UPDATED: It all has to do with Asst U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders oversealousness in calling to testify a woman who appears to have lied on the witness stand and to the feds about Pellicano co-defendant LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson. Here is the just posted story by LA Weekly‘s Steven Mikulan, my DHD trial correspondent, who explains everything.) trial-logo-smaller.jpgThe jury has just been sent home, and U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer will rule on a mistrial motion filed by Arneson’s attorney. Arneson is charged is charged with illegally using law enforcement databases to help Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano’s investigations. (CAA partners Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane, among others, were probed that way…) So everything is now in a state of flux. And what everyone is wondering is whether this means all five defendants or just Arneson would have to be tried over again, and therefore a do-over by all those Hollywood witnesses. Mikulan emailed me: “As of now ‘mistrial’ pertains only to Mark Arneson, although how it could effect the others remains uncertain, should he be severed from the case.”

    LA Weekly: Pellicano Trial Bombshell: Witness Shocker Throws Trial Into Turmoil

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    Jackie Chan Leaves CAA For Morris, And Paul Thomas Anderson Lands There, Too


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    I’m told Jackie Chan fired CAA on the day his new movie The Forbidden Kingdom opened #1 last Friday. Today he landed with the William Morris Agency’s Phillip Button. As for the There Will Be Blood director, Paul Thomas Anderson left Endeavor yesterday and landed tonight at WMA with Mike Simpson and John Fogelman.

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    FIRST NEWS ABOUT SAG-AMPTP TALKS: CEOS TO WAIT OUT SAG UNTIL MID-JULY (…& See SAG’s 2008 New Media Report)

    By | Thursday April 24, 2008 @ 4:02pm PDT

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    EXCLUSIVE (Keep refreshing for latest updates): I can now report that the negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild and the AMPTP are not making any progress with both sides very far apart and very frustrated. Negotiators for the Hollywood CEOs are privately making it clear they plan to make a deal first with AFTRA in order to use that as a wedge to soften up SAG. And, get this — my sources tell me that the AMPTP is now prepared to wait out SAG for a deal until as late as mid-July. Which means the Big Media moguls are virtually daring SAG to strike when its contract expires the end of June.

    I am, frankly, appalled. It’s already clear that this week’s move by the AMPTP to delay the start of talks with AFTRA is an utter sham. A game plan is already in place, just like the one that the AMPTP worked up to try to foil the WGA’s contract demands. For that scenario, the AMPTP used the DGA to soften up the WGA. In the end, the WGA-AMPTP deal was incrementally better but not by much.

    The AMPTP is furious that SAG negotiators are intent on getting a better deal for its actor members than the WGA’s or the DGA’s on formulas for both New Media and also DVD residuals.

    Here’s what’s happened so far as of the 9th day of bargaining. Both sides have presented their terms. SAG … Read More »

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