MEDIA - February 2001

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Wednesday February 28

  • MAD FOR MOVIES: The audience for movies in Korea grew by 12 percent last year. But that audience wasn't wild about the home team. "The audience share of Korean films decreased 3.2 percent to 32.6 percent, with foreign films attracting 67.4 percent of the audience." Korea Times 02/28/01
  • WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: One of the major gripes the Writers' Guild has with Hollywood studios is the "A Film By..." credit that directors of motion pictures love to tack on to the beginning of a movie. In the television world, where directors are considered expendable, that type of all-encompassing credit could only go to a writer, and the Guild would like the same to become true of the big screen. Los Angeles Times 02/28/01

Tuesday February 27

  • MOVIE TRAIN: Seoul officials are trying to get more people to use the subway. But no reducing the fare here. Instead the movies will be shown on the train. "There will be 10 shows per day shown on LCD monitors installed throughout the trains, to be called Cinetrain during this time." Korea Herald 02/27/01

Monday February 26

  • BOYCOTTING HARRY: A group of kids from around the world is banding together to lobby kids to boycott the forthcoming Harry Potter movie after producers of the film moved last week to shut down kids' Harry Potter fan websites with legal threats. "The Defense Against the Dark Arts says it is prepared to announce and encourage a full-on boycott against every single Harry Potter related product created or subsidized by AOL-Time Warner. This includes all Harry Potter toys, calendars, ornaments, paraphernalia, and the Harry Potter movie, set for release late 2001." Ottawa Citizen 02/26/01
  • THE $10 MOVIE: As of Friday, movie admission will cost $10 in New York. How long until the rest of the country catches up? "Ten dollars has kind of been the magic number for a while that no one had hit yet. What remains to be seen is if people will go along." Chicago Sun-Times 02/26/01
  • BRITS HONOR ROMANS: "Gladiator" swept the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) in London on Sunday, winning five awards including best picture. BBC 2/26/01
  • THE CANADIAN HOLLYWOOD: Helped by last year's Screen Actors Guild strike against Hollywood, movie and TV production in Canada went up again last year. The Canadian Hollywood? British Columbia, which saw production increase for the ninth straight year. Variety 02/26/01

Sunday February 25

  • THE NEW RADIO? As the globalization of the entertainment industry continues, several companies are hoping to be the first to bring the newest broadcasting technologies to the public. Gone will be such outmoded concepts as commercials, station IDs, and traditional on-air personalities. The new subscription-based satellite radio will take advantage of Internet, cable, and satellite technologies to provide the ultimate in narrowcasting, all for just pennies a day... Chicago Tribune 02/25/01

Friday February 23

  • HOW MODERN STARS ARE BORN: Make a short film, preferably short, funny, and off-beat. Post it on a web site. Talent agents call. Offers (and money) pour in. It worked for several young directors who are suddenly making big-budget films and TV programs. But it may not work much longer. So many young directors are doing it that there's a glut of film shorts on the Internet. The Boston Herald 02/23/01
  • NOT SO WILD ABOUT HARRY: Warner Brothers has a PR problem. Several Harry Potter fans set up web sites in honor of their young hero. Warner Brothers lawyers sent them letters threatening legal action for copyright violation. Now the fans are banding together, and threatening a boycott of Harry Potter merchandise. "They fired off this letter without looking at the site. It was obviously a fan site, nobody making money. It was just kids who loved Harry Potter." USA Today 02/22/01

Thursday February 22

  • HOLLYWOOD WORRIES: Yet another twist in the likely Screen Actors Guild strike this summer has surfaced. Hollywood's marketing machine is wondering if such a work stoppage would also shut down their most effective means of selling their product. "The issue, or rather, fear at this point, is whether [SAG] . . . would forbid its members to participate in promotional and publicity activities during a strike." 02/21/01
  • EXPENSIVE RATINGS: Television networks in Australia are using a new ratings service and some of the networks are unhappy. "The most remarkable finding so far is that we actually are watching much less TV than the old Nielsen surveys asserted. Last week, in some prime, mid-evening timeslots, OzTam/ATR reported 200,000 to 300,000 fewer people watching TV in Melbourne than under Nielsen." Each drop of a rating point means a loss of $25 million in revenue for a network. The Age (Melbourne) 02/22/01

Wednesday February 21

  • THINK THE MOVIE WILL BE A HIT? Coca-Cola has made a deal worth $150 million for the global marketing rights for the first film version of the popular Harry Potter children's novels. It's believed to be one of the most expensive sponsorship deals ever, and on the scale of what the firm spent to sponsor the recent Olympics. The Guardian (London) 02/21/01

Tuesday February 20

  • MAKING AN EXAMPLE: The Screen Actors Guild has banned an actress from membership "for the maximum allowable period" of five years. Christine Blackburn acted in multiple non-union commercials during last year's SAG strike against advertisers, officially earning the title of "scab." Blackburn charges that the union's action is unfair and inconsistent, since famous athletes who also crossed the picket line were merely fined. Variety 02/20/01

Monday February 19

  • FRENCH MOVIE WINS BERLINALE FESTIVAL: "Intimacy," an English-language film by French director Patrice Chereau, and one of the most controversial films at this year's Berlin Film Festival, has won the first prize. It contains explicit scenes of oral sex, in telling its tale of sexual obsession. It beat 22 films including "Traffic," directed by Steven Soderbergh. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02/19/01
  • THE BBC'S FADED GLORY? Some 150 million people worldwide tune in to the BBC every week. "But it isn't only resentful professionals from rival companies who now wonder if the BBC's reputation may not be a shadow—albeit an awfully big shadow—of former glories. The past year has seen turmoil at the corporation's London headquarters and heavy criticism of the BBC as an institution, not for the first time but in a manner more insidious and damaging than ever." The Atlantic 03/01
  • MOVIE DRAIN: A new US Commerce Department study says foreign governments (particularly Canada) are spending billions in tax incentives to lure American movie productions outside of the US. It's a matter of money, the report says, and producers shoot where it's cheapest. National Post (Canada) 02/19/01
  • ALL MUSIC ALL THE TIME: Chicago radio station WNIB played classical music for 27 years until new owners took over. A week ago the classical format disappeared, and the music, announcers and commercials have been replaced by a lonely six-CD player set on continuous play. What's going on? New owners are just trying to figure out what the new format will be - and losing millions of dollars in the meantime. Chicago Tribune 02/19/01

Sunday February 18

  • TURNING THE SUPERTANKER: American public braodcaster PBS is "a system plagued by sagging ratings, aging members, and internal tension between a few major producers and far-flung member stations." New president Pat Mitchell is making changes and shaking things up, but that has stations and some longtime fans anxious. Boston Globe 02/18/01
  • THE NEW FILMMAKERS: "The American cinema's past has for the last 30 years been intertwined with the rise of American film schools. Many of the producers, directors, writers, cinematographers and editors making mainstream movies today are graduates of those schools, and, like me, most have made their movies on 35- millimeter motion picture film. But a friend who teaches cinematography at a major film school recently lamented that his students were refusing to shoot their projects on film. This generation of filmmakers-to-be grew up with camcorders, and they find it bothersome to learn what they call the 'technical stuff,' like focus and exposure. They relish the immediacy of video and consider its hands-on ease of operation a birthright." The New York Times 02/18/01

Friday February 16

  • FADE TO BLACK: The latest casualty in the failing movie-theater industry is Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. (the US’s number-two movie chain), which filed for bankruptcy on Thursday. "How the industry got into this mess after a decade of uninhibited theater building in just about every mall in every one-horse town in America has nothing to do with Hollywood and everything to do with real estate." ABC News (Reuters) 2/15/01
  • THE IMAGE WARS: Colombia is in the news for its civil war, for drug trafficking, and for US aid. It's also in US movies a lot lately, and Colombians don't like it. The US, they believe, "tends to look for someone bad outside the country who poses a danger or threat. And this is reflected in its movies -- whether the bad guys are Nazis, communists, Iraqis or, currently, Colombians." The Globe and Mail 02/16/01
  • WELL, IT'S SPORTS ISN'T IT? They say sports is one of the biggest draws on the internet. So now you can now watch wrestling on your computer. WWF. The real thing. In fact, more people watch that than any other online streaming video. According to researchers who track these things, " has been one of the most consistent streaming video sites on the Internet. It's a true cross-platform brand." Editor & Publisher 02/15/01
  • WRITING ON THE WALL: Everybody's talking about a possible Hollywood strike by screen writers this summer. But the president of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees denounced the WGA's strike goals as hazy and wrongheaded: "You can't disrupt an industry entirely like that. You're not even dealing with egos here. You're dealing with megalomaniacs." Variety 02/16/01

Thursday February 15

  • HOME FIELD (DIS)ADVANTAGE: Heralded as the rebirth of the martial-arts epic, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" has wowed audiences all over the world - everywhere, that it, except Hong Kong. "It might look exotic to foreign audiences but it has been done before, and better, in other Hong Kong films." China Times 2/15/01

Wednesday February 14

  • WHO WOULDA COULDA SHOULDA: No Academy Award winners have been announced yet, but just getting nominated is seen as a kind of victory. Particularly by those who weren't nominated. Boston Herald 02/14/01
    • INCREDIBLE! UNPARALLELED! PHENOMENAL! And all bad. Teamed with the Oscars, the Razzies - annual awards for Hollywood's worst. Although John Travolta seems a shoo-in for individual honors, "Arnold Schwarzenegger picked up three nominations by himself for worst actor, worst supporting actor, and worst couple, all for 'The 6th Day,' in which he played a helicopter pilot named Adam Gibson and Gibson's clone." CNN 02/12/01
  • TROUBLING TIMES FOR ABC: From the outside, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation looks to be in turmoil. This week ABC's head of new programing abruptly left. His departure after only six months on the job after a disagreement with ABC boss Jonathan Shier has has unsettled many senior staff in an organisation already reeling from Mr. Shier's many management changes. The Age (Melbourne) 02/14/01
  • DOES THIS MEAN OUR COLLECTIVE TASTE HAS IMPROVED? A few years ago TV tabloids were all over the set competing for viewers and sensational stories. Only one remains - "Inside Edition" is readying its 4000th broadcast. It's even outlasted the "tabloid" label. Washington Times 02/14/01
  • THE COMPASSIONATE PORNOGRAPHER: Expecting the Bush administration to crack down on XXX videos, the industry is strategizing. "Anxious to sanitize their product to the point where it passes muster with compassionate conservatives everywhere, especially those living on Pennsylvania Avenue, major producers in the industry are proposing to discard or ban a host of sexual acts and scenarios that have in some instances become staples of the genre. Welcome to the era of kinder, gentler smut." The Nation 02/26/01

Tuesday February 13

  • GET YOUR OSCAR FIX HERE: ArtsJournal readers love to claim the highbrow ground, but we know what you want. The nominations, from best actress to best key grip, all conveniently linked for your voyeuristic, Tinseltown-saturated convenience. E! Online 02/13/01
  • NO SUCH THING AS BAD PUBLICITY: Pariahs that they are, the big tobacco companies are understandably reluctant to release information about where they do their product placement in Hollywood films. But twelve years after the industry promised to stop paying for such exposure, 85% of feature films contain prominent scenes of smoking, and 28% feature visible brand names, according to a new study. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/13/01
  • CELEBRITY PACK JOURNALISM: The media that cover Hollywood increasingly do a superficial and formulaic job, say critics. Reporters prefer reporting quick hit gossip or meaningless data rather than doing stories that reveal how the entertainment industry really works. For example, "the media's obsession with opening weekend grosses is as ironic as it may be destructive. Why? Because virtually everyone in Hollywood agrees that most of the numbers the studios report to the media are inaccurate, if not downright dishonest. 'They're made up - fabricated - every week'." Los Angeles Times 02/12/01
  • BERLIN LOOKING FOR NEW BLOOD: The Berlin Film Festival struggles to find an identity - a German identity. After 22 years, Moritz de Hadeln is leaving as festival director, and many critics feel the Berlinale "desperately needs new blood and fresh ideas. During the cold war, the festival provided a valuable display window for movies from the Soviet bloc. In the 1990's, though, it has been used increasingly as a springboard for the release of American movies in Europe." The New York Times 03/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Monday February 12

  • ON AIR INFORMANTS: It has been revealed that "some of the editors at the central German state broadcasting corporation Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) had been informers for East Germany's secret police, the Stasi." And now questions about why they still have jobs. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02/12/01
  • OSCAR'S FOREIGN MEANING: "This year a record 46 countries have entered films in the foreign-language category, building on a decade-long trend. For little-known foreign films, an Oscar nomination is a prize almost as coveted as the gilded statue itself. It can mean picking up an American distributor, which in turn can open up markets, even those close to home that are otherwise inaccessible." The New York Times 02/11/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • BLACK AND WHITE TV: The racial divide between what blacks and whites watch on American TV seems to be closing. "According to a fall 2000 study of American television, released this week, 'Monday Night Football' was the No. 1 series among blacks, while 'ER' was tops with whites. That marks the first time in years that the top choice with blacks also appeared in the top 20 among whites, and vice versa ('MNF' is No. 14 among whites, while 'ER' ranks No. 8 with blacks)." Variety 02/12/01

Friday February 9

  • NPR AGAINST MICRO-RADIO: Last year the American Federal Communications Commission decided to allow micro-radio broadcasting. The commercial radio industry screamed in protest. And so did National Public Radio. Indeed, NPR's objection to the plan is seen as one reason the idea (intended to help diversity in a rapidly consolidating radio market) might fail to be implemented. The New Republic 02/05/01
  • FILM DETECTIVES: Indian censors routinely censor racey scenes from movies. But many theatres quietly insert the cut scenes back into the movies. So the government is hiring "film detectives" to go into some 800 cinemas and find out whether banned scenes have been restored to movies. BBC 02/08/01
  • ARE THEY SCREENING GLADIATOR? The Berlin International Film Festival, which opened this week, seems to be struggling to find German films to screen as part of its main competition. Europe at large is well-represented, as is the U.S. But most of the German features have been relegated to the smaller side shows, and the festival continues to be dominated by Hollywood. Boston Globe (AP) 02/09/01
  • PLANNING AHEAD: The looming strikes by Hollywood's writers and actors may not be as devastating as some have predicted, since the industry appears to have a record number of big-budget blockbusters already in the can. The studios' effort to be ready to release new films throughout the strike was helped along by many major stars, who can't bear the thought of having their names out of circulation for months. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/09/01

Thursday February 8

  • BROUGHT TO YOU BY... As a public broadcaster, National Public Radio can't sell ads on-air. But what about its building? NPR has leased space for giant ads on the side of its Washington headquarters. "This is an arrangement that creates revenue for NPR and allows us to enhance our services while reducing reliance on member-station contributions. There is nothing morally or ethically wrong with this arrangement." Washington Post 02/08/01
  • THE ART OF PAC MAN: Should video games be considered a legitimate art form? Enthusiasts make the case: "American consumers now spend more on video games than on movie tickets — with video game hardware and software sales now totaling about $8.9 billion per year, compared with about $7.3 billion in box office receipts. And video game characters — from the cartoonish Mario Brothers to the curvaceous Lara Croft — have become cultural icons." The New York Times 02/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Wednesday February 7

  • MORE TIME FOR THE ARTS: After a period of widespread questioning of the BBC’s commitment to the arts (given the many months it spent without anyone in charge of its arts programming), a new initiative has been announced to upgrade and expand its arts coverage. The most significant change is an extra half-hour devoted to culture built into its flagship Friday-night news program. The Independent (London) 2/07/01
    • AN INTERVIEW WITH BBC ART CHIEF: "I want to remind people why we have the programmes in the first place. It's about belief: making the best cultural experience more available is a social good. People [in the BBC] have woken, if not from a sleep, then from a nap." The Independent (London) 2/07/01
    • ARTS TO NUMBER 2: After 34 years on the first channel, BBC moves its premiere arts series "Omnibus," from BBC1 to BBC2, leading some to question the corporation's commitment to arts programming. "Because of the extra investment in BBC1, there is going to be an increase in entertainment and drama programming, although BBC1 will retain a commitment to arts programmes." The Guardian (London) 02/07/01
  • SEX SEX SEX (AND MORE ALL THE TIME): A new study says sex on American TV is on the rise. Three-quarters of prime-time TV shows last year had sexual content; two years earlier, it was only two-thirds. Most of that increase was in sitcoms. Dallas News 02/07/01
  • HISTORY WORTH REVISITING: A new American miniseries staring Natasha Richardson is unusually brazen in its portrayal of the US’s wartime indifference to the atrocities of the Holocaust. Says Richardson: "What shocked me was not only the indifference of the United States, but also England and Ireland and so many other countries. They knew what was going on. They didn't want to rock the boat. It was nothing less than fear and prejudice." New York Times 2/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday February 6

  • CAMBODIAN CINEMA CPR : With a daring new film about to open, director Fay Sam Ang is hoping to breathe new life into Cambodia’s almost defunct film industry. "Considering the recent history of the land of the Killing Fields, few countries have more stories to tell on film, but no one's telling them." Time (Asia) 2/12/01
  • BECKETT ON FILM: The huge project of filming the entire Beckett canon of plays has finally been completed, and the results were screened at a launch party in Dublin over the weekend. "After I had seen 14 of the 19 works an extraordinary phenomenon became clear: the spectacle of a man from the grave gently taming 19 of the world's most individual directors." The Guardian (London) 2/06/01
    • THE RIGHT INTENT: Beckett himself would probably have grimaced at the effort, but audiences will likely cheer. "The 19 Beckett films unfolding over the weekend are evidence of a deep desire for the Nobel laureate's canonisation as a self-renewing god of Irish culture. The films rise out of admiration and loyalty to the texts, and they will probably serve to bring a new generation to the work and its influence." The Telegraph (London) 2/06/01
  • THE PRICE OF PIRACY: Despite heavy lobbying by the US entertainment industry, a European Union parliamentary committee has refused to introduce restrictions on free online music downloading into its new copyright regulations. "One area under contention is a possible extension of national levies currently charged in some EU countries on blank videotapes, compact discs, recorders or players, surcharges meant to compensate artists for pirated copies." (AP) 2/05/01

Monday February 5

  • TOO MUCH SEX? Sex sells, doesn't it? Evidently not for the American Fox TV network. Fox is getting big-league ratings with the likes of 'Temptation Island'. But "the racy content in the current wave of reality TV is making some advertisers question the line between good marketing and good taste. As a result, many big-name companies have chosen to vote themselves off shows displaying questionable content." Christian Science Monitor 02/05/01
  • THE MEANING OF ART: "Does an artist's touch turn an everyday object into an art object? How does an artwork receive its value? How does one's possessions define an identity?" An artist is selling his possesions by auction on Ebay - and hoping to make a point about such questions. The New York Times 02/05/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT: The Writer's Guild has extended its negotiating deadline with Hollywood's movie and television producers, in the hope that further discussions may avoid a crippling strike. Observers are hopeful that the move means that the two sides are closer than previously thought. 02/03/01

Sunday February 4

  • "HIDEOUSLY WHITE": Black and Asian writers are marginal to the BBC's schedules. No actors from a multi-ethnic background are currently winning the hearts and minds of viewers in drama. It's worth remembering a time when things were different at the BBC." The Telegraph (London) 02/03/01
  • MAD MARIA DISEASE: What is it about the "Sound of Music" movie that has thousands dressing up in their underwear to sing at theater screens? "Thirty-fifth-anniversary videos, CDs and DVDs have recently been issued, yet the print we're seeing is old and scratchy; its colour changes disconcertingly from reel to reel. We don't care. We've paid our $22.50 for the subtitles. The men beside me are Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings. I, in my nightie, am the Maria who sings 'My Favorite Things'. And this is 'Sing-A-Long Sound of Music'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/03/01
  • SAFE TO COME OUT: A film version of Joyce's "Ulysses" shot 30 years ago was banned in Ireland all this time. "The script was lifted straight from the book, and its reception mirrored the response to Ulysses in 1922 when the Dublin press howled that it was 'written by a perverted lunatic who has made a speciality of the literature of the latrine'." This week it finally opens there... The Guardian 02/03/01

Friday February 2

  • TRYING TO BLOCK BLOCKBUSTER: Some 200 American video store owners have sued Blockbuster Video, saying the movie-rental giant is trying to monopolize the business and drive indies out of business with unfair business practices. Nando Times 02/02/01

Thursday February 1

  • THE ULTIMATE SELLOUT: The future is now, and apparently, it's product placement. As independent filmmakers search for ways to use new technologies to get their films made, many are expressing interest in the next generation of paid product inserts. Like the look of the suit Robert DeNiro's wearing in this scene? Just point and click... Wired, 02/01/01
  • THE ART OF ADAPTATION: Adapting literary classics to the screen (or "versioning," as literary critics like to call it) has become increasingly popular in recent years. But, what do we really want when we go to the movies - faithful adaptations in period dress, or films that riff off a novel’s themes in their own unique ways? "My own preference is for versionings that make the audience work a bit for the payoff. Films, that is, whose core literary inspiration is not released as part of the advertising package." The Guardian (London) 02/01/01
  • MAKING BECKETT CRINGE: If Samuel Beckett were alive today, what would he make of the fact that 19 films of his plays are about to be released? Let’s just say the directors should probably be glad he’s not around to comment. "If he took such a hard line against anyone taking liberties with the plays, it seems obvious that he would have been utterly outraged by the far more violent act of changing the entire form from live theatre to film." Irish Times 02/01/01
  • ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: One of the major sticking points between Hollywood execs and the Writers' Guild is the way screenwriters are credited - or not credited - for the scripts they pen. The traditional directorial credit "A film by..." is a source of particular irritation. Rocky Mountain News (AP), 02/01/01
  • BRACING FOR IMPACT: Many American movies and TV programs are currently filmed in Canada, because of the favorable exchange rate, and the film and TV industry is worth a cool $4 billion per year to Canada's economy. But with massive strikes threatening to cripple the American entertainment megaplex this summer, Canadian production companies are preparing for a season without U.S. assistance. CBC, 01/31/01