MEDIA - Film/Radio/TV/Web - June 2002

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Monday July 1

THE MOVIE SUMMER: The summer movie season is beating all box office records. So far, from May 2 to June 23 box office is up 27.5% over last year. "A key factor this summer is that the hit films are generally playing stronger and longer, unlike last year, when spectacular first weekend grosses were followed by drops of 50% or more in the second weekend." Los Angeles Times 07/01/02

HURRAY FOR BOLLYWOOD: "Bollywood has never been hotter. Glossy magazines are dedicating pages to Indian-style fashion (henna tattoo, anyone?) and Western directors are scrambling to make movies inspired by these epic tales of love, lust and heartbreak. The Indian film industry produces 1,000 movies a year watched by audiences across the East from Africa to China and by expat Indians around the world. Every day 23 million people pile into cinemas across India (population 1 billion), to watch movies. Even the West is finally catching on. What's the attraction? Sydney Morning Herald 07/01/02

Friday June 28

ALL IS SWEETNESS AND LIGHT: Whatever happened to the grand old tradition of dark acting? These days it seems that all Hollywood antagonists must be so evil as to be caricatures, and the days of quietly menacing characters, the type who don't frighten you so much as make you wildly uneasy, have faded away into the ether left from an era when subtlety still had a place in Tinseltown. Toronto Star 06/28/02

BACKING AWAY SLOWLY: National Public Radio has reconsidered its much-criticized policy of requiring webmasters to go through a lengthy 'permission' process before posting a link to any part of the public broadcaster's site. In a statement, NPR acknowledged that vociferous objection from the online world had played a role in the change, but claimed that it had been looking at changing the policy for some time. Wired 06/28/02

CURE FOR THE COMMON MULTIPLEX: "Snacks and soda are banned from the theatre. Most of the movies have subtitles; many are in black-and-white. The actors and directors deal in highbrow concepts like neo-realism and surrealism. More to the point, there's nary a web-slinger nor a lightsabre in sight. Welcome to Summer At The Cinematheque, the most popular program of Cinematheque Ontario, the film lover's paradise far from the maddening multiplex." Toronto Star 06/28/02

Thursday June 27

SUPPORTING ROLES: Why is it that every Hollywood film purporting to be about racial minorities, civil rights, or non-white cultures always seems to end up focusing on a white protagonist? While the film industry revels in its liberal image and loves to pay lip service to minority causes, the movies it churns out consistently relegate black, Hispanic, and Native American characters to supporting status, while the "white-man-on-a-white-horse" protagonist rides in to embrace their cause and save them all. It couldn't be much more insulting. Chicago Tribune 06/27/02

WHITHER PACIFICA? After the better part of a decade spent in epic battles between network execs and volunteer programmers, the Pacifica network is now squarely in the hands of the dissident broadcasters who appear on its air. The question is, can the inmates really run the asylum, and does Pacifica's grass-roots, left-wing, and (let's be honest) brutally unpolished style still have a place in today's radio landscape? Salon 06/20/02

Wednesday June 26

BBC EXPANDS ARTS PROGRAMMING: In response to charges it has been dumbing down its arts programming, the BBC is expanding its arts coverage. "Perhaps stung by the criticism, BBC1 plans to spend more than £3.3m on arts programmes in the autumn schedules, which will be announced in the next few weeks. This is £1.5m more than last year. The number of hours dedicated to the arts will rise by 40 per cent." The Independent (UK) 06/24/02

HAVE MONEY WILL PLAY: Is Clear Channel Communications - with 1200 radio stations across America, the country's largest broadcaster - giving airtime to record labels in return for money? Well, maybe not directly, but some of the company's new services sure look suspicious. Salon 06/25/02

  • PAY-TO-PLAY: Music payola is becoming a hot topic, with the US Congress threatening to hold hearings and make new laws. Payola is the deal where recording labels pay radio station to play their music. For some large radio conglomerates, it's become a big income producer. But the system essentially shuts out artists and labels that don't have the money to get their music played. Salon 06/25/02

Tuesday June 25

PBS CHIEF HOPEFUL ABOUT NETWORK: With PBS ratings falling to historic lows, PBS chief Pat Mitchell rallied the troops at the network's annual meeting. "That one small part of my musings about ratings has become the message: that I am measuring PBS' relevance by ratings. Not true, of course. I was actually arguing against ratings as the only measurement of relevance or success." Yahoo! (Hollywood Reporter) 06/25/02

EXOTIC MAKEOVER: Foreign directors have a long, rich history in Hollywood, from Josef von Sternberg and Billy Wilder to Fritz Lang and Fred Zinnemann, and more recently directors like Czech-born Milos Forman have flourished in America. But many have suffered. Hollywood hires foreign filmmakers for their artistic cachet, then often wastes their gifts on hackneyed material. It's that classic combination of the American thirst for the exotic and insistence on the familiar." Los Angeles Times 06/25/02

MASSACHUSETTS CLOSING FILM OFFICE: In the 1990s many US cities and states tried to lure Hollywood movies to shoot on location, trying to harvest some of the millions spent on location shoots. Most states set up film offices to facilitate permits and try to convince filmmakers to come. Now, with states like Massachusetts facing budget deficits, legislators are considering closing their film offices. ''We're talking conservatively of $30 to $40 million coming into the state for late summer or fall. 'If there's no film officer, then it's unlikely that the studios will come here to shoot on top of the other problems we're facing.'' Boston Globe 06/25/02

Monday June 24

YOUR AD HERE: Product placement is an old story in Hollywood movies. But the new Tom Cruise/Stephen Spielberg movie Minority Report is breaking records. "Twentieth Century Fox and DreamWorks, which co-produced and are distributing the picture, peg its final budget at $102 million U.S. According to product placement reps, the brands could have contributed $25 million to the final shooting budget, offsetting costs handsomely — and guaranteeing a healthy future for the marriage of Hollywood and Madison Avenue." Toronto Star (Variety) 06/24/02

Sunday June 23

THE FOLLY OF BIG RADIO: Clear Channel Communications is, for all intents and purposes, the face of American radio in the era that has succeeded the notorious Telecommunications Act of 1996. The company has a near-monopoly in many markets, and nationwide, radio has never sounded so bland, so demographically targeted, and so predictable. Clear Channel claims that such tactics are what the public wants, but overall listenership is down 10% since 1996. Furthermore, some reports have Clear Channel bleeding at the wallet at a time when it should be raking in the dough. Is this the death of radio as we know it? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Washington Post) 06/23/02

  • TAKING ON TELECOM '96: So, most observers agree, radio has more or less sucked ever since Congress fiddled with it back in 1996. "Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) aims to do something about it. Feingold plans by month's end to introduce legislation aimed at plugging what he sees as holes in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which opened the floodgate of corporate consolidation." Washington Post 06/23/02

GOLDEN AGE OF THE DOCUMENTARY? To TV execs, they're a cheap, easy, low-stress way to fill blocks of time on the schedule. To their creators, however, documentaries are an art, walking a fine line between filmmaking and journalism. And never have documentarians had so many outlets clamoring for their work: from PBS's endlessly provocative P.O.V. to HBO's sometimes-seedy America Undercover, the original "reality programming" is becoming the hottest thing in television. Boston Globe 06/23/02

NO BOYS ALLOWED: Quick, name a female filmmaker other than Penny Marshall. Stopped you cold, right? The fact is that, while female actors have made great strides in securing plum roles and top salaries, the world of those behind the camera remains overwhelmingly male. A new summer workshop in New Mexico aims to change that, if only by giving young women access to the knowledge and materials necessary to pursuing a career making films. Nando Times (AP) 06/21/02

THE SUM OF ALL NUCLEAR HOLOCAUSTS: Nuclear war has always been a subject of fascination in Hollywood. From Dr. Strangelove to On the Beach to The Day After, the spectre of nuclear annihilation has traditionally been a surefire way to wind up an audience while making what passes in the industry for a political statement. But the new summer thriller The Sum of All Fears marks a departure from the nuclear norm, and the message is clear: post-9/11, movies like Sum play less like futuristic fantasies than as prophetic predictions of the horrors to come. Los Angeles Times 06/23/02

Friday June 21

WEBCASTING FEES SET: The US Librarian of Congress has cut royalty fees internet webcasters will have to pay to play music. The copyright office had proposed a fee of .14 cents per song. The new rates "require webcasters to pay record labels .07 cents each time a song is streamed live and .02 cents for archived or simulcasted streams. Temporary copies, such as ripped copies of CDs that are used to create the digital streams, will cost companies 8.8 percent of their entire royalty fee." Webcasters say that the fees will put them out of business. Wired 06/20/02

A US-PROGRAM DUMPING GROUND? The UK is considering allowing American companies to own British commercial broadcasters. But BBC head Greg Dyke warns a parliamentary committee that if it happens, "US media giants would simply 'dump' their own shows on the UK rather than invest in British programming." BBC 06/21/02

NPR'S "CLUELESS" LINK POLICY: National Public Radio has become the object of ridicule on the web for its policy of requiring webmasters to apply for permission to link to stories on NPR's site. "By Wednesday afternoon, the NPR link form was the No. 1 item on Daypop, which ranks the popularity of items in weblogs. 'If you take this to its logical end, if you did this to everyone at every site, the Internet would break down. So the policy is borne of either cluelessness or evil - and I'd like to think that the Car Talk and tote bag people aren't evil." Wired 06/20/02

Thursday June 20

RECORD HOLLYWOOD: Major Hollywood movie studios took in a record $31 billion last year, up by $1.3 billion from the previous year. "Home video, spurred by the continued rise of DVD sales, was again the biggest contributor to the overall growth, accounting for 40% of all-media revenue, according to a summary of annual global results. Backstage 06/19/02

SEX WIPES AWAY MEMORY: A study reports that a little sex in a TV show wipes away viewers' ability to remember commercials. "Researchers found that people watching shows packed with sexual innuendo, performers with revealing clothes or sexual scenes were much less likely to remember the ads both immediately after the show and a day later." Sydney Morning Herald 06/20/02

RADIO FOR THE WORLD: Australia's SBS Radio is the most multicultural radio operation in the world, broadcasting in 68 languages. "SBS Radio broadcasts 15,000 hours of programs each year to Australia's major cities. Different languages are allocated varying amounts of time on air depending on the percentage of speakers in Australia, but population numbers are not the only element taken into consideration." Sydney Morning News 06/20/02

Wednesday June 19

WAR GAMES: Hollywood war movies are everywhere this summer. "Not since the flurry of Vietnam movies in the late 1980s has the combat film been so viable or so visible. And not since the gung ho Reagan-era warnography of Rambo and Top Gun has the brass been as pleased." Village Voice 06/18/02

Tuesday June 18

THE END OF PBS? With PBS' ratings falling to historic lows, critics are wondering whether the network will survive. PBS president Pat Mitchell: "We are dangerously close in our overall primetime number to falling below the relevance quotient. And if that happens, we will surely fall below any arguable need for government support, not to mention corporate or individual support." FoxNews 06/18/02

Monday June 17

STREAK OF INDEPENDENCE: While the big movies rely more and more on boffo opening weekend at the box office, the marketing and distribution of smaller independent films is being rethought. "The challenge is finding the right small movie to schedule opposite a behemoth. It's an evolutionary process. The increase in independent films jockeying for art-house space has changed the equation, as has alternative programming on cable that's really satisfying." San Francisco Chronicle 06/17/02

MISSING WOMEN: "According to an annual study that counts the number of women working on the 250 top domestic grossing films of the year, the number of women directors declined from 11 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2001. Women accounted for 14 percent of writers in 2000. In 2001, the percentage dropped to 10." Wired 06/17/02

Sunday June 16

FEST ME: There are now 1,600 film festivals around the world and 650 in the United States. And oddly, Los Angeles, the home of movies, doesn't have a top-tier film fest. Why? Shouldn't it? Los Angeles Times 06/16/02

THE NEW OLD FANTASY: "Perhaps more than ever before, Hollywood is an empire of fantasy. But despite the popularity of these movies — and despite the unmatched power of the studios to blanket the real world with publicity, advertising and media hype — Hollywood is not the center of this empire. It is, rather, a colonial outpost whose conquest has been recent and remains incomplete. Fantasy literature, which in the broadest sense includes modes of storytelling from novels to movies to video games, depends on patterns, motifs and archetypes." The New York Times 06/16/02

Friday June 14

A CONSPIRACY AGAINST CHICK FLICKS? There seems to be some sort of cosmic film critic law that prevents reviewers from ever reviewing a movie which features strong female characters expressing their emotions without the use of the words 'chick flick' or 'weepie,' says Deborah Hornblow. But "the predominantly male critical establishment legitimizes and sanctifies the life experiences of men as they are represented in film, never pausing to consider special--or marginal--classification status." Hartford Courant 06/07/02

PUBLIC BROADCASTER MAKES MASSIVE CUTS: "Dallas public broadcaster KERA cut nearly a quarter of its staff Thursday, citing lower-than-expected corporate and individual donations since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks... Public TV stations in Chicago, Philadelphia and Oregon also laid off workers in the last month." Dallas Morning News 06/14/02

Thursday June 13

PBS' RECORD LOW RATINGS: America's PBS racked up record low ratings this past season. The network is trying to reinvent itself, working to attract viewers who aren't kids and old people. But can PBS reinvent before its audience completely goes away? "The PBS audience has wandered off to niche cable channels that have cherry-picked one coverage area after another that PBS once had exclusively: The Food Network and Animal Planet in specific areas, for instance, and even Discovery and A&E more directly competing with PBS' broader vision." Chicago Tribune 06/13/02

BRIT TV GOES TO THE US: Sales of British TV shows to the US increased 20 percent last year, helped by the success of a couple of hit exports, including The Weakest Link. "Sales to the US account for nearly a third of all exports from the UK and the market is worth £136 million, according to the British Television Distributors Association (BTDA)." BBC 06/13/02

  • Previously: DOES UK HAVE WORLD'S BEST TV? Britain has won the most awards at the Banff International Television Festival, winning nine awards. The US came second with 7 awards. "The U.K. has traditionally dominated the awards, held for the past 23 years in this Rocky Mountain resort town." National Post (Canada) 06/11/02

Wednesday June 12

BEST ROMANTIC FILMS: The American Film Institute releases a list of Hollywood's all-time best romantic movies. The oldest film was Way Down East (No. 71) from 1920. The newest was 1998's Shakespeare in Love (No. 50). The Star-Tribune (AP)(Minneapolis) 06/12/02

Tuesday June 11

DOES UK HAVE WORLD'S BEST TV? Britain has won the most awards at the Banff International Television Festival, winning nine awards. The US came second with 7 awards. "The U.K. has traditionally dominated the awards, held for the past 23 years in this Rocky Mountain resort town." National Post (Canada) 06/11/02

PROTESTING CONSOLIDATION: A TV group representing creative workers in the industry are warning that consolidation of American media is dangerous for the country. They're asking the FCC to investigate. "The harm comes about as a direct result of the growing concentration of ownership. The consequences of this new factor in our industry are - and this is no exaggeration - potentially catastrophic." Nando Times (AP) 06/11/02

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GREAT CARTOONS? "The era of the great cartoons is dead. There's no great mystery about it. They used to be made for adults, with children only partly in mind, and they were destined for cinema release. They were created by people of great wit and craft who were as comfortable composing symphonic music as cartoon underscore. Cartoons are sold by volume nowadays like the bookseller who sells literature by weight - $10 a kilo." The Age (Melbourne) 06/11/02

Monday June 10

THINK OLDER: Australia's Victoria government is urging TV execs to get over their preoccupation with youth and program more to older Australians. A new government report shows that "those older than 55 were the most avid television viewers in Australia, watching an average of four hours and 18 minutes each day. Teenagers watched two hours and 39 minutes, while those 40 to 54 spent three hours and 18 minutes in front of the box." The Age (Melbourne) 06/10/02

Sunday June 9

TV FOR THE VERY YOUNG - A CHANGE: For years some TV producers of kids shows for the very young believed that attention spans were so short that shows should be cut up into small segments. The approach won Sesame Street 79 Emmys over 33 years. But it turns out video viewing habits for the very young are changing along with the rest of the population, so the show has gone to longer stories. The change seems to be working - Sesame Street's ratings are up 31 percent in the 2-5 age group. The New York Times 06/09/02

Friday June 7

MOVIES FROM THE 'AXIS OF EVIL': An internet site based in Iran has set up a nice little business streaming American movies over the internet. The site has all the latest movies, and charges less than $1.50 per view. Yes it's illegal, but "legal and technology experts said Hollywood will be hard-pressed to reel in a Web site based in a country that is not a party to international copyright treaties and that has not had diplomatic ties to the United States since 1979. In fact, tensions surged again early this year when President Bush lumped Iran in with Iraq and North Korea as part of an 'axis of evil'." SFGate 06/06/02

A TOOL TO CHANGE ART: Digital filmmaking is sweeping the industry. But it is "a cause for misgivings as well as wonderment. It will kill art before it enhances it. It will aggrandise businessmen before it enriches audiences. It had to happen, just as the talkies had to, because technology dictated it, but not because any creative artist craved it." One thing is certain - it will change the art of making movies - in good ways and in bad. London Evening Standard 06/07/02

WHY AMERICAN TV BEATS BRITISH: "Although there is still an unbudgeable assumption that British television is 'the best in the world', and the BBC the guardian of that excellence, a mental roll call of the most innovative and impressive shows on our screens suggests that that confidence is quite misplaced." The best TV in recent years have been made by the Americans. The Times 06/07/02

HOW LEW WASSERMAN RUINED THE MOVIES: He was mourned as a legend this week. But "missing from all the gushy epitaphs is an example of a single great picture that got made because of Wasserman's vision. "If the only movies playing at your local cineplex are Spider-Man and the new Star Wars epic, Wasserman deserves much of the blame. Even during the drug-induced brilliance of 1970s Hollywood, Wasserman's taste at Universal was always conservative, middle-aged, and middlebrow: no Coppolas, no Altmans, no Scorseses." Slate 06/06/02

  • OKAY, SO THE MOVIES WEREN'T ANY GOOD: "Wasserman, who died Monday from the effects of a stroke, was a major figure in the history of Los Angeles, a key figure in the history of American Jews, a critical figure in the history of American politics, even an important transitional figure in the history of capitalism itself. And, yeah - he changed movies too, not entirely for the better." LAWeekly 06/06/02

Thursday June 6

AUSSIE E-MAIL MIGRATION: Australian actors and directors have been working in Hollywood for years. Now so are Aussie writers. "Once considered the weakest part of the film industry, writers are jumping from local successes into studio films. And rather than basing themselves in Los Angeles, they are often staying in Australia. So it's a quiet export of screenwriting talent - an exodus by email." Sydney Morning Herald 06/06/02

Wednesday June 5

CANADA'S TV ACTORS WANT BETTER DEAL: "Marginalized for decades, largely impotent in negotiations, and too fearful of personal backlash to fight back, some of Canada's most distinguished thespians have recently begun to find their voice." For what? "The Canadian film-service industry has grown into a $3.5-billion annual business. But of every dollar spent, technical crews make between 18 and 22 cents, while actors under the jurisdiction of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) earn just two cents - about $600 a month on average for each working actor. Most of the rest goes to producers." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/05/02

FRANCE'S LATEST CULTURAL EXPORT: Many recent French films are violent. "The proliferation of such graphic depictions of sex and violence hints at a hidden France, one very different from the confident, civilised face it turns to the world. It is as if the French tradition of philosophical existentialism has curdled into a kind of nihilism where the individual is not only adrift in a meaningless universe but also personally reluctant to make any moral decisions." The Telegraph (UK) 06/05/02

TV MAKES OVERWEIGHT KIDS: A new study says that having a television in a pre-schooler's room increases the risk of obesity. "The relationship between television viewing and obesity among school-aged children, teens and adults is well-established. These new results, published in this month's edition of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academic of Pediatrics, extend the association to preschoolers." National Post (Canada) 06/05/02

Tuesday June 4

MOVING TO CANADA: A new study "shows that the amount of money spent to produce films in the United States dropped 17% from 1998 to 2001, while the amount spent on production in Canada grew by 144%." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (AP) 06/04/02

CAUGHT IN A WEB: Radio stations are evolving their websites into listener loyalty centers. "For everything from rating snippets of songs to answering trivia questions, from knowing secret codes that are given over the air to viewing ads for sponsors," listeners can "win points from the country station that she can use to enter in sweepstakes or to bid in auctions on such items as DVDs, gift cards and small appliances. Add these reward programs and e-mail blasts to dating hotlines and other gimmicks, and it becomes clear that music stations aren't just about the music nowadays (if they ever were) and that many stations are becoming comfortable with the Web. " Chicago Tribune 06/04/02

Monday June 3

MOVIES ARE NEXT: "Movie downloading isn't a widespread practice, partly because only about 10 percent of Americans have high-speed Internet access at home. But as that figure inevitably rises, the Internet could see an influx of movie-hungry file swappers itching to use their high-speed connections. This could ignite a downloading frenzy, emulating the fast and furious movie swapping already occurring in college dormitories with the fastest Internet links on the planet." Orange County Register (KR) 06/02/02

  • COLLEGE PIRATES: No surprise here, but college campuses, with their super broadband connections are where most movie downloading is taking place. "Colleges often don't catch on because they're too busy trying to balance security and the openness that students, faculty and staff require for their work." Orange County Register (KR) 06/02/02

IN PRAISE OF THE BLOCKBUSTER: There are only two seasons in Hollywood - summer and Oscar. "A fresh batch of blockbusters now looms before us and, as usual, it's being met with some ambivalence by fans. On the one hand, summer is showtime for Hollywood, a bombastic season when the runways are cleared and the year's most anticipated event films are lined up for takeoff. On the other hand, summer usually signals an annual vacation from intelligence, as we're bombarded with such movies as Godzilla or Pearl Harbor or Gone in 60 Seconds - films that spend six months convincing us they're the thrill ride of the year, and then two hours making us wish we had an Aspirin and our 12 bucks back." National Post 06/01/02

THE HOLLYWOOD FORMULA: The road to success in Hollywood goes wherever it takes to be "successful." "The latest formula for success - the 'brand movie' - is working. This summer, Hollywood will release 16 big-star, big-budget films described as brands: films that are sequels, prequels, spin-offs, franchises or based on universally recognised characters from comic books, children's books or video games." The Telegraph (UK) 06/03/02

Sunday June 2

FILM-LOVER FEST: "At Cannes this year, the big winners - and most of the 22 competition films - tended to deal with big issues, significant topics. Cannes is, after all, a cinephile's festival, a gathering for people who make movies or write about them (and, in the market section, those who buy and sell them). But most of all, Cannes is for people who love film -- and who still manage to see movies the way most of us did when we were kids ourselves: as an occasion for surprise, pleasure and magic." Chicago Tribune 06/02/02

FROM WILL AND GRACE TO GERMAN TV: Where do old LA sitcom writers go when they can't get work in Hollywood anymore? To Germany. "This is, evidently, one of the unexpected byproducts of a global electronic village: You can be 53-year-old Lenny Ripps or 58-year-old Ed Scharlach or 58-year-old Paula Roth, and still matter, creatively, by entertaining German television viewers." Los Angeles Times 06/02/02