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

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Wednesday July 31

YOUR RIGHTS THREATENED: US lawmakers are seriously considering legislation that would allow movie and music companies to hack into personal computers to check for content. "Maybe this grotesque legislation will die the death it deserves, once sensible people understand the consequences. But if it or something similar goes through, its passage will be only one more in a series of laws and wish lists that have a single purpose. The goal is to give copyright owners profound control over music, movies and other forms of information. The fact that this control would do enormous damage to your rights, and to the future of innovation in a nation that desperately needs more innovation, is apparently beside the point." San Jose Mercury News 07/30/02

BRITISH MOVIE BOX OFFICE SURGE: British movie theatres had their busiest June in 30 years. "Spider-Man Peter Parker and the latest intergalactic offering from the George Lucas stable guaranteed booming box office figures throughout last month, which totalled 12.2m - an increase of 30% on the same period last year, making it the highest June on record since 1972." The Guardian (UK) 07/30/02

SEEING IS NOT BELIEVING: We see much on TV that seems unexplainable, unbelievable. Yet it keeps passing by, an endless stream of unexplainable, unbeliveable things. "Who do you trust? These days, you could lose big playing this game. That's the message of TV: Stay on highest alert or risk losing your retirement, your child, your country, your life." Los Angeles Times (AP) 07/30/02

EVEN ON SESAME STEET... Four years ago Sesame Street began broadcasting an Israeli-Palestinian co-production, conceived in the afterglow of the 1993 Oslo accords. The collaboration produced 70 half-hour shows, each one containing Hebrew and Arabic segments that were broadcast to receptive audiences. But under a new co-production agreement, which now includes Jordanians, the project has run into difficulty. The name "Sesame Street" has been changed to "Sesame Stories" because the concept of a place where people and puppets from those three groups can mingle freely has become untenable." The New York Times 07/30/02

Tuesday July 30

PROTECTING NET RADIO: Concerned that new royalty fees might put fledgling internet radio stations out of business, there's a proposal in the US Congress to exempt small radio stations. "The Internet Radio Fairness Act would exempt webcasters with less than $6 million in annual revenues from the additional RIAA royalty and from future royalty requirements." The Register 07/29/02

Monday July 29

TAKIN' IT EASY: Together with nostalgia, fantasy and slam-bang movie-style action, they portend a new season of escapism. Some of it is designed as bait for the fickle youth market; some as post­9-11 comfort food. 'For the vast majority of the television audience, TV is what they do after they get home from a long day at work or after being with their kids all day. We will leave groundbreaking to somebody else'." Dallas Morning News 07/28/02

Sunday July 28

BIG OR ELSE: In the new world of globalized culture and giant movie conglomerates, movies that don't have the potential for worldwide branding and orifits will see little in the way of promotion from studios. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/27/02

A SHIFTING UP AND DOWN: "No matter how you measure upscale and downscale — by viewers' income and education, as the number crunchers do, or by common-sense standards of good taste — the networks are mixing ever-more-sophisticated comedies and dramas with the increasingly crude game and reality shows they call 'alternative' programs, a buzzword meaning nonscripted and cheap to produce. The top network executives agree that this high-low split now represents a permanent change in the television landscape." The New York Times 07/28/02

Friday July 26

EH, WHO NEEDS THE 4TH AMENDMENT? Hollywood is pushing a new piece of legislation which the industry hopes will allow it to take an active role in stopping the video piracy it claims is epidemic. If passed, the law would allow studios to seek out and disable pirated copies of movies and music. Seek out? Why, yes, that does mean what you think it does: the law would allow the movie industry to hack into your computer more or less at will, and cripple your system if pirated material is found. BBC 07/26/02

Thursday July 25

SONY'S FOUND NEW RELIGION - MOVIES: Since it got into the movie business in 1989, "Sony has been the butt of jokes, known as much for churning out over-the-top flops as for profligate spending that forced it to take a $3.2-billion write-off in 1994, one of the largest losses in Japanese corporate history." But that has all changed this summer. "Sony's movie lineup broke all summer records and helped rack up $1 billion in U.S. ticket sales, more than most studios make in a year. First-quarter earnings are due today, and movie profits this year are expected to make the studio second only to Sony's successful PlayStation in importance to the bottom line." Los Angeles Times 07/25/02

THE GREAT STIMULATOR? A new Australian study of children's TV viewing says that rather than turning kids into zombies, imaginative shows stimulate brain activity. The study reported that "shows that stimulated the imagination led to pretend play, which was 'critical for development' in fostering social skills and building confidence and self-esteem." The Age (Melbourne) 07/25/02

TOO WHITE: American TV networks get low grades from a coalition of minority groups for the nets' lack of diversity on screen. "Of the four largest networks, Fox did best, receiving a C grade. ABC got a C-minus. NBC scored a D-plus, and CBS got the worst grade, with an overall D-minus, including an F from the American Indians in Film and Television group. The grades are embarrassing to the networks, especially because they were already taking heat for fall schedules." Hartford Courant 07/24/02

SEX SELLS? NOT TO US...UH, UH... A new poll says that "most television viewers believe that broadcasters use sex to boost their ratings, but that it had little effect. Of those questioned, 85 per cent said programme-makers include nudity and erotic content in an attempt to persuade them to tune in.The poll, which was conducted for the Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival, which runs from August 23 to 25, also found that 83 per cent of viewers said they were not tempted to watch programmes with sex in the title." The Scotsman 07/25/02

PHONING IT IN: A Minneapolis web designer has produced mini movies that can be seen on cell phones. Careful though, the plots seem to involve stick figures getting decapitated... Wired 07/24/02

Wednesday July 24

COMMIT TO THE MACHINE? The tech industry is making overtures to the entertainment industry. Should we be worried? The industry "may well want to do the right thing by its customers - something you should not take for granted - but it's also enthusiastically building the tools that will help the entertainment cartel grab absolute control over customers' reading, viewing and listening." San Jose Mercury-News 07/22/02

BACK TO THE 80'S: Surveying the fall offerings for American TV could give viewers a serious case of deja vu. Not only are a number of 80s stars popping up again, but the shows have a distinctly 80s sensibility. "Like ordinary investors, television executives seem to be feeling bruised and less bold. They may envy HBO its 93 Emmy nominations this year for more avant-garde shows like Six Feet Under, but these days they are as risk averse as portfolio managers." The New York Times 07/24/02

WHO WANTS TO BE A BOOK CLUB? With typical television industry timing, the demise of Oprah Winfrey's on-air book club has been met with a lemming-like stampede of programming executives determined to take advantage of the popularity of book clubs in general, and the void left by Oprah's in particular. From a Canadian comedian determined to go highbrow to the decidedly lightweight contributions of Live with Regis & Kelly, the broadcast book club may just be the next cheap 'n easy TV fad. And that wouldn't be all bad, would it? The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/24/02

Tuesday July 23

THE COST OF ROYALTY: The internet's first commercial radio station has closed down, citing the cost of recently imposed music royalties. ''The bill comes out to around $3,000 a month for KPIG, which isn't a whole lot, but KPIG is basically a small-market radio station. And right now, it's not making any money from that stream.'' Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AP) 07/23/02

TV FOR THE DUMB: A new report in the UK concludes that new-style TV is breeding ignorance. It says that "the international documentary is dead, with TV preferring to show programmes involving clubbing, surfing, popular music and the sex industry. 'There is a real danger that we are becoming a fragmented society where some people will have all the international knowledge while the rest will just be consumers of advertisers'." The Scotsman 07/23/02

NOT SO SMART: "Traditional quiz shows, from Mastermind to Who Wants to be a Millionaire have served to confuse memory with intelligence. If not obvious enough, a mastermind is not someone who can reel off the US presidents in order of height. Some of the world's most stupid people have excellent memories or mathematical abilities. Scoring highly in an IQ test won't make you a mastermind either. One person can score a low IQ but be happy, well balanced, creative and successful. Another can score in the genius class and be the Unabomber." Sydney Morning Herald 07/23/02

DIGITAL PRESERVATIVES: Digital art is in danger of disappearing as technical formats change, so steps have to be taken to preserve it. "With digital art, there's no room for things to fall between the cracks. If you don't do something to preserve it within a span of five years, it's not going to survive. Some works of digital art are already gone. Our time frame is not decades, it's years, at most." Wired 07/23/02

THIS JUST IN... A Melbourne man has confounded medical experts and film critics by declaring he has completely understood David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. The movie had previously been though to be impenetrable."What makes the Melbourne man's claim so extraordinary is that he performed this unprecedented feat of comprehension while drinking an entire bottle of spirits." The Age (Melbourne) 07/23/02

Monday July 22

DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' ACTORS: The latest thing in movies? A technology coming out of computer games. "Machinima (ma-SHIN-i-ma), a form of digital filmmaking that piggybacks on the slick graphics that are easily available from computer games and uses them to produce animated movies quickly and cheaply. Machinima movies, which range from short comedies to science-fiction epics, are produced entirely on computers, eliminating the need to buy costly equipment, rent spectacular locations or hire glamorous actors. The films are then distributed free over the Internet." The New York Times 07/22/02

CENSOR THIS: Some 1200 people recently applied to fill a vacancy on the Australian censor's board. "The office's 12-member classification board looks at virtually every new film, video, computer game, DVD and adult magazine proposed for screening, sale or hire in Australia. More than half the material classified by the board is what's known as 'adult' product." Last year "the board considered more than 5700 products. Only 382, or about 7 percent, were general-release movies; 588 were computer games; and 1832 were publications. Almost half the board's decisions related to videos for sale or hire. Of the 2912 videos, 933 were classified X18+." The Age (Melbourne) 07/22/02

  • CHIEF CENSOR RESIGNS: The head of India's censor board has been forced to resign after proposing that X-rated movies be permitted in some theatres across the country. "Although it is illegal to show pornographic films in India, almost every city has cinemas which do so. Many screen films in the morning, re-inserting deleted scenes and bribing local police to turn a blind eye." BBC 07/22/02

Sunday July 21

LOOSENING THE CENSOR'S GRIP? In Great Britain, film ratings are not just advisory, as they are in the U.S., and children under certain designated ages are not allowed in to films with varying levels of sex and violence. But the outgoing director of the British Board of Film Classification is predicting that the U.K. will scrap the mandatory ratings within a decade, and that the country will move to a U.S.-style system as public tolerance for movie action continues to evolve. BBC 07/21/02

Friday July 19

ROLL OVER, HOLLYWOOD: So you think the American movie juggernaut is rolling over all other types of film? There are signs that Hollywood is losing its grip on the world market. "The thirst for film has never been greater, but a new reality shapes the tastes of the young people watching the screen's best and worst. In Europe alone, the market share for American movies fell from 73 per cent to 65 per cent. European film is about to enjoy a renaissance of hope among a generation now wearying of the formulaic American 'product'." London Evening Standard 07/18/02

THE "GOOD WAVE": Latin-American eceonomies might be on the ropes, but a vibrant new wave of films has emerged. The new cinema is called "la buena onda" (the good wave), and it's finding international audiences. But just as success comes, some wonder whether la buena onda is selling out to a globalized American vision of culture. The Guardian (UK) 07/19/02

LITTLE PROGRESS IN DIVERSITY: It's become an annual ritual. Each year minority groups issue a report critiquing the representation of minorities on American television networks. And eash year the story bis more or less the same. Minorities are underrepresented in TV. This year "the National Hispanic Media Coalition's third annual diversity 'report card' showed ABC and Fox upped their grades slightly from last year while NBC and CBS slid backward." Nando Times (AP) 07/19/02

Thursday July 18

EMMY NOMINATIONS: Emmy nominations were announced this morning in LA, with "a first-year program, HBO's Six Feet Under, emerging to lead the field with 23 nominations. The series about a family of undertakers will literally provide some stiff competition to two-time best drama winner The West Wing." Los Angeles Times 07/18/02

TECHIES TO HOLLYWOOD - NOT OUR TABLE: "On Monday, technology executives, including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Dell Computer's Michael Dell and Intel's Craig Barrett, said in an open letter to entertainment industry executives that they were not about to create technology that limits computer users ability to copy and play digital media." Entertainment producers had asked the tech industry to develop protocols that would limit the technical ability of devices to copy digital content. Nando Times (APF) 07/17/02

SO THE KEY IS EVEN MORE REGULATION? Why does it matter that Canadian TV networks aren't producing more dramas? "A country without a healthy diet of continuing, homegrown drama is lacking in the fibre of contemporary storytelling. In every country that has even the vaguest notion of a culture and identity, there is a distinct link between the idea of itself and the fictive imagination. A country is simply inauthentic if its stories are not reflected back to itself. That's why Canadian publishing is subsidized and Canadian television is regulated." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/18/02

OVERWHELMED BY SUCCESS? So many Hollywood film productions are shooting Down Under that the Australian Film Commission is "seeking to address concerns about the impact on local employment, Hollywood's slow cultural takeover, and the effect of foreign production on domestic film culture." Sydney Morning Herald 07/18/02

HOME OF THE BRAVE: Some US Republican lawmakers, concerned that a Sesame Street Muppet portrayed as being HIV-infected for the South Africa version of the show might be incorporated into the American version, wrote to PBS president Pat Mitchell to express their concern. They wrote that they "didn't think it would be appropriate to bring the Muppet to the United States." Mitchell assured them the Muppet wouldn't be introduced in the US. Washington Post 07/18/02

"RECKLESS" BREACH: In October 2000, the Australian TV show 60 Minutes aired an interview with actor Russell Crowe. During the interview Crowe pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit up. Now the Australian Broadcasting Authority has ruled that the segment and subsequent re-airings of it constituted promotion of smoking, violating Australian law. "Although there is no evidence that the interview was intended to promote smoking ... the footage in fact promoted those things, in that it encouraged smoking. In the ABA's view it is not unreasonable to expect that viewers may be influenced by Mr Crowe's behaviour and may believe that it is desirable to adopt Mr Crowe's behaviour, including smoking Marlboro cigarettes." Sydney Morning Herald 07/18/02

Wednesday July 17

IS THE BBC TOO BIG? The BBC has surging ratings and dominates the broadcast life of the UK. "The corporation is a many-tentacled monster that would be unrecognisable to wireless entrepreneurs of the early 1920s. It has staff numbers that would dwarf many a small city and an annual income of £3.16 billion that, if it was a country, would make it a rival of the GDP of Iceland or Mongolia. Plainly the BBC has more global clout than either country." But does it have too much power? The Guardian (UK) 07/17/02

Tuesday July 16

NO LONGER A LICENSE TO PRINT MONEY? American TV network execs are gloomy. "Only two broadcast networks - NBC and CBS - are expected to turn a profit this year. General Electric's NBC, which finished the season in first place in the ratings, expects more than $500 million in profit from the network; CBS, owned by Viacom Inc., expects network profit this year to top $150 million." Fox and ABC both expect to post big losses. Los Angeles Times 07/16/02

WOULD WE PAY? New technology allows TV viewers to zap commercials. If this catches on, the TV industry will have to find new ways to make money. "Let's all look into the future, let's decide whether we want to pay for our television or pay for it by watching the commercials." If we all were to pay for watching TV, it would cost about $250 a year. Denver Post 07/16/02

Monday July 15

AT THE MOVIES: While many things in the pop culture universe seem to be riding a downward spiral (broadcast TV, cd sales, concert attendance) the movies are in the passing lane. "So far this year, box-office revenues stand at $4.71 billion, up an eye-popping 19 percent over last year's record pace. It seems nearly every weekend sets a new milestone." So why are people taking to the movies theatres? Dallas Morning News 07/14/02

  • QUALITY WILL OUT? There are many theories, but "everyone seems afraid to admit the obvious: There are some fine movies out there, folks. In fact, in all my years of movie reviewing, I don't think I've ever spent a more satisfying summer indoors." Detroit Free Press 07/14/02

THE NEXT GREAT MOVIE-MAKER? National Geographic is getting involved with major Hollywood studios in producing big-budget movies. The latest Harrison Ford adventure is one example. "This is one of the major things that we bring to the table: the extensive resources of National Geographic's research departments, which can provide a much deeper and more detailed exploration of the story behind the movie. National Geographic is sitting on what is, potentially, an almost bottomless fund of adventure stories. It's a specific area. It's finite. But it's definitely a significant part of the tradition of filmmaking." The New York Times 07/15/02

WHY CANADIAN HOMEGROWN TV IS SO BAD: Three years ago the agency that regulates Canadian TV allowed loopholes that let broadcasters stop investing in homegrown series. The results are predictable: "In the past three years the number of truly homegrown, one-hour prime-time series has dropped from 12 to five. 'It's not like we had a golden age of television and lost it. But we had an aluminum age in the eighties and nineties, and we have lost that'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/13/02

  • ACTING DOWN: Why is Canadian TV drama ailing? "What makes a production Canadian is that it's usually cheaper, chintzier and more stupidly-scheduled than its U.S. competition. There's too little creative vision, not enough money, too much network interference/neglect plus an indecent dependence on the public teat which often results in hastily-written scripts, slapped-together shooting schedules and other problems brought about by waiting around to get the go-ahead from the funding agencies." Toronto Star 07/14/02

Friday July 12

ARTS CHANNEL TO FOLD: Artsworld, the UK premium TV channel featuring live performances of opera, jazz and ballet launched with great fanfare 18 months ago, is about to close. The channel needed about 140,000 subscribers to make it viable; it has only 100,000, and investors are reluctant to put up any more cash. The Guardian (UK) 07/11/02

  • A SORRY PREDICATBLE TALE: Oh, it's all so predictable. Artsworld disappears and other broadcasters say we're about to witness a renaissance of new arts programming. "Oh really? Pardon me for not exuding more joy, but haven’t we been here before? I must point out that the Philistines/morons/etc running BBC One and BBC Two have now cut arts programmes to such a dribble that the Culture Department’s demand for the BBC to broadcast 230 hours of arts next year (out of 17,000 hours of airtime) is seen as a huge challenge." The Times (UK) 07/12/02

NO BUSINESS IN SHOW BUSINESS: The shutdown of FilmFour, one of the UK's most interesting movie producers, rips a hole through the British film industry. Why did it fail? "There was no satisfactory route to profitability. FilmFour returned operating losses of £3m in 2000 and £5.4m in 2001, and the underlying business model was not a basis for building a commercial entity." The Guardian (UK) 07/12/02

  • GOOD - OR SUCCESSFUL? Was FilmFour a victim of its success? The company made some brilliant films, but as success grew there was more pressure to produce more hits. That changed the climate in which the company decided on projects - instead of making movies because they were interesting, producers looked more to making successes. The Guardian (UK) 07/12/02

AIDS AWARENESS COMES TO SESAME STREET: The producers of the most successful children's television program in history have announced that the South African edition of Sesame Street will debut an HIV-positive Muppet character this fall, and a similar character is being considered for the U.S. version. AIDS is, of course, rampant on the African continent, and the producers of the show say that "the goal is to help 'de-stigmatize' the disease, promote discussion about it and 'model positive behavior' toward an afflicted person among viewers of the program, who typically are age 3 to 7." Washington Post 07/12/02

JUST SOME FRIENDLY ASSISTANCE: The Drug Enforcement Administration is getting into the movie business, whether anyone wants them there or not. The DEA met with Hollywood bigwigs this week, with agency head Asa Hutchinson saying he "wanted to help make plots more realistic." Cheech and Chong were not immediately available for comment. BBC 07/12/02

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FARE FLATTENS FAMOUS FLICKS: "Last weekend, four of the 10 top-grossing movies in North America carried either G or PG ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America." In fact, kids' movies are cleaning up all across the map these days, and the trend has led to an explosion in the number of new releases you can take your five-year-old to. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/12/02

Thursday July 11

DIE WEB, DIE: Web radio has been flourishing. But come October 20, many of the stations will go out of business because of royalty fees owed to music producers. The retroactive "bill due for all Webcasters represents several times the total revenue of the entire industry. The folks at the Recording Industry Association of America defend this on the ground that without music, you have no Internet radio." But shouldn't the producers be the very ones encouraging this dissemination of their products? Newsweek 07/15/02

WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO BE A SPANNER TOO: C-Span founder and host Brian Lamb has a cult following among viewers known as "Spanners" for their devotion to the cable network. "Lamb is open to interpretations of himself - the solemn ones, mocking ones, camp ones. He'll play along. He is resigned to his celebrity niche. He has been called the most boring and the most trusted man in America, both of which he would take as a source of pride, or, at least, humor." Washington Post 07/12/02

RERUN REVOLT: TV viewers are abandoning reruns of dramas. The dropoff in audience is so severe that networks are abandoning reruns of some shows. "This summer, the average rating for a network drama repeat is 54 percent lower than a first-run original, which is in line with previous years. (Comedies fare much better with only a 45 percent decline.) But the drop-off is more precipitous — about 70 percent — for such shows as ER, Boston Public, Alias and The Practice, all of which depend on continuing stories." Seattle Times (NYDN) 07/11/02

Wednesday July 10

RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME: Filming of productions in California was down 19 percent last month compared to a year ago. "More than a dozen big-budget movies from major studios are filming this month in Canada, Australia and other foreign countries as Hollywood's troubles with runaway production worsen." Los Angeles Daily News 09/10/02

KOREA'S BANNER YEAR: Just as in the US, Korea's film industry is having a great year. Box office is way up, and Korean-made movies are having their best year since 1984, when the government made it easier to import foreign movies. Korean movies accounted for almost 50 percent of movie tickets sold in the first half of this year. Korea Herald 07/10/02

PRODUCT PLACEMENT/PROGRAM DEFACEMENT: Increasingly, as traditional ads become less effective on TV advertisers are looking for new ways to gey their products in front of viewers. "Networks say they are open to sponsor-supplied programs and elaborate product-placement schemes as long as the buyers don't dictate content, but who are they kidding? Why would companies pony up cash without expecting some input over how it's spent?" Los Angeles Times 09/10/02

IT'LL TAKE MORE THAN AN AGENT: America's health maintenance organizations are tired of being portrayed as the bad guys on TV and in the movies. So they've hired an agent to try to get a more positive image portrayed. "What we're trying to do is get a level playing field. We're not saying it's verboten to attack some part of the health care system. We're saying there is another side to what we do." Nando Times (AP) 07/09/02

END OF VHS? As more stores sell DVDs and cut back on videocassettes, it seems inevitable that VHS will disappear. In their time, though, VHS was considered a threat. "At the time there was some debate about whether this would hurt Hollywood, but over time it's only enhanced people's interest in movies. It opened movies up to a broader audience instead of discouraging it." Hartford Courant 07/10/02

Tuesday July 9

STUDIO DOWNFALL: For 20 years FilmFour was the closest thing Britain has had to a film studio. No more. The studio has gone bust. "The fortunes of all studios fluctuate, but FilmFour's fall from grace was alarming and sudden. It seemed to implode in the last 10 months, thanks to flawed creative decisions, an ill-fated lurch towards the mainstream, and a run of sub-standard films." The Telegraph (UK) 07/09/02

Monday July 8

THE NEW FILMMAKERS: The falling costs of making movies has attracted an army of new filmmakers. "Rather than using the pen to tell their stories, creative wannabees in Sydney are embracing film-making. The number of film industry hopefuls at short film festivals has tripled. There are now about 300 film festivals in Australia, compared with 100 three years ago." Sydney Morning Herald 07/08/02

REPRESENTING HOLLYWOOD: With one-time super-agent Mike Ovitz bowing out of the movie business, there's a power shift to a new, largely unheard of management company. "With all the focus on the short term, on making immediate profits, people sacrifice building brand credibility. I have a different approach. I want to build credibility behind entertainers. Credibility is another word for brand equity." Washington Post 07/08/02

Sunday July 7

RETHINKING SYNERGY: When AOL merged with Time Warner to create the world's largest entertainment conglomerate, the tech boom was still on, synergy was the watchword of the financial community, and the new behemoth was assumed to be an unstoppable juggernaut. As it turns out, synergy in the world of mass entertainment may not be all it's cracked up to be: "People relate much more to the individual brands. They care about HBO, AOL, Time magazine. They care about 'Harry Potter'... But it just doesn't matter to them that all those things are tied together." Chicago Tribune 07/07/02

JOHN FRANKENHEIMER, 72: Hollywood director John Frankenheimer, famous for his tales of political intrigue and dark conspiracies, has died. His films included Seven Days In May and The Manchurian Candidate. The New York Times 07/07/02

Friday July 5

THE "PROFIT" MOTIVE: "I used to think people made films for profit. I know better now. Films are made to generate income. If profit follows, well and good. But income can be diverted - not to use a blunter word - whereas profit has to be declared, shared, and have tax paid on it. Which is one reason why many movies, earning box-office millions, do their best not to come into profit too soon, if ever, by loading themselves with distribution costs. But there is a class of film that can create a profit even before it's made - and needn't ever be shown." London Evening Standard 07/05/02

AMERICA'S FASTEST GROWING ARTS SHOW: Studio 360 is the fastest growing show on American public radio. A show about arts and culture, it tries to look at creativity as part of everyday life. "The goal for the show is to demonstrate that culture is a kind of continuous panorama. We think of culture as being balkanized niches. It's a disparate fabric, but it's all one fabric." Los Angeles Times 07/05/02

THE SOUND OF SATELLITE: Satellite radio offers better sound and many more programming choices than traditional radio. But are people ready to spend hundreds of dollars on new equipment and pay a monthly fee for the privilege? "Just like FM took advantage of all of AM's vulnerabilities, [satellite radio] is taking advantage of all of FM's vulnerabilities." Christian Science Monitor 07/05/02

THE BOLLYWOOD METHOD: Bollywood is finding fans worldwide. Its methods of making movies are unique. "It's the most organised chaos in the world; nothing should work yet everything does. There are no shooting scripts, no shooting schedules, no call sheets. The crew may be phoned in the morning to shoot that day. Actors work on several movies at a time and are often handed their scripts five minutes before filming. This is to avoid someone outside pinching the idea and making the same movie." The Age (Melbourne) 07/05/02

THE ENEMY R US: Do TV viewers have a "contract" with TV producers wherein they agree to watch commercials in return for programming? "Napster may—and I stress, may—have been legitimately labeled piracy, but now all forms of consumerism are being criminalized with ever-decreasing degrees of credibility." Big media is losing control and as it does, is treating its customers as crimminals. "Name-calling is the last resort of once powerful institutions that are finding themselves losing control in the face of rapid media change." MIT Technology Review 07/04/02

Thursday July 4

THE TV FACTOR: The nature and tone of television has changed over the years. Maybe not for the better? "TV, once expected to be a polite guest in our living rooms, has turned into more of drunken party-crasher. Sex, violence and language that in earlier days would have triggered FCC threats and congressional investigations is now routine." Chicago Tribune 07/04/02

Wednesday July 3

EGOYAN BY A NOSE: The great competition is over. Atom Egoyan's Ararat will play in the high-profile opening night slot at the Toronto International Film Festival, beating out David Cronenberg's Spider. Except that it wasn't a competition. Really. They swear it wasn't. But whatever it was, all of Toronto has been talking about it for quite some time, and the debate over which film truly represents the best of Canadian cinema will likely continue. Toronto Star 07/03/02

  • WHAT THE CRITICS THINK: So is Atom Egoyan "poncy and pretentious" or "accessible... with a streak of black humour"? Is David Cronenberg "provocative and bankable" or just a high-minded horror purveyor with a fixation on "fleshy joysticks and umbilical sockets"? Three critics square off on the high-profile debate surrounding TIFF's two stars of the moment. National Post (Canada) 07/03/02

BYE-BYE INDEPENDENTS(CE): TV's independents - from stand-alone producers to local stations - continue to disappear, swallowed up by the entertainment industry's appetite for consolidation. Several producers spent the early 1990s vainly sounding alarms about this scenario, but the government has nevertheless spent the past decade stripping away rules that prevented the big from getting bigger, turning the producer-network game - never an entirely fair fight to begin with - into the equivalent of Florida State versus Sister Cecilia's School for Wayward Girls. As a result, truly entrepreneurial program suppliers have mostly been transformed into employees." Los Angeles Times 07/03/02

FALLEN FROM GRACE, AND BITTER AS HELL: Time was in Hollywood when you couldn't make a move (or a movie) without Michael Ovitz's say-so. But today, Ovitz is a bitter and broken man, a few years removed from his embarrassing ouster at Disney, and smarting from the collapse of his once-dominant talent agency. Ovitz is lashing out in a soon-to-be-published interview in Vanity Fair, claiming, among other things, that a Hollywood "gay mafia" is responsible for his downfall. The New York Times 07/03/02

Tuesday July 2

A FIRST - CABLE BEATS BROADCAST: For the first time, all the US cable channels combined have more viewers than all the combined broadcast channels. Cable's trend of producing more original series has helped boost the cable nets' numbers. Orange County Register (NYDN) 07/02/02

OSCAR LOOKS FOR SWEEP: The Oscars are being moved back from March to February. Why? Well, the Academy has been worried about slipping ratings. And the TV networks figure to get a ratings boost during February sweeps. Washington Post 07/02/02

DVD's RULE: CD sales might be in a slump, but DVD's are hot. "Consumers are on pace to spend $11 billion on DVD sales and rentals this year, making it the fastest-growing home-electronic product ever. DVDs routinely make more money in their opening weekend than comparable theatrical releases. Video games aren't far behind, with sales reaching $6.3 billion last year, nearly double what they were five years ago." Why? They've gotten cheaper, and they're stuffed with cool features - unlike stodgy CD's which are overpriced and the same-old same-old. Los Angeles Times 07/02/02

THE NEW LATIN FILMS: After decades "in the doldrums" Latin American films are winning new international audiences. "We are still finding and fighting for our identities - it's the opposite from Europe, in which everything already has its place. We are societies in movement, and chaos and collision are always part of everyday life. There's an extraordinary sense of urgency, energy and pertinence, which translates into these films in a very muscular and organic manner. Obviously it's not something which will please the ministries of tourism. But it is what it is." The Telegraph (UK) 07/02/02