Friday, November 18, 2011
Stars splits with Netflix, Baseball tosses away it own past, Twilight has Happy Feet, Natalie Wood's Drowing
The business behind the show
The fourth movie in the "Twilight" franchise hit theaters only a few hours ago, but it is already sinking its teeth into the box office.
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1," the latest installment in the mega-popular vampire series, has sold $30.3 million in tickets since opening in about 3,500 theaters at midnight on Friday, according to an estimate from distributor Summit Entertainment.
That's slightly more than the $30 million brought in by the third "Twilight" film, "Eclipse," when it debuted in the wee hours of the morning in June 2010.
Still, the new movie was unable to break the record held by "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2," which raked in an unprecedented $43.5 million post-midnight in July.
The strong early sales for "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" may be an indication that the picture is on pace to have the biggest opening weekend ever for a "Twilight" film. Industry estimates for its debut range from $140 million to $150 million. This weekend, the movie will be playing in more than 4,000 theaters.
Holding the current title for the highest grossing "Twilight" weekend debut is the second movie, "New Moon," which hauled in $142.8 million in November 2009.
Kristen Stewart, left, and Robert Pattinson in a scene from "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment.
Vampires to eat penguins. "Breaking Dawn," the latest installment of the "Twilight" vampire saga, is expected to devour "Happy Feet Two," the animated movie about dancing penguins. "Breaking Dawn" will generate around $150 million, according to the box office prognosticators. Summit Entertainment is being more conservative and predicting between $110 million and $120 million. "Happy Feet 2" is looking at box office of $30 million and $35 million. I won't be seeing either and instead will try to catch "The Descendants." Box office advance looks from the Los Angeles Times
The past keeps knocking. Jason James Murphy, who made national headlines in 1996 when he kidnapped and molested an 8-year-old boy, has been working in Hollywood as a casting director and worked on several movies that featured children. While Murphy is a registered sex offender, he set up shop under an alias -- Jason James. Although there is no evidence that he has done anything inappropriate as a casting director, California law forbids sex offenders whose victims were younger than 16 from "working directly and in an unaccompanied setting with minor children on more than an incidental and occasional basis or have supervision or disciplinary power over minor children." The unregistered name change, which seems designed to cover his tracks, also runs afoul of California law. More from the Los Angeles Times.
Game changer. Let's Go Back to when there were two leagues that met in the World Series. This game playing for ratings and dollars is ruining the game. Major League Baseball is going to add another wild card slot to the postseason. The move will mean more playoff games and -- of course -- more TV money. Also, the Houston Astros are leaving the National League Central for the American League West. As a traditionalist, I'm against this. But then again, if I had my way there would be more day games, no designated hitter and no teams in Florida! More from the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.
No story? Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Howard Stern was "in serious negotiations" to become a judge on NBC's music talent show "America's Got Talent" at a price tag of $15 million a year. At the "Breaking Dawn" premiere in New York, Stern told the New York Post that "no one’s told me anything,” adding, “I heard that they want me for the job.... I’m honored that they would consider me.” So did the WSJ reach or is Stern being coy? We'll know soon enough.
Bye Bye Netflix..Hello Stars Go! With 21.5 million Netflix streaming subscribers set to lose access to Starz's movies and television shows in February, the premium cable channel is planning a big digital push of its own in 2012.
Starz President Chris Albrecht said at an investor presentation in New York on Thursday that his network would launch an HBO Go-like application to allow subscribers to watch its content on a variety of digital devices. Also, for the first time, the executive indicated a willingness to offer Starz directly to customers and not as part of a package of cable television channels.
In September, Starz decided not to renew its agreement with Netflix.
Netflix offered Starz, which has about 19 million TV subscribers, more than $300 million per year to renew the digital distribution agreement, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss it publicly. However, Starz wouldn't extend the contract unless it was placed on a premium tier that cost customers additional money, a provision Netflix rejected.
Running out of string. Sony Corp. Chief Executive Howard Stringer is under intense scrutiny as betting on his future at the consumer electronics and entertainment giant has practically become a sport. BusinessWeek looks at Stringer's challenges in a lengthy piece and notes that there's "more to Sony’s problems than acts of God and currency traders." This is the article to print out and read at breakfast or lunch.
Raising money. Miramax is looking to raise about $550 million, in part to pay a dividend of about $140 million to the independent studio's new owners including Colony Capital, according to Bloomberg. Too complicated for me to comprehend all the financial details at this early hour.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is opening a new investigation into the 1981 death of Natalie Wood. Betsy Sharkey says there is no blood flowing in the new "Twilight" movie "Breaking Dawn."
-- Joe Flint and others
Follow me on Twitter. It's been a long week and I need a lift. Twitter.com/JBFlint
Photo: Kristen Stewart, left, and Robert Pattinson in a scene from "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment.
CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, a seasoned media politician, has long insisted that the broadcast TV business was far from dead. When others -- including Wall Street and some rivals -- were ready to stick a fork in it, Moonves would vigorously promote the vitality of the 60-year-old business.
Turns out Moonves was right.
The company's broadcast network's ratings are up this season compared with a year ago, and ad dollars are pouring in. Next year there may be even more reasons for Moonves to strut. CBS, with its huge portfolio of TV and radio stations, could rake in as much as $250 million of the estimated $2.4 billion that is expected to be generated by political campaigns across the country.
"We can't wait for 2012. It's going to be a banner year for us," Moonves said Thursday during a question-and-answer session at a Hollywood Radio and Television Society luncheon at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.
Moderator Brian Lowry, television critic and columnist for Variety, asked Moonves whether he had any qualms about how the political polarization of the nation -- and the expected flurry of divisive political commercials -- was helping the company's bottom line.
Moonves was unapologetic.
"Our system is our system," he said. "And sometimes the amount of tension coming out of Washington is a very good thing for our business."
In addition to the bounty of political dollars, CBS also is making millions of dollars more than in the past by licensing its programs to online services like Netflix. CBS and other TV broadcasters have carved out a lucrative revenue stream by charging cable and satellite operators for the right to carry their broadcast signals.
"The broadcast television model is better than it was five years ago," Moonves said. "I've heard this ever since I went into this business, that the broadcast business is dying. In every instance technology has been a friend of the content business." The great news, he added, is that "our business is about producing great content and selling it all over the place."
One thing that could rain on Moonves' parade is the escalation of TV sports fees. Soon CBS will have to negotiate a new rights package with the NFL. CBS can ill afford to pay the rates that ESPN has agreed to pay -- about $1.7 billion a year for pro football.
"The rights are getting a little out of proportion," Moonves said, without commenting directly on his outlook for the next round of NFL negotiations.
Next year, CBS will attempt another revamp of its long-languishing morning news franchise, "The Early Show." This week the network announced the introduction in January of Charlie Rose and Gayle King to help bring a more sober and hard-news bent to a program that has been accused of being frivolous and fluffy.
"To do a poor immitation of 'Good Morning America' or 'Today' is not the way to go," Moonves said, adding that he does not expect CBS News to be a major profit center. Instead, he said, it was an important part of being a broadcast network, adding: "The quality and the product is very important to me."
Moonves did not take the bait when Lowry asked whether he missed his longtime nemesis Jeff Zucker, who more than once when he was running NBC declared the broadcast TV business model dead.
"He is still hanging out there, somewhere, with Katie [Couric]," Moonves said. "I'm not going to comment on that, but I miss Warren [Littlefield] more," he said, referring to one of the architects of NBC's prime-time glory years during the 1990s.
Moonves also doesn't seem to miss Charlie Sheen on CBS' top-rated comedy "Two and a Half Men." After the actor's high-profile meltdown earlier this year, Warner Bros. Television, which produces the show, hired Ashton Kutcher to replace Sheen. The show's ratings are higher than last year, Moonves said.
"It was unfortunate," Moonves said of the Sheen drama. "I'm glad that is a chapter that is closed. It's not good when lawyers get involved in a television show. Kill all the lawyers, including my brother, who's in the room." Moonves' younger brother, Jon Moonves, is a prominent entertainment lawyer.
-- Meg James
Photo: CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves talking with Variety's Brian Lowry on Thursday at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society luncheon. Credit: Chyna Photography / HRTS