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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

'Bridesmaids' sets VOD record. Amazon starts escalation against Netflix and Verizon-Redbox. Recession may be over as theme park attendance grows once again. Fox News's owner still apolotizing for hacking.

Bridesmaids hoto: Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy and Wendi McClendon-Covey in "Bridesmaids." Credit: Suzanne Hanover / Universal Pictures.

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest industry news.  

'Bridesmaids' sets Video on Demand Record. Last year's hit "Bridesmaids" has followed up on its box office bonanza with a record-setting run on video-on-demand, where it has been ordered 4.8 million times and grossed more than $24 million.

Universal Pictures on Wedneday took the unusual step of disclosing data on one of its movie's online rental and sales in order to tout the success of the raunchy comedy co-written by and starring Kristen Wiig. The film sold $169.1 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada last summer, making it the second most popular comedy of the year behind "The Hangover Part II."

But the movie was No. 1 online. In addition to beating previous video-on-demand rental records, "Bridesmaids" also proved popular as a digital purchase and traditional cable pay-per-view. In total, Universal said, the movie was rented or downloaded more than 7 million times across all those categories, with consumers spending more than $40 million to watch the picture.

On DVD and Blu-ray, "Bridesmaids" has generated more than $100 million in sales, a healthy figure as well.

The movie is nominated for two Academy Awards: best original screenplay for Wiig and Annie Mumolo and best supporting actress for Melissa McCarthy.
HarryPotterDeathly2Photo: A scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2." Credit: Warner Bros.
Time Warner Turnaround. Time Warner released its fourth-quarter results early Wednesday, reporting profit of $773 million, about even with the same quarter the year before. While ad sales and subscription fees were up at the media giant's cable unit (TNT, HBO, TBS, CNN), the company's box-office take dropped almost 40% with no Harry Potter movie in theaters in the latest period. An early peak at the numbers from Bloomberg.

Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes touted his company's digital initiatives for television and film while also promising to invest more in content in 2012 as the media conglomerate reported improved results for the final quarter of 2011, slightly beating analysts' estimates.

Revenue for the New York-based company was up 5% during the fourth quarter and 8% for the full year to $8.2 billion and $29 billion, respectively. Net income rose a fraction of a percent to $769 million for the quarter and $2.89 billion for the year.

In the company's networks business, which includes TNT, TBS and HBO, revenue grew 5% in the fourth quarter to $3.5 billion as both advertising and cable subscription fees increased. TV networks continued to be Time Warner's most profitable business, with operating income up 26% to $1.14 billion for the fourth quarter.

Movie studio Warner Bros. saw a 9% jump in revenue to $3.9 billion due in large part to the DVD launch of the final "Harry Potter" movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" and the success of the video game Batman: Arkham City. The film unit's operating income was flat at $427 million.

Time Warner's challenged magazine publishing business revenue was flat at $3.7 billion, while operating income increased 21% to $207 million.

On a conference call with analysts Wednesday morning, Bewkes said Time Warner will continue to increase its investments in producing and buying content at both the TV and film divisions this year. The CEO also focused on digital initiatives that will be key to the conglomerate's future growth.

 Bewkes said that with the technological systems now in place behind TV Everywhere, which allows cable subscribers to watch channels they pay for on a variety of digital devices, more content and distribution is needed. "TV Everywhere needs to offer a robust amount of content for every network and needs to be on multiple devices, including [Internet] connected televisions," he said.

Bewkes noted the company's HBO Go has been very well received by customers but also acknowledged that business disputes have caused delays in getting it into all subscribers' hands. The on-demand service only became available to Time Warner Cable and Cablevision subscribers in late 2011. "There has been a little friction and not as much speed as we'd like in having consumers get HBO on every device," he conceded.

The CEO also praised the late 2011 launch of UltraViolet, a multi-studio initiative that lets DVD buyers also get a copy of a movie in the "cloud" that they can access on any device. Warner Bros. was the leader in pushing UltraViolet's public launch and also took flack for what some saw as a complex system compared to other digital movie options.

"It's certainly early but the consumer response we've seen so far reinforces how much pent-up demand there is for an easy way to manage and access movie collections," he said.

To further spur sales of UltraViolet movies directly through the Internet, and not in connection to a DVD, Bewkes said he would support making digital downloads available even before the discs go on sale. "A powerful thing would be to have [download sales] start earlier," he said. "We don't think it would cannibalize theatrical [revenue] and it can fit into our retail business."

Bewkes also praised Warner's decision to impose a 56-day delay on DVD rentals through Netflix and thus far unsuccessful effort to impose the same delay on Redbox. He said it has had a positive impact on the studio's DVD sales.

Time Warner also announced that it would increase its quarterly cash divided by 11% to $1.04 per share.

This Means War release is delayed
 Photo: A scene from "This Means War." Credit: 20th Century Fox 

Now what will I do on Valentine's Day? The Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy/action movie "This Means War" was supposed to open wide Tuesday -- Valentine's Day -- but now is being pushed to the weekend to further distance it from "The Vow," a weeper starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. I'm not sure the date change will help much. When I saw the TV spots for the 20th Century Fox movie I thought it was an ad for one of those cutesy "characters welcome" series on USA Network. More on the date change from the Hollywood Reporter.

So sorry. In what is becoming a common event, an editor of a News Corp.-owned newspaper has again apologized for a lapse in ethics. This time it is the editor of the Times of London telling a judge the paper misled him about email hacking done by a reporter at the paper. More from the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal.

The Daily Dose: The judge has told them to settle, but the odds seem long that the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and Dick Clark Productions will follow his advice and reach a peace accord in their legal battle over TV rights to the Golden Globes awards show. Early on in the trial, which wraps later this week, people close to the HFPA, owner of the Globes, said a deal was not in the offing. Although Dick Clark Productions, producer of the awards show, appears ready to play ball, the fractious HFPA, whose membership consists of about 80 journalists, may be too divided to restructure its relationship with the production company.

Can't we just get along? Testimony wrapped in the Globes trial Tuesday, with a former HFPA president testifying that there has been tension between the association and Dick Clark Productions for almost a decade. Details on the bench trial from the Los Angeles Times.

Here comes Amazon. Looks like Netflix is going to get even more competition. Reuters reports that Amazon is definitely moving forward with much-anticipated plans to launch a stand-alone streaming service and has a new agreement to get content from Viacom's Paramount Pictures and MTV Networks. Amazon has already been gobbling up content from other media companies.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Theme parks and cable networks drove Walt Disney Co. to report a 12% jump in profit for its first quarter. Theater geeks are loving "Smash."  It's time to give Diana Ross some Grammy love.

-- Joe Flint and others

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