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Monday, February 20, 2012

Strike! "Safehouse" wins tight Box Office race. The Academy is a White Male Club. FCC request for broadcast spectum meeting deaf ears.

Biggest Loser IATSE

From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest entertainment news.

STRIKE? Crew members from the popular cable TV show "1,000 Ways to Die" are locked in a labor dispute with the series' producer.

About 30 crew members from the show who had been seeking to unionize were sent home last week after attempting to join Hollywood unions Teamsters Local 399 and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said Jonathan Hanrahan, transportation captain for the Spike TV show.

He said the show's producer, Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers," had already hired replacement workers.

"It's gut wrenching,'' said Hanrahan. "We love the show, and we hope that a TV deal is struck [so that] we can have basic health benefits."

IATSE and the Teamsters are expected to stage a protest picket outside the show's production offices this week. The unions staged a successful strike against the producers of the reality series "The Biggest Loser" in November, 2010.

Representatives of Burbank-based Original Productions, which produces the show that re-creates unusual ways in which people have died, were not immediately available for comment.
Now in its fourth season, "1000 Ways to Die" films on stages in Burbank and Sun Valley.

"Safe House" finished first at the box office

Weekend Box Office: "Safehouse suprises, Ghost Rider disappoints. "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" was supposed to cruise to the top of the box office this weekend, but the Nicolas Cage action film flamed out at the multiplex.

Instead, it was Denzel Washington's "Safe House" that took No. 1, rising to the prime spot after debuting in the runner-up position the previous weekend. The action thriller grossed an impressive $28.4 million over the four-day Presidents Day holiday, bringing its 11-day total to $82.6 million, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures.

A look at the weekend box office from USA Today.

Safe House was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
Moviegoers also didn't forget about "The Vow," the romantic tear-jerker that won the box-office battle the previous weekend. The film about a woman who suffers amnesia and cannot remember her husband  collected an additional $26.6 million. After just over two weeks in theaters, the modestly budgeted picture starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams has already collected a strong $88.5 million.

The 3-D "Ghost Rider" sequel, as well as two other new films, did not have as much luck at the box office over the holiday weekend. Cage's latest film was expected to debut with at least $30 million, but instead started off with a modest $25.7 million. The romantic comedy action film "This Means War" opened to a moderate $20.4 million, while the Japanese anime production "The Secret World of Arrietty" brought in a so-so $8.1 million.

The original "Ghost Rider" had a far more robust opening back on Presidents Day weekend in 2007, when the film started off with $52 million. Ultimately, the movie made $115.8 domestically and about that much overseas as well. The sequel, however, was made for about $30 million less than the original. "Spirit of Vengeance" was funded by Sony and production and financing company Hyde Park Entertainment for about $80 million, said one person close to the project who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. A Sony spokesperson insisted the actual cost was $57 million.

It now seems unlikely that critically panned sequel will reach the same box-office heights, especially since those who saw the film this weekend didn't like it, assigning it an average grade of C+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The film attracted a largely male crowd, as 61% of the audience were men; roughly 48% was under the age of 25.

Cage has had a mixed track record at the box office in recent years. The original "Ghost Rider" was one of his few hits, along with the 2007 sequel "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," which grossed around $350 million worldwide. But the 48-year-old's last three films, "Drive Angry," "Season of the Witch" and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," were all huge flops.

"This Means War," starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, was received more positively by audiences. Those who saw the film about two CIA agents fighting for the affection of the same woman gave it an average grade of A-. The film attracted a 65% female audience, indicating its gross was likely negatively affected by competition from "The Vow," which appealed to the same demographic.

Only days before its release, 20th Century Fox pushed the official release date for "This Means War" from Valentine's Day on Feb. 14 to Feb. 17. While the studio said the move was made in an effort to spread positive buzz about the film, it also seemed like a tactic to give the film more of a fighting chance against "The Vow."

Directed by "Terminator: Salvation" filmmaker McG, the movie was financed by Fox and partner Dune Entertainment for about $65 million.

While "The Secret World of Arrietty" failed to crack the $10-million mark at the box office this weekend, the film still had the biggest opening of any of the anime films Walt Disney Studios has released in the U.S. "Ponyo," directed by Hayao Miyazaki -- who co-wrote "Arrietty" -- debuted with $3.6 million in 2009 and collected $15.1 million by the end of its run.

The movie, about little people who live under the floorboards of a house, was a huge hit overseas when it was released internationally in 2010. That year, it became the top-grossing movie in Japan and made a total of $126 million abroad. The new version, which features the voices of English-speaking actors like Amy Poehler and Will Arnett, was well-liked by Americans, who gave it an A- CinemaScore this weekend.

The film came to America largely due to John Lasseter, the chief of Pixar Animation Studio who also oversees Disney Animation and has had a longtime relationship with Miyazaki.

Daily Dose: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was eager to take credit for brokering a new deal between MSG (home of the New York Knicks and new star Jeremy Lin) and Time Warner Cable that got the cable network back on in New York City. But in reality it was pressure from NBA Commissioner David Stern that brought both sides back to the table, according to insiders who talked to Company Town. Lin's rise from obscurity to superstar is the NBA's biggest feel-good story in years and is making people forget about the lockout that shortened the season.

 It's a Male Club...and very White: Everything you wanted to know about the academy but were afraid to ask. The Los Angeles Times pulls the curtain back on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with a look at the demographics of those who decide who gets an Oscar (mostly older, white and male) as well as some of the more unusual members.

Cracking the wall. Late Friday, the movie industry scored a big win in its ongoing effort to get more of its movies shown in China. Hollywood will get to export more of its movies into China as well as keep more of the revenue those films generate in ticket sales. Details from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Only blockbusters with no political content will be among the 14 films allowed over the 20 film official ceiling for US films allowed to be released in the world's second largest market (India is the largest). All films must be available in 3-D, IMAX and 2-D release to qualify.

Woody's night. Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" took home the prize for best original screenplay from the Writers Guild of America at its annual awards ceremony Sunday. Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash won for best adapted screenplay for "The Descendants." On the TV side, "Modern Family," "Homeland" and "Breaking Bad" had big wins. A recap from Variety.

Staying behind the scenes. Oprah Winfrey's troubles in getting her cable network OWN off the ground may serve as a cautionary tale to other Hollywood big shots, says AdWeek. "Anyone else launching a network would be wise to keep their name off of it," Gary Lico, chief executive of CableU, which studies the cable industry, told AdWeek. I guess that means FlinTV is a no-go.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Most broadcasters are in no hurry to part with their spectrum. Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons," on hitting the 500-episode mark.

-- Joe Flint and team...

From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest entertainment news.

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