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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views

Today is the 20th anniversary of the LA riots in the wake of a decision to acquit LA Police officers in the Rodney King beatings. 

One year ago President Obama oversaw the attempted capture and death of Osama bin Laden. What was a unifying moment, in which the president performed well and was given credit even my his opposition party, has turned into a bitter patrician football. Can't we all just be good Americans and celebrate a true "mission accomplished?"

More than one in ten returning vets remain unemployed six months after returning home, despite federal law that says employers have to rehire you. The ongoing slow recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression complicates matters, along with changes in work force needs. Unemployment among National Guard and Reservist sits closer to one in five, as experienced workers come back over qualified for jobs where the pay has gone  down. In addition Reservist and National Guard remain subject to recall,which has employers nervous about training them as employees. More than a quarter of a million reservist and Guard members have returned home over the past year. Civilians also do not seem to understand returning vets, fearing PTSD where there is none, scheduling Guardsmen and reservist on their drill weekends. Complicating things has been the expansion in Right-to-Work states or similar legislation where employers do not legally have to provide cause to hire or for termination. 

Politicians, journalists, and celebrities gathered in Washington, D.C., last night for the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Guest host David Greene chats with veteran White House. The host was Jimmy Kimmell, who showed actual fear as the audience included the media, Hollywood celebrities and the President of the United States. The first lady was seen comforting Kimmel. As always it was  the time for the sitting president of the United States to become a stand-up comedian.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda meets with President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday.

Twenty years ago Los Angeles erupted into riot. Even before the ashes of the Los Angeles riots had cooled, then-Mayor Tom Bradley announced the formation of an organization that would restore and even improve the city. It was called Rebuild L.A., and it would be led by business executive Peter Ueberroth  who had headed the Los Angeles Olympics. Most of the money would come from the private sector.

Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, pundits in Israel have been predicting an end to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. This week's announcement that Egypt was terminating a high-profile gas deal between the two countries confirmed the fears of many, who said it was an indication of the new Egyptian governments stance on Israel. Many are hoping that strong military ties between the two countries could save the treaty from collapse. The treaty has been in effect since Egypt suffered a solid military defeat in the1967 "Seven Day War" between Arab states and Israel.

An Egyptian court upholds the conviction against famous comedian Adel Imamfor offending Islam in some of his most popular films. But he received a suspended sentence and paid about $170 fine, despite protests by Islamists, as the judges ruled the films were made in the past. But the ruling bolsters worries that an Islamist ruled Egypt will stifle freedom of speech.  Imamfor was simply the comic actor star in the film about a bureaucrat who is mistaken as a terrorist.

Chen Guangcheng is a leading Chinese human rights activist, who has reportedly been granted asylum in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing after escaping house arrest in Shandong Province. Chen, a blind, self-taught lawyer, rose to prominence defending women against forced abortion and sterilization. Chen's case presents US and Chinese officials with difficult quandaries as a large US delegation, including Secretary of State Clinton,  arrives in Beijing for previously scheduled talks this week.  His position is one that finds the US at large with their host country.

The Beijing auto show opened to the public this weekend in what in what is now the world's largest car market. But its the huge potential growth in car ownership in China that has the car manufacturers salivating - there are a 1.3 billion people in China -- the vast majority of whom have never owned a car. The U.S. auto industry now sees China as its primary market. Ford plans to expand its manufacturing base there, and General Motors recently announced it was adding another 600 dealerships.

You can be all that you seek to be! Former Yankee Jim Abbott has a new memoir "Imperfect: An Improbably Life," which chronicles his life and success as a major league pitcher, despite only having one hand.  His parents faced the reality of seeing a newborn son who was missing most of his right hand. Intimately his parents came to the realization that God had given him a lot and that he needed to focus on what he was given and make the most of his life. He pitched a no-hitter at Yankee stadium, and when he did the announcer and most of the press never mentioned that he did it with only one hand. Once at Chicago's Comisky Park a fan shouted "what are you going to do with one hand." His manager and the players heard it and went into a new famous fight with fans, as the manager climbed into the stands. Abbott says it made him feel proud and glad to be a Yankee.

With baseball in full swing, it's time to look at one of America's favorite summer foods. Josh Chetwynd  has a new book out about the origin of the hot-dog bun. Chetwynd's new book is "How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun: Accidental Discoveries and Unexpected Inspirations That Shape What We Eat and Drink." 

Obama's policies are why 23 million Americans are unemployed, when the recession hit during the Bush administration ans was the result of over thirty years of policies by presidents and congresses of both parties. Yet they blame, and the sound bites resonate, it's Obama's fault.

The BBC this morning compared the US to England and Europe. We are strong, growing rapidly considering the anchor weight of the international marketplace we cannot isolate ourselves from not  matter what people may think. Our Gross National  Product is not only the best in the world, but three times that of China. We have a robust stock market, steady growth in job numbers and retail is improving. This is despite the Republican dictated government layoffs that are not hitting hard, with a strong impact on women. They blame Obama for unemployed women, despite the layoffs being made by the policies and actions of Republican governors and legislatures, with the strongest impact on education.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rich Mom, Poor Dad: Women Become Breadwinners

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. working wives now out-earn their husbands

The Richer Sex
The Richer Sex
How The New Majority Of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family
Hardcover, 327 pages

As a mother of young boys, I can tell you that chatty, detail-oriented girls rule the world among the younger set. I've always wondered when the big switch would happen, propelling males to their traditional dominance of the adult working world, but Liza Mundy is here to tell us that it won't. It turns out that in my lifetime, women will be the second sex no more.

Mundy's The Richer Sex is like a fantastical trip through the looking glass into a future few of us dared imagine, but which Mundy forcefully illustrates is already well under way. Forget gender parity. Mundy culls a broad range of research to lay out how women are fast overtaking men in today's economy, a shift that is happening worldwide.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. working wives now out-earn their husbands, and Mundy says they'll soon make up a majority. Women hold most managerial and professional jobs, they earn most college degrees, and long-term economic shifts favor fields dominated by women.

As with her 2007 book on reproductive technology, Everything Conceivable, Mundy deftly draws out people's conflicted emotions on the most intimate of subjects. Here, she explores the profound ways the new economic order is transforming the dating scene, the marriage market and the balance of power within relationships.

I've often thought the world would be a different place if children called out for "Daddy" half as often as they do "Mommy." How compelling, then, to read about Jessica Gasca, a paralegal in south Texas whose husband quit his job as a car salesmen to care for their children.

"They see me as the father," Jessica tells Mundy. Whatever the children need — from a glass of water to help at school — they call on her husband, Juan.

But before a female reader can get giddy at this notion, Mundy probes how Juan is coping. He does what he can to bring in extra money during school hours, even taking a job — I kid you not — selling Avon. Yet his in-laws are openly disrespectful of his choices, branding him a loser and a slacker. And Juan says the burden of these entrenched gender stereotypes has been hard on his marriage.
Liza Mundy is a staff writer at The Washington Post and the author of Michelle: A Biography and Everything Conceivable.
Sam Kittner Liza Mundy is a staff writer at The Washington Post and the author of Michelle: A Biography and Everything Conceivable

"Sometimes I fantasize about, like, leaving her," Juan confesses, "because I want to feel more masculine again."

And it's not just men with misgivings. We meet Kris Betts of Michigan, a stay-at-home mother who became the primary earner when her husband's employer went under. Betts tears up and tells Mundy how devastated she was to sort through a year's worth of her sons' school art projects.

"It was all the two boys and Dad. I'm like, 'Where am I?' "

Clearly, not all female breadwinners have taken on the role by choice. And Mundy touches only briefly on the clear losers in this economic shift, the growing numbers of working-class women who — faced with men's diminished prospects — are not marrying at all.

But will this societal role reversal be easier for a younger generation? Mundy finds women who lie about their salary and profession on online dating sites, lest they intimidate potential mates. Others use subtle, face-saving ways to share costs with dates. Explains one female marketing entrepreneur, "I usually say, like, you got dinner last time, or oh, I'll just get the drinks, even though drinks cost more than dinner."

Still, Mundy meets a number of well-adjusted couples who are happily pioneering this gender revolution. Stay-at-home father Danny Hawkins is married to a corporate executive and says, "My job is to make her life easier. And I like doing it."

Just as cooking became cool when men took over kitchens with their six-burner stoves, Mundy posits that a "new masculinity" will evolve as men play a bigger role on the domestic front. The question is whether the new class of high-powered women will learn to appreciate a man who can drive a mean car pool.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is there a War on Women? Have womens rights been set back decades? Mining asteroids to finance space travel. FOX/Newscorp faces the music

The Politics of Women

Banner image: Demonstrators participate in a protest at the Hyatt Regency where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was scheduled to attend a fundraiser on March 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

To the Point: The Politics of Women

KCRW's To The Point (click here to access program).
Sara Terry

One party works to undo health care that will lower cost and insurance rates for women, women become primary breadwinners, a new recession hits women workers hardest, forced ultrasounds, contraceptives and healthcare, working women and stay-at-home moms, married women and single women, women in politics, child care, education, social services... Women's issues have dominated the political headlines over the past several weeks. Guest hosts Sara Terry asks why they've taken center stage, who benefits from the debate, and how important women voters are in this year's election. Also, James Murdoch is questioned on News Corp's political influence in Britain, and move over space tourism. Entrepreneurs have set their eyes on a new frontier, space mining.

Making News

Photo: James Murdoch. Credit: AFP/Getty Images 

James Murdoch Queried on News Corp's Political Influence in UK

In London today, James Murdoch appeared before a judicial inquiry into British press ethics and behavior. His father, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, is expected to testify later this week in the latest chapter of a long-running scandal involving Murdoch-owned newspapers. Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson is media editor for the Financial Times.


Main Topic

Is the 'War on Women' Just a War on Words? 

Every election year, women's issues grab headlines at some point. What's being know this year as "the war on women" is being fueled by many of the same issues that always come up when the conversation is about women. Is there anything new to the latest debate? Working women versus stay-at-home mothers, and reproductive rights have all been hot topics in the past. What's different this year? Is there really such a thing as "the women's vote"? If there is, what defines it? How are the two political parties courting women, and what influence will women voters have in the 2012 election?

The past two years, under a Republican House, women's rights of choice, equal pay,  social benefits and even relief in the high cost added for insurance and health care for just being female have been under attack. Now the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for president has built these attacks into his platform. Other women say they would be better off in a return to "morality", social graces and the home.

But is it a war? Hyperbole aside, it is a very real political battle being fought between the two parties for women's votes in the all elections. Will advertising, the media and polarized politics blur the issues and influence the vote, or will their own self interest and the future of their daughters prevail?

The debate is on!


Reporter's Notebook


Mining Minerals in Space 

A group of space entrepreneurs announced today that they plan to explore a new frontier. Nearly 9,000 asteroids larger than 150 feet in diameter orbit near Earth, and a group called Planetary Resources thinks that billions of dollars could be made mining precious metals from those chunks of matter. Experts say they're pushing the boundaries of what's actually possible. Adam Mann reports on space and physics for Wired magazine.


People Falling from the World Trade Center

September 11, 2001 - As It Happened - The South Tower Attack

Are we going to college for the wrong reason? Have schools become stores where you pick and choose what you want to learn rather than challenging your mind to discover what you do not know?

Are Colleges As We Know Them Endangered?

(Flickr/anneohirsch) Author Andrew Delbanco argues that high costs and globalization are threatening the character of colleges that have historically created well-rounded citizens, who are ready to participate in a democracy. A drive to educate individuals for specific tasks, and a desire to only think about money and only about a specialized education may be robbing America of its place as a leader in research, development and great thinkers.

Here and Now from National Public Radio

Do More For 1 in 4 is a call to action to help the 1 in 4 American adults who will have a diagnosable, treatable mental health condition every year and that treatment works, recovery is the expectation, and screening is a first step to help. (from Mental Health America Website)

Voice Over is Changing

The world of voice over is changing.

For those who succeed in establishing a career, voice work remains very lucrative,  but the changing landscape has increased both the competition and altered some of the skill sets needed for a career.

Where once major city based union talent, primarily those with or who came out of broadcasting, dominated the market, today voices from all over the world compete for the same job, even local market jobs.  There has been a long time trend away from "announcer" voices to "real people", a sound that, believe it or not, takes a professional voice actor to pull off. Where once deep, smooth and resonate voices were king, today slightly higher and even slightly flawed voices are sought for radio and television voice work. It is important to sound conversational and natural, yet be able to produce the exact same read and "real" person feel for duplicate reads and matching levels.

Technology has allowed an increasing number of voice actors to enter the marketplace. Where once you had to live a half hour from the production studios, today you can live half a world away, using equipment that compared to previous generations cost pennies on the dollar. A computer, soundproofing, a qualify microphone and the proper recording and editing programs are now a manageable cost and can be set up in a spare bedroom or closet.

It use to be who you knew, with regular in person contact and relationships needed to establish and maintain a professional marketing relationship. Today many voices are judged on computer files, blind boxed without the name or location of the talent revealed to decision makers. Relationships and consistent quality of work remain important for talent to be rehired or put first in line where there is competition for the next job.

The union market is the most lucrative, with the added protection of the union, use fees, broadcast cycles and multiple use payments. However, increasingly producers are using non-union talent to save clients money, maximize their own profits and have a flow of "fresh" talent.

If you are interested in animation I suggest contacting Bob Bergan in Los Angeles.

There are beginner and intermediate coaches in  Nevada, however budget for far costlier national coaching talent and travel to where ever they teach. Even established professionals study with these coaches to keep their skills, knowledge of the business and professional connections up to date and current.

For entry level talent in Las Vegas I suggest Dr. Alice Whitfield for those who live on the west side and Melissa Moates for east side and Henderson. They are very different in their backgrounds, skills, approach and coaching techniques, so an audit may be recommended. Other coaches for entry level talent include Gretta Lorworth , Casting Call Entertainment and, in full disclosure, myself.

Support Theatre in the Libraries

Patrons of Signature Productions:

As you are aware we have not booked a 2012 season.  The Library District has decided to raise the fees for use of the Library Performing Arts Center, and we cannot afford the increase.  We have been users of the Library Theatre for the last 17 years.  This outrageous fee increase of about 570% is unacceptable, and will close the Theatre to our Musical Theatre productions, and put us out of business.

The Library District was built not only on books but also with the notion that there will be publically funded meeting and theatrical spaces.  The arts spaces have been there since the 1990's.  The theaters were built to serve the community and bring artistic and theatrical productions to the Las Vegas community.

We are a large user of the Summerlin Performing Arts Theatre, but the largest user of the space is the Las Vegas Clark County Library District itself, using it for its own programs.  It is unfair to ask the user groups, like us, to pay for their use and then also pay for the young person's library events, district departmental meetings and training sessions, seminars and human resource training and the staff salaries for the times any particular groups are not in the space.   Our group would be responsible to pay about  $54,000.00 for one of our regular season shows.  Since we book our musical theatre productions one year in advance the deposit would be $27,000.00 per show.  Since we do 3-4 shows per year it would be impossible for our group or any other production company to afford these fees.  This is outrageous to charge our Theatre Group, which is a non-profit Community Theater Company, for space that is publically funded through your taxes, and which encourages the patronage of the library system. To raise the additional money the ticket price would increase by $35-$40, taking our top price from $25 per ticket to over $60 per ticket!   

You, the public, are paying taxes for not only access to books but theatrical productions which will be taken away from the Las Vegas community.  Other libraries have already lost this service.  The Library District expected that all the current users would just rollover and pay the new fees.  I think they have been surprised that the spaces are not being booked, thus bringing them NO MONEY.

The Library District said that if there are no bookings then they will do their own programs WHICH PRODUCE NO REVENUE???  Does this sound counterproductive to the reason why they wanted to increase our fees in the first place??  You, the Public, are already providing tax dollars that funds upkeep, electric bills and staffing for the majority of the time. The charging for the use of facilities, already being funded, results in a double taxing on the public.  The technicians are paid by the District for all events whether we are there or not.

Some of you have asked what you can do to help relieve this situation.  If you will let all your friends, who have seen our shows,  know that this is happening and would they write to their City and County Commissioners who appoint these Library District Board members. Also write to the LVCC Library District Board Directors and ask them to reconsider their decision to impose these increased fees on us.  We have always been willing to talk about an increase in the fees but in a sensible way.  Thanks for your years of support for Signature Productions.

Karl M. Larsen,O.D., Pres.

Address of LVCCLD Board of Directors
LVCCLD Board of Directors
Jeanne Goodrich, Ex. Dir.
Kelly Benavidez, Chairman
Ron Kirsh, V. Chairman
Keila Crear, Sec.
Michael Saunders, Treas.
Shannon Bilbrary Axelrod
Randy Ence, Sheila Moulton
Carol Reese, Ydoleena Yturralde

Windmill Library
7060 W. Windmill Lane
Las Vegas, Nevada 89113

Address of the City officials
Mayor Carolyn Goodman

City Council Members
Steven Ross, Ricki Barlow
Bob Coffin, Lois Tarkanian
Steve Wolfson, Stavros Anthony
City Hall
400 Stewart Ave.
Las Vegas, Nv 89101


First Friday Anchor, The Arts Factory, pulls out, may sell building

Arts Factory owner Wes Isbutt puts his iconic property up for sale, blames "overbearing bureaucracy" and being forced to pay for Metro's First Friday presence for his imminent departure (click here for full Review Journal Coverage of this story).

More than 15 years after Wes Isbutt converted an abandoned warehouse into what became the heart of Las Vegas' incipient Arts District, the feisty artist turned frustrated businessman says he plans to leave town.

Isbutt has long expressed frustration with city government he describes as an overbearing bureaucracy. In recent weeks it reached a boiling point, this time over special event security requirements he argues are excessive.

That frustration contributed to Isbutt listing his Arts Factory building at Charleston Boulevard and Art Way with a commercial real estate broker and a decision to stop hosting bands, poetry or other outdoor events, including at the upcoming First Friday.

"There are so many permits we have to get every month for First Friday on my own property," said Isbutt, who also goes by the name Wes Myles and who operates Studio West Photography. "I will not pay them another penny. I am done with the extortion."

From the Las Vegas Review Journal. Click here to read the full story and for photos.

Break-up at Warner Brothers. Disney Interactive Origional Series for Moms. "The Five Year Itch". Superhero Summer starts.A most unusual Pirate. Should broadcasters report their on-line political advertising revenue and sourcess?

Ali wentworth

Photo left: Ali Wentworth, shown at the 39th Annual Chaplin Award gala in New York City, is host of the Disney Web series "Daily Shot."  Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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

Just in time for Mothers Day. Disney Interactive Media Group has unveiled original Web series targeting an influential demographic -- moms.
Margie Gilmore, vice president of online originals, told a group of media buyers gathered for a Digital Content NewFront presentation Thursday at SoHo House that the shows strive to remain true to the Walt Disney Co.'s heritage of storytelling -- while offering an honest, open and authentic voice that some within the company found "a little uncomfortable."

"There's not a lot of pixie dust in the world of parenting," Gilmore said. "We have to strike a balance between being Disney and being relevant and real."

The new digital shows build on Disney's considerable portfolio of assets targeting moms, including Babble Media, with its extensive roster of mommy bloggers dispensing parenting advice, and iParenting Media, which operates a network of websites geared to parents.

One series, "Moms of," features interviews with the mothers of accomplished athletes, musicians, inventors and teachers. One vignette Disney screened focused on 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, whose mother, Shonda Ingram, advises, "As mothers we don't have all the answers ... you just have to keep fighting and working hard to raise your child."

Other shows, "That's Fresh" and "Thinking Up," fall into the self-help category -- leavened with humor. The cooking show is hosted by Chef Helen Cavallo, who describes herself as "50% Italian, 50% Colombian and I'm 100% New York." Each episode features one fresh ingredient that can be prepared in multiple ways.

"Moms are looking for answers. 'What's for dinner?' 'How can I feed my kids in healthy ways, in the time that I have?'" said Gilmore, who was an executive producer for Food Network. "We're working with the irresistible Helen Cavallo. ... She's so funny and so warm, and she's the kind of person the kids won't look away from, and the moms won't look away from."

Television personality and author of "Courtney's Creative Adventurers," Courtney Watkins, hosts "Thinking Up" -- which provides imaginative children's activities, drawing from her eclectic background as a teacher of kindergarten and art and a designer of jewelry, murals and greeting cards. "Courtney is like no one else I've ever met -- an embodiment in how to be a creative adventurer with and for your kids," Gilmore said. "She's a mom who can so easily access what it means to be 8 or 9 years old."

As with other media companies, Disney indulged in a bit of celebrity sizzle: comedian Ali Wentworth filmed an episode of "Daily Shot" -- a show mixing news, celebrity gossip and topical issues sprinkled with wit -- at SoHo House, instead of its typical setting at her kitchen table.

"As you can see, we're not in my kitchen," Wentworth joked in her opening. "I'm here with a bunch of really really close friends, some family, some in-laws. ..."

The Skinny: I've decided soy sauce is to vegetables what ketchup is to meat. Friday's headlines include a weekend box-office preview, a partner in Hulu wanting to cash out, and a look at a most unusual movie pirate. Also, a big break-up at Warner Bros. and a review of "The Five-Year Engagement."

Daily Dose: Later this morning the FCC will vote on whether to require broadcasters to put detailed financial information about politicians' advertising on the Web. The broadcasters have been lobbying hard to keep the actual costs of their commercials out of view. It appears they will lose that fight. However, the FCC will throw broadcasters a bone and agree to review, a little way down the road, whether putting specific unit rates for commercials on the Web had negative ramifications for their bottom line.

Five-Year Engagement
Photo: "The Five-Year Engagement." Credit: Glen Wilson / Universal Pictures 

Start throwing rice. The road to the altar should be paved with box-office gold for the Jason Segel comedy "The Five-Year Engagement." The movie is expected to take the top spot this weekend with between $18 million and $20 million in sales. Also opening this weekend are the horror movie "The Raven," the action flick "Safe" and the 3-D family film "The Pirates! Band of Misfits." I can't explain it, but there's something about the marketing for "A Five-Year Engagement" that makes it seem like it has been sitting on the shelf for a while. Box office previews from the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter.

Time to sell. Private investing firm Providence Equity Partners is looking to cash out of Hulu, the online video platform co-owned by News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp. Providence had invested $100 million in Hulu and is taking away about twice that, according to Bloomberg. Earlier this week Providence invested $200 million in former News Corp. President Peter Chernin's media company Chernin Group. That seems to be more than a coincidence. Additional coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

The break-up. Warner Bros. and mega-producer Joel Silver are parting ways after a quarter-century together, according to Deadline Hollywood. Silver's deal will not be renewed by the studio when it expires later this year. Clashes between Silver, who's known for his temper, and Warner Bros. apparently finally reached the point of no return.

The face of piracy. Meet Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old World War II vet who spends much of his time making bootlegs of Hollywood hits and sending them to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The New York Times profiles Strachman, who by his estimate has sent hundreds of thousands of pirated DVDs to the troops for free. Although what he is doing is illegal, Hollywood has not come down on Strachman yet. My public relations advice to the movie industry is to tell him to stop, and then start doing his work for him.

Superhero summer. "The Avengers," "Batman" and "Spider-Man" are just some of the big-budget superhero blockbusters coming out this summer. USA Today looks at Hollywood's big bets for the months ahead. I just want to know who came up with "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Disney has its hands full figuring out how it will fill Rich Ross's position as head of its movie studio. Betsy Sharkey on "The Five-Year Engagement."

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. I'm a No. 1 pick.

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

Rupert Murdoch again apologizes for tabloids' phone hacking. Majors increase HULU state. AMC to make movies while pulling back from IPO. The death of he DVD has been greatly exagerated.

Rupert Murdoch leaves a hearing
 Photo: Rupert Murdoch: Credit: Justin Tallis / AFP Getty Images

The Rupert Murdoch apology tour continued Thursday with the News Corp. chief executive again telling British lawmakers that he was sorry about the phone-hacking scandal at the media giant's tabloids.

“I failed. And I’m very sorry about that,” the 81-year-old media mogul told a British judicial inquiry on media ethics inaugurated after revelations of phone hacking by the now-closed News of the World. “It’s going to be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life,” Murdoch said.

While acknowledging that as head of the company the buck stops with him, Murdoch also continued to deflect blame for the fiasco which sparked three separate criminal investigations, the firing of top executives and dozens of arrests.

Murdoch, whose son James had oversight of the tabloids during much of the wrongdoing, said staffers at the paper had kept him out of the loop. James Murdoch has made similar claims.

“There’s no question in my mind that maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that -- someone took charge of a cover-up -- which we were victim to and I regret,” Murdoch said.

For more on Murdoch's testimony, please see our story in World Now.

Redbox kiosk
Photo: Anja Murphy returns videos to a Redbox kiosk in an Albertsons supermarket in Santa Monica. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Apparently nobody told Redbox's customers that the DVD is dead. First-quarter revenue for the movie-rental company surged 39% to $502.9 million, and its operating income increased 222% to $76.4 million, Redbox's parent company Coinstar Inc. said in financial results released Thursday.

Coinstar said April 12 that its first-quarter performance would be better than projected thanks in large part to growth at Redbox, but it didn't specify just how well the subsidiary, which operates 36,800 DVD kiosks, would do. (The kiosks also carry Blu-ray discs and video games.)
Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar
 Photo: Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar at the company's Santa Monica headquarters in July 2010.  Credit:  Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Big studios increase stake and interests in Hulu. Providence Equity Partners is selling its stake in online video service Hulu for about $200 million, according to people familiar with the situation.
The move, first reported by Bloomberg News, is expected to give at least two of Hulu's media company owners -- News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. -- a greater ownership stake in the rapidly growing online service.
The 5-year-old service now has more than 2 million paid subscribers to its Hulu Plus offering, and about 38 million visitors a month to its free site, which offers catch-up episodes of such popular television shows as "Glee," "Revenge," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
The buy-out of the private equity firm would resolve some of the tensions that have been simmering for more a year. The stakeholders have long argued about Hulu's direction, priorities and monetization strategy.  Nine months ago, the partners considered selling Hulu, but the media companies opted not to shed the venture because they did not want to lose control of the online distribution of their valuable content.

The improved performance comes after a price increase in late 2011 to $1.20 per night from $1 per night for DVDs. Coinstar previously said that customers reacted less negatively to the price increase than anticipated and that demand was particularly high for titles such as "Moneyball," "Puss In Boots," "50/50," "In Time," "Abduction" and "Mr. Popper's Penguins."

More in the LA Times (click here). 

 Photo: Moviegoers gather at an AMC theater in Burbank on a Friday night. Photo credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For the Los Angeles Times. 

AMC Theaters to make and market films, while pulling back from planned IPO's. AMC Entertainment, the nation's second-largest exhibitor, has once again scrapped plans for a stock offering, two people familiar with the matter said.

The Kansas City, Mo.-based theater chain had said in a regulatory filing last spring that it planned to raise up to $450 million in an initial public offering of stock, using the proceeds to pay down debt. Top shareholders in AMC include JPMorgan, Apollo Investment Fund and Bain Capital Investors.

But at the prompting of AMC's owners, the circuit has opted to shelve the IPO, out of concern that market conditions aren't ripe for a stock offering, said two sources familiar with the plans who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

"It's a tough business,'' said one of the sources, citing the long-term challenges faced by the exhibition industry, especially from the threat posed by shrinking theatrical windows -- the period between when a movie is released in theaters and when it can be viewed in the home. "The biggest issue they are facing is how to navigate the collapsing of theatrical windows."

Industry-wide, the number of tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada fell 4% last year to 1.28 billion, the lowest level since the mid-1990s. But revenue has rebounded this year, jumping 23% in the first quarter.

This marks the third time in five years that AMC has pulled back from going public. The company originally filed for a $750-million IPO in December 2006 as private equity firms looked to recoup some of their heavy investments in the theater operator. But AMC withdrew that offering in May 2007 after investors balked at the $17-a-share asking price.  AMC then unveiled plans for a scaled-back stock offering in September 2007 but withdrew that plan a year later amid market volatility.

Along with rival Regal Entertainment, AMC last year launched a joint venture called Open Road Films that will acquire and release independent movies.

The results demonstrate that despite the ongoing decline in DVD sales and the closure of many DVD-rental stores, including thousands of Blockbuster locations, people still want to watch movies on discs. They just prefer to pay a low fee per night to rent DVDs at convenient locations such as grocery stores and drugstores, where Redbox kiosks are located.

More in the LA Times (click here).

How the 1% came to be....We gave it to them.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Son of City Center...

MGM: Riding the crazy train; Rendering unto Caesars

When you're $13.5 billion in the hole, what's another $6 billion, more or less. MGM Resorts appears bent on repeating its failed experiment in social engineering, CityCenter, on the Toronto waterfront.
If somebody loaned you a few hundred million, unsecured, you want to come to Las Vegas and lay some big wagers, right? MGM Resorts International has been there, done that. So it’s looking elsewhere to place its bets. And why not? Wall Street is returning to its profligate ways of 5-7 years ago and when banks are practically throwing money at you, who’s MGM to say, “no.” Of course, there’s that little matter of $13.5 billion in long-term debt, if you want to be a party pooper. To that end, it behooves MGM to open new markets like Florida, where the price of admission will be $500 million, if casino-expansion legislation is revived in the next Lege. Then there’s the $600 million or so the company is willing to spend in Massachusetts … although the proximity of Foxwoods Resort Casino creates a certain redundancy and conflicting agendas threaten the heretofore complimentary relationship between MGM and Ameristar Casinos. Ditto the great city of New York, where MGM wants a second bite at the Big Apple, having lost to Genting the first time ’round. New York City’s one of the few East Coast locales that could support a $1 billion-plus casino, although the current, 44% tax rate is going to put some strain on profitability.
So far, so good. Then MGM took a header off the deep end, offering to pony up between $2 billion and $6.1 billion USD for a metaresort in Toronto. As described, the proposal would encompass “hotels, restaurants, spas and convention facilities.” Sounds a lot like a second iteration ofCityCenter. (Perhaps, in deference to Canadian sensibilities, this northern knockoff will be called “CityCentre.”) Seriously, folks: Only one casino in the world — Marina Bay Sentosa — has approached the $6 billion mark in spending and Toronto, my friends, is no Singapore … especially in the winter!
“We’d be prepared to invest an awful lot,” understated company spokesman Alan Feldman. If the primary beneficiary of the project weren’t state-run Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp., one might squint at that $2 billion figure and say, “Yeah, OK … maybe.” But $6 billion? It sounds to me as though CEO Jim Murren is still astride his new-urbanism hobbyhorse, determined to prove that, by golly, you can make an Insta-City. Just built and throw people at it. I’m guessing that when the subject of Brasilia arose during Murren’s college studies, he thought, “Someday I’m going to have me one of those!”
Better MGM, however, than Mr. All-Hat, No-Cattle himself, Donald J. Trump. The snake-oil peddler was in Toronto recently and Mayor Rob Ford ‘fessed up to talking casino with the Trumpster before fleeing out the back door. Just what Trump is proposing to use for money is unclear. He’s contractually tied to Trump Entertainment Resorts, which not only has its hands full maintaining its Atlantic City beachhead, it’s identified its expansion strategy as being one of acquiring “distressed properties” … although it has not risen to the bait when any such devalued assets have come on the market. Anyway, opposition in Ontario seems to be running pretty high at the moment and few things could stiffen the opposition than a reminder of Trump’s empty promises and history of casino decrepitude.
Trump’s a chump but his dumping of Penn Jilette from clownfest Celebrity Apprentice gave Caesars Entertainment a chance to cover itself with glory. And, for once, Caesars didn’t fumble. Since Jilette’s quest on behalf of local nonprofit Opportunity Village fell short of its ultimate goal, Caesars ponied up $250,000 — equivalent to the Celebrity Apprentice grand prize. It’s one of the few times we can be grateful that Trump’s asinine TV show is still on the air. (My wife would strongly disagree: She watches Celebrity Apprentice, whilst I catch up on back numbers of Babylon 5 and Mission: Impossible.)
Unlike most industry big shots, Jilette is very much of the Las Vegas community, rather than simply treating Sin City as a stopover between limousine rides to the corporate jet. Hail Penn, hail Caesars. And speaking of things named “Penn” …
Correction/clarification: In my previous coverage of the General Services Administration scandal involving overspending at M Resort, I carelessly conflated the casino’s then-ownership with its current boss, Penn National Gaming. So the kudos go to Anthony Marnell III for luring the GSA away from the Strip and getting it to drop big bucks on M’s front door. At his most recent conference call, Penn CEO Peter Carlino made a pro forma huff about the GSA’s “outrageous” spending … but he didn’t offer to give the money back. I doubt that Carlino’s shareholders feel comparable faux-umbrage.

By David McKee ~LVABlog (click here).

Legislators question higher education funding formula

 By Richard Lake

The proposal to remake how the state's colleges and universities are funded would reward innovation, efficiency and success instead of growth, the state's higher education chancellor told a legislative committee Wednesday.

But the proposal, put forth by Chancellor Dan Klaich, would also treat an F grade the same as an A grade, would fund courses at universities and community colleges at the same level, and would so sharply cut the budgets of small, rural colleges that they could struggle to remain open at all.

Click here to continue reading in the Las Vegas Review Journal on-line.

Proposal to boost Millennium Scholarship payments goes nowhere

By Ed Vogel

CARSON CITY - No Nevada legislators stepped forward Thursday to support spending more on the Millennium Scholarship program in order to reduce the increasing college costs paid by students.
When the scholarship program began in 2000, its funds covered all of students' $2,400 in annual tuition and other fees, said Crystal Abba, a Nevada System of Higher Education vice chancellor. Today the funds pay only $1,920, or 29 percent of the $6,954 annual tuition and other fees, she told members of the Legislature's Interim Education Committee.

"It was a significant scholarship 13 years ago," Abba said. "Now it doesn't resonate with students."

Click here to continue reading from the Las Vegas Reviw Journal online.

Help Wanted at Disney. Broadcasters take on FCC on reporting of political ads on their web sites. Quick, hide your satellite dish! Murdock says he did not know what was going on a his newspapers. What TV shows are going to be cancelled? Pirates and romance at the cineplex. Nintendo posts its first loss since 1981.

IgerFeigeRossFavreau Photo: Bob Iger, left, Kevin Feige, Rich Ross and director Jon Favreau at the premiere of "Iron Man 2" in April 2010. Credit: Eric Charbonneau / Le Studio.    

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

Irreplaceable or no replacement necessary? Normally, when a top executive at a studio or network is pushed out, the successor is waiting in the wings. Yet Walt Disney Co. does not yet seem to have a plan on how it will replace Rich Ross at the top of its movie studio, which has some wondering if the job in fact actually needs to be filled. Analysis from the New York Times.

Help Wanted: Experienced executive who can turn around an unstable film studio and manage the egos of some of Hollywood's biggest power players including Pixar animation guru John Lasseter, DreamWorks partners Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider, mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Marvel chief Ike Perlmutter.

Reward: Not much.

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bog Iger, in other words, won't have an easy time finding a new studio chairman to replace Rich Ross.

Once considered one of the most powerful and sought-after positions in Hollywood, running the 89-year-old Burbank studio behind "Snow White," "Mary Poppins," and "Pirates of the Caribbean" now seems about as desirable as playing Goofy on a hot day at Disneyland. The buzz in Hollywood since Iger fired Ross last Friday has been less about who's angling for the job and more about who would want it.

The reason: Iger's strategy of turning Disney into a collection of brands means that most of the films it releases are not overseen or greenlit by the studio chairman, as they are at rival companies. Next year, for example, Disney will release five movies (including two 3-D re-releases) from the Pixar and Disney animation units headed by Lasseter and Ed Catmull; two superhero films from Marvel, a subsidiary run by CEO Perlmutter and President Kevin Feige; and at least one from DreamWorks, the independent studio that has a distribution deal with Disney.

Only two films on Disney's 2013 slate were approved and overseen by Ross himself: "Oz: The Great and Powerful," based on the classic book series and movie, and a new version of "The Lone Ranger" starring Johnny Depp. And both have powerful producers who are themselves forces to be reckoned with: Bruckheimer on "The Lone Ranger" and former Disney studio chairman Joe Roth on "Oz."

The studio is responsible, however, for advertising and releasing the movies from all of its brands and partners, meaning Ross' successor are easy targets for blame if those pictures don't work. People close to Disney but not authorized to speak publicly say that Lasseter, Feige and Snider are all intimately involved in marketing plans and were bitter about having their films promoted by inexperienced outsider M.T. Carney, who Ross hired in 2010 and had to dismiss early this year.

Though Ross' departure came soon after the failure of "John Carter," for which Disney is taking a $200-million write-down, people close to the studio said it had more to do with his inability to win allies inside and outside of Disney. Lasseter, Perlmutter, Snider and Spielberg were all said to have been unhappy with his leadership, and numerous lower-level employees at the studio, plus agents and producers around Hollywood, complained that Ross did not clearly articulate the types of projects he wanted or his vision to transform the studio.

In addition, Ross replaced nearly all of the seasoned movie executives at Disney with less experienced hands. Some, such as production president Sean Bailey, are well-liked, but others, such as Carney, were spectacular failures. (So far, Carney's successor, Ricky Strauss, is winning higher marks.)
Thus, less than three years after he stunned Hollywood by replacing veteran Dick Cook with Ross, who had a successful tenure running Disney Channels Worldwide but had never worked in the movie business, Iger must go back to the drawing board — again.

Disney's CEO is now faced with the humbling task of finding a chairman capable of endearing himself or herself to colleagues and Hollywood's creative community who also possesses the skills to update the studio for the digital age — one of the ostensible reasons Cook was fired. Click here for more of this story and others in the LA Times.

The Skinny: Thursday's headlines include a fight between broadcasters and the FCC over disclosing political advertising information on the Web, a push by some cities to hide satellite dishes, a look at what TV shows may be on the way out, and analysis of whether Walt Disney needs to replace Rich Ross as chairman of its movie studio.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
  Photo: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Broadcasters bulk a political ad disclosure. Every election year, politicians spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying commercials. It's a big part of their election-year bottom line.

"It may not be good for the country but it’s going to be good for CBS," joked CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves during an investors' conference last fall.

It's no secret how much politicians spend on advertising. Television stations are required to not only keep records on every commercial bought by a candidate, but that information is also available to the public. The only catch is that anyone interested in seeing the stats has to visit a TV station and ask to look at the public file to get access to how much money a local station is getting in election dollars.
On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to require TV stations to put that same information on their websites. While it may not seem like a big deal to take already public files and put them online, the broadcasters are not happy.

The issue is not putting what a candidate spent on commercials online. But broadcasters are concerned about listing what specific commercials on specific shows cost. Even though by law candidates get the lowest rate available for commercials in the weeks leading up to an election, broadcasters worry that other advertisers could use that information to leverage their own negotiations.

"One poker player would, in effect, have had at least a partial glance at the other's hand," broadcast networks CBS, NBC, ABC Fox and Univision wrote in comments filed jointly at the FCC.

There is also fear that one station could learn what another is charging and then undercut its rates with advertisers. On top of that, broadcasters think it is unfair that political advertising on cable is not required to be disclosed. That, too, may change down the road, Washington insiders say.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has a different opinion. In a speech at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention last week, he said broadcasters resisting the commission's proposals, are "against technology, against transparency and against journalism."

Media watchdogs and academics also think the broadcasters are overreacting. Andrew Schwartzman, senior vice president of the Media Access Project, said it is ironic that "broadcasters, who as journalists advocate for freedom of information laws, now want secrecy when it comes to their own operations."

For more on the debate, please see the story in Thursday's Los Angeles Times.
 Photo: Rupert Murdoch. Credit: Associated Press

Daily Dose: News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch's claims during testimony Wednesday in Britain that he doesn't talk much business when he's out and about with high-powered politicians may sound dubious to many, but to some company insiders it rings true. Inside News Corp., Murdoch often frustrates his lobbyists by spending too much time gossiping instead of pursuing the company's business agenda in meetings with top lawmakers, even after being given specific talking points. That's not to say the Murdoch message doesn't get through anyway. Once, after a meeting with a powerful congressman had turned into small talk, a lobbyist expressed annoyance at the blown opportunity. "That's what I have you for," Murdoch responded.

Not my fault. During his second day on the stand as part of an inquiry into media ethics, Rupert Murdoch said with regard to the phone hacking scandal at his British newspapers that he was the victim of a cover-up. According to the Associated Press, Murdoch said he and his son James, who oversaw the tabloids, were kept out of the loop about the extent of the hacking. All I'll say is remember it's usually the cover-up that ends up taking you down more than the crime itself.

 Photo: Emily Blunt and Jason Segel star in "The Five-Year Engagement." Credit: Universal Pictures

Can pirates scuttle romance, farce and a crowded box office field? 
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" is the latest computer-animated production from England's Aardman Animations, the studio behind such films as "Chicken Run" and "Wallace and Gromit." In the U.S., Aardman's films have sometimes struggled at the box office: Last year's "Arthur Christmas" only grossed $46 million domestically, but pulled in $100 million abroad. That will probably be the case for "Pirates," which has already opened in 46 foreign countries, including the U.K. and Australia, and taken in a total of $56 million.

The well-reviewed movie, featuring the voices of actors Hugh Grant and Salma Hayek, follows a buccaneer who is vying for the title of pirate of the year. The picture, which is being released by Sony Pictures, cost about $55 million to produce.

It may take half a decade for the couple in "The Five-Year Engagement" to make it to the altar, but the romantic comedy will quickly outrun the competition to the top of the box office this weekend.

The movie starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt is expected to debut with a solid sum of $18 million to $20 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

The film about a troubled relationship is likely to perform far better than three other movies hitting theaters this weekend. Both the horror film about Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven," and the 3-D stop-motion animated "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" will probably each start off with a moderate $12 million. "Safe," an action flick starring Jason Statham, is projected to collect a soft $8 million on its debut.

"The Five-Year Engagement" marks yet another collaboration between Segel and writer-director Nicholas Stoller, who met while working on Judd Apatow's short-lived 2001 television show "Undeclared." The actor co-wrote the picture with Stoller, and Apatow produced the film. Segel and Stoller's first feature film was the 2008 comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which wound up grossing a respectable $63 million domestically.

In 2010, Stoller penned "Gulliver's Travels," which Segel starred in -- and while the film made a paltry $42 million stateside, it ended up raking in nearly $200 million overseas. Their most recent partnership came with last year's "The Muppets," which ended up being a solid hit with a global total of $158 million.

Universal Pictures, which produced "Five-Year-Engagement" with Relativity Media for about $30 million, is clearly trying to draw parallels between "Engagement" and last year's success story "Bridesmaids." Advertisements for "Engagement" have played up the similarities between the two films, which both center on weddings and were produced by Apatow. The posters for "Engagement" even feature the same bright-pink lettering that was used to market 2011's female-centric "Bridesmaids."

“The Raven,” meanwhile, stars Cusack as legendary 19th century author Poe, who ends up encountering real-life re-enactments of the frightful stories he himself dreamed up. Relativity acquired the $26-million film for about $4 million from production and financing company Intrepid Pictures.
Cusack, 45, has promoted the thriller extensively on English and Spanish-language media programs. The star has had a mixed track record at the box office in recent years. Two years ago, he starred in Roland Emmerich’s disaster epic “2012,” which raked in a massive $770 million worldwide.
And “1408,” the last horror film he appeared in alongside Samuel L. Jackson, grossed a strong $72 million in the U.S. and Canada. But he has also appeared in a number of independent films and romantic comedies that failed to attract moviegoers, including 2007’s “Martian Child” and 2005’s “Must Love Dogs.”

The violent "Safe" stars Statham as a former cop who is down on his luck when he decides to help protect a young girl from international gangs. Lionsgate is releasing the movie in the U.S. and Canada on behalf of film finance company IM Global, which produced the picture. Lionsgate's financial risk, therefore, is only the expense of advertisements and prints.

Outside of the ensemble action film "The Expendables," Statham has only had decent box office success in the last decade. Most of his films have made under $30 million in the U.S, including the two  he starred in last year, "The Mechanic" and "Killer Elite."

Meanwhile, while the Disney release of Marvel Entertainment's "The Avengers" doesn't hit U.S. theaters until next weekend, the film is bowing overseas this weekend in 42 foreign countries. On Wednesday alone, the Marvel production collected $17.1 million in 10 international markets. The picture performed best in Australia, where it grossed $6.2 million, the second-highest opening day of all time in the country behind the final "Harry Potter" film's debut last summer.

 hoto: Super Mario Galaxy 2. Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum

 Mario takes a fall after three decades of success. Nintendo on Thursday posted losses of more than $500 million for its fiscal year -- its first annual loss since the Japanese gaming company began publicly reporting its financial results in 1981.

The maker of Mario and Zelda games in January telegraphed that it would post steep declines in sales and a substantial loss for the year ended March 31. Thursday's results were roughly in line with its grim forecasts, as both sales and losses came in slightly lower than expected.

The Kyoto company, which manufactures the Wii and DS game consoles, recorded a $534.6-million loss on $8 billion in revenue, compared with a $960.5-million profit on $12.6 billion in sales the year before. On Jan. 26, Nintendo warned investors that it would likely post a $804.3-million loss on $8.2 billion in sales.

While sales came in lower than expected, losses narrowed as a result of a weaker Japanese yen.
Still, the rapid rise of inexpensive smartphone applications for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Android phones have weakened Nintendo's once-dominant grip on the portable games market. In addition, sales of its Wii console have slipped precipitously as players gravitate to the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, both of which have higher graphical processing power and a more robust online entertainment offering than the Wii.

The 123-year-old company, which started in 1889 selling playing cards, is pinning its hopes on its upcoming Wii U, its next-generation console that is scheduled for launch later this year in time for Christmas.

P&H Head Bruce Dow steps down. Bruce Dow, the beleaguered chief executive of the Screen Actors Guild pension and health plans, has resigned.

Dow, who had been on a medical leave of absence since January, was expected to step down in the wake of a mounting controversy over a lack of financial control of an organization that controls more than $2 billion in assets on behalf of the Screen Actors Guild's 125,000-plus members.

The board of trustees for the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans said in a statement that it had appointed Chris Dowdell, the current chief operating officer, as interim CEO.
"It is with great regret that we accept our CEO Bruce Dow's decision," the statement said. "For the last 28 years, Bruce has been instrumental in assisting the trustees in designing and managing many of the benefit programs actors enjoy today."

U.S. Labor Department officials have been investigating reports that another former senior pension plans executive allegedly embezzled millions of dollars by receiving kickbacks from several companies that did business with the funds.

After an audit in early 2009, SAG-PPHP sued two vendors involved in the alleged scheme. In one of the cases, an arbitrator awarded the plans nearly $2.5 million in damages, which a court approved. The plans said most of the money was recovered from an insurance claim.

The alleged embezzlement scheme surfaced publicly in a complaint that former Human Resources Director Craig Simmons filed in September with the Labor Department. In his complaint, Simmons contended that he had been wrongfully terminated in March 2011 partly for raising questions about the alleged embezzlement and for raising questions about Dow's conduct, including allegations that Dow steered business to his wife's insurance company, USI of Southern California.

The board of trustees later said an independent investigator had found that most of Simmons' allegations were false and told SAG members that the fiscal integrity of the plans "remains sound and your benefits are secure." There was no finding by the board that Dow was involved in a coverup.

Photo: Tim Palen. Credit: Los Angeles Times.
Multiple marketing heads and other duplication. Lionsgate has decided to solve one of the thorniest staffing problems resulting from its acquisition of "Twilight" studio Summit Entertainment by keeping the marketing chiefs from both studios.

Tim Palen, Lionsgate's chief marketing officer who is coming off of the blockbuster success of "The Hunger Games," has signed a new deal that will keep him in his job through 2015.

However, the studio is also keeping Nancy Kirkpatrick in her current job as president of marketing for Summit, which is now a Lionsgate label.

The unusual arrangement comes after months of speculation within the company and throughout Hollywood over what Lionsgate would do with the duo. It has already merged every other department from the two studios and chosen an executive from one or the other to be in charge. Erik Feig of Summit is now the sole president of production, for instance, while Lionsgate's Steve Beeks oversees their combined home entertainment units.

Palen, a photographer who takes many of the pictures and designs some of the art for Lionsgate's advertisements, is well respected in the community and said to be a favorite of Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer. Kirkpatrick joined Summit along with its former chief Rob Freidman, now co-chair of Lionsgate's motion picture group, and remains close to him. Both previously worked together at Paramount Pictures.

People close to Lionsgate who were not authorized to speak publicly said the two did not want to share a "co-president" title.

Going forward, Palen will oversee the marketing for movies that were already in the works at Lionsgate, including the upcoming "What to Expect When You're Expecting," "Expendables 2" and next year's "Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire."

Kirkpatrick will handle marketing for movies that were in development at Summit before it was acquired by Lionsgate, including November's final "Twilight" film, "Breaking Dawn Part 2," as well as "Step Up Revolution" and next year's "Ender's Game," based on the classic science-fiction book.
It remains to be seen how the two will work together once the movies Summit already had in the works before the merger have all been released and Lionsgate has only one movie slate. Given his new contract and chief marketing officer title, however, Palen appears more likely to retain the top marketing job.

Are satellite dishes ugly

Photo: A DirecTV dish. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press

Political debate. Broadcasters are fighting with the Federal Communications Commission over a proposal from the regulatory agency to put financial details about political advertising online. While information such as what a candidate spent buying commercials is already available to anyone who visits a TV station, broadcasters are reluctant to put that same material on the Internet. A look at why they are resisting the FCC's effort from the Los Angeles Times.

Popping the bubble. Not only are the networks busy assessing their pilots to decide what new shows they'll order for the fall, it's also time to decide what current programs they will bring back. TV Guide looks at the shows that are on the fence.

Those unsightly satellites. As satellite TV grows in popularity, some cities are griping that the dishes make neighborhoods look ugly, notes the Wall Street Journal. There are even efforts to require dishes to be placed somewhere other than the front of houses or apartment buildings. The satellite industry is fighting back, arguing this would discriminate against their business. Maybe the satellite industry can have a contest to come up with a prettier dish. Personally, I find dishes look kind of cool. It makes me think I live in England, where there are dishes all over the place.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Believe it or not, there is actually a debate about whether people should be allowed to text during movies. Hey, why stop there? Why not be able to watch videos on your iPad while looking at the movie?

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. It will be enlightening.

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