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Monday, May 21, 2012

Information and Entertainment Media 5/21/2012

Say Goodby to House. Hulu to produce TV. TV anywhere. " There's an Ap for That". SAG-AFTRA hires first Executive Director. The Avengers Continue to Dominate. Universal Theme Parks show big bang. "Community" Lead Producer fired. Movie Theaters going Chinese.

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

The Skinny: I'm in Boston for the cable industry's big convention and, of course, it is supposed to rain! I'm also bummed the hotel doesn't offer free Wi-Fi. I'll make Marriott a deal. They can skip the complimentary USA Today and Wall Street Journal in return for free Wi-Fi. Monday's headlines include a look at the weekend box office, which was again dominated by "The Avengers," how Comcast's Universal Studios theme parks are making gains, and more drama behind the scenes of NBC's comedy"Community."

Comcast and iPhone Full televison/cable remote iPhone Ap. Comcast plans to introduce an iPhone app that enables people to use motions and gestures as signals to control their televisions. Next time you shake your iPhone at the television, you could end up freezing the screen.
Cable giant Comcast Corp., which has more than 20 million subscribers and is the nation's largest cable operator, is showcasing new technologies at the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. trade show here -- including an app that enables people to use motions and gestures as signals to control their televisions.

Comcast has already been working on making iPhones, iPads and other devices into remote controls. Now an iPhone can  become a remote and its keypad can be used to search for content by title as part of Comcast's X1 cloud-enabled television platform. The X1 platform stores movies and other content in a virtual file instead of in a cable box, hence the phrase cloud.

The service will launch first on Comcast's Boston systems before it rolls out across the country.
Comcast also gave a demonstration of its new "Project Dayview" service, which can turn the television into a virtual planner, complete with traffic reports, meeting schedules, emails and, of course, what's on television. The device interfaces across TV, laptops, tablets and smart phone.

Sharing WiFi TV free even outside you providers area.  Several major cable companies are teaming up on a new initiative to allow their subscribers to access Wi-Fi in so-called public hot spots even if they are in an area not served by their own local provider.

In other words, if someone is a Time Warner Cable subscriber but traveling out of a town and in a region served by Comcast Corp., they can still access free wireless by logging in with "Cable WiFi." The catch is that you have to already be a broadband subscriber and register to use the service. Cable operators taking part in the service include Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Cox.
More and more cable companies are offering free Wi-Fi in public areas outside the home to their customers. The cable operators involved in this venture have more than 50,000 hot spots in their various footprints.

The cable giants made the announcement on the first day of the annual National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. convention being held in Boston this week.
"This effort adds great value to our high-speed Internet customers by providing free wireless Internet access on all of their Wi-Fi enabled devices in our markets and additional areas across the country," said Nomi Bergman, president of Bright House Networks, which has systems in Florida.

Former FCC Chair warns of regulation of the Internet. The government needs to take a light touch when it comes to regulating the Internet, warned Michael Powell, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission who is now head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., which is the cable industry's lobbying arm."Letting politics allocate resources – rather than market economics and entrepreneurs – would kill investment and leave the Internet in the state we find today’s post office, electric grid or crumbling transportation system," To continue reading click on More..

Good night, House. Fox's long-running drama "House" ends its run Monday night. "House" proved that Fox could launch an adult drama that didn't require lots of explosions. The show, about a brilliant but moody doctor battling a nasty pill habit, went on to become a hit around the globe. USA Today looks at the surprising success of "House."

NBC's Community
NBC's "Community" is losing its creative muse as executive producer Dan Harmon is leaving the show. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times / May 21, 2012

'Community' news. Dan Harmon, the creator of NBC's "Community," which has a small but very loyal audience, was fired as the show's executive producer Friday by Sony, the producer of the comedy. The move came just days after NBC said it was bringing the show back for another 13 episodes in the fall. Hmmm. Do you think NBC only agreed to bring it back if Harmon, who got into a nasty fight with "Community" co-star Chevy Chase and who has a reputation for being difficult to work with, was taken off the show? I wonder. Here's what Harmon said about his exit on his blog (the title of which may not be safe for work) and here are takes from Vulture and the Hollywood Reporter.

Daily Dose: A few months ago, there were big headlines about Fox Sports wanting to launch a national cable channel to compete with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN. Not getting as big a headline was the dismissal of those stories  by Corp. President Chase Carey. OnNews Corp.'s recent earnings call, Carey pretty much dismissed the idea and said the reports were "a bit overblown" and that Fox doesn't have any plans on the front burner for such a service.


David White SAG-AFTRA
Former SAG Executive Director David White was named Sunday as the sole national executive director of the newly-formed union SAG-AFTRA. (May 1, 2009)

The newly-convened SAG-AFTRA board of directors has confirmed David White as the merged union's sole national executive director.

The national board of SAG-AFTRA voted overwhelmingly Sunday to select White for the job, approving a new three-year contract.

White, the former SAG executive director, was widely expected to assume the new position as the chief administrative officer in the union of about 160,000 members. White had been serving as co-national executive director with former AFTRA leader Kim Roberts Hedpeth, who announced last month that she was resigning.

"I'm thrilled about the prospect of helping to build this new organization and grateful for the board's vote of confidence,'' White said in an interview.

The 43-year-old former entertainment industry attorney and general counsel for SAG, was hired as SAG's executive director on an interim basis in January 2009, replacing Doug Allen. Allen had been ousted from the job after clashing with board members. White was officially named to the position in October of that year.

White led SAG through the nearly two-year process to merge with the smaller performers union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The merger was approved in a referendum vote March 31.

Also at its first meeting, the board approved a $95-million budget for the coming year and agreed to allocate funds from its reserves to cover costs of upcoming contract negotiations this fall for work in commercials.

SAG-AFTRA, which has about 630 employees, is facing a deficit of $2.7 million related to one-time transition costs tied to the merger of the unions. Union officials expect a 10% reduction in staff this year through attrition.

Officials did not disclose White's salary in his new job.
Headquarters of twofour54, the entertainment and media company that is partnering with Digital Domain to open an animation and visual effects studio in Abu Dhabi. 
Annimation and Special Effects with the Middle East in mind. Digital Domain, the award-winning visual effects company behind the blockbuster “Transformers” films and “Tron: Legacy,” is expanding into the Middle East with plans to open a 150,000-square-foot production studio in Abu Dhabi in 2015.
Parent company Digital Domain Media Group, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., said Sunday night that it was partnering with Abu Dhabi government-backed media and entertainment company twofour54 to build a studio that would create English- and Arabic-language animated movies targeted at Middle Eastern audiences

So much for a high-seas battle. "The Avengers" continued to dominate the box office, easily beating "Battleship" and "The Dictator." "The Avengers" took in just over $55 million while "Battleship" made only $25.3 million. I honestly thought "Battleship" was a clunker from Day 1 but then I got worried that maybe I wasn't in the right demographic. Glad I'm not losing my touch. "Battleship" star Taylor Kitsch, whose last movie was Disney's "John Carter," might want to get a new agent. Also struggling was the female-skewing comedy "What to Expect When You're Expecting," which took in $10.5 million. Box office coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.

Which has shorter lines and cleaner bathrooms? Is Comcast Corp.'s Universal Studios theme parks gearing up to take a shot at Walt Disney Co.'s empire of rides? While Disney has eight parks and a big lead, the New York Times notes that "Universal is starting to look a lot less puny." A big part of Universal's gains are from its investment in rides based on the "Harry Potter" franchise. All I know is that one of the reasons I don't have kids is because of a fear of standing in long lines under the hot sun in a theme park. The other reasons are best left for me and my team of therapists.


Patrons outside an AMC theater in Century City.There's something about Wanda. Midwest US Minded Theater Chain to Turn Chinese? As had been expected, Chinese movie theater owner Dalian Wanda Group has struck a deal to buy AMC Entertainment Inc. for $2.6 billion. AMC is America's second-largest movie theater chain and has more than 5,000 screens. "This transaction will help make Wanda a truly global cinema owner, with theaters and technology that enhance the movie going experience for audiences in the world's two largest markets," said Wang Jianlin, Wanda's chairman and president. More from the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg.

Hulu hopes to jump through new hoop. Having already established itself as a library for television shows, the online video site is hoping that this summer it can prove that it can sustain original programming. Next month, Hulu, whose owners include News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp., is launching three original series and has also acquired rights to seven shows never seen before in the United States. But will Hulu attract enough eyeballs to make the economics of original content work? The Wall Street Journal looks at Hulu's next step.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Megan Ellison, daughter of Silicon Valley billionaire Larry Ellison, is making her own mark in Hollywood.

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