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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

'Men in Black' on top. Academy campaigning kicks off. Shake-up at Direct TV. The battle continues for 'Call of Duty'. Spike the Magazine.

Men in Black 3
"Men in Black 3" dethroned "The Avengers." Credit: Sony. (Sony / May 29, 2012)
After the coffee. Before going through two weeks' worth of mail.

From the LA Times Company Town here for the lastest industry news.
The Skinny: After two weeks on the road, I'm back in the office. I don't think I'd make it as a ballplayer. Tuesday's headlines include a look at the holiday box office and a coming election at the motion picture academy.

Daily Dose: "Moonrise Kingdom," the Wes Anderson-directed feature, had a strong limited-release opening. Focus Features touted it as a record, and indeed, on paper its $130,752 four-theater-average box office topped the 2006 opening of "Dreamgirls" in the same number of theaters by about $4,000. Of course, ticket prices have hardly stayed the same since 2006, so seems that an asterisk may be necessary here.

New champ. As expected, "Men in Black 3" dethroned "The Avengers" and took the top spot at the box office. However, it's holiday-weekend take of $70 million was lower than box-office watchers had projected. Overseas, the movie took in $133.2 million. Ticket sales for Memorial Day weekend were off 31% from last year. I did my part by steering clear of the movie theater. Box-office recaps from the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press

Campaign season. Tom Sherak's run as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences ends in August and the speculation about who might replace him is starting to pick up steam. The New York Times says producer Howard Koch Jr. and writer Phil Alden Robinson have emerged as names to watch. Producer Gale Anne Hurd is also being mentioned as a possible Sherak successor.

Who bought what. Now that the Cannes Film Festival is over, the Hollywood Reporter looks at what the biggest movie deals were for U.S. studios and which films are still trying to find a home. The winner of the festival, Michael Haneke’s "Amour," was acquired back in April by Sony.

Insulting the voters is always the way to go. As Emmy campaign season kicks off, Fox's cartoon show "Family Guy" won't be accused of being too understated in its lobbying efforts. Deadline Hollywood reports that its mailer to voters includes a plea from "Family Guy" star Peter Griffin to those who will decide if the show will go home with a trophy. “Come on, you bloated, overprivileged Brentwood Jews. Let us into your little club,” reads the note.

Dan York is joining DirecTV from AT&T. Credit: DirecTV
Satellite broadcaster DirecTV is shaking up its executive ranks. Derek Chang, who holds the pivotal role of DirecTV's executive vice president of content strategy and development, is leaving his post at the end of year. He has been in charge of all programming deals at the satellite company.

Replacing Chang will be Dan York, who will become chief content officer for DirecTV. York most recently was president of content and advertising sales for AT&T's U-Verse pay-TV service. Prior to that he had stints at In Demand Networks, a video-on-demand programming company and HBO. 
To go to LA Times Coverage click More.
Next up, Spike the magazine. Having had success with a magazine based on the Food Network, Scripps Interactive is going to try again with HGTV, a a publication inspired by its Home & Garden TV channel. As it did with the Food Network magazine, Scripps is partnering with Hearst Corp. on the venture. More on whether this will be a page-turner from the Wall Street Journal.

And I thought my invite was lost in the mail. Often News Corp. and its chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, hold a big party in London during the summer that draws top politicians. But the Telegraph reports that this summer's shindig has been canceled. The move is not a surprise, given all the controversy around Murdoch and News Corp.'s tight relations with England's power players. 

A scene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
A scene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. (Activision / May 29, 2012)

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle announced that the court would be in recess until Wednesday morning.

Asked whether the delay was to allow for settlement discussions, lawyers said afterward that they were under strict instructions not to discuss the matter. "[The judge] asked us not to comment," said Bruce Isaacs, who represents 40 developers who worked on 2009's hit Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Bobby Schwartz, who represents Call of Duty co-creators Jason West and Vincent Zampella, whose firing in 2010 kicked off what has become the biggest legal dispute in the history of the video game industry, said, "I can't tell you a thing."

Activision attorney Beth Wilkinson said Tuesday's delay did not come on the heels of settlement talks in recent days. "There were no meetings over the [Memorial Day] weekend," she confirmed.

West, Zampella and the Call of Duty developers are seeking more than $2 billion in damages, according to Activision court filings. The Santa Monica game publisher has filed a lawsuit of its own seeking unspecified damages.

The jury trial is scheduled to begin on Friday.

Jason West (left) and Vincent Zampella, who developed the Call of Duty franchise, were fired from Activision in March 2010.  
Divorce? A case pitting the world's biggest game company against two of the industry's top developers is increasingly looking like a messy celebrity divorce.

As the lawsuits involving bActivision Blizzard Inc.and former employees Jason West and Vincent Zampella head to court next week, documents spilling into the public eye give a rare glimpse of a relationship that began to deteriorate long before the actual split-up in March 2010 when the company fired West and Zampella.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: A look at "Men in Black 3's" marketing push in China.

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From the LA Times Company Town here for the lastest industry news.

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