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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Myspace sold personal info. Myley Cyrus a flop? Chinese to buy American Movie Theaters. PG and PG13 are vital to Hollywood Success. Networks join those launching on-line channels. Will Oprah face her first major failure.



Myspace ownersSpecific Media executives Chris Vanderhook, left, and his brother Tim Vanderhook photographed at Myspace headquarters in Beverly Hills. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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

Myspace admits to misleading millions of users.   Myspace social network has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it disclosed personally identifiable information about its users to advertisers, in violation of its privacy policy.

The proposed settlement with the FTC would bar Myspace from future misrepresentations and require the social network to implement a comprehensive privacy program that calls for independent assessments to be conducted over the next 20 years.

Myspace encouraged its 24.7-million users to create online profiles containing substantial personal information — such as a person's age, gender, photograph and name (if they failed to provide one, their real name would be associated with this information).

Myspace assigned a unique identifier, which it called a "Friend ID," to each profile.

Despite promising not to share users' personally identifiable information, Myspace provided advertisers with the Friend IDs of users who viewed particular pages on its site, the FTC charged. Advertisers could use this information to obtain the personal information contained in the user's profile — even his or her full name, according to the FTC.

The proposed settlement with federal regulators would prevent Myspace from misrepresenting the extent to which it safeguards a user's personal information. It also requires Myspace to create a comprehensive program to protect consumers' information. The agreement is subject to public comment until June 8, when the commission will decide whether to finalize it.

Myspace issued a statement Tuesday morning, saying "consumer privacy has always been a chief concern" of the site's owner, Specific Media, which acquired the struggling social network last June from News Corp. for $35 million.

Without acknowledging wrongdoing, Specific Media said Myspace always has had "cutting-edge tools" for controlling how information is used and shared — adding "there is always room for improvement." Specific Media said it examined the social network's business practices following the acquisition and began to make improvements.

"In order to put any questions regarding Myspace's pre-acquisition advertising practices behind us, Myspace has reached an agreement with the FTC that makes a formal commitment to our community to accurately disclose how their information is used and shared," Specific Media said in a statement.
The FTC settlement does not provide information about when the privacy breaches occurred at Myspace. A spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the FTC, the alleged in its complaint took place from January 2009 through June 2010, when News Corp. owned the social network, and again from October 2010 through October 2011, a peiod of time when ownership changed. Specific Media acquired the site in June 2011.

Daily Dose: On Monday, CNBC ran a heavily hyped special "Stay Tuned: The Future of TV." While the program spent a lot of time looking at how YouTube and other digital companies are planning to launch online channels, the financial network steered clear of raising the key issue of whether there would be enough viewers and advertising revenue to support all these ventures. Also, the special didn't raise any of the concerns from media watchdogs about how big media companies such as CNBC parent Comcast Corp. are trying to stifle the growth of new content delivery systems.

The Skinny: Tuesday's headlines include how important a PG-13 rating has become to Hollywood, Discovery earnings taking a hit because of losses from the Oprah Winfrey Network, and the movie theater chain AMC Entertainment possibly going up for sale.

Vince Ferragamo LA Rams
 Photo: Vince Ferragamo, No. 15, former quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, gets ready to throw during the 1980 Super Bowl game. Credit: Associated Press and Los Angeles Times.

Electronic Arts Gaming to settle suit with NFL Players Association. Electronic Arts Inc. on Monday disclosed that it had set aside $27 million for a "potential settlement of an ongoing" lawsuit.

EA declined to identify the suit, stating that it had no final settlement to announce, but the most likely case involves one lodged by former National Football League players whose likenesses were depicted in EA's Madden NFL football games.

The Redwood City, Calif., game publisher suffered a setback in March when a judge dismissed the company's request to dismiss the lawsuit.

The ruling, by Judge Richard Seeborg of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, meant that the case could proceed with its quest to obtain class-action status in representing more than 6,000 former NFL players.

Named plaintiffs include Tony Davis, former running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Vince Ferragamo, former quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams (pictured above); and Billy Joe DuPree, former tight end for the Dallas Cowboys.


AMC IPO
 Photo: An AMC theater in Burbank. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times

AMC Theatres to sell to Chinese. AMC Entertainment, the United States' second-largest movie theater chain, is negotiating a deal to sell all or part of itself to Wanda Group, owner of China's largest theater company, two people familiar with the talks said.

The deal, if concluded, would make Wanda the first Chinese company to establish a major foothold in the North American theatrical business. AMC operates 5,048 screens in 347 theaters in the U.S. and Canada. It would also give AMC access to China's burgeoning market, which is in the midst of a multiplex building boom and was No. 2 at the international box office last year behind Japan, accounting for $2 billion in ticket sales, according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

The talks between AMC and Wanda have intensified in recent weeks in the wake of AMC's move to pull the plug on a planned stock offering to raise up to $450 million and use the proceeds to pay down debt, according to sources who asked not to be identified because the negotiations were confidential. Top shareholders in AMC include JPMorgan, Apollo Investment Fund and Bain Capital Investors.

AMC withdrew the offer because of concerns that market conditions weren't ripe for a stock offering, and possibly to position the company for a sale, people close to the transaction said.

A spokesman for AMC declined to comment, as did a representative for Wanda. News of the talks with Wanda was first reported by the New York Times.

Wanda Cinema Line Corp. Limited is the largest cinema chain in China. The parent company, Wanda Group, is a major player in real estate development including department stores and hotels.

The company has been in the news of late because its chairman, Wang Jianlin, is reportedly under investigation for ties to disgraced Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai. Bo was sacked, accused of corruption, and his wife charged with the murder of a British businessman. Wanda's headquarters are in the northeastern city of Dalian, where Bo was once a senior official.

AMC posted a loss of $82.7 million on revenue of $1.93 billion in the 39 weeks ended Dec. 29, 2011, compared to a profit of $36.88 million on revenue of $1.9 billion during the same period in 2010, according a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company cited higher interest expenses, investment losses in Beverly Hills-based 3-D technology company RealD and costs related to its acquisition of Kerasotes.

In May 2011, AMC closed a deal to acquire 92 theaters and 928 screens from Chicago-based Kerasotes Showplace Theatres, the nation's sixth-largest movie chain.

China has been heavily expanding its own entertainment industry, both to boost the country's global influence or "soft power" and to feed the demands of a surging middle class. Several Hollywood studios have been maneuvering to take advantage of the opportunity to grow business in China.

Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. recently said it would partner with the animation arm of China's Ministry of Culture and China's largest Internet company to help develop China's animation industry.

Glendale-based DreamWorks Animation has announced a joint venture with Shanghai Media Group, China's second-largest media company, to build a family entertainment company to produce animated and live action movies and TV shows for the Chinese market. That deal was unveiled in February when Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Los Angeles.

China is also rapidly expanding its theater industry. Although no major U.S. theater chain has expanded into China, Beverly Hills-based Real Inc. also has partnered with Beijing SAGA Luxury Cinema Management Co. to equip the Chinese theater chain with 3-D technology. Imax Corp., the Canadian big-screen theater company, also formed a joint venture with Wanda  to open 75 theaters by 2014.

Miley Cyrus stars in LOL
Photo: Miley Cyrus in "LOL." Credit: Lionsgate.

Flop or a sign of modern film marketing struggles? With a lack of support, poor marketing and the overwhelming box office of The Avengers, "LOL" was destined to flop by design.

Miley Cyrus’ latest film, “LOL,” hit theaters this past weekend, but the world may never know how it did at the box office.

Lionsgate released the teen romance, an adaptation of a popular 2008 French film of the same name, in 90 theaters with virtually no publicity. But the studio did not disclose ticket-sale data to the public or data company Rentrak, a highly unusual move in an industry where box office grosses are widely disseminated and analyzed.

The film, which also stars Demi Moore, played in a dozen states this weekend, including Utah, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Texas.  Executives at the studio did not believe the picture would prove commercially appealing and wanted to release it direct-to-video, according to people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly about it. However, as a condition of its deals selling the picture to foreign distributors, Lionsgate was required to play "LOL" in nearly 100 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.

It did so but provided virtually no marketing support for the movie beyond a single trailer released online.

While Cyrus mentioned the film’s release on her Twitter account, the 19-year-old did not appear on any major talk shows and was not made available for interviews to discuss her role in the movie.
Unsurprisingly, several theater managers said the movie did dismal business at the box office this past weekend.

At the Great Escape Theatre in O'Fallon, Miss., the movie screened five times per day Friday through Sunday. But only 28 people showed up to see the film over the course of the weekend, amounting to $260.75 in receipts over the three-day period.

Richard Lintker, Great Escape’s city manager, said that Lionsgate was so eager for the theater to play "LOL" that the studio agreed to allow it to play it in place of the Jason Statham movie "Safe" this past weekend. The action film, also from Lionsgate, has not been a box office smash but would have likely made more money than the Cyrus flick.

"LOL" fared even worse at one of Atlas Cinemas’ locations in Ohio, where director of operations Chris Baxter said the movie collected a little over $100 from roughly 12 patrons all weekend long.

"It didn’t pay for the lights to be on," Baxter said. "It was literally the slowest movie we had this weekend, behind movies that have been out for 10 weeks."

Baxter noted that other Cyrus films — including the 2010 tear-jerker "The Last Song" — have performed well at the chain.

"This just wasn't marketed well," he said. "I've seen or heard nothing about it other than the posters we had in the theater."

As for the tween star herself, Cyrus seemed undeterred by the film's disappointing returns.

"Thank u so much for everyone who went to see LOL," she tweeted Monday morning. "It is a film I loved making and I am proud of... That's really all that matters to me."

A Lionsgate spokeswoman declined to discuss the movie or the studio's reasons for not reporting its box office receipts.

Rated for success. It's no accident that most of Hollywood's biggest hits have a PG-13 rating. With that in mind, studios are doing all they can to avoid a dreaded R rating. While some R ratings don't hamper success ("Bridesmaids," "The Hangover"), a PG-13 allows for a wider audience,especially for kids who want to see it without parental supervision. Seems to me the key to getting a PG-13 rating is to show very little consequence to violence as was the case with "The Avengers," which for all its mayhem had only one real death scene and hardly any blood. More analysis of PG-13 from the Los Angeles Times.

Click here to play the celebrity voice-over quiz.
 Photo: Voice-over actress Keri Tombazian. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times 

Voice Over Artist muted by celebrities.

Tom Kane is no fan of Mercedes-Benz.

It's not the car that he has a problem with, it's that the company uses "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm as the voice of its radio and television commercials.

"Even if it is a terrific spot -- which it isn't -- people don't have a clue who that is," said Kane, a professional voice actor for two decades.

Unfortunately for Kane and other voice actors, more and more movie and television stars are getting into this line of work too. Although there were always some big-name actors who did commercial voice-over work, many steered clear. That is no longer the case.

"Actors on every level want to do voice-over work," said Tim Curtis, an agent who specializes in celebrity endorsements for agency WME. "It's a fun thing for them to do, doesn't take much time and can be really lucrative."

Advertisers don't mind shelling out more because they think being associated with a star benefits their brand.

"It's kind of like paying a little more for a shirt," said Rob Schwartz, chief creative officer at Chiat/Day, whose clients include Nissan and Visa, whose ads feature the voices of Robert Downey Jr. and Morgan Freeman, respectively.

"Some are fabulous and some are pretty mediocre," said Keri Tombazian, a veteran voice actor of the celebrities who have gotten into the game. "The unfortunate thing for us is that career voice-over actors are not afforded the luxury of mediocrity."

For more on what the influx of celebrities has meant for everyday voice actors, please see the story in the Los Angeles Times.

Oprah Winfrey
 Photo: Oprah Winfrey. Credit: Frank Gunn/Associated Press.


Life outside the ring. Is welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao trying to be the next Oprah Winfrey? The Wall Street Journal looks at the boxer's busy schedule outside the ring that includes lots of TV appearances here and a variety show -- "Manny Many Prizes" -- in his native Philippines. Just one tip: if anyone offers to start a network with your name on it, make sure they foot the bill for the losses.

Not living your best life yet. Discovery Communications released its first-quarter earnings Tuesday morning, and while its revenues rose 16% to $1.10 billion, its profits fell almost 30% to $221 million as the cable giant started absorbing all of the losses at OWN. Details from Reuters and Bloomberg.

Full house again. After being held up by politics, the Senate approved the nominations of Republican Ajit Pai and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC had been operating with a chairman and two commissioners, rather than the usual four, for several months. Both are lawyers who have worked at the FCC and on Capitol Hill for years. More from the Washington Post.

Beating the drum. Former comedian-turned-politician Al Franken, now a Democratic senator from Minnesota, is again attacking Comcast Corp. Franken, who was very vocal about his opposition to the cable giant's takeover of NBCUniversal, sent a five-page letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking it to investigate Comcast for violating the conditions it agreed to in return for approval of the merger. Comcast said it has complied with the FCC's conditions. Coverage from Variety.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Need to make a commercial on the cheap? Check out Poptent Inc., which basically turns creating ads into a contest for its large network of freelancers and first-time producers. ESPN2's "First Take" is finding an audience.

-- Joe Flint and others

Follow me on Twitter. I get frequent flier miles for each new follower. Twitter.com/JBFlint

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Miley Cirus is a terrible actor, What would you expect in a movie with her in it?
Brent Wilson
Com101 4080