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Friday, May 25, 2012

Networks, Dish square off. Amazon is not 'Clueless" in taking on Netflix. 'Men in Black' on top? GI Joes off duty. Hungar Games to dominate August DVD/Blue Ray sales, Fandango and MoviePhone Join Forces.

Men in Black 3
"Men in Black 3" is expected to take the top spot at the box office. Credit: Wilson Webb/Sony. (Sony / May 25, 2012)

After the coffee. Before some more introspection.
 Paramount is delaying the release of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," starring Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, from June 29 until March 29, 2013. (Paramount Pictures / May 23, 2012

The Skinny: The Morning Fix wishes everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. Stay out of trouble. I know I'm going to try to do that. Friday's headlines include the latest chapter in the fight between the broadcast networks and satellite broadcaster Dish Communications, a preview of the weekend box office and a review of "Men in Black 3." Caught the finale of "American idol" on Fox on Wednesday night on the flight back from Boston. Couldn't they have done that show in an hour? Thursday's headlines include the efforts to woo viewers to "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," a delay in the release of the newest "G.I. Joe" movie, and a top cable executive saying there are too many channels out there. More.

Gabriela Cedillo
Movie extra Gabriela Cedillo sustained permanent brain injuries after an accident on the set of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." (Courtesy of Power, Rogers & Smith / May 23, 2012)
Injured Extra receives large settlement. Paramount Pictures has agreed to pay $18.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a movie extra who sustained a serious head injury during filming of the blockbuster Paramount Pictures movie "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Gabriela Cedillo, 26, was driving a car in a background scene when she was struck in the head by a stunt vehicle that broke lose from a cable during filming of the movie in Hammond, Ind.
The accident on Sept. 1, 2010, left Cedillo with permanent brain injuries. The Chicago resident had a portion of her skull removed and suffers from memory problems, seizures and is blind in one eye, according to her attorneys.

Cedillo sued Paramount Pictures in October 2010 alleging that the accident was negligently caused by a poor welding job and that Paramount had reneged on an agreement to cover medical costs. This week a Cook County judge approved the settlement.

"They led everyone to believe they were going to take care of her medical bills. They didn't and she was forced onto a public aid," Todd Smith, a Chicago attorney who represented Cedillo, said in an interview. "While they make their billions of dollars in gross revenue from the movie, taxpayers are paying medical bills for her."

A spokesman for Paramount Pictures said: “We are pleased that the Cedillo family has agreed to move forward with the settlement. This was a tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers remain with Gabriela."

Daily Dose: While the broadcast networks are bringing out the legal guns to try to shut down the AutoHop, satellite broadcaster Dish Network's new commercial-skipping feature (see below), an industry analyst says the risk to ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are overstated. Janney Montgomery Scott's Tony Wibble said a survey of 350,000 consumers revealed that only 1% of advertising revenue is potentially at risk from the new technology. Of course, that may be, but the networks are looking down the road and hoping that if they stomp this bug out, it will stop other bugs from crawling all over their primary revenue stream. Ever wonder how a cable channel starts to lose its identity and become like every other channel? It usually starts small. 

You can't tell a channel by its title...fiction on fact, fact on fiction, WWE and reality programing everywhere. On Wednesday, Variety reported that Discovery Science bought rerun rights to the cult show "Fringe." While "Fringe" certainly fits the definition of science fiction, Discovery Science is supposed to be about science fact. If "Fringe" gets any sort of number for Discovery Science, don't be surprised if the channel starts looking for more movies and reruns and gradually remakes itself into yet another entertainment channel taking up space in a crowded landscape.

I see your lawsuit and raise you. It was a busy day for lawyers Thursday. First Fox sued Dish Network to try to stop the satellite company from offering its new AutoHop Dish feature that makes skipping commercials even easier. Dish countered with its own suit against not just Fox, but ABC, CBS and NBC as well in federal court and asked for a declaratory ruling that the AutoHop doesn't violate any copyright law. Feeling left out, NBC and CBS then filed their own suits against Dish. Not filing so far is ABC. Maybe they figure they can save some legal fees by letting their rivals do all the heavy lifting. Coverage and analysis from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Broadcasting & Cable.

Showdown! Next week, the broadcast industry will do battle in a New York federal court with Aereo, a start-up company that counts Barry Diller, who helped build the Fox network, as one of its backers. Aereo makes a tiny antenna that it sells to consumers to receive broadcast signals on it. So far, so good. Aereo doesn't want to share any of the money they make on it with the broadcasters. Call the lawyers! Broadcasters claim Aereo is stealing their signals. A preview of the arguments that will be heard next week from the Wall Street Journal.

Dish's AutoHop
The AutoHop from Dish skips commercials. (Dish / May 24, 2012)
Dish says networks that complain should look at what they own..Hulu! The legal battle between Dish Communications and the broadcast networks over the satellite broadcaster's new feature that makes it easier for its subscribers to skip commercials may be the biggest issue between the two sides -- but it isn't the only one.

In an interview, David Shull, Dish's senior vice president of programming, expressed frustration over the networks' growing willingness to offer their content on digital platforms such as Hulu and iTunes. That makes the programming that Dish is paying for less valuable, Shull said, and was one of the reasons that it pushed its AutoHop device.

"It devalues the live value of that content to my customers," Shull said, referring to how programs or even clips from shows go up on websites such as Hulu, or on sites owned by the networks themselves.
Given how available a lot of content is on other platforms, Shull sees offering viewers a chance to watch those shows without commercials as something of a perk.

"This gives them a little bit more control," Shull said, adding, "We wanted to make sure they had a better experience."

Earlier this month, Dish said it was dropping the AMC cable channel, home to "Mad Men,""The Walking Dead" and"Breaking Bad," and mentioned that one concern about the channel was that the cable network's programming can be found on other platforms soon after its initial airing.

Shull said he reached out to executives of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox over the last two weeks to have a sit-down at Dish headquarters about the AutoHop but the invites have so far been rebuffed. He said lawsuits charging the feature violates copyright law -- filed Thursday afternoon by Fox, CBS and NBC -- are an "overreaction" to the technology. Shull said he understands that advertising is core to their business, but thinks the next-day delay and the fact that most programming is still watched live should ease their concerns.

Some broadcast network executives have suggest that more money from Dish in the form of subscription fees for their channels would be more likely to ease their concerns about the AutoHop. Shull's not buying.

"I’ve already paid them quite a bit," Shull said.

See also Wall Street Journal and New York Times for coverage.

"Clueless" is among the Paramount movies now available via Amazon Prime Video.

 "Clueless" is among the Paramount movies now available via Amazon Prime Video. (Elliott Marks / Paramount Pictures / May 23, 2012)

'M:I-3,' 'Clueless' on Netflix-rival Amazon in new Paramount deal

"Clueless," "Mission: Impossible III," "Forrest Gump" and several hundred other older films are now available on's Netflix-like subscription video service as part of a new deal with Paramount Pictures.

Amazon has been continually beefing up the content in its Prime Instant Video service, which lets users stream unlimited movies and television shows on computers and digitally connected devices. It's part of the $79 per year Amazon Prime subscription that includes free two-day shipping on many items sold by the Web retail giant. To read more click on More..

'The Hunger Games' will be released on DVD Aug. 18

'Hunger Games' DVD coming Aug. 18

'The Hunger Games'is avoiding the holiday rush, as Lionsgate will release the blockbuster box office hit on DVD,Blu-ray and digital platforms Aug. 18, the studio announced Wednesday.

Conventional wisdom in Hollywood has been that DVDs sell best when released around the holidays -- and parents are searching for stocking stuffers -- but "The Hunger Games" has already broken rules with its massive theatrical success in March, far away from the summer season that's typically most lucrative at the box office. The movie has grossed nearly $650 million worldwide and has yet to open in China. To continue reading click on More..

Curt Schilling, former Red Sox pitcher and founder of 38 Studios, a game development company named after his jersey number.

 Curt Schilling, former Red Sox pitcher and founder of 38 Studios, a game development company named after his jersey number. (Mark Boster / May 24, 2012)

Curt Schilling shutters his game studios, lays off entire staff

Just three months after shipping his first game, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has reportedly laid off the entire staff of his two development studios, Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, and shut down the operations.

They had roughly 400 employees combined. Messages left for Schilling's spokesman, Adam Kahn, were not immediately returned.

Schilling's 38 Studios had been working on a massively expensive multiplayer online game that was supposed to be released later this year. That work was abruptly aborted on Thursday. To continue reading click on More...
People use 3-D glasses to watch an NFL football game shown in movie theaters in 2008.

Sony Pictures agrees to pay for "Men in Black 3" 3-D glasses

In a reversal Sony Pictures Entertainment has backed down from its refusal to pay for the 3-D glasses on this weekend's science fiction sequel "Men in Black 3." But the studio still doesn't see eye to eye with exhibitors on the issue.

Sony sent a letter to exhibitors last fall informing them that as of May 1, 2012, it would not longer pay 3-D technology companies such as RealD the average cost of about 45 cents per ticket for 3-D glasses used by moviegoers. Sony contends that theaters, not studios, should cover the cost of supplying the glasses, which can add up to $10 million for very popular films. To find out more click on More..

Black on top? "The Avengers'" run at the top of the box office is expected to come to an end this weekend with the premiere of "Men in Black 3," starring Will Smith, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones. The latest "Men in Black" is projected to take in $80 million in the U.S. "The Avengers" won't exactly be slacking off though. It's expected to finish second with a take of $40 million. Box office previews from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

Separate ways. Comcast's NBC is in talks with Microsoft about taking sole ownership of, the website of the cable news channel. MSNBC was originally a partnership between NBC and Microsoft. However, NBC eventually bought out Microsoft's stake in the channel and the two remained co-owners of the website. Now though NBC is looking to own all of the website too and give it a makeover that makes it more compatible with the left-wing approach of the network's commentary shows. More from AdWeek.

New champ. NBC's "Sunday Night Football" was the most-watched prime-time series last season with an audience of 20.7 million. That was more than enough to dethrone long-time champ "American Idol," which ended the season with an average audience of 19 million viewers. Of course, keep in mind that from a financial standpoint, "American Idol" still is a cash cow for Fox. More on the numbers from the Hollywood Reporter.

Phillip Phillips, left, and John Fogerty on American Idol.

Phillip Phillips, left, and John Fogerty on American Idol. (John Shearer / Invision / AP / May 24, 2012

'American Idol' finale ratings: The decline of the 'death star'

The two-hour season finale of Fox's"American Idol" was the least watched finale in the show's history with a smaller audience than even Season 1's finale — which aired in the summer.
Fox projected that 21.5-million people tuned in to see Phillip Phillips get voted the winner of the 11th season finale of the singing competition. The star-studded show also featured appearances by John Fogerty, Rhianna and Reba McEntire. "American Idol" judge Steven Tyler also performed with his band Aerosmith. Click on More...

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
20th Century Fox is taking unusual steps to promote "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." (20th Century Fox / May 24, 2012

And I thought it was because people laughed at it during the trailers. Paramount Pictures said it is moving the release of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" from June 29 to March 2013. An insider said the move was made so the movie could be released in 3-D and more buzz could be built. They probably should have thought of that before spending millions on a commercial in the Super Bowl promoting the movie. All I know is every time a trailer for the movie popped up the crowd was chuckling, and not in a good way. More from the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press. Meanwhile Deadline Hollywood said the Seth MacFarlane-directed Mark Wahlberg comedy "Ted" will grab the spot held by "G.I. Joe." I've seen trailers for that movie and it, too, looks really bad.

Recruiting viewers. A movie about Abraham Lincoln may seem like a hard sell to kids. But when it's "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" well ... that may even be a harder sell. That's why 20th Century Fox is engaging in some unusual promotional stunts, including traveling the world to screen it to members of the military to generate heat for a movie whose title sounds more like a "Saturday Night Live" parody than a summer thriller. The New York Times looks at the marketing behind this summer's most bizarre-sounding action movie.

He's singing my tune. Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Glenn Britt thinks there are too many cable networks out there. “There are a lot of general-interest networks that have lower viewership, and the industry would take cost out of the system if they shut those networks down and offered lower prices to consumers,” he told Bloomberg. “The companies involved would make just as much money as they do now because of the costs.” Alas, that sentiment isn't stopping Time Warner Cable from launching two regional sports network in Los Angeles, a market that already has two such channels.

Done deal. Talent agency International Creative Management has completed its employee buyout and now almost 30 agents will be partners and owners in the shop whose clients include sitcom writer Chuck Lorre and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Details from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

Spin 101. Sony Pictures Television, the studio behind NBC's low-rated critical darling "Community," issued a memo to the cast and others involved with the show about how to handle questions from the media about the firing of creator Dan Harmon. Basically it is a memo on how to say nothing and seem happy about it. More interesting to me was another little note in the memo, which was obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, that said, "We're tracking the coverage and conversation and will circle back if we feel the need to reshift our plan or messaging." That's code for "We're watching you."

Lots of fast food, but hold the fast-food commercials. On Monday, Discovery Communications launches a new cable network called Destination America that looks to celebrate all things American. One of those things is, of course, fast food, and the channel has a show called "Fast Food Mania" that takes a loving look at the restaurant chains that dot strip malls and highways all over the place. Sounds like a great commercial opportunity for fast food restaurants but Ad Age tells us why they are steering clear of the show, at least for now anyway.

Logos for Moviefone and Fandango
The Moviefone and Fandango logos. (Moviefone and Fandango / May 23, 2012)
One-time online ticketing rivals Fandango and Moviefone are joining forces.
The companies announced Wednesday that Fandango will be the exclusive ticketing partner for AOL's Moviefone, marking the first partnership between the two companies.

Founded in the 1980s, Moviefone was an early pioneer in telephone and mobile ticketing, and provides showtimes, news and information about movies. It has worked with since 2004.

The new partnership will give Moviefone customers the ability to make ticket purchases online, on mobile devices and on tablets for Fandango's network of 20,000 screens, the largest in the country.
"Partnering with Fandango gives Moviefone users an upgraded experience by allowing them to buy tickets from twice as many theaters with more options,'' said Jay Kirsch, senior vice president and general manager of AOL Marketplace. "This move bolsters our already extensive web and mobile offerings."

Moviefone, originally a phone-based service, was acquired by AOL in 1999 for $388 million in stock. After the acquisition, exhibitors launched their own services, and Los Angeles-based Fandango, the exclusive ticketer for Regency Theaters and AMC Theaters and is owned by NBC Universal.

"This new alliance builds on Fandango's continued momentum by introducing its conveniences to millions of new Moviefone consumers, and furthering our goal to enable film fans to buy tickets at any time, any place and on any platform,'' said Rick Butler, executive vice president and general manager of Fandango.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Betsy Sharkey on "Men in Black 3." John Horn on"The Intouchables," the box office hit you've never heard of.  Todd Martens on the highs and lows of Wednesday night's "American Idol" finale. It was only a matter of time until someone turned "Jersey Shore" into a play.

Follow me on Twitter. It's a long weekend and I might get lonely.

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

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