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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The First World's players report for Spring Training!

From the collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

In 1903, the Boston Americans of the newly formed American League and the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League played the first World Series. The Boston Americans won the series 5 games to 3, giving legitimacy to the new American League. Boston's players included Cy Young.

The crowd overflowed onto the outfield and scaled walls just to see the game.

The success of the first world series put Baseball on the front page of newspapers for the first time and moved it from a past-time favored nationally to America's sport.

NPR Host Bob Edwards talks with Historian Louis P. Masur about his new book, Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series.

STRIKE. People watch TV to be entertained and informed. Can Vita save the day? John Carter of Mars. California Tax incentives. All Time Fandago Advance ticket sale record set.

Biggest Loser IATSE
From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for industry news.
Striking workers from "The Biggest Loser" picket the NBC reality show's set in Calabasas on Nov. 15, 2010, to secure a union contract. IATSE staged that protest and is staging one Monday for "1000 Ways to Die" workers who were fired after attempting to unionize. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times.

Mass union rally planned in Hollywood on Monday.  The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 will stage a large rally outside the Burbank headquarters of Original Productions on Monday morning in support of crew members from the TV series "1000 Ways to Die."

"This is about healthcare, this is about safety and dignity in the workplace, and it's part of the IA's ongoing campaign to support workers in the all genres of TV,'' said Mike Miller, director of motion pictures and television for IATSE.

The union represents about 30 crew members who were fired from the show on Thursday after attempting to unionize. Launched in 2008, the Spike TV show re-creates unusual ways in which people have died.

Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers," has already hired replacement workers, union officials said.

Representatives of the company were not immediately available for comment.

This marks the second time in a year and half that IATSE has staged a high-profile strike in Hollywood. In late 2010, the union waged a successful walkout against the producers of the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser."

Fans create an independent "John Carter" trailer. For independent filmmaker Michael D. Sellers and his creative partner, Mark Linthicum, the main attraction for this year's Super Bowl happened during one of the commercial breaks — the premiere of the new film trailer for Walt Disney Studios' "John Carter."

The spot scored high marks among hard-core gamers, according to research firm Bluefin Labs, which monitors social media conversations about TV. But the "John Carter" trailer failed to resonate with an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan like Sellers, who has been waiting decades for Hollywood to animate the 100-year-old character, around whom Burroughs wrote a series of 11 adventure books.
"The 30-second version was an incredible disappointment," Sellers said. "I was like, 'Come on, let's fix this thing.'"

After the game, Sellers and Linthicum re-cut the trailer in a way that chronologically took the viewer from America circa the 1860s, where John Carter is seen riding on horseback in his Confederate gray uniform, to the war-weary veteran waking up, disoriented, on Mars.

The unofficial trailer and music build toward an epic conflict on Mars, with text that acknowledges the filmmaker's pedigree (Andrew Stanton directed Pixar Animation Studios' "Wall-E" and "Finding Nemo"), and hints at Burrroughs' influence on generations of science-fiction writers, including Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury.

Sellers, who is working on a Burroughs documentary, called the re-edit a "therapy session."
Since he posted it on his fan site, The John Carter Files, the trailer has attracted significant notice.
"This fan-made trailer seems to do what the official ones have not — sell the legacy of the stories as well as show how good the story is," wrote the movie-buff site Ain't It Cool News. After Stanton retweeted a link to the fan trailer, it logged some 85,000 views on YouTube and has been embedded on more than 100 sites.

"Great fan trailer!" Stanton tweeted. "They get it!"

Disney's "John Carter" could surely benefit from such loving fan attention. The film registered low interest with prospective film-goers when research companies began monitoring interest. Early pre-release surveys have shown the movie, which cost a reported $250 million to make, could bring in less than $30 million on opening weekend.

The studio still has time to create momentum for the high-profile project, which opens March 9. One person close to the movie's marketing, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak about the project, noted that James Cameron's "Avatar" met with similarly low pre-release expectations — and went on to shatter global box-office records.

Online buzz since the Wednesday premiere has been mostly non-committal, according to a preliminary analysis of tweets, blog mentions and conversations in online forums conducted by social media agency Banyan Branch. President Blake Cahill said 88% of the comments about "John Carter" are neutral in tone, with equal percentages offering negative and positive remarks.

Sellers is urging readers of his fan site to join in a grass-roots effort to promote the film by using Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, and encouraging them to visit message boards on the Internet Movie Database website. He's even developing a press kit to help fans of the literature to talk up the film.

"Believe me when I tell you that if Disney — and we — don't get enough warm bodies in seats on opening day, word of mouth alone won't save it," Sellers wrote on his site.
Walt Disney Studios did not comment for this story.

Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"
 Brad Pitt in a scene from the Oscar-nominated movie "Moneyball," which received a California film tax credit. Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon.

Film Credit bill up for renewal in CA. California's film tax credit program would be extended five more years under legislation introduced in Sacramento on Thursday.

With the support of a coalition of industry groups, including the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) introduced a bill that would extend the state's film and television tax credit through 2018.

Launched in 2009 in an effort to curb runaway production, the program gives filmmakers a 20% to 25% film tax credit toward certain production expenses. The credit can be applied to any business tax liability filmmakers have with the state.

Last fall, state lawmakers approved a one-year extension of the program, which is set to expire in July 2013. The state allocates $100 million a year to the program. While that is a relatively small amount compared to what other states such as New York offer -- about $400 million annually -- supporters say the tax credit has kept jobs from leaving the state and is necessary to keep California competitive.

"By creating tens of thousands of jobs and pumping billions into our economy, the film and television tax credit program has truly been a statewide economic stimulus package,'' Fuentes said in a statement. "With the state's unemployment rate hovering around 12%, we need to extend this targeted incentive to help keep Californians employed."

HungerGames2Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close / Lionsgate.
All time Record Set. If early ticket sales mean anything, "The Hunger Games" is going to be a blockbuster.

Lions Gate's upcoming adaptation of the best-selling book series has broken's record for sales on the first day a film's tickets become available. The previous record was for the 2010 release of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."

The online movie ticket retailer said Thursday, a day after the tickets went on sale, that it had already sold out "hundreds" of showtimes for the movie's opening weekend, which starts March 23. Many of the tickets sold are for midnight showtimes March 22, evidence that fans are building up a "Twilight"-style mania to see the film as early as possible.

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" went on to sell $300 million in tickets domestically. However, some movies, like January's "The Devil Inside," generate red-hot early ticket sales but quickly fall off after their first weekend in theaters.
Act of Valor will be the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
 A scene from "Act of Valor." Credit: Relativity Media

Act of Valor, despite a lack of quality acting, may gun down weekend competition at the box office. Heading into this weekend's box-office battle, "Act of Valor" has the competition in its cross hairs.

The action film featuring  about a dozen active-duty Navy SEALs is poised to pick off its rivals at the multiplex, claiming the No. 1 position with roughly $23 million in ticket sales, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The film's distributor, Relativity Media, is projecting a softer opening of no more than $17 million.

Tyler Perry's latest film, the romantic drama "Good Deeds," is likely to be the runner-up with around $17 million. The two other movies premiering this weekend, the Jennifer Aniston rom-com "Wanderlust" and the Amanda Seyfried thriller "Gone," are each expected to open with a modest sum of under $10 million.

“Act of Valor,” about a SEALs team embarking on dangerous missions to protect American interests, does not feature any big-name actors. The film grew out of non-fiction footage of SEALs shot by directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh -- who work under the banner the Bandito Bros. -- but ultimately evolved into a full-length feature film that includes that original footage.

The movie, which has so far received largely poor reviews, was acquired by Relativity Media for $13.5 million from the Bandito Bros. Ryan Kavanaugh’s studio has additionally spent tens of millions of dollars to market the film, purchasing four pricey Super Bowl Sunday advertising spots.

Perry’s “Good Deeds,” meanwhile, could have one of the smallest openings of any of the prolific filmmaker’s movies. Although the pictures in his comedic “Madea” series typically have robust premieres, his dramas have done less business: His 2008 film “The Family That Preys” opened to $17.4 million and ultimately grossed $37.1 million, compared with the $41-million start for 2009’s “Madea Goes to Jail,” which wound up with a domestic total of $90.5 million.

Perry’s new film may be hurt this weekend by the ongoing popularity of the action thriller “Safe House,” starring Denzel Washington, which is attracting a large African American audience.

Neither “Good Deeds” nor “Gone” were screened in advance for critics, indicating the studios behind each film appear to be anxious about how they will be reviewed.

"Gone," Summit Entertainment and Lakeshore Entertainment's psychological thriller about a young woman who is convinced her sister has been abducted, could be another box-office miss for star Seyfried.

After appearing in the 2008 hit "Mamma Mia!" the 25-year-old actress proved she could open a movie in the 2009 success "Dear John," opposite Channing Tatum. But her more recent efforts have failed to resonate with American audiences, as both the modern take on "Red Riding Hood" and the sci-fi drama "In Time" only grossed about $37 million each domestically.

Aniston's latest film, on the other hand, has received the best reviews of any movie the actress has appeared in since 2002's "The Good Girl." On Thursday morning, "Wanderlust" had a 75% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie, which also stars Paul Rudd and was produced by Judd Apatow, is about an uptight Manhattan couple who decide to move to a commune. The film was produced by Universal Pictures and Relativity for roughly $35 million.

PlayStation Vita Kazuo Hirai E3
 Kazuo Hirai, Sony's next chief executive, introduces the PlayStation Vita during a news conference at the 2011 E3 conference in Los Angeles. Credit: Jonathan Alcorn / Bloomberg

Can Vita save the day? Sony Corp.'s freshly launched PlayStation Vita handheld game console could generate more than $2.2 billion in revenue this year for the Japanese consumer electronics and media giant, according to the Boston-based market research firm Strategy Analytics.

The forecast is welcome news for Sony, which is struggling to recover from a catastrophic 2011, when an earthquake hobbled its home market in Japan and floods ravaged its factories in Thailand, and left the company with a $2 billion loss for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2011.

The $250 device, which hit U.S. stores Wednesday after being released first in Japan Dec. 17, is a litmus test of sorts for Kazuo Hirai, Sony's newly appointed leader. Hirai had championed the device during his time overseeing the PlayStation business as an example of the perfect marriage between hardware and entertainment content.

As a palm-sized device capable of accessing the Internet, the Vita also represented Sony's broader push toward connected entertainment in a portable package — allowing consumers to summon all manner of digital content on the go, including games, music and videos.

"The real value of the PlayStation Vita is its drive for content revenue growth and its strategic position in Sony’s entertainment ecosystem," wrote Strategy Analytics researcher Jia Wu, who forecast that Sony could sell 12.4 million units of the device and generate $2.2 billion in revenue for Sony in 2012. The estimate assumes that Sony would cut the price of the console sometime this year, bringing the average retail price to $180. The device is also expected to yield an additional $800 million in higher-margin software sales this year.

But the Vita faces headwinds, Wu cautioned. Among them is a cooling of demand for game consoles in general as consumers turn to smartphones and tablets for entertainment.

"Sales of the Wi-Fi version of PlayStation Vita at $249 initially exploded, selling more than 300,000 units in the first week of release" in Japan in December, he noted. "But the new console is barely moving 20,000 units per week in its home market after all the hard-core fans made their purchases."


Photo: Actor Bruce Greenwood handles a snake in the television series "The River." Credit: Francisco Roman / ABC

A new poll has uncovered a dirty secret. People watch television to be entertained and informed.
That's right. the majority of Americans who watch television are apparently hoping to be amused or perhaps even learn something. It doesn't even matter what one's political affiliation is when it comes to this topic. Republicans and Democrats feel the same about the small screen.

This startling information comes from Poll Position, which conducted what it called a "national scientific telephone survey." Participants were asked, "What is your main reason for watching television?" Poll Position surveyed 1,113 people to obtain this information. To be sure, there is a 3% margin of error.

While there is a natural "duh" response to most of the survey's findings, there were two nuggets of note. Of those surveyed, almost the same number (34%) said they turned on the tube for news. Surprisingly, only 12% cited sports as the primary motivation of their television watching. Given the high cost of sports programming and what that does to cable bills, that figure may bear watching.

No word yet if next month Poll Position will announce that a survey has revealed that people go to restaurants to eat food and socialize.

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

White House To Coordinate Online Privacy Rules

The Obama administration announced a new effort to protect online consumer privacy Thursday. Officials will ask Internet companies and privacy advocates to agree on rules to protect people from deceptive practices. The "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" will apply standards — albeit voluntary — for companies to follow.

Black History Month Day of Service

When: Sat, February 25, 5am – 9am

Where: 500 W. Madison Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89106 (map)
Description: Off Campus Location: Second Baptist Church Soup Kitchen **Shifts are from 5am -7am (cooking food) and 7am – 9am (serving food). Volunteers can choose to volunteer during either shift or for both.

Interested in volunteering, e-mail

• Subject line: BHM Day of Service, please include your choice of shift
• You must be at least 18 years of age to participate

For more details, visit: 

Muppets go Bejing. Asner fights to keep SAG on its own. The soaps are not dead, at least not yet. Genertion "C" and the Digital Consumer.

The MuppetsPhoto of Walter, the newest Muppet, getting a pep talk from Kermit the Frog in "The Muppets." Credit: Scott Garfield/Disney.
From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest entertainment news.

Muppets Speak Chinese. The Walt Disney Co. has reached an agreement that would bring Pixar Animation Studios' "Cars 2," Disney's "The Muppets" and other approved films to Chinese cable television viewers, broadening the Burbank entertainment giant's access in the world's most populous market.

An executive from You On Demand said Wednesday that it had struck a licensing deal with Disney to rent current films, as well as classic movies such as "The Lion King" or "Mary Poppins," through its recently launched on-demand service in China. These titles also would be part of a planned Netflix-like movie subscription offering that's expected to begin in June.

"Disney films define quality family entertainment and we're thrilled that You On Demand will be their showcase to the world's largest television audience," said You On Demand Chairman and Chief Executive Shane McMahon.

You On Demand operates under an exclusive joint venture with China Home Cinema, the HBO-like arm of China's broadcast movie channel, CCTV-6. You On Demand provides the video-on-demand service that is available to about 3 million viewers through cable operators in the Shandong, Jilin and Zhejiang provinces.

Over time, McMahon hopes to expand the service's movie offerings and the availability in a cable TV market that already dwarfs that of the U.S., with some 187 million cable households. Warner Bros., with its library of hundreds of titles approved by the Chinese government's censors, was the first to offer its films through You on Demand. Earlier this month, Lionsgate struck a licensing deal to make available such titles as the Oscar-nominated "Hotel Rwanda," the popular "Saw" franchise and older movies like "Dirty Dancing."
You On Demand charges viewers $1 to $3 to rent a movie through their cable provider — a nominal fee that McMahon hopes will be attractive enough to allow You On Demand to compete with inexpensive pirated DVDs that are widely available in China. He said studio executives hope that services like You On Demand will convince Chinese viewers to pay for a convenient, high-quality movie experience.

One investor, Neil Danics of SPAC Investments, points to an announcement Wednesday from Youku Inc., an Internet-based on-demand service that licenses movies from Warner Bros., Paramount and 20th Century Fox.  Since launching a year ago, Youku said it has processed more than 1 million pay-per-view and subscription orders.

"That tells us the Chinese people do pay for content," said Danics.

The Skinny: ABC's "Modern Family" on Wednesday night once again showed how a potentially sensitive subplot -- this time the loss of a daughter's virginity -- can be handled with grace and humor. Still, have to wonder how comfortable ABC brass was with that story line. Headlines include a shake-up at Paramount's animation unit, the revolt of Ed Asner and other actors against the proposed merger of SAG and AFTRA,  and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings talks about his company's rough 2011.

Ed Asner 
Photo: Ed Asner. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times. 

We're gonna break it after all. Former "Mary Tyler Moore" co-stars Ed Asner and Valerie Harper are working on a new project: breaking up the merger between actor unions SAG and AFTRA. Other actors trying to put the brakes on the combination include Martin Sheen and Ed Harris. More from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

Daily Dose: Fans of ABC's General Hospital" may have reason to be optimistic that the soap will live for another season. That's because "General Hospital" is easily beating ABC's new chat show, "The Revolution," in viewers and in key female demographics. ABC has to make a decision which show to keep before this fall when Katie Couric's new talk show premieres on ABC-owned stations. If ABC goes by the numbers, then "General Hospital" can certainly make the case to live another year. However, the network has made clear it does not believe in the long-term future of soaps, so don't be shocked if it scraps both "General Hospital" and "The Revolution" in favor of something else.

Photo: A group of friends play on iPhones and an iPad outside the Pasadena Apple store in October 2011. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.

Enter Generation "C". At the start of the decade, Nielsen talked about "Generation C," or the connected generation. It was a group of teens and 20-somethings who came of age in the time of Myspace and Facebook, who used mobile devices and social media platforms to remain constantly in touch with their "tribes" --  people who share common interests, causes or movements.

Nielsen's newly released State of the Media: U.S. Digital Consumer Report underscores just how connected this group truly is. Americans ages 8 to 34 make up just 23% of the population, but they represent an outsized portion of consumers watching online video (27%), visiting social networking/blog sites (27%), owning tablet computers (33%) and using a smartphone (39%).

Radha Subramanyam, Nielsen’s senior vice president of media analytics, said this group is instantly recognizable: They're the ones furiously texting, even while sitting in a roomful of people. They don't think twice about pulling out their mobile phones in a fancy restaurant.

"When we start marketing them, we have to think differently," Subramanyam said. "They're consuming all different kinds of media, and they expect a direct relationship with brands.... This voracious device usage, which is almost an extension of their fingers, is tied to [their] expectations for instantaneous gratification and instantaneous response from brands."

That was fast. David Stainton is exiting as president of Paramount's animation unit only four months after taking the job. No explanation other than personal reasons was given for the abrupt resignation and the move has raised questions about the studio's long-term animation strategy. Coverage from the Los Angeles Times and New York Post.

Reading Reed. Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings is trying to move past 2011, the year the company managed to alienate its customer base and send investors fleeing. Vanity Fair chats with the media-shy Hastings who at least keeps things in perspective. "Our issues were ones that were unfortunate business judgments, not of morality or ethics or scandal,” he said.

Making the wrong enemies. Cherie Blair, wife for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has sued News Corp. alleging that her voicemails were hacked by a private investigator who had worked for the media giant's now-shuttered News of the World tabloid. Tony Blair and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch became BFFs during the former's tenure. Blair is even a godfather to one of Murdoch's young daughters. At this point, it might be easier if everyone in London who doesn't think News Corp. hacked their phones stepped forward. It could be a smaller list. More on Blair's suit from Bloomberg.

 Photo: Rep Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). Credit: Rick Meyer / Los Angeles Times

Big potential. While new cable channels from Magic Johnson and Sean Combs got all the attention earlier this week, cable giant and owner of NBC/Universal, Comcast Corp. is also going to a Spanish-language entertainment channel from director Robert Rodriguez. Earlier this year, Fox announced its plans for a Spanish-language channel and Univision often scores ratings on par with English-language networks. USA Today looks at the Latino audience and its growing clout on the media landscape.

Meanwhile the sale of Comcast cable channels to Magic Johnson and Sean Combs have met with the approval of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles).

Waters was one of the chief critics in 2010 of the then-pending merger between communications giant Comcast and NBCUniversal, because she felt the companies were not committed to hiring and promoting minorities. But she praised Comcast’s announcement this week that they are establishing four new independent channels targeting minorities.

“I am pleased that Comcast-NBCUniversal has taken steps to honor its commitment to media diversity in programming and ownership,” Waters said in a statement released Wednesday.

No fun. On Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter said Sacha Baron Cohen was planning to attend this Sunday's Oscars dressed in the costume and makeup he wears in his upcoming comedy "The Dictator." It didn't take too long for Deadline Hollywood to report that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences threatened to pull Cohen's tickets if he tried the stunt. Whether Cohen really wanted to wear the costume or just wanted a little attention for his movie remains to be seen. The Academy on the other hand showed themselves to be a little uptight. After all, it's not as if the telecast has to show Cohen in the crowd if he wore the outfit.

2009 protesters urging the Motion Picture and Television Fund nursing home to admit new patients
Photo: Protesters in 2009 rally against the planned closure of the Woodland Hills nursing home and hospital operated by the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times
Motion Picture Home Fined over Death. State regulators have fined the Motion Picture & Television Fund $80,000 for failing to prevent the death of a patient at its nursing home. An investigation by the California Department of Public Health found that the skilled nursing facility "failed to ensure an environment free of accident hazards with adequate supervision, leading to the death of a patient," according to a statement released by the agency Wednesday.
The investigation stemmed from the October 2010 fatality of Carrie Delay, a 90-year-old resident of the Motion Picture & Television Fund's nursing home who died after falling down a stairwell at the Woodland Hills facility.

Delay's family last year filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging the nursing staff had failed to properly monitor Delay, a wheelchair-bound patient suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

In a statement, Motion Picture & Television Fund Chief Executive Bob Beitcher said: "The MPTF takes patient safety very seriously and deeply regrets the incident. The citation...refers to an investigation completed in December, 2010. Since then we have taken additional extensive measures to ensure the safety of our patients and the quality of care that they receive."

Those measures have included hiring an outside safety consultant, conducting audits of policies and procedures and providing additional staff training, Beitcher said.

The incident was the most serious to occur at the nursing facility, which had faced complaints from residents and family members alleging deteriorating quality of care since the fund announced plans to shut down the nursing home and hospital in January 2009. The fund's board recently reversed course and began to admit new residents.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Patrick Goldstein on race and the documentary "Undefeated." John Horn on the marketing of the Navy SEAL movie "Act of Valor."

-- Joe Flint

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Photo: Ed Asner. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.