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April 2002
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TOP 5 U.S.

   The top 5 domestic distributors to date are as follows (Dollar figures in millions.):

Gross: 283.9

Gross: 274.5

Gross: 253.8

Gross: 216.3

Gross: 199.9


A bankruptcy court has approved AMC Entertainment Inc.'s plan to buy General Cinema as part of that company's Chapter 11 reorganization plan. The plan calls for AMC to pay Newton-based GC Companies Inc.'s creditors an estimated $175 million to $195 million in cash and AMC notes and stock, depending on claims amounts for General Cinema. Kansas City, Mo.-based AMC currently operates 182 cinemas with 2,907 screens worldwide. The deal will add GC's 66 theaters with 621 screens in the United States and a 50 percent stake in 17 theaters with 160 screens in South America to AMC's total. AMC has also just completed its acquisition of Gulf States Theaters, a New Orleans chain of five theaters. "Acquisition of the GC theater circuit expands AMC's national footprint of industry-leading theaters, especially in key markets in the Northeast and upper Midwest," said AMC chairman and chief executive officer Peter C. Brown.


Miramax Films implemented a round of company-wide layoffs affecting approximately 75 or more employees, about 15% of the studio's 500-person inventory. Staffers had been expecting the layoffs for several weeks and it hit departments on both coasts at both Miramax and its Dimension label. The Miramax creative team and publicity force suffered the most extensive cuts. But postproduction, exhibitor relations and international were also hit. A few senior execs were laid off but most of the affected employees came from mid-level management and their assistants. Miramax's leaders Harvey and Bob Weinstein did not issue any explaintion about the cutbacks. Those let go or whose contracts were simply not renewed were simply terminated individually by superiors or representatives of human resources. One survivor of the affair said the mood at the company, was "dismal and depressing." Another said there was a feeling "of both sadness and relief on the part of both those affected and those unaffected."


Southern California lost about 18,000 motion picture and television industry jobs last year, or nearly 12% of the Hollywood work force compared to the 2,000 or so jobs lost each year since 1998 according to a report by Anderson Forecast. The gigantic loss stems from the rush to make movies before feared labor strikes that then gave way to months of relative inactivity. The steady loss due to runaway production to international locales like Canada was also a factor in the industry job losses. "Most of those jobs will not come back, but on the other hand, we will not continue to see the rapid decline in entertainment jobs," Anderson Forecast senior economist Christopher Thornberg said. "Last year's production bubble, stemming from the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America contract negotiations, will not repeat, but runaway production remains a long-term trend -- one that will eventually transform the region into a center of entertainment design and management at the expense of production," Thornberg added.


The Hollywood visual effects market is highly competitive. Profit margins for facility owners are marginal, at best. But despite hard times and vicious competition a relative newcomer is landing major jobs that the longer established vendors would give half their computer mice for. The newcomer is perhaps better known around Hollywood for his role in protecting Gotham City. A mere ten months ago, Burt Ward, who played Robin on the mid-'60s TV show "Batman," opened a small computer graphics facility in a small corporate park in Culver City. So far, Ward's Boy Wonder Visual Effects shop has supplied shots in 11 studio features, and it just landed more than 250 shots in the $52 million MGM thriller "Bulletproof Monk." The martial arts movie, starring Chow-Yun Fat, was a job other CG facilities wanted, but Boy Wonder landed the entire show.


After six years with Paramount Pictures, Mel Gibson and partner Bruce Davey are moving their Icon Prods. to 20th Century Fox. At Fox, Icon has signed a two-year, first-look deal that includes at least one project in which Gibson will star. Icon's most recent three-year deal with Paramount had recently expired. The new relationship builds on previous dealings between Icon and Fox, dating back to the release of 1995's "Braveheart," which Gibson directed and starred in and Davey produced. Paramount handled the domestic distribution on the Academy Award-winning film, while Fox handled international.


The film business is off to a sizzling start this year as both boxoffice and admissions set new highs during the winter season. The national boxoffice hit $1.74 billion in receipts, a 9% increase on last year's record $1.59 billion, while estimated admissions for the season topped the 300 million mark for the first time. The new records were a result of following the season's top three films, which were released in late December, with strong new films during the season. Considering there are fewer theaters in operation than a year ago and the number of releases during the season was down from last year these figures are all the more impressive. All of this translates to fewer films generating more revenue from fewer theaters. The major studios released 23 films during the winter season in 2001 and '02, and independents released 42 this year compared with 46 last year.