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January 2003
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TOP 5 U.S.
DISTRIBUTORS

The top 5 domestic distributors as of the end of last month were as follows
(dollar figures in millions):

1.) SONY (EXCL. CLASSICS)
16.16%
$1,453,412,930

2.) BUENA VISTA
13.11%
$1,179,299,915

3.) WARNER BROS.
11.68%
$1,050,049,624

4.) 20TH CENTURY FOX (EXCL. SEARCHLIGHT)
10.20%
$917,506,553

5.) UNIVERSAL (EXCL. FOCUS)
9.62%
$864,833,008


54 COUNTRIES VIE FOR OSCAR

This year's Oscar for best foreign language film will see three submissions more than last year's record setting 51. Films from 54 countries will compete for Oscar recognition this year. Countries submitting films this year for the first time were Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Chad. Juries composed of filmmakers from each country made the selections. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' foreign language film award committee, chaired by producer Mark Johnson ("Rain Man"), will screen all entries and then vote to nominate five films. All of the Academy's nominations will be announced on Feb. 11.


UNIVERSAL SHANGHAID

Universal Studios has signed a preliminary agreement to build China's first international-class theme park in Shanghai, the country's richest city. The park will compete with a new Disneyland scheduled to open in Hong Kong in 2005, and gives Universal a jump start over Disney in the huge Chinese market. "Shanghai is ready for a mega-park. He who comes first will benefit the most," said Hu Wei, the deputy Communist Party secretary for Shanghai, who signed the agreement with Glenn Gumpel, Universal's president for international business. The park is still tentative and lacks approval from China's central government, but the signing of the agreement indicates high-level support. Universal's Chinese partners will be two city-owned companies -- Waigaoqiao Holding Co., a dockyard operator, and Jinjiang Group, which runs another amusement park near Shanghai.


UNITED WOES SHAKE DISNEY

United Airlines' bankruptcy could force the Walt Disney Co. to write down part or all of its $114 million investment in the troubled U.S. air carrier. But analysts say it represents just a minor setback for the media giant. The damage compounds the disclosure that Disney will write down $47 million on its fiscal 2002 earnings because of "Treasure Planet’s" weak opening. "It's going to add to the black eye they got with regard to 'Treasure Planet' but certainly won't be the end of the world," Sanders Morris Harris analyst David Miller said. "If the agreement is terminated, it seems that (Disney's) overall cash taxes this quarter may increase and affect EPS (earnings per share)."


DRAGON STUDIOS AT HOME IN WALES

Oscar-winning British filmmaker Richard Attenborough plans to start construction of Dragon International Studios, the largest film and television studio facility in Great Britain, sometime in May. Attenborough, chairman of the studio venture, said Dragon has secured planning permission and the £140 million ($220 million) funding required for the launching, but Attenborough would not reveal the funding source. "I believe the company is going to announce its involvement very shortly," he said. "All I can say is that it is a major multinational British company, and they have given us the money for Phase 1, with an option to fund Phase 2."



THEATERS ADMISSIONS TO 1.4 BILLION

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reports that theater admissions are expected to exceed 1.488 billion when the final tally comes in for the year. That's the highest admissions rate in 43 years or since 1959. In an interview with the LA Times, MPAA president Jack Valenti said that the high admissions rate is remarkable given the competition that movie theaters face from video, cable and the Internet. Those competitors didn't exist in 1959.


INTERTAINMENT FILES LAWSUIT

German film group Intertainment has filed another lawsuit, in Los Angeles Superior Court this time, against Comerica Bank California and completion companies Film Finances and Worldwide FilmCompletion, for more than $100 million. The dispute between Intertainment and Franchise Pictures charges that the defendants knew that Franchise Pictures had inflated budgets on several films Intertainment had agreed to distribute. Alleging fraud, among other counts, the suit contends the defendants signed off on the inflated budgets so the films would be made and the defendants could collect their fees. Intertainment filed its first suit against Franchise in federal court in Dec. 2000.


NEW BOXOFFICE FORCASTING

A new method devised by CinamaScore for projecting the final boxoffice gross of a feature film after only its first weekend in wide release has started a 10-week trial period with nearly every major studio in Hollywood on board. The trial period is for companies to assess the method’s accuracy and usefulness and decide whether to subscribe to it. Generally, boxoffice projections are more accurate after a film's second weekend in release, when the drop in boxoffice from a film's debut can be measured and applied to a formula. In the past, final boxoffice numbers after only one week have been nearly impossible to gauge accurately. Las Vegas-based movie research company CinemaScore, has been conducting exit polls and collecting key demographic data from moviegoers at theaters nationwide since 1978.


STUDIOS SUE CLEANFLICKS

Hollywood's eight major studios have filed a countersuit in a Colorado federal court against CleanFlicks, asking the court to rule on the legality of CleanFlicks business of removing scenes involving sex, violence and "mature language" from videotapes and DVDs. The studios claim that CleanFlicks' is in violation of copyright and trademark law.


VIVENDI LOSES MONEY ON ECHOSTAR

Under its already staggering debt load, Vivendi Universal has sold back its 10-percent stake in EchoStar Communications, the U.S. satellite service, for $1.06 billion -- nearly $500 million less than they paid for it a year ago. EchoStar sold the shares to help raise funds to acquire Hughes Electronics' DirecTV but government regulators disapproved the take over.


HOLLYWOOD ABSENT IN OSCAR RACE

PThe New York Times reported that Hollywood has all but taken itself out of Oscar competition observing that almost all of the early movie awards and nominations thus far have gone to films produced by New York-based indies or to "mini-studios." Motion picture academy President Frank Pierson suggested in an interview with the newspaper that the situation is the result of a conscious decision on the part of studio moguls. "The studios don't even call them movies anymore," he told the Times. "They call them products." Commented Damien Bona, author of Inside Oscar: "In the old days, a studio chief like [20th Century Fox's] Darryl Zanuck would toss in a movie that he knew wouldn't make money, just for the prestige factor ... but you just don't see that happening at all anymore."


MIRAMAX'S WEINSTEIN DEFENDS CUTS

Miramax Co-chairman Harvey Weinstein has been editing Hong Kong films prior to US release but the cuts have raised the hackles of some. Two petitions to Miramax parent Disney and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began circulating on the Internet decrying Weinstein's cuts of Hong Kong films. The petition to the academy says in part: "When something is removed from a film for one audience that was not removed for another, the film becomes incomplete. Incomplete presentations of foreign films, we believe, should not be eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar or the prestige that accompanies it. The creators of the films in question deserve to have their creations treated with respect, and we, the viewers, deserve to see the films as they were originally made." Weinstein defended his editing of films in the New Yorker saying, "I'm not cutting for fun. I'm cutting for the s*** to work. All my life I served one master: the film. I love movies."



GOLDEN GLOBE WANTS IMPROVED IMAGE

The Washington Post has reported that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is taking steps to clean up its image as a group of freeloading freelancers and part-time journalists. The newspaper noted that the group's president, Dagmar Dunlevy, is an actual working journalist who is seeking to bring in other professionals to replace some of the older members (required to produce at least four clippings each year to verify that they are bona fide writers for overseas publications). Three current members, the Post said, are in their nineties and many others are in their eighties. While the group has begun to place restrictions on the kinds of gifts members may receive from studios, the Post observed that HFPA members are often romanced with dinners, meals, and expensive junkets ordinarily denied to members of the regular Hollywood press.


SHOWTIME UPS BUDGETS BUT CUTS NUMBERS

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Showtime, Viacom's pay-TV service, says it is cutting the number of TV movies that it produces annually to 14 but raising their average budgets from about $4 million to between $6 and $7 million. The newspaper also noted that Showtime is planning to increase the number of its original series programs, starting with a series starring comedy magicians Penn & Teller as well as Earthlings, a drama featuring a group of lesbians.


SINGAPORE MAY TOUGHEN MOVIE RATINGS

The government of Singapore, which enforces one of the world's most stringent ratings codes for movies and home videos, says that its Censorship Review Committee (CRC) is considering even stricter regulations. The Singapore Straits Times says the CRC is studying ratings for films with violent content. Under the current system only persons aged 21 and above are permitted to watch R-rated movies and R-rated movies are not permitted to be released on video. The Straits Times says R ratings have generally been reserved for films with sex scenes in the past, saying there was always a more relaxed attitude towards violence until now.


DVD SALES BITE INTO RENTALS

Instead of $3.99 to rent a movie, many consumers are opting to buy the DVD at Wal-Mart, Best Buy and other discounters for $15.97 or less, instead. DVD buys from discount chains helped Blockbuster's stock fall 32% after a fourth-quarter earnings report that warned investors about the shaky future of the video rental industry. With video-on-demand getting started, it may join forces with discount sellers to ring in the deathblow for Blockbuster, the world's largest video renter.


AGENT TAKES THE ROCK WITH HIM

Former Endeavor talent agent Darren Statt has changed stripes and joined the UTA talent group. Statt had been with Endeavor seven years but after a botched appointment at DreamWorks Pictures, Endeavor partners "encouraged" his departure from the company. But the firing may have backfired on Endeavor. It seems Statt's clients like him more than the company he worked for. Instead of staying with Endeavor, as the company may have expected, Stat's clients are following the agent to his new home. Although it is unclear how many clients he will bring with him, a UTA spokesperson said Statt's marquee client, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, has joined him at UTA. Other clients Statt worked with at Endeavor include Rhys Ifans, Jeremy Davies, Ryan Reynolds, Ashley Scott, Cillian Murphy, Estella Warren, Jeri Ryan, Paul Nicholls and Ali G.


KARMAZIN HINTS HE'LL STAY

Viacom President and COO Mel Karmazin has suggested that he has won his battle with Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone over whether he will continue to control the operations of the company under a new contract. He hinted to the media that he will soon announce he will remain with the company when his contract expires next year. "I would be happy to end my career at Viacom as long as I add value and have fun," he told the media. Asked if he'll make an announcement before the end of the year, he replied: "There's been so much noise. ... I hope we'd be able to do something sooner rather than later."