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February 2003
©Blackflix.com™
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Table Of Contents
 

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) NEW LINE
$144.6
19.39%

2) WARNER BROS.
$103.9
13.93%

3) DREAMWORKS
$97.8
13.11%

4) MIRAMAX
$87.4
11.72%

5) SONY
$82.5
11.06%


B.O. SALES TOP $9 BILLION

2002 was a good year for Hollywood. For the first time in history, box office sales went past $9 billion. According to the Hollywood Reporter, box office sales for 2002 were $9.4 billion and represents the 11th consecutive year of box office expansion in the U.S.


VIACOM WRESTLES WITH BLOCKBUSTER PROBLEM

With its Blockbuster video rental unit struggling Viacom Inc. is facing some tough questions for the new year, but Wall Street still expects the company to remain on a solid growth track and retain its mega reputation. Sanders Morris Harris analyst David Miller said, "Viacom is unrivaled (among entertainment giants) when it comes to assets and free cash-flow generation. And as long as it creates more free cash flow than its peers, its stock will continue to warrant a premium." Last year, Viacom shares outperformed other media giants and various stock indexes, dropping only 9% in value in a generally bleak year. The big problem for Viacom this year is the future of Blockbuster, in which it holds an 82% stake.


DVD’S FUEL HOME VIDEO GROWTH

A preliminary survey of the home video industry shows that DVD sales saw a 65% increase to an estimated total of $8.9 billion last year, compared with $5.4 billion in 2001. VHS sales declined an estimated 29%, from $4.9 billion in 2001 to $3.5 billion last year. When the final figures are in, combined consumer dollars spent on purchasing home video is expected to top $12.4 billion for 2002, up 24% from the combined DVD and VHS sell-though total of $9.5 billion in 2001. That $12.4 billion sales figure trounces last year’s record-breaking movie boxoffice of $9.4 billion. Nearly 50 million American households now have DVD players.


WGAW FILES FOR INDIES ON TV

The WGA West, the entertainment guild most vocal in its opposition to deregulation of media ownership rules, is asking the FCC to mandate that the Big Four networks purchase 50% of their primetime programming from independent producers. In an FCC filing, the WGAW notes that from 1992-2002, the percentage of new and returning primetime series produced by the major networks increased from 25% to 69% and that last year only one new series (ABC's now-canceled "Dinotopia") was truly an independent production.



REGAL AFTER AUSSIE OWNED US THEATERS

Regal Entertainment Group, the largest U.S. exhibitor is in final negotiations to purchase selected assets from Hoyts Cinemas Group's U.S. operations. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based company is interested in about 50 of Hoyts Cinemas Corp.'s top locations in the Northeast region of the country -- an area where Regal has no presence. Sources say the cherry-picked locations compose 60% of the company's asset base and generate a significant portion of Hoyts' cash flow. The transaction bespeaks of the Australia-based Hoyts' exit from the U.S. market. Sources said the company is planning to close down its remaining theaters after the sale to Regal is complete.


CABLE RULES

According to the FCC's ninth annual report on competition in the market for the delivery of video programming, alternatives and consumer choices continue to develop, but cable television remains the dominant technology for the delivery of video programming to consumers. For the year ending last June, 76.5% of all subscribers to multichannel video program distributor services received their programming from a franchised cable operator, compared with 78% a year earlier. The number of subscribers to both cable and noncable multichannel services increased 1.8% in 2002 to 89.9 million households.


DISNEY STRONG AT ANNIES

The Walt Disney Co. dominated the 30th annual Annie Awards nominations. Disney's "Lilo & Stitch" led the field with 10 nominations. Pixar-produced "Monsters, Inc." grabbed eight noms and "Treasure Planet" received seven noms. DreamWorks’ "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" tied with "Monsters." In the highly contested race for best animated feature, the nominees included "Lilo & Stitch," "Monsters," "Spirit," "Ice Age" and "Miyazaki's Spirited Away" from Japan's Studio Ghibili. "Ice Age" earned seven nominations.


STAINTON NEW DISNEY ANIMATION CHIEF

The Walt Disney Co. has announced a major reorganization of the studio's animation divisions, with David Stainton, president of Walt Disney Television Animation, to become the studio's new head of theatrical animation, succeeding Thomas Schumacher, while oversight of WDTA will shift to Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney Channel Worldwide/ABC Cable Networks Group.


2002 BOXOFFICE A MIXED BLESSING

More movies opened to wide releases last year than ever before, and the national boxoffice hit a staggering $9.4 billion as annual ticket sales soared to their highest count in 45 years. Also, the average opening weekend gross for wide release films (more than 1,000 theaters) came in at a rosy $17.3 million last year, an increase of nearly 5% from 2001. But, in fact, that 5% increase represents the lowest year-to-year rise in the past seven years. Even worse, the 2002 increase of 5% actually pales in comparison with the 20% increase in the average opening weekend that occurred from 2000 to 2001.


STUDIOS EYEING A RERUN SUMMER

For the 2003 summer turf wars, studios are pursuing a simple formula: more of the same. "Hollywood likes to give people what they want, and clearly right now what people want is the familiar," said David Tuckerman, president of domestic distribution at New Line Cinema. "That is why this summer's lineup looks like a carbon copy of last summer. We're seeing a continuation of the trends we've seen the past couple years -- a front-loaded schedule packed with sequels." More than a dozen sequels are already slated for release during this summer.



AMC INCOME IS UP

AMC Entertainment Inc., the No. 2 U.S. theater circuit, announced improved fiscal third-quarter earnings fueled by increased boxoffice sales and changes in ticket pricing. The Kansas City, Mo.-based company reported revenue increased to $432 million from $402 million last year. The company attributed gains to higher boxoffice numbers from such releases as "Sweet Home Alabama," "The Ring," "8 Mile" and "Catch Me If You Can."


MGM SHARES PLUMMET

MGM's shares dropped more than 18% in one day after Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. said it would sell 25 million shares of MGM stock to take advantage of tax benefits before the end of the current fiscal year. MGM preannounced strong fourth-quarter earnings in an effort to counteract the bad news but the stock still took a beating. The drop marked the company's worst one-day decline since the company went public in November 1997.


HI-TECH COMPANIES TARGET FEDS

Computer and chip makers are taking aim at the federal regulation of Hollywood. A coalition of high-tech companies including Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola and some consumer groups have announced a seven-figure campaign designed to prevent Congress and federal regulators from instituting movie copyright controls on computers and other consumer devices. Fred McClure, president of the Alliance for Digital Progress and the top lobbyist for former President Bush, said the group wants to prevent the government from "lobotomizing our laptops."


IMAGEWORKS GOES WITH OFF-THE-SHELF SOFTWARE

Sony Pictures Imageworks will no longer spend time and resources on its own digital system. Instead, the computer graphics studio behind "Spider-Man" and "Stuart Little 2" is now using NXN Alienbrain VFX, the new commercial software system from NXN Software. Imageworks is now using the system for production of visual effects, digital character animation and full-length CG motion pictures. Imageworks president Tim Sarnoff said because visual effects vendors historically have had to create from scratch their own digital filing systems to handle the sheer volume and complexity of work they do, NXN's off-the-shelf software has the potential to help CG crews work with more efficiency and timeliness.


MOST ACTIVE DIRECTORS

(Based on Project activity in the last 3 months.)

Director - Number of Projects
Antoine Fuqua - 6
Lasse Hallstrom - 4
Callie Khouri - 4
Keenen Ivory Wayans - 4
Ron Howard - 3
Paul McGuigan - 3
Pedro Almodóvar - 2
Neil Burger - 2
Joel Coen - 2
Gary Hardwick - 2


VU DENIES INTERFERENCE

Vivendi Universal has rejected French media reports claiming that the entertainment and telecom conglomerate has interfered with accounting investigations by government agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. VU says it has "fully cooperated" with various authorities, including France's securities regulator, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Paris public prosecutor's office and the U.S. Department of Justice. "All employees and advisers have received clear instructions to act in total compliance with the law," meaning that all allegations of influence peddling are "without foundation," the company added. VU also emphasized that it has started legal proceedings against parties that have spread false rumors about the company, and will reserve the right to take further action.