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May 2003
©Blackflix.com™
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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):

BUENA VISTA
404.2
15.60%

SONY
312.6
12.06%

WARNER BROS.
285.2
11.01%

NEW LINE
281.3
10.86%

MIRAMAX
271.5
10.48%


DISNEY LOSES ROUND IN POOH FIGHT

A U.S. federal judge has ruled tentatively that the granddaughter of Winnie the Pooh's creator could not have the U.S. marketing rights to the lovable bear, delivering a blow to the Walt Disney Co. in its fight for Pooh's finances. If finalized, the ruling would be a major victory for Stephen Slesinger Inc., the company that currently holds the Pooh copyright and who has been suing Disney for more than two decades, claiming Disney owes it millions in back royalty payments. Judge Florence-Marie Cooper held that Clare Milne could not use a change in U.S. copyright law to reclaim the U.S. rights to Winnie the Pooh, which is what Disney wants. Disney has said a ruling against it in its legal battle with Slesinger could cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. It recently asked a federal court to remove the case from the California Superior Court, which has been hearing it for the last decade and Slesinger lawyer Bonnie Eskenazi said that Disney's efforts to change courts was a bid to draw out the case for even more years. "It is one of Disney's classic delay tactics," she said.



MGM LEADS IN TARGETING URBAN AUDIENCE

MGM, the film house that brought us "Barbershop" is starting to realize that there is commerce in the urban community. The film company’s vice chairman recently appeared at a black film entrepreneurs seminar in Los Angeles when an audience member began a question: "Now that MGM has established itself as the leading urban studio...," which caught him a bit off guard, reports the LA Times. "A light went off in my head," said MGM Vice Chairman Chris McGurk, "We've been attempting to find a way to define ourselves. But the movies were already defining us." MGM is already working on the new urban films "Foxy Brown," a reprise of the 1974 cult picture, produced by and starring Halle Berry, and the director Antoine Fuqua’s, "Double Man." MGM, McGurk says, is launching an effort to find employees and vendors with a pinnace for the black market and who support black-oriented productions. MGM is not alone, however. Most of the major film companies have a few urban hits on tap. The draw is that the black leads to green. Film companies have found urban films attractive, particularly because the budgets are low and they pull the same ticket price as a million-dollar blockbuster.


TWEENS HAVE DEEP B.O. POCKETS

The demographic group dubbed tweens, ages 8-13, has emerged as a force at the boxoffice during the past several years. And they're using their sizable buying power to turn their favorite stars into multimedia sensations with albums, movies, TV shows, cosmetics and clothing lines. "As a generation, this group is savvier at a younger age. They're making money younger and making decisions younger," said Jane Buckingham, president of youth research and consulting firm Youth Intelligence. Tweens, particularly girls, have been the force behind such boxoffice hits as "A Walk to Remember," starring pop star Mandy Moore ($41.2 million); Britney Spears' movie debut "Crossroads" ($37.1 million); and "What a Girl Wants," featuring former Nickelodeon TV star Amanda Bynes ($32.8 million and counting). The Disney Channel spinoff "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" is the latest film to take boxoffice advantage of Tween built-in awareness and appeal.



AOL TIME WARNER TAKES BACK ENTERTAINMENT UNITS

AOL Time Warner regained complete control of its entertainment units when it bought out Comcast's 27-percent stake in Time Warner Entertainment last month, which had included the Warner Bros. studio and HBO. The cash-and-stock deal gives Comcast $2.1 billion in cash, $1.5 billion in convertible preferred stock and a 21-percent stake in Time Warner Cable.


DISNEY TO BEAM VIDEOS ON DEMAND

Chairman Michael Eisner says Disney is considering new distribution strategies to contend with movie piracy. Speaking to the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Eisner indicated that the studio is considering releasing its movies on home video and on television far earlier than it currently does. "If we don't provide consumers with our product in a timely manner, pirates will," he told the convention. "Disney [is] mindful of the perils of piracy, but we will not let the fear of piracy prevent us from fueling the fundamental impulse to innovate and improve our products and how they are distributed." Eisner said that Disney will begin testing a new video-on-demand service called Movie Beam this year that will employ parts of TV signals to transmit first-run theatrical film releases to a set-top storage device.


SAG FOREIGN POLICY A WINNER

SAG's year-old campaign to have its members to work only with SAG signatory contracts when abroad is being heralded as a success by the guild. Known as the Global Rule One campaign, SAG said that since its launch in May 2002, more than 100 foreign theatrical productions have been shot under SAG terms and conditions, representing an approximate 200% increase from the previous year, in which there were only 32 signatory foreign productions. According to the guild, member earnings to date on foreign productions covered by SAG contracts topped the $45 million mark, with more than $2 million contributed to SAG's beleaguered pension and health funds. For years SAG had lamented that the increase in runaway production had resulted in a significant increase in nonsignatory contracts being offered to - and signed by - its members.