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June 2003
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TOP 10 U.S.

(We have expanded the Distributor's list from the top 5 to the top 10 in response to requests from readers.)

The top 10 domestic distributors as of the end of last month were as follows
(dollar figures in millions):


Critics Challenge FCC Decision

Critics -- from the right and left -- of the FCC's new deregulation measures are weighing in. The FCC’s party-line vote changed the national TV ownership limit so a company can reach 45% of U.S. households instead of the current 35%. On the right, Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Parents Television Council and the conservative Media Research Center, issued a statement declaring: "Already, the airwaves are full of raunchy programming produced by the New York-based mega-corporations that have little or no understanding of, or interest in community standards. The FCC just voted to make it worse." On the left, Jesse Jackson called the FCC vote "a blow to democracy." South Carolina Democrat Fritz Hollings described the FCC decision as "both dumb and dangerous." The London Financial Times quoted him as saying: "There is a form of legislative veto that is going to be made available and some of us are talking about, within a certain number of days, bringing to the Congress a requirement to vote on the FCC's decision." Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi added: "I want to emphasize that there is not a partisan position here. ... A lot of Republicans -- in fact, probably most of the Republicans in the Congress -- would not agree with this decision." Apparently so since Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., says the committee will consider a proposal to roll back the new legislation.

Lucas Launches Animation Division

Filmmaker George Lucas has added an animation division to his special effects company Industrial Light & Magic, in an effort gain a corner of the fast developing digital animation business. The new operation, Lucasfilm Animation, gives more independence to what had been a small, existing animation department within the company. "Lucasfilm Animation will now have the flexibility to develop and create its own films," said Lucas' longtime spokeswoman Lynn Hale. "It's extremely exciting to have the opportunity to start the search for directors to build projects around."

Rising Canada $ May Slow U.S. Productions

The surging of the Canadian dollar in value against the U.S. dollar has many in the film industry in Canada voicing concern that Hollywood producers may soon start looking elsewhere for cheaper foreign locations. A rapid Canadian dollar appreciation of 16% against the U.S. dollar in the past year has producers fearing a repeat of the mid-1980s when the Canuck dollar was valued at $0.80 and dampened film and TV production. The Canadian dollar hit a new five-year high against the U.S. last month on world currency markets.

Globes Influence Gone From Oscars

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. won’t be influencing Oscar nominations next year. The HFPA has announced that next year's 61st annual Golden Globes Awards is moving from the third weekend in January to Jan. 25, the last Sunday in January - after the Academy Awards nominating period has ended. Because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences moved the annual Oscar ceremonies from mid-March to Feb. 29, rival awards ceremonies have been scrambling to set new dates for their events. In past years, the Globes dinner, held at the Beverly Hilton and broadcast live by NBC, has taken place before the balloting closed for Academy nominations, which many say is the only reason so many in Hollywood attended. If attendance drops this time out, many observers expected the Globes to move earlier, to Jan. 11, to preserve their previous influence and boost the star-studded turn out.

Supreme Court Decides On Copyright/Trademark Suit

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that a company that uses material in the public domain cannot be sued under trademark law for failing to give credit to the originator of the material. The ruling came as a defeat for 20th Century Fox in a dispute over old war footage..A video company had extracted footage from 20th Century Fox's World War II documentary series Crusade in Europe, added some new material, and then released it under the name Campaigns in Europe, prompting a lawsuit. But the court held that once the copyright on a work has expired and it enters the public domain, it can not be retrieved again by the original owner by invoking the trademark law. Earlier this year, the court upheld longer copyright protections for cartoon characters, songs, books and other creations but it did not cover material already in the public domain.

Regal's UA Chain Dancing To Fandango

Online movie-ticket provider Fandango Inc. said it is now selling tickets for Regal Entertainment Group's United Artists Theatres. The deal comes as United Artists' contract with rival ticketing company Moviefone, an AOL Time Warner unit, expired last month. The new agreement, according to Fandango, will add nearly 200 theaters to Fandango's online and telephone network, increasing the company's market share to almost 70% of the nation's theaters wired for online ticketing. The largest U.S. theater chain's two other cinema operators, Regal Cinemas and Edwards Theatres, will also be extending their existing contracts with Fandango through 2008.

French Strikers Throw Cannes Into Chaos

As if the threat of SARS and global security weren't enough concerns for Cannes attendees this year, a French national strike caused all kinds of trouble in the form of transportation delays. The public-sector strike by workers over government plans to reform retirement laws in France was joined by many private-company employees in sympathy for the cause and left many Cannes attendees stuck in airports throughout Europe, including England, Italy and Spain. Would-be attendees faced extensive layovers as they tried to get on overbooked flights into Nice. With French trains paralyzed, many already within the country scrambled to rent a car before they were all gone in their effort to make it to the international film fest.

MGM’s Kerkorian Also Wants Universal

MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian has been attempting to bring together a team of private equity partners to help back his bid for Vivendi Universal's U.S. entertainment interests (except its music and theme-park companies). Several of those potential investors have also been approached by rival suitors. According to the New York Post. "Everyone's interested in getting in the game. But no one's sure which team they want to be on yet," one unnamed executive told the Post. "They're all just hanging around the hoop."

Movies Shifting To Opening Weekend For Profits

The huge construction wave by exhibitors in recent years may mean giant opening weekends followed by abrupt drop-offs in revenue for future movie blockbusters. Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian recently said: "Films are opening in so many theaters now that they are able to amass a huge portion of their ultimate gross very quickly." Just ten years ago, the top 10 films of the summer opened in only about 1,800 theaters and earned half their total revenue by the third weekend. In contrast, last summer, the top 10 films each opened in more than 3,300 theaters and earned three quarters of their total revenue by the third weekend.