Canal Plus Completes Merger

   Canal Plus shareholders voted overwhelmingly 98.6% in favor of the $34 billion all-stock deal for the French pay TV group's merger with Vivendi and Universal owner Seagram Co.
   "I'm very moved," said Canal Plus chief Pierre Lescure after the vote. "(The merger) is good for the future of everything we've built at Canal Plus. Now, we have to deliver." Lescure has been named chairman of the board, with writer and former Spanish culture minister Jorge Semprun as vice chairman.

Smaller Fests In Park City Join Forces

   Created as alternatives to the Sundance Film Festival, Slamdance and five other Park City-area film festivals -- Digidance, Lapdance, Nodance, Slamdunk and TromaDance -- have banded together under the newly formed Wasatch Festival Syndicate banner to throw an inaugural Festival Summit set for Jan. 26. The summit aims to bring together a disparate group of filmmakers and event staffs at the end of the busy indie festival week in Utah and create an air of cooperation between the smaller Park City festivals to better promote all events.

Shorter Windows Wanted By European Interests

   The period between a film's theatrical release and its release to other outlets -- or the "window," in industry parlance -- received major attention at the recently concluded ninth European Video Perspective conference, with many delegates calling for shorter windows. "If a movie is in a theater for a week, why wait six months to release it on video when you have spent a lot of money promoting it in the theaters?" asked Matt Brown, the London-based vp of International Movies and Video for DreamWorks. Brown's comments were echoed by Ron Sanders, London-based president of Warner Home Video Europe.

New Fest Features Minority Filmmakers

   Black, Asian and Hispanic filmmakers in Canada have unveiled plans for the inaugural ReelWorld Film Festival. Set to bow in April in Toronto, the event aims to open up opportunities for minority filmmakers. The event, which will run April 6-9, will include 75 feature-length and short films – 50 Canadian, 20 international and five Canadian student films. There will also be a juried competition, a film market and a trade forum. The festival will not be only an Asian, black or Hispanic film gathering but will spotlight "racially and culturally diverse" films from Canada and around the world.

Lifetime Achievement Nod For Film Editor Coates

   Veteran film editor Anne Coates was recently awarded the English Channel 4 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Carlton Women in Film and Television Awards. U.S.-based Coates was presented with her award by actor Peter O'Toole, who starred in the film editor's Oscar-winning movie "Lawrence of Arabia." She has worked alongside a list of directors that includes David Lean, Richard Attenborough, John Ford and Steven Soderbergh. Coates said: "I began my career in London as a female film editor in an industry which was dominated by men. It is wonderful to return to London to be honored by Women in Film And Television."
   "These awards are about honoring those women and celebrating their achievements and hopefully predicting a few Oscar winners in the bargain," said Women in Film And Television chair Kate Kinninmont.

Artisan Says No Deal In The Works

   Artisan Entertainment insists it has denied rumors that Frankfurt, Germany-based media group IN-motion is looking at an outright purchase of Artisan or an equity stake in the company. An Artisan spokesman confirmed that the company was "in discussions with IN-motion with respect to a German tax shelter based co-production agreement" but denied any possible acquisition or takeover talks.
   Artisan's already planned initial public offering of up to $140 million was recently put on hold because of market concerns over new-media and internet stocks that have been on a downward spiral of late.

Beauty Is Skin Deep To Peronneau

   The Peronneau Agency makes Hollywood mugs clear and smooth as a baby's…well, you know. The imaging firm celebrated its tenth anniversary with a star-studded celebration at Les Deux Cafe in Hollywood. Will Smith, Monica, The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, No Doubt, N' Sync, Aaliyah, Toni Braxton and Jay Z are just a few of the notables who have benefited from the services of the agency.

Danny Glover And Pizza Delivery Man Meet By Accident.

   Danny Glover was in a minor fender bender the week of 18 Dec. with a pizza delivery man. Fortunately, Glover, nor the pizza man, were injured. No one was arrested or cited, but police took a report of the accident for insurance purposes.

Oprah Makes Surprise Visit For Theater Opening

   Recently, Oprah Winfrey was in South Africa for the opening of South African filmmaker Anant Singh's cinema complex. Winfrey and longtime boyfriend Stedman Graham were guests of honor when Singh opened the six-screen complex in Cape Town. Days earlier, he launched a five-screen multiplex as part of his new Cinema Starz chain in the East coast city of Port Elizabeth.

Will Smith Animated For Nickolodeon

   Nickelodeon has given Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment a 13-episode commitment for an animated series based on Rob Liefeld's movie script, "The Mark."

Off-lot Prodution Off 10% In 2000

   Off-lot feature film production in Los Angeles was down 10% last year compared with 1999, hitting its lowest point since 1995 and the fourth year of decline in a row for films shot off the lots of the major studios in Los Angeles, according to data collected by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. Since 1996, off-lot film production has fallen 32%, according to the EIDC, which issues film permits in Los Angeles.
   Out-of-town productions and smaller productions by the major studios are contributing to the downturn.

NAACP Image Awards Nominations

   Walt Disney Pictures' "Remember the Titans," New Line Cinema's "Love & Basketball" and the WB Network's "The Steve Harvey Show" lead the nominations for the 32nd NAACP Image Awards. The awards, to be distributed March 3 at the Universal Amphitheatre and broadcast March 9 on Fox, are presented to those who "strive for the portrayal of positive images and meaningful opportunities for African-Americans in the entertainment industry." CBS has 15 nominations, followed by HBO with 11, and ABC and the WB with 10 each. Paramount leads film studios with seven nominations, New Line garnered six mentions, and Walt Disney Pictures landed five.

Tina Turner At 61

   Recently celebrating her 61st birthday, November 26th, Tina Turner talked with People magazine about the things she's gained and lost in her 40-year superstar career. The diva made mention of her children and some regrets she had in being a mother to them. "Had I been with them more," she said, "I think I could have helped them a lot more with their lives." Apparently, her children: Craig, 42 (pre-Ike Turner ); Ronald, 40; and her stepsons, Ike Jr.,42; and Michael, 41, haven't fared to well and are still supported by Mom.

"Unbreakable" Slated For TV

   ABC has bought the blockbuster, "Unbreakable," which stars Samuel L. Jackson, as part of a three-flick package for broadcast. Also included in the deal are "Coyote Ugly," starring Tyra Banks, and "Mission To Mars."

Pauletta Washington Honored

   Behind actor Denzel Washington is a strong woman, his wife Pauletta Washington.
   Recently, Mrs. Washington was honored by the Crystal Stairs Foundation for her charitable efforts
   "It's a tremendous blessing,'' Mrs. Washingtonsaid. "To receive an honor for something I love doing."
   Mrs. Washington is not only involved in nonprofit ventures, she will also soon narrate a production of "Spiritual," written and directed by Otis Sali.
   Standing right next to Pauletta, was husband Denzel. "I am just incredibly happy for her," Washington said.

Snipes/Lathan In Fender-Bender

   On the way to the premiere of the new HBO movie, "Disappearing Acts," headlined by Wesley Snipes and Sanaa Lathan, the duo's limo got into a fender-bender with a bus as it was pulling up to the premiere. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

Terrence Howard, To Guest Host For BET Films

   BET Movies has signed actor/producer Terrence Howard as its current guest host. Howard will be featured on BET Movies through the months of January and February. Howard will take BET Movies viewers behind the scenes, offering commentary, production notes and more on Black films and filmmakers. Howard recently wrapped Luis Mandoki's "Angel Eyes" which will see its theatrical release later in 2001.

Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bob Marley Bestowed With Award

   The Recording Academy will posthumously present Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bob Marley with lifetime achievement awards. Among the living to be blessed with the award are the Beach Boys, Tony Bennet and The Who. The artists and producers will be formally recognized in a ceremonyduring the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards in February.

Young Actor Impressive

   USA Today is calling him the freshest new face in Hollywood. Starring opposite Sean Connery in "Finding Forrester," he's 16 year-old high school student Rob Brown, and until "Forrester"Brown had never been in front of a camera let alone an acting coach. But the young actor amazed even Connery.
   "(Brown) has an amazing screen presence," said Connery. "He could have a long career in films, if he wants it.
   Brown answered a flier looking for kids interested in being in "Forrester," with a goal of paying off a $300 cell phone bill and ended up with the plum role in true fairytale fashion.
   "Sure I was nervous, but you can't let that get in the way," the teen says. "You just have to focus."
   What advice did Connery have for the actor? "He told me to be myself and to make sure my money's safe," said Brown. Suing Chris Rock is suing actor/comedian Chris Rock for more than 1 million in fees that the online interactive entertainment studio claims they paid for content that was never delivered. According to documents submitted to Los Angeles Superior Court, Rock and his company, Chris Rock Enterprises, entered April 6, into a preliminary agreement for programming.
   Chris Rock has filed a countersuit claiming that engaged in "intentional misrepresentation, negligence, breach of contract and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing."

Awards Shut Out Begins

   Despite black films earning $1.2 billion worldwide in 2000, the shut-out has begun in the awards races.
   As Hollywood readies for the March 25th Oscars, blacks received no nominations or awards from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and only two nods for the Golden Globes -- Alfre Woodard (Best Actress, Miniseries or Movie Made for Television, Showtime's "Holiday Heart") and Andre Braugher (Best Actor, Drama, ABC's "Gideon's Crossing'').
   Most noticeably overlooked are Angela Bassett and Danny Glover's performances in "Boesman & Lena;" Denzel Washington in "Remember The Titans;" and George Tillman for directing "Men of Honor."

ABC, Nabs The 'Grinch'

   Disney's ABC and the Disney Channel have nabbed the TV rights to the top-grossing movie of 2000 for 10 years by shelling out a hefty licensing fee of more than $60 million. According to the deal, which will kick in in 2004, ABC will get more than 10 airings of "The Grinch," and the Disney Channel will have multiple runs. ABC and the Disney Channel are still ironing out the details about how they are going to share the window, sources said.
   Other broadcast and cable networks were interested in securing the rights to the holiday movie but the high fee discouraged most of them.

Police Report Defies CSI Evidence

   The family of slain television actor Anthony Dwain Lee, 39, has filed a $100 million wrongful death claim against the city of Los Angeles, lawyers said.
   Lee was shot three times in the back and once in the head Oct. 28, by a Los Angeles police officer checking a noisy Halloween party. The officer, Tarriel Hopper, claimed that Lee pointed a fake .357 Magnum handgun at him and threatened his life and that he shot Lee in self-defense.
   Cameron Stewart, an attorney with the law firm of Johnnie Cochran Jr, retained by Lee's sister, Tina Lee Vogt, told reporters that the coroner's report reveals that the police report was wrong.
   "[Anthony Lee] could not have had time to withdraw a gun and point it at an officer and then have been shot four times in the back,'' Stewart said. "If you're going to shoot a man in the back and claim self-defense, that's murder."

Spike Breaks New Ground With Commercials

   Faced with a consistent decline in ratings, the National Football League has called on Spike Lee to direct a series of TV commercials for a massive ad campaign aimed at luring viewers to watch the playoffs, reported the Wall Street Journal.
   According to the WSJ, the NFL plans to air 252 spots on ABC, ESPN, Fox and CBS prior to the Super Bowl. Samuel L. Jackson has been signed to voice the Lee spots.
   It should be a good mix, since Spike is an avid sports fan.

Directors Guild Says Hiring At All Time Low

   The Directors Guild of Americahas issued a report highlighting its findings that opportunities for women and minorities actually declined significantly last year. Its figures show that female directors worked 7.4 percent of total days worked by all DGA directors versus 8.5 percent during the previous year.

"Remember The Titans" Slated For TV Series

   "Remember The Titans," will soon become a television series. According to the Hollywood Reporter, ABC is eyeing the project and is close to giving a script commitment for the series. No, Denzel won't be doing the TV version. Gregory Allen Howard, who penned the feature, will also pen the television version.

Snoop Dog In Court

   Singer/actor Snoop Dog is in court. It seems the cover of his protege's, Doggy's Angels, debut album has triggered a copyright infringement lawsuit from Columbia Pictures. The plaintiffs claim that the image used on the cover, as well as in other art used to promote the album, is the property of the television program and film, "Charlie's Angels."

Whoopie Has Unscheduled Chat With Inmates

   Whoopi Goldberg made an unscheduled visit to the St. Francis County Jail in Arkansas after the driver of her tour bus was pulled over by a state trooper for speeding on Interstate 40. In order to post his bond, the bus driver, Robert Ward, followed the trooper to the jail. Goldberg went with her driver.
   While her driver filled out paperwork and posted a $450 bond, Goldberg signed autographs for jail staff and spoke with female inmates.

New Video Service A Blessing For The Lazy

   Long lines and limited selections - Blockbuster and Enron Broadband are attempting to make those things a thing of the past. The companies are testing a movies on demand service in Seattle, Salt Lake City and Portland, OR. The service employs Enron's $600-million fiber-optic network system, allowing consumers to watch movies at any time -- as if they had rented them from a Blockbuster store -- and to pause, rewind and fast-forward them.

Director Miffed At Laurence Fishburne

   Edward James Olmos and Laurence Fishburne are at odds over Fishburne's last minute withdrawal from appearing in the sequel to the HBO pic "Always Outnumbered," which Olmos was supposed to direct.
   Word from the Fishburne camp is that the actor withdrew because of scheduling conflicts with the sequel to "The Matrix."
   His reasons haven't made Olmos feel any better.

Scratch DJ-based Films Accepted To Sundance

   Two scratch DJ-based films were recently accepted to the Sundance Film Festival. The Doug Pray-directed Scratch and DJ Q-Bert's Wave Twisters are officially among the contestants vying for recognition at the influential film festival. Scratch is a feature-length documentary on hip-hop DJs, and director Pray was excited to have his film added to what he calls, "the number one champion of independent filmmaking."

"Nicodemus" Passes Away

   Actor Nick "Nicodemus" Stewart recently passed away at the age of 90. The veteran of vaudeville, Broadway and screen provided the voice of Brer Bear in Walt Disney's "Song of the South." Stewart also founded the Ebony Showcase in Los Angeles.
   "Nick was a show business legend who made his mark in virtually every area of the entertainment spectrum from vaudeville and radio to motion pictures and television,'' said Roy E. Disney, vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company.

WGA Okays Contract Talks

   The Writers Guild of America has agreed to early contract negotiations with the major studios and TV networks. WGA officials called CEOs around L.A. to arrange the start of negotiations for a new film and TV contract. No date has been set for the talks, but they are expected to start soon. The WGA has insisted the talks, last only two weeks.
   The guild's current contract expires May 1.
   The guild's last three contracts were negotiated after early talks, but the WGA has said early negotiations with the companies were out of the question unless they were "prepared to move in our direction". Which meant a strike seemed inevitable.
   The guild's last strike, in 1988, lasted five months. This one could last longer and literally cripple the industry.