Latham Signs 3-Movie Deal With Paramount

   Paramount Pictures/MTV Films and Walter Latham, who created and produced "The Original Kings of Comedy," have signed a three-year first-look deal. Latham's company, Latham Entertainment, will offer Paramount: 1) "Pimp Pasty," a comedy written by Bradley Allenstein and Robert Henny about a talentless white rapper who starts to believe he's black; 2) an untitled romantic comedy to star Mo'Nique, who worked with Latham on "The Queens of Comedy" tour; and 3) "The Untitled David Bottrell Project," about three coeds who originally kidnap a rap star to teach him a lesson about the right way to treat women, but whose plan falls apart as each begins to fall for him.


FCC EEO Rules Struck Down

   The day after the Martin Luther King holiday, a federal court struck down the FCC's equal-employment rules, finding that they are "race-based" regulations and hence unconstitutional. The court ruled that the FCC rules "put official pressure upon broadcasters to recruit minority candidates, thus creating a race-based classification that is not narrowly tailored to support a compelling governmental interest and is therefore unconstitutional."
   Based on the court ruling, it will be "difficult to achieve a broadcast industry that reflects America's cultural diversity," said newly retired FCC chairman Bill Kennard. "The court's interpretation of these rules perpetuates a disheartening reality that the federal government will not ensure fair recruitment policies in the broadcast industry," he said.
   The court decision came the same day a government report found that minority broadcast ownership is at its lowest level in a decade, increasing by less than 1% over the past two years.


Harvey and Hughley Cohost Essence Awards 2001

   Producers of The Essence Awards 2001 announced that comedian-actors Steve Harvey and D.L. Hughley will cohost the star-studded televised celebration, with special appearances by Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer, comic colleagues in the movie "The Original Kings of Comedy." The show will air as a prime-time special on FOX.
   First held in 1987, The Essence Awards was created to highlight the contributions of African-American community leaders and celebrities.
   Last year's Essence Awards program was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards.
   With more than 7 million readers, ESSENCE is the preeminent magazine for Black women.


"The Visit" Garners Award Nominations

   UrbanWorld Film's upcoming release, "The Visit," starring Hill Harper and Billy Dee Williams is stacking up the awards and nominations even before its national release. The film received four nominations from the IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards, including Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, Best Male Lead (Harper) and Best Supporting Male (Williams). The national Board Review of Motion Pictures gave the film special recognition and the NAACP Image Awards has also recognized the movie with a Best Supporting Actor and Actress nomination for Williams and Marla Gibbs.


"O"Magazine A Winner

   "O," Oprah Winfrey's new magazine, has published only eight issues yet it has already surpassed the circulation of the magazine "Martha Stewart Living," which has been around for almost 10 years. With 1.6 million subscribers and 1.2 million in newsstand sales, "O" readership exceeds the 2.5 million figure.
   "O" is one of the most successful magazine launches in history. The magazine was covered in "USA Today" as an inspirational self-help publication "that crosses over all the lines of age, race and sex - even income."


Martin Moving To Beverly Hills

   Martin Lawrence has been living large on the big screen of late, and now he'll be living large at home, too. The actor/comedian recently closed escrow on a Beverly Hills home for about 12.5 million. The asking price was $13.25 million, but Martin worked out a deal on his new digs.


11-Hour Manhunt To Protect Whitney Houston

   A 35-year old patient at the Bronx Psychiatric Center escaped from a Bronx Hospital where she was receiving tests which sparked an 11-hour manhunt that ended when the woman's sister turned her in. Whitney Houston is sighing a breath of relief, since the woman, who calls herself Ms. Desiree Weeks, believes Whitney Houston is her "reincarnated mother" and has threatened to kill Ms. Houston's child.


Fox Creates Digital Mentoring Unit For Film Makers

   Fox Searchlight Pictures has created a new digital production unit, Fox Searchlab, to provide equipment, financing and mentoring to emerging filmmakers.
   Fox Searchlab will select 40 candidates over the course of a year. Each filmmaker will be given complete creative freedom to create a digital short film which Fox will then have first rights to. Fox Searchlab will educate and nurture its candidates through its mentoring program, which will include lectures and technical tutorials. Lectures will be hosted by directors, educators and filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh, Baz Luhrmann, Geoffrey Rush, Mark Isham, Ron Bass, Andy Nelson and David Rubin.
   Fox Searchlab will select filmmaker candidates from disparate backgrounds and experience levels: from short and low budget filmmakers, novelists and comedians to established commercial and video directors. Potential filmmaker candidates can apply by mailing a sample of their work, a compelling reason or a resume to: Susan O'Leary, Director, Fox Searchlab, 10201 W. Pico Blvd., Bldg. 667-Suite 5, Los Angeles, CA 90035 or visit the website at www.foxsearchlight.com.



Michael Clarke Duncan Goes Ape To Hospital

   Still in Ape makeup and costume, Michael Clarke Duncan was taken to a local hospital from the Hollwood set of Planet of the Apes after the big man injured his ankle being a little ovezealous during a running scene. Shooting was suspended while everyone waited for the x-ray results. Turned out nothing was broken but Duncan was treated for a nasty sprain.
   Duncan chose to remain in costume because if it came off for the short hospital trip, it would have taken hours in make-up to transform himself back into an ape to complete the day's shooting.


NBC And CNN Cut Jobs

   NBC president Bob Wright announced recently that he will reduce NBC's work force by up to 600 jobs. The cuts will come in every division, including entertainment and news, as well as cable networks MSNBC and CNBC, and NBC-owned stations. He said "we must go beyond belt-tightening," to employees in a memo issued to staffers. The cuts involve about 5% to 10% of the company's 6,000 employees. Some of the cuts will be through attrition, Wright said. "It is no secret that the current economic climate is affecting our business," Wright said.
   With America Online's acquisition of CNN's parent Time Warner Inc; CNN is expected to layoff 500 to 1,000 employees. The CNN layoffs primarily will involve the company's online division.


Report Minimizes Impact Of Media Violence On Youth

   The Surgeon General has released a report on violent youth behavior that says violence portrayed in the media has little long-term effect on youth behavior. While the report finds the impact of the media violence is minimal, it does conclude that media-portrayed violence does tend to increase aggressive behavior in some "small to moderate" fashionin children in the short term.
   Entertainment industry officials welcomed the report as a counter the fusillade of negative reports that have said media violence is a health risk. "It's the seminal report," MPAA chief Jack Valenti said. "Anyone who wants to deal with this issue has to use this report as gospel." But like any gospel, the report's meaning depends on the reader.
   Sens. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. claim the report actually supports their contention that media violence does harm children, especially since the report found "it was extremely difficult to distinguish between the long-term effects of exposure to media violence and those of other influences."


Murphy Claymation PJ's In Trouble

   The PJ's, the Eddie Murphy produced and voiced cartoon comedy may be looking for a new home.
   According to Variety, the WB and Warner Bros. Television are at odds over continuing the only primetime minority cast network toon series. The WB is happy with the show's performance and actually ordered 13 episodes for next season, but Warner Bros. Television has decided it no longer makes economic sense to continue producing the series. A WB spokesman said the network is waiting to see what happens next.


James Earl Jones Speaks At Literacy Conference

   The "Voice," James Earl Jones, acclaimed actor and infamous voice of "Star Wars" villain Darth Vader, will be the keynote speaker at the 10th Annual National Conference on Family Literacy, March 19th, in Dallas, Texas. The event is co-sponsored by the National Center for Family Literacy.


Black Santa Looks A Lot Like Whoopi

   TNT is already preparing for Christmas 2001. The cable channel is joining with executive producer Garth Brooks (yep!) to produce "Call Me Claus," a holiday movie that will introduce a black, female Santa Claus, played by Whoopi Goldberg, for the movie "Call Me Claus." Country star Garth Brooks said he hopes the cable movie will let people know that there is no color and no sex when it comes to Christmas. "It's about what's inside," he said.


Colin Powell & Son Team Up In DC

   Michael Powell, the 37-year-oldson of new Secretary of State Colin Powell, has been named the Federal Communications Commission Chairman by President George W. Bush. The FCC regulates the nation's cable and telecommunication industries (radio, television, internet, etc.). Because of Powell's conservative attitude toward regulations, Business Week reports that we can expect the FCC to be more focused on deregulation than it was during the Clinton administration. As a Republican FCC commissioner since 1977, Powell, even though black himself, has often questioned efforts by the commission to promote minority ownership of TV and radio stations by granting tax breaks to companies who sell to minority entrepreneurs, noting that black ownership does not necessarily foster diversity in programming.


Writers Guild Announces Nominations

   The Writers Guild of America, East and West have announced their nominations for outstanding achievement in television and radio writing for the 2000 season. In Original Long Form (over one hour one part, one airing time) the nominees include "Freedom Song," written by Phil Alden Robinson and
   Stanley Weiser, and "Sally Hemmings: An American Scandal," Part 1, written by Tina Andrews.
   In Adapted Long Form (over one hour -- one part, one airing time) the nominees include "A House Divided," by Paris Qualles, based on the book "Woman of Color, Daughter of Privilege: Amanda Dickson" by Kent Anderson Leslie.



Rainbow Media Up For Sale

   USA Networks Inc. has walked away from bidding for Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Rainbow Media programming assets. The withdrawal of USA Networks leaves Viacom Inc., Liberty Media Group and possibly a partnership between NBC and Comcast Corp. as front-runners in the race for Rainbow, but another possible buyer of Rainbow remains MGM Inc., which withdrew last year over a disagreement on price.


Lawsuit Over Wheelchairs Settled

  United Artists Theater Circuit must provide appropriate seating for the disabled in its popular, stadium-style theaters, under a lawsuit settlement announced by the Justice Department.
   The settlement is a major victory for disability rights advocates who have long argued that the disabled have had no access to decent seating, and are forced to sit in the front rows where they crane their necks and see very little of the total screen.
   Several disability groups sued UATC, one of the nation's largest theater chains, under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Under the settlement, UATC must locate wheelchair seating in viewing angles as good as the best 50 percent of the seats in the house. UATC must also locate wheelchair seating no closer to the screen than the back of the aisle separating traditional seats from stadium seats.
   Bill Lann Lee, assistant attorney general for civil rights said, "Persons with disabilities should not be segregated into the worst seats in the house, but instead should have access to seats of comparable quality to those of other patrons," Lee said.


BVI Promotes Foreign Distibrution Execs

   Two key executives at Disney's Buena Vista International, the foreign distribution arm of the Walt Disney Co., have been moved up to executive vp posts. Anthony Marcoly will become executive vp for distribution and acquisitions, and London-based Stuart Salter will become executive vp and general manager of BVI Europe. The promotions could be something of a carrot for the two who made BVI the movie industry's overseas big money winner last year.


Harvey And Ced The Entertainer Say No More

   "Kings of Comedy" stars Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer say there will not be a "Kings of Comedy II" follow-up tour and film. However, the two expect to develop a different kind of project as soon as they can find the time. Harvey is busy with his LA radio show and Ceddy is working on films and both stars in "The Steve Harvey Show" on the WB.


Tyra Banks Borrows A Bum

   Model/actress Tyra Banks had to borrow a posterior for her upcoming movie, "Larceny." While the model has posed scantily clad for Victoria's Secret, Banks says she will never expose it all. No nude scenes for this lady. So filmmakers had to find a size 6 to 8 African American woman willing to fill in as a "rump" double for a scene in the movie. "Larceny" hits theaters later this year.


Columbia Pictures Buys "Spawn"

   The feature film rights to the special effects blockbuster movie "Spawn" were previously held by New Line Cinema, but after they made the original film New Line, for some bonehead reason, let the rights revert back to "Spawn" creator Todd McFarlane, but Columbia Pictures has had its vultureous eye on a sequel, so as soon as they legally could, they made McFarlane an offer he couldn't refuse. We'll have to wait to find out the details behind Colombia's plans.


O.J. Told To Squeeze Out The Money

   A judge recently refused to overturn the $33.5 million wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson. The Juice had appealed his case to the California Court of Appeals to reverse the 1997 civil trial decision ordering him to pay the families of murder victims Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. But while Simpsonsays he will never pay the judgment, some of his property has already been seized by the courts and auctioned off to help pay the judgement.


Steve Harvey Is NAACP "Entertainer Of The Year"

   NAACP President & CEO Kweisi Mfume announced that actor and comedian Steve Harvey will be presented the Entertainer of the Year Award at the 32nd NAACP Image Awards. "Harvey was chosen because he is an individual who has excelled in the entertainment industry and merits special recognition for a recent outstanding achievement or contribution to the industry and the community," said Mfume.
   "The Steve Harvey Show" was the second highest rated comedy series on the WB network this season, and has garnered seven NAACP Image awards -- more than any other television show in that category. Harvey responded to being chosen as Entertainer of the Year by saying, "Unbelievable! As unbelievable as it is to you, it's even more unbelievable to me. But when you believe in God, the unbelievable can happen. This is the greatest honor ever given to me -- to be Entertainer of the Year. Considering so many great artists in this industry, I am just honored that I was chosen. I am blessed to be recognized for all the things that I do. I thank the NAACP Image Awards for this."
   Past recipients of the Entertainer of the Year Award include Quincy Jones, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Stevie Wonder, Halle Berry, and Whoopi Goldberg.


Viacom Leaves UPN Name As Is

   UPN has abandoned plans to change its name to The Paramount Network, officials of the network told reporters attending the TV Critics Winter Press Tour. After Viacom purchased Chris Craft's stake in the network, UPN said it would change its name in January, 2001 and executives had even unveiled a new logo that included Paramount's mountain image. But Viacom and the network have said plans have changed and UPN will continue to hold onto its name for the time being.