CBS won the first week of the May sweeps, powered by its hit reality show Survivor II: The Australian Outback and its coupled drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The two shows scored second- and third-place finishes respectively, behind an episode of NBC's E.R., which saw the return of Sally Field. CBS averaged an 8.4 household rating for the week with a 14 share. NBC, no longer feeling the drag of ratings for its XFL football telecasts, was close behind with an 8.2/14. ABC, which placed two editions of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in the top ten, was third with a 7.1/12, followed by Fox with a 5.7/10. Meanwhile, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw set a modern record by maintaining the lead among network newscasts for 52 consecutive weeks.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. E.R. NBC, 17.5/29; 2. Survivor II: The Australian Outback, CBS, 16.6/27; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 14.4/22; 4. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Sunday), ABC, 12.0/18; 5. West Wing, NBC, 11.9/19; 6. Millionaire (Tuesday), ABC, 11.7/20; 7. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 11.4/17; 8. Law and Order, NBC, 11.3/19; 9. The Practice, ABC, 11.2/18; 10. Friends, NBC, 10.9/19.
TALKS BETWEEN WRITERS, PRODUCERS CONTINUE PAST DEADLINE
Negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers stayed at the bargaining table for nearly three hours past the 12:01 a.m. expiration of their contract, then announced that they would resume their talks at noon Wednesday. Although spokespersons for both sides said that the current contract had not been formally extended, the fact that the WGA negotiators did not call for a strike authorization vote appeared to represent a de facto recognition of a day-to-day extension. It also suggested that the two sides may be nearing an agreement. Each side, however, declined to say whether progress was being made. "We are working very hard to reach an agreement," Writers Guild spokeswoman Cheryl Rhoden told reporters at the end of last night's (this morning's) session.
NBC CHIEF QUERIES PRODUCERS ABOUT "THE SOPRANOS"
In what was regarded by executives at HBO as a slap at their most successful program, NBC President Robert Wright has written to several top producers asking for their views about the impact of The Sopranos -- "a show which we could not and would not air on NBC because of the violence, language and nudity." The letter was accompanied by a tape of one Sopranos episode that included sex scenes and a violent beating of a prostitute. HBO Chairman Jeff Bewkes told the New York Times, "I take exception to his implication that there in inappropriate content on the show. I feel it's unjustified. It's hard to understand what he's trying to do." Wright told Wednesday's Los Angeles Times that his goal was to provoke a dialogue about where network programming is heading.
GM AND NEWS CORP TO CONTINUE DIRECTV TALKS
The board of directors of General Motors said Tuesday that they wanted to continue talks with News Corp about merging Hughes Electronics' DirecTV with the media giant's Sky Global Networks. GM is the parent company of Hughes.
AUSTRALIA TO AIR "SURVIVOR" FINALE EARLY
Australia's Channel 9, which has been airing Survivor: The Australian Outback about a week after it is seen in the United States, will carry last week's episode followed by the finale only hours after the American telecast Thursday night (Friday in Australia). Executives of the Australian network had feared that revelation of the winner in the Australian press would discourage viewers from tuning in.
ROBB SURFACES -- WITH EXPOSE -- AT "INSIDE"
David Robb, the former Hollywood Reporter journalist who quit his job last week in a dispute with the publisher over an investigative article he had written about the trade paper's gossip columnist, has found an outlet for his work: the online media magazine Inside . Robb includes allegations in his article that Reporter columnist George Christy accepted numerous favors from persons and companies that he wrote about -- particularly Steve Stabler and Brad Krevoy of Motion Picture Corporation of America and Destination Films. He claims that for years Christy received free office space from the now-defunct companies valued at $1,000-$1,250 per month and that although his credits appear in listings for five films produced by Stabler and Krevoy, Christy is nowhere to be seen in any of them. Inside announced Tuesday that Robb will be covering the actors' and writers' guild negotiations for the Web site.
THROWING A CROWBAR INTO THE WORKS
Government and industry lawyers told a federal appeals court Tuesday that unless the panel upholds a ruling barring the distribution of a computer program that breaks the industry's encryption code aimed at preventing DVDs from being copied, perfect digital copies of movies could be uploaded onto the Internet and distributed worldwide. The program, called DeCSS, amounts to a "digital crowbar" for copyright thieves, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Alter told the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. However, Stanford University Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan, who represents Eric Corley, the operator of an Internet hacker site that published the code, shot back: "The government is trying to impose strict liability for having a crowbar, whether you're a carpenter or a thief." Corley and others have contended that DeCSS is essential for watching DVDs on many computers that are not equipped with the Windows operating system -- but that it is impractical for bootlegging them on the Internet.
BRITISH WRITER "IMPRESSED" BY QUICK DEAL WITH DREAMWORKS
A British sci-fi writer says that he was "impressed" when he received a phone call from DreamWorks offering to buy the film rights to three novels that he had written as a trilogy. Terry Pratchett told Britain's Guardian newspaper that DreamWorks plans to use the books -- Truckers, Diggers and Wings, together known as the Bromeliad Trilogy -- as the basis for a computer-animated film to be directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek). "You've got to be impressed when someone from the studio phones up from Hollywood one night and turns up for lunch in Wiltshire, England, the very next day," Pratchett said. DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg commented, "There are few authors whose work lends itself to animation as well as Terry Pratchett's."
BRITISH FILM COMPANY GOING AFTER HOLLYWOOD
Britain's commercial Channel 4, whose FilmFour movie division has turned out such moderate low-budget hits as Trainspotting, The Crying Game and Elizabeth, announced Tuesday that it is altering its strategy and will begin producing more expensive films featuring major British and American stars. Channel 4 CEO Michael Jackson said Tuesday that the company is launching 4 Ventures Limited to attract investors in the company's film business. He said that it has already signed Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Andie MacDowell, Joaquin Phoenix, Ed Harris and Ian Holm for forthcoming projects, including the upcoming $22-million production of Charlotte Gray, based on the Sebastian Faulks novel and starring Blanchett and Crudup.
WILL "BRIDGET" BECOME BRITAIN'S BIGGEST HIT?
Bridget Jones's Diary retained the top spot at the British box office for the third consecutive weekend, earning $5 million to bring its total U.K. gross to $30.1 million, the British trade paper Screen International reported Tuesday. (The film had grossed $36.8 million through Monday in the United States) British analysts projected that the film will eventually eclipse Notting Hill as the most successful British film in history. (Notting Hill earned $43.5 million in Britain and $116 million in the United States.)
HOLLYWOOD, Oct 26, 2000 - Look for "Blair Witch 2" to do killer business this Halloween weekend.
Artisan Entertainment's R-rated sequel "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2," opening at about 3,000 theaters, should scare up enough ticket sales to end "Meet the Parents'" three week reign in first place.
"'Blair Witch' is going to play very young," explains an insider. "They ought to be able to open to $20 million." The original "Blair Witch Project," last summer's sleeper blockbuster, was made independently for about $35,000 and picked up by Artisan. It grossed about $140.5 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joe Berlinger, "Blair Witch 2" stars Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristen Skylar and Stephen Barker-Turner.
Universal's PG-13-rated comedy "Meet the Parents" should slide one slot to second place in its fourth week after finishing first with $16 million last weekend.
"'Meet the Parents' dropped 24% last weekend," a distributor says. "If they drop that way again this weekend, they'll do $12-13 million."
Directed by Jay Roach, "Parents" stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. There could be a close race for third place between Paramount's opening of its R-rated romantic comedy "Lucky Numbers" at about 2,500 theaters and 20th Century Fox's second weekend of its PG-13-rated comedy "Bedazzled."
"Bedazzled" opened in second place to a better-than-anticipated $13.1 million. "Let's say they're down 35%," a studio source speculates. "That puts them at $8 million. 'Lucky Numbers' could do $8-10 million."
Directed by Harold Ramis, "Bedazzled" stars Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.
Directed by Nora Ephron, "Numbers" stars John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow.
Another battle is shaping up for fifth place between Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football theme drama "Remember the Titans," which finished third last weekend with $9.9 million, and Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated drama "Pay It Forward," which kicked off to $9.6 million in fourth place.
"'Titans' was only down 24%. Let's say it drops another 24% and does $7.5 million," an insider speculates. "'Pay It Forward' will be doing good if it's down 23% or 24%. That's going to put both of them at around $7.5 million."
Directed by Boaz Yakin and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman, "Titans" stars Denzel Washington.
Directed by Mimi Leder, "Pay" stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.
The weekend's other wide release, New Line Cinema's PG-rated family film "The Little Vampire," probably won't sink its fangs into the Top Five, although it's opening at about 2,000 theaters.
"I would look for 'Little Vampire' to be somewhere in the low single digits," predicts an insider.
Directed by Uli Edel, "Vampire" stars Jonathan Lipnicki.
Filling out lower rungs: "The Contender," "The Legend of Drunken Master," "The Exorcist" and "Lost Souls."
On the expansion front, Fox Searchlight Pictures will start going wider with its R-rated drama "Bootmen."
Directed by Dein Perry, "Bootmen" stars Adam Garcia and Sam Worthington.
Also expanding is Miramax's R-rated drama "The Yards."
Directed by James Gray, "Yards" stars Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron and James Caan.
In limited release activity, Buena Vista's reissue of its 1993 PG-rated animated family film "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" will open at 72 theaters in select cities.
Directed by Henry Selick, its voice talents include Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon and Catherine O'Hara.
Lions Gate's R-rated drama "Once in the Life" opens in New York, L.A. and Chicago.
"Life" was written and directed by Laurence Fishburne, who also stars in the film.
Lions Gate's R-rated dark comedy "Stardom" goes into limited release.
Directed by Denys Arcand, it stars Dan Aykroyd and Frank Langella.
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "A Room For Romeo Brass" opens exclusively in New York and L.A.
Directed by Shane Meadows, "Romeo" stars Andrew Shim and Ben Marshall.
When gullible small-town square Paul (Biggs) gets a scholarship to a prestigious New York City university he's ripe for the plucking from the likes of his spoiled rich roommates (Zak Orth Tom Sadoski Jimmi Simpson). Meanwhile Paul's classmate Dora (Mena Suvari) tries to balance schoolwork off-campus jobs and a covert relationship with her world lit professor (Greg Kinnear). Will Paul and Dora two very different breeds of social outcast find a way to hook up? You don't need SAT scores in the 99th percentile to figure that one out.
Biggs' natural goofiness and Everyboy likability go a long way toward making "Loser" watchable but there's little the talented young actor can do with the lifeless increasingly predictable storyline. Suvari who functioned well enough as "American Beauty's" teen lust object ranges from weak to downright awful trying to navigate a lead role in this vastly inferior film. Kinnear lends a piggish charm to his people-using misogynist prof easily the film's most entertaining character.
Writer-director Amy Heckerling who so successfully mined the comic potential of '80s and '90s youth culture in the genre classics "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Clueless " scores surprisingly few laughs in moving her act to an institution of higher learning. To its credit "Loser" shows more respect for the audience's intelligence than the average campus comedy fare taking the time to delve into a few real issues (teacher/student relationships inequalities between rich and middle-class students) along the way but the results simply don't generate the sparks Heckerling's earlier high school films did.
Demonstrating that cooperation is possible even among the bitterest rivals if the motivation exists, DreamWorks executives submitted scenes of their upcoming Shrek to Disney attorneys in advance so as to avoid a potential lawsuit, the New York Post reported Wednesday. The movie satirizes numerous fairy-tale and Disney characters. Referring to the Disney characters in the movie, co-director Andrew Adamson told the Post: "It's pretty hard to have fun with fairy tales without touching the biggest purveyor of fairy tales in the world." And while some writers have suggested that the film represents a kind of personal attack by DreamWorks founder and ex-Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg on his former studio and its boss, Michael Eisner, Adamson remarked, "The movie's too good-hearted to be any revenge-based thing. If people think that, they're really missing the point of the thing, which is to turn fairy tales on their ears."