Top Story: CNN Axes Connie Chung Show
CNN has canceled its primetime program Connie Chung Tonight, whose tabloid-like, personality-driven topics clashed with the network’s recent decision to return to its all-news roots. The last show, hosted by Connie Chung, aired Wednesday. “This reflects CNN’s efforts to differentiate itself in a crowded market,” a CNN spokeswoman told Reuters. “We did offer her another on-air opportunity and she declined.” Chung was hired last summer as CNN, then headed by Jamie Kellner, sought to add high profile TV personalities to its primetime slate. Under Kellner, CNN hired former NYPD Blue actress Andrea Thompson to anchor CNN Headline News and sought to jazz up its programs with flashy graphics aimed at younger viewers. CNN founder Ted Turner, who is on the board of CNN’s parent company AOL Time Warner, criticized the moves. In January, Kellner was replaced by Turner Broadcasting veteran Philip Kent, who shifted the network’s emphasis back to news.
Tribeca Film Festival Unveils Slate
The second annual Tribeca Film Festival, which runs from May 3-11, has unveiled an eclectic slate of international titles from diverse locales including Afghanistan, China and South Korea. According to Variety, the selections include 11 world, four international and 22 North American premieres. Given the success of last year’s Tribeca discovery and top prizewinner, Roger Dodger, acquisition execs will likely be scouring this year’s crop for a potential breakout title.
Box Office Off to Chilly Start
Brrr. The box office got off to a chilly start in 2003. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the national box office total for the just-concluded winter season was $1.55 billion, an 11 percent decline from the record $1.75 billion registered during the same period last year. Estimated admissions for the period were also off, falling nearly 16 percent to 257.3 million this year, compared with last winter’s record 305.5 million. The 2003 winter season saw only one movie earn more than $100 million, Miramax’s Chicago; it also yielded fewer surprise hits and has had fewer successful family-oriented films, all of which could have contributed to the drop-off.
No Sequel for “Roger Rabbit”
In an interview to promote Tuesday’s DVD release Who Framed Roger Rabbit, co-producer Don Hahn said no sequel was in the works. “It was never in the cards, we could never get the planets back into alignment,” Hahn said. Although Roger Rabbit was an original character conceived by author Gary K. Wolf, the Disney pic featured some of Hollywood’s most famous cartoon characters, including rival Warner Bros.’ Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam and Tweety Bird. Steven Spielberg executive-produced the original 1988 project and helped secure the rights to many of those characters. But getting those properties again would prove too complicated and expensive, Hahn said.
Lenny Kravitz Records Peace Song
Rocker Lenny Kravitz has joined a growing list of recording artists releasing protest songs directly to the Internet to bypass a cautious and sometimes hostile radio market. Kravitz issued his song, “We Want Peace,” which he recorded last week in Miami with popular Iraqi musical star Kadim Al Sahir, on the Rock the Vote Web site. Other artists who have released anti-war songs via the Internet in recent weeks include R.E.M., the Beastie Boys, John Mellencamp and former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha.
Kelly Osbourne Defends Dad
Kelly Osbourne, who became a household name when the MTV series The Osbournes became a hit, told AP Radio that the show has given her father’s image a positive boost. “My whole life, people have always said stuff like my dad is this and that–he’s evil, satanic and bites the heads off animals,” Osbourne said. “When people get to see that he’s a kind, loving person who deserves everything he has and has worked [hard] his entire life, he gets the gratification he deserves.”
Hollywood Unions Join Anti-Piracy Campaign
Three Hollywood unions, the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America West and the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, have signed on to a newly formed anti-piracy organization, the Entertainment Industry Coalition for Free Trade, Variety reports. The coalition was created March 13 to educate policy players and lawmakers about using trade negotiations to lay the groundwork for strong copyright laws in foreign countries.
Movielink Expands Content
Movielink, the online movie site backed by five major film studios including MGM, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Entertainment and Universal Pictures, said Wednesday it would expand its content to include independent films. Reuters reports Movielink would begin offering short films and other fare from independent companies, including Artisan Entertainment, to bolster its catalog of movies available for download.