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Old School

Hello! And Welcome to the End of Moviefone!

Although Moviefone was launched in 1989, it wasn’t until Thanksgiving 1995 that the service was officially embedded to the pop culture lexicon. On November 19 of that year, a subplot of Seinfeld episode “Pool Guy” had Kramer forced to take over 777-FILM auto-attendant duties.

And now, as noted by New York Times reporter Brooks Barnes, the service is about to be wholly transitioned from voice to Web:

Over the weekend, callers were told that the automated service would soon go silent, overtaken by new technology and shifting consumer habits.

“The 777-FILM numbers will no longer be in service in the near future,” intones a man with a voice decidedly scrawnier in timbre than Mr. Moviefone’s. “To buy tickets and for all of your showtime information please download the free Moviefone app on your smartphone or iPad.”

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Mediabistro Course

Get a Literary Agent

Get a Literary AgentStarting August 6, learn how to find the right agent for your book and write a query that will get the deal done! Taught by Barbara Clark, a book agent and publishing consultant, you will learn the best methods for finding a literary agent, the proper protocol and etiquette for seeking literary representation, how to send queries and more. Register now!

The Delightful M.O. of Octogenarian Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder, who turns 80 today, refuses to somersault into the 21st century. Fitting for a man whose stage name was inspired by the works of long-ago novelists Thomas Wolfe and Thornton Wilder.

What appears to be Wilder’s official Twitter is delightfully stalled at the January 2, 2013 mark. Last Thursday, the actor was absent from the AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony at the Dolby Theatre honoring Mel Brooks, delivering instead a brief video message. And it’s hard to imagine a Hollywood star memoir being further from the boiler-plate norm than Wilder’s 2006 tome Kiss Me Like A Stranger.

Wilder has gone on to author three novels and a collection of short stories. His latest, Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance, is set during World War II and tells the tale of an American corporal chasing across Europe after a mysterious Danish woman.

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Shout! Factory Extends Roger Corman, Judd Apatow Shelf Life

Any Hollywood company that can claim a 25-30% annual profit jump for the past five years and gross annual revenue growth of five to 10% deserves a media shout-out. This morning, Shout! Factory gets just that from TheWrap senior writer Brent Lang.

Two key assets in Shout! Factory’s retro-DVD arsenal are Judd Apatow‘s short-lived Freaks and Geeks series and the films of B movie maestro Roger Corman. For the former, company execs nimbly worked around some music licensing issues while, for the latter, they beefed things up with old-school DVD Extras featuring interviews with the likes of Jonathan Demme and Ron Howard:

“The DVD market was slipping when we made the deal, but, on the other hand, the slippage of DVD sales isn’t a cliff, it’s sort of a slope,” Corman said. “The hill is sloping downward, but it’s not dead. There’s still money to be made and Shout! has done just that.”

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Magazine Editor Smokes Out True Origins of Hemp Slang ‘420’

Everyone knows The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Now, thanks to a post by 420 Magazine editor Rob Griffin, the reputation of “The Bebe” seems set to ascend to similar pop culture heights.

Exactly 42.0 years ago, The Bebe – a.k.a. Brad Bann – coined the term “420″ for marijuana while attending high school in San Rafael, CA. The slang was subsequently appropriated by and later credited to another school group, The Waldos. But after due journalistic diligence, Griffin is delighted to be able to finally set the record straight. From an email by Bebes group member Bone Boy:

Quite simply, the birth of 420 occurred at precisely 4:20 in the afternoon to begin a bedroom bong session at the house of Du and Puff on a Saturday in October of 1970. The Bebe along with the brothers began preparing to “bong out”, when Bebe glanced at the clock on the nightstand and said, “It’s 4:20, time for bong loads.”

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That Time Gore Vidal Made Ben-Hur a Gay Movie

As a script doctor for the 1959 film Ben-Hur, Gore Vidal felt politics was an insufficient reason to explain a central plot point, the acrimonious falling out between dear boyhood friends, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd). So Vidal created a back story, a teenage love affair between the two, one that Messala was keen to rekindle and Ben-Hur was not.

The film’s director, William Wyler, approved the story, and Boyd used the homosexual history to inform his acting, but it was agreed that Heston would not be told about any of it. That little bit of gay subtext wasn’t revealed till 1995, when Vidal was interviewed for the documentary The Celluloid Closet. In the clip below you can see parts of a scene written by Vidal that include the homosexual plot line. You can also see Portuguese subtitles, and we’re working on that.

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After 32 Years, Matt Groening Retires ‘Life in Hell’

The weekly comic strip by Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening once ran in 379 newspapers. But “Life in Hell” was a victim of severe cutbacks in the print industry, and now runs in just 38 papers. The last new strip ran Friday, and reruns will continue through July 13.

“Life in Hell” was born in Los Angeles, and helped launch Groening’s television career. From Poynter:

It started running in Wet Magazine in 1978, then moved to the now-defunct LA Reader, where Groening worked. The strip eventually made its way to LA Weekly. Its popularity grew, amassing a client list of more than 250 papers, when producer Polly Platt noticed “Life in Hell” and showed it to actor/producer James L. Brooks.

Brooks contacted Groening and wanted him to develop a series of “bumpers” based on “Life in Hell” for “The Tracey Ullman Show.” Groening was a bit apprehensive at the thought of handing over the rights to his characters, so he created the Simpsons to fill the slot.

Check out the full Poynter article here. It quotes yours truly, so naturally it’s an excellent read.

And an interesting factoid gleaned from a USA Today article on the subject – Groening used to be roommates with LA Weekly managing editor Jill Stewart! Please, Ms. Stewart, dish.

Stan Lee’s Social Media Origins Story

Score one for Westwood, CA comic book fan Manny Redruello. It was his question submitted to mashable.com that elicited a most memorable response from Marvel maestro Stan Lee.

Redruello wondered how Lee might have used Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media pantheon if these tools had been around during the early stages of the latter’s remarkable career. Answered the man who can also be found @TheRealStanLee:

“Well, I didn’t have Twitter, but I had my column and we had letters pages in the comic books, where readers would write letters. You know the reason I wear glasses now? Because I strained my eyes! I read every damn letter and answered as many as I could. I was writing to them and they were writing to me, and it felt like I had a million friends all over. So that was my Twitter in those days.”

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Matt Groening Donates $500,000 to UCLA

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has donated $500,000 to the UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT).

Groening, 57, will fund The Matt Groening Chair in Animation. The endowment will allow the TFT animation program to bring in visiting professors and working professionals to teach classes and work with students.

“Matt Groening is recognized globally as a preeminent and pioneering animator, storyteller, cartoonist, writer and producer,” Dean Teri Schwartz said in a statement.  His groundbreaking animated series have truly changed the landscape of television and have become a gold standard for animation and great storytelling throughout the entertainment industry.”

USC Annenberg Announces 2011 Getty Arts Journalism Fellows

USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism announced the recipients of this year’s Getty Arts Journalism Fellowhips this week. The winners are all fellowship alumni and will combine  efforts on a pop-up newsroom called Engine29. Fellows will publish work on Engine29.org during the week of Nov. 4 to 13–corresponding with the arrival of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980 exhibit. Annenberg already experimented with the pop-up newsroom model earlier this year, with its Engine28 project to cover the blizzard of theater festivals that arrived in Los Angeles this summer.

Los Angeles freelancer Ariel Swartley and LA Times pop music critic Randall Roberts are LA’s representatives to the Engine29 team.

Update: Duh, GOOD’s Alissa Walker is from LA too. Sorry we missed you Alissa.

Full list of fellows after the jump.

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Celebrating ‘Under the Big Black Sun’ Exhibit with MOCA

“Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980″ officially launched over the weekend, and FishbowlLA kicked off the six month exhibition series with an opening party at MOCA for “Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981.” The series takes its name from the album by the L.A.-based punk band X.

Guests had a chance to preview the exhibition, which centers around a particularly turbulent, experimental period in the city’s art scene. Appropriately, the turbulent, experimental Henry Rollins DJ’d the party.

A wall of Black Flag concert flyers, drawn by Raymond Pettibon.

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