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Archives: May 2006

MGM: Sony seems short of synergy

Bizarre news today over at MGM: It’s dumping its distribution arrangement with Sony and headed to Fox.

That’s more than a little odd, because Sony owns a fifth of MGM.

As Reuters points out, “For Sony, MGM‘s decision cuts both ways. Sony’s home video business will lose lucrative distribution fees it would have earned for releasing titles from MGM‘s library of 4,000 movies and 10,000 TV episodes. However, Sony will benefit if MGM makes more money because Sony owns 20 percent of the company.”

Yeah, well, that last part is true, I guess. But the fact that MGM is dumping Sony shows that Sir Howard Stringer has the tiger, er, lion, by the tail all along: Sony paid $3 billion last year so it could access MGM’s massive library, not so it could be in the movie business with MGM. Now, the opposite has happened: MGM‘s senior-most production executives are all pink-slipped, and the “studio” is essentially a shell company that releases films other companies have financed.

The fact that Sony will be get to release another Bond film and still another “Pink Panther” film via MGM is hardly an apologia for synergy; it’s a face-saving move that suggests Sony’s synergistic investment may never have made sense in the first place.

Amusement Business no longer a business

Just a week after CBS announced it was getting out of the amusement park business, the 112 year old Amusement Business announced it was getting out of the covering-amusement-parks-business.

Carnivale S1 - Come one come all (200w).jpg
Hmm. Coincidence?

Not really.

“Industry consolidation in the core festival, fair, carnival and theme park markets continued to put the brand in a challenged position over the last several years,” said Tony Uphoff, president of the film & performing arts group at VNU Business Media, in a statement.

Personally, we think that after HBO cancelled “Carnivale,” the writing was on the wall. Or to use a turn of phrase carnies would understand, “Management isn’t going to like it.”

Warner Bros. puts up their “Dukes”; we ask, “What’s ‘a hit,’ exactly?”

Today’s piece by Claudia Eller, usually one of the finest and most aggressive journalists covering this sordid business of show, makes us a tad crazy, only because we don’t think the word “hit” should be thrown around so loosely.

“Looking for new, less risky ways to boost profit, Warner Bros. is launching a direct-to-DVD business that will release 10 to 15 low-budget movies a year.”

Ok, fair enough. dukes18.jpg

“First up will be a sequel to the studio’s 2005 hit “The Dukes of Hazzard,” scheduled to go on sale at the end of this year or in early 2007.”

Excuse me? Hit? The movie was a disaster in the States, and largely, thanks to Warner Bros.’ own sloppiness in securing the rights to make it. In addition to a production budget of $55 million, the studio had to pony up another $17.5 million to the show’s creator in a confidential settlement last year to avoid federal marshals from impounding the film.

So, do the math: $55 million budget + $17.5 million settlement = $72.5 million total production cost. The movie only grossed $80 million in the States, and another $30 million overseas. If Warner Bros. split half of its $110 million worldwide gross with the theater owners, as is usually the case, it’s hardly “a hit.” With the DVD dough, “Dukes” at best was a bullet dodged.

We also doubt that this is something that the president of production would willingly want to do. It sounds far more likely that home entertainment presidnet Kevin Tsujihara simply got tired of spending $82.5 million just to break even, then let the home video save the day.

Again, the LA Times:

“Robinov said the division would produce live-action DVD prequels and sequels to existing Warner Bros. movies such as “Dukes,” which grossed $80.3 million domestically but was not the kind of hit that would justify spending the large sums required to make and market a theatrical release.”

general lee.jpg

Not the kind of hit that would justify large sums? There’s only one kind of hit that doesn’t justify spending large sums on a theatrical release: The kind that was never a hit at all.


DeLuca Named Associate Publisher of Maxim

maxim_stripped.jpgJust in:

New York, NY (May 30, 2006) — Steven DeLuca has been named associate publisher of Maxim magazine, it was announced today by group publisher Rob Gregory.

Maxim is the best-selling men’s lifestyle magazine in America and the world. According to the newly released MRI syndicated research, Maxim leads the entire men’s category with 13.7 million readers in the United States.

DeLuca recently spent two years as the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, where he directed sales efforts of a 16-person staff in eight offices around the country and Europe.

DeLuca, you’ll recall, allegedly exited Wenner Media after a spat with Jann Wenner over plans for Rolling Stone‘s 1000th issue party — DeLuca wanted Rockefeller Center, Jann the Hammerstein Ballroom.

EARLIER: Rolling Stone‘s 1000th Issue Bash: Jann, Eddie, Marilyn, Moby, Strokes

Critics can pucker, but no longer have the kiss of death

This past Sunday we read an alarming column by The New York TimesDavid Carr – alarming, that is, if you happen to be the New York Times, or if you rely on critics to avoid being duped. kiss.jpg.jpg

“…12 movies in the first three months of the year bypassed critics, compared with just two last year. Since then, ‘Silent Hill’ took the stealth route to a weekend box-office victory, and last week, even though critics didn’t see ‘See No Evil,’ plenty of filmgoers did. Some movies have been labeled critic-proof, but vast swaths of the industry now seem interested in heading to the market without being turned over with a pointy stick…The shrinking list of movies scheduled for review is just one more indication that the long marriage between print and film seems to have hit a midlife crisis. Historically, the movie business has supplied stars and stories for newspapers — not to mention almost $1 billion a year in advertising — and newspapers returned the favor by promoting and reviewing movies when they came out.”

Gulp. chicken.jpg.jpg

Not that this should come as any shock to newspapers, who’ve seen their advertising lunch eaten by online outlets in recent years. But the idea that newspapers can have any effect on a film at all is one that might be going the way of the Dodo. We’re reminded of an old, Depression-era carnival trick in which gullible townspeople would be relieved of a nickel a piece, then hustled into a tent which promised to reveal a “man-eating chicken.” Five cents lighter, the credulous hayseeds would be infuriated to discover a man, on stage, eating chicken. Nothing more.

It’s a trick you could play once on a town, but never more than once. We wonder how many more “man-eating chickens,” er, “man, eating chickens” Hollywood has in store for us townsfolk this summer.

Bundle Disbanded

bundle_spring_2006.jpgParenting is tough. But, these days, publishing a magazine for parents is proving to be even tougher.

Bundle, the year-old New York-based magazine for “pregnant women and moms with babies and toddlers, from 0 to 3″ with a rate base of 300,000, has published its last issue, FishbowlNY has learned.

Bundle‘s Spring 2006 issue currently on newsstands will be its last.

The move follows on the heels of the downshift of Meredith’s Child to a Web-heavy offering, as well as the quiet scaling back of Martha Stewart’s Kids.

Calls to Harris Publications seeking comment were left unreturned. Five staffers, including associate publisher Susann Tapper, are listed on the Bundle masthead.

EARLIER: Child Goes the Way of ElleGirl — Away From the Newsstand

Finally, a Magazine Mission We Can Truly Support


Kiefer Sutherland, too.

AvantGuildHow to Pitch: Imbibe

LA in 90 seconds

“There’s nothing glamorous about spelling, but there is something glamorous about being on television.” Does anyone else see the irony of the Alphabet network airing a spelling bee?

– “Kneeling ‘is clearly rebellion, grave disobedience and mortal sin,’ says Father Martin Tran, pastor at St. Mary’s by the Sea, told his flock in a recent church bulletin. The Diocese of Orange backs Tran’s anti-kneeling edict.” Funny, usually, when you kneel in front of a Catholic priest, it’s the priest who gets into trouble.

– Dietrich who? Ferrari-man pleads not guilty.

Photog Demands Shock Be Removed From Circulation

shock_US_debut_sm.jpgMichael Yon, the war photographer who alleges Hachette’s Shock magazine used a photograph on its debut cover without permission, says he and his lawyers “are in discussions with those at fault, and we have demanded that all copies of the magazine be removed from circulation and from the internet.”

Yon writes on his Web site:

Protecting this photo has become at times a full-time job. I am in Washington D.C. in my attorneys’ offices when I should be finishing two important dispatches on Afghanistan, and my book about our soldiers in Iraq and their families at home.

EARLIER: Did Shock Steal War Photo For Cover?

Rather On Colleagues: ‘They Proved Their Mettle and Professionalism’

Dan Rather recalls covering the war in Bosnia with Paul Douglas:

On the outskirts of the city, we had made our way through a maze of trenches, then through dense woods and finally to an overlook to record some heavy fighting. On the way back in, an opening along the backside of the hill, we heard the eerie, slight “woosh” of an arching, incoming shell. We stopped, dropped and rolled trying for cover. There was none. The incoming ordnance hit the ground right in the midst of us, within a few feet of us. It hit with a thud and a sizzling, fizzling sound. Paul, with his sound gear still hanging on his neck and chest, rolled over and tried to cover me with his body as the weapon sizzled. Lucky for all of us, it never exploded. For whatever reason, it turned out to be a dud.

Dan Rather On Colleagues Paul Douglas, James Brolan & Kimberly Dozier []
EARLIER: ‘Responsive’ Dozier Taken To Germany Hospital
Injured CBS Journalist Rose Through Local Ranks
Two CBS Crew Members Killed, One Wounded in Iraq Blast