MediaFile

E3: James Cameron stingy with “Avatar” details

To say the film “Avatar” is eagerly awaited would be an understatement. The 3D film is 4 years in the making — twice as long as it took for director James Cameron to make the blockbuster “Titanic.” It is due to hit the screen in December, but fans who call some of his other works (“Aliens” and “Terminator 2″) sterling works of art (guilty, as charged) are itching to see a glimpse of the film. What better way to do that than at E3, the video game conference in Los Angeles this week, since there is a sister video game also in the works, right?

Wrong. Cameron gave a very (very very) detailed description of the (mildly complicated ) flick, which all seemed to set the table for a butt-kicking clip, a must-see trailer. But none was forthcoming. Not even a clip of the game, which is developed by Ubisoft.

Strange behavior at a show — E3, the annual Video Game conference — whose every briefing, bar none, includes some kind of glossy video of cinematic or real-game action.

Check out the video above, as Cameron describes part of “Avatar”, including his vision that the battle at the end of the film is “the mother of all battle.” I guess I’ll have to wait to see it.

Icahn vs Lions Gate heating up

Not so fast Mr. Icahn. Lions Gate Entertainment is trying to defend itself against famed financier Carl Icahn by hiring an advisory team, including investment bank Morgan Stanley and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz.

It also is in talks to offer a board seat to Mark Rachesky of MHR Fund Management, the studio’s largest shareholder.

Icahn controls 14.5 percent of Lions Gate’s shares and wants to increase his sway, seemingly because he’s frustrated with things like costs and the company’s decision to buy the TV Guide cable channel.

My iPod shuffle knows 13 more languages than me

Picture this: An Apple 10-inch touchscreen netbook. And hold that image for at least a little longer.

Rumors have swirled this week that Apple could announce a touchscreen PC, but it instead unveiled early on Wednesday a revamped iPod shuffle. Here are the details from the press release, headlined “Apple Announces Incredible New iPod Shuffle”…

The third generation iPod shuffle is significantly smaller than a AA battery, holds up to 1,000 songs and is easier to use with all of the controls conveniently located on the earphone cord. With the press of a button, you can play, pause, adjust volume, switch playlists and hear the name of the song and artist. iPod shuffle features a gorgeous new aluminum design with a built-in stainless steel clip that makes it ultra-wearable… The third generation 4GB iPod shuffle is now shipping and comes in silver or black for a suggested price of $79

Redstone debt crunch could be easing, despite income loss

Here’s the latest on Sumner Redstone: On CBS’s earnings call he reiterated that negotiations with lenders regarding National Amusements’ debt situation were moving forward.

“We are making very good progress with our creditors, and as I have also said before, we have not, since our original sale, sold a single share of CBS or Viacom, and our lenders are not urging us to do so,” he said.

He also told investors that the CBS dividend cut — they slashed it by 82 percent to 5 cents — wouldn’t mean a thing as far as National Amusements’ debt talks go (How the dividend cut will impact Redstone himself is another matter. Last year, he took home more than $80 million in dividend payments).

Thinking about EchoStarSiriusXMSatelliteRadio Inc.

Because of a big upcoming debt payment — and a stock price of about 14 cents a share — Sirius XM Satellite Radio finds itself in quite a predicament.

This, apparently, hasn’t been lost on EchoStar’s Charles Ergen, who may be getting ready to take over the company.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Ergen has recently acquired part of a $300 million tranche of Sirius debt that matures on Feb. 17: “Sirius recently converted part of the debt to equity, reducing the total debt outstanding to about $175 million. It isn’t clear whether Mr. Ergen participated in the exchange, however. Mr. Ergen could also be buying up senior bank debt, due in May, which trades thinly on the over-the-counter market.”

Pay TV: Shelter from the storm?

Safe haven. Two magical — and mysterious — words. Cable and satellite companies didn’t fit the safe haven bill in 2008, but 2009 just may be there year.

According to a Reuters story out today, “cable and satellite service providers now hold the promise of strong free cash flow growth as they retain old customers but spend less on deploying set-top boxes and digital video recorders due to a fall in new subscriber growth.”

Remember, however, that before the economy fell apart, a number of investors considered the pay TV industry “recession proof.” The argument went that even in the toughest of times, Americans would stay home and watch TV, saving money on trips to movies or out to dinner.

Holidays bring much-needed cheer to Hollywood

Christmas was good to Hollywood.

The top holiday movie, “Marley & Me,” sold an estimated $37 million worth of tickets during the traditional three-day weekend beginning on Friday, and overall Christmas Day sales reached $75 million, up about $10 million from last year.

While that’s good news, particularly during the downturn, it won’t be nearly enough to salvage an otherwise rough year in the movie business, as Reuters points out.

Still, Hollywood is on course for a down year. With three days left, year-to-date sales are off about 1 percent at $9.5 billion, while the number of tickets sold has slid 5.2 percent, Media By Numbers said.

We need our music videos!

For all of you expecting a slow week at work, and looking forward to killing some time by watching your favorite music videos on YouTube, we have some bad news for you. Warner Music Group ordered YouTube on Saturday to remove all music videos by its artists. So, in other words, you’re not going to find the Red Hot Chili Peppers or T.I. on YouTube today — or at least you shouldn’t.

Essentially, the disagreement boils down to Warner seeking a bigger share of the huge revenue potential of YouTube’s massive visitor traffic. “We simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide,” Warner said in a statement.

But all is not lost, according to the Wall Street Journal, which writes: “In the wake of Warner’s move, people close to the other major labels said they didn’t anticipate taking down their content in the immediate future. These people say they are discussing new, more lucrative ways to do business with YouTube. The four music companies don’t necessarily have the same terms with YouTube, which could explain the discrepancy in their stances.”

Football in 3D, coming to a theater near you

The first-ever 3D broadcast of an NFL game was rushed into movie theaters in three U.S. cities last night, kicking off what many hope could be a new way of generating revenue for theater operators.

We attended the event in Los Angeles, where a throng of football fans, reporters and Hollywood executives donned black plastic 3D glasses and crammed into a stadium-style theater for kickoff between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers.

In an interview the day before the game, Michael Lewis, chief executive and co-founder of 3D system provider RealD 3D, said of the experience: “You feel like you are really on the field in the middle of the action,” and called the event “the dawn of live events at your local theater.”

from Summit Notebook:

Diller to profitable companies: Lay off the layoffs

IAC Chief Executive Barry Diller took several groups to task at the Reuters Media Summit, but he reserved special disgust for CEOs at profitable companies who add to the country's rising unemployment rate.

Also targeted by the former Hollywood executive were "incredibly, shockingly stupid" Big 3 auto executives, the Internet's strange and growing dictionary, and Hollywood's lack of creativity.

Diller said companies had a higher obligation, especially in tough times like these: