MediaFile

Cage, Witherspoon feature in box-office battle

Three new movies compete for filmgoers over the long President’s Day weekend in the United States. Nicolas Cage is expected to lead the pack of newcomers with Sony’s 3D action sequel “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.”

Box-office watchers project Friday-through-Monday sales in the United States and Canada could roar to $30 million for the follow-up to the original “Ghost Rider,” released over the same weekend in 2007.

Reese Witherspoon also battles for audiences with 20th Century Fox romantic comedy “This Means War.” Fox sees the story about two CIA agents (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) trying to win over the same woman bringing in around $14 million over four days. Outside forecasters say it could go a few million higher. The movie pulled in about $1.7 million from Valentine’s Day showings.

The weekend’s other new film is Disney’s animated “The Secret World of Arrietty”, about a tiny family that lives under the floorboards of a country home. “Arrietty” is expected to debut with less than $10 million over four days, box-office forecasters said.

Holdovers from last weekend will also fight for top spots. They include love story “The Vow,” Denzel Washington action movie “Safe House” and family film “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”

Familiar script: Home entertainment spending slips

Spending on home viewing of movies and television, on a downward spiral in recent years, fell again in 2011 as sales of DVDs and rentals at video stores dropped.

Total U.S. consumer dollars spent on home entertainment — including DVDs, video on demand and online streaming — declined 2.1 percent to $18 billion for the year, according to industry group DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. Consumers continued to shift to lower-priced rentals from companies such as Netflix and Coinstar’s Redbox kiosks, eschewing outright ownership.

The DEG pointed to bright spots, including a 20 percent jump in sales of high-definition Blu-ray discs that topped $2 billion for the first time. “The industry’s performance clearly stabilized in 2011,” it said in a statement. (The top choices for the year? “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1,” followed by “Part 2″ at No. 2)

Tech wrap: Fake Apple Store defiant

Customers at an apparent Apple Store in the Chinese city of Kunming berated staff and demanded refunds after the shop was revealed to be an elaborate fake, sparking a media and Internet frenzy. Staff were also angry at the unwanted attention after more than 1,000 media outlets picked up the story and pictures of the store from the BirdAbroad blog. Apple declined to comment on the fake store or others like it dotted around China.

Apple was in early talks to join the bidding for Hulu, the online video site that Walt Disney Co, News Corp and its other owners have put up for sale, Bloomberg cited two unidentified sources as saying.

Verizon Wireless signed up 1.3 million fewer iPhone customers than AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers spent less per month than expected in the second quarter, disappointing Wall Street. While Verizon Wireless added three times more net subscribers in the quarter than AT&T, it only activated 2.3 million Apple iPhones compared with 3.6 million activations at AT&T.

Wanna direct Cars 2? There’s an app for that.

By Poornima Gupta

You could call it another victory lap for Steve Jobs.

John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Disney and Pixar and an old chum of the Apple CEO, credits the making of the new “Cars 2″ film to a single device: the iPad. 


Being the creative guru at Pixar and Disney, as well as an adviser for Walt Disney Imagineering — Walt Disney Co’s design and development arm — means Lasseter has less time than he’d like to review materials for the movie, which he directed. 

So he made good use of the hour-long daily commute from Pixar’s headquarters to his home in Sonoma by reviewing scenes, pictures and clips on his lime-green iPad 2.  

from Summit Notebook:

ESPN: We all live in sports towns (And tell great jokes)

ESPN President George Bodenheimer has been at the business of TV sports, one way or another, for nearly three decades, starting in the mailroom and working his way up.

It's the classic media story -- and this one even involved a stint driving through nearly every little town in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi to sell this odd new 24-hour sports network to cable distributors.

Here's one thing he's learned: Every town thinks it's a sports town. Sort of like everybody thinks they have a good sense of humor.

from Summit Notebook:

ABC: Don’t you know that I’m still in love with news?

I asked ABC TV chief Anne Sweeney at our Global Media Summit on Monday whether the nightly news broadcast will go away someday soon. Everyone who follows the broadcast TV business has wondered this at some time or another, particularly as fewer people tune in.

Here's a bit of that conversation, where I got Sweeney to firmly say... not much. If you're in a rush, the general message appears to be:

    News is changing along with the changing times We believe in our news operation Budgets may change (likely for the worse), but news is worth paying for We're more than our evening news broadcast (where Charles Gibson is ceding the anchor slot to Diane Sawyer), but we're not going to say one way or the other whether we'll keep it going. Me: News operation is often a big cost. Some say that evening news is losing its relevance as people get their news elsewhere. Is it possible that ABC would get rid of its evening newscast?

Sweeney: I think world news is not just about 6:30. I think World News is about being ready to provide the news whenever it happens. It's not just limited to that half hour. It's actually on all day. The ABC broadcast day opens, the network day opens with Good Morning America. ...  So we always have the ability to come in with breaking news. ... And then shows like 20/20 provide us with an opportunity to go a bit broader. And then of course there's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, which gives us the Washington beat, which again can appear in the other shows throughout the week. So it's really a manner of managing the assets rather than focusing on (the 6:30 news)

from Summit Notebook:

ABC TV chief to daughter: You *will* watch television

When I went to college in 1991, I begged my parents to buy me a small television for my dorm room (They wouldn't let me work during my first year of college, so I had no money). How things have changed in 18 years!

I learned how much they changed at the first day of the Reuters Global Media Summit. Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, was talking to us about how quickly the Internet and mobile technology are changing the way that we look at news and entertainment. That led to her divertimento into campus life:

You come to realize very quickly that all these platforms are very different. Sometimes they're being used or accessed by different demographics.

“Iron Man” writer: Disney, Don’t ‘castrate’ Marvel heroes


Comic book artist Bob Layton co-wrote Marvel Entertainment’s iconic Iron Man titles in the 80′s, with partner David Michelinie. The duo recreated Iron Man’s Tony Stark into the alcoholic and playboy businessman that caught on notoriously well with readers.

You have to wonder what the reaction will be in the Disney cafeteria to creative types like Layton. So Reuters reporter Eric Yep asked Layton, who now works freelance, what he thinks about the putting the House of Mouse in charge of the Hulk and the Human Torch.

I would hope that while some of Marvel’s library lends itself naturally to Disney’s sensibilities, they’ll be wise enough not to castrate the entire cast of characters in some blanket policy.

Sun Valley: Ken Auletta paints it, black

Allen & Co’s Sun Valley media and technology conference forbids journalists from attending the morning sessions that executives and other media power players attend before they go out to play and talk about deals in the afternoon. That means the last, best hope they have is to get the low-down from a journalist who was invited.

There’s no pride in it, but at least you hear what happened from a reliable source.

In this case, that’s Ken Auletta, New Yorker media writer and author of several books about the media business. He moderated a panel about surviving in the digital age.

Disney Stores get face lift for Earth Day

 The Walt Disney Co rolled out a new look and mission for its North American Disney Stores in an Earth Day celebration designed to reposition the chain it bought back from The Children’s Place last year as a “light education” destination, Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide said.

 Disney reacquired the 225 stores after Children’s Place fell behind on a pledge to invest millions to fix up the outlets. Disney had a tough time making the stores profitable before it handed them off to Children’s Place, but Fielding said he just completed the chain’s five-year plan and is “optimistic” about its prospects, even in one of the worst retail environments in living memory.

In addition to a new store design to be rolled out over the next year, the chain is looking for new digs in cities where bankruptcies and foreclosures have reshaped communities and the commercial real estate surrounding them.  “We are still repositioning that portfolio to make sure we are in the right malls, in the right cities, and the right states,” Fielding said.