The Morning Fix: Regal and AMC go Hollywood. Fox cracks whip. Discovery throws more money at OWN.
After the coffee. Before seeing if Charlie Sheen is available to give our newsroom a pep talk too.
The Skinny: Charlie Sheen visited the UCLA baseball team to offer advice. His wise words? "Stay off the crack ... drink chocolate milk." Can't argue with that, I guess. Other news includes: A couple of movie theater chains want to get on the other side of the business, Fox is playing hardball with its affiliates and Ken the doll is getting a makeover.
If you can't beat them. Two theater chains -- Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc. -- are getting together to buy and release independent films. "The move potentially disrupts the longtime and delicate business relationship between theater operators and studios, in which they have acted as partners and divided a movie's box office ticket sales," reported the Los Angeles Times. In other words, they may be biting the hand that feeds them. That said, a lot of theater owners are annoyed at the way Hollywood has been making fewer movies and rushing to get those titles out on DVD and video on demand so soon after they're in theatrical release.
Gonna be a showdown. News Corp.'s Fox is fighting with the local stations that carry its programming. The issue between the network and its affiliates is money. This time around, the network is threatening to yank affiliation if the stations don't cough up a big chunk of cash. Fox wants a cut of the distribution fees the stations get from cable and satellite operators. Stations say they are willing to pay, but think Fox is being greedy. According to the Los Angeles Times, for stations in the top 125 markets, the fees would start at 25 cents per subscriber per month, and rise to 50 cents over the run of the contract. Stations in markets smaller than that would have fees starting at 15 cents per subscriber per month, and hitting 25 cents in the fourth year. Fox affiliate chief Mike Hopkins tells Broadcasting & Cable it's not open warfare. The affiliates beg to differ and for some reason the classic scene in Al Pacino's "Dog Day Afternoon," when his character tells a cop to kiss him, is running through my mind.
Winfrey is getting expensive. Discovery Communications on Friday said it was going to pump another $50 million into the Oprah Winfrey Network, the cable channel it launched with the queen of talk. Discovery had boasted that it would make a profit on OWN in 2011, but now has downgraded that to break even. Details from the Hollywood Reporter. OWN got off to a strong start when it premiered Jan. 1, but since then its ratings have come back down to Earth. Discovery has already said it was shelling out close to $200 million on the channel.
Putting his money where his mouth is. News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch shelled out $20 million to buy stock in his own company, per Dow Jones. Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times, the mogul is is getting closer to buying Shine Group, a production company majority owned by his daughter Elisabeth. That sets the stage for her reentering the family sweepstakes to eventually succeed him.
Never saw this coming. Struggling video store chain Blockbuster is putting itself up for sale, according to the Wall Street Journal. The problem is the chain's creditors can't get on the same page on a restructuring plan to take it out of bankruptcy. The price tag, per WSJ, could be as low as $300 million, and of course assuming all that debt.
Looks like another weekend with the DVR. The big movie battle this weekend is between Justin Bieber and Adam Sandler, the latter of whom gets to live out fantasies with Brooklyn Decker and Jennifer Aniston in "Just Go With It." Box office projections from Variety.
So you want to be a comedy writer. You know those short do-it-yourself animated cartoons all over the Web often featuring two bears discussing everything from wanting to be a journalist to what gyms to use in West Hollywood? Well, they've become the latest form of audition tapes. The Wall Street Journal looks at the amateur animation business and how a few people have gotten noticed for their wit. I'll start working on mine. First up will be, "So you want to be an aggregator," followed by, "So you want to be a Redskins fan."
-- Joe Flint
Follow me on Twitter. It's like having ice cream every day. twitter.com/JBFlint