Entertainment Industry

Category: 20th Century Fox

Spider-Man and Cameron Crowe movies give L.A. production a jolt

Spiderman Angelenos have good reason to be despondent about the flight of filming from California.

After all, the upcoming alien invasion movie “Battle: Los Angeles,” was actually shot in Baton Rouge and Shreveport, La., not Southern California. “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”  has been filming in Dubai; Prague, Czech Republic; and Vancouver, Canada. 

Marvel Studios selected London over Los Angeles as home base for filming of its comic book hero movie “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

And New Zealand served as the backdrop for Jellystone Park in the Warner Bros. current 3-D movie “Yogi Bear.”

But for all the hand-wringing about film flight -- film industry promoters recently unveiled a $135,000 marketing campaign to market the local movie and TV industry -- at least two major-studio feature films are staying close to home, providing some relief to a sector that has been buffeted by job losses.

Sony Pictures recently began filming its fourth installment of the Spider-Man series locally, and 20th Century Fox’s “We Bought a Zoo,” starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, is preparing to begin production in Thousand Oaks next month.

For below-the-line crews who’ve been hard hit by the effects of runaway production and studios making fewer feature films, the film projects come at an opportune time.

"It’s tremendous to have these films because you’re talking about hundreds of jobs that will stay in the area," said Ed Duffy, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, casting agents and studio drivers. 

The latest Spider-Man film alone will employ nearly 1,000 crew members, including construction workers building sets for the production, which takes up seven stages on the Sony Pictures lot.

Sony began its 90-day film shoot for the Spider-Man film two weeks ago, mainly on the lot but also on location: including at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood and Immanuel Presbyterian Church in mid-Wilshire.

Scheduled for release in 2012, the Spider-Man film has an entirely new cast (British actor Andrew Garfield, replaces Tobey Maguire) and is being directed by Marc Webb at less than half the budget of the previous Spider-Man film,  which cost more than $250 million to make.

While the production will include two weeks in New York (where the story is set), the bulk of filming will occur in Los Angeles on the Sony lot and various locations around town, from South Pasadena to San Pedro to Woodland Hills.

Sony had ample incentive to select L.A. as its primary destination.

“This the fourth Spider-Man production we have shot primarily in Los Angeles and for good reason," Sony Pictures Entertainment spokesman Steve Elzer said. “The crews here are the best in the world but there is a comfort level in producing a project of this size and scope on your own backlot. “

Basing the film on the lot also makes it easier for producers to interact with Sony’s in-house visual effects team, and gives the studios greater control of quality and security, Elzer added.

Nonetheless, Sony had considered other locations and filmmakers met with city and film industry officials this summer seeking assurances that they would be able to film key scenes downtown. “They wanted assurances that a film like that could be made in L.A." said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit film permit group.

In Thousand Oaks, crews have been building a zoo on a private ranch as they prepare to begin a 50-day shoot next month for “We Bought a Zoo.”

Directed by Cameron Crowe, the film is based on the bestselling memoir of the same name about an Englishman who build a wildlife preserve to care for some 200 animals.

-- Richard Verrier

News Corp. net income up on strong TV performance but clock ticking on MySpace

News Corp.'s hard-knuckled negotiations with cable operators are paying dividends: The media conglomerate posted a 36% jump in net income for its fiscal first quarter, thanks to double-digit gains from cable and television groups. Chasecarey

The company reported a net income of $775 million, or 30 cents a share, for the three-month period ending Sept. 30. That's up from $571 million, or 22 cents a share, a year ago. Revenues of $7.4 billion rose 3% from a year earlier.

Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey credited the network and cable groups with driving News Corp.'s growth.

Operating income for the Cable Network Programming group rose 28%, to $659 million, up from $513 million a year earlier. The company's cable networks -- including its powerhouse Fox News Channel, FX and regional sports networks -- are its largest profit generators.

Carey also singled out Fox's ability to get paid by distributors for their local TV stations as key to its television segment's success. Earlier this year, the company struck such a deal with Time Warner Cable and last week it concluded negotiations for similar deals with Cablevision Systems and satellite broadcaster Dish Network.

"These deals are critical to driving Fox's financial success," Carey said on a call Wednesday with financial analysts.

News Corp.'s television group, which includes the Fox broadcast network and Fox-owned television stations, reported an operating income of $105 million -- an increase of $67 million from the same time a year earlier. The TV stations' contributions doubled from a year ago, reflecting increased political advertising, as well as gains from automotive, telecommunications and the financial sectors.

The film group, by contrast, reported a 28% drop in operating income to $280 million, compared with $391 million a year earlier, when the studio released "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs." Carey said the the film group has had "a few disappointing quarters without breakout hits," but also "avoided big losses."  He professed optimism about the upcoming holiday releases.

MySpace came in for the harshest criticism, with search and ad revenues revenues down $70 million from a year earlier. Carey acknowledged that the social network is "a problem," but he said the company believes there is a strong enough foundation to justify redefining and rebuilding the site around "social entertainment."

It's clear the clock is ticking for MySpace. The company does not break out its results, choosing instead to  lump it in a category called "Other," which reported an operating loss of $150 million, $30 million greater than the prior year.

"The current losses are not acceptable or sustainable," Carey said.

Asked how long MySpace had to reverse declines in revenue and users, Carey responded that he would think "in quarters, not in years."

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

News Corp. COO Chase Carey at an event in Beverly Hills, California. (Credit: Valerie Macon /Getty Images)

The Morning Fix: Time Warner Cable and Disney strike deal! Amazon and Apple battle. The man who made Fonzie jump that shark speaks!

After the coffee. Before figuring out how much my Time Warner Cable bill will go up!

Disney and Time Warner Cable cut new deal. For all the months of talk about how intense the next contract talks between Disney and Time Warner Cable would be, it appears that a deal came off without a hitch. On Thursday afternoon, only a few hours after the old contract expired, a deal was reached to keep Disney's ABC broadcast stations and cable channels ESPN, ABC Family and Disney Channel on Time Warner Cable systems. Time Warner Cable will also carry Disney Junior, its new kids channel, and get access to Disney products for video on demand. One of Disney big asks, to have Time Warner Cable pay a big fee for its broadband service ESPN3, did not come to fruition. Both sides sang each others praises, but we'll see how customers feel when they get new bills in a couple of months. Details from the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and Variety.

Amazon aspirations. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at what it has dubbed the new digital battlefield as Apple and Amazon fight for supremacy in renting and selling digital downloads of TV shows. Of course, the big question is whether their fight will end up hurting Hollywood a lot more than helping.

Box office battle. Looks like three R-rated movies will be fighting for the top spot at the box office this holiday weekend. There's George Clooney's "The American" from Focus Features, the Warner Bros. romantic comedy "Going the Distance" (on a side note, am I the only one who thinks Justin Long looks too young for Drew Barrymore?) and the Robert Rodriguez-directed "Machete" from 20th Century Fox. For me, I'm most likely to see "The American," as I have no desire to go the distance or be hacked up. But you don't read this for what I think, so here are the previews from Variety and the Los Angeles Times

When you need clicks, do a porn story. The Hollywood Reporter, which some feel has gone a little tabloid under its new owners, will certainly do little to dissuade those who feel that way with its big story Friday on Vivid Video, the adult entertainment giant, and how it is trying to come up with a new business model. Usually adult entertainment firms are the first to adjust to and profit from technological shifts, but the business has been hammered by piracy on the Internet. If you are going to the site for pictures, save your time; they didn't post anything racy!

I'm shocked, shocked to find there is gambling going on here. The Wrap uncovers the stunning news that companies and politicians Comcast Corp. has supported over the years are actually writing the Federal Communications Commission letters urging the regulatory agency to approve the cable company's deal to acquire control of NBC Universal. Yes, when companies sponsor events or make donations, often those that are the beneficiaries will return the favor down the road. OK, in all honesty, although Washington insiders know this is how the game is played, it has been interesting to watch how Comcast has gotten all these Chambers of Commerce and small-town folks to write in support of its deal.

Now where was I? USA Today offers up a cheat sheet for all the shows returning this fall. So if you can't remember what happened in the last episode of "The Good Wife" or "Modern Family," consider this your gift. You can thank us later.

Game, set, match. Because it's Friday, we offer for your lowbrow entertainment an article from the New York Post about a fight breaking out in the stands at the U.S. Open. Yes, for a few minutes the country's premiere tennis event turned into a soccer game.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Telluride unveils the lineup for its annual film festival. You may not know Fred Fox Jr., but you know the famous episode of "Happy Days" he wrote, as it had something to do with the Fonz and a shark.

-- Joe Flint

Treat yourself to the best tweets. Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix will be off on Labor Day. Have a great weekend and see you Tuesday.

Hollywood's uneasy embrace of Apple's 99-cent TV rental offer [Updated]


Only two major Hollywood television studios agreed to allow Apple Inc. to offer 99-cent rentals of TV shows -- a price that the device-maker hopes will spark sales of a new generation of its set-top box.

Walt Disney Co's Disney/ABC Television Group and News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox joined in Apple's long-anticipated announcement that it would begin renting episodes of such popular shows as "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Glee."  The offering was announced in concert with the re-envisoned Apple TV, a smaller and less expensive version of the device that brings iTunes video content to the television, which now costs $99.

Fox issued a carefully worded statement indicating that its participation was a limited trial, lasting "several months," reflecting the deep divisions within the company over the wisdom of dramatically dropping the price to watch TV shows on Apple devices from as much as $2.99 an episode.

(Update 9:10 p.m. Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment for Fox Networks, issued a statement applauding the Apple TV initiative. "We're always looking to explore innovative and creative ways to reach and engage our viewers on digital platforms, which makes Apple a perfect partner," he said .)

Most major television producers, including CBS, NBC, ABC, Warner Bros, and Sony Pictures, aren't part of the 99-cent rental deal. Nor are powerhouse cable networks Showtime and HBO. Each has a vested interest in protecting their existing businesses, which brings billions of dollars into the TV industry through cable and satellite subscriptions and advertising revenue.

Alan Gould, an analyst with Evercore Partners, a Wall Street brokerage firm, wrote in a report that studios know they need to provide a reasonably priced, online version of their content or illegal downloads will become pervasive.

"However, that does not mean the studios have to provide the product at a long-term money-losing price," Gould wrote. "We recognize there will be some incremental revenue from downloads, but assume most viewership will be a substitution for traditional TV viewing and hurt the long-term TV business model."

Particularly worrisome to some major TV producers is the idea that offering commercial-free versions of a TV episode for just 99 cents will gut sales of DVDs. That's because renting an entire season of a popular show "CSI: Miami" through iTunes would cost less than $24 -- a fraction of the $50 or more consumers now pay for the DVD (or a season's pass on iTunes).

In addition to television shows, Apple TV also lets users rent movies at prices ranging from $2.99 for standard-definition library titles to $4.99 for high-definition new releases. At his newsconference, Jobs emphasized HD video, a strategy the company has followed in the iTunes Store as well, where buttons to buy or rent content in hi-def are front and center, while standard-definition options are tougher to find. That's a concession to studio demands that Apple push the more profitable versions of their content, according to people familiar with the matter.

Despite the concerns of many in Hollywood about Apple's clout and its emphasis on low prices, content creators will benefit if Jobs' firm is able to expand the nascent business for distribution of legitimate, nonpirated, digital content in the home.

"The studios or content owners know they get more revenue through DVD rentals," said Paul Verna, a media analyst with researcher EMarketer. "On the other hand, the DVD business is dwindling. i think this is a recognition of that."

 -- Dawn C. Chmielewski and Ben Fritz


Revamped Apple TV to offer 99 cent shows

Murdoch may be key to Apple's plan to offer 99-cent digital rentals of TV shows

Photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the release of the new iTV, which replaces the larger, more expensive version. Credit: Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images

It pays to be a Murdoch, or at least be married to one


It pays to be in Rupert Murdoch's family.

News Corp.'s latest securities filing spells out the financial arrangements between the media conglomerate Murdoch controls and of his family members for the company's fiscal year ended June 30. Murdoch's third wife Wendi, for instance, collected $92,000 in consulting fees for advising MySpace China and received options of more than 2.5% of shares in the Asian version of the social media site that vest over four years.

Elisabeth Murdoch, who is Rupert Murdoch's second-eldest daughter, no longer works for News Corp. but her television production company, Shine Group, collected $11.9 million from various production and distribution agreements with News Corp.

Also getting a check from News Corp. was Elisabeth Murdoch's husband, Matthew Freud, a public relations executive who received $350,000 in consulting fees through the end of the fiscal year. Interestingly, Freud caused a lot of tension within News Corp. earlier this year when he was quoted in the New York Times bashing Roger Ailes, chief executive of Fox News.

"I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes' horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corp, its founder and every other global media business aspires to," Freud told the paper in January.

Ailes later fired back in Company Town that Freud, who is a descendant of Sigmund Freud, "needs to see a psychiatrist." 

Murdoch's eldest daughter, Prudence MacLeod, is also on the payroll and receives a director's fee for serving on the board of Advertiser Newspapers in Australia. Her husband, Alasdair, worked for the company through January.

Sons James and Lachlan Murdoch serve on News Corp.'s board of directors. James runs the company's European and Asian operations. He collected total compensation of $10.3 million in fiscal 2010, which includes his $3.2 million base salary, a bonus of $1.7 million, stock and other perquisites -- like personal use of corporate aircraft.

Rupert Murdoch himself received $22.7 million, including a salary of $8.1 million, a bonus of $4.4 million, stock awards and other forms of deferred compensation.

Deputy Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey collected even more -- a total $26 million, which includes a $10-million signing bonus for joining the company in July 2009. The bonus compensates him for the equity he forfeited upon leaving his position at DirecTV.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Rupert and Wendi Murdoch. Credit: Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Hulu looking to launch IPO


Online video site Hulu, which has emerged as one of the most popular places to watch television shows on the Internet, wants to see whether Wall Street will embrace it as much as the public has.

The company -- owned by media giants News Corp., NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co. and private equity firm Providence Equity Partners -- is in talks with investment banks about launching an initial public offering as early as this fall. The news was first reported by the New York Times.

Such a move would provide a fresh infusion of cash for Hulu, without requiring it to seek an additional handout from its corporate parents. The media giants plan to retain their stake in the service, but Providence, which has a 10% stake, may be looking to cash out.

Providence did not return a call seeking comment. A Hulu spokesman declined to comment.

Although Google Inc.'s YouTube continues to dominate Internet video in terms of audience size and time spent watching, Hulu has become the go-to place watch TV shows online.

Despite its success with users, Hulu is not yet throwing off gobs of cash. It reported that it brought in more than $100 million in revenue in 2009 and expected to surpass that milestone this summer. A stock offering would generate more revenue to build its new $9.99-a-month subscription service, Hulu Plus, and compete with rival offerings from Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. The movie subscription service Netflix acknowledges that Hulu has been aggressively adding more television shows to strengthen its offering.

Questions have been raised about the long-term commitments of some of Hulu's owners. NBC Universal is in the process of being acquired by cable giant Comcast Corp., which has its own online TV service, Xfinity. Xfinity's offerings include "True Blood" and "Weeds," and requires users to prove they're cable subscribers before they can watch shows. 

Media companies are also trying to strike a balance between offering content on multiple platforms and protecting their own bottom lines. There are concerns that Hulu could cannibalize the television audience. Programmers also have to be sensitive to the needs of the cable and satellite distributors that pay for access to the programmers' content.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Image: Hulu video player. Credit: Hulu

Cable networks drive News Corp.'s fourth-quarter results


Cable is now king at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Thanks to a strong performance from Fox News and its other cable networks, News Corp. posted profits of $875 million, or 33 cents a share, for its fiscal fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $203 million, or 8 cents, a share a year earlier. Revenue rose 6% to $8.1 billion for the three months ending June 30, compared with nearly $7.7 billion a year ago.

For News Corp.'s full 2010 fiscal year, the company reported net income of $2.5 billion or 97 cents a share, compared with a loss of $3.4 billion or $1.29 a share in fiscal 2009.  Annual revenue also grew 8% to $32.8 billion, from $30.4 billion the prior fiscal year.

CAREY Cable accounted for half of News Corp.'s profit and cash flow in the quarter and more than helped offset disappointing results from the media conglomerate's movie studio, 20th Century Fox. Besides Fox News and Fox Business, News Corp.'s cable holdings include the entertainment channel FX and more than a dozen Fox Sports cable channels. The group saw operating income rise 32% to $563 million, compared to the same period a year ago.

While News Corp.'s cable business is firing on all cylinders, its movie operations sputtered a little bit. Despite strong sales of  "Avatar" DVDs, the film studio reported a 33% drop in operating income for the quarter to $137 million, compared with $203 million a year ago. The comparatively weak box-office performance of this spring's films, including "Marmaduke" and "The A-Team" were the main culprits.

The studio also saw a decline in revenue from the sale of its television shows, which also hurt results.

News Corp.'s broadcast unit, which includes the Fox network and its television stations, saw operating income increase 13% to $113 million, compared to the company's fourth-quarter 2009 performance. The gains reflect a rebound in advertising -- particularly political ads -- for locally owned TV stations. This helped to partially offset the rising programming costs associated with Fox.

While the television group's operating income was up, the Fox network saw its operating income decline. The company blamed the drop on programming costs in entertainment and sports.

The topic of Fox's hit "American Idol" was brought up on a call company executives had with analysts and reporters. News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said Fox has the opportunity to reinvent the fading juggernaut of the network, which will return with new and presumably less-expensive judges when it returns for the new season, minus Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres. (Cowell alone brought down a salary of about $35 million).

News Corp.'s MySpace continues to struggle, losing $174 million for the quarter, compared with a loss of $136 million for the same period a year ago, and $363 million for 2009. Murdoch continued to voice support for the social network's management team, which has undergone numerous shake-ups. One of MySpace's biggest challenges is replacing a lucrative contract with Google Inc., in which the search giant agreed in 2006 to pay $900 million to place search ads on the social networking site.

"We're actively talking to parties," Carey said, adding. "We're not expecting a deal like we had before."

Murdoch reserved the most enthusiasm not for News Corp., but for  Apple Inc.'s iPad tablet computer, which he said has the potential of bringing younger readers to newspapers.

"I believe that s a game-changer," Murdoch said, predicting "hundreds of millions" of these devices proliferating around the world.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey. Credit: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg News

Greenblatt to end Showtime run, Imagine's Nevins in the wings

Bob Greenblatt, the architect behind Showtime's programming renaissance with such edgy shows as "Weeds," "Dexter" and "Nurse Jackie," is planning to leave the network as soon as next month when his contract expires, according to people familiar with his plans.

Showtime, at the same time, is in advanced discussions to hire David Nevins to succeed Greenblatt, two people close to the situation said Thursday evening. Nevins, a former Fox TV executive who now runs the boutique production company Imagine Television, has helped guide the critically acclaimed programs "Friday Night Lights," "Parenthood" and "Arrested Development." 

Greenblatt's move was first reported by Variety. 

Several months ago, Greenblatt told his bosses at Showtime and parent company CBS Corp. that after seven years of rebuilding the channel, he had "completed the mission" and was prepared "for a new challenge," people close to him said.

Showtime develops only one or two new programs a year, and Greenblatt would like to manage a bigger operation, one person said.

Greenblatt, who produced the Broadway musical "9 to 5" and the hit HBO drama "Six Feet Under," does not have another job lined up, the person said. However, in recent months, high-level Hollywood executives have speculated that Greenblatt would be on a short list to run NBC Entertainment when cable giant Comcast Corp. takes a majority ownership interest in NBC Universal. 

Nevins has a strong track record at Imagine, the studio run by Hollywood heavyweights Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. However, his continued tenure at the studio was tenuous, according to one person, due to friction between Imagine and its backer, 20th Century Fox Television. Fox executives were unhappy that Nevins was spending Fox's resources producing big-budget shows like "Parenthood" for rival NBC, rather than projects for the Fox network.

-- Meg James

Photo: Bob Greenblatt. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Fox to sneak preview weak tracking 'Knight and Day' on Saturday

Fox is trying to make sure that "Knight and Day" doesn't come and go.

With pre-release surveys indicating the big-budget Tom Cruise vehicle opening next week could flop, the studio is making a last attempt to get moviegoers excited about "Knight and Day" by showing it to them early.

Fox decided early this week to show "sneak previews" of the action comedy starring Cruise and Cameron Diaz at 494 theaters Saturday night, ahead of its official opening on Wednesday.

It's a risky move. If buzz isn't favorable, it could spread at the speed of Twitter and do even more damage to the picture, which is suffering from a largely ineffective marketing campaign.

Fox executives think it's worth the gambit, however, because audiences responded favorably to the movie in test screenings. As a result, the studio has been spending money on 15-second TV spots that feature positive quotes from Newsweek and other outlets.

It's clear something drastic is needed to jump-start the picture's commercial prospects. Recent polls of potential moviegoers indicate that "Knight and Day" could generate less than $20 million on its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada, a dismal start for a picture that cost just less than $120 million to produce, and one that would be an embarrassment for marquee talent such as Cruise and Diaz.

In the best-case scenario, positive word-of-mouth from Saturday will lift the movie when it opens on Wednesday and generate momentum going into the following weekend when the Adam Sandler-Chris Rock comedy "Grown Ups," currently more anticipated by audiences in surveys, opens Friday.

"We aren't exactly where we hoped we would be," Fox production president Emma Watts said of the current level of moveigoer interest in "Knight and Day." "But it's a great film. This is the kind of film that needs to be discovered, and I think it will be."

In a summer full of sequels and adaptations of well-known properties such as "Iron Man," "Shrek," "Twilight" and "The Last Airbender," "Knight and Day" stands out as one of the only high-profile original films. Its only built-in marketing hook comes from its stars. At the same time, A-list names are becoming less effective in opening films, and Cruise is viewed warily by some in the public as a result of his widely publcized personal life.

In addition, Cruise and Diaz are not as popular with younger moviegoers who often drive big opening weekends in the summer. Surveys indicate that audiences older than 30 are most interested in "Knight and Day," particularly women. Among teenage and college-aged males, the movie is barely registering, according to people who have seen the survey results.

"Knight and Day" is about a spy, played by Cruise, who meets a woman played by Diaz in an airport and ends up drawing her into a deadly mission.

The complex plot has proven difficult for Fox to communicate in advertising. Some marketing material, such as billboards in which Cruise and Diaz are '60s-style white silhouettes, have focused on the film's light tone while some TV commercials emphasize the action. In addition, there's no indication in ads of what the title, which has to do with Cruise's undercover identity in the picture, means.

"This is not as easy a sell as a sequel or a movie based on an existing property," said Fox domestic distribution president Bruce Snyder. "We feel our best tool is to get word-of-mouth out on it."

Fox executives are hopeful that "Knight and Day" will perform better overseas, particularly in Asia where awareness of Cruise's personal life is low and action movies often perform well. It opens simultaneous with its U.S. release in about a dozen foreign countries, including Russia and South Korea, but won't hit most international markets until mid-July.

If the movie doesn't turn into a worldwide hit -- which usually means a global gross of at least $250 million -- it will be a blow to Fox, which has had a disappointing summer after its winter blockbuster "Avatar." Its last two releases, "The A-Team" and "Marmaduke," have both been weak box office performers.

Perhaps the biggest effect, however, will be on Cruise himself, who last starred in an action movie in 2006 with "Mission: Impossible III." Since then, he has only appeared in the 2008 World War II drama "Valkyrie," which was critically drubbed but performed decently on a worldwide basis, and in a well-reviewed supporting role in 2008's comedy "Tropic Thunder."

However, Fox executives believe that when audiences see "Knight and Day," they'll be reminded of one of Cruise's most successful and beloved starring roles.

"I don't think people have seen this guy since 'Jerry Maguire,' " Watts said. "He's available, charming and funny. He's a movie star for a reason."

-- Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz

Photo: Frank Masi / MCT

Four months later, Hirschhorn exits MySpace

The management turmoil continues at struggling MySpace, as the fading social network has shed another top executive.

Former MTV executive Jason Hirschhorn is out as co-president, a job he took only four months ago. His departure continues a wave of management disruptions at MySpace that saw the ouster in February of Chief Executive Owen Van Natta, who had held the top spot for less than a year. Van Natta had been brought in to replace founding CEO Chris DeWolfe in April 2009.

Corporate parent News Corp. called Hirschhorn's departure a "personal decision."

"As many people know, Jason is like family to me, and as expected, he’s done everything we asked of him and more," said News Corp. Chief Digital Officer Jon Miller, in a statement. "We’re incredibly grateful for the passion and enthusiasm he brought to the company."

Co-president Mike Jones will remain in his role at the company, Miller said. Jones was named co-president at the same time as Hirschorn. 

"Mike Jones has done an outstanding job leading MySpace into its next evolution and is the right person to take the reins," Miller said in the same statement. "There are no plans to bring in additional management."

Even as it gears up for a relaunch later this year, struggling social network MySpace is losing ad revenue and traffic at a rapid clip

Global unique visitors to MySpace have slid to 111 million in April from 127 million a year earlier, according to research firm ComScore. Global visits to Facebook during the same time frame jumped to 519 million from 307 million.

On Twitter, Hirschhorn wrote: “Yes i am moving back to NYC. Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. I believe in MySpace, its leader Jonesy and its wonderful team.”

-- Jessica Guynn and Dawn C. Chmielewski

Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...

Photos: L.A.’s busiest filming sites