Entertainment Industry

Category: The Weinsteins

Could NBC's 'Smash' get a ticket to Broadway?

  Uma Thurman on 'Smash'

Could "Smash" be headed to Broadway? When NBC developed the prime-time TV musical drama about cutthroat competition on Broadway, the network buttoned up the rights for a Broadway version of the TV show.

The series about the making of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, which NBC recently renewed for a second season, is a long way from getting to the real Broadway. Still, the show has been a passion project for NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt for years, and it boasts a large cast of executive producers with elite pedigrees and credentials in the theater world.

Steven Spielberg brought the idea for a TV show about a Broadway musical to Greenblatt about three years ago, when Greenblatt was head of entertainment at premium cable channel Showtime. But Showtime's tight budget provided little canvas for Greenblatt to paint an ambitious slate of programming.

"Smash" languished until Greenblatt moved to NBC early last year, where the show got an immediate greenlight. Greenblatt and Spielberg, who has invested in other Broadway shows, recruited producers with musical credits, including Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, part of the producing team behind the film versions of the musicals "Chicago" and "Hairspray."

Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman were brought on board to compose the original songs that are performed on "Smash." The duo retains certain rights to that music -- and that ownership presumably would carry over to any Broadway version of the NBC series. (Shaiman and Wittman also wrote songs for Broadway productions of "Hairspray" and "Catch Me if You Can," in addition to the music for numerous feature films, and have won Grammys.)

By the end of the first season of "Smash," there will be at least 15 original songs written for the fictional musical around which much of the series' action revolves. In the TV show, the fake musical is called "Bombshell." 

But does that mean it's Broadway-bound?

"Since our creative team has been writing songs and snippets of 'Bombshell' scenes only to tell the stories of our characters in 'Smash,' there is no fully realized 'Bombshell,'" Greenblatt wrote Thursday in an email to The Times. 

"I'm not saying that it will never happen, but we are all focused at the moment on completing our [Season 1] finale episode and have already started talking about the macro ideas for Season 2," Greenblatt wrote, adding that next season will feature a second musical, as the fictional "Bombshell" heads to the fictional Broadway.

"So no one has thought twice about trying to find the time or energy to develop 'Bombshell' for the stage," Greenblatt wrote. "It takes several years to write and construct a big Broadway musical, and most of the hard work starts at the script stage before the songs are even conceived."

Greenblatt has long been interested in theater. Several years ago, Greenblatt persuaded his mentor Peter Chernin, former president of News Corp., to release the rights to the 1980 Fox movie, "9 to 5," starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

From that, Greenblatt, while working at Showtime, produced the show, "9 to 5: The Musical," which opened in Los Angeles in the fall of 2008 and went on to have a five-month run on Broadway in 2009.  (Megan Hilty, who played the Dolly Parton role of Doralee Rhodes in "9 to 5: The Musical," plays one of the prospective Marilyn Monroes on "Smash.")

Now some wonder whether "Smash" could eventually pave the way for a return engagement by Greenblatt on the Great White Way.

Bob Greenblatt"I am working full time at NBC and it wouldn't make sense for me to be a producer," Greenblatt said -- but he added, "Maybe I could produce 'Bombshell' when I'm long gone from NBC, which would be about the time that [a Broadway project] would come to fruition."

NBC, controlled by cable giant Comcast Corp., has a more riding on "Smash" than a potential Broadway play. The ailing network banked heavily on the program to improve its anemic ratings and serve as a beacon for more sophisticated programming. NBC has spent nearly $70 million making and marketing the first season of "Smash."

The show has delivered only modest ratings. Six million viewers tuned in Monday night, although NBC executives have been encouraged that the audience grows by about 2 million people, who record the show and watch it after it airs on TV. 

NBC announced last month that it would bring "Smash" back for a second season. The network noted that "Smash" draws one of the most upscale audiences in network television, coming in behind another musically themed series, Fox's "Glee."

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe, which adds attention to efforts to bring her story to life. (DreamWorks Television and series creator playwright Theresa Rebeck also have an ownership interest in the television version of "Smash.")

And there could be competition if NBC decides to trundle "Smash" to Broadway. Last fall, producer Harvey Weinstein said he was interested in turning his company's Oscar-nominated feature film "My Week With Marilyn" into a Broadway musical featuring Katy Perry. 

It would not be the first time that NBCUniversal dabbled on Broadway. The company has an ownership interest in one of the most successful productions of all time, "Wicked." That musical is produced by former Universal Pictures production executive turned Broadway producer, Marc Platt.


"Smash:" Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman want to make viewers hum

"Smash" will return, but showrunner Theresa Rebeck departs

NBC's Bob Greenblatt:  We had a really bad fall

NBC's "The Voice" is strong; "Smash" not so much

-- Meg James

Top photo: Uma Thurman (center) next week will join the cast of NBC's drama "Smash" for a five-episode story arc. Thurman is pictured with actors Yami Mufdi and Sean Dugan. Credit: Will Hart / NBC  

Bottom photo: NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt in 2009. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

'Bully' does well in limited debut


The ratings controversy seems to have boosted “Bully” at the box office.

Lee Hirsch’s teen-bullying documentary, released in a total of five theaters in Los Angeles and New York this past weekend, grossed $115,000, according to an estimate from distributor the Weinstein Co.

The $23,000 per-screen average is strong given the film’s genre. Two recent, reasonably successful issue-oriented documentaries, “Food, Inc.” and “Inside Job,” each tallied a slightly lower per-screen average of $20,000 in their limited-release openings. Those movies went on to gross a solid $4 million to $5 million at the domestic box office. It remains to be seen, however, whether “Bully” can capitalize on the solid start as its publicity glow fades.

PHOTOS: Box office top ten

“Bully,” which examines five families affected by bullying, was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Assn. of America for the use of profanity. (An R means that children younger than 17 can see the film only if accompanied by an adult.)

After the MPAA’s appeals board upheld the rating, the Weinstein Co. howled in protest and a grass-roots movement sprang up. Nearly 500,000 people — including Meryl Streep, Justin Bieber and Johnny Depp — signed a petition started by a Michigan teenager that urged the MPAA to change the film’s rating to PG-13, which would allow teens to see it without an adult. The publicity made many  aware of a movie that they otherwise might not have heard about, and gave Harvey Weinstein a low-cost, high-profile platform to promote the film.

Weinstein eventually decided to release the movie without a rating, prompting a range of responses among theater owners. The country’s first- and fourth-largest chains, Regal Entertainment and Carmike Cinemas, said they would play the film but treat it as R-rated when it arrived in their theaters in mid-April. The third-largest chain, Cinemark, said it would not play the movie because it has a policy of not screening unrated films.

AMC, the nation’s second-largest chain, took the least restrictive tack: The company said it would play the movie and allow children younger than 17 to see it unaccompanied, providing they had permission from an adult. (AMC screens represented two of the five outlets showing the film this past weekend; the remainder were art house theaters.)

As it turned out, a vast majority of those who saw “Bully” were adults — 73% were at least 25 years old, and 41% were 35 and older, a Weinstein distribution executive said.

By the standard of unrated films, “Bully” did well, if not outstandingly so. A little more than a decade ago, Darren Aronofsky’s unrated drug drama “Requiem for a Dream,” which also had a high-profile debut after losing a battle with the MPAA, opened to $32,000 per screen in limited release.

“Bully” will expand to 50 markets on April 13. But the film’s unrated status is unlikely to be a factor then. A tweaked version is expected to be rated PG-13--that is the version that will be shown in wide release.


Box Office; Snow White, Greek gods no match for 'Hunger Games'

'Bully' will get re-cut to land a PG-13, sources say

A 'Bully' pulpit for Weinstein Co.

Battle over 'Bully' rating heats up in nation's capital

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Bully." Credit: Weinstein Co.

Michael Moore sues Weinstein brothers over 'Fahrenheit 9/11' profits [Updated]

When Harvey and Bob Weinstein released Michael Moore's political documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" in fall 2004, it became a cultural phenomenon and grossed $119 million at the U.S. box office.

Now the director says more of that money should have made it into his pocket.

In a suit filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Moore alleged that the Weinsteins, on behalf of an outfit called the Fellowship Adventure Group that they formed to release the movie, had illegally kept money from him.

Moore is seeking at least $2.7 million in compensatory damages as well as legal and other costs; the filmmaker also left open the possibility that he could seek further damages once a complete audit is done, a process the suit alleges has not happened.

"This case is about classic Hollywood accounting tricks and financial deception perpetrated by the Fellowship Adventure Group and its owners Bob and Harvey Weinstein," the suit began. The complaint alleged "bogus accounting methods" and "substantial irregularities in the accounting of the film" and said the company has "secretly divert[ed] monies owed" to Moore and his Westside Productions company. Moore's suit alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud.

Weinste Among the allegations Moore makes is that the Weinsteins deducted residual payments from the balance sheet that were never made; deducted expenses Moore did not authorize; overstated the distribution fee to select international distributors; and covertly deducted more than $2.5 million from the revenue pool from which the Weinsteins were to pay Moore. According to the lawsuit, Moore and Fellowship were to split profits 50-50, an extremely generous deal for a director compared with what most filmmakers receive.

Attorney Bert Fields, who is representing the Weinsteins, said that the claims are "just designed for the media and are utter rubbish." He also speculated that Oscar-season rivals may have had a hand in the lawsuit. "I'm suspicious of the timing of this in this pre-award period and really wonder who put him up to it," Field said, acknowledging he had "no hard evidence." 

Weinstein Co.'s royals drama "The King's Speech" is considered an Oscar frontrunner.

Fields, who acknowledged there were settlement discussions several months ago, said he was surprised to find a lawsuit filed Monday. He said Moore had been paid $19.8 million over the course of the release and post-release period of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and has "received every dime he's entitled to."

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The Morning Fix: Big bucks for 'Big Bang'! Weinstein Co. makes splash at Toronto. Reality bites on broadcast.

After the coffee. Before wondering why Fashion Week snubbed me.

Reality bites. The Wall Street Journal uses the overhaul of Fox's "American Idol" to check in on the state of the reality TV biz. Heading into the fall season, the WSJ notes that the five broadcast networks have scheduled 14 hours of reality shows, the lowest number since 2005. Of course, in fairness, a lot of reality shows usually come on in mid-season to replace new comedies and dramas that didn't work. Also, although broadcast may be backing away from reality shows, the story doesn't note how huge they've become on cable. TLC, MTV, Bravo and dozens of other channels are basically reality-show factories these days. As for "American Idol," we're all still waiting for Fox and the producers to announce Steven Tyler, the Aerosmith singer, and performer Jennifer Lopez as the new judges. Actually, does anyone care anymore?

Big paycheck for "Big Bang Theory." Deadline Hollywood has the details on the new contracts for the stars of the CBS hit "The Big Bang Theory." Most interesting was how Warner Bros. TV, which makes the show, managed to get breakout star Jim Parsons to take the same deal as his co-stars. Initially, the Emmy winner had been holding out for a bigger deal, but Warner Bros. played hardball. The raises come in the wake of Warner Bros. selling repeats of the program to TBS. In other words, this is the reward for the last few years as much as it is a raise going forward.

They're back! The Weinstein Co., apparently trying to move on from founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein's unsuccessful effort to buy back Miramax from Walt Disney Co., has been making a splash at the Toronto International Film Festival. According to Variety, the Weinstein Co. picked up North American rights for a British coming-of-age comedy called "Submarine," its second purchase after springing for "Dirty Girl." Lionsgate has also been busy as it and specialty subside Roadside bought U.S. rights to Robert Redford's "The Conspirator," which is from new Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts

Brother, can you spare a dime? Veteran movie banker Clark Hallren, who left JPMorgan last year to create Clear Scope Partners, has a grim financing forecast for the movie industry. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Hallren, who worked on the initial IPO for DreamWorks Animation, said "it's a good time not to be a banker." Why? Well, Hallren notes that foreign banks are not doing as many deals and the risks in the movie business have skyrocketed.

You say show, I say advertisement. An advocacy group is going after Nickelodeon, charging that one of its new shows is nothing more than an advertisement dressed up as a kids cartoon. The show, "Zevo-3," premieres on Nicktoons next month (actually the day after Hub, a new rival kids channel from Discovery and Hasbro, launches) and is based on characters that were created for a marketing campaign by the shoe company Skechers. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has sent a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to stop Nickelodeon from proceeding with the show. The FCC does have rules regarding advertising and kids programming, but Nickelodeon parent Viacom counters that although the characters of the show may have been inspired by the ads, it is not violating any government regulations. More on the skirmish from the New York Times.

Missing the point. The Hollywood Reporter has a story Thursday declaring that "fat is making a comeback in Hollywood" and suggesting that we can all "forget about" the super-skinny actresses that fill just about every show on broadcast and cable. What the story doesn't note is that most of these shows are reality shows about losing weight and that their overall message is that there is something wrong with the people on the show. Although obesity is a real issue, many of these shows are just exploiting people in the hopes of ratings. In other words, Hollywood is not suddenly embracing people who you can actually still see when they turn sideways.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Sirius XM Chief Executive Mel Karmazin said he is confident that Howard Stern will sign a new deal with the satellite radio broadcaster. MGM got its seventh (that's right, seventh) forbearance on its debt payments. Lucas Cruikshank is building an empire with his Fred Figglehorn character.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter because I said so: Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Google is coming for your TV! CBS has passage to India. BermanBraun rakes in some new dollars. Morty's back in late night.

After the coffee. Before yet another flight to New York. And in August no less.

Google is coming! Google is coming! Search giant Google is getting serious about its small-screen aspirations. The company has been meeting with broadcast and cable networks to try to get access to their content for its new Google TV application that will allow consumers to watch TV through the Web. Of course content providers want to make sure they a) get paid for their programming and b) don't alienate the cable and satellite distributors who already carry their channels. Google's real aim to is to get more ad dollars and leave Apple's television aspirations in the dust. More on Google's big push and what the challenges will be from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

What's a million dollars between friends? Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. made headlines this week for its $1-million donation to the Republican Governors Assn. This, of course, gave fuel to the left to take shots at Murdoch's Fox News operation. Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz, who also works for Fox News rival CNN, followed up on Tuesday's story on this from Politico. A News Corp. spokesman told Kurtz that it is "patently false" that a donation by News Corp. would somehow influence coverage at Fox News. By the way, lots of media companies give money to political causes. The New York Times also weighed in with a article on Rupert's largess. 

Really, it'll happen. Variety checks on Disney's deal to sell Miramax to Ron Tutor, the big-shot construction guy (sorry, I'm tired of saying "construction magnate") and says that although the pact was announced weeks ago, the financing is still not nailed down. The deadline to close is Sept. 7, and odds seem long that it will be met. Of course, Disney could extend it or go back on the market and see if Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein want to make one more run. 

A passage to India. CBS and India's Reliance Broadcast Network Limited announced early Wednesday morning their plans to launch a joint venture that will create three English-language television channels. The networks, which will launch later this year, will feature both current CBS content and library fare as well. CBS becomes the latest U.S. media company to try to build a presence in India. Here's an early take from the Hollywood Reporter and an old story about the talks from the Wall Street Journal, just to bring you up to speed.

Morty's back. Veteran producer Robert "Morty" Morton is coming back to late night as the show runner for TBS' "Lopez Tonight." Morton was the longtime executive producer for David Letterman. The move comes as Lopez prepares for his show to relocate to midnight to make room for Conan O'Brien. Details from Broadcasting & Cable

Read at your own risk. The Wrap says it has come across an e-mail with details of what is in development at Paramount Pictures. Among the projects are a Will Smith movie from director Kathryn Bigelow and a comedy starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. Paramount told the Wrap that some of the material in the e-mail is right and some it is wrong.

Digital dollars. BermanBraun, the entertainment company headed by former TV big shots Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, has roped in $100 million in advertising commitments from Starcom, a big agency whose clients include Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart. The money is for BermanBraun's digital operations, including its websites Wonderwall and Glo. The New York Times, which always seems to have the inside scoop on these guys, has the story, as does the Wall Street Journal blog All Things D. They can flip a coin to decide which one was fed this first. 

Turner on a roll. "Rizzoli & Isles," the female detective drama featuring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, is the latest hit for TNT. Although it has hardly been a critical smash, it is drawing big audiences and proves that there is a big appetite for what Ad Age calls "meat and potatoes"-type programming. Variety also weighs in on a piece about cable's hot summer.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Dr. Laura says goodbye to radio. Just because the star leaves, that doesn't mean the show can't go on. Haim Saban buys Julius the Monkey.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. I've been known to tweet from airplanes. Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Emmy loves broadcast. Disney may really have sold Miramax! ESPN-LeBron backlash

After the coffee. Before avoiding all the reviews of "Inception."

Is it really over? Walt Disney Co. has struck a deal to sell Miramax to an investor group led by construction executive Ron Tutor with backing from Colony Capital, a private equity firm, and James Robinson, chief executive of production company Morgan Creek. If this deal actually closes, it will bring to an end to months of high-stakes negotiations and a battle among three potential suitors, including Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Former Disney executive Richard Nanula, now with Colony, is expected to oversee operations at Miramax for its new owners. More on what may be the final chapter from the Los Angeles Times and the Wrap.

Explaining Emmy. When hundreds are nominated for awards, it can make finding a trend difficult. But try we must, and with some new shows on broadcast television -- "Glee," "Modern Family," and "The Good Wife" -- doing very well, the verdict seems to be that network television is back. Well, certainly it was a good season, but it's not like HBO, Showtime, AMC and other cable channels were overlooked by Emmy voters. I'm still wondering how the voters could snub Khandi Alexander of HBO's "Treme." And why do they keep ignoring FX's "Rescue Me." Analysis on the nominations from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

Fleeing Sun Valley. Friday is when the media stalkers exit Allen & Co.'s Sun Valley mogul gathering after three days of chasing executives and being escorted by security to the bathroom. So here are the wrap-up stories from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that, quite frankly, could have been written before the conference started. No digs at my media pals intended; I've been there and know the drill. You do the best you can with what few morsels you can get. At least the Idaho setting is beautiful and there are some good restaurants in town.

The 10% factor. The Hollywood Reporter's Matthew Belloni takes a look at the verdict against Walt Disney Co. in its battle over profits from the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" with the show's creator, Celador Productions, and the role that agents played in the relationship between the two companies. William Morris agents were put in an awkward position throughout the trial, and the verdict may have some rethinking the way packaging fees for shows are doled out to agencies.

ESPN and LeBron: The Aftermath. ESPN's deal with LeBron James, in which the basketball superstar got to handpick his interviewer and sell the network's ad time (for charity) in return for telling the cable channel where he was signing, has been heavily criticized in the media. Here's our Thursday story and a take from Friday's New York Times. Ex-ESPN analyst Dan Patrick said on his radio show Friday that the Thursday night program was "an infomercial" and that the network covered this "like it's 'American Idol.'" Not everyone is ganging up on Disney's ESPN though. Here's a defense from the Daily Beast. Meanwhile, super-agent Ari Emanuel is taking credit for helping put together the show, which, given the reviews, may not be something to boast about.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: "Eclipse" is expected to rule the weekend again at the box office, but its pacing is trailing its predecessor, "New Moon." More bad news for Mel Gibson.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter and I won't abandon you for Miami: Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Showtime shuffle! Box-office trading blow. Would you like fries with M. Night Shyamalan?

After the coffee. Before a moment of sadness over Detroit closing two parks I played in as a kid.

See ya, Showtime. Bob Greenblatt, the head of pay cable channel Showtime, is making his exit. Greenblatt, a veteran of Fox and his own production company, oversaw Showtime's emergence as a programming force with original series such as "Nurse Jackie," "Dexter" and "Californication." In line to take the Showtime gig is another respected executive: David Nevins who stepped down as head of Imagine TV ("24," "Friday Night Lights," Arrested Development," "Parenthood") Thursday. As for Greenblatt, his name has been bandied about for a big job at NBC after its merger deal with Comcast closes, but we'll just have to see about that. Deadline Hollywood broke the news about Nevins leaving Imagine. Variety broke the news about Greenblatt leaving and Nevins likely succeeding him. And I link to the Los Angeles Times as well because, well, I'm a homer. 

A new Night. Director M. Night Shyamalan, who hit his first couple of movies out of the park ("The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable") before hitting a slump ("The Happening") is back with "The Last Airbender." But this time he's got some backup from some unusual sources -- Nickelodeon and McDonald's. The movie is based on a Nickelodeon cartoon and is a step away from his supernatural stuff. "For the last 10 years, I've been working in a cottage industry of the supernatural," said Shyamalan. "And I've always had my eye on doing a franchise," he told Claudia Eller of the Los Angeles Times. 

Put a hold on box-office futures trading. The House-Senate conference committee hammering out the bill on financial reform that was approved Thursday night included a ban on the creation of a box-office futures trading market. This likely puts a fork in the plans of the two companies behind the plans for an exchange, although one says the fight will go on. Details from the Hollywood Reporter and the Wrap.

Hit the pause button. Apparently NBC Universal and Comcast are having a hard time getting their paperwork together. The Federal Communications Commission is complaining that neither answered all the questions the agency sent the two companies as part of its review of the merger deal. Comcast said its issues were "technical." No word what NBC Universal's issues were. The FCC said it would resume its review as soon as it gets more info. Broadcasting & Cable has the story.

Watching Hulu on a PlayStation. Yes, it could become a reality! Bloomberg reports that Sony Corp. is putting the finishing touches on a deal in which its users could access Hulu via the PlayStation network. Obviously, getting into the video game consoles could mean a bigger audience for Hulu and create yet another option for people wanting content but don't want cable. But I'm a little jaded about all the Hulu coverage when its own future has lots of questions. (What will Comcast do with NBC's stake after their deal closes and will the pay model work?) The Wall Street Journal updates Hulu's pay plans. 

A different Current. The Hollywood Reporter takes a probing look at Current TV, the news and public affairs cable network started by Al Gore that originally was going to subsist primarily on user contributions. Last year, after efforts to either sell (no takers, not even Google, says THR) or go public stalled out, former MTV executive Mark Rosenthal was brought in as chief executive, and he's now reaching out for help from his old pals, including Brian Graden, the former MTV programmer who is consulting Current. On the business side, Current's next big challenge is renewing its distribution deal with Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable operator. Fortunately for Current, Comcast, the country's biggest cable operator, has a stake in it.

More of the same. The Daily Beast's Rachel Sklar says the country may be getting more diverse but cable news isn't.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Dave Smith may know more about Disney than anyone named Disney. The Weinstein Co. may have taken care of some debt headaches, but is the short-term fix enough for the art house to turn around? Looks like another big weekend for "Toy Story 3."

-- Joe Flint

Now with 70% more sarcasm. Follow me on Twitter: Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Gores back in Miramax mix! Justice Department nibbling at Apple. CBS and Fox crow! 'SATC 2'! Can you feel the excitement?

After the coffee. Before figuring out which "Sex and the City" character is me.

Back to the drawing board. With the Weinstein Co. and Ron Burkle out of the picture (for now anyway), Walt Disney Co. is resuming talks with Alec and Tom Gores, the billionaire brothers, about buying the studio's Miramax library. Apparently there is no rush at Disney to unload the library, for which the studio wants north of $600 million. When the Gores bid last time around, they offered about $550 million. More on the latest in this soap opera from the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal  and New York Times. Also weighing in with how the Weinstein talks blew up are Deadline Hollywood and the New York Post.

Digging into Apple. The Justice Department is looking into Apple's digital music operations and how it deals with labels and potential rivals, according to the New York Times. That the Justice Department is looking does not mean that an investigation or probe is in the making. The department often looks at businesses and companies without proceeding with a full-blown antitrust investigation.

New York, New York. Almost two years after it gutted a chunk of its studio lot, Universal Pictures this week will unveil its redone New York City movie set, which is the largest in town. But the new set is not without controversy, according to Richard Verrier of the Los Angeles Times. The studio is going to take down or relocate other sets to clear the way for a residential development that has some worried it will be harder to shoot movies and TV shows on-site.

Moron check. Dave Poland's Hot Blog has some harsh words for those who analyze box office and those who write about box office. Writes Poland: "I am SICK TO DEATH of entertainment writers taking their expectations of box office, based on tracking and spin and rarely any facts, and forcing the stench of failure onto a success. And conversely, hyping mediocre numbers into An Incredible Event every time they get surprised by something doing decent business." How does he feel about those who write snarky links to those who cover box office?

End of the season wrap. The TV season draws to close Wednesday, but the results are pretty much already settled. CBS will win in viewers, and Fox in viewers under the age of 50. NBC (thanks to the Olympics) tied ABC (thanks to a crappy 10 p.m. performance) in adults 18-49 and 25-54. More fun with ratings from Variety.

The check's in the mail ... yeah, that's the ticket. Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jon Lovitz loves the Dodgers. Apparently he just doesn't like paying for his Dodgers tickets, so the team has filed a breach-of-contract suit against him seeking more than $95,000!  That's a lot of Dodger Dogs. More on Lovitz's baseball blues from the Wrap.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Betsy Sharkey on "Sex and the City 2." James Rainey sticks up for Gustavo Dudamel. The FCC wants to know just about everything there is to know about Comcast and NBC, and that could present some dilemmas for the two merging companies. 

--  Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. It's free! twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Snow bowl! Focus is sharp. Time for some new rules. 'American Idol' idling

After the coffee. Before explaining why I was disappointed in the last episode of "24."

Focus on Focus. Although not much has been going right at Universal Pictures lately, one of its success stories is Focus Features, the little specialty engine that could. "Babies" has been a surprise success, and "The Kids Are All Right," about a brother and sister, their two mothers and their sperm donor looks poised to be a critical darling. Although several other studios including Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros. have done away with their specialty shops, Universal says it has no plans to do that to Focus. Earlier this spring, Universal had an offer for Focus, but held on. The Los Angeles Times' Claudia Eller looks at Focus and its future.

CTlogosmall Time for some new rules. A lot has happened in media and telecommunications since 1996, which was the last time Congress approved updates to the Communications Act. Now two top Democrats -- Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) -- want to take another whack at updating the act for the Internet age. More on what will no doubt lead to intense lobbying from phone companies, cable companies, Google and public interest groups from the New York Times

It's over. The Wall Street Journal says Walt Disney Co. has "formally" ended its talks to sell Miramax to supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein. I think we all knew this already. The focus is now shifting to the Gores brothers, who are also kicking the tires of Liberty Media's production company, Overture.

Closing windows. Movie studios are debating the latest push by cable to get movies to video-on-demand faster. Time Warner Cable wants to get movies on VOD in as little as one month after theatrical release (for as much as $20 a pop to consumers). Variety says that may be too radical a shift for Hollywood. I know I'm in the minority here, but shortening the windows, like flooding the DVD market, feels more like a short-term fix that will ultimately do more harm than good to the movie business.

More Viacom-YouTube dirt. Soon after buying YouTube, Google made an offer of almost $600 million to Viacom for its content, according to the latest legal documents released by a court. CNET went through the latest papers and found Google's offer and Viacom's response that it wanted more. Oh, and they called each other bad names.

The youth movement is getting older. Advertising Age's preview of the upfront advertising market (where commercials are sold for the fall season), notes that the median age of a prime-time broadcast TV viewer is 51 but that that may not be such a bad thing yet. Ad Age's Brian Steinberg also looks at the "Lost" finale. Not to tell us whether it made sense, but whether it qualified as a TV "event."

A snow bowl? The NFL will vote Tuesday on whether to hold the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey, home of the Giants and Jets. It would be the first intentional scheduling of a game in a cold weather/outdoor stadium location. Frankly, I'm all for it. More from the Wall Street Journal

Watch those status updates! Vulture tells the tale of a studio executive whose status updates on Facebook have the town buzzing that he's about to get whacked. Unfortunately, because Vulture wimped out and didn't reveal who said executive is, we can't judge for ourselves.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: The fate of foundering MGM lies in the hands of its debt holders, who have little experience with the movie business. Whether that will make much of a difference from when it was run by the people who were supposed to know the business remains to be seen. Fox's "American Idol" is ending one of its more disappointing seasons ratings-wise and now is losing Simon Cowell. Mary McNamara loved the finale of "24."  I had a slightly different take.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter and I'll follow you back! twitter.com/JBFlint

Exclusive Weinstein-Miramax negotiations extended through weekend

The exclusive negotiating window between the Weinstein brothers and Walt Disney Co. over the acquisition of Miramax Films has been extended through the weekend, according to a person close to the talks.

Backed by supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and other investors, Bob and Harvey Weinstein are attempting to win back the specialty movie company they founded, sold to Disney and eventually were forced to vacate. The Weinsteins, whose Burkle-backed bid is valued at $625 million, originally had a five-day exclusive negotiating window with Disney, leaving two other bidders, brothers Alec and Tom Gores, and a company advised by David Bergstein in the wings.

Disney declined to comment on the status of the negotiations, as did a spokesperson for Weinsteins.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski and Claudia Eller


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