News Briefs

Thanks to films from Marvel, DreamWorks Animation and the team of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Paramount Pictures has become the first studio to sell $1 billion worth of tickets in the domestic marketplace this year. Paramount bettered the record that it set last year by nearly three weeks. In 2007, it took Paramount, then fueled by Shrek the Third and Transformers, until July 9 to get the “first to $1 billion” record. Sony had established the standard on July 11, 2002, on the strength of the first Spider-Man movie. Paramount also is the first studio of 2008 to blow past the nine-zero mark in foreign box¬office. It reached that last weekend, six weeks faster than it did in setting the same record last year. (Internationally, Fox is on Paramount’s heels as it closes in on $1 billion.) The Melrose Avenue studio also boasts the year’s three top-grossing movies: Iron Man ($305 million), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($291 million) and Kung Fu Panda ($156 million).

Fandango, the movie-ticketing company owned by Comcast since 2007, announced on Monday that it has acquired, a movie news and reviews aggregator. had previously been owned by Disney’s Walt Disney Internet Group. The aim of the acquisition is to provide a one-stop movie hub for the Web, executives said.

Netflix announced on it’s blog last week that starting on September 1 the rental-by-mail service  would be doing away with separate user profiles on the same account. The reason, the post explained, is that it’s a little-used feature that some people found complicated: only a percent of Netflix members use it. “We will do our best to find better ways for families to share accounts than the existing profiles feature,” it read, “and will continue to invest in improving the Web site experience in many different ways.”

You Dont Mess With The Zohan seems to be a hit in Israel. The movie tries to bridge Jews and Arabs by making fun of them. But in Israel, where the movie opened Thursday, people are drawn in more because of its Israeli protagonist and the cadre of Israeli actors and musicians featured in the film. Israelis didn’t seem too slighted by the not-too-favourable portrayal of them. At Wednesday’s premiere in Tel Aviv, the packed crowd burst out in ovation and laughter at each sighting of an Israeli actor and at each over-the-top cliche of their behaviour – like when Zohan brushes his teeth with hummus, disco dances with a huge bulge in his pants or plays paddle ball with hand grenades. “I wasn’t insulted at all. It was funny. Exaggerated, but funny,” said Guy Ben-Yaacov, 23. “Besides, I know a few guys like Zohan.” Amir Kaminer, movie critic for the Yediot Ahronot daily, said Sandler’s Zohan is the most prominent Israeli character out of Hollywood since Paul Newman played the Jewish fighter Ari Ben Canaan in “Exodus” in 1960.

Dame Judi Dench has been honoured by Scotland’s oldest university for her work on stage and screen. The Oscar-winning actress was given an honorary degree at a ceremony at St Andrews University. She said she was surprised but delighted to be made a doctor of letters. “I feel very excited and I’m absolutely delighted to have an association with St Andrews.” she said  “I had never been to St Andrews before, so I’m very pleased and I’m going to boast about it a lot.”

India’s Reliance Entertainment and other investors are in talks with Hollywood’s DreamWorks SKG to raise up to $2 billion to create a movie venture, two people familiar with negotiations said Tuesday. Dreamworks, the movie studio founded in 1994 by Hollywood moguls Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, is looking to raise a total of $2 billion from investors — $1 billion in equity and another $1 billion for new movie projects, the two people with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press. They said they could not be named because negotiations were ongoing. Reliance Entertainment, part of one of India’s top conglomerates, the Reliance ADA Group, plans to invest more than $500 million to $600 million in equity, that same person said. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Reliance was considering an investment of about that size in a deal with Dreamworks. The Los Angeles Times had reported last week that DreamWorks is trying to raise money to break from Viacom Inc. and its movie studio, Paramount. 

A Florida obscenity case may be making history. According to the NY Times, the defense team in the case is planning to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to persuade jurors that the community standards yardstick needs to be re-examined.


The Canadian Press
USA Today