Originally created 03/06/03

Entertainment briefs



More Americans are going to the movies, MPAA chief says

LAS VEGAS -- Americans saw an average of 5.7 films each and paid an average of $5.80 per ticket last year, said the president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

"People want to get away from it all," Jack Valenti said Tuesday before delivering an annual address to the ShoWest convention of theater owners.

Valenti and John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said the 1.6 billion tickets sold nationwide made 2002 the best moviegoing year since 1957. The figure represented a 10.2 percent increase from 2001.

Fithian dismissed as "mush" a lawsuit filed in Chicago last month challenging pre-movie ads as deceptive because they delay the advertised starting times of films. The lawsuit seeks class-action status and up to $75 per patron as "lost time" damages.

"There is virtually no chance these lawsuits will succeed," he said.

Valenti said box-office receipts for 2002 totaled $9.5 billion, up 13.2 percent from the $8.4 billion he reported a year ago.

"The economics of the business are good," he said.

MPAA companies released 225 films in 2002, or 29 more than the previous year, Valenti said. He counted 242 films from other distributors, or 45 fewer than in 2001.

He put the average combined cost of making and marketing a movie at $89.4 million, and said that was $10.7 million more than in 2001.

About 5,700 delegates and guests are attending the convention, which ends Thursday with an awards ceremony honoring actors including Adam Sandler, Diane Lane, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Christopher Walken, director Sam Mendes and producer Brian Grazer.

On the Net:

Motion Picture Association of America Web site: http://www.mpaa.org

National Association of Theatre Owners Web site: http://www.natoonline.org

ShoWest Web site: http://www.showest.com

* * * *

Miss America and Atlantic City kiss and make up

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- There she is. And there she'll stay - for now.

Miss America Organization officials signed a five-year contract Tuesday to keep the beauty pageant in Atlantic City, 14 months after threatening to leave.

The deal, which will continue an annual $678,000 subsidy from the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, has options that could add 10 years to the term.

As important, perhaps, is what it doesn't call for: new subsidies.

Apart from buying lighting and sound equipment needed to make Boardwalk Hall "TV ready" for the annual television show, the convention authority didn't have to sweeten the pot, said chairman Mark Juliano.

In exchange for the subsidy and in-kind services to Miss America, the authority gets an Atlantic City plug on the annual pageant telecast and use of the reigning Miss America for 10 appearances a year at trade shows and other events.

"Miss America really doesn't belong anywhere but in Atlantic City," Juliano said.

On the Net:

Miss America Organization Web site: http://www.missamerica.org/

* * * *

Madeleine Albright among scheduled speakers at this year's BookExpo America

NEW YORK -- The publishing industry will be talking politics at BookExpo America, the book world's annual national convention.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will be among the scheduled speakers. Several political commentators also will be featured, including Tucker Carlson, Al Franken, Molly Ivins, Michael Moore and Bill O'Reilly.

Expect some sass from the dais. Albright, secretary of state during President Clinton's second term, will appear on the same breakfast panel as Moore, a frequent critic of Clinton. Carlson, Franken, Ivins and O'Reilly, none of them shy about their opinions, are the guests at a "Media Talk" luncheon.

BookExpo takes place May 29-June 1 in Los Angeles.

On the Net:

BookExpo America Web site: http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/

* * * *

TV stations keep up coverage of high-speed pursuits

LOS ANGELES -- Despite pleas from city leaders to use more restraint in televising police chases, two TV stations aired a high-speed pursuit that ended peacefully with the arrest of a man suspected of theft.

Police arrested Ray Lusky Monday after he ran into an apartment building in North Hollywood. Lusky led police on a 20-mile chase in a 1985 red Toyota, running several red lights. At one point, he put his car in reverse and drove backward for nearly two blocks, police said.

"He was a really good driver," said police Sgt. Ted Spicer.

At least two TV stations showed the pursuit, even though city officials have urged the media to reduce their coverage because it leads to dangerous situations.

The Police Commission voted unanimously in January to prohibit police officers from most vehicle pursuits - those prompted by traffic infractions such as speeding or running a stop sign.

The new policy allows for chases when drivers are being sought for misdemeanors or felonies or in cases in which officers believe a crime is about to be or has just been committed.

News executives said their coverage of chases has been fair and responsible. None said they would agree to scale back the coverage in response to the appeal.

* * * *

Taiwan criticizes China for barring its television broadcasts

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- China has rejected applications by four Taiwanese cable television stations to broadcast on the mainland, an official said.

Unless China relaxes its tight control, Taiwan will continue to restrict the air time of the mainland's China Central Television to eight hours a day, said Huang Chin-yi, an official in charge of cable channels at Taiwan's Government Information Office.

The Taiwanese channels - Eastern TV, Era Communications, Set TV and USTV - applied to China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television for broadcast rights last year after mainland authorities said they would sanction several offshore broadcasters, Huang said.

The broadcasters hoped to serve the 500,000 Taiwanese living and working on the mainland, but their applications were rejected without any explanation, he said Tuesday.

"As a major economic power, the mainland should relax its tight control on information," Huang told The Associated Press.

"We are ready to remove the restrictions on CCTV anytime the other side shows some goodwill," he said.

In all, Taiwan's TV channels air up to 160 hours a week of taped Chinese TV programs, mostly dramas and travelogues, besides the eight hours of programming from CCTV, Huang said.

But only selected hotels in China can receive television signals of Taiwan-produced dramas, he said.

CCTV is a state-controlled channel and has requested to broadcast 24 hours day in Taiwan. Taiwanese can view Chinese leaders' news conferences and other political programs on the channel.

* * * *

Coltrane's Philadelphia home falling into disrepair; city pledges help

PHILADELPHIA -- The house where John Coltrane lived and worked in the 1950s is falling into disrepair, and the jazz giant's elderly cousin says she can't afford to keep up repairs and maintenance.

The three-story North Philadelphia row house, designated a National Historic Landmark, has leaking pipes, collapsing ceilings, falling plaster and cracking walls.

Mary Alexander, the 75-year-old owner, resident and Coltrane's cousin, said it's been difficult getting the work done since her husband, William Alexander, died in 1995.

"My husband kept the house up," said Alexander, known as "Cousin Mary" after a song Coltrane wrote about her.

Mayor John F. Street has pledged to help raise $50,000 from neighborhood businesses for preservation work, said his spokeswoman, Barbara Grant. But the money isn't guaranteed.

"I don't want to stay in here with things falling down on me. It's like everything is happening at the same time," Alexander said recently.

Coltrane bought the house in 1952 for his mother, aunt and cousins. He stayed there most of the time from 1952-58, said Alexander, who inherited the house, which attracts visitors from around the country and abroad.

Coltrane died of cancer at 40 in 1967. He'd recorded more than 35 albums, including "My Favorite Things" and "A Love Supreme."