"Idol" Rules; Russian Spy Films Eyed; Street Sweet On Media

America Worships Idol

Last night the biggest show on TV returned the biggest premiere numbers in the show's history: 37.1 million viewers tuned in, with all demographics represented more than last year's premiere; the crucial 18- to 49-year-olds tuned in 3% more. This is Fox's higest-rated premiere ever in total viewers, and ties with "X-Files" (air date: Nov. 2, 1997) for Fox's highest-rated premiere among the 18 to 49 set. This $2.5 billion brand is going strong...

This afternoon I'm off to the Sundance Film Festival -- I will be reporting live all day Thursday and Friday, so tune in. If you're going to the Park City, Utah movie fest, don't look to eBay -- you're going to have to wait in line for tickets. Sundance officials say they're scanning eBay and cracking down on ticket sales -- reselling is illegal. The festival gave a random selection of 2,640 Utah residents the chance to buy up to 20 tickets each at the locals-only sale last week...

This Blog Is Not Yet Rated
Coming soon to a theater near you: the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theater Owners are planning some ratings-related changes -- kicking off Monday at Sundance -- when MPAA chief Dan Glickman will meet with indie filmmakers, producers and the heads of studios' specialty divisions. Changes will include plans to add an admonishment that certain R-rated films are unsuitable for kids, even if they're accompanied. And for the first time, a filmmaker will be able to cite another movie when waging an appeal. All this change is largely thanks to a documentary that debuted last year at Sundance -- "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" -- which tore apart the rather opaque and inconsistent ratings system.

Wall Street Hot On Hollywood
As we near earnings season, the media sector is getting some heat. Merrill Lynch media analyst Jessica Reif Cohen calls News Corp. and Time Warner her "top picks for 2007." Calling them "bellwether stocks with significant scope for continued shareholder returns," Reif Cohen likes them because they're slightly more insulated from a slowing economy than their peers -- and because they're the most diversified of the media companies with the biggest online presence (MySpace and AOL). Not forgetting the Mouse House, she said that The Walt Disney Co. shares continue to trade at a discount to both News Corp. and Time Warner, maintaining her buy on the stock.

On the other hand, Spencer Wang at Bear Stearns is a bit of a bear on TW, saying he thinks it has little further upside after a strong stock run -- and saying that TW shares are fairly valued. Viacom is Wang's top sector pick. Last week, he boosted his price target by $4 to $49 for the stock, noting that Viacom saw the smallest gains in 2006 of all the big entertainment players...

A Fight For A Russian Spy
Alexander Litvinenko's mysterious death by poisioning captured the interest of the world media, and now it's near to Hollywood's heart. Variety reports that Warner Bros. and Johnny Depp's production company are teaming up to develop a movie on the topic -- while Sony is also pursuing a film on it. It's possible that both will get made-- take a look at the double feature of Truman Capote films-- but as history proves, the second flick is at a disadvantage...


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