Sweeps; Banks Hunger For Hollywood; DreamWorks Nixes U.K. Deal

February Sweeps
It's Feb. 1, and the February sweeps period has officially started. Fox always gets a boost this time of year from American Idol, but the network isn't sitting on its laurels. It's counting on one of its new shows to bolster the sweeps period -- a game show, "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?". I'm not kidding. The questions come from first through fifth grade textbooks. If the contestants need help, like that magic phone in "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?", it comes from kids. This is the latest invention from reality TV impresario Mark Burnett. Is this the next "Survivor" or "Apprentice"? I can't imagine! For this to be a hit, people would have to turn out to be much dumber than fifth graders.

DreamWorks Flushes Away Aardman?
DreamWorks Animation is running away from the makers of "Chicken Run", Aardman, after co-producing that film, along with "Flushed Away" and "Wallace & Gromit" with the U.K. animation company. The original deal called for Aardman to deliver up to five animated features to Dreamworks. But now DreamWorks is ending the partnership it entered into with Aardman in 1999. This, no doubt, points to the disappointing performance of "Wallace" and "Flushed Away" and the fact that DreamWorks said it would take a fourth-quarter write-down because of losses incurred by "Flushed Away". One analyst estimates that DreamWorks lost $120 million on the film, even though it brought in $170 million at the global box office. The animated film field is a competitive one, and DreamWorks Animation isn't taking any risks.

Hollywood: Flush With Foreign Money
New Line Cinema, a division of Time Warner, and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group are announcing a $350 million film-financing agreement. The bank will co-finance about 20 films, starting with some this year, including "Rush Hour 3", "Hairspray", and "The Golden Compass". The studios love the outside financing, which they get to decide how to use, and the banks seem to love Hollywood. This is just the latest in a number of Hollywood financing deals. Relativity Media Holdings announced that Citigroup is investing as much as $1.1 billion in as many as 100 films.

In other news, the Oscar ballots were mailed Wednesday, so the countdown to the big day continues!

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