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Monday, June 30, 2008

Waiters, er, Actors Strike Probable

Two unions represent actors, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). There are 70,000 members in AFTRA. There are 120,000 members in SAG. There are 44,000 people who belong to both unions. The vast majority of SAG members do not make their living on-screen. Many are waiters and waitresses. Two-thirds of them earn less than $1,000 a year. Fewer than 20 percent earn more than $7,500 a year. A very small percentage at the top earn most of the money.

The two unions have traditionally negotiated their deals side by side with the studios, but this year there was a disagreement between them. AFTRA reached a tentative agreement with the studios earlier this year. SAG is now asking its "dual-card" members who belong to AFTRA to reject that contract, saying it weakens their position at the bargaining table and calling the deal "not good enough."

SAG wants:

1) "Significant increases" in the minimum rates paid to actors in minor and major roles, including those performing stunts and serving as "background" (commonly called the extras).
2) The studios to contribute more to their health insurance and pensions,
3) The studios to give them a sweeter cut on DVD sales,
4) An increase in their reimbursements for mileage and
5) Pay for residuals for all new media

(The Washington Post)
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Shaquille O'Neal To Bail Out Home Foreclosures

Shaq is trying to buy the home mortgages of Floridians facing foreclosure and then provide them with new mortgages with better terms. The owners would not be forced to turn in keys and Mr. O'Neal could turn a small profit. It is being reported that more than 2,000 residents have e-mailed him for help. This sounds like a very good private-sector solution to us. More athletes and entertainers should step up and help. You listening Kobie? Ignore Shaq's rapping about you needing him in the finals. (The New York Times 6/22/08, Photo: AP)
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Pixar is betting that a robot love story will be a summer blockbuster. Described as "rusty, lipless, sub-literate and keeps company with garbage" by The New York Times' Katrina Onstad, Wall-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class. So basically Wall-E is a janitor/garbage man, er, robot. The film cost $180 million to make so if you add $50 for advertising, it has to clear $230 million domestically to make a profit. Wow. Glad we are not in the movie making business. Remember what happened to "Speed Racer?" In case you don't, it cost about the same amount to make and bombed big time.

The film is set in 2700 on an uninhabitable Earth, covered in towers of garbage. Wall-E compacts trash into perfect cubes until an egg-shaped search robot named Eve arrives. Ms. Onstad continues:

"This high-tech, piano-key-smooth egg-bot has dropped from the sky, seeking a sign of life on Earth. Wall-E, who knows about love from a video of "Hello, Dolly" falls hard."
Oh oh. You have to figure that an outfit calling itself the African American Environmental Association will find a way to play the 'race card.' You better start running for the hills now cause here it comes.

Clearly Wall-E is a black dude (less big lips) and Ms. smooth egg is a white chick. Did writer/director Andrew Stanton intend to produce an interracial robot romance movie? What about robot miscegenation laws on abandoned earth? Were there any such laws BEFORE the earth was abandoned? We doubt it. But you never know, particularly if robots act as crazy as humans. Well since they are the last two robots on Earth, maybe this interracial robot romance will work. Surely Klan robots are lurking somewhere to spoil their robotic bliss. We will see.
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Live Nation Fillmore Project to get $800,000 Montgomery County Tax Break

The mega multifaceted talent management company Live Nation will get an $800,000 tax break over 10 years if Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has his way. Live Nation plans to open a Fillmore arena at the former J.C. Penney store site on Colesville Road. The site is owned by the Lee Development Group and the $13.5 million music hall depends on Lee's donation of the land in exchange for a measure of protection for the company to build on its adjacent property. AAEA supports the plan. Live Nation manages Madonna, U2 and Jay-Z, among other. (The Washington Post 6/24/08)
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Independent Film Says Black Airwaves Losing Ground

"Disappearing Voices--The Decline of Black Radio," a film about the decline of blacks in broadcasting, warns that black radio's impact has been severely diminished. The film also covers the history of black radio. The film documents that the first Black-Owned Radio station was WERD in Atlanta in 1949. This was followed in the 1970's with purchases by Kathy Hughes in Washington, DC and Mutter Evans in Winston-Salem, NC. Radio One, developed by Ms. Hughes son Alfred Liggins, now dominates black radio.

Of the 12,000 radio stations today, only about 168 are black-owned. (David Hinckley, Daily News, 6/18/08) (Progressive Pulse Blog)
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Congressional Black Caucus Examining XM-Sirius Merger

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) wants more minority programming included in any merger between XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. The companies are voluntarily offering 4 percent of their radio spectrum, or 12 channels, for minority and women programming as an enticement for the CBC to support the merger pending before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The CBC wants a 20 percent set-aside or 60 channels for minorities and women.

XM-Sirius believes the 20 percent figure would financially threaten the viability of the merger (can't make as much money with minority programming). The FCC is not crazy about the merger because they believe it is not necessarily in the public interest and could represent a monopoly, effectively keeping any other companies out of the satellite radio business. Both companies believe they have a better chance of surviving and prospering by partnering because of competition from all kinds of new technological innovations.

The merger plan was announced about a year and a half ago and was approved by the Justice Department in March. The merger still needs FCC approval. Unfortunately, when the FCC distributed licenses to XM and Sirius in 1997, it was on the condition that the two companies would never combine. Sirius, based in New York has 8.6 million subscribers. Washington, DC based XM hs 9.3 million.

The companies have promised that consumers will not have to buy all of the channels as they currently do and may instead choose tiered pricing. A barebones plan of 50 XM or 50 Sirius Channels might go for $6.99 a month. An a-la-carte option of 100 channels would allow mixin both services for $14.99 a month A full line up would go for $16.99 a month. (The Washington Post 6/17/08, The Wall Street Journal 6/17/08))
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Hollywood Is Bracing For Actors Strike

The writers had their 100 day strike last year and now the actors want concessions from the producers too. New technology is driving this enmity between Tinseltown workers and management. Product is being shown on all kinds of new devices (DVD, Internet) and actors want a fair cut. They will probably not get most of what they want, the writers sure didn't, but they will get some additional pieces of the pie (just enough to make them go back to work). The studios' contract with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) expires June 30. We expect a strike. The studios are represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Although television and movie producers are trying to get as much product as possible completed before June 30, a strike will probably delay the 2009 TV season and some movies. This has to be painful for all involved, but it usually is when big money is at stake. The subplot is that prominent actors want to keep acting and not so prominent and unknown actors want to strike. Maybe this will provide opportunities for independent operators. Billions were lost during the writers strike. Billions more will be lost during a prolonged actors strike. We have our thinking caps on over here at AAEA.
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Marvel Entertainment Ready To Lead Action Genre

Marvel Entertainment, Inc plans to lead the action film area by delivering solid comic book superhero adaptations to the screen. Marvel comic books always had the most interesting characters, now Marvel Studios wants to dominate the action superhero genre with its comic book stars. Moreover, whereas Marvel licensed "Spider-Man," to an independent studio, now it has its own studio to produce films. "Iron Man" will probably end up doing a billion dollars in all around sales and "The Incredible Hulk" was a solid hit.

Marvel has set up a $525 million debt line with Merrill Lynch & Company to finance production and advertising for "Iron Man 2," "Thor" and "The Avengers." This arrangement makes good business sense because Marvel's licensing of the three "Spider-man" blockbusters, financed by Sony, did $2.5 billion worldwide, yet Marvel reaped on $30 million each or $90 million total out of that take. (The Wall Street Journal 6/13/08)
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mocking Environmental Justice: Berkeley Students Are Serious

Can satire be used to promote environmental justice? Some University of California at Berkeley students give it a try and seem to walk a fine line between satire and mockery. We know what they were trying to do but some environmental justice activists and victims of toxic pollution will not appreciate the 'satire.' Here is what the producers of the video wrote in explaining what they were trying to do:

"The video was supposed to be a satire on how indivduals would view environmental justice. We had only a day to make it and tried to get all members in our EJ class involved in the creation of it (it was an "extra credit" video). On behalf of the group, I appreciate the comments so far, and I'm even astounded that this video was able to elicit comments despite environmental justice's lack of interest among the general public."

"You know, how many people actually type "environmental justice" onto youtube compared to typing s--t like "Paris Hilton" or some other bulls--t. There are plenty of other (and perhaps more effective and better) ways of advocating environmental justice throughout the world. And perhaps people on youtube will see this video it will strike a note in their hearts to find new ways of advocating environmental justice."

They convey this message at the end of the video. The participating students are also listed at the end of the video.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Volkswagen Signs Up As Sponsor of DC United Soccer Team

Volkswagen has entered into a five year agreement with DC United that will prominetly feature their logo on the shirts, club and other in-stadium marketing components. Volkswagen is also providing The Volkswagen Garage, a hospitality area and vehicle showroom with space for 1,000 people. Of course, their cars have long been known for their great fuel efficiency. AAEA applauds this sponsorship partnership. (The Washington Informer)
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Urbanworld Film Festival Set For September In New York

Urbanworld Film Festival, the largest movie event for minorities, rolls into New York from September 10-15, 2008. The festival will screen about 70 films and submissions are still being accepted. Black Entertainment Television (BET) will cablecast some of the festival. MTV2 was the presenting sponsor in 2004 and 2005. Stacy Spikes is founder of Urbanworld. "Fantastic Four" director Tim Story gained early recognition at the Urbanworld Film Festival. (The Washington Times)
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AFTRA Signs Labor Deal with AMPTP

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) has signed a labor agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). AFTRA is a smaller union than the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), 70,000 compared to 120,000 respectively. Contracts for both unions are set to expire on June 30th. About 44,000 members have dual membership. The deal would:

1) Preserve performance consent for the use of their TV clips as online entertainment (exact mechanism for giving and withholding consent will be worked out later).

2) Include increases in the residual payments earned by actors from internet downloads of TV shows and for online streaming of those programs

3) Higher wages for work in traditional media. (Reuters News Agency)
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