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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
October 12

Entertainment News October 12 - TOP 3 Stories for Friday

ALSO ON SITE

WIDE RANGE OF MOVIES OPEN TODAY
by BEN FRITZ, DAVE MCNARY variety.com

Another crowded fall weekend will see four new titles, none of which have major B.O. potential, battling it out for the No. 1 spot.

"Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "Michael Clayton," "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?" and "We Own the Night" will all be released or expanded at 2,000-plus theaters and are expected to gross in the low- to mid-teens.

Studio sources uniformly agreed that the weekend looks like a toss-up, with any of the four debuts having the potential to break out.

The four bows are aiming at somewhat different auds, leading studios to hope they can co-exist peacefully.

Universal is releasing Working Title's "Golden Age" at 2,001 theaters. Though it has thus far garnered mostly weak reviews, U is hoping star Cate Blanchett and marketing that has positioned it as a romantic thriller will draw a sizable adult female aud.

Original "Elizabeth" grossed more than $30 million domestically in 1998 despite never going into wide release.

WB's "Michael Clayton" is going wide with very strong reviews and a boffo first week's gross of more than $1 million at just 15 locations. George Clooney starrer, which has thus far drawn a diverse adult aud, is expanding to 2,511 locations.

"Why Did I Get Married?" is the fourth Tyler Perry film distribbed by Lionsgate and, as with his previous pics, should draw a mostly African-American aud as it opens at 2,011 locations. Multi-hyphenate's previous pic, "Daddy's Little Girls," took in $16.9 million over its opening five-day weekend in February.

Sony's crime drama "We Own the Night," meanwhile, will hit 2,362 locations. Mark Wahlberg starrer will likely draw more of a male aud.

The Rock starrer "Game Plan" declined only 28% last weekend, to $16.6 million. It's unlikely to be No. 1 for the third frame in a row, but a similarly slight drop could easily put it ahead of any of the openers that underperform a bit.

Yari Film Group is also opening basketball drama "The Final Season" at 1,011.

After four weeks in limited, Sony is significantly expanding Revolution's Beatles musical "Across the Universe" from 364 to 954 theaters.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics opens Kenneth Branagh-helmed remake "Sleuth" at nine playdates in Gotham and L.A. MGM opens quirky Ryan Gosling starrer "Lars and the Real Girl" at seven. Magnolia's doc "Terror Advocate" hits three theaters. Joy Division docu "Control" is being opened by the Weinstein Co. at a single play in New York.

LAW & ORDER CREATOR TO RECEIVE HIGHEST HONOR
By DAVE MCNARY variety.com

The Producers Guild of America has tapped Dick Wolf to receive its Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television.

Nod will be presented at the 19th annual PGA Awards Feb. 2 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Wolf is the creator and exec producer of the three "Law & Order" drama series -- "Law & Order," "Special Victims Unit" and "Criminal Intent."

The original "Law & Order" is entering its 18th season with nearly 400 episodes to date, making it the longest-running current drama series on television. It's tied with "Cheers" and "MASH" for the record for most consecutive series Emmy nominations and is poised to overtake "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running drama series in the history of television.

Wolf won an Emmy this year as exec producer of HBO's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," which earned a record 17 Emmy nominations and received six Emmy Awards.

IATSE CHIEF BLASTS WGA
By DAVE MCNARY variety.com

With the Writers Guild of America talking strike, the WGA's now on a collision course with the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

In a missive sent Thursday, IATSE topper Thomas Short blasted the guild over its plan to bar guild members from penning animated features if there's a strike. Short, who's tangled with the WGA in the past, pledged he'll see the guild -- and its leaders -- in court since feature animation writing is IATSE's turf.

"If the WGAW follows through with the threat, the IATSE is prepared to take legal action against the individuals and institutions involved," Short said in the letter to WGA West president Patric Verrone.

Short's vituperative response referred to the writers union as "the house of hate commonly known as the Writers Guild of America West."

Short's blast came with the WGA's winding up their ninth day of face-to-face negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Talks recessed in mid-afternoon with both sides agreeing to meet again Tuesday.

With no progress reported at the bargaining table, and the guild in the midst of taking a strike authorization vote, pessimism's growing that the WGA will strike soon after the Oct. 31 contract expiration.

The WGA's strike rules, posted Thursday on its website, declare that writers can't work or negotiate for animated features -- even though that realm is not under WGA jurisdiction. Nearly all feature animation writing is performed under contracts covered by the Animation Guild, which operates as Local 839 of IATSE.

"Writers are advised to consult with staff at the Guild's strike headquarters to determine the extent to which animation writing is permitted or prohibited before performing any services in order to avoid possible disciplinary action," the WGA regulation notes. "Members should assume that projects combining live action and animation and live action-based processes, such as motion capture, are covered by this rule."

The WGA strike rules don't address whether guild members can perform work if they've previously signed Animation Guild deals. Discipline for violation of the strike rules can include expulsion, suspension, fines and censure.

Short noted in the letter that the Animation Guild has represented animation writers for 55 years, then added, "I consider it outrageous for the WGAW to consider violating trade union principles by taking action against individuals performing services under the jurisdiction of another union."

Short took issue with the WGA late last year over its strategy in delaying contract talks with studios and nets, asserting that a similar approach in 2001 -- when the WGA negotiated past the contract deadline -- caused a sharp drop off or "de facto" strike in the subsequent months. WGA leaders have derided the impact of stockpiling but IATSE noted Thursday that production has ramped up in recent months through extra episodes of series and a larger than usual number of features.

Relations between the two unions have been dismal for many years with a long line of hostilities over such issues as which should have jurisdiction over writers on reality shows and animation. At one point last year, WGA West exec David Young accused Short of being a shill for the companies and using strikebreaking tactics to prevent the WGA from organizing the CW reality skein "America's Next Top Model."

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