Burkle's latest plans: The L.A.-based billionaire wants to start a "corporate governance fund" in which shareholders force managements to clean up their acts. Among the investors will be unions, which have been closely aligned to Burkle (especially the Food and Commercial Workers International). He tells Forbes: "Union leaders all know the problems and weaknesses of companies. We know how to help solve those problems. There is value to that." The lengthy profile covers familiar ground, paying close attention to his ties to Bill Clinton. Next to nothing on his bid for Tribune, other than this closing quote: "There is tremendous value in that content. The question is how to maximize it and find new methods of distribution."
Movies are hot: So much for those predictions about the decline and fall of the cineplex. Year to date, reports the LAT, box office revenue is up 5.5 percent and attendance is up 3.9 percent. This weekend's box office winners included "Happy Feet," "Casino Royale" and "Deja Vu." And what about worries that the studios would cut back on the number of releases? By the end of the year, 154 films will have gotten wide openings at 1,000 or more theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. That would be the most major releases ever.
Buyers remorse?: The litigation that's piling up against Sacha Baron Cohen and Fox over "Borat" might be giving executives at Universal a little heartburn. Universal? That's the studio behind Cohen's next effort, "Bruno," about the life and times of a gay Austrian fashionista. "He is going to have a real tough time making 'Bruno' and so is Universal," attorney Edward Fagan told the LAT. He is representing two Romanians who are suing Cohen, 20th Century Fox and several others connected with "Borat" for alleged civil rights violations. Fox turned down "Bruno" because of its $42.5 million price tag.
Bad vibrations: There's never a shortage of legal battles involving the Beach Boys. This time, it's over the use of the band's name, which Mike Love says he has the exclusive rights to use. Love lost a key ruling involving guitarist Al Jardine in September and Copley News Service reports that papers have been filed to throw out the breach-of-contract case. Love has sued Brian Wilson and others over the use of the Beach Boys name.
Rich get richer: Strange NYT piece about how doctors and other professionals are choosing to give up their practices in search of more money (so tell us something we don't know). It's really a look at the separation of the super-rich and the merely rich. One in every 825 households earned at least $2 million last year, nearly double the percentage in 1989, adjusted for inflation, according to a university economist. One in every 325 households had a net worth of $10 million or more in 2004, the latest year for which data is available, more than four times as many as in 1989.
The 'Ralphie' factor: Madison Avenue has discovered "A Christmas Story," the curious 1983 film that has become a holiday staple for the last decade or so. The movie, supposedly based on Jean Sheppard's boyhood experiences, has Ralphie Parker obsessed over an “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle.” A commercial for Cingular Wireless recreates 30 seconds of the film (quite expertly, I might add), replacing the BB gun that Ralphie wants with a cellphone. From the NYT:
Adults in the movie discourage Ralphie from insisting on the air rifle by declaring, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” In the commercial, the refrain becomes, “You’ll run the bill up.” A happy ending ensues when Ralphie’s parents buy him a prepaid Cingular cellphone, the GoPhone.
For the 10th year, TBS will run the film continuously over a 24-hour period. The viewership during the marathon last year was the largest to date, with 45.4 million people tuning in during the 24 hours to watch all or part of the movie.
Now they want a subway: Years ago, when an L.A. subway system was envisioned, Beverly Hills officials thumbed their noses at having any of the routes go through their city. but today, it's a different tune. They're pushing for a couple of Bev Hills stops for the proposed 13-mile subway that would run between downtown and Santa Monica. The MTA is still a year or two away from picking the route - much less getting enough federal funding to make it happen. As noted by the LAT, no money has been set aside for the $5-billion project.