Oscar surprise: They can't be thrilled over at DreamWorks and its new parent, Paramount Pictures. Yes, "Dreamgirls" scored eight Oscar nominations this morning - most of any film - but it was shut out of the Best Picture category. That will likely result in the loss of post-nomination box office business - and the box office so far has been good but not great (I can hear the pundits going at it already). Most of the other categories appeared true to form, and there is a crazy amount of coverage. AP
LNG terminal killed: L.B. Harbor commissioners had a bunch of reasons to give up on the controversial $750 million liquefied natural gas terminal - a flawed environmental impact report, stalled negotiations and lack of cooperation from the federal government. Approval of the project has rested primarily with the five-member Harbor Commission. The decision comes after more than three years of heated debate over safety issues. Press-Telegram
Backdating slog: The departure of U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan in SF could delay the office's wide-ranging backdating investigation - even as the feds interviewed Apple CEO Steve Jobs last week. Not only did Ryan step down, but so did the lead prosecutor in one of the big cases. What this means is that federal prosecutors will be more picky in determining which cases to pursue - perhaps letting the smaller-fry off the hook. Mercury News
Fired over religion?: A Newport Beach man has filed suit against Irvine-based car wax maker Meguiar's Inc., claiming that he was let go after 10 years with the company for failing to pursue "a Christian lifestyle." The suit alleges that company president Barry Meguiar repeatedly urged Atticus Firey to attend church and told him he was "robbing this company of the blessing of God by not being on your knees and on fire for Jesus." Meguiar's lawyer said Firey's firing had nothing to do with religion. LAT
Loosening up digital rules: At least one of the four major record companies is considering the sale of unrestricted digital files in the MP3 format, reports the NYT. This means music could be downloaded, e-mailed or copied to computers, cellphones, portable music players and compact discs without limit. Why would they do this? Because limiting digital copies through iTunes and other means is not bringing in the kind of revenue they had been looking for (and which doesn't make up for the decline in physical sales). Digital sales last year were 80 percent higher than a year ago, but growth was slower than in 2005.
Mais oui, Monsieur Hertzberg: Our huggable former State Speaker makes it to the top of P3 of the NYT biz section. He's co-founder of the investment firm Renewable Capital and one of his businesses makes solar panels in Wales. Hertzberg contends that Europe is way ahead of the United States (California too) when it comes to clean energy. From the NYT.
Kyoto here is the real thing,” he said. “The financial markets and those who control the big funds understand the importance of renewable energy.” Mr. Hertzberg chose a site near Cardiff, the Welsh capital, partly because it is within easy reach of the burgeoning community of bankers and financiers in London who cover markets for trading emissions credits and who closely track companies involved in clean technologies. Eventually, Mr. Hertzberg wants to list G24i on a stock exchange like the London Stock Exchange’s AIM, which has become a hub for renewable energy companies. To jump-start sales, he plans to sell inexpensive devices in poor regions of Africa and India, bundled with his solar panels that could charge a cellphone or power a light bulb. Mr. Hertzberg declined to say how soon G24i would be profitable — a reminder that many renewable energy businesses will have to prove that their business models work.
DreamWorks Animation slows down: Sounds kind of strange for a studio that only releases a couple of movies a year, but CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg tells the WSJ that there's been too much of a rush to get titles other than "Shrek" into theaters - and it's resulted in a mixed track record for the Glendale-based company.
"We've been racing to the finish line and that has meant compromising on story telling sometimes," says DreamWorks Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. There's a strong financial incentive, he adds: "If we improve our box office performance by 10%, it adds $100 million pre-tax profit to the company."
There also is the realization that "Shrek" may not last forever. That has forced the company to think about developing other franchises -- a particularly difficult task at a time when a flood of animated films is hitting movie theaters, many of them about cute talking animals. This summer alone has "Surf's Up," about surfing penguins, and "Ratatouille," about a rat's adventures in Paris. "I didn't realize how similar they were all going to be," says Mr. Katzenberg, who describes a moment a year ago when he was in a movie theater and sat through back-to-back trailers for several near-identical animated movies. "Fortunately, our next six or seven movies are unlike anything we've done before or anything anyone else is doing."
Lacter on radio: This morning's business chat with KPCC's Frank Stoltze (Steve Julian is sick) covers the big Playa Vista real estate deal, the proposed Waldorf Astoria development in Bev Hills and security guards being allowed to organize. It's available on the KPCC Web site later this morning.