Monday morning headlines

"The Departed" financials: This year's best picture is shaping up to be a solid financial success. Box Office Mojo reports that the domestic and foreign box office is now at $278.3 million on a production budget of $90 million. But that's pretty much it on the the theatrical side because "The Departed" has already gone to DVD. In years past, late-arriving best pictures were able to grab a few more dollars at the box office, but "The Departed" opened in October. Of course, the potential for DVD sales is nothing to sneeze at: More than 3 million copies of the DVD versions (there's a single disc and a two-disc special edition) were sold in the first week. Reuters

Oscar suit: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is seeking damages and the return of the Oscar awarded to Morris Stoloff for his 1960 score of "Song Without End." In a federal lawsuit filed last week, the academy accuses Antigua-based of illegally obtaining the late composer's Oscar after his death in 1980. All Oscar winners are required to sign a contract requiring them or their heirs to first offer any post-1951 awarded Oscar back to the Academy for $10 in the event of a change of ownership. NY Post

Tribune update: The board is apparently taking a semi-serious look at real estate tycoon Sam Zell's last-minute proposal to take the company private through an employee stock ownership plan. But the WSJ reports that the plan might take a while to implement, which would be a strike against it. The betting continues to be that Tribune will concoct its own "self-help" restructuring deal that will involve selling the TV properties and offering shareholders a special dividend. The board met over the weekend to discuss the various possibilities.

Guzzler tax: It'll probably never happen but state Assemblyman Ira Ruskin proposes "clean-car discount" legislation that would tack on as much as $2,500 for the purchase of gas-guzzling muscle cars, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. He wants to use that money to cut the prices of new hybrids and other less-polluting cars. Previous efforts to pass similar bills have gone nowhere, but he'll probably get a more serious hearing, what with the attention being given to global warming. LAT

New downloading source: It's actually an old player: Peer-to-peer pioneer BitTorrent, which has given Hollywood fits by unleashing illegal file-sharing technology on the Internet. But today the SF-based company introduces the BitTorrent Entertainment Network on its Web site,, which will offer 3,000 new and classic movies and thousands more television shows. The content comes from several major studios. “Somebody once said you have to embrace your enemy,” said Doug Lee, executive vice president of MGM’s new-media division. From the NYT:

The BitTorrent store will work slightly differently than rival digital media offerings like the iTunes Store of Apple and the Xbox Live service of Microsoft. BitTorrent will commingle free downloads of users’ own video uploads with sales of professional fare. And while it will sell digital copies of shows like “24” and “Bones” for $1.99 an episode, it will only rent movies. Once the films are on the PC, they expire within 30 days of purchase or 24 hours after the buyer begins to watch them.

Radar resurfaces: The pop culture glossy with an LA/NY sensibility is getting a third chance on newsstands, in part because of its ambitious online efforts. Radar Online was launched last fall and has included original reporting, along with links to popular sites like TMZ and the Huffington Post. As a result, it now ranks 110th on Technorati's list of most popular blogs -- after starting at 18,805. WSJ

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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