NBC shakeup: No announcement yet on Kevin Reilly’s firing, but it’s getting close. As reported by Nikki Finke over the weekend (she first broke the story on Friday), producer Ben Silverman will take over as the network’s entertainment chief – perhaps along with control of NBC’s TV production studio. Finke says they’ll be some sort of division between Silverman and Marc Graboff, who handles the business stuff. Some are reporting that the NBC honchos have been in a dither since Friday because they hadn't completed the shakeup in time for an orchestrated announcement. By the way, the WSJ was the only major publication I came across that gave Finke credit for breaking the story.
"Pirates 4" in sight: Well, what do you expect when "Pirates 3" (aka "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" of the Caribbean: At World's End") rakes in $401 million globally through the Memorial Day weekend? Apparently, producer Jerry Bruckheimer already has the rights to a book that could be the basis of another installment. From the LAT:
In today's Hollywood, blockbuster franchises function almost as independent corporations that, once up and running, can't easily be mothballed. Which is why another "Pirates" is pretty much a given. "When these franchises become part of the world's culture, they take on a life of their own," said Dick Cook, Disney's studio chairman, who says he's on board for another "Pirates" if the script is right and the filmmakers are willing. Enter the era of the unlimited sequel. DreamWorks Animation SKG began developing a fourth "Shrek" film more than a year ago — long before "Shrek the Third" was even finished, said Anne Globe, the Glendale studio's head of marketing. The next installment is slated for 2010.
White House blocks VA bill: This is the one that would have barred the Department of Veterans Affairs from selling or leasing parts of the 388-acre property for commercial development. It was tacked onto the $120 billion emergency war spending bill, but at the last minute the White House Office of Management and Budget said President Bush would veto the legislation unless the VA provision was removed. So it was. But it's still doubtful that the feds could ever actually do the deed - there's just too much community opposition. Just consider what happened to the proposed FBI building in Westwood. LAT
Chinese death sentence: It was handed out today to the former head of China's food and drug administration on corruption charges. He’s been convicted of accepting bribes totaling $850,000 in return for granting approvals for hundreds of medicines. The Beijing court justified the sentence by the "huge amount of bribes involved and the great damage inflicted on the country." Meanwhile, China announced that it is setting up a food-recall system, clearly in response to the recent safety concerns in the U.S. and elsewhere about food being imported from China. AP
Airlines boost travel times: A 7:05 American Airlines flight from NY to L.A. takes five hours and 58 minutes. A 7:05 American Airlines flight from NY to L.A. takes six hours and 23 minutes. Different headwinds? Try new airline schedules that are incorporating expected delays (the first flight was in 1997). By tacking on more time, the carriers have a better chance of arriving "on time," which means they get better rating from the Department of Transportation. From the WSJ:
Even though some of today's airplanes cruise faster than the models they have replaced and are equipped with advanced navigation systems capable of flying the shortest route between two distant points, airlines have had little opportunity to take advantage of those improvements. Congestion in the sky and high fuel prices often slow down the cruise speed of planes. A lack of modern equipment for air-traffic controllers means planes still fly from one radio beacon on the ground to another, hop-scotching across the country instead of flying shorter, more-direct paths. Experts say congested airports need more runways, and the modernization program that the Federal Aviation Administration has embarked on should eventually help speed up air travel. But, "it'll probably get worse before it gets better," said Russell Chew, former operating chief at the FAA who recently became chief operating officer at JetBlue Airways Corp.
Going after Maxim: Bids for Dennis Publishing, which publishes Maxim, Blender and Stuff, were a lot lower than the $300 million being asked for by British publishing mogul Felix Dennis about a year ago. The NY Post's Keith Kelly says the numbers are north of $200 million. (L.A. billionaire Ron Burkle is among those going after the company.) Kelly says that one reason for the lower bids, which came in last Wednesday, could be an ill-fated Maxim casino project in Las Vegas.
Lacter on radio: This morning's business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian covers the new list of L.A. billionaires, higher starting pay at the local law firms, and more concerns about the safety of food being imported from China.