Gas prices ease: Not that you'll notice. The Auto Club survey shows that the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in L.A. is $3.896, a whole six-tenths of one cent lower than last week. Consider it more of a pause - oil prices reached $125.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the NYMEX and that will hit gas pumps soon enough. (AP)
Circuit City relents: The struggling electronics retailer now says it will allow Blockbuster to examine its books. This is an about-face from CC's skeptical response to Blockbuster's unsolicited takeover bid, which is now valued at $1 billion. Wall Street also has been skeptical because of the company’s own financial problems. (DealBook)
Mixed results at Tribune: Technically, the LAT parent company reported a big increase in first-quarter net income. But that was only because of Tribune's mammoth tax gain. It's a far different story when looking at operating results, especially on the publishing side. Tribune doesn't break out numbers for specific papers, but the overall publishing division saw a 15 percent drop in ad revenue, largely the result of a 27 percent drop in classified ad revenue. The company's broadcasting and entertainment group did better. (Chicago Tribune)
Warner closes movie units: Picturehouse and Warner Independent, which specialize in lower-budget indie-type features, will be eliminated under Time Warner's continued budget-cutting efforts. The closings, which apparently came as a surprise, will eliminate more than 70 positions. The Warner Bros. honchos insist that they'll still handle small movies - something about increased efficiencies - but there are lots of skeptics. From Variety:
The conglom, while still coping with integration angst after the AOL deal, dragged its feet years ago about entering the sector already occupied by affiliates of Sony, News Corp., Disney and Universal. Meanwhile, studio-linked breakouts like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Traffic," on top of true indie smashes like "Blair Witch Project" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," demonstrated both audience appetite and profit potential. More recent times have seen far-pricier specialty titles such as "Babel" and "Atonement" vie for Oscars and B.O. while costing a comparative fortune to make and market. As the line gets blurrier between studio and specialty fare, still-newer entrants to the derby fueled by outside financing further cluttered the release sked.
[Alan Horn, Warner's president and chief operating officer,] said that with some 600 pics now released annually, the specialty biz has become less financially attractive in recent years. He also said that such pics have become more likely to screen at multiplexes rather than arthouse venues and expressed confidence in Warner's distribution side to ensure that smaller films receive the proper handling.
Container shortage: With a very weak dollar, exports are way up, which is good news. But in the Department of Unintended Consequences, there's now a shortage of containers to ship corn, soybeans and frozen pork to wherever. Up until now, containers coming into the U.S. often weren't sent back because there was nothing to put in them. From the WSJ:
"My partner and I are pulling our hair out trying to figure out what to do," said Larry Jansky, a senior trader in agricultural commodities for North Pacific Group Inc., which trades specialty grains and is based in Portland, Ore. Birdseed and other grain cargo he had scheduled to leave the country for the Far East and Caribbean in late February and early March now won't ship until later this month, he said.
Janitors resume talking: During a meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, they agreed go back to the table. The union local has already authorized a strike and staged spot walkouts. Negotiations between the janitors and cleaning contractors broke down early Wednesday. (LAT)
More AFTRA talks: The actors union will be meeting with the studios and networks for the third day. No word yet on any progress. (Variety)
Big OC sale: It's a 1.4-acre property in Corona del Mar that overlooks Newport Harbor. The 20,000-square-foot home is built around a pool and has four bedrooms, five full and three half baths, a gym, a theater and an eight-car garage (accessible by elevator). Wendy and Rick Aversano, who co-founded data-transmission company Qtera, sold the house to an investment group for $28 million. (WSJ)