Median Home Price $439,000

Home prices hit record highs in most of Southern California during March as sales neared a peak, but the rate of appreciation was the weakest in more than a year, La Jolla-based DataQuick Information Systems reported Thursday. Last month, the median price paid for a Southern California home increased an annual 18.6 percent to a record $439,000. The year-over-year increase was the first one under 20 percent in 16 months. The median price edged up 3.3 percent from February. The only places where price records failed to set a record were Ventura County and San Diego County, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported.

Paramount Reshuffles Executives
Continuing to remake Paramount Pictures, new Chairman Brad Grey on Thursday jettisoned two top production executives in favor of a relative studio newcomer to oversee its movie slate, the Los Angeles Times reported. Allie Shearmur was named co-president of production, reporting to new Paramount President Gail Berman. Shearmur was an executive vice president under former Paramount President Donald De Line, who lost his job last month when Grey recruited TV veteran Berman. Losing their jobs in the reshuffling are production co-Presidents Tom Jacobson, who said he was discussing a production deal with Paramount, and Karen Rosenfelt.

People Leaving County in Droves
The exodus of Los Angeles County residents to surrounding counties and nearby states accelerated during the past year, driving the largest population shift in the nation, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures. Fueled by soaring housing prices, traffic congestion, and new jobs in outlying areas, residents left L.A. at an average net rate of 9,621 per month between July 1, 2003, and last July 1, compared with an average net of 7,373 per month over the three previous years, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The figures show 115,434 more residents left the county last year than newcomers arrived. L.A. remained the nation's largest county with a population of 9,9 million as of July 1, up 77,357 from the previous year.

Film Panels Try To Lure Work
Hundreds of film commissions from around the world are descending upon Southern California today to try and lure film and television production to their areas with enticing financial incentives and other perks, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The annual Association of Film Commissioners International Locations Trade Show comes to town at a time when financially strapped California is empty-handed when it comes having any incentive programs of its own. Other states are increasingly seeking to poach film and television projects. Government officials are now realizing that the Golden State needs to level the playing field to be able to better compete with foreign countries and rival states, some which are offering as much as a 25 percent tax break to productions.

Film Studios, Microchip Firm Settle Suit Over DVD Decoder
Representatives of Hollywood's major movie studios Thursday settled a lawsuit with a microchip company they accused of selling chips to makers of equipment that could be used to illegally copy DVDs, Reuters reported. The Motion Picture Assn. of America settled the suit with ESS Technology Inc., ESS said in a statement. The company makes chips that decode the content scramble system, or CSS, which is the copy-protection system used for DVDs.

William Morris Names Scripted-TV Chief
Aaron Kaplan, a longtime agent at William Morris Agency, has been promoted to worldwide head of scripted television and packaging, the Los Angeles Times reported. Kaplan's promotion follows the departure of Morris television executive Greg Lipstone and a shake-up in December when TV chief Sam Haskell left the agency after 26 years. Kaplan will report to three Morris executives , Chief Executive Jim Wiatt, President David Wirtschafter and worldwide TV co-chief Mark Itkin.

SEC Votes to Delay Options Expensing
As expected, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday gave some companies a reprieve before they have to begin treating employee stock options as expenses, an accounting move that will cut profit. SEC commissioners voted to delay the implementation of options expensing until the start of a company's first fiscal year after June 15. Under the Financial Accounting Standards Board's current rule, the accounting change would have started with the first fiscal quarter after that date, Bloomberg news reported.

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