MPAA's New Chief: 2004 'Healthy'

New Motion Picture Association of America President and CEO Dan Glickman gave an upbeat take on the state of the industry at the 2005 ShoWest convention Tuesday, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. There were 1.54 billion tickets sold, a 2.4 percent drop from 2003, but Glickman noted that the 2004 domestic box office figure of $9.54 billion marked the third straight year the figure had surpassed the $9 billion milestone. Overall grosses were boosted by a 3 percent hike in the average ticket price of $6.21. Glickman also reported that MPAA member studios, which include Warner Bros., Disney, Sony, Universal, Paramount, Fox and MGM, are spending an average of $98 million to make and market a movie, down nearly 5 percent from 2003.

UCLA Enters Race for Stem-Cell Money
Eyeing the state's $3 billion research funds provided by the November passage of Prop. 71, the University of California, Los Angeles, launched the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Medicine on Tuesday, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The announcement follows a similar entry to last month's announcement that the University of Southern California will participate in the creation of a biomedical park, fostering the academic competition experts say could lead to scientific breakthroughs. UCLA will invest $20 million to start the center, using the funds to hire a dozen faculty members and expand its laboratories.

President Names Panel in Charge of Base Closures
President Bush on Tuesday launched the process of deciding which military bases nationwide might be closed to save money, the Daily Breeze reported. Bush formally nominated eight of the nine members of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, including Philip Coyle of Los Angeles, the senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information. Among the many California installations that have been mentioned as potentially vulnerable is the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, which manages space and missile acquisition programs.

MTA Studies Idea of New Fee for Roads
With L.A.'s crowded freeways getting worse and no relief in sight from tight state and federal budgets, homebuyers and owners of new businesses could find themselves helping to pay for widening and building highways, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials are considering imposing fees on new homes and businesses to help pay for highway improvements. For the next 15 months, MTA officials and consultants will be studying population forecasts, high-priority highway projects, the fees imposed or being considered in other Southland counties, and possible mechanisms for directing any new fees to regional congestion-relief projects.

Solvency Is Becoming an Issue, LAUSD Report Says
Acknowledging $174.5 million in unfunded workers' compensation liabilities and general fund shortfalls totaling $158.8 million over the next two years, the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday sent a "qualified" report of its financial health to the County Office of Education for the first time ever, the Daily Breeze reported. The "qualified" stamp, which the school board approved unanimously, indicates LAUSD may not be able to meet its financial obligations for this fiscal year and the next two.

Disney Plans Life After Pixar With Sequel Unit
As Robert Iger, the newly named chief executive of Walt Disney Co., seeks to repair the company's fractured relationship with Pixar Animation Studios, he faces a big obstacle: Pixaren't . That's what animators have dubbed a white warehouse in Glendale that Disney recently transformed into a factory to produce sequels to Pixar movies. Under the companies' existing partnership, which is set to expire with the release of "Cars" in 2006, Disney has a right to make sequels to all the Pixar movies, the Los Angeles Times reported. Still, Disney's decision to exercise that right is controversial. As the Burbank entertainment giant quietly ramps up its new Pixar-sequel division, which is already planning for "Toy Story 3," some believe it could hinder Iger's efforts to make peace with Pixar chief Steve Jobs.

Air Force Delays Plans to Upgrade Global Hawk
The Air Force will delay some enhancements to the Northrop Grumman Corp. Global Hawk unmanned spy plane to curb cost overruns, a company representative said. Steve Hogan, director of Navy and Marine Corps programs for Northrop, said Air Force officials had mapped out a revised plan at a meeting with the Pentagon's top acquisition officials Monday. Without providing details, he said the Air Force would postpone some increased capabilities it was seeking until later in the production cycle, Reuters reported.

Court Denies Request by Miramax to Rehear Ruling
A U.S. appeals court Tuesday rejected a request by Miramax Film Corp. to rehear a decision that might have created an implied contract between film studios and writers who pitch movie ideas and scripts, Bloomberg News reported. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied a request by Miramax for a rehearing of the September decision. In that ruling, the court reinstated a claim by screenwriter Jeff Grosso, who alleged that Miramax used elements of his script in the 1998 film "Rounders." The 9th Circuit decision expanded the protection offered to writers by allowing them to sue for breach of an implied contract that the writers would be compensated for the use of their ideas.

Landmark's Theaters to Get Digital Projectors
Sony Electronics Inc. and Landmark Theatre Corp. announced a deal to equip all of the art house chain's 59 theaters with high-definition digital projectors, the Los Angeles Times reported. L.A.-based Landmark, which operates art house cinemas in 22 markets, is a subsidiary of 2929 Entertainment, owned by Dallas billionaire Mark Cuban and partner Todd Wagner. Terms weren't announced. Conversion of the nation's cinemas to digital projection, which could save the studios millions of dollars each year on the cost of film prints that are physically delivered to theaters, has been stalled by disagreements over who is going to pay for it and concerns about piracy.

Ban on Bond Dealer Consultants Proposed
Dealers of municipal bonds would be barred from hiring former politicians and lobbyists as consultants to help win underwriting business from state and local governments under a new proposed rule, Bloomberg News reported. The rule seeks to prevent investment banks from using consultants to circumvent rules that restrict contributions the firms can make to politicians who award bond business. UBS, the top underwriter of municipal bonds last year, and Citigroup Inc. are among banks that have hired consultants with ties to elected officials.

Data Collectors Face Lawmakers
Amid rising anger over thefts of personal data, lawmakers Tuesday urged limits on the sale of Social Security numbers and other confidential information, the Los Angeles Times reported. Congress has considered banning the sale of Social Security numbers before, but legislators are now rallying around the idea in the wake of a series of security breaches that gave identity thieves access to restricted information kept by data brokers ChoicePoint Inc. and LexisNexis, a unit of Reed Elsevier.

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