Howard Burns, editor of the Hollywood Reporter since 2001, has been promoted to editorial director as part of a reorganization of the brand's content operations by its parent, Dutch publisher and market research giant VNU NV.


Deputy editor and columnist Cynthia Littleton, who has been with the trade publication since 1999, will move into the editor's chair.


VNU said earlier this month that it had agreed to be acquired by a group of six private equity firms including Blackstone Group and Carlyle Group for about $9 billion in cash.


As the venerable entertainment industry trade publication expands into broadcast and new media platforms, Burns said his job would be not only to develop new branded Hollywood Reporter products but also to make sure that the initiatives stay aligned with the Reporter's core mission.


One example is the weekly TV show airing on the Starz premium movie network called "Starz the Hollywood Reporter," which launched in January. The show features reporters and industry figures commenting on the week's entertainment business news. Burns said that it's important that the show maintain its business focus as opposed to becoming just another celebrity-focused TV magazine.


"There is a definite need to maintain the integrity of the mother ship as we expand into other platforms," he said.


In a related VNU move, Matthew King has been named group vice president of content and audience for VNU Business Media's film and performing arts group. He'll be directing editorial strategy not only for the Reporter but also Back Stage and Amusement Business magazines.


Digital Theater Expands
Major studios are employing a variety of incentives to entice exhibitors to upgrade their theaters for the digitally delivered featured films. The pre-movie slide show of film trivia and local auto dealer ads also may soon get digital facelift, if Agoura Hills-based DTS Inc. has its way.


The firm last week launched an e-cinema network system for the delivery of high-definition video content.


The DTS Cinema Media Network is designed to increase revenue opportunities for theaters through the automated scheduling, delivery and screening of pre-show advertising and alternative content, such as art house and foreign short films. The system is designed to integrate within an exhibitor's existing operations, and be able to create and exhibit advertising for local businesses alongside regional and national campaigns.


DTS also is marketing the system as a way for exhibitors to book major sports and entertainment events that can be shown in high definition video with DTS digital surround sound.


"The theater experience is changing and evolving," Don Bird, senior vice president for DTS's cinema division, said in a statement. "New digital technologies will better enable exhibitors to thrive in an increasingly competitive entertainment marketplace."


Palisades Sparks
Palisades Media Group Inc. has bagged another studio contract. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio Inc. hired the Westside firm to oversee media buying and planning for the revamped studio's domestic theatrical distribution division.


MGM spent $88.6 million in measured media last year, according to TNC Media Intelligence, but that's likely to grow since MGM just announced that it would distribute at least 20 films from the Weinstein Co. and other independents. That includes the April 7 release of the Bruce Willis thriller, "Lucky Number Slevin."


MGM is the second film company to move its account to Palisades since last summer, when Palisades won the account for New York-based Weinstein Co. MGM's new chief operating officer, Rick Sands, worked with the 10-year-old media firm when Sands was chief operating officer for Bob and Harvey Weinstein's previous studio, Miramax.


The new accounts have enabled Palisades to expand by 25 employees to 82 over the past year, said Chief Executive Roger Schaffner, who anticipates that billings will grow to at least $650 million from last year's $550 million. In addition to Weinstein and MGM, the firm's major clients include Electronic Arts Inc. and Lion's Gate Entertainment Corp.


As time-shifting products such as digital video recorders grow in popularity over the next five years, Schaffner said he expects large media buys in network broadcast will continue to decline in favor of smaller niche buys in cable television and new media.


"If you're a Coca-Cola, you might not care as much if your advertising is time-shifted, but for movies and politicals, you've got a real short window in which you need to go from zero to 60," he said. "We're going to have to buy a lot more little reaches to get the big reach we used to get."


Changes at Brentwood
Longtime contributor Jenny Peters takes over as editor-in-chief of Brentwood magazine, the Santa Monica-based bi-monthly lifestyle magazine for affluent Westsiders and those who aspire to join their ranks.


The hiring of Peters, a Playa del Rey-based writer and editor who was among the magazine's original freelancers when it launched 11 years ago, coincides with moves by new publisher Christopher Joseph Lento to expand the magazine's appeal to a wider geographical area. Lento bought the magazine from Phillip Troy Linger in January, and installed Sammy Hoang as associate publisher and creative director.


Renovating Brentwood won't consume all of Peters' time. On March 20 she takes over as lead writer for the Los Angeles Daily News' "Tinseltown Spywitness," a gossip column to which she has contributed for several years. Peters also continues as West Coast bureau chief for the online Fashion Wire Daily, and as editor of Scene, a free movie magazine distributed at theaters.


This & That
In advance of its expected takeover of much of Los Angeles' cable television service, Time Warner Cable has promoted Tim Young to regional vice president of media sales for its western region. A Santa Monica resident, Young will oversee a territory that includes L.A., the desert cities and Hawaiian markets. Pending regulatory and court approval, Time Warner, which currently serves a small portion of the county, is expected to take over the local operations of Adelphia Communications.


*Staff reporter Deborah Crowe can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 232, or at dcrowe@labusinessjournal.com .

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