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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

The Business Digest

Online Film Plan Unveiled

Pop.com, an Internet entertainment site backed by Imagine Entertainment and DreamWorks SKG, unveiled a division to solicit and acquire the rights to short films and animation for online distribution.

The move marks the company’s first invitation to filmmakers and animators to submit works that if selected would be shown on the Pop.com site alongside programming the company is producing itself, including expected contributions from co-founders Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard.

Pop, whose site isn’t scheduled to be launched until later this spring, will be playing catch-up with a number of other entertainment sites, including IFilm.com and Atomfilms.com, that have already amassed libraries of hundreds of short films shown on their sites.

Gun Deal Struck

The nation’s biggest maker of handguns Smith & Wesson agreed to dozens of once-unthinkable safety and marketing restrictions aimed at ending lawsuits filed by the city of Los Angeles and other government entities.

The settlement is a landmark victory for gun control advocates trying to keep firearms out of the hands of children and criminals. It frees Smith & Wesson from millions of dollars in potential liability from lawsuits attempting to hold gun makers responsible for carnage caused by their weapons.

The gun maker agreed to about 80 reforms, such as putting trigger locks on all its handguns, making gun grips too big and triggers too powerful for young children to fire, and developing “smart” technology that would allow only an authorized user to fire a gun.

Industrial Polluters Targeted

Southern California’s air quality board approved a hotly disputed measure that will force large industrial polluters to reduce the cancer threats they pose in residential neighborhoods.

Businesses must meet a new limit that reduces the cancer risk 75 percent from the standard set by the South Coast Air Quality Management District six years ago.

Representatives of oil companies and other major manufacturing industries called the standard too costly and difficult to achieve, warning the AQMD board that it could result in a loss of jobs.

Big Payday for Departing CEO

When Global Crossing Chief Executive Robert Annunziata abruptly left the telecommunications firm a few weeks ago, he received more than $160 million in total compensation for 1999, including his salary, bonuses, severance and gains on options for millions of shares of company stock, according to a financial filing.

In all, Annunziata, 52, worked for Global Crossing only 13 months before resigning from the management team in early March. The firm has corporate offices in Beverly Hills.

Annunziata’s massive compensation stems primarily from options for 7.5 million Global Crossing shares, which were awarded to him for helping the company grow from just $420 million in annual revenue to $1.7 billion a year later.

Subway Ridership Lags

Judging from ridership numbers, the debut of the Metro Rail subway in Hollywood has been a flop.

When the trains premiered in Tinseltown last June, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials predicted passenger boardings on the entire Red Line would double from about 40,000 to 80,000 on an average weekday.

But the latest figures show there were just 59,075 boardings on the average weekday in February. MTA officials blame the problem on the MTA board’s decision not to reroute express buses that run from the Valley to downtown Los Angeles a move that would have fed bus riders to the subway in Hollywood.

Fees Altered by eToys

Online toy seller eToys Inc. is scaling back the fees it pays to other Web sites that refer paying customers, a strategy analysts say is likely to become more popular as e-tailers establish their brands.

The move also will save the unprofitable Santa Monica-based company money, but eToys officials declined to say how much.

The company, which has lost $172 million since 1997, said earlier this month that it had $200 million in cash, enough to get it through the rest of the year. But financial weekly publication Barron’s has forecast that eToys would run out of money in 11 months if its quarterly sales and expenses continue at the present pace.

Defense Plant Sold

Trammell Crow Co. completed its purchase of a former defense industry plant in Van Nuys, with plans to redevelop the site into a light-industry and high-tech manufacturing campus.

Redevelopment of the 24-acre site at 16555 Saticoy St., formerly owned by Marquardt Co., has been a high priority for Mayor Richard Riordan. He designated it part of Genesis L.A., a program devoted to finding new uses for a dozen large, idle industrial properties scattered across the city.

Councilman Joel Wachs said the Trammell Crow project will provide up to 1,200 high-paying jobs. At its peak, the Marquardt plant employed 5,000 people making rocket engines, bombs and tails for the B-1 bomber.

Port of L.A. Tops Rival

For the second time in as many months, the Port of Los Angeles handled more cargo containers in February than the neighboring Port of Long Beach, challenging the latter facility’s title as the nation’s busiest commercial harbor.

The L.A. port beat rival Long Beach in only a single category: the number of empty inbound and outbound 20-foot cargo containers handled. It was enough, though, to give the Los Angeles port a roughly 1,700-container edge over its rival, with a total of nearly 337,000 containers compared with just over 335,000 for Long Beach.

Still, Long Beach handled higher volumes of imports and exports: 177,362 and 81,893 containers, respectively roughly 6 percent and 7 percent more than Los Angeles handled. Both ports took in record cargo for a February.

Nonprofit Takes Over Museum

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles got a new lease on life when the county Board of Supervisors approved the transfer of its operations to a nonprofit foundation.

Under the agreement which involves a $25 million gift from publishing mogul Robert E. Petersen and his wife, Margie the struggling museum would be bailed out of debt and operations would be turned over to the new Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation.

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