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Hollywood & entertainment industry news
FCC gears up review of Comcast takeover of Time Warner Cable

Comcast Corp.'s proposed $45-billion takeover of Time Warner Cable is receiving new scrutiny amid protests from consumer groups who are demanding state and federal regulators block Comcast's ambitions to grow.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday asked Comcast to provide detailed business information about its cable TV systems, its Internet service and arrangements that Comcast has with outside companies that deliver Internet traffic to Comcast's already vast network.

The government is not expected to decide whether to approve the proposed merger between the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 cable companies until January. However, the FCC has picked up the pace of its review of the complex transaction.

Monday is the deadline for individuals to file comments with the regulatory group regarding the proposed merger.

On Friday, the FCC denied Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's request to extend the deadline for comments until Sept. 8. The mayor's office had asked the FCC for an...

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Box office: 'If I Stay' launches with solid $1.1 million Thursday

The teen tearjerker "If I Stay" grossed a studio-estimated $1.1 million in ticket sales from Thursday showings that started at 7 p.m. -- a solid start for the adaptation of the young-adult novel of the same name.

Featuring Chloë Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley as the love-struck teenagers, "If I Stay" is expected to gross roughly $25 million through Sunday in its domestic debut, though distributor Warner Bros. expects $20 million at the most.

Either result will almost certainly send the MGM and New Line Cinema co-production to the top of the box-office charts.

Fellow newcomers -- the sequel "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" and TriStar's faith-themed football flick "When the Game Stands Tall" -- also opened with Thursday night pre-shows.

The "Sin City" follow-up took in a softer $475,000. It is not expected to challenge "If I Stay" for the top spot, nor is it likely to come close to the opening of the original "Sin City" from 2005 ($29 million).

Meanwhile the high school pigskin...

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Tearjerker 'If I Stay' is expected to top box office

Moviegoers will likely head to the theaters this weekend with Kleenex in one hand and tickets to the adaptation of the young adult novel “If I Stay" in the other.

The PG-13 tearjerker is expected to gross a solid $25 million in its opening weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

Warner Bros., the studio releasing the film, does not believe the film will open with more than $20 million - but either way, "If I Stay" should end up ahead of the weekend's two other debuts, graphic novel adaptation sequel “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and inspirational sports film “When the Game Stands Tall."

Based on the 2009 bestselling book by Gayle Forman, "If I Stay," co-financed and co-produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and New Line Cinema, cost about $11 million to make.

Directed by veteran documentarian R.J. Cutler, the film follows the love story of teenagers Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Adam (newcomer Jamie Blackley). Stuck in a coma after a car crash that...

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SoundCloud joins the music streaming mainstream with advertising

SoundCloud, a popular destination for music on the Web, is going commercial.

The site has attracted millions of users with free streaming audio and no ads. But its days as a commercial-free service are coming to an end.

Late on Wednesday, the Berlin-based company said it will start placing ads on its service as part of a broader effort to generate revenue, some of which will go to record labels and artists that sign up for its advertising program.

"We're trying to help creators make money with us, and advertising is one way to do that," said Jeff Toig, the company's chief business officer. 

The switch from ad-free may seem like crossing over from punk rock to top-40, but it shouldn't come as a surprise from the company that has raised $100 million from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures. 

Ads have become the norm for the crowded streaming music industry, and the decision to include commercials puts SoundCloud in the company of...

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TV ratings: 'Big Brother' wins key demo, 'Talent' gets most views

CBS' "Big Brother," which featured special guest Kathy Griffin, won the television ratings battle Wednesday night among the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic and boosted the network to No. 1 in the desired category.

However, NBC, which aired "America's Got Talent" and "Taxi: Brooklyn," won the night overall averaging 6.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

"Big Brother," which drew roughly 6.5 million viewers, earned a rating of 2.3 among the key demo, a 10% boost from last week's episode.

According to data provided by Canvs, a social TV platform created by social media insights firm Mashwork, "Big Brother" also won the night on social media.

There were 101,730 total tweets about this week's episode. About 40,230 of the tweets were categorized as "reactions," meaning they contained emotion. 

Also on CBS, Halle Berry's sci-fi series "Extant," which had roughly 5.5 million viewers, stayed even with last week's episode. With a rating of 1.0 in the key demo, it tied with its series low....

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Research firm Screen Engine acquires ASI Entertainment

With the goal of bringing together industry leaders in film and television research, consulting firm Screen Engine announced on Wednesday that is acquiring ASI Entertainment.

"This will be a game changer for all of us and especially for our clients," Screen Engine founder and Chief Executive Kevin Goetz said in a statement. "Our hope is that we become true industry disrupters as we fuse the innovative products that our two companies have built to form the industry’s ‘go-to’ firm for all media and entertainment needs.” 

The Century City company provides research and marketing information on movies.

ASI, which has been in business for more than 50 years and is in the San Fernando Valley, is known for pioneering dial testing research for television programming. 

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Screen Engine will continue to focus on film-related research. ASI, which will now be known as Screen Engine/ASI, will remain focused on television and advertising industries.

Screen Engine/ASI...

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Al Jazeera America rejects allegations in Al Gore's lawsuit over sale

The Al Jazeera America television network is rejecting claims it owes former Vice President Al Gore and his business partner $65 million.

Last week, Gore and business partner Joel Hyatt sued the satellite TV service owned by the Qatari royal family for fraud and breach of contract. The two men alleged Al Jazeera America Holdings illegally withheld $65 million of the agreed-upon $500-million purchase price for cable channel Current TV, which was rebranded as a news network, Al Jazeera America.  

Al Jazeera America, in a statement, called some of the Gore-Hyatt public statements “blatantly false” and “potentially misleading.” The network said the matter is simply “an ordinary commercial dispute.”

"The lawsuit and statement simultaneously issued by Al Gore’s celebrity trial lawyer were designed to grab headlines with misleading accusations like 'fraud' and 'price discount,'" the statement said.

Current Media, founded by Gore and Hyatt nearly a decade ago as a youth-oriented news and pop...

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TV ratings: 'America's Got Talent' helps NBC win the night

Though down from last week, the final phase of live quarterfinal performances on NBC's "America's Got Talent" won the night in ratings, according to Nielsen.

With a rating of 1.9 in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic, the show decreased 10% from last week and tied its series low in ratings.

But with roughly 9.3 million viewers, the Nick Cannon-hosted reality show was still the most viewed program among the desired demo and overall.

The network also aired an episode of "Food Fighters," which was up 10% from last week with a rating of 1.1 in the key demo. Roughly 4.6 million people tuned in to the Adam Richman-hosted culinary competition show.

NBC averaged about 7.8 million viewers total, helping the network earn a rating of 1.6 in the key demo.

Meanwhile, Spanish-language network Univision was the second most viewed in the key demo, with a rating of 1.2.

The network, which was No. 4 most viewed overall, drew in about 3.1 million viewers with its telenovelas "Mi Corazón es Tuyo" and...

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Proposal to expand California film tax credit to get a show of support

California lawmakers are poised to quadruple funding for the state's film and TV tax credit program, but industry supporters aren't leaving anything to chance.

An alliance of unions, producers, small businesses and crew members will converge on Sacramento on Wednesday to demonstrate their support for Assembly Bill 1839.

The bill would increase funding to $400 million annually and would scrap a lottery system to allocate subsidies. Instead, applicants would be chosen based on how many jobs they would create.

AB 1839, or the California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act, cleared a major hurdle last week when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 5 to 0 in favor of the bill, which has wide bipartisan support and is expected to be approved by the full Senate this month.

Still, Gov. Jerry Brown has been silent on the measure, and it remains unclear whether he will be willing to expand funding by that much, given his focus on reining in state spending.

"We never want to...

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'Variety' owner Penske Media to acquire Fairchild Fashion

Jay Penske's media company is buying Fairchild Fashion Media, the owner of such fashion industry publications as Women's Wear Daily, Footwear News and Beauty Inc.

Conde Nast, which currently owns Fairchild Fashion Media, said Tuesday that it wanted to sell its U.S.-based fashion trade brands to better focus on its flagship properties, including Vanity Fair, Vogue, and the New Yorker.

The purchase price was not disclosed, although several publications pegged it at just under $100 million.

Penske, son of auto mogul Roger Penske, formed his media company, Penske Media, more than a decade ago. He made a splash in Hollywood in 2009 when he acquired the juggernaut insider news blog Deadline.com from its founder, Nikki Finke.

Then, nearly two years ago, Penske significantly expanded his empire by buying the granddaddy of Hollywood trades -- Variety -- for about $25 million. 

Last year, Penske Media Corp. folded the print edition, Daily Variety, to focus on a weekly magazine. Breaking news...

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Discovery's 'Shark Week' reels in viewers, sets records among key demos

Discovery Channel's 27th annual "Shark Week," which ran from Aug. 10 to Aug. 16, reeled in 42 million viewers, according to the network.

Though this year's programming was third best to date, behind 62.1 million viewers 2010 and 51 million viewers in 2013, it set ratings records among women and young men.

The weeklong programming finished in first place among all networks in men under 50. It was also was the highest-rated week ever in Discovery's history among women in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic, with 639,000 women in that category tuning in.

Programs included late-night talk show "Shark After Dark," "Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine," "Jaws Strikes Back," "Alien Sharks: Return to the Abyss," "Sharkageddon" and "Megalodon: New Evidence."

"Everyone is absolutely thrilled," Michael Sorensen, Discovery's vice president of development and production, told The Times in an interview. "It shows you how engaged the 'Shark Week' fans are as we keep making it bigger and bigger."

...

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Disney stock tops $90 a share, a new high

Walt Disney Co. stock is trading at all-time highs.

Shares of the Burbank entertainment giant closed Tuesday up 12 cents to $90.09 a share. It was the first time in more than 15 years that the stock ended a trading day above $90 a share.

Back in the 1980s and '90s, Disney shares traded above $100 -- but that was before a series of stock splits established new adjusted levels.

On Monday, Disney shares reached $90.37 during intra-day trading. That set a 52-week high for the company.

The stock has increased 18% since January.

Investors approve of Chief Executive Bob Iger's stewardship of the company.

Disney shares also got a boost earlier this month when the company reported strong quarterly earnings. Disney's film studio helped fuel the company's 22% increase in net income for its fiscal third quarter, although its cash cow ESPN sports empire suffered from rising sports rights fees, which weighed down results of the company's television division.

Disney posted net income of $2.25 billion...

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