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Hollywood & entertainment industry news
Sony/ATV threatens to withdraw from ASCAP and BMI

Sony/ATV Music Publishing has said it may completely withdraw from two U.S. groups that distribute songwriter royalties if changes are not made to the regulations that govern those organizations.

This comes more than a month after the U.S. Justice Department said it had opened a review of the rules that cover the music licensing groups ASCAP and BMI, stepping into an ongoing fight over songwriter royalties paid by digital services such as Pandora Media Inc.

Sony/ATV's big catalog includes songs by the Beatles and hits from the likes of Taylor Swift.

Publishers such as Sony/ATV want the option to remove digital rights from ASCAP and BMI in order to negotiate rates directly with streaming services. However, federal courts last year said that publishers cannot partially withdraw from the organizations.

In a letter sent to songwriters on Thursday, Sony/ATV's Chairman and Chief Executive Martin Bandier said the company is working with the Justice Department to revise the consent decrees,...

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Writer-producers for Original Media vote to join union

The writer-producers behind such reality TV shows as "Storm Chasers," "Ink Master" and "Swamp People" have voted to unionize.

The Writers Guild of America East on Friday said that a majority of writer-producers at New York-based reality TV production company Original Media voted overwhelmingly to join the guild in an election held by the National Labor Relations Board. The vote was 42 to 9, the guild said.

The vote is part of a campaign by the union to organize writers in the fast-growing reality TV sector and pressure producers to offer the kind of benefits and working conditions that writers receive on scripted television shows. The guild has alleged that writers working on such shows put in long hours without extra pay and are denied insurance and other benefits enjoyed by their peers.

“The men and women who work so hard to create nonfiction [reality] TV shows have demonstrated that they want WGAE representation to help them improve their working conditions and to build sustainable...

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'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' grosses $4.1 million Thursday night

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” grossed a studio-estimated $4.1 million in ticket sales in the United States on Thursday night, marking a promising start to the hoped-for summer blockbuster.

The 3-D sequel to 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” opened at approximately 2,750 theaters with showings that began at 10 p.m. The early numbers bode well for the film that is expected to gross about $65 million through Sunday, according to people who saw audience tracking surveys going into the weekend. The film's distributor, 20th Century Fox, has projected a weekend gross of $55 million to $60 million.

The Chernin Entertainment-produced film, which cost $170 million to make, takes place a decade after a killer virus nearly destroyed the human race. The film stars Andy Serkis (who returns as lead ape Ceasar), Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell.  

“Rise” started with $1.25 million on its Thursday night debut, then dominated the box office with an opening of $54.8 million. The...

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Moviegoers will go bananas for 'Apes.' Aereo tries a Hail Mary.

After the coffee. Before accepting that I have to work this weekend.

The Skinny: I've never been one to get excited by meeting famous people but I did get a little thrill out of chatting with Dave Grohl on Thursday about Washington, D.C., back in the 1980s. He seemed very genuine. Today's roundup includes the weekend box office preview and Aereo's latest effort to stay alive. Also, Netflix tries to put heat on the broadband providers it needs to deliver its product.

Daily Dose: The Federal Communications Commission has set the timetable for its six-month review of Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The deal has gotten a lot of attention from media watchdogs, consumer activists and even some competing companies who fear it will make Comcast too big and powerful. Everyone can have their say about it at the FCC starting Aug. 25. The FCC is expected to issue a decision on the Comcast deal in early 2015.

Going ape.Industry insiders think people are going to go bananas...

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FCC sets clock for Comcast's Time Warner Cable and Charter deals

The Federal Communications Commission has released its schedule for the public and the media industry to weigh in on Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable and its complex deal to trade some cable systems with Charter Communications.

Comments and petitions seeking to block Comcast's deals are due on Aug. 25. Comcast will then have until Sept. 23rd to respond to those comments. Subsequent replies to Comcast's response are due on Oct. 8.

Setting the dates for comments starts the FCC’s 180-day merger clock to review and either approve or deny the deals. Presuming the FCC doesn't have to delay its process for any reason, that would mean it would issue its verdict in January 2015. The Dept. of Justice is also reviewing the Comcast - Time Warner Cable sale.

Many media watchdog groups and consumer activists have already voiced their intent to strongly oppose Comcast's deals. Earlier this week, satellite broadcaster Dish Network told the FCC that it should block Comcast from buying...

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China mogul and Hollywood investor reaches for the sky in Chicago

China's richest man is expanding his empire in America.

Wang Jianlin, whose Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group acquired AMC Theatres for $2.6 billion in 2012, now plans to build Chicago's third-tallest skyscraper, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

Wanda, China's largest commercial property company and cinema operator, said it would take a 90% stake in a planned 89-story skyscraper along the Chicago River.

The tower, which would include a hotel and luxury apartments, is set for completion in 2018, the company said in a statement.

“Investing in Chicago property is just Wanda's first move into the U.S. real estate market,” Wang, who is chairman of Wanda Group, said in the statement. “Within a year, Wanda will invest in more five-star hotel projects in major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

Wanda, which owns shopping centers, luxury hotels, department stores and cinemas in China, has been expanding its investments in the U.S. and other countries. Wanda...

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'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' to conquer box office

Highly evolved primates are set to unseat Optimus Prime and the Autobots at the top of the box-office charts this weekend.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," the 3D sequel to 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," should easily earn its place as the top-grossing movie at cinemas this weekend, continuing the strong draw for the rebooted franchise. 

Thanks to strong reviews, positive word of mouth and fondness for its predecessor, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" could gross $65 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada through Sunday, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

The film's distributor 20th Century Fox is projecting a more conservative range of $55 million to $60 million. 

Either outcome would be a strong start for the new film and a success for the production company Chernin Entertainment. Fox financed the production, which cost $170 million to make.

It will almost certainly end the reign of Paramount Pictures' "Transformers: Age of...

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TV ratings: Halle Berry's 'Extant' gets big audience that skews older

Halle Berry's new sci-fi series launched with a big audience Wednesday night for CBS but didn't blast off quite like "Under the Dome" did last year.

"Extant" is CBS' attempt to create another summer hit with the help of executive producer Steven Spielberg, who also serves as EP on "Under the Dome." In "Extant," Berry plays an astronaut who returns to Earth and discovers she is mysteriously pregnant.

According to preliminary numbers from Nielsen, the premiere averaged 9.42 million viewers, making it the most-watched broadcast television show of the night. It earned a rating of 1.7 among the key demographic of 18- to 49-year-old viewers, which is not astronomical but still makes it the highest-rated summer premiere for a new series.

For comparison, "Under the Dome" opened last summer with well more than 13 million viewers and a 3.3 in the 18-49 demo, though it has dropped off this season, most recently notching a 1.7.

Older viewers turned out for "Extant," evidenced by the big 2.4 rating...

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Aereo does an about-face in latest attempt to stay alive

If you can't beat them, join them.

That seems to be the approach Aereo is taking in a last-ditch effort to stay alive after the Supreme Court ruled last month that the start-up service which streams the signals of local TV stations over the Internet via remote antennas was in violation of the Copyright Act.

Aereo had unsuccessfully argued that it was an antenna service and nothing more and thus did not have to comply with copyright law. The court said Aereo, which charges its subscribers between $8 and $12 a month for the antenna and a cloud-based digital video recorder, was more like a cable service and thus copyright law applies.

Now Aereo is saying it will try to play ball with that ruling. It outlined its plans in a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York, which is where the legal fight between broadcasters and Aereo originated.

Aereo said since the Supreme Court basically declared it a cable system that it is entitled to a compulsory...

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HBO leads Emmy nominations. Dish wants FCC to block Comcast deal.

After the coffee. Before scrutinizing the Emmy nominations.

The Skinny: I watched the first episode of FX's "The Strain." I won't give anything away but I will say you will never hear "Sweet Caroline" the same way again after watching it. Today's headlines include the Emmy nominations. Also, satellite broadcaster Dish Network tells the FCC it should block Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable, and Nielsen lets a Univision radio station off the hook even though it tried to manipulate ratings.

Daily Dose:After unsuccessfully arguing that it was an antenna service and not a distribution system, Aereo is now saying the opposite. The start-up company that streams local TV signals over the Internet via remote antennas was found to be in violation of the Copyright Act by the Supreme Court last month. Now Aereo has told a lower court that it will pay the compulsory license that cable operators pay to cover carrying copyrighted materials. However, even if that move is successful,...

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Nielsen concludes L.A. radio ratings probe; Univision not sanctioned

Nielsen said it has concluded an investigation into tampering of Los Angeles radio ratings, but stopped short of sanctioning Univision Communications for unethical conduct by a former station executive.

Dramatic swings in ratings this year were primarily isolated to Univision's KSCA-FM (101.9) Spanish-language radio station, Nielsen said after its review of the tainted data. The measurement firm said the breaches did not substantially affect audience levels reported for other stations in the nation's largest radio market.

The probe into possible ratings manipulation was launched after KSCA morning show "El Bueno, La Mala y El Feo" leapfrogged to the No. 1 slot over big names such as KIIS-FM (102.7) morning host Ryan Seacrest. The big jump rattled radio circles because strong ratings help stations fetch more money from the nearly $1 billion spent in L.A. each year on radio commercials and promotions.

Nielsen found that a high-ranking Univision executive at KSCA had access to several of...

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Nielsen concludes L.A. radio ratings probe; Univision not sanctioned

Ratings giant Nielsen on Wednesday said it has concluded its investigation into inaccurate ratings in the Los Angeles radio market, but stopped short of sanctioning Univision Communications for alleged unethical conduct by a former station executive.

Last month, Nielsen discovered that a high-ranking Univision Radio executive at the company's Los Angeles station, KSCA-FM (101.9), had access to several of Nielsen's portable people meter devices that pick up audio signals. Nielsen uses data transmitted from the devices to determine which radio stations have the most listeners.

It is a violation of Nielsen rules for a station employee to have access to the devices. Univision quickly fired the executive and announced more rigorous ethics training sessions for its employees. No other station executives were reprimanded.

Nielsen notified radio stations on Wednesday that despite the problems it found with two households that were removed from its sample audience in Los Angeles, the agency...

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