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Bill to triple California film tax credits clears the Legislature

A bill that would more than triple funding for California's film and TV tax credit program was overwhelmingly approved by the state Senate and Assembly on Friday.

The Senate, as expected, on Friday approved by a 32-to-2 vote legislation that would increase funding for the state's film incentives to $330 million a year for five years, a substantial boost from the $100 million a year currently allocated under the film program.

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FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post said the legislation would increase incentive funding to $330 million over five years. The bill would increase it to $330 million a year for five years.

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The bill also cleared the Assembly by a 72-to-0 vote.

The vote comes two days after Gov. Jerry Brown signaled his support for the bill as part of a last-minute compromise hashed out with the state's legislative leaders.

The law is intended to make California more competitive with rival states such as New York, Georgia and Louisiana that have...

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'As Above, So Below' grosses $470,000 in Thursday night showings

It's another slow start to the Labor Day weekend at the box office.

Legendary Pictures' thriller "As Above, So Below" grossed $470,000 in Thursday night showings. Meanwhile, the Pierce Brosnan action film "The November Man" has grossed $1.695 million since its release on Wednesday. 

Both weekend newcomers are expected to gross $8 million to $11 million each over the four-day weekend, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

The films will likely trail behind Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy," the Michael Bay-produced "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and young adult tearjerker "If I Stay."

Released by Universal Pictures, "As Above, So Below" follows a team of explorers as they venture into the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. As of Friday, the film had notched a 31% on the fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Based on the novel "There Are No Spies" by Bill Granger, "The November Man" follows former CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) after he leaves...

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Turner management shake-up continues with Michael Wright exit

The Turner Broadcasting shake-up continues with the departure of Michael Wright, president of programming for the popular channels TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies.

Wright plans to remain on the job for a few weeks during a search for his successor, an executive familiar with his plans who asked not to be identified said late Thursday.

He is the second high-ranking Turner programming executive to leave this year. In April, Steve Koonin, the head of Turner Entertainment Networks, left the company to become chief executive of the Atlanta Hawks professional basketball team.

Wright has been with Turner more than a decade. He is credited with being a key member of the programming team that put TNT and TBS on the map with such popular and critically acclaimed original dramas as "The Closer," "Falling Skies" and "Men of a Certain Age." 

He helped woo late night comedian Conan O'Brien to TBS after O'Brien's high-profile exit from NBC.

The departures of Wright and Koonin underscore management...

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TV ratings: 'America's Got Talent' wins the night in total viewers

A round of eliminations and a performance by Ariana Grande helped "America's Got Talent" stay on top of the ratings on Wednesday.

The Nick Cannon-hosted show, which drew in 9.2 million viewers overall, earned a rating of 1.8 in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic, according to Nielsen.

NBC, which also aired "Taxi Brooklyn," won the night in total viewership, averaging 6.4 million viewers. 

Meanwhile, with a rating of 1.5, CBS was the most-viewed network in the key demo. Roughly 6 million people tuned in to the network.

CBS' privacy-deprivation reality show "Big Brother" was the most-watched program among the key demo with a solid rating of 2.3. With about 6.7 million viewers, the show was the second-most-watched program of the night.

Also on the network, the Halle Berry sci-fi series "Extant" was up 10% from last week with a rating of 1.1 in the key demo. The show was the third-most-watched program of the night with roughly 5.7 million viewers. 

Two back-to-back reruns of...

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California to hike film tax credits

It's been a slow summer at the box office, but Hollywood got a genuine blockbuster Wednesday — a $330-million deal that will help subsidize film and TV production in California for the next five years.

In a last-minute compromise reached Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown said he would approve legislation that would more than triple the annual tax credits available for movies and TV shows produced in California. The bill is aimed at reversing the loss of location shoots to other states that offer rich incentives to studios and producers.

Backers originally sought $400 million in tax credits over four years. Brown cut that by $70 million annually, but agreed to extend the program for one additional year.

Currently, California allows $100 million in annual credits, a fourth of what New York offers.

"This law will make key improvements in our film and television tax credit program and put thousands of Californians to work," Brown said in a statement, indicating he will sign the bill pending its...

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'Guardians' likely to top 'The November Man,' 'As Above, So Below'

The box office's summer slump is likely to continue into Labor Day weekend, as the two newcomers -- "The November Man" and "As Above, So Below" -- are not expected to deliver huge numbers.

Heading into the four-day holiday weekend, pre-release audience surveys indicate that both could fail to outshine Marvel's August blockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy" as it enters in fifth week in release. The movie based on the comic book cult favorite -- also the top film last weekend -- could add an additional $14 million to its total through Monday. 

"Guardians," now the summer's highest-grossing movie domestically, has taken in $255.2 million to date in the U.S. and Canada. Worldwide, it has crossed the $500-million mark.

Both "The November Man" and "As Above, So Below" are expected to gross $9 million to $11 million over the four-day weekend, making it a tight race for No. 2.

"The November Man," which cost about $15 million to make, opened in about 2,750 theaters Wednesday. Relativity...

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Gov. Brown OKs tripling state film tax-credit funding to $330 million

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed off on a deal that would more than triple funding for California's film and TV tax-credit program.

The compromise would increase funding to $330 million a year over the next five years. While that falls short of the $400 million annually sought by backers, the amount is substantially more than the $100 million that the state currently allocates.

“This law will make key improvements in our Film and Television Tax Credit Program and put thousands of Californians to work,” Brown said.

AB 1839 also would allow more projects to qualify, including new network television dramas and big-budget studio movies, and would provide additional incentives for projects that shoot in California cities other than Los Angeles.

It would also scrap a controversial lottery system used to divvy up funds. Instead, tax credits would be allocated based on how many jobs projects would create.

The deal, which is expected to be approved by the Senate this week, was the result...

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Time Warner Cable Internet outage fuels opposition to merger

Time Warner Cable's nationwide outage early Wednesday -- which left millions of homes across the country without Internet service -- is fueling opposition to the company's proposed merger with Comcast Corp.

Overnight maintenance on the backbone of Time Warner Cable's Internet network prompted the outage, which hit customers in California, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.

The company said the problem occurred at 1:30 a.m. Pacific time during routine network maintenance.

"An issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services," Time Warner Cable said in a statement.  By 3 a.m. Pacific time, much of the problem had been resolved.

"Services should be restored for all customers; our apologies for the interruption," Time Warner Cable said on Twitter at about 7:50 a.m. Pacific time. "If you're still having issues, please let us know."

Metropolitan Los Angeles was affected in the outage, Time Warner Cable confirmed.  The company routinely does...

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TV ratings: NBC's 'America's Got Talent' wins key demo, total viewers

NBC's "America's Got Talent" won Tuesday night in viewership and boosted the network to No. 1, according to Nielsen.

Roughly 9.4 million viewers tuned in to see the first batch of semifinalists perform. The Nick Cannon-hosted reality show earned a rating of 2.1 among the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic, a 5% increase from last week.

The network, which also aired "Food Fighters," averaged 7.8 million viewers and earned a rating of 1.8 among the key demo.

ABC's "Bachelor in Paradise" stayed even with Monday's telecast with a rating of 1.3 among the key demo. The show, which had roughly 4.8 million viewers, tied with Univision's telenovela "Hasta el Fin del Mundo" among the key demo.

The Spanish-language network and ABC also tied for second-most-watched network among the key demo, with a rating of 1.2. 

Reruns of "NCIS" and "NCIS:LA" were the second and third most watched shows of the night, elevating CBS to the No. 2 most watched network overall. The network, which also aired a rerun...

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Turner Broadcasting offers employee buyouts, plans more staff cuts

Grappling with ratings doldrums and increased competition, Turner Broadcasting plans to cut several hundred workers as part of an overhaul of its operations.

On Tuesday, the Atlanta cable TV programmer notified employees that it was offering buyouts to older workers who have been with the company at least 10 years. The unit, which employs more than 13,000 people worldwide, is planning further staff cuts to focus resources on areas of growth.

Turner Broadcasting comprises such channels as CNN, TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network.

The Turner networks long have been sturdy revenue engines, but in recent years have been eclipsed by competitors — including Fox News Channel and entertainment outlets such as FX and AMC — that have fielded more daring shows. In addition, cable networks industrywide, including Turner, experienced softer-than-expected advertising sales during this summer's advertising sales period.

The voluntary buyouts are being offered to fewer than 600 U.S.-based employees over age...

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North Carolina cutting film tax credit program

Even as California looks to substantially boost funding for its film tax credit, North Carolina may be exiting the Hollywood stage.

North Carolina was among the first states to offer film tax credits. The state's incentives, low labor costs and varied geography have made it a popular film location, drawing such major movies as "The Hunger Games" and the TV series "Under the Dome."

But last week state legislators opted not to renew the program, despite heavy lobbying by the local film industry to preserve the incentives.

The state budget signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory reserved $10 million for a grant program for the first half of 2015.

That pales in comparison to $61 million in tax credits received by production companies last year. Under the program, companies get back 25 cents for every dollar they spend on qualified production expenses, with a cap of $20 million per project.

Opponents said the film industry should not be singled out for tax breaks and that taxpayer dollars...

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DreamWorks Animation's 'Dragon 2' stays atop China box office

DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon 2” remained atop China’s box office last week, and will soon become the top-grossing animated film of 2014 in the territory.

The sequel earned $24.4 million in the seven days ending Sunday, according to figures from film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway, bringing the movie’s gross to $51.5 million. “Despicable Me 2,” released in China earlier this year, took in a total of $52.3 million.

The strong showing for Hiccup and Toothless is good news for DreamWorks Animation as it pushes deeper into the Chinese market. The company has set up a venture with Chinese partners, called Oriental DreamWorks, to create “Kung Fu Panda 3” and other animated films, and is building a large entertainment complex in Shanghai.

Taking second place at the box office last week was “The Four 3,” a martial arts film from Gordon Chan that debuted with nearly $16.8 million. Third place went to the Hong Kong real estate comedy “The Temporary Family,” which...

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